“QUOTE ... UNQUOTE”
[From Vol. 16, No 2, April 2007]
If you were to ask me
what is the query most often posed to the radio show, I would have to answer
that it has nothing to do with quotations such as appear on the query list. No,
it is: ‘What is your signature tune?’ And the second most frequently asked
question is, ‘Where can I get a record of it or the sheet music?’ So, here
goes: it is entitled ‘Duddly Dell’, written and
performed by Dudley Moore, and it is the B side of his ‘Strictly For the
Birds’, a Parlophone 45 rpm single issued in 1961. I
have always chosen the signature tunes of the programmes
I devise (and there have been others apart from Quote ... Unquote), knowing
how important these things are. In 1975, when we were looking for something
light, sophisticated, perhaps even witty, into which we could cut three
quotations at the top of the show, I suggested ‘Duddly
Dell’, having bought a copy of the single when I was still at school. I was as
delighted by Dudley Moore’s jazz style then as I still am. I heard his trio
play ‘live’ during the interval of Beyond the Fringe for which I stood
at the back of the Fortune Theatre,
Dud, Derek and Hugo
But to go back to the disc. I was very
touched last January when I received a letter from Derek Hogg, now nearing eighty, who wanted me to confirm
that our signature tune was indeed the recording of ‘Duddly
Dell’ on which he was the drummer. The bass player was Hugo Boyd and the
producer of the disc was none other than (Sir) George Martin in his pre-Beatles
days. Heavens, the two tracks were even recorded in late 1960 at
I had to confess to
Derek that I had rather assumed the trio on the record was completed by Pete McGurk on bass and Chris Karan on
drums. They helped make up the Dudley Moore Trio that recorded two LPs in 1965
and 1966. But no. Derek says, ‘I had some happy years
back to the second of the most frequently asked questions. Until 2001, I had to reply that a
recording was not available but then Harkit Records
re-released the two LPs and included the two tracks from the single as an
extra. Alas, jubilation was short-lived as the recordings had to be withdrawn
for legal reasons. As, however, I always tell inquirers, I may be able to point
them in the direction of copies of the recording, not to mention the sheet
music. A final note: I have absolutely no idea whether
[From Vol. 14, No. 1, January 2005]
For a number of years in the 1970s, train passengers going in and out of Paddington Station in London were beguiled or puzzled by words painted up at the side of the track: ‘Far away is close at hand in images of elsewhere.’ This elegant graffito became almost famous – not least when Michael Wharton, the ‘Peter Simple’ humorous columnist on The Daily Telegraph, discussed the work of the unknown artist as if he were an Old Master.
On 22 June 1978, he wrote: ‘Dr Anita Maclean-Gropius’s monumental catalogue raisonné, “The Master of Paddington” (Viper and Bugloss, £65), published last year, dealt in detail with all the works confidently or tentatively attributed to the Master and his School. It was, of course, savaged in a long review by Dr J.S. Hate, Keeper of Graffiti at the Victoria and Albert Museum, in the British Journal of Graffitology ... ’
I myself also mentioned the piece in my first collection Graffiti Lives, OK (1979) and eventually got round to photographing it in May 1981 just as builders were demolishing the wall upon which it was painted, to enable the redevelopment of land behind it. At some stage, it was pointed out to me that the first six words had apparently been taken from the poem ‘Song of Contrariety’ (1923) by Robert Graves:
Far away is close at hand
Close joined is far away,
Love shall come at your command
Yet will not stay.
I mentioned some of this on a recent edition of the radio show and was more than intrigued to be contacted by ‘Helen’ who claimed (very convincingly) that the ‘Master of Paddington’ was, in fact, two people: her husband, Dave and his brother, Geoff. They had painted it, she said, ‘one Christmas Eve (no trains) in probably 1974 or thereabouts.’ It was placed so that it was ‘visible on the Oxford line’ – pointedly so, as both Dave and Helen are Oxford graduates.
Helen confirmed the Graves allusion in the first six words but fascinatingly suggested that the last four came from something written by the poet Ruth Padel (who, as it happens, had been at Oxford with Helen and Dave). But what was it? I contacted Ruth Padel and asked for her assistance. At first she could only think that her very first publication was a pamphlet called Alibi (1985) – and ‘alibi’, of course, means ‘elsewhere’ in Latin.
But then the light dawned. Ruth remembered she had written an article entitled ‘Imagery of the Elsewhere: Two Choral Odes of Euripides’ in Classical Quarterly (December 1974). Dave says, ‘Yes, that was it. I don’t think I ever read the Classical Quarterly article, but it was a great title.’ Interestingly, he refers to his great work as a ‘painting’ rather than a ‘graffito’.
Now, as a result of this extraordinary discovery, I plan to reunite Dave with his (unwitting) muse. And, please, I know graffiti-writing is a criminal offence but the wall in question no longer exists, we are all considerably older now than we were then, and isn’t there something called the statute of limitations?
[From Vol.11, No.1, January 2002]
Anil Sahal wrote: ‘Whilst examining a picture of the beautiful actress Angelina Jolie (for scientific reasons, of course), I noticed a tattoo over her stomach which reads “Quod me nutrit me destruit” which I think translates as “That which nourishes me, destroys me”. Can you shed any light on the origin of this?’
Well, yes, how delightful. My research shows that Ms Jolie is actually covered in tattoos – though this one looks more as if it was written with a felt-tipped pen. Desiree van den Berg steered me towards the origin of the motto. It appears in capital letters at the top left-hand corner of a portrait of a young man that was rescued from builders’ rubbish at Corpus Christi College, Cambridge, in the 1950s. On the basis that lettering next to the motto describes him as being aged 21 in 1585, the man is thought to be Christopher Marlowe, the future playwright, who obtained his BA at the college in that year and at that age. The Latin words have not been found in classical texts but bear a resemblance to some lines by Shakespeare (written a few years later): ‘Consum’d with that which it was nourish’d by’ (Sonnet 73) and ‘A burning torch that’s turned upside down; / The word, Qui me alit, me extinguit [Who feeds me extinguishes me]’ (Pericles, II.ii.33).
A.D. Wraight wrote in 1965 that, if the portrait is of Marlowe, then the motto refers to his poetic muse ‘which both inspired and nourished him, and yet consumed him with its fiery genius’. But what all this has to do with the stomach of the delectable Tomb Raider actress is anybody’s guess (Q1985).
[From Vol. 4, No. 4, October 1995]
FINALLY CATCHING ON
In the immortal 1942 film Casablanca, ‘Round up the usual suspects’ is a line spoken by Claude Rains as Captain Louis Renaud, the Vichy French police chief in the Moroccan city, who is, in his cynical way, appearing to act responsibly in the light of the fact that a German officer, Major Strasser, has been shot.
Michael Grosvenor Myer asked me recently: ‘What is the time-lapse mechanism whereby “rounding up the usual suspects”should have become a journalistic cliché over fifty years after the film it comes from was made?’ Good question. It is remarkable that, of all the many memorable lines from Casablanca, it has taken until now for this one to catch on.
Indeed, as allusions go and referring to ‘the people you would expect, the customary lot’, it is currently verging on the cliché – as is perhaps confirmed by the recent release of a film called The Usual Suspects which involves a police identity parade.
Examples of the catchphrase in use range from straightforward quotation in 1983 to more recent unattributed allusions: ‘All the usual suspects will be out at Fontwell tomorrow, when the figure-of-eight chase course will throw up its usual quota of specialist [racing] winners’ – Independent on Sunday (17 January 1993). A BBC Radio Scotland discussion show has been called The Usual Suspects since 1993 - a rather revealing title given that the journalists and hacks who take part are inevitably just the sort of people you would expect to hear invited on to such a show.
As for the original line, in 1992, Howard Koch (who died, incidentally, this August) appeared to concede the coining of the phrase to his co-scriptwriters Julius J. Epstein and Philip G. Epstein. And the answer to Michael Grosvenor Myer’s question might be that the 50th anniversary showings of the movie in 1992 reminded people just what a useful phrase ‘the usual suspects’ could be.
[From Vol. 7, No.1, January 1998]
JACK BENNY PLAYS IT
In Vol.5, No.4, I passed on a suggestion from Ian Gillies that the origin of the catchphrase ‘Play it again, Sam’ might lie in a 1943 edition of Jack Benny’s radio show. Having just returned from entertaining the troops in North Africa, Benny took part in a short parody of the film Casablanca that had been released the previous year. He played a character called ‘Ricky Bogart’ and Rochester (Eddie Anderson) gave a very funny portrayal of the pianist ‘Sam’. But how to verify whether Benny uttered the immortal line which, famously, Humphrey Bogart never spoke in the film and Ingrid Bergman only approached with ‘Play it, Sam’?
Perhaps there was a Jack Benny Appreciation Society whose members might know? There certainly ought to be, as the shows are still a joy to listen to – very clearly, for example, establishing the formula for later British radio comedy shows like Round the Horne over which Kenneth Horne presided with a similarly well-defined comic persona, indulged in parodies, and was backed by a regular team of personality actors. But I could not find such an organization and only when encouraged by T.A. Dyer (who like Ian Gillies is a former holder of the BBC Radio ‘Brain of Britain’ title and possessor of an amazing recall of things heard and read decades ago) did I challenge the Internet to find the information for me.
In no time at all I was introduced to the world of OTR - Old Time Radio - and specifically to McCoy’s Recording Inc. of Richland, WA, which had copies available on cassette of almost every Benny radio show. And so to the edition of 17 October 1943, in which ‘Ricky’ (increasingly inebriated) keeps on saying: ‘Go ahead, Sam, play that song. Sam, sing it, boy. Sing it, Sam. Sing it, Sam, sing that song that keeps breaking my heart.’ Above all, he exclaims: ‘Sam, Sam, play that song for me again, will you?’ This is certainly closer to the catchphrase than anything uttered in the film and, to my mind, is reasonable proof that Jack Benny really did help create the phrase. Presumably, rather more people heard the radio show than had seen the film at that point.
It is an intriguing coincidence that in the following week’s show (24 October 1943), Benny took part in a parody of Algiers (1938) – another film that never included the line forever associated with it: ‘Come with me to the Casbah.’ But does Benny, playing the Charles Boyer, part get to utter it? Alas, no.