Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Arthur (Or the decline and fall of the British Empire

 Arthur is a tape made by the English band the Kinks as a score for a televison score for a Granada Television  program.  According to Wikipedia, the story is partially inspired by the Davies brothers' older sister Rose, who emigrated to Australia in 1964 with her husband Arthur Anning.[39] Her departure devastated Ray Davies, and it inspired him to write the song "Rosie Won't You Please Come Home", included on the 1966 album Face to Face.The lead character in the album, the fictional Arthur Morgan—modeled after Arthur Anning—is a carpet layer whose family's plight in the opportunity-poor setting of post-war England is depicted. Writer Julian Mitchell detailed the story line and characters in depth, explaining in the liner notes for the album's LP release:
"Arthur Morgan ... lives in a London suburb in a house called Shangri-La, with a garden and a car and a wife called Rose and a son called Derek who's married to Liz, and they have these two very nice kids, Terry and Marilyn. Derek and Liz and Terry and Marilyn are emigrating to Australia. Arthur did have another son, called Eddie. He was named for Arthur's brother, who was killed in the battle of the Somme. Arthur's Eddie was killed, too—in Korea. 
I can remember when many of my parent's friends began to emigrate to Australia.  On of my Mum's friends Marjorie went and I remember it really affecting my Mum.  I think used to work together at Redferns Factory in Hyde during the war. 

The Kinks wrote many satirical songs and this album is replete with them.
The first track Victoria is a song about the omparisons of the class system in Victorian Times  It is a tongue in cheek look at how the ppoor were duped into patriotism.

The next song Drivin concerns the obsession English people have with driving n the country.  It is the panacea for everything to go into the country and enjoy the nature. 

Brainwashed is a kind of indictment of the British Middle class who have been brainwashed and how the brainwashing is the equivalent of submission "down on your knees."

Australia sounds like many conversations I heard with my parent's friends when they looked to Australia as the paradise that England like a "sunny Christmas day" It was pressented as such a paradise because you could surf just like in the USA. 
The Next selection is Mr. Churchill
Of course Mr. Churchill is Winston Churchill the prime minister of England during World War II, Included in the song are references to other war time leaders like Lord Beaverbrook 
General Montgomery
and Lord Mountbatten all upper class heroes of the war and symbols of the war authority structure.  Again we see the satrical perspective of the working class

The next track is a wish for a child's Young and Innocent Days and sometimes I wish for those in innocent days right during the 50's where as a child I was allowed to roam around the Britsh countryside and not be afraid.  That all stopped in Hyde in 1964 when the Moor Murders happened happened, See video post.

The Moor Murders  happened in a housing project, a spillover from Manchester, which was about a mile from where I was living in 1963.  The murders were not found out until 1964 but after I came to this country we would get newspaper clippings of the the local papaer the North Cheshire Herald which contained the stories and it upset us because we were there when these murders were happening and I was the same age as some of the victims at the time.

The next song called Shangri-la is about the social upward movement by members of the working class where "Gone are the lavatories in the back yard "

The significance of the loss of a the outdoor privy in the back  may not mean to much to this generation. But growing up in a terraced house in the Northwest of England in the 1950's to have an inside lavatory was a luxury.

.Further respectful ribbing of the working classes and their social moblity is continued with She bought a hat like Princess Marina where the influence of the elite dictate to the masses. 
Nothing to Say is about the dissaffection that happens when childern grow up and they become different than their parents.  this ahppened a lot in England when children became educated and seeme to minimize the contributions of their parents as they moved around in different social classes.  They lost touch with the group that they grew up with. 
A good example of this is in the film Secrets and Lies where a sibling, a photographer, leads a completely different life that his working class sister who lives in the same terraced home they were both raised in.  A good film to recommend.
The final song Arthur sums up the entire plot of a working calss trying to change his position in the world. 
The theme of  australian emigration was a very big one in 1950's.  The Australain government encouraged it and advertised about the possibilities of Australia

War weary subjects of Britain were offered ten pounds passage to Australia meaning that adults only had to pay ten pounds sterling and their children traveled free.  Is it any wonder that many English people took the trip. 
Time to wrap it up.

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