The other day, on my daily walk (weather permitting), I met a bee. A big, fat bumble bee. The first of the year. And, when I got home, an email informed me that our Little Big Band will be starting rehearsals again soon, now that the Covid-19 restrictions are easing. Better start practicing again, I thought, and glanced at the scores on my computer. Top of the list was A Taste of Honey, a tune with tricky guitar chords that I have never quite mastered. But bees and honey go together like … old age and memories. Suddenly my head was filled with an old tune and childhood tales about a little boy called Christopher Robin and his teddy bear, Pooh.
Isn’t it funnyPooh Bear
How a bear likes honey?
Buzz! Buzz! Buzz!
I wonder why he does?
A Taste of Honey was originally a play by Shelagh Delaney. It was written in 1958 when Shelagh was just 19. The play is a gritty kitchen sink drama set in the working class streets of Manchester. And there wasn’t much honey in that big industrial city in those days.
Bobby Scott and Ric Marlow wrote a musical theme for the play’s Broadway production in 1960. This video is the original version as performed by The Jeff Steinberg Jazz Ensemble on the album, Jazz Blends: A Robust Blend of Instrumental Jazz With Your Coffee.
In 1961 the play was made into a film starring Rita Tushingham. Some stills from the film are featured in the video. As you can see, it shows life as it really was in the poorer parts of North West England in the years after the end of the second World War. It’s a long, long way from modern day “reality TV” and all the more powerful for it.
The Scott and Marlow instrumental was given lyrics in 1961 and there have been many recordings of the resulting song, including one by The Beatles (on their first album, Please Please Me). But this tune doesn’t need any words. It’s a pop classic.
For a summary of the plot, listen to this tongue in cheek song by The Royal Shakespeare Company, Sam Kenyon and Laura Elsworthy.