Scatman’s key of life
answers about songs getting lodged in one’s head reminded me of Scatman John and his infuriating Ski-Ba-Bop-BaDop-Bop. What became of him? JOHN Paul Larkin, aka Scatman John, had a highly unusual career. Born with an extreme stutter, at the age of 53 he become a teen pop star in Europe and Asia with his unique scat-rap dance music.
Born in El Monte, California, in 1942, Larkin’s early life was blighted by his stutter. At the age of 12 he learned the piano, through which he learned to compensate for his speech difficulties.
He remarked in a 1996 interview that ‘playing piano gave me a way to speak . . . I hid behind the piano because I was scared of talking’.
He later discovered the art of scat singing listening to the likes of Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong, also finding that he did not stutter when he sang.
He became a professional jazz pianist in the Seventies and Eighties, and was a regular feature in the jazz clubs of Los Angeles. In 1986, he released the eponymous John Larkin on the Transition label, to little commercial success.
The jazz-club lifestyle led to a battle with alcohol addiction, so in 1990 he moved to Berlin to escape the scene. Here he met the innovative Danish record producer and head of Iceberg records Manfred Zähringer, who suggested Larkin marry his scat singing style to hiphop music.
Working with dance producers Ingo Kays and Tony Catania, he recorded the first single, Scatman (Ski-Ba-Bop-Ba-Dop-Bop), adopting the persona of Scatman John.
Despite its poppy exterior, it contained a personal message: ‘Everybody stutters one way or
the other, So check out my message to you. As a matter of fact don’t let
nothin’ hold you back. If the Scatman can do it so can you.’
In 1995 Larkin became a worldwide star. The song reached No 1 all over Europe and sold more than six million records worldwide. The follow-up, Scatman’s World, the title track to his first album, was a UK No10.
Two further albums, Everybody Jam and Take Your Time, both sold well on the Continent.
He was a recipient of the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association’s Annie Glenn Award for outstanding service to the stuttering community, and was inducted into the United States National Stuttering Association Hall of Fame.
In 1998 Scatman John was diagnosed with lung cancer. In his final interview he declared: ‘Whatever God wants is fine by me . . . I’ve had the very best life. I have tasted beauty.’ He died at his Los Angeles home on December 3, 1999.
Dee Gray, Sutton, Surrey. FURTHER to earlier answers about getting a particular song stuck in your head, I’ve often suffered from this so I have devised a method to stop the problem. At a specific point in the offending tune (the most addictive part) hear in your head a loud click! Then start up a more rousing tune — for me, Rule Britannia and Don’t Cry For Me Argentina work best. After a while the click and change becomes semi-automatic and the new tune can lift one’s mood.
R. Longley, Sheffield. QUESTIONWhen
the English Electric class 40 locos were introduced, which — if any — were painted apple green to run on the Great Central Line? BETWEEN 1958 and 1962, British Rail commissioned English Electric to build 200 Class 40 locomotives which were, for a time, the pride of the British Rail diesel fleet. They were some of the first true mixed traffic engines, entrusted with everything from the Royal Train to ballast workings in their time.
The locos were numbered D-200 to D-399. All were painted in BR standard green livery, a Dark Brunswick Green with a grey roof, black bogies and red bufferbeams. But this dark colour scheme was deemed a danger to rail staff so all the locomotives had their cab fronts or nose-end fronts painted in half warning yellow.
The locomotives were produced in three batches and there was some variation in headcode/train identification markings. The early batches up to D324 carried four white marker lights and white background discs on their noseends to identify the type of train being hauled — this followed traditional steam methods.
Locomotives D325 to D344 carried two two-digit headcode describers at each end to identify the particular train being operated. All locos up to D344 also had interconnecting gangway doors at the nose-ends to allow crew changes en-route when two locos were working in multiple. The final variation, from D345 to D399, featured a central four-digit headcode panel but no interconnecting doors.
Several locomotives in the range D210-D235 (later 40010-035) were named after cruise ships operated by the company Cunard. Examples included Aquitania, Lancastria and Lusitania.
The heyday of the class was in the early Sixties when they hauled toplink expresses on the West Coast Main Line and in East Anglia. The class provided sterling service for more than 20 years, and in later life were mainly to be found hauling heavy freight trains in the North of England, notably Manchester Longsight, Carlisle Kingmoor, Wigan Springs Branch, Thornaby and Gateshead.
Their last regular use on passenger trains was on the North Wales Coast Line between Holyhead, Crewe and Manchester.
Locomotives started to be taken out of use in the early Eighties, as they were considered underpowered. The last ones were taken out of regular service by 1985.
Gene Ashcroft, Crewe, Cheshire. QUESTIONDid
the Blackburn Buccaneer ever go into action other than against the Torrey Canyon? FURTHER to the earlier answer, while serving in Borneo in 1965, we were engaged by a piece of Indonesian field artillery while on duty. This happened several times so it was decided to ‘take it out’.
On the next patrol we took a FOO (Forward Observation Officer) from the RN, who directed a Buccaneer air strike from the ground.
As I recall, it took seven seconds from target recognition to destruction. I remember it was a Buccaneer, because when asked where his Buccaneer was the RN Officer said ‘on my Bucking head’.
The other thing I remember is when the pilot pulled the aircraft up in a steep climb after the attack the exhaust set fire to the tree canopy and I believe the jungle burned for two weeks.
Richard M. Hayes, Bath. QUESTIONWho
were the first couple to be seen in bed together on prime-time TV? FURTHER to the earlier answer, the Americans were just as prudish as we were when depicting couples in bed together. Even in the early years of I Love Lucy (1951-57) Lucy (Lucille Ball) and Ricky Ricardo (Desi Arnaz) were depicted as sleeping in separate beds — despite being married in real life.
However, they broke the taboo surprisingly early on when, on November 18, 1947, a 15-minute programme entitled Mary Kay And Johnny made its debut. The show was a forerunner to I Love Lucy, a light comedy about a newlymarried couple. Like I Love Lucy the programme featured a real-life couple, actors Johnny and Mary Kay Stearns. It is usually regarded as television’s first sitcom.
Jeff Taylor, Farnham, Dorset.