Two minutes into Monday 20th Feb’s instalment of The Archers, Perry Como’s ‘It’s impossible’ can just about be discerned underneath the unfolding action between Harrison and Fallon. Over on Twitter, I mused over the significance of the song in relation to the scene’s closing tension on whether or not Harrison could persuade the Ambridge cricket team AGM to include women [*gasp*]. But revisiting the song and it’s placement in the scene provides fascinating insight not just into the socio-cultural-political climate of Ambridge but also demonstrates how music serves to inform the listener about the physical spaces of the village.
A schmalzy celebration of soft-focus monogamy, ‘It’s Impossible’ was released by Como in 1970 after being translated into English from the original Spanish, ‘Somos Novios’, by long-time Elvis collaborator Sid Wayne. Written and first performed by Mexican composer Armando Manzanero in 1968, the famous bolero has been subject to multiple interpretations in both languages, not least this ‘My Way-esque’ version from ‘The King’ during the velour years. Como’s rendition is an altogether more ponderous and low-key affair. And yet, the way the elements of plot, dialogue, musical texture and lyrical expression twist together in this scene is dynamic in establishing a tension between that which appears to be stable and those things that attempt to trouble that stability.
This warrants further prodding.
Manzanero’s composition, and Wayne’s translation, is surprisingly existential for easy listening, a genre which errs toward the straight ahead love song. ‘It’s impossible’ is expressed through earnest reflections on the natural world. Como smoothly ruminates on the perpetual ‘rushin’ ‘ of waves to the shore and the obligatory presence of the sun in the sky. Bass and drums gently chug away too, supported by subtle electric guitar, providing a muted soulful backbeat. Como’s musical world is steady, in the same way that the Ambridge tea room has quickly established itself as a key venue in village life.
However, just as the steady groove underpins the action, a piano part which had been towing the musical line by entwining itself between vocal melody, groove and supporting swooning violins, becomes rather noticeable. Twenty seconds into the scene (listen at 2mins 20secs), nimble descending flourishes protrude into the action. Again, the stability of the tea room is made clear as Fallon and Harrison test it by talking about a range of unresolved Ambridge-related news items, all of which fall under the remit of that which is deemed to be ‘impossible’. Subjects ranging from the genuine heartache of Fallon’s attempts to comfort Kirsty following her miscarriage to the ridiculous news of Jennifer’s theme of ‘Land’ for her party. Just how should Fallon cater for such an event? And with half term looming, will she have the time? Nail-biting stuff. Those swirling piano embellishments are a musical representation of active problems for the folk of the village, reminding the listener of a variety of plot lines which are at play.
In other words, ‘It’s impossible’ helps in establishing the tearoom as a place for a more thoughtful and subtle mode of existential reflection than the kind of gossip than we might expect from say, Susan Carter in the village shop. The retro-feel of the recording and Como’s ‘croony’ yearning doesn’t just paint an idea of the shabby-chic interior of the space – it opens up a philosophical quagmire of uncertainty. Which is ultimately why we tune in to Ambridge anyway…isn’t it?!