Saturday, 23 July 2011


I am a gourmand. I love to eat. I have eaten wonderful food all over the world and in all sorts of places and I am therefore now, in my fifties, a very fat bloke. Here are some gourmet tunes that I shall post each dinner time as I wait for my snail porridge to cook.

#50 Herbie Hancock: Canteloupe Island
The only melon I really like is watermelon and Hancock did of course have a big hit with his Watermelon Man but I prefer this tune, even if canteloupe wouldn’t be my choice of a starter, even wrapped in Parma ham as it often is on these shores. My partner recently ate a melon stuffed with haggis in Istanbul and it looked delicious. I sampled the 'haggis' and it was splendid. This was at Matbah restaurant, at the back of the Ottoman Palace Hotel, beside Hagia Sophia. When I say haggis, I mean stuffing made with rice, pine nuts, minced beef, spices, and so forth. His verdict was "Haggis in a melon rather than a sheep's stomach, Turkey WINS!"

#49 Las Ketchup: The Ketchup Song
Apparently the Spanish all girl group took the name because their dad is a famous flamenco guitarist called El Tomate (The Tomato). I chose this song because we heard it a lot when we were touring round Thailand and Cambodia years ago and were pursued by this earworm. Shame I really don’t like tomato ketchup. Like mushroom ketchup lots though. Can't abide raw tomato either. My grandmother used to force me to eat them when I was a lad and I'd throw up. My sister and I still gag when faced with an uncooked tomato.

#48 Sammy Davis Jr: The Candy Man
I have never liked the word Candy. It's American for sweets and makes me think of those disgusting tooth-hurty candy canes you get as Christmas decorations. This is a song from the original film of Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, written by Leslie Bricusse and Anthony Newley specifically for the film. I always assumed Candyman had another meaning. Sammy Davis Jr had a big hit with his cover. Unfortunately, after Davis inadvertently sang the song three times in a row while looking into a mirror, the Candyman came and chopped him up and he was never seen again.

#47 The Kingsmen: Jolly green giant
The men who gave us Louie Louie in 1963. In 1965, they had another Top Ten Hit with this. I was terrified of the Giant when I was a kid. And I had grown up and left home before I ever ate sweetcorn. Love it, though. Usually have it dripping in butter and poisoned with salt.

#46 Supertramp: Breakfast In America
I don’t think I ever bought one of their albums at the time but everyone I knew seemed to like them. Over time, I have warmed to this. Maybe it’s just the nostalgia. Reminds me of Judi Pulver. Remember her? They’re Dancing On The Moon? I have to say that I don’t have great memories of breakfasts in America. Bagels were good but grits were disappointing. Hush puppies and hash browns were interesting. My culinary thrills all came later in the day.

#45 Weezer: Pork and Beans
Not a bad wee song. The video’s fun though, with its litany of references of internet memes from the past few years. And pork and beans is a great combination. Boston baked beans; cassoulet; sausage, chips and beans; whatever…

#44 Moby: Honey
Saw him perform on the Edinburgh Castle Esplanade one Hogmanay. Still have the t-shirt (that I wear only to the gym). Like this tune a lot, hearing it after such a hiatus. And honey, according to Barbara Cartland (who died at the age of 111 while riding to hounds with her Argentinian lover), is very good for you.

#43 The Drifters: Sweets for my Sweet
A year before Up On The Roof and two before Under The Boardwalk, The Drifters developed a sweet tooth. My Sweetie’s favourite sweets are Cadbury’s Creme Eggs and Tangfastics. I never eat sweets, but if I did, I would kill for chocolate limes and sherbet lemons. And Green & Black’s Maya Gold chocolate.

#42 Don McLean: American Pie
Loved this album and several songs from it. Madge covered this song of course but I still prefer the original, which has nothing to do with food. American Pie to me means the pecan pie I had in the U.S. and which I produce each year for an expat American’s fabulous Thanksgiving Dinner-in-Exile. Not that any of us has room for pie after all the delicious traditional fare like turkey stuffed with marshmallows or whatever.

#41 Blue Dots: Saturday Night Fish Fry
This jolly celebration of convivial fish eating ably sums up the joyful experience of going to visit a friend of ours who lives in a fishing town on the South Coast. She goes out to the fish market when we come down and, having once been a chef, produces outrageously good fish feasts.

Friday, 22 July 2011


When I began to make this list, I had to winnow the tunes chosen down to fifty and kept changing my mind. These top three were easy to decide though. Any one of them could have been my Number 1.
This deserves the top spot because it’s a wonderful piece of music that instantly lifts my mood. It makes me feel it’s a Saturday morning and the day is full of youthful hope and possibility! The good associations have been cemented by the times the fabulous Readers Wifes have played this at Duckie. The show was one of those foreign children’s programmes that seemed to crop up all the time on British kids’ TV, badly dubbed and bearing a patina of the glamour of ‘Abroad’. How they made me itch to go there. Probably largely responsible for me studying modern languages at high school and at university.
This theme was written by Michael Carr (who also wrote ‘South of the Border, Down Mexico Way’) with Ben Nisbet and sung by ‘Jacky’ (Jackie Lee). It was a top ten hit in 1968, the year the USSR invaded Czechoslovakia and I started High School. Jackie Lee had another hit with the theme tune to ‘Rupert the Bear’ and sang backing vocals on Tom Jones’ ‘The Green Green Grass of Home’ and Engelbert Humperdick’s ‘Please, release Me’.

Number 2: Robinson Crusoe
I have loved Robert Mellin’s haunting music for this show all through the years since I first saw the show in the sixties and still listen often to the whole suite (ici) on the iPod.
It was another one of those badly dubbed European shows that seemed to me to have added exoticism. The idea of being marooned on a desert island held immense allure for me as a teenager. It would be an understatement to say that I enjoy my own company. I’d be a better Friday than a Crusoe though and the real island that Alexander Selkirk, the model for Defoe’s hero, was stranded upon was not in any way the tropical idyll you see here. It was a happy thing when I finally found the music on a CD back in the 90s because, until then, I used to drive friends mad trying to get them to hum the tune for me when I was drunk.

Number 3: The Avengers
It is barely possible to put a cigarette paper between My Top Three. This is a brilliant, brilliant theme tune and it was a marvellous show. It’s one of the late Sir Johnny Dankworth’s, his second appearance in this list of mine.
I can’t remember the very early shows when Patrick MacNee had a male sidekick but I can remember when the stalwart John Steed was accompanied by Cathy Gale (Honor Blackman) and then by Emma Peel (Diana Rigg). My father used to get very worked up over Mrs Peel. I used to think that I must be heterosexual after all because she got me steamed up too but then I discovered that was just the kinky leather gear she wore. This show foregrounded a lot of transgressive imagery that struck a chord with even a much younger me. I saw Dame Diana on stage at the Old Vic a couple of years ago and she was electrifying.

Number 4: Doctor Who
I loved this show as a child (and I remember watching the very first episode) and I love it still.
This is one of the most instantly recognizable theme tunes ever, composed by Ron Grainer and a brilliant woman called Delia Derbyshire, mainstay of the ‘BBC Radiophonic Workshop’ realised the piece. Without benefit of synthesiser, she used found sounds on tape that she cut up, distorted, and spliced together. Bloody clever, hugely creative, and the result was a theme tune that was startlingly new and appropriately ethereal.

Number 5: The Addams Family
"Their house is a muse-um
Where people come to se-um
They really are a scre-um
The Addams Family..."

It was written and arranged by Vic Mizzy, featuring harpsichord, and finger-snaps as percussion. Lurch the butler (Ted Cassidy) growled individual words: ‘neat’, ‘sweet’ and ‘petite’.
My dad would allow us to sit up and watch this at 11.04 on a Friday night. Was it really 11.04 and why does that number stick in my head after nearly half a century? It was scary when I was a child but I adored it nevertheless or perhaps precisely because of the gothic horror tradition their comedy pastiched. I liked Gomez and Uncle Fester, but Morticia I adored. My baby sister had very long hair as a kid and my dad called her Cousin Itt for years.

Monday, 18 July 2011


Number 6: Take Three Girls
The adventures of three girls (Liza Goddard, Susan Jameson, and Angela Down) who come to share a flat and work in swinging, promiscuous London. It all seemed very grown up to teenage me. Most memorable of all though was this brilliant theme tune by Pentangle, a chart hit for them in 1970.