Beyond the Lone Pine: Malcolm Saville’s The Jillies 1 – Redshank’s Warning


To my great delight, the inestimable Girls Gone By Publishers have begun reprinting another of Malcolm Saville’s children’s adventure series, The Jillies (1948 – 1954). The first book in the series, Redshank’s Warning,  arrived in October this year, in perfect time for my birthday, and was a wonderful exercise in nostalgia.

Though the Lone Piners are who and what Malcolm Saville will always be remembered for, he wrote no less than eight series in a career of sixty-three novels (and only two standalones!). Before my recent investigation of the Buckinghams series, I had only read one other of Saville’s series, and that was the Jillies.

Amanda, Prudence and Timothy Jillions, and their loyal friends Guy and Mark Standing first appeared in 1948, when Savile had already published at least four Lone Pine books and two Michael and Mary books (about which I know nothing). Their’s was a compact career, with all six books published in six years, during which Saville also published three more Lone Pine and two more Michael and Mary, plus introduced The Buckinghams (two books) and Nettleford (two books) series, for a total of fifteen books in a seven year period: this from a ‘part-time’ writer with a job in publishing.

I’ve been trying to remember if there was any particular reason why I only read The Jillies after the Lone Pine Club and my only explanation at this remove is that they may very well have been the only other Saville books available. Redshank’s Warning was the third of Saville’s books to be made available in Armada paperback, which the first two also being Jillies’ books. The Marston Baines series began in 1963, but these were aimed at an older audience and something about them put me off. I don’t remember any of the other series, though plenty of them did appear from Armada.

So, after all this preamble, what of the book and its characters? As adventures go, Redshank’s Warning is a little simplistic compared to a Lone Pine adventure, but there is a different atmosphere from the off. We are introduced to the Jillions, whose friends call them Jilly’s, in their untidy, higgledy-piggledy first floor Chelsea flat, overlooking the Thames, midway through the Easter holidays. Their father is a commercial artist by day and a free-spirited artist all the time. he is unconventional, a little impractical, and in material terms maybe not the best father there could be, but in terms of his emotional relationship with his three children, his acceptance of them as adult already, and his encouragement of their individuality, he is far superior to many.

The Jillies’ mother has died three years before, putting a lot of responibility on the shoulders of eldest daughter Mandy, nearly sixteen. Mandy, slim, attractive, bright and practical, wearing her straight black hair in a pageboy bob, runs the household whikst managing to perform well at school. Mandy’s strong-willed, independent and imaginative, the glue of the family, Right now, she’s nursed her younger sister Prue – a serious but exciteable, frequently dramatic thirteen year old girl who most resembles their mother, who silently envies Mandy’s slimness, and who responds most deeply to beauty and animals – through a bad case of measles of which she is now cured, as well as bored at three weeks being cut-off from everything. mandy’s also keeping a sharp eye on Tim – a smaller, less tidy version of her in looks, an eleven year old, permanently hungry boarding school boy with his own ideas of fun.

Mandy persuades the Doctor to persuade JD (short for Jilly Darling, their name for their father) to take the family away for a week’s holiday. Prue, enthused about bird-watching, selects Blakeney on the north Norfolk coast. En route, they arrive at the same pub as the Standings, a more conventional family, more middle-class, more prosperous. They have two sons, Guy, tall, fair, thin, bespectacled, clever, and thirteen year old Mark, lively, outgoing, fun. Guy’s like a less crass Jon Warrender, though he does start off with a snide remark about the Jillies disreputable old banger. However, he’s quick to apologise and, when Blakeney turns out to be the Standings’ estination, and a familiar haunt, the two sets form a group with consummate ease. Oh yes, Guy and Mandy are going to have a future…

As I said, the adventure is very simple, and the conspirators typically unpleasant. Mr Sandrock, insistent on his privacy, has taken all the rooms in the boarding house the Jilies hoped to stay in and looks down his nose at them. Miss Harvey, the supposed photo journalist living in a hut out on Blakeney Point, is even more insistent on a privacy to which she has no enforceable entitlement, but she’s a bird expert who can’t tell the difference between an oyster catcher and a redshank, and she’s the kind of woman  prepared to keep a badly-injured dog tied up without food or water. The kids are quick to spot that this pair are only pretending not to know one another, and though Sandrock temporarily cons Mandy into believing he is a Detective, when it’s really the much more prepossessing Charles Martin, the kids play plausible parts in putting together the clues that enable this pair to be arrested for smuggling stolen paintings out of the country.

But the cops-and-crooks aspect is not the reason why this book works. No, that’s the Jillies. Guy and Mark, for all they try to keep up, and for all they act as the standard characters (Guy is another variation on David Morton, save that with Mandy around he will never be the ‘captain’), it’s the Jillies we’re here for. In their widely contrasting, but easily dovetailing ways, Mandy, Prue and Tim and their abundance of Life make us just enjoy being with them. What they do is nearly irrelevant, they are just fun to be wit. I recognised the life bursting out of them and wouls have welcomed a book twice the length.

And neither then nor now does the book feel dated. I never suspected, in the Sixties, that I was reading a series that had been completed befoere I was even born.

i don’t know how frequently GGB plan to put out the remainder of the series, one of which I never read, but one a month  – ridiculous optimism! – would suit me fine. Here’s to seeing Two Fair Plaits.

Film 2019: Superman II (The Richard Donner Cut)


I’ve saved this film as the last film from the last boxset because it’s a unique example in my collection. Back in July, I reviewed the commercial release of this film, as directed by Richard Lester, giving a fairly negative response to a film I’d loved on release, and always held in high regard for the fun entertainment it was. Forty years on, I found a lot of this wrong with it.

But Superman II appeared under unusual circumstances. It was meant to be directed by Richard Donner, who’d been responsible for Superman – The Movie. Indeed, the two films were to be shot together and footage for about 75% of Superman 2 had been completed before there was a falling out between Donner and Producers Alexander and Ilya Salkind. Donner was replaced by Richard Lester, who’d pioneered the two-at-once technique of The Three Musketeers/The Four Musketeers, who, in order to claim Director status on Superman II, reshot a substantial number of scenes already shot by Donner.

But the two Directors had radically different approaches to superman, with Donner moved by the mythic aspects of the character and his well-established and Lester unable to take the character seriously, betraying, to my eyes, a fear of being thought of as taking comic books seriously. Lester undercut and undermined any serious elements in the film with almost rabid eagerness, along the way mangling the plot so as to remove any plausible explanations.

Fans of the first film, aware of the existence of the Donner scenes, consistently pushed for a Donner Cut, for long enough that when, in the 2000s, a vault of unused footage, long thought destroyed, was discovered, the notion became a physical possibility, and the longstanding enthusiasm demonstrated a commercial interest. So the Donner Cut was assembled, and we got our chance after all.

One crucial scene had never been shot, except as a screen test for Christopher Reeve and Margot Kidder, It sticks out  as an intrusion upon style, continuity and film stock, but if this was the only way to put this scene in the film, no true fan will object. A few more minutes of dear departed Chris Reeve, a few more minutes of lovely Margot, sharing with him the intimacy between their characters that is fundamental to this film, we’ll take it any way we can get it.

and this is oh so much better a version. Essentially the story is the same: the three Kryptonian villains are released from the Phantom Zone by the detonation of the nuclear warhead launched into space by Superman in the first film, come to Earth and take it over until defeated by Superman draning their powers. Meanwhile, Lois’s developing conviction that the bumbling Clark is Superman (much much less annoying than in the comics) exposes his secret, leading to a night of passion (lucky sod), Superman abandoning his powers for happiness but being forced by his responsibility to recover them to save the world.

It’s the same story but the details are so different. Lester’s nonsense is junked, and although Gene Hackman is allowed to ham it up as Lex Luthor nearly as much as before, his is the main comic role in the film and his slimy double-dealing performance becomes a more organic element.

Instead of the reveal of Clark’s identity by his tripping up and putting his hand in the fire unburnt, the test footage shows Lois proving her point more directly by shooting Clark at point blank range.

That completely changes the underlying dynamic. The Lester version depicts a potentially subconscious wish on Clark’s part to share his secret with Lois, whom he loves in both halves of himself, whereas in Donner’s cut the secret is forced out of him unwillingly. I’m ambivalent about the change: I like the idea of Superman wanting to admit his dual identity, yet Donner’s version makes the ease with which the pair fall into the relationship they both want all the more sweet and impressive.

There’s a significant, indeed seismic shift along all this thread. Under Lester, Superman agrees to lose his powers forever after a warning from his mother Lara and undergoes the red rays before hoping into the hammock with Lois. Donner’s cut loses Suusannah York completely (always a shame) but substitutes Brando as Jor-El with a much more comprehensive and cohesive, enabling Reeve to put over the importance of Lois to him (Margot Kidder observes all this in silence, dressed in a Superman t-shirt and white socks, demonstrating that she’s got great legs, but this was not a time period when ladies showed them off).  Crucially, in Donner’s cut, Superman has his powers removed after he’s slept with Lois, not before, lending weight to the importance of the emotional relationship and leaning away from the sexual one.

There’s yet more. We still get the slightly embarrassing diner scene with the thuggish truck-driver but this time Donner’s shots and angles focus on Superman’s determination to regain his powers for the protection of the world rather than because he don’t like getting beaten up. And if he can sleep with Lois without having to lose his powers, that removes that cheapjack aspect.

Better yet, when Clark gets back to the Fortress, Donner produces Jor-El one last time, the father anticipating everything, including the need to use the last of his energies to re-spark Kal-El’s powers. Not only is it an effective explanation of  just how Superman comes back, it is also a second and last parting between father and son, this time with the son of an age to fully understand that this is the end. You watch things like this and ask yourself why that clown Lester was allowed to not just chuck the whole thing out but put nothing in its place.

The battle in Metropolis de-emphasises the crowd and Lester’s desperate need to include silliness, emphasising more of the aerial fighting between Superman, Zod and co (and any extra footage of Sarah Douglas strutting her stuff in her slit sleeves and leggings is always welcome, for the same shallow reasons) and making the whole thing more impressive.

Lastly, the bullshit notion of Superman getting Lois to forget everything by kissing her is dropped like the cracked pot it is. We lose Lois’s desperate pain at not being able to acknowledge Clark and substitute a kind of downbeat resignation at having to share the man she loves with the wotrld, any one of whom have to come before her. Then, in either a steal from The Movie or, more likely, the proper use of the trick, stolen by Lester, Superman turns back time, revolving Earth backwards, not to save Lois’s life but to undo all the effects of the film, all the death and destruction and Lois’s discovery. The reset is so complete, Zod, Ursa and Non are restored to the Phantom Zone insread of being presumably buried in the ice.

It’s a more mature use of the device, even as it’s a complete reset to zero (Zod and co are available for future instalments, had there been more). Butthen the Donner Cut is a more mature film on every level, because it treats its audience as mature, isn’t scared of what other people might think, and it can take Superman with the right degree of seriousness.

I know I overuse the Earth-2 schtick, but this is the epitome of it. This was the version released there in 1980, and we didn’t get the same Superman III and IV, and Terence Stamp and Sarah Douglas reprised their roles in V – The Revenge of Zod, and I’m really fantasising now but the continued depiction in the series of just how good Lois and Superman were when she knew his identity led DC to bring it into the comics a lot earlier than they did… And maybe Chris and Margot avoided the fates they experienced on Earth-1, which would be the real magic…

 

With today’s film, the boxset phase of Film 2019 ends. I’ve continued to collect single film DVDs and I have enough for a shortened season of Film 2020 of three months duration. Being of an orderly frame of mind, I’m going to save these for the New Year rather than start next week. To bridge the gap, I have three downloaded films of very different types, and I’ll play through these over the next three weeks. I have never watched any of these: it’s going to be fun.

Lou Grant: s03 e06 – Hype


For once, here was an episode of Lou Grant that simply did not work for me on any level.

Oh, the good intentions were there, but they failed to make theemselves clear enough for the story to have a focus, and in picking Harold Gould to play the chief guest star role, that of Dr George Duncan, head of securing funding at LAU (the University), the show boobed and boobed badly. Gould was good in the part, commanding of appearance, immaculately turned out, full of energy and commitment, but both then and now, and especially then, he was identified with the part of Martin Morgenstern, father of Rhoda in the massively successful sitcom of the same name which was the first spin-off from The Mary Tyler Moore Show. Gould was indelibly identified with the good guys, but the role needed a more equivocal figure, especially as Dr Duncan was supposed to represent the issue the show was tackling. Which was University funding.

The rather shapeless and decidedly underwhelming story was about LAU research scientist Dr Dan Todson (an altogether too vague and formless performance by David Huffman). Todson was involved in arthritis reasearch, which mainly seemed to consist of picking up a bunch of identikit white rabbits by the scruff of the neck and putting them down again. Dan was convinced he was on the edge of a breakthrough if only he was given time, but so far he’d been unable to duplicate his successful experiment. Under pressure from Duncan to produce, overtired and stressed, Dan switched tags on two rabbits to ‘prove’ his theory.

It was a dumb move, unethical, illegal and devastating to the reputations of both Dan and LAU, not to mention Dr Duncan, but most of all it was dumb because it was so easy to uncover. And when it came out it was disastrous, not least for Dan, who was genuinely intelligent, and dedicated,  and who had not only killed his own career, but who had seen to it that his research would never be taken up again, potentially costing millions freedom from arthritic pain.

The point of the story was to expose how the pure, independent research of Universities, Halls of Knowledge, seekers of truth, had been perverted by funding, from businesses, that produced outcomes supporting the interests of the funders and, more insidiously, restricting research only to those ‘commercial’ ideas. This latter point was brought out by Joe Rossi near the end in a story about Copernicus, which fell flat because at no point could the episode engage you in the people and the effects, nor could it even make clear what it was all about in the first place.

A rare complete failure, made emphatic by the flimsy B story, a feather-light portrayal of Mike, volunteer test subject at $3 an hour, wasting his life away much to the chagrin of Lou. Mike was a lazy drone and Craig Wasson portrayed him as happy-go-lucky, unconcerned and, well, happy. He neither toiled nor did he spin, in fact he offended the entire Protestant Work Ethic, but you would have waited a long time before you  found him anything more than just dull.

Gold and Clay: Bob Willis R.I.P.


Last Wednesday, there were several reported deaths, amongst which that of Clive James stood out as the most monumental for me. Another Wednesday and another name who looms large in my memories has come to the end of his run-up, the former England and Warwickshire fast bowler and Captain, Bob Willis.

Of course the first thought is Headingley, 1981. The match may be inevitably associated with Ian Botham, who won the Man of the Match, but essential though his performance was, it was still, in cricketing terms, the prelude to Willis’s last day bowling, his relentless charging in, very much ‘in the zone’, to take 8 Australian wickets for 42, figures engraved on any English Cricket fan’s heart.

And Willis put so much into his performance, concentrated so hard, that his response to the Press was to attack them for their criticism of England over the first three days of the Test, because what they had actually done did not make itself felt for hours after the match, and he had to pull over whilst driving home, because it had suddenly hit him.

I honour him for that, and always will, but I would be less than honest if I didn’t mention the other things I remember about Bob Willis, the cricketer. One was a Warwickshire – Lancashire County Championship match at Edgbaston, where Lancashire, batting third, had agreed to declare at a specific total, to give the host County a fair total to chase. The game was notable for the debut of Neil Fairbrother and, with the total in sight, Fairbrother was also in sight of a century that would have made him the first Lancashire player to do that since the Nineteenth Century.

With about two overs left before the total would be reached, Willis set a tight field around Fairbrother, denying him any chance of the runs to achieve that feat, and them promptly opened up the field to make it easy for the other Lancy batsman to knock them off. Miserable sod.

And I remember another occasion with Lancashire, a Benson & Hedges Cup Final win in a low-scoring game, in which Man of the Match was awarded to John Abrahams for his captaincy and skilful management of the game, which drew a miserable and bitter response from Willis, live on TV, about how he didn’t know how the Award could go to someone who didn’t bowl and didn’t score any runs. Maybe he was still in his ‘zone’ at that point, but it was an unpleasant display.

Gold and clay: can’t remember one without the other. But he took those wickets, and I will never forget the shock I had when I found out England had won.

The Man Who Wrote Lafferties: Annals of Klepsis


Annals of Klepsis was the last R.A. Lafferty novel published by a mass-market house. It would appear to be a contemporary book, not having appeared in the list of Unpublished Novels in Archipelago. Having said that, in large part, it reads like a throwback to the earlier, free-wheeling novels, a grand unserious affair, albeit with its philosophical elements, but these do not dominate in the way that they do in Aurelia.
And the novel is unusual in Lafferty’s works in being one of the very few to be told in the first person, the first person being historian Long John Tong Tyrone, en route to Kelpsis, the planet without a history, and the planet without a law and a government. Klepsis is a Covenanted Piracy, a Pirate’s planet, and offering of a free home and passage to all one-legged Irishmen, even if the Irish name is adopted and the leg amputated in favour of a pegleg on the spaceship to Klepsis itself.
Well, wouldn’t you cut off one of your own legs for a free spaceship ride and the chance to become a Pirate?
Klepsis is another of those implausible creations. It was founded two hundred years ago by Christopher Begorra Brannagan, and has been ruled throughout that two hundred years of non-history by Brannagan’s heirs and Interlopers, until the present Prince Henry, who is one of twins with Prince Franco, who is exiled and condemned to death, but who can move around freely because he’s a forgotten twin, and has the ability to go ‘vague’, that is, invisible, inaudible and intangible.
Simply by arriving in the company of Prince Franco, Long John Tong and his ship-mates, Andrew Gold Coast O’Malley, Terpsichore Callagy and Conchita O’Brien are condemned to torture and death by Prince Henry, though they are released to experience Klepsis by his wife, Princess Angela Gilmartin-Revel. And Long John soon finds himself taken up by an orange-red-yellow- haired (and -souled) slave Girl, Tharrala Thorn, who is herself a Princess of the Brannagan line, although one exiled for an unspeakable sin (what sin? Can’t tell you, it’s unspeakable).
This is all at the behest of Christopher Begorra Brannagan himself, or rather his Ghost, who has been a Ghost for two hundred years and who has been holding off history, which will start when he dies, really dies.
The first half of the book is pretty much a word picture. Lafferty, via Long John Tong Tyrone, is illustrating the world of Klepsis, its improbable form and enthusiasms, its covenanted piracy and the rivalry between the current ruler, Prince Henry, and his twin, Prince Franco. It recounts something of the history of the planet without a history, set in a Universe of seventeen inhabited planets in a kinetic three-dimensional ellipse, all of which have the history Klepsis doesn’t have at the same time it’s been having no history, this no history having included six generations of rulers.
We have all gotten used to this by now, and it is great fun bending our brains around situations like this. I would remind you of my earlier comment that Lafferty’s tales most conform to the great American Tall Tales tradition.
But as the book progresses, as Long John Tong Tyrone marries (under a false apprehension) Princess Thorn Tharrala, she of the unspeakable sin, he is introduced to her great-great-great-great-great grandfather, Christopher O’Brannagan, or rather the ghost of him, who may or may not be dreaming the entirety of known existence into being these past almost exactly two hundred years.
And once the Ghost of Christopher O’Brannagan dies, will everything and everybody else wink out too?
But as the Doomsday Equation increases in prominence, attention shifts to Quasimodo, the Sleeper, he whose code name is the Horseshoe Nail – as in, for want of a nail, the shoe was lost, and its inevitable escalation to the loss of the Kingdom, or here the Universe. As soon as Quaisimodo dies, the Equation is fulfilled, and the Universe goes down.
All things come together. Princess Angela Ravel-Gilmartin deposes her husband, Prince Henry, in a rebellion, and establishes herself as ruler. She declares that history is to start now, from her coronation, proposes a formal system of Government that has certain flaws in it, at least from the point of view of an absolute monarch, and has Prince Henry executed in a suitably grisly manner. This is witnessed by Prince Franco in an unexpectedly gleeful manner, because he’s really Prince Henry and it’s the innocent, the good twin, who’s done in.
In typical Lafferty fashion, there is a harum-scarum ending and a suspended resolution. Malabu Worldwinger arrives on Klepsis, intent on disrupting the Doomsday Equation by physically moving the planet’s dark shadow, it’s Lost Twin, Tarshish, from its position in space, although it’s not until he’s started that Queen/Empress Angela Gilmartin-Revel admits that Klepsis is also Tarshish. Meanwhile, doubt is cast upon the Equation itself as a maybe phoney invention of the Asteroid Pythagorus, a bird-like scientist, by a bunch of scientists from all over the Known Worlds, including Aloysius Shiplap of the Institute of Impure Science.
And it’s Aloysius who, at the last, disproves the equation. Klepsis and the Universe will be saved if he can only speak the disproof aloud, but lightning bolts are being flung at him and they are getting closer and closer to the range as the final seconds run out…
Just as in Fourth Mansions, and again in Where Have You Been, Sandaliotis?, we are left to imagine our own answers into being, dividing ourselves into optimists and pessimists, and whilst this may not be Lafferty’s intention himself, I am once and for always on the side of the optimists. Because R.A. Lafferty, by his enormous and unquenchable gusto is for Life, always and forever.
There are nine remaining novels. All were published by small houses, fans and independent publishers determined to see as much of Laff’s work in print as they could contrive, in editions in very low numbers. That I have each of these nine novels is little short of miraculous, and the outcome of luck and perseverance at a time before scarcity inflated prices beyond all recognition.
And as Lafferty’s existing popularity shrank and diminished, as his work grew even more inner-directed and dense in private symbolism. Annals of Klepsis is perhaps the last ‘simple’ book. But not the last good one.

Person of Interest: s03 e07 – The Perfect Twist


The Biter Bit

If you did this episode as a pure procedural, a complete one-off, it would still be a brilliant example of network thriller television, although the perfect twist that seals it off might have been a little easier to foresee. But build it into the developing arc of former-Detective Joss Carter’s unbending determination to finally bring down HR, garnished with brief scenes at first and last foreboding the future that the imprisoned Root knows is coming and that Harold Finch is obdurately trying to deflect, and you have a thing of beauty and a joy forever and no mistake.

The first touch was Finch delivering breakfast to Miss Groves in her Faraday Cage, protected as always by John Reese’s presence, leaving Root little option but to sting him over the fact that the Machine talks to her, but not to Harold. “But Mommy still loves the both of us,” she summarises.

At the end, when he brings the promised extra books to read, she’s less sweet, challenging him over the coming future, a threat we all of us anticipate in our varying manners.

In between, we have the story of Hayden Price, hypnotherapist, played by Aaron Stott, Mad Men‘s Ken Cosgrove. Hayden is the Number and it doesn’t take long to determine why: he’s a crook. A conman, to be specific, soaking his patients and anyone he comes into contact with, for everything he can get out of them, thanks to questions that elicit private information, like mother’s maiden names, pet’s names, streets where they live, the sort of things that unlock bank accounts and the like.

In short, Haydenn rips off everyone,  everyone that is except Natalie Boal (Jennifer Ferrin), the woman he loves, honestly and truly.

Hayden’s created a bit of a problem for himself. He’s been setting up Swedish antiques dealer Sven Vanger for a complicated but massively lucrative scam. The Swede is money-laundering, and cleaning it by buying fake auction items for seriously top dollar put up by his clients, who get clean cash for dirty. Unfortunately for Hayden, the money belongs to HR. Doubly unfortunately for everyone in question, Hayden’s tricked the Swede into paying $4.4M for a baseball signed by the New York Yankees, including Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig that’s actually worth $4.4M, and which the Swede sells to a street kid for $5.

That  kinda gets HR’s back up, to the extent that Alonzo Quinn, who’s previously taken the trouble to meet with Officer Carter over her suspicions about his godson’s death, kicks off at Officer Simmons. And when Simmons is kicked, he kicks downward, at Detective Terney and rookie Officer Laskey in particular. Hayden will be persuaded to return the ball – in return for the innocent Natalie.

So Hayden turns up. Terney’s going to take him in, get the ball authenticated and then kill him, and as soon as it’s done, Laskey’s going to kill Natalie anyway.

But the forces of righteousness are on hand to avert such an outcome. Carter and Shah knock out Laskey (with his eager cooperation counting for nothing in terms of the severity of Carter’s punch) whilst Reese and Fusco intervene to rescue hayden, just when he and Terney are reverbrating with shock at the discovery that the real ball is no such thing, not if Babe Ruth’s signature is in fibre-tip pen. Hayden’s been scammed by a superior scammer – Natalie. why steal a million dollar item when you can get your boyfriend to do it for you? Pity: he did love her, but she didn’t love him.

It’s a crushing defeat for HR, and Simmons wants Laskey. He send Terney after himn and Terney finds the rookie. With Carter, handing over photos of everyone Simmons has met today. Terney pulls his gun but so does Carter. it’s a stand-off. Until Laskey tries to pull his. To Carter’s horror, Terney shoots Laskey, killing him instantly. Carter shoots Terney, fatally. He’s got maybe a minute. He can be a stand-up guy at the last, he can point out HR’s head. A bloody hand smears one photo before Terney expires. Carter looks at it in shock. She recognises Alonzo Quinn…

The Infinite Jukebox: The Cocteau Twins’ ‘Orange-Appled’


Some years ago, I forgot to recharge my mp3 player ahead of a long train journey. This reminded me that I still had a portable Minidisc player, and over three dozen MDs, which would make a brilliant substitute (I then forgot to bring my headphones).
But this stash of MDs was a massive musical treasure trove, comprised of music taped, mainly from the radio, over not just years but decades. For the next few months, I had a wonderful time playing these Minidiscs, compiling track-listings, checking off the tracks that I had, in the meantime, collected on CD, whether shop-bought or self-burnt, and starting a vast programme of creating more compilation CDs from the outstanding tracks.
Many of these were recorded off the radio, with intros clipped, or DJs talking extensively over the intros and outros. Now, with YouTube at my fingertips, I could download clean copies of them, complete and uninterrupted. Several tracks had been ‘bounced down’ more than once and were not in that good a condition and they too were downloaded, clean.
The best of it was that there were dozens of songs that I had not merely forgotten I had but which I had also forgotten existed. A load of music dropped into my lap, to enlighten and enliven me.
Amongst this avalanche of virtually ‘new’ music were a couple of dozen tracks that I had so completely forgotten that I couldn’t remember what they were! Artist, title, a lot of the time both. Most of these were relatively easy to recover by googling a line of dialogue for the song, but there were two particular instances where this was not going to work. These were three French-language songs from Kate and Anna McGarrigle, and four tracks by The Cocteau Twins.
Ok then, given that the Cocteau Twins’ songs rarely have actual words in them, let alone recognisable ones, how do you go about establishing the title of a forgotten song? I could limit the hunt by excluding all the tracks on the CDs I had, and also all those I had never bought in the first place, but that still left an awful lot of songs to choose amongst.
And this was such a different track, bright, buoyant, structured more like a conventional song than most of the band’s repertoire, with actual, detectable verses, and a build to an astonishingly upbeat and passionate chorus that came round over and again. The orthodox song structure, the bright and forthright sound, made this an unusual track from the band to begin with.
It’s one of those sounds where you don’t really need the words to sense the meaning of the words. Elizabeth Fraser sings with a mixture of joy and yearning in her voice, and as with all great choruses, you find yourself wanting to share the sound, sing out loud and proud with her. And the music is built upon Simon Raymonde’s springy bass and Robin Guthrie’s rich, rotund guitar, a miniature wall of sound.
It’s called ‘Orange Appled’, a title I re-discovered by playing snippets of intros from Cocteau Twins tracks on YouTube until I hit the right one. It’s a song from 1986, the period where the trio were calling songs by butterfly’s names, and it appeared on the ‘Love’s Easy Tears’ 12” EP. And despite my disavowal of Cocteau’s songs not having actual words, you can find full lyrics from several online sites.
There’s a substantial discrepancy between what one site has for the verse, and what four or five others put down but there’s a definite consensus on the chorus: He loves you more than this,
The stars let you know all’s right and bright and, He loves you more than this, Ego lets him know that’s how much more was gained.
And armed with these words, I listen to the song again, and I strain my ears, and I can just about agree that Elizabeth Fraser is singing this, and then I put the words away and listen again and once more my ears are unable to translate that slightly husky, flowing river of sounds into words, but I catch the meaning in the voice and it doesn’t matter.
But if YouTube had not come along in the meantime, I would still not know what this song was called. The ignorance would have itched, but the song would have been an eternal balm.