Among my most treasured possessions is a set of classic recordings, each and every one of which was lovingly compiled for me years ago on cassettes from the original gramophone records in the collection of my elder brother Hamish. Lately I had them transferred to CD, so now I can savor them afresh. There is a hint of the remedial instinct at work here, and a gentle nudge from Big Brother towards the specialist taste of the café concert transplanted to Nashville, Tenn., South Gippsland, and Brunswick Street, Fitzroy—also, come to think of it, New Orleans, La., Broadway, Hollywood and San Francisco, Calif., Pinewood Studios and Broadcasting House in London, and Paris, France.
Here, for example, is the playlist for An Evening at Maxine’s, Vol. 1: (1) Charles Aznavour, “The Old-Fashioned Way” (Aznavour/ Garvarentz/ Hirschhorn/ Kasha); (2) Telly Savalas, “Who Loves Ya, Baby?” (Cacavas); (3) Sophie Tucker, “Stay At Home, Papa” (Tucker); (4) Chad Morgan, “The Fatal Wedding” (Morgan); (5) Delia Derbyshire, Dick Mills, and the BBC Radiophonic Workshop, Theme music for Doctor Who (fragment) (Grainer); (6) Julio Iglesias, “Pensami” (Grever/ Belfiore); (7) Dolly Parton and Porter Waggoner, “Jeannie’s Afraid of the Dark” (Parton); (8) Percy Faith (above) and his orchestra, Theme music for A Summer Place (Steiner); (9) Hank Williams, Jr., “Jambalaya (On the Bayou)” (Williams); (10) Sons of the Pioneers, “Chant of the Wanderer” (1941); (11) The Swingle Singers, Jazz Voice Transcription of the Fugue in D Minor (Bach, from The Well-Tempered Clavier); (12) Lyle Lovett “She’s Leaving Me Because She Really Wants To” (Lovett); (13) Jerry Lee Lewis, “Cold, Cold Heart” (Williams); (14) Unattributed arrangement of the theme music for The Third Man (Karas); Unidentifiable cover of “(There’ll Be) Peace in the Valley (For Me)” (Dorsey); (15) Dolly Parton, “Wings of a Dove” (Parton); (16) Henry Mancini and his orchestra, “The Pink Panther Theme” (Mancini); (17) Mitzi Gaynor, “I’m Gonna Wash That Man Right Outa My Hair” (original cast recording) (Rodgers and Hammerstein); (18) Glen Campbell, “Honey Come Back To Me” (Webb); (19) Kingston Trio, “Them Sand Pickers” (Mason Williams); (20) Cab Calloway and his orchestra, “Minnie the Moocher” (Calloway/ Mills); (21) Petula Clark, “Il faut revenir” (1966); (22) Unattributed poolside music (“I love the sweet Maori girl”); (23) Commander Cody, “Truck Drivin’ Man” (Fell); (24) Freddie Fender, “The Wild Side of Life” (Carter/ Warren); (25) Tanya Tucker, “Pride of Franklin County” (Tibbles/ Keith); (26) Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass, “The Lonely Bull (El solo toro)” (Lake); (27) Linda Ronstadt, “The Tattler” (Cooder/ Titelman); (28) Status Quo, “Wild Side of Life” (Warren/ Carter); (29) Dwight Yoakam, “Smoke Along the Track” (Rose/ Helms); (30) Patsy Cline, “Crazy” (Cline/ Nelson), and (31) Fragment of an unattributed cover of “Aloha ’Oe” by Lydia Lili‘u Loloku Walania Wewehi Kamaka‘eha, better known as Queen Lili‘uokalani of the Hawaiian Islands.
Is there, I wonder, a common thread that wends its way through this programme of hits? What lessons has my brother set before me with such thoughtfulness and unabashed eclecticism? The country and western and occasional gospel elements are unavoidable, as is the recurring focus on the clash between, on the one hand, machismo and, on the other, redoubtably independent-minded women, above all the astonishing Sophie Tucker. This makes for considerable Sturm und Drang. Yet consider also the tenderness, the subtlety, the lightness of touch exhibited by Charles, Julio, Glen, Telly Savalas (especially), not to mention The Sons of the Pioneers, and Her late Majesty Queen Lili‘uokalani. An unusual combination, perhaps, but one would expect nothing less from Hamish the Magnificent.