6 August 2012

Don Crown - Budgerigar Man/ Piper Call A Tune

Label: Orange
Year of Release: 1970

If ever I wanted proof that just about everyone of any minor fame or status was dragged into a recording studio in the seventies, this really would be my trump card, my smug seven inch disc to declare "Case closed, your honour".  Don Crown was until very recently Great Britain's premier budgie busker, with decades of experience.  Travelling the land and performing in tourist spots with his staggeringly well-trained budgerigars, they were capable of performing stunts and tricks which challenged the notion that the creatures have a very simple intelligence compared to many of their larger parrot brothers.

I had a pet budgerigar myself as a child and I freely admit that this might be a contributory factor in the affection I feel for Don. Like Duke Baysee who we discussed some entries ago, he's a London character, somebody who has briefly flittered into the lives of many capital dwellers at some point or another, a recognisable and faintly eccentric figure who nonetheless isn't particularly famous in the conventional sense of the word.  As such people become rarer and rarer in this mass-media world, we should do more to ensure that their presence is protected, which is why I signed a petition to prevent Crown from being banned from his long-standing busking spots by interfering Council officers.    If he were a talentless git strumming an acoustic guitar and singing "Angels" I'd probably have less sympathy, but the sheer degrees of saintly patience necessary to train his birds and teach them tricks should mean that we have more respect for his work.

So then, climbing down off my soapbox for a minute, let's focus on the single.  This was featured in the psychedelic e-zine "Sweet Floral Albion" some years ago as a lost gem, although the contributor didn't seem to be aware of who Don Crown was and treated the disc as a piece of whimsical, fairyland psychedelic pop.  An easy mistake to make, as it doesn't disappoint on that level, being full of twittering birds, grandiose and optimistic orchestral blasts, and a spoken outro which makes Don sound like a misunderstood Disney hero disappearing across the hills with his animals.  Like some of Tiny Tim's earliest efforts on Reprise, it's an impressively expensive sounding novelty single which was presumably meant to push his career to the next level - and indeed, how fantastic would it have been to see those budgies on "Top of the Pops"? - but it was not to be.  The record was largely ignored as was his follow-up "Mrs Wilson's Budgie", and despite some television coverage of his activities at the time, Crown returned to his busking spots where he remained until his recent retirement from public performance.

Don's career did have one minor flicker of hope a few years ago when he put himself forward for a "Britain's Got Talent" audition, but something went horribly awry as his usually calm and trusting budgies apparently panicked and began flapping around the studio.  Obviously the studio environment spooked them, and Crown was buzzed off the show, Simon Cowell clearly not appreciating this known London character as much as he had Duke Baysee some years before.  A deep shame, but if you want to look at some nobler moments in his career there's a brief documentary here, and here's a video of him in action on London's South Bank.


Sterling Cale said...

The melody seems reminiscent of something else from that period. Unless I've heard the song somewhere before. Great tune. Nice label too.

23 Daves said...

Hmmm... you've got me thinking. You may have a point, but I'm no closer to an answer than you! Anyone else?