Sunday, 6 December 2015

The New Rock & Roll

I have been to a talk on the Battle of Towton given by Chris Murphy of the Towton Battlefield Society. It was informative and entertaining, and in particular was very strong on the context and personalities. Murphy is given to a colourful turn of phrase and I was taken both with his assertion that the Wars of the Roses is the new Rock & Roll and that Edward IV was Elvis. I was less convinced by the idea of Henry VI as Stephen Fry, but one can't have everything. He included a special section on local notable John, 9th Baron Clifford (the 'Flower of Craven' or ' Butcher Clifford' according to one's taste). Otley wasn't actually on Clifford's land, being owned by the Archdiocese of York, but he was the nearest big cheese. There is one obvious problem with focussing on the Flower/Butcher in a talk on Towton; as discussed on this very blog quite recently he died the day before. It probably didn't matter because the majority of the packed out hall - the sight of which prompted the bon mot about Rock & Roll - appeared to have only come to get away from Storm Desmond which was raging outside. As with the previous year's talk on Richard III - also a sell out, although against a background of snow that time - their grasp of what was going on appeared to be slim. There were no actively racist questions this time, but the first one to be asked, after two hours of bigging up the events of Palm Sunday 1461, "Isn't it true that the 28,000 casualties are a huge exaggeration, that it's all myth and that it wasn't a very important battle after all?" was unsurprisingly met with a curt "No!". In fact it is only modesty that prevents me from pointing out that for the second year running the only sensible question was asked by me.

The storm had abated sufficiently today for the annual Victorian Fayre; indeed it was about 15˚C warmer than last year when the reindeer were the only things looking at all comfortable. It's a big event with the entire centre of the town closed off and interesting to see how my great grandparents would have celebrated the time of year. I entered into the spirit of things by having a samosa.

The weekend also included a bit of old Rock & Roll with an excellent gig by Steve Phillips and the Rough Diamonds. Phillips, a long time friend and sometime bandmate of Mark Knopfler, is really a blues musician - his set included the usual list of McTell, Broonzy, Jefferson, Johnson, Waters, Wolf plus a couple of obscure Dylan covers - but he opened with Heartbreak Hotel, first made famous by that son of York, Edward Plantagenet.


  1. Your mix of pop culture and British history always makes for an interesting read. Earl of Warwick popularizing Heartbreak Hotel? Great stuff! You do attend more than your share of interesting concerts and lectures.

    1. Why thank you. I like to mix it up.

      A pedantic point: the Earl of Warwick was Richard not Edward. I think the speaker was referencing Edward IV's appetites for originally women and then food and drink when he compared him to Elvis. Think youthful vigour followed by an early bloated death on the toilet.

      I should have asked if Warwick the Kingmaker was Colonel Parker in this metaphor; that's even better than the question that I did ask.