PLEDGE WEEK: “Winchester Cathedral” by the New Vaudeville Band
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This episode is part of Pledge Week 2022. Every day this week, I'll be posting old Patreon bonus episodes of the podcast which will have this short intro. These are short, ten- to twenty-minute bonus podcasts which get posted to Patreon for my paying backers every time I post a new main episode -- there are well over a hundred of these in the archive now. If you like the sound of these episodes, then go to and subscribe for as little as a dollar a month or ten dollars a year to get access to all those bonus episodes, plus new ones as they appear. Click below for the transcript Transcript A few episodes back, we took a look at the Who's early records, and in passing we talked about the Ivy League, the studio group who sang backing vocals on their first single under that name. In this bonus episode, we're going to look at one of the biggest hits any of the members of the Ivy League were involved in -- a record that became a massive hit, won a Grammy, and changed the career direction of one of the most important comedy bands in Britain. We're going to look at "Winchester Cathedral" by the New Vaudeville Band: [Excerpt: The New Vaudeville Band, "Winchester Cathedral"] In his book Revolution in the Head, Ian MacDonald makes the point that the quintessential line in British psychedelia is from George Harrison's "It's All Too Much", where Harrison sings "Show me that I'm everywhere, and get me home for tea". Whereas American psychedelia is often angry and rebellious -- understandably, since it was often being made by people who were scared of being drafted to fight in a senseless war, and who were living through a time of great instability more generally -- British psychedelia was tinged with nostalgia, both for childhood and for a lost past of the Empire that had now ended. Now, we're going to get into that in much, much, greater detail when we look at the records the Beatles, the Kinks, the Who and others made in this period, but suffice to say that *one* of the several streams of thought that shaped the youth culture of Britain in the 1960s was a nationalistic one, partly in reaction to a perceived dominance by American culture and a belief that there were things about British culture that deserved celebrating too. And part and parcel of that was a celebration of the popular culture of the 1920s and thirties, the height of Britain's influence in the world. This nationalism, incidentally, was *not* necessarily an entirely regressive or reactionary thing, though it certainly had those elements -- there was a strong progressive element to it, and we'll be unpacking the tensions in it in future episodes. For the moment, just take it that we're not talking about the sort of flag-waving xenophobia that has tainted much of modern politics, but something more complicated. This complex relationship with the past had been evident as early as the very early 1960s, with acts like the Alberts and the Temperance Seven reviving 1920s novelty songs in what would now be considered a postmodern style: [Excerpt: The Temperance Seven, "You're Driving Me Crazy "] That had temporarily gone into abeyance with the rise of the Beatles and the bands that followed in their wake, making guitar music inspired by American Black musicians the new popular thing in British culture. But that stream of the culture was definitely there, and it was only a matter of time before music business professionals would notice it again and start to try to capitalise on it. And Geoff Stephens did just that. Stephens was an odd character, who had entered the music business at a relatively late age. Until the age of thirty he worked in a variety of jobs, including as a teacher and an air traffic controller, but he was also involved in amateur theatrics, putting on revues with friends for which he co-wrote songs and sketches. He then went on to write satirical sketches for radio comedy, writing for a programme hosted by Basil Boothroyd, t
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