A Star is Born: Judy, Gaga or Barbra?

Last time I wrote a very serious post, so time for something a bit lighter I think. Regular followers will know my mum is currently in hospital. She is recovering well however and is quite enjoying being cared for I think, so a bit of respite for me. Having had a lot more time to myself over the last few weeks I’ve finally been able to catch up with friends who have been sadly neglected of late. Some of these friends have helped me make full use of the benefits attached to my new Student ID card, by joining me on a fair few trips to the local cinema.

Over the last few weeks I have been to see King of Thieves, the true story of the Hatton Garden jewellery heist, The Seagull based on the Anton Chekov play of the same name and The Escape about a stay-at-home mum who seemingly has it all, but is desperately unhappy. On top of that, DD has started working at our local theatre, so courtesy of the “comps” she gets as a perk of the job we also caught a play, a good old fashioned whodunnit in the form of The Case Of The Frightened Lady which seems to be touring the country at the moment. Our blogging buddy Chris over at Movies and Songs 365 would no doubt now write a pretty good review for each of the above but as that’s not really this blog’s raison d’être, I’ll just say that I enjoyed all four for different reasons: a) secret admiration for the Hatton Garden “Over The Hill Mob”; b) an insight into the complex lives of a rich family of writers and actors in pre-revolution Russia; c) sympathy for the woman (excellently played by Gemma Arterton) whose only means of survival was to escape the role she had found herself in, and finally; d) a bit of a throw-back to the entertainment of a bygone age (and none of us actually correctly identified whodunnit, so quite a good puzzler).

This week, the third remake of A Star Is Born starring Bradley Cooper and Lady Gaga was released in cinemas in the UK. The original film of the same name was made in 1937, one I am somewhat unfamiliar with. I am very familiar however with the 1954 remake starring Judy Garland and James Mason as films from this era used to be shown regularly on telly when I was growing up. I lapped them up and at age 12 could probably have appeared on Mastermind citing The Golden Age of Hollywood as my specialist subject. Much of that knowledge has since left me I’m afraid, replaced with music trivia and the essential but boring work-related stuff we accumulate along the way, but watching the newly released version this week, brought the story all back. Here is a clip showing Judy Garland perform The Man That Got Away, probably the most memorable song from the 1954 version.

This new version stuck to the original storyline pretty much like glue, simply updating each scene for the 21st century. There were stadiums, more guitars, the songs were of a rock persuasion, the bars had drag acts and the clothes were a bit grungier, but other than that it’s a timeless tale of “boy meets girl”, with the backdrop of one career on the way up and the other on the way down. I won’t offer up a spoiler by mentioning which is which, because ahead of the film starting to roll the other night, I inadvertently gave the plotline away to the woman sitting next to me, having assumed everyone already knew the story. I apologised and tried to excuse myself by saying the clue is in the title, A Star Is Born, but she still seemed a bit piqued.

Back in 1954, the star in the ascendance was played by Judy Garland. In 2018, that same role was played by Lady Gaga (oops, spoiled it anyway). I must admit, she was barely recognisable at the start of the film, appearing without her trademark heavy makeup and extrovert clothing. This was Stefani Joanne Angelina Germanotta in the raw without any of the trappings of the Haus of Gaga. Much has been made of the fact that first-time director Bradley Cooper wanted her to audition for the role make-up free, and ahead of her performance produced a few wipes for her to remove it, to ensure authenticity. The irony of course is that the real, or authentic Gaga, is the one with all the stage make-up and costume but hey, it was the unreal Gaga he wanted for the role.

I did enjoy the film despite pretty much knowing (unlike the woman beside me) how each scene would play out and both Bradley and Gaga put in stellar performances. I did expect there to be more standout songs however, as after leaving the cinema I didn’t have any earworms and couldn’t actually remember much of anything included. It seems the first song released as a single was Shallow which I thought was called Shiloh in the film (must have been their accents), but now it makes sense. An actor I did think quite a lot about after leaving the cinema was the lovely Sam Elliot who played lead character Jackson Maine’s long-suffering brother in the movie. If you ever decided to chuck it all in, and head off to live on a ranch in Wyoming, he always looks and sounds as if he would be your man. He would be mine anyway, so hands off!

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The lovely Sam Elliot

But all of this is of course building up to only one thing, delving into the archives to reminisce about the 1976 version of A Star Is Born starring Kris Kristofferson (be still my beating heart) and Barbra StreisandAnyone looking at the “category list” on my sidebar will see that when it comes to decades, I write about songs from the 1970s more than any other. Lots of reasons for that of course (time spent immersing yourself in the world of music as an angst-ridden teenager being one of them), and possibly an idea for a future post, but this clip of Love Theme from “A Star Is Born” (Evergreen) still gives me the collywobbles. The song appeared in the UK Singles Chart in April 1977 and came along just as I was in the midst of my first big (but ultimately highly unsuitable) romance.

Evergreen by Barbra Streisand:

Barbra Streisand has appeared on these pages before as I’m a big fan. Just like Judy and Gaga she is certainly not a conventional beauty, but a great beauty all the same so perfect for the female lead in A Star Is Born.

I often share material from some of the old magazines I still have in my possession dating back from the 1970s. Before I sign off here are a few pages from the April 1977 edition of Words magazine where every month the lyrics to the “top pop songs” of the day were listed. In this edition, A Star Is Born is featured both on the back page and on the Studio Scene and Heard page (hmm…) where current film releases were reviewed. The lyrics to Evergreen also appeared on page 2 along with Knowing Me, Knowing You by ABBA (not Alan Partridge) and Pearl’s A Singer by Elkie Brooks. If you want to have a try, without googling, how many of the other songs would you be able to identify, and attach to an artist? Many of them weren’t big hits, but some were, although scarily over 41 years ago.

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As for me, I’m not sure how many cinema visits I might be able to fit in for some time, as there is to be a meeting on Monday to discuss my mum’s discharge plan. We actually sold the idea to her last week that a care home might be the best idea, but having been to see a few over the last couple of days I have now backtracked. She needs company and stimulation more than anything, as well as being looked after, but despite the glossy brochures and the promises of fun, fun, fun…, we didn’t see much of that at all. Instead it was all empty dayrooms and very elderly people slumped in wheelchairs, mostly asleep. We kind of need a half-way house but if they do exist, they are elusive indeed. Back to being a carer for a while I think but maybe that would be the kindest thing to do. I will no doubt return with updates (but possibly no more film reviews for a wee while).

Until next time….

Evergreen Lyrics
(Song by Barbra Streisand/Paul Williams)

Love soft as an easy chair
Love fresh as the morning air
One love that is shared by two
I have found with you
Like a rose under the April snow
I was always certain love would grow
Love ageless and evergreen
Seldom seen by two
You and I will
make each night the first
Everyday a beginning
Spirits rise and their dance is unrehearsed
They warm and excite us
‘Cause we have the brightest love
Two lights that shine as one Morning glory and midnight sun
Time… we’ve learned to sail above
Time… won’t change the meaning of one love
Ageless and ever evergreen…

Another Very Serious Post, John Prine and “When I Get To Heaven”

As is wont to happen, if you update your blog as regularly as I do, aspects of your personal life tends to seep out onto the pages. Although I am fully aware I have a tendency to perhaps over-share, I seem to find it impossible to resist, as this blog is in effect my web-diary as well as the place where I share all the music I’ve enjoyed over the years.

Likewise, I’ve almost stopped counting the number of times I’ve put up a warning I might be absent for a while, only for you loyal followers to find me back in action soon afterwards. Some of you will remember I did that recently, and then wrote a short post explaining why – Right at the start of September my 83-year-old mum had a bad fall, but after taking her to A&E to be checked over, she was proclaimed fit to go home. A very fraught week followed, when just at the time I was supposed to start my long-awaited college course, I had to pretty much provide round-the-clock care for her. It became apparent however that something was very far wrong and after a particularly bad night spent entirely in her living room chair (as she was unable to move), I bravely pulled her flat’s emergency cord to summon help.

It was such a relief to see an ambulance arrive soon after and the guys who piled into her little flat were just brilliant, dealing with my poor mum in a really professional and sensitive manner. It was decided to take her back to A&E where we both spent a long day waiting for the results of tests and X-rays. In fact it wasn’t until around 2pm that I realised I’d not had breakfast yet, but such is the lot of an accompanying relative. By mid afternoon we knew she had fractured her pelvis and it was decided to transfer her to the smaller community hospital which is fortunately situated quite near to where we live.

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Our local community hospital

We are now nearly four weeks on from that momentous day and her physical recovery is going well. I visit daily, but on week one of her stay I suddenly became dog tired, as I think the adrenaline that had kept me going until then, suddenly left town. By week two however I was starting to feel like my old self again. I was able to return to blogging and managed to leave some comments on the various blogs I follow (I even managed to play Rol’s Saturday Snapshots!). As mentioned a few weeks ago, the college course was now a non-starter, but thankfully they let me reapply as a part-time student and that is going really well. Mr WIAA and I have also had a bit of a social life of late, visiting the theatre, the cinema and taking DD and her lovely boyfriend out for food. Even our little online store seems to be picking up lots of orders, as I’ve had the time to properly market it for the first time in quite a while. Life, as they say, is sweet. My mum is being well cared for, and I’ve got my life back on track.

So what’s the problem I hear you ask? Well as those of you who follow this blog know, I’ve spent most of this year struggling to cope with that most dreadful of non-physical ailments which affects so many older people – My mum’s dementia, or specifically in her case, Alzheimer’s Disease. I am reminded of something from Billy Connolly’s latest stand-up routine. “I’ve got Parkinson’s Disease”, he says. “But I wish he’d f**king kept it to himself”. Yes Billy, and I imagine all of those with Alzheimer’s feel exactly the same way, until the time comes when they are no longer even aware of their affliction.

I know there will be moves afoot in the very near future to send her home again. Beds are in short supply and that awful term “bed-blocker” gets applied to so many old souls, who by sheer accident, have found themselves with a fractured hip or pelvis after tripping over a kerb, or in my mum’s case, falling down some stairs. These are people who perhaps kept the home fires burning during the war, raised a family, carried out good deeds for their community, worked until retirement age, and paid taxes. At this stage in life however, they are called “bed blockers”, old folks who seem to be treated as if they are deliberately hogging a hospital bed through sheer ill-will.

Of late I have taken to sneaking in and out of my mum’s hospital room when the nurses are away from their work station, such is my fear of being told I can now take her home. The dementia has ramped up to a whole new level since being in hospital as the daily routine I used to organise for her is no more. I have been reassured by others who have been in a similar situation that she can’t be sent home without a discharge plan, but the worry is still there at the back of my mind. I’ve got my life back, and am reluctant to return to how things were.

As someone who has no siblings, I have been feeling the burden of care acutely of late, and ironically, after waiting for eight months to get help from the social care system, I finally got the call a day after the admission to hospital. They always say there has to be a crisis in order to get help and it seems that is indeed the case. People of my mum’s generation are living longer due to advances in medicine, but sadly, family life has changed. Most of us live in relatively small houses compared to those of my grandparent’s generation, so often no scope for taking in our old folk. The state pension age is now 67, so often no-one at home to do the caring anyway. Also, in the case of dementia, 24 hour care will eventually be needed, so not something many of us would be able to offer anyway.

Big decisions are going to have to be made soon I suspect, and it’s at times like this I wish I could turn to my dad for advice. He was one of my best friends but died a full 15 years ago. By sheer chance I heard this song on the radio whilst coming home from a hospital visit the other week and it has stuck with me. I think the host of the show was Whispering Bob, who at the end of the song said it was by John Prine. Until I started writing this blog I had never heard of John Prine but he often pops up over at CC’s wonderful place and has featured in Jez’s Sunday Morning Coming Down series. Whatever, despite being a bit of a non-believer, I was taken by the lyrics to When I Get To Heaven, written for his new album “The Tree of Forgiveness”. I realise this song choice might appear insensitive for the theme of this particular post, but trust me, the reason I picked it was 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 is nothing more I would like at the moment than to go find my dad, and ask for his advice (or is it perhaps “his permission” I wonder). Heck, listening to this song, I’m almost prepared to be converted, as there is a definite party atmosphere going on. John Prine has apparently been treated for cancer twice, and it was after his second bout that he wrote this 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.” Way to go John.

When I Get To Heaven by John Prine:

I’m sorry if I’ve made anyone feel uncomfortable by mentioning such a personal family issue, but hey, our blogs sometimes feel like the most anonymous places we can turn to when a bit of writing therapy is required. From experience, our Facebook friends don’t want to hear of our woes, although if anyone ever does respond it is usually because they have been placed in similar situation. Likewise if anyone out there in the blogosphere has been in such a situation, I’d be very interested to hear your thoughts – Any advice gratefully received.

Until next time, I’m off to give John Prine another whirl. Now 71, and still with us thankfully. Heaven is going to have to wait a while yet.

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

Rod Stewart, Decade by Decade #2 – “Maggie May”

Well, the Scarlet Pimpernel he is not – Since last Friday, just about every time I switch on the telly or tune into the radio, up pops Rod Stewart. This new album of his is getting a serious amount of promotion but considering he is back living in this country with his young family, and considering he seems to be really enjoying making new music at the moment, why not?

This is the second post in the series and this time I’m going to be concentrating on his 1970s career, which was definitely his most successful decade, if you judge success in terms of record sales and No. 1 hits that is. For most fans however the decade was a game of two halves (Rod would no doubt appreciate the football analogy) as in 1975 he left Old Blighty behind and made his way across the Atlantic to the place we used to call, America.

everyBut before that momentous journey across the pond, Mr Stewart had already carved out a very successful career for himself here in Britain. Right at the start of the ’70s he was simultaneously acting as lead singer for the Faces but also releasing critically acclaimed albums as a solo artist. His third solo album “Every Picture Tells a Story” contained the wonderful Tim Hardin song Reason To Believe, which was subsequently released as a single. It wasn’t long however before the single’s B-side was receiving more airplay, and the rest as they say, is history. Maggie May has since been named as one of the “500 songs that shaped rock ‘n’ roll”, and watching this clip below brings back so many memories.

Maggie May by Rod Stewart:

First of all, I know for a fact I would have watched this episode of TOTP with my parents, because that’s just what families did back then on a Thursday night at 7.30pm. They would have called him “Rod the Mod”, a little play on words for my amusement I always thought, not realising he had been a part of the whole Mod phenomenon during the previous decade.

Secondly, although this is ostensibly a Rod Stewart solo effort, it seems the Faces still acted as his backing band, and what a rollicking good time they seem to be having here. As we all know there was very little actual live singing done on the set of TOTP in those days, the artists always being asked to mime. For these guys that just meant there was more time for “havin’ a larf” which they always did in bucketloads. A bit of a kickabout with a football (became a bit of a trademark for Rod), a few circus tricks with the mike-stand, Ronnie Wood and Ronnie Lane showboating with their guitars, and last but not least, a bit of John Peel on mandolin (what?). Yes, they certainly knew how to have a good time those boys and many a trashed hotel room was testament to that fact.

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The Faces (Ronnie Lane here looking awfully like a Hobbit!)

My third observation is this. When you watch old episodes of telly shows and pop performances, especially from over 40 years ago like this one, you really notice how people have changed, physically, during that time. These were guys who grew up with rationing for goodness sake so the protein rich diets available to young men today were just a pipe dream. The result of course, was that they always had snake hips, spindly legs and not a six pack in sight. (Think early Bowie, and the Beatles in their mohair suits and cuban heels.) Also, the hair was always darkish and the skin very, very pale. Back in those days Rod himself had classic Anglo-Saxon dirty blonde hair and fair skin. Over the years, his glamorous life-stye and the advent of hair colouring techniques led to the hair becoming lighter and the skin becoming perma-tanned, as it still is today. Not criticising, as to be honest, we females born with the same colouring have gone down the same route. My dirty blonde hair has not seen the light of day for a good thirty plus years (and probably never will again).

Finally, although I remember this particular performance well and still love the song Maggie May, for me at that time Rod Stewart was not someone who would have appeared in pin-up form on my bedroom wall. No, even at age 11, I understood that bands like these had a certain aura about them (they actually sang about sex), which meant they were not really aimed at the pre-teen market. Rod would have to wait another few years for that to happen.

Rod made another couple of albums after “Every Picture…” for Mercury Records, “Never A Dull Moment” and then “Smiler” but in 1975 a few massive changes took place – He switched to Warner Bros Records, the Faces broke up (Ronnie Wood had already joined the Rolling Stones on tour) and he made the move to LA.

Too much Rod Stewart 1970s goodness for one post I’ve decided, so I’m going to leave the second half of the decade for the next post in this series. Also I have a fair few anecdotes to get through that will have to be sensitively dealt with, so whilst I ponder on how I’m going to do that, I shall leave you with the lyrics to Maggie May. Inspired by a real life encounter experienced by the 16-year-old Rod, the song expressed the contradictory emotions felt by a young lad after getting into a relationship with an older woman.

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There aren’t that many songs out there where just about everyone can sing along, seemingly word perfect. That happened when we went to see Rod at our local stadium – He didn’t have to do much at all when it was time for this song to make an appearance on the bill as we pretty much sang it for him, albeit a nano-second behind in timing, which is all it seems to take to prompt the next line from the memory banks. The stage overlooked the Moray Firth, the sun was setting and it was a warm summer night – Most definitely, a “pinch me” moment.

Until next time….

Maggie May Lyrics
(Song by Rod Stewart/Martin Quittenton)

Wake up Maggie I think I got something to say to you
It’s late September and I really should be back at school
I know I keep you amused but I feel I’m being used
Oh Maggie I couldn’t have tried any more
You lured me away from home just to save you from being alone
You stole my heart and that’s what really hurt

The morning sun when it’s in your face really shows your age
But that don’t worry me none in my eyes you’re everything
I laughed at all of your jokes my love you didn’t need to coax
Oh, Maggie I couldn’t have tried any more
You lured me away from home, just to save you from being alone
You stole my soul and that’s a pain I can do without

All I needed was a friend to lend a guiding hand
But you turned into a lover and
mother what a lover, you wore me out
All you did was wreck my bed
and in the morning kick me in the head
Oh Maggie I couldn’t have tried anymore
You lured me away from home ’cause you didn’t want to be alone
You stole my heart I couldn’t leave you if I tried

I suppose I could collect my books and get on back to school
Or steal my daddy’s cue and make a living out of playing pool
Or find myself a rock and roll band that needs a helpin’ hand
Oh Maggie I wish I’d never seen your face
You made a first-class fool out of me
But I’m as blind as a fool can be
You stole my heart but I love you anyway

Maggie I wish I’d never seen your face
I’ll get on back home one of these days

Rod Stewart, Decade by Decade #1 – “Handbags and Gladrags”

I find it hard to believe I have been bashing out my musical memories in this blog for nearly three years now, yet haven’t really included much at all by Mr, or Sir as he is now, Rod Stewart. Today sees the release of his 30th studio album called “Blood Red Roses”, so inevitably he was on the radio this morning performing songs from it. Fair play to him, he still has the voice, and has really enjoyed his song-writing of late, delving deep into his past coming up with autobiographical tales about the people and places encountered on the way. Always a bit of a dandy, he still seems to be in great shape and still always looks dapper, with the trademark spiky “Rod the Mod” hairstyle laboriously coiffed into shape.

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Rod Stewart is another of these artists who has had such longevity that I can’t remember a time when he wasn’t around. He was born towards the tail end of the war, in Highgate, North London, the last son to a Scottish father and English mother. The baby of the family by eight years, he admits to having been thoroughly spoiled and had a wonderful childhood. Not being particularly academic, he left school aged 15 planning to pursue one of his two great loves, football or music. Despite trials with a few clubs the football didn’t work out, so thankfully for us, the world of music beckoned.

I remember trying to find out a bit more about early Rod Stewart a few years ago, ahead of going to see him perform at our local stadium, and found he’d first joined a band in 1959. This makes him one of the few artists still performing today, to have had a career that at a push, spans seven decades. I can’t seem to find where I got that info now but whatever, he certainly has had a long and colourful career. A few changes in direction along the way means he probably lost a few original fans, but then gained a whole set of new fans. I think it would be churlish for any of us now however, to look back at his career with anything other than awe. In his back catalogue, there is most definitely something for everyone.

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Steampacket

I’m going to keep this post relatively short as it’s going to be the first in a Rod Stewart series covering each decade of his recording career. The 1960s saw Rod masquerading first as a Beatnik, then a Mod, singing with bands such as Long John Baldry’s Hoochie Coochie Men, and then Steampacket. Towards the end of the decade he had joined the Jeff Beck Group which was when he first played with long-term friend Ronnie Wood. At the same time however he was pursuing a solo career, and in 1969 released his first album, “An Old Raincoat Won’t Ever Let You Down”. I’m afraid I don’t remember Rod from this era at all, as he just didn’t fall into the category of artist a pre-teen would have been aware of (basically he wasn’t an Osmond or a Jackson), but in later years the song Handbags and Gladrags, written by Mike D’Abo of Manfred Mann, has become one of my favourites. This song was covered by Rod on his debut album and it still sends shivers down my spine when I hear it.

Handbags and Gladrags (Live version) by Rod Stewart:

The song was apparently about the futility of fashion and the irrelevance of outward appearances, which is a bit ironic considering how much of a dandy Rod has been over the years. For me though, it still kind of smarts when I listen to it, as the memories come back of the times I was probably less than grateful as a youngster. My granny was a fantastically talented knitter, and loved making me jumpers and “tank tops” (remember them?). Sadly, these home-knitted affairs were just not appreciated, and never worn, as by the time you reach your teenage years the only “duds” you want to wear are those identical to your peers. Acrylic V-necks from Chelsea Girl I seem to remember, rather than those lovingly crafted Aran sweaters. Likewise, the annual trek to buy new school shoes and winter boots usually ended in tears. Who wanted fur-lined leather boots from Clarks, when True Form and Dolcis had all those lovely synthetic boots with platform soles? A familiar tale back then, and probably now, but this song always reminds me of those battles. All these years later and I still feel bad about those gorgeous Aran sweaters that mouldered at the back of the wardrobe.

So, my first Rod Stewart post is at an end, but I already have a good idea of which songs I’m going to cover in this series. It was lovely hearing him chat and sing on the radio this morning. Long may he continue.

Until next time….

Handbags and Gladrags Lyrics
(Song by Mike D’Abo)

Ever seen a blind man cross the road
Trying to make the other side?
Ever seen a young girl growing old
Trying to make herself a bride?

So what becomes of you my love
When they have finally stripped you of
The handbags and the gladrags
That your poor old Grandad had to sweat to buy you

Once I was a young man
And all I thought I had to do was smile
Well you are still a young girl
And you’ve bought everything in style

So once you think you’re in you’re out
‘Cause you don’t mean a single thing without
The handbags and the gladrags
That your poor old Grandad had to sweat to buy you

Sing a song of six-pence for your sake
And drink a bottle full of rye
Four and twenty blackbirds in a cake
And bake ’em all in a pie

They told me you missed school today
So what I suggest you just throw them all away
The handbags and the gladrags
That your poor old Grandad had to sweat to buy

They told me you missed school today
So what I suggest you just throw them all away
The handbags and the gladrags
That your poor old Grandad had to sweat to buy you

The Autumnal Equinox, Neil Young and “Harvest 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, there could really only be one featured song for this month – Neil Young’s Harvest Moon. Having said that, the Harvest Moon can occur in either September or October, as it’s the name given to the full moon that lands closest to the autumnal equinox. This year we reached the equinox, that pivot point in the year after which we can expect more hours of darkness than light in our days, on Sunday the 23rd Sept. Had it not landed that way, it would have been called the Corn Moon, but no great songs as far as I am aware about corn (unless you know differently), so I’m mighty glad it’s worked out this way.

220px-Harvest_Moon_singleFor the Native Americans, this was the month when corn was supposed to be harvested. Also, due to a highly scientific quirk relating to orbital distances and other complex laws of physics, at the peak of the harvest farmers can work late into the night, as this moon rises at nearly the same time every evening giving them all that extra light. Fortunately I have no harvesting to be done, because for the second month in a row, there seems to be total cloud cover around the time of the full moon. I am still hoping for a miracle tomorrow night but not counting my chickens. (Wonder if the Native Americans also did that by the light of this brilliant Harvest Moon.)

But back to Neil’s wonderful song. I do have a couple of Neil Young anecdotes in my back pocket, but I don’t think this is the time or place to share them. Instead I just want to listen to the beautiful sound of his voice, those soft brush strokes, and the steel guitars.

Harvest Moon by Neil Young:

Something that surprised me when doing a modicum of research for this post was that the album “Harvest Moon” was released in 1992. I always associate Neil Young with a much earlier time, and although I recognised this song, I had never thought of it as being attached to the 1990s. That said, the year 1992 was an incredibly busy one for me, as in a five month period I got engaged, sold my flat, bought a house, organised a wedding and got myself betrothed…, so I probably wasn’t keeping up with any new album releases.

Listening to the song Harvest Moon, it is however perfect for a couple like us who have now been married for nearly 26 years. It was written as a tribute to Neil’s wife Pegi, and seems to celebrate longevity in relationships. Had we not lived in the North of Scotland, I think I might have suggested to Mr WIAA that we go dancin’ where the music’s playin’ tonight, but sadly it’s really cold out there, so a mug of cocoa and a boxset it’ll have to be instead. Easy to take each other forgranted once you’ve been together a long, long… time, but listening to this song reminds me that…, well, we really shouldn’t. Enough said.

…. there’s a full moon risin’
Let’s go dancin’ in the light
We know where the music’s playin’
Let’s go out and feel the night

Because I’m still in love with you
I want to see you dance again
Because I’m still in love with you
On this harvest moon

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The moon seems to be a big deal to Neil Young as it turns up in 28 of his songs. He uses it to guide him and is apparently more likely to take on a project if it coincides with a full moon. In a 2005 interview he explained: “Before there was organized religion, there was the moon. The Indians knew about the moon. Pagans followed the moon. I’ve followed it for as long as I can remember, and that’s just my religion. I’m not a practicing anything, I don’t have a book that I have to read. It can be dangerous working in a full moon atmosphere, because if there are things that are going to go wrong, they can really go wrong. But that’s great, especially for rock ‘n’ roll.”

I must admit, this moon series has been my favourite so far, and I would agree with a lot of what Neil says there. I really hope we do get to see the full moon on Tuesday night as I’m starting to get withdrawal symptoms, having missed out on last month’s lunar eclipse entirely and this month I seem to be dogged by cloud cover. If we do, I’m sure my friend with the all singing, all dancing camera will capture it perfectly, so a “Postscript” may well get tagged onto the bottom. Watch this space as they say.

Until next time….

Harvest Moon Lyrics
(Song by Neil Young)

Come a little bit closer
Hear what I have to say
Just like children sleepin’
We could dream this night away.

But there’s a full moon risin’
Let’s go dancin’ in the light
We know where the music’s playin’
Let’s go out and feel the night.

Because I’m still in love with you
I want to see you dance again
Because I’m still in love with you
On this harvest moon.

When we were strangers
I watched you from afar
When we were lovers
I loved you with all my heart.

But now it’s gettin’ late
And the moon is climbin’ high
I want to celebrate
See it shinin’ in your eye.

Because I’m still in love with you
I want to see you dance again
Because I’m still in love with you
On this harvest moon.

Denise Marsa, “Lucky Stars” and Life As A Student (Second Time Around)

Going to pop my head above the parapet for a wee while as this blog is in effect my web diary, and lots to write about since last weekend. Over the last few months I have hinted that I might soon become one of the Highland’s newest intake of students. I jumped through all the hoops and back in June, much to my delight, was offered a place on my chosen course. It all kicked off this week but after only 4 days, because of my mum’s deteriorating health, I have had to withdraw. Very disappointed. On the upside, I have been able to reapply as a part-time student who can pick off one module at a time. Hopefully much more manageable.

Exactly 40 years ago I was preparing to head off to study at a University founded in 1495. The college I now plan to attend only opened in 2015. So much change in the intervening half millennium (bit of an understatement), but it seems that we humans still have a yearning for learning, and fortunately nowadays, much more accessible to all.

And here is where a strange coincidence has come about. Back in my early days of blogging I wrote a post about the song Lucky Stars by Dean Friedman (link here). As I said at the time, whenever I hear it I am reminded of autumn 1978, when I first left home to sample the delights of University life. It was given blanket airplay at the time and got to No. 3 in the UK Singles Chart. That post has become one of this blog’s most frequently visited, so I am obviously not alone in having fond memories of the song.

Lucky Stars by Dean Friedman and Denise Marsa:

The wonderful thing about revisiting songs all these decades later, is that it’s possible to find out so much more of the backstory. In 1978 we knew Dean duetted with a female vocalist on Lucky Stars, but as she wasn’t credited, she became known as the “mystery singer”. In 2016, I discovered she was a singer/songwriter called Denise Marsa, who like Dean, also came from New Jersey. I made sure that in my blog post at any rate, she got full credit for having been part of this great Broadway-esque “musical discussion”. Lo and behold, a few weeks later she found my post and a few emails were exchanged – The wonders of blogging. (If you watch the above clip to the end, at 3:30 you will see Dean and Denise as they are today, having reunited for a special one-off performance.)

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The strange coincidence is that 40 years on, just as I prepare to embark on life as a student for the second time, who should pop up in my life again but Denise Marsa. Back in 1978, her voice was the soundtrack to my early weeks as a nervous young student and here in 2018, she was appearing again. It seems her one-woman show is being staged at the Playground Theatre in London from the 20th September, and she wanted me to spread the word via my blog. Sure thing Denise (extract from her email below).

Hi Alyson

I remember we had a brief encounter via email when you first wrote about Dean Friedman’s LUCKY STARS. Just a quick mention, I am premiering my show THE PASS in London this fall at a new theater, The Playground Theatre. Maybe you could share this news with your readers? Here’s a link to the theater website as well as some recent press.

I also hope you can attend, would like the chance to meet you! Hope you are well!

My best, Denise

Sadly with all that’s going on in my life at the moment I’m not going to be able to head down for the show and potentially meet with Denise (wouldn’t that have really been something), but in the event some Dean and Denise fans visit this post, they will at least have been alerted to the fact she is in the country, and performing live.

All this of course, got me thinking about what the young students of today will be listening to as they embark on their chosen studies. Turns out, all these years later, the idea of featuring a female singer in a song produced by a man is still alive and well. The difference nowadays is that the female gets full credit for lending their vocals to the recording. In the Top 40 at the moment we have songs featuring Anne-Marie, Dua Lipa, Demi Lovato, Cardi B, Camila Cabella, and many more I am unfamiliar with (so could embarrass myself by getting their gender wrong). I do however have a feeling my fellow students will probably follow a whole other set of artists, but it’ll be interesting for the blog getting to know who they are.

Good grief, they’re all clones of each other!

As regular followers know, this year has seen me becoming the very squeezed filling in a generational sandwich, trying to cope with a mum who has health issues just not able to be addressed by the social care system and a daughter who has still not quite flown the nest. My mum is now in hospital, as her fall the other week seems to have caused a (previously undetected) fractured pelvis – Not easy to get over at any age, but at least she is being cared for. DD has started her course at college and seems to be getting on fine so perhaps, just perhaps, I might be able to have some “me-time” and find my feet as a mature student. Who knows, but one thing’s for sure, life is never dull around here.

Hopefully, my new friend Denise Marsa will have a successful run of her one-woman show. Strange to think she first came into my life 40 years ago as I embarked on life as a student, and here she is popping up again, second time around. We couldn’t have predicted back then just how much our lives would change because of this tool we all use daily called The Internet. A force for good (connecting us with old friends, enabling the making of new friends, giving us access to vast amounts of information and services) but also a force for bad (no need to spell it out).

Who knows how things will have evolved in another 40 years but I have a sneaking suspicion that the song Lucky Stars will still occasionally pop up on the musical airwaves of the future. I might not be around to hear it, but hopefully DD will, and she will no doubt have fond memories of her mum and dad “murdering” the song which had become their party-piece of choice. She will also remember how we always forgot the words, despite having listened to it hundreds of times, and she will smile.

Until next time….

Lucky Stars
(Song by Dean Friedman)

What are you crazy? How in the hell can you say what you just said?
I was talking to myself. Shut the door and come to bed.
By the way, I forgot to say, your endearing mother called today.
Did you see Lisa?
Yes I saw Lisa.
Is that why you’re angry?
I wasn’t angry.
Maybe a little.
Not even maybe.
Must be the weather.
Now don’t be a baby.
We’ll how am I supposed to feel with all the things you don’t reveal and
You can thank your lucky stars that we’re not as smart as we’d like to think we are.

Would you like to talk about it?
There’s not much to say.
We had lunch this afternoon. Her life’s in disarray.
She still goes around as if she is always stumbling off a cliff.
Do you still want her?
What are you saying?
Do you still want her?
Baby stop playing.
Really, I mean it. Can you forget her?
Baby, now stop it. You should know better.
I know this is hard to do. but, there’s no one for me but you and
You can thank your lucky stars that we’re not as smart as we’d like to think we are.

Baby, I’m sorry, I was wrong, I have no alibis.
I was acting like a fool and I apologize.
Listen, hon’, I know you’re dumb, but that’s ok, you don’t have to look so glum.
Do you still love me?
Yes, I still love you.
You mean, you’re not just being nice.
No, I’m not just being nice.
Do you feel sleepy.
Aw, you’re so sincere. Yes, I feel sleepy.
Well, slide over here ’cause I may not be all that bright, but I know how to hold you tight and
You can thank your lucky stars that we’re not as smart as we’d like to think we are and

You can thank your lucky stars that we’re not as smart as we’d like to think we are and
We can thank our lucky stars that we’re not as smart as we’d like to think we are.

Trafalgar Square, Doris Day and Jimmy Unknown

My very wordy, heavily researched posts are on the back burner at the moment I’m afraid, but a quick scan of this photograph has given me a great opportunity to write a short and snappy post explaining why. My poor mum had a fall last week, and on top of all her other health issues, it has made life very difficult for her. I’m doing my best to look after her on my own as it seems the resources are no longer there to get help from elsewhere – Eventually, perhaps, but we’ll have to be patient. Will soldier on in the meantime.

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Mum and Dad, circa 1955

This is my favourite picture of my mum and dad, taken in the mid 1950s in Trafalgar Square (didn’t they always look so smart in those days). I think many of my peers will also have a similar picture of their parents from that era. I know Mr Medd from Are We There Yet? does, as he shared it with us recently (click on link for the post).

So that’s the visual, but what would they have been listening to around that time? I still have their old 78s in my collection and the one that always brings a tear to my eye is this one, Jimmy Unknown by Doris Day – My dad was indeed a “Jimmy” and was one of life’s unsung heroes who always led by example, doing lots of great work for his community. At the time of this picture he was general foreman, and my mum the boss’s secretary, at the local building firm which seemed to soak up all the school leavers back in the day. Long gone now of course, but many happy years were spent there for both of them.

Sorry I’ve been absent from the comments boxes of the blogs I usually have time to visit, but will have to curb my blogging activities for a while I’m afraid – Hopefully you will all understand.

Until next time….

Jimmy Unknown Lyrics
(Song by Ruth Roberts/Bill Katz)

Who will be my Jimmy Unknown?
Someone to love me and call me his own
Over the mountain
Over the sea
Somewhere my Jimmy is waiting for me

Will he be handsome?
Will he be strong?
Lifting my heart like a beautiful song
Over the mountain
Over the sea
Somewhere my Jimmy is waiting for me

The day I surrendered
My lips to his charms
My secret of love
Will be lost in his arms

Who will be my Jimmy Unknown?
Someone who never would leave me alone
Over the mountain
Over the sea
Somewhere my Jimmy is waiting for me