Regency/Victorian BBC TV dramas 1967

Amidst the plethora of golden anniversary celebrations of 1967 currently emerging like tadpoles swarming towards an early edition of Mr. Hazlitt’s Essays, and after an unforgivable absence of over six months from these pagesI would like to make my own humble contribution, namely an overview of the BBC’s costume dramas of that year based on novels that were either written or set in the Regency or early Victorian periods. Now, this could, I hear at least one reader exclaim, be something that might equally be done for any year of the 1960s, and she is right . Perhaps I shall turn the clock back to 1964 at some future juncture or forwards to 1968 or 1969. But ‘we are where we are’, in 2017, and thus by a simple process of subtraction, golden anniversary celebrations take us to 1967.

Moreover, this was no ordinary year in the history of television costume dramas or the small screen in general. No indeed! Astute readers will already know that 1967 saw the introduction of colour television in the British Isles (and also Germany, France and Holland). From July 1, BBC2 officially started occasional broadcasts in colour (studio recordings, feature and documentary films, imported film serials and live outside broadcasts) before the station turned completely into colour (barring a few exceptions) on December 2.

On that very day, episode one of the first full British costume drama serial to be made and broadcast in colour, Rex Tucker’s adaptation of Mr. Thackeray’s Vanity Fair, was transmitted into the kitchens, lounges, attics, student digs and drawing rooms of at least some regions of the United Kingdom (sadly, for many of my fellow West Countrymen and women, the Mendip transmitter was not working until 1969, though the Wenvoe transmitter in Wales was broadcasting BBC2 in colour from August 1967). For those who had a 625-line colour TV, the frocks, cravats, carpets and, most importantly, Susan Hampshire, were in glorious PAL colour, albeit with occasional studio lighting problems that can surely be forgiven fifty years later.

Vanity Fair was the fitting culmination of a year in which studio-based costume dramas on both BBC channels were still in black & white. There is a little uncertainty around whether the adaptation of Wuthering Heights, broadcast on BBC2 in October and November 1967, may have initially been planned as the first colour costume drama. However, in the same Christmas week that The Beatles’ Magical Mystery Tour was switched to BBC1 and broadcast in black & white, it fell to Vanity Fair to fully depict the colour and panache of the Regency clothes which had been an influence on contemporary  fashion for the previous couple of years.

Here then is a brief synopsis of the Regency and Victorian BBC costume dramas of 1967. Much of the information has been sourced from the BBC’s Genome website and the IMDB film and television website (though the latter is occasionally inaccurate about colour/b & w status for individual programmes in 1967). The entries below contain information about the existence and availability of each serial. Future research will engage with programmes made for Independent TV channels. The most famous and popular costume drama of 1967, The Forsyte Saga, is not included here as its action and publication history falls outside the time period under consideration.

Great Expectations (BBC1, Jan 22-Mar 26, 10 Eps, b & w)

Charles Dickens’ seminal 1860 novel of Pip’s childhood encounter with convict Magwitch and his growth into eventual self-awareness through disappointment in the source of his ‘expectations’ has seemingly never been far away from a film or TV camera. A Victorian novel set (c.1810-1830) in the Regency period , my earliest memory of its visual representation was the 1981 BBC production with Joan ‘Miss Marple’ Hickson playing Miss Havisham and a teenage Patsy Kensit as the young Estella. The rarely-seen 1967 adaptation, directed by Alan Bridges, featured Gary Bond as Pip, Francesca Annis as Estella and the late Peter Vaughan as Mr. Jaggers. Though criticized at the time for a gruesome scene of a body hanging from a gibbet, it has otherwise been all but forgotten.  Whilst the original videotape copy seems to have been deleted, a film telerecording exists in the archives, thus at least raising the possibility of a future commercial release. For context, the Beatles single released during the serial’s run was ‘Penny Lane/Strawberry Fields’. Were Regency sideboards ever more on the money?

St Ives (BBC1, April 9-May 14, 6 Eps, b & w)

Those who wish to read a synopsis of this adaptation of Robert Louis Stevenson’s unfinished 1897 novel of a captured Napoleonic soldier, Viscount Anne de Keroual de St. Ives, could do worse than consult a direct reminiscence from a contributor to the IMDb website: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0424464/reviews?ref_=tt_ov_rt. The historian must rely heavily on such memories as the serial itself was junked/wiped from the archives.

Lovers of 60s psychedelic pop might be intrigued to know that Murray Head, whose 1967 Immediate single ‘She Was Perfection’ is, I am reliably told, ‘a gas’, played the part of Saladin in two episodes.

Further Adventures of the Musketeers (BBC1, May 21-Sept 3, 16 Eps, b & w)

Alexandre Dumas’ celebrated 1844 historical novel of seventeenth-century intrigue, Les trois mousquetaires, and its two sequels, have enjoyed a long history of cinematic (from 1903) and television representation in French, English and beyond. Friendly with Dickens, Dumas was quickly translated into English, with three versions doing the rounds by 1846. It has long been one of the most popular French novels in English, with dozens of film versions and loosely-based adaptations and three British TV serials (1954, 1966, 2014).

Over the summer of 1967, BBC1 broadcast Further Adventures of the Musketeers, the sequel to the previous years’ The Three Musketeers, starring Joss Ackland as D’Artignan (in the 1966 serial he was played by Jeremy Brett) and a young Brian Blessed as Porthos.  This serial was based on the Dumas sequel, Twenty Years After (Vingt ans après, 1845).

Both serials were kept in the archives, at least in the form of telerecordings. The quality is evidently good enough for commercial release, as both seem to be available on DVD (the 1967 serial as apart of Simply Media’s DVD releases). A very thorough review of this and the 1966 serial can be read at the excellent Archive TV Musings blog: https://archivetvmusings.wordpress.com/2016/04/22/the-further-adventures-of-the-musketeers-to-be-released-by-simply-media-on-23516/

The Regency Mod will be putting this on his wish list for summer viewing.

Kenilworth (BBC2, July 22-Aug 12, 4 Eps, b & w)

Sir Walter Scott was popular at the BBC in the 60s & 70s, with several of his novels being dramatized (Rob Roy, 1961, The Heart of Midlothian, 1966, Kenilworth, 1967, Ivanhoe, 1970, Woodstock, 1973, The Fortunes of Nigel, 1974). However, only one episode, the final one, of David Conroy’s 1967 production of Kenilworth exists in the archives. Scott’s 1821 romantic novel of sixteenth-century ambition had already been dramatized by the BBC in 1957, a live adaptation featuring Paul Eddington (The Prisoner, The Good Life) as Edmund Tresillian. The role was played ten years later by Jeremy Brett, while the part of the 1st Earl of Leicester’s squire, Richard Varney, was taken by John Fraser (Repulsion, 1965).

Pride and Prejudice (BBC1, Sept 10-Oct 15, 6 Eps, b & w)

“Then, may we enter the parsonage.”

Jane Austen’s 1813 novel of Regency manners has been, in its ‘original’ form, the subject of five British TV serials (1952, 1958, 1967, 1995, 2005) a TV movie (1938) and two major feature films (1940, 2005). It remains, for many, the ultimate nineteenth-century novel for translation to television and film. Curiously, though, the BBC’s 1967 production, with Celia Bannerman as Elizabeth Bennet and the late Lewis Fiander as Mr. Darcy, made to mark the 150th anniversary of the author’s death, evades DVD release despite still existing in the BBC archives.

The series was directed by Joan Craft and a low-resolution recording of episode 5 can be found on you tube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QQ3kzO1cVfA. The production has been criticized for supposed anachronisms of costume and appearance. At the BFI Screenonline website, Louise Watson writes: ‘The costumes and makeup (copious black eyeliner, bouffant hairdos) reflect the fashions of the 1960s rather than the novel’s Regency setting’ (http://www.screenonline.org.uk/tv/id/1012588/).

This seems a little unfair. More recent adaptations with vast resources have been equally guilty of adding contemporary touches and in forty years time will be open to the same retrospective critique. Based on one episode, it’s true that some costumes may have been influenced by 1967’s playful nostalgic blending of Victoriana, Edwardiana and the Regency (or simply matters of cost and availability). Neck attire, that of Mr. Darcy in particular, may not be entirely accurate.  However, any ‘bouffants’ on show in the production look like wigs rather than freshly starched from a Chelsea salon.

Despite its drawbacks, it would be nice to see this production on sale. Hopefully, fans of ‘the Jane’, as I believe no one calls her, will knock on a few BBC doors and get the thing spruced up for commercial release.

Les Misérables (BBC1, Oct 22-Dec 24, 10 Eps, b & w)

And so, just a week later, BBC1 took its viewers from Pemberley to Provence, where Victor Hugo’s great 1862 novel, Les Misérables, begins its labyrinthine journey through the years from Napoleon’s final defeat at Waterloo (1815) to the July Revolution (1830).

Directed by Alan Bridges, this 10-episode production featured a cast including Frank Finlay as Jean Valjean, future ‘Betty’ in Some Mothers Do ‘Ave Em Michele Doltrice as Fantine and Vivian Mackerrell, the real-life prototype of Withnail, as Marius. Once again, a telerecording of the serial exists, though, as yet, there is no commercial DVD release, despite the novel’s abiding popularity as a stage musical.

Despite what Wikipedia says, the BBC have confirmed to me that this adaptation was not made in colour. Some scenes from it can be found as inserts in a Portuguese-language version of a 1990s North American TV programme about the novel: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kJmIe8KvCLQ

Lovers of French and American 60s pop may also like to hear this version of The Box Tops’ ‘The Letter’ by Les Misérables – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v5E2Y08Z-F8

Wuthering Heights (BBC2, Oct 28-Nov 18, 4 Eps, b & w, possible use of colour cameras)

The first half of 1967 in BBC2’s costume drama schedule was taken up by Donald Wilson’s 26-part epic production of John Galsworthy’s The Forsyte Saga, which ran from Jan 7 until July 1, the day of the first official colour broadcast (a Wimbledon tennis quarter-final). With production having started in July 1966, it was made in black & white, BBC studios not being fully equipped for colour until summer 1967.

There has been some debate as to whether Hugh Leonard’s 1967 adaptation of Emily Bronte’s classic novel, Wuthering Heights (1847), may have initially been the first scheduled colour costume drama, though recent correspondence with the BBC’s Genome project would suggest otherwise.

Either way, what exists today on DVD is a reasonably clear and quite atmospheric black & white telerecording, mostly recorded in the studio but with location shots filmed near Haworth in West Yorkshire. The production itself, featuring Ian McShane as Heathcliff and Angela Scoular as Cathy and Catherine, is a bit stagy but intermittently compelling. Particularly striking, even today, is the window appearance of Cathy’s ghost, which various people have suggested was seen by Kate Bush as a child and the inspiration for her song ‘Wuthering Heights’. This scene was probably more spooky in the ‘as live’ feel of its original videotape transmission.

An interesting piece of colour film of the production team and actors in costume on location has been uploaded onto you tube by Anthony Greenwood: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hqnykhKyggs

Vanity Fair (BBC2, Dec 2-30, 5 Eps, colour)

Dyson Lovell as Rawdon Crawley & Susan Hampshire as Becky Sharp, BBC studio, Oct 1, 1967

And so, to finish, Rex Tucker’s dramatization of William Thackeray’s Vanity Fair (1847), produced by David Conroy and starring the delightful Susan Hampshire as Regency mischief-maker Becky Sharp. As already stated, this was the first British costume drama to be made in colour. Happily it still exists (albeit not in a totally homogeneous format) and is commercially available on DVD.

The move into colour certainly helped bring these period dramas to life, inevitably blurring the gap between past and present. Vanity Fair effectively begins the long sequence of classic costume dramas that now so divide opinion.  Some viewers cannot abide the cheap studio props, heavy lighting and theatrical acting of these productions. Others, either reminiscing or simply fascinated by television history, accept the technical limitations and enjoy them for what they are: well-intended, faithful and generally well-acted adaptations of great literary works.

The 1967 Vanity Fair has all the charm and limitations of this period of small budget, tight deadlines and heuristic experimentation. Rushed post-production editing is in evidence (especially between film and videotaped sections of episode 1) but small quibbles shouldn’t detract from the overall lushness of the picture. At times a touch too close to drawing room farce rather than epic novel, it nonetheless deals well with the central themes of masquerade, scheming and hypocrisy. Roy Marsden is excellent as George Osborne and fans of Coronation Street will notice a very early performance by Thelma Barlow, playing the fastidious Miss Briggs.

Of the five episodes, the first has the slightly muffled, slow-motion quality of an NTSC conversion, while the others are much clearer (at least one is in its original PAL format). Being in colour, the serial was one of those selected to be converted into NTSC for the USA’s Masterworks series. During the period of junking, it seems that the BBC may have kept one or two episodes as historical evidence of their first colour drama (outtakes of the production also still exist). The DVD is composed of a combination of PAL and NTSC prints.

The British military costumes, long sideboards, paisley dresses, references to India and themes of flirtatiousness in a bellicose setting cannot help but echo and mirror events and fashions taking place outside the studio doors.

Six of the Best – 60s bands you might not know

Dylan Thomas’s “roadside bushes brimming with whistling/Blackbirds and the sun of October” have, among other things, kept your correspondent on matters Regency modern away from this site or blog for much too long. Despite earlier stated intentions, my research on Napoleon is currently in limbo, and so, to avoid any confusion engendered by too long a silence, I return to these pages now with different matters on my mind.

Recently, a friend asked if, in addition to such eighteenth/nineteenth-century-inspired beat combos as San Francisco’s Beau Brummells or London’s Bo Street Runners and Tintern Abbey, there were any other unknown or barely-known Regency-Modernist or Victoriana-fuelled 60s bands who took their names directly from individuals or cultural references from the period 1700-1850.

Dear Reader, over time we shall uncover myriad possible answers to this question, some of them supplied by anonymous individuals (and thus subject to confirmation), others the result of my own future research. For now, here are six bands from 1963-1969 whom you may never have heard of who (according to my sources) straddled the tightrope of temporal interplay between their contemporary moment and the unavoidable pull of the collective past. The following information has been provided to me by individuals who swear they were there ‘back in the day’.

The Huguenots

Inspired by the textile history of southern French protestants who emigrated to England from the Cevénnes region in the late seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries , this dapper four piece from East London apparently started pounding out r & b in late 1963. Singer Jean Cavallier met guitarist Anthony Court at a Graham Bond Organisation gig somewhere in the West End, teamed up with bassist Elliot Marion and French-speaking drummer Esprit Collins and recorded a 4-song demo tape ‘Stop the Dragoons’ in April ’64. The tape led to nothing and is nigh-on-impossible to locate, all members having given up music in 1965 to become fishmongers in different parts of Europe.

The Lyrical Ballads

As their moniker suggests, these lads were massive fans of Wordsworth and Coleridge. Long before the revolutionary collection, The Lyrical Ballads (1798) was being hailed as British poetry’s first ‘punk rock’ moment, five young mods from West Somerset (not the only ones, it must be said) were tapping into its meters and imagery to produce singles (on the Quantock label) such as ‘She’s in a Monastery’ and ‘Poor Susan’. Both of these were released in 1966 to little fanfare from the buying public. Singer Dave ‘Idiot Boy’ Parsons is still remembered in Bridgewater for setting fire to his breeches on stage.

The Mantalinis

Taking their cue from a character in Dickens’s Nicholas Nickleby, Mr. Alfred Mantalini, this bunch of sartorial reprobates formed around Holborn in 1964. Little is known about either their line-up, their recording history or live performances, but they certainly cut a dash in the streets of central London. Their visual attire was inspired by the illustration below, available in most good editions of the novel. It is not attested, though, whether their effect on women was akin to that of Mr. Mantalini in the illustration.

‘The Reduced Circumstances of Mr. Mantalini’ by Phiz (Hablot K Browne), from Charles Dickens’s Nicholas Nickleby (1839).

The Female Vagrants

The only girl-group in our list, Slough’s Female Vagrants took their name from one of the lyrical ballads of Wordsworth and Coleridge. Though purveyors of the blue-eyed-soul sound favoured by New York’s The Vagrants, it seems that the female variety were not inspired by them. Led by guitarist/singer Hannah Less, they are rumoured to have recorded one of the great lost folk-soul LPs, ‘By Derwent’s Side’, after leaving Berkshire for the Lake District in 1967. Theirs certainly is an intriguing mystery.

Los Faidits

Back to France, it seems, for one of the most obscure boogaloo outfits in musical history. Taking their name from the Occitan word for ‘exiles from the Albigensian Crusades’, Montauban’s Faidits have long been a source of hope, anxiety and shattered expectations on the Mediterranean underground soul scene. Collectors known to your scribe would gladly part with their entire stash of button-down shirts for a copy of the uber-rare 1968 side ‘Use it Before Toulouse it’ on the Fan-i-òc label.

The Thomas de Quincey

Think of proto-prog and you think of Procol Harum, Clouds, The Nice, The Moody Blues and perhaps Nirvana (the British ones). Do you, I ask, include Kent quartet The Thomas de Quincey? They were seemingly one of the first bands to destroy a mellotron on stage (a very foolish thing to do and perhaps a career-defining/ending moment). Two rarer-than-medium-rare singles, ‘Confessions of an English Oatcake Eater’ and ‘Knocking at the Gate’ (both 1967) are thought to exist as acetates, along with 1968’s unreleased LP Suspiria de Profundis, the master tapes of which are jealously guarded by someone claiming to be a direct descendant of Geoffrey Chaucer. Thought you knew your prog? Well, perhaps you do.

Until next time,

© The Regency Mod 2016

 

 

A Statement of Intent

At the risk of daring to wish to imbibe the aurum potabile of wider recognition, the Regency Mod has succumbed to the temptation to advertise his musings in an arena beyond his current audience of a mere handful of chosen acolytes.

That is to say, I hope to enlarge my audience, to reach out to those hitherto and perhaps even forthwith unaware of my scribblings, ideas and impressions. The time has come, Dear Reader, to utilize what I understand is termed ‘social media’ or, if not so bold, then at least to actively seek out new adherents to the cause of Regency Modernism.

If the tools of twenty-first-century modernity are there to communicate with like-minded spirits then, hey presto, it shall be done. That, at least, is my current position, one which I hope is not injudicious to put forward in these troubling times.

We are surely in and of an age where the post-modern is now passato. For too long, it has exerted its hegemony, flexed its ahistoricism and trampled hard upon the ancient desire to sift fact from falsehood, or simply cherish the joy of the primary source, the very real and tangible ‘document’ that yields its mysteries on closer inspection and contextualization.

A new age of historicism is upon us, one that draws parallels between the distant and recent past in a bid to better understand the present.

All this is not to imply that I gainsay any previous stated intention to at times be ‘fanciful’, to invent, juxtapose and tease my reader (s) for our mutual and consensual intellectual pleasure and satisfaction. Au contraire. The supercherie, if not the snuff, is not to be sniffed at.

However, for the time being, we shall aim for sincerity and authenticity.

So, allow me to use this as an opportunity to update you with news of forthcoming posts for this Autumn. Shortly, there will be something on Napoleon during the 1960s, Daumier in London in 1961, a first venture into fashion and a piece on costume drama.

The  reader may also like to note that the 1960 BBC production of Barnaby Rudge has been added to the list of dramas in my blog ‘Dickens in the 1960s’.

Until next time,

© The Regency Mod

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Five Regency Ballads

As the dog days of August fade into distant memory and September heralds the first mellow hints of autumn, the Regency Mod often finds thoughts turning to song, particularly of a folkloric variety. The 1960s saw a revolution in the British folk revival, a transformation from its learned origins in scholarly documentation and field recordings made of ageing singers for whom this music was a vestige of traditional oral culture.

Indeed, the decade witnessed a truly global engagement between folk music of the British Isles and the popular folk traditions of other cultures (North American, West Indian, North African, Pan-Celtic, Middle Eastern and Indian), as well as new dialogues between folk, jazz, pop, country blues, modern rhythm & blues and even medieval and baroque music. Tradition was starting (not without a struggle) to embrace Modernism and a big fat kiss would soon be returned.

Of course, interest in national and regional popular musical cultures of the past (and present) was a major element of European Romanticism, inspired in no small measure by the writings of German thinker Johann Gottfried Herder (1744-1803). In Britain, collections of ballads and other songs ancient and new were published in increasing volume from the 1760s onwards: one thinks of Thomas Percy’s Reliques of Ancient English Poetry (1765), Sir Walter Scott’s The Minstrelsy of the Scottish Border (1802-3) and, much later, Francis James Child’s The English and Scottish Popular Ballads (1882-98).

In addition to Scott’s book, the Long Regency (c.1790-1837) saw the publication in Britain of various folk song collections such as Joseph Ritson’s posthumous Northern Garlands (1810) and William Sandys’ pan-European Christmas Carols Ancient and Modern (1833). The period also witnessed one of the last major flourishings of single broadside ballads – song lyrics telling a story, often composed by one (sometimes named) individual, which were printed on one side of a sheet of paper to be distributed by hand or in larger folded sheets called chapbooks. The broadside had existed since the sixteenth century, reaching its peak of popularity in the seventeenth.

Joseph Ritson (1752-1803), an 1803 engraving by James Sayers
Source: Wikipedia

Whereas the impulse of the formal collections was often an antiquarian or Romantic desire to preserve or celebrate an idealized rural national past, the popular broadside ballad of the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries tended to deal with contemporary or near-contemporary matters. These were either specific events (Battle of Trafalgar or Waterloo, political demonstrations (Peterloo), murders, executions) or imaginary representations of real social and cultural issues (industrial unrest, deportation, press-gangs, wartime separations and the perennial themes of sex, violence and adultery).

By the time of the mid-twentieth-century folk revival, the Industrial Revolution (c.1780-1840) occupied a privileged position on the borders of what had become ‘ancient rural tradition’ and the modern industrial or post-industrial landscape. Events and emotions dramatised in songs from this era belonged to an age distant enough to evoke ‘tradition’, but sufficiently recent and concrete to suggest parallels with the rapidly changing post-war climate of the 1950s and 1960s.

Analogies were not hard to find. For the Napoleonic Wars (1793-1815), read the Cold War, potential nuclear war and, towards the end of the decade, Vietnam. Working conditions, union unrest, strikes, the position of women, democracy, urban expansion, (im)migration, the threat to rural traditions and the countryside, Anglo-Irish relations – all these matter were relevant to Britain in 1825 and 1965, together, of course, with…the perennial themes of sex, violence and adultery.

Here, then, is a selection of five ballads composed roughly between 1780 and 1830 which were recorded during the 1960s by artists involved in the revival and reinvention of traditional folk song.

1/ A. L. Lloyd, ‘The Poor Cotton Wayver’, from The Iron Muse, Topic LP, 1963

Known also as ‘The Four Loom Weaver’, as it was recorded in 1957 by Ewan MacColl for the 10” LP Shuttle and Cage (Topic 10T13), this post-Waterloo depression era industrial ballad dates to 1819-20, when handloom weavers’ wages were at an all-new low and steam was replacing traditional working methods. MacColl collected his version from a certain Becket Whitehead of Delph, near Oldham. London-born A. L. ‘Bert’ Lloyd, founder-member of Topic Records, co-editor (with Ralph Vaughan Williams) of The Penguin Book of English Folk Songs (1959) and major architect of the (English) folk revival, recorded ‘The Poor Cotton Wayver’ for Topic’s seminal compilation of industrial folk music, The Iron Muse (1963). British cotton production was in decline during the 1950s, a state of affairs leading to the 1959 Cotton Industry Act. Further reductions in demand for cotton during the next decade ensured this song would retain deep resonance in Lancashire and other cotton-producing regions.

2/ Anne Briggs, ‘Rosemary Lane’, from The Hazards of Love, Topic EP, 1964

Rag Fair or Rosemary Lane by Thomas Rowlandson (1756-1827)
Source: Wikimedia Commons

A much-loved ballad of seduction, ‘Rosemary Lane’ (sometimes called ‘Bell-Bottomed Trousers’) is perhaps best known to modernists via the version by Scottish guitar legend Bert Jansch, whose 1971 LP of the same name is something of an afterhours masterpiece. The song was introduced to him by Nottinghamshire-born Anne Briggs, one of his main collaborators and companions from 1959 to the mid-sixties. The nineteen year old Briggs, a pure-voiced free spirit who’d come to the attention of A. L. Lloyd at one of his Centre 42 music and theatre workshops, recorded the song in 1963 for the following year’s The Hazards of Love EP. Narrated by a servant girl persuaded into a night of passion by a sea-bound sailor, ‘Rosemary Lane’ is a variously dated to c.1780-1830 and was one of dozens of broadsides printed by Mrs Jennings of 13, Water-Lane, Fleet Street, London.

http://ballads.bodleian.ox.ac.uk/search/roud/269

3/ Davy Graham & Shirley Collins, ‘Reynardine’, from Folk roots, new routes, Decca LP, 1964

Image result for folk roots new routes

In distinct ways, Davy Graham and Shirley Collins were two of the most iconic figures of 1960s British folk music. A Guyanese Anglo-Scot who trod the Middle Eastern musical path long before most, Graham was the composer of ‘Anji’, a trailblazing guitar instrumental later recorded by Bert Jansch and Paul Simon. He was one of the first, if not the first, folk modernist, a sharp, dapper fellow whose love of modern jazz, calypso and Indian ragas bled into his jaw-dropping finger-picking guitar style. Sussex-born Collins, now 81, was one of the undisputed founders of the folk revival, recording as early as 1955 and a collector (with Alan Lomax) of European and North American songs by the likes of Almeda Riddle and Mississippi Fred McDowell. In 1964, with innovation the thing, she and Graham were coupled for a series of high-profile London concerts and an eclectic set for Decca of sixteen numbers ranging from Bobby Timmons’ ‘Grooveyard’ to the medieval ‘The Cherry Tree Carol’. One of several ballads balancing Graham’s raga-blues touches with Collins’ soulful interpretation of tradition, ‘Reynardine’ is another seduction ballad, in which the “sly, bold” male figure, who invites maidens to his castle, might be an outlaw, a ghost or Mr. Fox.

4/John Faulkner & Sandra Kerr, ‘Van Deimen’s Land’, from The Critics Group: Waterloo-Peterloo, English Folk Songs and Broadsides, 1780-1830, Argo LP, 1968

Image result for Critics Group waterloo

Dating probably to just before its first broadside appearance in 1830, ‘Van Deimen’s Land’ (the song also known as ‘The Gallant Poachers’) is a deportation or transportation ballad, from a time when poachers and other convicts were regularly transported to the penal colony of Tasmania (until 1856 Van Diemen’s Land). Like so many traditional songs, locations and personalities featured in the lyrics vary from version to version. This may give credence to one theory that the ballad was composed as a warning to poachers and other wrong-doers.

This version, sung by John Faulkner with guitar accompaniment by Sandra Kerr (both responsible for the music of 1970s children’s programme Bagpuss), was recorded in 1968 for an album of broadsides from 1780-1830 by The Critics Group, an ad-hoc ensemble set up by Ewan MacColl and Peggy Seeger. The Regency Mod enjoys listening to this and the 1971 version by Shirley Collins and the Albion Country Band in conjunction with The Kinks’ 1969 single ‘Australia’. The antipodean sub-continent’s journey from penal colony to land of opportunity is telling.

5/ Fairport Convention, ‘The Bonny Bunch of Roses’, from Meet on the Ledge: The Classic Years, 1967-1975, Island 2 CD, 1999

One of various Napoleon-themed British ballads doing the rounds in the early nineteenth century, literally dozens of recordings of ‘The Bonny Bunch of Roses’ have been made since Norfolk singer Harry Cox committed it to BBC tape on December 18, 1945. Artists to interpret it include Phil Tanner, A.L. Lloyd, Bill Porter, Bob Davenport, Nic Jones, Barry Lister, June Tabor and Jon Boden. The song dramatizes a dialogue between Bonaparte’s son Franz, Duke of Reichstadt (1811-1832) and his mother, Marie Louise of Austria (Napoleon’s second wife), who advises him not to rise to avenge the British who defeated his father at Waterloo. Critics have argued long the extent to which the song sympathizes with Napoleon Bonaparte, as several English-language ballads from the period undoubtedly did. Fairport, with Richard Thompson’s chiming electric guitar and the late, great Dave Swarbrick’s vocals and violin to the fore, recorded their ten-minute version at Gold Star Studios, Hollywood in May 1970 (see the excellent website https://mainlynorfolk.info/folk/, a source of much information provided here, for more details of this and many other ballads. ).

Portrait of Franz Bonaparte on his death bed, 1832, engraved by Franz Xaver Stöber
Source: Wikipedia

© The Regency Mod 2016

Dickens in the 1960s – An Introduction

What_the_Dickens!

Johnny Dankworth What the Dickens! LP (1963)
Source: Wikipedia. Copyright – Fontana

I am not the first, nor will I be the last, to say, with some conviction, that Charles Dickens (1812-1870) is one of the best loved and, let’s be frank, d**ned finest novelists ever to stroll through planet Earthington. Yet from around 1920-1950, within academic and literary circles at least, his star did not always shine so brightly as it had during his lifetime and has done since.

A combination of narrowly realist readings, gloomy E.M. Forster-inspired literalness (“But can we believe in his characters?!”) and snobbery towards his popularity with children and cats had reduced his status within British universities to that of an uncomfortable onlooker, a trespasser on F. R. Leavis’  The Great Tradition (1948), from which he was (initially) excluded.

Yet, as Bob Dylan still occasionally reminds us in another context, ‘the times they were “a-changin’” – by the late 1950s, there’d been a significant shift in appreciation among scholars. Of course, significant voices, such as George Bernard Shaw, Edmund Wilson and George Orwell, had championed Dickens before. Orwell’s 1940 essay ‘Charles Dickens’ (from Inside the Whale) is a landmark in modern criticism.

By the turn of the 1960s, though, several new books were arguing for the seriousness and complexity of Dickens, particularly the later novels: Bleak House, Little Dorrit, Great Expectations and Our Mutual Friend. In 1958, the American deconstructionist critic Joseph Hillis Miller (b.1928) published the highly influential Charles Dickens: The World of his Novels (http://victorian.lang.nagoya-u.ac.jp/dickens/miller-dickens.pdf), while in Britain there were important contributions from John Butt and Kathleen Tillotson (Dickens at Work, 1957) and the editors John Gross and Gabriel Pearson, whose Dickens and the Twentieth Century (1962) included important essays by Angus Wilson, John Bayley and W.J. Harvey.

Outside this rarefied world, of course Dickens had remained a consistently popular world writer since his death in 1870. Editions, dramatizations and translations of the novels and major stories, alongside biographies and studies of his life and times, were never in short supply. A major biographically-minded publication was G.K. Chesterton’s Charles Dickens (1906).

The early-twentieth-century technological developments of cinema, radio and television (the earliest film of a Dickens’ text dates to 1898) were all fruitful media for new representations of the imaginative universe of Dickens’ fictional grotesques and the panoramic scale of his social commentary. The BBC broadcast a television opera, Pickwick, in 1936, while the immediate post-Second-World War period produced two major, much-discussed British films by David Lean: Great Expectations (1946) and Oliver Twist (1948).

In the UK, television in particular became increasingly important during the 1950s as a medium for education and entertainment. By the end of the decade, Dickens was a regular fixture of the BBC’s serialized costume dramas, initially broadcast live, but recorded on videotape from around 1962. The survival rate of adaptations made in the 1960s is patchy to say the least, though some survive in the archives as film telerecordings.

Produced by the corporation’s Children’s Drama Department, these multi-part serials of (usually) 30-minute episodes were broadcast on BBC1 at Sunday tea-time, a sign perhaps that, despite his acceptance as a complex, adult-minded writer, Dickens was still cherished as a favourite for all the family. The absence of the more heavily satirical Hard Times and Little Dorrit from this era of programming is quite telling.

From the period that concerns us came Our Mutual Friend (1958/9), Bleak House (1959), Barnaby Rudge (1960), Oliver Twist (1962), The Old Curiosity Shop (1962/3), Martin Chuzzlewit (1964), A Tale of Two Cities (1965), David Copperfield (1966), Great Expectations (1959 & 1967), Nicholas Nickleby (1968) and Dombey and Son (1969). Our Mutual Friend featured future Man from U.N.C.L.E star David McCallum in the role of Eugene Wrayburn, while a young Ian McKellen played the lead in David Copperfield.

The 1969 production of Dombey and Son is quite possibly the very last BBC period drama to be made in black and white (Dickens’ popularity kept him away from BBC2, which started broadcasting colour dramas in late 1967 with Thackeray’s Vanity Fair). However, there is a 1970 colour television film of David Copperfield, and a 1974 BBC production of the same novel, with even longer sideburns, is available on DVD.

For many, though, the most iconic 1960s representation of anything written by Charles Dickens is Lionel Bart’s stage musical Oliver!, a hugely successful production which premiered at the New Theatre, London on June 30, 1960. For many Mods, Oliver! is most notable for a fourteen-year-old Steve Marriott playing the role of the Artful Dodger (and other members of Fagin’s gang) throughout most of 1961. Another young Mod-thespian, Phil Collins, he of Saxondale favourites Genesis, would take his turn in the role in 1965, towards the end of the show’s initial run.

Oliver! was not the first musical adaptation of a Dickens text or character. Parlour songs, ballads and instrumental pieces such as Brinley Richards’ ‘The Dolly Varden Polka’ date from the author’s own lifetime, while the 1950s saw two musical television adaptations of A Christmas Carol. However, it was easily the most ambitious up to that point and remains the most popular to this day, enjoying various revivals in London, Broadway and beyond.

A Galician Jew from Stepney, East London, Bart, by 1960, had already written hits for the likes of Cliff Richard and Tommy Steele and achieved success with the Joan Littlewood-produced cockney low-life musical Fings Ain’t Wot They Used T’be (1959). The Dickensian subject matter of London gangs, petty and more serious crime, cockney dialect, prostitution and police activity found in Oliver Twist was therefore familiar and fertile territory, ripe for contemporary treatment. Unrelated, though still worth mentioning, 1959 also saw a one-series sitcom, The Artful Dodger, featuring Dave Morris and future ‘Ethel Skinner’ Gretchen Franklin.

January 1962 was something of a high watermark in the modern history of Oliver Twist’s reception. On the 7th, with Bart’s West End musical half-way through its second year, the BBC launched its own 13-part mini-series, starring Bruce Pochnik as Oliver, to coincide with the 125th anniversary of the publication of the first instalment of the novel in 1837.

Of all Charles Dickens’ novels, Oliver Twist is the most immediately relevant to all things mod. Think of some of the shared ingredients – London locations, cockney dialect and invented slang, a gang of working-class adolescent males, theatrical strutting and peacock behaviour, subversive mockery or imitation of ‘respectable’ society, honorary girl members and, perhaps more controversially, a Jewish element (whilst the portrayal of Fagin by Dickens and in Lean’s production has long been seen by some as anti-Semitic, Bart, for obvious reasons, created a more sympathetic and amusing figure). Ok – the Artful Dodger may not have been moving his feet to John Lee Hooker, but his adopted mate’s surname does evoke a dance craze from 1961 and 1962!

There is little doubt that the success of both Oliver! and the BBC costume dramas, together with his place on school examination syllabuses, contributed to Dickens’ significant role in the development of post-war popular youth cultures. Is it too far-fetched to talk of a short-lived Olivermania in early 1962? Perhaps. And yet the success of Bart’s adaptation was immense and far-reaching. The character Nancy’s torch song ‘As Long as He Needs Me’ (initially sung by Georgia Brown) was covered worldwide by, among many others, Shirley Bassey (1960), Joni James (1962), Anita Kerr (1963) and Shani Wallis (for the Carol Reed film version of Oliver! (1968). When the stage show hit Broadway in 1963, the US response was not unlike that for the Beatles the following year.

As the London mod and r & b scenes grew throughout 1962 and 1963, certain Dickensian echoes filtered into the emerging tapestry of events. Eel Pie Island, the location of some of the earliest Yardbirds and Rolling Stones gigs, had featured in Nicholas Nickleby (1838/9) Miss Morleena Kenwigs repairs there by steamer from Westminster Bridge “to make merry upon a cold collation, bottled-beer, shrub, and shrimps, and to dance in the open air to the music of a locomotive band”.

In 1963, the seminal modernist jazz saxophonist-composer Johnny Dankworth, alongside other British jazz legends including Tubby Hayes, Bobby Wellins and Ronnie Scott, recorded ‘What the Dickens!’ an entire LP inspired by the novelist (see photo at top). By 1964, the Kinks, regularly turned-out in leather top boots, waistcoats, riding coats, longish hair and frilly shirts, were now modelling themselves on Dickens characters. In his 1994 autobiography X-Ray (p. 120), Ray Davies remarked that “Avory was Bill Sikes; Dave was the Artful Dodger, I was Smike from Nicholas Nickleby and Quaife insisted on being Pip from Great Expectations, even though his manner suggested he was more like Mr. Micawber”.1

By June 1965, as London was officially ‘swinging’, Charles Dickens himself appeared to return to Earth to see what all the fuss was about. Perhaps he took time to visit a Paddington restaurant themed in his honour called ‘Our Mutual Friend’ (http://www.britishpathe.com/video/dickens-restaurant/query/MUSIC+PUB). He certainly knocked on the door of the Top 40, with the single ‘That’s the Way Love is/In the City (Pye 1965) – a second, the Jagger/Richards-penned ‘So Much in Love’ appeared on Immediate in February 1966. Much to the disappointment of this scribe, the Dickens in question was in fact a fashion photographer called David Anthony. ‘In the City’, however, so my friend Claude tells me, is ‘a nice mid-tempo mover’.

Charles Dickens 45

‘B’ side of Charles Dickens’ single, ‘That’s the Way Love Goes’ (1965)
Source: http://www.45cat.com/record/7n15887

Regency imagery and Victoriana increasingly pervaded the British fashions and designs of 1966, 1967 and 1968. The psychedelic era in Britain is perhaps more associated with Lewis Carroll, Aubrey Beardsley and Thomas de Quincey. However, with continued BBC adaptations, the 1968 film version of Oliver! and preparations for the centenary of his death in 1970, Dickens inevitably remained in the spotlight. As the decade reached its conclusion, East London hard rockers Spice changed their name to Uriah Heep, ensuring that the inimitable Boz would be honoured in truly ’eavy and ’umble style.

Footnote

[1] This quote also appears in Christine Jacqueline Feldman’s We Are the Mods (Peter Lang, 2009, p. 28).

© The Regency Mod, 2016

Further Reading

The Oxford Reader’s Companion to Dickens (ed. Paul Schlicke), OUP, 1999, especially entries: ‘criticism and scholarship’, ‘music and musicians evoking Dickens’ work’ and ‘television adaptations of Dickens’

The Kaleidoscope BBC Television Drama Research Guide, 1936-2006 (eds. Simon Coward, Richard Down, Christopher Woodall Perry), Kaleidoscope, 2009

Joss Marsh and Carrie Sickmann, “The Oliver! Phenomenon; or, ‘Please sir, we want more and more!’”, Essays and Studies. 65 (2012): 150-170. Dickens Bicentenary Special Issue, Dickens and Modernity. Ed Juliet John.

Avertissement to Reader

As I write (August 2016), now in the second half of the sixth year of what has by some been termed ‘This New Regency’, not only is there a bicentennial reappraisal of the Regency era itself (1811-1820) and  a continuing interest in what may be termed the ‘Long Regency’ (c. 1795-1837), but also an intensifying semi-centennial marking of the 1960s, a decade which, though fading from living memory, never ceases to beguile, fascinate, mislead and tease new generations as well as (let us not forget) those for whom it cast its various spells either in present tense mode or during subsequent periods of nostalgie.

Thus it seemed apposite to this particular scribe, the Regency Mod, for whom both these epochs of history have co-existed in a fraternal embrace since at least 1985, to devote a portion of his energies to a full and boundless examination of the influences the one had on the other (notwithstanding the possibility, for some readers of certain theosophical persuasions, that the other may also have exerted its retrospective influences on the one).

Of course, an objection rears its head! “How could only ten, perhaps twenty years come to bear so significantly on a single decade some 150 years later?” goes the cry. Even allowing for contemporary notions of “inventing tradition” and “cultural reception” and the acknowledged importance of the 1810s and 1960s in Europe, nay the World, as periods of vitality, crux and radical change, do the various echoes of the Regency strictu sensu found in the costumes, poetry and ideas of the 1960s merit such attention?

Though my immediate answer would be “Indeed, Sir and Madam, it does”, my interests in the past and its effects on more recent times can be extended back to the Georgian period and onto the Edwardian. This Regency Mod is the friend of the Victorian Dandy, the Orleanist Beatnik and the Hanoverian Skinhead. Hence these musings, compiled in the form of a Blog, will incorporate the myriad influences on the events and productions of the 1960s of a longer period stretching from around 1780-1900 – the Ages of Romanticism, Capital, Empire and early Modernism and their revisitings and reworkings in the Age of mid-twentieth-century Modernism.

It will strive to be factual; it may at times permit itself to be fanciful. It will always be thoughtful.

© The Regency Mod