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Captain Sensible: Croydon

Ross Taylor reports

I just got hold of a copy of Captain Sensible's first album, Women and Captains First (including his hit, Wot). As fan of Procol Harum and Robyn Hitchcock, this is something of a holy grail for me, being surely the only disk to involve both in some way. Robyn Hitchcock (sort of a 'paisley' punk often thought to resemble Syd Barrett; wrote Ballon Man and Madonna of the Wasps in the late 80s; reintroduced the 12-string Rickenbacker and influenced REM in the late 70s) wrote most of the lyrics.

Matthew Fisher is credited with 'weird engineering' and probably played uncredited on B-side Our Souls To You, (organ) and the last song on the album, Croydon (synth/organ). As BtP notes, there is a Captain Sensible interview where he speaks very warmly of Maf, crediting him with the success of his single Happy Talk from that album.

Croydon starts with a synth/organ line that is clearly a reference to AWSoP. But if AWSoP is a mysterious night-sea- journey, Croydon is more a seasick graduation march. The cover of the single even had Captain Sensible framed in a life-preserver, but with his shades, hat and tongue hanging out, he looks more out of control and ready to party than Procol's Salty Dog. The flip side even had the faintly Procol-friendly title Jimi Hendrix's Strat.

If you can like early 80s synth pop at all, Women and Captains First is a great album, with surreal lyrics, offbeat song structures, lots of hippie-disguised-as-a-punk attitude, and even a traditional jazz band on You're Nobody's Sweetheart Now. Sadly, it's never been out on CD and is long-overdue for reissue.

Here is my stab at the lyrics to Croydon. If anyone knows the song or has a better guess as to the weird lyrics in question, please let me know. However, I did listen very carefully, and much of the weirdness really is there.


Croydon Sensible/Hitchcock

I attended Stanley Tech
in South Norwood Hill
I think it was, oh yeah
where the bronze bust was nicked
let me think, it must've been in my third year
lying in wait outside Virgo for Bayliss [?]
and the Lady Edredge Manor School
I worked at the Fairfield Halls
cleaning toilets, but I understood some day
I'd be back in my own right
giving concerts in my own peculiar way (laughter)
but I kept my rabbit back at home
and I cleaned it every other day
(other day, other day, other day)
and now the time has come to say
farewell Tup with your sardines [?]
and the TV set that I bought
and now the time has come to say
farewell Mom to your baked beans
and the proper Dons I never knew [?][Wimbledon natives? Footballers?]

I'll be in Los Angeles
where the famous people never quite get old
yeah, in Los Angeles
where they're all to rich to even feel the cold
but I'll still be dreaming of you Croydon
especially in the cold and rain
(cold and rain, cold and rain, cold and rain)
and now the time has come to say
I'll be leaving Croydon way
to the lovely town I once knew
and now the time has come to say
I'll be back another day
saying sunnily [?], what a day
what a day
what a day
what a day
what a day

Here are some responses by Robyn Hitchcock's drummer, Morris Windsor, who grew up in Croydon.

1. It's Virgo Fidelis - Faithful Virgin to the man in the street - a Catholic Convent school to this's even got it's own website! check it out - you might want to send your daughter there, were it not for the punk rockers lurking in the bushes!

2. ditto Lady Edridge Grammar School, for girls also, natch ... this one has a personal connection since one of my sisters was there for a year before we decamped en famille to England's tranquil West country - we're talking 1961/2 here

3. It's definitely Dad not Tup (farewell Dad farewell Mum, makes perfect sense, don't it?) and Blew not Bought

4. 'Proper Don' : let's hear it for the mighty 'Poppadum ' the crispy deep-fried gram flour accompaniment to a billion Anglo-Indian curries... yes, you must be American!

And Sarah Eaglesfield advises us:
'I believe the Captain is singing "I'll be coming back one day saying "Sod LA", what a day!"  I don't have the song here (or anywhere) but I clearly remember that the Captain sings "Sod LA"'

Matthew Fisher's extra-Procol work


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