When my elderly and lively in-laws come round, they like nothing better than to sit on high-backed chairs, drinking endless cups of teas and recanting stories about a) holidays abroad that took place in the 1980s and b) arguments they have had and won. I am not expected to make any contribution towards these "conversations", other than to show mild interest or to act as a stand-in for the person who was argued with, so many years ago. Over the past 20 years I have heard some of these stories so many times that I almost feel as if I participated in those holidays, and I note any deviances from the usual narratives with interest. It all reminds me a bit of conquering Vikings, singing songs about their victories: "And then I told her... 'look love, so my money's not good enough for you is it? Well I'll take my service elsewhere!'"
Sometimes, for variety, when my warlike in-laws are exhausted, I will try to distract them with a comforting television programme. We all agree that the highest form of television entertainment is the 1970s musical "special", ideally featuring Sammy Davis Jr, although Perry Como, Doris Day or Nancy Sinatra will also suffice. My father-in-law is a notorious tease and will inevitably make sordid remarks about Doris Day, upsetting my mother-in-law who will then transpose the offence onto me. "Stop it! You're upsetting Paul!" (I am viewed by everyone as the upper-class, tasteful, nervous and delicate member of the family, who needs to be protected from vulgarity and the outside world at all costs).
A few months ago, we played the in-laws some episodes of Sounds of the Sixties, which makes up about 80% of BBC4's output. They were enjoying Tom Jones' ode to unjustified violence toward women - Delilah. Then this clip came on, and the mood changed.
My mother-in-law got increasingly angry during Julie Driscoll's performance of Wheel's on Fire. "This is miserable!" she proclaimed. "I don't like it!" Helpfully, BBC4 had provided some information about each performance, in the form of text across the screen. About half way through we were told that "Wheel's on Fire" was originally a Bob Dylan song.
"Bob Dylan!" exclaimed my mother-in-law in triumph. "I hate Bob Dylan. There! I KNEW something was wrong!"
I can't agree with her here though. I love this performance of Wheel's on Fire. And I wish Julie Driscoll was my friend. Here's another clip I've recently discovered of her, in full-on psychedlic freak-out mode.
It's worth watching, just for her hand dancing and facial expressions. And I love how it all seems to have been created by Blue Peter set designers on LSD.
Julie (now Julie Tippetts), I do wish all of your songs were on SingStar, because I would never stop singing them.