Frankie Valli and The Four Seasons, The Night and Northern Soul

Last night I finally got round to watching the film Northern Soul which I had recorded on the machine the previous week. It was made in 2014 but was all about the dance culture that emerged in the working-class industrial towns of the North of England in the early 1970s. Instead of chart music, the DJs in the various dance halls and youth clubs of Bury, Bolton, Blackburn, Burnley and Rochdale, played American soul music from the mid ’60s. And, this wasn’t mainstream soul music that would have been familiar to these youngsters, these DJs played the more obscure records that had never even charted (e.g. Tony Clarke: Landslide, Gloria Jones: Tainted Love, The Salvadors: Stick By Me Baby) but they somehow managed to attract large crowds of young people, on a weekly basis, who literally danced all night.

The film Northern Soul is what would probably be classed as a gritty drama, but told the story of two lads from Lancashire who immersed themselves in this culture, working in a factory by day but playing DJ at night, and at the weekends frequenting the big all-nighters at venues such as Wigan Casino. Watching them dance, this was early break dancing, what with the spins and the athletic moves. Who knew it all started in Lancashire?

The standout record from the film for me was The Night by Frankie Valli and The Four Seasons. I knew this song well but didn’t realise that although it was originally released in 1972, due to poor promotion, it didn’t chart. It did however become a popular track on the northern soul circuit and subsequently became a hit in 1975 reaching No.7 in the UK Singles Chart. An oh so familiar tale of a boy pleading with a girl he likes, to resist the advances of another – Sadly all the pleading in the world is not going to work in a case like this as we girls all seem to go through a (probably) hormonally-induced phase of being attracted to the wrong kind of boy. I did it myself and still remember the disappointment on the face of my lovely friend Joe when I told him I was now dating his “frenemy”.

The Night by Frankie Valli and The Four Seasons:

But going back to northern soul, as a fanatic of chart music between 1972 and 1975, carefully recording the chart rundown every Sunday night, it had not escaped my attention that there were a few listings around that time attributed to bands with the word Wigan in the title – There was Wigan’s Chosen Few with Footsee in 1975 and later on that year Wigan’s Ovation with three separate chart entries. They turned up on TOTP and we witnessed this very energetic style of dancing that was so different to what we were used to down the local youth club. I didn’t give it much thought at the time but in later life have been intrigued by how this movement took off to such an extent. It was hard enough getting boys to dance at all where I came from so to see a whole dance hall full of, let’s face it, very macho males showboating on the dancefloor was surprising indeed.

I will leave you with a couple of clips that kind of sum up what it was like back then – The dance halls had seen better days and life was a bit grim on the outside but when all that great American soul music was being blasted from the sound systems, life it seemed, was sweet. I am pretty sure that the Frankie Valli track that has become an earworm over the last 24 hours is not representative of the music that was played back then, and there are some music bloggers like Marie from It’s All In The Grooves! who are experts in the kind of ’60s soul played at these venues, but watching the film it did remind me how much I loved Frankie’s falsetto. Still touring it seems at the grand old age of 82 and tickets selling fast so if you live in the North of England and want a little reminder of your days down at the Casino, get online fast!

The Night Lyrics
(Song by Bob Gaudio/Al Ruzicka)

Beware
Of his promise
Believe
What I say
Before
I go forever
Be sure
Of what you say

So he paints a pretty picture
And he tells you that he needs you
And he covers you with flowers
And he always keeps you dreaming
If he always keeps you dreaming
You won’t have a lonely hour
If a day could last forever
You might like your ivory tower

But the night begins to turn your head around
And you know you’re gonna lose more than you found
Yeah the night begins to turn your head around

Beware
Of his promise
Believe
What I say
Before
I go forever
Be sure
Of what you say

For the words may come too easy
If you don’t believe I’m leaving
And goodbye will come too quickly
If you really think he loves you
If you really think he loves you
You would give your love so sweetly
If that day could last forever
You would fall in love completely

But the night begins to turn your head around
And you know you’re gonna lose more than you found
Yeah the night begins to turn your head around

The Vernal Equinox, Nina Simone and Feeling Good

Today is one of my favourite days of the year. At 10.28pm tonight we reach the Vernal Equinox, one of only two points in the year when the number of hours of night and day are equal. Because it’s March, and I’m in the Northern Hemisphere, that means it’s just going to get lighter and brighter every day now for the next three months. Unlike when we reach the Autumnal Equinox, when the thought of all those extra hours of darkness makes me sad, this equinox makes me very perky – The montbretia flowers in my garden today definitely add to this perkiness!

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Any regulars to this place will know that over the last six months I have been celebrating these markers in the calendar, and following some of the traditions from those days when nature dictated all that was important in life. In the pagan calendar today is Ostara, derived from the Old English goddess Eostre, later borrowed by Christians for Easter. This festival is therefore all about fertility, where seeds are blessed for planting soon after. It is traditionally the day of equilibrium, neither harsh winter or merciless summer (although never that merciless here in Scotland to be fair). Painted eggs and baskets of flowers are generally used to decorate the house so yet again I have created a little tableau of my own with eggs, spring flowers, a hare (not a real one) and a yellow candle.

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Yesterday, as it was Sunday, I went for a walk. I couldn’t seem to muster up the enthusiasm for blogging at all and thought I might find my lost mojo, which seems to have gone a-wanderin’ of late. Taking inspiration from C at Sun Dried Sparrows who took us on a walk with her recently, how about if I take you on my walk, which was up to the local duck pond. Also, will we find the missing mojo?

Right here we go, anti-clockwise or clockwise round the pond? Yesterday I chose anti-clockwise and didn’t even realise how much birdsong was in the air until I played this back. So far however, no sign of the missing mojo. Hmm… Where can it have gone?

Ok, so now we’ve got to the other side of the pond but thank goodness I went to the loo before I left or I’d be in trouble with the sound of all this running water! Loads of bikes been this way by the looks of things so a bit muddy but time perhaps for a wee sit down and another good look round for that pesky missing mojo.

No still nothing, but wait a minute, I see a few ducks out on the pond, maybe they’ve seen it.

“Hi guys, you haven’t happened to see my missing mojo have you? It was around until a couple of weeks ago but seems to have gone a-wanderin’.”

“Oh, hi Alyson, lovely day isn’t it. Yes we have seen it actually, it’s over by the Pet Cemetery.”

“Cheers guys, I’ll go and take a look.”

Got it!  It was hiding out amongst those tiny little gravestones marking the resting place of long gone, but much-loved pets.

What with the birdsong, the ducks, the blue skies and the forest, the perkiness brought on by the coming of today’s vernal equinox really hit me yesterday on the way back from my walk. What kind of song would suit a day like this I thought to myself and it turned out to be Feeling Good by Nina Simone.

Birds flying high you know how I feel
Sun in the sky you know how I feel
Breeze driftin’ on by you know how I feel

It’s a new dawn
It’s a new day
It’s a new life for me yeah

Feeling Good by Nina Simone:

Feeling/Feelin’ Good (take your pick) was written back in 1964 by Anthony Newley and Leslie Bricusse for the Broadway musical The Roar of the Greasepaint – The Smell of the Crowd. Nina Simone recorded the song for her 1965 album “I Put a Spell on You” and it has kind of become a standard and been covered by many other artists including George Michael, Muse, Michael Bublé and American jazz musician John Coltrane. I would of course be lying if I said I remembered it from back then – Oh no, as often happens Nina’s version was used by a car company for a 1994 television advert, which in turn led to it re-entering the UK Singles Chart in the July of that year. Thankfully I couldn’t have been over-exposed to it at that time, as sometimes happens when song is used in that way, as I still enjoy listening to it and it is of course my very aptly chosen featured song for today, the day of the Vernal Equinox

It is not often that I revisit anything from the 21st century in this blog but I do also have a soft spot for the version by Muse which was originally recorded for their 2001 album “Origin of Symmetry” but was again used for an advert (must be good for sales), this time for an airline company. Until next time, I give you Muse with Feeling GoodHappy Ostara!

Feeling Good Lyrics
(Song by Leslie Bricusse/Anthony Newley)

Birds flying high you know how I feel
Sun in the sky you know how I feel
Breeze driftin’ on by you know how I feel

It’s a new dawn
It’s a new day
It’s a new life for me yeah

It’s a new dawn, it’s a new day, it’s a new life for me
Oh
And I’m feeling good

Fish in the sea, you know how I feel
River running free, you know how I feel
Blossom on the tree, you know how I feel

It’s a new dawn
It’s a new day
It’s a new life
For me
And I’m feeling good

Dragonfly out in the sun you know what I mean, don’t you know
Butterflies all havin’ fun, you know what I mean
Sleep in peace when day is done, that’s what I mean
And this old world, is a new world
And a bold world for me

Stars when you shine, you know how I feel
Scent of the pine, you know how I feel
Oh freedom is mine
And I know how I feel

It’s a new dawn
It’s a new day
It’s a new life
For me

And I’m feeling good

Darling Daughter, Defying Gravity and The Day We “Cut A Record”

I mentioned last time that I now have a backlog of “posts pending” – I seem to continually add new post ideas to my blogging notebook but then write about other things instead. In order to start making inroads into this long list of ideas I have now put them on a spreadsheet, sorted them alphabetically, given each one a number and then, to make it a bit more interesting, used a random number generator to select the next “post idea”. (You can probably tell I work in finance and am by nature a very spreadsheety kind of person.)

Well, number 37 popped up and what did that correspond to on the long list of ideas? – “Musical Theatre and Wicked”. Before you start panicking that I’m about to share a whole load of show tunes with you, let me explain this little bit of self-indulgence. A couple of our good friends have been very successful on the career front (didn’t rub off on us sadly), but have not had any children. There is probably a correlation there but the upside is, when it comes to birthday presents, darling daughter is bestowed with some very nice ones. Just before her 15th birthday a rectangular padded envelope arrived and much speculation went on as to what could be inside. It turned out to be one of those Experience packages where she was given the chance to visit a recording studio and lay down some tracks. Being a keen singer, and having been in a few theatre shows up to that point, there was much excitement, and in due course the experience was booked for a Sunday in August.

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As the good friends live in London and we live in the Scottish Highlands, we chose the recording studio in Edinburgh, which was listed as an option, and planned a meetup. The timing coincided with the Edinburgh Festival Fringe and if you’ve never been to our capital city in August I would thoroughly recommend it (although accommodation is hard to come by, granted). I’m pretty sure the locals who just want to go about their daily business during the month of August get pretty hacked off with it all but it certainly brings a colourful, carnival atmosphere to the city and many a stand-up comedian has cut his or her teeth in one of the many venues.

Darling daughter was given the choice of which show she wanted to see on the Saturday night and she chose one starring those very nifty street dancers, Flawless. I was sceptical that they would  be able to hold our attention for a whole hour and a half but you know what, they did. The audience were also all given fluorescent gloves and after a short lesson on “the moves” we had to make, we were projected on a big screen behind the dancers, so all very interactive.

And so it came to the Sunday, and we made our way to the recording studio which turned out to be in an Industrial Estate in Leith. Sadly there was no sunshine on Leith that day and Abbey Road it was most definitely not, but once we arrived, the “producers” were all really friendly and welcoming – I’m pretty sure they would have preferred to spend their afternoon laying down some tracks with a cool new rock band as opposed to a 15-year-old from the Highlands and her extended family, but if they did, they didn’t show it.

The song of choice that day was Defying Gravity from the musical Wicked, based on the alternative telling of L. Frank Baum’s classic story The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. Around that time the television show Glee, about an American High School glee club/show choir, was a firm favourite with darling daughter and her friends, and one of the characters in the show had performed the song in a recent episode. Of course now her musical tastes are very different and I know she would be very embarrassed about me sharing this but hey, I’m a proud mum, she never reads my blog and it’s the most anonymous place on the internet, so here is what she came up with on that day. It was a fascinating process, how you record many versions of the same song, do a bit of tweaking and then cut and paste sections together to create the best version possible. She starts off a bit tentatively but after 1:00 the confidence shines through.

Defying Gravity by “Darling Daughter”:

As I said earlier, this was always going to be a very self-indulgent post but this 2003 song by Stephen Schwartz is, for the reasons above, now very much one of the “tracks of my years” and that is exactly what this blog is all about. The lyrics of the song are about living without limits and going against the rules that others have set for you. For darling daughter’s generation I think that can-do attitude is going to be very important as they try to negotiate this brave new world we seem to find ourselves in.

Until next time….

Defying Gravity Lyrics
(Song by Stephen Schwartz)

Something has changed within me
Something is not the same
I’m through with playing by the rules of someone else’s game
Too late for second-guessing
Too late to go back to sleep
It’s time to trust my instincts, close my eyes and leap!

It’s time to try
Defying gravity
I think I’ll try
Defying gravity
Kiss me goodbye
I’m defying gravity
And you won’t bring me down

I’m through accepting limits ’cause someone says they’re so
Some things I cannot change but ’til I try, I’ll never know!
Too long I’ve been afraid of losing love I guess I’ve lost
Well, if that’s love, it comes at much too high a cost!

I’d sooner buy
Defying gravity
Kiss me goodbye
I’m defying gravity
I think I’ll try
Defying gravity
And you won’t bring me down

Peter Sarstedt, A Trio of Brothers and Where Do You Go To My Lovely?

Well, it’s over a week since my last post but after tweaking the title and look of my blog last weekend there has been a fair bit of editing to do on older posts – Also a great chance however to check that all the links are still working and sure enough a few had to be fixed but all in all, a profitable week.

What to write about today then? Last year the plan was to write randomly about a song I’d heard in the course of the day but that didn’t last long – The news of the day trumps this random approach and with so many deaths last year from the world of music there was a steady stream of tributes to be written. Also I quite enjoyed writing about songs that related to the seasons, what was going on in my own life, and sometimes, ones that had formed a pesky earworm in the course of the week.

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None of those situations have arisen this week however so time to refer to my trusty blogging notebook (it’s a thing) in order to check out the long list of “ideas for future posts” that has developed. Now this list is growing faster than I can keep up with the writing, but I am drawn to a post idea that I had last June, around the time of my birthday, when I wrote about those artists who were really big around the time I was born. I always think it’s a bit silly to receive a gift with songs from the year of your birth as you will have no memory of them, or affinity to them at all, as it is not until you around six or seven that you really start to take heed of such things and remember them in later life.

Back then my chosen featured artist (from 1960) was Adam Faith but included in the long list of his contemporaries was Eden Kane. I had no idea until that point that Eden Kane was in fact Richard Sarstedt who was the older brother of Peter and Robin, both of whom I did remember from the “tracks of my years”.

The Sarstedt brothers, like Cliff Richard and many other shiny stars from the world of entertainment (is there a connection I wonder?), were born in India in the 1940s. Sadly their father died quite young after which they came back, with their mother, to live in the UK. Richard was first off the mark and formed a skiffle group. Like that other group of three brothers, the Bee Gees, he included his younger siblings but after winning a talent contest changed his name to Eden Kane and went onto solo success. His 1960 song Well I Ask You even reached the No. 1 spot in the UK Singles Chart.

Eden/Richard’s career was on the wane by 1964 as groups such as the Beatles and the Rolling Stones started to take over the airwaves. On a stopover in Los Angeles later that year however he met journalist Charlene Groman, the sister of American actress Stefanie Powers, whom he went on to marry. He has lived and worked in LA ever since, and they are still happily married today.

Peter Sarstedt was the next brother to pick up the mantle of singing stardom. Although another pop artist, his music was more derived from traditional folk music. He is best known for writing and performing Where Do You Go To (My Lovely) which again was a No. 1 hit in the UK Singles Chart, this time in 1969, and even won an Ivor Novello Award. It is very much a “story song” about a fictional girl called Marie-Claire who grows up on the poverty-stricken backstreets of Naples, but soon becomes a member of the international jet set and goes on to live in Paris. The lyrics are from the perspective of a childhood friend but the rhetorical question of the title suggests that her glamorous lifestyle may not have brought Marie-Claire happiness or contentment. The lyrics of the song reflect the fact that we seemed to be having a bit of a love affair with all things European that year, what with Jane, Serge and Jacques Brel also making a massive impact. Oh dear, how things change.

Here is a great clip that not only showcases Peter, his lovely song, and stupendous moustache, but also Simon Dee whom some of us of a certain age will remember well from late ’60s Saturday night telly. Sadly Peter Sarstedt died in January this year at the age of 75 and as happened last year, I am only now getting round to writing about him, after his death. The artists who have formed the “tracks of my years” are leaving us faster than I can get round to writing about them – Will have to pick up the pace.

Where Do You Go To (My Lovely) by Peter Sarstedt:

The third brother, Robin Sarstedt (whose actual name was Clive) had a one-hit wonder in 1976 with the Hoagy Carmichael-penned My Resistance Is Low. I remember this song well as it was from the era when I probably listened to more chart music than at any other point in my life. In the mid ’70s we seemed to be having a love affair with these old classics, possibly because there were quite a few films around at that time set in earlier decades and I know that girl’s clothes and hairstyles also had a distinct retro feel to them. I should know because I had a couple of dresses which were very much in the style of the ’30s and ’40s. ‘Twas the times.

So, “What’s It All About?” – I really will have to pick up the pace. If I am getting older so are my musical heroes and it’s much nicer writing about them when they are still alive as opposed to after they have died. I see that Joni from Sister Sledge died yesterday and last month it was Al Jarreau – Both are linked to “posts pending” in my blogging notebook so again it will have to be a “posthumous post” (so much alliteration).

And, although I don’t really do politics here, this of course is the month when the Triggering of Article 50 happens. Back in 1969 we weren’t even in Europe yet and here was Peter Sarstedt writing songs about girls called Marie-Claire from Naples, Sasha Distel, Marlene Dietrich, Zizi Jeanmaire, Balmain and Picasso. Somewhere along the line something has gone horribly wrong.

Until next time….

Where Do You Go To My Lovely Lyrics
(Song by Peter Sarstedt)

You talk like Marlene Dietrich
And you dance like Zizi Jeanmaire
Your clothes are all made by Balmain
And there`s diamonds and pearls in your hair
You live in a fancy apartment
Of the Boulevard of St. Michel
Where you keep your Rolling Stones records
And a friend of Sacha Distel

But where do you go to my lovely
When you’re alone in your bed
Tell me the thoughts that surround you
I want to look inside your head

I’ve seen all your qualifications
You got from the Sorbonne
And the painting you stole from Picasso
Your loveliness goes on and on, yes it does
When you go on your summer vacation
You go to Juan-les-Pins
With your carefully designed topless swimsuit
You get an even suntan, on your back and on your legs
When the snow falls you’re found in St. Moritz
With the others of the jet-set
And you sip your Napoleon Brandy
But you never get your lips wet

But where do you go to my lovely
When you’re alone in your bed
Tell me the thoughts that surround you
I want to look inside your head, yes I do

Your name is heard in high places
You know the Aga Khan
He sent you a racehorse for Christmas
And you keep it just for fun, for a laugh haha
They say that when you get married
It’ll be to a millionaire
But they don’t realize where you came from
And I wonder if they really care, they give a damn

But where do you go to my lovely
When you’re alone in your bed
Tell me the thoughts that surround you
I want to look inside your head

I remember the back streets of Naples
Two children begging in rags
Both touched with a burning ambition
To shake off their lowly brown tags, yes they try
So look into my face Marie-Claire
And remember just who you are
Then go and forget me forever
`Cause I know you still bear
the scar, deep inside, yes you do

I know where you go to my lovely
When you’re alone in your bed
I know the thoughts that surround you
`Cause I can look inside your head

Al Stewart, On the Border and Year of the Cat

In case I’ve confused anyone, yes it’s still me, but I’ve dropped the Alfie from my site title and changed the header image – I have been troubled for some time by the fact that I merrily entered into blogging without really thinking too hard about my site’s title. The domain name is jukeboxtimemachine.com which I liked right at the start but then thought it sounded too Dr Who-ish. As a great fan of Burt Bacharach and late ’60s movies I quickly changed it to What’s It All About, Alfie?, as an homage to the song of the same name, but as was likely to happen I am now thoroughly sick of the song and if I ever hear it again in my entire life, it will be too soon. Also the character Alfie is a bit of a misogynist womaniser and I don’t think I want to be too closely associated with that kind of person in my 21st century life, so he is going to have to go – Farewell then Alfie (and Jane Asher), it’s been nice knowing you but it’s time to move on.

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So, what song to feature in this new Alfie-less blog? A couple of weeks ago I wrote about a song that was inspired by the picture of Barbra Streisand on the cover of the magazine that pops through my letterbox every Saturday. I like a challenge so thought it might be interesting to use the weekly cover as inspiration for future posts – Lo and behold, what appeared on last Saturday’s cover but a cat of all things. I am not really a cat lover and much prefer dogs so what could I come up with to write about? My first thoughts led me to the song Moon River as the final scene in Breakfast at Tiffany’swhere Audrey and George finally get together to the strains of Henry Mancini, revolved around the search for Audrey’s cat, imaginatively named Cat.

But no, that is more of a film song (although I still love the term “huckleberry friend” as it conjures up something that I just don’t think we have any more) – My next thoughts led me to the song Year of the Cat by Al Stewart and amazingly it occurred to me that all these years on, I still don’t know what Al looked like, as he was more of an album artist and as far as I know never appeared on Top of the Pops or any mainstream TV shows I may have watched. Unbelievably Year of the Cat only made it to No. 31 in the UK Singles Chart in 1977 and those must have been the heady days when I laboriously recorded chart positions in notebooks, as I still remember his song being the first to be played on a Radio Luxembourg chart rundown from that year (must have been a Top 40 bearing in the mind the paltry No. 31 peak position). So now I know what Al looked like and perhaps it’s just me but does he have a hint of the late George Harrison about him? What a fantastic song though with a great saxophone solo – All apparently about a tourist who is visiting an exotic market when a mysterious silk-clad woman appears and takes him away for a gauzy romantic adventure. He of course awakens the next day beside her, but soon calmly realises that his tour bus has left without him and he has lost his ticket. Sounds as if it was all worthwhile though!

Year Of The Cat by Al Stewart:

Regulars to this place will know that I am often earworm-afflicted and it usually comes about from hearing long-forgotten songs played on the radio on my way home from work. This week, just as I approached one of the trickier roundabouts in town, Al’s song On the Border came on and it has been going round and round in my head ever since. As I had already been pondering the works of Al Stewart this week, it confirmed that he would feature in my next post. On the Border never did make an appearance in the UK Singles Chart although I see it did enter the US Billboard Chart – It is another fantastic song that I often hear on the radio so what the heck were we thinking of back in 1977? Not Al Stewart by the sound of it! Time to find out a bit more about this chap.

On the Border by Al Stewart:

Well, shock of shocks, Al turns out not to be American as I had always thought but was indeed born in Glasgow. Sadly his father, a Royal Air Force flight lieutenant, died in a 1945 plane crash before he was born so his mum moved down to Dorset which is where Al grew up. After school he moved to London and rose to prominence as part of the British folk revival of the ’60s and ’70s. He developed a unique style of combining folk-rock songs with delicately woven tales of characters and events from history. He knew Yoko Ono before she met John Lennon, shared a flat with a young Paul Simon and bought his first guitar from Police guitarist Andy Summers. Why oh why am I only finding out about all of this now, and why wasn’t he a lot more successful in the UK?

Al is an artist who seems to have worked with just about everyone and one of the people he collaborated with from the 1960s onward was Alan Parsons who produced the album “Year of The Cat”. I don’t know about you but I just can’t think of Alan Parsons now without being reminded of that scene in the Austin Powers movie where Dr Evil, having travelled forward in time, just doesn’t get modern day cultural references. When he names his new scheme to achieve world domination “The Alan Parsons Project” in honour of its inventor, Dr Parsons, it of course causes great hilarity.

So, “What’s It All About?” – It seems that there are some artists who just quietly get on with the job of making great albums but who never really become household names. As a music fan myself I find it very strange that I didn’t even know what Al looked like, or that he was British, considering he had recorded three songs that I have always really loved but only ever hear on the radio (the third being Time Passages from 1978).

Al went to live in Los Angeles shortly after the release of his “Year Of The Cat” album and seems to have consistently sold more records there than in his native UK. It turns out he became a bit of a wine connoisseur and has built up a vast collection of fine wines over the years – Preferable to some of the other vices his contemporaries succumbed to!

At this year’s BBC Folk Awards, which will take place in April at the Royal Albert Hall, Al will receive the prestigious Lifetime Achievement Award. He will also it seems perform at the awards ceremony, so after all these years, I may actually manage to watch Al on television – Looking forward to it already.

Until next time ….

Year Of The Cat Lyrics
(Song by Al Stewart/Peter Wood)

On a morning from a Bogart movie
In a country where they turn back time
You go strolling through the crowd like Peter Lorre
Contemplating a crime
She comes out of the sun in a silk dress running
Like a watercolour in the rain
Don’t bother asking for explanations
She’ll just tell you that she came
In the year of the cat

She doesn’t give you time for questions
As she locks up your arm in hers
And you follow ’till your sense of which direction
Completely disappears
By the blue tiled walls near the market stalls
There’s a hidden door she leads you to
These days, she says, I feel my life
Just like a river running through
The year of the cat

While she looks at you so coolly
And her eyes shine like the moon in the sea
She comes in incense and patchouli
So you take her, to find what’s waiting inside
The year of the cat

Well morning comes and you’re still with her
And the bus and the tourists are gone
And you’ve thrown away your choice you’ve lost your ticket
So you have to stay on
But the drum-beat strains of the night remain
In the rhythm of the new-born day
You know sometime you’re bound to leave her
But for now you’re going to stay
In the year of the cat

David Bowie, George Michael and Star People

Some of you who visit this place from time to time (thank you for that by the way) will know that Mr WIAA had recently entered a piece into a sculpture competition and that it had inspired me to write about a specific song (Alice, Jefferson Airplane and White Rabbit). The awards ceremony took place in London on Monday evening and I’m pleased to say that not only did he win a Bronze Award for the sculpture (up against stiff competition) but he also won a Gold Award for his entry in the 2D category. I also think I mentioned in my last post that there was no monetary award, it was just for the prestige of being the best in your field – Turns out I was wrong and the gold award winners do indeed get a cash prize! We left the venue with a spring in our step and headed back to the hotel for some nice food and wine.

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So, we’d spent the whole of day one of our London Trip simply traveling down from the far North of Scotland, navigating our way to the hotel and attending the awards ceremony. On day two we would hopefully have time for a few of the things tourists do in London before it was time to head back home. Because the theme of the competition entry was the marrying up of sculpture with literature, a trip to the British Library was on the cards, mainly because they have the original manuscript of Alice in Wonderland housed there. After dropping off our cases at left luggage and acquiring our blue Oyster Cards (always think of the band Blue Oyster Cult whenever I get one of those but you probably have to be of a certain age to get that joke), we were free to navigate London via its venerable Underground.

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I did spot however that we were starting off on the Victoria Line and which station was only four stops away? It was Brixton, south of the river, and birthplace of Mr David Bowie. I knew there was a mural there of David in his Ziggy Stardust guise which people went to visit and treated as a place to leave tributes. We had the time so why not? It turned out to be incredibly easy to find as the mural is right on the street opposite the exit to the station. It wasn’t very big and has now been covered with a perspex sheet to protect both it, and the messages left by fans, but considering my very first blog post was about the death of David Bowie I thought it was important to have seen it. (Excuse the glare from the perspex but unavoidable and a short film added right at the bottom of this post.)

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Reading the messages that surround the David Bowie mural in Brixton

Starman by David Bowie:

It isn’t big and overwhelming but I did enjoy visiting the Starman’s mural in Brixton – People like to have a shrine, a focal point, so that they can leave messages, floral tributes and gifts and this is just one of those places. It got me thinking however, here we were in Brixton but if we travelled back up the line to Highgate we could see all the messages and floral tributes left for George Michael. In view of the fact I have spent a lot of time recently writing about the sadness I have felt over the loss of George, this seemed the right thing to do. And so, at around lunchtime on Tuesday we found his very house and outside there is a little park which has become a bit of a shrine to him.

Again, just so many messages left by fans and here I was doing something I had never contemplated doing before – Stalking a big star from the world of music but sadly just a couple of months too late. There was a really great looking little pub across the street from his house so we went in and had a lovely lunch. It wasn’t lost on me that he was bound to have popped in for a pint at some point but I was too cool to ask the staff if that was actually the case. I just sat there and imagined the scene of myself, George and Mr WIAA having a drink, some food and a chat, trying to put the world to rights.

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George Michael’s local

So, “What’s It All About?” – It seems as humans that we like to be able to visit a specific place to remember our sadly departed. Don’t want to be morbid but I do actually want a headstone when the time comes as I do want my family to have a place they can visit. From what I saw this week the fans of David Bowie and George Michael also wanted a place to visit and I am glad that I was able to persuade my gold award-winning husband (its ok he won’t be allowed to get big-headed) to come along with me on my pilgrimage. For the record we did also manage to visit the British Library and along with Alice, the diaries of Sir Walter Raleigh and the Magna Carta, we also saw some scribbles by John Lennon and the rest of the Beatles, so again very relevant for the blog.

All back to normal now however and as we missed Pancake Day/Shrove Tuesday because of our trip, darling daughter treated us to some tonight. I have already shared David Bowie’s Starman from 1972 but I will leave you with a live version of George singing Star People ’97, funnily enough from 1997 – Enough now, time to move on.

Star People ’97 by George Michael:

Star People Lyrics
(Song by George Michael)

Star people
Counting your money till you soul turns green
Star people
Counting the cost of your desire to be seen

I do not count myself among you
I may be living in a dream
It’s just seem to many of you
Can’t help but hope
There’s a difference between, you and me

You’re a star
(I’m talking to you)
You’re a star

Maybe your mama gave you up boy
(It’s the same old same old)

Maybe your daddy didn’t love you enough girl

Star people
Never forget your secret safe with me
Just look at all wonderful people
Trying to forget they had to pay for what you see

It’s a dream
With a nightmare stuck in the middle
But where would you be
Without all of that attention
You’d die
I’d die
We’d die wouldn’t we
(Well wouldn’t we)

Big, big star
Should go far

Talk about your mother
Talk about your father
Talk about the people
Who have made you what you are
Talk about your teacher
The bully boy who beat you
Talk about the people who have paid
For that new sports car

Did you get off on a bad foot, baby
Do you have a little tale to tell
Is that why you’re a star?
Is that what makes a star?

Nothing comes for nothing, baby
That fame and fortune’s heaven sent
And who gives a fuck about your problems, darling
When you can pay the rent
How much is enough?

Postscript:

Just in case anyone from outside the UK unlikely to ever see the mural in Brixton wants a closer look, here is a short film –  a bit wobbly but a few good close-ups!

An Open Letter to George Michael RIP, Part 3 – The Tributes

Dear George

It’s now been two months since we woke up to the news that you had been found dead on Christmas Day – Of all the shock departures from the world of entertainment last year, yours was the one that affected me most and I still can’t quite believe that you will never again pop up on our screens chatting, singing, campaigning or joining forces with some of our finest comedic talents in one of their fund-raising sketches – Kind of cornered the market with those of late and raised an awful lot of money into the bargain so good on you.

But of course we are now well into Awards Season – Last week we had The Grammys and this week it was our own Brit Awards. Every year there is a short interlude where they give remembrance to those of you who have passed away since the last awards ceremony – 2016 will go down in history I think for being a freakish year in terms of loss. So many of you who were still so young and had so much more to give, left this mortal coil. I did think at the start of the year that this would just be something natural that we would have to get used to, but no, it was indeed a mathematically freakish year and one I don’t want to see repeated for some time.

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At both The Grammys and The Brits, there was a very moving tribute paid to you George but by golly, for me it just doubly-emphasised what a fantastic singer you were. I never heard you sing out-of-tune ever, which is not something that the people who were given the job of singing your songs seemed to be able to do. First of all we had Adele at The Grammys who is generally very good at the old “live singing”, but even she had to stop and restart her rendition of your 1996 No. 1 Fastlove, because she had messed up. As a means of explaining she said, “I can’t do that to him, I just can’t” which was quite magnanimous of her I suppose. I have a feeling that you and her were probably friends and shared a similar sense of humour but I can’t be sure – Hopefully though you were looking down at her and appreciated what she was trying to do albeit in a bit of a, dare I say it, botched fashion. As for the really slowed down version of Fastlove (oh the irony), I can understand how an up-tempo number would have been inappropriate but somehow it just didn’t work for me. I am therefore going to remind myself of how it should be performed by none other than your good self. I am noticing however that in this video you were going through one of your crisis of confidence phases in terms of how you looked – Yes, it was your “I don’t want to show the right side of my face anymore because it doesn’t look so good” period which was just ridiculous as you were a fantastically attractive man from any angle. Just goes to show how these things can really get into the psyche however and although totally unreasonable, are difficult to shake off. I have a terrible feeling that at the time of your death you were not at all happy with how you looked which is just so sad – Could have been easily resolved if you’d had the right people around you to help.

Fastlove by George Michael:

So, we’ve had Adele with Fastlove complete with a brilliant set of images of you on the big screen – Yes George we even saw the right side of your face and it was lovely. Next up we have The Brit Awards and this time we had none other than Chris Martin of Coldplay doing the tribute song. Hmm… Not my first choice but he does seem to sell an awful lot of records so got the gig – Again not really appropriate for him to have performed one of your more up-tempo numbers (can’t really imagine Chris Martin in a pair of little white shorts and a Choose Life T-shirt singing Wake Me Up Before You Go Go) so what did he go for? – A Different Corner from 1986. But hey, this wasn’t just any old version of A Different Corner – Oh no, it was a really, really bad one! Thankfully at one point they did that really clever thing where a duet is possible with you on the big screen and him on stage (singing out-of-tune) so again your brilliance, from beyond the grave, saved the day.

I have always loved the song A Different Corner and here is a bit of a funny story George. Many years ago before I met Mr WIAA I had a great friend called Jane. We lived in flats only a few doors away from each other and were practically joined at the hip for a few years – We both loved going out socialising at the weekend but often bemoaned the fact that we just hadn’t found the “Big One” yet, the person we would perhaps marry. We decided that we must always have been turning the metaphorical “wrong corner” – If it had been a different corner, as per your song, we might have bumped into the “One”. Oh how we laughed! Anyway, Jane eventually got a new job in a new town and she, and the different corner jokes, were sorely missed for a while – I had to shop solo on a Saturday afternoon which was a bit of a lonely business. One day I was heading up the high street when I saw Mr WIAA walking just ahead of me – I knew him from our social circle but despite getting on really well we always went our separate ways at the end of the evening. I decided it was time for action. The day had come for me to turn the correct corner. It was a race against time but I managed to head into the shopping mall, quickly run past all the shops and emerge at the exit right at the top of the high street just as Mr WIAA was arriving at that point. I was breathless but managed one of those convincing, “Gosh fancy bumping into you” greetings as I met him. After a bit of a chat we organised a date for later on that evening and that my dear George was 28 years ago now, so thank you for inspiring me to take the initiative that day and make sure I didn’t indeed turn a different corner.

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I am most definitely not going to share the Chris Martin version of the song here but a version you sang live on television some years ago, perfectly as ever. I think the time has come for me now to let go, and this will probably be my last letter to you. I hope that wherever you are, you have found peace. Despite the less than perfect singing at The Brits it was lovely to see your old pals Andrew Ridgeley, and Pepsi & Shirley read out their own tributes to you – It was a shock however to see Andrew looking like a bit of an old man. If he is looking older then so must we but there is nothing to complain about as at least we will have the luxury of growing older, whereas now you never will.

A Different Corner:

Farewell then my old friend – As these tributes show, you are sorely missed by so many and we thank you for all the wonderful songs you have given us. Because of them (and your amazing acts of generosity) you will never, ever be forgotten.

A Different Corner Lyrics
(Song by George Michael)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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