Belfast (the Film), ‘Everlasting Love’ and Van Morrison

Trying to kick-start some of my old routines now that restrictions seem to be lifting somewhat. Pre-pandemic I used to have seven people in my Film Group and we used to go along to our local arts centre to watch whatever was showing on the last Thursday of the month. It was a great way of discovering films you might never have actively chosen – Foreign language films and documentaries, as well as the odd Oscar winner or Hollywood blockbuster. Some were excellent and some were stinkers, but always worthy of discussion afterwards.

Our local arts centre

Sadly, at the moment, Film Group is reduced to two people, myself and one other. For various reasons I’ve lost five of our number from my life over the last couple of years, which is a pretty high dropout rate, but much of it down to the fact some people’s lives are now very different to how they were in 2019. Anyway, tonight I’m off to see a NTLive showing of Leopoldstadt, on this, Holocaust Memorial Day. Hopefully I’ll be able to recruit a few more film fans over the coming months, as let’s face it, ‘group’ is not really the collective noun for only two people. Out of interest, here is the list of films we randomly watched between 2012 and 2018, all carefully documented and subjectively scored (I produced many, many spreadsheets).


Earlier this week I also persuaded Mr WIAA to come with me to watch Kenneth Branagh’s new semi-autobiographical film Belfast. It was released in the US first, so some of you who visit this place have already seen it, but if you haven’t I would thoroughly recommend it.


Turns out both myself and Mr WIAA were born within a few months of Sir Ken, so any story he told of his childhood should have really resonated with us, and it did. The playing in the street, the toys given as Christmas presents, the clothes, school routines, television programmes and comics. The big difference however was that it was set in 1969 Belfast, so that’s where any similarity with our own childhoods ended. That was right at the start of The Troubles, when bombings and violence escalated on the streets of the city. It wouldn’t have occurred to me at the time that Belfast children aged nine, just like myself, were facing such danger on a daily basis. But it’s not all grim, the film is classed a comedy-drama, with much of the comedic moments coming from Jude Hill, the young actor who played Buddy, the character inspired by the young Kenneth Branagh.

One aspect of the film I found a little unbelievable, was that Buddy’s parents were played by the extremely good-looking actors Caitriona Balfe and Jamie Dornan. Looking back I didn’t remember our parents ever looking that good, but then Mr WIAA reminded me of some of the photos we have of his very fashionable mum and dad from those days, and they really were an attractive couple. We always think of our parents as being old despite them probably only being in their 30s when we were young. One of the memorable scenes in the film was from a family wake which in Ireland is cause for a bit of a party – Jamie Dornan, as well as being a great actor can also sing it seems, and his character entertained the mourners with this No. 1 hit song from 1969, Everlasting Love by Love Affair. I defy anyone who goes to see the film not to have it as an earworm for the next few days.


But of course when making a film set in Belfast, it was highly likely there would be much on the soundtrack from Van Morrison. After my trip to Belfast in 2018 I wrote a post about it here, and after seeing ‘the Man’s’ face on many of the city’s murals, I shared his signature song. This time I’m going to share Days Like This which was married up with a particulary poignant scene in the film and, this time, was the song of his I enjoyed most.

Days Like This by Van Morrison:


Days Like This was the title song of his 1995 album of the same name. It became one of the official anthems of the peace movement and was used in an advert promoting the cease fire.  Van Morrison performed it in front of a large audience when US President Bill Clinton visited Belfast.

So, ‘What’s It All About?’ – Back in March 2020, right at the start of the pandemic, I often warned that the virus would have massive implications for all of us, way beyond the effects of the virus itself. At the time I think I was classed as a bit of a doom and gloom merchant, especially as many of us were ‘loving the lockdown’ with all that fine weather. As the months and years have rolled by, many have indeed fallen victim to some of the negative side-effects of the pandemic, which has turned their lives upside down. I think we’ve escaped the worst of it but I do miss some of my old routines, Film Group being one of them. As I said above, hopefully over the course of 2022 I’ll find some new film fans to join our ‘group’ of two.

As for the film Belfast, it certainly brought back many happy memories of my own childhood which, excluding the backdrop of The Troubles, was scarily similar to Buddy’s. Not all of us go on to become a Sir (or Dame) however, so there was obviously something about the young Kenneth Branagh that made him destined for great things.

I think the soundtrack to Belfast lifted it up a notch, and although the scene with the song Everlasting Love is strangely out of kilter with the rest of the film, it certainly added a bit of joyfulness and you leave the cinema with a bit of a smile on your face. I know I did.

Until next time…

Days Like This Lyrics
(Song by Van Morrison)

When it’s not always raining there’ll be days like this
When there’s no one complaining there’ll be days like this
When everything falls into place like the flick of a switch
Well my mama told me there’ll be days like this

When you don’t need to worry there’ll be days like this
When no one’s in a hurry there’ll be days like this
When you don’t get betrayed by that old Judas kiss
Oh my mama told me there’ll be days like this

When you don’t need an answer there’ll be days like this
When you don’t meet a chancer there’ll be days like this
When all the parts of the puzzle start to look like they fit
Then I must remember there’ll be days like this

When everyone is up front and they’re not playing tricks
When you don’t have no freeloaders out to get their kicks
When it’s nobody’s business the way that you wanna live
I just have to remember there’ll be days like this

When no one steps on my dreams there’ll be days like this
When people understand what I mean there’ll be days like this
When you ring out the changes of how everything is
Well my mama told me there’ll be days like this

Oh my mama told me
There’ll be days like this

Oh my mama told me
There’ll be days like this
Oh my mama told me
There’ll be days like this
Oh my mama told me
There’ll be days like this

Big Voice, Big Performances, Big Personality: RIP Meat Loaf

Well, after writing a couple of themed posts, I fully intended to use this week’s effort to pay tribute to some of the people from the world of film and music we’ve already lost this year. First there was Sidney Poitier, then Ronnie Spector, and last week R. Dean Taylor, all of whom have appeared around here over the years in some guise. But I’m a music blogger of a certain vintage and the artists I grew up listening to are inevitably now of an even older vintage and we are losing them at an alarming rate. Few of us yesterday could have failed to notice who else has just been added to the growing list of ‘those we have lost in 2022’.

RIP Meat Loaf 1947-2022

He hailed from a big state, and was a big man with a big voice who gave big performances. Marvin Lee Aday is not a name many of us would have been familiar with but when you mention the name Meat Loaf, all that changes. The amount of time dedicated to him on mainstream news channels yesterday proved that. The last tribute I wrote was about another man from Texas, Mike Nesmith. He was primarily a singer who became an actor. Meat Loaf was primarily an actor who became a singer, and it showed. Like long-term collaborator Jim Steinman (who sadly died last year) he had a background in musical theatre, so when they came to making their first album together, Bat Out of Hell, it was very much in that vein – a tough sell to record companies in the mid-1970s.

Bat Out of Hell by Meat Loaf:


Considering it was such a tough sell, it’s remarkable to think that it’s now clocked up over 500 weeks on the UK Albums Chart and sold over 43 million copies worldwide. (I have a feeling those numbers will now rise for a time as always happens after the sudden death of a much-loved artist).

We often go in circles around here and it wasn’t lost on me that my original plan to write about Ronnie Spector today could possibly have led to Bat Out of Hell anyway. Working in the opposite direction, The Meat Loaf album is often compared to the music of Bruce Springsteen, and in particular his album Born to Run. Bruce’s album is often noted for it’s Phil Spector-like ‘Wall of Sound’ arrangements and production, used so effectively when recording Ronnie’s albums with the Ronettes. Others may choose to disagree, but I’m buying that connection.

Two Out of Three Ain’t Bad by Meat Loaf:


The album cover for Bat Out of Hell is a very familiar one to most of us of a certain age as even if we didn’t own it ourselves (I never did), we had friends who would have done. Here is where the ‘memory’ part of this post comes in. Back in 1978 when the album was unleashed on an unsuspecting nation, I had just finished school and moved into the city to start life as a student. The familiar routines had all gone, the school boyfriend and I had parted company for a time, and many of my friends had moved elsewhere in the country. Some thrive on such new beginnings, but I’m not ashamed to admit that I didn’t, and was a bit of a lost soul that first term.

By good fortune, my across-the-corridor neighbour in our halls of residence came from a village only about 10 miles from where I grew up. By a quirk of geography she had gone to a different secondary school but it turned out she knew a lot of people from my village and we soon became friends, always heading to the dining hall together for meals (very scary to enter that cavernous hall on your own – some risked starvation as they avoided it completely). When we weren’t studying we often visited each other’s rooms and although I had brought my cassette player from home, she had her record player and the album Bat Out of Hell. We listened to it often and I seem to remember the combination of Meat Loaf, a bit too much Leibfraumilch, and falling down the steps to our corridor one evening, led to a trip to A&E for me the following morning. It turned out to be just a sprain, but I felt bad, as although my exams had already finished, my new friend (who came with me) had one that afternoon. I think she did ok however as she spent much of her time in the hospital waiting area revising.

Paradise by the Dashboard Light by Meat Loaf with Karla DeVito:


Music wise, I’ve barely scratched the surface here but despite not making any money from that first album (a common theme it seems for 1970s artists), Meat Loaf continued to make new albums for decades to come, so made up for it later in life. There were fallings out with Jim Steinman who understandably felt as the creative force behind the albums he was being overlooked, but fortunately they made up down the line. The pair of them will possibly be up there right now, contemplating Bat Out of Hell IV. (A bit of a contradiction in terms!)

Meat Loaf and Jim Steinman

As for me, the loss of Meat Loaf will not affect me greatly, but as ever you feel for their family and friends who will miss them immensely. Is it because we are all getting older ourselves that we start to wonder when we will be at that age when never a week goes by without losing someone from our personal lives. It’s getting closer all the time and things I had never contemplated when I started this blog only six years ago (wills and pensions) have started to rear their heads.

When we lose someone from the world of music however, we can’t help but remember what we were doing when they released their seminal album, and I have enjoyed revisiting that time when my new friend and I were 18-year-old freshers, and a bit wet behind the ears. The album was played at many a party that year (when we plucked up courage to go) but I will remember it most from those evenings spent in her student room – Haven’t seen her for nearly 40 years so perhaps time to visit ‘the socials’ and see what she’s up to.

Until next time… RIP Meat Loaf.

Bat Out Of Hell Lyrics
(Song by Jim Steinman)

The sirens are screaming and the fires are howling
Way down in the valley tonight.
There’s a man in the shadows with a gun in his eye
And a blade shining, oh, so bright.
There’s evil in the air and there’s thunder in sky,
And a killer’s on the bloodshot streets.
Oh, and down in the tunnel where the deadly are rising,
Oh, I swear I saw a young boy down in the gutter,
He was starting to foam in the heat.

Oh, baby, you’re the only thing in this whole world,
That’s pure and good and right.
And wherever you are and wherever you go,

There’s always gonna be some light.
But I gotta get out,
I gotta break it out now,
Before the final crack of dawn.
So we gotta make the most of our one night together.
When it’s over you know,
We’ll both be so alone.

Like a bat out of hell
I’ll be gone when the morning comes.
When the night is over
Like a bat out of hell
I’ll be gone-gone-gone.
Like a bat out of hell
I’ll be gone when the morning comes.
But when the day is done, and the sun goes down,
And the moonlight’s shining through,
Then like a sinner before the gates of heaven,
I’ll come crawling on back to you.

I’m gonna hit the highway like a battering ram
On a silver black phantom bike.
When the metal is hot and the engine is hungry,
And we’re all about to see the light.
Nothing ever grows in this rotting old hole.
And everything is stunted and lost.
And nothing really rocks
And nothing really rolls
And nothing’s ever worth the cost.

And I know that I’m damned if I never get out,
And maybe I’m damned if I do,
But with every other beat I’ve got left in my heart,
You know I’d rather be damned with you.

Well, if I gotta be damned you know I wanna be damned
Dancing through the night with you.
Well, if I gotta be damned you know I wanna be damned—
Gotta be damned, you know I wanna be damned—
Gotta be damned, you know I wanna be damned
Dancing through the night—
Dancing through the night—
Dancing through the night with you.

Oh, baby, you’re the only thing in this whole world,
That’s pure and good and right.
And wherever you are and wherever you go,
There’s always gonna be some light.
But I gotta get out,
I gotta break it out now,
Before the final crack of dawn.
So we gotta make the most of our one night together.
When it’s over you know
We’ll both be so alone.

Like a bat out of hell
I’ll be gone when the morning comes.
When the night is over
Like a bat out of hell
I’ll be gone gone gone.
Like a bat out of hell
I’ll be gone when the morning comes.
But when the day is done and the sun goes down,
And the moonlight’s shining through,
Then like a sinner before the gates of heaven,
I’ll come crawling on back to you.
Then like a sinner before the gates of heaven,
I’ll come crawling on back to you.

I can see myself tearing up the road
Faster than any other boy has ever gone.
And my skin is raw but my soul is ripe.
No one’s gonna stop me now,
I’m gonna make my escape.
But I can’t stop thinking of you,
And I never see the sudden curve until it’s way too late.

And I never see the sudden curve ’til it’s way too late.

Then I’m dying at the bottom of a pit in the blazing sun.
Torn and twisted at the foot of a burning bike.
And I think somebody somewhere must be tolling a bell.
And the last thing I see is my heart
Still beating,
Breaking out of my body and flying away,
Like a bat out of hell.

Then I’m dying at the bottom of a pit in the blazing sun.
Torn and twisted at the foot of a burning bike.
And I think somebody somewhere must be tolling a bell.
And the last thing I see is my heart
Still beating, still beating,
Breaking out of my body and flying away,
Like a bat out of hell.
Like a bat out of hell.
Like a bat out of hell.
Oh, like a bat out of hell!
Like a bat out of hell!
Like a bat out of hell!

Alyson’s Archive #9 – David Bowie, Six Years Gone and ‘Sorrow’

Welcome to this occasional series where I share the contents of my archive box of teenage memorabilia. I always knew these random bits and pieces would come in handy some day, but little did I think back in the 1970s, they would find their way onto such a thing as a ‘blog’, courtesy of that as yet unthought of invention, the world wide web.

I got a little badge this week from the WordPress people as it was my blog’s 6th birthday. It’s not difficult to forget when that anniversary comes around as I posted my first set of ‘memories’ the day we heard of the death of David Bowie. Six years already though – Hard to believe, on either score. Time perhaps to delve back into my box of teenage memorabilia and it didn’t take long to find something of interest.

Back in 1973 I often bought pop magazines aimed at teenage girls and one of these was Hit (note the star instead of the dot – an often used graphics ploy back in those days). What a diverse group of artists (and tennis players!) mentioned on the cover, but we were also invited to David Bowie’s exclusive party which was apparently being held to mark his farewell to pop performances. Well, we all know how that turned out, but in July ’73 he had abruptly retired the character Ziggy Stardust during a show at London’s Hammersmith Odeon, so maybe more to do with temporary burnout. To quote David, “Ziggy wouldn’t leave me alone for years. That was when it all started to go sour. My whole personality was affected. It became very dangerous. I really did have doubts about my sanity.”

Does anyone recognise the woman with David?

I love reading these snippets from the past as they are exactly that, primary sources, written at the time. Interesting to hear who was at the party and of the marriages that were in place at the time. Mick Jagger had come out top on the dance floor apparently which has held him in good stead as he is still performing those moves on stage today. On the menu were such culinary delights as smoked salmon, turkey and strawberries and cream – We were easily pleased back then it seems as the era of the ‘foodie’ and the celebrity chef was still a long way off.

1973 was an incredibly busy year for David Bowie and at one point he had six albums concurrently in the UK Albums Chart. It had been ‘his time’. Got me to thinking about how I consumed this wealth of Bowie goodness back then and it didn’t take long for me to remember that my 1972 Christmas present (from Santa) was a Murphy cassette recorder – For soon-to-be-teens like myself, the affordability of these machines changed our lives. When visiting some of the music blogs written by Americans, like Rich from KamerTunesBlog, I am constantly amazed how many albums they owned by the time they were out of single digits. As a family we certainly weren’t poor, but my pocket money at that time wouldn’t have extended beyond the odd single, or a compilation album bought with birthday or Christmas money. Having my own cassette player/recorder (emphasis on the recorder) changed all that, and unbelievably I still have the operating instructions for it in my box of memorabilia. By the time we got to September 1973 when his ‘farewell party’ (got to laugh, but not like a gnome) took place, I would have been able to tape four of his chart singles from that year already.

But as we all know, he didn’t retire from pop performances in 1973 but continued to reinvent himself every few years, always coming up with a new persona and style of music. I’ve done a fair bit of reading about him this week and am starting to wonder if we will ever see his like again as he was also an actor of renown, an artist and so much more.

Got me to thinking about the many albums he made during the period 1969 to 1984 when I would have been following his music more than I would have done in his later years. Would I be able to put them in order of release if I tested myself. Here they are in a random layout – How would you do? (Answer in the Postscript.)

But my goodness we’ve come a long way with this one and still no song. Since the magazine article above was from 1973 I think it’ll have to be something from that year. As I’ve already shared The Jean Genie and Life On Mars? on the blog, here is Sorrow from later on in 1973, taken from the Pinups album featuring songs by British bands from the 1960s that influenced David as a teenager. The song was first recorded by the McCoys in 1965, and then by the Merseys in 1966. David’s version reached the No. 3 spot on the UK Singles Chart in Oct 1973. If you watch the clip to the end, there’s a bit of a funny out-take.

Sorrow by David Bowie:


What’s your favourite album of those shown above? As ever, I’d love to hear from you.

Until next time…

Sorrow Lyrics
(Song by Richard Gottehrer/Jerry Goldstein/Bob Feldman)

With your long blonde hair and your eyes of blue
The only thing I ever got from you
Was sorrow sorrow
You acted funny
Trying to spend my money
You’re out there playing your high-class games of sorrow sorrow

You never do what you know you ought to
Something tells me you’re a Devil’s daughter
Sorrow, sorrow
Ah, ah, ah

I tried to find her
Cause I can’t resist her
(I tried to find her)
I never knew just how much I missed her sorrow sorrow

With your long blonde hair and your eyes of blue
The only thing I ever got from you
Was sorrow sorrow

Oh-oh-oh-oh
Oh-oh-oh, oh-oh

With your long blonde hair
I couldn’t sleep last night
With your long blonde hair

Ah, ah, ah
Ah, ah, ah, oh, yeah
Ah, ah, ah
Ah, ah, ah, oh, yeah

Postscript:

Easy for Bowie fans but for the rest of us here is the order of David’s studio album releases.

M. David Bowie (1969)
I. The Man Who Sold the World (1970)
N. Hunky Dory (1971)
H. The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars (1972)
I. Aladdin Sane (1973)
D. Pin Ups (1973)
K. Diamond Dogs (1974)
J. Young Americans (1975)
O. Station to Station (1976)
B. Low (1977)
F. “Heroes” (1977)
A. Lodger (1979)
C. Scary Monsters (and Super Creeps) (1980)
E. Let’s Dance (1983)
G. Tonight (1984)

For any of you who also remember with great fondness the analogue world of cassette recorders, here are some pages from my little manual of operating instructions. Happy days.

Aretha, Clarence and Muscle Shoals: Another Special Place In Time

A new year and a renewed vigour to find out more about the music that’s accompanied me through life. In 2020, I finally got round to pinning down Laurel Canyon on the map. I’d known about it as a place for years, and of how it became a hotbed of creativity for those musicians who went to live there in the late 1960s, but I’d never taken the time to investigate the geography of it. The special place I’m going to pin down this time, is Muscle Shoals.

Strangely enough, although I’d often heard of Muscle Shoals as the place where musicians gravitated to whenever they wanted to create a bit of rhythm and blues magic, it hadn’t clicked that the spelling is not the one used for the shellfish. Anything linked to the word shoal must surely be fishy related and coastal I thought, but no, Muscle Shoals is a smallish town (called a city in the US) in the far north-west corner of Alabama. It does sit on the Tennessee River however and early settlers did find a shallow area where mussels and clams were gathered. Before the distinct spelling for the shellfish came about, they simply called the place Muscle Shoals.

The first film I went to see back at our local cinema after a pandemic-enforced break of 18 months, was Respect, the Aretha Franklin biopic. I learnt so much more about her from watching it, and now understand how she became the Queen of Soul. None of that might have happened however if she’d not made her way down to Muscle Shoals at a crucial juncture in her career.

Rick Hall, Producer/Engineer and his FAME Studios in Muscle Shoals

In the late 1950s, a very driven local lad called Rick Hall set up a recording studio in Muscle Shoals and recruited session musicians from nearby Sheffield and Florence. These musicians became known as the Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section, and despite being individually unremarkable, they soon became a tight unit and ended up creating a unique sound, fusing the blues, country and gospel. It came as a great shock to many black artists, such as Wilson Pickett, to find his backing band full of very ordinary looking ‘white dudes’.

The Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section later known as the Swampers

But back to Aretha Franklin. After years of trying to make it as a jazz singer, she was persuaded to start finding songs that ‘moved her’ rather than trying to come up with a polished image. After securing a deal with Jerry Wexler at Atlantic Records, they both headed down to Alabama where she paired up with Rick Hall and the Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section. Their modus operandi was not to work with an arranger, or with sheet music, but to instead jam their way to a hit record. Her first recording with them was, I Never Loved A Man (The Way I Love You). The hits then just kept on coming. Aretha had found her new ‘sound’.

I Never Loved A Man (The Way I Love You) by Aretha Franklin:

Many artists and bands recorded at Rick Hall’s studio over the years, the Rolling Stones, Percy Sledge, Candi Staton, Etta James, Clarence Carter and many more. As often happens however, in 1969 the Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section jumped ship and set up their own rival studio, also in Muscle Shoals. Rick wasn’t deterred and soon replaced them with new musicians who also knew how to create that very special crossover sound. Both studios did well and this small town, for a time, became the unlikely epicentre of the music business.

When trying to learn more about Muscle Shoals earlier on this week, I discovered a wonderful 2013 documentary on YouTube (link here). You may well have seen it already, but if not I would thoroughly recommend it. It explains how the Muscle Shoals sound could really only have happened in that geographical area. Those ‘white dudes’ had grown up absorbing black music so it was part of their DNA. There were no barriers when making music together and whether black or white, everyone had ‘soul’.


In 1974 the band Lynyrd Skynyrd had a big hit with the song Sweet Home Alabama. I’ve always liked it but only now understand the significance of the following lines of lyric:

Now Muscle Shoals has got the Swampers
And they’ve been known to pick a song or two

Lord, they get me off so much
They pick me up when I’m feelin’ blue
Now how about you?

The song is a bit of a controversial one, and was written in answer to two songs by Neil Young. That verse however was added to acknowledge the help given to the band by the Swampers in their early days, making demo reels with them at their Muscle Shoals studios. A nice tip of the hat. Lynyrd Skynyrd remain connected to Muscle Shoals, having since recorded a number of times there and making it a regular stop on their concert tours

Sweet Home Alabama by Lynyrd Skynyrd:


But this is the song that’s stayed with me more than any other since watching the Muscle Shoals documentary. In the interviews with an older Rick Hall, it came across loud and clear he had been brought up dirt poor and although he knew his dad had done his best, the desire to pull his family out of poverty was the driving force behind his phenomenal work ethic, without which there would have been no Muscle Shoals sound. Patches was a song written by the lead singer of Chairmen of the Board, but when Rick Hall heard it he felt it related to his own personal history, and he persuaded Clarence Carter to record it at his FAME Studios. In 1971 it won the Grammy for Best Rhythm and Blues Song.

Patches by Clarence Carter:


As happened with my Laurel Canyon post, I finally feel as if I understand what happened in Muscle Shoals back in the 1960s/70s and how it came about. I also now realise it’s not a place on the Alabama coast after all, but a small town on the Tennessee River. The geography of the place definitely had a lot to do with the magic that was created there but none of it would have happened without Rick Hall, or Patches as he was called as a boy, because his clothes were so ragged. Without him there would have been no studio, and no Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section. Without those musicians there would have been no special sound, and perhaps no Aretha. Most definitely a very special place in time.

Until next time…

Patches Lyrics
(Song by Ronald Dunbar/Norman Johnson)

I was born and raised down in Alabama
On a farm way back up in the woods
I was so ragged that folks used to call me Patches
Papa used to tease me about it
‘Cause deep down inside he was hurt
‘Cause he’d done all he could

My papa was a great old man
I can see him with a shovel in his hands, see
Education he never had
He did wonders when the times got bad
The little money from the crops he raised
Barely paid the bills we made

For, life had kick him down to the ground
When he tried to get up
Life would kick him back down
One day Papa called me to his dyin’ bed
Put his hands on my shoulders
And in his tears he said

He said, Patches
I’m dependin’ on you, son
To pull the family through
My son, it’s all left up to you

Two days later Papa passed away, and
I became a man that day
So I told Mama I was gonna quit school, but
She said that was Daddy’s strictest rule

So every mornin’ ‘fore I went to school
I fed the chickens and I chopped wood too
Sometimes I felt that I couldn’t go on
I wanted to leave, just run away from home
But I would remember what my daddy said
With tears in his eyes on his dyin’ bed

He said, Patches
I’m dependin’ on you, son
I tried to do my best
It’s up to you to do the rest

Then one day a strong rain came
And washed all the crops away
And at the age of 13 I thought
I was carryin’ the weight of the
Whole world on my shoulders
And you know, Mama knew
What I was goin’ through, ’cause

Every day I had to work the fields
‘Cause that’s the only way we got our meals
You see, I was the oldest of the family
And everybody else depended on me
Every night I heard my Mama pray
Lord, give him the strength to make another day

So years have passed and all the kids are grown
The angels took Mama to a brand new home
Lord knows, people, I shedded tears
But my daddy’s voice kept me through the years

Sing,
Patches, I’m dependin’ on you, son
To pull the family through
My son, it’s all left up to you

Oh, I can still hear Papa’s voice sayin’
Patches, I’m dependin’ on you, son
I’ve tried to do my best
It’s up to you to do the rest

I can still hear Papa, what he said
Patches, I’m dependin’ on you, son
To pull the family through
My son, it’s all left up to you

Farewell 2021, The Association and ‘Windy’

It’s the last day of 2021 and like many of us I’ve just looked back to see what I wrote on this same day last year. As expected it was all about what an awful year it had been, but I did add, “At least there is hope on the horizon, as vaccines are now coming on stream faster than you can say Jack Robinson (god bless the scientists). Hopefully by Spring, life will have started to get a bit easier for all of us.”

Each person’s pandemic experience has been different, but personally I’ve not felt this year has been any easier at all. In fact it’s been a whole load worse in some ways as I’m fairly sure my old life has gone for good, never to return. I am aware some families have had a far worse experience, so not the time to moan about it, but my goodness, lets hope 2022 is indeed a better year. If my old life has gone, I need to set about creating a new one.

In 2020 I was more prolific with my blogging than I’ve been this year – We had this momentous new situation to deal with and there was much to write about. There were rants, posts written purely to entertain, reviews and diary entries (all accompanied by an appropriate song). This year I’m aware my posts have been a bit more downbeat, as I think I’m suffering pandemic fatigue. Apologies for that, but hope you’ve noticed I’ve tried to end the year a bit more joyfully, kickstarted by sharing a few words of wisdom from her Dollyness, Ms Parton.

Revisiting favourite old songs makes me happy, as does finding out so much more about them than was ever possible back in the day. Tears sometimes prick my eyes when I’m out and about battling whatever restrictions are currently in place (visiting my mum in her care home has been a challenge, as has earning my living and meeting up with friends), but making a ‘new’ old song discovery, always raises the spirits. This year, as happened last year, my favourite new discovery was from the late 1960s. What can I say, I was born too late.

Windy by The Association:


Because The Association were never that well-known over here in the UK, when their song Never My Love appeared on the soundtrack to one of the dramas we watched on telly this year, it was new to me, and I was immediately smitten by their sunshine pop sound. Unbelievably, that song turned out to be one of the most listened to of the 20th century, but over in North America and not here. Of course I ended up writing about it and in the comments boxes mention was made of other hit records by The Association. One of those hits was this song, Windy, which I can’t help thinking sounds like the theme tune to a kids telly show from my childhood, but I’m not having much luck finding out if that was actually the case. Maybe someone out there could help? Whatever, maybe because of that perceived association with my childhood, it makes me smile whenever I hear it.

It wasn’t about this Windy

The song was written by Ruthann Friedman about a man, but in the version by The Association they changed the lyrics to make Windy a girl. It’s a long time since anyone called me a girl, but after another shitty year, there is nothing I would love more than to: Trip down the streets of the city, Smilin’ at everybody I see (whilst not wearing a mask). Who knows, maybe in 2022?


Until next time… A very Happy New Year to everyone who drops by this place.

Windy Lyrics
(Song by Ruthann Friedman)

Who’s peeking out from under a stairway
Calling a name that’s lighter than air?
Who’s bending down to give me a rainbow?
Everyone knows it’s Windy

Who’s tripping down the streets of the city
Smiling at everybody she sees?
Who’s reaching out to capture a moment?
Everyone knows it’s Windy

And Windy has stormy eyes
That flash at the sound of lies
And Windy has wings to fly
Above the clouds (Above the clouds)
Above the clouds (Above the clouds)

And Windy has stormy eyes
That flash at the sound of lies
And Windy has wings to fly
Above the clouds (Above the clouds)
Above the clouds (Above the clouds
)

Who’s tripping down the streets of the city
Smiling at everybody she sees?

Who’s reaching out to capture a moment?
Everyone knows it’s Windy

Who’s tripping down the streets of the city
Smiling at everybody she sees?
Who’s reaching out to capture a moment?
Everyone knows it’s Windy

Pirate Ships, the Rolling Stones and ‘Paint It Black’

Well, I hope everyone enjoyed their Christmas festivities. Although I said we would be home alone this year, that didn’t turn out to be the case, as we were actually invited out in the end and didn’t have to do any cooking on the day at all. It was also quite reassuring to see my sister-in-law getting in a bit of a flap over the serving up of the turkey and trimmings, as I thought that only happened to me. Even the best home cooks find it a challenge to coordinate the roasting, heating, boiling and stirring of so many dishes at the same time it seems.

DD had a lovely time at her boyfriend’s parents, but of course we are now teasing them that next year it will be their turn, so we can all be together. Watch this space. Problem is the bar has been raised in terms of what is served up nowadays. Back in the day my granny made Christmas dinner for 15 of us, and it was delicious, but that was before the era of the ‘celebrity chef’ Christmas Cookbook and of: three types of stuffing; red cabbage; sprouts with chestnuts; and gluten-free/vegan options. It’s all got a bit more complicated.

100 years ago many of us could only afford root vegetables for Christmas dinner – Now some of us choose them.

The good thing about eating early-ish elsewhere, is that you still have a fair chunk of evening when you get home and our Christmas presents beckoned. As ever there were a few ‘makes’ in our stockings so I started work on my new jigsaw and Mr WIAA got down to creating the Black Pearl, courtesy of his traditional gift of an Airfix kit. Down at the other end of the country DD was putting together a scene from her latest Lego set (yes, Lego for adults is now a big thing apparently, as well as Airfix kits). Three days later and two of us have finished their ‘make’. One of us still has a fair way to go…

But this is a music blog, and although I had no idea what the featured song might be when I started out with this one, as often happens, it has fallen into my lap. Anyone who has watched the Pirates of the Caribbean film series will know the Black Pearl is a ship, and that actor Johnny Depp plays Captain Jack Sparrow, an eccentric pirate characterised by his slightly drunken swagger, slurred speech and flailing hand gestures. Initially Sparrow was just supposed to act a bit cocky, but after researching 18th century pirates, Johnny compared them to modern rock stars and decided to base his performance on Keith Richards.

Keith has even appeared in the film franchise with Johnny, playing his father.

The song that fell into my lap was this one, Paint It Black, by the Rolling Stones. I’m not often quite so literal when it comes to song choice, but Mr WIAA did paint his model black and it was the ship captained by a character inspired by the song’s co-writer, Keith Richards.

I’ve said around here before that I’ve never really been a fan of the Rolling Stones which will probably come as no surprise to regular visitors to this place, but I can’t help but be impressed by their longevity as a band. I was saddened to hear of the death of Charlie Watts earlier on this year but in true Stones’ fashion, after a short break, their tour carried on without him. I am fond of some of their songs though, and this is one of them. It reached the top of the UK Singles Chart in 1966 and it was the first time they made use of the Indian sitar. Some critics thought they were trying to copy their rivals the Beatles, but Brian Jones had a background with the instrument, after studying with Ravi Shankar, so it was only a matter of time before it happened. As ever with Stones’ songs, there doesn’t seem to be a definitive explanation as to the meaning behind the lyrics, but it does seem to be about grief and loss of sorts.

Paint It Black by the Rolling Stones:


Here we are at the end of 2021 and looking at his DOB, it seems Keith has just turned 78. I’m fairly sure no-one back in 1966 would have thought the Stones would still be going strong over 55 years later. Like the 18th century pirate however, they are other-worldly. They are the stuff of legend, and certainly don’t look like any of the grandads (great-grandads?) I know. We’re entering totally new territory where some of the ‘pop stars’ of the 1960s might well keep going as energetic octogenarians. Whatever their secret is, I wish they would share it.

Until next time.

Paint It Black Lyrics
(Song by Mick Jagger/Keith Richards)

I see a red door and I want it painted black
No colours anymore, I want them to turn black
I see the girls walk by, dressed in their summer clothes
I have to turn my head until my darkness goes

I see a line of cars and they’re all painted black
With flowers and my love both never to come back
I see people turn their heads and quickly look away
Like a newborn baby, it just happens every day

I look inside myself and see my heart is black
I see my red door, I must have it painted black
Maybe then I’ll fade away and not have to face the facts
It’s not easy facing up when your whole world is black

No more will my green sea go turn a deeper blue
I could not foresee this thing happening to you
If I look hard enough into the setting sun
My love will laugh with me before the morning comes

I see a red door and I want it painted black
No colours anymore, I want them to turn black
I see the girls walk by, dressed in their summer clothes
I have to turn my head until my darkness goes

Hmm, hmm, hmm…

I wanna see it painted, painted black
Black as night, black as coal
I wanna see the sun blotted out from the sky
I wanna see it painted, painted, painted, painted black

Yeah!

Hmm, hmm, hmm…

Postscript:

For the record, I did complete my jigsaw a few days later and here is my Christmas 2021 effort.

My 400th Post and Christmas, WIAA Style

WIAA: Alyson…, oh Alyson.

ALYSON: Hi WIAA, I am here, it’s just that I’m feeling a bit discombobulated by all the uncertainly that’s crept in over the last week so don’t know where to go with this one. Last year I wrote a (hopefully humorous) blog post about the planned five day Christmas Bubbles, but then at the 11th hour, the rules all changed. It’s looking like that might happen again, and for the second year in a row, many of us will find ourselves…

WIAA: Do you have any Christmas songs to share with your lovely followers?

ALYSON: To be honest WIAA, as this is my fifth Christmas as a music blogger I fear I may have revisited all my favourites already (link here), and despite the fact many well-known artists have recorded something new this year, none of their songs have really resonated with me. Here’s something to kick off with though – I mentioned at the end of 2020 that my favourite ‘new song discovery’ of that year was José Felicianos version of California Dreamin’. As the whole world still seems to be going through a topsy-turvey time, it doesn’t feel that unusual for a music blogger from the Highlands of Scotland to be drawn to a song by a Puerto Rican singer/songwriter from 1970. I give you Feliz Navidad (don’t think you’ll need a translation).

Feliz Navidad by José Feliciano:


WIAA: Good one Alyson. What have you been doing in the build up to Christmas this year?

ALYSON: Well, it’s a bit of a weird one, as we’re now having to lie low to keep ourselves virus-free in advance of guests arriving at the holiday hideaway. Personally I think both sets will now cancel, which will be a bit of a blow, but before the whole lying low thing happened, I had tentatively returned to my regular cinema-going ways.

WIAA: What have you been to see?

ALYSON: It didn’t occur to me until now but maybe the reason I thought of José’s song is that I went to see Stephen Spielberg’s remake of West Side Story last week, all about the rivalry between two New York gangs, the Jets, and the Puerto Rican Sharks.

WIAA: Did you enjoy it?

ALYSON: I think I’m still processing it. The 1961 film won 10 Academy Awards, and when I first watched it as a teenager, I was blown away by it – Although some of the musical numbers were outstanding in the new film, as were the two female leads, there was something about it that felt a bit ‘silly’ for 2021. Our viewing habits have become a lot more sophisticated and I don’t think the younger generation would see it as a period drama. The clothes and themes could almost be contemporary, but the language used by the gangs and their balletic style of dance is most definitely not contemporary. Again, I was discombobulated and wondered if it really needed to be remade.

WIAA: Did you cry at the end?

ALYSON: Oh WIAA, you know me well. I did indeed despite knowing how it ended having watched the original many times. The love story was inspired by Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, but a story that never dates it seems, and just as relevant today. Stephen Sondheim, the musical’s lyricist, died aged 91 at the end of November, just at the time of the film’s release. As a bit of a tribute to him, here is the Tonight Quintet from the original film, an incredible piece of ‘opera’ based on the duet between Maria and Tony from earlier on in the musical. The five parts of the quintet are sung by the Jets, the Sharks, Tony, Maria, and Anita.

Tonight Quintet by the West Side Story Cast:


WIAA: Well, you really got into your stride there despite me feeling a bit unloved earlier on – A blank page sitting on a blogging platform with only five days to go until Christmas.

ALYSON: Yes I can always rely on you to get me back on track. Can you believe that when I press the publish button on this one, we’ll have racked up a total of 400 blog posts together. It’s been a journey, and we’re not finished yet are we? I think I can fly solo now WIAA, so happy to let you head off and do whatever blogs have to do behind the scenes, fixing broken links and the like. Merry Christmas to you.

WIAA: Merry Christmas Alyson.

Five years ago, in my first year of blogging, I bemoaned the fact I was one of the sandwich generation, someone who worked full-time but also had adult offspring still living at home and an elderly parent to look out for. As regulars around here will know, none of these things now apply – I waved goodbye to my old workplace four years ago, my mum moved into her care home three years ago and DD headed out into the world two years ago. It’s happened gradually, but it turns out you kinda miss being the squished filler in a sandwich, especially around Christmastime.

It’s become traditional at this time of year that I share some songs relevant to each generation of my family, and Mr WIAA and I have had some fun this week watching old clips on YouTube when we probably should have been engaged in something more productive, by hey, I’m a loose filler who has lost her bread, so it’s allowed.

2 Become 1 by the Spice Girls:


Can you believe it’s 25 years since Girl Power became ‘a thing’ courtesy of those larger than life Spice Girls. Back then I was a busy mum with a baby and a responsible job so they really weren’t aimed at my demographic, but you couldn’t fail to get caught up in all their Zig-a-Zig-ah-ing back in 1996. They’d already had two No. 1 hits that year and at Christmastime they did it again with this one, 2 Become 1. I just loved the video for it set in New York, and it reminded me that Mr WIAA and I had become an item just before Christmas a few years earlier – A great time of year to be all loved up. I was shocked therefore to learn it was all filmed in a studio on Old Compton Street, London, using a ‘green screen’. Anyway, this one’s for DD, as although I know what the song is really all about, the romantic in me just wants to acknowledge the fact it’s also about two individuals forming a relationship and perhaps welcoming a new little person into the world one day.

Yesterday I went to visit my mum at the care home. I had to wear full PPE and the visit was heavily supervised as her care home has yet again been forced into lockdown and all their Christmas activites were cancelled. I did however manage to play her a few Christmas songs on my phone from the only festive album that resided in our house when I was growing up. Yes, yet again it’s going to be that Texan Jim Reeves, with one of the songs from his best-selling album, Twelve Songs of Christmas. My mum was my age 25 years ago when the Spice Girls were at No.1 with their song, and a big help to me when I was a busy mum myself. How things change with the passage of time, and food for thought indeed. Think she enjoyed hearing Jim though, and hopefully it did bring back memories from the distant past.

As for us, I’m going to defer to Mr WIAA who seems to find good clips to watch. Another person we lost from the world of music recently was John Miles. As 1976 seems to have been my favourite year to revisit these last 12 months, here is an epic 2001 Proms performance of his song, Music, which reached the No. 3 spot on our UK Singles Chart back in ’76. It’s not a Christmas song, but the audience certainly make it look festive with all those lights. He was only aged 72 when he died. RIP John.

Music by John Miles:


One final indulgence, and yet again not a Christmas song, but one that is set to clips from the Emma Thompson film Last Christmas. In terms of plot, if you are using the lyrics from the song Last Christmas as inspiration, it really can’t get any more literal than this, and a bit ridiculous really. If however you are a fan of the songs of George Michael, as I am, it was a no-brainer you would go and see it at the cinema when it came out two years ago.

Five years ago George Michael died on Christmas Day, and his passing affected me more than any other person we’ve lost since I started this blog. My sidebar has a couple of categories dedicated to him. The song used is Praying for Time from 1990, and it still gives me goose-bumps when I listen to it. The song deals with, “the many social injustices faced by so many, and questions the conditioning society has created and why it can be so hard to be kind to one another.” He was a good egg George, and many of his random acts of kindness were only discovered after his death. Around this time of year we should all try and take a leaf out of his book, as over 30 years on, those social injustices are still around and have become compounded by the pandemic.

Praying for Time by George Michael:


Another final, final, indulgence (nearly done now I promise) – If you scroll forward to 0:22 in the clip above you’ll find the logo for an established London restaurant. Mr WIAA is commissioned by third parties to make miniature sculptures for their various clients. Sometimes we have samples left over, and I liked this chap, so he sits on my desk. Watching that video clip, we just found out who he was for!

Anyway, it’s a very wordy one this, but as it’s my 400th post and my 5th Christmas as a music blogger I really did want to get something published before the big day. Thankfully, with my blog’s encouragement, I got there in the end.

If you celebrate it, hope you have a lovely Christmas Day with no last minute changes to your plans. Unlike 25 years ago, or indeed 5 years ago, we’ll be having a very quiet time indeed but that’s just how life rolls. As ever I’ll raise a glass to George on the day – He is missed, but never forgotten.

Until next time…

Praying For Time Lyrics
(Song by George Michael)

These are the days of the open hand
They will not be the last
Look around now
These are the days of the beggars and the choosers

This is the year of the hungry man
Whose place is in the past
Hand in hand with ignorance
And legitimate excuses

The rich declare themselves poor
And most of us are not sure
If we have too much
But we’ll take our chances
‘Cause God’s stopped keeping score

I guess somewhere along the way
He must have let us all out to play
Turned his back and all God’s children
Crept out the back door

And it’s hard to love, there’s so much to hate
Hanging on to hope
When there is no hope to speak of
And the wounded skies above say it’s much much too late
Well maybe we should all be praying for time

These are the days of the empty hand
Oh, you hold on to what you can
And charity is a coat you wear twice a year

This is the year of the guilty man
Your television takes a stand
And you find that what was over there is over here

So you scream from behind your door
Say, “What’s mine is mine and not yours”
I may have too much but I’ll take my chances
‘Cause God’s stopped keeping score

And you cling to the things they sold you
Did you cover your eyes when they told you
That he can’t come back
‘Cause he has no children to come back for

It’s hard to love, there’s so much to hate
Hanging on to hope when there is no hope to speak of
And the wounded skies above say it’s much too late
So maybe we should all be praying for time

Nostalgia, The Monkees and RIP Mike Nesmith

Nostalgia.

That was to be the theme of today’s post as it’s something many of us feel acutely at this time of year. When I started this retrospective music blog nearly six years ago, I hadn’t yet realised that writing about old Christmas songs can really pull at the heart strings. You remember happy Christmases with your family as a child, you remember happy Christmases with your friends as a young adult, and then happy Christmases with your own children when they came along. (Link to previous festive posts here.)

From this end of the conveyor belt of life it’s all a bit different – Many of the people in those memories are no longer with us and this year DD will be with her boyfriend’s parents on the big day, which seems only fair after having bagsied them for two years in a row because of last year’s sudden change in ‘the rules’. I am still hopeful we might have grandchildren some day, which would really perk things up around here, but of course a grandchild is not just for Christmas so I’ll have to be patient on that front.

But back to nostalgia, defined as, “the pleasure and sadness that is caused by remembering something from the past and wishing that you could experience it again”. Looking at various examples of its use in a sentence, nostalgia can be either a good thing or be somewhat crippling, as in reality we can’t go back in time. Best to just remember it all as it was and enjoy the memories.

It soon became apparent that my first musical memories were from 1966 when I was aged six. I was already aware of the Beatles, and of many of the singers who appeared on the prime time shows my parents watched, but when the Monkees television show (also called The Monkees) hit our screens that year, I was immediately smitten. Their scheduled slot in the UK was teatime on a Saturday, so perfect for family viewing. I was therefore saddened to hear of the death of Mike Nesmith last night before going to bed, the third Monkee to leave us.

(Theme From) The Monkees by the Monkees:


I have written about both Davy Jones and Peter Tork around here before, and now it’s going to be Mike Nesmith. Let’s hope it’s a while before Micky Dolenz puts in an appearance.

Anyone who remembers those days will know that Mike was the tall Monkee with the woolly hat and the Texan drawl (although at age six I wouldn’t have known what a drawl was). He was one of the older Monkees and was primarily a musician rather than an actor. The show ran for two seasons, between 1966 and 1968, and followed the adventures of four young men trying to make a name for themselves as a band. Ironically, because of the success of the show, they became one of the most popular bands of the 1960s, but got increasingly frustrated at the control exerted over them by the show’s creator. They were acting out their roles and were never expected to actually play their own instruments or write their own songs. In time that changed however and some of their own songs, many written by Mike Nesmith, proved to be the most popular of all.

Mike Nesmith 1942 – 2021

It sounds as if Mike hadn’t been well for some time but he had been well enough to head out on one last Farewell Tour which ended only last month. He was no longer the young man in the woolly hat, and had to stay seated for the first few shows of the tour, but made it through to the bitter end. A fitting conclusion perhaps to his life.

My favourite fun fact about Mike Nesmith is that his mother invented Liquid Paper (known to others perhaps as Tippex or correction fluid). She went from being a ‘single mom’ to being the owner of a multi-million dollar company. As someone who went through a lot of Liquid Paper working in offices over the years, I thank her for helping us keep our paperwork looking tidy. I’m guessing in these days of paperless offices, it is no longer needed.

Since starting this blog I’ve made a lot of new song discoveries and one of my favourites is Different Drum by Linda Ronstadt and the Stone Poneys. It was written by Mike Nesmith back in 1964, long before his years with the Monkees so thank you Mike for that amazing song. Time to hear what it sounded like in your hands.

Different Drum by Linda Ronstadt and the Stone Poneys:


So, ‘What’s It All About?’ – I suppose it was inevitable that if I started to revisit the music of my youth, there was a fair chance many of the associated artists would already be no longer be with us, and many more tributes have been written around here over the last few years. The upside however is that you get a chance to revisit their back catalogue of songs and enjoy listening to them all over again. Keeping nostalgia in check is a tough ask at this time of year for those of us no longer in the first flush of youth, but there is definitely a pleasurable side to it too.

Until next time… RIP Mike Nesmith

Different Drum Lyrics
(Song by Mike Nesmith)

You and I travel to the beat of a diff’rent drum
Oh, can’t you tell by the way I run
Every time you make eyes at me Wo oh
You cry and you moan and say it will work out
But honey child I’ve got my doubts
You can’t see the forest for the trees

So, don’t get me wrong it’s not that I’m knockin’
It’s just that I’m not in the market
For a boy who wants to love only me
Yes, and I ain’t sayin’ you ain’t pretty
All I’m sayin’s I’m not ready for any person
Place or thing to try and pull the reins in on me
So Goodbye, I’ll be leavin’
I see no sense in the cryin’ and grievin’
We’ll both live a lot longer if you live without me

Oh, don’t get me wrong it’s not that I’m knockin’
It’s just that I’m not in the market
For a boy who wants to love only me
Yes, and I ain’t sayin’ you ain’t pretty
All I’m sayin’s I’m not ready for any person
Place or thing to try and pull the reins in on me
So Goodbye, I’ll be leavin’
I see no sense in the cryin’ and grievin’
We’ll both live a lot longer if you live without me

A Break From Rolling News, A Return To The Sixties and More Northern Soul

Another Saturday and another blog post from me. I’ve suddenly become quite prolific after a bit of a fallow period. We’ve all had our ups and downs over the last couple of years but thankfully my downs seem to be temporary. I feel for those whose mental health has really been affected however, as there just doesn’t seem to be enough help out there for the increased demand. This week’s news headlines won’t have helped – Could Christmas be cancelled yet again?

Something Mr WIAA and I have actively tried to cut back on over the last fortnight, is rolling news. Being home-based, we never wanted to fall into the trap of watching daytime telly, so always kept the screen in the kitchen tuned to a news channel. Problem is, in 2021 the stories have been bleak indeed, and not just down to the pandemic. Best to simply catch the radio news first thing in the morning then stay well away from it all for the rest of the day – Turns out a bit of property porn, or touching base with the heir-hunters when having a break, is far less depressing.

Kay Burley from the world of rolling news

Forgive me this indulgence, but over the years, whenever something quite big happened in our family, we didn’t just rush home to tell each other. Oh no, we also burst into song, the first lines from this song to be specific. One of DD’s favourite films as a young child was Summer Holiday and it was watched many, many times. Near the end of the film, Don (Cliff Richard) puts the world’s press right, via the medium of song. Here he is singing Big News from 1963. (Starts at 0:33.)

Big News by Cliff Richard:

Sticking with a 1960s theme, my Saturday morning starts well nowadays. Not just because of Rol’s Saturday Snapshots, but also because of the radio show Sounds of the Sixties. The current presenter Tony Blackburn is now aged 78, but his enthusiasm for the songs he plays is infectious, and in a 15 minute period he can fit in around five classic songs, punctuated with his short and snappy, so bad they’re good, dad jokes.

Couldn’t get to sleep so went to buy a new mattress – Salesman said if you lie near the edge you’ll soon drop off.

Tony started out in pirate radio and of course was the first DJ to be heard on BBC Radio 1 when it launched in 1967. The first record he played was The Move’s Flowers in the Rain, a useful fact for pop quizzes. He’s had a long career and even provided the inspiration for many a comedy sketch about aging, ‘not-so-cool’ DJs. Think Tony has had the last laugh though, as here he is still doing a job he adores all these years later – How many of us can say that nowadays. His first love was soul music and he always includes a floor-filler from the days of Northern Soul on his show. This morning’s pick was this gem from 1968, What by Judy Street.

What by Judy Street:

I’ve become fascinated by Northern Soul over the last few years and have written a fair few posts about the phenomenon that hit the North of England in the mid 1970s. I love to watch those dancers in action and live in hope I’ll master their moves whilst still fit enough to do so. The music usually drives the dance style, but because I wasn’t there at the time, tricky to pick it up in later life it seems. Maybe I’ll have to get one of those big circular skirts and put some talc on my laminate floor.

The song What was originally recorded by Melinda Marx, daughter of Groucho, and released in 1965. Judy recorded it in 1968 as the B-side to her single You Turn Me On. After being exported to England, it was picked up by DJs at Wigan Casino and became a big hit on the Northern Soul circuit.

So, ‘What’s It All About?’ – I used to be shocked when people I worked with said they didn’t really watch the news, as I always like to be well-informed about what’s going on in the world. It does start to wear you down however, when everything is negative, worrying and doesn’t give you much hope for the future. I will no doubt return to my old ways in due course, but for the moment, nice to have a bit of a break from it all.

It was a real delight to listen to back to back songs from the 1960s earlier on this morning – In a short space of time we were treated to Oh, Happy Day, Waterloo Sunset, Ain’t Nothing Like The Real Thing, Do You Know The Way To San Jose and I Couldn’t Live Without Your Love, as well as the song written about above. As for Tony Blackburn, just like Kay Burley in the world of television news, he’s not for everyone, but when interviewed he’s like the cat that got the cream, as he still can’t quite believe he gets paid for playing all these songs he loves. He is apolitical and never offers up his opinions, so his show makes for a nice relaxed start to the weekend. His predecessor Brian Matthews was more a connoisseur of ’60s music I think, often playing lesser known tracks, but Tony is a people pleaser and sticks to the ones we all know and love.

Right, time to dust off my plimsoles and get working on my spins and shuffles. If you want to find out more about Northern Soul, this episode of The Culture Show does well in explaining it all.

Until next time…

What Lyrics
(Song by H.B. Barnum)

Do you want me to get down on my knees
Beg you baby please cry a million tears
Do you want me to call you on the phone
Beg you to come home think of all the years

When I once lived in paradise
When the love light showed in your eyes

Oh tell me what
What (what) can I do when I still love you

What (what) can I say when I still want you
What can I do what can I say
You’ll never know this way

Do you want me to follow you around everywhere in town do you want a clown
Why do you treat me mean and cruel breaking every rule can’t I be your fool
We could make this a happy home
So come back where you belong

Oh tell me what (what) can I do when I still love you
What (what) can I say when I still want you
What can I do what can I say
You’ll never know this way

Please forgive me come back and then
We can fall in love
Over and over and over and over again

Oh tell me what (what) can I do
What (what) can I say
Say you’ll come back don’t stay away
What (what) can I do now baby

Postscript:

After pressing the publish button I made a bit of an interesting discovery. At the start of last week, my first post back after a break of a few weeks featured a song by Soft Cell. I of course mentioned that their first big hit in 1981 was a cover of Tainted Love, a Northern Soul favourite originally recorded by Gloria Jones.

In 1982 they also recorded What, and it got to the No. 3 spot on the UK Singles Chart. For some bizarre reason I don’t remember it at all, so can only put that down to the fact my life as a student had just come to an end and the world of paid work had begun – Different priorities. Anyway, here are Soft Cell with a very different version of today’s featured song. They obviously had an affinity for Northern Soul.

A Return to Live Theatre, Dolly Parton and the Legacy of ‘9 to 5’

Last time I wrote a bit of a frivolous post about people in the music business with very ‘big’ hair, inspired by the fact my own locks are currently proving troublesome (damp winter weather I think). It didn’t take long for me to get to Dolly Parton, as although in today’s world her look could almost be seen as understated, back in the 1970s her blousy, blonde wigs did raise a few eyebrows.

Dolly then and Dolly now

I was probably also drawn to Dolly because last week I had my first time back in our local theatre since before the pandemic. If you live in the far north of Scotland, the opportunities to see a West End show are limited indeed, so if a production comes to us, it feels only right we should support it.

My friend and I had bought tickets for Dolly’s stage musical 9 to 5 nearly two years ago, but after having been postponed twice, this time the show actually went ahead. Sadly the friend I should have been going with has not been well for some time, another victim not of the virus, but of one of the many side-effects of the pandemic itself. I wish her well and hope she is back to her old self soon, but in the meantime she very magnanimously said I could give her ticket to another. In the end it wasn’t easy, as some of us are still nervous about attending mass gatherings and no-one relished the prospect of wearing a mask throughout the show, but quite appropriately an old colleague from my days of working in offices said she’d love to come.

I went to see the film 9 to 5 when it first came out back in 1980. It was the first time Dolly had appeared on the big screen and just as with everything else she turns her hand to, she rose to the challenge beautifully, and ended up winning several awards, both for her acting and for the title song. The film was the brainchild of fellow 9 to 5 actor Jane Fonda, and she wanted it to be a comedy rather than a preachy, feminist drama, in order to get the message across more subtly. If you’ve never seen it, the basic premise is that three very capable women live out their fantasies of getting even with, and overthrowing, the company’s ‘autocratic, sexist, egotistical, lying, hypocritical bigot’ boss (the full gamut). They show you can run an office without a boss, but you can’t run an office without the secretaries.

9 to 5 by Dolly Parton:


To be honest I think I just took it at comedic face value first time around and I hadn’t yet stepped foot in a working office to know how things were anyway. Watching the stage show last week, in 2021, I was blown away by how much things have changed over the decades. Just possibly, the empowerment given to female office workers back in 1980 via the film, kickstarted the revolution that led to equal pay for equal work, flexible working, job-share schemes and so on. I know it was well underway by the time I joined the workforce, and by the time I had DD, the opportunity to work part-time or flexibly was firmly in place.

It’s not lost on me that since the pandemic, most people now seem to work from home, and a return to the 9 to 5-style office will probably never happen again, but I really appreciate that I entered (and left) the workplace at probably just the right time. Coincidentally, C over at Sun Dried Sparrows recently shared some job adverts from 1975 which were a real eye-opener. As I say, we’ve come a long way.

An unexpected surprise for me at last week’s show was that Dolly herself appeared on stage, albeit via a big screen. She wrote all the songs for the musical but is also the narrator. In her inimitable style, she gives us many ‘Dollyisms’ and also sings 9 to 5. It was a fun way to break myself back into theatre-going. If you listen carefully to the song’s intro, the clacking typewriter rhythm was devised by running her acrylic fingernails back and forth against one another.

So, ‘What’s It All About?’ – I’m not sure if this is a temporary blip or what, but when I returned to blogging this time last week I was a bit down and admitted to not feeling myself. Turns out she doesn’t even have to bottle it, all you have to do is immerse yourself in Dolly World (as opposed to Dollywood) for 48 hours and your spirits are raised no end. The feedback to my first Dolly post was very positive which shows just how much she is loved and admired. She seems to be a genuinely ‘good’ person who is now putting all her energies into making life better for others, whether it be through scholarships, her Imagination Library, creating local job opportunities, or simply through her music.

There are many, many famous quotes from her out there but I think most of us know them already, so to finish off I’m going to share the address she delivered to students at the University of Tennessee when she received her honorary degree. I think she won over a great many of the sceptical academics that day, and quite rightly so (we’ll ignore Prof Grumpy to her right) – She may be blonde but Dolly is most definitely not dumb. If you scroll through to 3:55 you will get to the point where she passes on some of the wisdom she has used to great effect in her own journey through life. I really hope the graduating students took heed, as they have one helluva fairy godmother in Dolly.

Until next time…

9 to 5 Lyrics
(Song by Dolly Parton)

Tumble out of bed
And stumble to the kitchen
Pour myself a cup of ambition
And yawn and stretch and try to come to life

Jump in the shower
And the blood starts pumpin’
Out on the streets, the traffic starts jumpin’
For folks like me on the job from 9 to 5

Workin’ 9 to 5
What a way to make a livin’
Barely gettin’ by
It’s all takin’ and no givin’

They just use your mind
And they never give you credit

It’s enough to drive you
Crazy if you let it

9 to 5
For service and devotion
You would think that I
Would deserve a fat promotion

Want to move ahead
But the boss won’t seem to let me
I swear sometimes that man is
Out to get me, hmmm

They let you dream
Just a watch ’em shatter
You’re just a step on the boss man’s ladder
But you got dreams he’ll never take away

In the same boat with a lot of your friends
Waitin’ for the day your ship’ll come in
And the tide’s gonna turn
And it’s all gonna roll you away

Workin’ 9 to 5
What a way to make livin’
Barely gettin’ by
It’s all takin’ and no givin’

They just use your mind
And you never get the credit
It’s enough to drive you
Crazy if you let it

9 to 5
Yeah, they got you were they want you
There’s a better life
And you think about it, don’t you?

It’s a rich man’s game
No matter what they call it
And you spend your life
Putting money in his wallet

9 to 5
Oh, what a way to make a livin’
Barely gettin’ by
It’s all takin’ and no givin’

They just use your mind
And they never give you credit

It’s enough to drive you
Crazy if you let it