Tin Pan Alley, Leon Redbone and “Shine On Harvest Moon”

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

Well, I thought I was done with “moon posts” as I had kind of run out of familiar moon-related songs, but we had a beautiful Harvest Moon in our skies this last weekend and it made me want to revisit this series. I wrote about the Harvest Moon last year and shared the Neil Young song of the same name (link here) but I have discovered another relevant song, which I think, deserves to be featured.

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First of all a bit of trivia – The Harvest Moon can occur in either September or October, as it’s the name given to the full moon that lands closest to the autumnal equinox. This year we shall reach the equinox, that pivot point in the year after which we can expect more hours of darkness than light in our days, on Monday the 23rd Sept. If it hadn’t landed that way, the full moon would have been called the Corn Moon. A second foible of this month’s full moon was that it was at apogee, the most distant point in its elliptical orbit around Earth, so was called a “mini moon”.  Apparently it should have seemed a bit dimmer than usual, but when I looked out the back door on Saturday night it seemed anything but. Here is my own picture taken quickly on my phone, so not a brilliant image, but if you were lucky enough to see it in person you will probably agree it was a bobby-dazzler!

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The Harvest Moon

But back to the song, after doing a bit of googling and YouTubing (another new verb), I found this great clip where Leon Redbone, who sadly died earlier on this year, performs Shine On Harvest Moon. Mr Redbone was a new find for me, but I do love his quirky delivery and very unique style. He specialised in jazz, blues and Tin Pan Alley classics such as this one, and his signature style was the panama hat, dark glasses and black tie. Of Armenian origin, he was born in Cyprus but then moved with his family first to London and then Canada where he began performing in public at Toronto nightclubs and folk festivals. After a mention from Bob Dylan in an early ’70s interview, he was featured in Rolling Stone magazine, a full year before he had a recording contract. He died in May this year at the very young (from where I’m sitting) sounding age of 69.

Shine On Harvest Moon by Leon Redbone:

The song Shine On Harvest Moon was written way back in the early 1900s and credited to the married vaudeville team of Nora Hayes and Jack Norworth. It was one of a series of moon-related Tin Pan Alley songs from the era and debuted in the Ziegfeld Follies of 1908 to great acclaim, later becoming a popular standard.

It occurred to me that although I have often heard the term Tin Pan Alley used, I have never really taken the time to investigate whether it is/was an actual place. It seems it was, although not called that in reality, but simply the section of West 28th Street in Manhattan, between Fifth and Sixth Avenues, where a number of music publishers set up shop from 1885 onward. Once the phonograph, radio, and motion pictures took over from sheet music as the driving force behind American popular music, Tin Pan Alley lost out in importance, and with the rise of rock & roll, the Brill Building became the new home for music industry offices and studios. Some of the most popular American songs of the late ’50s/early ’60s were written in the Brill Building and it is considered to have been the centre of the American music industry at that time.

So, “What’s It All About?” – Didn’t think I’d return with another “moon-post” but still some new things to discover about our only satellite and still a Corn Moon to write about at some point as that’s the only one to date that has been omitted entirely – All down to the timing of the Autumnal Equinox it seems. With a lunar cycle that is shorter than the average calendar month though, I’ll get there in the end.

As for Leon Redbone, what a fine new discovery to have made, but such a shame it had to be just after his death.

RIP Leon.

Shine On Harvest Moon Lyrics
(Song by Nora Bayes/Jack Norworth)

The night was mighty dark so you could hardly see, cause the moon refused to shine
There’s a couple sittin ‘neath the willow tree, for love, they pine
Little maid was kinda ‘fraid of darkness, so she said I think I’ll go
Boy began to sigh, looked up in the sky and told the moon his little tale of woe, oh

Shine on, shine on harvest moon up in the sky
I ain’t had no lovin’ since January, February, June, or July
Snow time ain’t no time to sit outdoors and spoon
Shine on, shine on harvest moon for me ‘n’ my gal

Shine on harvest moon way up there in the sky
I ain’t had no lovin’ since January, February, June, AND July? Now, looka
Snow Time ain’t time no time to stay outdoors and spoon
So shine on Harvest moon

The night was mighty dark so you could hardly see, cause the moon refused to shine
There’s a couple sittin ‘neath the willow tree, for love, they pine
Little maid was kinda ‘fraid of darkness, so she said I think I’ll go
Boy began to sigh, looked up in the sky and told the moon his little tale of woe, oh

Shine on, shine on harvest moon(shine on, shine on) Up in the sky?
I ain’t had no lovin’ since January, February, June, or July
Snow Time ain’t no time to stay outdoors and spoon
So shine on, shine on harvest moon for me ‘n’ my gal, for me ‘n my gal

Earworm of the Week #3 – Elvis, Doc Pomus and “She’s Not You”

Not sure how this has come about, but for over a week now the slow build-up to She’s Not You by Elvis Presley has been spinning around in my head. He starts way down in his boots with the “her hair is soft” part, and then gradually climbs up the scale by the end of the first verse. I’ve probably described that badly, and yet again I don’t think this part of the song is called “the hook”, but it’s the part that’s formed an earworm that’s for sure.

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I’ve written about Elvis often around here as the very first album bought with my own money (aged 9) was indeed an Elvis one, and although they are oft derided, I did love watching his antics in all those happy-go-lucky movies made during the 1960s, when his manager “Colonel” (a made-up title much like General Tom Thumb) Tom Parker took him off the road, and he became permanently holed up in Hollywood. Had Elvis been a stronger character this would probably never have happened, but he was a polite southern boy who had been brought up to respect his elders, so he did as he was told and pretty much killed his credibility for much of the decade. Fortunately, the triumph that was the ’68 Comeback Special got him out performing in front of live audiences again, and his career entered it’s third stage – The Las Vegas residencies. Again, the Colonel took care of business and as we all now know, this turn of events didn’t end well for our boy, but watching him in this clip he certainly was a fine looking young man.

She’s Not You by Elvis Presley:

As for the song, there’s not a lot I can say about it other than it was one of many Elvis hits to reach the top of the UK Singles Chart, in 1962 in this case. It was however written by Doc Pomus (aka Jerome Solon Felder) in collaboration with Leiber and Stoller who between them were responsible for many of the songs we of a certain age grew up with. Looking at their respective songwriting credits, as well as writing many, many songs for Elvis, they also wrote for The Coasters, Bobby Darin, Dion and the Belmonts, The Drifters, Perry Como and Andy Williams (amongst others).

There is so much that could be written about Elvis but most of it is already well documented (even in this blog), so I won’t bore you, but here is something new I’ve discovered – The name Presley is a common one here in the North of Scotland and Elvis’ family do have roots in Aberdeenshire. The name in our neck of the woods is always pronounced Prez-ley, but apparently the correct pronunciation of Elvis’ name is Press-ley. I think I’ve been getting it wrong my whole life. Also, we know his middle name was Aaron but it turns out he was given the name Elvis Aron at birth to tie in with his stillborn twin brother’s name Jesse Garon. Down the line it was decided to change it to the more biblical Aaron. As I often say around here, every day’s a schoolday.

It occurred to me that the subject matter of this song is not an unusual one. How many times have we had our hearts broken because the boy we really want to dance with, picks another girl? I remember crying all the way home from a local dance when I was a teenager because when it came to the slow dance at the end of the night, the object of my affection danced with someone else and I had to dance with the friend. To quote Elvis, or more specifically Doc Pomus, “he’s not you”. I even wrote a poem about it.

A Saturday Night Tragedy at Age 16

Last dance of the night
Please let him choose me

The band starts to play…
Next few seconds are key

Play it cool, not needy
Eyes to the left, don’t plea

He breaks from his gang
Enters the melee

But tragedy strikes
He approaches Marie!

She knows how I feel
So how can this be

Tears prick my eyes
From the dance floor I flee

And of course this reminds me of another 1962 Elvis song by Doc Pomus, (Marie’s The Name) His Latest Flame which covered just the same dilemma – How we were ever expected to find “the one” when we all seemed to be dancing with the WRONG people is a mystery, but who knows, maybe at the end of the day, Mr Wrong turns out to be Mr Right.

Until next time….

She’s Not You Lyrics
(Song by Doc Pomus/Jerry Leiber/Mike Stoller)

Her hair is soft and her eyes are oh so blue
She’s all the things a girl should be,
but she’s not you.

She knows just how to make me laugh when I feel blue
She’s ev’rything a man could want,
but she’s not you.

And when we’re dancing
It almost feels the same
I’ve got to stop myself from
Whisp’ring your name

She even kisses me like you used to do.
And it’s just breaking my heart
’cause she’s not you.

Communing With Nature, Bill Withers and “Lovely Day”

Well, I find myself lost for words, which is not the ideal situation for a blogger to be in. Looking up the phrase “lost for words” in the dictionary of idioms, I find it defined as such:

Unable to speak or articulate a coherent thought, typically because one is in shock.

I’m pretty sure my fellow bloggers here in the UK will know how this mental state has come about and the way things are going it might be some time before anything resembling normality returns. Speaking of normality, I have almost forgotten what that feels like, as for the last few years our successive governments have been in a state of disarray and the chaos has now ramped up to a whole new level. Yes, David Cameron was looking for a quick fix to a particulary nasty itch, and his solution hasn’t done the country any favours. Where is he now, as Danny Dyer asked on Saturday night telly. About to publish his memoirs apparently – It beggars belief.

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The Prorogation Ceremony – A new one on me

Anyway, it’s been too long since I last posted anything, so all the ideas I’ve been mulling over have expired. I still have the long list of “posts pending” to tackle, but they all require a fair bit of research, so for another day. To kick start the blogging juices, it’ll have to be another picture post. It’s been a bit of a wet summer with us but this morning was lovely, both sunny and still, so for the first time this year I had my breakfast outside.

What with next door’s apple tree hovering over me, the second flowering of the patio rose (I’m so suburban, I know) and the pots of begonias (written about here before) giving us their final flush of flowers, I could almost forget about all that is going on in the news. It was last week that I first cottoned on to the calming influence of nature, as I ended up having two early morning forest walks in a row. Unlike this morning those days were not quite so lovely, but rather drizzly and a bit windy – Something bracing though about being out there facing the elements and definitely good for the old mental health.

My final pictures come from our trip down to The Cairngorms this last weekend. Mr WIAA had to return his repaired windsurfing board to the place where it usually resides, and by a stroke of luck, Saturday also turned out to be a “lovely day”. Not sure what came over me but on the way home I developed a craving for some good old fashioned fish ‘n’ chips. Last time I partook of that national delicacy it didn’t end well, but lo and behold, once we hit Aviemore we discovered that the Happy Haggis offered High Tea, complete with mushy peas, bread ‘n’ butter, mugs of tea and ice-cream for afters. We’ve driven past that shop for years never realising it also had a great wee traditional fish ‘n’ chip restaurant. It might be some time before we go again, as I’ve now had my quota of carbs for the year I think, but would thoroughly recommend.

But as I often say around here, this is supposed to be a music blog, so which song should I feature this time. The term “lovely day” has cropped up a fair few times in this post, so what better song to include than Lovely Day by Bill Withers. The most notable aspect of this song is that Bill sustains that note, towards the end, for a full 18 seconds, one of the longest ever recorded in a song. Lovely Day was first released as a single in late 1977, reaching No. 7 in the UK Singles Chart in January 1978 but has since been re-released at least twice and appeared in several television commercials.

As for Bill Withers, he is also responsible for one of my all-time favourite songs Ain’t No Sunshine which won him a Grammy in 1971. It was used for that great scene in the romantic comedy Notting Hill where lovesick Hugh Grant encounters all four seasons in the three minutes it takes Bill to sing the song.

Lovely Day by Bill Withers:

So, “What’s It All About?” – Last time I wrote about the band Madness, and how the term Night Boat has passed into cockney rhyming slang as a term for a giro, or unemployment benefit cheque. To use another bit of rhyming slang, It’s All Gone Pete Tong, and at the moment I can’t see the situation improving any time soon.

I remember suffering badly at the time of the 2008 financial crisis, as at one point it did seem as if the big four banks would go under and I anticipated all sorts of fallout. Some of the people I worked with were not in the slightest bit worried however, as they apparently “used another bank”, not realising the far-reaching effects of such an event. Similarly, there are plenty of people going about their daily business at the moment, not interested at all in what is going on in the Westminster bubble, as it “doesn’t affect them”.

As happened in 2008, nothing cataclysmic will probably occur on the 31st of October, and this cliff edge they talk about might turn out to be a gentle slope – At the moment we just don’t know, and there lies the problem. I wish I didn’t absorb all the negativity around at the moment but it’s pretty hard to avoid. What I am realising however is that a bit of communing with nature works wonders, so if you find yourself waking up to a “lovely day”, and you get the chance, I thoroughly recommend getting out and enjoying it. Works for me.

Until next time….

Lovely Day Lyrics
(Song by Bill Withers/Skip Scarborough)

When I wake up in the morning, love
And the sunlight hurts my eyes
And something without warning, love
Bears heavy on my mind

Then I look at you
And the world’s alright with me
Just one look at you
And I know it’s gonna be
A lovely day
… lovely day, lovely day, lovely day …

When the day that lies ahead of me
Seems impossible to face
When someone else instead of me
Always seems to know the way

Then I look at you
And the world’s alright with me
Just one look at you
And I know it’s gonna be
A lovely day…..

When the day that lies ahead of me
Seems impossible to face
When someone else instead of me
Always seems to know the way

Then I look at you
And the world’s alright with me
Just one look at you
And I know it’s gonna be
A lovely day……

Madness and “Night Boat To Cairo” – The Nutty Boys, Forty Years On

Three years ago, back in the early days of this blog, I wrote a light-hearted post about the band Madness and the whole 2 Tone movement (link here). It coincided with Glastonbury (where they had just performed), and was supposed to form a bit of respite ahead of all the political upheaval about to come our way after the divisive disaster that was the EU Referendum result. I don’t even think the word Brexit had even been coined yet, and there is nothing I hate more than a stupid-sounding new word created from two other words. In linguistics it’s called a portmanteau, which ironically has a French etymology. Oh how the French must be loving us now!

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But here we are a full three years and more on from that post, and the political upheaval is still with us and has ramped up to a whole new level. Talking of new words, I have just discovered one that has apparently been around forever, but for good reason has never before entered our personal vernacular – Prorogation. Yep, that’s the latest trick up the government’s sleeve, so The Madness continues. Getting back to Madness the band, last Friday they came to our town, and down to a bit of luck I managed to see them.

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Madness – Promotional pic for the 2019 tour

I’ve now hosted 25 sets of guests since acquiring the holiday hideaway so it’s been a busy old summer, and the downside is I haven’t really been able to commit to much, as I’m either greeting people or getting ready for the next set of people. We did have a free evening last Friday however so I persuaded Mr WIAA to head into town with me for a bite to eat. On the way home we swung by our very central Highland Games stadium (yes, we have one), as I knew Madness were going to be playing there that very night. As luck would have it, there were tickets left, so it was a no-brainer we would join all the other locals of a certain age who fancied a trip down memory lane.

Night Boat To Cairo by Madness:

What a great night we had – It was dark, but warm and dry, and Suggs and the boys were in tip-top form, closing the show with a very rousing performance of Night Boat To Cairo (complete with tea towel). If you owned the album “One Step Beyond” back in the day, and played it on repeat as I did, you will always remember Night Boat as being the third track on Side One after the Title Track and My Girl. We just don’t consume our music in that way nowadays so Sides and Track Numbers are largely irrelevant. Bit of trivia, the term Night Boat has passed into cockney rhyming slang as a term for a giro, or unemployment benefit cheque but you’d have to be British to get that one I imagine.

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Last week I wrote nostalgically about the year 1978, but this week it’s all about 1979, as that was the year I discovered Madness. The thing I enjoyed most about the concert however was the comforting thought that despite the political upheaval, and all the changes to how we live over the last 40 years, one constant has been those Nutty Boys from Camden Town. They look older close up, but the songs are the same, the band members are the same (although they are now missing Chas Smash), the clothes are the same, and the saxophone solos are the same. Suggs, aka Graham McPherson, still has that very unique, staccato-style way of speaking, … and moving. Yes, somehow all very comforting, and at the moment I think I would rather have the Nutty Boys run the country than BoJo (another portmanteau?) and Walter from The Dandy.

Until next time….

Night Boat To Cairo Lyrics
(Song by Mike Barson/Graham McPherson)

It’s just gone noon
Half past monsoon
On the banks of the river Nile
Here comes the boat
Only half-afloat
Oarsman grins a toothless smile
Only just one more
To this desolate shore
Last boat along the river Nile
Doesn’t seem to care
No more wind in his hair
As he reaches his last half mile
The oar snaps in his hand
Before he reaches dry land
But the sound doesn’t deafen his smile
Just pokes at wet sand
With an oar in his hand
Floats off down the river Nile
Floats off down the river Nile

(All aboard, night boat to Cairo!)

(Night boat to Cairo!)

The Bee Gees, “I Started A Joke” and Tribute Bands, Is It Ok?

The other day I was heading back from visiting my mum in the care home, when I decided to swing by our local theatre to find out what was on. I still had a gift voucher which ironically was acquired when I had to return my mum’s outstanding theatre tickets last year after her admission to the home. It was due to expire soon, so I needed to convert it into readies, and if not readies, bona fide tickets at any rate. When I discovered that a show called Jive Talkin’, championing the music of the Bee Gees was taking place that very night, it was a no-brainer that I would ask about seats. As luck would have it there were only two left, in a second circle box, so I snapped them up.

It took me a long time to admit to being a Bee Gees fan around here, as I know they have been heavily parodied over the years and Barry’s late ’70s falsetto has been the subject of much mirth, but only Elvis, the Beatles, and he who shall no longer be named, have outsold them. They wrote all their own songs, performed perfect harmonies and continually reinvented themselves “for the times”. I’ve written about them a few times and I suspect a new category on my sidebar will have to be set up after I press the publish button.

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The original Bee Gees line-up – Kind of obvious which of them is a Gibb brother!

But of course there is sadly now only one Bee Gee left, Barry, and I do feel for him if I ever catch him on telly, as he cuts a lonely figure without the rest of his brothers in tow. In view of the fact I will now never see them live, I had no difficulty in making the decision that it was ok to head along to our fantastic theatre, to watch this trio (plus backing band complete with string section) sing songs from the vast back catalogue at their disposal.

I wrote last year about a show called Fastlove, dedicated to the George Michael back catalogue. They took great pains to make sure that, we, the audience, realised this was not “A Tribute Act” but in fact “A Tribute” to George, so I was hoping this show would follow the same lines. As it turned out, there was a bit more of a pantomime quality to this one, but the voices were pitch perfect and from where I was seated in the second circle, they looked uncannily like the real Bee Gees.

I Started A Joke by the Bee Gees:

The first half was dedicated to their 1960s incarnation and they rattled through 16 classic hits such as Gotta Get A Message To You, To Love Somebody, Words, How Can You Mend A Broken Heart (written about here before) and my personal favourite I Started A Joke from the album “Idea” released in 1968. Apparently the melancholic melody of the song was inspired by the sounds on board an aeroplane. To quote Robin Gibb: “The melody to this one was heard aboard a British Airways Vickers Viscount about a hundred miles from Essen. It was one of those old four engine “prop” jobs, that seemed to drone the passenger into a sort of hypnotic trance, only with this it was different. The droning, after a while, appeared to take the form of a tune, which mysteriously sounded like a church choir. As soon as we landed and reached the hotel, we finished the lyrics.”

As for me, this era of the Bee Gees just reminds me of watching telly with my parents as a child. They were frequent visitors to the TOTP studio and there were always a few raised eyebrows in our house at Robin’s vibrato, as not many pop voices like that at the time. I only realised later that the twins, Robin and Maurice, were still teenagers – A massive amount of success for those so young, the pressure of which led to Robin leaving the band for a while.

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So, we’ve had the first half where they were dressed in the classic late era Bee Gees’ uniform of black trousers, shirts and jackets, but what would the second half bring? As expected there had to be an element of pantomime, as the 1970s brought disco, and Barry’s falsetto rose to unnaturally new heights. There is nothing more unnerving than seeing a middle-aged man dressed in tight white trousers and a silver jacket revealing chest hair, but here we were. To be honest I don’t think many of the ladies in the audience cared however, we were all teenagers again, reminding ourselves of the time we heard these songs first time around – Night Fever, Stayin’ Alive, You Should Be Dancing and many more.

Up in my second circle box, no-one’s view would have been blocked if I stood up and danced along to the songs, so that was just what happened. Mr WIAA did not partake in the dancing, and was a bit bemused by the whole thing I think, but he was also aware I’ve been working really hard of late trying to support everyone, so if anyone needed to let their hair down, it was me (as he no longer has any).

Every now and again, when emotions are running high, it can only take a few bars of a familiar song, to make you feel quite overcome by it all. When the trio on stage sang More Than A Woman, I was right back in 1978, a year I’ve often mentioned in this blog as it was the summer I left school and went off to work in a country house hotel with my best friend Catriona, who sadly died at age 41. By day we were jack-of-all-trades, chambermaids, laundrymaids, barmaids (yes, still called that back then) but by night we were disco divas, trying out our routines in the local nightspots. At the start of the summer we were a novelty, new girls in town, but as the summer progressed there were a few romances that we knew would go nowhere, but still made the heart flutter. One of the songs that made the heart flutter was this one. The dancing looks tame now and frankly a bit comical, but funny how 40 years on, a warm glow came over me when listening to it – More than goose-bumps, but an overwhelming feeling of nostalgia for simpler times.

More Than A Woman by the Bee Gees:

I know tribute acts are the source of much derision, but sometimes an evening of honest to goodness nostalgia is just what is needed, and that’s what I experienced this week. Because of the ongoing situation regarding how to pay for my mum’s care, stress levels have been running high in our house of late, but funnily enough, my evening with the pretend Bee Gees has put paid to that. Mr WIAA will be really glad he (reluctantly) agreed to come along with me.

Until next time….

I Started A Joke Lyrics
(Song by Barry Gibb/Maurice Gibb/Robin Gibb)

I started a joke, which started the whole world crying
But I didn’t see that the joke was on me, oh no

I started to cry, which started the whole world laughing
Oh, if I’d only seen that the joke was on me

I looked at the skies, running my hands over my eyes
And I fell out of bed, hurting my head from things that I’d said

Till I finally died, which started the whole world living
Oh, if I’d only seen that the joke was on me

I looked at the skies, running my hands over my eyes
And I fell out of bed, hurting my head from things that I’d said

‘Till I finally died, which started the whole world living
Oh, if I’d only seen that the joke was on me

Earworm of the Week #2 – Carly Simon and “Let The River Run”

I have been banished to the office to “do some therapeutic blogging”, as I think I’m starting to drive Mr WIAA a little mad (in a nice way) with my whinging. When we acquired the holiday hideaway earlier this year to help pay my mum’s care home fees, I hadn’t reckoned on the sheer physicality of having so many changeovers to carry out in a relatively short space of time. My poor neck and shoulder still cries out in pain when I have to lift, push or carry anything with my right arm, and there will be no respite now until the end of September. I am bracing myself for the next seven weeks when we are to have a total of 18 changeovers, as most guests book for only two nights. I was an office wallah for 35 years, so however fit I thought I was, the shock to the system has been intense. Best foot forward though, and we’ll get through it, but just willing the season to now be over so that I can rejig my business model and yet again have a fully functional neck and shoulder.

As this is an imposed and not a planned session of blogging, the easiest song to write about would be the one that is currently spinning around in my head. I must have heard it on the radio the other day and when I woke up at 3am the other night, it was the first thing that came into my head and has barely left since. Let The River Run was a 1988 song written by Carly Simon for the film Working Girl and she swept the board with it when it came to awards season the following year winning a Grammy, an Oscar and a Golden Globe. It definitely has an anthemic quality to it – She apparently wanted to write a hymn to New York with a contemporary jungle beat under it, and it sounds as if she pretty much nailed it.

Let The River Run by Carly Simon:

Carly has appeared in this blog before, once when I wrote about the death of Roger Moore (she sang the theme to The Spy Who Loved Me) and again when I wrote a “moon-post” featuring the Glenn Miller song Moonlight Serenade (she recorded an album of standards and this was the title track). It occurred to me that she is one of those artists who has had great longevity in the industry yet quietly got on with business without ever becoming over-exposed or over-familiar.

I’m pretty sure that as I teenager I would have loved to look like Carly Simon – She had a great mane of hair, a natural tan and that rock ‘n’ roll kind of face as sported by some of her male counterparts. A handsome woman rather than a pretty one, which is always a good thing if you want to be taken seriously, and again, there was all that great hair. Being a Scottish person I rarely had a tan, have quite fine, straight hair and as for the rock ‘n’ roll face, not in my family genes I’m afraid but not jealous, honest!

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Carly Simon

The thing about earworms is that a particular line can keep repeating itself in your head and you don’t always know the name of the song it’s from, but in this case it was quite easy once I’d revisited Carly’s discography. I had seriously forgotten just how many albums she’d made and although not all her single releases became big hits in the UK, they do still get airplay so we are familiar with much of her output over the years. You’re So Vain of course (although we will probably never know for sure who it was about) but also Coming Around Again, Why, The Right Thing To Do and Mockingbird (with husband James Taylor), as well as the other songs mentioned above.

As for the film Working Girl, I remember well going to see it in 1988 and quite possibly had big permed hair at the time like Melanie Griffith, who played wannabe investment broker Tess McGill from Staten Island. She had worked hard, gone to night school and wanted the big job, but it turned out big hair and big jobs don’t go together, so a period of reinvention had to take place. All these years later I’m not sure if much has changed and it’s probably tougher than ever for women (and men) from what seems to be called disadvantaged backgrounds to climb the corporate ladder. Higher education is increasingly only for those whose parents can afford to help out with the cost, which is sad. In the late 70s, I unbelievably used to save some of my student grant, as I just didn’t need it all. Was this education wasted on me though, as I never did get what would be described as the big job but merely a pot-boiler job which was satisfactory but never stellar. Thinking back I definitely had big hair however, so perhaps I now see where I went wrong, unless you’re a rock star like Carly Simon of course where the bigger the hair the better.

So, “What’s It All About?” – I have a lot of work to get through so I’d better buckle down and get on with it. The kind of hair I have no longer affects me a jot but I think I will listen to a little more Carly Simon in the course of the day and dream of holidays in her beloved Martha’s Vineyard.

Before I go I’m going to include a clip of her joining Taylor Swift in concert where they perform a version of You’re So Vain. Apparently Taylor has now been let into the secret of who the song is about – As for us, I doubt if we’ll ever really know.

Until next time….

Let The River Run Lyrics
(Song by Carly Simon)

We’re coming to the edge,
running on the water,
coming through the fog,
your sons and daughters.

Let the river run,
let all the dreamers
wake the nation.
Come, the New Jerusalem.

Silver cities rise,
the morning lights
the streets that meet them,
and sirens call them on
with a song.

It’s asking for the taking.
Trembling, shaking.
Oh, my heart is aching.

We’re coming to the edge,
running on the water,
coming through the fog,
your sons and daughters.

We the great and small
stand on a star
and blaze a trail of desire
through the dark’ning dawn.

It’s asking for the taking.
Come run with me now,
the sky is the color of blue
you’ve never even seen
in the eyes of your lover.

Oh, my heart is aching.
We’re coming to the edge,
running on the water,
coming through the fog,
your sons and daughters.

It’s asking for the taking.
Trembling, shaking.
Oh, my heart is aching.
We’re coming to the edge,
running on the water,
coming through the fog,
your sons and daughters.

Let the river run,
let all the dreamers
wake the nation.
Come, the New Jerusalem.

Long Lost Aussie Cousins, Mental As Anything and “Live It Up”

Last time, I alluded to the fact that much has been happening around here of late, not least that Mr WIAA has now too given up his nice secure part-time job. That makes both of us then, but when I’m being rational, it makes no sense to carry on doing a job that has become beset by politics and managerial interference when you could be working for yourself. We now both have businesses that earn a crust, and although there will be lean months, there will hopefully also be months when it all falls into place and the contracts flood in. We have set ourselves a deadline of next June, after which, if it hasn’t worked out, we will both have to look for jobs or cash in the meagre pension funds early. Neither of these options is very appealing, so motivation levels are currently running high.

I also mentioned last time that one of the many things we have decided to tackle this summer is “The Loft Project”. Like most of us who live in houses with a fully floored loft, this space becomes the depository for a lifetime’s worth of possessions, and in my case many of our deceased grandparents’ and parents’ possessions. Tea sets, dinner sets, artwork, furniture, gadgets (three spare tellys at the last count), clothes, photographs, scrapbooks, camping equipment, books … , the list goes on. It has been fortunate for this blog that I have kept so much teenage memorabilia, as many posts have been written using images of old pop pinups and magazines, but of late the sheer volume of it all has become overwhelming so something needs to be done. (Pictures below of the kind of loft I have and the kind of loft I want to have!)

One of the biggest jobs to be tackled was going to be sifting through my vast collection of family photographs, as all of them seem to have come down the line to me. I know I should share them out amongst my cousins but I have had very little contact with many of these cousins for years, so not an easy thing to do. By some amazing act of serendipity, the other week I received a message from a long lost cousin who found me on Facebook. He had emigrated to Australia in 1976 and I hadn’t set eyes on him for nearly 50 years. His wife was putting together a family tree for their son’s 40th birthday and they had very little knowledge and no photographs at all from his dad’s side of the family (that would be because I have them all).

We have now been in constant touch over the last two weeks and they have provided me with all the information they have gleaned from census records, and I in turn have provided them with digital copies of the above, along with anecdotal accounts of the personalities behind the people in the pictures. As with most rural families in the early 20th century, there were however complications. My uncle (the handsome chap with the movie star looks) was a half brother to my dad as there seems to have been just so much death and sadness. My dad’s mum was one of a family of twelve, but four of her siblings died, and then both her mum and dad died. The chap I always thought of as my Great Uncle was actually her cousin, but he would have felt like a brother as they were both brought up by her septuagenarian grandmother. My granny’s first husband died, but then she met my grandad and they had a fine life together with their two boys. Sadly my granny died before I was born, and my uncle died young too, which I think precipitated my cousin’s move to Australia. As I say, all very complicated, and with second marriages it gets even more complicated but as someone from a very small family, it’s been lovely making contact with someone who shares the same branch of the family tree. Invitations to visit have been mutually made, so who knows, after 50 years we may actually meet up again in person sometime soon.

img146 (4)
My lovely dad in his National Service uniform – Thankfully he grew into those ears!

With all of this toing and froing of messages between Australia and Scotland, my mind has of course wandered into musical territory, and that great continent has certainly given us plenty of artists who have made their mark. From Frank Ifield, The Seekers and Kylie to Men At Work, Crowded House, INXS, ACDC and Nick Cave, over the years our charts have been littered with records made by our Antipodean cousins. As I’m feeling particularly upbeat about having rediscovered my long lost cousin, I am going to share an upbeat song that always makes me smile. Mental As Anything recorded the song Live It Up in 1985 and although it was a hit in Australia it didn’t get noticed elsewhere until it featured in the film Crocodile Dundee starring Paul Hogan. It ended up being the band’s most successful and most popular song, reaching No. 3 in the UK Singles Chart in 1987.

Live It Up by Mental As Anything:

Although he has apparently lived in every state in Australia, I don’t think my cousin ever worked as a crocodile hunter, but Paul Hogan certainly created something memorable when he took on the role of Mick Dundee, and just goes to show, good training for life in inner city New York where he seemed to fit right in. In light of our nation’s current epidemic of knife crime, I don’t feel I can include the clip of how Mick deals with a particularly tricky situation, but if you’ve seen the film I’m sure you’ll know the one I mean. Suffice to say Sue, played by his future wife Linda Koslowski, must have felt in safe hands when out and about with Mick, whether in the Australian jungle or NYC. I often say around here that we don’t really need alpha males any more to protect us from harm, but rather someone who can cook dinner and perhaps fix our laptops – Watching Crocodile Dundee and other action movies however, there is still something quite alluring about a man who has “a very particular set of skills”, but maybe that’s just me.

So, “What’s It All About?” – The loft project has now stalled for several reasons. We have come to realise that nothing sells nowadays; we have to painstakingly go through every box in case old family photos are accidentally destroyed, and, like it or not; some things will have to be kept, for sentimental reasons. At least we’ve made a start though.

Great to be back in touch with my cousin and I now know so much more of my family history, albeit much of it very sad. My great-grandfather was apparently a grocer’s carter yet he had 10 children and lived in a two roomed house. Poverty was very real, yet only two generations on things had changed so much, and my parents’ generation all did very well for themselves, retiring with good pensions at 60 or 65 dependent on gender (the man always tended to be around five years older than his wife so it made sense – not so much nowadays). I have a terrible feeling that in the last 30 years or so, things have started to regress in the western world and child poverty yet again seems to be rife. Some retire young with good pensions, yet others will probably never make it to pensionable age. At least my family tree is now all well-documented and I look forward to receiving my hard copy soon. Those who emigrated to Australia in the late 20th century do seem to have done well for themselves. I wonder if you have any family members who did the same thing – It’s highly likely that you do.

Until next time….

Live It Up Lyrics
(Song by Greedy Smith)

How can you see looking through those tears
Don’t you know you’re worth your weight in gold
I can’t believe that you’re alone in here
Let me warm your hands against the cold

A close encounter with a hard-hearted man
Who never gave half of what he got
Has made you wish you’d never been born
That’s a shame cause you got the lot

Hey yeah you with the sad face
Come up to my place and live it up
You beside the dance floor
What do you cry for let’s live it up

If you smiled the walls would fall down
On all the people in this pickup joint
But if you laughed you’d level this town
Hey lonely girl that’s just the point

Hey yeah you with the sad face
Come up to my place and live it up
You beside the dance floor
What do you cry for let’s live it up

Just answer me the question why
You stand alone by the phone in the corner and cry

How can you see looking through those tears
Don’t you know you’re worth your weight in gold
I can’t believe that you’re alone in here
Let me warm your hands against the cold

If you smiled the walls would fall down
On all the people in this pickup joint
But if you laughed you’d level this town
Hey lonely girl that’s just the point

Hey yeah you with the sad face
Come up to my place and live it up
You beside the dance floor
What do you cry for let’s live it up

Let’s live it up
Live it up
Mmm live it up
Hey yeah you
With the sad face
Come up to my place
Come up to my place baby

Hey yeah you with the sad face
Come up to my place and live it up
You beside the dance floor
What do you cry for let’s live it up

You with the sad face
Come up to my place and live it up
You beside the dance floor
What do you cry for let’s live it up