Isnt life wonderful? You can feel down and yet in a few clicks be transported to a state of near bliss OK, feel slightly more cheerful – thanks to the power of the internet and video back catalogue. Let me introduce you to the holy matrimony of an alliance that is Kings Have Long Arms ft. Candie Payne. Now I have gone on record previously to warn about any songs with the very mention of the “ft” word in the artist credits. This is a blissful exception. Big Umbrella is a song released in January 2008 that arguably could have arrived any time over the last 30 years, yet seems as fresh today as an April shower.
The quirky-titled Kings Have Long Arms is in fact a one-man UK band, Adrian Flanagan, labelled the eccentronic popster. Flanagan is a true original, a man with a taste for the absurd who regularly finds himself working with pop icons who ought not to have heard of him. On Big Umbrella Flanagan accompanies statuesque songstress, Candie Payne, who hails from the Beatles hometown of Liverpool. Theres a distinctly post-industrial North of England look to the video to the song. Shot in black and white in Manchester, not far from Uniteds football ground, Ms. Payne purposefully strides down back alleys facing grim brickwork, along empty faceless streets and a canal towpath. Some charmingly amateurish and old-fashioned animation lends a couple of colourful interludes to the film noir.
Flanagan was clearly made up by the chance to work with the divine Ms. Payne who exudes a timeless quality in her voice and look. “To me Miss Payne is one of the only heartbeats left in popular music” Flanagan is quoted as saying. “I unashamedly begged Candie to sing my song. I offered to pick up the leaves in her garden as an exchange for her lending me her voice, but little did I know she lived in a park. One month later and with 689 industrial bin bags full of leaves ready for collection, Candie came over to sing my song.”
Such humor comes across whenever you find references to Adrian Flanagan. He claims to have once worked as a private eye, though his first job ended when he trailed a cheating husband only to find the guy was seeing a dwarf. His client refused to pay him and there ended Flanagans brief career as a detective. Whether this is truth or urban myth, he appears to have revived the idea in this video. A furtive-looking Flanagan crops up in the film now and again while Payne braves the chilly air wearing a goose pimple inducing short, strapless puff-ball gown. The film was shot on the coldest day of the year, which explains why she largely keeps on walking, her distinctive wedge of hair whipped up by the breeze.
To counterpoint the wintry graphics, the song itself suggests much more of summer; the umbrella being a metaphor rather than a physical necessity. Payne asserts that, Ill never ever ever whatever the weather be blue, as long as Ive a big umbrella for me and you.” Flanagan has this explanation: “‘Big Umbrella’ is a song that puts big loving arms around all forms of metaphorical bad weathers. As a song its probably the worlds best musical hug.” The song is also notable for the way that samples of birdsong are woven into its chiming guitar and keyboard texture. Yes, where we’re from, the birds sing a pretty song and there’s always music in the air.