Giusy Lazzaretti is a good friend of Sheila and I. It is Giusy’s birthday today. I know that your country is having a very bad time with the Coronavirus, Giusy, and I hope that you and your husband can have a celebratory drink, safely from your veranda and its lovely views. Bill and Sheila xx
I also jointly dedicate my song today to another friend of Sheila and me, Diane Howard from Wakefield. Diane and her husband Wayne are rock and roll buddies who we saw and danced with weekly at the Batley Rock and Roll Club. Diane is one of the most ardent of dog lovers on the face of the planet. It is also Diane’s birthday today. Have a smashing day, Diane and leave some room for lots of cake and ale. Billy and Sheila xx
There will be many of you who might have met a stranger on holiday, who later became a good friend. Giusy is such a person. During the summer of 2018, Sheila and I took a month driving around eight or nine European countries, spending most of our time in that beautiful country of Italy (my favourite country). We stayed at Giusy’s home for three days and as a result of that brief acquaintanceship (Giusy and her husband, Alberto, couldn’t do enough for us), we became good friends.
The following year, Giusy accepted our invitation to holiday in Haworth and stay as our guest at our home. Her husband stayed in Italy while Giusy came to us for a week. Giusy had a bit of a working holiday and spent the time when she wasn’t out on the moor, helping us labour in out allotment that we were in the process of turning into a haven for myself and Sheila. Have a super day, Giusy, and come back to Haworth to stay with us again after this horrible pandemic has passed us by and enjoy our beautiful allotment which your hands helped to create.
Similarly, Sheila and I met Diane and her husband Wayne shortly after we started courting. We met at the Batley Rock and Roll Club and they instantly welcomed us to their group. Being dog lovers created an instant bond between us. Thank you for welcoming Sheila and I during our courtship days.
My song today is ‘Walk Away’. It was released in 1954 by the Terence Edward Parsons from London, who later became known as the singer, Matt Monro (1 December 1930 – 7 February 1985). Matt Monro was an English singer who became one of the most popular entertainers on the international music scene during the 1960s and 1970s. Known as ‘The Man With The Golden Voice’, he filled cabarets, nightclubs, music halls, and stadiums across the world in his 30-year career. ‘All Music’ described Matt Monro as "one of the most underrated pop vocalists of the '60s", who "possessed the easiest, most perfect baritone voices in the business". His recordings included many the UK Top 10 hits and included the theme songs for the films ‘Born Free’, ‘The Italian Job’ and ‘From Russia With Love’.
In his days before international stardom beckoned, Matt was a regular guest (and frequent winner) of ‘Radio Rediffusion’s Talent Time Show’. He was invited by then-host Ray Cordeiro to perform in his own one-off show, on the condition that he would bow out of future ‘Talent Time’ episodes to make way for others. Agreeing to the deal, Matt performed his first on-air concert for ‘Rediffusion’ on June 27, 1953.
By 1956,Matt Monro had become a featured vocalist with the ‘BBC Show Band’. An important influence on his early career was the pianist, Winifred Atwell, who became his mentor, provided him with his stage name, and helped him sign with ‘Decca Records’. In 1957, Matt Monro released ‘Blue and Sentimental’, a collection of standards. Despite the album's critical acclaim, Monro languished among the young male singers trying to break through at the end of the 1950s, many of them emulating Frankie Vaughan and recording cover versions of American hits. A short recording contract with ‘Fontana Records’ followed.
By the end of the 1950s, Monro's mid-decade fame had evaporated, and he returned to relative obscurity. He and his wife Mickie lived from her wages as a ‘song plugger’ and his royalties from a TV advertising jingle for ‘Camay Soap’. In 1959 he recorded a country pastiche song, ‘Bound for Texas’, for ‘The Chaplin Revue’, a feature-length compilation of Charlie Chaplin short films. It would be the first of many Matt Monro soundtrack themes.
By 1961, Matt Monroe had been named ‘Top International Act’ by ‘Billboard’. In February 1961, the British music magazine, NME reported that Matt Monro had won ITV’s ‘A Song For Britain’ with ‘My Kind of Girl’. His follow-up hits included the theme song for the film ‘From Russia With Love’ in 1963.
At the 1964 ‘Eurovision Song Contest, singing ‘I love The Little Things’, Matt Monro finished second behind Italy's entry. He also had a hit with a cover of a Beatles song. In 1965, and he won an Oscar for the theme song of the film ‘Born Free’, which became his signature tune thereafter. Another six songs formed theme and background songs for movies. Matt Monro achieved fame in the United States when "My Kind of Girl" (1961) and "Walk Away" (1964) hit the Top 40.
Matt Monro was a heavy smoker and battled alcoholism from the 1960s until 1981. He died from liver cancer on 7 February 1985 at the Cromwell Hospital, Kensington, London, aged 54, leaving a widow, Mickie, and three children: Mitchell, Michele, and Matthew. Matt Monro was cremated at ‘Golder’s Green Crematorium’. He’d been twice married.
The 20th anniversary of Monro's death in 2005 spotlighted the continuing interest in his music, with a Top 10 tribute compilation CD, a Number 1 concert DVD and a BBC TV documentary: all appearing in 2005. A 2007 compilation CD entitled ‘From Matt with Love’ reached the Top 40 of the ‘UK Albums Chart’ during its first week of release.
When ‘Walk Away’ was first released in 1954, I’d just spent nine months in Batley Hospital following a life-threatening traffic accident, in which my worst injury of many was a damaged spine. My damaged spine meant that the signals between my brain and legs had been disconnected. I was told that I’d never walk again.
For circumstances (for which there was no medical explanation), after a year of eastern meditation, relaxation training exercises, imagination exercises and tons of praying, I began to feel pain in my legs once more. For me, pain in my legs (as opposed to having no feeling below my waist for six months) represented that life had returned to my mangled legs. It also told myself and the medics that the signals between my legs and brain stem (which had been broken following my damaged spine) had now reconnected and was functioning again normally.
In total, it took around three years and over fifty operational treatments before I was able to walk on my two legs again. Please note that my operations merely involved breaking and resetting mangle bones after one of my kneecaps had been broken in several places. After each operational break (which occurred weekly), my leg would be reset in a new plaster cast with screws attached that could adjust my knee position. After one week of bending and straightening my leg, by loosening and tightening the metal scaffolding, my constant knee adjustments would have damaged the plaster cast, requiring a new one to be put on. This process was repeatedly carried out by the hospital for around one year.
Also, the many operations on my most mangled leg had effectively stopped it growing for over one year, while my other leg continued to grow, and I was left with my mangled leg being three inches shorter than my other leg. This essentially meant three years of continuous leg exercise that witnessed me being carried-to being pushed- to hobbling on my own- to eventually being able to walk again. It was only after I was able to dance again that I properly regained entrance into my mid and later teenage years.
Matt Monro’s song was part ironic and part inspirational in my life from 1954 onwards as I learned to ’Walk Away’; not only from a state of being crippled but also from a life of stealing from others and generally being too wild and criminal in my overall behaviour.
Love and peace Bill xxx