Friday, May 23, 2008

Barnoffee Pie

8oz shortcrust pastry
3oz butter
2oz light soft brown sugar
2 tablespoons milk
8oz can condensed milk
5 medium bananas
10oz double cream
lemon juice
2oz caster sugar

1. Use pastry to line a 9" round and 1" deep flan tin (loose bottomed). Bake blind until light golden and dried out.

2. Place butter and brown sugar in a small heavy based saucepan. Heat gently until butter melts and sugar dissolves. Bring to boil and bubble for one minute only, stirring frequently. Off the heat add the milk and condensed milk, bring to boil and bubble two minutes or until texture thickens to consistency of a very thick sauce and turns golden. Stir constantly or mixture will burn.

3. Meanwhile slice four of the bananas and place in pastry case. Spoon the warm fudge thinly but evenly over the bananas to cover completely. Leave to cool. Chill until set (about 45mins).

4. Whisk cream until it just holds its shape. Pile cream into centre of pie. Refrigerate for at least one hour so that the caramel acts on it.

5. Slice remaining banana, coat with lemon juice. Pile on top of cream.

6. Put caster sugar in small saucepan. Heat gently until sugar melts and turns to a golden caramel colour. Cool for one minute until the caramel thickens and darkens, then spoon over the banana (the caramel will run through the cream). Chill immediately to set.


Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Stutter Blues

Yes I'm a stut-stut-stutterin' man
And I can't ta-ta-ta-talk worth a damn
And I can't ta-ta-ta-talk worth a damn
Sometimes I wanta cry cry
Sometimes I wanta die
John Lee Hooker, Stuttering Blues (1953)

Lately you've started to stutter
As though you had nothing to say.
Leonard Cohen, The Old Revolution (1969)

A recent song that got a lot of radio airplay is Stuttering by Ben's Brother – one in a long line of songs in popular music either about or featuring stuttering, or both.

One of the earliest known examples is K-K-K-Katy, written in 1917 by Geoffrey O'Hara and hugely popular in both the first and second World Wars at military training camps. Advertised as 'The Sensational Stammering Song Success Sung by the Soldiers and Sailors', it concerns Jimmy, a young soldier who stuttered when trying to speak to girls. He eventually manages to speak to the eponymous Katy, the "maid of hair of gold":

K-K-K-Katy, beautiful Katy,
You're the only g-g-g-girl that I adore;
When the m-m-m-moon shines,
Over the cowshed,
I'll be waiting at the k-k-k-kitchen door.

From the 1960s until the 80s various popular songs have featured singers (purposely) stuttering but not been about stuttering. The most famous ones include:

My Generation – The Who (1965)
Changes – David Bowie (1971)
Benny and the Jets – Elton John (1973)
You Ain't Seen Nothing Yet – Bachman Turner Overdrive (1974)
Psycho Killer – Talking Heads (1977)
Bad To The Bone – George Thoroughgood (1982)

These songs didn't appear to be attacking stutterers or about stuttering in any way. Stuttering just sounded good. Stuttering as a musical effect, if you will. There was no electronic trickery in these songs – the stuttering was done by the singer.

With the explosion of rap music, electronic recording and sampling in the 1980s, it seemed every song needed a sampled stutter – which could now be done with ease electronically. Most famously, Paul Hardcastle's 19 (1985) with its repetitive beats and stuttered spoken samples seemed to herald the birth of a new kind of music – on Top of the Pops anyway.

Predictably, advertising also got into the act. Most memorably (and annoyingly) L'Oreal's Studio Line ad, featuring jazz playing models against a background of post-modern Mondrian with "Sculpt your hair, any way you like it. Studio Line – create your look" as its chorus. This was "borrowed" from another song from the time also featuring stuttering, Chaka Khan's I Feel For You.

With rap, having a stutter was seen (understandably) as a weakness, much in the same way as a tennis player with a racket without strings or a runner without legs – not impossible, but pretty difficult, and not very cool but possibly quite amusing to watch. So you had LL Cool J boasting, "When I'm involved all the amateurs stutter" on .357-Break It On Down (1987); Rob Base and DJ EZ Rock saying simply "I won't stutter" (It Takes Two, 1988); "When you start to stutter that's when you had enough of / Biting it, I make you choke, you can't provoke" say Eric B and Rakim on I Ain't No Joke (1987); and NWA "didn't stutter when I said "Fuck Tha Police"" in 1988, to name but a few.

This mocking culminated in 1988 with Stutter Rap (No Sleep Til Bedtime) by Morris Minor and the Majors which managed to poke fun at stutterers, the Beastie Boys, and other songs featuring stuttering – in particular Paul Hardcastle's 19 (and Chaka Khan's I Feel For You):

"Well no-one's ever seen what I mean
From the age of n-n-n-n-n-n-thirteen
We've all been caught in a m-m-mouth trap
So join with us and do the st-st-st-st-st-st-st-stutter rap"

Since then, the tradition has continued steadily. In 1991, old skool rapper Kool Moe Dee rapped "Make no mistake, we don't shake or stutter" on Rise 'n' Shine. And in 2006, British rapper Lady Sovereign rapped, "Repeating yourself like you got a stutter with all you mutter" on Blah, Blah.

Can you imagine any other affliction that comes in for so much flack? Poets dissing dyslexics, perhaps? Or chocolatiers scoffing at diabetics?

Famously, the singers Carly Simon and Gareth Gates stutter. Singing was a way for them to overcome their stuttering: like most stutterers, they don't stutter whilst singing – but possibly would do if rapping. Interestingly, many stutterers also don't stutter whilst whispering, or putting on a voice, or speaking in a foreign language.

With the digital computer age, stuttering now more than ever feels like a technological thing – whether we want it or not (usually not). Technical glitches and hitches, hiccups and fuckups, crashes and mashes happen whether on digital TV, broadband, CDs, DVDs, hard discs, graphics, file formats – all from time to time seem to emulate stuttering when they go wrong.

Friday, May 02, 2008

Leonard Cohen albums with 'Songs' in the title

Songs of Leonard Cohen (1967)
Songs From a Room (1969)
Songs of Love and Hate (1971)
Live Songs (1973)
Recent Songs (1979)
Ten New Songs (2001)
Songs from the Road (2010)

(Updated 2010)