Monday, 2 November 2009

M1 Motorway Celebration

All over the news today, nestling between the usual reports of misery and despair, is the 'light' item about the landmark that is it's the fiftieth anniversary of the opening of the U.K's first motorway, imaginatively called the M1 read more here and here on the BBC.

The majority of driving residents of England have, at some time or other, experienced the dubious pleasures of travelling up or down this iconic motorway. For many commuters, it's part of their daily grind, driving some way along the 193 miles from Brent Cross in north-west London to Garforth near Leeds. Back in 1959, the Minister of Transport, Ernest Marples officially opened the original section, that paved (tarmac) the way for a brave new era of British motoring. To commemorate this milestone, the Roads Minister Chris Mole, is unveiling a plaque (nope, I've never heard of him either and surely he should be the Minister for Gardens instead).

Even though the original stretch of road was only 72 miles long, it was decided that drivers might need to stop for a rest, powder their nose and grab a bite to eat, thus the first service station was born. 'Watford Gap' (originally called the Blue Boar) opened in on the 2nd November 1959 and the rest is history so they say... of course most of us Brits are very familiar with this Great British Institution that is a Motorway Service Station but here's a here's a peek at what all the glories Watford Gap hold for the benefit of our international readers.

Of course the great misunderstanding about this service station is it's location, being situation no where near Watford (a fair to middling town close to London) but actually fifty miles or so miles up the country in the county of Northamptonshire. This place has actually come to symbolise the dividing line between North and South England and now some amateur actors have come up with their own affectionate tribute to this 'legend in it's own lunchtime' Watford Gap: The Musical

I have been pondering what to offer up as a Scratchy tribute to this anniversary and though it's hard to top St Etienne's 'Like A Motorway' for a pure pop pleasure, I feel the ultimate musical tribute to this tired travellers comfort stop has already been written back in 1977 and nothing will top it for capturing the pertinent atmosphere of the place and as a celebration of all things motorway like. Roy Harper's 'Watford Gap' taken from his 1977 album Bullinamingvase buy it here has the horse power to be the ultimate motorway anthem with just the right ingredients in the lyric department.

Just about a mile from where the motorways all merge
You can view the national edifice, a monumental splurge
It's the lonesome traveler's rotgut or bacterias' revenge
The great plastic spectacular descendant of Stonehenge
And the people come to worship on their death-defying wheels
Fancy-dressed as shovels for their death-defying meals

It's the Watford Gap, Watford Gap A plate of grease and a load of crap

At one a.m. on Sunday you can hear the boys declare
That the other team were fairies and the ref was Fred Astaire
It's Chopper Ronnie's fan club on their weekly pilgrimage
To stick the hero's boot in all the way from Stamford Bridge
And without a solid concrete-burger no night is complete
Plastic cups of used bathwater wash away defeat

It's the Watford Gap, Watford Gap A plate of grease and a load of crap

The traffic jam is rattling like a five-mile cornered snake
With fuming pieces falling off and steaming in its wake
The city's like a goolie in a groupie's stagnant womb
Spaghetti Junction's target in the vinegar strokes of doom
The countryside is ravaged like a syphilitic whore
Yodeling up the canyon is the dirty old Blue Boar

It's the Watford Gap, Watford Gap A plate of grease and a load of crap

Unsurprisingly the Service Station owners weren't too chuffed about this depiction of their pride and joy and Harper was forced to drop it from future U.K copies of the album, allegedly a member of the EMI board was also a member of the Watford Gap's Company board of directors. It reappeared on a later CD reissue and remained on the U.S LP.

Unfortunately, there isn't a decent video version of this classic but Watford Gap was the flip side of the song "One of Those Days in England", which featured backing vocals by Paul and Linda McCartney, this became became a Top 40 hit.

Roy Harper - One of Those Days in England - Live on Old Grey Whistle Test

1 comment:

Dave said...

One of Roy's finest albums