Tuesday, 21 October 2008

Len Stevens: Lido Fashion Parade

To my mind, this piece epitomises much light music from the nineteen-fifties. Of course, if I am honest I was only around for the second-half of that decade and I was presumably hearing this music on the ‘Light Programme’- subliminally! However, later years and the explosion of CD releases of this underrated genre have allowed me (and many others) to gain a deeper understanding and a good appreciation of this era.
Now, when I first heard the title of this piece, it took me back in time. I was about 5 years old when my parents first took me to Morecambe in Lancashire. It was round about the same time that ‘Larry’ Olivier was making the 1960 film The Entertainer at that resort. Morecambe was in its last flush of glory before Majorca and Costa Brava caused it to become a shadow of itself. Please do not get me wrong, I still love the town – with its long promenade and stunning views towards the Lake District, the wide open expanse of the Bay and the impressive Victorian architecture. It is what is gone that distresses me: the piers –both of them, the old sailing ship, the amusement park with the big dipper and the miniature railway with locomotives by Bassett-Lowke. But most of all I miss the Lido. It was where I first learnt to swim in a somewhat splashy half-hearted manner. It was where I first mused over beauty contests and swimming galas - before they became politically incorrect. It is where I first marvelled at ‘older boys’ diving from the top board – how I envied them! I never did manage to reach the top board. And of course 'wiser' heads have now removed all such dangerous things from what few swimming pools are left in this country.
So this piece of music did not disappoint me. When I ‘spun the disc’ it brought all this back for me. Of course I do not know what Len Stevens actually had in mind when he wrote this tune – perhaps it was the Serpentine Lido, or the one at Hastings or Plymouth – I guess it was not Morecambe. Or, it may even have been named after it was written – simply as a tag for film directors who needed a piece of music to accompany a specific scene in their documentaries or features. Who knows? But to my ears this music recreates all that atmosphere of Morecambe nearly half a century ago – the fun, the excitement and the ice-cream, the cricket on the sands! It reminds me most particularly of my first visit to England (I was born in Glasgow) and my first visit to a ‘classic’ Lancashire sea-side resort. I have never forgotten that fort-night – and most probably never will.
The actual score of Lido Fashion Parade is a cornucopia of ideas and images. The mood of the music is positive, there is not an ounce of sadness, regret or introspection here. Naturally it describes a sunny day – not a cloud in the sky: not a drop of rain to dampen the proceedings. Of course why should there be! I guess the only tears at the fashion parade would be from the winner. The losers would hide their sorrow till after the crowds had gone…
Surely if music can bring all these memories flooding into my mind, it must be a sign of an impressive piece. The composer and the music have done their job well.
Hear this piece performed by the Crawford Light Orchestra, and many other attractive works on Guild GLCD 5142

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