A koala gets into the Christmas spirit

A koala gets into the Christmas spirit

My favourite festive season tale so far features an Adelaide family who returned home to find a koala perched in an artificial Christmas tree in their lounge. It looked perfectly happy amid all the baubles and twinkling lights, but was less than impressed by the taste of the plastic leaves.

The koala presumably crawled into the house while the family was out. It has since been placed in a nearby area full of trees and appears content up a real eucalyptus tree. As most Aussies will tell you, koalas are not bears but marsupials, but are often referred to as bears mainly because they resemble teddy bears. Which brings us to Paul McCartney's little-known song 'Ode to a Koala Bear'.

It was the flip side of 'Say Say Say', his duet with Michael Jackson recorded in London in December 1980. The Koala song is actually better than the A side. According to the session drummer Paul Robinson it was inspired by a koala toy belonging to one of McCartney's kids. Sadly, it was recorded only hours before John Lennon was shot dead in New York (more of which later).

Koala lovers might be interested in a cute cover version of McCartney's song by Polish singer Natalia Moskal to raise funds for koalas and other animals that perished in the terrible Australian bush fires in 2019. You can find it on YouTube. Incidentally cuddling koalas is frowned upon, they don't enjoy it.

I admit to having a small koala doll which a Post colleague kindly gave me after a trip to Oz. I try to ignore the "Made in China" label and pretend it comes from Mullumbimby, Woy Woy or Wollongong.

Dark December day

As mentioned above, 'Ode to a Koala Bear' was recorded by McCartney just before Lennon was murdered outside his Manhattan apartment. Asked how he first learned of Lennon's death, McCartney said in a 2014 interview: "I was at home and I got a phone call … it was just so horrific … I couldn't take it in. It was so sad."

Although it was 40 years ago, most people of a certain age know where they were when they first heard of Lennon's death. I was in Bangkok getting ready for my shift at the Post and heard it on the BBC radio world service. It was a huge shock. I was working on the news desk that evening and remember the story was run in a prominent place across the top of the front page.

Many of the sub-editors enjoyed the Beatles music and we all felt pretty miserable about such a pointless act. After work we headed for the Superstar on Patpong for a much-needed beer. On being told of Lennon's death, Superstar manager Frank Allum stopped the music for a moment to announce the news to customers, before playing nothing but Lennon songs until closing time.

The smoking gun

Lennon and his music has often featured in this column. To mark what would have been his 80th birthday this week, here are a few snippets about Lennon from PostScript over the past 10 years.

Firstly, in a column about "happiness" there is the sadly ironic title of Lennon's 'Happiness is a Warm Gun' from what was known as the White Album. Lennon said he got the title from a headline he saw in a gun magazine. "I just thought it was an insane thing to say," Lennon said. "A warm gun means you have just shot something."

In another PostScript column about strawberries, Lennon's 'Strawberry Fields Forever' crops up. When it was released in 1967 it actually boosted strawberry sales in Britain. Of course the song had nothing to do with the fruit, Strawberry Fields being the name of a children's home near Lennon's residence in Liverpool.

In his own write

In 1964 Lennon wrote a book of nonsense entitled In His Own Write and he wasn't averse to inserting nonsense into his song lyrics.

The most notable example was 'I Am the Walrus' which found its way into a PostScript column about Lewis Carroll's wonderful poem 'The Walrus and the Carpenter'. Lennon was a great fan of Carroll and the song was inspired by the poem. Lennon later admitted that when he wrote the lyrics he didn't realise that the walrus was actually the "bad guy". So, in retrospect the song should have been called "I Am the Carpenter".

Lennon was reportedly highly amused by serious music critics attempting to interpret deep meaning in such lyrics as "yellow matter custard, dripping from a dead dog's eye" and "semolina pilchard climbing up the Eiffel Tower" when he was simply playing with words.

Full of holes

In a PostScript column about the Albert Hall, the Lennon and McCartney song 'A Day in the Life' surfaced with the intriguing line "Now they know how many holes it takes to fill the Albert Hall." No one really knew what it meant, including Lennon who wrote it. The opening part of the verse "4,000 holes in Blackburn, Lancashire" was inspired by a newspaper report concerning the wretched state of Blackburn's roads.

At least Lennon helped put Blackburn on the map and even gave the Albert Hall a certain mystique.

Roger Crutchley

Bangkok Post columnist

A long time popular Bangkok Post columnist. In 1994 he won the Ayumongkol Literary Award. For many years he was Sports Editor at the Bangkok Post.

Email : oldcrutch@gmail.com

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