Monday, 5 February 2018

Mid-Life Crisis Songs #15: Things Desired

Les Crane was an American radio and TV host in the 50s and 60s, a direct competitor of Johnny Carson, though never quite as successful. His late night talkshow did feature the first US TV performance by The Rolling Stones though, as well as notable appearances by Malcolm X, Bob Dylan and Lee Harvey Oswald's mum.

I knew nothing of this, nor (until a few years back) did I know that Crane had released a spoken word album in 1971, including the single Desiderata which was a Top 10 hit in the States and even grazed the UK charts where nobody had ever really heard of him. I can't remember when I first heard the track, though I suspect it was on Huey Morgan's show... Huey has a habit of turning me onto American gems British radio has long since forgotten... or never known in the first place.

Desiderata, the poem which gave Crane his big pop hit, has an interesting story in itself. It was first transformed into a pop song by Brian Davison, ex-drummer of The Nice, but Crane's version was a huge hippy anthem, with a sung chorus written by Broadway composer Fred Werner. Around that time, many people believed the poem to be a slice of ancient wisdom (see the image above which claims the words were found in an old churchyard in 1692). It later transpired that it was originally written by an American poet called Max Ehrmann in 1927. Depending on which search engine you favour, the title either translates as 'Loss' or 'Things Desired'. (To be honest, I'm surprised there was ever any question of it being from the 17th Century... did they even have "careers" back then?)

There's a part of me feels the words - and Crane's performance - are cheesy in the extreme. (Having said that, I'd have loved to have heard William Shatner have a crack at it.) And if I'd heard it when I was 25, I probably wouldn't have given it a second play. But I'm 45 now, and you may be wondering why I'm calling this a Mid-Life Crisis Song...

With all its sham, drudgery and broken dreams,
it is still a beautiful world.
Be cheerful.
Strive to be happy.

...well, if you're gonna have a mantra, that doesn't seem a bad one to aim for...

(Plus, what's the betting Baz Luhrmann heard this sometime prior to deciding to use Mary Schmich's Wear Sunscreen speech to similar effect in the late 90s?)

Oh, and congratulations to Mr. C for remembering this one. I feel he's now in direct competition with Mrs. Brian for most Saturday Snapshots songs identified by someone who doesn't actually read this drivel. Which is some accomplishment.


  1. I remember the poem/song and it was one I loathed instantly. Beloved by people who didn't realise the Summer Of Love was long gone. Sorry to be so negative, but it's a cold Monday morning.

    1. No, I understand your reaction completely. I think if I'd have been the age you must have been when this came out, I'd have loathed it too. And the hatreds of our youth are hard to shake.

  2. Slightly off the mid-life topic, but this lucky guy was married to Tina Louise during her years on Gilligan’s Island. Va-va-va-voom!

  3. I am pleasantly drawn to French Hoist's voice - Matches his look in the Saturday Snapshot. Wise words but hard not to have a bit of a snigger at the whole 5th Dimension-ness of it all.

  4. Reminded me in places of old adverts for fizzy soft drinks....but you're bang on about it being an inspiration for Mr Luhrmann.


  5. Funny how we rememmber these things but at the time of its chart success we had a print of this poem stuck blu-tacked to the dining room door. I don't know why. Just the kind of house I grew up in I guess! I tried to memorise it, without really knowing what it meant (I was 8, I suppose it seemed like the Lord's Prayer which again I didn't really understand but was part of school assembly). As you say, in spite of the cheesy bits, not a bad mantra to have.

    Do you think the similarity in the names Maz Ehrmann and Baz Luhrmann is more than mere coincidence?


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