Wednesday 9 September 2009

Let him dangle

"Not many people thought that Bentley would hang. But the word never came, the phone never rang. Outside Wandsworth Prison there was horror and hate as the hangman shook Bentley's hand to calculate his weight. Let him dangle ..." Squeeze may have known a couple of likely lads that were in and out of Wandsworth. But there have been those that never should have been in there. The hanging of Derek Bentley in 1953 was a classic case of misjustice. It would be many, many years before the campaign to clear his name had any kind of success. And of course by then it was far too late for Derek. The case was highlighted in popular music by The Bureau in 1981 in their classic Let Him Have It. Several years later Elvis Costello would write about the case in Let Him Dangle on his Spike LP. This clip of him from a BBC TV special is fascinating because of the opportunity Elvis gets to 'plug' his record, but the respect is seemingly genuine, the format is refreshingly gimmick free and suitably stark, and it's intriguing to hear Elvis talk about the writing of the song. It's a performance and a song Phil Ochs would have approved of ...

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