Every Song Has a Memory – Elizabethan Serenade

This is the first in a series I’ve decided to write about individual songs that have affected me for life in some way or another. If I can figure out how, I’d then like to make it a social site of some kind where others can add their own song-biographies.

The title is from an Andy Warhol quote: “Every song has a memory; every song has the ability to make or break your heart, shut down the heart, and open the eyes. But I’m afraid if you look at a thing long enough; it loses all of its meaning” . This will be true of some of the songs I write about, as years of familiarity will have drained them of the initial fascination, but not of the first song.

My first choice is Elizabethan Serenade by Mantovani and his Orchestra. You can hear a preview at the links below.

Amazon (256kbps Mp3) | iTunes (256kbps AAC)

I think of this as the first piece of music I ever really listened to. It was played repeatedly on the radio while I was a very young child. While my mother was doing whatever she did in the livingroom I’d be lying in my bed absorbing this music. What intrigued me was that it arrived in sections – first the underlying rhythm, then the diddy-dum-dum-diddy-dum-dum ornamental bits, then the main sweeping melody. But you could pick them all up at virtually any point in the song. One time I’d focus on one and hang onto it all the way through, other times I’d follow another element. It fascinated me the way they all worked individually and together, meshing in sequence. I suppose if I’d been brought up on classical music this would have become the norm, but I wasn’t. The rest of what was played on, I guess it was the BBC Light Programme, was the pop of the day. This stood out in its stately elegance and has stayed with me to this day.

I heard echoes of it in James Brown calling for a drum, then a bass, then a little bit of guitar, building up a house which he then proceeded to burn; and in the interlocking melodies of Guitar Craft and some King Crimson pieces.

It wasn’t the kind of track I ever played to my friends once I got into ‘proper’ rock music, but I was delighted to discover the rough ska versions that came out of Jamaica in the late 70s.

Juno Download (Mp3/WAV) | Amazon (256kbps Mp3) | iTunes (256kbps AAC)

According to Wikipedia, it was originally called Andante Cantabile by its composer, the wonderfully-named Ronald Binge, when it was first released in 1951. Then, to mark the coronation of Queen Elizabeth, it was renamed and became a popular hit.

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