Home > Pour one out > People who died: Fred Wedlock

People who died: Fred Wedlock

Back in the day at Stylus, ILB associates noted how the video for Black Lace’s “Do The Conga” seemed like a really vivid snapshot of a “lost Britain” circa the dawn of Thatcher. It’s not that hard to do that with a music video though: you have the ability to use scenes, costumes, actors and the like as signifiers. No, I think it’s more impressive to represent a lost Britain as this Top of the Pops clip of Fred Wedlock (who stopped swinging on March 4 aged 57) does.

You gotta feel for Wedlock. His depth was never going to make waves unless he hung himself and gave licence to a string of “the coldest swinger in town” puns: he had to make do with brief mentions on BBC local pages and maybe a half-page obituary section rundown in the Graun/Times/Indie next time they have a quiet period. But for a while there, it kinda felt like all Top of the Pops 2 ever played was this and “Gary Gilmore’s Eyes”, so as a song it’s embedded in my head.

Anyway, you don’t get this in the charts anymore: back in the day, folk music was tied into the British comedy scene. I can run off the names of your Carrotts and your Connelies who came up through both, but the idea always was that you could come on stage with your guitar, tell a few gags, mug your way through a story, and if you had the nous you could fluke a hit like “The Oldest Swinger In Town” or “Funky Moped” or whatever. It’s pretty telling, word to Robin C, that “The Oldest Swinger In Town” took a berth in the charts around the same time that Joe Dolce was depriving Ultravox of the #1 spot.

Of course this wouldn’t happen anymore: folk music underwent a weird schism that’s seemingly split its fanbase into two separate groups, one consisting of middle class people who aren’t attractive enough to form indie bands in 2010, and the other of actual full-scale racists. Neither of these groups are likely to make with the laugh-laugh at any point soon.

Jasper Carrott even paid tribute to this links when he got Loudon Wainwright on as a regular guest on his show in the mid-1980s:

Think about that for a second. This was accepted as “just something that happens” back in the day, but it’s basically the equivalent of Warren Zevon chipping in with the “I don’t really knows” alongside Les Dennis after Dustin Gee died, or Townes Van Zandt spending his final years as a disapproving foil for Brian Conley’s hilarious “Dangerous Brian” character.

Like I say, different times.

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