David McKenzie, by Philip John Philby

D’Art Records  A-Side, 1971
Released 26th May 1972
Available Piccadilly Sunshine Volume 16

I first heard this beguiling piece in 1989 and then not for another twenty five years.  My then partner, seeing how much I liked the song and handily having a second copy of the single, kindly gave me the spare.  Like many treasured things, the record ended up in my loft where it has languished ever since – rather appropriate though given David McKenzie’s attic-like appeal.

A mystery lies at the heart of this song.  Who is, or was, David McKenzie?   Whatever happened to the owner of the ‘little model car’ and the ‘old discarded picture book of trains’?   Perhaps he died or simply grew up and went away.  Who is the girl by his side in the photograph and what of the tears they cried?   There is an implied sense that their love grew out of childhood friendship but is it lived out still beyond those four walls or preserved only in a faded photograph?  David McKenzie’s story is missing its final chapter;  tears give way to smiles and childhood’s dreams are carried away by fluttering Richard Hewison-like strings to the song’s close.

Perhaps the full story is revealed in the rock opera of which David McKenzie was intended to be a part.  The record company lost interest when the single flopped and so a proposed double LP never materialised.  An appearance on Colour Me Pop did but was wiped by the BBC.  The maxi-single features three songs from the project but my memory is that the two on Side B were in a disappointingly different vein from the lead-off’s chugging cellos and pattering bass.  Perhaps I should rummage in my loft and attempt to piece together the story of David McKenzie twenty-five and forty-two years on.   But then it’s always good to maintain a mystery.

As a post-script, at 0.30 there is a line about an ash tray which seems quite at odds with the rest of the song.  Or am I mis-hearing again?

Piccadilly Sunshine Volume 16 review