In Tracey Thorne’s book, ‘Naked At the Albert Hall’ she ranges over a lot of examples of music and song, but here she refers to Dennis Potter’s final interview with Melvyn Bragg in 1994, discussing the use of lip-synching in ‘Pennies from Heaven’ an this echoes what I heard Ray Davies say about the death of his sister, when everyone came home from the funeral and sang cheesy songs, in part because they didn’t know how else to commemorate the death of one so young. Here’s Dennis:
I wanted to write about – i a sense it sounds condescending, and I don’t mean it quite that way – I wanted to write about the way popular culture is an inheritor of something else. You know, that cheap songs, so-called, actually do have something of the Psalms of David about them. They do say the world is other than it is. they do illuminate. This is why people say “Listen, they’e playing our song”, or whatever. It’s not because that particular song actually expressed the depth of the feelings that they felt when they met each other and heard it. It is that somehow it re-evokes and pours out of them yet again, but with a different coating of irony and self-knowledge. Those feelings come bubbling back. So I wanted to write about popular songs in a direct way.
It is also worth reminding ourselves that popular songs are mobile – they can start in opera and be taken on by ordinary people to become songs of the streets. If a song is good, or even great, it expresses something universal, that we can all relate to. what never ceases to amaze me is that we never seem to run out of songs. Only 8 notes, yet we seem to have endless ways to use them.