Division, Extremes and “Pinball” by Brian Protheroe

I can’t be alone in noticing that this crisis is throwing up the most awful contrasts in the lives of our citizens. I also can’t be alone in cringing when I see “celebrities” (the more pointless of them thankfully now redundant) sharing pictures from their luxury mansions, bemoaning the fact that lockdown is like being in jail. No it’s not – You have five bedrooms, a pool, and access to a stash of cash. If ever there was a time for them to leave social media behind, it would be now.

Ignore the missing apostrophe, not my doing

But even closer to home, I find myself getting a bit fratchety with some friends who just don’t seem to be showing any empathy at all for what certain groups of people are currently going through. How can you live in 21st century Britain without realising this is not all just a bit of an inconvenience but something really, really far-reaching for the future. The division between rich and poor has never been so marked and during a global pandemic it turns out that in the main, it is those who earn the least that are the most valuable. Every day they are putting their lives at risk, for which I am truly grateful, and tell them so at every opportunity.


As for our many friends who also work in the craft industries (one of whom always told us his ambition was to one day reach the poverty line), I not only worry about their ability to tick over during this lockdown, but also their mental health. Being a creative type does tend to go hand in hand with a heightened sensitivity to bloody everything, and the NaPoWriMo poems coming in from my writer friends is bearing that out.

But hey, rant over, this is a music blog and I heard a wonderful song from 1974 on the car radio last week as I headed out to forage for provisions. It was all about that feeling of ennui, which makes you hole up at home, not bothering to go out. Ironically we are nearly all now holed up at home, but not from the feeling of ennui, but because we are frankly terrified of going out both for health reasons and for fear of falling foul of fast-changing lockdown rules (unintentional but lively alliteration there).

Brian Protheroe still is and was primarily an actor back in 1974, but he also wrote a few fine songs and released some albums on the Chrysalis label. His most successful single was Pinball and I have become quite smitten by it.

Pinball by Brian Protheroe:

Brian had been out of work and was living in a flea ridden room in Covent Garden. The song came out of the mundane things he saw over the course of the weekend. There is a sax solo but other than that it’s a very simple song, just folky verses and no chorus. It also references the Beatles split from a few years before and all of Brian’s songs are noted for their use of wordplay, some nonsensical, in the vein of John Lennon.

So, “What’s It All About?” – Funny how we are happy to go with the flow when life is normal (and not “the new normal”), but at times of crisis, the glittering lives of those we have elevated to celebrity status are suddenly unimportant. I have been really touched by some of the offers of help old friends have given to DD, as her situation is really difficult at the moment. Not needed as yet but I will remember them. Post-coronavirus all bets are off and only time will tell what “the new, new normal” will really look like.

Until next time, take care as ever, and feel free to leave a comment. I need to know I am not just another music geek, who overthinks things.

Pinball Lyrics
(Song by Brian Protheroe)

And I’ve run out of pale ale
And I feel like I’m in jail
And my music bores me once again
And I’ve been on the pinball
And I know longer know it all
And they say that you never know when you’re insane

Got fleas in my bedroom
Got flies in my bathroom
And the cat just finished off the bread
So I walk over Soho
And I read about Monroe
And I wonder was she really what they said

Got a call from a good friend
Come on down for the weekend
Didn’t know if I could spare the time
I knew a woman who was crazy
About a boy who was lazy
But it didn’t work out ‘cos they just couldn’t make it rhyme

Hey Jude you were alright
I could have grooved with you all night
But you turned your back on the part again
Mama if i keep my head clean
Will I really have a good dream
Or will I wake up in confusion just the same

And I’ve run out of pale ale
And I feel like I’m in jail
Got fleas in the bedroom
Got flies in the bathroom
Got a call from a good friend
Come on down for the weekend
Hey Jude you were alright
I could have grooved with you all night

And I’ve been on the pale ale
And I feel like a pinball


When doing a modicum of research for this post I discovered that Brian Protheroe has been the narrator for the Channel 4 dating show First Dates since 2013. When I travelled south to meet up with the lovely C from Sun Dried Sparrows last summer, we had lunch in that very location.

Author: Alyson

Whenever I hear an old song on the radio, I am immediately transported back to those days. I know I'm not alone here and want to record those memories for myself and for the people in them. 57 years ago the song "Alfie" was written by my favourite songwriting team, Bacharach and David. The opening line to that song was, "What's it all about?" and I'm hoping by writing this blog, I might find the answer to that question.

14 thoughts on “Division, Extremes and “Pinball” by Brian Protheroe”

    1. Ha ha, maybe it’s a Scottish word. Anyway, I use it quite a lot and it describes how I sometimes feel at the moment. Please feel free to use it liberally in print.

      Yes, keep well and stay safe.

      Liked by 1 person

  1. A colleague at work who is in her mid-twenties started talking to me about her holiday plans the other day, she has quite a major trip in mind for later in the year. ‘If there’s still an aviation industry to fly with….’ I said. She wasn’t having any of it. ‘Everything will be back to normal by then.’ She appears oblivious to all of the many the possible long term repercussions of the current situation, blithely posting regular glamorous selfies on Instagram and treating her curtailed social life as a temporary inconvenience. Is she so cosseted in her family home that she’s genuinely unaware of the full extent of what’s going on out there, or simply burying her head in the sand? Scary times.
    Stay safe and well Alyson.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I probably shouldn’t have written this one as not in the right vein for keeping us all upbeat at the moment but I am starting to get frustrated with some of the behaviours of people I come across locally and on social media (those who are mainly retired or able to work from home). It really isn’t the biggest disaster in the world if you can’t get your new garden furniture delivered by B&Q at the moment, but for some it is. Then again, what would be the point of your young colleague having it spelt out to her that things might not be quite the same down the line – I’ve had to get back to a fair few people now apologising for having done just that, pretending that I am just overthinking things. We’re trying to stay upbeat for DD and her boyfriend as they are stuck in a one-bedroom flat but staying quite positive considering they are both now out of work. The young are handling this a bit better than some what with their virtual quiz nights and exercise regimes – Maybe burying your head in the sand is the best policy at the moment but something I find very hard to do.

      Thanks for dropping by and keep safe and well. Total respect for all the supermarket workers at the moment who are doing sterling work.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Hey. What a great song; must have passed me by first time around. Just a thought, but I think you might like an album called Pipedream: it’s by Alan Hull and came out in ’73. Let me know what you think. J

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It is a great song isn’t it – I definitely knew of it but hadn’t it heard it for an awful long time and fell in love with it. Thanks for the heads up re Pipedream.


  3. I think you have aired what so many of us are thinking and feeling. The celebrity thing really winds me up, and even their attempts to show how emotional it makes them (unless actually directly affected by a bereavement which I would understand) seem a little tasteless and attention-seeking, maybe I’m being harsh and I know we are all feeling it to different degrees dependent on circumstances but I feel sure the best work is being done by those just getting on with it quietly – not bragging or outwardly asking for sympathy – they are too busy just doing the right thing and not even thinking about getting recognition. Mr SDS and I have expressed our frustrations at the little inconveniences we come up against but we do know it really is inconsequential in the scheme of things and we are fortunate in so many ways….. I don’t want to take anything for granted ever again.
    I was worried about my dad this morning but spoke to him earlier and all okay – he had just had his shopping done by some community volunteers – feel so grateful to all these wonderful anonymous helpers doing their bit and there’s the evidence, so heartwarming.
    Did you see the Emily Maitliss introduction to an item the other day when she gave a brilliant summary of how/why this pandemic is not some ‘great leveller’ in reality because of how much harsher it affects poorer people, manual workers, etc.? Very true and thought-provoking.
    Anyway – onto something lighter! – I do like Pinball, great choice of song. I must have mentioned this before but love the fact that Brian Protheroe is the voice of ‘First Dates’! (Thinking of that also takes me back to our lovely meet-up in London when we walked past the restaurant! And, oh, how carefree everything was that day…)
    Take care Alyson and all your family.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. As I said above to TS I probably shouldn’t have written this one, but we seem to know a disproportionate amount of people who are massively impacted by the economic side of this crisis and are probably going to lose their businesses. Also a lot of the locals around here work as self-employed tradesmen or in tourist shops, cafes and restaurants so all really suffering. That said the majority of people in the country are still being paid and the furlough scheme has kept many on the books for the moment, but realistically it can’t go on long-term. The key workers are doing sterling work but it won’t be lost on them that they are still working for minimum wage so all very unfair. We’re just back from the luxury of our daily walk and met two sets of people we know – Both said they were “loving the lockdown” which I found bizarre, but just shows you how it affects different people in very different ways. I didn’t see Emily Maitliss on Newsnight but I did read about her piece to camera and was glad she came out and said it. We’ve got to get over the more immediate health crisis, somehow, but after that there will have to be a socio-economic day of reckoning. Glad you managed to speak to your dad and check he is ok – The grass-roots army of volunteers are doing such important work right now.

      As for Brian Protheroe I noticed he is the voiceover person for First Dates – Was going to mention it but didn’t really fit the post somehow. Now that you’ve mentioned it however I think I’ll add a postscript and share the photo I took on our lovely day out last summer – From what seems like a parallel universe now. Strange times.


  4. I own the Brian Protheroe tune on an album of “Guilty Pleasures”… but we’re both in agreement on that nonsense. It’s the only song I know that mentions pale ale.

    Like most people, I have no idea what the world will look like after all this, but it won’t be as it was. I’m just trying to stay hopefully that it will force governments to change their ways. You look at who is taking the worst punishment from this situation, and it appears to be the very worst politicians… chiefly, our old friend Mr. Trump, but also others who shared his selfish ethos. It’s almost like the earth is reacting to the idiocracy and showing it up for what it is. Maybe this really will force more caring politicians into power in the future. Listen to me: an optimist! What is the world coming to?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Of course you do – Didn’t expect it to be classed as a Guilty Pleasure though despite the reference to pale ale.

      Glad to hear you are staying hopeful and being an optimist – What’s the world coming to indeed? It’s gonna be different that’s for sure and as you say “politicians” like Trump should have no place in this new tomorrow. We can only hope. In the meantime I think we have to be glad most of us are not overthinking things too much, as it’s not going to help in the short-term. Just wish I didn’t keep seeing those jaunty memes re the inconvenience of it all and how it’s like being in jail. Pinball is on repeat in my noddle at the moment anyway (first earworm for a while) so helping stave off the negative thoughts. Keep safe and stay well Rol and family.


    1. Hi Maureen – Thanks for dropping by with this story. Good to hear you still have that album and now of course I’m wondering when you met Brian for him to sign it. Great song.


  5. Just googled this morning wanting to find this song and stumbled on your blog. Yes, agree, this pandemic has brought out the very best and very worst in people. My immediate thought is Sam Smith weeping on the doorstep of his mansion as an emotional response to lockdown while public service workers were out risking their lives every day to meet the needs of others. Whether Sam’s post was an emotional stunt or not that he even thought to make it public is an affront in itself.

    Great song btw, brings back memories from a very specific time in my life.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Daisee – Thanks for dropping by. This post was from last year at the start of the first lockdown and there did seem to be a lot of “tone-deaf” kind of behaviour going on back then. It didn’t take long for even lifelong fans to put them in their place however.

      Yes Pinball is a great song with excellent lyrics. It kind of felt appropriate for that time last year when many of us were all stuck at home, although to be fair, with home-schooling and working from home, I don’t think many of us had time to experience the kind of ennui Brian had felt in his song.


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