Thursday 22 December 2011

The Pilgrim Soul In You: Darren Hanlon's Apparent Innocence Partly Explained

I'm not sure what brand of buoyant innocence drew four hundred and eighty fans to see Darren Hanlon singing in St Stephen's Church beside the mossed and crumbling graveyard to his guitar, ukelele and banjo in Newtown last night, and the twelve-old-girls behind me, one with braces on her teeth, to sing along word-perfect his complicated lyrics for the ninety minutes he was on stage. But it was a rare and luminous Christmas event, thronged with non-believers and tottering infants in wet nappies but stirred by the cheery, stoic, benevolent knowingness he has made his own special flavour since he first looked eleven years old, and beguiled a kindergarten audience in, I guess, the 1980s. He looks about thirteen now and, at thirty-seven, carries the burden of his middle years with equanimity, wiliness, honour and grace.
One song was about hating Lismore, my home town. One was about the need for more songs about squash. One, as good as a Simon and Garfunkel classic, was about 'The Last Night Of Not Knowing You.' He was joined on stage for two numbers by Holly Throsby, and their joint song, by him, about them wondering what country, and what city, or town, or village, they should now, as glum and wandering musos, at last settle down in, was as good, in its way, as 'Rock 'n' Roll I Gave You All The Best Years Of My Life'; and the special melting wifely softness of Throsby, who looks like a cross between her mother and Liza Minnelli and has a voice like a midnight autumn fog in Paris, added a further wayfaring innocence to the pilgrim flavour of the evening, much like the one you get on TCM from the Mickey-and-Judy Backyard Musicals of 1939 and 1940.
Lucy Lehmann, beside me, explained young Darren's apparent unblemished vagrant pure-hearted winningness with the one word 'Queensland' -- and, coming from up that way myself, I could see, and hear, what she meant. It was not quite innocence, but a big-skied starlit mixture of innocence-and-cynicism one sees in other Queenslanders, Gerry Connolly, Judy Morris, Jim Killen, Geoffrey Rush, George Miller, plus the blithe-and-quirky John Denverish or do I mean Doris Dayish quality that irradiates him from within, a product of many, many years on the road, and talking back to his audiences with guile and good humour and perspicacity.
He's worth looking up on YouTube, if I've got that name right, for one particular rock clip especially, Looking Beautiful For You, which he enticed the ninety-two-year-old Eli Wallach to make with him a couple of years ago. He shows big, easy skills as a Capra-like auteur, with a smattering of Woody Allen and Richard Curtis, as well as a songwriter-singer in the league of McLean, Simon, Kelly, and, on a good day, Dylan.
He apparently has, Lucy Lehmann tells me, small covens of devoted fans in many countries across the world, but he should in my view be doing better. He has taken up my proposal of a film of him touring several countries, shot in 3D.
Lucy Lehmann would be in it, of course. Her song of urban exile, Six Hours West, is one of the best two hundred of the last hundred years.
Watch this space.


At 23 December 2011 at 02:22 , Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'd never heard of Darren Hanlon before, so I've just spent an enjoyable half hour watching his clips on youtube. Thank you for that. I also listened to six hours west, lovely song, not sure about best two hundred of the last hundred years, although that's a pretty broad definition. It's hard to objectively define "best" songs anyway. I'm sure you were probably being a little hyperbolic, but I'd like to see your pick of best songs of the last century.

Merry Christmas


At 23 December 2011 at 11:24 , Blogger Bob Ellis said...


At 23 December 2011 at 11:26 , Blogger Bob Ellis said...

I made a list of two hundred and twenty songs the machinery then consumed.

I'll have a cup of green tea and some Vegemite toast and start again.

At 23 December 2011 at 12:07 , Blogger Bob Ellis said...

But Not For Me, A Whiter Shade Of Pale, Our Love Is Here To Stay, Hello Darkness My Old Friend, American Pie, Scarborough Fair, Where Or When, As Time Goes By, Imagine, Where Have All The Flowers Gone, I'll See You Again, Maybe It's Because I'm A Londoner, New York, New York, When You're A Jet, Gee Officer Krupke, I've Never Been In Love Before, Yesterday, Yesterday When I was Young, Ol' Man River, I'm Always True To You Darling In My Fashion, Eleanor Rigby, As Time Goes By, What The World Needs Now, Someday I'll Find You, My Back Pages, Sharp As A Razor And Soft As A Prayer, Someone To Watch Over Me, Falling In Love With Love, You're The Top, Let's Do It, London Pride, Don't Let's Be Beastly To The Germans, Shall We Dance, Everything Was Beautiful At The Ballet, Sit Down You're Rockin' The Boat, Is A Puzzlement, Hello Young Lovers, Some Enchanted Evening, Sergeant Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, You Can't Always Get What You Want, Little Green Apples, Hit the Road, Jack, Galveston, By The Time I Get To Phoenix, If I Loved You, The Waiter And The Porter And The Upstairs Maid, That's Entertainment, Dancing In The Dark, I'll Go By Myself, The Way You Look Tonight, A Nightingale Sang In Berkeley Square, We'll Walk Up The Avenue, I'm In London Still, Six Hours West, The Last Night Of Not Knowing You, I Did See My Love But Once, Or So The Story Goes, Jerusalem (the music dates back to only 1915), Someone To Watch Over Me, Someday I'll Find You, Luck Be A Lady Tonight, Sit Down You're Rockin' The Boat, More I Cannot Wish You, Moon River, The Sweetheart Tree, Cootamundra Wattle, The Fires Of Old Cancoban, The Road To Gundagai, The Band Played Waltzing Matilda, Sing His Spirit Home, I Heard It On The Grapevine, Everything Was Beautuful At The Ballet, Where Is Love, The Streets Of London, I've Grown Accustomed To Her Face, If I Loved You, Mr Snow, Blue Moon, Send In The Clowns, I Am Unworthy Of Your Love Charlie/Jodie, Everything Was Beautiful At The Ballet, Hello Young Lovers, Shall We Dance, Eidelweiss, Some Enchanted Evening, Younger Than Springtime Are You, I Did It My Way, Set 'Em Up Joe, New York, New York, I Left My Heart In San Francisco, There Were Bells, Trouble Right Here In River City, Marian The Librarian, Lili Marlene, Keep The Home Fires Burning, The Internationale, The Band Played Waltzing Matilda, Dressed In Green And Gold, It's All Over Now And I'm Easy, Cootamundra Wattle, True Blue, Doin' The Lambeth Walk,
Dirty Old Town... and about a hundred more.

At 23 December 2011 at 13:25 , Blogger Bob Ellis said...

Beyond The Sea, I Wish You Love, Je Ne Regrette Rien, Hang Down Your Head, Tom Dooley, The Carnival Is Over, The Bright Elusive Butterfly Of Love, The Twelfth Of Never, Brazil, I Love Paris ... there's quite a few.

I'm thinking.

At 24 December 2011 at 00:12 , Blogger Doug Quixote said...

Many excellent songs there, Bob.

I'd like to spread the net wider :

Che Faro Senza Euridice, My Love is Like a Red Red Rose, (virtually all Handel's arias, but especially Silent Worship, and I Know That My Redeemer Liveth [yes I know an atheist, but I love the music and it's part of our heritage!]) the Marseillaise, Das Lied Der Deutschen and God Save the Queen (very evenhanded!)

Coming to the 20th C, Nessun Dorma and Stairway to Heaven must feature; Almost anything by Cohen, Dylan or Lennon. I like your list for the rest.

At 24 December 2011 at 11:03 , Blogger Bob Ellis said...

I was asked for songs of the last hundred years and I did not know Nessun Dormer was in that time frame. Most of your thoughts I agree with and would add to them O Shenandor, Danny Boy, Alive, Alive Oh, When Johnny Comes Marching Home Again, Greensleeves, Annie Laurie, Swanny River, Take A Pair Of Sparkling Eyes, To Be An Englishman, A Wand'ring Minstrel I, Fascination, After The Ball, Kelly The Boy From Killane, My Bonnie Lies Over The Ocean, Oh My Darlin' Clementine and that fine Shakespeare song whose tune survives O Mistress Mine.

At 24 December 2011 at 13:29 , Blogger Bob Ellis said...

Sorry, O Shenandoah.


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