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As Far As I Can Tell - Ralph McTell

By Paul Michael
1st August, 2009

An alternative stance, Ralph introduced his new book with readings and a mix of new and old favourite songs. The boy who grew up in Croydon is now the man and his guitar. The tale is of the South London boy, making his way though life when the landscape of London, at that time, was baron and war-torn. Ralph reflects on his memories of boyhood with sights, sounds and even the smells of the nearby industrious works. “You always knew which way the wind was blowing in Croydon”, he says, jokingly.

Ralph McTell has few recollections of his father, who left the family when Ralph was just two years old. He recalls a tall dark-haired man. He tells us that his father was a train driver for the Brighton Bell and that, on one occasion, Ralph rode on the footplate to Brighton – an adventure that he has no recollection of. Poignantly, Ralph launched into the song, Pretty Brighton Bell.

For me, it was a pleasure to see and hear the man whose music, it seems,  I have known all of my life. His stories are similar in many ways to my own childhood memories.

Unlike my growing up, Ralph did National Service, and trained at Crown Hill, Plymouth, just a stones throw from Port Eliot. He then toured Europe, doing what we love him for.

An hour or so later, all too soon for the audience, Ralph  told us of his time in Paris and how he had written a song about the streets of Paris. He then reflected that the streets of Paris are much like the streets of London. And so, Ralph gave us perhaps his most well known song, The Streets of London. Well, he was never going to get off the stage without doing that one, was he? Anyway it is a tribute song to a truly great bloke from London.   

 

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