Wednesday, February 12, 2014

The Happy End

The Happy End were a fabulous big-band that were around during the 1980s.
There were about 20 of them, male and female, all different abilities; they were a mass of spiky hair, red and black clothes, huge grins and sparkling brass instruments. Their music was big, loud, joyous and rickety, and was always political; it swayed and it swung with the abandon of a children's playground swing.
They were the first people I heard playing Hans Eisler's music; their singer was Sarah Jane Morris, who had a head of russet hair, a skinny dress, big black Doctor Marten's and a voice as big and deep as the Atlantic Ocean.
My favourite gig of theirs was a Christmas gig at the Fridge in Brixton which unusually for them had a layer of camp but it didn't damp their sincerity. They sat en masse amongst a sea of fake Christmas trees and managed to be festive and Left-wing at the same time.
When Sarah Jane left (due to her success with the Communards, I think) I went along to audition. I did Surabaya Johnny, but I knew as I sang that my voice was far too weedy to hack it; but it was still a blast singing with them and they were very nice to me.
Their arranger, the heart of the band Matt Fox, helped to check an arrangement I'd done for one of Chaucer's tales, Chanticleer and Pertelote. I had big ideas of staging it at Southwark Cathedral but I never did that. Matt said the parts were fine; I've still got it all bundled up somewhere. He came and sang on a demo of one of the songs but by then I'd lost the plot somewhat and was using samples from The Slits Cut album instead of brass arrangements!
He was a good natured and patient man, and as I said, the beating heart of the band. I am so very sorry to hear that he has died; I was just thinking about that funny recording the other day and then found out that very day. He can't have been very old; early fifties perhaps; it's a real loss to music. Bless him.

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