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Mary Irvine’s Blog: Another Musical Musing, October, 2017

randy newman
I have mentioned before that I don’t have a TV. I tell people it’s because I can’t afford the licence fee but it’s actually because I know it would interfere too much in my life. I listen to the radio quite a lot. There’s quite a calming influence about Radio 4 which I find very therapeutic. But it’s not only that, there are great programmes, documentaries/discussions, current affairs, entertainment, lovely to hear the verbal sparring of the likes of ‘Just a Minute’ and ‘I’m sorry, I haven’t a clue’. (‘Dad’s Army’ and ‘Hancock’s ‘alf Hour’ were much funnier on the radio - their original genre I remember from the near distant past!) There are also excellent dramas and episodic readings of books I may never have encountered.

The whole point of the above waffle is that I recently listened to the programme ‘Masterclass’ (2 episodes) in which Randy Newman talked about his ‘Sail Away’ album. Is it really 45 years since it was produced? A brilliant musician, an eclectic and prolific songwriter.* But it is his solo songs/albums that I most enjoy.

As with many singer/songwriters people don’t actually listen to the words. On this album ‘God’s Song’ and the title track ‘Sail Away’ are my favourites for their satire and social comment. Many misunderstood and criticised them because they didn’t listen closely enough to the words. The same happened with the later ‘Short People’ and caused quite a scandal. The album also contains 2 big hits although not for Newman himself. ‘Simon Smith and His Amazing dancing Bear’ (Alan Price) and ‘You Can Leave Your Hat On’ (Joe Cocker, Tom Jones not together, naturally!)

In case you think he’s not relevant anymore, check out ‘Political Science’ from the above album but could have been written for today. Also listen to his latest (2017) album ‘Dark Matter’.

If you’re saying ‘Who is she on about now? Never heard of him!’ I suggest you look up his bio and full song/film list of credits. You’ll probably have seen lots of films for which he wrote the scores. I’d also put money on your coming away humming or singing a memorable song - maybe even had it played at your wedding!

Randy Newman Discography

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Publisher of Pat’s Guide to Glasgow West End; the community guide to the West End of Glasgow. Fiction and non-fiction writer.

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