Post 201, Billy Joel and “Movin’ Out (Anthony’s Song)”

Last time I pressed the publish button on this blog I got one of these from the WordPress people. It only took me 10 months to write my first 100 posts, but it’s taken another 17 months to mapost-milestone-200-2xke it to the 200 mark. I couldn’t really have kept up that pace long-term though and anyone who has followed this blog for a while now will know that there have been a few bumps on the road around here of late, but I plan to keep going, as I still love putting together these offerings that tenuously link to the Tracks of My Years. Also, the little blogging community I seem to have found myself part of has become really important to me, and if I’m not mistaken, it looks as if there might even be a real life meet-up down the line. Wouldn’t have expected that 27 months ago, no siree Bob.

But what to write about this time, for boring old Post 201 (I do hate veering away from a nice round number) – I remember suffering from blogger’s block when I reached Post 101, but then as if by magic, all sorts of ideas sprang forth. The number 101 led to thoughts of George Orwell’s Room 101 which in turn led to featured song choices. The binary number 101 converts to 5 in decimal, and no end of bands that incorporate that number into their name. Also, I decided that 101 is a palindromic number, which again inspired a song choice or two.

201 though….

Hmm….

2… 0… 1…

Much, much trickier, so time to resort to the vast resources of the world wide web. First up is this interesting snippet – It turns out that the North American Area Code for Hackensack, New Jersey, is the number 201. This is not the first time Hackensack has been mentioned in this blog, as one of the New Jersey suggestions for my AmericanthDZ2ELYSU Odyssey series was the song Movin’ Out (Anthony’s Song) by the Piano Man himself Billy Joel. There is much wordplay and a distinctive use of rhyme in this song, and that particular place, Hackensack, fitted the lyrics perfectly as Billy was also singing about heart attack ack ack ack acks and Cadillac ac ac ac acs. Personally I wouldn’t be that keen on living in a place with such an ugly sounding name (apologies to the residents of course), but as ever, it started life as something totally different. The Native American tribes who first inhabited the area called it Achinigeu-hach, or Ackingsah-sack, meaning stony ground, but along the way it became the more anglicised Hackensack.

For the record, my favourite place names in the UK are Westward Ho! (don’t forget that exclamation mark), Mousehole in Cornwall (just so cute) and Ashby-de-la-Zouche (all very post-Norman Conquest). It can’t be denied however, that there are some pretty unattractive place names here in Scotland, and up there with the best of them would be Auchtermuchty in Fife – I will give it a pass however as that is where those bespectacled singing twins The Proclaimers hail from, and without them and their songs this blog would have a much reduced number of visitors per month, so thanks guys for writing that love letter to Leith and for the Sunshine that falls upon it.

But back to the song, and in case anyone has absolutely no idea what I have been wittering on about above, here is an extract from the lyrics that make sense of it all:

Who needs a house out in Hackensack?
Is that what you get with your money?
It seems such a waste of time
If that’s what it’s all about
If that’s movin’ up then I’m movin’ out

Movin’ Out (Anthony’s Song):

Movin’ Out (Anthony’s Song) was one of the singles released from his 1977 album “The Stranger”, which is generally considered to be his magnum opus. For me it was one of the soundtracks of my student years, as yet again it was an album owned by the boyfriend-of-the-time’s older brother (who was also incidentally responsible for making me fall in love with the music of Leonard Cohen, Joni Mitchell and Carole King, but that’s been covered here before).

thYUT9VDV0Billy felt very strongly it seems, about the prevailing blue-collar immigrant work ethos, whereby it was important to work long hours at sometimes back-breaking work just to acquire the trappings that proved you had “made it in America” – The house out in the suburbs and the Cadillac on the drive. He made his character Anthony question it all, as he felt too many people were wasting their lives and talents because they felt pressured into taking a job to take care of the family.

Well, has anything changed in the intervening 40 years I wonder? Too many of us still seem to be pressured into taking jobs that waste our talents, because at the end of the day there are bills to be paid and mouths to feed. In fact I would even suggest that nowadays the vast majority aren’t even doing these kind of jobs to upgrade to a fancier car or a luxury house in the suburbs, but merely to keep afloat. But hey, let’s not end this post on doom and gloom, as the upside is that artificially intelligent robots will take over most of the jobs in the next few decades anyway, so a universal wage and life of leisure awaits us all. Or will it? Time will tell.

As ever, I’d love to hear from you and I always reply.

Movin’ Out (Anthony’s Song) Lyrics
(Song by Billy Joel)

Anthony works in the grocery store
Savin’ his pennies for some day
Mama Leone left a note on the door
She said
“Sonny, move out to the country”

Oh but workin’ too hard can give you a heart attack
You oughta know by now
Who needs a house out in Hackensack?
Is that all you get for your money?

And it seems such a waste of time
If that’s what it’s all about
Mama, if that’s movin’ up, then I’m movin’ out

Sergeant O’Leary is walkin’ the beat
At night he becomes a bartender
He works at Mister Cacciatore’s down on Sullivan Street
Across from the medical center

And he’s tradin’ in his Chevy for a Cadillac
You oughta know by now
And if he can’t drive
With a broken back
At least he can polish the fenders

And it seems such a waste of time
If that’s what it’s all about
Mama, if that’s movin’ up, then I’m movin’ out

You should never argue with a crazy mind
You oughta know by now
You can pay Uncle Sam with the overtime
Is that all you get for your money?

And if that’s what you have in mind
Yeah, if that’s what you’re all about
Good luck, moving up, ’cause I’m movin’ out

I’m movin’ out

Postscript:

It was inevitable that I would revisit other songs on “The Stranger” whilst writing this post and what a joy it’s been listening to this work of genius again. Scenes from an Italian Restaurant is effectively a mini opera with three distinct “acts” rolled into one. It begins with a gentle piano ballad, and sets the scene for two old classmates meeting up in an Italian restaurant. The next section is jazz-influenced and up-tempo, featuring a clarinet, trombone, tuba and saxophone solo. Here the two update each other on how their lives have turned out. It ends with a rock ‘n’ roll section telling the story of Brenda and Eddie, a couple of popular “jocks” from their schooldays whose life kind of peaked too early – We all know a Brenda and Eddie and even if we don’t come from Long Island like Billy Joel, most of us of a certain age can probably identify with this song. It was never released as a single but it’s still my favourite track on the album. Enjoy.

Scenes from an Italian Restaurant by Billy Joel:

Nick Drake, “Pink Moon” and Pink Floyd

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.

It passes in a flash doesn’t it? Ever since following the full moon cycle for this blog, the lunar months seem to have rocketed by. This calendar month, on the 30th April, we are to have a Pink Moon appear in our skies. This time the name comes from one of the spring flowers the ancient Native Americans would have seen covering the ground around April’s full moon – The pink Moss Phlox.

Well I can’t say I have such a flower in my garden, but I can share a picture of what my cherry blossom tree should look like at this time of the year. Sadly, because of that really cold snap back at the beginning of March, it seems that Mother Nature’s work has been delayed, but here is what the blossom looked like at this time last year. Very pink, to coincide with the Pink Moon.

177 4th May Cherry blossom

When I started choosing songs for this series, I couldn’t help but notice there was a song called Pink Moon written and recorded by a man who seems to have become a bit of a cult figure in music circles. Nick Drake only made three albums, and died at the ridiculously young age of 26, but over the last couple of decades has sold hundreds of thousands of albums. Many of these sales came about as a result of the song Pink Moon being used for a car advert which sparked a resurgence of interest. Time to see what caused all the furore then, and for once we seem to have an example of an ad where the inclusion of music was well executed and aesthetically successful.

Pink Moon by Nick Drake:

It’s an incredibly short song, only one verse and a chorus, on repeat, but the spare delivery and acoustic guitar accompaniment just seemed to work. Drake was a troubled soul however and suffered from major depression, often reflected in his lyrics. After completing his 1972 “Pink Moon” album, he withdrew from both live performance and recording, retreating to his parents’ home in rural Warwickshire. On 25 November 1974, he died from an overdose of a prescribed antidepressant. His cause of death was determined to be suicide.

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Nick Drake

Drake’s music remained available through the mid-1970s, but the 1979 release of the retrospective album “Fruit Tree” allowed his back catalogue to be reassessed. By the mid-1980s Drake was being credited as an influence by such artists as Robert Smith and David Sylvian. In 1985, The Dream Academy reached the UK and US charts with Life in a Northern Town, a song written for and dedicated to Drake. By the early 1990s, he had come to represent a certain type of “doomed romantic” musician in the UK music press.

Interestingly, Life in a Northern Town was produced by Dave Gilmour of Pink Floyd. Although never a big fan of Pink Floyd (I was just a tad to young for them I think), I knew that at some point in this series I should include something from their album “Dark Side of the Moon”. I think this post, what with all the pink-ness, should be the one. I will leave you with The Great Gig in the Sky, the fifth track on the album. I was pretty much blown away by Pink Floyd when I watched them at Live 8 in 2005 (the first time they had performed together for 24 years), and subsequently took to listening to Mr WIAA’s collection of Floyd tracks. Whenever I heard Clare Torry’s “wail”, used in effect as a musical instrument on Great Gig, I got goose bumps.

The Great Gig in the Sky by Pink Floyd:

Until next time….

Pink Moon Lyrics
(Song by
Nick Drake)

I saw it written and I saw it say
Pink moon is on it’s way
And none of you stand so tall
Pink moon gonna get you all

It’s a pink moon
Hey, it’s a pink moon
It’s a pink, pink, pink, pink, pink moon.
It’s a pink, pink, pink, pink, pink moon.

I saw it written and I saw it say
Pink moon is on it’s way
And none of you stand so tall
Pink moon gonna get you all

It’s a pink moon
Yeah, it’s a pink moon

Postscript:

I was a tad early in posting this full moon alert, so just in case you missed it, here is a picture of Monday night’s Pink Moon taken by my photographer friend – Stunning as ever.

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Picture courtesy of R.J.

Alyson’s Archive #6 – “Rollermania” and Me

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

I’ve been threatening to write this post for a while, and it seems the time is right, coming at the end of a trilogy of posts inspired by my recent trip to Edinburgh. On our last day there we met some friends in an area of the city called The Meadows, a large green space near the Old Town. Bordering the Meadows is a large building which I discovered was Edinburgh’s Royal Infirmary, however in days gone by it was called Simpson’s Hospital. And why did that sound familiar? Because it’s where most baby boomers from that city were born, including those five lads who for a brief period of time went on to be the world’s biggest boy band – Yes, I’m talking about Les, Eric, Woody, Derek and Alan: The Bay City Rollers.

Simpsons Hospital where the Rollers were born

“It’s a teenage dream, to be seventeen”, sang Les McKeown back in 1975. But no, I beg to differ Les. Back in 1975 it was a teenage dream to be fourteen, and have pictures of you and the rest of the boys staring down at me from my bedroom wall. Had I been a year or two older, or a year or two younger, it just wouldn’t have happened but I was the perfect demographic for these “tartan teen sensations from Edinburgh”. My generation had missed out on Beatlemania, and Osmondmania was on the wane, it was time for something new and luckily for me the band that inspired this latest mania came from Scotland.

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The humble author’s teenage collection of Bay City Roller pinups!

(I have shared a display like this once before, of David Cassidy pinups. I would just like to reiterate that I honestly don’t spend my evenings pouring over such teen-dream fodder, because that truly would be weird, it’s just that if you’ve ever had to clear out your parents loft when they downsize, it kind of becomes redistributed to your own loft, which fortunately for this blog is where it remains today.)

Anyway, getting back to the Rollers, the band’s founder members were brothers Alan and Derek Longmuir but after a few changes along the way, in late 1973 the classic line-up fell into place, consisting of guitarists Eric Faulkner and Stuart “Woody” Wood, singer Les McKeown, bassist Alan and drummer Derek. Tam Paton, their (highly controlling) manager was the man in charge, they got a record deal with Bell, and they came up with a unique “look” which consisted of cropped trousers, skimpy V-neck sweaters and plenty of tartan – What could go wrong?

All through the year 1974 they were never far from the UK Singles Chart and when we heard the band were coming to the Capitol Theatre in Aberdeen, of course my friends and I (aged only 13) went to see them. This tour was to promote the album “Rollin'” where most of the songs were written by those champions of the short and catchy pop song, Phil Coulter and Bill Martin. First of all we had Remember (Sha-La-La-La), then we had Shang-A-Lang, Summerlove Sensation and finally All Of Me Loves All Of You. The album went to No. 1 in the Album Chart – The boys were adored by hordes of teeny-bopper fans and were well and truly on their way.

And here are a few personal memories of that time. I don’t know about elsewhere in the country but here in Scotland, back in the 1970s, many young lads left school at 16 after (half-heartedly for many of them) sitting their “O” Grades. They all had apprenticeships lined up and work was plentiful, so why not? There was however the technicality that if you turned 16 later on in the calendar year, you couldn’t leave school until Christmas. As a group they were called “The Christmas Leavers”. They didn’t want to be there and the concept of abiding by strict school uniform rules went out the window. One by one, in 1974, they started to adopt Bay City Roller style clothing wearing trousers with tartan down the side, the cropped jumpers and the short-sleeved shirts. They had Les, Eric and Woody style haircuts and of course had similar accents – For girls like us in the lower grades they became our big crushes. We all had our favourite Roller (mine was Les, quite the showman back in the day) and there were definitely boys in our school who started to look like him – Unlike the clean-cut Osmonds, who kind of came from an alien planet as far as we were concerned, the Rollers were the “boys next door”.

By 1975, Rollermania had really taken hold, and after putting together their second album “Once Upon A Star”, another tour was announced. Again my friends and I persuaded one of our mums to take us into Aberdeen to see them. Their cover of the old Four Seasons song Bye Bye Baby was at No. 1 in the Singles Chart and ended up being the biggest selling record of the year.

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The Rollin’ Tour programme and Wish Upon A Star, complete with pull-out pics

Unlike the previous year when we went to see them, this was a far more hysterical concert with girls screaming constantly throughout – I probably went hoarse myself, shouting LES at the top of my voice every time he came near the front of the stage. But strangely, my most vivid memory of that night is of a particular member of security staff, who for one night only had been given free rein to manhandle young girls. This is not a #MeToo confession but I did come home with a whiplash that night, as suddenly, out of nowhere, a pair of hands had grabbed my shoulders and firmly shoved me back down into my seat. Everyone in the entire theatre was standing, but for some reason this one “bouncer” had decided he would go up and down all the rows forcing us back into our seats – I took some time out to watch him, and even at that young age, could tell he was enjoying hurting us. Of course I didn’t tell my parents, as we didn’t in those days, but this was a new concept for me and one I have obviously never forgotten.

But back to the Rollers – In 1976 they were kind of lost to us as they secured a record deal with Arista and were heavily promoted in America. They appeared on Saturday Night Live and ended up at the top of the Billboard Chart with a song that had been a flop in the UK but obviously hit the spot in the US. Saturday Night started off with a chant that also struck a cord with New York band the Ramones – It is no coincidence that their record Blitskrieg Bop starts in the same way. They had watched the Rollers on telly and decided to copy their winning formula of a catchy three minute song, a “uniform” and a football-style chant. Hard to believe I know, but part of rock and pop folklore.

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Most of us by this time had moved on to “real boys”, so we were happy to forget about the Rollers and leave them to their success in other parts of the world such as North America, and strangely enough Japan, where they still have a following today. I have never had any inclination to see them perform as part of a reunion tour, as for me, they were very much of their time. I do however feel very sorry for them sometimes, as it is well known that despite their global success they ended up with none of the money – 300 million albums sold worldwide (in an era where the revenue came from such sales) and no spondulicks. Tam Paton was of course blamed, and he went to his grave taking the secret of where the money went with him. The Rollers were not highly educated and they came from families that were ill-equipped to deal with their fame, so became one of the many financial casualties of that era.

Give A Little Love by the Bay City Rollers:

I am going to end this post with some extracts from what has turned out to be the most interesting part of rifling through old teenage memorabilia – The words that were on the back of the pinups. Prior to being in a band, Alan used to get the horses ready for the local dairy’s milk round (yes really). Eric and Derek (has a nice ring to it) were apprentice joiners and Woody and Les were only 16 when they found fame – Not the best backgrounds from which to go on and “take care of business”. Despite it all falling apart in the late ’70s, it sounds as if the Rollers still have happy memories of their heyday, their time in the sun. The Beatles had a mania, and so did these five boys from Edinburgh – Who would have ever thought it possible?

The Rollers’ Story Part 1
The Rollers’ Story Part 2

Until next time….

Give A Little Love Lyrics
(Song by Phil Wainman/John Goodison)

It’s a teenage dream to be seventeen
And to find you’re all wrapped up in lo-o-ove
And I found that you made a dream come true
Now I do believe in what they say-ay-at

You’ve got to give a little love, take a little love
Be prepared to forsake a little love
And when the sun comes shining through
We’ll know what to do-oo

Give a little love, take a little love
Be prepared to forsake a little love
And when the sun comes shining through
We’ll know what to do

When I walk with you there is just we two
And the world goes by and I just don’t care-are
And I know one day I will find a way
To be safe and sound within your hear-eart

So until I do, gonna give a little love, take a little love
Be prepared to forsake a little love
And when the sun comes shining through
We’ll know what to do-oo

Give a little love, take a little love
Be prepared to forsake a little love
And when the sun comes shining through
We’ll know what to do

Edinburgh, Outlander and “A Hard Rain’s Gonna Fall”

Another Edinburgh post, as I came home from last week’s trip armed with lots of great pictures that are ripe for sharing. This time we stayed in an apartment right at the top of the Grassmarket, which centuries ago was the site of one of Edinburgh’s main markets. The name apparently came from the grazing livestock, held in pens beyond its western edge.

Daniel Defoe, who visited Edinburgh in the 1720s, described the West Bow at the north-east corner of the Grassmarket (where our apartment was situated) as follows – “This street, which is called the Bow, is generally full of traders and dealers”, and you know what, it still is today, although nowadays the colourful shops are aimed primarily at the many tourists who pass through every year.

Because it was originally a gathering place for market traders and cattle drovers, the Grassmarket was always a place full of taverns, hostelries and temporary lodgings – Again nothing much has changed, bar the prices, and the fact the traders and drovers have been replaced by tourists. In 1803 William Wordsworth took rooms at the White Hart Inn, where the poet Robert Burns had stayed during his visit to Edinburgh in 1791. It was described by him as being “not noisy, and tolerably cheap”. In the film version of Greyfriars Bobby, they chose a lodging in the Grassmarket as the place where the Skye terrier’s owner dies. Yes indeed, lots of history thereabouts.

Having lived in the midst of such history for days, imagine my delight when we got home, to find that the next episode in the box-set we are currently watching on telly, was now set in the Old Town of Edinburgh circa 1766. The show Outlander is based on the historical time travel series of novels by Diana Gabaldon and is a firm favourite with most of us who live in the Highlands, as much of the drama is set here. It stars Caitriona Balfe as Claire Randall, a married World War II nurse who in 1945 finds herself transported back to the Scotland of 1743, where she meets the dashing Highland warrior Jamie Fraser (played by Sam Heughan) and becomes embroiled in the Jacobite risings. It does all sound a bit implausible, and is another of those wibbly wobbly timey wimey kind of things, but possibly because it covers all the bases for a cult drama, has kind of become one.

I will include a clip here of the opening title sequence, which definitely gives a flavour of what the show is all about. Also, it makes use of the music to the Skye Boat Song, which most of us in Scotland are very familiar with – Unlike the very twee versions I was used to hearing in my youth, performed on highly uncool shows like The White Heather Club, this version has been given a 21st century makeover by Bear McCreary. The lyrics, taken from the Robert Louis Stevenson poem Sing Me a Song of a Lad That Is Gone, were adapted to fit the storyline and are performed by Raya Yarbrough,

So here we were this week, still thinking about our trip to an Edinburgh that has changed little since the 1700s, watching a show that was set in that very place and time. It isn’t often that contemporary music is used for the show’s soundtrack, but in one of the episodes we watched this week, a particularly poignant scene was played out to Bob Dylan’s song A Hard Rain’s Gonna Fall. All about a blue-eyed son, so very apt really and thankfully (for me) not performed by Bob but by the Canadian band Walk Off the Earth. In case anyone watching the show hasn’t reached season three yet, I won’t give the game away and include a clip of that particular heart-wrenching scene, but suffice to say the song was just perfect for it, and has most definitely formed an earworm this week.

A Hard Rain’s Gonna Fall by Walk Off the Earth:

Walk Off the Earth had performed the song just once, for kicks, and then pretty much forgot about it until someone from Outlander contacted them about using it for the episode. Band founder Ryan Marshall said they were surprised, as it was an acoustic cover without any bells and whistles – Just one of those tearjerker songs. When the writers decided they wanted to use the song, because Bob had just won the Nobel Prize an’ all, they knew they would never get his version, but after hearing the cover they kind of fell in love with it, as have I.

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So, “What’s It All About?” – Last time I wrote a post about the film Trainspotting, and here I am now writing about the cult television drama Outlander. Yes, I do like my film and telly, and having emotionally invested in some of the storylines watched on both big and small screens, it can be quite something to find yourself in the very spot where they were filmed. It seems I am not alone however, as only this week I read a story in the local paper about how the Clan Fraser marker stone on Culloden Battlefield has had to be cordoned off, and the road around it relaid due the sheer volume of Outlander fans coming to visit it. Even poor old Greyfriar’s Bobby has had all the paint rubbed off his nose (see picture above) due to the sheer number of visitors to the faithful dog’s statue on Candlemaker Row.

One more Edinburgh post before I move on to new themes, but this next one won’t be about music from film or television. No, it seems the time has come to admit to which band was the first one I ever saw perform live!

Until next time….

A Hard Rain’s Gonna Fall Lyrics
(Song by Bob Dylan)

Oh, where have you been, my blue-eyed son?
And where have you been, my darling young one?
I’ve stumbled on the side of twelve misty mountains
I’ve walked and I’ve crawled on six crooked highways
I’ve stepped in the middle of seven sad forests
I’ve been out in front of a dozen dead oceans
I’ve been ten thousand miles in the mouth of a graveyard
And it’s a hard, it’s a hard, it’s a hard, and it’s a hard
It’s a hard rain’s a-gonna fall

Oh, what did you see, my blue-eyed son?
And what did you see, my darling young one?
I saw a newborn baby with wild wolves all around it
I saw a highway of diamonds with nobody on it
I saw a black branch with blood that kept drippin’
I saw a room full of men with their hammers a-bleedin’
I saw a white ladder all covered with water
I saw ten thousand talkers whose tongues were all broken
I saw guns and sharp swords in the hands of young children
And it’s a hard, it’s a hard, it’s a hard, and it’s a hard
It’s a hard rain’s a-gonna fall

And what did you hear, my blue-eyed son?
And what did you hear, my darling young one?
I heard the sound of a thunder, that roared out a warnin’
I heard the roar of a wave that could drown the whole world
I heard one hundred drummers whose hands were a-blazin’
I heard ten thousand whisperin’ and nobody listenin’
I heard one person starve, I heard many people laughin’
Heard the song of a poet who died in the gutter
Heard the sound of a clown who cried in the alley
And it’s a hard, it’s a hard, it’s a hard, it’s a hard
It’s a hard rain’s a-gonna fall

Oh, what did you meet, my blue-eyed son?
Who did you meet, my darling young one?
I met a young child beside a dead pony
I met a white man who walked a black dog
I met a young woman whose body was burning
I met a young girl, she gave me a rainbow
I met one man who was wounded in love
I met another man who was wounded in hatred
And it’s a hard, it’s a hard, it’s a hard, it’s a hard
It’s a hard rain’s a-gonna fall

And what’ll you do now, my blue-eyed son?
And what’ll you do now, my darling young one?
I’m a-goin’ back out ‘fore the rain starts a-fallin’
I’ll walk to the depths of the deepest dark forest
Where the people are many and their hands are all empty
Where the pellets of poison are flooding their waters
Where the home in the valley meets the damp dirty prison
And the executioner’s face is always well hidden
Where hunger is ugly, where souls are forgotten
Where black is the color, where none is the number
And I’ll tell and speak it and think it and breathe it
And reflect from the mountain so all souls can see it
And I’ll stand on the ocean until I start sinkin’
But I’ll know my song well before I start singin’
And it’s a hard, it’s a hard, it’s a hard, and it’s a hard
It’s a hard rain’s a-gonna fall

Edinburgh, Trainspotting and “Lust for Life”

Last week, despite having just a few too many responsibilities at the moment (regular visitors will know what I mean), Mr WIAA and I managed to spend a few days in our capital city, Edinburgh. Now this is a city steeped in history and awash with culture, but having visited many times before, this time it was nice just to “be” there – Wandering round the Old Town, admiring the New Town (built between 1767 and 1850, so the old town as you can imagine is really old), visiting galleries and stopping for regular refreshments in the city’s many coffee shops and hostelries.

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But you can only do that for so long, so what does a middle-aged lady and her husband decide to do on day 2 of the trip? – Why recreate scenes from the film Trainspotting of course! Danny Boyle’s black comedy was released in 1996 and although set in a very different Edinburgh from the one visited by tourists, it made a massive impact, and on some lists is now ranked one of the 10 best British films ever made.

Based on the novel of the same name by Irvine Welsh, the film was about a group of heroin addicts living in an economically depressed area of the city, and their passage through life. It sounds bleak, which it most definitely was in places, but there were also moments of great humour, and of course for anyone who knows the film well, the soundtrack was a triumph and has gone on to become a pop culture phenomenon. It contained music from the ’70s by artists such as Lou Reed and Iggy Pop, musicians closely associated with drug use, but also music from the Britpop era and ’90s techno-dance music by bands such as Underworld.

Born Slippy .NUXX by Underworld:

The main character in the film, Renton, was played by Ewan McGregor and no-one who has seen it will forget that opening scene where he and his friends are being chased through the streets of central Edinburgh: “Choose life,” began his monologue. “Choose a job. Choose a career. Choose a family. Choose a f**king big television. Choose washing machines, cars, compact disc players, and electrical tin can openers. Choose good health, low cholesterol and dental insurance. Choose fixed-interest mortgage repayments. Choose a starter home ………… But why would I want to do a thing like that? I chose not to choose life. I chose somethin’ else. And the reasons? There are no reasons. Who needs reasons when you’ve got heroin?”.  All played out of course to the sound of Iggy Pop’s 1977 song, Lust for Life.

Lust for Life by Iggy Pop:

The little film above was made over the course of two days as we did a recce on day one just to find the locations. On day two we got the scenes we were looking for, but maybe not wise to have worn a pair of boots with heels – Oh well, next time I decide to recreate scenes from a movie about drug addicts, I will remember that.

Whilst on the trip, I got to thinking about some of the other great scenes from the film, and one that has stuck with me is when Renton meets “wise beyond her years” love-interest Diane for the first time. Turned out the “flatmates” he met the next morning were in fact her parents – One of the funniest moments in the entire film (but perhaps not quite as funny in the 21st century in light of recent news stories):

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Renton: Excuse me, excuse me. I don’t mean to harass you, but I was very impressed with the capable and stylish manner in which you dealt with that situation. And I was thinking to myself, now this girl’s special.
Diane: Thanks.
Renton: What’s your name?
Diane: Diane.
Renton: And where are you going, Diane?
Diane: I’m going home.
Renton: Well, where’s that?
Diane: It’s where I live.
Renton: Great.
Diane: What?
Renton: Well, I’ll come back with you if you like, but like, I’m not promising anything, you know.
Diane: Do you find that this approach usually works? Or let me guess, you’ve never tried it before. In fact, you don’t normally approach girls – am I right? The truth is that you’re a quiet sensitive type but if I’m prepared to take a chance, I might just get to know the inner you: witty, adventurous, passionate, loving, loyal. Taxi! A little bit crazy, a little bit bad. But hey – don’t us girls just love that?
Renton: Eh?
Diane: Well, what’s wrong boy – cat got your tongue?

And of course when Diane doesn’t get Iggy’s name quite right:

Diane: You’re not getting any younger Mark. The world’s changing. Music’s changing. Even drugs are changing. You can’t stay in here all day dreaming about heroin and Ziggy Pop.
Renton: It’s Iggy Pop.
Diane: Whatever. I mean, the guy’s dead anyway.
Renton: Iggy Pop’s not dead. He toured last year! Tommy went to see him.
Diane: The point is, you’ve got to find something new.

I think most of us who were fans of the first film will by now have seen the sequel, made just over 20 years later and called T2 Trainspotting. Back in 1996 “the prevailing anxieties were over the spiritual bankruptcy of western consumerist society”. In the sequel, Renton updates the iconic speech from the original film – The must-have consumer goods of 1996 have gone, replaced by an assault on the dismal features of millennial life, especially social media. “Choose Facebook,” says middle-aged Renton, “Twitter, Instagram and hope that someone, somewhere cares … Choose reality TV, slut shaming, revenge porn. Choose a zero-hours contract, a two-hour journey to work. And choose the same for your kids, only worse, and smother the pain with an unknown dose of an unknown drug made in somebody’s kitchen …”

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Back in 1996 I did choose life, and I don’t mean that I bought into acquiring the consumer goods listed in the monologue, but by giving up work to look after baby DD. Being married to someone in the Arts this was perhaps a rash plan, but it seemed to work out for us and made for a much less stressful life. We’ve never been big on “stuff”, always preferring “time”, but I realise this is not an option for everyone. 20 years on and being liked on social media seems to have replaced the need for consumer goods for millennials, but who can blame them. My generation bought up all the houses and have now bought up the starter flats on a buy-to-let basis, so life is tough for them. As for me, since taking up blogging I have all but abandoned social media but then again, what is blogging if not a different form of social media? We convince ourselves it is to hone our writing skills, but I can’t deny there is a great sense of pleasure when the feedback is favourable and I do love the discussion that can sometimes develop. Let’s see what this one brings.

As for the soundtrack album that went with the first film, I of course bought it back in 1996, ironically with a voucher received as a leaving gift from one the departments I had worked with before giving it all up…… and Choosing Life. Sadly the purchases I made with that voucher were all on cassette tape which was the worst medium for music consumption, but fortunately easy to replace nowadays, which I have now done.

But the last word should probably come from Renton. Trainspotting was a film about drug addicts, primarily watched by people like myself who weren’t drug addicts (don’t do it kids). The film did however make us understand it all a bit more: “People think it’s all about misery and desperation and death and all that shit which is not to be ignored, but what they forget is the pleasure of it. Otherwise we wouldn’t do it. After all, we’re not f**king stupid. At least, we’re not that f**king stupid.”

Until next time….

Lust for Life Lyrics
(Song by Iggy Pop/David Bowie)

Here comes Johnny Yen again
With the liquor and drugs
And a flesh machine
He’s gonna do another strip tease

Hey man, where’d you get that lotion?
I’ve been hurting since I bought the gimmick
About something called love
Yeah, something called love
Well, that’s like hypnotising chickens

Well, I’m just a modern guy
Of course, I’ve had it in the ear before
‘Cause of a lust for life
‘Cause of a lust for life

I’m worth a million in prizes
With my torture film
Drive a G.T.O.
Wear a uniform
All on government loan

I’m worth a million in prizes
Yeah, I’m through with sleeping on the sidewalk
No more beating my brains
No more beating my brains
With the liquor and drugs
With the liquor and drugs

Well, I’m just a modern guy
Of course, I’ve had it in my ear before
‘Cause, of a lust for life (lust for life)
‘Cause of a lust for life (lust for life, oooo)
I’ve got a lust for life (oooh)
Got a lust for life (oooh)
Oh, a lust for life (oooh)
Oh, a lust for life (oooh)
A lust for life (oooh)
I got a lust for life (oooh)
Got a lust for life

Well, I’m just a modern guy
Of course, I’ve had it in my ear before
‘Cause I’ve a lust for life
‘Cause I’ve a lust for life.

Well, here comes Johnny Yen again
With the liquor and drugs
And a flesh machine
I know he’s gonna do another strip tease

Hey man, where’d ya get that lotion?
Your skin starts itching once you buy the gimmick
About something called love
Oh Love, love, love
Well, that’s like hypnotising chickens.

Well, I’m just a modern guy
Of course, I’ve had it in the ear before
And I’ve a lust for life (lust for life)
‘Cause I’ve a lust for life (lust for life)
Got a lust for life
Yeah, a lust for life
I got a lust for life
Oh, a lust for life
Got a lust for life
Yeah a lust for life
I got a lust for life

Spotlight Dances, The Marcels and “Blue Moon”

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, we had a Blue Moon at the end of January, and now coinciding with Easter, we’re going to have another one at the end of March – All down to timing, as the cycle between full moons is 29 and a half days. The short month February had no full moon at all but both months on either side have had one at the beginning and at the end. This time however there are no complications with it being a Super Blue Blood Moon – Oh no, this time a run-of-the-mill Blue Moon, that name of course also used to describe something that “doesn’t come along very often” (although I beg to differ, as here we are already with two blue moons in the first quarter of the year, but highly unusual granted).

The Rodgers and Hart song Blue Moon is one I have been aware of for most of my life as it has been recorded by just about everyone (Frank Sinatra, Billie Holiday, Elvis Presley, Dean Martin, Billy Eckstine, Mel Tormé, The Supremes, Bing Crosby, Rod Stewart….), and also appeared in many of the old movies I watched on Sunday afternoons as a youngster.

The Dance Contest

The movie I now associate it with most however is Grease, as it was the song used for the “Spotlight Dance” when Danny Zuko and the brash usurper Cha-Cha DiGregorio take to the floor after winning the dance contest which is being broadcast live to an unsuspecting nation (who didn’t realise that a group of so-called “mooners” would gate-crash this bit of poetry in motion).

The Spotlight Dance

Blue Moon by Sha Na Na (aka Johnny Casino and the Gamblers):

And here is where I confused myself earlier in the year – Because this next version of Blue Moon is just so dissimilar from the original, I had convinced myself that it was actually a different song, which meant I would have had one to coincide with each of the blue moons we have had in our skies so far this year. But no, it is of course the same song, it’s just that back in 1961 the Marcels (named after the “marcel waved” hairstyles worn by some of the group) added an infectious, nonsensical introduction performed by bass singer Fred Johnson – Dang-a-dang-dang, ding-a-dong-ding and so on…..

The Marcels novelty version of Blue Moon was an instant hit and topped the charts on both sides of the Atlantic. They followed it with a series of less successful novelty versions of standards and then disbanded in the mid ’60s. Their version of Blue Moon, along with several other moon songs, featured in the John Landis film An American Werewolf in London (one of Mr WIAA’s favourites as he had a bit of a crush on Jenny Agutter as a young man – a common affliction it seems). Having just watched some of the clips that feature the song, all quite unpleasant, so I’ll spare you the gore and just add a picture of the delectable Nurse Alex Price, who until she met backpacker David Kessler was “without a dream in her heart, or a love of her own” (shame he turned out to be a werewolf).

So, “What’s It All About?” – It’s amazing how a single song can be covered just so many times over the years (it was first recorded in 1934), that it can end up barely recognisable compared to the original. Lots of examples out there, and although this time Blue Moon was given the full doo-wop treatment, other songs have been transformed into three minute ska, reggae, or disco triumphs. CC over at Charity Chic Music has run some excellent series over the last year asking us to compare and contrast cover versions to the originals, and I have also written a few posts that do just that (here and here). One of my most surprising discoveries was that the Blondie hit record Denis was actually a cover of a song called “Denise” by American doo-wop band Randy and the Rainbows.

But this is supposed to be a post about tomorrow night’s full moon, so just in case there is cloud cover and we don’t actually get to see it, here is another picture courtesy of my friend with the all singing, all dancing camera. It was taken at the end of January and was cleverly made into a bona fide Blue Moon using a special filter lens. I’m still hoping for a shot at some point that includes the moon alongside some of the amazing scenery we have up here, but not apparently always easy to capture. Only six posts into this series however, and seven to go, so still plenty of time!

Blue Moon highlands
The Blue Moon: Picture courtesy of R.J. and his favourite Nikon filter lens (it’s football related!)

Until next time, have a great Easter and look out for that Blue Moon on Saturday night.

Blue Moon Lyrics
(Song by Richard Rodgers/Lorenz Hart)

Blue Moon, you saw me standing alone
Without a dream in my heart
Without a love of my own

Blue Moon, you knew just what I was there for
You heard me saying a prayer for
Someone I really could care for

And then there suddenly appeared before me
The only one my arms will ever hold
I heard somebody whisper, ‘Please adore me’
And when I looked, the moon had turned to gold

Blue Moon, now I’m no longer alone
Without a dream in my heart
Without a love of my own

Postscript:

One last thing – In case you haven’t heard of The Marcel Wave before, it looked like this…..

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…..and was invented by a Frenchman, who looked like this. Every day’s a school day!

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Kate Bush, The Motors and The Summer of 1978

Last time I shared a little film of my hometown, which highlighted just how blue the skies were on the first day of Spring. Since then, I have been feeling a bit nostalgic about the band ELO – That of course would be because the music I chose to accompany the film was Mr. Blue Sky, from their 1977 album “Out of the Blue”. The cover for that particular album was very memorable for me, because it was one of the pieces of artwork that graced the walls of the very basic cottage I shared with my best friend the summer after leaving school.

out of the blue

We had headed off to work in a very posh country house hotel and luckily for us accommodation came with the job. It was basic indeed, but we had our first taste of independence, with no parents hovering over us asking about our movements – Needless to say that summer we worked hard (being a breakfast waitress plus jack-of-all-trades is a tough gig) but also played hard – Living off the beaten track, we built up a good working relationship with Diamond Doug, the taxi-man who got that nickname because he seemed to favour wearing a certain style of patterned jumper.

That summer, over the course of a weekend, it was not unusual to:

  • Work until 10pm.
  • Rush back to the cottage to change into our “going-out” clothes. (This being 1978 the previously under-used function suites of our local hotels had suddenly become kitted out with flashing dance floors and glitter balls as per the film Saturday Night Fever, but the clothes to match came later. That summer for us was still the summer of peasant skirts and broderie anglais tops as worn by Linda Ronstadt et al.)
  • Get picked up by Doug who would take us to our destination of choice by 11pm.
  • Bop until 1am (hoping that the last dance of the night, to the refrains of The Commodores mega-ballad Three Times A Lady, would be with one of our local T-Bird equivalents, that name taken from the summer’s other film phenomenon, Grease).
  • Have a bit of a smooch with the aforementioned T-Bird (who for one summer only had decided that girls of the Sandy persuasion were perhaps preferable to those of the Rizzo persuasion) whilst waiting for Doug to come and drive us home again, just in time to grab around 3 hours of sleep before getting up and doing it all over again!

The Summer of ’78 summed up for an 18-year-old girl!

Phew, I’m exhausted just writing about that so am amazed that my younger self managed to actually live life at that pace – The energy of youth. But back to the album cover for “Out of the Blue”, my friend Catriona definitely had that one up on her side of our bedroom wall, and I had some of my favourites over on mine. Looking at my album collection now, I can still tell which ones they were as they have those telltale blu tack, or even worse, sellotape marks on the covers. The vinyl itself must have been simply kept in the inner sleeve but was played constantly on the little mono record player I had brought from my parents’ house. It was the predecessor to the massive Toshiba Music Centre that had replaced it only 6 months previously, but I was never going to be allowed to take that with me, so the mono player it had to be.

Although our social life revolved around going dancing, we were both massive music fans and played anything and everything during our time off that summer. BBC Radio 1 woke us up and entertained us during the day but we also loved playing our records, and roped in friends and relatives to bring us new releases from record shops in the city when they came to visit. So, it was not only the soundtrack albums to Saturday Night Fever and Grease along with ELO and The Commodores we listened to that summer, oh no, it was also punk (Blondie, Sham 69), reggae (Bob Marley), pop and soft rock (Marshall Hain, Jackson Browne) and of course the obligatory novelty song (Father Abraham and the Smurfs!).

I still have one of the singles that Catriona’s sister bought on my behalf that summer – They didn’t really have many other hits and were short lived indeed but there was something about The Motors song Airport that I really liked and whenever I hear it now, I always think of that summer at the cottage with our mono record player.

Airport by The Motors:

As for my friend, the single she had requested, and which was duly delivered by her sister was this one by Kate Bush. Yes, The Man with the Child in His Eyes was also a hit that summer but I have just discovered that Kate actually first recorded it in 1975 and had written it three years earlier at the age of 13. To quote the title of another of her songs – Wow!

So, “What’s It All About?” – Funnily enough, when I sat down to write this post it was going to be all about ELO; about how it was actually the brainchild of Roy Wood; about how he soon moved on but left Jeff Lynne and the others to create something really quite amazing fusing modern rock and pop songs with classical instrumentation; about how Jeff’s partner for many years was the wonderful Rosie Vela whose song Magic Smile has been a bit of an earworm this week; but no, as is wont to happen, looking at the artwork for that ELO album cover just brought back so many memories of that wonderful summer.

The awful thing about reminiscing about the happenings of the summer of 1978 is that I can no longer talk about them with Catriona, as she died 16 years ago, leaving behind a husband and two young children. By then we were living on opposite sides of the Atlantic but if we ever got together, it was just like old times. I didn’t realise back then that I would never have such a close friendship with any other female, ever again. There have been many friends in the intervening years and some lovely friends are part of my life now, but how can you ever recreate what you had with the person you were closest to during those formative years, aged 16 to 21.

Before I go, here is a shot taken with my trusty Kodak Instamatic, of the little cottage Catriona and I shared that summer. Happy memories indeed of a very special person, who had her own magic smile. She made the world that little bit better for all of us who knew her and is sadly missed.

Our very basic cottage (garden needed a bit of tending!)

Until next time….

Airport Lyrics
(Song by Andrew McMaster)

So many destination faces going to so many places
Where the weather is much better
And the food is so much cheaper.
Well I help her with her baggage for her baggage is so heavy
I hear the plane is ready by the gateway to take my love away.
And I can’t believe that she really wants to leave me and it’s getting me so,
It’s getting me so.

Airport –
Airport, you’ve got a smiling face,
you took the one I love so far away
Fly her away – fly her away – airport.
Airport, you’ve got a smiling face
You took my lady to another place
Fly her away – fly her away.

The plane is on the move,
And the traces of the love we had in places
Are turning in my mind – how I wish I’d been much stronger
For the wheels are turning faster as I hear the winds are blowing
and I know that she is leaving
On the jet plane way down the runaway.
And I can’t believe that she really wants to leave me – and it’s
getting me so,
It’s getting me so.

Airport –
Airport, you’ve got a smiling face,…

Airport –
Airport, you’ve got a smiling face,…

Postscript:

As luck would have it I found another entry in my 1978 journal where I’ve jotted down a short and snappy review of the the two big movies Catriona and I went to see that summer, one at the beginning and one right at the end. Again, embarrassing to read my words from back then (and my penmanship seems to have deteriorated) but interesting all the same. Yet again I seem to have not been particularly impressed with either of these films at the time, yet they are now two of my favourites movies of all time – The nonchalance of youth!

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