The Solar System in Song #1 – The Ran-Dells and ‘Martian Hop’

Regulars around here will probably remember my Full Moon Calendar In Song series. It came about after witnessing a particularly fine full moon a few years ago, on Bonfire Night as it turned out. After doing a bit of research I discovered that all full moons have a name, given to them by the Native Americans who kept track of the months by the lunar calendar. I have written about each one a couple of times now, so that series kind of ran its course, but I learnt so much about our closest satellite in the process.

This year, the months of September and October were quite unusual when it came to the full moon. The Harvest Moon usually lights up our skies in September, as it’s the one that falls closest to the Autumnal Equinox. This year however the Harvest Moon fell at the start of October, as we had a very early September full moon. It was given the alternate name the Corn Moon. The moon that follows the Harvest Moon is usually called the Hunter’s Moon but this year we had two full moons in October, all down to the lunar cycle being 29 and a half days. A second full moon in the same calendar month is called a Blue Moon, so this one was called the Halloween Hunter’s Blue Moon. I tried to take a picture of it on 31st October, but it was a big fail as you can see below.

My very badly taken picture of the full moon, but the planet Mars got in there too!

What was interesting however, was the bright light over to the right of the moon. I don’t think I’ve ever spotted it in the sky before, but it was the planet Mars. It got me thinking – I’ve loved all these series where I’ve written about the natural world, always sharing a relevant song. My full moon series has come to an end, but there are plenty of songs about planets, so perhaps time for a Solar System in Song series. It’s got a nice ring to it, you have to admit.


I’ve started off with Mars for obvious reasons – I recently spotted it in the sky; it’s the planet closest to Earth, and; a fair few songs refer to it. Mars is the fourth planet from the Sun and the second-smallest planet in the Solar System. Named after the Roman god of war, it’s often called the ‘Red Planet’ because of the iron oxide on its surface giving it a reddish appearance.

As for songs, there is an obvious contender, the very first song ever written about on this blog:

Life On Mars? by David Bowie:


I think I’ll go for something a lot less obvious though. It took me ages to find it, as I couldn’t remember what it was called, but here is a song my best friend and I both loved when we were in junior school. Back then we didn’t do ‘sleepovers’, you just stayed at your friend’s house sometimes, and for an only child like me, it was great fun. On a Saturday morning we could listen to Ed ‘Stewpot’ Stewart’s Junior Choice and this song was played often.

Martian Hop by The Ran-Dells was released way back in 1963 and has been described as a one-hit wonder novelty song. It tells of Martians throwing a dance party for ‘all the human race’ and suggested they were probably great dancers. It’s one of many songs from around that time that capitalised on space exploration (just like Mr Bowie). I’ve shared the original, but it has also been covered by a variety of other artists such as Rocky Sharpe and the Replays (link here).

If this series takes off, we’ll probably head to Venus next. Any song suggestions for that planet gratefully received.

Until next time….

Martian Hop Lyrics
(Song by John Spirit/Robert Lawrence Rappaport/Steve Rappaport)

We have just discovered
An important note from space
The Martians plan to throw a dance
For all the human race


Papa ooh mir mir papa ooh mir mir papa ooh mir mir papa ooh mir mir
Ee-ee-ee ee-ee
I got into my rocket ship to see the Martian Hop
I saw the planet shining red so there I made my stop
But as I opened up the door and climbed the ladder down
I saw the Martians on the floor a-dancin’ to this sound
Ee-ee-ee ee-ee the Martian Hop ee-ee-ee ee-ee-ee-ee


It seamed I was the first one there and so I was surprised
To see the Martians twist and stomp before my very eyes
They did the locomotion and the hully-gully too
I couldn’t name a single dance the Martians couldn’t do
Ee-ee-ee ee-ee the Martian Hop ee-ee-ee ee-ee-ee-ee


Now right around the stroke of twelve the dance had just begun
The earth kids parked their spaceship down on Mars to have some fun
And so I left my friends, the Martians, stomping on the ground
And even though I’m back on earth I still can hear this sound.
Ee-ee-ee ee-ee the Martian Hop ee-ee-ee ee-ee-ee-ee

The Halfway Point, Is It a ‘Stop’ or a ‘Don’t Stop’?

Well, I’ve just passed the halfway point in my challenge to write 30 posts in 30 days, and although my neck and shoulder injury seems to have righted itself, I am starting to flag a little. Should I keep going I wonder, or just content myself with having kept up the pace for as long as I have?

I am acutely aware that all you lovely followers might be finding it rather tedious having so much thrown at them in a single month, but I do still have a few more ideas up my sleeve. Feedback is positively encouraged as I don’t want to lose people along the way.

Anyway, I’m happy either way, so should it be a Stop

… or a Don’t Stop?

Don’t Stop by Fleetwood Mac:


I was totally the wrong demographic for the phenomenon that was the Spice Girls in the mid ’90s, but they were omnipresent, so you just couldn’t avoid their catchy pop tunes – There are a fair few I’ll admit to still being quite fond of. That was unbelievably nearly 25 years ago now, when DD was just a tot. Where has the time gone?

The Rumours album was a Christmas gift from the school boyfriend in 1977. Sadly it was in cassette tape format, so didn’t stand up well to the wear and tear of being played so often in the subsequent months – Remember having to rewind the tape back into the casing manually, after it getting scrunched up the machine?

Considering the many relationship breakdowns that happened within Fleetwood Mac before recording started, it’s quite something the album ever got made at all, but it did, and became one of the best-sellers of all time. Certainly plenty of material there to shape the song-writing.

Don’t Stop Lyrics
(Song by Christine McVie)


If you wake up and don’t want to smile
If it takes just a little while
Open your eyes and look at the day
You’ll see things in a different way

Don’t stop thinking about tomorrow
Don’t stop, it’ll soon be here
It’ll be here better than before
Yesterday’s gone, yesterday’s gone


Why not think about times to come?
And not about the things that you’ve done?
If your life was bad to you
Just think what tomorrow will do


Don’t stop thinking about tomorrow
Don’t stop, it’ll soon be here
It’ll be here better than before
Yesterday’s gone, yesterday’s gone

All I want is to see you smile
If it takes just a little while
I know you don’t believe that it’s true
I never meant any harm to you

Don’t stop thinking about tomorrow
Don’t stop, it’ll soon be here
It’ll be here better than before
Yesterday’s gone, yesterday’s gone

The List Gets Longer: Those We Have Lost In 2020, Part 2

In my first year of blogging we lost many icons from the world of music. My very first post in 2016 was in effect a tribute to David Bowie who had died the previous day. Later in the year we lost Prince, and then worst of all for me, there came the shock news of the death of George Michael on Christmas Day.

Of course it’s inevitable that the people I’ve admired from the world of entertainment throughout my life will now be of advanced years. We have to expect seeing the names of people we grew up watching in the obituary columns, but it still comes as a shock. This year there has been a steady stream of tributes to those we have lost, and as I’ve only written about a few of them, I’m going to try and make it up to them now. Working backwards, I’ll start with this chap, who sadly passed away at the weekend.

Des O’Connor

Des with Morecambe and Wise

The butt of many a Morecambe and Wise joke, but from all accounts a thoroughly nice man who had a long and varied career. I was shocked that he was aged 88 when he died as he was still appearing on stage in the West End in 2017. He had four singles that made it to the UK Top 10 and his song I Pretend sold 16 million copies.



Geoffrey Palmer

For me, best remembered as Ria’s husband Ben in Butterflies. Wonderful theme song written by Dolly Parton. We bumped into him in a restaurant just off the A9 not that many years ago – Must have been on his holidays. Weird seeing people from TV in a different context.



Sean Connery – Already written about here.

“He was a wonderful person, a true gentleman and we will be forever connected by Bond.” – Shirley Bassey


Bobby Ball

The Cannon and Ball Saturday night TV shows were watched by millions. Those red braces! – “Rock on Tommy”


Johnny Nash

As a youngster I was amused by the fact two artists had almost the same name, with only one letter of difference – The other of course was Johnny Cash. His was a very different style of music though.

“R.I.P to the reggae legend Johnny Nash. One of the artists who made me fall in love with lovers rock and reggae music in the early 70s. So many amazing tunes and a voice like silk. I have never really known a time without reggae music. He was one of the greatest.” – Boy George

“Another legend gone. R.I.P Johnny Nash.” – UB40


Eddie Van Halen

A talented guitarist, always smiling and loved by his family – “He was the best father I could ever ask for. Every moment I’ve shared with him on and off stage was a gift. My heart is broken and I don’t think I’ll ever fully recover from this loss.” – Wolf Van Halen



Diana Rigg

The only girl Bond ever married. Also played Emma Peel in The Avengers – A real role model for 1960s girls. Recently appeared in Game of Thrones. The consummate actress.

Emma Peel with Steed

“I’m so sad to hear of the death of Diana Rigg. She undoubtedly raised my acting game when we made On Her Majesty’s Secret Service together in 1968-9. I remember the press conference at the Dorchester in London, knowing she was going to play my wife. We had fun together on the set of the movie in Switzerland and Portugal. Her depth of experience really helped me. We were good friends on set. Much was made of our supposed differences but that was the Press looking for a news story. I was sorry to have lost my wife in the film at the end. The death of Contessa Teresa di Vincenzo Draco created a memorable cinema moment over 50 years ago. As my new bride, Tracy Bond, I wept for her loss. Now, upon hearing of Dame Diana’s death, I weep again. My deepest condolences for her family.” – George Lazenby



Helen Reddy – Already written about here.

She was born in Melbourne, Australia to a showbusiness family but after winning a trip to New York in a talent contest in 1966, she decided to relocate there. After getting a record contract in 1971, she went on to have many hits in the US including three which reached the No. 1 spot – I Am WomanDelta Dawn and the very weird but strangely compellingAngie Baby.



Ronald Bell of Kool & the Gang

Robert (aka Kool) Bell and his brother Ronald founded a band in New Jersey back in the 1960s. They experimented with a variety of styles but their most successful period was in the late ’70s/early ’80s, when their mainstream dance-oriented records became anthems.

Back in the 1980s, when I was a bit of a flibbertigibbet, there were lots of mid-week nights out with workmates. In some of the city nightspots you even got in free if you were female, and over 25. It was quite unglamorously called ‘Grab a Granny Night’. (I don’t think I’ll tell DD as she’s just hit the quarter century.) The record of choice at these venues was often Ladies’ Night by Kool & the Gang. Their other big hits were Celebration and Get Down on It.

Sending our Prayers and deepest condolences to Kool and family from the Sister Sledge family.”



Ben Cross

Ben Cross with Sir Ian Holm who also passed away this year

One of my favourite films of all time is Chariots of Fire. This 1981 drama starring Ben Cross and Ian Charleson was based on the true story of two British athletes who took part in the 1924 Olympics. One of the few films I watched at the cinema, then remained in my seat to watch a second time. Couldn’t be done nowadays, but back then, once you’d paid for your ticket you could stay as long as you liked. The music for the title sequence was written by Vangelis. Rousing stuff although often parodied, as it was by Rowan Atkinson for the 2012 Olympics Opening Ceremony.



Naya Rivera

I have mentioned the TV show Glee around here before as DD was a great fan during her teenage years and we regularly watched it as a family. Some great performances from the cast over the years but one of the cheerleaders, played by Naya Rivera, died in tragic circumstances earlier this year. This is the third main character we have now lost, which is a truly awful statistic.

“She inspired and uplifted people without even trying. Being close to her was both a badge of honor and a suit of armor. Naya was truly one of a kind, and she always will be.” – Chris Colfer

This song a bit of an homage to someone else we lost this year (see below).



Charlie Daniels

“The country music flag is flying at half mast today. RIP Charlie Daniels.” – Luke Combs

“He was one of the nicest and kindest people I have ever met. Thanks for the musical legacy you left all of us. We will miss you Mr. Charlie!” – Jason Aldean

I only really know one song by Charlie Daniels, but as we say here in Scotland, it’s a belter.



Ennio Morricone

Who hasn’t attempted to recreate the theme to The Good, the Bad and the Ugly, through voice alone? Go on, give it a try. One of the best known film themes of all time.

“Where to even begin with iconic composer Ennio Morricone? He could make an average movie into a must see, a good movie into art, and a great movie into legend. He hasn’t been off my stereo my entire life. What a legacy of work he leaves behind. RIP.” – Edgar Wright



Dame Vera Lynn

Born too late to really appreciate this tune, but there is no doubt Vera Lynn did her bit for the war effort with bells on. She had a long life, yet will probably always be best remembered for this song.

The family are deeply saddened to announce the passing of one of Britain’s best-loved entertainers” – Dame Vera’s family



Ricky Valance

Is it just me or does anyone else confuse Ricky Valance with Ritchie Valens?

Ricky had a No. 1 hit in 1960 with the teenage tragedy song (it’s a genre) Tell Laura I Love Her. What can I say, a teenage boy, a teenage girl, a stock car race, a prize, a ring. Listen to the song and find out how it ends, although I’m pretty sure you can guess.

“Another sad loss in my ever decreasing circle of friends. Ricky Valance had one of the most iconic 1960s hits of all time, ‘Tell Laura I love her’. My condolences go to his lovely wife, Evelyn and family.” – Jess Conrad



Bonnie Pointer

“Our family is devastated. On behalf of my siblings and I, and the entire Pointer family, we ask for your prayers at this time.” – Anita Pointer

I had a cassette tape (acquired by nefarious means) of the album this track was from. Played often. One of my favourites of the year



Steve Priest of the Sweet – Already written about here.

“It is with a heavy heart that we announce Steve Priest, founding member of The Sweet, passed away. He is survived by his wife, Maureen, three daughters, Lisa, Danielle & Maggie and 3 grandchildren, Jordan, Jade & Hazel.” – The Sweet


Little Richard – Already written about here.

“I’m very sorry to hear about Little Richard. He was there at the beginning and showed us all how to rock and roll. He was a such a great talent and will be missed. Little Richard’s music will last forever.” – Brian Wilson


Millie Small

“We have lost Millie Small, the first Jamaican artist to achieve international pop chart success in countless countries with ‘My Boy Lollipop’. The song was so popular that it made her a household name in the UK in 1964 and blazed the way for the recognition of Ska music.” – David Rodigan



Florian Scheider

“I just heard the very sad news that Florian Schneider, the co-founder of one of my favourite bands, Kraftwerk, has died.When I first heard their song Autobahn, I was struck by how radically different it sounded from everything else on the radio. It became a surprise hit in the UK and sparked my lifelong admiration for their innovation and creativity.Kraftwerk’s influence on contemporary music is deeply woven into the fabric of our pop culture. Their albums Trans-Europe Express and The Man Machine will forever remain classics of the genre they invented.Thanks for the music, dark humour and inspiration. Long live Kraftwerk!” – Nick Rhodes from Duran Duran



Tim Brooke-Taylor

The Goodies was must watch telly when I was a teen and they ended up in the charts several times in the 1970s, often appearing on TOTP. Ridiculous songs but we probably discussed them on the way to school on a Friday morning. (Tim was the blond one.)

“I was obsessed with ‘The Goodies’ as a child, the first comedy show I really loved. I queued up to get the Goodies’ autographs as a grown-up, and got to meet Tim Brooke-Taylor more recently at a party. I was in total awe, but he was so kind and generous. It is so sad he is gone.” – David Walliams



John Prine – Already written about here.

“Words can’t even come close. I’m crushed by the loss of my dear friend, John. My heart and love go out to Fiona and all the family. For all of us whose hearts are breaking, we will keep singing his songs and holding him near.” – Bonnie Raitt


Honor Blackman

Another Lady Avenger and Bond Girl, who also recorded the song Kinky Boots with Patrick MacNee. The song was not initially a hit, but was re-released in 1990 and reached the UK Top Ten after being promoted by breakfast DJ, Simon Mayo. It’s been featured around here before.

“Today we mark the passing of a film icon, Honor Blackman who shall forever be remembered as Pussy Galore in Goldfinger. She was an extraordinary talent and a beloved member of the Bond family. Our thoughts are with her family at this time.” – Michael G. Wilson and Barbara Broccoli



Bill Withers – Already written about here.

“We are devastated by the loss of our beloved, devoted husband and father. A solitary man with a heart driven to connect to the world at large, with his poetry and music, he spoke honestly to people and connected them to each other. As private a life as he lived close to intimate family and friends, his music forever belongs to the world. In this difficult time, we pray his music offers comfort and entertainment as fans hold tight to loved ones.” – Family statement

His best known song performed by the cast of Glee above.


Kenny Rogers – Already written about here.


“You never know how much you love somebody until they’re gone. I’ve had so many wonderful years and wonderful times with my friend Kenny, but above all the music and the success, I loved him as a wonderful man and a true friend.” – Dolly Parton


Roy Hudd

Another stalwart of light entertainment. He championed Music Hall and became an authority, writing several books and performing as his hero Max Miller.

“We are sad to announce the passing of the much-loved and amazingly talented Roy Hudd OBE. After a short illness, Roy passed away peacefully on the afternoon of Sunday the 15th of March, with his wife Debbie at his side.” – Agent for Roy Hudd


Caroline Flack – Already written about here.

“Today my friend slow motion walked into heaven. I will miss her always. Thank you for everything.” – Iain Stirling


Kirk Douglas

He was 103 years old, but this year we lost Spartacus (iconic moment at 1:05).

“To the world, he was a legend, an actor from the golden age of movies who lived well into his golden years, a humanitarian whose commitment to justice and the causes he believed in set a standard for all of us to aspire to.” – Michael Douglas


Terry Jones

Another Python leaves us.

“He was far more than one of the funniest writer-performers of his generation, he was the complete Renaissance comedian – writer, director, presenter, historian, brilliant children’s author, and the warmest, most wonderful company you could wish to have.” – Sir Michael Palin


So many names there, and I kind of ran out of steam at the end, but hope I’ve mentioned some of the entertainers you’ve also admired over the years. It’s still only mid November, so there will no doubt be more to add to the list, but hopefully not too many.

Thanks to the Digital Spy website for the quotes.

Until next time….

Our Local Boy Does Good, John Gordon Sinclair and ‘We Have A Dream’!

I come from a football loving family, and my dad played for our village team until he was in his thirties, but over the years I’ve kind of lost interest in following any particular team. Mr WIAA has never been a fan, and once DD’s boyfriend moved south, I stopped following the local side he used to work for.

I do enjoy the big tournaments however, like The World Cup and The Euros. Maybe it’s the geographer in me, but from a young age I was fascinated by this coming together of teams from around the world, with their different strips and flags. You could kind of work out a nation’s history from its football squad and the names were often so exotic sounding – Eusébio, Maradona and Jairzinho, so different from those of our homegrown players. Also, for a few weeks there is usually a frisson of excitement in the air, if one of our home nations is doing well. For once, there is something other than doom and gloom in the news.

Sadly, it’s been a long, long time since Scotland made it to the finals of a big tournament but on Thursday night, out in Belgrade, they did, and whether you’re a football fan or not it seems to have given our nation a bit of a lift in this last quarter of what has been a shitty year. Even better for us in the North of Scotland, the hero of the night was one of our own. Ryan Christie used to play for our local team, as did his dad Charlie, so his family are well known. The poor lad became visibly emotional when recounting his experience of the night and as I want to keep hold of this clip I’m going to shoehorn it in here.

There have been some truly terrible football songs written over the years but back in 1982 something a bit different was chosen as the official song to accompany Scotland’s World Cup campaign. It was written and produced by BA Robertson who was quite prolific in the late ’70s/early ’80s with hits such as Bang Bang and To Be Or Not To Be. Anyway, the masterstroke was choosing a youthful John Gordon Sinclair to take on the song’s ‘spoken word’ duties. He’d just made the wonderful coming-of-age film Gregory’s Girl and had become a bit of a star. The 1982 World Cup didn’t go that well for Scotland but the song did, reaching No. 5 in the UK Singles Chart. (Scottish readers will spot the legend that is Christian amongst the players, in his kilt – Not quite sure how he ended up on the record but he certainly seems to be enjoying himself.)

We Have A Dream by BA Robertson, John Gordon Sinclair and The Scottish World Cup Squad:


So, ‘What’s it all about?’ – Of course the irony is that the tournament we’ve just qualified for is The 2020 UEFA European Football Championship, which will now be held in 2021…, or will it? At the moment we can’t really predict that far ahead but with good news about possible vaccine breakthroughs coming this week too, let’s hope, nearly 40 years on, we yet again have a chance to dream.

Until next time….

We Have A Dream Lyrics
(Song by BA Robertson)

I awoke in the night with a fever and the sky was the darkest blue and a still voice was calling to me
“Your country is needing you” Aye just like that.
And away in the distance I can just make out this ball, coming in from the left, and I’m starting to run, to run like hell

and the voices are getting louder and louder and louder, crying,
“Hey big yin, gaun yersel'”

I have a dream (we have a dream)
If dreams come true (If dreams come true)
Then bonny Scotland (then bonny Scotland)
I will play for you. (we’ll play for you)
Now i hope and i pray (we hope and pray)
That if, if I do (that if we do)
Then bonny Scotland we’ll play for you

Now the next thing I know, someone’s gaun and tripped me and I’ve fallen just inside the box (that’s a penalty)
Now the ref he looks to his linesman and he’s pointing right at the spot! (that’s brilliant)
Now John Robertson, who normally takes them, is handing the ball to me (you don’t say)
and then I hear ma old lady screamin’ blue murder, she’s saying, “that’s no the ball yer kickin’ ya eejit, its me!”

I have a dream (we have a dream)
If dreams come true (If dreams come true)
Then bonny Scotland (then bonny Scotland)
I will play for you. (we’ll play for you)
Now i hope and i pray (we hope and pray)
That if, if I do (that if we do)
Then bonny Scotland we’ll play for you

We have a dream,
If dreams come true,
Then bonny Scotland,
We’ll play for you.
We hope and pray (we hope and pray)
That if we do (that if we do)
Then bonny Scotland we’ll play for you

Writing Prompts, George Michael and ‘A Different Corner’

Last time I shared something last time from my college course, so here is something else with a rather glaring musical connection.

This week we were experimenting with sentences of mixed length. To quote: ‘Sometimes sentences should be short. Other times they should flow, complete with commas and clauses and dashes to allow the writing to flourish and the point being made to really sink in, until the reader needs a bit of brevity to catch their breath again. Like this.’ – Yes, just like that.

Anyway, we were given only 20 minutes to come up with something, so most of us trawled through our hard drives to find something we could adapt. I headed over here and chose to tweak the story I shared after the unexpected death of George Michael.

A Different Corner by George Michael:


‘Turn A Different Corner And We Never Would Have Met’, by Alyson

Many years ago, I had a great friend called Anne. We lived in flats only a few doors from each other and were practically joined at the hip. We both loved socialising at weekends but often bemoaned the fact we hadn’t yet found The One, the person we might marry. We both loved George Michael songs, and joked that we must always be turning ‘a different corner’. We obviously needed to find the ‘right corner’. Oh, how we laughed.

Anne eventually moved town for a new job. She was sorely missed as were the ‘different corner’ jokes. I had to shop solo on Saturday afternoons. It was a lonely business.

One day I was heading up the high street when I spotted a chap I knew from our social circle. He was walking just ahead of me. I liked him a lot, but we always went our separate ways at the end of the night. I decided it was time for action. This was not a day for ‘different corners’, but it would be a race against time. I managed to head into the shopping centre. Quickly ran past all the shops. Emerged at the exit at the top and turned onto the street. Phew, he was just arriving. I was breathless.

‘Oh hi,’ I said trying not to look flustered. ‘Didn’t expect to bump into you this afternoon.’

We had a bit of a chat and organised a date for later in the evening. That was 30 years ago now. We’re still together. Thank you George, if not for your lyrics I might never have ‘seized the day’.

In the end we had to read our pieces out to the rest of the class, and it was more than a tad embarrassing to share this story with a bunch of 18-year-olds (who had probably never heard of George Michael). Funnily enough I don’t mind sharing on the world wide web, as I’m essentially anonymous here, but in a more intimate setting…, just no.

As for George in that video clip, he does look very coiffed and cool in his white lacy jumper. Last Christmas (no pun intended), Santa delivered Andrew Ridgeley’s recently published book about the Wham! years. It was a bit of a revelation hearing about those early days, when they were both just starting out. What came out loud and clear throughout the book however was that there were actually three members of Wham. No I’m not talking about Pepsi, or indeed Shirley, I’m talking about George’s hair! Wherever they went, copious amounts of time was spent licking George’s wiry curls into shape, and I can only imagine how long it must have taken to achieve the desired look for the Different Corner video. When filming Careless Whisper in Miami, he even resorted to flying his sister out (she was a hairdresser) to deal with the humidity problem his blond locks faced. Who knew?

Until next time….

A Different Corner Lyrics
(Song by George Michael)

I’d say love was a magical thing
I’d say love would keep us from pain
Had I been there, had I been there

I would promise you all of my life
But to lose you would cut like a knife
So I don’t dare, no I don’t dare

‘Cause I’ve never come close in all of these years
You are the only one to stop my tears
And I’m so scared, I’m so scared

Take me back in time maybe I can forget
Turn a different corner and we never would have met
Would you care

I don’t understand it, for you it’s a breeze
Little by little you’ve brought me to my knees
Don’t you care

No I’ve never come close in all of these years
You are the only one to stop my tears
I’m so scared of this love

And if all that there is is this fear of being used
I should go back to being lonely and confused
If I could, I would, I swear

The Thaw and Alton Ellis, ‘Breaking Up Is Hard’

Trying not to fill too many of this month’s output with stuff that’s appeared around here before, so going to borrow from my college course this time. We had to write a short ‘character without words’ piece recently, based on watching a couple have a conversation through a café window. We had to rely on body language alone to explain what was happening, and this was my effort.

The Thaw, by Alyson

Waiting for the bus in the biting cold, I spot a young couple seated by the window in a nearby café. Rivulets of condensation run down the glass, blurring the scene, but I am transfixed.

The boy sits bolt upright like an angry meerkat, his canvas satchel slung over his shoulder, but the girl is hunched over the table with her head in her hands. I can tell from the rise and fall of her shoulders that she is sobbing, but he remains immobile, his eyes fixed on the doorway that leads out onto the pavement. His badly bleached and tousled hair contrasts wildly with her long dark braids, but they are both from the same tribe, dressed alike in jeans, ribbed sweater, and ethnic scarf. Her earrings are large silver hoops threaded with beads. In his right lobe, he wears a red stud.

Moments later the girl sits up and becomes animated. She tries to reach out for his hand across the wooden table, but to no avail. Her mascara has started to run down her pale cheeks, but she lets it happen. Still the boy sits immobile.

Someone comes along to clear their empty mugs, but obviously thinks better of it and leaves them be.

The girl starts waving her hands in front of his eyes, but he barely blinks and continues to focus on the pale blue doorway. She slumps back in her chair and reaches for a napkin. Dabbing her eyes, and then her cheeks, she appears to recover slightly although her face is still awash with sadness. The boy loosens slightly and turns to face her. He too seems to have shed tears.

Eventually the boy takes off his satchel and slowly heads to the counter. He returns with another two mugs and he sets them down on the table. This time he lets her hold his hand, but still no words are spoken. They sit like this for some time then the girl picks up her large mug and drinks. When she lowers it, a big blob of milky foam rests on her nose. The boy tries to fight it, I can tell, but then he starts to laugh. The girl smiles. I smile. My bus arrives at the stop.

The obvious song choice to accompany this piece for me was Breaking Up Is Hard To Do, but it has featured here before, when sung by both Neil Sedaka and The Partridge Family. It was a pleasant surprise therefore to find another song of the same name (almost), this time by an artist I had never heard of before called Alton Ellis, a Jamaican singer-songwriter. He died in 2008 but it seems he was one of the innovators of rocksteady and was given the informal title, ‘Godfather of Rocksteady’. Alton was inducted into the International Reggae And World Music Awards Hall Of Fame in 2006.

Breaking Up Is Hard by Alton Ellis:


How beautiful is that? Breaking up is hard, of that there is no doubt, however the couple in my story fortunately seemed to have made up by the end of it. Looking through a café window we can’t be sure, but when the narrator gets on the bus, that milky blob of foam has her reassured.

Until next time….

Breaking Up (aka Breaking Up Is Hard) Lyrics
(Song by Alton Ellis)

When you turned
And you walked through that door
It hurt me so
Said it hurt me so

When you looked at me
And you said goodbye
You made me cry
Said you made me cry

So listen to me
While I say to you
Breaking up, is hard to do
Breaking up, is hard to do

I cannot let you go now
For my love is strong
My love, is so strong
My love, is so strong

Focus and a Whole Load Of ‘Hocus Pocus’

A couple of weeks ago I mentioned that the domain name for this place is one quite a few other parties would like to get their hands on, as it reflects the name of their product or business. I have therefore had to remove any mention of it in the blog in case I get a take down notice.

H.G. Wells time machine

Anyway, back in 2017 I had planned to start a new series where I journeyed back in time in my ‘magical jukebox’ (you see where I’m going with this?) but only got as far as one spin the random number generator (I had it all thought out). It took me back to this date:

Year – 1973
Month – 2, i.e. February
Date – 14 (St Valentine’s Day!)

The act at the top of the UK Singles Chart on that date was Sweet, with their only chart-topper Blockbuster. I wrote about that song recently (link here) so time to mention another band who appeared in that very first post in the ‘series that never was’. Although I can’t say I was a big fan back then, in the fullness of time I have come to appreciate the falderals involved in the making of a Focus record (a bit of yodelling anyone?) and February 1973 was their time in the sun as far as chart success went. Their instrumental Sylvia was a climber at No.5 and Hocus Pocus was also climbing up the chart at No. 22.

The Dutch prog rock outfit, Focus.

I may well have forgotten all about these Dutch prog rockers had it not been the album I got for Christmas that year was ‘Arcade’s 20 Fantastic Hits by the Original Artists’, the emphasis on the word original, as up until then most of these compilations were very much by the unoriginal artists – I still have the album and Hocus Pocus is Track 7 on Side 2.

Hocus Pocus by Focus:


I don’t know if you’ve ever watched Edgar Wright’s Baby Driver but I’d thoroughly recommend it. I’m not usually a fan of films that feature multiple car chases, but this one was a very different animal, and the best car chase of all was played out to the sounds of Focus with what has turned out to be their most memorable recording (was it because the words rhymed so well I wonder?). Watching this excellent clip again, the lead character Baby, could definitely give Lewis Hamilton a run for his money.

I hope you’ve enjoyed my second journey back to February 1973. All you need is a random number generator it seems and we’re good to go, although the mode of transport was a tad uncomfortable. If there is a next time, I might have to trade in H.G. Wells’ time machine for Doc Brown’s DeLorean. Might make for a smoother ride.

Until next time….

Memories of Junior School: Cliff, Marc and Alice

Recently, whilst starting out on a project to declutter the house, I found a booklet that was printed for my old primary school’s centenary celebrations. A call had gone out asking ex-pupils to submit their memories, and many did, including myself – Unbeknownst to me until after publication however, most contributors stuck to a concise 150-200 words, whereas my ‘contribution’ ended up being a good deal longer so kind of stood out like a sore thumb. Anyway, I did notice that the piece included a few references to the music of the day, so I’m going to recycle it for this place – Hope you can forgive me this little indulgence.

My old Primary School

Extract from 1899-1999 Centenary Booklet (written in 1998):

If like me you joined the school in 1965, and spent the whole of your primary school education there, your memories of the experience will be very similar to mine. I spent an evening conjuring up images from the past and came up with the following whistle stop tour through the seven years.

In Miss Margaret’s Primary One class, courtesy of the Tom and Ann books, we all became literate. For many Aberdeenshire children this was no mean feat since these books were written in English and not in our native Doric. At the same time we were also becoming numerate courtesy of wooden rods number one to ten (or was it twelve in those pre-decimal days?). These rods came in the full spectrum of colours and I’m pretty sure that number four rod was quite an attractive lime green.

By the time we progressed next door to Miss Mabel’s Primary Two class we were ready to pick up on the finer points of spelling, writing and sums. Miss Margaret and Miss Mabel, being sisters and located in rooms next to each other, frequently brought their classes together. Sometimes it was for Music and Movement, and sometimes it was to watch a film on the noisy school projector, skilfully manned by Mr Anderson the headmaster as women in those days were obviously not to be trusted with advanced technology. The film invariably had a Commonwealth theme (the young queen was very popular in the mid ’60s) and might have been about children on sheep stations in Australia or perhaps in African villages. At the time however I think I was more fascinated by the projector’s light beam picking up the slow moving mass of chalk dust that usually filled the air.

For Primary Three we veered round the corner to Mrs Scott’s classroom next to the staffroom. I seem to remember we were introduced to the wonderful world of Work Cards which dealt heavily with Stone Age Man and the Romans in Britain. At age seven we were highly versed in the life of the average Neanderthal or Centurion. Also at that time, it was very important for us to master the new metric system which would soon take over completely from the old imperial system of measurement. Over thirty years later and I still quote my height in feet and inches and order my curtain material in yards – What would Mrs Scott say?

Primary Four, back in 1968, was housed in a hut to the right of the main school building. Mrs Fraser was the teacher and although most classes at that time still had milk monitors, Primary Four was the only class that had a wood-burning stove monitor. A major turning point for the school came that year when the old wooden desks, complete with ink well, were abandoned in favour of new-fangled formica tables that had little plastic drawers on runners. Very much in keeping with the hi-tech furniture of the time.

There was great dismay for me that year however when Helen, my best friend since Primary One, left the village for a new life in Aberdeen (with her parents and younger brother Stuart I hasten to add). We lost touch for many years but met up again at University in 1978 and we both ironically became accountants in later life. Miss Margaret’s number one to ten rods must have had a profound effect on us.

As we come to Primary Five, my memories get more vivid. We were back in the main body of the school and our teacher was Miss Reid who impressed the girls at any rate, with her trendy crocheted waistcoats and short skirts. She also had amazing high hair usually adorned with elaborate accessories. It was now 1969 and great advances were being made in the world of Science and Technology. We were lucky enough to have Mr Bruce take us for science once a week and in one lesson he mass-manufactured bright blue eye-shadow for the girls (much to the anguish of our parents I’m sure). He also invited everyone to his lab to witness one of the first Apollo moon landings. To my eternal shame, not realising the significance of what we were to watch on the grainy black and white TV, I was so busy discussing the novelty of getting off normal lessons with new best friend Sheena, that I think I missed the whole thing.

Christmas time always was and still is an exciting time in the school year and as was often the case we performed a nativity play that year. I was the narrator, a major part that called for much learning of lines and constructing of angel wings and head-dress. If you were a girl however the most sought after role was always that of Mary (depending of course on whoever happened to be Joseph that year). The other event that made Christmas special was the annual Christmas party when before dances, the boys would line up on one side of the gym hall and the girls on the other, as if about to go into battle. Nine year old boys and girls are not known for being socially at ease with each other but somehow we manfully made it round the hall on an annual basis mastering the finer points of the Gay Gordons, the St Bernard’s Waltz and the Bluebell Polka. To this day, every time I attend a Wedding or Dinner Dance, I thank my primary school for having taught me the rudiments of Scottish Country Dancing.

What we had to dance to – Jimmy Shand
What we wanted to dance to – The other Jimi

Incidentally, growing disquiet in the ranks over the choice of music for our annual bash (we were living in the psychedelic ’60s after all in the days of the Beatles and Jimi Hendrix) meant the teachers had to take steps in acquiring some ‘pop’ records for us as well as the Jimmy Shand perennial favourites. For some strange reason what they came up with was Cliff Richard singing the waltz-friendly When The Girl In Your Arms Is The Girl In Your Heart. It wasn’t until I was older that I realised it happened to be from The Young Ones filmed in 1961 – Not quite what we had in mind.

Primary Six was Mrs McPhee’s class in the room next to the ‘Higher Grade’ girl’s cloakroom. (It was a junior/secondary school that taught kids up to the age of 15 after which, unbelievably, they could leave school and join the adult world of work.) At age ten we were in awe of these ‘women’ of 14 and 15 in their wetlook coats and boots, long sleek hair and chokers. Full decimalisation came about in 1970 and I remember the excitement on the first day about paying for lunch tokens with the already circulated 50p and anticipating the change in shiny new pence. On receiving these new pence we hotfooted it to the local baker’s shop at break time where we regularly went to buy our sweets. Soon a dilemma was to be faced – Apparently during the transition period, one new pence was to equate to both the old tuppence and thrupence. It was important to remember to buy a penny chew along with your tuppenny ice-pole or else you lost out bigtime. I think this was also the year we broke some record or other by being the first school, thanks mainly to the endeavours of Mr Bruce, to have everyone over a certain age pass their cycling proficiency test. We were even photographed for the Aberdeen Press and Journal, so fame indeed.

Educationally by this stage, we were covering the whole gamut of school subjects and even received extra tuition from the Higher Grade teachers. One of these teachers was Miss Jaffrey whom the girls at any rate, got for Sewing and Knitting. (I would have said Home Economics but at that age we were obviously not yet let loose with cookers, although when attempting to thread the needle of the electric sewing machine with my friend Lorna that year, we did inadvertently manage to stitch through the top of my finger – ouch.) Miss Jaffrey got married when we were in Primary Six and I remember the girls clubbing together to buy her a wedding present – Unfortunately for Miss Jaffrey this wedding present took the form of a pair of ornamental plastic bambis. Much to her credit however she seemed overwhelmingly pleased with her gift, although I doubt if they ever took pride of place on her mantelpiece.

And so we come to Primary Seven, our last year in junior school. We were right along the corridor beyond the art room and the janitor’s cupboard. Our teacher was the heavily accented Miss Robertson (she was half German which often came about as a result of servicemen marrying local girls after the war). I remember this being a really enjoyable year despite having to endure the dreaded 11-plus test at some point. Coming up to Christmas we feverishly collected for the Blue Peter Annual Appeal and were rewarded with a personal thank you note from Pete, John and Val. Brenda snuck in a copy of her big sister’s T. Rex LP to the Christmas party (Jeepster had been a big hit in the November of that year) and things were never quite the same after that. Robert and Stephen both got feather cut hairstyles and so ended the era of short back and sides for most of the boys in the class.

Also that year I suffered a nasty bout of appendicitis which took me into the Sick Children’s Hospital for quite some time and off school for about a month. When in hospital I received a box of fruit from the class and Scoop Bookclub paperbacks (remember them?). Unfortunately a schedule of schoolwork also came in the box which I conveniently mislaid and then pleaded ignorance when asked about it later (there had to be some advantages in having your appendix removed.) In the spring of 1972 both the boys and girls were heavily involved in football and netball tournaments which took us to distant lands (other villages 5 to 10 miles away) – Most of the time however I didn’t even make it into the first team which kind of put me off competitive sport for life although I discovered later they just didn’t want me to overdo it since I’d been so recently in hospital. The grand finale of Primary Seven was School Camp in Abington, Lanarkshire. We had a great time and made lots of new friends from all over Aberdeenshire, many of whom we met up with in later years. (Mr WIAA’s predecessor was a boy I fell for at School Camp who hailed from a nearby village).

So there we have it. In the summer of 1972 Alice Cooper was topping the charts with School’s Out and our class went their separate ways. There were choices, and some of us went to one nearby academy, some went to another, and some stayed at the junior/secondary (although by this time the leaving age had increased to 16). When it was time to enrol my daughter for pre-school, I decided we would have to move house, as I wanted her to go to a school like the one I had attended. This must certainly be a testament to the time I spent there, the inspirational teachers and the friends made along the way.

School’s Out by Alice Cooper:


Until next time….

School’s Out Lyrics
(Song by the Alice Cooper band)

Well we got no choice
All the girls and boys
Makin all that noise
‘Cause they found new toys
Well we can’t salute ya
Can’t find a flag
If that don’t suit ya
That’s a drag

School’s out for summer
School’s out forever
School’s been blown to pieces

No more pencils
No more books
No more teacher’s dirty looks

Well we got no class
And we got no principles
And we got no innocence
We can’t even think of a word that rhymes

School’s out for summer
School’s out forever
School’s been blown to pieces

No more pencils
No more books
No more teacher’s dirty looks

Out for summer
Out till fall
We might not go back at all

School’s out forever
School’s out for summer
School’s out with fever
School’s out completely

Postscript:

Interestingly, despite the fact we wanted more Beatles and less Jimmy Shand MBE in the late ’60s, it turns out that much of Jimmy’s success in the charts in the 1950s was down to none other than George Martin! Yes once signed to Parlophone, the master of the button box accordion was given George as a producer, and became the only leader of a Scottish Country Dance Band ever to enter the UK Singles Chart.

Recipe For Cranachan and A Song From Whiskeytown

Last time I shared something from my other blog. It’s primarily a fan site for my favourite local author, but as well as posting extracts from her books and pictures of where she lived, I also include recipes. I’ve shared my girdle scone recipe around here before, so in view of the fact we’re heading into winter, and having to hunker down because of the pesky virus, here’s something to put hairs on your chest!

I very much doubt this ‘pudding’ would ever have appeared on the supper table at the Highland croft where my author was brought up, as her strict grandmother would never have allowed such a thing, but suspect it might have appeared on the dining table at The Big House, owned by the local laird. I made this traditional Scottish dessert of oats, cream, honey, whisky and raspberries for some English friends recently, as part of a Scottish themed menu, and very nice it was too. Here is the recipe:

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Cranachan

3 oz oatmeal
1 pint double cream
7 tbsps whisky
3 tbsps runny honey
1 lb raspberries

Toast the oatmeal (different from porridge oats) in a frying pan, taking care none of it burns. Keep some back for decoration.

Lightly whip the cream until it reaches the peak stage then fold in the whisky, honey, oatmeal and raspberries. Again keep some raspberries back.

Serve in glasses garnished with a few raspberries, a sprig of mint (optional) and a sprinkling of the toasted oatmeal.

Place in the refrigerator for at least an hour.

Serve and enjoy.

Whiskeytown

Looking at my music library, one band springs to mind for this post. I have a feeling the featured song was again liberated from our friend CC, over at Charity Chic Music, as they featured recently in his ‘River Deep, Mountain High’ series. Whiskeytown (see the connection) are from Raleigh in North Carolina, but the song I liked best of the two picked for the compare and contrast was Lo-Fi Tennessee Mountain Angel. It appeared on their 1995 album Faithless Street.

Lo-Fi Tennessee Mountain Angel:


So, from a recipe whose main ingredient is whisky to a band with whiskey in the name (Irish spelling), who seem to sing a lot about drinking. The other song of theirs in the compare and contrast was Drank Like A River. Personally, I think I’ll stick to the cranachan.

Until next time….

Lo-Fi Tennessee Mountain Angel Lyrics
(Song by Ryan Adams/Caitlin Cary)

Lo-fi Tennessee mountain angel come back to me
Met you in a bar when I was drinking
You stood next to me
You say you wanna play country
But you’re in a punk rock band
You say you wanna play country
But you’re in a punk rock bank

I didn’t know you then
I didn’t know you then
I didn’t know you then
I didn’t know you then

Lo-fi Tennessee mountain angel come back to me
Met you in a bar when I was drinking
You stood next to me
You say you wanna play country
But you’re in a punk rock band
You say you wanna play country
But you’re in a punk rock bank

I didn’t know you then
I didn’t know you then
I didn’t know you then
I didn’t know you then

Lo-fi Tennessee mountain angel come back to me
Met you in a bar when I was drinking
You stood next to me
You say you wanna play country
But you’re in a punk rock band
You say you wanna play country
But you’re in a punk rock bank

Simon & Garfunkel, ‘Bookends Theme’ and Meeting Duncan, All Grown-Up

I have another blog which is really a fan site for my favourite local author, Jane Duncan, who died back in 1976 but still has a loyal following. Last Saturday the weather was glorious, so we headed across the Kessock Bridge to the Black Isle (it’s not black and it’s not an island, more a peninsula, but these old names take hold), which features in all her stories. The plan was to visit the cemetery where she is buried, and then head towards the village of Jemimaville where she lived for many years, in the house she built by the shore.

We had just wandered down one of Jemimaville’s many side lanes to visit Jane’s old house, when we spotted some people doing a spot of gardening, no doubt ‘the big tidy-up’ ahead of winter. Conscious of the fact travel restrictions are in place around the country at the moment, I wanted to reassure them we were local, so stopped for a wee chat. It turned out it was Neil, Jane’s nephew, who became immortalised in her books as one of ‘The Hungry Generation’. He and his lovely wife now live in the village, and were happy for me to take a picture.

Neil aka ‘Duncan’, with his wife

For someone who has a whole blog dedicated to Jane Duncan and her books, this was quite something, and an encounter I hadn’t expected when we headed off that fine day. Once home I revisited My Friends the Hungry Generation and remembered it had been signed by Neil and his siblings at the 2010 event, marking the centenary of Jane’s birth. Here is that book with its beautiful cover by Virginia Smith.

That’s ‘Duncan’ in the middle, pushing the pram

But this is a music blog, so what better song to feature than Bookends by Simon & Garfunkel from their 1968 album of the same name. It appears twice on the track listing, as the first and last song on side one. The song is a brief acoustic piece that ‘evokes a time of innocence’. Apt when writing about a book set in 1956, which recounts the adventures of a lively bunch of Scottish children.

Bookends Theme by Simon & Garfunkel:


As you may have noticed I have abandoned my attempt at becoming a daily blogger for a month, as I seem to have picked up an injury. You probably don’t consider blogging a dangerous pastime, but rather than suffering from writer’s block, I’m currently afflicted with writer’s neck (too much time sitting in front of the computer). I’ll carry on posting in short bursts, but it’s still not going to be easy. Hat’s off to those who manage it.

Until next time….

Bookends Theme
(Song by Paul Simon)

Time it was
And what a time it was, it was
A time of innocence
A time of confidences

Long ago it must be
I have a photograph
Preserve your memories
They’re all that’s left you