Now Gordon keeps right on to the end of the road
Goodbye 'Mardy Bum': PM's new best song says, 'Let your heart be strong'
Sunday 15 June 2008
"Every road through life is a long, long road, filled with joys and sorrows too" – and boy, do some Prime Ministers know that better than others. You know you're having a hard time of it when every song reminds you of your own situation. But Gordon Brown's lyrical tastes seem to mirror his emotions more closely than most.
Not so long ago he claimed to wake up to Arctic Monkeys, a band who sang cheerfully, "Now then Mardy Bum, I see your frown". Then he turned into a fan of the Bee Gees ("Tragedy: when the feeling's gone and you can't go on, it's tragedy"). Has he now turned a corner?
Last week he told a class of primary school children that his favourite song is "Keep Right on to the End of the Road" by Harry Lauder. "Keep right on to the end of the road," it goes. "Keep right on to the end, Tho' the way be long, let your heart be strong, keep right on round the bend."
The way things have been going for Gordon lately, it's hardly surprising that he has turned for succour to the professional Scot. But he would not be the first PM to take comfort in those words. Winston Churchill called Lauder "Scotland's greatest ever ambassador".
And when the first Labour Prime Minister, Ramsay MacDonald, was in power, his records used to echo through Downing Street – and he had the Great Depression to contend with. That said, MacDonald also used to travel by Tube and hired all his No 10 staff from the town of Lossiemouth – neither of which would do Gordon many favours at this point in his career.
Born in Portobello, Edinburgh, Harry Lauder worked in the Lanarkshire pits from the age of 13, but eventually embarked on a career in music hall. He became the first British performer to sell more than a million records and was the highest-paid performer in the world – finally retiring to his very grand mansion, Lauder Ha', at Strathaven in Scotland. He died there in 1950.
Lauder proudly considered himself a "pied piper" for recruits during the First World War, even after his only child, John, died at the Somme. It was after this that he wrote "Keep Right on to the End of the Road".
Though many of his countrymen still resent Lauder for his comedy kilt, his wibbly-wobbly walking stick and his jokes about tight Scots, Brown may finally have alighted on a song choice that is hard to criticise. And that isn't easy. Only last week, John McCain confessed that every campaign song he's chosen seems to have landed him in hot water – Chuck Berry objected to the Republican's use of "Johnny B Goode" because he supports Barack Obama, and then, said McCain, "We played 'Take a Chance on Me' a couple of times and it's my understanding [Abba] went berserk."
George W Bush fared no better: "Still the One" turned out to be written by environmentalist and anti-nuclear campaigner John Hall, and Tom Petty tried to sue him for using "I Won't Back Down". Likewise, Bruce Springsteen had to ask Ronald Reagan to stop using "Born in the USA".
More recently, David Cameron landed himself in trouble when he announced that he was a big fan of Paul Weller, and seemed to think that "The Eton Rifles" was an anthem for him personally. "What was that about?" snarled Weller. "Was he not listening to the lyrics? Is he thick?"
So raise a clichéd dram to Gordon, and to Sir Harry, who said: "Aye, I'm tellin' ye, happiness is one of the few things in this world that doubles every time you share it with someone else."
Perhaps that could form part of the next election manifesto.
Arctic Monkeys are a popular beat combo from High Green, Sheffield, whose lead singer is Alex Turner. One of the first bands to become famous through the internet, they won the 2007 Brit Award for Best British Album. They are famed for their social realism but are yet to be awarded a knighthood.
Sir Harry Lauder
Born in Edinburgh in 1870 and knighted in 1919, Sir Harry was a cheery, kilt-wearing music hall singer and comedian. A favourite of Edward VII, he toured the world for 40 years and made 22 trips to the US. In 2005 his "Stop Yer Tickling, Jock" was given a dance remix by indie label The Music Kitchen.
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