Caught by the River

A Moment Worth Waiting For

13th July 2014

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An extract from the book A Moment Worth Waiting for by Kevin Pearce, whose previous work includes the acclaimed book Something Beginning With O and film scripts for Paul Kelly/Saint Etienne.

At the start of 1982 there had been a new single, ‘Stamp Of A Vamp’, sung by Vic Godard and performed by the Subway Sect, out on another Bernard Rhodes imprint, Club Left (through Island). It was a charming, jazzy, finger-clicking affair, with muted trumpet, a little like one of the Chinn/Chapman-penned hits Racey had, deceptively simple but with some smart lyrics: “She’s got an Honours Degree in the art of sinning”.

To coincide with the single, Paul Morley put together an NME front cover feature to begin the new year, writing about Vic the vague, whom he found an exasperating interviewee: “Vic Godard is not the most obviously dazzling company: he is amusing, instructive, confounding in an absent, wandering way. He’s trapped like a Buster Keaton. A master of small movements.” Morley argued: “Godard’s songs make up with startling articulacy for the reluctance and idleness of his everyday talk and achieve a fruitful accessibility. The songs dance their way undisturbed, a testament to Godard’s mysterious commitment to his medium. If most rock songs are screams, scratches, splashes, scuffles, Vic Godard’s are clear, unpolluted streams. No context can be their master: context can only rub away their impact, impair our view, fuss and fiddle and restrain.”

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There were references in the Morley feature to Paul Valery and Nabokov, Chas & Dave and Ray Davies, John Sebastian and Randy Newman. There was also a mention of Mike Westbrook which would ring a bell when opportunities came later to explore and consider the peculiarly fertile period of British jazz from when the ’60s became the ’70s, which probably was not what Morley meant. Mike Westbrook’s early works (including the magnificent Love Songs LP from 1970) came out on the Deram label, Decca’s ‘progressive’ offshoot which also released several other titles of forward-looking and very vital British jazz LPs from the likes of John Surman, Michael Gibbs, John Cameron, Alan Skidmore and Henry Lowther alongside Moody Blues, Honeybus, David Bowie, Cat Stevens and the fantastic Flirtations whose ‘Nothing But A Heartache’ was the most perfect slice of British produced dramatic soul music ever.

Deram also in 1968 released Lionel Bart’s fantastic folly, the conceptual psychedelic music hall extravaganza, … Isn’t This Where We Came In?: “a reflection of experience in songs and sounds”, or Lionel commenting on watching the film of his life, which was put together and released just as the Carol Reed adaptation of Oliver! hit the big screen, ironically at a time when creatively Lionel was supposedly on his uppers. John Cameron was the musical director on the LP, fresh from his success with Donovan. The Mike Sammes Singers were on there, with Madeline Bell, Rosetta Hightower and Lesley Duncan. Celebrity squares Kenny Lynch and Willie Rushton had cameos, and Vicki Wickham co-ordinated the casting. And some of the top British jazz performers of the day were on Lionel’s LP, like Kenny Wheeler, Harold McNair, Tony Carr, Alan Branscombe, and Ronnie Ross. It was a glorious, madly ambitious affair, and incredibly moving in its own unique way. The arrangements were ostentatious and Lionel had his own peculiar way of singing, which in his own words was “a cross between Bud Flanagan and Donovan”. At times on this incredible record, particularly on ‘The Finder’, the closing part of the song cycle, a bit of a knees-up to round things off, Lionel sounds wonderfully like Vic Godard.

Vic was also prominently featured in the January 1982 issue of The Face in a piece, headed ‘The Artist as Hamburger Chef’, by Chris Salewicz who in an October 1977 Subway Sect review for the NME wrote: “Also to be noted is that two people sat on a couch reading newspapers onstage throughout the Sect set.” In The Face feature Chris revealed that Vic worked at MacArthurs’ American-themed hamburger joint in East Sheen, washing up and making burgers, and that he was going out with the manageress Georgina (who had already stolen the show in the Paul Morley feature): “It is probably the only hamburger joint in the country to feature as background music Ella Fitzgerald, Frank Sinatra and Vic Damone: ‘The housewives seem to be attracted by it at lunchtime. When I first started, I used to play dub reggae, but it drove all the customers away’.”

In a memorable exchange Chris stated: “Your career seems to have a lot of momentum behind it right now.” Vic countered: “That’s not my fault.” Referring to a recent Peter Skellern concert he and Georgina had been to, Vic claimed he would “much prefer to play to older people”.

A Moment Worth Waiting For is out now and available worldwide via Amazon.

More information on this fantastic book can be found on the Your Heart Out blog.