Ian Whitcomb is a highly respected performer, composer, and music historian. You can find all of his CD's, DVD's, Books, and Songbooks by clicking here.

 
You can find Ian's main website at
ianwhitcomb.com
 

Letter from Lotusland

July 2016

    The day after our excursion to Santa Monica by train we got suitably dressed up for the ”Summer Whites” afternoon at the historic (1917) Lanterman house in nearby La Canada. This is a retro affair but I’m not sure what period is being revived. I just wore a brown 1950s jacket, brownish trousers and a gangster hat. Regina was whiter. Our nephew Evan was in off-white and was amazed at the knowledge of the past displayed by the people there—the picture hats and parasols, the striped blazers with badges, the World War One uniforms, the vintage picnic furniture and hampers. He noted the groups attending to the blazered gentlemen sitting in the grass on rugs strumming ukuleles to “Five Foot Two” at a dirge tempo and singing in similar voice. Surely, he asked, shouldn’t these people be attracted equally to the gleaming future? I was glad I can no longer play the ukulele.

    Pondering his question I turned my attention to the splendidly period-dressed chap on the adjoining rug. Galen Wilkes was showing off his late-1890s cylinder recording player to all comers. He carefully demonstrated a rag by Percy Wenrich but the ukulele racket by the nearby amateurs drowned out the  century old cylinder. Galen works at the academy of motion pictures, the Oscar organization that recently have turned their backs on this glorious past. The new bosses are hell-bent on politically correct diversity and are embarrassed by the lack of correct Indians and persons of color, not to mention hip-hop-related music, in classic movies. I guess I’m a hopeless case.

    I’m writing in the library hut in the back of the garden behind our house, surrounded by bookcases crammed with the past ranging from Hitler’s secret dinner conversations to the history of Australia. My father’s 1962 diary, his last, lies safe in a box on the bottom shelf. Also there are box files full of family photographs. Let’s look at one…

    I’m standing, aged nine, with my aunt Eda (pronounced “Eedah”) on Brighton Pier in 1950.My aunt, one of my maternal grandfather’s sisters, wears sensible shoes and carries a sturdy handbag. I often wonder what’s in these handbags. Perhaps a Mars bar or a Kit Kat. I haven’t yet put on all the weight I would over the next ten  years. I’m wearing the official “Sunday Best”

    Prep school suit because this was a family visiting weekend in the middle of the summer term. My parents had brought down my aunt with them from London. My tie is patterned with the griffin, the school emblem, and I have a Cub Scout pin in my lapel. I won’t be a proper scout till next year. And in my left hand I embrace a Tommy gun that shoots water.

    I was fascinated by guns. I think I found them sexy—if one could feel this way at so young an age. On the back of my “Kid Colt” western comic book was a full page for a dream gun that I longed to fondle. This was no mere childish water weapon but a repeating pump action Red Ryder cowboy carbine. Oh—what a beauty! —with a leather saddle thong attached. “Ask dad now to buy it and promise dad you’ll follow Daisy’s safety shooting rules”. I liked Kid Colt comics because when he shot bad men there were neat round holes drilled in their bodies.

    I asked my father for a Daisy. He must have written to Plymouth, Michigan. All I know is that one visiting weekend my parents turned up in the school’s front room with a long enticing package from America. I was only allowed to touch the air gun while term was on, but in the holidays—oh boy! —all hell was let loose on our range: Wimbledon Common.

    The pellets or BBs were fed in and who would I shoot first?

    Several of my friends were pinged on the bottom, a short, sharp sensation no more. After all, I had been struck in the back by an arrow from a local Indian. Then one day I was peering through the back fence of our block of flats on Wimbledon Common. There was a gang of roughs conferring with their catapults. I stuck my Daisy through the fence and fired. It was great to see them jump up and down in a sort of vulgar dance. I had always been a bit jealous of tough common boys with their denim trousers and check shirts, their brylcreemed hair and thick pouting lips.  They seemed to live in a more exciting world than my protected, cosseted one.

    In the weekdays our mother, out shopping in Putney, would drop my brother and me at the cinema of our choice. If it was a tough film with an “adults only” certificate, so that we had to be accompanied by grown-up, she would ask a kindly-looking older man to escort us in. it always seemed to work well with no complications. Afterwards we’d dash out on the common to replay the film, firing at each other with air gun, bow and arrow and caterpult. There was a contest to see who could best act out being killed.

    But my best condition was letting myself be wrapped in a blanket of song. Just before our games we’d watch old 1930s serials on BBC television. I learned the theme song of the Mystery Riders in “Fighting with Kit Carson”:

    “We’re shadows we come from nowhere and to our hideout we now do repair!”-- all in a striding minor key full of doom and promise of excitement. They sang masked and on racing horses.

    Such, such were the joys.

 
    PS: you can see and hear the Mystery Riders at You Tube. Punch in “Fighting with Kit Carson”. The song is under the opening credits.


Ian Whitcomb is a highly respected performer, composer, and music historian. You can find all of his CD's, DVD's, Books, and Songbooks by clicking here.

 
You can find Ian's main website at ianwhitcomb.com