Thursday, April 10, 2008

A beautiful song

Before they're swallowed whole by the all-consuming tsunami of parody let us pay tribute to Michael Flanders and Donald Swann in general and "The Slow Train" in particular. They recorded it in the early '60s just as Doctor Beeching's report into the railways was sweeping away much of the network of local stations that used to take people to work or the shops in the days before car ownership.
I'm no steam fan but the litany of names, the hymn-like tug of the tune and the trueness of the recording can moisten even my dry eye. And I'm not remotely surprised that somebody has bothered to tell the true story of every station mentioned in the song.


  1. Anonymous10:10 pm

    Ah, that was lovely; or maybe I'm influenced by the 3 cans of Guinness I'm after having. Thanks for posting.

    Sean Mc.

  2. Anonymous10:31 pm

    Blimey, Flanders and Swann... I haven't heard them mentioned for years.

    My first ever music teacher, Mr Spencer, was obsessed with them: we learned loads of their songs at school, such as The Gasman Cometh and The Hippopotamus, Transport of Delight and The Gnu.

    This one was a new one on me, so thanks for this

  3. Anonymous9:43 am

    Flanders and Swann hold special memories for me. When I was 16 I went on holiday with my girlfriend and her family to a gite in France. They asked me for 10 songs so they could scatter them on compilation tapes for the long drives we were going to endure.

    I thought it would be a chance for some snotty rebellion but actually it turned into something of a cultural exchange.

    My contributions of Who Are The Brain Police by Zappa and Marlene by Kevin Coyne (among others) were really appreciated, to my dismay, and my girlfriend's father (a vicar, no less) enlightened me by including a tune by Moondog, as well as a couple of hilarious turns by Flanders and Swann. An interesting addition to my musical education from a most unlikely source...

  4. It's always nice to hear Goole mentioned.

  5. That is indeed a lovely tune.

    I grew up right next to one of the closed down lines mentioned in in the song. It was a lovely place to take the dog for a walk, pick blackberries, hang out with friends, etc.

    I've never been quite sure whether I can actually remember steam trains passing by our house or not. I sort of think I can remember them, but since I was born in 1966 and wikipedia says the line was closed in 1964, I now realise this is something of a false memory. Still, if you're going to have false memories I suppose it's better to have pleasant ones.