Helping Hazel.


Yesterday as I was rummaging through some CDs I have in the racks, looking for things that I’d acquired and had not ever listened to, or at least not listened to in a very long time, I came across something that was a bit of a surprise. There, sitting on the shelf, among my collection of Hazel O’Connor (see blogroll right) albums,  was her the 2003 album A Singular Collection: the best of Hazel O’Connor, (Invisible Hands Music), an album which I’d got hold of when it was launched, and the only album, as it turns out, on which the names of Mohamed Al Fayed – he wrote the sleeve note –and Kevin Cryan – as one of the __Photo by Tim Jarvis________ many “good” who, according to Hazel, “have gone beyond the call of duty to help me” – are ever likely to appear together. 

It’s always flattering to find oneself being numbered among the “good”, but I’m not at fully all persuaded that I have ever gone beyond the call of duty to help Hazel, or indeed that I’ve done anything to merit having my name included in her listing. 

I have in the past, I will acknowledge, written a favourable review of one of her shows, Beyond the Breaking Glass, for The Irish Post , but then I did that merely because I thought the show, contrary to my own expectations, was first-rate. I’ll now quite readily come clean and say that before I agreed to submit my piece I’d  come to an agreement with the commissioning editor that if the show warranted an unfavourable review, I’d not be the one submitting it.

This, I’ll grant, might be seen as a somewhat spineless stance, but at the time I felt that if I did not have some form of safeguard, as there was a very strong possibility that I would have to have to write some very unkind things about a friend whose work I generally admired. The very thought of seeing the type of show Hazel was putting on, an autobiographical piece about the ups and downs of life in showbiz, generally fills me with dread, and the fact that a friend is staging it does nothing make me any more tolerant in this regard.

More often than not, such shows, because they are narcissistically self-indulgent, turn out to be dreadful in the extreme and by and large fully deserving of every critical drubbing they get. This risk of my having to give Hazel’s show a critical pasting was, I calculated, too high not to be avoided.

I’m writing as though my name features prominently on this album sleeve, and in fact it doesn’t. The truth is that I myself have had the album for just over three years, and that yesterday, when I was idly looking through the long list for names for someone that I’d recognize, was the very first time it registered with me that it was there. 

All this got me thinking about whether or not I should be doing more to help Hazel along. As I listened again to some of her songs that have given me great pleasure of years – songs such as Will You, Driftwood, Thinkin’ About You and the very haunting Rebecca, it struck me very forcibly that if I had not already gone beyond the call of duty to help her, and I’m still unconvinced that I have, then there are still  some very excellent reasons for my making every effort to do so in the future.   

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