Betjeman's Banana Blush



Jarvis Cocker uncovers the hidden treasure Betjeman's Banana Blush - an album made by Sir John Betjeman in 1974. The LP featured the then Poet Laureate reading twelve poems while accompanied by music composed by Jim Parker.

Betjeman's Banana Blush was released on the progressive rock label Charisma - the home of Genesis, Lindisfarne and Van Der Graf Generator - and tracks from it were regularly featured on John Peel's Radio 1 programme. A Shropshire Lad was named single of the week by New Musical Express and the paper featured an interview with the poet.

For those reasons, the album reached an audience beyond Sir John's usual readers. Suggs from Madness fell in love with the LP: 'I first heard the album in 1979. We'd be listening to Syd Barrett, The Clash...and then Banana Blush would go on. It seemed equally psychedelic in its own strange way. I fell in love with it straight away.' Suggs chose 'On A Portrait Of A Deaf Man' from the album as one of his Desert Island Discs.

Before working on the album, Jim Parker had been a member of Doggerel Bank, writing music to accompany the poems of William Bealby-Wright. Following Betjeman's Banana Blush, he wrote award-winning scores for TV series and films, including Miss Marple, Moll Flanders, Midsomer Murders and Foyle's War.

His compositions provide perfect settings for Sir John's poems, which range in subject matter from the charming innocence of Indoor Games Near Newbury to the deeply moving 'A Child Ill'. In the programme, Jim plays piano and explains how the album was made.

Producer: Kevin Howlett

A Howlett Media production for BBC Radio 4.

Jarvis Cocker uncovers an album made by Sir John Betjeman in 1974.