Video clip of Elvis and Robert Wyatt talking about Shipbuilding, May 1983

Pretty self-explanatory
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Re: The lasting legacy of Shipbuilding, by Robert Sandall, R

Postby migdd » Fri Jul 23, 2010 1:55 pm

‎"People ask for criticism, but they only want praise."

W. Somerset Maugham -Of Human Bondage

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Re: The lasting legacy of Shipbuilding, by Robert Sandall, R

Postby Jack of All Parades » Fri Jul 23, 2010 2:31 pm

"....there's a merry song that starts in 'I' and ends in 'You', as many famous pop songs do....'

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Re: The lasting legacy of Shipbuilding, by Robert Sandall, R

Postby johnfoyle » Thu Mar 24, 2011 8:06 am

March 24th, 2011

Q Magazine
has published in their April edition a list of its readers voted 50 Ultimate British Songs. ‘Ship Building’ written by Clive Langer with Elvis Costello has come in at number two!

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Re: Shipbuilding - No 2. in Q '50 Ultimate British Songs'

Postby snapyou » Thu Mar 24, 2011 1:03 pm

28. Lipstick Vogue – Elvis Costello

Q Magazine – 50 Ultimate British Songs
Issue 297 – March 2011

As Chosen By Songwriters, Singers & Q Readership

1. Born Slippy – Underworld
2. Shipbuilding – Robert Wyatt
3. Up The Bracket – The Libertines
4. Wuthering Heights – Kate Bush
5. Fix Up Look Sharp – Dizzee Rascal
6. Who Knows Where The Time Goes? - Fairport Convention
7. God Save The Queen – Sex Pistols
8. Fire – Kasabian
9. English Rose – The Jam
10. Senior Twilight Stock Replacer – The Fall
11. Up The Junction – Squeeze
12. Over – Portishead
13. A New England – Billy Bragg
14. Babies – Pulp
15. In The City – The Jam
16. Sunny Goodge Street – Donavan
17. Disintegration – The Cure
18. Back For Good – Take That
19. My Girl – Madness
20. There Is A Light That Never Goes Out – The Smiths
21. Stop That Girl – Vic Godard And The Subway Sect
22. A Message To You, Rudy - The Specials
23. Crying Lightning – Arctic Monkeys
24. Pass Out – Tine Tempah
25. Cigarettes & Alcohol – Oasis
26. Street Fighting Man – The Rolling Stones
27. She Is Beyond Good And Evil – The Pop Group
28. Lipstick Vogue – Elvis Costello
29. Ever Fallen In Love…. - The Buzzcocks
30. Black Dog – Led Zeppelin
31. Oh Bondage Up Yours! – X-Ray Spex
32. Rehab – Amy Winehouse
33. Itchycoo Park – Small Faces
34. Sheila – Jamie T
35. The Boy With The Arab Strap – Belle & Sebastian
36. This Is A Low – Blur
37. A Design For Life – Manic Street Preachers
38. LDN – Lily Allen
39. Teenage Kicks – The Undertones
40. Something – The Beatles
41. That’s Entertainment – The Jam
42. This Will Be Our Year – The Zombies
43. Alright – Supergrass
44. Waterloo Sunset – The Kinks
45. Bird Flu – M.I.A.
46. Ghost Town – The Specials
47. This Is England – The Clash
48. Animal Nitrate – Suede
49. Song 2 – Blur
50. Stay Too Long – Plan B

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Re: Shipbuilding - No 2. in Q '50 Ultimate British Songs'

Postby jardine » Thu Mar 24, 2011 1:31 pm

no penny lane? what is it that is especially british about something by the Beatles??

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Re: Shipbuilding - No 2. in Q '50 Ultimate British Songs'

Postby supplydavid » Thu Mar 24, 2011 5:39 pm

MOJO Magazine has a free CD as part of a Smiths feature called Panic. It includes a "remastered" version of the Robert Wyatt vocal.

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Re: Shipbuilding - No 2. in Q '50 Ultimate British Songs'

Postby johnfoyle » Fri Jun 03, 2011 5:56 pm

Robert Wyatt's performance of Shipbuilding is included on the DVD with this - ... d_i=468294

Old Grey Whistle Test 40th Anniversary

Number of Discs: 3

June 6, 2011. ... 3-CD+album

CD3 - Live:

1. John Lennon - Stand By Me
2. Alice Cooper - Under My Wheels
3. Sniff 'n' The Tears - Driver Seat
4. Simple Minds - Life In A Day
5. Magazine - Give Me Everything
6. Altered Images - A Day's Wait
7. Aztec Camera - Walk Out To Winter
8. Tom Waits - Small Change
9. Sad Café - Hungry Eyes
10. Joan Armatrading - Love & Affection
11. Janis Ian - Stars
12. Robert Wyatt - Shipbuilding
13. Ralph McTell - Sweet Mystery
14. Little Feat - Rock & Roll Doctor
15. Atlanta Rhythm Section - So Into You
16. Chris Rea - Guitar Street
17. Iggy Pop - I Wanna Be Your Dog
18. Ramones - Rock & Roll High School / Rock & Roll Radio

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Re: Robert Wyatt's Shipbuilding on new 'Whistle Test DVD,Jun

Postby johnfoyle » Thu Apr 05, 2012 2:34 pm ... 19263.html

Protest songs: Marching to the beat of dissent

The Falklands War inspired a wealth of protest songs. But in today’s multi-media world, they’re becoming an outdated art form, says Hardeep Phull

Thursday 05 April 2012

On 23 May 1982, Mori conducted a survey of just over 1,000 British adults regarding the then Conservative Government's handling of the Falklands War for the BBC's Panorama programme. Seventy-five per cent of those polled expressed approval at Margaret Thatcher's handling of affairs and a remarkable 80 per cent felt that the Government was just in its initial decision to land on the South Atlantic islands. Statistically at least, the chances of hearing a dissenting voice were small and while British pop music had thrown up plenty of anti-Thatcher feeling in her first three years in office, there seemed to be few speaking out on this issue. "On the face of it, the war seemed like a pretty straightforward argument at the time," remembers Billy Bragg, 30 years on. "To me, it seemed as though there were these fascists in Argentina who were repressing their own people and now wanted to do the same to the people on this island."

But following the surrender of Argentine forces on 14 June, the victory party faded into a national hangover consisting of distasteful jingoism, traumatised troops, fractured families and the realities of a second term in office for Thatcher – something that seemed distinctly unlikely before the conflict. It was a shift in mood first captured on vinyl by the release of the song "Shipbuilding" in August 1982. Written by Elvis Costello and Clive Langer but sung in its first incarnation by former Soft Machine singer Robert Wyatt, the track lamented the tragic ironies of a naval war bringing life back to the forgotten shipbuilding industry of northern England, but also requiring those revitalised communities to send their sons off to battle aboard the very same vessels.

Wyatt later referred to the track "as punk on Valium, punk without the energy" but at the opposite end of the scale, anarchist outfit Crass were offering more than enough zeal to make up for "Shipbuilding"'s shortcomings. Their song "How Does It Feel (To Be The Mother Of A Thousand Dead)?" had been written towards the conclusion of the conflict but was recorded and released in the months after. Singer Steve Ignorant sounded perilously close to coughing up a lung on the single, such was his fury with the commander-in-chief. "What made me so angry was I knew there were people of my age or younger, saying goodbye to their wives and families and probably never coming back," he remembers. Although they were a fringe concern for the wider public, Crass' apoplectic release caught the attention of both major political organisations. Conservative MP Tim Eggar attempted to have the band prosecuted under the Obscene Publications Act while they simultaneously received letters of support from the Labour Party. "I was really scared at that point," adds Ignorant. "Firstly, I didn't want to be involved in party politics, but I also felt that if I was becoming too much of a nuisance for the Government, it wouldn't take too much for me to just disappear one night." Nevertheless, the single still topped the indie charts in November of 1982 and the similarly indignant offering "Sheep Farming In The Falklands" repeated that success the following year.

With the Prime Minister using her success in orchestrating the war effort to leverage herself into a position of political power, the hollow feeling of victory in the Falklands intensified. Wyatt's "Shipbuilding" earned a re-release in May of 1983 and became the Rough Trade label's first ever Top 40 success. Costello also thought the song to be relevant enough to re-record it himself and include it on his landmark Punch The Clock album with a mournful Chet Baker trumpet solo thrown in for good measure. Meanwhile, Roger Waters seized artistic control of Pink Floyd for their album The Final Cut in order to voice his disaffection with the legacy of the conflict. Frustrated at the lack of diplomacy shown by the British Government following the Argentine invasion, the bass player devised a complex narrative for the album, featuring a cast of often emotionally disturbed British servicemen, who combined to create a requiem for the post-war dream of peace and prosperity. It would be Waters' last contribution to Pink Floyd, as his determination to pay homage to the troops drove a creative wedge between him and Dave Gilmour, and resulted in Waters leaving the band.

The post-war atmosphere had also sparked a change of heart from Bragg who, by the release of his 1984 album Brewing Up With Billy Bragg, had become one of the prominent voices of political pop music in Britain. That album contained "Island Of No Return"- a sad and harrowing tale of life on the frontline in the South Atlantic, as told through the first-person perspective of a distraught squaddie. "I don't think I would have written that during the war," adds the singer who himself had once enlisted in the British Army in 1981 before buying himself out. "During the war, it was more about General Galtieri but after, it was more about Thatcher. He was doing what he did to avoid political trouble at home but the shock to me was subsequently realising that Thatcher had done the same."

It may have been a small number of songs that emerged around the time of the conflict but according to Bragg, the chances are it would be an even smaller number should a similar conflict arise today. "For someone like me, writing a song was the only way to broadcast myself back then," he reflects. "Now, with such a myriad of media options that you can participate in, writing a song isn't the first thing that occurs to people." For Ignorant, just the idea of being in an explicitly political band seems like a dated concept in the technological age. "We thought we were an information bureau in a way because we wrote songs about anarchism and pacifism, which introduced people to these ideas for the first time. I'm not saying technology is a bad thing, but you can Google all that information now. If that technology hadn't existed back then, would there have been a band like Crass? I don't think there would." It thankfully didn't turn out to be Britain's Vietnam as some had initially feared but nevertheless, the Falklands War (eventually) threw up a powerful body of protest songs, the likes of which may never be heard again.

The Falklands War may have only lasted for two-and-a-half months, but numerous songs would make reference to it for years after. Bradford post-punks New Model Army included "Spirit Of The Falklands"– a seething critique of the nationalistic atmosphere whipped up by media during the conflict – on their 1984 debut album Vengeance. Two years later, with the memory of the Falklands fading, Joe Jackson reflected on the continuing injuries being suffered due to unexploded landmines on the islands on his track "Tango Atlantico". On their 1991 song "Another Man's Cause", folk-rockers The Levellers combined mentions of the Falklands with the more recent memory of the Gulf War to tell the story of a family of soldiers decimated by frontline deaths. And as recently as 1998, metallers Iron Maiden offered an elegy for both sets of soldiers through their power-ballad "Como Estais Amigos".

But of all the songs connected with the Falklands War, arguably the most successful and enduring has turned out to be "Brothers In Arms" by Dire Straits. Although written at the time of the conflict (and subsequently released on the multi-million selling 1985 album of the same name), frontman Mark Knopfler has stopped short of connecting the song with the war explicitly. Despite that, its obvious lyrical references to warfare and the video's grainy animations of terrain that seemed remarkably similar to that of the disputed islands, an inseparable connection has developed. The track was even re-recorded and re-released in 2007 for the benefit of the South Atlantic Medal Association – a charity designed to help soldiers struggling with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder travel back to the Falklands as part of their treatment.

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Re: Shipbuilding/'Protest songs..becoming an outdated art fo

Postby johnfoyle » Fri Jun 22, 2012 6:51 pm

This thread should make interesting reading leading up to the forthcoming radio show.

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Re: Shipbuilding/'Protest songs..becoming an outdated art fo

Postby johnfoyle » Mon Oct 22, 2012 6:39 pm

The Unthanks cover Shipbuilding ... ture=share

I saw The Unthanks in concert this evening , in a show that included Shipbuilding,and it's going to be on their new album.

Great vocals and playing as usual from the band. Most of the show was the group accompanying a back projection of a documentary about the glory days and eventual demise of U.K. shipyards. Some of the between song segments were lengthy and recycled themes and got a bit tedious after a while. Tragic as has been the long term affect of the lack of the industries the footage did show ,in the main, scenes of unhealthy people working in dangerous work situations. The 'thanks finished up the evening with a few songs from their past albums and it was neat to be able to buy a advance of their new album, Shipyard songs featured in this show, from the girls themselves afterwards.

Order the album here - ... -shipyards ... yards-tour

The album will be available to buy on the October tour exclusively at shows before the November retail release,
but this is not part of a marketing ploy. The Unthanks simply don’t want to spoil your viewing. Listening to the album before seeing the film would be tantamount to giving the plot away of a powerful and moving film.


Diversions Vol. 3 contains the music created by The Unthanks for the Tyneside Cinema commissioned film of the same name, Songs from the Shipyards – a beautiful and moving film, tracing the story of shipbuilding.

Made by internationally acclaimed North-East filmmaker Richard Fenwick, Songs from the Shipyards is made from archive footage from the past 100 years, and illustrates in microcosm the highs and lows of Britain’s industrial journey. Fenwick and The Unthanks collaborated on the film from the start of the creative process, devising a strong political and human narrative to the story, and creating a unique, powerful, live audio-visual event, in which The Unthanks would perform a live soundtrack to the film.

Diversions Vol. 3 is a studio album that documents a non-sequential ‘best of’ the live soundtrack It is part of a series of side-project releases for The Unthanks, all three of which have been released inside a prolific 12 month period. Vol. 2, released this summer, charted their collaboration with Brighouse and Rastrick Brass Band, while Vol. 1 featured an exploration of the music of Robert Wyatt and Antony & the Johnsons. On that project, The Unthanks resisted the temptation to tackle Shipbuilding, which was written for Wyatt, knowing that the Shipyards project was just around the corner! The Elvis Costello/Clive Langer classic features on Vol. 3 and represents a rare lead vocal by Unthanks pianist and producer Adrian McNally, backed up by eerie vocals from the rest of The Unthanks.

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Re: Shipbuilding covered by The Unthanks

Postby so lacklustre » Tue Oct 30, 2012 3:06 am

John - I'm not sure if this is your account or someone else? I went last night to the later show and thought it brilliant - the imagery of a snarling Thatcher followed by lines of dead british troops with their haunting version of Shipbuilding was very powerful. I can also highly recommend the Unthanks diversions 1 in which they cover Anthony & the Johnsons and Robert Wyatt songs.
signed with love and vicious kisses

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Re: Shipbuilding covered by The Unthanks

Postby so lacklustre » Tue Oct 30, 2012 3:35 am

This shows the archive shown with Shipbuilding - if you go to the space website you can watch the whole shabang.
signed with love and vicious kisses

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Re: Shipbuilding covered by The Unthanks

Postby johnfoyle » Tue Oct 30, 2012 2:39 pm

Thanks! ... z2AoTo4hJg

October 29, 2012

The Unthanks, Purcell Room, London

By David Honigmann

The glory and decline of the shipyards of England’s North East made the perfect subject for The Unthanks’ melancholic songs

In the past couple of years, The Unthanks have delivered four albums, covering the songs of Antony and the Johnsons and Robert Wyatt, collaborating with the Brighouse and Rastrick Colliery Band, and now celebrating shipbuilding on the Tyne.

This concert returned the shipbuilding songs to their natural habitat, soundtracking archive film footage sewn together by Richard Fenwick. The band sat in semi darkness at the front of the stage with the film projected overhead, the audience craning their necks as if staring up at giant, half-completed liners.

The Unthanks’ repertoire tends to North-Eastern melancholia, and the glory and decline of the shipyards made the perfect subject. Welders, riveters and pipemen – the “Black Trades” of Jez Lowe’s song, which the Unthank sisters sang with the names of the vanished crafts spilling out as remote from today as Chaucer’s pilgrims – scurried across the skeletal keels of future ships, or polished immense screw propellers.

With only a musical narrative to make sense of the pictures, some of the argument was hard to grasp. Niopha Keegan sang Rudyard Kipling’s poem “Big Steamers” to music by Peter Bellamy, and the footage moved from high life on inter-war liners to warships, one keeling over sideways and then engulfed in fire as the magazine exploded.

After the war, some of the film was in colour, the social geology of 1960s Britain uneasily on view as directors’ wives in full finery congregated to watch newly-launched ships inching down slipways shedding hawsers. Another Jez Lowe song, “Monkey Dung Men”, nodding to the after-effects of asbestosis and mesothelioma, was performed in darkness, to a funereal drum beat.

“I hope I’ll build ships, boys, until I am dead”, sang Rachel Unthank; but even as the shipbuilders sprouted shaggy perms and sideburns the writing was on the wall. The 1980s erupted in grainy videotape, Mrs Thatcher (at whose appearance the audience indulged itself in hissing and booing) intercut with footage of the Falklands. Adrian McNally sang Elvis Costello’s “Shipbuilding” slowly, the melody made harsher and sharper than in the best-known version, Robert Wyatt’s supper-club jazz. From then on it was decline all the way – “Gone are the days they were taking on men”, went the words – finishing up with Swan Hunter’s PR man announcing its epitaph: “Being the best wasn’t good enough.” Heartbreakingly, giant cranes were dynamited and toppled on to the quayside. There was new footage of redundant wooden pilings rotting.

A song by John Tams was a bleak summary: “You might steal our future but you’ll not steal our glory”, chorused all The Unthanks, unaccompanied, over and over. It was both the closing credits for the film, and an epitaph for the industry. ... sfeed=true

Neil Spencer

The Observer, Sunday 28 October 2012

The Unthanks have filed their soundtrack to Richard Fenwick's documentary about the north-east's shipyards under "Diversions Vol 3", but it proves as arresting as their "proper" albums. It's a stark creation, using little more than piano, violin and voices, but its minimalism lends poignancy to songs and poetry narrating the glory and grime of a vanished era. Mostly it's grime that's recalled; the hellish Black Trade that makes "life a job", while Monkey Dung Man relates the perils of asbestos. Kipling's Big Steamers becomes lament rather than jingoism, Costello's Shipbuilding is skilfully underplayed and, on Fairfield Crane, Rachel Unthank delivers a scene-stealing solo vocal.

The Unthanks, Songs from the Shipyards, Purcell Room

Northumberland's finest in superb multi-media lament for the lost world of the shipyards

by Peter Culshaw

Saturday, 27 October 2012

The Unthanks: a folk band adored by people who don't even like folk

When The Unthanks staggered into the spotlight with their haunting and beguiling Mercury Award-nominated 2007 album The Bairns, with bracing songs about infant mortality and child abuse, they became a folk band adored by people who don’t even like folk. They were spiritual sisters to brilliant mavericks like Antony & the Johnsons or Robert Wyatt (they did an album of covers of both artists' songs) while remaining firmly rooted in their native Northumberland. The heart of the band being the two Unthank Sisters, one of those terrific telepathic vocal relationships you sometimes get with siblings (for instance the Beach Boys, Bee Gees, Everlys, not to mention the Nolans).

If they’ve sometimes gone slightly too glossy for miserabilists like me who like their music bleak, Songs from the Shipyards is a superbly executed multi-media lament to the lost world of shipbuilding on the Tyne and Wear. The archive film images brilliantly put together by Richard Fenwick covered the 20th century, showing the glory days of the shipyards ending with a grim, resigned announcement from Swan Hunter that they were doing into receivership. “The best isn’t good enough,” said the announcer with more than a hint of bitterness. Subsidised Japanese and Korean shipyards had taken over.

The century covered started with Britain’s navy being the greatest in the world, with the shipyards building terrifying, clunking warships as well as cruise liners, and panned through to the industrial strife of the Seventies and the class warfare of Thatcher (predictable boos from the liberal South Bank audience). The images evoked a bigger transformation from the time when Britain was a superpower and class and gender roles were as rigid as the steel used to build the ships. We had clipped BBC pronouncements, posh ship owners and revellers on cruise ships counterpointing the Geordie voices of the workers and the songs of local bard Alex Glasgow, both on tape and in versions by the Unthanks.

The sense of lost pride and community was palpable in the accompanying music, which, as well as the sisters, had Niopha Keegan (good Newcastle name) on violin, Chris Price on guitar and Adrian McNally on piano, all adding at times to the rich vocal texture.

Instead of folk songs about damsels and knights on moors, the lyrics featured jetties, bollards, tankers and warships. A notable new piece by Adrian McNally was a counterpoint to the black, poisoned Tyne and was about the romance of the river, an effective Steve Reich-ish minimal tune. One obvious cover was Elvis Costello/Clive Langer’s classic “Shipbuilding”, and while McNally on lead vocal couldn’t match the wistfulness of Robert Wyatt’s version, the rest of the band gave it a powerful, melodic punch.

If at times the Unthanks's vocals can seem overly breathy and rich and creamy, the subject matter undercut any sense of contrivance. “You might steal our future, you won’t steal our glory” was the defiant chorus that the audience was left with. This was a vision successfully realised, managing to bring an emotional warmth to the sad, dry facts of a forever lost, now historical era.

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Re: Shipbuilding covered by The Unthanks

Postby johnfoyle » Sun Mar 17, 2013 7:08 pm

Elvis speaks about 17 minutes in


Series 15 Episode 5 of 5

30 minutes

First broadcast:
Tuesday 05 March 2013

The song from 1982 was written by Elvis Costello and Clive Langer for Robert Wyatt and has been recorded in several versions by Elvis Costello himself, Suede, June Tabor, Hue and Cry, Tamsin Archer and The Unthanks.

The blend of subtle lyrics and extraordinary music makes this a political song like no other. It transcends the particular circumstances of its writing: the Falklands War and the decline of British heavy industry, especially ship-building.

Clive Langer and Elvis Costello describe how the song came to be written and how the legendary jazz trumpeter and flugelhorn player, Chet Baker, came to perform on Costello's version.

Richard Ashcroft is a philosopher who wants the song, which he describes as a kind of secular hymn, played at his funeral because it gives a perfect expression of how he believes we should think about life. Not being able to feel the emotion of the song would, he feels, be like being morally tone-deaf. If you don't like this song, he'd find it hard to be your friend.

The song's achingly beautiful final couplet about "diving for pearls" makes the MP Alan Johnson cry and has also inspired an oral history and migrant integration project in Glasgow. Chris Gourley describes how the participants found a way to overcome their lack of English and communicate through a shared understanding of ship-building practice.

Other contributors include Hopi Sen, a political blogger who was an unusually political child, and the Mercury Prize winning folk group The Unthanks. They toured their version to towns with ship-building connections as part of a live performance of a film tracing the history of British ship-building using archive footage.

Producer: Natalie Steed.

This show is different to a June 2012 BBC2 radio show about the song -

Discussed here -


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Re: Radio show about Shipbuilding

Postby johnfoyle » Sat Jun 17, 2017 1:28 pm

The 2013 radio show was rebroadcast yesterday so is available again for playback.

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Re: Radio show about Shipbuilding, BBC 2013

Postby johnfoyle » Thu Oct 04, 2018 1:59 pm

New to youtube -

'Wyatt and Costello discuss the release of `Shipbuilding' on an early Channel 4 programme `Loose Talk'. Restored from a VHS tape before it was too late.' May 1983

'The new album will come out when the boys stop fighting', Elvis's sign off comment, advance notice for Punch The Clock. The sight of cigarette smoke rising from the audience is another sign of the times.

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