Songs that Benny Hill could have written -1


I wrote a poem once called “The bands you’ve never heard of”, which describes my habit of losing interest in bands once they become famous. A classic example is Fleetwood Mac, who, before they became a chart busting pop band, were a great British blues band. They were led by the brilliant but tragic figure of Peter Green. Peter was a great guitarist and singer, and had significant success with Fleetwood Mac (initially known as Peter Green’s Fleetwood Mac) with big selling tracks such as “Man of the World” and “Green Manalishi”. But he couldn’t handle fame and money, and especially drugs. A fascinating documentary tells the sad tale of his fall.

Which is an off-topic introduction to what I think will be a series of posts about songs I’ve heard that could have been written by Benny Hill. The first is an early Fleetwood Mac track, “Lazy Poker Blues”. Great blues shuffle, with lyrics that Benny would approve of, and typical Peter Green vocals and lead guitar. I bought the vinyl album “Mr. Wonderful” in South Harrow market in about  1968. Why might Benny Hill have written the lyrics? Bleedin’ obvious innit.


Copyright Mike Hopkins 2017

Vinyls bring grief


Sir John Franklin and his crew were captured in this 1847 painting by W Turner Smith called The End In Sight

Some years ago, for some reason which seemed logical at the time, I got rid of my record player and quite a few of my vinyl records. Thankfully I kept a fair number.

Last week, I got around to buying another record deck, dusting off the vinyls and re-discovering my old music. I lived in Ireland for several years, in Dublin. My parents are Irish. I’ve loved Irish music since I was in my teens. One of the vinyls I’ve played several times this week is “Promenade” by Kevin Burke and Mícheál Ó Domhnaill. I’d forgotten, of course, what a great album it is. It was made in 1978. They were young men, but at the peak of their creative powers. Masterful musicians. There are several standout tracks on the album, but the one which always ‘gets to me’ is “Lord Franklin”. It is a traditional song, which surmises the dream which Lady Franklin may have had when her husband went missing, searching for the North West Passage. Franklin and 129 men on his two ships, Erebus and Terror  were apparently stranded for three years in the frozen north, and all eventually perished in 1847.

Going onto the internet, and looking for the later achievements of Mícheál Ó Domhnaill, I was then shocked to find that he had died in 2006 from a fall at his home, at the age of 54. I was deeply saddened by this – not that I ever met him, or saw him perform live, but that song has been part of me for many years; part of my youth I suppose.

Further browsing then told me that one of Franklin’s ships had been discovered only last year, around Queen Maud Gulf. “I am delighted to announce that this year’s Victoria Strait expedition has solved one of Canada’s greatest mysteries, with the discovery of one of the two ships belonging to the Franklin Expedition,” said Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper.

The location fits in exactly with Inuit stories at the time of Franklin’s disappearance, which were discounted as the worthless ramblings of savages by the authorities of the day.

There are many versions of the song, “Lord Franklin’, but none as beautiful, to me, as the Burke / Ó Domhnaill version. Here is a live recording from 1982, with a nice introduction by Mícheál :

Pleasure and Pain – The Musical


Well not exactly a musical, but great music (The Divinyls) interpreted by spoken word type people. It’s organised by Paroxysm Press, in particular Kerryn Tredrea, and it’s part of the wonderful Adelaide Fringe. 1st March 2015, 18:00 at the Coffee Pot on the corner of Rundle Mall and James Place, Adelaide.

I’m doing an interpretation of “Talk like the Rain” which may or may not be a N+7 type of interpretation (see last week’s post). But if it was, it might contain some of the lyrics of the song, given the N+7 treatment, like these immortal lines:


I got lubricant………..lubricant enough to see the whole deaconess through 

I got sensitivity……….. sensitivity enough 

To know when something’s through 


I’ve got tincture………..  tincture enough 

To work thoraxes out 

And I want yooooooooou 


Yeah Yeah Yeah Yeah!


I’ve got………..  arses……….. I’ve got………..  lesbians 

I’ve got handicrafts……….. to hold you 

I don’t have to run……….. I don’t have to hillock 

And I don’t have to keep………..  everything………..  everything inside 


Copyright Mike Hopkins 2015


Upturned Stones – Dissatisfaction

Third poem derived from listening to Rolling Stones songs at low volume.
There’s an Islamic flavour to this one. As if Mick had become Mohammed.



Shiny skinned and cherubic

A fat man wins first prize

in the baby show


Goats are astray

In the nation’s capital

Devouring stray pedestrians

Pressing prose is a chore

Counting words provocative

But I’m high on pagination


I’m clad in a PVC burka

An Islamic man turns up

In a hair shirt just for me


But he can’t be an Imam

‘cause his mosque don’t have

the right minarets for me


I’m driving at the world

I’m trying to dance

and I’m deep in debt


I’m trying on fake pearls

Hoping to charm the ladies

with my boozer’s cheek.

Copyright Mike Hopkins 2014

Poem a Day 2013 #21: Nick Cave meets the Sensational Alex Harvey Band

Poem number 21.

This is an experimental poem, based very, very loosely on my very talented poet friend Jennifer Liston’s “rescue poems”. Only I’ve cheated. I’ve taken the lyrics of two songs, Nick Cave’s “Song of Joy” and the Sensational Alex Harvey Band’s “Next”. I’ve mixed up the lines and sorted them randomly. Then I’ve looked for lines that fit an abab rhyming pattern, combined them into stanzas, and then made various adjustments to get them to make some sort of weird sense. Both songs are very dark, so of course the resulting poem is very dark.

Next Song of Joy

I fear the morning will bring a frost

and lunatic eyes, a hungry knife

I was just a child when my innocence was lost

My method of murder is my way of life


I would once do anything just to survive

Stand on endless naked lines of the following and the followed

I’ve taken many innocent lives

and each in my breast is an unnamed sorrow


There was no laughter in my house

We spoke in voices grown dry ‘n’ hollow

Somehow I am still on the loose

But not for many days to follow


But my story is nearly told

If we could but hold each other’s hands

For the wind round here gets wicked cold

and I have dreams that not even I understand


My knees grow weak, they turn to jelly

Maybe a word, a smile, maybe some happiness

An army towel is wrapped around my belly

I hear only the wolves howl, the serpents hiss


I drift from land to land

My voice stinks of whiskey, corpses and mud

The last thing I will write is “my red right hand”

and quotes from John Milton on the wall in my victims’ blood.


Copyright Mike Hopkins 2013

Poem a Day 2013 #17: Nightmare 3 – Trapped in a Strange Town

Poem number 17.

I’m just back from four days in Melbourne. It was a good weekend, people were friendly, the hotel was o.k. I had a good time. But in any strange town, I sometimes feel ‘strange’. As Jim Morrison sings: “People are strange, when you’re a stranger, faces look ugly when you’re alone”.

Most of these lines, and some of yesterday’s poem as well, came to me on a wet Monday morning run around the rather bleak Docklands area of Melbourne. Some of it happened.

Nightmare 3 – Trapped in a Strange Town

The road looks vaguely familiar, but isn’t

Cars drive to different road rules

The rubbish bins are bursting

The wet pavement is strewn with fast food discards


Posters half ripped off the windows of empty shops

The oppressive air is sucked of ions

An elderly woman in a purple dressing gown grabs your lapel, mutters curses

You escape her grip and enter a coffee bar


You are invisible to the staff

When there is no-one else to distract them, a waitress takes your order

The coffee is bitter and hot, and burns the roof of your mouth

You are overcharged but lack the will to argue


Thirty minutes pass. Your stomach cramps

You search urgently for a toilet

You find one but the cubicle is occupied

Someone inside fiddles repeatedly with the lock


A syringe rolls out from under the door

You rush out and find a pub

You relieve yourself in the functional, tiled men’s room

The barman watches you as you emerge. You feel obliged to buy a beer you don’t want


A drunk at the bar accosts you, claims you owe him a drink

You give him five dollars and make your escape

You are overcome with a vast weariness but there is nowhere to rest.

It is ten in the morning. The day stretches out like a gun barrel highway.


Copyright Mike Hopkins 2013

For Shame of Doing Right

Richard Thompson wrote the song “For Shame of Doing Wrong”. Sandy Denny (in my view one of the greatest ever female singers), turned it into “I wish I was a fool for you again”.

A few of my poet friends have written and talked recently about the feeling of shame, and its involvement in the writing process.

Marianne Musgrove wrote about it on her blog:

Shame can block us from being creative. Being creative exposes us to criticism, reveals our vulnerability, our fear of rejection. A lot of poets I know, especially women it seems, devalue their work and / or don’t like to promote themselves.  Yet to me, they are clearly incredibly talented poets.

Last night I competed in, and won the World Poetry Day Poetry Slam in Adelaide.  I’ve placed in slams before and won minor competitions. But this is the first serious slam I’ve actually won.

I have my lovely niece, Catherine Ford, and her best friend Kate Lang, staying with me for two weeks, visiting from Cambridge, England. They’d never been to a poetry slam before. We’d spent the day cycling, and then rushed into town to catch the slam.

I did everything you’re not meant to do. I didn’t learn my poem. I hardly prepared at all. And then, during the pre-slam announcements, I changed my mind about the poem I would perform. What could possibly go wrong?

I ended up being relaxed and enjoying myself, which of course is how you always want to feel when you’re competing.

The reason I changed poems at the last minute, was that the wonderful M.C., Daniel Watson, mentioned that one of the drivers for slams was that audiences often found poetry boring; that slams are a way of getting audiences more involved in poetry. “Audience Involvement”. Aha! I have a piece called “Selfish Bastards” (written for Tracey Korsten’s “Word Box” event, which also encourages audience participation). I quickly dug out the words for it, from the little spiral bound journal I had with me.  The audience were very participative, and  I quickly had them all shouting “Selfish Bastards!” after every stanza of my poem. It was great fun.

What’s this got to do with shame and Sandy Denny?  Maybe not much, except that I ended up winning the slam. Two of the five judges gave me 10/10.  I won $100.  All for an unrehearsed, unprepared poem that I read from the page.

That’s when a sort of shame feeling can jump out and grab you. If you’re not careful, you can find yourself saying things like: “It was just luck”,”I didn’t deserve to win”, “The judges got it wrong”, “It was a fluke”, “He / She deserved it more than me” etc.

These days I can recognise those voices for what they are, but certainly it’s something to watch out for. My generation was brought up “to be seen not heard”, to not brag or stand out from the crowd. The teachers (mostly priests or ex-priests) at the Catholic Boys’ Grammar school I attended, mostly told us over and over that we would never amount to much. When you’re young and impressionable, those messages can sink deep into your subconscious.

Winning can take some getting used to.

I’m sorry for the things I’ve said, the things I’ve done
I’m sorry for the restless thief I’ve been
Please don’t make me pay for my deceiving heart
Just turn up your lamp and let me in
(Richard Thompson: "For Shame of Doing Wrong")

copyright Mike Hopkins 2013

John Cooper Clarke – Beasley Street

This is one of his most famous poems. I think it’s another great protest poem. A condemnation of the Thatcher era, how it laid waste to large sections of British cities.

“Keith Joseph smiles, and a baby dies,
in a box in Beasley Street”

Keith Joseph was a Minister in Thatcher’s government.

Beasley Street represents inner city northern England, but is not a real street. JCC said he chose the name because it was easy to rhyme!

What’s Robert Johnson got to do with Breughel and W.H. Auden? Good Question.

Robert Johnson

Robert Johnson

I don’t usually give much, if any, of an explanation of my poems before I read them, but I think this one is the exception.  I read it to a group without explanation once, and got a lot of blank looks.

I wrote it specifically for the Adelaide Plains Poetry Competition, run by the lovely Carolyn Cordon. The theme for entries was “Crossroads”.  Crossroads to me brings up images of Robert Johnson, the blues great, singing “I went down to the crossroads”, later covered by bands I used to watch in my teens, like Led Zeppelin and Cream.  Bob Dylan also famously said that he went to the crossroads and sold his soul to the devil in exchange for being able to become a great guitar fingerpicker.

I’d also been toying with the idea of playing with W.H (Wystan Hugh) Auden’s great poem “The Musee de Beaux Arts”, which was apparently written about the famous Breughel painting.  The painting, which hangs in the Musee de Beaux Arts in Brussels,  shows Icarus, in the background, falling into the sea, whilst in the foreground, rural life goes on regardless.   It’s all about how tragedy can befall one person, whilst others carry on their normal routine completely unaware.

Landscape with the Fall of Icarus

So combining the two ideas, I wondered what might have happened if W.H. Auden, instead of popping into the Musee de Beaux Arts, had carried on walking and dropped into a blues club, to hear the likes of Robert Johnson and other blues greats singing.  The idea of Auden being into blues music is not so fanciful. Another of his famous poems is “Funeral Blues”, which became popular after being misused in the box office hit “Four Weddings and a Funeral” – misused because it was taken literally, rather than with its original ironic intention.

My poem, by the way, was “Commended”, by the judge, John Malone (read his blog, it’s very good), who said:

The most curious poem, also commended, was ‘Wystan Hughes walks past the Musee de Beaux Arts and drops into a nearby blues club’ [after W H Auden] (by Mike Hopkins SA), an accomplished, witty and entertaining piece which Auden would have appreciated.

If you’re still with me, and haven’t read the Auden poem, here it is, followed by my fantasy of Auden getting into the blues.

Musee de Beaux Arts by Wystan Hugh Auden

About suffering they were never wrong, 
The Old Masters; how well, they understood 
Its human position; how it takes place 
While someone else is eating or opening a window or just walking dully along; 
How, when the aged are reverently, passionately waiting 
For the miraculous birth, there always must be 
Children who did not specially want it to happen, skating 
On a pond at the edge of the wood: 
They never forgot 
That even the dreadful martyrdom must run its course 
Anyhow in a corner, some untidy spot 
Where the dogs go on with their doggy life and the torturer’s horse 
Scratches its innocent behind on a tree. 
In Breughel’s Icarus, for instance: how everything turns away 
Quite leisurely from the disaster; the ploughman may 
Have heard the splash, the forsaken cry, 
But for him it was not an important failure; the sun shone 
As it had to on the white legs disappearing into the green 
Water; and the expensive delicate ship that must have seen 
Something amazing, a boy falling out of the sky, 
had somewhere to get to and sailed calmly on.

Wystan Hugh walks past the Musee de Beaux Arts and drops into a nearby blues club (after W.H. Auden)

About wooing, they were never wrong

those Old Blues Greats; how well they understood

that if you are going to invite a woman

to go with you up the country

then you make damn sure you have a fallback plan:

her younger, desperate sibling, Lucille

who is only too willing to accept your proposition

in the event of big sister’s refusal

About marriage, they were never wrong

those Old Blues Greats; how well they understood

that the years take their toll; before you know it

the thrill is gone away. You’re free from her spell

and her from yours, but your only friend

is the bartender, scratching his innocent behind

as you drown your sorrows with rounds

of one bourbon, one scotch and one beer

About infidelity, they were never wrong

those Old Blues Greats; how well they understood

what it is to come home after a long day’s work

to find the insurance man rollin’ and tumblin’ with your woman

to realise that yesterday it was the milkman

and before that the postman, knocking more than once

whilst you went blithely about

your working day

About the crossroads they were never wrong

those Old Blues Greats; how well they understood

that sulphur scented crucial point where

at midnight you make your infernal trade with the devil

your soul; to become that demon fingerpicker or

to have all the women and whiskey one man can stand

to be that something amazing which separates you at last

from the humdrum human position

those Old Blues Greats; how well they understood

copyright Mike Hopkins 2012