Months Of The Year In Song: January, A Time Of New Beginnings

At last I find myself writing about a month whose name isn’t derived from a Latin number. That would be because we have moved on from the Roman calendar to the Julian and Gregorian ones. The ‘unorganised winter’ period became ‘organised’ and the months of January and February were added to the calendar so that it covered a standard lunar year of 354 days (a slight flaw there but in time it was adjusted for). The month of January is named after Janus, the god of beginnings and transitions in Roman mythology. Sounds about right.

A statue of the god Janus

Here in Scotland, which is in the Northern Hemisphere, it is the coldest month of the year, and true to form it has been very parky around here of late. A bit of a disaster in a year when our heating bills are sky-rocketing. Conversely, for all you lucky people in the Southern Hemisphere, it is your warmest month.

The actress January Jones – much prettier than Janus

As for songs relating to the month, I ended up with a few more suggestions than I expected, so let’s crack on with them. Before I start here are a few words from C of Sun Dried Sparrows fame:

“I have a slight case (is that the right word?!) of synaesthesia, and see the months (along with days of the week and letters of the alphabet) as colours. January is a colour that I can’t even describe, kind of grey but also purple.”

I hear you C, and although the colours in my head are not quite as vivid as the ones you possibly see, that grey/purple hue sounds about right, just as orange was apt for the month of October.

Just about everyone suggested the song January by Pilot for this edition of the series but I’m going to leave it for last, as it would have been my suggestion too. Other contributions came in first of all from Ernie Goggins, who put forward January Song by Lindisfarne. I see that song is from the album Fog On The Tyne which has been written about here before when I shared photos of my late father-in-law, who also came from Newcastle. The band really were at the top of their game back in 1971 when this beautiful song was recorded.


The next set of suggestions came in from Khayem and here are his own words:

“First up is Dave Goulder from 1970 with his song January Man, covered by the likes of Bert Jansch, Christy Moore and Martin Carthy. I’ve just got one, a rather fine version by Rachel Unthank & The Winterset, link here. Also, Nick Heyward eschewed folk for frenetic acoustic pop with his same-name-song in 1993.”

Two very different styles of song there and as I said in my reply to him last month, I was a big fan of the very cute Nick Heyward back in the day, so lovely to hear something from him that was new to me.  


The next contribution was from Rol:

“Very late to this, so I’ll keep it brief. I had a few suggestions, but I’ve narrowed it down to just one, The Decemberists with January Hymn.


Another beautiful folksy song and a great clip made up of footage from a harsh 1960s winter it seems (check out the person at 1:38 – very funny). Thanks Rol.

The final suggestion was from The Swede, who thought he might be too late, but because of my tardiness he wasn’t!

“I hope I’m not too late to offer a January song suggestion. Khayem beat me to it with my first thought of January Man, so I’ll head off in a 1960s psych/prog direction with The Doorway to January, an instrumental piece by Mandrake Paddle Steamer, a band formed in my home town of Walthamstow in 1967.”

Crikey TS, it seems the Summer of Love came to Walthamstow after all, but being only aged seven I imagine you missed out. Very psychedelic as you say.


But here is the song that immediately sprang to mind for many of us of a certain vintage, January by the Scottish band Pilot. Written by lead singer David Paton and produced by Alan Parsons (he of The Project fame and Dr Evil’s scientist) the song was their sole No. 1 hit, reaching the top spot this exact week back in 1975, where it stayed for three weeks.

January by Pilot:


The song, however, was not about the month but about a girl named January, the name taken from a female protagonist in a book that David Paton’s wife was reading at the time. It’s obvious now of course but I’m not sure if it clicked back in the day, it becoming a big hit for them at this time of year.

Before I go I want to share a discovery just made this morning. I was only 14 when Pilot appeared on TOTP with their song. A few months later an artist called Andy Fairweather Lowe also appeared on TOTP, as he had a hit with the song Wide Eyed and Legless. Until today I always thought the lead singer of Pilot and Andy were the same guy, who had now gone solo – separated at birth or what? I feel really silly now, but hey, I was young and had no access to any of the info we have at our disposal nowadays.

Andy on the left and David on the right

Next month will be February, so any song suggestions will be gratefully received as ever. The worst of the winter will be past by then hopefully, and our thermostats will return to more economically manageable settings. Lighter nights too, or rather lighter afternoons, which is always a good sign.

Until next time…

January Lyrics
(Song by David Paton)

January
Sick and tired, you’ve been hanging on me
You make me sad with your eyes
You’re telling me lies
Don’t go, don’t go

January
Don’t be cold, don’t be angry to me
You make me sad, come and see
Oh, January
Don’t go, don’t go

Life gets me higher (Higher)
I can show, I can glow
I can wake up the world, little world
Gotta know you, gotta show you

Sun, like a fire (Fire)
Carry on, don’t be gone
Bring me out of my home sweet home
Gotta know me, gotta show me
You’ve been facing the world
You’ve been chasing the world

January
Sick and tired, you’ve been hanging on me
You make me sad with your eyes
You’re telling me lies
Don’t go, don’t go

January
Don’t be cold, don’t be angry to me
You make me sad, come and see
Oh, January

Don’t go, don’t go

Time, it’s a flier (Flier)
Sunny day, fly away
English summers are gone, so long
Gotta go up, gotta blow up

Sun, like a fire (Fire)
Carry on, don’t be gone
Bring me out of my home sweet home
Gotta know me, gotta show me
You’ve been facing the world
You’ve been chasing the world

January
Sick and tired, you’ve been hanging on me
You make me sad with your eyes
You’re telling me lies
Don’t go, don’t go

January
Don’t be cold, don’t be angry to me
You make me sad, come and see
Oh, January
Don’t go, don’t go


Postscript:

Some of the other people who have been suggested also look like David Paton. I’ll leave you to be the judge.

King of the Canyon: RIP David Crosby

He really shouldn’t have survived the late ‘60s, but against all the odds he did, and made it to the grand old age of 81. Another week passes, and another legend passes, this time David Crosby, he of The Byrds, and Crosby, Stills & Nash fame.

Until I started this blog, which has been a real education in discovering the back stories to the artists and songs I grew up listening to, I didn’t know that much about David Crosby but early on in this ‘nostalgic journey through the tracks of my years’ I discovered a great affinity for the music of the late 1960s, and especially the folk-rock that came pouring out of the hotbed of creativity that was Laurel Canyon. David Crosby seemed to be at the centre of everything that went on there and whenever I watched any of the documentaries made about the place (written about here) he was usually one of the main contributors.

Here’s something new I didn’t know before, David’s parents came from two prominent New York families, the Van Cortlandts and the Van Rensselaers, both of whom first came to the Americas in the 17th century and settled in what was then New Amsterdam. His parents (regulars in society magazines) moved to LA in the 1920s after which his father became an Oscar-winning cinematographer. David’s older brother Ethan got into the music business first, quickly followed by David who by this time had flunked out of college. In 1964 he joined The Byrds and although not the best song-writer or instrumentalist, and often not the lead vocalist, he was responsible for their trademark soaring harmonies and particular phrasing. Here is Turn! Turn! Turn! from 1965.


But David being David, it didn’t take long for tensions to rise within the Byrds ranks, mainly because of his onstage political diatribes between songs. He further annoyed his bandmates when, at the invitation of Stephen Stills, he substituted for an absent Neil Young during Buffalo Springfield’s set at Monterey. This internal conflict boiled over during the summer of 1968, and David was given his P45, but thankfully for us, the partying which then ensued in the nooks and crannies of Laurel Canyon, led to the formation of Crosby, Stills & Nash. David is often credited with having been the architect of folk-rock and it didn’t take long for this new supergroup (Neil Young at times becoming a fourth member) to find great success, their self-titled debut album selling over four million copies and spawning two Top 40 hits, one of them being this song, Marrakesh Express.

Marrakesh Express by Crosby, Stills and Nash:


I’ve shared that song around here before and because I love the story behind the famous album cover, here it is again – The band had apparently been driving around with their photographer friend Henry Diltz when they saw an abandoned house with a sofa outside. They took the iconic picture and then went home. After finalising the name of the band, they realised they should change the seating order. Sadly when they returned to the same spot, the house had been reduced to a pile of timber, so the original picture stood. Glad they didn’t decide to change the name of the band to fit the picture, as Nash, Stills & Crosby just doesn’t cut it for me.

Some people from the world of music change their look every few years but from what I can see, David Crosby found a style that suited him in the late ’60s and just stuck with it. The hair may have turned white but right up until the end he still sported his long frizzy hair, distinctive moustache and sideburns. The look of a dandy was not for David and he seems to have been very comfortable in his own skin.


He was definitely an ornery and cantankerous kind of chap who fell out with just about everyone he ever worked with (although not Stephen Stills it seems) but maybe we need those kind of characters in life as they often act as the catalyst that brings about bigger change. Who knows, the whole Laurel Canyon scene might not have happened in quite the same way without him (and his supply of drugs!). He thankfully avoided joining the 27 Club, something some of his contemporaries (Jim Morrison, Jimi Hendrix and Janis Joplin) didn’t manage to do and ended up living a relatively long life. RIP David Crosby.

So, ‘What’s It All About?’ – It does seem as if every other post around here is a tribute nowadays, but as the years roll by, it’s kind of becoming inevitable. I’ve followed music keenly since the 1970s, and have really enjoyed delving back to the 1960s on these pages, an era I was not quite as familiar with. I am, however, conscious of the fact I don’t want the blog to become an obituary column so will restrict my tributes to those artists who mean something to me, or ones, like David, that I’ve written about around here before.

To those music bloggers from my circle who have lost people from their own lives recently, I hope I have not been insensitive. You know who you are and my thoughts are with you.

Until next time…

Turn! Turn! Turn! Lyrics
(Song by Pete Seeger)

To everything turn, turn, turn
There is a season turn, turn, turn
And a time to every purpose under heaven

A time to be born, a time to die
A time to plant, a time to reap
A time to kill, a time to heal
A time to laugh, a time to weep

To everything turn, turn, turn
There is a season turn, turn, turn
And a time to every purpose under heaven

A time to build up, a time to break down
A time to dance, a time to mourn
A time to cast away stones
A time to gather stones together

To everything turn, turn, turn
There is a season turn, turn, turn
And a time to every purpose under heaven

A time of love, a time of hate
A time of war, a time of peace
A time you may embrace
A time to refrain from embracing

To everything turn, turn, turn
There is a season turn, turn, turn
And a time to every purpose under heaven

A time to gain, a time to lose
A time to rend, a time to sew
A time for love, a time for hate
A time for peace, I swear it’s not too late

As It Happened: 1973 Revisited – Bowie Pinups and ‘Drive-In Saturday’

Tomorrow will be this blog’s 7th birthday. I will, however, always associate my foray into the world of music blogging with the death of David Bowie. The anniversary of his death is today, the 10th January, but it wasn’t until the following day that the news broke. It was a massive story, therefore my first post around here had to be about the man and his music (link here). I’ll have to admit that when he first appeared on the music scene in the early ’70s I was a bit too young for him, and being a pre-teen I was more disposed toward the other David, he of the Partridge Family. That of course changed with time, and over the last seven years, during this ‘nostalgic journey through the tracks of my years’, I have become in awe of his many talents and his constant ability to experiment with new genres.

Because David Bowie was not particularly aimed at young teenage girls – although of course many were big fans – I didn’t find many pinups of him in my box of memorabilia, but to mark the day here is a mini-selection from 1973. Can you believe that was now 50 years ago – where has the time gone? Also, despite the passage of time, nothing about David Bowie ever seems outdated (unlike my living room carpet below – apologies). In fact if he were just starting out today, I would wager his music and look of 50 years ago would still hold good. What an amazing era of rock and pop my generation has lived through. We were lucky enough to see our heroes in colour from day one, and the music delivery devices just got better and better. No grainy black and white footage for us. No crackly records, and wonky turntables. We were demographically blessed.

David Bowie pinups from 1973. Below, another kind of Pinups.


To be honest I didn’t really know what I was going to write about when I sat down to blog today but having mentioned the two anniversaries, I suppose it was almost inevitable it would become a David Bowie post. I missed the boat last year as I had thought a 1972 retrospective would have been a great idea for a series, it being the year I really started to get into music. That didn’t happen but I am now thinking 1973 would be a better year to revisit – I had become the proud owner of a Murphy Richards cassette recorder (a Christmas gift); my family had acquired a Toshiba colour television (our local TV Services shop sold one to nearly everyone in the village that year); and, I had moved up to secondary school from junior school, that move tying in with the receipt of decent pocket money with which to buy teen mags featuring our favourite rock and pop heroes. I still have much of the memorabilia from that year, so think I might be onto something. Watch this space as they say.

As for the featured song, it has to be a 1973 hit from Bowie. Three of his four hits from that year (Sorrow, The Jean Genie and Life On Mars?) have featured around here before, so here is Drive-In Saturday, yet another of his singles that peaked at No. 3 on the UK Singles Chart. The reason I know the aforementioned cassette player must have been a 1972 Christmas gift, is because I remember well recording it onto a Philips C90, and listing the song on the insert card. Happy days.

Drive-In Saturday by David Bowie:


It’s still a great sounding song isn’t it but what are the lyrics about? I am still having difficulty working that out at my grand old age, so my 12-year-old self had no chance. Let’s look into it all a bit more. According to Bowie himself, the song was written whilst on a train journey between Seattle and Pheonix and was inspired by the strange lights spotted amidst the barren landscape. It was about a future where people have forgotten how to make love, so they go back onto video-films that they have kept from the ’60s and ’70s. This was after a catastrophe of some kind, where some people are living on the streets and some people are living in domes. They borrow from one another and try to learn how to pick up the pieces.

As I said, my 12-year-old self would never have worked that one out, so I’m glad we now have access to the backstory, although the thought of only having the Carry On films and such like to explain the technicalities of makin’ love, makes me think Bowie’s future race was doomed anyway. Interesting how everyone who writes about a post-apocalyptic world thinks we will either be one of the chosen ones, living in a dome or bubble, or left to fight it out on the streets or in subterranean tunnels. The way things are going that seems about right and I have an awful feeling those making the big decisions over the last few years would end up in the dome, whereas the rest of us… .

The 02 arena where post-apocalypse our glorious leaders will take tips on procreation from Syd James and Barbara Windsor!

Drive-In Saturday is apparently heavily influenced by 1950s doo-wop which again I wouldn’t have realised at the time. I might well have picked up on the name-checks though, as he mentions Mick Jagger, the model Twiggy (who appears with him on the Pinups album cover), Karl Jung and David Sylvian. Ok, so not that last one, but it seems the frontman of the band Japan took his name from the lyrics to this song, where the ‘sylvian’ mentioned is a fissure in the brain associated with visionary and hallucinatory experiences (all very Bowie-esque).


So, ‘What’s It All About?’ – Little did I think when I wrote that first blog post on 11th January 2016, that I would still be going seven years later, but here I am. Appropriate to have revisited Bowie today as it kind of brings me full circle, with tomorrow marking the start of my 8th year of blogging.

I can safely say my life in 2023 bears no relation to the life I had in 2016 and all the ups and downs have been documented on these pages. I sometimes wonder if the blog had something to do with that, but more to do with the stage in life I had reached I think, when your offspring head out into the world creating their own lives, but at the same time, your parents start needing a lot of help. Thankfully for us DD is in a really good place at the moment, and has an exciting year ahead when the current fiancé will become Mr DD. (Wedding plans well under way.) My little mum is very content in her care home and despite my worry that when her nest egg ran out she would be evicted, there have as yet been no rumblings to that effect. Long may it continue. I’m pretty sure I would never have given up my secure job had I not started blogging but somehow Mr WIAA and I have managed to keep things ticking over via self-employment for the last four years now, so good for us, as being your own boss is on the whole a good thing. There have been stressful times when the work just hasn’t been coming in, but no daily commute or Monday morning blues for us. Every day could bring exciting new opportunities, and you know what, we do occasionally get those days.

But of course the best thing that has come from being a blogger, and more specifically a music blogger, is that I have become part of a little online community. I have met a fair few fellow bloggers in the real world now too, which had been an unexpected bonus from this hobby of ours. I was aged 55 when I started this place and still felt, in my head, quite young. I am now aged…, well you can do the maths, and now I don’t feel… quite so young. Having the pigment in your hair fade and your skin start to lose its elasticity will do that to a person, but all very superficial really, as most of the time I still feel like that 12-year-old girl who was bowled over by her new cassette recorder and who began a life-long relationship with ‘the tracks of her years’. Roll on the next seven years.

Happy Birthday WIAA for tomorrow – Love from Alyson

Until next time…


Drive-In Saturday Lyrics
(Song by David Bowie)

Let me put my arms around your head (do-doo-ah)
Gee, it’s hot, let’s go to bed
Don’t forget to turn on the light
Don’t laugh, Babe, it’ll be alright (do-doo-ah)
Pour me out another phone (do-doo-ah)
I’ll ring and see if your friends are home
Perhaps the strange ones in the dome
Can lend us a book, we can read up alone

And try to get it on like once before
When people stared in Jagger’s eyes and scored
Like the video films we saw

His name was always Buddy
And he’d shrug and ask to stay
She’d sigh like Twig the Wonder Kid
And turn her face away
She’s uncertain if she likes him
But she knows she really loves him
It’s a crash course for the ravers
It’s a drive-in Saturday

Jung the foreman prayed at work (do-doo-ah)
That neither hands nor limbs would burst
It’s hard enough to keep formation
Amid this fall out saturation (do-doo-ah)
Cursing at the Astronette (do-doo-ah)
Who stands in steel by his cabinet
He’s crashing out with Sylvian
The bureau Supply for aging men

With snorting head he gazes to the shore
Where once had raged the sea that raged no more
Like the video films we saw

His name was always Buddy (do-doo-ah)
And he’d shrug and ask to stay
And she’d sigh like Twig the Wonder Kid (do-doo-ah)
And turn her face away
She’s uncertain if she likes him (do-doo-ah)
But she knows she really loves him
It’s a crash course for the ravers (do-doo-ah)
It’s a drive-in Saturday, yeah

His name was always Buddy (do-doo-ah)
And he’d shrug and ask to stay
And she’d sigh like Twig the Wonder Kid (do-doo-ah)
And turn her face away
She’s uncertain if she likes him (do-doo-ah)
But she knows she really loves him
It’s a crash course for the ravers (do-doo-ah)
It’s a drive in Saturday, yeah, yeah

Drive-in Saturday
It’s a drive-in Saturday
It’s a drive-in Saturday (drive, drive-in Saturday)
It’s a drive-in Saturday (it’s a, it’s a, it’s a drive-in Saturday)
It’s a drive-in Saturday (it’s a, it’s a, it’s a, it’s a, it’s a)
(It’s a, it’s a, it’s a, it’s a)
It’s a drive-in Saturday
It’s a drive-in Saturday
It’s a drive-in Saturday
It’s a drive-in Saturday

Months of the Year in Song: December Departed

Yet again I’m up against a deadline, sneaking the latest edition of this series into the tail end of the month, and what a month it’s been. I had fully expected this edition to be a really festive one, full of jollity and Christmas songs, but for me, December 2022 has been memorable for the sheer number of deaths there have been both in the world of celebrity and closer to home.

The latest tally ‘closer to home’ is now seven deaths since the start of the month. None of them family or really close friends, but people I knew through their offspring, through work, or from my neighbourhood. Out there in the wider world the obituaries just keep on coming. Last night we heard of the death of Vivienne Westwood (would punk have happened in quite the same way without her?), and yesterday we also lost Pele, whose playing style probably gave football the moniker, ‘the beautiful game’. On Christmas Eve we lost Maxi Jazz, lead vocalist of British electronic band Faithless. To be honest, until reading a comment about him on another blog just before his death, I wouldn’t have known his name, but there can’t be many of us who weren’t aware of him. Such a striking man whose struggle with Insomnia gave us the dance track that even those of us who missed the Ibiza boat knew well. I’ve already written tributes for Christine McVie and Terry Hall this month, but we’ve also lost Jet Black of the Stranglers, and many others from the world of music and entertainment.

In clockwise direction: Vivienne Westwood and pals, Christine McVie, Terry Hall, Maxi Jazz, Jet Black

Insomnia by Faithless:


But this is supposed to be a post full of December songs and appropriately I’m going to kick things off with George Michael, who himself died on Christmas Day, 2016. That year had been incredibly cruel for losses but his death was the one that hit me hardest as his music had accompanied me throughout my entire adult life up until that point. I’ve shared his December Song (I Dreamed of Christmas) around here before, but no reason not to share it again.

December Song (I Dreamed of Christmas) by George Michael:


It always seems a bit odd listening to Christmas songs after the 25th so apologies for the timing of this post. Hope everyone who visits this place had a good time over the peak festive period, but I am also aware it can be a tough time for many. For the second year in a row we went out for Christmas lunch as it seemed high time that DD and the new fiancé gave it a bash. I can report back that everything went really well and I think she got a lot less stressed than I usually do when juggling so many dishes at the same time. When we got back home in the evening though it was just the two of us, so very different from the years when we had our own parents, Mr WIAA’s siblings and DD to entertain. Just the place we’ve reached on the conveyor belt of life I suppose.

DD’s Christmas table complete with fancy napkins!

Before I get on with the song suggestions, here is the bit of trivia I found really interesting back in September, but now find a bit boring and repetitive. Yes, yet again the month of December is named after a Latin number, this time ten, or decem, all because the Roman calendar used to have 10 months with a gap for an ‘unorganised winter’. Phew, think we’re done with all that now, so it should get a bit more interesting once we head into a new calendar year.

The first suggestion last time came in from Rick who thought the line, ‘I wanted to assassinate Christmas’, in the Teenage Fanclub song, December, was a really good one. First time this Scottish band has put in an appearance around here, so thanks Rick, and yes, a sentiment many of us probably agree with.


Our next pick came from Ernie Goggins who suggested Merle Haggard’s song, If We Make It Through December. Listening to the lyrics I can’t help thinking there must be many, many families out there thinking exactly the same thing this year. Sadly, the way things are going, I don’t think there will be much respite in January, or February, and the current incumbent at No. 10 is not going to offer up any easy fixes. But thanks Ernie, a new song for me, and I do like Merle’s voice despite the sad lyrics.

Got laid off down at the factory
And their timing’s not the greatest in the world
Heaven knows I been workin’ hard
Wanted Christmas to be right for daddy’s girl

I don’t mean to hate December
It’s meant to be the happy time of year
And my little girl don’t understand
Why daddy can’t afford no Christmas here


Next up we have a suggestion from Khayem who for the second time in this series came up with something from the band The The (I think he must be a big fan). Here are his own words:

‘Unsurprisingly, lots and lots of December songs out there, so I’m just going to stick with one, although it’s been re-recorded and covered several times over. It’s DecemberSunlight (no spacing) by The The. The original version appeared on the 2000 album NakedSelf.’

Thanks Khayem, and anyone who wants to investigate some of the many covers can find them in last month’s comments boxes (link here).


Rol promised to be kind this time, with fewer suggestions to drown me with. As it turns out, a couple of the songs he mentioned, I would have included myself anyway. First of all, I can’t write a December themed post without including this song from the Four Seasons. I always used to think it was simply called, Oh What a Night, but the official title is December, 1963 (Oh, What a Night). This time the lead vocals came from drummer Gerry Polci, with Frankie Valli just singing the bridge sections and backing vocals. Whenever I hear this song I am transported back to 1975 when our newly minted community centre was the focal point for teenage social life (no iPhones in those days). Most of our year at school headed along every Saturday night for the ‘disco’, where the decks were manned by some of our enterprising classmates. Fun times played out to songs like this one, and as I’ve said around here before, I think the Four Seasons provided the backdrop to my first kiss!

December, 1963 (Oh, What A Night) by the Four Seasons:


Another of Rol’s suggestions was this one, December, by Count Basie & the Mills Brothers. The Mills Brothers, originally known as the Four Kings of Harmony, were an American jazz and traditional pop vocal quartet who made more than 2,000 recordings that sold more than 50 million copies. They were active from 1928 to 1980 and were the first African-American artists to have their own show on national network radio in the US.

December by The Mills Brothers:


I am reminded of a Christmas several years ago when our blogging buddy Jez used to ask for suggestions for his very entertaining feature, The Chain. I’m not sure how it came about but I remember offering up this Mills Brothers song back then as I had it in my library, and no suggestions were ever rejected. As it turns out Jez isn’t very well at the moment, so if he reads this, we’re all wishing you well and hope you can get back to the important business of blogging soon. No pressure though, health comes first an’ all that.

A suggestion now from C of Sun Dried Sparrows fame. Here are her own words:

‘The first song that springs to mind for me is My<Dsmbr by Linkin’ Park featuring Kelli Ali – I know, you’d have thought they could have spelt it correctly, will it be disqualified on the grounds of having no vowels? I’m no Linkin’ Park fan usually, but I like Kelli Ali for her time with Sneaker Pimps and creator of some great solo material and there’s just something about this song that seems to fit the mood of the month.’

No, won’t be disqualified C, so lets give it a listen. Yes, I do hear what you say about it fitting the mood of the month. Thanks for this one.


This next song was alluded to by Rol, but it was left to Rigid Digit to come out and suggest it properly. December Will Be Magic Again, by Kate Bush from 1980. Kate, who now lives quietly in an English village, became the artist de jour this last summer after her 1985 song Running Up That Hill was used for an important scene in the hit television drama Stranger Things. After 37 years it finally made it to the top spot on the UK Singles Chart, Kate’s first No. 1 since Wuthering Heights in 1978. For some reason her Christmas song is not one of the staples you hear on the radio much nowadays, which is a great shame, as classic Kate Bush.


The final song for this post comes from our blogging pal The Swede, who has been conspicuous by his absence this festive period. I suspect he might be too jiggered for blogging after long shifts keeping the nation fed, but hopefully all is well with him. Here are his own words:

‘My suggestion for the next instalment in this series is Fred Neil’s cover of December’s Dream, a song that unfathomably remained unreleased in his lifetime. Fred’s voice can reduce me to a blubbering wreck at the best of times, but here he just about finishes me off. The original version of the song by John Braheny is also excellent.’

Crikey TS, I see what you mean about that song, it’s got me reduced to a blubbering wreck too. A new artist and song for me, but what a beautiful and pure voice he has. Thank you for that suggestion.


Right, that’s definitely your lot for this month, and for the 2022 segment of this series. The next edition will come out before the end of January so yet again I would be most grateful for any of your song suggestions for that month (but please be sparing as these posts take a lot out of a person – I was warned!).

It’s going to be a quiet Hogmanay for us this year as there has been a radical change in our neighbourhood over the last few years meaning that the people we used to party with have either moved away, suffered illness or sadly passed away. On a positive note, I went to visit my mum in her care home earlier today and despite many of them having come down with flu, she was in good spirits and sporting a hat made out of balloons in the shape of a reindeer. (They’d had a magician in to entertain.) The mum I used to know would never have contemplated wearing a balloon hat, but the mum I now have is much more fun-loving and up for anything, so a bit of a blessing really.

Whatever you do for Hogmanay, whether it be watching a firework display, heading off to a party, or cosying up in front of the telly, I hope you have a good one.

Until next time…

December, 1963 (Oh, What A Night) Lyrics
(Song by Bob Gaudio/Judy Parker)

Oh, what a night
Late December, back in ’63
What a very special time for me
As I remember, what a night

Oh, what a night
You know, I didn’t even know her name
But I was never gonna be the same
What a lady, what a night

Oh, I, I got a funny feeling
When she walked in the room
And my, as I recall
It ended much too soon

(Oh, what a night)
Hypnotizing, mesmerisin’ me
She was everything I dreamed she’d be
Sweet surrender, what a night

And I felt a rush
Like a rolling bolt of thunder
Spinning my head around
And takin’ my body under
(Oh, what a night)

Oh, I got a funny feeling
When she walked in the room
And my, as I recall
It ended much too soon

(Oh, what a night)
Why’d it take so long to see the light?
Seemed so wrong, but now it seems so right
What a lady, what a night

Oh, I felt a rush
Like a rolling bolt of thunder
Spinning my head around
And takin’ my body under

(Oh, what a night)
Do do do, do do, do do do do
(Oh, what a night)
Do do do, do do, do do do do
(Oh, what a night)
Do do do, do do, do do do do
(Oh, what a night)
Do do do, do do, do do do do.
..

Another Festive Ramble, Some Seasonal Globetrotting and ‘A Very Merry Christmas to You’

Well, it’s now or never, and I don’t mean Elvis’s version of O Sole Mio. In my seven years of blogging I’ve always written a few festive posts ahead of the big day, but none have so far been forthcoming this year. Life in the UK is a tad… challenging at the moment. Makes the writing of jolly upbeat posts harder than usual, but no reason not to try. As I’ve just mentioned Elvis, I think I’ll start the ball rolling with something from him, Blue Christmas, this performance from the ’68 Comeback Special. Was it his finest hour? Perhaps not, but it must have come close, and even sweeter as it came on the back of him being written off as an artist, after all those years holed up in Hollywood.


Quite an apt song to kick off with I think. For the past two years the festive season has been severely curtailed by the pandemic. The advice was always to keep all the doors and windows open if you were having the family round, which made things a bit cold and miserable. This year no-one can afford to both turn up the thermostat and celebrate Christmas, so again we’ll all turn blue with the cold. I’m jesting of course, or am I? It’s certainly going to be a tough time for many families. (At this point I have to share concern for my blogging buddies in the US, who if the forecasts are correct, are about to experience sub-zero temperatures of biblical proportions – please keep yourselves safe and warm.)

A Blue Christmas

Talking of families going through tough times, we still have a war, sorry Special Military Operation, being waged in Eastern Europe, causing so many families to be displaced. Several hotels in our town are hosting Ukrainians at the moment, and I noticed a few local charities had organised parties and presents for the children. Hopefully it cheered them up, but there is absolutely no doubt they would rather be at home in their own country with their dads. Let’s hope by this time next year that can happen. Like me you’ve probably heard this beautiful song being played many times in the run to Christmas this year, Carol of the Bells, written by Ukrainian composer Mykola Dmytrovych Leontovych. He apparently used a four note motif as an ostinato (musical phrase) which was taken from an ancient pagan Ukrainian New Year’s chant. Here is a choir in full national dress, and a music clip from the very seasonal film Home Alone. Aw, Kevin McCallister, a one-boy army.

Carol of the Bells from Home Alone by John Williams:


Although I had no qualms about sharing that piece of music from another part of the world, this one I am in two minds about, but it has become a bit of an earworm this year. It keeps popping up on the radio and I couldn’t understand why, but Mr WIAA tells me it features in an advert, which always revives interest. Is it ok that I’m enjoying listening to a middle-aged white bloke sing a Hawaiian Christmas song? Not sure, but I think so. Mele Kalikimaka (‘Merry Christmas’ in Hawaiian, a language that doesn’t use the letters R, Y, C, S or T, thus the substitutes), was written back in 1949 by R. Alex Anderson who was a golfing chum of Bing Crosby’s. Bing enjoyed the song so much he recorded it with The Andrews Sisters in 1950. (Chevy Chase also seemed to enjoy the song in National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation!)

Mele Kalikimaka by Bing Crosby and the Andrews Sisters:


As often happens with these spontaneous festive rambles, things turn full circle. Elvis, as we know, made many films in Hawaii and also staged the Aloha from Hawaii via Satellite event in 1973 watched by millions all over the world. He’s not looking quite as healthy as he did in the Comeback Special (a Christmas Special when first aired in the US), but his voice was still as strong as ever. Let’s listen to a bit of Blue Hawaii to take our minds off how cold it is both inside and out this year. Still hard to believe he was found dead only four years later at the age of 42.


This might seem like I’m veering way off tangent now, but bear with me. I’ve kind of missed the boat now, but I really wanted to host a Fifty Year Retrospective this year, as 1972 was when I really started to get into music, big time. It didn’t happen, obviously, but I still thought I’d have a look back at the UK Singles Chart from this week in 1972. The usual suspects, T. Rex, Slade, Elton and Michael, were present and correct, but back in 1972 those Osmond Brothers were sweeping the board with three singles in the Top Ten.


We’ll ignore the one at the top spot but when I watch the rest of them perform Crazy Horses (they were way ahead of their time as it’s a song about ecology and the environment), the Osmonds remind me of little Elvises in their bejewelled jumpsuits (starts at 0:17). Watching them now, not so cool, but back then I was definitely the right demographic for Osmondmania and had their posters all over my bedroom wall. In my defence I was only 12. In their defence, they must have taken fashion tips from Elvis.


So, ‘What’s It All About?’ – I do enjoy a festive ramble and how bizarre to end up with the Osmonds but all because I started off with the line, ‘It’s now or never’. We’ve watched Elvis in his Christmas Special, visited the Ukraine and Hawaii, returned to a jumpsuited Elvis, before finally revisiting the UK Singles Chart of Christmas 1972.

This year we’re going to DD’s for Christmas Dinner after teasing them it was their turn. She’s seen me do it often enough, so I’m sure it will go well. My little mum will be in her care home, with those who have become her new family, the staff and residents. It’s sad that she no longer recognises us but just how these things go. I’ll leave her presents for her to open on the day.

Merry Christmas to everyone who visits this place. I hope those of you who celebrate it, have a lovely time (and please…, keep warm).

One of the baubles made by my mum, many years ago

Until next time…


Mele Kalikimaka Lyrics
(Song by R Alex Anderson)

Mele Kalikimaka is the thing to say
On a bright Hawaiian Christmas day
That’s the island greeting that they send to you
From the land where palm trees sway

Here, they know that Christmas will be green and bright
The sun to shine by day and all the stars at night
Mele Kalikimaka is Hawaii’s way
To say Merry Christmas to you

I’m a lonesome traveller from so far away
And I won’t be home on Christmas day
But I’ve got some friends to help me celebrate
In the land where hula maidens sway

Here, where life is easy going, I have come
To mingle with the fishes in the Hawaiian sun
Mele Kalikimaka is Hawaii’s way
To say Merry Christmas to you

(Mele Kalikimaka is the thing to say)
(On a bright Hawaiian Christmas day)
(That’s the island greeting that we send to you)
(From the land where palm trees sway)

Here, they know that Christmas will be green and bright
The sun to shine by day and all the stars at night
Mele Kalikimaka is Hawaii’s way
To say Merry Christmas to you
Mele Kalikimaka is Hawaii’s way
To say Merry Christmas
Mele Kalikimaka
A very Merry Christmas to you

He Was Special, He Was Fun: RIP Terry Hall

WIAA: Alyson, oh Alyson… ?

ALYSON: I know, WIAA, it looks as if I’ve gone AWOL the week before Christmas but year on year I get more and more nostalgic about days gone by and for all those Christmases spent with family and friends who are no longer with us.

WIAA: I suspected that might have been the case – I suppose it doesn’t help that this is a retrospective music blog where you revisit those festive songs enjoyed throughout your life, especially those from your youth.

ALYSON: Indeed. I will no doubt snap out of it before the big day but in the last few weeks: three of my close friends have lost a parent; last night I found out that an old work colleague had died suddenly at the age of 62; and today, I woke up to the awful news that Terry Hall has also died. He was only 63.

WIAA: Terry Hall?

ALYSON: You might not remember, WIAA, but he has appeared on these pages before, in the context of being attached to one of the most exciting new labels in the history of British music – 2 Tone Records. In fact the band he was in, The Specials, got the whole 2 tone movement started, something intrinsically linked to my time as a student, whilst I was still in my late teens. Such a great time to be alive.


You know what, WIAA, I think you’ve just snapped me out of my fug. The festive post can wait for now as instead I really want to pay tribute to Terry Hall, someone whose death is eliciting great sadness today in fans of a certain age.

My last post was about the death of Christine McVie, and I mentioned that the Fleetwood Mac album Rumours had found its way into my Christmas stocking in 1977. What I hadn’t said then was that it had been a gift from the school boyfriend. In 1979 the self-titled album The Specials also found its way into my Christmas stocking, and it was from the same boy, except this time he was the student boyfriend. We had parted company for quite some time after school but at the tail end of the ’70s we had found each other again and immediately reconnected, spending most of our free time together, listening to albums by artists like The Specials and Elvis Costello. I will always associate The Specials with that time in my life. Although it was really Jerry Dammers’ band, Terry Hall was the very stolid, ‘unjumpy’ lead vocalist, so much of the focus was always on him. Here they are with Too Much Too Young, a song from that first 1979 album.

Too Much Too Young by The Specials:


The music we were listening to was no longer the slick, soft rock made in studios on the West Coast of America, which suited the comfortable lives we had led in our parents’ warm homes whilst at school. Things had changed, we were now poor students dressed in charity shop finds, living in pretty grotty cold tenement flats and becoming aware of the social injustices documented in songs by bands like The Specials. Their music came on the back of punk but was combined with ska and rocksteady which also made it very danceable. It was right for the times.

The Specials were short-lived as a band but before they split they released this non-album single, Ghost Town, a song that spent three weeks at the No. 1 spot on the UK Singles Chart in 1981. Again it felt right for the times and evoked themes of urban decay, unemployment and violence in our inner cities, something that came to a head in the summer of 1981. The song was hailed as a major piece of popular social commentary, and all three of the major UK music magazines awarded Ghost Town the accolade of Single of the Year.

Ghost Town by The Specials:


After his time with The Specials, Terry Hall, along with Neville Staple and Lynval Golding formed the Fun Boy Three. This time the songs were less frenetic, less political and more… fun. They teamed up with Banarama for a couple of single releases and even recorded a beautiful cover of the standard, Summertime. Here is the song Terry wrote with Jane Wiedlen of the Go-Go’s during their short-lived romance, My Lips Are Sealed. Both bands released the song as a single but of course on their respective sides of the pond. Needless to say the Fun Boy Three version did best on the UK Singles Chart reaching the No. 2 spot in 1983. (Terry’s hair definitely looking a bit different from when he was with The Specials – ’twas the times.)

Our Lips Are Sealed by Fun Boy Three:


But Terry never stood still for long (no pun intended) and by 1984 he had formed another band The Colourfield. Their first album was full of really beautiful songs like this one, Thinking Of You. He was still just in his mid-20s but was now a very different artist to the one who signed up with The Specials only seven years earlier. I too was a very different person in my mid-20s to the one who had first discovered The Specials in 1979. The world of work had beckoned and the flats had got nicer. The city I lived in, Aberdeen, was experiencing a bit of an oil boom, so the lyrics to those earlier songs didn’t really resonate with me or my friends any more. The school/student boyfriend and I didn’t last the distance, and we eventually parted company just as Terry’s time as a chart artist was also coming to an end. Terry would never be as commercially successful again in terms of record sales, but I’m glad he carried on making new music, collaborating with other artists right up until his untimely and premature death.

RIP Terry Hall

So, ‘What’s It All About?’ – I’m sorry I’ve not managed anything festive yet this year, but still time hopefully. I’ve been having one of those intense spells of contacting bereaved friends, and organising flowers & sympathy cards. Just as you hope there’s going to be a bit of a respite something like this comes along, an artist you haven’t really been following for a long time dies suddenly, and all the memories from a certain period in your life come flooding back. I’ve been trying to remember what other albums I got as a gift from the same boyfriend, as that’s two now that have featured in back to back tribute posts – I won’t say, as I don’t want to tempt fate, but as we music bloggers of a certain age always say, it’s kind of inevitable that we’re going to be writing tribute posts on a more regular basis as time goes by.

My condolences to Terry’s family and friends who along with his many fans will be grieving today.

Until next time… RIP Terry Hall.


Our Lips Are Sealed Lyrics
(Song by Terry Hall/Jane Wiedlin)

Can you hear them talking ’bout us
Telling lies? Is that a surprise?
Can you see them, see right through them?
They have a shield, nothing must be revealed
It doesn’t matter what they say
No one listens anyway
Our lips are sealed

There’s a weapon that we can use
In our defense, silence
Well, just look at them, look right through them

That’s when they disappear, that’s when we lose the fear
It doesn’t matter what they say
In the jealous games people play
Our lips are sealed
It doesn’t matter what they say
No one’s listening anyway
Our lips are sealed

Hush, my darling, don’t you cry
Guardian angel, forget their lies

Can you hear them talking ’bout us
Telling lies? Well, that’s no surprise
Can you see them, see right through them?
They have a shield, nothing must be revealed
It doesn’t matter what they say
In the jealous games people play
Our lips are sealed
Pay no mind to what they say
It doesn’t matter anyway
Our lips are sealed
Our lips are sealed
Our lips are sealed

She Came From Cumbria and Was Perfect: RIP Christine McVie

I was saddened to hear of the death of Fleetwood Mac’s Christine McVie last week. I’m a bit late with this tribute now, but as I’ve mentioned around here before, if I drew a graph of all the songs I’ve revisited by year of release, the peak would land at 1977, as that seems to have been the year when most purchases were made, and the most listening was done. Put it down to the fact I was still at school so other than the annual diet of exams to sit I had few other distractions to get in the way of hanging out with friends, and listening to music. It was inevitable therefore I would have a copy of Rumours, Fleetwood Mac’s multi-platinum selling album from 1977, which held the top spot on the US charts for a staggering 31 weeks.

It wasn’t a given that I would ever have owned that album, as they were not a band I followed, but its status meant it would find its way into my metaphorical Christmas stocking (vinyl not a good fit for such receptacles). At the time, I didn’t know much about the background to the making of the album – the breakdown of the romantic relationships within the band – as we just didn’t have access to such intimate knowledge back then. Looking at the track listing now however, I realise that the band member with the most songwriting credits on Rumours was Christine McVie. She mined a rich seam of inspiration when writing about her split with founding band member John McVie. Christine was probably also the best singer in the band, and an accomplished keyboard player, but back then I didn’t really attribute specific songs to individual band members so am stupidly only realising this now.

Here she is singing You Make Loving Fun from Rumours, a song about her new boyfriend apparently, the band’s lighting engineer (although his tenure in that post was understandably short-lived).

You Make Loving Fun by Fleetwood Mac:


When reading of her death I was surprised to learn she was aged 79. Somehow I always think of that generation of musician to have been a contemporary of the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, and others of that ilk who first found fame in the early 1960s. But of course Christine wasn’t always attached to Fleetwood Mac. Before her marriage to John McVie she was Christine Perfect (what a great name) and had been a member of several bands on the mid-1960s British Blues scene, notably Chicken Shack.

After helping them out as a session player for a couple of years, Christine formally joined Fleetwood Mac in 1970. A big change in personnel came about in 1974 when Lindsey Buckingham and Stevie Nicks joined the band – this seems to have been the spark that propelled them to stratospheric success. It must have been tough for the older Christine to have another woman join the band, especially the young and striking Stevie, but from all accounts it caused no issues at all, which says a lot about her professionalism and dedication to the band’s success.

Here is another of her songs from Rumours, Songbird. It was a bit of an obvious and lazy choice for inclusion, when journalists wrote about her death last week, but having listened to it again several times it really is a beautiful song that showcases her talent as both a songwriter and singer, so I have no qualms about sharing it here too.

Songbird by Fleetwood Mac:


Before I go I just want to share an interesting phenomenon. I was having a late night text message exchange with DD recently, and the subject of favourite bands came up. I told her mine and she told me the three she currently liked listening to best. The first two were contemporary and expected, but the third surprised me as it was Fleetwood Mac! The younger generation have become exposed to the music of Fleetwood Mac via Stevie Nicks who has appeared as herself on one of the really successful Netflix dramas, American Horror Story. I was also up in the loft yesterday and found a box containing all sorts of ephemera DD has left behind, which will need sorting out at some point, but what surprised me was that there was a canvas where she had made a picture using the Rumours album cover. It just goes to show, with streaming services like Spotify now being the vehicle used for listening to music, albums from 45 years ago can become contemporary favourites again with the young. Didn’t see that coming when I first listened to it back in 1977. Also good to know that the beautiful singing voice of Christine McVie, will live on for subsequent generations.


Until next time… RIP Christine McVie.

Songbird Lyrics
(Song by Christine McVie)

For you, there’ll be no more crying
For you, the sun will be shining
And I feel that when I’m with you
It’s alright, I know it’s right

To you, I’ll give the world
To you, I’ll never be cold
‘Cause I feel that when I’m with you
It’s alright, I know it’s right

And the songbirds are singing
Like they know the score
And I love you, I love you, I love you
Like never before

And I wish you all the love in the world
But most of all, I wish it from myself

And the songbirds keep singing
Like they know the score
And I love you, I love you, I love you
Like never before
Like never before
Like never before

Months of the Year in Song: November Nights (with a Nip in the Air)

Well, I had my doubts about this series but with all the great suggestions I got last month this post will practically write itself. As it’s the last day of the month however (also St Andrew’s Day here in Scotland) I’m going to have to be quick or I’ll miss my window of opportunity.

Yet again, as with September and October, the month of November is named after a Latin number, this time nine, or novem, all because the Roman calendar used to have 10 months with a gap for an “unorganised winter”. As we head into next year things will get a bit more interesting, promise.

Another picture by Veli Bariskan, who kindly let me use the banner image above

So far in this series we’ve had Sad September and Orange October. I had hoped there would be an obvious alliterative word to tag on to November, but all I can think of at the moment is Nights. Back in September there was a bit of debate about whether that month was really the tail end of summer rather than the start of autumn. At this point in November, as it’s very cold and dark much of the time, it feels more like winter than autumn. The clocks change back to GMT at the end of October and from then on it starts to get dark at around tea-time (if like me you live in the North of Scotland). If you’re busy at work for much of the day, any social activity will probably be done at night-time, and it will probably be very dark indeed. Great for Bonfire Night on the 5th of November (link here to a previous post) but also for other outdoor extravaganzas where darkness is required. We headed along to Brodie Castle the other week where the castle and grounds were illuminated with all sorts of relevant images and colours. Really pretty indeed and a nice warming hot chocolate to enjoy at the end.

Spot the wee windows on the castle (famous for its daffodils in Spring). We were also blessed with a full moon and a starry, starry night.


But this is supposed to be a music blog, so where are the songs?

Last month the first suggestion came in from Charity Chic, Mr. November by The National, although he did add a warning that it contains ‘sweary words’. If you’re likely to be offended, cover your ears. I was struggling to work out what the song is about, but here is a possible explanation. ‘He was a high school quarterback. November is playoff season for football. He was carried in the arms of cheerleaders. He was a hero. This character has peaked way too early. He’s had his big accomplishment already, so now he sleeps late.’ Makes sense.

The next suggestion came from C of Sun Dried Sparrows, Late November by Pavlov’s Dog. Here are her own words:

‘It comes from around 1975, I think. Sort of uncategorisable. David Surkamp’s vocals are… erm… not easy to describe in a complimentary way, you wouldn’t think they could work, and yet, and yet! – there is something incredibly charming about this – I just can’t put my finger on why. Probably not everyone’s cup of tea and I wouldn’t have thought it could ever be mine. But in this case, it is. Maybe it’s the song as a whole that just gets in there.’

Crikey, I see what you mean about those vocals C, but you are right, it does have a certain je ne sais quoi.

Next up we had a suggestion from Graeme, who remembered that Mike Oldfield had a song called Man in the Rain where the month of November is heavily featured in the chorus. Coming from the Orkney Islands Graeme is probably often a man who finds himself caught in the rain. Let’s have a listen.


Very nice indeed. The vocals on that one were apparently performed by Irish folk singer Cara Dillon.

Rol as ever was not found wanting when it came to suggestions, but one of them also overlapped with a second suggestion from C, so I’ll include it first. Here is what she said about it:

‘Another (different) Late November that comes to mind is the hauntingly beautiful, melancholy song by Sandy Denny. (There are a few versions floating around, some quite stripped back with just piano and vocals but the one I like most has more instrumentation on it.)’

Let’s hope I’ve found the one you were thinking of C.


But back to Rol, here is what he said about this next song, November Rain, the one I would probably have picked myself if thinking of one relating to this month.

‘November begins and ends with Guns n Roses for me. It was my late nephew’s favourite song too, and they played it at his funeral, so much as I enjoy Axl’s histrionics, it always comes with bittersweet memories.’

Hope you don’t mind that I shared your words Rol, and understandable that it would be a tough listen for you nowadays. From the era of the really big budget music video. They don’t make ’em like that any more.

November Rain by Guns N’ Roses:


For the record, Rol’s other suggestions were as follows:

Carter USM – Born On The 5th of November
Tom Waits – November
Harry Chapin – November Rains
Morrissey – November Spawned A Monster
Stornoway – November Song
The Waterboys – November Tale

Quite a range of styles there but an all-male line-up. Maybe we should shoehorn in some Julie London to redress the balance a bit. Here we have her singing November Twilight from her Calendar Girl album (always a good source of material for this series).


Last but definitely not least we have a suggestion from Khayem, who came up with this:

‘I was surprised to find I’ve relatively few ‘November’ songs in my collection. However, I will give a nod to November by Echo & The Bunnymen. The song was a B-side (if it can be classed as such) to their 2009 digital single I Think I Need It Too. I’m not going to pretend that this is anything close to imperial phase E&TB, but I love the opening bassline and musically, it’s far jauntier than I’d expect a song with that title to be.’


To be honest I hadn’t even realised that Echo & The Bunnymen are still active as a band as I don’t think I’ve listened to them since their ‘imperial phase’ as Khayem calls it. A nice reminder of how they used to sound back then, and still do today.

So, that’s your lot for this month, something for everyone I suspect. I’ve been shocked at how quickly winter has come upon us this year and despite all my good intentions about not turning up the thermostat, I have indeed succumbed, so it’s feeling pretty cosy at WIAA Towers with the curtains shut tight of an evening. If you do venture out, as well as fireworks and lightshows, you might have spotted a pretty spectacular crescent moon this week. Some of the planets have also been visible in the night sky.

Next month is December – how the heck did it come round so quickly, but then I say that every year. There will be plenty of song choices for that month I’m sure but feel free to add your tuppence worth to the comments boxes. Always grateful for any of your suggestions.

Until next time…

November Rain Lyrics
(Song by Axl Rose)

When I look into your eyes
I can see a love restrained
But, darlin’, when I hold you
Don’t you know I feel the same? Yeah

‘Cause nothing lasts forever
And we both know hearts can change
And it’s hard to hold a candle
In the cold November rain

We’ve been through this such a long, long time
Just tryna kill the pain, ooh yeah
But lovers always come and lovers always go
And no one’s really sure who’s lettin’ go today, walkin’ away
If we could take the time to lay it on the line
I could rest my head, just knowin’ that you were mine, all mine

So, if you want to love me
Then, darlin’, don’t refrain
Or I’ll just end up walkin’
In the cold November rain

Do you need some time on your own?
Do you need some time all alone?
Ooh, everybody needs some time on their own
Ooh, don’t you know you need some time all alone?

I know it’s hard to keep an open heart
When even friends seem out to harm you
But if you could heal a broken heart
Wouldn’t time be out to charm you, whoa-whoa

Sometimes, I need some time on my own
Sometimes, I need some time all alone
Ooh, everybody needs some time on their own
Ooh, don’t you know you need some time all alone?

And when your fears subside
And shadows still remain, ooh yeah
I know that you can love me
When there’s no one left to blame

So, never mind the darkness
We still can find a way
‘Cause nothin’ lasts forever
Even cold November rain

Don’t ya think that you need somebody?
Don’t ya think that you need someone?
Everybody needs somebody
You’re not the only one, you’re not the only one
Don’t ya think that you need somebody?
Don’t ya think that you need someone?
Everybody needs somebody

Rant Warning! and The Tourists, ‘So Good To Be Back Home Again’

Every now and again we like to have a little rant on our blogs. These rants don’t tend to be about music (although we usually find an appropriate song to tag onto the end) but instead are about something in our day to day lives that is really hacking us off.

Over the last few weeks I have been totally preoccupied with the new legislation around the letting out of holiday accommodation. I don’t tend to mention my little holiday hideaway around here any more, as I’m acutely aware the owners of such premises are being blamed for pretty much all of society’s ills at present. The housing shortage, the hollowing out of communities, noisy party flats full of stags and hens…!

In my defence, the little terraced cottage we took over from our friends a few years back is only seven years old and has never been anything other than a holiday cottage since it was built. It’s just a two-minute walk away from my own house so I’m always there to greet guests and am available to help them with whatever they might need during their stay. Before accepting the booking, I can find out a bit more about the reason for their stay and so am always able to make sure the cottage is a good fit for their needs. No stag or hen parties have ever happened on my watch. In the last year I have had three sets of guests mention in their review that mine is the best holiday let they have ever stayed in, and that I’m a great host! Sounds as if I’m blowing my own trumpet doesn’t it, but despite it being very tying (as I am in effect a 24-hour concierge service), and hard work, I have learnt the ropes and feel as if I’m now pretty good at this hospitality malarkey.


‘So, what’s the problem Alyson?’ I hear you ask.

As of April 2023, Scotland will become the most heavily regulated country in the world when it comes to holiday/short-term lets. The success of the big booking platforms has meant that in places like Edinburgh’s Royal Mile, around 80% of the flats are short-term lets. This has understandably upset many of the locals and those who can’t find affordable long-term rental accommodation, so change was badly needed. Sadly, the legislation which came about as a response, is going to apply to the whole of Scotland, so even those little B&Bs, chalets and cottages on the West Coast which have been very efficiently and safely operating for decades, find themselves caught up in a welter of rules and red tape that would challenge even the most astute business brain.

At this point I just want to make it clear that I am in no way complaining about the new rules and regulations, as lord knows they were needed – it had become like the Wild West with anyone and everyone offering up a decidedly dodgy spare room with no checks being done whatsoever. My issue is this – I have been working on getting the appropriate certificates and adaptations for the cottage for over two months now and still have a long way to go. It has been very expensive, and will continue to be so, as it seems my beautiful glass doors are now going to have to be replaced too. My wee place is going to look like a miniature chain hotel with ugly signage, fire doors, and fire extinguishers in every room. It’s going to scream, ‘Are you sure you want to stay here? There is almost certainly going to be a fire what with the need for all this apparatus everywhere.’

That in itself is bad enough, but for me, and most of my other rule-abiding friends in the business, the biggest concern is that it’s not going to be policed, as no budget has been put in place for the manpower you would need to do so. As ever, those of us who jump through all the hoops and do the right thing are going to have to co-exist with those who will ignore all the new legislation and more than likely, get away with it. Anecdotally, more than half the people who offer up accommodation are still unaware of the new legislation or think it doesn’t apply to them, and that’s where we are with only a few months left to get everything in place.

But we’re going to make it really hard for you…

At the moment I am in two minds about whether I want to carry on, despite having done so much of the work needed already. I had thought the new legislation would make things better, and safer, for guests to our little country but from what I’m hearing, most of those small-scale hosts who have always followed the rules and operated in a really professional manner are going to give up, leaving only those who give the holiday letting business a bad name. Tourism in Edinburgh, which has specifically been designated a planning control zone, will fall off a cliff as very few of the properties there will be allowed to keep operating. I think we can say farewell to the Edinburgh Festival which has been the world’s largest arts gathering for decades now. I also fear for those crofting communities in the far-flung corners of the Highlands, where renting out rooms to tourists over the summer months is the only way they can get by over the tough winter months.

But I am aware this is a First World problem, and in the midst of a cost-of-living crisis this rant is perhaps verging on being tone-deaf. For those of us in areas where tourism is seasonal however, and who rely on the income from their budget range accommodation to see them through the rest of the year, it is causing real anxiety. It will take a year or two to truly filter through, but I fear all that will be left will be expensive hotel rooms, luxury homes, and corporate aparthotels. Morag from Ross-shire will have to shut the door of her wee holiday cottage for good, as it seems we can no longer trust families to spend more than five minutes in our places without setting fire to themselves, interlinked fire-alarms notwithstanding. It’s going to change the face of tourism in Scotland which makes me really sad. If you want to come and stay in some really poor unregulated accommodation however, I’m sure it will still be on offer, as no-one is going to make the effort to police it.

As for the song, I had a bit of an epiphany earlier – I was thinking…, tourists, Scots returning home to visit from elsewhere… and I remembered a concert I went to in Aberdeen many years ago when local girl Annie Lennox was lead singer with the band The Tourists. It was 1980 and they had just reached the No. 8 spot in the UK Singles Chart with this song, So Good To Be Back Home Again. Annie was indeed delighted to be back in Aberdeen that night in front of a home audience, so apt indeed. Luckily for her she could get a bed for the night at her parents’ house. For newbie bands travelling around the country in 2023, I fear they will find it nigh impossible to find any reasonably priced accommodation. Tighter rules were definitely needed but I suspect they have gone just too far, and tourists will find it really hard to visit our lovely country from next year.

So Good To Be Back Home Again by The Tourists:


Not looking for any feedback on this one as I am aware this topic is a controversial one. I’m just sad that I’ve put so much effort into my place only to have been faced first with a pandemic when we all had to stay at home, and now this. I am by nature an abider of ‘the rules’ and certainly don’t want to risk getting a criminal record for having missed a tick box on my licence. It’s a big worry for many of us. The real casualty I fear is going to be one of our most celebrated industries, Scottish tourism.

Until next time…

So Good To Be Back Home Again Lyrics
(Song by Peet Coombes)

It’s so good to be back here again
Having fun with all my friends
When everybody says hello
You know there’s nowhere else to go
It’s so good
(Ooh, ooh, ooh)
Yeah, it’s so good
(Ooh, ooh, ooh)
It’s so good to be back home again

Baby, I’ve been so far away
Been so lonely
Every night and day
There’s only one thing I wanna do
I wanna get back home to you

It’s so good
(Ooh, ooh, ooh)
Yeah, it’s so good
(Ooh, ooh, ooh)
It’s so good to be back home again

It’s so good
(Ooh, ooh, ooh)
Yeah, it’s so good
(Ooh, ooh, ooh)
It’s so good to be back home again

Baby, I’ve been so far away
Been so lonely
Every night and day
When my baby holds me tight
You know I want to stay the night

It’s so good
(Ooh, ooh, ooh)
Yeah, it’s so good
(Ooh, ooh, ooh)
It’s so good to be back home again

It’s so good to be back home again

It’s so good to be back home again

Another Platinum Anniversary and Al Martino, the UK’s First Official Chart-Topper

Al Martino.

Who?

Al Martino. The person who had the honour of reaching the top spot on the very first UK Singles Chart published back in November 1952, 70 years ago this week.


Those of us who used to be chart-obsessed (and in the early ’70s I think I was), will already know this, as the kind of thing that often pops up in quizzes, but to my shame I don’t think I’d be able to identify Al’s chart-topping song even if I heard it. Time to right that wrong.


Well, what can I say, very much of its time and Al remained at the top spot for a further eight weeks so the only chart-topping artist of 1952. Al was born in Philadelphia to Italian immigrant parents and was inspired by the success of a close family friend, someone who had changed his name to Mario Lanza.

Al moved to the UK after the success of Here In My Heart, as he’d got himself into a bit of a pickle with some other Italian Americans who shall remain nameless, but who like to offer ‘protection’ and wear sharp suits. He often appeared at the London Palladium and had another six hits over here in the early ’50s. He eventually managed to return to the US in 1958 but found it hard to re-establish himself after so long away, and with the arrival of rock and roll his style of music had suddenly become very dated.

I did say I had never knowingly listened to Here In My Heart before but I definitely knew of Al Martino as during my chart-obsessed years, he had a No. 5 hit on the UK Singles Chart with this song, Spanish Eyes. I remember well writing his name in my chart listings notebook in July 1973, and on the cardboard insert of the cassette tape where I very illegally recorded the Top 20.

Spanish Eyes by Al Martino:


Spanish Eyes had first been recorded in 1965 after lyrics were added to a tune by German orchestra leader Bert Kaempfert, originally titled Moon Over Naples. It first charted in the UK in 1970 before returning as a big hit in 1973. I didn’t really question it at the time as the chart in those days was full of left-field offerings (it wasn’t all glam rock, we also had Benny Hill, Lieutenant Pigeon and Peters & Lee hitting the top spot!).

But what could it have been that prompted Al Martino’s return to form? Well, it didn’t take me long to find out it was Al who played the character Johnny Fontane in the 1972 film The Godfather, as a ‘mob-associated’ singer (not in any way inspired by Frank Sinatra of course) looking for help from his ‘godfather’ in securing a movie role. After a few false starts we end up with the very memorable bed scene, where the studio-boss woke up next to the severed head of his prize stallion. Needless to say, Johnny did then get the role.

Al with Marlon Brando in The Godfather

I think most of us of a certain age will recognise the Godfather theme music, but I hadn’t realised until now that Al also recorded a version with lyrics called Speak Softly, Love. It was the version by Andy Williams that became the most popular but fitting to have Al, the Italian American who was actually in the film, record it too.


So, ‘What’s It All About?’ – There is so much I could have written about when celebrating 70 years of the UK Singles Chart, but best I think on this occasion to stick with the artist who kick-started the whole thing. It was Percy Dickins of the New Musical Express who first gathered a pool of 52 stores willing to report sales figures – 52 stores in 1952, for 52 weekly charts published annually. How fitting.

It has of course got an awful lot more complicated since those early days. During my chart-obsessed years it was always the British Market Research Bureau who compiled the weekly chart, the one I listened to religiously (no pun intended) on a Sunday evening from 5pm until the big reveal at 7pm. I have to admit I no longer peruse the charts and if I ever do I have absolutely no idea who 90% of the artists on them are. It’s all got a lot more complicated what with streaming and the downloading of music. The songs are somehow not as precious as they used to be, and a lot more disposable.

Unusually for me I do recognise most of the artists on this week’s Official UK Singles Chart – Yeah me!

I still have some of my mum’s old shellac 78s from 70 years ago. I doubt if many of today’s youngsters will have a physical copy of anything they listened to in 2022 in 70 years’ time. Then again, the way things are going they will probably have bigger things to worry about, but I would wager our descendants will still listen to music, and have songs that become favourites above all others, songs that eventually top their 2092 charts.

Until next time…

Here In My Heart Lyrics
(Song by Bill Borrelli/Lou Levinson/Pat Genaro)

Here in my heart I’m alone, I’m so lonely
Here in my heart I just yearn for you only
Here in my arms I long to hold you
Hold you so near, ever close to my heart
So, darling

Say that you care, take these arms I give gladly
Surely you know I need your love so badly
Here is my heart, my life, and my all, dear
Please be mine and stay here in my heart

Say that you care, take these arms I give gladly
Surely you know I need your love so badly
Here is my heart, my life, and my all, dear
Please be mine and stay here in my heart