Sunday has become ‘Session Sunday’. Today I had five sessioneers with their interesting ideas, their songs, their words, their sounds. Tony in Sydney, Brian in Florida, Mike in New Orleans, Joanne in Portland and Doug in Wappingers Falls, what a pleasure. But despite it being a busy day of listening, talking, teaching, that lasted from 11.30AM to 11.30PM what I am grateful for is not having to acknowledge the weirdness of Sundays. As soon as the clock strikes 12, as that finger on the clock creeps into the first seconds after Saturday night and Sunday is upon us, it’s weird from midnight to midnight.
I think the weirdness might have started for me at least in childhood. It was bath night. We didn’t have showers in those days (and I don’t remember many baths either). What I do remember is the radio being on and hearing the worst music that has ever been made. It was the Cliff Adams Singers and the show was called Sing Something Simple. It still gives me pain to this day. I initially thought it was the Mike Sammes Singers who were another variety style vocal group, the difference being that it was The Mike Sammes Singers on I Am The Walrus and Goodnight, so they are somewhat forgiven for their otherwise excruciating blandness. Sing Something Simple ran for 42 years from 1959-2001 and only stopped because Cliff Adams died. I mentioned my Mum’s most hated song, You’re A Lady by Peter Skellern, well mine also raised its ugly head around the same time as Sing Something Simple. It was called Seventy-Six Trombones and I despise it to this day. By the way, my Mum’s favourite song was Spanish Eyes by Al Martino.
So Sunday was bath night and the night that the radio went on for Sing Something Simple. Pain! But it was also the anxiety of knowing it was school the next day. It didn’t matter that it wasn’t a school day, it was already ruined because school was imminent. Not that I remember primary school being particularly bad but apparently in my last year at Ludworth Primary school in Marple Bridge we had a different teacher nearly every month and consequently I failed my eleven plus and had to go to a secondary modern instead of a grammar school (my brother went to a grammar school). In those days the thought was that grammar schools were where the clever people went and secondary moderns where the not so clever went (I call them individuals). But they may have been right, I also failed the easy exams (CSEs) at the end of secondary school when I was 16. But there’s a reason for that, the migraines I suppose but mainly the guitar. At 14 I got my first guitar and although I won a prize in the second year of school (best lad in the class) and did well in all my subjects (except Maths), after the guitar arrived, for the next two years I came bottom or near the bottom in everything. I remember my later French teacher Mr Pearce (who was unlikeable) telling me that my earlier French teacher Mrs Appleton (who was likeable) had told him what a good French student I was and how disappointed he was that he hadn’t seen that in his class. Peut-être que si vous n’étiez pas si peu aimable, j’aurais pu parler couramment le français maintenant.
But Sundays are weird for all kinds of different reasons. There’s the religious aspect, the going to church. My family never did that, we weren’t religious, I may have gone to Sunday School once or twice but before my teens, I lived in the countryside and had no easy access. In Germany on Sunday you are not allowed to mow your lawn or make a noise, it’s a day of rest because Mrs God rested? You are supposed to calm down. My parents had a pub when I was about 12 years old and on Sundays, opening hours were 12-2 and 7-10 whereas in the week it was 11-3 and 5.30-11. The puritans did their very best to leave their narrow stamp on society. Here, the supermarket by the sea closes at 4PM and most of the shops are closed. I never understood why shops were open when people were at work and closed when they finished. Why close early on a Sunday afternoon when most people are around to get the supplies in? Why close the shops when everybody is free to go and buy things? Why not open the shops on Sunday and close the shops on Monday when everyone is at work? Or make Monday Tuesday closed days and Saturday Sunday open days, then the shop workers get their two days in a row. Why is voting day in America on a Tuesday when most people are at work, why not a Sunday when most people are free?
The silent misery of Sunday is hard to bear. It presses down on your soul, it wipes you out, drains you of inspiration. It’s like waiting for death in a faceless room with no doors or windows. I am so glad to be busy on this day because it is gone before I notice that it came and its staid atmosphere of monotony and drabness is gone before the welcome first minute of Monday.
Music today comes from that lovely band The Sundays (of course) and their debut Reading, Writing and Arithmetic. They haven’t made a record since 1997. There were signs of slowing down from the beginning. It was five years between their 2nd album Blind and their third album Static And Silence, it’s now been 23 years. Singer Harriet Wheeler and guitarist Dave Gavurin, the songwriters, were augmented by bassist Paul Brindley and drummer Patrick Hannan. Wheeler and Gavurin married and had two children and that’s where they have been. Their first album’s title is a play on their home town (Reading). If you like lilting soft beauty and Wheeler’s gorgeous voice then this is for you. Plus as an extra and unlikely bonus, it’s produced by Gentle Giant’s Ray Shulman.