Balm For The Soul #1 – George Michael, ‘Heal The Pain’ and ‘Desafinado’

It’s been a while since I posted anything new around here, but life has suddenly got quite busy for me, what with my college course, our business, and delivering guest posts (I’m over at Rol’s place this week), so finding it tough to set aside some time for the blog. I will now attempt to right that wrong.

It’s exactly six months since we first went into lockdown here in the UK, and as of today the rules have really tightened up again (especially in Scotland) with a whole raft of new restrictions kicking in, so almost back to where we started. I think most of us are now accepting the old normal has gone for the foreseeable, so maybe it’s time to throw in the towel and adapt to this post-pandemic world – There’s still a lot of great stuff out there to enjoy, and whether we simply stumble upon it, or actively seek it out, it can provide a balm for the soul.

I myself stumbled upon something last weekend that led me to think of that phrase, as it just seemed so apt. On Saturday night I caught Mr WIAA perusing the library of recordings on the machine attached to the telly, as we seem to be all caught up at the moment with our ‘boxsets’. I returned later to find him revisiting the George Michael documentary Freedom, which was released nine months after his death. Ironically, back in 2017, it premiered on our screens the same night as my 25th Wedding Anniversary, so I very unromantically spent the evening watching George as opposed to being all loved up with Mr WIAA. Much to his credit he didn’t even mind, as he knew I was (and still am) a big fan, which perhaps goes a long way to explaining how we made it to that landmark number, and now beyond.

I wrote about the documentary back in 2017 in my final Open Letter to George when I think I was still grieving for him, but three years on I could watch it again with less sadness, from the perspective of someone who has accepted he is gone, but is still so grateful we have his wonderful back catalogue of songs. The doc is peppered first of all with the Wham! hits, and then the solo stuff, progressing from the Faith album right through to Symphonica. As happened last time, I homed in on a couple of the songs featured, and they have stayed with me all week. One is Heal The Pain and the other Desafinado (with Astrud Gilberto).

Heal The Pain by George Michael:


How beautiful is that? Oh yes George, from beyond the grave you are healing my pain with your song. I accept the situation the world has found itself in and I accept you have gone – Your music is indeed a balm for the soul. Something I hadn’t realised until now is that this song came about as an homage to Paul McCartney in whose style the song was written. In 2005 George got the chance to record a version with Paul, and it ended up being included on his greatest hits collection Twenty Five. Heal The Pain was the was the fourth of five singles taken from the album Listen Without Prejudice Vol. 1 entering the UK Singles Chart in February 1991 and peaking at number 31. It followed a pattern of reaching a slightly lower spot than its predecessor (the previous three singles having peaked at numbers 6, 23 and 28 respectively) which I now find quite unbelievable, considering the quality of the song.

Something else I find quite unbelievable is that until this week I didn’t actually own a hard copy of Listen Without Prejudice Vol. 1 (there never was a Vol. 2 but that’s a whole other story), so when in town on Monday I swung by our local HMV which thankfully still seems to be trading. I was very tempted by a lovely looking vinyl copy sitting on one of the long display shelves at the entrance, but I dithered, and tussled with my conscience, as it was expensive and I don’t even have a half-decent turntable at the moment. On the other hand the CD shelves were awash with his albums, so in one fell swoop, for the grand sum of £15, I filled the gaps in my Wham!/George Michael collection of music. I’ve not even played them yet, but that wasn’t the point. The point was to have something tangible as opposed to digital, which although highly practical and portable, just doesn’t always hit the spot.

Filling in the gaps – At last!

Before I go I want to share the other song that’s stayed with me since rewatching the doc last weekend. During these troubled times, what could be better than a bit of bossa nova, combined with the dulcet tones of George Michael & Astrud Gilberto (The Girl from Ipanema). It seems Desafinado has been recorded by at least 65 people since 1959 and is translated into English as ‘Out of Tune’ or ‘Off Key’, originally written as a response to critics who claimed bossa nova was a new genre for singers who couldn’t sing. Well this pair certainly can sing, and listening to the 1996 recording feels like being wrapped in a large, fluffy, comfort blanket. Yet another balm for the soul.

Desafinado by George Michael (with Astrud Gilberto):


So, “What’s It All About?” – Not sure if I can keep up the positivity around here long-term but it seems being just that little bit too busy is also good for the soul, as it leaves little time for doomsurfing/doomscrolling, which I’ve spent far too much time doing of late.

As for my apparent fan worship of George Michael, it’s really not like that at all. In fact it wasn’t until he died on Christmas Day 2016 that I realised he had been there by my side for the entire journey that was my adult life. In a non-interfering, almost unnoticed way, he had provided one of its soundtracks and was there at a few of the most pivotal points, including the birth of DD (but not literally). Like many others I will probably continue to make new George Michael discography discoveries, and will thank the universe for having allowed this kind, sensitive, genius of a man, into our lives.

Until next time….

Heal The Pain Lyrics
(Song by George Michael)

Let me tell you a secret
Put it in your heart and then keep it
Something that I want you to know
Do something for me
Listen to my simple story
And maybe we’ll have something to show

You tell me you’re cold on the inside
How can the outside world
Be a place that your heart can embrace
Be good to yourself
Because nobody else
Has the power to make you happy

How can I help you
Please let me try to
I can heal the pain
That you’re feeling inside
Whenever you want me
You know that I will be
Waiting for the day
That you say you’ll be mine

He must have really hurt you
To make you say the things that you do
He must have really hurt you
To make those pretty eyes look so blue

He must have known
That he could
That you’d never leave him
Now you can’t see my love is good
And that I’m not him

How can I help you
Please let me try to
I can heal the pain
Won’t you let me inside
Whenever you want me
You know that I will be
Waiting for the day
That you say you’ll be mine

Won’t you let me in
Let this love begin
Won’t you show me your heart now
I’ll be good to you
I can make this thing true
Show me that heart right now

Who needs a lover
That can’t be a friend
Something tells me I’m the one you’ve been looking for
If you ever should see him again
Won’t you tell him you’ve found someone who gives you more

Someone who will protect you
Love and respect you
All those things
That he never could bring to you
Like I do
Or rather I would
Won’t you show me your heart
Like you should

How can I help you
Please let me try to
I can heal the pain
That you’re feeling inside
Whenever you want me
You know that I will be
Waiting for the day
That you say you’ll be mine

Won’t you let me in
Let this love begin
Won’t you show me your heart now
I’ll be good to you
I can make this thing true
And get to your heart somehow

Freshers Week, Student Life 2020 and The Long Journey From “Grease” to “GREECE”

I seem to have lost my blogging mojo at the moment which is a bit of a worry as I am due to return to college on Monday and a fair amount of writing is required for the course I’m enrolled on. Hopefully all will go well, but of course this time there will be no meeting up with fellow students, no hours spent in the library and no visits to the support team, who can very impressively advise on a myriad of issues relevant to the student body (especially mature students like myself who don’t find the technology quite as easy to navigate).

Like for many other colleges and universities this semester all of our lectures and tutorials will be online, so not the experience it should be at all, and for students entering higher education for the first time it must be a real disappointment. There is no denying many youngsters head to “Uni” nowadays more for the social life than the actual academia, but that seems to have gone online as well. It’s over 40 years since I first experienced a Freshers Week but I still remember it fondly – Not sure if an online Freshers Week will go down in memory in quite the same way.

None of this in 2020
…. but more of this.

This year has certainly not turned out the way any of us expected it to, and you know what, I really don’t think we’re going to get back to anything resembling the old normal, ever. The upside is that much of the old normal was not good for us, so we’re happy to say goodbye to it (air pollution, long commutes now replaced by effective working from home) but the stuff that was good for us has also gone (joyous mass gatherings, planned trips, being able to hug our friends), and that’s what I miss most. For young people, nearly everything that made their lives worth living has been made more difficult or complicated and it can’t be lost on them that they are the ones who have been disproportionately affected by the crisis. Although not the wisest thing to do at the moment, can you blame them for wanting to hold illicit parties and gatherings. A euphemism used on breakfast news this morning was “intimate socialising” when discussing student Freshers Week. None of that hanky panky allowed this year I’m afraid!

Whenever I compare eras like this, I also like to compare the music of the day, and back in 1978 when I left home to embark on student life for the first time, the music charts were very different to the ones of today. For a start we had far less exposure to new music and only really had Radio One at our disposal. If one of your favourites was allocated a slot on that week’s TOTP, record sales were bound to rise exponentially selling a volume of “units” unheard of nowadays. Now and again the songs from popular films would make their way into the charts, and in the autumn of 1978 that’s exactly what happened after John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John sashayed their way across the big screen in that summer’s bit hit musical Grease. Oh yes, the week I started University, the song at the No. 1 spot was Summer Nights, at No. 5 was the title track Grease by Frankie Valli and at No. 9 was Sandy sung by broken-hearted T-Bird Danny Zuko.

Grease by Frankie Valli:


Looking at today’s chart, it paints a very different picture. Eight of the Top Ten songs is a collaboration, and I only recognise a couple of names in there. By some strange coincidence there is a song called GREECE (different kind from the one of 1978) by DJ Khaled (feat. Drake) but what comes across loud and clear from the video is that whatever the era, young people like to get together in mass gatherings, listen to music, and dance with each other. Not really been possible this summer at all.


So, “What’s It All About?” – I will hopefully return to more entertaining blog posts soon, but by the time I tussle with the MyDay, Webex, Brightspace, MyStudentMail and MyStudentHub sites just added to my homepage, my brain might be addled. Let’s hope not.

As for the Freshers of 2020, to anyone who has been a student themselves, especially back in the days of generous maintenance grants and zero tuition fees, let’s spare a thought for them and what they are missing out on. Many youngsters we know are not even leaving home, so will be starting the new academic year in their school bedroom. Not quite the rite of passage it ought to be, but student life as we knew it has just become yet another casualty of 2020.

Until next time….

Grease Lyrics
(Song by Barry Gibb)

I solve my problems and I see the light
We got a lovin’ thing, we gotta feed it right
There ain’t no danger we can go too far
We start believing now that we can be who we are
Grease is the word

They think our love is just a growing pain
Why don’t they understand, it’s just a crying shame
Their lips are lying, only real is real
We stop the fight right now, we got to be what we feel
Grease is the word

(Grease is the word, is the word that you heard)
It’s got a groove, it’s got a meaning
Grease is the time, is the place, is the motion
Grease is the way we are feeling

GREECE Lyrics
(Song by Aubrey Graham/Calvin Tarvin/Elijah Maynard/Khaled Khaled/Ozan Yildirim/Peter Eddins)

Come with me, leave all of your things, yeah
We can stop at Gucci, stop at Louis V, yeah
Come with me, fly you out to Greece
Full speed, survoler Paris, yeah

Speedboats, baby, in Nikki Beach
Waves in my ears, smokin’ weed (Oui, oui)
Whippin’ through the sand in a Jeep (Oui, oui)
All because of what I did on beats, baby
Life’s sweet, baby, iced out, baby
You just go get ready, we go out, baby
Long time lookin’ for the bounce, yeah
OZ had the bounce, yeah

The Beat, “Mirror In The Bathroom” and Another Shower Room Update

Regulars around here might remember that many months ago I shared a picture of our little shower room which was about to be upgraded and transformed by my plumber friend. Ironically, on the 23rd March, just as the old plumbing was fully stripped out, we were plunged into lockdown. Nothing else for it we thought except to tidy everything up and wait the three weeks or so until we could get the job finished.

All through lockdown

Except the three weeks became twelve weeks, and even then it wasn’t easy what with social distancing and mask-wearing. I really wasn’t even supposed to offer the plumber tea or coffee, but I’m afraid I broke that rule, and we’ve lived to tell the tale. Anyway, after a bit of dithering about what floor covering to put down and which accessories to go for, we have finally got the job finished, only five months after we started. The louvery doors (as Del-Boy Trotter used to call them) will have to go at some point but in the meantime we’re just glad it’s now fully funtional.

Post-lockdown

The final piece in the jigsaw was the mirror, and in the end I had to go for a boring old rectangular one, as the one that matched the set was out of stock – Having waited all that time, I just couldn’t wait any longer. When shopping for bathroom mirrors, this song naturally came to mind.

Mirror in the Bathroom by the Beat:


Mirror in the Bathroom by the Beat reached the No. 4 spot in the UK Singles Chart in 1980, just as the ska revival was really taking hold. Although signed to 2 Tone Records my memories of the band are a little sketchy and they were not part of the tour (written about here) which took place that year. They were however one of the most prolific ska bands of the time and between 1979 and 1983 had five Top Ten hits, two of which were successful covers, Tears of a Clown and Can’t Get Used to Losing You.

As for Mirror in the Bathroom, it apparently came about when Dave Wakeling, the songwriter, was in the bathroom one morning shaving. He started to talk to himself whilst looking in the mirror, and it got him to thinking about how self-involvement turns into narcissism, narcissism turns into isolation, and then isolation turns into self-involvement again forming a vicious circle (he was a deep-thinking chap). To quote: “So then I just started thinking about different situations where people would ostensibly look like they were doing something, but in fact they were checking their own reflection out. And you’d see it perhaps on Saturday afternoon with people window shopping, half the time they’re actually just looking at their own reflection. Then this restaurant opened, and it was a big deal at the time because it had glass tables, and I was like, oh, you can watch yourself.”

As for me, any opportunity not to catch my own reflection in a shop window is a bonus nowadays. In our heads we think we are still 21, so a pleasant shopping trip can be ruined when the harsh reality hits home, no matter how good we thought we looked when we left the house.

I was saddened to hear that band member Ranking Roger had passed away last year aged only 56. Roger officially joined the Beat as a teenager in the late ’70s after having appeared on stage with them many times, toasting and singing. His energetic style and Jamaican-influenced vocals, paired with Dave Wakeling, were crucial in distinguishing the Beat from other ska bands.

RIP Ranking Roger

So, “What’s It All About?” – I seem to have been particularly productive around here this week but all because we have a new editor around here at WordPress and I wanted to get to grips with it. The verdict is…. , so far so good. I’d been putting off moving across for some time, but as I now have no other option it was time to bite the bullet, and not as scary as I had suspected. This blog will live to fight another day.

Until next time….

Mirror In The Bathroom Lyrics
(Song by Dave Wakeling)

Mirror in the bathroom
Please talk free
The door is locked
Just you and me.

Can I take you to a restaurant
That’s got glass tables
You can watch yourself
While you are eating.

Mirror in the bathroom
I just can’t stop it,
Every Saturday you see me
Window shopping.

Find no interest
In the racks and shelves
Just ten thousand reflections
Of my own sweet self, self, self…

Mirror in the bathroom
You’re my mirror in the bathroom
You’re my mirror in the bathroom
You’re my mirror in the bathroom…

Mirror in the bathroom
Recompense
For all my crimes
Of self defense.

Cures you whisper
Make no sense
Drift gently into
Mental illness.

Film Nights, The Waterboys and “How Long Will I Love You”

I wrote a bit of a depressing post last time, so want to follow it up with something a whole lot lovlier. With trips to the cinema no longer happening in my neck of the woods I have gone old-school and am hosting a socially-distanced weekly soiree at the holiday hideaway (now sitting empty for obvious reasons) where we take turns in picking a DVD to watch. With so much choice out there nowadays via the various streaming services, it’s sometimes more satisfying to just pick a single film and run with it, a bit like when we all went to the local arts centre on the last Thursday of the month to watch whatever was on at 8.30pm. (Made some amazing new discoveries that would otherwise have been missed.)

It was my turn to pick and as the only customer in our local HMV last Saturday I felt duty bound to buy something, so started looking at the section for films starting with the letters A-D (I’m a great fan of alphabetisation). I know he’s not for everyone, but I am also a great fan of Richard Curtis movies so went for this one, About Time from 2013. Mr WIAA is not and never has been a member of Film Club, so the fact it was a very girly movie didn’t matter as he could stay home and watch Movies For Men. Despite finding common ground most of the time, we do occasionally like to veer off to the extremes of the genre spectrum.

As it turned out, the film was not vintage Richard Curtis, and seemed to have been written to a very familiar formula. Plenty of posh middle class Englishmen and smart American women, but somehow not as funny as the other films I’ve written about here and a basic premise that was slightly ridiculous – Time travel effected by standing in a wardrobe and clenching your fists (not quite the Tardis or a DeLorean). One aspect that did work for me however was the soundtrack, and I have been afflicted by yet another earworm this week because of one particular song choice. In the film it was sung by a group of tube station buskers (played by Jon Boden & Friends), who also provided the version for the end credits, but for me, the best version is still the original – How Long Will I Love You by The Waterboys.

How Long Will I Love You by The Waterboys:


It’s a love song, but a low key and not overly sentimental one. A simple proclamation of undying love written by band member Mike Scott for their 1990 album, Room to Roam. I am a great fan of The Waterboys and they have appeared around here before as I shared their 1985 masterpiece The Whole Of The Moon as part of my Full Moon Calendar in Song series. Back then they were proponents of “The Big Music”, anthemic rock popularised by many Scottish and Irish bands of the time, but by 1990 they were more of a folk rock band. Surprisingly this song was never released by them as a single, which is a shame, as 23 years later Ellie Goulding reached the No. 3 spot in the UK Singles Chart with it, no doubt because of the publicity it received from its connection to the film.


Not sure why this song has affected me quite so much this week – Touch wood Mr WIAA and I are still good, despite his occasional foray into the world of Movies For Men and my fondness for the odd rom-com. With DD back living at home I am once again involved in the lives of her friends, and really feel for them trying to navigate this brave new world filled with anxiety, and hurdles to be overcome. Finding love has never been tougher, and I doubt very much if Mike Scott considered a global pandemic when he wrote his beautiful lyrics back in 1990. No, I doubt it very much indeed.

Until next time….

How Long Will I Love You Lyrics
(Song by Mike Scott)

How long will I love you
As long as there are stars above you
And longer if I can

How long will I need you
As long as the seasons need to
Follow their plan

How long will I be with you
As long as the sea is bound to
wash upon the sand

How long will I want you
As long as you want me to
And longer by far

How long will I hold you
As long as your father told you
As long as you are

How long will I give to you
As long as I live to you
However long it you say

How long will I love you
As long as are stars above you
And longer if I may

Petula Clark, “Downtown” and The Death Of The High Street

It’s a strange old time isn’t it? I’ve tried to lift my spirits of late by keeping busy and thankfully Mr WIAA seems to have orders coming in again, but I had a bit of a reality check yesterday regarding the times we are living through. After dropping off some packages at our local post office I headed into the town centre to do some banking, and it was a sobering experience to put it mildly. First of all the bank now shuts early so I had missed the boat so to speak, but as I walked from the somewhat empty car park (unusual) to the High Street, I counted four empty shop units in a row of five. Some were boarded up and some were just empty shells, with nothing left of their former glory days. Once I turned the corner it was no better as I was faced with large TO LET signs and only a few of the high-end shops are still operating. One popular tourist shop even had a notice asking customers to ring a bell if they wanted to come in, and only then, one at a time.

This really can’t go on.

I later found out that DD’s former workplace on one of the side streets has been closed down entirely, with four of the six staff made redundant, the other two now working from home. She hasn’t worked there for a couple of years now, but I still have fond memories of popping in past to take her out for lunch, and having a chat with the rest of the staff. There was such a buzz about the place and DD was the first person you met when you went in.

Happy days…. , but no more.

I’ve mentioned this around here before, but Highland, where I live, was the fourth most visited region in the world in 2018 (and probably 2019 too) as millions of tourists used to flock here over the summer months. Along the High Street of an evening, street performers danced and played traditional instruments (yes, even those noisy bagpipes) as they entertained the many holiday-makers strolling up and down the busy pedestrianed thoroughfare.

This year, no hanging baskets, and the streets are empty.

Before I headed home, banking matters unfulfilled, I cut through our large shopping centre, or mall as they like to call them in America. By half past four on a Tuesday it was dead, and it seems highly likely the flagship deparment store (where DD had a Saturday job back in the day) will soon shut its doors for the last time. We all know the era of the High Street is over, as we do much of our shopping online nowadays, but this pandemic has brought its demise forward by about a decade. To see so many empty and boarded up town centre units was just depressing, and for all those people like DD who found work in them over the years, it must be doubly so.

Our shopping centre on Tuesday afternoon

But hey, this is a music blog and I’m afraid I’m going way back in time with the song choice, but it just came to me as I wrote the above. It was common for us to head down town on a Saturday for a spot of lunch and a bit of leisurely shopping, or to walk along the river on a summer’s evening soaking in the atmosphere that comes from living in a tourist town, but those days have most certainly gone and who knows when they may return. Back when I lived the life of a singleton, I often used to walk the short distance down town when at a loose end, as there was a good chance you would bump into someone you knew and plans would be made.

Tony Hatch knew the appeal of Downtown when he wrote the song for Petula Clark back in 1964. Yes, Tony knew that if you were a bit sad and lonely, all you needed to do was head towards the city centre and everything would be waiting for you. In 2020, …. not so much.

When you’re alone and life is making you lonely
You can always go, Downtown

Downtown
Things will be great when you’re
Downtown
No finer place for sure
Downtown
Everything’s waiting for you

Downtown by Petula Clark:


Petula, or Pet Clark as she used to be known, was one of the first singers I remember watching on television as a child, as she was a staple of those flimsy but entertaining prime time shows we used to watch with our families in the 1960s. Petula is still active in music today, aged 87, and released a new album in 2018. Considering she started out during World War II as an entertainer on BBC Radio, she is one of only a few artists to have had a career that spans eight decades.

So, “What’s It All About?” – I’ve been trying to avoid pandemic-related stuff around here of late but that trip into town yesterday really got me down. We knew the economic fallout from the health crisis was going to be harsh, but I have a terrible feeling it’s going to be even worse than is currently being predicted. We are a nation that loved (past tense) social spending – Shopping, eating out, and going to theatres, cinemas, bars and nightclubs, but those days are over for the time-being. Many whose lives have not been unduly affected by the pandemic yet in terms of income (the retired and those who can work from home) have understandably no desire to go into town any more and without them, the social spending on which so many livelihoods depend, is at rock bottom. Tough times ahead I fear.

Until next time….

Downtown Lyrics
(Song by Tony Hatch)

When you’re alone and life is making you lonely
You can always go
Downtown

When you’ve got worries, all the noise and the hurry
Seems to help, I know
Downtown

Just listen to the music of the traffic in the city
Linger on the sidewalk where the neon signs are pretty
How can you lose?
The lights are much brighter there
You can forget all your troubles, forget all your cares

So go
Downtown
Things will be great when you’re
Downtown
No finer place for sure
Downtown
Everything’s waiting for you

Don’t hang around and let your problems surround you
There are movie shows
Downtown
Maybe you know some little places to go to
Where they never close
Downtown

Just listen to the rhythm of a gentle bossa nova
You’ll be dancing with ’em too before the night is over
Happy again
The lights are much brighter there
You can forget all your troubles, forget all your cares

So go
Downtown
Where all the lights are bright
Downtown
Waiting for you tonight
Downtown
You’re gonna be alright now
Downtown

Earworm of the Week #5 – Feminism, Walter Murphy and “A Fifth of Beethoven”

Roll Over Beethoven sang Chuck Berry back in 1956. Oh yes, Chuck was firm in his belief that had Beethoven still been around, it would have been time for him to roll over and dig those rhythm and blues. Strangely enough, only 20 years later, Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony became the basis of a disco instrumental and this week it has formed a bit of an earworm.

Like many of us during this strange time of lockdown and post-lockdown easing, we’ve watched a fair amount of telly, and there is no shortage of great telly out there made both by traditional broadcasters and the newer streaming services such as Netflix and Amazon Prime. (I am however starting to notice that the BBC & ITV are running out of new product, and during prime time slots are having to repeat some of their most successful output. This in turn affects the amount advertisers are willing to pay for a slot, which will jeopardise the making of future programmes should the industry ever get started again. At this rate we’re going to be old and grey yet will still be watching Line of Duty, Death In Paradise, The Durrells and Downtown Abbey!)

Mrs.-America-season-1-poster-FX-key-art-1

But I digress. A historical drama I was keen to watch this week was Mrs America (now on the BBC iPlayer) which tells the story of the movement to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment in the 1970s, and the unexpected backlash led by conservative activist Phyllis Schlafly. Prominent feminists of the day, such as Betty Freidan and Gloria Steinem, are key characters, and I feel ashamed that I am only now learning of their contribution to a movement that has given me much of what I have always taken for granted. The opening theme for the show, which has caused the aforementioned earworm, is A Fifth of Beethoven by Walter Murphy. It fits the era and was chosen because it represented both sides of the story. Phyllis and her conservative friends listened to classical music, yet the free and easy disco version of Beethoven’s Fifth, better fitted the feminists.

A Fifth of Beethoven by Walter Murphy:

It of course sounded familiar when I watched the first episode of the show, and it didn’t take long for me to remember that it had appeared on the Saturday Night Fever soundtrack album, and was the record playing when lead character Tony Manero enters the 2001: Odyssey disco in 1977 Brooklyn. He exudes the easy confidence that comes from being a big fish in a little pond, and that nightclub was his domain.

I have written about the film Saturday Night Fever often around here as it came out the year my best friend and I left school. We spent the summer frequenting the many converted function suites in our area, where local hoteliers had decided an investment in floors with flashing lights, glitter balls and a weekly DJ could increase takings no end. It was a memorable summer where we practiced our dance moves and had dalliances with the local Tony Maneros, but looking back I don’t think I appreciated that this carefree summer ahead of starting university, only happened because I came of age in 1978. Had I been born only 10 years earlier such opportunities would not have been a given at all, and our parents may well have steered us down a very different path towards work, then marriage and motherhood. As it turns out we’ve now kind of had to do both, simultaneously, so not sure who won in the end but it’s thankfully no longer a given that men have very little to do with childcare, cooking or housework, so…. , yeah us.

As for Walter Murphy, he was an orchestral leader who studied both classical and jazz music piano at the Manhattan School of Music. In college his interests included rock music that had been adapted from classical music, such as Joy by Apollo 100 and A Lover’s Concerto by The Toys. In 1976, whilst writing a disco song for a commercial, a producer suggested the idea of updating classical music, which nobody had done lately. He recorded a demo tape which included A Fifth of Beethoven and sent it various record labels in New York City. It was picked up and reached the No. 1 spot on the Billboard Chart in October 1976.

walter-murphy-and-the-big-apple-band-a-fifth-of-beethoven-private-stock-10

Another little snippet I discovered when doing some research for this post, was that in 2017, exactly 40 years on from the release date of the film that made it famous, the 2001: Odyssey was reimagined. By that time it was no longer a nightspot, but a Chinese restaurant, however a successful businessman invested the cash required to make it happen. The Trammps appeared and sang their hit Disco Inferno, and the actress who played Tony Manero’s love interest also turned up. There were plenty of men in polyester shirts & cream three-piece suits and ladies in those free flowing dresses that epitomised the era, as well as some of the original DJs. Must have been quite a night.

And here is something that really hit home with me this week. In listening to these disco hits of 1978 I’ve been transported back in time, reminiscing about that carefree summer after leaving school. Not so for our school-leavers of this year who have had no prom or end of term revelries and face uncertainly about their exam grades. The doors to the places where they all used to come together are still firmly closed, and as DD pointed out earlier in the week, “Its a rubbish year to be single”.

No lyrics this time as an instrumental, but as ever, if you want to leave a comment, I always reply.

Until next time….

“Dancing In The Moonlight” by Jubël, and Sweden, Thank You for the Music

Having just looked back at my blog post from this same weekend last year, I seem to be faced with exactly the same dilemma – Not a lack of inspiration, but instead just too many ideas to choose from, and I currently have five drafts on the go. (Sadly none of these are fit for the role of “guest post” over at one of my fellow blogger’s places, but I do have a few ideas up my sleeve for those too, promise.)

Last weekend I did return to the topic none of us seem to be able to avoid at the moment, but won’t go down that route again today, so my old friend the moon is going to be my saviour, as a full moon (the Sturgeon Moon) is due to put in an appearance on Monday night. Regulars around here know that throughout 2018 I became immersed in all things moon-related, and after 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 managed to find an appropriate song for each one, which in turn led to an interesting new series.

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August was when these huge freshwater fish could be found in lakes and rivers

The sturgeon is not the most attractive looking fish, it must be said, and not the most attractive sounding name either (I feel for our First Minister), but the moon always lends itself to some very attractive sounding songs, and by sheer coincidence I’m going to share a different version of the song featured this same weekend last year. Since DD returned home a month ago, I can’t help but take heed of what she is currently listening to, and this song has been regularly played on her various devices over the last couple of weeks – Dancing In The Moonlight by Swedish electronic duo Jubël (feat. NEIMY). 

Although the version I am most familiar with is the one by Toploader from 1999, this time last year I had just discovered the original from 1972 by King Harvest which we all agreed at the time had the edge. The song was written in 1969 by Sherman Kelly who was the brother of the King Harvest drummer. He apparently wrote it whilst recovering from an attack by a gang and was trying to “envision an alternate reality, the dream of a peaceful and joyful celebration of life”. How bizarre then that just as we are back together again as a family, my daughter is discovering something for the first time that could possibly have been listened to both by her parents and her grandparents in its different guises. Like my moon series, it seems to be a song that just keeps on giving.

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Of course my knowledge of Swedish electronic music is scant, but it has been noticeable over the last 50 years or so, that Sweden has punched above it’s weight in terms of its musical contribution to the world. Even if they had just produced Abba and then stopped that would have been enough, but there has been so much more. A quick bit of research this morning has led me to the following interesting facts:

  • Abba are the second most successful group ever after the Beatles in terms of record sales.
  • Excluding the UK, Sweden is the European country to have had the most No. 1 hits on the Billboard Hot 100 – Songs by Blue Swede (written about here before), Abba, Roxette (with four) and Ace of Base.
  • Songwriters/Producers Denniz Pop and his protegé Max Martin from Cheiron Studios are behind many of the big hits recorded by Britney Spears, Backstreet Boys, Westlife, Katy Perry and Pink. Only Paul McCartney and John Lennon have written more Billboard No. 1 hits than Max Martin. 
  • Sweden has won the Eurovision Song Contest six times, only one less than record holders Ireland.
  • Such has been its success abroad, clubs specialising in Swedish dance music have sprung up in major cities like Berlin, Barcelona and London.
  • Other well-known Swedish names not already mentioned above include: Avicii, Europe, Neneh and Eagle Eye Cherry, Swedish House Mafia, First Aid Kit, The Cardigans, Robyn, Dr Alban, Sylvia, Harpo, Wannadies, The Hives and Eric Prydz – Wow!

Thank You for the Music by Abba:

So, on top of producing all that furniture we love (IKEA), and cars (Volvo/Saab), and clothes (H&M), and devices (Ericsson), Sweden has given us a pretty impressive body of musical talent too. I would argue that the songs of Max Martin have been written to a successful formula, and may not stand the test of time compared to those of Lennon and McCartney, but hey, I’m old-school, so for future generations that might not be the case.

There is another reason why I chose to return to Dancing In The Moonlight for this post however. By some quirk of fate, a producer from BBC Radio recently stumbled upon my Full Moon Calendar In Song series, and got in touch. After a bit of toing and froing we managed to record my contribution to a show that’s due to be aired in the coming week. I try to remain anonymous around here, and have been a bit shy about sharing my blog with even my nearest and dearest, but I’m quite excited about it all and am (nervously) looking forward to tuning in. It’s been a topsy-turvey old year, but something positive has come out of it for me.

With all this hot and muggy weather, I didn’t catch the moon at all in the sky last night, but hopefully we’ll be lucky on Monday night. Wonder if Nicola knows about her moon?!

Until next time….

Dancing In The Moonlight Lyrics
(Song by Sherman Kelly)

We get it on most every night
When that moon is big and bright
It’s a supernatural delight
Everybody’s dancing in the moonlight

Everybody here is out of sight
They don’t bark and they don’t bite
They keep things loose, they keep things light
Everybody’s dancing in the moonlight

Dancing in the moonlight
Everybody’s feeling warm and bright
It’s such a fine and natural sight
Everybody’s dancing in the moonlight

We like our fun and we never fight
You can’t dance and stay uptight
It’s a supernatural delight
Everybody was dancing in the moonlight

Dancing in the moonlight
Everybody’s feeling warm and bright
It’s such a fine and natural sight
Everybody’s dancing in the moonlight

Everybody here is out of sight
They don’t bark and they don’t bite
They keep things loose, they keep things light
Everybody was dancing in the moonlight

Everybody’s dancing in the moonlight
Everybody’s feeling warm and bright
It’s such a fine and natural sight
Everybody’s dancing in the moonlight (everybody)
Dancing in the moonlight
Everybody’s feeling warm and bright
It’s such a fine and natural sight
Everybody’s dancing in the moonlight
Everybody’s dancing in the moonlight
Everybody’s feeling warm and bright
It’s such a fine and natural sight
Everybody’s dancing in the moonlight (everybody)
Dancing in the moonlight
Everybody’s feeling warm and bright
It’s such a fine and natural sight
Everybody’s dancing in the moonlight

Fear Versus FOMO and Some Time Spent “On The Beach”

“Is it me?”, as the affable Terry Wogan used to say, or are others feeling a bit fearful at the moment as we ease into a new kind of normal. We were a bit later in opening up various sectors of our economy here in Scotland, but we’re getting there, and I can finally get my hair licked into shape, visit friends inside, have a meal in a restaurant, and perhaps, even consider a staycation. Of course all this easing of the lockdown makes the possibility of a dreaded second wave more likely, but we can’t stay in our houses for ever, can we?

This week I decided it was time to put myself out there again, so touched base with a few friends, offering up suggestions of things we could do. The responses were interesting. One set of friends wouldn’t be able to do anything for a while, as they were off on a walking holiday for two weeks with three other couples, staying at various fine dining establishments on the way. Other friends, most of whom are usually up for socialising and having fun, are not quite ready to venture out yet, and even a socially-distanced drink in the garden is still a bridge too far. For some, Fear is trumping Fear of Missing Out it seems.

I did have lunch in one of my favourite restaurants this week though, and it was just lovely being able to do such a seemingly normal thing again, albeit in a very empty room where the number of tables has been reduced greatly. The serving staff wore masks and visors, so…. a bit weird, but the new normal as we keep saying. It did concern me that the prices on the menu were exactly the same, as it should be obvious to even the most financially illiterate person that no restaurant can remotely turn in a profit any more if they don’t radically change tack, but at the moment they’re just trying to woo their customers back before it’s too late. But anyway, my old work colleague and I had a wonderful couple of hours, and this time, for me, FOMO trumped Fear.

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My favourite eatery

The next evening I invited another friend round for a movie night. This was the first time we’ve had anyone other than family in the house since March, so a big deal. I still have a DVD player so we picked a film she hadn’t seen before and cracked open a bottle of wine. This was something we used to do quite a lot, but of course not since lockdown, so a real treat. Again, FOMO trumped Fear.

By the Friday, Mr WIAA decided to take the afternoon off, and we headed north in the car in order to work out whether a coastal staycation might be a possibility for late summer. It was a glorious sunny day and after stopping off for some lunch at a place which is now only offering a reduced menu in a open-sided marquee kind of affair, we made it to the beaches of East Sutherland. It was busy, but not Bournemouth on a bank holiday busy, so hoping to book something in one of the many holiday spots soon.

On the way home we took a bit of a detour to visit The Mermaid of The North – Not quite as demure as the little mermaid in Copenhagen, and not something you usually stumble upon whilst visiting the beaches of Scotland, but now on the popular North Coast 500 route map.

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The Mermaid of the North

And here’s a funny one – I didn’t even realise I had taken this picture, but it seems I must have accidentally “clicked”, just after capturing our mesmerised mermaid. I love images of shapes, colours and textures so was quite chuffed when it popped up on my screen without me even knowing it had been taken.

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Pebble beach, far away in time….

All seemed to be going pretty well for me until I got an unexpected booking for the holiday hideaway. As a host I am now responsible for the well-being of the guests who come to stay with me, but with this pesky virus lurking goodness knows where, the cleaning protocols are onerous indeed. Because I have a cousin coming to stay this week I would only have a day to turn everything around, getting the house ready for my new guests. After realising I would have to renew every bit of bedding, remove all soft furnishings & paper, deep clean and covid-sanitise the whole house (even the mattresses), I realised it would be impossible. The thought of one of my guests becoming ill on my watch made me fearful (would I be sued?), so I quickly cancelled their booking and have now foregone what would have been some very welcome earnings. Fear won this time over FOMO.

So, “What’s It All About?” – It’s all about the balance isn’t it and some of us are desperate to get back out there, whereas others are still a tad fearful. I had been experiencing FOMO, so I did put myself out there and had a nice week, but things are most definitely not “normal” and earning your living from the hospitality and tourism sectors at the moment is nigh impossible. Touch wood we turn a corner soon in our efforts to control this thing, but I’m not holding my breath.

After posting non-pandemic related stuff for three weeks now, I seem to have returned to my old ways. Just an interlude though, as I like to get my thoughts down for posterity more than anything else. As for the song, there are many beach-related ones out there and I have already alluded to Echo Beach by Martha and the Muffins in the caption for my pebble shot above. The one I’m going to share however is On The Beach by Chris Rea from 1986. I had a particularly nice summer that year as I went with the flatmates of the time to Zakynthos in Greece for my first ever all-girls holiday. One of those flatmates (the one I spent Live Aid day with and whom I wrote about last time) later moved south and ended up in Berkshire, living in a house next to the one Chris Rea used to own. He had a recording studio in the garden and I often wondered when we went to visit whether On The Beach had actually been recorded there.

On The Beach by Chris Rea:

It seems Chris Rea also had a nice summer in 1986 as On the Beach was inspired by a trip to the Spanish island of Formentera off the coast of Ibiza. Chris is quoted as saying, “That’s where me and my wife, became me and my wife. That’s what it’s about. Yeah, I was ‘between the eyes of love.’ It’s a lovely island”. Sadly, visiting any holiday island is fraught with difficulty at the moment, as we all continue to fight the invisible virus. Time to perhaps just plug in the earbuds, listen to those waves roll in, and imagine yourself there.

What’s your favourite beach-related song? I’d love to hear from you and as you all know by now, I always reply.

Until next time….

On The Beach Lyrics
(Song by Chris Rea)

Between the eyes of love I call your name
Behind the guarded walls I used to go
Upon a summer wind there’s a certain melody
Takes me back to the place that I know
Down on the beach

The secrets of the summer I will keep
The sands of time will blow a mystery
No-one but you and I
Underneath that moonlit sky
Take me back to the place that I know
On the beach

Forever in my dreams my heart will be
Hanging on to this sweet memory
A day of strange desire
And a night that burned like fire
Take me back to the place that I know
On the beach

Postscript:

John Medd from Are We There Yet? reminded me in the comments boxes that a couple of years ago, he’d written about Chris Rea and On The Beach. The version of the song I shared above was the one released as a single, however the original version from the  album of the same name was a much slower, more contemplative affair. If you click on the link to John’s blog you will see that most people now prefer the original, but in case you want to check it out for yourself, here is a clip.

My Live Aid Day Remembered – Freddie, George and “Don’t Let The Sun Go Down On Me”

“It’s twelve noon in London, seven AM in Philadelphia, and around the world it’s time for Live Aid”

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Those were the words that kicked off probably the most memorable fund-raising event in rock and pop history, and this week was its 35th anniversary. On Monday morning, after being reminded of the date, I decided to revisit my DVD boxset of the event and over the course of the week I’ve watched it all, and taken notes. Sadly these notes fill 12 pages of my shorthand notebook, so I have absolutely no chance of condensing my thoughts into a format suitable for a blog post. I do however remember how I spent the day, so before my aging memory lets me down, I think I’ll approach it that way.

You have to be of a certain age to remember Live Aid at all, mid 40s or older I suspect, but if you do, you’ll probably remember it was held on a glorious, hot summer’s day, the like of which doesn’t often fall on a Saturday in Scotland. I was a big music fan, but the concert would go on all day, so what did my flatmate and I do just before 12 noon on Saturday, the 13th July, 1985? – We went to the local park of course!

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Aberdeen’s Duthie Park

I was prepared however and had brought a small transistor radio with me, so although we weren’t watching the action live on telly we did hear the opening act, Status QuoRockin’ All Over The World. Had I been watching on telly, I would have known that Paul Weller, who was next up with his Style Council, was looking very summery and dare I say healthy that day in his white trousers, but we only had this crackly radio. By 1 pm it was obvious we should head back to our cool, granite, second floor flat – The day had become just too hot and we were missing out on all the action.

Over the next few hours we watched the following artists perform on stage at Wembley in front of an audience of 72,000. Everyone that day was hot and bothered, there is no doubt, but also having the time of their lives.

The Boomtown Rats, Adam Ant, Ultravox, Spandau Ballet, Elvis Costello, Nick Kershaw, Sade, Sting, Phil Collins, Howard Jones, Brian Ferry and Paul Young

Watching this segment of the concert now, 35 years on, it was a veritable Who’s Who of mid ’80s chart toppers (with organiser Bob Geldof included of course). The dress code of the day seemed to be either black leather or baggy white clothing depending on your musical leanings, but those who opted for white definitely suffered less in the baking heat. There were mullets of all persuasions too, even amongst those who were thinning on top (Phil Collins?). The quality of the singing was less than perfect, but hey, there had been little time to rehearse or prepare for this massive event so hats off to them for committing, as some did not and later regretted it. Final observation – So many saxophones! The instrument of choice for the mid ‘80s it seems.

And here is where the day was punctuated with another break from the telly, as the oil company I worked for at the time was hosting a barbeque for its staff that very evening. The flatmate and I duly got ready to head along Queen’s Road to the spot overlooking Rubislaw Quarry (from which Aberdeen was built) where many of these corporate HQs were based. Before we left however we caught the performance by U2 which is often cited as having elevated them to superstardom. Bono was tiptoeing around in his tight black leather trousers and long boots, but after spotting a girl in the crowd, jumped down into the mud at the front of the stage and helped save her from being crushed. They missed out on playing their third song but it was a sign of things to come from him, for sure.

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My workplace on the left

So, we arrived at my workplace in the early evening, but bowing down to pressure from their staff, it had been decided to install a big screen in the underground carpark so we could watch the concert whilst eating the fine barbequed food only an American company could serve up. My workmate was there with her new boyfriend, so was on a bit of a high. As was often the case however with these office romances in Aberdeen, it later transpired he had a wife who lived elsewhere whom he’d conveniently omitted to tell her about. They were slippery characters some of these chaps we worked with who often broke our hearts.

But back to the concert, we were now lined up on chairs watching scenes coming live from Wembley on the big screen. I’m not going to describe the Philadelphia concert here as would get far too bogged down, and anyway, it just wasn’t a patch on our set-up. Wembley, with its enclosed stadium, twin towers and greenery all around, looked beautiful on that hot summer’s day whereas the JFK Stadium in Philadelphia looked like a makeshift set of scaffolding surrounded by carparks and interstate highways.

As the day wore on the stakes were raised and artists of more legendary status started to appear on stage. First up we had Dire Straits but then we had the band who is generally thought to have stolen the show that day, Queen.  I have written about their Live Aid performance around here before and it’s my second most visited post ever (link here) so won’t repeat myself, but Freddie was on especially fine form that day and owned the stage, encouraging the crowd to sing along in unison. His sustained “Aaaaaay-o” during the a cappella section came to be known as the note heard round the world. The last time I wrote about their set on Live Aid day I shared Radio Gaga, but having watched them again this week, the song they finished with was We Are The Champions which was almost as perfect. They certainly were champions that day.

It’s obvious watching this footage that Queen’s set took place just as the sun had gone down, but it wasn’t yet dark. This is my favourite time of the day for any outdoor event as there’s a certain magic about it – No harsh sunlight but not a total absence of light either. In Scotland it’s called The Gloaming and a very special time of the day. Up in Aberdeen it wouldn’t be gloaming for a while yet, so we sat tight and carried on watching the big screen.

Next up was David Bowie, looking very dapper in a powder blue suit and pointy black patent shoes. Another great performance and quoted as being “his last triumph of the 1980s”. He was followed by The Who who hadn’t played together for three years. No powder blue suit for Roger Daltrey, oh no indeed. As ever he had his shirt open showing off his hairless, suntanned torso. Roger must be doing something right in terms of looking after himself, as at the grand old age of 76 he still looks pretty good today, and I imagine the bare-chested look is something he still favours.

But this was Saturday night in the big city and one by one people were drifting off. The hostelry of choice for 20-somethings in 1985 was the Dutch Mill on Queen’s Road, so leaving the concert behind for a while, my flatmate and I headed in that direction. In those pre-mobile phone days, it was highly likely you would bump into most of your friends on a weekend evening, but when we got there on the evening of the 13th July, it was dead, as everyone was at home watching Live Aid. We had a quick drink then walked the short distance back to our flat in the city centre.

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The Dutch Mill, Aberdeen

Once home we settled back into our large beige and brown sofa (it was the ’80s) and turned on our Radio Rentals telly. I can’t be sure, and I would be lying if I said I was, but the artist following on from The Who was Elton John so if we did get back in time for his set that’s who we would have watched next. Having viewed the boxset this week, Elton had the longest time on stage of anyone and he performed a couple of duets, first with his old mucker Kiki Dee, and then joy of joys, with the person I have written about most around here, George Michael.

I have mentioned the making of the Band Aid single before, and how the Wham! boys George and Andrew weren’t treated with much respect that day by the other artists, being proponents at the time of feel-good pop tunes. But here we were just six months on and Elton John saw fit to ask George to sing Don’t Let The Sun Go Down On Me with him. He said he was “a great admirer of his musical talent” when introducing him, and I have to say he gives an impeccable performance here. Also, unlike many others that day, he was dressed simply in jeans, white T-shirt and black leather jacket which is kind of timeless (we’ll ignore the fact it was dark and he’s wearing shades). His Live Aid appearance has stood the test of time and he went on to great things whereas those who had laughed at him are perhaps long forgotten.

Don’t Let The Sun Go Down On Me by George Michael and Elton John:

The Wembley concert finished off with a set by Paul McCartney who had been persuaded out of retirement for the event. Sadly he was the only artist on the night to experience microphone failure, so the audience missed out totally on one of his songs. It was fixed quite quickly but typical it had to happen to him. Once finished, he and Bowie raised Bob Geldof up on their shoulders, and then, along with the rest of the performers from the day (and a few others it seems) they launched into a version of Do They Know It’s Christmas?, the charity single that started the whole thing off. The first two lines were a bit ropey, sung by Bowie and Bob, but then they wisely handed the mic over to a safe pair of hands in the form of George Michael, who very confidently took over.

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I think we spent a good few hours in front of the telly that night as we then watched the rest of the Philadelphia Live Aid concert, which would go on for a fair while yet due to time differences. The programmers also revisited “the best bits” of the day, so by the time I went to bed in the early hours, I’d pretty much seen everything.

So, “What’s It All About?” – I’m not going to get into the whole criticisms and controversy aspect of Live Aid. All the money may not have got to the right places, at the right time, but around 1.9 billion people watched the concerts that day and over £150 million was raised. There is no denying, the publicity generated meant that western governments could no longer ignore humanitarian crises. Through rock ‘n’ roll, the common language of the planet, an issue that was not hitherto on the political agenda, became so.

As for this post, it was for my own benefit really, as I have never documented My Live Aid Day and always wanted to. The flatmate I spent it with FaceTimed me the other day and is coming up to visit next month (as long as that pesky virus is kept under control) and the workmate with the broken heart soon got over it, and we still keep in touch via Christmas cards. The boyfriend of the time chose to spend that summer travelling round France with a work colleague, so missed out on Live Aid totally. Needless to say he soon became the ex-boyfriend upon his return, and we are definitely no longer in touch.

How did you spend your Live Aid day? I have met a few people over the years who were actually at Wembley for the concert and I love hearing their stories. If you have any, I’d love to hear from you.

Until next time….

Don’t Let The Sun Go Down On Me Lyrics
(Song by Elton John/Bernie Taupin)

I can’t light no more of your darkness
All my pictures seem to fade to black and white
I’m growing tired and time stands still before me
Frozen here on the ladder of my life

It’s much too late to save myself from falling
I took a chance and changed your way of life
But you misread my meaning when i met you
Closed the door and left me blinded by the light

Don’t let the sun go down on me
Although I search myself, it’s always someone else I see
I’d just allow a fragment of your life to wander free
But losing everything is like the sun going down on me

I can’t find the right romantic line
But see me once and see the way feel
Don’t discard me just because you think I mean you harm
But these cuts I have they need love to help them heal

Oh, don’t let the sun go down on me
Although I search myself, it’s always someone else I see
I’d just allow a fragment of your life to wander free
Cause’ losing everything is like the sun going down on me

Don’t let the sun go down on me
Although I search myself, it’s always someone else I that see, yeah
I’d just allow a fragment of your life to wander free baby, oh
Cause’ losing everything is like the sun going down on me

Songs About Home Towns, “Húsavík” and The Wacky World Of Eurovision

Many of the songs I share around here come from film and television, as borne out by the sheer number of posts in each of those categories on my sidebar. It was obvious early on in the evolution of this blog, that unless I was revisiting songs from my chart-loving/album buying years of the 1970s and ’80s, much of the music I have warmed to over the decades has come from watching something on the big, or small, screen.

I recently wrote about the Eurovision Song Contest, which like everything else this year didn’t happen, but for us fans of such fluff and nonsense there has been a bit of a reprieve in the form of the new Will Ferrell film Eurovision Song Contest: The Story Of Fire Saga. It went straight to Netflix so despite there being no cinemas yet open around here we have been able to watch it twice. There have been a few scathing reviews and on the whole it was not a winner with the critics, but hey, what do they know? During these dark times it has offered up a couple of hours of pure escapism and as an oficiando of all things Eurovision, and someone who in the past memorised vast amounts of info on the runners and riders, there were some great cameos and in-jokes which will have been lost on our friends across the pond.

Even if you’re not a fan of Eurovision, or a fan of comedic musicals, the scenery alone makes it a worthwhile watch. Our wannabe contest winners, Fire Saga, have become the unlikely representatives for little Iceland and their home town Húsavík is featured heavily in the film – I’m guessing that once we’re able to travel more freely again, it will be heavily inundated by tourists. (Whether they are wanted is another matter, and a standing joke throughout the film, but I’ll leave that for you to discover should you watch it for yourselves.)

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Húsavík in Iceland

One of the showstopping songs from the film is also called Húsavík, written as a love letter to their home town, and performed by Fire Saga member Sigrit Ericksdóttir (expertly played by Rachel McAdams). It has formed a bit of an earworm for me this week, partly because it’s a great song, and partly because it’s so relevant to what’s happening in our neighbourhood.

I mentioned a couple of weeks ago that we had DD back living with us in the Highlands as the current crisis made her realise more than ever that big city life is not for her. But also, one by one, our neighbours’ adult children have similarly returned to their respective nests as this lockdown period has not been kind to the young in terms of job losses, accommodation unsuitable for home-working, and sadly, relationship breakdown. It seems when the chips are down, like Lars and Sigrit from Iceland, your home town is often just where you want to be, and despite all the turmoil of the last few months I haven’t seen DD so happy in years. We don’t have whales up here (as they do in Húsavík), but we do have the Moray Firth Dolphins, and she has loved her long walks along the coast with old friends since returning to her home town.

Where the mountains sing through the screams of seagulls
Where the whales can live ’cause they’re gentle people (or dolphins?)
In my hometown, my hometown

Thought I made it clear, do I have to say it?
It was always there, we just didn’t see it
All I need is you and me and my home

Húsavík by Molly Sandén:

But this of course is a song from a film and it’s not always the case that the actor playing the role of the singer, does the actual singing. It has been a long-standing tradition in the making of movies and I remember well that scene in Singin’ In The Rain when poor old Lina Lamont was humiliated when the curtains went back to reveal a young Debbie Reynolds/Kathy Seldon at the microphone. In the Eurovision film it is Swedish singer Molly (My Marianne) Sandén who takes the honours so credit where credit’s due, although it seems they did mix her voice with that of Rachel McAdams to a certain extent, which seems to have worked well. Turns out Molly represented Sweden in the Junior Eurovision Song Contest in 2006, so quite apt really.

mollysandenuf
Molly Sandén

So, “What’s It All About?” – Sometimes you’re just in the mood for watching a feel-good comedy and the film written about in this post ticked all the boxes for me. A couple of years ago a film called The Greatest Showman was similarly panned by the critics, but unless you lived under a rock in 2018, you will know it spawned a best-selling album and kept returning to the top spot time and time again in terms of box-office takings. The showstopping song in that film, Never Enough, was very similar in style to the one featured above, and although I thought at the time it was sung by actress Rebecca Ferguson, who played Swedish Nightingale Jenny Lind, it was American singer Loren Allred who took the honours that time. Two films, one where a Swede sings for an American and one where an American sings for a Swede!

Never Enough by Loren Allred:

As for our adult children returning to their home town, like many others have found during this crisis, priorities can change. We do have short memories however and as we are seeing an opening up of much of our economy, people seem anxious to get back out there, doing what they used to do. Cross fingers it doesn’t result in the dreaded second wave we keep hearing about. The 21st century phenomenon FOMO (fear of missing out) has been thankfully absent from our lives of late, but as things start to get back to normal it will no doubt return with a vengeance as get-togethers are shared on social media. Let’s hope we have learnt something from this downtime and that the “old normal” does not return in full any time soon.

Until next time….

Húsavík Lyrics
(Song by Fat Max Gsus/Rickard Göransson/Kotecha)

All by myself
With this great big world before me
But it’s all for someone else
I’ve tried and tried again
To let you know just where my heart is
To tell the truth and not pretend

All I needed was to get away
Just to realize that I was meant to stay

Where the mountains sing through the screams of seagulls
Where the whales can live ’cause they’re gentle people
In my hometown, my hometown
Thought I made it clear, do I have to say it?
It was always there, we just didn’t see it
All I need is you and me and my home

Vera með þér, með þér
Í Húsavík við Skjálfanda
Í heimabærinn minn

You want the world (Want the world)
All the neon lights and billboards
To be seen and to be heard (Heard)
And I followed you (Oh-ooh)
But now I know what makes me happy
And I can tell you feel it too

Where the mountains sing through the screams of seagulls
Where the whales can live ’cause they’re gentle people
In my hometown, my hometown
Where the northern lights burst out in colors
And the magic nights surpass all others
Það eina sem ég þrái er, að vera