The Agreeable World of Wallace Arnold: Maggie is a big hit

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The Independent Online
FROM SMALL acorns mighty oaks doth grow, as the immortal Bard put it. I can't tell you how delighted I am that my own little acorn of an idea - that Mrs Thatcher (or Lady Thatcher as we must learn to call her]) might make a record of Abraham Lincoln's Gettysburg Address - has come to flower.

She is, of course, a recording natural. She recited the Gettysburg Address all in one take, even adding a few impromptu words of her own on her role in the historic Falklands victory, plus one or two strong phrases against the illfated Maastricht treaty. As we had the recording 'in the can' (dread expression]) in just 17 minutes and we had booked the recording studio and orchestra for the full hour, we decided to waste not a second. Before you could say 'Jacques Delors' we had set about cutting a few more discs, as we say in the industry.

Looking around the studio for any sheet music that might be to hand, I chanced upon a cache of classic hit tunes from the Sixties and Seventies, including 'Welcome Home' by the immortal Peters and Lee and 'Seaside Shuffle' by Terry Dactyl and the Dinosaurs, a song which did so much to enliven the Hit Parade back in the summer of 1972. (Oddly enough, Terry Dactyl was later revealed to be a pseudonym for my old friend and quaffing partner Mr Kenneth Baker, whose political career was then - as now - somewhat in the doldrums. Rumour has it that he is hoping to revive his old group for a one-off recording, possibly of the great Christmas classic, 'I'm Only A Poor Little Sparrow', but this is all strictly entre nous.)

Of the sheet music available, Margaret was best acquainted with Peters and Lee's 'Welcome Home'. This, in turn, led to a problem: if Margaret was to take the female vocal ('Lee'), then who on earth was to be the male ('Peters')? There was no time to send for a professional vocalist - Margaret's own favourite, Andy Williams, say, or our own Val Doonican - and so, with only half an hour of recording time left, we decided to search the extensive Abbey Road premises for an effective substitute.

As luck would have it, in the next-door studio, Studio B, Margaret's old colleague Cecil Parkinson, looking marvellously relaxed in a casual lime-green one-piece zip-up jogging suit with light floral cravat, had dropped in to cut the first few tracks on his forthcoming album of great Martin Luther King speeches, backed by the King's Singers and the London Symphony Orchestra, conductor Norrie Paramour. 'Wallace]' beamed Cecil, lifting his headphones gently off his head and giving his nicely manicured hair a quick one-two with the old comb. 'What brings you to these parts? You're not working on old Enoch's album of NonStop Old Tyme Singalong Songs by any chance?'

'No,' quoth I.

'Then it must be Norman Fowler's version of 'Young, Gifted and Black', out soon on CD and cassette?'

'Cecil,' I said, 'I'm on the big one. It's Margaret, it's Abraham Lincoln and it's dynamite.'

'Sounds smashing,' enthused Cecil. 'And how can I help?'

With the seconds ticking away, I swiftly explained the position to Cecil. As luck would have it, 'Welcome Home' turned out to be one of his personal favourites, his good lady wife Anne having sung it to him to a banjo accompaniment on his return from latenight parliamentary sittings in the Seventies (dread decade]) and early Eighties. A further stroke of luck ensued: Cecil had come equipped with his own dark glasses in the top pocket of his jump-suit. When donned, they lent him an authentic look of the genial 'Peters', who, you will remember, had made them something of a personal hallmark.

Needless to say, the session went like a dream. Frankly, I doubt whether that mercurial creature, Joe Public, will notice the subtle variations wrought on the original by Margaret. 'Welcome Home, welcome] / Come on in, and close the door / This is your Queen / Urging No to Monsieur Delors'. I wonder if you, the more sophisticated Independent on Sunday reader, can spot 'em? Happy hunting]

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