Sunday, December 06, 2009

David Hemmings: Anathea

As well as being Britain's coolest actor for a short while in the 1960s (thanks to Blow Up), David Hemmings could sing. As a boy he played Miles in the original production of Britten's The Turn of the Screw and in 1967, at the height of his acting fame, he recorded an LP while he was in Hollywood making Camelot.

In his memoirs Hemmings is dismissive of the whole project:
The angel purity of my childhood voice had long since been scarred by singing in Bierkellers, as well as by tobacco and whisky ... Thank God, the record company bought my bluff. They gave me the ten grand and over the next few weeks I popped into the studios now and again and laid down some tracks, some of them perfunctorily written by me in the car on the way to the the sessions; none of them remotely memorable.
But maybe it is a little more creditable than that. Unmann-Wittering Blog writes:
Recorded in a rush, the magnificently titled 'David Hemmings Happens' (Hemmings’ favourite saying was ‘if nothing is happening, make something happen’) is a carefree and careless record, part-improvised, part-karaoke, part jumble sale, all fascinating. Several of the tracks were more or less made up on the spot, with Hemmings speaking / singing / rapping improvised stream of consciousness lyrics, and he also turns in a decent if occasionally wayward version of ‘Reason to Believe’. 
Byrds and psychedelic pomp pop enthusiasts will probably say that stately Gene Clark era Byrds leftover ‘Back Street Mirror’ is the best song, but the best performance is on ‘Anathea’, an apparently ancient folk song that had been recently revived by Julie Felix. The track has an amazing energy, a mix of droning sitars and cosmic Roger McGuinn guitar, all topped off with a dramatic and eloquent vocal from Hemmings as he recounts the timeless, tragic and deeply odd story of a girl, her brother and the evil judge who destroys them both. Marvellously doomy stuff.
While we are doing actors who can sing surprisingly well, try the late Edward Woodward singing a song by a very young Elton John (who had obviously been listening to Scott Walker).


Frank Little said...

What happened to Zigo? Was he kicked out of the group? (Giles Cooper biog refers).

Jonathan Calder said...

Wasn't Zigo always absent?