Monday, 17 March 2008

Don't Leave Me This Way

It’s not very often I hear from my old pal and former drinking-companion, Des Smith, but when I do my memories of our days together on the Preston Globe are inevitably stirred. Des made quite a name for himself by championing IT at a time when most of us couldn’t tell an Atari from an Apple.

His retirement has found him in Japan, of all places, where he ekes out his pension by ‘stringing’ for a couple of Tokyo dailies. His irregular missives back home are always an intriguing insight into the cultural differences between east and west, peppered as they are with accounts of his trips to bars with his work colleagues. He’s developed an out-of-character fondness for eating raw fish and sea-weed, but apart from that has slipped easily into the Japanese way of life.

Anyone even remotely familiar with that lifestyle will know that Karaoke looms large in the social currency of the country. So, it came as no great surprise to him, when attending a leaving-party for one of his male workmates who had secured an advertising job in the capital, to find the Karaoke machine was blasting away in the corner.

“What do the British sing at farewell parties?” he was asked. Des’ assertion that it was quite unlikely that anyone would sing anything was met with blank incomprehension. “Oh, go on…” they cajoled. “Sing us the British farewell song”. Not wishing to offend his friends, but stuck to know quite what might be appropriate in the circumstances, he noticed that the ‘menu’ of songs included that Peter, Paul & Mary classic ‘Leaving On A Jet Plane’ – a song which most of us, of a certain vintage, could make a decent fist of. At first glance, it would seem to be a decent enough choice for a ‘leaving’ song and the chorus, at any rate, is a familiar refrain (altogether, now):

And I'm leaving on a jet plane
I don't know when I'll be back again
Oh, babe, I hate to go
As a confident Des took to the stage and began his rendition, the smiles on his friends’ faces were enough to convince him he’d got away with not offending them. Then, as the words of the song unfurled, he began to hope that their English wasn’t up to understanding the finer points of the lyrics. Increasingly crimson with embarrassment, he ploughed his way through the song, which he later described as ‘A Stalker’s Lament’.

For those who might have forgotten, here are a few lines:
All my bags are packed, I'm ready to go
I'm standin' here outside your door
I hate to wake you up to say goodbye

But the dawn is breakin', it's early morn
The taxi's waitin', he's blowin' his horn
Already I'm so lonesome I could die

So kiss me and smile for me
Tell me that you'll wait for me
Hold me like you'll never let me go

There's so many times I've let you down
So many times I've played around
I'll tell you now, they don't mean a thing

Every place I go, I think of you
Every song I sing, I sing for you
When I come back I'll wear your wedding ring

Now the time has come to leave you
One more time, oh, let me kiss you
And close your eyes and I'll be on my way
As Des dashed off the stage, he could only reflect how fortunate he was not to be singing that song in the saloon bar of The Black Horse Hotel where, if our previous visit was anything to go by, he would have been lucky to escape with a couple of broken arms.

Plus ça change, as they probably don’t say in Japan.


Crofty said...

Thank goodness he didn't end up singing that Roger Whittaker classic 'I've got to leave old Durham town' - he'd have struggled to whistle after half a dozen sakkis.

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Anonymous said...

Scary position to be in - although many of our favourite songs lose something in the second and third verses - look at our respective national anthems - the Oz one even has the word "girt" in it!

Lord Likely said...

The poor chap.

I am most intrigued by the line about the taxi driver 'blowin' his horn'.

That must be a sight worth seeing.

RohithCG said...

this song is a lovely song. we performed it for our farewell function. and yes, it is a very touchy song. however, just as you said, the occasion must always be kept in mind. it should never lead to any embarrassments! lol!