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

Going to pop my head above the parapet for a wee while as this blog is in effect my web diary, and lots to write about since last weekend. Over the last few months I have hinted that I might soon become one of the Highland’s newest intake of students. I jumped through all the hoops and back in June, much to my delight, was offered a place on my chosen course. It all kicked off this week but after only 3 days, because of my mum’s deteriorating health, I have had to withdraw. Very disappointed. On the upside, I have been able to reapply as a part-time student who can pick off one module at a time. Hopefully much more manageable.

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

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

Lucky Stars by Dean Friedman and Denise Marsa:

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

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

Hi Alyson

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

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

My best, Denise

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

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

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

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

Hopefully, my “new friend” Denise Marsa will have a successful run of her one-woman show. Strange to think she first came into my life 40 years ago as I embarked on life as a student, and here she is popping up again as I attempt to embark on life as a student for the second time. No-one, absolutely no-one in my circle from all those years ago, could have predicted just how much our lives would change because of this tool we all use daily called The Internet. A force for good (connecting us with old friends, enabling the making of new friends, giving us access to vast amounts of information and services) but also a force for bad (no need to spell it out).

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

Until next time….

Lucky Stars
(Song by Dean Friedman)

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

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

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

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

Trafalgar Square, Doris Day and Jimmy Unknown

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

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Mum and Dad, circa 1955

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

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

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

Until next time….

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

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

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

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

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

Nights Out On The Town, Van Morrison and “Moondance”

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, it comes round quickly doesn’t it, and I don’t know about you but up here in Scotland I’ve not actually seen any kind of moon for some time, as once the heatwave of 2018 broke here in Scotland, there’s been cloudy night skies ever since. Yesterday evening however I dragged Mr WIAA out on the town, as amazingly the sun had come out and it being the last Saturday night of the summer I felt the need to…, not so much celebrate, but have a last hurrah before it all starts getting a bit autumnal around here.

The town was heaving with tourists who seem to show no sign of going anywhere for a while yet – Great for the local economy, but not maybe so great for the likes of us, who had spontaneously decided to eat out without booking something in advance. After having a bit of a trawl of our favourite eateries it became apparent it would have to be a bar meal, in one of DD’s favourite haunts in fact, but by then we were so hungry we were in no position to be picky and very nice it was too. So, lots of “people watching” ensued (one of my favourite pastimes) and listening to loud music, but also a large glass of wine for me as for once I wasn’t the designated driver.

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With all the sunshine earlier on in the evening I felt sure I would see the moon on the way home, but sadly the clouds had yet again decided to form a blanket across our skies so it wasn’t to be – By this time you see, I was in the mood for a moon dance, and had that taken place I would have probably written this post last night, a tad under the influence. Although tipsy blogging has worked well for me in the past, there is always a risk that something might go horribly wrong and as we all know to our cost, once that publish button is pressed the words are out there for the world to see (or in my case the people who kindly follow this blog or casually stumble upon it) so probably best that I waited.

By now you must have guessed that this month’s moon-related song is going to be Van Morrison’s Moondance. The August full moon should appear in our skies tonight, Sunday the 26th, but looking through the windowpane right now, I’m pretty sure I won’t be seeing this one as it’s expected to rain all day. No matter, I can cheer myself up by watching a clip of Van the Man performing the song in his usual jolly, upbeat fashion – Oh no, that’s right, Van doesn’t do jolly and upbeat so instead it’ll be a bit of an interesting clip that reminds me of the journey home last night (although my one had a lot less traffic).

Moondance by Van Morrison:

This song is the one most frequently performed by Van in concert and although not released as a single until 1977, it was first recorded in 1970 for the album of the same name. He apparently wrote Moondance first of all as a jazz saxophone instrumental and then added the lyrics later. As we all know he is highly reticent to talk about his music, feeling the songs should speak for themselves (the darling of the talk shows he is not), but I’m pretty sure many of us would have Moondance somewhere in our personal Top 100.

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When it comes to Van, I feel he is like one of those friends we all have, the one who is always late or lets us down in some way but whom we continually excuse because they are just such great company when we do get to spend time with them. He may be a bit grumpy on stage, and it’s a bit of a hit or a miss whether his live show will be a triumph or a bit of a disappointment, but we all forgive him because his canon of work is just so sublime.

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But something is missing here isn’t it? I haven’t yet given this August full moon a name. It’s apparently called the Sturgeon Moon, as for the Native Americans that was when they were most likely to catch the giant sturgeon that populate the Great Lakes and Lake Champlain. I’ve known this particular moon was coming up for some time but however hard I try, I just can’t think fish, fish, fish…. No, being a Scot I just think of our First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon and here’s a great clip of Gary: Tank Commander (played by the wonderful Greg McHugh), interviewing the lady herself ahead of the last Scottish Parliament election. Probably hard to understand if you live outwith Scotland, but in my opinion, very funny.

Only two more moons to go in this series before I’ve covered all 12 months but because of the 29 and a half day cycle between full moons, and a few foibles unique to this year, there are a couple that have been missed. As it seems there is a never ending supply of songs with the word moon in their lyrics, this could be one series that just keeps on going. I can never quite get my head round the whole concept of what is beyond the moon, the solar system and the galaxy of stars we find ourselves part of – Infinity it’s called, so maybe this could become the infinite moon series. Let’s see.

Until next time….

Moondance Lyrics
(Song by Van Morrison)

Well it’s a marvellous night for a moondance
With the stars up above in your eyes
A fantabulous night to make romance
‘Neath the cover of October skies
And all the leaves on the trees are falling
To the sound of the breezes that blow
And I’m trying to please to the calling
Of your heart-strings that play soft and low
You know the night’s magic
Seems to whisper and hush
And all the soft moonlight
Seems to shine in your blush…

Can I just have one a’ more moondance with you, my love?
Can I just make some more romance with a’ you, my love?

Well I wanna make love to you tonight
I can’t wait till the morning has come
And I know now the time is just right
And straight into my arms you will run
And when you come my heart will be waiting
To make sure that you’re never alone
There and then all my dreams will come true dear
There and then I will make you my own
And every time I touch you, you just tremble inside
And I know how much you want me that, you can’t hide…

Can I just have one more moondance with you, my love?
Can I just make some more romance with you, my love?

Well it’s a marvellous night for a moondance
With the stars up above in your eyes
A fantabulous night to make romance
‘Neath the cover of October skies
And all the leaves on the trees are falling
To the sound of the breezes that blow
And I’m trying to please to the calling
Of your heart-strings that play soft and low
You know the night’s magic
Seems to whisper and hush
And all the soft moonlight
Seems to shine in your blush…

One more moondance with you
In the moonlight
On a magic night
la, la, la, la, there’s a moonlight
On a magic night
Can’t I just have one more dance
With you my love?

Reunions, Raincoats and Rock & Pop Memorabilia

A couple of Saturdays ago I got up at the crack of dawn and caught the first train south to Edinburgh. An ex-flatmate from student days had recently been back in touch – inevitably via Facebook – and she was keen to have a bit of a reunion. As one of the other girls from the flat (we’ll always be girls however old we get) was coming up to Edinburgh for the Fringe Festival, a meet-up there seemed to make sense as the rest of us all still live in Scotland. As an aside, another thing that precipitated this reunion was that one of our number has recently been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s Disease, which came as a massive shock to all of us. It’s too easy to put off these kind of reunions as it can be tricky finding dates that work for everyone, but this news certainly galvanised us into action, for obvious reasons.

There certainly was a lot going on in Edinburgh the Saturday I arrived at Waverley Station. We knew however that much of our time would be spent just catching up, as we hadn’t actually met up with the instigator of this reunion for 37 years. She’d left a year earlier than the rest of us to coincide with her student boyfriend’s departure, as he was a year older. They got married within 12 months, and wait for it, are still together! I suppose I shouldn’t be so shocked, but it just didn’t work out that way for the rest of us, so full of admiration for anyone who has gone the distance so to speak.

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After the mid-morning coffee and the boozy lunch, it had been suggested we head along to the National Museum, as the much-publicised exhibition entitled Rip It Up, The Story of Scottish Pop was currently running. It certainly did chronicle the music we Scots have been responsible for inflicting on an unsuspecting nation (world?) over the last 60 years or so, taking us right back to Lonnie Donegan and ending up with the Chvrches by way of Lulu, The Rollers, Deacon Blue, the Soup Dragons and Franz Ferdinand to name but a few.

Only the previous week however I had finally caught up with all three episodes of the BBC 2 documentary series also called Rip It Up (link here), so I was already familiar with “the story” and had seen most of the audio-visual material used as part of the exhibition. Also, there was a strict no taking pictures policy in operation so that kind of ruined my chances of creating a blog post out of my visit (but I’m still going to try). What was great however was to see all that rock and pop memorabilia, donated both by fans and the pop sensations themselves, which had been pulled together for the exhibition.

My last blog post before this visit was as a result of having been set the challenge of writing about James Yorkston (link here) which is when I found out about Fence Records, set up by Kenny Anderson (aka King Creosote). One of the items on display was the actual fence used as inspiration for the artwork for Kenny’s album, still boldly displaying the words KC RULES OK.

There were of course an awful lot of guitars, records and sheet music filling up the glass cases but for me it was the clothes I enjoyed looking at most. Considering I was meandering around these displays with people I had shared a flat with in 1980/81, a few memories invariably came to mind. Both myself and the instigator of the reunion had been lucky enough to receive little black and white portable tellies from Santa that academic year, so from January 1981 onward we took turns in hosting the viewing of TOTP on Thursdays at 7.30pm. That was of course the era of New Romanticism and the charts were littered with acts who were very prone to dressing up in elaborate frills and falderals.

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A band who will always be remembered for producing a highly pretentious, airy fairy video at that time was Ultravox, headed up by Scottish singer Midge Ure. The song it accompanied was of course Vienna, which became infamous for losing out on the UK Singles Chart’s top spot (for weeks on end) to an Australian called Joe Dolce with his novelty song Shaddap You Face. Along with many other iconic outfits in the exhibition, there was the very raincoat Midge wore for the video.

Vienna by Ultravox:

Other panels of interest contained a display of some of the many albums made by Scottish acts over the years – I can only identify a few of the less obvious ones, but I’m sure a fair few of the blogging buddies could identify many more. Some interesting snippets of info up there too – Did you know that in 1975, the Average White Band was the first Scottish band to get to No. 1 in both the US Singles and Album Charts simultaneously? No, me neither, but I do now courtesy of the exhibition.

Last stop was of course the gift shop, and although I didn’t actually buy this Bay City Rollers badge (because I already have one!), it was worthy of a picture. Plenty of nice new T-shirts on offer as well for those of us whose originals have perhaps seen better days (or perhaps that’s the point).

I will leave you with a link to the playlists of songs inspired by the exhibition – From Scottish pop classics to the tracks that mean the most to the people involved in creating the exhibition. Also, one last image, this time of the iconic outfit worn by Annie Lennox during her Eurythmics partnership with Dave Stewart. Considering our little reunion was the result of having once-upon-a-time shared a student flat in Aberdeen, where Annie was born and brought up, it would be fitting to include something by her. I used to find it quite amusing that during my decade of living in Aberdeen, just about every female I encountered had either been to school with her or knew her – Looking back, if you were 5 years older or 5 years younger you probably did attend school at the same time, but highly unlikely you will still be in touch. Just sayin’.

Neil Hanna Photography www.neilhannaphotography.co.uk 07702 246823

Here Comes The Rain Again by the Eurythmics:

So, “What’s It All About?” – First and foremost, if the chance comes up to reconnect with old friends, don’t keep putting it off as to my cost I have found that some of my old friendship groups are now reduced in number. Not something you really want to think about, but now that people are starting to retire, it should mean get-togethers are logistically a bit easier to organise, but it also means we are all getting older. Enough said.

As for the Rip It Up exhibition, it is on until November, and well worth a visit if you have any interest at all in the history of Scottish Pop. If like me you have already watched the Rip It Up documentary, there is a big overlap, but still lots of memorabilia to bring on a dose of nostalgia. We are used to our museum artefacts from ancient cultures presented to us in the form of pottery, jewellery and crafts. In the future, the artefacts attributed to our time on the planet will be vinyl, trousers with tartan down the sides and button badges. What will they make of us as a culture I wonder, in the year 3000AD?

Until next time…. , Shang-a-Lang!

Vienna Lyrics
(Song by Warren Cann/Chris Cross/Billy Currie/Midge Ure)

Walked in the cold air
Freezing breath on a window pane
Lying and waiting
A man in the dark in a picture frame
So mystic and soulful
A voice reaching out in a piercing cry
It stays with you until

The feeling has gone only you and I
It means nothing to me
This means nothing to me
Oh, Vienna

The music is weaving
Haunting notes, pizzicato strings
The rhythm is calling
Alone in the night as the daylight brings
A cool empty silence
The warmth of your hand and a cold grey sky
It fades to the distance

The image has gone only you and I
It means nothing to me
This means nothing to me
Oh, Vienna

This means nothing to me
This means nothing to me
Oh, Vienna

Sleepless Nights, “Please Mr. Postman” and Songs About Aretha

Tuesday, 21st August, 9.30am

Well, as I sit down to start blogging for the first time in a couple of weeks, I feel a little nauseous – No, not at the thought of blogging, but because half and hour ago I had to leap out of bed and get ready to face the day at breakneck speed. The reason for this haste? – I didn’t want to embarrass myself in front of the postman!

This sounds ridiculous I know, but since giving up work last year I’ve been able to have a more laissez-faire attitude to becoming suited and booted by 8am every morning. Problem is, once you log on for the day, the hours and minutes can whizz by and I sometimes find myself still in pyjamas when the doorbell rings, knowing full well it will be our smiling postman, with some parcel or other I have to sign for. I probably imagine it, but he makes me feel like a tardy teen who has been festering under the duvet, as opposed to a busy bee who has already put on a washing, tidied the kitchen, paid a few bills and checked the various email accounts. To compensate I end up gibbering, telling him about everything that is going on in my life, but a nice little exchange all the same. My friend the postman is the only person other than my family (and the blogging fraternity who very kindly take the time to read my posts) who knows of the journey I have been on over the last year, since deciding the world of the paperless office was not for me.

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As this blog always features a song or two, this would seem like the perfect time to squeeze in something I have long wanted to include, Please Mr. Postman. Now this is a song I am very familiar with as one of my favourite duos, the Carpenters, got to No. 2 in the UK Singles Chart in 1975 with their version. It started out however as the debut single for the Marvelettes and in late 1961 became the first Motown song to reach the No. 1 spot on the Billboard Hot 100. The Beatles started performing it as part of their live set at the Cavern Club in 1962 and also included it on one of their first albums. Here is a great clip from those days, the boys dressed in their very smart suits complete with snake hips and mop top haircuts. They would have had no idea back then of what was yet to come.

Last time the Beatles cropped up around these parts was when I did a compare and contrast (link here) between their version of Ticket to Ride and the slower paced one, yet again, by the Carpenters. Seems like a good time to offer up both versions of Mr Postman then (although I won’t inflict the Carpenter’s official Disney-themed video clip on you). Which one do you prefer, or would it be the original by the Marvelettes that floats your boat?

Please Mr. Postman by the Carpenters:

But I digress and have yet to explain my morning nausea caused by leaping out of bed at such speed. I woke up last night at 4.30am, which is fairly normal for me, but I usually get back to sleep at some point and get a few extra hours in before the 7 o’clock alarm goes off. Last night however I didn’t, as I had committed the cardinal sin of surfing the net on my phone before going to sleep as I still hadn’t worked out the angle I was going to take when I eventually get round to writing my Aretha Franklin tribute. Not so long ago, after “experiencing” the song I Say A Little Prayer at great volume on the car radio, I wrote another compare and contrast post (link here). The Aretha version of course won hands down, but other than that I’m finding it difficult to find a personal connection to her music. I can see how she came along at just the right time, when America was going through a period of massive change, but having been born about 20 years later in rural Scotland, other than appreciating that great voice and the passion with which she sang, nothing much else for me to write about.

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Aretha Franklin 1942- 2018

So, the last thing I did last night before switching off my phone was to visit some of the other blogs in my little circle to remind myself what they had written about Aretha. Last week, even before it was announced she had passed away, CC over at Charity Chic Music had posted something very fitting and then Rol dedicated the whole weekend on his My Top Ten blog to the lady and her music. Both of these dedicated daily bloggers chose to include the song Aretha by Rumer and that was the cause of last night’s sleeplessness – After listening to it twice before turning the lights out, it was the first thing to enter my head when I woke up at 4.30am and subsequently formed an earworm for the rest of the night however hard I tried to get back to sleep. As earworms go it’s a very pleasing one, and quite a soporific one you would have thought, Rumer having a voice not that dissimilar to the late great Karen Carpenter. But no, last night it just didn’t work out that way at all.

Aretha by Rumer:

Typically though, once Mr WIAA said goodbye and headed off to work, I slipped into a deep, deep earworm-free sleep only waking up at five past nine, thus the mad panic to get up and dressed before the postman’s inevitable ring of the doorbell. I made it, just, and so avoided that feeling of guilt at not being up and at it yet. Despite often talking gibberish of a morning, I decided that to recount the tale of the “Rumer earworm” was taking casual conversation a tad too far, so on this occasion resisted – Lucky chap!

As for the tribute song, I might not have had a personal connection to Aretha and her music, but the narrator in this song certainly does – All about a girl who goes to school listening to Aretha Franklin on her headphones. Like the fate of so many others, she’s having trouble there, and as her mother seems to be suffering from depression, she doesn’t have anyone to turn to. Fortunately Aretha comes to life in her imagination, encouraging her to stand up for herself and strike out on her own. The songwriter was asked why she chose Aretha Franklin: “She’s the Queen of Soul. If you’re going to write about somebody who embodies the spirit of music itself you go to the top of the list – and there she is. Her voice is probably the closest you get to God. There’s an incredible amount of passion and heartbreak in her voice as she’s lost a lot of family members. She’s just got something in her voice that puts her at the top of the tree and there’s no negotiation.” And on that note I think I’ve just written my tribute post.

Until next time, RIP Aretha Franklin.

Aretha Lyrics
(Song by Steve Brown/Sarah Joyce)

I got Aretha in the morning
High on my headphones and walking to school
I got the blues in springtime ’cause I know that I’ll never have the right shoes

Mamma she’d notice but she’s always crying
I got no one to confide in, Aretha nobody but you
Momma she’d notice but she’s always fighting
Something in her mind and it sounds like breaking glass

I tell Aretha in the morning
High on my headphones and walking to school
I got the blues in springtime ’cause I know that I’ll never have the right shoes

You got the words, baby you got the words
You got the words, baby you got the words

“Oh Aretha
Aretha, I don’t want to go to school
‘Cause they just don’t understand me and I think the place is cruel”

“Child singer, raise your voice
Stand up on your own, go out there and strike out”

I tell Aretha in the morning
High on my headphones and walking to school
I got the blues in springtime ’cause I know that I’ll never have the right shoes
But I got the words

Long Hot Summers, Advertising and The Music of 1976

The year 1976 is certainly being bandied about a lot at the moment, because until this current heatwave hit us, there had been no year with a long hot summer that could compete with it. For those of us who remember it first hand however, it was a very different time. It was also the year I turned 16, and so much has changed for the average teenager since then….

I didn’t have to worry about applying high factor sunscreen…, because it didn’t exist yet. I didn’t have to worry about global warming…, because the ice caps were still fully intact and hadn’t begun to seep into the oceans yet. I didn’t have to worry about whether my hair extensions and lip fillers would cope with the heat…, because we simply had short blow-dried hair, and if we were really lucky, little pots of lip gloss. I didn’t have to worry about whether my boyfriend was “talking” to other girls via social media…, because the only social medium we had was the local youth club, so it would have been pretty obvious. Yes, simpler times indeed.

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A Jackie magazine cover from 1976

Back in my first year of blogging I wrote a post about the music of 1976, and as no-one saw it back then (except me), time for another airing I feel. A bit of lazy blogging I know, but as I’m still a bit preoccupied with home improvements, time ran out for me this week. Such is life but hopefully back to business as usual very soon. I give you:

Long Hot Summers, Advertising and The Music of 1976, Take 2
First published April 2016

Apparently a study has been carried out, and the findings are that any company wishing to target a particular demographic with their advertising, should use music from the time that group turned 16 – In my case that would be 1976. I can see how this would work. If like me you were lucky, and had a stable family background, your material needs were all catered for. You also had a tight regime to your day, with school and probably a Saturday job. You saw your best friends every single day because you went to school with them, and you had a reasonable level of independence as helicopter parenting wouldn’t start for a few decades yet. Top that off with a few short romances that didn’t cause too much distress when they were over, no social media to mess with your head and life was sweet.

We humans are essentially simple beings but as the years go by we accumulate baggage, make life complicated for ourselves and lose the people we love – These giant corporations know that, and home in on our weakness for a pop song that reminds us of simpler times. A really expensive car and some life assurance anyone? Yes by golly, I’ll have both.

1976 was indeed a memorable year and one which I have really fond memories of. It was of course the year of the “long hot summer” where a new government department had to be created – The Ministry for Drought (which then became the Ministry for Floods when summer turned into autumn).

The UK won the Eurovision Song Contest that year with Brotherhood of Man’s Save Your Kisses For Me. Girl/boy bands like BofM were very popular in 1976 and Abba really solidified their position as an international supergroup with hits like Mama Mia, FernandoDancing Queen and Money Money Money. Other home grown acts like Guys and Dolls even had a modicum of success.

Despite the fact that punk emerged that year, with Malcolm MacLaren’s Sex Pistols out to shock, they or their movement weren’t really making much of an impact on the UK Singles Chart yet – That was pretty much filled with the usual suspects. We had Disco (Tina Charles, Donna Summer), Soft Rock (Chicago, Dr Hook), Country (JJ Barrie, Pussycat and Billie Jo Spears), Novelty songs (The Wurzels), Rock (Queen with their amazing Bohemian Rhapsody), Pop classics (Elton John & Kiki Dee), Soul (The Stylistics, Barry White) and Rock ‘n’ Roll Revival acts (Showaddywaddy).

As for me, I was in my 4th year of secondary school which was the last year everyone my age would have to legally attend. In the May of that year we sat our first important exams, “O” Grades as they were called then (short for Ordinary although they didn’t feel very ordinary when you were having to revise for them). When you have big exams coming up, you do spend a lot of time in your bedroom studying, but of course you also need a bit of down time and the radio is probably switched on a fair bit more often than should be. I think I’m still familiar with just about every song that hit the charts in the spring of 1976 and could still tell you which position they reached. After the exams finished, a time of merriment commenced (as per the film Grease) and the two songs I remember clearly from that time are You To Me Are Everything by Liverpool band The Real Thing and Young Hearts Run Free by Candi Staton – If any company used either of those songs in an advert, I would be putty in their hands.

As it turned out the exams of 1976 went very well but later on that year many of our classmates left school for good as there were plenty of jobs waiting for 16-year-olds in those days. Those of us who went back to school enjoyed the big hit of the autumn, Chicago’s If You Leave Me Now, and then over Christmas we were treated to Johnny Mathis with his version of When A Child Is Born (one for the mums and dads).

As the academic year went by and we all started to turn 17, the serious business of Higher Grade exams loomed which determined whether or not you would go to University. Like for our old classmates who had already entered the adult world of work, life had got just that little bit more serious and not as carefree as for our 16-year-old selves. The advertisers have therefore got it right I reckon – It’s not the same for everyone, but if you have to pick music from a year that will really boost sales, make it the year your target group turned 16. Works for me and my new really expensive car, and life assurance policy!

I shall leave you with Candi Staton and her June 1976 hit Young Hearts Run Free but it seems bizarre now that this was the track of choice for our end-of-term merriment. As I’ve said before however, I really don’t think we took too much heed of the lyrics at that age – I’d not had any big romances yet and all the mums and dads I knew seemed to be quite happy (or perhaps I was too young and naïve to think otherwise). I loved Candi’s voice though, the song seemed to be aimed at my generation and it was perfect for the school disco.

Young Hearts Run Free by Candi Staton:

Something has only come to light in the last few years however – Whenever she was mentioned on the radio or on TOTP, she was always called Candi “Staton” (made to sound like Staten Island) but it turns out it should have been pronounced “State-en”. Poor lady had her name mispronounced in the UK for over 40 years, but hopefully now put right. Tony Blackburn in the clip was obviously one of the main culprits, but of course he was also the DJ who badly mispronounced “Duran Duran” during a chart rundown in the ’80s, so not surprising really. As it turns out, I only discovered after his death that I had always mispronounced “Bowie” (as in David), so not always easy to get it right. And as for “Bono” – He always ends up sounding like a well-known dog food!

Until next time…

Young Hearts Run Free Lyrics
(Song by David Crawford)

What’s the sense in sharing this one and only life
Ending up just another lost and lonely wife
You count up the years and they will be filled with tears

Love only breaks up to start over again

You’ll get the babies but you won’t have your man
While he is busy loving every woman that he can  

Say I’m gonna leave a hundred times a day

It’s easier said than done
When you just can’t break away

Young hearts, run free
They’ll never be hung up, hung up like my man and me 
Young hearts, to yourself be true
Don’t be no fool when
Love really don’t love you 

It’s high time now just one crack at life
Who wants to live it in trouble and strife
My mind must be free to learn all I can about me

I’m gonna love me for the rest of my days

Encourage the babies every time they say
Self preservation is what’s really going on today

Say I’m gonna turn loose hundred times a day
How can I turn loose
When I just can’t break away

The Kingdom of Fife, James Yorkston and “Woozy With Cider”

A few weeks ago, right at the end of my Seven in Seven challenge, I threw down the gauntlet and asked followers to come up with ideas for future posts. Whenever I’ve done this in the past it’s been quite easy to come up with something reasonably entertaining, as a fairly mainstream song has been suggested. This time…., not quite so easy. This third reply post was always going to be tricky, as I hadn’t actually heard of the artist or song when it was first suggested by Mr Medd, whose Are We There Yet? blog is one I visit often. My proviso for this challenge was that I had to have heard of the artist, so by rights I could have wriggled out of it, but that would be a bit lame so here goes:

Woozy With Cider by James Yorkston:

Woozy With Cider was recorded by singer/songwriter James Yorkston in 2007. It’s a spoken word kind of affair and apparently falls into the electronic/folk rock camp. As I said above, both James and his “song” were new to me, so before hitting the keyboard I was going to have to do a bit of serious listening. Lots of imagery in this song but what comes across loud and clear is that Mr Yorkston is neither a fan of big cities nor city folk and their sometimes patronising attitude towards those of a more countrified nature. He kind of yearns to be back in the place he feels most comfortable, “a village the size of a teacup”. There has been a wedding though (oh no, another wedding post – I can’t get away from them), which is the reason for the trip to the big smoke, but it is now the day after where there is time for reflection, relaxation and just enough cider to cause a bit of “wooziness”.

I really liked this spoken word song right from the off, and I think I worked out why pretty early on. Once I’d done a bit of research into James Yorkston, I discovered he came from the Kingdom of Fife in Scotland, which is a peninsula situated between the Firth of Tay and Firth of Forth (and home to the ancient Pictish kings). He became part of something called the Fence Collective set up by Kenny Anderson (aka King Creosote) where a group of Fife-based musicians got together and released music on their own record label with little more than a CD burner and the use of a local bar’s unused “back room”.

Looking at a map of Fife it looks remarkably like the Black Isle peninsula where I reside. From experience, these are beautiful places to live – Great scenery (water on three sides), picturesque villages, clean air and not too many people or cars. Like James, I would find life in a big city nowadays nigh impossible and find the best mix for me is kind of what is implied in the first line of the lyrics, “I hear you softly sleep amongst the cars and saluting songbirds”. It is now evening and the sound of the traffic has died down so the birds can be heard in equal measure. That’s my ideal – To be near enough civilisation to hear the sound of cars in the distance, but also to be able to hear the sound of birds (as I type I am listening to a hooting owl). It’s not for me the cacophony of city life with only the odd squawking seagull – I know where I’m supposed to “be” and like James Yorkston, I very fortuitously found it when I was relatively young, in my late twenties.

fife

black isle

So, I only found out about James Yorkston when the suggestion for this post came in but since then I have been bombarded by references to Fife and Fence Records. There is a name for this phenomenon (more than just coincidence) which currently eludes me, but we all experience it from time to time – In our house, whenever it happens it’s always accompanied by a quick burst of the Twilight Zone music.

First of all, as per my previous post, we ended up having a spontaneous wee break last week in the city of Dundee, which is just on the other side of the Tay Bridge from Fife. It was a no brainer therefore that we would head across for a visit. By this time I knew all about the Fence Collective based in the East Neuk of Fife, so what better place to visit in order to get “woozy with cider”?

Secondly, a couple of night’s ago I caught the final episode of the BBC2 documentary series Rip It Up which was ostensibly about how Scots have had to overcome obstacles, and blaze a trail, in order to make the music they love. This episode featured those independent labels such as Fence Records who decided to follow a different path and not head to London, but to remain in Scotland and be inspired by their surroundings – They would make music primarily for the love of it and not just to make lots of money. We even had a lengthy interview with Mr Yorkston (whom I warmed to greatly) and I’ll no doubt look out for him now that I know the background to his, and the Collective’s, aims.

Before I go, here is something I found when trying to find out a bit more about the man. It was from an interview he gave after having written his second book (yes it seems he’s multi-talented, also being an author – not jealous honest, grrr…).

Interviewer: James, what’s your guiltiest music pleasure?

James: I think I’ve grown out of that stuff now. When I was a kid, I was very much involved in genre, so I’d only like punk rock or dub reggae, say. Fortunately, as I’ve aged, I’ve thrown off such daft shackles and I no longer feel guilty about anything I like. I feel guiltier disliking things, especially if it’s music by people who I like as people. Guilty Music Displeasure, perhaps.

A great place to end, as since starting this blog I have had massive crises of confidence after writing about songs from my collection that others may well class as “a guilty pleasure”. I know everyone is usually very kind about it, but when James Yorkston also comes out and admits to now feeling more guilty about disliking music, I think I’m ok.

Until next time…

Woozy with Cider Lyrics
(Song by James Yorkston)

I watch the park quieten from the hotel window, I hear you softly sleep amongst the cars and saluting songbirds,
For a city whose size had scared me for years right now it’s a feeble evening row, not un-similar to a beach evening ending.
On the table to my left there’s a magazine with a picture of dead money, making a mockery of what I’d call art
But what would I know about the scene in the city that has swallowed up friends lovers and family,
Just give me a village the size of a teacup

You’re happier here spread out with your eyes closed,
I feel I should order a drink in celebration to welcome the summer, whose first day is ending
Should you wake you’d catch me of course and ask me the wisdom of drinking once more
I cast my mind back to yesterdays wedding where we got drunk and fell over
I did my best to be polite to a family I’d never met, but on numerous occasions, I guess, I could have tried harder
Of course by the end of the night I was a best friend with everyone and every ones wife but right now I couldn’t remember their names no matter how hard I try

As the sun glares through the hotel window I wonder of our future and where it will lead to,
I wonder if you’ll be laying there 10 years 20 years 30 years down the line
I’ll still be staring out at the street confused about love and life,
It’ll be interesting to see if anyone every bought those songs of mine if anyone heard those words that I never got quite right,
I think I can be honest in presuming the world is not exactly going to be leaping out of its bed to make me rich using my songs in adverts selling oranges or lemons

Who knows I may end up owning the whole street, or more likely sleeping under tree in the park opposite
Would the runners keep me awake or would I keep them asleep
I’d hope I have the sense to move back home, as lovely as today is, I‘d imagine the winter would be rather cold

I’d been told for years that the devil had the best tunes and that the devil lived down here whereas us country folk weren’t worth the salt from the road
Ex pat magazine editors who choose to loose their temper on the easily persuaded northern town dwellers
And sure enough 99 percent of the people I meet have scant regard for entertaining me, it seems I’m too old too slow too quiet and just wrong
And I’m glad. In their cocaine fuelled electronic cabarets I’ll be the man at the bar drinking overpriced whiskey from a bar maid who’s too good to catch my eye
She only works here two nights a week, the rest of the time she’s a singer in a rock and roll band
I bet she’d change her tune if I told her my album had peaked at number 172 and that I also had friends who worked in bars and that didn’t define who they are
Though it certainly helps their capacity to drink.

But I’ve strayed off the subject
Now I’ll be leaning over and waking you up, and you’ll squint at me through the cracks between your eyelids, woozy with cider
As if you’re asking exactly where we are and exactly what I wanted.
And I’ll be happy because we won’t be taking anything too seriously.