Wednesday, 5 August 2009
Those Palm Court Days
For those of us nearing the end of our fifth decade in this whale of tears, it can sometimes seem that we were born into a different world, one now impossibly remote. Mention of my boyhood holidays with my grandmother in this post got me thinking about those distant days in the still genteel resorts of England. The entertainment on offer (apart from the odd exotic bird of passage like John Ogdon) represented the last gasp of the music hall, with mostly dire comedy and novelty acts interspersed with bad crooners trying to sound American. In those days resorts had bands in residence through the summer. In Scarborough, my grandmother would often doze in a deckchair to the strains of Max Jaffa and his Palm Court Orchestra (Jaffa's band included over the years the likes of Plum Wodehouse, Jack Lemon, Alfred Apple Jr, Clementine Churchill - and, in a disastrous late experimental phase, Don Cherry, Moby Grape and Tangerine dream - but I digress). Jaffa and his orchestra also had a regular, very popular show on the radio, which lasted into the 60s. By then, of course, the game was up - the pop-rock juggernaut was rolling - but the old ways hung on a surprisingly long time. Before the coming of Radio 1 (the pirate stations forcing the BBC's hand) there were precious few original recordings to be heard on the (legitimate) radio. If you were lucky, you might get a live performance, backed by the Northern Dance Orchestra; if you were less lucky, it would be an 'interpretation' by said NDO - a fine band, but they could not in any sense be said to rock (and their leader, Bernard Herrmann, was not THAT Bernard Herrmann, of Psycho fame). Once the BBC succumbed to rock, the whole world soon followed suit. For me, along with the music, adolescence struck, with its attendant horrors and follies. Those holidays were at an end, and so was that distant pre-pop world. What a long strange trip it's been, as Max Jaffa remarked (or was it Cherry Garcia?).