Album Review: Privates on Parade (1977)


“Remember the yearning we felt inside”

This 1977 recording of Denis King’s music is not going to convert any naysayers to Peter Nichols’ Privates on Parade – the score to this play with songs doesn’t really stand on its own merits as it is too connected to the rest of the show. But what it does provide for those who know it and enjoy it (I loved the recent Michael Grandage revival) is an affectionate reminder of the rather unique old-school charms of the show and the catchiness of its jingle-like title number.

The beguiling period charm of the music is captured excellently here, remastered by Stage Door from the original tapes, as it dips into pastiches of a whole range of early twentieth century references – Marlene Dietrich and Vera Lynn being two notable examples – and cleverly steers a humorous route through the tangled racial politics of the failing colonial experiment. One could take offence here but to do so is to miss the intent of the show entirely. 

And the performances are delightful, shining with exuberance and emotion even through the recording: Denis Quilley’s iconic Captain Terri Dennis a joy; a more youthful (to me at least) Ian Gelder fun to hear; and of course the late lamented Nigel Hawthorne in wonderfully prickly form. It’s great to finally have the soundtrack be released widely, 37 years after the show premiered and who knows, maybe it will over a new fan or three. It is certainly good enough to. 

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