Varese, Italy 1970 by Gigi Prevosti
It was the end of 70’s, some friends of mine and me vivified Radio Varese, an experience remembered lately in the beautiful book “Radio Varese 100.700”, the only free radio in the occupied west. This radio broadcasted a lot of kinds of music, but unlike from many radios, the rock, the blues and the folk did the role of lion.
On July of 1977, Mauro Zambellini, now one of the most estimated Italian journalist for the rock music, had come to festival at Nyon, in Switzerland, to listen to the David Bromberg’s gig. When he came back, he told us that festival of Nayon was very interesting.
So, the after year four of us went away with tents and sleeping bags. We wanted to enjoy all the festival.
It was so, the festival was valid both for its new singers and for its famous one. But we were in raptures for the glamour and ability of June Tabor and more for the Ralph McTell’s big charisma, who ended the festival.
We didn’t know him very well, and all news were only about Streets of London. We understood that we had seen something special for his splendid songs and for his way to sing alone on the stage in front of a great green prater full of people.
When we came back home, we bought, soon, “Ralph, Albert & Sydney”, and we broadcasted his songs with high frequency. In this way Ralph’s album began a local hit, in fact the “Casa del Disco” sold a lot of copies of this album.
After same times in radio there was a division and a group of twelve of us made a band called "Collettivo Musica" to manage in full autonomy another radio and its evening programs. This radio during the day broadcasted commercial music and for this we needed something to know to the audience.
“If do we organize a gig?” and “If do we call Ralph McTell?”
The “Casa del Disco” gave the necessary and economic help even though the risks to lose money were very high.
Immediately we worked and made a couple of calls, we changed same contacts and the play done.
The great problem was the place where Ralph had to play, we hadn’t got a lot of possibilities and we decided for the "Palazzetto dello Sport", that could receive 3000 persons: certainly we were much optimistic!
Ralph arrived with his manager, both were astonished for our hopes. When we described them the "Palazzetto dello sport", they shook their heads and they were very dejected: “You’re gonna lose your money! I don’t have all that audience!”.
The result was lower for our but higher for him: 1300 peoples that night enjoyed a beautiful gig, even the background was inappropriate and surreal for a performance, but we didn’t worry, because we were wont.
After the performance we went to have a dinner together and in the restaurant, many people, that was at the gig, came near to our table and asked to Ralph his autograph. And took some pictures.
Ralph was very astonished!!!
The day after we went to take him in the hotel and the concierge was very angry because Ralph and his group during the night, had drunk some liqueurs in the duty free.
In the airport we embraced and he was sorry because we had lose money, and he promised us that the next time the money were more.
There wasn’t a next time, and Gege, that had lose his money, didn’t lament never by good fan.
All that is still now a beautiful memory for all of us.: What a big person the old Ralph!
Pic by Nanni Fachini
Ralph McTell in concert – Dawlish Leisure Center, Devon in Aid of BBC Radio Devon's Chestnut Appeal 16/04/2004.
Everyone has the chance from time to time; to go to a concert that they know is going to be just fabulous. Friday 16th April 2004 was one of those concerts for me. Having booked the tickets for around 5 months, the day we had all be looking for was suddenly here. National Treasure Ralph McTell was coming to Dawlish.
My friend from Pokesdown, Bournemouth, (yes, Ralph fans will know the significance of Pokesdown if they have read his autobiography) arrived late due to awful weather and traffic. After a quick bite to eat we set off for Dawlish. Not quite sure how many times she asked me if I had the tickets!!! (She has a reason for doing this!). Two miles down the road we hit a traffic jam due to an accident. Oh No! Half an hour passed and we were through. Phew! We got to the Leisure Centre an hour early, which is what you have to do to get parked and to dash for the best seats. We parked opposite the entrance! Anyway, we got third row as the first two rows were saved for dignitaries from the Met Office in Exeter who were sponsoring the event, Radio Devon and others.
Councillor Mary Colclough thanked all for their sponsorship and the audience for their attending this charity event and introduced presenter Matt Woodley from Radio Devon who introduced Ralph.
On Ralph came looking fit, tanned, relaxed and happy after returning from his tour in Australia a few days ago. He kicked off with First Song, and in-between his songs during the evening we were treated to snippets from his autobiographies, Angel Laughter and Summer Lightning from his childhood/teen days with relevant songs on the way. A very different way of planning a concert and made interesting and informative for those in the 200 + audience who didn’t know too much of his background. The very wonderful From Clare to Here and Streets of London made my evening! Nanna’s Song (a song for Ralph’s lovely Norwegian wife Nanna) and Michael in the Garden were sung to us. I have to say that during the evening Ralph was continually smiling to himself and kept the attention of the audience with his little humorous quips and jolly banter. Easter Lilies, A Feather Fell, Dry Bone Shuffle, Weather the Storm and the longest song of the evening – Jesus Wept. Ralph has a love of Laurel and Hardy and did an instrumental with them in mind, entitled That’ll Do Babe. An extremely tricky piece to play and Ralph was asked the previous evening in Dartford why he hadn’t played I?. So he decided to have a go at our concert. Not a wrong note as far as I was aware and a real stunner! He seemed pleased he had got through it and the concentration was apparent. Off he went and came back to a loud encore. What song would you like he said? Someone shouted Peppers and Tomatoes. So we had the story of the Grow bag and how that song came about! On the instructions it states you can plant Peppers and Tomatoes side by side! He left us to rapturous applause and you could tell everyone had really enjoyed the evening and lots of money had been raised for the Chestnut Appeal Charity. Donnard his trusted roadie did a wonderful job in the half light checking electrics and such like and making sure Ralph was sounding how he should.
We met up with Ralph afterwards, he remembered me from the interview I did with him at his home in Cornwall in September last year, and was just the same sweet charming, amusing man I had remembered from that day. He chuckled when he heard my friend Lynn lived in Pokesdown and said if he hadn’t got off the train there all those years ago, his life might not be the same as it is today. Well, I have no complaints and I am sure he hasn’t either. Ralph is truly a lovely guy and splendid musician/singer/songwriter who, to a lot of us, is a legend in the Music Industry today. It is great to have him back on the road. Catch him at Sidmouth Music Festival and hopefully Cropredy Festival both in August.
Jean Camp - Folking.com
What the Italians think about Ralph McTell
It’s very hard to do a probing about a great performer, because it is always little what we collect and then what we write, it appears just said by other people. Before to describe what the Italians think about the great Ralph McTell, I wish to thank all people that have collaborated to make feasible this probing.
In the short interview about two songs selected, WEATHER THE STORM and TEQUILA SUNSET, are been collected the most different dissertations about him, but generally, his songs, his music and his voice are liked also to young (Emanuele 14yo) and they that listen to a different kind of music like hip hop (Pina 23yo).
The section of age involved in this probing is been large included people with age between 14 and 60 years.
Weather the storm
The song describes a problem that I feel as private. It seems written for me, unfavourable time, the many troubles of the friend that, at the end fortunately, "weathers the storm" and in a way he comes true himself (Domenico 40 fan)
I have listened to this song in a live version, and in this way it puts on a sense of nostalgia, but in the same time it’s very relaxed. If we don’t pay attention to words ignoring its meaning we can say that this is a sentimental and romantic song. In it the writer’s feelings shine. (Pina 23yo).
Weather the Storm is nice......... music for a sunny day and a spliff or two!
The chords of guitar with hot intonation of a deep voice give a pleasure of freedom in immense spaces without obligations imposed by daily life, offering us a vision of whole more free. The refrain comes in us. Country music that we can listen to when we try a moment of quite to divide with we love or to enjoy alone with ourselves. (Marco 27yo).
I don’t know the English and so I don’t understand the words of Ralph’s songs. I like very much his voice and his music. There is something of magic!!! (Rosanna 28yo).
This song evokes in me only beautiful memories! Every time that I listen to it , it evokes in me smells, situations and feeling proved during its performance in the two gigs that I have seen. It’s a song that I love particularly because it remember me a travel . or better two travels, that I have done with an important person. So when I listen to this song my mind think him and the beautiful moments with him. (Jennifer 38yo).
I like very much this song. It communicates me a different spirit from that of the artist. I don’t need to drink a glass of tequila to raise up me, because just the song raise up me, perhaps I pay all my attention on words: “dusty streets full of dreams” and then “Oh Tequila sunset, Tijuana sunrise Turquoise and silver stars hung in the skies” (Jennifer 38yo).
This song is different from Weather the storm. It is a wonderful background to listen to when you come back from an excursion full of emotions. It’s an hurricane of memories in front of an endless sunset in August. It’s a charge! (Pina 23yo).
I don’t know because every time that I listen to this song, I shiver, it is like a lot of pictures of a film stream in my mind, Beh! Perhaps it strips my inner sadness. It says: “Takes a glass of Tequila to raise up my spirits” (Domenico 40yo)
The motive and presence of deep sounds appear in this song, too. For all if you listen to it for the fist time you don’t receive the wished impression. The melody, that take place another time, lets us to appreciate the work of general frame.(Marco 27yo).
This song remembers me my wedding travel., so I consider it a beautiful piece. I hear words like tequila, Mexico and then I travel……………..with my mind (Rosanna 28yo).
Generally I don’t like to listen to music and I get annoyed if my sons submit me to forced listening, but I can say that his music has taken me, I fell quiet, and gave me a sense of peace. (Salvatore 64yo).
All two pieces have the same harmonic turn with not more meaning variations. For the music is like Ralph has extract only the Bob Dylan’s melody. He doesn’t evoke anything in me, I don’t like him and there aren’t differences in these song except for the words. (Paolo 43yo)
I can’t listen to his music, because he is very sad. I cry when I listen to his songs. (Lia 37yo).
Beh! During our displacements with car my mother listens to Ralph’s songs, so I. even if I tell her to take away Ralph’s song from the carstereo, I like to listen to him, because he breaks the monotony of my musical kind. (Emanuele 14yo).
His music is a big ball, at all I don’t understand as you listen to him: (Fabio 33yo).
From: Berquez [mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org]
Date: lunedì 26 aprile 2004 0.03
Subject: Ralph mc Tell
As you I'm not english but my prefered singer is Ralph. I have heard is song for the first time when I was at School. My English teacher was also a guitarist and played for us “Factory girl,Clown and of course Streets of London”. It was during the year 1974. So I listen Ralph since 30 years now.
Each time I go to England I buy a Ralph’s records.
At the end of 1998 I went specially in England to see the concert at the Purcell Room to meet for the first time Ralph. As you at the end of the concert I went with my records to have an autograph and to speak with Ralph; he understand that I'm not english. He was very surprise that somebody in France knows him and his song. I think he was very happy and he introduced me to all the other peoples who was waiting for him, as you somebody take my picture with him; it was a very great moment for me.
And now each time I meet an English people I ask him if he knows Ralph and his songs. I have tried to write to him but I have never received an answer.
Go on with your work on your site.
Date: Th 25th december 2003 16.17
To: "domenico mosca"
Subject: Re: I: Christmas
Hello Domenico. I wish you and your family a happy Christmas and a wonderful year in 2004. I am at home surrounded by my family and I am looking forward to getting back to my work on the road next year. Very best wishes and thank you for all your work on the Italian site. I send warm good wishes to all your readers. Ralph
Date: Thu, 20 Feb 2003 17:16:16 EST
Subject: Re: Fwd:Reply
We have finaly traced a video recording of Ralph and it has been posted on to you. Thank you for all your hard work and good luck.
Kind regards Sam
Subject: Re: the italian site about Ralph McTell
Heoo Domenico I have just finished a very big tour in UK and have now had an opportunity to visit the website you have prepared of my work.
I must say that I am very impressed and already have recieved an e-mail from a woman from italy who has seen it.
Thank you very much for your enthusiasm for my music and if we can help you in any way with information etc please write to us.
Please feel free to translate any items from the official and unoficial sites In England.
Once again thank you and very best wishes from Ralph McTell.
Southsea August, 28th 2002 by Jennifer
“… things never go as you believe….”. Yes it’s the true!!! And it is the same to me for a concert.
A concert in Southsea (UK) on 28th august 2002. The performer was Ralph McTell; the great Ralph McTell.
Mine isn’t rhetoric, but I wish to explain what I experienced during Ralph’s performance. It occurred to me to go to the concert, because I wanted to crown one of dreams of an important people for me.
I remember that when we arrived in the place of the concert, I was very confused, because it was a little theatre with a bar and a lot of little tables.
It seemed to me to came in a movie, in which we see unknowns singers that need the celebrated launching. However we came in and sit down closed to the stage. In this way I could see the show in the best manner.
I didn’t knew a lot of Ralph’s songs, only that I had listened at my friend’s home.
Finally at the end of the support singer’s show, Ralph’s gig started.
I was thinking: what a bore! Now I fall asleep. I was very tired and couldn’t follow all his songs. But on the contrary; much to my surprise, his involving and stillness voice caught me. I didn’t loose a song and Ralph’s words, that introduced them.
His way to sing made me felt pleasant sensations, so hard to describe.
It was a wonderful performance. And it was beautiful the way to pass the time with his audience after the concert: all around there was a family air, and all his fans were as old friends.
He was sitting near a little table to speak with all, to take pictures, to sign autographs and drink beer.
Without thinking I found myself to stand in turn to meet him. When my turn arrived I exchanged only few words with Ralph McTell: I received his compliments for my tattoo. He said about it: wonderful.
After this meeting I had a great satisfaction: I had met a great artist.
Now I wish to thank 2 people. In the first time I thank my important people because with his passion, he involved me in this experience, and in the second time I thank RALPH MCTELL for his wonderful songs, his particular music and for his availability with his audience.
My approach with Ralph McTell by Paul Jenkins - Cincinnati, OH (USA)
I started off five or six years ago with The Songs of Ralph McTell (the American release of Silver Celebration). That's quite an introduction! I've been steadily accumulating the rest of Ralph's catalog ever since.
Not Till Tomorrow is probably my studio favorite. "Another Rain", "First Song", "Zimmerman Blues" are wonderful, and "Barges" is my favorite song of his. I have a very close relationship with my 2.5 years older brother; perhaps that explains my love of this song. I like "When I Was a Cowboy" a great deal too. Like Dylan Thomas, Ralph has mined plenty from his childhood memories.
Right Side Up gets the nod for #2, very slightly over You Well Meaning Brought Me Here. "Naomi", "Tequila Sunset", "River Rising", and the brilliant "From Clare to Here" are favorites.
On YWMBMH I like "Ferryman", "First and Last Man", "Genesis", and the ambiguous title track. The mixed blessing of success, I guess.
Similarly ambitious is "Boy With A Note." I've long been a big fan of Dylan Thomas (as well as Bob Dylan) and was very curious to see what Ralph made of his life. This is a very heartfelt effort, and songs like "I Miss You Most of All", "Summer Girls" (hasn't every young man had a similar desire?), and "Irish Girl" are fine tracks. "Conundrum of Time" is brilliant.
Perhaps my second favorite song of Ralph's is "Mr Connaughton" from Bridge of Sighs. I get a lump in my throat whenever I hear it. "The Setting", and "Throw Out a Line" are excellent, and "Girl from the Hiring Fare" could have been labeled as a traditional song and I wouldn't have questioned it. A true classic. The rest of the album strikes me as pretty average, though.
I've been a fan of country blues all my life, so I like Blue Skies, and Stealing Back, but thank goodness he didn't limit his career to such ventures.
I used to think Slide Away the Screen was very mediocre, but I'm coming around to it after forcing myself to listen to it more often. I guess you can say I get a kick out of songs like "Harry" and "Van Nuys" while realizing that they aren't very "important."
I have the double cd titled Spiral Staircase that also includes the songs from Eight Frames a Second, Spiral Staircase, and My Side of Your Window. "Nanna's Song" has a beautiful melody, as does "Silver Birch." "Factory Girl" is a good song.
Easy doesn't do much for me, besides "Maginot Waltz" and "Maddy Dances." Like Ralph, I'm fascinated by the doomed generation of WWI.
I find Streets (the album, that is) pretty dull. It's a recent purchase, though, and might grow a little more on me.
I didn't like Sands in Your Shoes that much at first, but now find that I like it quite a bit. "An Irish Blessing", "Peppers and Tomatoes" and "The Islands" are all very nice.
Water of Dreams is okay, but not terribly intriguing. That cover of "I Want You" is interesting, though.
I like Red Sky quite a bit. The album hangs together as a whole better than most of his others. "In the Dreamtime" is a great song. "Now This Has Started" is brilliant, and I like "Bicker and Rue" quite a bit.
National Treasure is a disappointment to me. I think his blues songs sound better on Black Heroes and Stealing Back, and even though I love Woody Guthrie and Stephen Foster, the covers on this album leave me pretty cold.
I'm 41, married, with a five year-old boy, Tom. I lived in England for a year (1967-68) and have been an Anglophile ever since. I got to visit England again in 1983 and was very excited to see Arsenal play at Highbury. I'm a huge soccer fan (hey, Ralph, how about Fulham!) ever since I learned the game in London as a boy. (I bet all Italy was upset over the recent loss to Wales.) I played left wing and took all the free kicks and corners for my teams before I got too old. I play harmonica and Anglo concertina and can pick out melodies on a guitar.
Windsor, Art Centre, 17th may 2002 by Esteban Castellanos
My name is Esteban and I live in Madrid. I was informed bya great welsh friend, Andy Langran, about you Web page, which by the way I think is great. I just wanted to tell you that I had a similar experience with Ralph when I went to see him, last May.
This is more or less how it was:
For many years, and now more than ever I’ve been a Ralph McTell fan. Also for many years I’ve been waiting to see if he came over and performed in my country but it seems he hasn’t done it since 1972 or so (as I learned from his biography). Up to now, every year whenever I received his tour schedule I just sighed, because due to my work I didn’t have the possibility of flying to London or anywhere else in Britain to see him. Lately and fortunately, things have changed, I work for my own and my wife convinced me that I should go. At last I decided to fly to London together with my wife and my fourteen year old son, to see him live.
Although I don’t want to make any comment on the concert itself because I think everyone knows what his concerts are about, I do wish to tell everybody how we were treated by Ralph, by his wife Nana and by all the people at Leola Music. I would not like to make this very long, but I think it’s worth it.
I was intending to see Ralph at his concert at the Old Vic on the 19th of May, but as you know, it was cancelled a couple of weeks before the concert. As I had already bought the tickets for the concert through the Tickety Boo office (thanks again Neha), and my flight tickets together with our hotel reservation for three nights had been made, from the 17th to the 19th of May I had quite a big problem although it was solved in the most brilliant way by the people at Leola Music.
The week before the concert Sam from Leola Music sent me a message offering me to take us to his last concert at the Windsor Art Centre on the 17th of May. As I would already be in London on that same morning I accepted his offer. A couple of days before the concert he also sent me an e-mail confirming that he would leave instructions at my hotel and the they would arrange everything so that I would be taken to the concert and back to my hotel when it had finished.
At 5:30 on the day of the concert, a taxi that had already been paid for, took me from my hotel in London to Windsor. Once at the venue, I went in to collect my tickets, but my name didn’t appear on any of the several envelopes that the lady there had. Then somebody from, I think Leola Music, whose name I don’t remember said “Oh you must be the guests we where just talking about a minute ago”. That was the first surprise. Another young man, Don, came out to inform me how they had arranged my visit. I would have reserved seats, Ralph would have a chat in private with us after the concert (!), and finally Nanna (Ralph’s wife) would take us back to our hotel in London. I honestly couldn’t believe it. It was much more than I could have thought of, but that wasn’t all.
After taking our sets, there was one more reserved seat besides us that was late occupied by a lady who seemed to me Nanna May, but I wasn’t sure, because the only photograph I had seen of her was one that appeared in Chris Hockenhull’s biography of Ralph. I was doubting if to ask her but the concert started.
The concert was great; the sound was perfect; Ralph playing and singing his songs, with stories which he usually uses as an introduction. More or less at the middle of the concert, he began talking about “Streets” and that some people always asks him if he doesn’t get tired of that song. After the introduction he said something like “I would like to dedicate this song to some friends that I don’t even know yet, but that I will meet after the concert, and that have come from Spain to see me. It’s somebody called Esteban and his family.” Everybody applauded and we were completely embarrassed. I was really excited; I can’t describe what I felt and it was incredible to hear all the audience (including myself) singing along the chorus of the song. I wrote down all the songs he sand in order to have a better reminiscense of it. At the end of the concert, I introduced myself to the lady sitting besides us, that was certainly Nanna.
But the best was yet to come. We went outside with Nanna who brought us some drinks until we were advised that Ralph was ready to meet us. I thought that I would feel nervous, but I was sure that I wasn’t going to meet any strange person, nothing to do with those stars that we see one day and that disappear one week later. That’s why Ralph McTell stands where he stands. We had a short chat of more or less five or ten minutes, he signed me some CD’s and Nanna took a couple of pictures of the four of us.
On the way back to our hotel I talked with Nanna about many things, although mainly about what Ralph was doing at the moment, his long awaited tablature book and other things.
Back at my hotel, I wasn’t sure if it had been a dream or if I had really been there. What I can say is that it was something that I will never forget.
I hope you didn't get bored, but I really enjoy telling other people. When I read your "story", the first thing I thought of was in telling you mine.
I'm also attaching one of the pictured that Nanna took of us and another that I took of his guitars.
Well Domenico, I have't got much more to tell you for the moment, but I can say that it's great to hear about someone else in the South of Europe, that enjoys Ralph's music. From what you say, Ralph may perform in Italy; I would like to say the same, but I don't think Ralph will come to Spain. In fact, I'm already thinking of seeing him again next Spring in London, in case he makes the usual tour.
By the way my wife and me went to Italy on holidays in July 2001 and we found abeautiful country; we visited Roma, Pompei, Napoles, Capri, Firenze, Pisa, Siena, Venezia, Bolognia, Ravenna and some more cities that I don't remember now. It was a great vacation which we enjoed very much. Where are you from?
OK Domenico, that's all for the moment. We will keep in touch.
All the best and take care