“A Week Is A Long Time In Blogging” – The Eclectic Mix of Bernard Cribbins and Nancy Wilson

Just over a month ago I wrote seven posts in seven days, and it was actually remarkably easy. Now that I’m back to one post per week, it’s somehow become a bit more difficult. Partly down to the fine weather and the fact Mr WIAA is on holiday from his paid employment (as opposed to the wonderful world of self-employment which must still continue over the summer months), but mainly because there seems to be just so much going on at the moment, both in the wider world and domestically. Every time I think I have an idea for the following week’s post, and start working on it, by the time I’ve gathered my thoughts we’ve moved on to something else.

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Melania – “How did I get here?”

Since pressing the publish button last week we’ve had two high profile resignations from the cabinet, our government seems to be in total disarray with regards to what our future relationship with Europe will be and the POTUS and FLOTUS flew across for a visit. As expected the POTUS made a few monumental gaffs, whilst the ever-elegant FLOTUS just looks like a trophy wife who still can’t quite believe what has happened to her.

On a happier note we saw the miraculous rescue of 12 Thai boys and their football coach from flooded underground caves. I am in awe of what the divers went through in order to facilitate that rescue. Sporting-wise, we’ve had the closing stages of the World Cup where England nearly made it to the final, but fell at the hands of Croatia, a country with a population of 4 million. The Men’s Wimbledon Final took place on Sunday where the Serbian with the haircut that never changes recaptured his tennis mojo, and took the big prize.

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In the more frivolous sections of the media we found out lots about the goings on in the Love Island villa (they do like to “crack on”, discuss their “connections” and parade around in barely there swimsuits). It also seems that the youngest of the Kardashian clan, aged only 20, is likely to become a billionaire in the very near future courtesy of a make-up range that the Love Island girls would no doubt approve of – Lots of products aimed at plumping the lips to cartoonish proportions.

So, that’s the wider world taken care of in three paragraphs, what’s been happening domestically? Well, DD has landed herself a new job which she is really pleased about and with Mr WIAA on holiday, we finally got the bit between our teeth and started doing all those jobs round the house that have been staring us down for months. Sadly there is nothing more likely to cause marital strife in our house than a spot of DIY, so needless to say tempers are frayed. Much moving around of furniture has had to be done, but if punctuated by frequent stops for a cuppa, it’s all bearable. Cue Bernard Cribbins and that great wee ditty from the early ’60s, Right Said Fred.

Today I finally finished “the kitchen project” which started a long, long… six months ago. The reliable, skilled tradespersons we had always hoped to commandeer never materialised, so a lesser tradesperson called Alyson did the lion’s share of the tiling, decorating and up-cycling of furniture. Back in January it only took 8 days to rip out the old kitchen and install a new one, complete with appliances, but it’s just taken me 14 days to sand down the old table and chairs, then re-varnish and paint them in another colour. Blame all the false starts for the length of time taken, but now that it’s finished, I’m really chuffed with myself.

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Finally finished!

One condition I have when decorating is that Mr WIAA does all the cleaning of brushes, especially if white spirit is involved. Such a messy business and really hard nowadays to dispose of all that cloudy solvent when you’re finished. Other than that however I am more than happy to spend my days up a stepladder, or crouched at skirting board level, transforming tired rooms into freshly painted ones. The best bit about decorating is being able to listen to the radio, totally guilt-free, for hours on end. I say guilt-free because I am incapable of doing anything that requires any modicum of concentration (computer stuff generally) and listen to the radio at the same time, so I have to limit my listening pleasure.

The kind of mainstream stations I tend to listen to don’t often play songs I’m unfamiliar with, but every now and again they surprise me, and this week I have a few new songs to add to the ever-growing database that constitutes the tracks of my years. This next song, like Right Said Fred, is from the early ’60s but a very different animal indeed. I don’t know if this is unusual for someone of my vintage but I was unaware of American artist Nancy Wilson until this week. Once I got past the idea that she sounded a little like our own Shirley Bassey I really warmed to her, and loved this little gem of a song that popped up on one of the radio playlists. Yes, it gets the prize for earworm of the week, and you don’t know, you don’t know, you don’t know, you don’t know… how glad I am, about that

(You Don’t Know) How Glad I Am by Nancy Wilson:

(You Don’t Know) How Glad I Am was a hit in the US for Nancy Wilson in the summer of 1964. It also received the Grammy Award in the R&B category the following year. Someone I had been unaware of until this week but someone I might like to investigate a little further once some semblance of a normal routine returns.

Hopefully by next week it’ll be back to business as usual but not always easy at this time of year to keep the pot boiling as my mum would say. I still have another post idea to tackle as a result of having thrown down the gauntlet a few weeks ago. Not going to be easy however, so to the person who suggested it, still on the back burner at the moment but will definitely appear in due course. In the meantime I’ll just “crack on” (as the Love Islanders would say) with all these decorating jobs and if it looks as if tempers are starting to fray, I’ll take advice from good old Bernard Cribbins and ‘ave a cuppa tea. Unlike Nancy Wilson, I don’t think my love (for Mr WIAA) at the moment has no beginning, end, front or back but fortunately it’s all just temporary!

Until next time….

(You Don’t Know) How Glad I Am Lyrics
(Song by Jimmy Williams/Larry Harrison)

My love has no beginning, my love has no end
No front or back and my love won’t bend
I’m in the middle, lost in a spin loving you
And you don’t know, you don’t know
You don’t know, you don’t know how glad I am

My love has no bottom, my love has no top
My love won’t rise and my love won’t drop
I’m in the middle and I can’t stop loving you
And you don’t know, you don’t know
You don’t know, you don’t know how glad I am

I wish I were a poet so I could express
What I’d, what I’d like to say yeah
I wish I were an artist so I could paint a picture
Of how I feel, of how I feel today

My love has no walls on either side
That makes my love wider than wide
I’m in the middle and I can’t hide loving you

And you don’t know, you don’t know
You don’t know, you don’t know how glad I am

The Cairngorms, “In A Big Country” and Heatwaves in Scotland!

Tuesday seems to have become my default day for posting something new, however with all this fine weather I haven’t been spending much time on the computer, or pondering blog ideas. Hmm…

Time to resort to the dash cam!

Last Saturday Mr WIAA and myself headed down the A9 to The Cairngorms as only 45 minutes from home and a great place to visit on a beautiful sunny day. Yes – unbelievably – Scotland is also experiencing this very uncharacteristic heatwave that seems to be sweeping the country. The film I took was hard won I can tell you, as every few minutes the device over-heated and had to be slotted into the car’s air-conditioning vent to cool down. I have however managed to piece together the following and when asked what music might be appropriate for it, Mr WIAA suggested In A Big Country by who else but Big Country.

In A Big Country by Big Country:

Big Country formed in Dunfermline in 1981 and had their heyday in the mid ’80s. The band had a very distinctive music style which involved engineering their guitar sound to evoke the spirit of bagpipes, fiddles and other traditional folk instruments. In A Big Country was released in May 1983 as the third single from their debut studio album “The Crossing”, and reached No. 17 in the UK Singles Chart. The album was a hit in the United States which is how my friend Rich from Kamer Tunes Blog must have come to know about them and how they became his favourite band during his high school years (I know this because he has mentioned it often). He is on hiatus at the moment but because of his great affinity with Scotland, here are a few more pictures taken whilst out and about recently, just in case he drops by.

It actually rained today, for the first time in about five weeks. Can it really carry on like this for much longer? Who knows, but with all the political shenanigans going on right now, it’s nice to be able to just chill out under the shade of a tree. Scotland may not in reality be a “big” country, in fact it’s really quite small, but it has a big heart which was what those boys from Big Country capitalised on back in the ’80s.

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Until next time enjoy the sunshine, and remember that even in Scotland, we still need to wear sunscreen. I can’t turn the clock back and tell my teenage self of the dangers of too much sun (let’s face it we all got burnt every single year) but a bit older and wiser now fortunately. Cross fingers it’s shaping up to be another Summer of ’76!

In A Big Country Lyrics
(Song by Stuart Adamson/Mark Brzezicki/Tony Butler/Bruce Watson)

I’ve never seen you look like this without a reason
Another promise fallen through, another season passes by you
I never took the smile away from anybody’s face
And that’s a desperate way to look for someone who is still a child

In a big country, dreams stay with you
Like a lover’s voice fires the mountainside
Stay alive

I thought that pain and truth were things that really mattered
But you can’t stay here with every single hope you had shattered
I’m not expecting to grow flowers in a desert
But I can live and breathe and see the sun in wintertime

In a big country, dreams stay with you
Like a lover’s voice fires the mountainside
Stay alive

In a big country, dreams stay with you
Like a lover’s voice fires the mountainside
Stay alive

So take that look out of here, it doesn’t fit you
Because it’s happened doesn’t mean you’ve been discarded
Pull up your head off the floor, come up screaming
Cry out for everything you ever might have wanted
I thought that pain and truth were things that really mattered
But you can’t stay here with every single hope you had shattered

I’m not expecting to grow flowers in a desert
But I can live and breathe and see the sun in wintertime

In a big country, dreams stay with you
Like a lover’s voice fires the mountainside
Stay alive

In a big country, dreams stay with you
Like a lover’s voice fires the mountainside
Stay alive

Postscript:

It may be a small country but Scotland extends a bit wider in all directions courtesy of the many islands off its coasts. One of these is South Uist, the second largest island of the Outer Hebrides, and I couldn’t help but gasp in wonder at the pictures shared recently by a friend after a visit. She grew up there and those beaches used to be her childhood playground. Spectacular, and barely a soul in sight.

The Princess and the Pear: A Work of Fan Fiction

For the benefit of any new visitors to the blog, this post is not representative, but a few weeks ago I issued a challenge, asking followers to come up with ideas for future posts. One of these was from Deidra, who after reading my tribute to David Cassidy (link here), suggested I should write some fan fiction in fairytale form involving the man and his music. Anyway, this is a bit tongue-in-cheek, and probably not what Deidra was expecting at all, but always fun to take on a new challenge and run with it. You probably need to be of a certain age to “get” a lot of what is to follow, but if you do, hope you enjoy it.

david cassidyThe Princess and the Pear

Princess Deidra looked down from the castle window. The boy from the village had just arrived with baskets of pears from his family’s orchard, and was heading towards the entrance to the large kitchen where he would no doubt laugh and joke with the kitchen maids. Deidra felt sad, and jealous that she could no longer join in their fun, but her mother had deemed it no longer appropriate for her to spend time with Maryberry the cook, Baldrick the kitchen boy and the feisty but fun, Daphne and Celeste.

The boy was called Davyd and his family supplied the castle with much produce in the course of a year. They reared partridges at the back of their humble dwelling so inevitably came to be known as, The Partridge Family. He had a sister called Susan and a brother called Daniel, who also visited the castle from time to time with their mother, a pretty, petite woman, with light coloured hair. The four of them were accomplished musicians and came to entertain guests in the great hall whenever a banquet was being held. The mother and Susan both played the harpsichord whereas Daniel played that strange stringed instrument which looked a bit like a lute. As for Davyd, he was the singer within the group, and as far as Deidra was concerned, had the voice of an angel.

The reason for his arrival today, was because festivities were being planned in honour of a visiting prince. She knew this prince was being thought of as a possible suitor, but fortunately her mother and father, the King and Queen, were kind and loving parents who would never force her into an arranged marriage. The prince, she had learnt, was called Donald and he came from a far away land that had a great salt lake. She’d also heard he had many brothers who wore tabards of different colours so that their parents could tell them apart. Donald always wore purple, and although they denied it, his parents considered him the handsomest of them all, as he had a beautiful smile and dazzling white teeth. Even when his younger brother James arrived, despite his long hair and loving ways, Donald was still their favourite son and they hoped he would find a deserving princess, perhaps in Deidra.

Not for the first time however, Deidra wished she had been lowly born and could simply marry the boy from the village who was now leaving the castle grounds, his baskets empty. He would return home to his family, checking the partridges on the way, no doubt perched on the many pear trees in the orchard. Prince Donald may well be someone she could fall in love with, but right now, all she could think of was Davyd, and the songs she imagined he sang just for her. “Yes, I think I love you too”, she thought to herself, remembering the words of the last song he had performed in the great hall, at the same time knowing full well nothing could come of it.

I Think I Love You:

But the day was warm, and it was time for an afternoon nap ahead of the evening’s banquet and entertainment. She removed her headdress and lay down on her counterpane, but before she could drift off to sleep Daphne appeared, having run up the stairs from the kitchen. The pair had been friends since they were young but of late Deidra had been unable to spend much time with her at all, her mother insisting that she fill her days with needlework, scripture and music lessons.

“‘Scuse me Princess, but I just had to let yer know that Prince Donald is on his way.”

“I know Daphne, but what will he be like I wonder. Will he be as handsome as Davyd from the village? I see he has just been to the kitchen. Did you speak with him?”

“Why o’ course Princess. He be asking after yer but that Celeste had to push in and act all brazen in front of him as usual. Ooh, that girl has no shame but we all knows he only has eyes for yer so stick you Celeste. He also be telling us he has some turtle doves for the princess. Real beauties they are.”

The kitchen maids Daphne and Celeste

“Oh, how kind”, said Deidra feeling wistful that she would not be allowed to accept them in person. “Is he coming up to the castle with his family tonight, to sing and play for us?”

“He is”, replied Daphne excitedly, “and they have a new song he wants to sing just fer you. He knows ’bout Prince Donald and told me to let yer know, it’s a magical song that can transport you through time. Time and… relertive dumension in… sound, he called it. Means nuthin’ to me but he said yer would understand”.

Daphne then headed off, to return to her duties in the kitchen but Deidra was left feeling confused. As a young princess she had been allowed to spend time with the village children, and when playing their games had often told Davyd she believed we would one day travel through time. Had he remembered those conversations she wondered, and had he found a way of really making it happen? It was all very baffling, but time for a quick nap now as Trinny and Susannah, her ladies maids, would soon be along to help her choose the perfect costume for tonight’s banquet, and the inevitable introduction to Prince Donald.

The ladies maids Trinny and Susannah

By the time the sun went down, Deidra was ready for the evening of festivities. Trinny and Susannah had picked out the perfect gown and headdress for her and after much pushing, prodding and pulling had secured the bodice into place. They had also brought with them an undergarment called majicnikkers which although made of a very strange fabric that was new to her, had the effect of making her waist appear very small indeed. This was going to be quite an evening, and although she was curious about the meeting with Prince Donald, it was the idea of Davyd’s magical song that truly excited her.

At the banquet Deidra was seated next to Prince Donald. He was indeed very handsome, his dark hair framing his smiling face. His party’s journey to the castle had been an eventful one however, as something had caused their horses to start acting crazily. Something in the air perhaps, an air very different to what they were used to by the great salt lake, over there on the morning side of the mountain. But Deidra could already tell that this was not her prince. He was too young, and for him it would just be a puppy love.

Jacques, Jules et Henri

At the end of the table was a cage with the turtle doves that Davyd had sent up to the castle earlier in the day as a gift. He had also presented the cook, Maryberry, with three hens which had curiously been given the names Jacques, Jules and Henri. All we need now she thought to herself, would be some birds that could sing, and we would have quite the menagerie. Just at that moment, The Partridge Family appeared on the minstrel gallery, ready to play for them. Davyd gave her a knowing look, and once his brother tightened the strings on the lute-shaped instrument, the song began. “Could it be forever, or is my mind just rambling on…… .”

Suddenly Deidra’s head started to spin and she had to look down to gather her composure. The words in Davyd’s song were ringing in her ears. “Could it be forever?”, she thought regretfully. “No, not in my world, where princesses just don’t marry commoners.”

Princess Deidra

The spinning stopped and Deidra looked up. It took a few moments for her to work out where she was. It was still Windsmoor Castle but everything looked different. Her family and Prince Donald still sat next to her but they were all dressed in strange clothes and her flaming red hair was no longer covered by a headdress. The plate, and glassware, was finely crafted and large drapes covered the table. The Partridge Family were no longer up in the minstrel gallery but stood on a low, nearby platform surrounded by large boxes from which the sound seemed to come. Soon the song ended, and instead of retreating to the chambers behind the banquet hall as was usual, the family descended from the stage and came to converse with the guests. Just then, she remembered that Davyd had not just said it was to be a magical song, but that it was perhaps made up of sounds that could transport them through time. “What was it again?”, she frantically tried to remember. “Time and relative dimension in sound. TARDIS for short.”

She was still reeling from this revelation when Davyd came to speak to her. He had done it, he really had. Found a way of traversing through time until they came to an age when red-haired princesses could marry dark-haired, common born entertainers. Without further ado, Davyd got down on one knee and presented Deidra with a pear, from the orchard behind the castle of olden days. When she looked at it quizzically, he just said, “bite into it and see what you find.” Inside was a gold ring, which to everyone’s delight found its way onto her finger. “I started off with five pears and five gold rings”, he said, “but only this final one made it through the sound vortex. It wasn’t until then I knew the time was right to sing my magical song.”

And that my friends, is where the story ends. Davyd and Princess Deidra married in the chapel at Windsmoor Castle a few weeks later and many of their friends came to join in the celebrations. Sir Idris of Elba, Sir George of Clooney and of course Lady Victoria of Beckingham. Prince Donald returned to the land of the great salt lake, married, and had many, many children. Will they all live happily ever after though? Why of course they will, because as we all know, breaking up is hard to do!

 

The End


Could It Be Forever Lyrics
(Song by Wes Farrell/Danny Janssen)

Could it be forever or is my mind just rambling on
[No, it can be forever Davyd, thanks to TARDIS – Time and relative dimension in sound!]

Well I touched you once and I kissed you once
And I feel like you’re mine
Well I feel like you’re mine and I see in your face
I’m not wrong to have these feelings
Well I feel like you’re mine and I’ve never known a time before
That’s had so many meanings

Could it be forever or is my mind just wasting time
Well I don’t think so because you let me know
You make me feel like you’re mine
Well I feel like you’re mine and I can’t remember
When the feelings have been stronger
And all I know is I can’t let go of you
Or be with you just a little while longer

All my feelings come together
All of me is here
Never known when I felt better
Cause I know this won’t disappear

But could it be forever
Or is my mind just rambling on
Maybe it is, if it is
Then I’ll be moving on
Well, I feel like you’re mine
And I see in your face
I’m not wrong to have these feelings
Well, I feel like you’re mine
I’ve never known a time before
That’s had so many meanings

Canvey Island, Brit Funk and the “Southern Freeez”

Considering we in the UK are experiencing a bit of a heatwave at the moment, this post title sounds a bit ironic but all will soon make sense, so please bear with me. Living up here in the North of Scotland, there are lot of places “down south” that I’ve heard of, but don’t necessarily know much about. One such place is Canvey Island and since starting this blog, it keeps coming up in the research as having spawned an awful lot of bands. But where is Canvey Island, and is it indeed an island? Well technically it does seem to be, but like a few other similar landmasses, it’s separated from the mainland of Essex by a mere sliver of water.

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Canvey Island off the coast of Essex

The first time Canvey Island came up in the research was when I wrote about Eddie and the Hot Rods (link here) as they came from the place, as it seems did The Kursaal Flyers and the band that came to be known as “Canvey Island’s finest”, Dr. Feelgood. The whole pub rock musical genre flourished there in the 1970s and that part of Essex became the destination of choice for artists such as Graham Parker, Nick Lowe and Elvis Costello.

But it’s not pub rock I’m going to write about here, it’s another phenomenon that found its roots on Canvey Island – A genre of music that came to be known as Brit funk. Again, living in the North of Scotland I would have had no idea such places existed, but in the early ’70s an old coastal Country Club was turned into a nightclub called the Goldmine. The DJ in residence was Chris Hill and the club came to specialise in “soul nights” where only serious and devoted fans came to get their fix. By 1978 however coach loads of soul fans were arriving from all over the country to experience a piece of the funk action and this unprepossessing building on Canvey Island was firmly on the map as the soul, jazz & funk mecca of the UK – Strange but true.

Acts that came to be associated with Brit funk were Light of the World, Level 42, Beggar and Co, Linx and Freeez. These bands enjoyed chart success in the early ’80s making regular appearances on TOTP, but today’s featured song is the one I remember best from that era, and have fond memories of – Southern Freeez by the band Freeez. It reached No. 8 in the UK Singles Chart in February 1981 with the very “cool” Ingrid Mansfield Allman providing the vocals.

Southern Freeez by Freeez:

The reason I have fond memories of this particular song, despite not really knowing anything about the whole Brit funk scene at the time, is because it came about the year I turned 21. I was a student back then and just about every week an invitation to a fellow student’s birthday bash popped through the mailbox. Mid-week venues were plentiful as many a landlord was happy to throw open the doors to their unused function suites, and provide DJs of varying abilities in return for lucrative bar takings. Being a dance record, and having been a hit early on in the year, Southern Freeez regularly made it onto the playlist and the lyrics always made me smile. I don’t think it happens so much nowadays, but back then an awful lot of romances started life on the dancefloor and all down to whether you “liked their style”, “saw it in their eyes” or were driven to distraction watching them “on the floor doing the Southern Freeez” (which it turns out was a dance move – the band dropped out for a bar and everyone froze).

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As someone who (until recently) always had a closer relationship with the whole sound and feel of a song as apposed to the lyrics, I kind of liked how you could tell so much about a person by how they danced. Mr WIAA and I were always the dancers in our social group and because of that we always gravitated towards each other, being “soul” mates of sorts. It seems that nowadays, where relationships invariably start life on Tinder or via some other virtual medium, attraction is down to looks alone and with a quick “swipe” you are out of the picture for good. Such pressure on everyone to look a certain way, and sometimes all very false and unreal. If I could bottle it I would, but when you really immerse yourself in the music on the dance floor, you are showing your true colours – Nothing false or unreal there. (Fervent non-dancers however, will probably choose to disagree?)

Getting back to Brit funk, it seems that many 1980s pop groups such as Haircut 100, Wham! and notably Spandau Ballet tapped into the style and sound to help launch their careers. This scene reduced racial boundaries in the clubs and raised the profile of black and white musicians working together – All down to a converted Country Club on Canvey Island!

Until next time enjoy the sunshine, but if it all gets a bit too much, you could always drop out and freeze.

Southern Freeez Lyrics
(Song by Andy Stennett, John Rocca, Peter Maas)

Love saw it in your eyes
Sensed it in your smile
Boy I like your style
Oh yeah

When I saw you on the floor doing the southern freeez
Then I knew you were the one the only one for me

Love feel it in your touch
In the way you move
I like it very much yes I do

Time time is moving on
Guess it’s getting late
Soon you’ll take me home

People everywhere doing the southern freeez
Laughing all the time this is the life for me

Heartbeat whisper in my ears
Now it won’t be long no
Just you and me my dear yeah
Sweet darling making love so slow
Your so beautiful yes you are
You got me all a glow

When I saw you on the floor doing the southern freeez
Then I knew you were the one, the only one for me

“Rollermania” and Me – A Tribute to Alan Longmuir RIP

A couple of months ago, I was finally coerced into writing about my teenage relationship with the Bay City Rollers, and had a fond couple of days revisiting some of the memorabilia (unbelievably) still in my possession. When looking back, it became apparent that there would have been no BCRs had founder member Alan Longmuir, along with his brother Derek, not persevered and pestered until they found success. He was definitely the shyest of the bunch however, and at times found it tough being the oldest member of what we now would call a “boy band”. I was sad therefore to hear it announced today that Alan has died in hospital aged only 70 – The first of the Rollers to leave us.

They were ill-equipped in the early ’70s to cope with the kind of international success they achieved and it is well known they ended up with little of the vast riches that must have accrued from the tours and sale of albums. As for Alan, that didn’t seem to faze him, and humble until the end he used to tell friends and family – “I was just a plumber from Edinburgh who got lucky.” RIP Alan Longmuir.

What's It All About?

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

I’ve been threatening to write this post for a while, and it seems the time is right, coming at the end of a trilogy of posts inspired by my recent trip to Edinburgh. On our last day there we met some friends in an area of the city called The Meadows, a large green space near the Old Town. Bordering the Meadows is a large building which I discovered was Edinburgh’s Royal Infirmary, however in days gone by it was called Simpson’s Hospital. And why…

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Glenn Miller, Carly Simon and “Moonlight Serenade”

Since discovering that all full moons have a name (given to them by the Native Americans who kept track of the months by the lunar calendar), I have written about each one as they appear in our skies. To accompany the post I always include one of the numerous songs that have been written about the moon and its many foibles.

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

Different for us nowadays when we can buy soft fruit all year round, but as a child I lived in a house with a massive garden (tended by my dad and I) and in one corner was a large strawberry patch, which meant “pudding” for around two months of the summer was berries and ice-cream. It all got a bit boring, and no longer a treat at all, although once we acquired our new refrigerator complete with tiny ice-making compartment, at least we could keep a small supply of Walls vanilla in block form, which saved me being sent to the shop every evening just ahead of “tea-time”. (We were definitely tea rather than dinner people).

But I digress, this “moon song” was always going to feature at some point in this series and as reference is made to the month of June in the lyrics, this would seem to be the time. It’s soppy and sentimental but harks back to simpler times when boys stood at the gate waiting for their date to appear, and looked forward to “the touch of their hand in the June night”. Moonlight Serenade is a song that could only have been written by someone living in the northern hemisphere, as being outdoors at night, hanging around garden gates feeling all romantic, has never been an attractive proposition during the cold winter months. The music of course was written by big band leader Glenn Miller with the lyrics coming later from Mitchell Parish, but here we have it being performed by Ms Carly Simon – A beautiful version for this romantic summer month, taken from her 2005 album of the same name,

Moonlight Serenade by The Glenn Miller Orchestra:

The reason I am so fond of the Glenn Miller “sound”, is that back in the days when my dad and I were busy tending that large garden with strawberry patches, he and I were also very fond of watching old movies on telly, and if they were musicals, even better. One that we both absolutely loved was The Glenn Miller Story starring Jimmy Stewart and June Allyson. In fact in my head Jimmy Stewart is Glenn Miller because hard sometimes to disassociate the person playing them on the big screen from the real life person whom you’ve seen images of very rarely. I don’t think I’d be giving the game away by saying the film has an incredibly tragic and sad ending (after which I had to retreat to the pre-fridge, sound-proofed “pantry”, to stifle my sobbing), but ahead of that, throughout the hour and fifty minutes of musical action, we are treated to some mighty fine tunes of the swing persuasion: Moonlight Serenade, Tuxedo Junction, Little Brown Jug, In the Mood, A String of Pearls and Pennsylvania 6-5000.

Much of the film was of course a love story which revolved around the courtship between Glenn and his wife-to-be Helen Burger. The song Moonlight Serenade (amongst many others) was written for her, so very apt that the actress who played Helen was called June, as their courtship did seem to play out at garden gates on June nights. Glenn worked hard at finding that unique “sound” he was always looking for, and when he did, he became the world’s best-selling recording artist. In the four years between 1939 and 1943 he scored 23 No. 1 hits – More than Elvis Presley and the Beatles achieved in their respective careers. Sadly, whilst travelling to entertain U.S. troops in France during World War II, his aircraft disappeared in bad weather over the English Channel. Various theories have been put forward as to what happened that night but in the end it was pronounced a death in absentia. Glenn was aged only 40.

So there I was, a pre-teen buying swing albums, which looking back does seem a bit odd, but yet again I think I was ahead of the curve. In 1976 who should appear on the front cover of my monthly copy of Words magazine but The Glenn Miller Orchestra. As well as getting very hot and bothered by the weather, it seems the UK was also experiencing a bit of a nostalgia-fest that year, and Glenn’s music fitted the bill perfectly. A single was released containing a Moonlight Serenade, Little Brown Jug & In The Mood medleyand it reached No. 13 in the UK Singles Chart Suddenly it wasn’t uncool to like this stuff (well maybe just a little bit).

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Glenn, back in the “hit parade” alongside Abba, 32 years after his death

So, “What’s It All About?” – This post seems to have been all about looking back. I’ve enjoyed reminiscing about times spent with my dad, and realise he was probably my best friend until I reached the age of nine. He died 15 years ago but I still miss him every day – I don’t know what he would think of all this blogging malarkey but I suspect he would be quite proud of what I’ve achieved, as that’s just the kind of man he was.

As for the music of Glenn Miller, just like Carly Simon, every now and again an artist records an album of standards and there is a high likelihood that something by Glenn will be in there. Timeless tunes, which I was going to say come from simpler times, but in view of how he died, not simple at all. Different times. At the moment my favourite Glenn Miller tune is this one, I’ve Got a Gal in Kalamazoo – As a great lover of both alphabetisation and unusual sounding place-names, this one really hits the spot. The two dancers here are The Nicholas Brothers who back in the 1930s and ’40s were virtuosos of tap-dancing. I urge you to watch to the end as some incredibly acrobatic stuff here called flash dancing (with of course The Glenn Miller Orchestra playing in the background). Oh, and also remember to look out for that full Strawberry Moon on Thursday night.

Until next time….

Moonlight Serenade Lyrics
(Song by Glenn Miller/Mitchell Parish)

I stand at your gate
and the song that I sing is of moonlight
I stand and I wait
for the touch of your hand in the June night
The roses are sighing a moonlight serenade

The stars are aglow
And tonight how their light sets me dreaming
My love, do you know
That your eyes are like stars brightly beaming?
I bring you, and I sing you a moonlight serenade

Let us stray ’til break of day
In love’s valley of dreams
Just you and I, a summer sky,
A heavenly breeze, kissin’ the trees

So don’t let me wait
Come to me tenderly in the June night
I stand at your gate
And I sing you a song in the moonlight
A love song, my darling, a moonlight serenades

Postscript:

Well it wouldn’t be a “moon post” without a contribution from my friend the amateur photographer. This time however it’s not a picture taken of the last full moon but a picture taken on the night of the Summer Solstice – A waxing gibbous moon back then, a full week shy of this next full moon. Incredible image as ever.

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The Summer Solstice moon: Picture courtesy of R.J.

Suits of Armour, Kiss of the Gypsy and “Whatever It Takes”

Well, there was a bit of “throwing down of gauntlets” going on around here last time and the upshot is that I now have a couple of posts to write as a result. Whilst I mull over how best to tackle those posts, I thought it would be a great opportunity to share another picture from our recent trip to Edinburgh. A suit of armour featured, and at the time I wasn’t sure how to shoehorn it in, but now, with all this talk of gauntlets, I think I’ve found the perfect time.

First though, in the comments boxes last time, C over at Sun Dried Sparrows mentioned that she did love that ancient phrase, and would be interested in its origin. Basically, it seemsthrow gauntlets are those long thick gloves which protect your hands, wrists, and forearms and back in medieval times, a knight would throw down one of his metal gauntlets if challenging another knight to a duel. If this second knight picked it up, he was in effect accepting the challenge. Nowadays, if you throw down the gauntlet, you simply do or say something that challenges someone to take action (much less life-threatening).

But back to my suit of armour picture. One of the reasons for our trip to Edinburgh was because Mr WIAA wanted to visit an aunt and uncle who had recently moved to a new house. Rather than downsizing when they reached their eighties, the couple in question seem to have upsized, but we did love our visit and admired the many artefacts which were on display, collected over the course of a lifetime. One of the more recent acquisitions was a suit of armour which now resides in their hall, complete with…, yes you guessed it – gauntlets!

I had promised myself I wouldn’t write any more “wedding posts” as not overly popular with my readership it seems, but a few years ago, Mr WIAA’s cousin decided to get himself married in a suit of armour! It’s the bride’s day they always say, but in this case it was definitely a 50/50 split. The upshot however was that after the wedding they didn’t have space for the suit in the marital home, so it has, along with all sorts of other ephemera, gone to reside at his parent’s abode.

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The magazine spread about the event!

But this is supposed to be a music blog so why am I wittering on about suits of armour? Well I’ve not mentioned this before, but we actually used to have a bona fide rock band in the family and the aforementioned cousin was very much part of it all. As a boy Mr WIAA spent most of his summers with his two cousins, and all they ever wanted to do when they grew up was to play music and join a band. Enter Kiss of the Gypsy.

KOTG were formed in Lancashire in the late ’80s and were described as a blues-based hard rock band. In 1991 they were signed to Atlantic Records USA and their first eponymously named album was released in 1992. Their first single, Whatever It Takes, reached No. 4 in the Rock Charts and was Single of the Week in Kerrang! magazine. Although this is not a great quality clip, it shows that they did reach the dizzy heights of filming in LA with glamourous blondes (neither of the cousins by the way is the lead singer).

Whatever It Takes by Kiss of the Gypsy:

Despite receiving critical acclaim for this first album it seems they were the victims of bad timing, as their style of rock music was coming to an end in the early ’90s and grunge was taking over. After the UK branch of their record company folded, they lost their record deal and the second album was never released. They are still however fondly remembered by those in the know, and of course when one of the brothers got married, it was always going to be quite a unique affair what with suits of armour, a drum kit for guests to autograph, vinyl place settings and a “sign of the horns” wedding cake.

As for me, at the time this kind of music was about as far from what I was familiar with as is possible, but of course not long after Mr WIAA and I became a couple, I got the chance to meet the brothers. As luck would have it I worked in an office quite near Mr WIAA’s parents’ house so I was to drop by after work to be introduced to this new branch of the family. I kind of knew about KOTG but didn’t really know much about the sub-genre of rock music called hair metal (although they wouldn’t take kindly to me calling it that probably), so when I did meet them, all I could think of was, “What a lot of hair!”.

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Kiss of the Gypsy 1991

They are of course now both bald as coots, and two of the loveliest guys you could ever meet, but back then it was a tad disconcerting to be standing in your future in-laws’ suburban sitting room, chatting with what looked like members of Guns N’ Roses. It was also really bad luck that I had come straight from work that day in an office-y type outfit which was about as frumpy as they come. I must have been having one of those days when inspiration left me, so had teamed up a tweed skirt with a old “going-out” blouse – Not up to my usual standard and although he didn’t say it at the time, I’m sure Mr WIAA had hoped I’d change before coming over. All water under the bridge now of course, and so many years ago, but definitely a first meeting I’ll not forget in a hurry.

I shall leave you with another of the tracks from their album which is more of a power ballad, and one I like a lot. Not many of us ever get to live the dream, even for a short while, but these lads from Lancashire did – Something to tell the grandchildren about, although I have a feeling they would scarcely believe them!

Take This Old Heart by Kiss of the Gypsy:

Take This Old Heart Lyrics
(Song by Tony Mitchell)

Lets fly away now on the wings of wonder
Touch me again
The cold breath of winter, hold me in your arms
Shield me again
Like the shadow of night I’ll haunt you
Behind me wherever you may go
Like a kiss on the wind I’ll find you
No matter how far you wish to go….

Take this old heart of mine
It can sustain anything from you but
I can’t face loneliness again
I’ll keep my promise
If it means I’ll never lose you again
I’m going in with my eyes open wide

You can ride on my shoulders
Through the skies like an eagle I’ll carry you
Like a rock I’ll stand and support you
I’ll be earth between you feet, I will be here to hold on to
If you ever grow tired hold on to me….