Thursday, March 14, 2019

Leslie-Ann Beldamme: "The One I Love"

I have just re-purposed my Tumblr blog with a focus on Danish writers and artists, and started translating little pieces of prose and poetry for that. This work pleases me a good deal, and who knows what collections it might lead to...

The work involves finding cool Danish, or - in a pinch - Scandinavian birthdays, and every now and then I stumble over a name that is vaguely familiar, but which I can't quite place. This happened yesterday when I was researching the March 15 birthdays. "Anna Castberg? Who was she, again?"

Well, as it turns out, Anna Castberg is mainly remembered in Denmark for a moment of infamy when she was caught lying on her resumé for the job as Museum Director at the recently built Arken museum - a lovely edifice on the coast just outside Copenhagen, which specializes in Contemporary art.

Ms Castberg was pre-eminently qualified for the job as Director with her PhD in Art History and extensive museum experience, and she was hired in 1993 to build up the collection and launch the new museum in 1996.

Soon, however, the Danish newspapers took a keen interest in the budgets for the new museum which seemed rather out of control, and a bit of digging soon revealed that Castberg didn't really have a degree of any sorts and didn't actually attend any of the universities she claimed to have gone too. She also hadn't really worked for the institutions she had listed on her resumé as prior experience. This was not a new pattern, in fact. When looking for work in Britain, she claimed to have a Danish degree, and vice versa...

She did manage to stick around to launch the museum, which soon became an attractive destination for culture tourism and started putting itself on the map in art circles. However, a few months after the opening she was let go, and promptly vanished from the public view... She seems to have moved back to Britain, and is currently listed as a practicing psychotherapist. I'm not sure she has any formal degree or training as such in that field, either - but hey, that has never stopped her before...

At least two Danish novels and one play have been inspired by the Anna Castberg affair. I haven't read or seen any of them, but you can easily find them if you can read Danish. Look for Leif Davidsen's Lime's Billede, or Ole Hyltoft's Mordet på Museet...

So, why am I blogging about Anna Castberg, you might ask... Well, apart from her bold behavior, which I can't help but admire, having worked myself in a business where fraud is rampant but rarely this flamboyant, she did have one true item on her CV that I am particularly interested in.

Cue Leslie-Ann Beldamme, the little-known English folk-singer who at the age of 17 got a contract with Decca and recorded a lovely 7" single with the songs "The One I Love" (R.E.M. were not that original...) as the B-side and "The Rose of Loneliness" as the A-side. Leslie-Ann was of course none other than Holbæk-born Anna Castberg.

At this point in time only the B-side - which according to the label was penned by Leslie-Ann herself, but who knows? - is available on YouTube. I have not heard the A-side which is credited to Mikis Theodorakis, and titled in parenthesis "Sirtaki song", which would indicate it used the melody from the film, Zorba the Greek that was a huge hit in 1964. The other writing credit on that track is for "Jeffery" - maybe an English lyricist? This track also has an arranger credit to Reg Guest (known for his work with The Walker Brothers, Dusty Springfield, and others).

I advise you to listen to "The One I Love" - it is really lovely and very much of its time what with Judy Collins and Joni Mitchell beginning to make a mark for themselves. The vocals are pure, somewhat vibrato-laden, and the melody is simple but catchy in its arrangement for acoustic guitar, bass, a touch of vibraphone and tastefully wire-brushed drums...




I suppose Decca thought - with some justification - they might have found a true English rose to rival the Americans in this fledgling market for folky, female singer-songwriters...

However, the single flopped pretty badly, selling only 9.000 copies, and Leslie-Ann never seems to have recorded again - at least not under that name. There is something very endearing about the whole construction of this young girl - the obvious, but clumsy allegorical last name (riffing on the French "Belle Dame" - 'beautiful lady' and her step-father's real name, Beldam), and the both demure and sexy picture of the brunette on the sleeve.

Image engineering was not as blatant in the 1960s as it later became in the music industry and commercial realms - but it certainly did exist. Also, one cannot help but think what would have happened, had Leslie-Ann become the next singing sensation for Decca. Would she still have ended up a fraud, infamous in an entire nation? Or would she have ended up as revered as the late, great Sandy Denny, born one year before Ms Castberg??

The Decca single is available on Discogs and other re-sell sites for a pretty hefty price - 50 GBP on eBay, or €150 on Discogs.

Happy 71st to Ms Castberg!

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