An Unlikely Mix of Stonehenge, The Summer Solstice and Will Smith

This is going to be a bit of a short post (ironic as it’s the longest day) but I have been taking a keen interest in the pagan, or nature’s calendar over the last year and today is Litha, also known as Midsummer or the Summer Solstice. As ever, the ancient festivals held on these days made use of fires, so tonight Mr WIAA is going to be all manly and will symbolically light our little fire pit. I have also done something that will inspire a bout of manic preparation today – Yes, I have invited the neighbours round for a bit of a soirée. Together we can admire the fire which is supposed to a) provide magical aid to the sun b) drive out evil and c) bring fertility and prosperity to men, crops and herds. Not bad for an evening’s work.

Again, life in modern day suburbia is not quite as it used to be when these rituals were first performed and although I like the sound of driving out evil, I don’t have many crops or herds to consider but am mighty glad that others do, so yeah to the farmers of the world, who keep us well fed throughout the year. I wish their crops and herds well.

litha

Sadly this day has landed on a Wednesday, which is a work day, so I probably won’t be able to stay up late to watch the sunset which is a shame. There will have been many however who made the trek to Stonehenge this morning to watch the sunrise at around 4.15am. It has naturally become quite the gathering place for this ancient ritual but when looking into it further, the guidance was as follows: “The roads around Stonehenge will be very busy and parking facilities for the Summer Solstice at Stonehenge are very limited. We recommend using public transport, car sharing or arranging lifts from taxis and local accommodation providers”.

Somehow the romance of it all gets a bit lost amidst the parking practicalities of 21st century Britain.

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But what should the featured song for this post be? I am going to cheat a little and borrow from the post I wrote this day last year when I was quite upset that the month of June had not panned out weather-wise as I had hoped. Yet again, the last couple of weeks here in Scotland have been quite wet and miserable but it does look as if good weather might be on it’s way. Lets hope so anyway.

First published 21st June 2016:

Although for meteorologists summer starts at the beginning of June, apparently “astronomical summer” is defined as starting on the 21st of June, the Solstice. Time to re-load summer then, and the first song that came to mind when rethinking all of this was Summertime by DJ Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince. It was released in 1991 when I was in my early thirties, so not really one of the tracks of my years – Had I been a teenager around then I would have known Will Smith well from his television show The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air but I wasn’t, and I didn’t. We still watched TOTP on a Thursday night however and despite the fact I have never really been a fan of rap, this was just a great sounding song that highlighted what summertime means for young people.

Will Smith has gone on to great things since and has starred in 21 movies to date with a couple of Oscar nominations under his belt to boot. He is also widely thought of as being the “nicest” A-list movie actor around, always patient with interviewers despite having probably been asked the same question hundreds of times whilst on press junkets promoting a new film.

For now however, I will just enjoy watching the young Will, hanging out with DJ Jazzy Jeff (Jeffrey to his mum) and a host of friends and relatives (but probably extras) whilst coming up with some very entertaining rhymes.

Summertime by DJ Jazzy Jeff  The Fresh Prince:

Happy Litha…

Summertime Lyrics
(Song by Will Smith and too many more to mention!)

Drums please, summer, summer, summertime
Time to sit back and unwind

Here it is, the groove slightly transformed
Just a bit of a break from the norm
Just a little somethin’ to break the monotony
Of all that hardcore dance that has gotten to be

A little bit out of control, it’s cool to dance
But what about the groove that soothes
That moves romance, give me a soft, subtle mix
And if ain’t broke then don’t try to fix it

And think of the summers of the past
Adjust the base and let the alpine blast
Pop in my CD and let me run a rhyme and put your car
On cruise and lay back ’cause this is summertime

Summer, summer, summertime
Time to sit back and unwind
Summer, summer, summertime
Time to sit back and unwind

School is out and it’s a sort of a buzz
But back then I didn’t really know what it was
But now I see what have of this
The way that people respond to summer madness

The weather is hot and girls are dressin’ less
And checkin’ out the fellas to tell ’em who’s best
Ridin’ around in your jeep or your Benzos
Or in your Nissan sittin’ on Lorenzo’s

Back in Philly we be out in the park
A place called the plateau is where everybody goes
Guys out huntin’ and girls doin’ likewise
Honkin’ at the honey in front of you with the light eyes

She turn around to see what you beepin’ at
It’s like the summer’s a natural aphrodisiac
And with a pen and pad, I compose this rhyme
To hit you and get you equipped for the summertime

It’s late in the day and I ain’t been on the court yet
Hustle to the mall to get me a short set
Yeah, I got on sneaks but I need a new pair
‘Cause basketball courts in the summer got girls there

The temperature’s about 88
Hop in the water plug just for old times sake
Creak to ya crib, change your clothes once more
‘Cause you’re invited to a barbecue that’s startin’ at 4

Sittin’ with your friends ’cause y’all reminisce
About the days growin’ up and the first person you kiss
And as I think back, makes me wonder how
The smell from a grill could spark up nostalgia

All the kids playin’ out front, little boys messin’ ’round
With the girls playin’ double-dutch
While the DJ’s spinnin’ a tune as the old folks
Dance at your family reunion

Then six ‘o clock rolls around
You just finished wipin’ your car down
It’s time to cruise, so you head to
The summertime hangout, it looks like a car show

Everybody come lookin’ real fine
Fresh from the barber shop or fly from the beauty salon
Every moment frontin’ and maxin’
Chillin’ in the car they spent all day waxin’

Leanin’ to the side but you can’t speed through
Two miles an hour so, everybody sees you
There’s an air of love and of happiness and this is
The Fresh Prince’s new definition of summer madness

An American Odyssey in Song: Connecticut – Ben Folds and “Kylie From Connecticut”

Welcome to this occasional series where I am attempting a virtual journey around the 50 States of America in song. For anyone new to this place, I have a continuous route map where I enter and leave each state only once. Suggestions for the next leg always welcome!

Last time we visited the State of Rhode Island which means this time we will be entering the southernmost state in the New England region, Connecticut (another tricky one to spell because of the silent “c”). I for one am quite glad we’ve reached this point, as when I decided to start this trip in Maine, New England I hadn’t really considered that there would be slim pickings when it came to songs associated with that region. I am starting to think that settlers to those states perhaps did not have such a rich musical heritage as those who took up residence in the Southern or Appalachian Mountain states, but we’ll find out a bit more about that when we get there.

connecticut

The whole of Connecticut’s shoreline faces Long Island so rather than looking out to the open Atlantic, the large “sound” created because of that particular geography, makes it an ideal strategic location for submarines. Long Island Sound is therefore the Submarine Capital of the World. Although fairly rural to the east of the state, the southern and western parts are very much part of the New York metropolitan area. The main industries are Finance and Insurance and the state has the highest per capita income and median household income in the country. To use UK counties as an analogy, it sounds like the Surrey of the USA.

Difficult to write anything quirky or interesting about Connecticut at all however, as it just sounds so damn affluent and respectable. Perhaps a look into figures from popular culture will inspire me. It was where spoilt little rich girl Rachel Green from the TV show Friends hailed from. It was also the setting for the satirical thriller The Stepford Wives, where a spunky young photographer mum, played by Katharine Ross, begins to suspect that the frighteningly submissive and beautiful housewives in her idyllic new Connecticut neighbourhood, may actually be robots created by their husbands (she was right). It also seems to be a state where many from the acting profession were born, or were residents, and maybe it’s just me but I can’t help thinking there is something similar about them all…….

Not much music so far and again I didn’t have any ideas of my own for this state. A thorough peruse through the various pages of the world wide web hasn’t really helped either, but fortunately last time a few suggestions came in from friends of this blog. The Swede from Unthought of, though, somehow seemed to remember that Judy Garland and Bing Crosby once recorded a song called Connecticut which turned out to be correct. Listening to the lyrics, it was apparently “the place to be”.

thCDLQWHOR

Bing seems to be making a bit of a regular appearance on this journey as he also featured last time in his guise as Dexter, the (middle-aged) beau of Grace Kelly in High Society. And, this song called Connecticut immediately reminded me of a film starring Bing that I must have watched decades ago, as a child, called A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court. The film was based on a book by Mark Twain who was himself a long term resident of Connecticut and at one point lived right next door to Harriet Beecher Stowe so not just a place for blonde-haired actors it seems, but also a place for authors of the “Great American Novel”. Here is a clip of the trailer for that film from 1949 – Yep, they just don’t make ’em like that any more.

When thinking about other possible musical associations with Connecticut, it was a bit of a no-brainer that I would feature something by The Carpenters who were also from this state. I featured them recently in another post (link here) but had been building up to doing so for some time, as although they became one of the best-selling acts of the 1970s producing cleverly harmonised, melodic pop of the Easy Listening persuasion, they could never have been described as “cool” or edgy, and however many times we say there should be no guilty pleasures in song, it still takes a brave man (or woman) to come out and say they are indeed fans of that genre.

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This Masquerade by The Carpenters:

Older brother Richard was the creative force behind the duo and was a gifted composer and arranger, but of course it was Karen who had that wonderful deep voice that communicated the words of whatever she sang in such a melancholy way. It is only recently that I’ve been able to start listening to Carpenters albums again, as I still find it really upsetting that she died so young from the illness anorexia nervosa.  We knew so little about that particular illness back then but it just goes to show that however perfect things look on the outside, there can also be all sorts of inner turmoil – This Masquerade that can be life.

And so this leads me on to the final featured song. It has been quite some time since I’ve written an American Odyssey post and that was partly because I really struggled to find something to write about this state at all. I do hope that any residents of Connecticut who stumble upon this blog do not take offence, but the vibe I get from this state is that it may well be the most affluent place to live, and it may have a great university and great jobs in banking and finance BUT behind closed doors, is all well with the residents of Connecticut? Throughout our fairly lengthy marriage, Mr WIAA and I have actively tried to avoid living in an area (and every town has them) where it REALLY matters what car you drive, how often you renew your kitchen and the quality of your glass and china. These superficial trappings are really not important in the grand scheme of things and we are lucky to live beside some very like-minded souls, who have no illusions of grandeur and care not a hoot about such material trappings. Just like in this blog, where I often have to reign it in a bit as I do tend to over-share at times, we have no secrets from our friends and neighbours and seem to muddle along swimmingly. I cannot say the same for the parts of town we have actively avoided living in and I suspect large swathes of Connecticut would be out of bounds for the likes of us!

ben fold

A song suggested by both C and Rol in my last American Odyssey post was Kylie From Connecticut by Ben Folds. I have to admit, as is often the case, I wasn’t familiar with this song until having it pointed out but I am now a great fan of Mr Folds so thanks guys. Although this song is about a message left by someone from Connecticut, it reeks of all I have been writing about above. Here is a marriage where there are obviously secrets and the listener is left to interpret the Kylie mystery for themselves – Behind closed doors, all is not well. Since starting this blog, and following other music blogs, I have taken a far keener interest in the lyrics to songs than I ever did in my younger days and what a joy that has been. Ben Folds is an American singer-songwriter who was originally inspired by Elton John and Billy Joel but is someone I was really not that familiar with so will definitely have to investigate further. It also seems that Mr Folds has been married many times, so there may well have been a few messages from a “Connecticut Kylie” over the years which may have muddied the waters of domestic bliss. Just sayin’.

Kylie From Connecticut by Ben Folds:

Next time we will be heading into New York City and to be honest there are probably more songs about that city than about any other place on earth so goodness knows how I’m going to handle that one. Still would be interested to hear of any personal favourites however, so don’t hold back.

But finally, this has been a bit of a dull post in many ways, so what better way to end it than with a large slice of Mystic Pizza. This is just the kind of film I loved watching back in the late ’80s whilst sporting my big, permed hair and large dangly earrings – ‘Twas the times. Mystic itself is an old fishing port on Connecticut’s easternmost shoreline and was the setting for the film but is now more of a tourist centre for visitors, with many living history museums and the like. In case you’re a little peckish, the restaurant is still in business – Anyone up for a slice of heaven?

See you in New York!

Kylie From Connecticut Lyrics
(Song by Ben Folds)

It’s just a thought, but where did it come from
What does she do with it if it comes back
A note from his assistant is there by the telephone
She wonders again as she turns out the lights

Kylie is calling from Connecticut
She says you’ve got the number
It says Kylie is calling from Connecticut
It’s back on her mind as she closes her eyes

She believes there are things you shouldn’t know about
When you’ve been married for thirty-five years
And her heart belongs to a man that she hadn’t seen
Since a magical night when the children were small

Kylie is calling from Connecticut
It’s probably nothing, yeah nothing at all
Kylie is calling from Connecticut
It’s back on her mind as she’s reading old letters
That she left in the closet with the pictures she cherished
She never told a soul for the last thirty years
Now she closes her eyes

LOVE, Young People and Don’t Look Back In Anger

Well, I had fully intended to return to my American Odyssey in Song today, or perhaps write about a couple of the songs that have formed earworms over the past few days, but no, even music blogs can’t avoid mentioning what has gone on in our country this week, and yet again, what a week.

Shortly after I pressed the “publish” button last Saturday, there was another terrorist attack, this time right in the centre of London. Again, in the face of such senseless violence, the police, the emergency services and some heroic members of the public performed some amazing acts of bravery (no-one messes with a Millwall supporter). Some innocent weekend socialisers lost their lives, and others are still critically ill in hospital, but yet again no-one who was there has come out and said they will change their behaviour in any way. We are all getting a bit sick of saying it I know, but “life must go on”.

one love.jpgThe One Love Manchester benefit concert was all set to take place on the Sunday, which to some did seem a bit too soon after the atrocity that took place there less than a fortnight earlier, but despite this even more recent atrocity it did go ahead as planned and in retrospect I am really glad. Like many, I didn’t really know much about Ariana Grande until two weeks ago, but of her own accord she really wanted to do something for the people of Manchester, for those directly affected and for the fans who had been at the earlier ill-fated concert. For many of these fans, to attend must have been a tough call, but this time Old Trafford (the Cricket Ground) was the venue and that open air Sunday night concert provided much joy, a lot of tears and an awful lot of LOVE.

I watched the concert with DD and it was like being back in her world again after a few years away. She was of the generation that grew up watching Miley Cyrus play the teenage sitcom character Hannah Montana and here was Miley all grown up and being supportive of Ariana, perhaps linking up with her in making such a thing a regular event. Mr Bieber was there as was Niall Horan of One Direction and girl group Little Mix. Having a 21-year-old in the house is a constant reminder of how things have changed in a generation. Young people are very demonstrative nowadays compared with how things used to be back in the rural Scotland of my youth. Whenever they meet up, they hug and kiss each other, they LOVE each other frequently on social media, in texts and in speech. When they all hang out together, often in our back garden, there is indeed much LOVE in the air (of a spiritual nature I hasten to add) and it sometimes feels as if we have returned to the summer of 1967 when young people wanted to change the world. Although we get cynical as we get older and such idealism can give way to practical reality, the young people I know give me hope for the future.

There were also a fair few acts on the bill that were more familiar to me, namely Take That, Pharrell Williams and the Black Eyed Peas but it was Chris Martin from Coldplay who performed the song which has been used by the people of Manchester in remembrance of the victims, and to show the city’s spirit. Don’t Look Back In Anger is of course a song by the Manchester band Oasis, and was released in 1996 as the fourth single from their album, “(What’s the Story) Morning Glory?”. It was the first Oasis single with lead vocals by Noel Gallagher instead of by his brother Liam, but sadly those two have had a parting of the ways so it was Mr Martin instead who stepped up to the plate. Despite the fact I was a bit disparaging about his singing earlier in the year after his less than perfect rendition at the BRITs (I thought) of George Michael’s song A Different Corner, this time I think it all worked out quite well.

Don’t Look Back In Anger by Oasis:

So, the concert was a success and they will have raised, and will continue to raise (link to site above), lots of money for those who have suffered as a consequence. A lot to take in already for one week you might think but of course this was also the week we went to the polls again, as our incumbent Prime Minister had wanted to secure a larger majority in the House ahead of the Brexit negotiations. Oops!

Turns out she is not very good at campaigning and time and time again she was found wanting in terms of the details of her manifesto, her appearance at debates (she abstained), and her all round ability to engage as a human being instead of the Maybot she became. On the other hand her opponent Mr Corbyn has become the hero of the hour who can quite rightly claim to have, in a way, won the election. Who would have thought that turnaround could have been possible a few months ago. Lord knows he has had a hard time over the last couple of years and the smear campaigns have been brutal but he has definitely engaged with the young people of the country in a way the Maybot would never have been able to do. Again hooray for young people – At long last they have become engaged in politics and it took a jam-making, allotment tending politician whose life has been dedicated to making the world a better place, for that to happen. (He is also much, much better at social media than his opponent and quite rightly took to it with gusto.)

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This time last year I would most definitely not have written a post like this as politics, religion and other controversial topics are usually cited as something to be avoided if you want to broaden your readership and not cause offence. As it turns out, a year on and I have yet to find any other bloggers who do not share my opinions so no problem there then – Where are all these Tory voters I wonder? Certainly not in any corner of the blogosphere I’ve visited that’s for sure.

So, “What’s It All About?” – It’s all about the Young People who are finally becoming energised about politics. They are full of LOVE for each other and I for one have a bit of a spring in my step today because of the outcome of the election – The battle has been lost but with a nation of smart young people coming up behind us we are on track to win the war.

Until next time….

Don’t Look Back In Anger Lyrics
(Song by Noel Gallagher)

Slip inside the eye of your mind
Don’t you know you might find
A better place to play?
You said that you’d never been
But all the things that you’ve seen
They slowly fade away

So I’ll start a revolution from my bed
Cause you said the brains I had went to my head
Step outside, summertime’s in bloom
Stand up beside the fireplace
Take that look from off your face
You ain’t ever gonna burn my heart out

And so, Sally can wait
She knows it’s too late as we’re walking on by
Her soul slides away
But don’t look back in anger
I heard you say

Take me to the place where you go
Where nobody knows if it’s night or day
But please don’t put your life in the hands
Of a Rock ‘n’ Roll band
Who’ll throw it all away

 

Birthdays, “Too Many Candles” and The Music of 1960

Well, it’s my birthday today and as I will be far too busy reeling from the fact I now have as many years under my belt as the Heinz Corporation have varieties (how the heck did that happen!), I am going to share the post I wrote this time last year which featured some of the music from the year of my birth. First of all, a few thoughts:

As someone born right at the start of the ’60s I think I’ve had a pretty good run at life. As a female of the species, opportunities for our gender used to be quite limited but not so for my generation – We could have become anything we wanted, and many did just that. Back in 1960 life for young women was very different and the lyrics to some of the songs from that era, and the lines from some of the film scripts, seem shockingly sexist to our 21st century ears but a great reminder of how far we’ve come. Yes, mine was the generation that could “have it all” – All the housework, all the childcare and a full-time job! Thankfully those of my daughter’s generation seem to have it sussed whereby they either share the housework and the childcare or simply decide to live in a happy state of chaos. Good luck to them I say.

As for me, sadly it’s a work day, but we’ll hopefully go out tonight for a nice meal and a few birthday tipples. As for the cake, I do hope they go easy on the candles, or we just might have to make a call to the fire service!

birthday-candles

Post first published June 2016:

I had a birthday this week and it got me thinking about those birthday cards and “gift ideas” that feature the song that was at the top of the charts on the day you were born. It turns out that for me, it would have been the Everly Brothers’ Cathy’s Clown which I do know but have no emotional attachment to at all. Although it is quite interesting to have a newspaper from the year of your birth (gives a good snapshot of what life was like back then), a record is a bit pointless. Although you will have heard it on the radio over the years, it won’t be one of the “tracks of your years” as you were just far too busy being a baby, all your energy going into crying all the time and putting on a few pounds a week. As for your parents, it probably won’t even be one of the tracks of their years as suddenly all their time, money and energy is going into the welfare of aforementioned baby – you!

Looking back at the charts of 1960 is therefore a bit of a historical exercise as opposed to a trip down memory lane, but one which I have put a bit of effort into this week. I have written about this before, but it turns out that women, on the whole, were not very well represented in terms of record sales until much later. In the sample charts I looked at, we just had Connie Francis, Brenda Lee and Shirley Bassey (only British female in there so well done her). As for male solo artists there were loads of them, namely – Elvis Presley, Eddie Cochrane, Cliff Richard, Billy Fury, Adam Faith, Jim Reeves, Roy Orbison, Johnny Preston, Max Bygraves, Anthony Newley, Lonnie Donegan and many more. As for groups, the era of The Beatles hadn’t really got started yet so we only had duos such as The Everly Brothers and backing groups turned frontmen (performing mainly instrumentals) such as The Shadows.

I have deliberately included the pictures above in black and white because that is how most of these artists would have been viewed if watched on television at the time. It always seems such a shame, when looking back to those days, that the world (or certainly the UK which didn’t have Hollywood) seemed a much greyer place. Of course it wasn’t, it’s simply that most of it was recorded in black and white, but difficult for those of us not born until later to see how exciting life must have been. The 1950s had started with rationing and the continued deprivations of the war years but by 1960 things were a whole lot better. There was pretty much full-employment and the consumer society had begun in earnest with young people buying clothes, records and hanging out in Coffee Bars.

The artist I’m going to write about started out playing in the The 2i’s Coffee Bar. Liverpool had The Cavern Club but London’s Soho had the 2i’s. Many artists from that rock’n’roll/skiffle/rockabilly era started out there, including Cliff Richard and Tommy Steele but the one I’m going to feature is Adam Faith as he continued to pop up in other guises throughout my life.

In 1960 Adam Faith reached No. 1 in the charts with Someone Else’s Baby. He was the first artist to have his first seven singles reach the Top 5 and had I been born in the late ’40s he would certainly have been my teenage crush. He didn’t have the strongest singing voice and he had the malnourished look of someone born during the era of rationing but those short snappy songs, inspired by the pizzicato arrangements (no, I hadn’t heard of that term before either) made popular by Buddy Holly, made him one of Britain’s first “pop stars”. He was known for his hiccupping glottal stops and his pronunciation of the word ‘baby’ as ‘bay-beh’. My dad’s boss at the time (a bit of a father figure to many of the young lads in his employ) blamed him single-handedly for the sloppy way of speaking they had started to adopt in those days. He used Adam as an example of everything that was wrong with society – Harsh really, but my dad always reminisced about these rants when he appeared on television over the years.

Someone Else’s Baby by Adam Faith:

Adam himself had actually started out as an actor and during the early ’60s appeared in several films. In the long school summer holidays of the early ’70s, these old black and white movies starring the “pop stars” of that earlier era were often shown. I clearly remember watching the comedy What a Whopper with my cousins one rainy summer morning, when going outside to play was not an option. As well as Adam, the cast included all the usual stalwarts of British comedy – Wilfrid Brambell, Sid James, Charles Hawtrey and Terry Scott. I must have enjoyed it as I went on to watch the rest of the films in the season starring Billy Fury, Cliff Richard and others.

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At around this time, in 1971, Adam himself had left the music industry behind and was starring as the eponymous hero in the ITV drama Budgie. I would be lying if I said I remember watching this show at the time as for some reason our television set was permanently tuned to the BBC but it was also on quite late so I was probably deemed too young to watch it anyway. It definitely was a popular show however and I have since watched reruns showcasing the hairbrained schemes Budgie got into with his boss Charlie Endall.

Later on the ’70s, when I was having a full-blown teenage crush on the all-round star of stage, screen and pop music that was David Essex, I went into the big city with my friends to watch the film Stardust. It starred David Essex as Jim MacLaine who with the help of his manager Mike (played by Adam Faith), soon becomes a massive star. The film documents the detrimental effects of success on MacLaine and how his relationship with manager Mike becomes soured by money and success. Adam was actually nominated for a BAFTA for his performance in the film although I was probably too preoccupied with watching David Essex at the time to notice how well he executed his craft.

Somewhat bizarrely, in the 1980s Adam became a bit of a financial guru and had a column in the national press. This was the era of the yuppie and tales of obscene money-making (and spending) by London’s young stockbrokers, but all good things come to an end, and Adam ended up being declared bankrupt in later life so I’m glad now I didn’t take too much heed of his money advice back then.

His last foray into the world of popular television entertainment was when he starred with Zoë Wanamaker in the BBC comedy-drama, Love Hurts. It came about in 1992 just after Mr WIAA and I got married and moved into a new house. With hefty mortgage repayments a new reality, Fridays nights were no longer spent out on the town, so instead, we settled down to watch the sparring between Frank and Tessa in Love Hurts, our favourite show of the week. Adam was now 52 but still a very good-looking and charismatic chap so although I had been too young to appreciate him at the height of his pop-idol success in the early ’60s, I clearly remember appreciating him as a prime time actor in the early ’90s.

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Sadly, Adam died in 2003 aged only 62, after a heart attack, but what a career he’d had. I will leave you with another song of his from 1960 – An era that forms a gap in the annals of my musical memories but worth revisiting every now and again just to remind ourselves what our parents were missing when they were busy “bringing up baby”.

Someone Else’s Baby Lyrics
(Song by Perry Ford/Les Vandyke)

Someone else’s baby
Someone else’s eyes are blue
Someone else’s baby
Someone else’s five-foot-two

Oh, who’s got a hold up
Nine carat gold love
I wonder who’s in the loveseat
Who’s got a heartbeat, like thunder

If I acted bad
I could steal his fairy queen
I know he’ll be mad
But I can’t resist the thought of being kissed

By someone else’s baby
Someone else’s special date
Someone else’s baby
Someone else is kinda late

He’d better mind out
She’s gonna find out I love her
This little fellah is gonna tell her
That someone else is me

Postscript:

I was in two minds about sharing this clip as much of it seems shockingly sexist to our 21st century sensibilities but it shows the scene with the title track to the film What a Whopper sung by Adam Faith. Glad these films are still available however as no better way of looking back at the social history of a nation, than by going through their movie archives (and if you watch until the end you’ll even spot good old Lance Corporal Jones from Dad’s Army).

Bicycles, Sgt. Pepper and “The One on the Right is on the Left”!

I don’t quite know what happened this week but my blogging mojo left me. First of all I had intended to write a few age-related posts ahead of my birthday next week but that old chestnut time, or the lack of it, got the better of me. I then spent a couple of hours last night looking at the screen, unable to string a coherent sentence together. My long list of “posts pending” and my American Odyssey series both require a fair bit of research and to be honest, at the moment, I’m just not in the mood. I blame the fact that this week has been especially spreadsheet-heavy at work, where the numbers side of my brain has obviously encroached on the space usually left for words. In situations like this, for the second week in a row, it will have to be a web-diary type of post.

On Wednesday evening we went along to the local college where Mr WIAA “works” in the art department (although it all sounds a bit of a lark to me). There was a year-end exhibition of the student’s work and it usually makes for an interesting evening where we also get the chance to buy some pieces at very reasonable prices – Who knows, maybe one day these young artists will become famous and their “works” will be worth something. For one group of students, yarn bombing was something that had featured heavily this year, and I did like this bicycle.

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A bicycle of the knitted variety

This week has also of course been politics-heavy ahead of next week’s “snap” election and although most bloggers steer away from such topics, I cannot deny that the issues at stake have infiltrated my thoughts a lot over the last seven days. The television debates (or non-debates actually) have not been particularly effective and as usual I end up warming most to the Green Party leaders and candidates, but they are never going to be able to form a government (can you imagine them having a special relationship with Mr Trump after his withdrawal from the Accord de Paris this week), so the best alternative it will have to be. Like the Greens, Jeremy Corbyn is against nuclear weapons of any kind but of course he is continually hectored and harangued about whether he would ever actually “press the button” if the need arose. I’m with the young lady from the Question Time studio audience who shook her head in dismay at how so many in the room seemed bent on, in effect, killing millions of people. If things get that bad, it’s curtains for us all anyway.

In the meantime, my employers, as well as creating a new paper-less environment have also created a car park-less environment. This has led to the initiation of a cycle-to-work scheme, where eco-bikes are now at our disposal – The Greens would be proud of them although it’s not always easy being of that persuasion and Andy Hallett sang all about it back in 2001!

It’s Not Easy Being Green by Andy Hallett:

Still thinking fondly of the knitted bicycle from earlier in the week, Mr WIAA and I went to a local café today where they also show you how to fix and repair your bike. It is right next to the college so a frequent pit stop for staff and students alike. Called Velocity Café, it is run by enterprising youngsters who have created a great little hub for like-minded souls right in the centre of town. We sat at one of the long tables where you can have a chat with fellow diners or catch up with the newspapers. And this is where I had a bit of an emotional moment over my butternut squash and red lentil soup. In today’s Review section of The Guardian there was an excellent piece by the author Ian McEwan (link here) which really got to me. Right at that moment in time, I wanted nothing more than to live in a land full of Velocity Cafés, and not one where people who are reluctant to launch nuclear weapons are lampooned.

Fortunately I pulled myself together and we even had one of their award winning granola slices for which Mr WIAA managed to get the secret recipe last year. He has attempted to make them a few times now but they never turn out quite like in the café – Methinks they perhaps left out some of the key ingredients, as a secret recipe would no longer be secret, if given out willy-nilly to customers.

Not a lot of music so far included in this post and funnily enough, when it comes, it’s not going to be bicycle related although that does seem to have become the theme for this post. Whilst having lunch, 6 Music was playing on the radio and it was a programme about the Beatles album “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” which was released 50 years ago this week. I am not remotely qualified to write knowledgably about this ground-breaking album, so I’ll stick to the facts. It was their 8th album release and spent 27 weeks at the top of the UK charts. It was “lauded by critics for its innovative approach to music production, songwriting and graphic design and was probably the first album to bridge the divide between popular music and legitimate art“. Peter Blake’s album sleeve is arguably the most famous of all time, consisting of a collage of 88 figures which included the Beatles themselves. Copyright was a major problem as Brian Epstein had to locate each person in order to get permission to use their image out of context. Looking closely at some of those figures, this can’t have been easy. Today sitting in the café I think I found a renewed affection for this album as it is one of those that has perhaps become a bit over-familiar to my ears. Time maybe for a proper re-visitation over the coming week to mark its landmark birthday.

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Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band by the Beatles:

So, “What’s It All About?” – We’re heading to our polling stations again next week and although I have been very good at predicting the results of the last few elections and referendums, I have tended myself to always back the losing side. I often visit Jez’s site over at A History of Dubious Taste and he has put together some very good posts on the political goings on (read shenanigans) over the past few weeks – Informative but funny too, so I would thoroughly recommend a visit. This also reminds me of a song he featured a couple of weeks ago which is perfect for tonight’s post. I’d never heard it before but it has become a guilty pleasure over the last fortnight. I will leave you with Johnny Cash and The One On The Right Is On The Left and will return next week once we all know the outcome – Politically charged times indeed!

The One On The Right Is On The Left Lyrics
(Song by Jack Clement)

There once was a musical troupe
A pickin’ singin’ folk group
They sang the mountain ballads
And the folk songs of our land
They were long on musical ability
Folks thought they would go far
But political incompatibility led to their downfall

Well, the one on the right was on the left
And the one in the middle was on the right
And the one on the left was in the middle
And the guy in the rear was a Methodist

This musical aggregation toured the entire nation
Singing the traditional ballads
And the folk songs of our land
They performed with great virtuosity
And soon they were the rage
But political animosity prevailed upon the stage

Well, the one on the right was on the left
And the one in the middle was on the right
And the one on the left was in the middle
And the guy in the rear burned his driver’s license

Well the curtain had ascended
A hush fell on the crowd
As thousands there were gathered to hear the folk songs of our land
But they took their politics seriously
And that night at the concert hall
As the audience watched deliriously
They had a free-for-all

Well, the one on the right was on the bottom
And the one in the middle was on the top
And the one on the left got a broken arm
And the guy on his rear, said, “Oh dear”

Now this should be a lesson if you plan to start a folk group
Don’t go mixin’ politics with the folk songs of our land
Just work on harmony and diction
Play your banjo well
And if you have political convictions keep them to yourself
Now, the one on the left works in a bank
And the one in the middle drives a truck
The one on the right’s an all-night deejay
And the guy in the rear got drafted

Postscript:

As this was a very bicycle-heavy post it does seems wrong to leave without sharing anything musically related to bikes. Here is a clip that I revisit often as from that impressive London 2012 Olympic Opening Ceremony. The song Come Together was very appropriately for this post a Beatles one, but in this case was performed by the Arctic Monkeys. I loved those guys on the bicycles and from what I have just heard this morning on the news, the sentiment of the song is more relevant than ever.

Barbra, Ariana and Carly – A Week of Highs and Lows

Well, emotional times indeed.

First of all it’s Chelsea Flower Show week and back at the beginning of this week I had fully intended to perhaps write a heart-warming story about my dad, who in my opinion, had one of the nicest gardens in our village – It was small but perfectly formed and just about all the plants were grown from seed in his greenhouse. I thought I’d include a few pictures and find an appropriate florally-inclined song to accompany the post. Having already shared Barbra Streisand’s duets with both Kris Kristofferson and Barry Gibb, it was perhaps time to revisit the duet she recorded with Neil Diamond.

You Don’t Bring Me Flowers by Barbra and Neil:

You Don’t Bring Me Flowers (Any More) was actually a song about a couple who have drifted apart but somehow, taken literally, that song title really struck a cord with me this week. My dad died back in 2003 but prior to that he always used to arrive on this, the last week of May, with scores of bedding plants for my garden as he always produced way more than were needed. His green fingers meant that I too ended up with a colourful summer garden but of course since 2003 there have been no trays of bedding plants which is what made me think of that song. (Pictures from Dad’s garden below.)

Secondly, on Monday night before going to bed, I spotted a Facebook update from one of darling daughter’s best friends (so close she features on his FB profile photo). He was in Manchester at the Ariana Grande concert and it was obvious there was much excitement in the air. I knew very little about Ariana Grande before this week but now of course we have all heard of her and not for the reasons she would have ever wanted. It appears she started off in musical theatre which led on to a role in a very popular Nickelodeon television show and from there to life as a recording artist. She is very, very pretty (in a Cheryl Tweedy/Cole/Fernandez-Versini kind of way) which always helps, and although much has been made of her fan base being teenage girls, I know from personal experience that she is also much loved by young gay men. Fortunately, the young gay man we know who went to the concert came to no harm on Monday night but of course the same cannot be said for those in the foyer area who found themselves at the mercy of a happening I find very hard to comprehend.

manchester

The people of Manchester have shown themselves to be predictably strong, caring and full of community spirit, with many stories of random acts of kindness unfolding in the course of the week. From taxi drivers to homeless people to nurses to schoolchildren, everyone rallied round. Life must go on as before and that great city has certainly shown that they will be doing just that (some even grudgingly applauding the fact that Man U won their match on Wednesday night). The electioneering all had to grind to a halt for a while for which I was grateful – Coming from Scotland we have now had five trips to the ballot box in just over two and a half years and for once I will not be staying up all night to watch the results come in. Maybe it’s just me, but I’m all electioned-out.

Ariana Grande herself has announced she is to return for a benefit concert in aid of the bereaved families and I’ve just had a quick delve into the music database to see if we have anything of hers stored there – It appears that we do, from back in 2013, before darling daughter went down different music purchasing avenues. Having just listened to it and watched the video, I don’t feel I can include it however, as just a bit too raunchy for this place but in the meantime here is Ariana on the Jimmy Fallon show doing some of her great musical impressions. I do think this young lady is going to have a hard time dealing with what happened on Monday night so I really hope she gets the support she will no doubt need.

Finally, this week we heard of the death of Roger Moore. He was 89 so not one of those shock deaths we had got so used to hearing about last year, but still the end of an era for those of us who remembered him well as The Saint, Lord Brett Sinclair and of course as the most light-hearted, comedic James Bond of them all. Last year I wrote a post about Bond themes (Bond Themes and Nancy Sinatra) and ranked them by personal preference. Although You Only Live Twice came at the top, it is interesting to note that the next three were from the Roger Moore era so perhaps a bit of a golden age, if not for the franchise, for the theme song. (We’ll not mention Moonraker however which came at the bottom of my list!)

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Not in the mood at the moment for the big production number that is Live and Let Die nor for Sheena Easton so instead I’ll end this meandering post with the theme song to the 1977 film The Spy Who Loved Me, which was Roger’s third outing as Bond. Nobody Does It Better was composed by Marvin Hamlisch, the lyrics were by Carole Bayer Sager and it was performed by Carly Simon. It was the first theme song with a title that was different from the name of the film and for many, nobody did Bond better than Roger.

Nobody Does It Better by Carly Simon:

So, “What’s It All About?” – Despite the fact that this week has turned out to be one of great sadness, it has also provided a fair few highs as well. Because our back garden is now a much more open space with fewer bedding plants, it is perfect as a gathering place for the young people, who held an impromptu get-together to welcome the return of their friend from Manchester, unscathed. The weather has also been absolutely glorious over the last few days so tonight there is to be a party in another garden to celebrate a neighbour’s 90th birthday. Poor Roger didn’t make it to 90 but Albert has, and although he didn’t ever drive a Lotus Esprit or meet Barbara Bach, he did once serve Princess Margaret breakfast in bed. Yes, you don’t get to be an nonagenarian without having a fair few tales to tell and that one is perhaps again, for another day!

Until next time….

Nobody Does It Better Lyrics
(Song by Marvin Hamlisch/Carole Bayer Sager)

Nobody does it better
Makes me feel sad for the rest
Nobody does it half as good as you
Baby, you’re the best

I wasn’t looking
But somehow you found me
It tried to hide from your love light
But like Heaven above me
The spy who loved me
Is keeping all my secrets safe tonight

And nobody does it better

Though sometimes I wish someone could
Nobody does it quite the way you do
Why’d you have to be so good?

The way that you hold me
Whenever you hold me
There’s some kind of magic inside you
That keeps me from running
But just keep it coming
How’d you learn to do the things you do?

And nobody does it better
Makes me feel sad for the rest
Nobody does it half as good as you
Baby, baby, darlin’, you’re the best

Baby, you’re the best
Darlin’, you’re the best

An American Odyssey in Song: Rhode Island – “Young and Beautiful” by Lana Del Rey

Welcome to this occasional series where I am attempting a virtual journey around the 50 States of America in song. For anyone new to this place, I have a continuous route map where I enter and leave each state only once. Suggestions for the next leg always welcome!

Last time we visited Massachusetts (tricky to spell but that’s probably the last time I’ll have to do it) so we are now heading west towards New York, first passing through Rhode Island. This tiny state, only 37 miles wide and 48 miles long is made up of islands, inlets and peninsulas but also what appears to be chunks of mainland America plucked from Connecticut and Massachusetts (drat had to spell it again). The name came about because the Italian explorer Giovanni Verrazzano thought that the large pear-shaped island sitting in Narragansett Bay looked like the Greek island of Rhodes. The official name is actually the State of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations, the plantations part being an archaic name for “colony”.

Rhode Island

And now for the part I am coming to enjoy most about this series – The random fact element. Rhode Island is also called the Ocean State and due to its geography has a long history of sailing. The America’s Cup, offered up as a prize by the British Royal Yacht Squadron in 1851, was first won by a boat called America which is how it got its name. The cup has spent much of its time in Newport, Rhode Island ever since and poor Britain has never won it back. The MGM musical High Society was set in one of the many fully staffed mansions that littered the state back then and one of the most memorable scenes was when Bing Crosby and Grace Kelly took a trip on the True Love which in turn inspired the song for the movie. I do remember being troubled by their age difference when first watching it as a child – Having just looked it up, Bing was 53 and Grace 27 when the film was shot, but not unusual amongst wealthy Rhode Islanders back then I suppose. In fact the mansions, or “cottages” as they were called, were originally built by rich plantation owners in order to escape the heat of the Southern summer. Later on rich Northern families started to do the same as the Gilded Age of Vanderbilts and Astors reached its staggeringly opulent zenith. Never had so much money, been made so fast, by so few, and much of this wealth was reflected in the Cliff Walk properties of Newport, RI.

But hey, as usual I am being side-tracked, for this is supposed to be a music blog. Not many obvious contenders for this state but last time both CC and Rol came up with the suggestion Sweet Rhode Island Red by Ike and Tina Turner. A good one but not my featured song for this post as although most of us who are not even au fait with the world of poultry farming have heard of the Rhode Island Red hen (the state bird), the song is not about the hen or even set in the state. Also, although I really enjoyed Tina’s output during her reincarnation of the 1980s, I’m not so fond of the songs she recorded with Ike (or Ike), especially Nutbush City Limits, but we’ll come to the reason for that another day.

ike and tina

But not everyone in Rhode Island lives in mansions and owns yachts. Some of you will know of the animated sitcom Family Guy created by Seth MacFarlane. The series centres on the Griffins family who have an anthropomorphic pet dog called Brian. Seth MacFarlane is not only a talented actor, writer, singer, film-maker but is also (I think) extremely good-looking and it turns out he is even descended from one of the original passengers from The Mayflower (grrr…). He studied animation at the Rhode Island School of Design so not unusual to have set the show in the fictional city of Quahog, RI. I give you the Road To Rhode Island by Brian and Stewie!

All this talk of the Gilded Age and opulent mansions however has made me look into it a bit more and has inspired my choice of featured song for this post. One of the largest “cottages” was Hammersmith Farm owned by the stepfather of Jacqueline Bouvier, Hugh D. Auchincloss. She of course went on to marry John F Kennedy and their wedding reception was held there. The property was also used as the setting for the 1974 film version of The Great Gatsby starring Robert Redford and Mia Farrow. I have a feeling that Grace Kelly may well have also “graced” the terraces of Hammersmith Farm at some point, perhaps not in High Society as that appeared to be a film set, but perhaps in her role as Princess Grace of Monaco.

Some of you will know that Baz Luhrmann also made a dazzling version of The Great Gatsby back in 2013 and the song Young and Beautiful was specially written and recorded for it by Lana Del Rey. It was perfect for the film as she has a deep, sultry voice and a look that is evocative of a much earlier time. Also, a song about “the young and the beautiful” was totally appropriate for the tale of The Great Gatsby. All of the people mentioned in the paragraph above were rich, young and beautiful but whether characters in fiction or real people, they all died prematurely or experienced tragedy in their lives. Again a very tenuous link to this state, and again from a film, but just reinforces the knowledge we all have that a life of wealth and privilege does not necessarily bring happiness.

Young and Beautiful by Lana Del Rey:

Having done a bit of research, it seems that Lana Del Rey adopted her exotic sounding Latin name and look after spending time with friends in Miami. She is however originally from New York and has a Scottish heritage. Her real name is Lizzy Grant which I find amusing as where I come from in the North-East of Scotland there are many older ladies called Lizzy Grant – Absolutely none of them look like Lana Del Rey!

So, a longish post about the smallest state. Heading into Connecticut next and drawing a blank myself for that state at the moment, so again, any suggestions more than welcome. I can think of a couple of siblings who came from there and whose songs I have featured in this place recently, so may well go down that route. We’ll see, but in the meantime, I think I’ll have another listen to the haunting and sombre sound of Young and Beautiful.

Until next time….

Young And Beautiful Lyrics
(Song by Lana Del Ray/Rick Nowels)

I’ve seen the world
Done it all
Had my cake now
Diamonds, brilliant
And Bel Air now
Hot summer nights, mid July
When you and I were forever wild
The crazy days, city lights
The way you’d play with me like a child

Will you still love me
When I’m no longer young and beautiful?
Will you still love me
When I got nothing but my aching soul?
I know you will, I know you will
I know that you will
Will you still love me when I’m no longer beautiful?

I’ve seen the world, lit it up
As my stage now
Channelling angels in the new age now
Hot summer days, rock ‘n’ roll
The way you play for me at your show
And all the ways I got to know
Your pretty face and electric soul

Will you still love me
When I’m no longer young and beautiful?
Will you still love me
When I got nothing but my aching soul?
I know you will, I know you will
I know that you will
Will you still love me when I’m no longer beautiful?

Dear lord, when I get to heaven
Please let me bring my man
When he comes tell me that you’ll let him in
Father tell me if you can
Oh that grace, oh that body
Oh that face makes me wanna party
He’s my sun, he makes me shine like diamonds

Will you still love me
When I’m no longer young and beautiful?
Will you still love me
When I got nothing but my aching soul?
I know you will, I know you will
I know that you will
Will you still love me when I’m no longer beautiful?
Will you still love me when I’m no longer beautiful?
Will you still love me when I’m not young and beautiful

Postscript:

Because I mentioned the film High Society a fair few times above, I feel I should share this excellent clip of the inimitable Mr Louis “Satchel Mouth” Armstrong giving us a potted version of what is to come. Yes, this was high society Rhode Island-style, back in 1956. Enjoy.