Ralph, Dylan, Tom, John CC and Ralph again!

19 May

I’m into connectivity! Not in the electrical sense although it comes in handy, I actually mean when one thing leads onto another often over long periods of time or when there’s a nice coincidence!

Thirty three years ago I acquired an album by Ralph McTell called “You Well Meaning Brought Me Here”. I’d never heard of him until someone said he’d written Streets of London which was a sort of pre Big Issue comment about homelessness and urban isolation. It’s been his bread and butter for decades but something of a curse in that he’s been writing brilliant stuff since the mid sixties and Streets while popular is eclipsed by both earlier and later material although as soon as you say Ralph McTell to anyone they go “Streets of Lon…” and it really must piss him off. It’s not till you see him live that I think you can fully appreciate him and his musical skills as writer and stand out solo guitarist! I saw him at an intimate folk club near Stockport in 1982 and he signed the LP!

I hit 52 this weekend and having gone through the maudlin morose bit plus two rather enjoyable nights out and a scrummy triple chocolate cake courtesy of Debs that most certainly wasn’t suitable for diabetics on insulin (!) I found myself the very pleased owner of a four CD boxed set spanning McTell’s forty odd years. I knew I was getting it as I’d found it reduced in a Paris music shop last February! Connectivity of sorts as many of his early songs were written in or inspired by Paris in fact his hit started out being called Streets of Paris which sort of takes the shine off it a bit!

The Boy With A Note

The Boy With A Note

Included in the boxed set are tracks from a 1992 CD called “The Boy With a Note”, a homage to Dylan Thomas and (connectivity) this at the time pinged me off in Thomas’s direction and I ended up quite absorbed in both Dylan and Caitlin Thomas but only so far as their personalities and live, I can struggle with his poetry but what a chaotic life and fractious relationship underwritten by genuine devotion they had for each other. McTell’s track Summer Girls hints at Dylan Thomas’s main character weakness, this being that he struggled to believe in himself!

Tom Hollander, better known as the Rev on BBC nailed Thomas’s looks and character as far as I had imagined them in a BBC drama last night with Essie Davis doing the same for Caitlin, though I doubt the interiors were shot on location the Boathouse at Laugharne was extensively featured.

Tom Hollander as Dylan and Essie Davis as Caitlin

Tom Hollander as Dylan and Essie Davis as Caitlin

Given that I can take or mostly leave his written output (except Under Milk Wood and Rage Rage Rage) I don’t know why I’m drawn to Thomas but the Boathouse has a kind of magic to it, it genuinely brings the past to the present. Last time we were there it was unusually busy and by chance it was the Laugharne Weekend and as we were walking away from the house none other than (connectivity) John Cooper Clark was heading down there to read his own stuff to a sold out max capacity audience of 20 in Dylan’s front room. He was doing a bigger crowd later which likewise was sold out! Unable to see one of my favourite poets partly because I didn’t know he was there I headed off to the churchyard where Dylan and Caitlin are to be found enjoying a serenity that evaded them in real life.

Dylan and Caitlin

Dylan and Caitlin

I’ve sat by that grave three times now and there’s never been anyone else there but small tributes are always there at the base of the simple wooden cross, small toys, a single measure bottle of Bells whisky. On the same visit that JCC was at large I wandered back from the graveyard in search of Wiz and her minder and bumped into Howard Marks aka Mr Nice who was on his way to have a chat with his fellow Welshman. Then Steve Morris (New Order drummer) and Stuart Maconie were taking tea down near the castle. If you ever find yourself heading from Swansea to Haverfford West it would be remiss if you didn’t take a slight detour. Get the right weekend and it can be quite surreal!

Dylan and Caitlin. Caitlin features on the other side of the cross. Not the gifts at the base!

Dylan and Caitlin. Caitlin features on the other side of the cross. Not the gifts at the base!

When I tore the packaging off the McTell boxed set something caught my attention that wasn’t there when I handed if over for wrapping, a ticket to see Ralph McTell at his 70th Birthday concert in London this December! Thank you for humouring me!



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