Martin Lampen's Bubblegum Machine

Overchewer - Anthony Newley

Anthony Newley
Anthony Newley: Child actor: Artful Dodger (in David Lean's Oliver Twist), Bond theme composer, Las Vegas showroom headliner and Broadway star.

Anthony Newley was also an early vocal inspiration for fellow South London boy, David Bowie and here, in this track from 1971, he seems to re-pay the compliment, crooning away in LA exile, musing on the fickleness of fame and mangling vowels in his unmistakeable London-Jewish burr.

It's certainly a (space?) oddity, part Ziggy Stardust, part Frankie Howerd. Part psychedelia, part cane-twirling, top-hat-tipping music hall monologue.

In theatrical circles, Newley is best known for his collaborations with composer Leslie Bricusse on the stage musicals The Roar of the Greasepaint - The Smell of the Crowd, Stop the World - I Want to Get Off and songs for the 1971 film adaptation of Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory.

Those were the glory days of the West End; when London theatres hosted original shows that, whilst often hit and miss, gaudy or gauche, were at least original and inbued with a distincly British voice.

These days, every show in the Capital is based on a 20 year-old Patrick Swayze film and features cover versions of the sort of old chestnuts that pop up on Mother's Day cash-in compilation albums; watched by audiences in jogging pants, rustling Oxford Street shopping swag: Primark bags and pick 'n' mix.

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Going Nowhere - Neil Sedaka

My favourite oft-forgotten song genre from the seventies: the gooey Top 10 torch song. The Winner Takes It All; Bobby Goldsboro's Honey anything by Jim Croce. It was a sub-genre based around mawkish lyrics, overwrought arrangements, major piano chords; performed by singer-songwriters wearing pink pastel jackets with white piping.

"I can't live. If living is without you." Either side of the seventies, singers with such syrupy sentiments would either be pistol-whipped by Lee Marvin or told to "man-up".

The sub-genre also dictated that while the lyrics would be sickly, icky and sentimental, they would also be paranoid and incomprehensible. This song was no exception.

I was having a lovely Saturday until I heard this again. It felt like the first weekend of Spring. It was sunny. I'd had a lie-in and a milky coffee while watching Football Focus. A friend just bought me French food, wine and a brandy-soaked pancake dessert. I skipped home after the flaming crepes and thought I saw a crocus bulb sprouting on he common.

Now I feel like throwing myself in the canal and listening to Time In a Bottle. Thanks a bunch, Sedaka.

A South London cab driver once told me that I looked liked Neil Sedaka. I skipped the tip and checked my chin in the mirror.

Last week another cab driver told me that I looked like an American actor. I Googled him when I got home just to check that he didn't have a hare lip, beady eyes or had ever worn a pastel jacket to a premiere.

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Neil Sedaka
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Written and Illustrated by Martin Lampen

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"[Lampen is] the bastard child of Delia Smith and Mike Leigh... a writer of wit and warmth whose book is a joy." - The Times
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© Martin Lampen 2011