Sunday, July 24, 2011
English songs, Jim Reeves, Cliff Richard and more memories.
My collection of records includes a few LPs of English songs of old even though I am not a big fan of English music now. This includes a number of LPs. of instrumental English music purchased in the 70s at Bangalore after buying a stereo system for the first time. These English LPs helped in testing and enjoying the stereo effect of the system better than any other LPs as their stereo quality was the best. Besides, there are other reasons also for taking interest in English songs in the 60s.
English films were regularly screened in the theatres at Kozhikode and English songs were very popular among the college students and youngsters. In the functions of college fine art societies and in the college annual day functions a main item for students to participate was the 'Orchestra' in which Hindi and English songs dominated. There were several Rafis and Mukeshs as also Jim Reeves, Cliff Richards, Frank Sinatras etc. among us and their singing used to be normally accompanied by hooting and catcalls from the student audience eventhough both the singers and listeners enjoyed the 'orchestra' best among all the variety entertainments. The singers to perform on the stage were selected after trials and they used to have a big fan following especially among the fairer sex which made them the buts of envy of others which also contributed for the hooting. Whatever little interest I have for English songs owes much to this experience. The songs of Jim Reeves and Cliff Richards were the ones sung most along with those of Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Niel Diamond, Elvis(the pelvis)Priestly etc to a lesser extent.
There were several very active music clubs in Kozhikode and Brothers' Music Club was the most popular. Their frequent musical evenings were highly enjoyable . We used to look forward to for their annual day program, normally held at the Town Hall, which used to be a musical extravaganza those days. Songs were mostly from Hindi films and English albums mostly of Jim Reeves. I still remember one singer named Ralphy who used to sing the songs of Rafi and Jim Reeves to the thunderous applause of the audience. There was also Premnath who specialised in the songs of Mukesh. I wonder where they are now! Music and musical evenings were an integral part of Kozhikodan life those days along with cinema, drama and football.
There were then only three theatres in Kozhikode city,viz., THE CROWN, CORONATION AND RADHA. Later DAVISON theatre came up. PUSHPA with latest equipments and comfortable seats including air-conditioned box came up followed by the small but beautifully designed GEETHA at West Hill. There were two other talkies on the outskirts, viz., CHANDRA at Chevayur and LAKSHMI at Kallai. Kozhikode seemed to have a penchant for giving female names for the theatres!! Much later the centrally located and grand BLUEMOON and SANGAM arrived Alas!Only the oldest four (Crown, Coronation, Radha and Davison) are alive now. Pushpa and Sangam are still there in a closed condition and others have either been demolished or converted and used for other purposes. With the problems faced by the theatre industry and by the look of it I don't know how long Davison will survive. But fortunately, kindling nostalgia in old Kozhikodans like me, The Crown, Coronation and Radha are still there without much alteration and face lift.
These three theatres have a special place in our hearts and we have fond memories about them. Malayalam films were few in those days and Hindi, Tamil and ,of course, English films were regularly shown. The Crown theatre, in particular, used to show Emglish films as and when they are released at other important centres. I still remenber seeing films like TEN COMMANDMENTS and BENHUR, a number of Westerns like 'the dollar series' of Clint East wood, A FIST FULL OF DOLLARS, A FEW DOLLARS MORE and THE GOOD, BAD, AND THE UGLY at Crown as also Yul Brynner's MAGNIFICENT SEVEN, and John Wayne's TRUE GRIT and THE MAN WHO SHOT LIBERTY VALANCE, BUTCH CASSIDY AND THE SUNDANCE KID and so on. Seeing Western cowboy films was a passion for us in those days. Hindi films LIKE MUGHAL-E-AZAM, MADHUMATI, NAYA DAUR and so on are also fresh in the memory. Tamil films were usually shown at Radha and I remember seeing films like Palum Pazhamum, Aalayamani, Kathalikka Neramillai, Vennira Adai, M.G.R's Ayirathil Oruvan, Balachander's Major Chandrakanth, Neerkumizhi etc.Malayalam films were seen mostly at Coronation. But the classic film,'Bridge on the River Kwai' was shown at Coronation. Yes, those were the days when we really enjoyed going to film theatres. Compared to that, going to a theatre nowadays has become a nightmare. No wonder theatres are being shut down left,right and centre to be mourned only by sentimentalist old timers.
A couple of months back, when I was at Kozhikode, I just walked around the city to see my old favourite theatres and it was then that I realised that except the four theatres mentioned earlier all the others are no more alive. But I was happy that The Crown, Coronation and Radha are still there . There has been no change to Radha and the hotel Arya Bhavan which stood in the compound is still there. The theatre is now air-conditioned and with Dolby and Dts. Malayalam film KAYAM was on. There has been a face lift on Coronation and it was gleaming with a fresh coat of paint. But its compound has been eaten away by the widened road. It may not survive the next widening of the road. The Crown, I found, was getting a facelift/a fresh coat of paint. They were showing the film TOURIST and I was temped to enter just for old time's sake but refrained as it was getting late for me to return. Later I realized that seeing a film at Crown alone like a stranger/outsider would have made me sadder.
It was mostly during the 60s and 70s that I collected the English L.P. records. There are three LP records of Jim reeves, viz.,the famous 'Moonlight and Roses' with the title song and the beautiful song,'There is a new moon over my shoulder'.The other one is 'The Best of Jim Reeves' with his best selling songs,'The Blue Boy'and 'Four Walls'.The third is JIM REEVES-BIMBO' with his ever popular song 'Bimbo' in it. These three along with two records of Olivia Newton John,.viz.'Don't Stop Believing' and 'Olivia Physical 'are my favourite English records which I listen to often. I also listen to Cliff Richard's 'Love Songs' and Neil Diomond's album,'Classics-The Early Years'.Among the instrumental tunes the favourites are'GOLDEN NON-STOP DANCING 10--JAMES LAST.It has several beautiful songs including,'Raindrops keep falling on my head' used in film, 'Butch Cassidy and the Sundance kid' and the ACCORDIAN a.la CARTE. Among the LPs of jazz music the LP of Brooker T & the M.G.'s. titled 'I WANT YOU'with the song,'Johnny,I love you' is a favourite of mine. Another one is ,'THE VERY BEST OF WES MONTGOMERY.
Well, for a collector of English records these few records in my possession mean nothing. But their nostalgic value is what is important to me.
Tail piece:- Seeing the picture of Jim Reeves on the L.P. my grandson exclaimed
'Woh! Ricky Ponting! Awesome!