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29 Jan

Strolling Home

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Analysed by Robert Walton

It was in 1959 that the original Gang Show producer Ralph Reader wrote Strollin’, the song most associated with Bud Flanagan. Two years later in 1961 Robert Farnon composed the mood music equivalent, Strolling Home.

A one-finger piano in the style of Gordon Jenkins (sometimes in octaves) plays with a small string section. This laid back 1930’s type tune has a rhythm reminiscent of the clip clopping of a slow horse in a western. It clearly calls to mind Laurel & Hardy’s unhurried approach to Brushwood Gulch accompanied by a mule in “Way out West”. It’s also the sort of tempo associated with the Ink Spots.

The opening two notes of the intro are identical to Willie Nelson’s song Crazy made famous by Patsy Cline. After a short lead-in (the first of many sustained string passages), the actual melody starts out as if it’s going into These Foolish Things. As the piece progresses the ghost of Carroll Gibbons pervades the performance, though not in the decorative sense. In this case the piano fills owe more to ragtime. And then to end the phrase, Farnon’s melody once more quotes from Crazy while the harp wraps things up. Then something highly unusual happens. Normally after 16 bars you’d expect the tune to go into the bridge but Farnon repeats the last 4 bars of the chorus.

Now it’s really time to go to the bridge in a new key with the laid back strings now in the driving seat. After a suggestion of Have You EverBeen Lonely, the delightful middle melody provides the perfect contrast to the earlier sleepy piano, although even this section isn’t going anywhere fast! And waiting in the wings our soloist is gently awakened for a rerun of the opening. Again the harp finishes the phrase. Then the strings join the piano that eventually modulates twice, before going into Tom and Jerry mode for a soft landing/ending.

This is yet another example of Robert Farnon’s ability to turn his talent to almost any kind of music. Unlike his established compositions, this utterly simple instrumental is a rarity. Despite that, any perceptive Farnon fan will soon sus out the identity of the composer from those little touches he never lost. So whether you’re Strolling Home after walking the dog or returning from the pub, what emerges is an air of total tranquility. In other words, perfect retirement music!

The Chappell recording of Strolling Home is available on the Guild CD “Holidays for Strings” (GLCD 5189)

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