Tuesday, October 29, 2013

New Vaudeville Band -- "Winchester Cathedral" (1966)

Now everyone knows 
Just how much I needed that gal
She wouldn't have gone far away
If only you'd started ringing your bell

I've never visited Winchester Cathedral, which is located in a small city to the southwest of London.  It's one of 42 cathedrals in England.

Winchester Cathedral
The most famous English cathedral is Canterbury Cathedral, which is one of the most historically significant Christian structures in the world -- and one of the most memorable places I've had the privilege of seeing in person.

The original cathedral at Canterbury was built in 597, and construction on the current cathedral began in 1070.

Canterbury Cathedral
The most famous event in the history of Canterbury Cathedral was the murder of its strong-willed Archbishop, Thomas Becket, by four knights loyal to King Henry II.

Becket had loyally served in Henry's government before he became Archbishop of Canterbury, and the two men had a close personal relationship for years.  But the pair clashed when the king attempted to exercise more control over the church and Becket fought to maintain its independence.

Becket's tomb
As you may know from reading The Canterbury Tales in your high-school or college English class, Becket's shrine at Canterbury Cathedral became a magnet for religious pilgrims.  (Becket was canonized shortly after his death.) 

I vividly remember the 1964 movie, Becket, which starred Peter O'Toole as the king and Richard Burton as Becket.  Here's the trailer to that movie:

When he retired after 30 years as the rector of St. John's (Lafayette Square) Episcopal Church, my late father-in-law founded the Friends of Canterbury Cathedral in the United States ("FOCCUS"), which raises funds for and otherwise supports and promotes Canterbury Cathedral -- the "Mother Church of the Anglican Communion" (which includes the Church of England, the Episcopal Church in this country, and related churches around the world) throughout the U.S.
My mother-in-law has remained active in the organization, and hosts a dinner for the FOCCUS board members who come to Washington to attend an annual meeting.  Most of the attendees are clergy, not surprisingly, but she's kind enough to always invite me as well.

The Very Rev. Dr. Robert Willis, who has been the Dean of the Cathedral since 2001, usually attends these dinners.  He is a learned, thoughtful and kind man whose friendship my family values highly, and we were all happy that he was present for this year's dinner.

Dean Willis
(I won't attempt to explain how a cathedral is governed, and the significance of the role of its Dean.  Click here if you'd like to read an explanation of all that.)   

Dean Willis told us about traveling to Los Angeles last month to deliver a lecture at the J. Paul Getty Museum, which is hosting an exhibition featuring six 12th-century stained-glass windows from the Cathedral.  (Those windows, which were part of a series of 86 life-size depictions of the male ancestors of Christ, were created just a few years after Becket's assassination.)

For you Old Testament scholars, the six windows that have traveled to the Getty depict Jared, Lamech, Noah, Thara, Abraham, and Phalec.

Here's the Noah window:

Click here to read more about the Getty exhibit.

Geoff Stephens, who wrote "Winchester Cathedral," could have just as easily called it "Chichester Cathedral" or "Manchester Cathedral" and used the same lyrics, but he chose Winchester Cathedral because it was featured on one of the pages of his calendar.

Stephens was a prolific pop song writer.  He wrote hits for Herman's Hermits ("There's a Kind of a Hush"), Wayne Newton ("Daddy, Don't You Walk So Fast"), Boy George ("The Crying Game"), the Hollies, Manfred Mann, Tom Jones, Crystal Gayle, and Hot Chocolate.  That, boys and girls, is versatility!

"Winchester Cathedral," which was inspired by the music-hall songs of the 1920s, was a very big hit.  It eventually sold three million copies worldwide.

"Winchester Cathedral" made it all the way to #1 in the United States, knocking the Supremes' "You Keep Me Hangin' On" off the top spot in December 1966.  The next week, it was displaced by the Beach Boys' "Good Vibrations," but came back to reclaim the #1 position for two additional weeks.  It then ceded the top spot to "I'm A Believer," by the Monkees.

"You Keep Me Hangin' On," "Good Vibrations," and "I'm A Believer" -- we're talking some monster pop singles.

Here's a video with the second half of "Winchester Cathedral":

Click here to listen to the entire song.

Click below to buy the song from Amazon:

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