Graham Higgins Illustration - Literate Graffiti Dept.


February 25, 2012

25-2-12 T’ain’t No Sin

How many times have I set up an empty page, thinking it’s about time I wrote something, looked at said blank page, paused over the keys and thought better of it, collapsed it and wandered off to play an instrument or hoover the East Wing? The question isn’t really why I don’t write but why I do. In the gaps there’s no clamour for more and rightly so.

25-2-12. That short paragraph was written on November 2nd last year. Nothing much changes. I hear that I’m surrounded by lives so crowded by incident that Facebook statuses demand to be updated daily; the airwaves are filled with a crossfire of tweets – what observation can be so pressing that it must be shared from a cinema seat mid-movie?; speakers appear on radio programmes on the strength of their blogging activity. How I envy these lives of daily significance.

We spent a couple of days at the end of the half-term break in Suffolk with The Reeds, two well-stocked minds under one roof, whose hospitality amounts to a form of therapy. They are in the original sense restaurateurs (my pedant-pinger dings when I hear the added ‘n’, albeit on the not unreasonable ground that the term is applied to proprietors of restaurants); our spirits are restored and the wonky wheels of the daily round are rebalanced and the tyre-pressure adjusted to recommended levels. We head off towards the A14 at the end of our visits with a mixture of cheeriness and regret, with the feeling that left to choice a kind of tranquil inertia would set in.  I think even their house-cats became better-educated than the average felid by osmosis.
We came home with a new Reed hand-built ukulele and the chords for a long-term favourite song, ‘T’aint No Sin’ (Walter Donaldson), which I first heard in my teens, on a Saturday afternoon Radio One programme of new recordings, a must-listen slot whose name now eludes me. I do remember that it was a track on an EP (for younger readers: ‘Extended Play’ – a 7” vinyl disc with three or four tracks) by The Pigsty Hill Light Orchestra, “The Great White Dap”.
Wikipedia doesn’t list this in the discography but the wonders of YouTube preserve the PHLO version amongst many others. I hadn’t realised how durable this lyric was until it occurred to me to suggest that it might fit Prof Reed’s repertoire of slightly saucy novelty numbers.
As so often, the original I recalled has undergone decades of remixing in my memory-bank, so it came as a surprise to me to hear it afresh, minus the Hot Club Of France gipsy-jazz guitar ‘pompe’ I’d obviously added for myself.
As a public service, here are Prof Reed’s chords. Typically, while I’ve never worked them out satisfactorily, it took him about 20 mins from first listen to emailing the arrangement for me to practise at home.

Taint No Sin

G              Em7      Am7       D7
Dancing may do this and that,
G              Em7       Am7     D7
And help you take off lots of fat
G          Em7       Am7       D7           G      Em7     Am7     D7
But I’m no friend of dancing when it’s hot!
G         Em7 Am7      D7
So if you are a dancing fool,
G              Em7         Am7          D7
Who loves to dance but can’t keep cool
G           Em7         Am7     D7       G               G7
Bear in mind the idea that I’ve got.

Am                       B7                          E7                       A7
When it gets too hot for comfort, And you can’t get ice cream cones,
D7                                                                   Dm7     G7               C
‘Tain’t No Sin, to take off your skin, and dance around in your bones.
Am              B7                   E7                  A7
When the lazy syncopation of the music softly moans,
D7                                                                   Dm7     G7           C
‘Tain’t No Sin, to take off your skin, and dance around in your bones.
Em                                       C7                 Em                 C7
The Polar Bears aren’t green up in Greenland, They’ve got the right idea.
G             D7                G     D7             G                 Eb7    G7
They think it’s great to refrigerate while we all cremate down here.
Am                                  B7                      E7                  A7
Just be like those Bamboo Babies, In the South Sea tropic zones,
D7                                                                   Dm7     G7          C
‘Tain’t No Sin, to take off your skin, and dance around in your bones.

The road trip to Suffolk included a reacquaintance with another – gasp! – 40-year-old vinyl LP transferred to MP3 with a turntable thoughtfully bought for me as a Christmas present by Herself in recognition of the miles of nostalgia preserved in the worn grooves of a crate of vinyl in the garage.
Curiously, I must have etched Buzzy Linhart’s ‘Music’ LP into my neural pathways so effectively that it’s become embedded, to the extent that as the digital transfer played through my inner ear anticipated the vocal gymnastics, guitar solos and stereo trickery. With a little more time on the transfer I can separate the tracks so they’d pop up un a random shuffle, but a strong element of the Proustian trip is in the brief analogue crackle in a time-honoured tracking-order.
I don’t know what impression it made on Herself, as a walking Wiki on 80’s Indie. She didn’t actually groan or rock with derision; her indulgence is extensive but not boundless.
I pause with a little trepidation even for myself at the prospect of revisiting early Strawbs LP’s and the late 60’s Notting Hill Asian-jazz hip-mysticism of Quintessence’ ‘In Blissful Company’ but Buzzy didn’t let me down.

  1. Ah yes, the excessively-Facebooked life – I still remain very uneasy with FB except when it’s being used for a little amusing chit-chat. For banter which has gone a long way down the page (if not off the record) by the next morning. (The Sunday Folk crowd do this around Gen’s weekly programme.) It’s also handy as a place to announce things – such as an update to the blog.

    But it’s very hard to get a discussion going on my blog. I do get discouraged and disappointed. Sometimes not even a single comment. And when there are comments, rarely one that leads on to other comments…. I assume everyone is just too busy on Facebook.

    Your new uke looks friendly.

    Your song is is totally new to me. (I obviously listened to the wrong bit of Radio One.) I’ve been negelecting the small guitar since Christmas, but I picked it up again last week to noodle out chords for The Sloth, one of my favourite bits of Flanders and Swann. Sore fingers again – I should practice more regularly. But, like blogging, it’s very easy to set it aside when there seems no call for it; hard to get back into the habit again. A little encouragement helps, a sign that you are not totally alone out there, talking to yourself. Other readers of Graham Higgins Illustration please take note.

    Comment by Sue Jones — February 25, 2012 @ 2:55 pm
  2. On the other hand – here comes the Pollyanna spin – knowing that whatever you write doesn’t really matter to anyone other than those you know who’re more likely to respond by mail is quite liberating; the blog posts act like F-book at a more leisurely pace.
    On occasions when you hear from people you’ve lost touch with or neglected for various reasons, proverbial good intentions notwithstanding, a glance through the scrapbook saves a lot of time trying to summarise the story-so-far.

    Comment by admin — March 11, 2012 @ 12:23 pm
  3. Well I sometimes check this blog to improve my English! Because when you write me a mail you sure try to simmer down your elegant phrases to a more simple pub-speak, or should I say Gasthaus-speak, to make sure I get the jokes!

    Comment by Hansi K. — January 28, 2013 @ 4:14 pm
  4. Hansi! So sorry, I just looked in on this neglected blog for the first time since… well, a long time. I guess you’re right – not that I dumb-down for your benefit, but here, where I’m pretty much writing to myself, the Irish DNA gets out. Brendan Behan talked about the English guarding their language like treasure and the Irish throwing it around like sailors on shore-leave.

    Comment by admin — February 9, 2013 @ 12:26 pm

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