Sunday 9 December 2018

Working it ou: Moved to tears by Bryan Ferry and deja vu

Bryan Ferry
Bryan Ferry

John Masterson

I saw a tweet a while back of a cassette tape and a Bic ballpoint. The question posed was what connects these two items? Anyone under a certain age will have no idea. Those of more mature years will remember hours saving their favourite twisted tape. And those people will also remember the hours spent by people putting together compilation tapes for journeys, parties or presents. I know you can do all this on your phone in 10 seconds but it just isn't the same.

Those who know me will know I am a fan of the great American standards. Most of these memorable songs came from musicals. Today they stand alone and we do not even remember where they came from. Many who went to Calamity Jane recently will have re-discovered that The Deadwood Stage (Whip Crack Away), The Black Hills of Dakota and My Secret Love all began life in the same musical.

There is not a day goes by when Send in the Clowns from A Little Night Music does not come into my head. I even sing it in the car, badly, and in the shower, worse. And I never see a full moon without thinking of the night my father died, and Sinatra singing Full Moon and Empty Arms. Though I now like Bob Dylan's recent version better.

I was going on a two-day long drive recently and a friend popped a CD in my pocket. It was almost like the cassette days of old.

"You might like this," she said. "And I don't think you know it."

She was right on both counts. Bryan Ferry was one of those people who had slipped by. I knew little of him and I had missed Roxy Music altogether. I thought no more of it and popped it into the CD machine along with the others I had selected for the drive.

The album was As Time goes By. The title track was the first and it is a song I have always loved. It is from the long-forgotten 1931 Broadway musical Everybody's Welcome. I knew I would be humming it for the next week. But it was track six that got me. I played it over and over and then stopped the car and was close to tears as I Googled the song. I had heard it before and knew the version that Sinatra sang at Sammy Davis's 60th birthday. But I had missed Bryan Ferry singing it on Jools Holland. It is a song about déja vu and I cannot think of another song that has taken this experience as a subject. The song is Where Or When from Babes in Arms (1937)

Ferry's voice has the vulnerability that is not there in Sinatra or Diana Krall. And, God knows, they know how to sing a song.

"Some things that happen for the first time, Seem to be happening again, And so it seems that we have met before, And laughed before, And loved before, But who knows where or when."

We have all been there and it is an emotional place. Bryan Ferry must have been there. It made my journey.

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