Wednesday, March 08, 2006

"I hear the train a-coming, it's rolling round the bend..."


These may look deathly dull to you (and indeed, to me).
But Frank Sinatra would have appreciated them. So would Johnny Cash. And Joe DiMaggio, Yul Brynner, Walt Disney and, er, Hermann Goering...
And hopefully my dad will too, since Hornby "track packs" A, B and C were his birthday presents from his sons last week, after I struggled manfully to somehow understand the basics of railway modelling...
My dad received for Christmas a basic "Orient Express" trainset for his study, after my mum asked him what he really wanted as a present. Assuming he was joking the first time, it was only when he repeated the request a week later that she, baffled, bought the set which has provided childlike pleasure since being tentatively assembled on his study table...
This new hobby does make buying future birthday/Christmas presents reassuringly straightforward, though track packs A and B did look disappointingly dreary for a gift. Apparently, though, they are the essential facilities needed before venturing into the loop-providing excitement of track pack C and beyond... Well, take it on trust, anyway...
Next stop, a second train (which would have been fairly pointless without a second track): but the supposedly-most popular new engines on sale, the Hogwarts Express replica and the Thomas The Tank Engine just seem too desperately naff...
This country music-blaring, Wild-West-raring train sounds much more like the ticket, both in fantasy and in real life, and I'd love one day to ride it.
In the meantime, I'll suggest to my dad motoring his Orient Express around the slowly-slowly-developing tracks, and playing Gram Parsons CDs.
The ever-cool curator of 'cosmic American music' was featured in a nifty little Radio 2 documentary the other day, now available online, which told the familiar old tale of his short life - and crazy aftermath of his death - with some occasionally-illuminating interviews with cacklin' Keef Richards, the always-entrancing Emmylou Harris, madman manager and Gram's-body-burner Phil Kaufman, and the "Grievous Angel" Gram himself.
Yet it was frustrating to hear brief snippets of his dolorous, delightful music - the heartslicing Love Hurts, the epic Return Of The Grievous Angel, the rollicking live version of Merle Haggard's California Cottonfields, a few samples from the Byrds' Sweetheart Of The Rodeo, one of the most importantly-influential American records of all time - only for them to be cut off quickly too soon...
Yet country music and trainsets do seem to go together.
As well as the Man In Black, other enthusiasts appear to have included Haggard himself and Roger "King Of The Road" Miller, according to this handy - if surprising - round-up.
Alongside The Who's Roger Daltrey and John Entwhistle (I assume, while they were intrepidly debating second radius double curves and class J83 early BR locomotives, Townshend and Moon were off somewhere else playing bridge...), Neil Young, Gary Coleman, Lionel Ritchie, Bruce Springsteen, Tom Hanks, David Hasselhoff, Kevin Costner and Elton John.
Not to mention legendary hellraiser Rod Stewart, who once proclaimed: "I'd love to be on the cover of Railway Modeller. That would mean more to me than the cover of Rolling Stone."
Perhaps "Downtown Train" was an even more heartfelt, emotional song than anyone might have imagined...

6 comments:

WDKY said...

I used to fancy Emmylou Harris when I was younger, but I never got into train sets. Other than Thomas the Tank Engine, which was really the children's.

Mark Holland said...

Sorry but classic British trains don't go with Cosmic American Music or even pure country. Check out some of the recent British Light Music releases for an authentic soundtrack: especially tunes such as 'Coronation Scot', 'Puffin Bully' and 'Rythmn on the Rails'.

Regarding Gram Parsons, can I interest you in my tale of the day at Joshua Tree.

http://blognorregis.blogspot.com/2005/08/joshua-tree.html

Aidan said...

Sorry, I've amended the post to include a link to the Observer Music Monthly article which sort-of justified my decision to waywardly steer this trainset topic into a country music siding...
Great story of the Joshua Tree visit - I really should get around to venturing that way myself someday.
Emmylou's most recent albums are some of her strongest, and if there's a better duettist in the world, I've not heard him/her... The two "Singin' With Emmylou" albums, showcasing 40 songs she's graced with backing vocals, make for a lovely start, but there really could and should be several further volumes...
My only trainset indulgence as a (very young) kid was Brio, made up of very basic chunks of wood, and magnets linking the carriages. Although more 'enjoyment' was generally had, by using the sticks of track as drumsticks and pounding them, Keith Moon-style, into a selection of hardback books...

a.c.t said...

I haven't really heard much of Emmylou Harris's stuff - the only song I've heard is off The Band's 'The Last Waltz'. I'll have to get hold of some of her music and give it a listen.

Dr. Deborah Serani said...

I knew instantly what these were!!! What great nostaglia. I recall going to a town in Pennsylvania as a child, where there was a train track house. The entire place was hooked up with hundreds of tracks and dozens of trains. Most enjoyable. And Emmylou Harris is most enjoyable too. She's like wine, getting better with age!

~Deb

ozzyru27 said...

Hi Akr

I have just tried to post a link to your blog from my blog, like in the list section (blogs I read), but due to my lack of technical knowledge you have ended up as a post to your blog! Hope you don't mind! Not sure how to get things on the lists at the side???
Ruth x