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Going to the Zoo - Julie Felix

Sadly, I have just heard that Julie Felix died at the end of March.

Many will not be old enough to remember Julie, but over a short time of three years she became one of those little cogs that make up the ostensible surface of British media culture. An American who in the middle of her European years washed up in the UK, in 1966 she landed a job of singing songs on current topics on the Frost Report, the BBC's comic satire show, which introduced many of us to the acting talents of John Cleese, Ronnie Barker and Ronnie Corbett. After the Frost Report, she landed her own folk and pop music weekly show, thus in the days of only three UK tv channels becoming a brief institution as a meeting place between m-o-r (middle of the road) music and the edgier areas of folk rock, the blues and the general late sixties explosion of alternative creativity. On the back of this, she had two minor hits, "El Condora Pasa (If I Could)" - by the Peruvian songwriter Daniel Robles but with English words and arrangement by Paul Simon as per the album "Bridge over Troubled Water"- and "Heaven is Here" penned by Errol Brown and Tony Wilson of Hot Chocolate, both fairly ordinary m-o-r fare if the truth be told. The song for which she is best remembered, though, is this happy little ditty by Canadian songwriter Tom Paxton, which took off after she played it at short notice on the Frost report on BBC 1 but, alas, was never released as a single.

After her early seventies success she moved to Norway and later returned to her native California, even giving up performing for a while, but she returned to the UK in the late 1980's at which time I booked her as support to the wonderful ten piece girl band "the Happening" to perform at the Rocket on Holloway Road as part of the annual North London Lesbian Strength and Gay Pride Festival. They were led by the wonderful Deirdre Cartwright and Alison Rayner, legends in their own right to the cognoscenti so I was over the moon when Julie agreed to support the cause even though she had another London gig later on the same night. My colleague, Neville, was mad keen that she should play "Going to the Zoo" and wanted to dress up in a giant rabbit costume and hop onto the stage by way of a request, which I, needless to say, forbad.

Prior to her arrival, one of my stewards for the event, one Jane, said she was a massive Julie Felix fan, and asked if she could meet Julie at some point during the evening. I said I'd see what I could do, and as luck would have it Julie, when she arrived, asked if I had a member of staff who could possibly sell her cassettes and cd's during and directly after the show, so I told Julie about Jane, how she was a dedicated fan of hers and suggested she did it. Julie agreed to have a quick chat with her as she picked up the unsold merchandise and the money on her way out.

Even though most of the audience had never heard of her, Julie won the thousand plus women in the audience over, delivering a great concert, with much of her more recent material with themes of druidry and natural life forces, chiming well with the modern audience. For the record she didn't play "Going to the Zoo". Afterwards, when I introduced them,Jane, with a face like thunder demanded: "So where are you oft too now, you f***ing c**t?" How come you're deserting the sisters you bitch?" Horrified, I briefly explained that Julie had a prior engagement and she'd squeezed us in precisely because she wanted to support "the sisters". But Jane was having none of it: "What, you're just going to take your blood money and piss off out of it you f**cking c**t? Fuck off then, we don't want you, you cow" and she hurled more blue invective after us as we hurried down the passageway out. While helping her into the prebooked cab, I apologised profusely to Julie, and she smiled and said, "Thanks for a great gig, I hope it goes well. And don't worry about Jane - it takes all sorts." And off she went into the night. When I returned to Jane, she was surrounded by three other stewards, asking her how Julie was. Jane looked into the far distance and said, "Oh she was lovely; so lovely and so beautiful".

This song is sadly neglected by most nurseries in favour of the not dissimilar "Wheels on the Bus"! How much more fun is the scritch scratching, the huff puffing and honk honking than swish, swish, beep beep and slush slush? And I take animals over cars any day. A very sweet lady.

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