Tuesday, 27 June 2017

Balladry - John, Yoko and Lorna

Who would ever really want to be a young teenager again? I look fondly back on those years, well, the good bits, and skip right past the embarrassing bits. There was joy and there was sadness, too much sadness. And far too many restrictions imposed upon me. No, I could not have a cow-bell to wear on a ribbon round my neck and I was correct to assume that going to see the Rolling Stones at Hyde Park was out of the question. I tried to reason my way round that by suggesting that I could stay with our family in Roehampton and someone would take me. No.

I spent a lot of time frowning, sulking and hating everyone. My Nanna hugged me and told me I was at an awkward age and it would pass soon enough. I wasn’t convinced but I didn’t argue with her, I never did. She was my rock. She was one of those strong, salt of the earth, Northern women of my family that I’ve mentioned before. She’d lived through two world wars, personal heartbreak, lost a child in infancy and was soon to lose another daughter. (I thought my mum was getting better at the time.)  She could still put everyone in their place with a steely glare.  I hope she knows how much I loved her. I kept her company watching the world go by from our bay window above the pub. The promenade was full of holiday makers, including groups of ‘flower people’ in bright clothes and bells round their necks. She called them ‘silly daft buggers’, the same as she’d called John Lennon and Yoko Ono when she saw their TV news interviews in bed on their honeymoon.

‘The Ballad of John and Yoko’ seemed to be all we heard from the juke box downstairs.  We always knew what was playing just by the rhythm that thumped through our floor. I would go on to the landing to listen to the words of their story.  The lyrics fascinated me. John and Yoko were doing their own thing and it was ok. 

For a while, I showed my rebellious side more than anything else, but I wasn’t all bad and I could have been worse – I really know that I could have been a lot worse, if not for my Nanna and the ounce of common sense I hung on to.

As an ‘almost rebel’ I would be Lorna in my poem ‘The Ballad of a Lady Jazz Singer’, but I don’t smoke, drink or sing like Janis Joplin and the only bass player I would ever slink off with is John Lodge, an unlikely situation as we’re both happily married to other people.

The Ballad of a Lady Jazz Singer
Jazz tempo piano and a bluesy guitar
It’s two a.m. in the Ritzy Bar.
Lorna sips gin through a long, curly straw
As she sits and waits, one eye on the door.
He said he’d be along to see her set
But he’d promised before – never made it yet.

Perched on a bar stool, cigarette in hand,
Minutes away from her spot with the band,
She leans a bit further back in her seat
And her red stiletto taps out the beat.
She’s laughing and swaying, about to begin,
Adrenaline rush, or too much pink gin.

She’s out of her mind, but not really crazy.
Her vision is soft-focus, smoky and hazy.
Tight black dress, short, strapless and low,
Only put on for this kind of show.
She clutches the mic stand, there’s a hint of a smile
Then she bangs out a song in her Joplin-esque style.

Heat and smoke hit hard on her throat
But she stays on key and finds the right note.
Much clapping and cheering, the Ritzy’s alive
Lorna kept singing ‘til quarter to five
Then staggered out happy in the dawning new day
With her bass playing new lover leading the way.


Thanks for reading, Pam x