Every Girl Needs a Workroom: “Spats” Langham in the lucky dip

My un-Workroom

I HAVE a workroom – or rather an un-workroom. It hasn’t been used as such since those happy days when I studied fine woodwork and furniture making with my guru, the miraculous designer-maker, John Diorietes at Xylon School of Woodcraft in Riversdale Road, Hawthorn.

John Diorietes and some students

That’s been several years now, and most of my good tools, books and other woodwork stuff have gone to other homes, and the room has become that well-known storer of things too good to be thrown away, but not immediately useful or in working order.

My good intentions to clear it out and send most of the “treasures” to the Op Shop have been put aside while other more interesting or more pressing jobs have been dealt with. But last Monday, I finally made a tentative beginning …and found all sorts of things that had been lost for eons, and one or two that I had forgotten altogether.

One of these was a CD by Thomas ‘Spats’ Langham and his Hot Combination – “The Night Owl” which I must have bought at the wonderful Litton/Langham concert at the Abbotsford Convent, organised by Jason Downes Entertainments in November 2009. The CD was in my woodwork bag so I must have taken it to class for the entertainment of my fellow “chippies”, and then put the bag away and promptly forgot it. What a waste of 3 years of potential happy listening.

“Spats” (born 1971) plays ukulele, banjo and guitar with enormous skill. At the time of the Convent concert I was editing the Victorian Jazz Club’s newsletter “Jazzbeat” and said about “Spats”:

Thomas “Spats” Langham is a master of several stringed instruments, but on this occasion played only banjo and guitar; and produced sounds and rhythms like no other player I’ve ever heard. In addition he did most of the vocals in a very pleasant tenor reminiscent of Al Bowlly, and was front man introducing the tunes and tales.

“Spats” is another of what seems to be a growing group of musos who looks for inspiration to the 20s and 30s. In the liner notes for this CD he says:

“Spats” Langham

Our first album “The Hottest Man in Town” met great acclaim, causing one critic to cite me as “eccentrically vintage”. I don’t know about eccentric, but vintage sums up what I am about. I understand that tunes move on, that progress is a great thing, and that microwave ovens can cook a meal in three minutes, but I’m just not interested in it all. It’s pre-war stuff I like

One of the first 78s he ever bought in a junk shop was Jack Hylton’s Orchestra playing “Shepherd of the Hills”. Legend has it that the song was composed in 1927 by Horatio Nicholls on board an ocean liner en route to the US, and that it was relayed to Hylton via the new Transatlantic Telephone Service. To my untutored ear I hear phrases from “Ciri Biri Bin” and “Baby Face”, but then it’s hard to write something completely new, and it’s an engaging piece. Click on the song title to hear the Langham version which is the final track on this CD. If you’re interested in getting a copy of this, or other Langham CDs, you might try the Victorian Jazz Archive shop on 03 9880 5535 on a Tuesday or Friday, or online at http://www.hotfingers.co.uk/combo.html

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