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TV: J is for...

Jake Thackray and Songs

LANKY LACONIC Yorkshire yokel gets long-overdue opportunity for his own headlining effort outside natural habit of the ‘guest slot’. A regular sight in the musical bits of TV shows since the mid-sixties, droll folker Thackray was much beloved of audiences due to a winning combination of risque wordplay, broad social lampoonery, deft deployment of ‘thicko’ linguistic inflections, athletic feats of circumlocution, translations from the original Brassens, simultaneously highbrow and lowbrow puns, and, of course, that hangdog expression and browbeaten ‘everyman’ persona. Jake Thackray & Songs involved him performing a handful of numbers each week to an audience-ful of racuous guffawers, with rambling witty introductions which – it has to be said – were often longer than the songs themselves, while hardcore folkie pals like Maddy Prior and Alex Glasgow turned up to inject a note of more straight-faced torah-lorah-ing. Frank-talking racism satire One Of Them and abundant use of the obvious profanity in boss-berating The Bull got a few mouth-frothing letters catapulted Points Of View-wards, but apart from that it was a straightforward stroll through your Family Trees, your Brother Gorillas, your Poor Sods, your Country Buses, your Castleford Ladies’ Magic Circles and all the other favourites, and it doesn’t come much better than that.



  1. Mr Grimsdale

    July 20, 2010 at 9:51 am

    Not sure he was ever fully appreciated in his time. Sadly, a proof that the best way to become famous is to cease to exist.

    As a kid, I never quite understood why he was funny – just a funny voice. Now I think he’s a genius.

  2. Enoch Sneed

    July 23, 2010 at 10:25 am

    Quite right, Mr Grimsdale, after the 70’s he just seemed to fade out of sight. In the mid-90’s he wrote a column for the “Yorkshire Post” which was always worth a look for that wry Thackray humour. He ended his days living in Monmouth.

    You say he was a genius – true. The man himself was plagued by self-doubt and suffered a breakdown in self-confidence his friend Ralph McTell called “catastrophic” which ended his performing days. If only he could have seen himself as we see him.

    Like you, I didn’t get it when I was a lad – in fact I found his personality rather forbidding. But on Christmas Day 2002 all I kept saying to my wife was “Are you SURE Jake Thackray’s dead?” A unique talent, gone forever.

  3. mark

    July 23, 2010 at 2:07 pm

    A mate of mine ran a folk club back in the 70s and Jake was the guest performer one week. He drew a packed house and the takings for the night were plentiful. When my mate handed over the big bundle of cash Jake said “I don’t need all that, lad!” and insisted on only taking about half of it.

    Anyone in any doubt of his genius ought to listen to “The Lodger”.

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