Saturday, 11 May 2019

Joad's Pianola

Talking of Larkin, I came across a mysterious reference in one of his early letters to the celebrity philosopher C.E.M. Joad, about whom I have written before. Larkin talks of having 'played a few records and bashed out several choruses of blues like Joad playing his f*cking Bach [Lord, young Larkin is foul-mouthed – that's my asterisk, needless to say] every morning on the pianola'.
  I had not until now associated Joad with the pianola – did he really play one? Indeed he did, and here's the proof (below) in a cherishable little Pathé documentary, in which we also get to see the Socrates of the 20th century running around in baggy shorts playing hockey (it looks like a men v women match, no doubt designed to prove yet again the uselessness of the fair sex) and to hear him addressing the vexed question of when it might be ethically justifiable to break the law. When defrauding the railway companies perhaps? If so, it was an argument that didn't carry the day at Tower Bridge Magistrates Court in 1948.


  1. Joad pops up again a little further into the Letters, when young Larkin is listening to The Brains Trust with his father. 'I don't trust their brains,' he writes to KA, 'no, not at all. And I wish my father wouldn't sit at my elbow privately and vociferously agreeing and disagreeing with the speakers ... And I wish a man called Joad were there because the way he speaks words makes me laugh, and he isn't there.' I wonder if he had that effect on many others at the time. He certainly would today...

  2. Joad appears in a letter of Evelyn Waugh's from April 1942:

    "The Brains Trust were smugly saying that anyone ought to be paid equal wages with soldiers and it seemed to me that too many people at the moment are anxious to take money away from others, so I suggested that we made a start by each accepting 1/3 for his afternoons work. They were aghast but ashamed to dissent so I left them with that decision but the certainty in my mind that they would rat as soon as my back was turned.
    will you please find out if they did rat? If so, receive my l21 + 1st return fare Hawick-London. If they ratted I shall give the press the full story with details and I hope to do something to discredit Joad (which is greatly in the national interest). I go to Pixton Monday-Wednesday. Could you send me a telegram there saying 'ratted' or no."

    The editor's note says, "They ratted."

  3. Fascinating. Thanks George.