Monday, July 30, 2012

Musical Monday - A Friend Is a Friend by Pete Townshend

I spent my fourth and fifth grade years living in Tanzania attending the International School of Tanzania, a school run by British educators, originally intended to educate the children of British expatriates living there. By the late 1970s, when I was a student, it was open to pretty much anyone living in or near Dar es Salaam who could afford to send their children there, but it retained its distinctly British flavor. The influence of my tenure at the school is probably why I am always trying to stick a "u" into words like armor and flavor.

One of the things that I remember from my two years there was the practice of teachers reading aloud to the class. I only vaguely remember most of the books that we were read: one was, I think, one of Isaac Asimov's Norby the Robot stories, while another was about a boy living on a raft that floated on an underground river until he found a way to the surface and saw the sun. But one story that I remember clearly was The Iron Man by Ted Hughes, read by Mr. Bartlett when I was in fifth grade. I didn't much like Mr. Bartlett - he was the sort of person who I suspect was teaching in a small school in a third world country because he was too lousy a teacher and disagreeable a man to be able to secure employment anywhere else - but he did introduce me to this story, and for that at least I am grateful.

Years later, Pete Townshend, who was a friend of Ted Hughes, made a rock opera out of the story. Like most art projects, the resulting album was mostly ignored by the press, so I only found out about it via a fraternity brother of mine who was a huge fan of the Who and had acquired a copy. As soon as I realized that the musical was about the book, I had to get a copy of the recording for myself. I listen to the album regularly. No one I know understands why I love it. They usually like The Iron Giant, which is loosely based on the story, but Townshend's treatment of the material just seems to mystify most people I am acquainted with. I don't mind. I'll keep listening to The Iron Man and imagining that the whole thing was made just for me.

Previous Musical Monday: Lonely Like Me by The Doubleclicks
Subsequent Musical Monday: Storms by Fleetwood Mac

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  1. @Julia Rachel Barrett: Yes, seriously. When I was younger I lived in Tanzania for two years, Zaire for two years, Nigeria for a year, and then commuted back and forth between the U.S. and Nigeria for two more years when I had to leave home and go to boarding school. After that my family moved to Togo and I commuted back and forth between there and the U.S. for two more years.

  2. What an exceptional childhood. You're working on a book, right?

  3. @Julia Rachel Barrett: Yes, but I never really considered using my childhood as fodder for a book. It just seems normal to me.