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?).


  1. Wish I could contribute but, being so much younger, this means nothing to me. The only thing I remember of those bygone days is 'Friday Night in Music Night' on Radio 2. Doubt if this helps but I thought it worth a go.

  2. Thank heavens those days are over in many ways. In my case it was a choice of Hastings Pier or the De La Warr Pavilion a few miles along the coast. The Pavilion was where, so I imagined, wizened colonels and old Edwardian ladies were hauled out for a last attempt at a Victoria sponge amid dusty, joyless palms before being sent off to the town's overworked crematorium. The Pier, in contrast, reeked of excitement with its bikers, Teddy boys and wierdos. To their credit, my parents mostly succeeded in keeping me well away from it. Then I grew old enough to travel, and bingo - it was Cherry Garcia and Bob Weir all the way. It's affordable travel that has changed everything, I think.

  3. Ah, yes, I remember it well, the Victoria cast iron bandstands, the Victorian cast iron orchestra's, murdering The Trout on every occasion.
    Not to mention t'brass bands.
    Max Jaffa, wearing the obligatory fixed smile, wave baton, turn to audience, fixed smile, turn back and wave baton again. All of course finally swept away by Miles Davis Kind of Blue.
    Talking of which, Eric Coates gained a mention last night, on the BBCs education prog, the one show, bloody one show right enuff.

  4. Very fruity singers: Plum, Lemon, Apple, Clementine, Cherry, Grape, and Tangerine. Did one have to have a juicy name to join the band?

    My grandma used to watch Lawrence Welk. Even as a child, I knew he was dreck.

  5. waaaay before my time, but I've always had an interest in british music of the late 50's and very early 60's - as I heard someone describe that weird hinterland before pop exploded :

    "It was half past Elvis and a quarter to The Beatles"

  6. The best British popular music of the late 50's and early 60's was Trad Jazz - half past King Oliver and a quarter to Jelly Roll Morton.

  7. True enough Worm, weird hinterland, a good description, some of the music was ground breaking, most was ball breaking...Lita Rosa, Mel Torme, Roy Rogers, Lonnie Donegan, Craig Douglas, all now long forgotten, thank goodness.
    Peggy Lee was fantastic though.
    Pop didn't so much explode onto the scene, it sort of, kinda, farted.

  8. Lawrence Welk? I feel another band coming on...
    Lonnie Donegan had something Malty (if you could forgive him for the novelty songs).
    Weird hinterland indeed, Worm - and jazz the best escape route...

  9. All of this jazz talk had me delving into boxes last night. Found an EP (younger bloggers please note, EP = extended play 45 RPM record, held four tracks normally) this one was Rex Stewart and Cootie Williams, all good stuff. Also found Count Basie's the kid from red bank, pure magic.

  10. My recollection of Max Jaffa is at the Palm Court of the Grand Hotel Eastbourne - a Sunday night radio programme.. This, unless my memory is playing tricks, involved Albert Sandler before Max Jaffa.
    Anyway, I visited the Grand Hotel several times in the sixties, and stayed, there, wallowing in nostalgis!