Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Leon Rosselson: A Radical Richard Stilgoe

Yesterday we saw the folk music episode of the great 70s music history series All You Need Is Love. Full of boring old scrote Pete Seeger talking about his gay old times with Woody Guthrie and the unmitigated joys of protest singing, Leonard Cohen's enigmatic words (which to me sound better spoken without that awful picky guitar accompaniment) and Joan Baez being Joan Baez.

Then they show a clip of Leon Rosselson playing his song.

"Who's Leon Rosselson?" I hear you cry.

Now then, don't you know Leon Rosselson?

An English songwriter and writer of children's books, he sang satirical songs on That Was The Week That Was. A kind of radical Richard Stilgoe, then. Twat face Billy Bragg took Rosselson's The World Turned Upside Down into the charts in 1985. The lower echelons of the charts, I presume.

Leon's song featured on the programme isn't satirical but it is bitingly radical.

Here's the words to the first verse and chorus. Imagine a young man with big glasses and a bobbly jumper, sitting down with an acoustic guitar, a voice like Mrs Mopp (according to Betty).

Take it away, Leon. Deep breath as you've got a lot to fit in. OK? No, wait. Are you sure? This is a bloody long verse. You are ready? Go, Leon, go!

If prime ministers and advertising executives, royal personages and bank managers' wives, had to live out their lives in dank rooms, blinded by smoke and the foul air of sewers, grot on the walls and rats in the cellars, in rows of dung (citation needed) houses like mouldering tombs, had to bring up their children and watch them grow, in a wasteland of dead streets where nothing will grow...

Bloody hell, that was a good'un. Now for the chorus. Slower, deeper and more meaningful, now. Pause between lines.

Buttons would be pressed, rules would be broken, strings would be pulled, magic words spoken, invisible fingers would mould palaces of gold.

It's National Poetry Day tomorrow. Asked to explain her choice of Maya Angelou's Phenomenal Woman, Geri Halliwell says "It's pure girl power." What the fuck?

Scribble Leon's song at your place of work tomorrow! Fight the powers that be!


  1. Leon was a singer of my childhood. I think I've even seen him live a couple of times.

    I quite like his songs, but his voice is awful; and not in a good way.

  2. Any sign of Kaz's folksinger in the background?

  3. Richard Stilgoe, now that's a name that I haven't heard in a while. Didn't he share a similiar grin to that other buffoon, Cyril Fletcher?

  4. Yes it's verging towards Odd Ode Country. Stilgoe was very clever but made the mistake of letting everyone know he thought so.
    I'd never heard of Rosselson but he sounds a bit more down to earth than Barry "Eve of Destruction" Maguire.

  5. I'm sure they are all life long members of the Clive Anderson/Ian Hislop school of smarm.

    The old school tie huh?

  6. I must have see Leon Rosselson on 'That was the week that was'.
    You can't imagine how fabulous and ground breaking that programme was.

    Richard Stilgoe? Esther the Christian ping pong playing maths teacher loved him.
    Say no more.

  7. Billy - His heart seems in the right place but I'm not so sure about his larynx.

    MJ - They mainly kept to the rich and famous. Apart from the Irish band with their song about the bastard British.

    Jimmy - They were on That's Life! together, fondling phallic vegetables.

    Murph - I'm surprised. Didn't Drew tell you about his singalongs with Leon at Dartford Folk Club?

    Jimmy - The old school tie? Not AC/DC again!

    Kaz - I bet you remember Millicent Martin, though. And Lance Percival's topical calypsos. Not forgetting that bloody "I'm upper class" sketch. Stilgoe - loved by Esthers all over.

  8. Richard Stilgoe made a fortune writing some musical with Lloyd-Weber, didn't he? Which was a relief, because it meant he didn't have to despoil himself by appearing on TV any more.

    I'm loving watching All You Need is Love, though I missed the one about field songs, which I really wanted to see again. I thought the "protest" song episode was a bit ropy. I can't stand Leonard Cohen, and the passing mention of The Dylan seemed as perverse as Dylan himself.

    This week it's Elvis, and next week it's The Beatles. I'm looking forward to watching The Rutles "All You Need is Cash" straight afterwards.

  9. I can't stand Leonard Cohen's songs or the way he sings or the guitar work but I do quite like his lyrics.

    There must be a programme purely devoted to Dylan. Surely!

    I wonder which obscure British rock and roller they'll choose this week? Rocky Sharpe?

  10. TW3! The first political Goonshow. Private Eye for TV. Hard to imagine Monty Python without them.

  11. I always thought TW3 was a different show from That Was The Week...

    I'm a bit slow on the uptake sometimes.