Jon E. Parker & The Sessionaires

Songsmiths & Notaries Public

Early 20th Century French Drawing Imagining A Flying Fire Brigade In The Year 2000
When there is a fire and there’s no fireman,
Your house will burn down, You’re in big trouble man.

Sessionaires (se’∫ən’ē˚z) n pl (i) a creative (usually musical) collective; a collaborative spirit or ethos; a co-operative of individuals committed to innovation and experimentation in music, poetry and humour; (ii) an obs form of trousers.

Founded in 1990, The Sessionaires have their roots in an earlier Horsham coterie Jon E Parker Presents Businessmen on Bicycles whose adventures are related on this very website.

Inspired by the Businessmen’s ever-changing aural environment of soundscape enveloped chanson, Jon E envisaged the ensemble as a small full-time musical core tasked with originating inspiring concepts to energize an ever-changing roster of artists from multiple disciplines to implement his artistic vision.

The group’s first release, The Sunny Sessions, was warmly received and considered by critics to have exceeded even the high expectations generated by their association with the earlier popular beat combo.

Keen eyed readers will have noticed that the Sessionaires haven’t limited themselves to the artistic sphere and are in fact an outgrowth of a long established partnership of Notaries Public specialising in maritime arbitration and contract dispute. This is part of a tradition initiated by the firm’s founder, Lord Bingo of Bogsley, as a facet of his holistic approach to comoglifying the practice of law for the man on the Clapham omnibus (Note).

2013 saw the release of the latest Sessionaires project Vigiles Urbani (Lyrics, Video, Narratio) which in keeping with the band’s ethos of creative purity has been some 27 years in the making. They also continue to be available for Notary work of all kinds, at highly competitive rates.

The Sunny Sessions

Inlay of the original 1990 cassette release of The Sunny Sessions
Inlay of the original 1990 cassette release of Sunny Sessions

The Sunny Sessions is widely considered to the finest achievement of the original incarnation of the Sessionaires and a pinnacle of the European melodic tradition.

On first glance a wistful celebration of summers past, repeated listens reveal a subtle exploration of the human condition in which this pantheon of popsters tackle the timeless themes of fear, faith, isolation, love, loss, and motorway maintenance.

Benefiting from unlimited licence, if not budget, to experiment under the benevolent guidance of Jon E. Parker the results are entertaining yet challenging, life-affirming whilst thought-provoking, reassuringly familiar but disconcertingly ambiguous. In all worthy of it’s status as an overcooked masterpiece.

Released to the public in 1990 the album’s roots have been traced as far back as 1987 and it is thought to be an evolution of the final, unrealised, Businessmen on Bicycles project. Though in common with so much else concerning The Sessionaires this provenance is disputed.

Road side information style sign in black on yellow showing a bumble bee

Bumble Bee SongLyrics Video

“I was walking round to Simon’s and it occurred to me that there were a lot of bumblebees about. So we wrote a song about it.” Rob

Road side information style sign in black on yellow showing a man digging

Motorway MaintenanceLyrics

“I was walking down along Richmond Road in Horsham and parked on the corner as I turned into Gordon Road was a lorry with a Motorway Maintenance sign painted on it’s rear end. So we wrote a song about it.” Rob

Road side information style sign in black on yellow showing a couple walking

He Loves Only YouLyrics

“I was wading across a brook contemplating what would now be a social media relationship status update and the circumstances around it when I thought, “we could write a song about this”. So we wrote a song about it.” Simon

Road side information style sign in black on yellow showing a balloon

Biggles In A BasketLyrics Video

“I was walking across a field when I saw a hot air balloon float by and I thought how peculiar that such a romantic form of transport wasn’t more celebrated. So we wrote a song about it.” Simon

Road side information style sign in black on yellow showing a cross

Sally’s FriendsLyrics

“I know a girl, she’s out of this world. So we wrote a song about her.” Simon

Road side information style sign in black on yellow showing a man carrying a suff board

Death On The ClydeLyrics Essay

The Download Reissue Booklet

The Book Of The Cassette

Legal Services

Sessionaires Official SealJon E Parker and The Sessionaires were established in 1880 and have been fully licensed Notaries Public since 1911.

We will prepare, attest and certify all forms of documentation for use in all common law and overseas jurisidictions. Our particular speciality is commercial maritime arbitration, including:

  • Bills of Lading and Contracts of Carriage
  • Bottomry
  • Contracts of Affreightment (Hague-Visby compliant)
  • Charterparties
  • Demurrage
  • Droits of Admiralty
  • Godwottery
  • Fleechment
  • Letters of Credit
  • Maritime Lien
  • Sea Waybills

Jon E Parker and The Sessionaires are appointees of the Court of Faculties and are fully indemnified against professional negligence, pecuniary loss and bad vibes. We are contactable by Telex 21970 JPATS.

Lyrics, Credits & More

Vigiles Urbani

If you’re on fire, if you’re burning up
If you’re on fire, if you’re burning down
Call this chap tell him giddy-up
Call this chap tell him come to town
Don’t tumble down, no need to frown
Everything’s good with a fireman around

If you’re burning going up in smoke
If you’re burning sending smoke into the sky
Call this chap he ain’t the sort to joke
Call this chap he won’t drive on by
No word of a lie, no one has to die
With a fireman around: the extinguisher guy!

If you see a red truck going up the road
If you see a red truck with a ladder on the top
Give a little wave at the fireman load
Give a little wave but don’t ask him to stop
If there’s a light on the top going on and off
Then the firemen are heading to a place where it’s hot

Coastguard’s good if you’re lost at sea
Ambulance is good for a cardiac arrest
Call those chaps if they’re the people you need
But if your problem is a fire though a fireman is best
When the flames are manifest there’s only one man I suggest
And a fireman also looks good in just his vest

AF Harrold – Sprechgesang
James Magee – Piano
James Calderwood – Acting

Bumble Bee Song

Bumblebees, there’s alot of you about
Bumblebees, you make me scared to go out

Bumblebees, Bumblebees

Bumblebees, the sun is shining now
But Bumblebees, I’m down when you’re around
Bumblebees please keep away from me
Bumblebees, please stay among the leaves

Bumblebees, Bumblebees

Bumblebees don’t make me feel your sting
I would not want to be your final fling
So stay away this lovely summer’s day
And Bumblebees, friends we will remain

Vocals – Ian Wyatt
Backing Vocals – Michele & Amanda Scott
With The Irrelevant Strings, Bombastic Brass and Gratuitous Harmonicas
Keyboards specially rehearsed by Jon E. Parker

Motorway Maintenance

You must have seen us we’re Motorway Maintenance
We work on Motorways the whole day through
We’ve got problems not the least of them drivers
Try to knock us down, that’s what they do

Wearing orange to enhance visibility
We drive a car with a flashing light
We’re just trying to improve the facilities
Placing cones in the dead of night

Contraflow, contraflow, got to use the contraflow
Contraflow, contraflow, got to use the contraflow

Here we are we’re Motorway Maintenance
It’s our job to get the traffic through
Don’t blame us we’re Motorway Maintenance
We’re just men with a job to do

You must have seen our digging machinery
We always lease from JCB
We really trust their reliability
They get us home in time for tea

We’re taking care of our extremities
Sturdy gloves a necessity
Hefty hats we wear with alacrity
Heavy boots to protect our feet

Contraflow, contraflow, got to use the contraflow
Contraflow, contraflow, got to use the contraflow

Here we are we’re Motorway Maintenance
It’s our job to get the traffic through
Don’t blame us we’re Motorway Maintenance
We’re just men with a job to do

Da da da M23
Da da da M17

Vocals by The Classic Mushroom Singers

He Loves Only You

He loves only you, he told me last night
His love is so true, but what about you
He’s so in love with you
Can’t you see it’s true

He loves only you
He told me last night
His love is so true
But what about you

But she’s in love with you
And it makes her blue

Oh why can’t you see
It’s you that I love
I’m making my plea to heaven above
It’s breaking my heart when we are apart
I love you not your friend
Will this pain never end

Why is love so cruel?
Why must we act like fools?

He loves only you
Don’t say that it’s true
He told me last night
No that can’t be right
His love is so true
That’s why I’m blue
But what about you?

I’m loving you
(Repeat to fade)

Vocals by Dominic Thayre & Michele Scott with able support from Amanda Scott.

Biggles In A Basket

Fly with me soon, in my balloon
Up in the sky, flying so high
In my balloon

Oh, I feel fine, up in the sky
Floating with you, through the white and the blue
In my balloon

We’ll say cheerio, to the people below
Then we’ll fly to the stars, Venus and Mars
In my balloon

David Potter (Michelin Balloon)
‘Daring’ Dougie Simms (Goodyear Blimp)
Jonny Craig (Next Milton)
Keith Roberts (R.101)
The Late ”Ginger’ Matthews (Hindenburg)
With Whistling Jim McNeil

“What are those clouds, Ginger?”
”Strato Cumulus, Inexperienced Balloonist”

“What’s the altitude, Ginger?“
“Pretty high lad, pretty high”

“Gosh. How often have you been up, Ginger?”
“More times than you’ve had hot dinners, sonny”

“What’s this made of then, Ginger?”
“Wicker”

“What’s this bit of string do?“
“Don’t…”

The final words of Ginger Matthews and an unknown inexperienced balloonist, as transcribed from the in-
flight recorder shortly before their tragic deaths.

Sally’s Friends

I know this girl
She’s out of this world
She’s got some friends
But I haven’t counted them

We’re Sally’s friends, We’re Sally’s friends
We’re born again Christians
We’re Sally’s friends

She loves all anthropods
She likes to talk to God
She’ll drive you round the bend
But you should meet Sally’s friends

We’re Sally’s friends, We’re Sally’s friends
We’re born again Christians
We’re Sally’s friends

Cain and Abel, Mary in the stable
Mind those nails, last supper on the table
Don’t get cross man, God’s still the Boss Man
Ku Klux Klan burning people when they can

Choir boys up for rent, sexually deviant
Ten Commandments needing an amendment
Bells in steeple irritate the people
Too doctrinal, rather have a Bacchanal

They’re Sally’s friends
Both of them

Vocals by Dominic Thayre, Michele & Amanda Scott
Ku Klux Klaxon — John Lenihan

With the Saddam Hussein Guitar Orchestra

Death On The Clyde

We’re going on a honeymoon
We’re going in June
We’ll be taking a room by the blue lagoon
I’ll be crooning this tune beneath the silvery moon

We’ll watch the Scandaroons
In the afternoon
Forming demilunes when it’s opportune
Do Be De Do Do, De Do Be De Do

Why do we have to go?
It’s great in Glasgow, it’s only five below
We’ll go down to the Clyde and take formaldehyde
That’s how my mother died
And I cried

Though young Conservatives
Politically purgative
Mentally vegetative
Their love was agglutative

We’ll leave the octuplets
That you had for a bet
Delivered by the Vet at the maisonette
While I was in Tibet with the architect

I wrote a rondolet
On a beautiful day
Drinking Chardonnay and cafe au lait
In a Chevrolet near the Bay of Biscay

I still don’t want to go
I’d prefer Mexico, or even Borneo
I want to do him in while on the dunnikin
I’ll give him catechin

The feudal right to maritage
Extinct except in Stevenage
Exclusive to the privileged
Who manufacture sausages

Those were the days my friend
I thought they’d never end
They drove me round the bend

Da da da da da da

Vocals by Fred Bright & Michele Scott with the Classic Mushroom Singers, Irrelevant Strings & Bombastic Brass

It is necessary before beginning this analysis to make a few preparatory remarks for the benefit of those listeners who are coming to the work of the Sessionaires for the first time. Primarily the group’s work falls into the general episteme of post-modern music, that is to say that it refuses to conform to traditional teleological or heuristic narrative models.

An example will perhaps clarify things. The title of the piece Death on the Clyde would lead a listener of ‘traditional’ orientation to expect the ensuing musical discourse to follow the backward moving narrative strategy which has as its locating a priori the liberal democratic legal principle of habeas corpus (the works of Agatha Christie are exemplary archetypes here). The criminalistic expectation initiated by the title, however, is immediately subverted by the opening line: “we’re going on a honeymoon”. The teleology is reversed! Instead of moving backwards the momentum of the song is seen to be projecting itself towards a hopeful future.

In an almost Joycean manner, however, we begin to see that the true art of the Sessionaires lies in their ability not to draw simple irony by deviating from a consensus of moral opinion, but rather to exploit the auto-referentiality of the song itself, to heap paradox upon paradox — witness the glorious, almost transcendental, ambiguity of the opening lines of the fourth verse:

“We’ll leave the octuplets that you had for a bet
while I was in Tibet with the architect”

Of course at first this sounds like an almost conventional expression of the paradigm of male chauvinism — the primary male voice expressing its own potency through boasts of virility and callousness, a classic example of the self-perpetuating phallocentric consciousness. And yet the piece will not allow the closure of meaning here, and again conventions are open to subversion — for the male voice of authority goes on to announce that it has run away from the proof of its own reifying potency — with an architect, an occupation primarily reserved, in a patriarchal society, for men! Can this be true? Phallocentrism afraid of itself?!

If this is the meaning (and in typically brilliant style the authors of the piece refuse to give us clues as to which meaning is the ‘real’ meaning) then we are exploring an area of the artistic consciousness which has previously had no voice, but which through this music has been allowed to speak.

In such speech, however, lies a deadly danger; this surely is the message of the end of the song. Suddenly we are bombarded with an extract from the chorus of Those were The Days; the realisation that popular music is inter-textual is dropped upon us like a bombshell, all songs are merely re-writings of all other songs and in such a context meaning becomes meaningless, as indeed do the lyrics of the song – the repetitive “da da da” representing the formless sounds that proceed before our inclusion in the super-ego of society facilitated by our acquisition of speech.

Truly this majestic work of melodic stone masonry is finally and irrevocably a testament to the frustrated consciousness of the artist in the post-modern world.

Prof. Anthony Thosser UCLA 08.18.90

Videos

Jon E. Parker & The Sessionaries – Vigiles (2013)

The following videos predate the 2013 remastering of The Sessionaires music and the sound quality is of even lower standard.

The Sessionaires – Bumble Bee Song (1990)

The Sessionaires – Biggles In A Basket (1990)

Notes

Narratio From Wikipedia

Picture of the history section of a library
Library Picture

The Vigiles or more properly the Vigiles Urbani (“watchmen of the City”) or Cohortes Vigilum (“cohorts of the watchmen”) were the firefighters and police of Ancient Rome.

History

The Triumviri Nocturni were the first men, being privately owned slaves, organized into a group that combated the common problems of fire and conflagrations in Rome. The privately operated system became ineffective, so in the interest of keeping himself and Rome safe, Augustus instituted a new public firefighting force called the Vigiles. Augustus modelled the new firefighters after the fire brigade of Alexandria, Egypt. The Vigiles were also known by their nickname Spartoli or “little bucket fellows” which was given to them because of the buckets they carried water in, which were made of rope sealed with pitch.

In AD 6, Augustus levied a 4% tax on the sale of slaves and used the proceeds to set up the new force.[contradictory] They were commanded by the praefectus vigilum, who was of equestrian rank, and subpraefectus and were divided into seven cohorts commanded by a tribune. Each cohort was divided into seven centuries, each of 70–80 men commanded by a centurion. Each cohort patrolled two of the city’s fourteen administrative regiones. The cohorts were doubled in size in AD 205.

The Vigiles also acted as a night watch, keeping an eye out for burglars and hunting down runaway slaves, and were on occasion used to maintain order in the streets. Their most famous prefect, Naevius Sutorius Macro, succeeded Lucius Aelius Sejanus as Prefect of the Praetorian Guard after his men had been used by the Emperor Tiberius to retake control of the city from Sejanus’s soldiers.

Vigiles were stationed at the harbour cities of Ostia and Portus. A vexillatio (detachment) of four centuries was detached from Rome for four months at a time, with two centuries being stationed at each city.

The Vigiles appear to have lost their status as an independent unit and come under the authority of the Praetorian prefects sometime in the early 3rd century.

Organization

In the beginning, the corps had difficulty recruiting men. In an effort to entice men to enlist the Lex Visellia was passed in 24 AD, granting full citizenship and a bonus cash stipend to Vigiles after six years of service. By the 2nd century, citizens were also allowed to enlist.

The Vigiles were accommodated in barracks and patrolled the streets, especially at night, on the lookout for any unsupervised fires. Every householder was obliged to keep equipment for fighting fires, and the men themselves were equipped with pumps, buckets, hooks (for pulling down burning material), picks, mattocks and axes. They also used ballistae for knocking down burning houses and creating firebreaks. They even had their own medical support (medici), with four doctors attached to each cohort, and their own chaplains (victimarii). A siphonarius operated a pump and an aquarius supervised the supply of water. The ordinary firefighters were called milites (soldiers).

Duties

Fighting Fires

Every cohort was equipped with standard firefighting equipment. The sipho or fire engine was pulled by horses and consisted of a large double action pump that was partially submerged in a reservoir of water. The Vigiles designated as aquarii needed to have an accurate knowledge of where water was located, and they also formed bucket brigades to bring water to the fire. Attempts were made to smother the fire by covering it with patchwork quilts (centones) soaked with water. There is even evidence that chemical firefighting methods were used by throwing a vinegar based substance called acetum into fires. In many cases the best way to prevent the spread of flames was to tear down the burning building with hooks and levers. For fires in multiple story buildings, cushions and mattresses were spread out on the ground for people to jump onto from the upper levels.

A major duty of the Vigiles was to enforce preventative measures against conflagrations. Adequate fire fighting equipment was required in every home. The Digest of Justinian decrees that Vigiles are “ordered to remind every one to have a supply of water ready in his upper room”. While the Vigiles only had advising authority, their recommendations were often followed to avoid repercussions for negligence. Corporal punishment was the most common punishment for negligence according to the Digest of Justinia, “where persons have paid insufficient attention to their fire, the prefect…orders them to be beaten”.

During the Great Fire of Rome in AD 64 over one third of Rome was destroyed by flames. The young Emperor Nero helped to direct the vigiles in fighting the flames. It was rumoured that the Vigiles intentionally allowed the city burn under orders from Nero, who later built his palace on land that was cleared by the fire. Regardless, Nero enacted fire code laws following the Great Fire to avoid further conflagrations. These laws called for more public access to water and prohibited buildings from sharing a common wall.

Police Force

In addition to extinguishing fires, the Vigiles were the nightwatch of Rome. Their duties included apprehending thieves and robbers and capturing runaway slaves. The task of guarding the baths was added as a duty of the Vigiles during the reign of Alexander Severus when the baths remained open during the night. They dealt primarily with petty crimes and looked for disturbances of the peace while they patrolled the streets. Sedition, riots and violent crimes were handled by the Cohortes urbanae and (to a lesser extent) the Praetorian Guard, though Vigiles could provide a supporting role in these situations. The Vigiles were considered a para-military unit and their organisation into cohorts and centuries reflects this.

Quarters

Graffiti from wardroom of 7th Cohort of Vigiles - Roman Firefighters
Graffito from wardroom of 7th Cohort

The first Vigiles sequestered private homes and buildings to use as their command posts. It was not until the mid-2nd century that official stations were built explicitly for the Vigiles use. By the early 3rd century sub-stations (excubitoria), which held forty to fifty men, were constructed to accommodate the expanding city and the surrounding suburbs.
The locations of four of the seven cohort stationes or barracks have been fairly definitively identified:

  • I Cohort: On the east side of the Via Lata opposite the Saepta;
  • III Cohort: On Viminal;
  • IV Cohort: Near Baths of Caracalla;
  • V Cohort: On Caelian Hill near present site of S. Maria in Domnica.
  • The VII Cohort was probably housed in a statio provisionally identified near the Aemiian Bridge.

As mentioned elsewhere detachments of watchmen were stationed at Ostia and Portus and there were sub-stations throughout the city. What arrangements were made for policing the outer suburbs of the city is not known. (Certainly after the governmental reforms of Diocletian the jurisdiction of the Praefectus Urbis extended as far as the east coast and for one hundred miles in every direction. This might suggest that his subordinate, the Praefectus Vigilum, had a commensurate responsibility.)

Prefect of the Vigiles

Also known as the Prefect of the Watch, the Prefect of the Vigiles was an equite appointed by the emperor to command the seven cohorts. It was not a particularly sought after office until the 3rd century. Prominent jurists with a legal background began serving as Prefect to fulfil the magisterial capacity of the office. As a judge, the Prefect made rulings in his court for the common thieves caught during the night.

Eventually, the Prefect was given jurisdiction over daytime petty crimes as well. According to Justinian, in the event of more serious crimes the decision was made by the praefectus urbi, “if the offender is a person of such ruffianly [sic] and infamous character…the case is sent on to the prefect of the city”.

Beyond the office of the prefect, there was an extensive hierarchy of ranks within the Vigiles similar to that of the military’s. While some terms of service could extend beyond twenty years, most commissioned ranks were much shorter. Since the Vigiles never achieved the prestige of the Praetorian Guard or the Urban Cohorts, serving in the corps was usually only a means of achieving more honourable and lucrative posts.

One known Praefectus, Placidianus was put in charge of an expeditionary force sent to Gaul by Claudius II (Gothicus) on his accession in 269 AD to secure the lower Rhone valley against the so-called Gallic Empire. This is the only known instance of the holder of this office being given a substantive command outside Rome. Whether or not his force included vigiles from the city is uncertain.

Whether or not the Praefectus Vigilum had his headquarters in any of the stationes identified above or whether he had an entirely separate praefectura is not known. If he is associated with one of the barracks it is likely to have been that of I Cohort in the Via Lata.
In popular culture[edit]

The Vigiles often play a prominent role in the Marcus Didius Falco novels of Lindsey Davis, providing assistance in Falco’s investigations.In particular, Falco’s old army friend Lucius Petronius Longus is a ‘Watch Captain’ in Regio XIII.

References

Primary Sources

Tacitus, Publius Cornelius. The Annals. In: The Complete Works of Tacitus. (1942) Translated by Alfred John Church and William Jackson Brodribb.
Justinian I. (529) The Digest of Justinian. Book I, XV. Translated by Monro, Charles Henry. (1904) Cambridge University Press. pp. 50–51.

Secondary Sources

Bunson, Matthew. (1994) Encyclopedia of the Roman Empire. Facts on File Inc., New York, NY
Cambridge Ancient History. (1996) 2nd Ed, Vol. X: The Augustan Empire, 43B.C.-A.D.69 Ed. Bowman, Alan K.; Champlin, Edward; Lintott, Andrew. Cambridge University Press, New York.
Canter, H.V. (1932)
Conflagrations in Ancient Rome. The Classical Journal, Vol. 27, No. 4. Classical Association of the Middle West and South, Inc. pp. 270–288.
Daugherty, Gregory N. (1992) The Classical Journal, Vol. 87, No. 3. Classical Association of the Middle West and South, Inc. pp. 229–240. In: JSTOR.
Reynolds, P.K. Baillie (1996). The Vigiles of Imperial Rome. Chicago, Illinois: Ares. ISBN 0-89005-552-1. Originally published in 1926 by Oxford University Press, London.

The Man On The Clapham Omnibus From Wikipedia

The man on the Clapham omnibus is a hypothetical ordinary and reasonable person, used by the courts in English law where it is necessary to decide whether a party has acted as a reasonable person would – for example, in a civil action for negligence. The man on the Clapham omnibus is a reasonably educated and intelligent but nondescript person, against whom the defendant’s conduct can be measured.

The term was introduced into English law during the Victorian era, and is still an important concept in British law. It is also used in other Commonwealth common law jurisdictions, sometimes with suitable modifications to the phrase as an aid to local comprehension. The route of the original “Clapham omnibus” is unknown.

Viral Marketing

This slideshow requires JavaScript.