Thursday, 17 April 2008

Betjeman's Banana Blush

Chatting about an anthology of John Betjeman's poetry reminded me of a pleasant eccentricity from the mid-1970s: the three albums, starting with Betjeman's Banana Blush, of Betjeman's own readings set to the music of Jim Parker.

Listening again, I think they've stood the test of time well, and are definitely worth checking out: a varied mix of appropriately-arranged poems, with moods ranging from exuberance to the deep wistfulness of old age. All three are widely available on CD, and you can find samples of the tracks at Betjeman's Bananana Blush, Sir John Betjeman's Late-Flowering Love and Sir John Betjeman's Britain. Among my favourites is A Shropshire Lad, a poem about the Shropshire-born Captain Webb (Betjeman's notes to this poem say that it should be read in a Midland accent). Sun and Fun: The Song of a Nightclub Proprietress is also very good; if you're an explorer of links to our associates, you may have encountered another arrangement, one of Madeleine Dring's Five Betjeman Songs, sung by our friend Mitzi Maybe.

Roy Wilkinson's Guardian article, How Betjeman learned to boogie, reports on the background, with an outro on other poet/musician collaborations.

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