Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Jake Thackray

Jake Thackray was a brilliant man, a poet who set his poems to music and sang them to the accompaniment of a quirky guitar. I adored him, as did my kids. His songs were full of wit, wisdom and often a certain poignancy. His accent was unplaceable: a fruity RP kind of pronunciation which frequently lapsed into a delicious Scouse (Liverpool) intonation with incongruous vowel quantities.
Look at him. A latter-day Byron, full of life and passion, but also given to melancholy. He finally drank himself to an early grave. Jake Thackray, you were a one off. I recommend anyone reading this to try to get hold of some of his recordings. His songs are simply amazing.
Here is one that has a certain resonance for me. Try to hear it in a minor key with a quirky syncopated rhythm:

If your come around to mourn for grandad don't dress up in black
'cos although my grandad's dead and buried odds on he'll be back, yes.
Although they stuffed him in his coffin and read out the will
And although he's six foot deep in darkness he'll never lie still.
He's made of sterner stuff, he's not dead enough.
Angels, saints and seraphim
Please will you try to keep an eye
On him.

On his ninetieth birthday, grandad went down for a drink.
Now my grandad is a rabid dipso with a throat like a sink.
He drank himself towards the skyline and his friends to the floor
Just to prove how fit he was for boozing for ninety years more.
Your pearly gates he''ll climb when it's opening time.
Angels, saints and seraphim
you'll find it hard to keep a guard
On him.

They brought him home upon a handcart with his legs in the air
He was singing Rule Britannia in his underwear.
He challenged all the county police force to a fight right away
Then he offered to put the ladies' union in the family way.
You crystal domes will shake when he makes his break
Angels, saints and seraphim
He'll give the slip so get a grip
On him.

The doctor lifted up an eyelid and pronounced him gone
But to judge from grandad's finger signals the doctor was wrong.
They dressed him in his Sunday nightshirt, they combed out his hair
But they couldn't get my grandad's boots off, he'd need them up there:
You silken wings he'll shed, he will paint paradise red
Angels, saints and seraphim
Please don't expect that much respect
From him.

Even at the solemn moment he wouldn't behave
For I heard him whistling in his coffin on his way to the grave.
He took off towards the New Jerusalem with his pinch of salt
I distinctly heard him flatulating in his marble vault.
Your candles will be dimmed when he gets the wind.
Angels, saints and seraphim
Although he's old, although he's cold
Keep a tight hold
On him.

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