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Summer nights

September 13, 2012

“Summer nights” for once does not refer to John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John, however good they were and however much sex appeal they oozed.

Unlike many contemporaries I never really had much of a thing for the latter: variously described as ONJ, the “Neutron Bomb”, and (per Eric Morecambe) Three Lovely Fellers, but she wasn’t the one that I wanted.

Mine was more  punk pin-up Hazel O’Connor, but only to listen to, and only when she sang Will You?  Otherwise she was pretty scary. Singing Decadent Days on Top of the Pops in 1981, strutting agressively around wearing tight black trousers and a black bra, she should perhaps have been more attractive to a boy in late adolescence, but this one was cowering  behind the sofa. (Dad, meanwhile, was looking on with disapproval, but whether it was the song, the performance, the skimpiness of the upper clothing or its colour that he objected to, I can’t clearly remember.)

It was the singer of Will You?  – a beautiful, haunting, slow song, the last third of which is a mesmerising sax solo – that drew me, rather than Hazel herself. It’s easy to understand if the music is right. Mum says that the true love of Dad’s life was really soprano Elisabeth Schwarzkopf. Dad says nothing, sniggering behind his hand because Mum has forgotten his passion for Dame Janet Baker.

Which brings us back to Summer nights. Or, to come clean, Les Nuits d’Été, a cycle of six songs by Berlioz, on a recording by Janet Baker we picked up recently at a charity shop. Berlioz isn’t usually first choice for me, and I am not conscious of having heard any other recording of these songs, but the richness of this is beyond beautiful.  It’s absolutely the right combination of music and performance.  I’m with Dad on this: Janet Baker is the business.

And the accompaniment to these remarks? The Psychedelic Furs, Forever Now. But let me assure you, it’s purely platonic.

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One Comment
  1. Links to Will You? and Decadent Days should be embedded. But just in case, here they are (hopefully) again:

    Janet Baker – Nuits d’ete
    Elisabeth Schwarzkopf (sound only)

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