Analysed by Robert Walton
Until I heard the name Roger Roger pronounced properly in French (Ro-jay Ro-jay) (like the soft “j” in Taj Mahal), I had always assumed it was spoken just like the English first name Roger. I was corrected on a 1950s radio series “Paris Star Time” featuring his 35-piece orchestra.
I first met him on the day I joined Radio Caroline as a DJ in 1964. I was asked to interview him at their London offices in Mayfair. I remember absolutely nothing about it except he was a delightful man and was ready to answer any questions I put to him. It was definitely not the kind of music one might play on a “pirate” ship but I managed to slip the odd title in. Mind you, it hadn’t escaped my attention that such vessels like our “Mi Amigo” would have been flying the Jolly Roger flag! My overall impression of his music was the sheer uncluttered and methodical way he orchestrated his many catchy tunes. Never a wasted note or an unnecessary fill. Which brings me to his ScenicRailway of 1962.
There is an undeniable “Portrait of a Flirt” feeling about Scenic Railway, very melodic and beautifully recorded, presumably in a Paris studio. The clarity of it is superb. Warm syncopated pizzicato strings in harmony take the steam train’s strain heading for the heights in a most relaxed fashion. Woodwind drop in at the obvious moments. After the first 16 bars the strings immediately switch to arco for 10 delightful bars of contrasting fun with the woodwind. Returning to the main theme the flutes play a very short but difficult “same note” exercise against the pizzicato strings.
We are now heading straight for the middle section still in pizzicato mode but not for long as we return quickly back to the bows for a sweeping 8 bar tune sharing the load with the woodwind. The scoring is so detailed just like a locomotive’s components engineered to perfection. Finally we are back to the familiarity of the opening pizzicato section with all its twists and turns.
It wasn’t surprising, therefore, that Chappell & Co eventually offered Roger Roger an acceptable publishing deal for his brilliant compositions that took their place alongside the English giants of the genre. Like them he was fully equipped with all the right musical know-how of orchestration and style, as well as his ability to write tuneful melodies the listener could instantly hum.
From originally writing music for documentaries and films, including the well-known pantomime sequences in Marcel Carné’s 1944 “Les Enfants du Paradis”, the breadth and range of Roger Roger’s work made him a household name throughout the world. “Fiddles and Bows” Guild GLCD 5201
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