Cries & Whispers

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The Independent Culture
DRIVING home on Wednesday, I tuned to Radio 5 to see if it was true that England were beating the West Indies. After two minutes' happy wallowing in the fact that it was, I found Radio 5 leaving the cricket for the football - Tranmere v Aston Villa, a Coca- Cola Cup semi-final. They gave the cricket score every few minutes, and the commentator had the decency to sound embarrassed, as in 'but the football's exciting too]'. It was, quite. But this was only the first half, of a first leg, in a second-rate club competition, in the second half of a season, of our most heavily reported game. Whereas the cricket was an international, the first since August, and only the second one-day game England had ever won in the Caribbean. By the time I was home, it was all over bar the drinking. If the BBC wants to drive the population into the arms of Sky, this is one way to do it.

A BONE to pick with Carlton, the London incarnation of ITV. It's not the programmes - my colleague Allison Pearson has dealt with them more eloquently than I could - but the links. These shots of smiling viewers - traffic wardens, firemen, rastafarians - began as an only mildly irritating bid to foster a sense of community. (If Carlton were so keen to do this, why did they name themselves after a company car?) Lately, however, there's been a shift: more and more Carltonians seem to be high-kicking chorus girls and gyrating belly dancers. Does this reflect an actual trend, or something more basic?

REVELATION of the week came from Baz Bamigboye, the Daily Mail's showbiz writer. Bamigboye (noisy name, noisy guy) is one of the old school: he once dressed up as a bell boy to deliver a bouquet to Liz Taylor. He was quoted in the Guardian, discussing the chemistry of interviews. 'I love interviewing women,' quoth Baz. (He says most things in italics.) 'It always tells me something about a woman's star qualities if I'm sexually attracted to her. If I'm not, then there's something wrong.' Is that a dictaphone in your pocket, or are you just pleased to see me?

ON 6 February, in our series Lives of the Great Songs, Tim de Lisle discussed 'Take Me to the River', and wondered about the identity of Little Junior Parker, the 'cousin o' mine' to whom Al Green dedicates the song. Next day, a fax arrived from Charlie Gillett, the DJ, talent-scout, and doyen of British rock historians. This is how it went:

'If you ever do a series on unsung rock heroes, Little Junior Parker would have to be in the Top 10. He was part of the amazing Memphis music scene of the early '50s. He was taught the harmonica by Sonny Boy Williamson, then joined Howling Wolf's band, and recorded two singles with his own band, Little Junior's Blue Flames. The second was a double-sided masterpiece: 'Mystery Train', with a marvellous lonesome sax riff by Raymond Hill, and 'Love My Baby', driven by Pat Hare's terrific proto-rockabilly electric guitar. When Elvis recorded his path-breaking version of 'Mystery Train' two years later, he more-or-less copied the arrangement of 'Love My Baby'.

'While Elvis was launching rock'n'roll in Memphis, Little Junior went to Houston. He developed a more sophisticated sound and became a regular in the R&B charts. But he never sounded remotely like a rock'n'roll singer, and wasn't well known.

'In the Sixties he went from label to label with diminishing results. I went to see him play at a little club on Manhattan's West Side in 1970. He was plainly tired. Between sets, I told him how much I loved his records, but for him they were part of a past that had already slipped away. A year later, he died of a brain tumour, aged 45.'