Still Thankful After All These Years c/w The Turkey Pardoner's Tale
November 23, 2005
Last year for Thanksgiving, I posted (with lyrics) the original 1970 Christmas-single* recording of Fairport Convention's "Now Be Thankful." Here's another:
This is a reworking by the current version of the band for their 2002 collection XXXV. (The album title refers to the band's then-thirty-five year history.) This new turn is a bit more overstuffed, a bit more self-consciously stately than the 1970 rendition, but it is still a lovely, lovely song. I am curious to know which of the cowriters (Dave Swarbrick or Richard Thompson) was principally responsible for the lyric, especially in the chorus, which achieves a deceptive simplicity reminiscent of Blake.
[Illustration, from Harper's Weekly, November 20, 1869, via the Thomas Nast Portfolio, at Ohio State University.]
With the song last year, I also posted a photo from the annual Turkey Pardon at the White House. Here is a snap from this year's ceremony. (White House Photo by David Bohrer; others available here. Photos of various prior Presidents, going back to Harry S. Truman, with our National Bird may be examined here.)
In the past, the pardoned foul have left the White House to take up residence at a Virginia animal farm named -- to the turkeys' dismay, I'm sure -- Frying Pan Park. This year, however, the turkeys will instead be winging their way to southern California, where they will take up residence at Disneyland. The zealots at PETA are claiming responsibility for the change of plans; Disney spokespersons give a somewhat differing version. The Los Angeles Times reports:
With a contentious Congress in recess, some might speculate that the turkeys are benefiting from the benevolence of a capital in seasonal good cheer. But the travel plans may have more to do with a letter-writing campaign sponsored by People for the Ethical Treatment for Animals, along with some reports in the media, decrying the fate that befell the pardoned birds in the past. 'We sent a letter to President Bush early last week, as we have for the last five years in a row, asking him to send the birds to a better environment than Frying Pan Park, where they shiver in a 10-by-10 shed with no mental or physical stimulation and tend to die within six months,' said Bruce Friedrich, director of vegan campaigns for PETA. 'Really, the pardon for the last 15 years has been more like a death sentence.'
The park, an animal sanctuary in Herndon, Va., that re-creates a 1930s farm for visiting schoolchildren, denies that it has mistreated the turkeys, which it considers honored guests.
'The claims of poor or inhumane treatment were a little painful for our staff, because they take pride in the care of the animals,' said spokeswoman Judy Pedersen. 'Many of these turkeys are bred for the table. They don't tend to have a long retirement.'
For its part, Disney said that it scored the presidential turkey with a request to the National Turkey Federation, a Washington-based advocacy group that has provided a Thanksgiving bird to the commander-in-chief since 1947.
But this being Washington, conspiracy theories have popped up about the real motive behind the destination change. With the White House referring all questions to the federation and the federation not returning calls, PETA is sure the president wants to fend off any more negative publicity. 'He's dodging Turkeygate,' Friedrich said.
The President's remarks on the occasion of the 2005 Turkey Pardon (full text available here) included this:
I'm going to grant a pardon this afternoon, and the pardon I grant comes with a new measure of responsibility and fame for [the turkeys named] Marshmallow and Yam. In the past years, the turkeys I spared went on to lead lives of leisure at Frying Pan Park in the state of Virginia. This year is going to be a little different. Marshmallow and Yam were a little skeptical about going to a place called 'Frying Pan Park.' I don't blame them. So I'm proud to announce that Marshmallow and Yam will serve as honorary grand marshals at Disneyland's Thanksgiving Day Parade. And they'll go on to spend the rest of their natural lives at Disneyland.
Discuss: to what extent are there any "natural lives" at Disneyland?
Also apropos of the turkeys' visit: a turkey recipe from the excellent Napa Rose restaurant at the Disneyland resort.
* The "Christmas single" phenomenon -- the breathless wonder with which the public awaits the revelation of which performer tops the UK charts on Christmas Day -- has no U.S. equivalent. In 2003, it provided the background for what was arguably the most amusing of the innumerable subplots in the film Love Actually, with Bill Nighy as wizened rocker Billy Mack making it to the top by promising to perform his tune "Christmas is All Around" in the nude.
- So central to the essence of UK-ness is this ritual that the British Council has prepared a classroom curriculum on the subject.
- Making it to Number One is not without a price, however, as the Guardian reported in its 2004 exposé of "The curse of the Christmas single." (Pity if you will poor Bing Crosby, who succumbed to the dual curses of a Christmas #1 and a duet with David Bowie. And may the sorry tale of The Singing Nun be a lesson to us all.)
"Now Be Thankful" was released as a Christmas single in 1970. It is notable as the final Fairport Convention recording with Richard Thompson before he left the band for his well-respected solo career. It is also notable for its B-Side, a medley of mostly traditional tunes to which was attached the band's bid to achieve the ranks of Longest Song Title in the Guinness Book of World Records:
"Sir B. McKenzie's Daughter's Lament for the 77th Mounted Lancer's Retreat from the Straits of Loch Knombe, in the Year of Our Lord 1727, on the Occasion of the Announcement of Her Marriage to the Laird of Kinleakie"
Details? They're right here.
And a most Happy Thanksgiving to you all!