Don McLean, “Vincent” and Being Held to Account By WIAA

ALYSON: Well, another week in lockdown here in Scotland…..

WIAA: Alyson, whoa, this is supposed to be a music blog yet you keep treating me like your personal diary, recording your thoughts, telling everyone what’s going on in your life. Where are the songs, the memories, the bits of trivia?

ALYSON: True, it has kind of gone that way of late, but good to get those thoughts down on your virtual pages. It’ll be interesting in the future to look back at this time and remind ourselves of what we went through.

WIAA: Maybe, but you’re no Anne Frank are you, so can we please just get back to the songs.

ALYSON: DD and I visited the Anne Frank museum in Amsterdam the summer after she left school. We queued for a long, long time to get in, but well worth it. Many of us are feeling cooped up and isolated at the moment, but nothing compared to what those two families and the dentist went through.

WIAA: Any songs come to mind from that trip?

ALYSON: Hmm… not really. DD and I had very different musical tastes at that time so nothing really springs to mind.

WIAA: Any pictures?

ALYSON: Loads.

WIAA: Anything that might inspire a song?

ALYSON: Well, we also went to the Van Gogh museum and learnt a lot about the man and his art. A place bathed in golden light, what with all the yellow sunflowers bouncing off the walls. Here I am standing beside a wax model of Vincent, looking a bit bemused by his palette it seems. He also appears to be still in possession of his left ear at this point, but I suppose a big bloody bandage would have scared the kiddies. And, is it just me, but does he not look uncannily like a hipster of today?

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WIAA: Waiting…. . The song?

ALYSON: Isn’t it obvious? Vincent by Don McLean, and not the one who used to appear on Crackerjack.

WIAA: At last. Good choice. Let’s hear it.

Vincent by Don McLean:

ALYSON: I remember well listening to this song on my mum and dad’s old wireless (lots of wires actually) back in 1972. We already knew of Don McLean as American Pie had been a big hit the year before, but here he was coming along with something else from that album, a beautiful and soothing melody. I don’t think it probably registered with me at the time that the song was about Vincent Van Gogh the artist, as you only find out about these things as you become more worldly wise. Don had apparently been reading a biography of Van Gogh, and suddenly knew he had to write a song about the artist and his mental illness. He sat down with a print of Starry Night and wrote out the lyrics on a paper bag. Crikey, just how many great songs have started life on a napkin or paper bag?

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Starry Night by Vincent Van Gogh

WIAA: Thanks for that Alyson, another song to add to my archives. As a reward I’ll let you tell everyone about your week.

ALYSON: I now feel as if the moment has passed, and anyway I have to head off soon to visit my mum in her care home, the first visit in nearly four months so it will be very weird. I have to wear a mask, get my temperature checked and sit outside with her 2m apart, so certainly not back to normal, but how it has to be in the “new normal” I suppose.

We’re off to collect the rest of DD’s belongings tomorrow, which is bittersweet, as it was this week last year she headed off to begin her new life in the South of Scotland. Not quite back to square one however, as somehow she has managed to get herself a new job already, which is quite remarkable in the current climate (wish I had her ability to ace interviews).

It seems my holiday hideaway can now be opened up for single household guests and I have a family coming next week who want to visit, but not stay with, the grandparents who live nearby. Sadly it means DD has had to vacate for a while, but as long as I can handle the level of cleaning and sanitising now required, she is happy to do so. Only private lets this year so shouldn’t be too onerous.

Last not but least I had an exciting package arrive this morning, the latest instalment of Rol and Rob’s Department of the Peculiar comic book series. I have had a sneaky peek already but intend to leave full consumption until later in the day, when it can be properly savoured with no distractions. They really are very talented.

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WIAA: Sounds as if you’re going to be busy this weekend Alyson so I’d better let you go. I think we’re back on track around here (no pun intended) but just remember, here is where we revisit the songs of your youth, so lets not get too side-tracked by all that’s going on in the world. People come here for a bit of a break from the real world and don’t want to hear your moans and groans. Are we cool with that?

ALYSON: Yes cool with that WIAA.

WIAA: Right then, time to sign off for today. What is it you usually say? Ah yes, until next time….

Vincent Lyrics
(Song by Don McLean)

Starry, starry night
Paint your palette blue and gray
Look out on a summer’s day
With eyes that know the darkness in my soul

Shadows on the hills
Sketch the trees and the daffodils
Catch the breeze and the winter chills
In colors on the snowy linen land

Now I understand
What you tried to say to me
And how you suffered for your sanity
And how you tried to set them free

They would not listen, they did not know how
Perhaps they’ll listen now

Starry, starry night
Flaming flowers that brightly blaze
Swirling clouds in violet haze
Reflect in Vincent’s eyes of china blue

Colors changing hue
Morning fields of amber grain
Weathered faces lined in pain
Are soothed beneath the artist’s loving hand

Now I understand
What you tried to say to me
And how you suffered for your sanity
And how you tried to set them free

They would not listen, they did not know how
Perhaps they’ll listen now

For they could not love you
But still your love was true
And when no hope was left in sight
On that starry, starry night

You took your life, as lovers often do
But I could’ve told you Vincent
This world was never meant for
One as beautiful as you

Starry, starry night
Portraits hung in empty halls
Frame-less heads on nameless walls
With eyes that watch the world and can’t forget

Like the strangers that you’ve met
The ragged men in ragged clothes
The silver thorn of bloody rose
Lie crushed and broken on the virgin snow

Now I think I know
What you tried to say to me
And how you suffered for your sanity
And how you tried to set them free

They would not listen, they’re not listening still
Perhaps they never will

The Phenomenon of Ghosting, Motown Girl Groups and “Nathan Jones”

I seem to have veered way off topic on this blog over the last few months and the nostalgic journey through the tracks of my years element (as per the tagline above) has all but been forgotten about. But hey, that’s what a global pandemic will do to you. I now realise however, I may have been a culprit of “doomsurfing/doomscrolling” whereby I spend many hours a day scrolling through the various news streams on my phone, picking up on every new development as it happens. I am well informed, but maybe too well-informed, and I think it has led to some ghosting (“the practice of ending a personal relationship with someone by suddenly and without explanation withdrawing from all communication”) by old friends.

We all have them, old friends who may no longer think the same way, or live their lives the same way as us, but we have a shared history so keep in touch. I have been in touch with a fair few of these old friends since March and am now realising that one or two are no longer replying to my messages and certainly don’t instigate conversation. A side-effect of doomsurfing seems to be that I have become a doom and gloom merchant! But hey, yet again, that’s what a global pandemic will do to you. I’m not sure I can totally change my ways so these old friends may have to depart from my life, but just another side-effect of the crisis, and maybe something that would inevitably have happened anyway – I’ve never been a fan of the “I’m All Right Jack/Let’s Bury Our Heads in the Sand” school of thinking anyway.

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So it seems it’s time for me to change my ways around here, or else I may lose the support of all you lovely followers too. Shit happens as they say, and what better way to drag ourselves out of the doom and gloom than by listening to some great tunes. Last week I shared something by Bananarama and discovered their first hit single, (He Was) Really Saying Something, was unbeknownst to me at the time a cover of an early sixties Velvelettes recording.

The Velvelettes were an American girl group, signed to Motown in the 1960s. Their biggest chart success occurred in 1964, when Norman Whitfield produced Needle in a Haystack which peaked at number 45 on the Billboard Chart. I’m not sure why some of these girl groups went on to great things and others kind of drifted away but it seems they needed to be both championed by those in charge (Berry Gordy) and have a hunger for success above all else. Cue the Supremes. Founded as The Primettes in 1959, the Supremes were the most commercially successful of Motown’s acts, with 12 No. 1 singles on the Billboard Chart. At their peak in the mid-1960s, the Supremes rivalled the Beatles in worldwide popularity and their success possibly made it easier for future African American R&B and soul musicians to find mainstream success.

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And here is where we return to Bananarama yet again, as another of their Top 20 hits, Nathan Jones, was a cover of a Supremes song. By 1971 Diana Ross had left the group and their lead voice was now that of Jean Terrell, but along with Mary Wilson and Cindy Birdsong they racked up a good few more hits during that era, Up The Ladder To The Roof, Stoned Love and Floy Joy to name but a few. Strangely enough both Bananarama versions of these Motown songs were hits 17 years after the original. Maybe that’s just the amount of time it takes for a song to become fresh again and for listeners not to confuse it with its first incarnation. I for one certainly didn’t know about these earlier versions when I was an avid fan of Bananarama in the 1980s.

Nathan Jones by the Supremes:

So, “What’s It All About?” – Funny how things often turn full circle when you write an off-the-cuff blog post as I’m doing today. The song Nathan Jones is apparently about a woman’s former lover, a man named Nathan Jones who left her nearly a year ago “to ease his mind.” Suffering through the long separation (“winter’s passed, spring, and fall”) without any contact or communication between herself and Jones (ghosting?), the narrator is no longer in love with him, remarking that “Nathan Jones, you’ve been gone too long”. It’s a bit of a coward’s way out, but just goes to show, the practice of withdrawing from all communication is still alive and well today, possibly even more so with the advent of online dating apps and such like.

As for me, I plan to curb my “doomsurfing” activities somewhat but going to be hard after all these weeks. Having really enjoyed this nostalgic journey through the tracks of my years, it would be a shame for me to lose all the goodwill I’ve built up by being the merchant of doom! Please feel free to let me know if I overstep the mark.

Until next time….

Nathan Jones Lyrics
(Song by Leonard Caston/Kathy Wakefield)

You packed your bags, as I recall
And you walked slowly down the hall
You said you had to get away to ease your mind
And all you needed was a just little of time

Oh, winter’s passed, spring and fall
You never wrote me, you never called
(Yeah) Nathan Jones, you’ve been gone too long
Gone too long (Gone too long)

If a woman could die of tears
Nathan Jones, I wouldn’t be here
The key that you’re holding won’t fit my door
And there’s no room in my heart for you no more

‘Cause winter’s passed, spring and fall
You never wrote me, you never called
(Oh-oh) Nathan Jones, you’ve been gone too long
Gone too long

Do-do-do

Nathan Jones
Nathan Jones
Mm-hmm
Nathan Jones, oh

Winter’s passed, spring and fall
You never wrote me, you never called
(Oh-oh) Nathan Jones, you’ve been gone too long
Mm-mm-mm, Gone too long (Gone too long)
Nathan Jones, you’ve been gone too long (Gone too long)
You’ve been gone too long (Gone too long)
Hey, Nathan Jones, you’ve been gone too long (Gone too long)
Hey, you know, you’ve been gone (Gone too long)
Nathan Jones, you’ve been gone too long (Gone too long)

Baggy Dungarees, Bananarama and “Cruel Summer”

It’s Saturday morning which is usually my preferred slot for a weekly blogging session however I am struggling to find inspiration. That’s not actually true, it’s more that I am still overwhelmed by what’s going on in the world, and can’t seem to snap out of it. Is it just me, or is the initial relief the country felt at being in full lockdown starting to morph into something quite different? I think it is only now starting to hit home that there won’t be a V-shaped bounce back for the economy, and many will lose their jobs and businesses.

Talking of which, last Saturday we had a tricky manoeuvre to perform in getting DD back home to the Highlands but we managed without breaking (too many) rules. Back in March she had a pretty good life for someone her age but this pandemic has put paid to that – Once you lose your job, bit by bit you lose everything else and although she is by no means the only one, it’s a bitter pill to swallow. Today is the summer solstice, astronomically the first day of summer (written about here before). In years gone by I would have probably had a wee soiree for the neighbours, but this is going to be a Cruel Summer I can tell, so not really in the mood. Cue Bananarama.

Cruel Summer by Bananarama:

Anyone who was around at the time will know that Bananarama were incredibly prolific in the 1980s and they ended up being listed in the Book of Guinness World Records for achieving the world’s highest number of chart entries by an all-female group. They came along just at the time my life as a student was coming to an end but we weren’t ready to cast our student wardrobes aside quite yet and I remember those Bananarama-inspired dungarees and baggy T-shirts were a staple right through those transition years. They had caught the eye of Terry Hall, and in February 1982 released It Ain’t What You Do (It’s The Way That You Do It) with Fun Boy Three, which got to the No. 5 spot in the UK Singles Chart. By the time Cruel Summer hit the charts in July 1983, they’d already had 5 other hit singles!

As we are contemporaries, it’s always interesting to see the girls when they pop up on telly today. Although they lost Siobhan Fahey for a good while as she embarked on other projects, she got back together with fellow Bananaramers Sara Dallin and Keren Woodward in 2017, and they completed a world tour. The dungarees have gone, in favour of the little black dress, but I don’t begrudge them that at all. Once we ladies get to a certain age the clothes of our youth just look silly on us, although we can still rock the shoes. Back in 1982/83, when we copied their look, it was all about the shoes. A large sector of the female population was at that time going down the white stiletto route, even with dungarees. You could always tell which “tribe” a girl belonged to because of her shoes – It was always Doc Martins and loafers for Bananarama and if I’m not mistaken they still marry up their old footwear of choice with their little black dresses of today. Way to go girls.

So “What’s It All About?” – It’s going to be a tough old summer for many of us I suspect. I keep telling DD she is not alone, as if that somehow makes it better, but of course it doesn’t. As my holiday house is sitting empty at the moment she at least has somewhere to stay whilst she tries to regroup. I had been optimistic recently about my ability to reopen the holiday hideaway for staycations later in the summer, but having seen the many cleaning protocols and risk assessments that (understandably) need to be completed ahead of each guest arriving, like many others in the hospitality and tourism sectors, I am starting to wonder whether it will be possible. Based on costs/unit of hospitality, we should now be charging around £30 for each drink in a pub and around £500 for each night away. With a recession looming, just don’t think that’s going to be possible.

I’ve not exactly come back with a very positive post today, but at least I’ve eased the blockage which had stopped me from writing. I have had something very positive happen to me of late however which involves this blog. What did they say to Kevin Costner in Field Of Dreams? – “If you build it, they will come.” Something along those lines and I hope to share more in due course.

Until next time….

Cruel Summer Lyrics
(Song by Sara Dallin/Siobhan Fahey/Steve Jolley/Tony Swain/Keren Woodward)

Hot summer streets
And the pavements are burning
I sit around

Trying to smile
But the air is so heavy and dry

Strange voices are saying
What did they say
Things I can’t understand
It’s too close for comfort
This heat has got right out of hand

It’s a cruel, cruel summer
Leaving me here on my own
It’s a cruel, cruel summer
Now you’re gone

The city is crowded
My friends are away
And I’m on my own

It’s too hot to handle
So I got to get up and go

It’s a cruel, cruel summer
Leaving me here on my own
It’s a cruel,
It’s a cruel, cruel summer
Now you’re gone
You’re not the only one

Glenn Miller, Carly Simon and A Strawberry Moon!

Well, it’s that time in the annual calendar for the June full moon, and for the first time since starting my Full Moon In Song series, my birthday has coincided with that spectacle in the sky. It’s a big birthday, and one that entitles me to a free bus pass here in Scotland (feels a bit surreal to be honest), but sadly it will be spent in lockdown. I am hopeful however that one set of neighbours will be able to “socially distance” with us in our garden later on, but it does look as if it might rain.

The full moon we should be able to see in the sky tonight, cloud cover permitting, is the Strawberry Moon and I wrote about it here two years ago. For those in the know this was a very personal post, so quite apt that I reblog it today on my birthday. For everyone else, enjoy the music of Glenn Miller, and the beautiful cover version of the song Moonlight Serenade by Ms Carly Simon.

What's It All About?

Since discovering 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 as they appear in our skies. To accompany the post I always include one of the numerous songs that have been written about the moon and its many foibles.

Well I don’t know about you, but it seems ages since I’ve seen a bright moon, as it doesn’t get dark up here in the North of Scotland until way after my bedtime at this time of year. By hook or by crook however I intend to catch the one that should grace our skies later on this week, on Thursday night. This full moon is called the Strawberry Moon, because for the Algonquin tribes of North America, June was the month the wild berries started to ripen and…

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Those We Have Lost in 2020 – RIP Kenny, Bill, John and Richard

Because this year has been one like no other, my blogging has changed tack and I have not been keeping up with the sad roll call of people we have lost from the world of music. It is almost inevitable that many of them would have been written about here before, as most were elder statesmen of their particular genres, but time to pay special tribute I think.

My very first post of this year led me back to the chart music of 1970, and at the top spot was Mr Kenny Rogers with his excellent story song Ruby, Don’t Take Your Love To Town. I am not however really that familiar with the First Edition era of Kenny’s career. The Kenny I am more familiar with was his late ’70s persona which gave us the hits Lucille, The Gambler and Coward of the County. Like Ruby these were all very much story songs and their lyrics have given us some great lines which are often quoted. After the news of his death on March the 20th, just ahead of all the upheaval and distress caused by the pandemic, there were many who noted that Kenny had followed the advice within his signature song:

You’ve got to know when to hold ’em
Know when to fold ’em

Ten days after the death of Kenny Rogers, news came through that we had also lost Bill Withers. Last summer, after a particularly lovely day out I shared many pictures in a blog post, so the obvious accompanying song choice was Bill’s 1977 song Lovely Day. To be honest I hadn’t realised until that point just how respected Bill had been in the music world, having won three Grammy Awards and been nominated for six more. His life was even the subject of a 2009 documentary film called Still Bill. Quite something considering he worked as a professional musician for just 15 years, from 1970 to 1985, after which he moved on to other occupations.

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Bill Withers, 1938-2020

My Bill song choice is going to have to be this one however, Ain’t No Sunshine. They’re not for everyone I know, but I am a bit of a fan of Richard Curtis movies, and the song certainly fitted a particularly poignant scene in the film Notting Hill very well – Poor old lovelorn Hugh Grant straddles all four seasons whilst he walks through the market with Bill’s song playing the background [spoiler alert: all turns out well in the end].

Ain’t No Sunshine by Bill Withers:

A week after the death of Bill, we heard of the sad loss of John Prine. John was someone I only discovered since starting this blog, and when I accidentally came across his song When I Get To Heaven one evening when on my way to visit my mum in hospital, I got a bit emotional, all because of these lines of lyric:

And then I’m gonna go find my mom and dad, and good old brother Doug
Well I bet him and cousin Jackie are still cuttin’ up a rug
I wanna see all my mama’s sisters, ’cause that’s where all the love starts
I miss ’em all like crazy, bless their little hearts

Yes, there was nothing more I wanted than to go find my dad who had died 15 years earlier, and ask for his advice on decisions that were going to have to be made. Listening to the song, even us non-believers are almost prepared to be converted, as there is a definite party atmosphere going on. John Prine had apparently been treated for cancer twice, and it was after his second bout that he wrote the song about some of the things he had to give up following his illness. Here is a quote: “I wrote that song because I figured there’s no cancer in heaven. So when I get up there, I’m going to have a cocktail and a cigarette that’s 9 miles long. That’s my idea of what heaven is like.

I hope John is up there right now, sitting with Kenny and Bill, enjoying that cocktail and extremely long cigarette!

When I Get To Heaven by John Prine:

Last but most definitely not least, on the 9th May we lost the artist known best to us as Little Richard. I can’t pretend to know that much about Mr Penniman, as he was a bit before my time, but I do know he was an influential figure in popular music, often nicknamed The Innovator, The Originator, or The Architect of Rock and Roll. His best known work dates back to the mid-1950s, when his charismatic showmanship, dynamic music and frenetic piano playing laid the foundation for rock and roll. He influenced numerous singers and musicians across musical genres from rock to hip hop and in a line-up he would have been easily recognisable because of his pompadour hairstyle.

Tutti Frutti became an instant first hit for him in 1955 but as we started off with Kenny Rogers, and mentioned his song Lucille, I think I’ll come full circle and end with Little Richard’s song of the same name. Lucille became a big hit for him in 1957 but he then abandoned rock and roll for born again Christianity.  When he was persuaded to tour Europe in 1962, the Beatles opened for him and Richard even advised them on how to perform his songs. He is cited as one of the first crossover black artists, and his music and concerts broke down barriers, drawing blacks and whites together despite attempts to sustain segregation. How sad therefore to see what is going on right now as I type, 60 years on.

Until next time, RIP Kenny, Bill, John and Richard, you will not be forgotten.

When I Get To Heaven Lyrics
(Song by John Prine)

When I get to heaven, I’m gonna shake God’s hand
Thank him for more blessings than one man can stand
Then I’m gonna get a guitar and start a rock-n-roll band
Check into a swell hotel, ain’t the afterlife grand?
And then I’m gonna get a cocktail: vodka and ginger ale
Yeah, I’m gonna smoke a cigarette that’s nine miles long
I’m gonna kiss that pretty girl on the tilt-a-whirl
‘Cause this old man is goin’ to town

Then as God as my witness, I’m gettin’ back into show business
I’m gonna open up a nightclub called “The Tree of Forgiveness”
And forgive everybody ever done me any harm
Well, I might even invite a few choice critics, those syph’litic parasitics
Buy ’em a pint of Smithwick’s and smother ’em with my charm

‘Cause then I’m gonna get a cocktail: vodka and ginger ale
Yeah I’m gonna smoke a cigarette that’s nine miles long
I’m gonna kiss that pretty girl on the tilt-a-whirl
Yeah this old man is goin’ to town

Yeah when I get to heaven, I’m gonna take that wristwatch off my arm
What are you gonna do with time after you’ve bought the farm?
And then I’m gonna go find my mom and dad, and good old brother Doug
Well I bet him and cousin Jackie are still cuttin’ up a rug
I wanna see all my mama’s sisters, ’cause that’s where all the love starts
I miss ’em all like crazy, bless their little hearts
And I always will remember these words my daddy said
He said, “Buddy, when you’re dead, you’re a dead pecker-head”
I hope to prove him wrong… that is, when I get to heaven

‘Cause I’m gonna have a cocktail: vodka and ginger ale

Yeah I’m gonna smoke a cigarette that’s nine miles long
I’m gonna kiss that pretty girl on the tilt-a-whirl
Yeah this old man is goin’ to town

Yeah this old man is goin’ to town

Virtual Concerts, Take That and We’ll “Never Forget” 2020

I missed my regular session of blogging yesterday morning as Mr WIAA and I instead headed out to source a 3m wide gazebo ahead of being able to invite one other family into our back garden for a socially distanced chat, with no offer of refreshments being made of course. Am I really writing this? The phrase “you couldn’t make it up” comes to mind but this is indeed the new normal. It wasn’t easy, but after waiting in a fair few long queues we found something cheap and cheerful that would do the job – Now we just have to work out who might be up for the idea. With no family living locally it’s down to friends and I’m fully aware we might not be at the top of their lists for a wee while yet, as they do have family who live locally.

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Billy No-Mates
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A socially distanced chat anyone?

As we enter week 11 of lockdown (with partial easing) here in Scotland, I can see that people are getting restless, and they won’t be able to keep to the rules for much longer. Let’s hope they don’t have to but I am nervous, must be said. My heart goes out to those who have lost a loved one but my heart also goes out to those who have lost their jobs and businesses. It’s certainly a tricky situation to get out of, and I’m glad I’m not the one having to make the difficult decisions.

I did have a few drafts backing up around here which I could have returned to today but somehow the moment passes and the song choices are no longer relevant. Instead I am going to tell you about something which raised my spirits on Friday night. There have been many online attempts at virtual concerts of late, some more successful than others, but when a friend told me that Take That were going to be streaming live from 8pm on the 29th, I thought I’d give it a whirl (link here). Boy was I glad I did as for 40 minutes or so I forgot all about the pesky virus that has affected our lives so much.

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I was way too old for Take That when they appeared on the scene back in the early ’90s but they soon became the biggest boy band in the land, racking up an impressive run of chart hits between 1991 and 1996 including eight releases that reached the No. 1 spot. Gary generally wrote and performed the songs, whereas Howard and Jason were primarily dancers. Robbie and Mark were jack-of-all-trades, dancing, singing and offering themselves up as teen idols. Their live shows were spectacular and when they split there was a period of national mourning amongst their young fans. Richard and Judy even had to set up a helpline (I know this because it happened during one of the rare times I caught sight of daytime television as I had just given birth to DD and was on maternity leave).

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In 2006, to the delight of their fans who like them were now a lot older and had kids of their own, they reformed, and so started the successful run of their existence as a 4-piece (sans Robbie). They were now a man band but the shows became even more spectacular, there were many more successful albums, and four more No. 1 hits. Eventually Jason too left the fold but they are still going strong today as a middle-aged man band and for the virtual concert on Friday night, for one night only, Robbie re-joined.

It was great fun, I can’t deny, and somehow using only basic technology we could hear all four of them from the comfort of their very own home studios (although some perhaps more basic than others – Mark?). They were able to perform many of the big hits, Back For Good, Shine, The Flood and Pray (Howard and Mark still have those moves) to name but a few, complete with fine virtual backgrounds courtesy of green screen. All these years later they have been able to become the kind of men they always were, not having to conform to a homogenised bandified look, and whilst watching the concert I gave them all nicknames: Flash, Natty, Scruffy and Dandy. If anyone wants to guess which name fitted each band member, feel free to leave a comment in the boxes below.

As is wont to happen at their big live concerts they ended the show with this song, Never Forget. I am a big fan as it features Howard Donald on vocals who rarely got top-billing which made me warm to him the most. It’s tough when you’re not perhaps the best singer, dancer or song-writer within a band, but when you do get your moment in the sun, it just makes it all the more special.

Never Forget by Take That:

The opening section of Never Forget is taken from Verdi’s Requiem, sung by the Henllen Boys Choir. The official music video contained a montage of the band’s childhood moments, but whenever I hear it I just think it sums up their history:

We’ve come a long way
But we’re not too sure where we’ve been
We’ve had success, we’ve had good times…

Someday soon this will all be someone else’s dream…

So, “What’s It All About?” – Looks as if attempts are being made at returning to some semblance of normality, but all that means is that the hospitals can now probably cope better with an influx of patients, not that the virus has gone away. 2016 wasn’t great for several reasons, neither was 2017. 2018 was bad for us as a family and 2019 wasn’t much better. I had high hopes for 2020 but turns out it has been worse than anything most of us will ever have experienced. My daughter’s life is in disarray and our businesses are in mothballs leaving us with little income. Ironically, because the virus hasn’t made it into my mum’s care home, her life has changed very little and she always seems really happy when I call. 2020 is a year we will never forget, nor should we, but my goodness I’m really ready for things to improve. Hope that joyful little bit of entertainment on Friday night will kickstart something good. It’s time now.

Never Forget Lyrics
(Song by Gary Barlow)

We’ve come a long way
But we’re not too sure where we’ve been
We’ve had success we’ve had good times
But remember this

Been on this path of life for so long
Feel I’ve walked a thousand miles
Sometimes strolled hand in hand with love
Everybody’s been there

With danger on my mind
I would stand on the line
Of hope and I knew I could make it

Once I knew the boundaries
I looked into the clouds
And saw my face in the moonlight

Just then I realised what a fool I could be
Just ’cause I look so high I don’t have to see me
Finding a paradise wasn’t easy but still
There’s a road going down the other side of this hill

Never forget where you’ve come here from
Never pretend that it’s all real
Someday soon this will all be someone else’s dream
This will be someone else’s dream

Safe from the arms of disappointment for so long
Feel each day we’ve come too far
Yet each day seems to make much more
Sure it’s good to be here

I understand the meaning
Of “I can’t explain this feeling”
Now that it feels so unreal

At night I see the hand
That reminds me of the stand
That I make the fact of reality

Never forget where you’ve come here from
Never pretend that it’s all real
Someday soon this will all be someone else’s dream
This will be someone else’s dream

We’ve come so far and we’ve reached so high
And we’ve looked each day and night in the eye
And we’re still so young and we hope for more
But remember this

We’re not invincible, we’re not invincible, no
We’re only people, we’re only people
Hey we’re not invincible, we’re not invincible
So again I’ll tell you

Never forget where you’ve come here from
Never pretend that it’s all real
Someday soon this will all be someone else’s dream
This will be someone else’s dream

Never
Never forget babe
Never pretend that it’s all real
Someday soon this will all be someone else’s dream
This will be someone else’s dream

An Open Letter to DD – When Life Gets Tough, “What Would Buffy Do?”

My Dearest Darling Daughter (DD for short)

I know you don’t often drop by this place and I thank you for giving me the freedom to write freely without worrying about being viewed by people from the real world, but here is a short post just for you. Other regulars may drop by but they already know all about you, as all of your shenanigans, as well as those of your dad and granny, pop up within these pages from time to time.

We are now heading into our 10th week of lockdown here in Scotland, which means it’s nearly 11 weeks since you were “let go” from your workplace. What an awful euphemism – You and your colleagues were not flimsy pieces of rope loosely tethered to your desks, but were sparky, go-getting young people with so much to offer. Anyway, because of the pandemic it happened, and on behalf of my generation I apologise for how your generation have been treated over the last decade or so. 

We all know how tough it is for you to buy somewhere to live, as we bought everything up as “investment property”. We all know how tough it is for you to enter the job market, as we cling on to the quality jobs and now (have to) work ’til we drop. We gave you computers & phones which let you access social media 24/7, often damaging your mental health. Some of us call you “snowflakes” which is an insult of the highest order and could only come from those who haven’t seen how hard your generation have had to work to navigate the school system and beyond. And now… , the world has seen fit to give you a pandemic to deal with.

This is primarily a health crisis we are living through, and yes, it is our older people and those with underlying health conditions who have borne the brunt of it so far, however I would argue that it’s the 18 to 24-year-olds like yourself whose lives have been turned upside down by it most, and who will bear the brunt in the longer term. I feel desperately sorry for all of you who will miss sitting those life-changing exams; who will finish your degrees virtually; who will miss out on all those end of term revelries; who work in the arts & hospitality; whose new apprenticeships/jobs are now on hold, and; whose plans for next year are now in jeopardy. Many of you might be in a serious relationship yet are having to lockdown in different households. Your social life, which is of immense importance to your age group, is reduced to a Zoom quiz or a hour’s walk with your parents.     

Anyway, got to find some positives and I know you will do your absolute best to adapt to a post-pandemic world. It was obvious before all this that something had to change in terms of how we live, and this might just be the catalyst to make it happen. Over the last few months we have seen less pollution, more innovative ways of working and communities taking care of each other – All bodes well for the future, as long as we can get through this tricky next phase.

I know you’re starting to struggle a bit now and I would like nothing more than to give you a great big hug, but as you’re at the other end of the country, sadly not possible for some time yet. Your dad and I miss you desperately and are your biggest supporters – Whatever the future holds, you will be fabulous.

Mum xxx


Postscript:

I have written about DD often around here, so if anyone wants to drop by the comments boxes with a message of support I think it would give her a big lift. Cross fingers we can all reunite soon. Back in the day, we as a family once spent a whole calendar year watching all 144 episodes of Joss Whedon’s award-winning cult drama, Buffy The Vampire Slayer. When times get tough, the question still is, “What would Buffy do?” – She was one powerful young lady.

As we watched all the episodes, we must have also heard the theme music by Nerf Herder at least 144 times. I had never thought to look into this before, but Nerf Herder are apparently an American rock band from Santa Barbara, California. They describe themselves as a “geek rock” band, and are known for simplistic, modern, punk-style songs and pop-culture-referencing lyrics. Perfect for the Buffy Theme it seems, and as I often say around here, every day’s a school day.

Buffy The Vampire Slayer Theme by Nerf Herder:

Eurovision, Pickettywitch and Another Look At The Chart Hits Of 1970

Well, we’re now coming up to eight weeks in lockdown here in Scotland with no sign yet of an easing of restrictions. We can now go out more than once a day for exercise, however that has somehow lessened its appeal. When something is rationed you make the absolute most of it, but when it is more freely available, it can be squandered. Don’t want to return to my old ways now that I’m feeling so much fitter than I have in years though, so good discipline will have to kick in instead. There is definitely a change in visible activity now with more traffic on the roads and more shops and services finding ways to re-open, but the days of welcoming millions of tourists over the summer months are still a very long way off.

Not many people around here will probably be aware of this, but it should be Eurovision week, culminating with the grand final taking place on Saturday 16th May. The contest this year was to be held in Rotterdam as Duncan Laurence (real name Duncan de Moor) from The Netherlands won last year with his song Arcade, and it is usual for the previous year’s winning country to host the next one.

OIPD7L7O6XD

Sadly the auditorium in Rotterdam is now an overspill hospital for Dutch Covid-19 patients and this will be the first year since the contest’s inception 64 years ago that it hasn’t gone ahead. 2020 will be the year that never happened for large events where the whole raison d’être is the gathering together of lots and lots of people, all there to enjoy the same thing – The Olympics, the Euros, Glastonbury, Chelsea Flower Show, Wimbledon, the list goes on….

I have been brave enough to mention around here before that a few years ago we went to an actual live contest in Vienna. I’m not going to lie, it was great fun, and although definitely not the “coolest” thing ever to have done, we had a great weekend and found some like-minded fellow Scots to hang around with. If you’re looking for a bit of fluff and nonsense, it can’t be bettered.

Some of my first memories are of watching the contest with my family as a child when our most popular singing stars represented the nation and invariably won or came close to winning – One of my first posts was even about those days (link here). The contest we went to was nothing like the shows I watched as a child, and we of course no longer field the cream of our crop (as it could be career suicide for them), but there have been some worthy and memorable winners over the last few years, Salvador Sobral for one.

salvador 3
Salvador Sobral

This Eurovision themed post comes just at the right time, as I have been manfully making my way through the UK Singles Chart of 1970 in the course of the year as a kind of 50 year retrospective, reflecting simpler times (got that right!). So far we have revisited the hits of Kenny Rogers, Edison Lighthouse, Lee Marvin and Simon & Garfunkel but then the 1970 Eurovision took place and the charts became littered with songs from participating nations as was wont to happen back then.

The song that took over the top spot in the UK Singles Chart from Bridge Over Troubled Water was All Kinds of Everything by very young Irish songstress Dana (the only Eurovision finalist to go on to became an MEP). I would only have been aged nine when this song won the contest and wouldn’t have found it nearly as unbearable to listen to as I do now, but, those sugary sweet songs were just the kind of thing that won back then. In time we would have hard rock winners but that would take a while yet.

The song representing the UK in 1970 was Knock, Knock Who’s There? performed by Welsh songstress Mary Hopkin. She had been the favourite to win on the night but ended up coming second. Most of us in the UK already knew Mary well as she had been one of the first artists to sign with Apple Records, owned by the Beatles. The model Twiggy had apparently seen her winning the British television talent show Opportunity Knocks, and recommended her to Paul McCartney. Her debut single Those Were The Days, produced by McCartney, reached the top spot in the UK in 1968 and yes Mary, the way I’m feeling right now, those definitely were the days.

Lots of Eurovision songs mentioned in this post but what else do I find in that same Singles Chart? Here’s one I haven’t heard in an awful long time but again, it brings back happy memories of watching TOTP with my family as a child. The Same Old Feeling was recorded by the band Pickettywitch and reached the No. 5 spot in 1970. I can still remember watching lead singer Polly Brown in her very short dress, although her immaculately coiffed singing sidekick draws a blank. The band apparently got their moniker after passing a pub of the same name in Yeovil in Somerset. Compared with the wholesome Eurovision ladies, Polly definitely had a bit of an edge.

The Same Old Feeling by Pickettywitch:

Bit of a rambling post this one but a bit sad that we won’t be having our usual get-together for Eurovision this year complete with food and drink of the host nation. As it turns out, Dutch food is not especially noteworthy, so might have been quite a tough one anyway. I did get a chance to revisit the chart of 50 years ago again though, and decided in the end I preferred Pickettywitch to any of the Eurovision entrants. It looks as if the next big chart topper of 1970 was also associated with a major event, but a football one this time. By the time I get round to it, I will have coincided with another cancelled 2020 event.

Until next time….

The Same Old Feeling Lyrics
(Song by John Macleod/Tony Macaulay)

I still get the same old feeling
Tearing at this heart of mine
Telling me that maybe I’m
Not really over you
I still get the same old yearning
Turning my heart inside out
Love, there can’t be any doubt
I’m still not over you

The oak tree where you carved my name
A year ago now
Somehow doesn’t really look the same
I think it closed now
The places we would go
Still play the songs we used to know

The cottage where we used to meet
Is overgrown now
We dreamed we’d live there too someday
Just on our own now
The letters you wrote me
Still bring that sentimental ring

Earworm Of The Week #4 – Odyssey and “If You’re Looking For A Way Out”

No prizes for guessing how this song popped into my subconscious this week as it’s now all about how we’re going to get out of lockdown, but as an earworm it’s a pleasant one, and it’s made me want to look into the story of the singing group Odyssey a bit more. For a long time I used to confuse them with fellow Americans Rose Royce because their most successful years in the UK Singles Chart coincided, and both produced up-tempo disco numbers but also beautiful ballads.

Odyssey would have first entered my radar during my final year of senior school as their first big hit in the UK reached the No. 2 spot that Christmas. Native New Yorker was more successful over here than in their native US which became a pattern for the rest of their career and eventually led them to move to the UK permanently.

The song was originally written for Frankie Valli but when covered by Odyssey it became their first hit. The song is about a girl who is unlucky in love. The singer is telling her that as a native New Yorker, she should know by now that love is as fabricated as a Broadway show, and that you have to look out for yourself in the city. It’s a song about disillusionment that captures the downside of the self-reliant New York lifestyle.

Now we’re fast-forwarding to the summer of 1980 and it was one of their songs I just couldn’t miss, as it spent 12 weeks on the UK Singles Chart and 2 weeks at the top spot. Believe it or not this song title inavertedly pops up in our house just about every other day, as whenever we look in the fridge and spot something that needs used up, we always ask each other if we should, Use it up and wear it out?“. It’s been hard-wired into our brains by Odyssey that you can’t say the first bit without adding the second!

By the end of the summer of 1980 they released a follow-up single, If You’re Lookin’ for a Way Out with Lillian Lopez again on lead vocals. It’s a bit of a tear-jerker and had I not been all loved-up that summer, but rather going through a painful break up, it would have made for tough listening. This single reached the No. 6 spot and spent 15 weeks on the UK Singles Chart. The common factor in all three featured songs is that they were either written or produced by Sandy Linzer who is a new name for me but seems to have been really prolific in the ’60s/’70s writing for Frankie Valli and The Four Seasons.

So if you’re looking for a way out
I won’t stand here in your way

Don’t look at the tears that I’m crying
They’ll only make you wanna stay
Don’t kiss me again ’cause I’m dying
To keep you from running away

To be fair, the person I was all loved-up with that summer did cause much heartache down the line, and looking at these lyrics I was not as magnanimous. You do feel like you’re dying inside and I did stand in his way, but ultimately to no avail. Does that make me a bad girlfriend? I don’t think so – Just a broken-hearted one.

If You’re Looking For A Way Out by Odyssey:

So, I now know a lot more about the group Odyssey and will no longer confuse them with Rose Royce. It’s also been nice to have a break from writing about all that’s going on in the world at the moment and just concentrate on the music (although this one definitely inspired by what’s going on). I have a few more drafts that would be good to get down in print as I’ve not yet written about any of the sad deaths we’ve had from the world of music this year, which is remiss of me. Easy to get distracted at the moment however.

Until next time….

If You’re Lookin’ For A Way Out Lyrics
(Song by Sandy Linzer, Ralph Kotkov)

Love is crazy baby, I can see it in your eyes
Your kisses taste the same
But it’s just a sweet disguise
Ain’t that just like you
To worry about me
But we promised to be honest
With each other for all eternity
So if you’re looking for a way out
I won’t stand here in your way
And if you’re looking for a way out

Don’t look at the tears that I’m crying
They’ll only make you wanna stay
Don’t kiss me again ’cause I’m dying
To keep you from running away
(Run away, run away, run away, run away, run away, run away)

Oh baby tell me I’m wrong
Just say I’m crazy
It’s with you that I belong
It’s never easy when lovers have to part
Oh come on stop pretending
Tell me what’s in you heart
And if you’re looking for a way out
I won’t stand here in your way
But if you’re looking for a way out

Don’t look at the tears that I’m crying
They’ll only make you wanna stay
Don’t kiss me again ’cause I’m dying
To keep you from running away

Don’t look at the tears that I’m crying
They’ll only make you wanna stay
Don’t love me again ’cause I’m tryin’
To keep you from running away
(Baby don’t run away, baby don’t run away)

Don’t you run away (ooh ooh)
(Ooh ooh)
Oh come on stop pretending
Tell me what’s in your heart

Postscript:

I don’t know if any of you have watched the new BBC adaptation of the Sally Rooney novel Normal People but I would thoroughly recommend it. It made me realise that the Sligo of today in the drama is very like the rural Aberdeenshire I grew up in and many of the storylines resonated. It’s probably not for everyone but just as the song featured above is a real tear-jerker, without giving too much away, the drama is a real tear-jerker too and involves young people who are around the age I was when these songs came into my life.

I went to a school that punched above its weight in terms of academic success for its pupils and many of us from what I would call a working class culture headed off to university. Not always easy to assimilate though and I strongly identified with the male character Connell. No, not easy when you find yourself straddling two worlds but not fitting into either – If you watch it, I’d be interested in your thoughts.

NORMAL PEOPLE
Connell and Marianne from Normal People

Thoughts Of The Week, Thin Lizzy and “Dancing In The Moonlight (It’s Caught Me In It’s Spotlight)”

I’ve been surprised at how quickly we become acclimatised to the new normal. Just like the grieving process there seems to be a “lockdown process”, and although different for everyone depending on your circumstances, I am currently in a very different place to the one I was in seven weeks ago, possibly because I’ve entered the acceptance phase. The direct debits have been cancelled, I’ve fired out as many offers of help to neighbours as I can, my weekly menu plans mean we live in a zero food-waste household, and best of all, coming up to a slightly scary big birthday I think I’m the fittest I’ve been in years. Mr WIAA and I worked out yesterday that in terms of miles covered (purely for exercise of course), we could have walked to Aberdeen and back during the lockdown period, a distance of 200 miles.

I’m Gonna Be (500 Miles) by The Proclaimers:

Before anyone thinks I’m starting to sound smug, I am still a tad concerned at how on earth we are going to get our businesses back up and running any time soon, but the blind panic I was experiencing at the beginning has certainly dissipated somewhat. It is a bit of a worry that my mum is in a local care home and I haven’t been able to visit her since the beginning of March, but so far the virus has been kept at bay, which is great. Every time I phone it feels like I am interrupting all the fun, and although she appreciates the call, she can’t wait to get back to what she was doing, painting rainbows or making VE Day bunting with her friends. I think the dynamic in the care home has changed in that it has become so much more self-contained by necessity, and they have become one big family, not having to open up for visitors all day long. It costs a lot, and a week of care home charges could subsidise DD for a month, but I can certainly sleep easy which is good.

Speaking of DD, we have seen more of her in the last seven weeks than we have in years as an awful lot of FaceTiming has been going on. When your offspring first leave home you pine for them and are desperate for them to call home, but realise they are busy with their new lives so try to remain patient. Turns out that during a global pandemic it’s not an issue, and we sometimes even have to cut the call short in order to free ourselves up for the latest instalment of our current boxset (but we won’t tell her that). Families also come together in a way they might not have done in decades. We have a weekly quiz night with Mr WIAA’s extended family who are scattered all over the country and even hosted our own for the first time on Wednesday night. I’d like to say it went well, and it did up to a point, but we totally messed up the scores on the doors and there was ensuing dissidence in the ranks. Fortunately we pulled it back and gave people their correct standings by the time we closed the meeting, so honour was restored.

OIPJGP07LZ0

We Are Family by Sister Sledge:

This bit of blogging is mainly for my own benefit as I no longer keep a paper diary so my blog is going to be my only record of the times we are living through. I do have a few musical posts in my back pocket however so want to get back to them soon or else the moment will pass. Somehow we are going to have to learn to live with this new virus, as a permanent life in lockdown until there is a safe vaccine is just not an option. We all have our own views on that, and a scary premise indeed, but just as we’ve kind of quickly got used to the whole lockdown scenario, we will have to get used to living in a way that minimises the health risk and preserves the capacity of our NHS. Difficult times indeed.

Before I go, many of you will have spotted the Flower Moon in our skies this week. I have written about it before for my Full Moon Calendar In Song series but the one on Wednesday night was the last supermoon of the year, so was particulary bright. In fact it was so bright I thought I’d left the outside light on and mistakenly got up to switch it off. It kind of caught you in its spotlight making you want to go dancing in the moonlight. Cue Thin Lizzy from 1977.

Dancing In The Moonlight (It’s Caught Me In Its Spotlight) by Thin Lizzy:

I remember well watching Phil Lynott and the rest of the band on TOTP around this time and was always fascinated by their hair. Back in those days, the plethora of hair conditioning products available to us now just didn’t exist, yet his guitarist bandmate Scott Gorham had the most gorgeous long, shiny hair. As a teenage girl I was well jealous. As for Phil, he seemed to have managed to cultivate a “do” that covered his left eye, which was unusual for that time.

Looking at these lyrics now, it’s a song that reminds me of those teenage years when plucking up the courage to ask for that last dance can be so pivotal, and let’s face it, who hasn’t got chocolate stains on their “pants” at the cinema (heck I once dropped a whole ice-cream). You stay out too late and miss the last bus, so have to tell your parents you’re staying with a friend. All worthwhile however as you’ve been caught in the spotlight on a long hot summer night.

Until next time….

Dancing In The Moonlight (It’s Caught Me In Its Spotlight)
(Song by Phil Lynott)

When I passed you in the doorway
Well you took me with a glance
I should have took that last bus home
But I asked you for a dance

Now we go steady to the pictures
I always get chocolate stains on my pants
And my father he’s going crazy
He says I’m living in a trance

But I’m dancing in the moonlight
It’s caught me in its spotlight
It’s alright, alright
Dancing in the moonlight
On this long hot summer night

It’s three o’clock in the morning
And I’m on the streets again
I disobeyed another warning
I should have been in by ten

Now I won’t get out until Sunday
I’ll have to say I stayed with friends
But it’s a habit worth forming
If it means to justify the end

Dancing in the moonlight
It’s caught me in its spotlight
It’s alright, alright
Dancing in the moonlight
On this long hot summer night

And I’m walking home
The last bus has long gone
But I’m dancing in the moonlight

[Instrumental]

Dancing in the moonlight
It’s caught me in its spotlight
It’s alright, alright
Dancing in the moonlight
On this long hot summer night

Dancing in the moonlight (I’m dancing in the moonlight)
It’s caught me in its spotlight (It’s caught me in in it’s spotlight)
Dancing in the moonlight (dancing in the moonlight)
On this long hot summer night (It’s got me hot)