Black and It’s A “Wonderful Life”, Isn’t It?

Well, look what just dropped into my inbox from the WordPress people. It’s the little badge to signify you’re celebrating an anniversary, and in this case, it’s my blog’s third birthday. Still little more than a toddler then with lots more time to grow, hopefully.

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I still remember the excitement of publishing my very first post, on what was the first back-to-work, non-festive Monday, of 2016. It was a no-brainer that I would write about David Bowie (link here), as we had just woken up to the shock news he had died the day before. For a short number of weeks I became a “daily blogger”, as I had kind of fallen in love with this new hobby where I could indulge in my love of rock and pop trivia, and record my memories of the times.

But that was then, what about today? Now that I have become a weekly, as opposed to a daily blogger, it can get tricky. If you post daily you can write topically, but if you leave it for few days, the moment has passed. Likewise, an earworm that may have formed at the start of the week will have been replaced by the end of it, so no longer relevant. Best to perhaps stick to the tried and tested notion of linking to the previous post.

Last week I featured the song You by Ten Sharp. I don’t know if it’s because the video for Wonderful Life by Black was similarly filmed in black and white, or because it’s a song performed in a similar style, from a similar era, by a male vocalist, but that’s what came to mind. Sadly, once I started to find out a bit more about the song, and the artist called Black, it turned out his life wasn’t quite so wonderful after all.

Wonderful Life by Black:

Although the Liverpudlian band Black started life as a trio, when vocalist/singer-songwriter Colin Vearncombe became the last man standing, he decided to retain the name. Back in 1985 things weren’t going too well for Colin. He’d been in a couple of car crashes, his mother was seriously ill, he’d been dropped by his record company, his first marriage was over and he was homeless. So, what do you do if you’re an artistic type? Why you write an ironic song about just how wonderful life can be. The song was originally released in 1986 but it wasn’t until Black got signed by A&M Records in 1987 that it was re-released and became a massive worldwide hit. He was pretty sure however that few people back then understood the meaning behind his lyrics.

As for the great black and white video, I initially thought it was shot in Mid-West America, but no, those clever cinematographer-type people shot it around Southport, Merseyside, as well as Wallasey near Colin’s hometown of Liverpool. Maybe it’s because of the clothes and haircuts, but we could be back in the 1950s. It also featured New Brighton Lighthouse, the Looping Star rollercoaster, the Galleon fairground ride, the shrimping boat and local shops. A fine video that won an award at the New York Film Festival in 1988.

black32But here’s is the tragic part – Although he happily carried on working in the music industry for the next 30 years, in early 2016 Colin was involved in a car accident near Cork in Southern Ireland. He sustained serious head injuries and died two weeks later aged only 53, leaving behind a wife and three children. He was born two years after me, but died just as this blog was starting to pick up steam, three years ago. Gave me a bit of a jolt when I found that out, despite the fact I hadn’t thought of him in years.

It was inevitable I would stumble upon Frank Capra’s classic fantasy-drama Its A Wonderful Life when trying to find out a little more about the featured song for this post. I’ve watched the film many, many times as it’s always shown around Christmastime, and I never fail to shed a tear. (Seems to be a lot of that going on at the moment in my little circle.)

Most of us will know the story well – George Bailey (played by Jimmy Stewart) is a small-town man whose life seems so desperate he contemplates suicide. He had always wanted to leave Bedford Falls to see the world, but circumstances have led him to stay. He sacrificed his education for his brother’s, kept the family business afloat against all the odds, and protected the town from greedy banker Mr Potter, so for him, it hasn’t been such a wonderful life. As he prepares to jump from a bridge, his guardian angel intercedes, showing him what life would have become for the residents of Bedford Falls had he never lived.

Yes it’s a classic alternate reality movie where we see glimpses of another world that could have been. Marty McFly much preferred the Hill Valley where his father had biffed Biff, and in the Buffyverse, Sunnydale was a much happier place because the slayer had come to town (as opposed to heading to Cleveland), but they are fictional realities. Real life is never quite as saccharine.

We all probably contemplate our own alternate realities from time to time, but best not to dwell on it too much as I have a sneaking suspicion life turns out pretty much how it’s meant to be because of the kind of people we are, and the decisions we make along the way. I read a great book recently called The Versions Of Us by Laura Barnett, where the characters inhabit three different storylines with chapters that run in parallel. I won’t give too much away, but yes, they pretty much end up where they are meant to be, despite the different routes taken to get there.

“It’s a great life if you don’t weaken”, is a phrase my family used to bandy about quite a lot. Something taken from a cartoon by the writer John Buchan I believe. It was always meant in jest, although incorporating an element of truth. Now and again, like George Bailey, we do weaken; now and again, like Colin Vearncombe, we have a run of bad luck; but invariably life has a wonderful way of turning itself around.

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Yesterday we heard of the death of a girl DD met at college a few years ago. Before Christmas I wrote about a local charity called Mikey’s Line which offers support to young people who suffer from depression and chronic loneliness. The high rate of suicide amongst young men in the Highlands means that many families have lost a son or brother in recent years, but it seems families are now losing their daughters too. I had a look at the girl’s Facebook page where the tributes were flooding in. She was absolutely beautiful, but in that unreal way, where the pictures had obviously been heavily “photoshopped”.

Is it that some of our young people can’t cope with real life nowadays? Is that that they prefer their unreal, online personas and those of their so-called online “Friends”? Yes, life can be wonderful, but it can also have its slumps when we have to dig deep and “not weaken”. I can’t say that last year was great for me at all, but I am entering 2019 in a better place. At the time I couldn’t see an end to what was going on, but of course a resolution did come about, and we now have a new reality.

As the mother of a young woman, I am constantly on the lookout for signs that all might not be well. I know this is something my own mother never even had to contemplate, but a sign of the times. Fortunately DD seems to be in a good place at the moment, but I will never, ever, let down my guard.

Millennials are called the Snowflake Generation which I find deeply offensive. Yes they have been raised in a totally different manner from the previous generation, which can lead to difficulties in facing some of life’s realities, but it has also furnished many of them with a self-esteem I wish I’d had back in the day. They are entering a world that will be much tougher to navigate than the one I’ve lived through. Let’s do more to support them and not criticise them. The young people I know are AMAZING.

Until next time…

Wonderful Life Lyrics
(Song by Colin Vearncombe)

Here I go out to sea again
The sunshine fills my hair
And dreams hang in the air
Gulls in the sky and in my blue eyes
You know it feels unfair
There’s magic everywhere

Look at me standing
Here on my own again
Up straight in the sunshine
No need to run and hide
It’s a wonderful wonderful life
No need to laugh and cry
It’s a wonderful wonderful life

The sun’s in your eyes
The heat is in your hair
They seem to hate you because you’re there
And I need a friend
Oh I need a friend to make me happy
Not stand here on my own

Look at me standing
Here on my own again
Up straight in the sunshine
No need to run and hide
It’s a wonderful wonderful life
No need to laugh and cry
It’s a wonderful wonderful life

I need a friend
Oh I need a friend
To make me happy
Not so alone

Author: Alyson

Whenever I hear an old song on the radio, I am immediately transported back to those days - I know I'm not alone here and want to record those memories for myself and for the people in them. 50 years ago the song "Alfie" was written by my favourite songwriting team Bacharach and David - The opening line to that song was "What's it all about?" and I'm hoping that by writing this blog, I might find the answer to that question.

20 thoughts on “Black and It’s A “Wonderful Life”, Isn’t It?”

  1. Congratulations on the blog’s third birthday! It’s always interesting to look back and see how something has evolved over a period of time. Daily blogging is something else – and weekly blogging pretty impressive to my mind – so I’m full of admiration to anyone who can manage either.
    Funnily enough Black and this song came to mind v recently, think there was something we were watching on TV (all a bit of a blur over Christmas) and we were talking about Colin Vearncombe and the fact he’d died quite recently. Some people seem to be plagued with more than their fair share of tragedy and trouble (not that there really is a ‘fair’ share but you know what I mean) and others seem to breeze through. I suppose most of us fall somewhere in the middle. Having had a fairly smooth life so far – certainly compared to a lot of people – I have this weird irrational fear of being reincarnated and having to live a much worse one! Imagine going through all this again without as much luck or love, in a war-torn country or at the hands of an abuser or something… I just hope that the Buddhists (?) are right and that if there is such a thing as reincarnation, each life our souls inhabit will be better than the last one. (I think that’s how it’s meant to work). I’d be quite happy coming back as a worm – I’ll just put that out there….
    On a more serious note, I was so very sorry to hear about your daughter’s friend. So shocking to think that anyone so young – at an age when it should all be about optimism and opportunity – can feel so desperate and unable to see hope, not to be able to think past the present and whatever problems are in it and realise that the future can be so much better/different with the right help. As you say, we shouldn’t be blaming or ridiculing young people themselves – it’s society’s problem. Too much emphasis on the superficial, too much expectation of some perceived perfection, let alone all the other worries about affording homes and finding jobs etc. I feel very lucky.
    Anyway, thanks for another thought-provoking post – and here’s to many more between now and your next blog birthday.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. And this is how things have changed so much over the 3 years – Back in 2016 it took around 4 months for me to receive my first comment and now the comments section can be as long as the post itself (although this was a very long one, so maybe not this time!). Thanks for the birthday wishes – wouldn’t have thought I’d make so many blogging buddies when I started out, but here we are.

      Yes, some people seem to breeze through life, but we never really know what goes on behind closed doors and in people’s heads, so perhaps it just looks that way. I too, touch wood, can’t complain, although there are some situations I would have preferred not to have happened. One thing I have noticed between my parents generation and mine, is that they never had to worry about money. They lived in the days of “jobs for life” and there were less pressures on what to do with it. The difference between my generation and the young people of today is that there are so many more issues that cause mental health problems – This latest casualty is a case in point and I just cannot imagine what it must be like for her parents right now. As I say, we have to stay vigilant and look out for them.

      This was a bit of a thought-provoking post wasn’t it? I think this year I’m going to try and be disciplined, and stick to one Saturday post per week, otherwise I spend far too much time around here which will need to be spent elsewhere (more of that to follow). They won’t all be as heavy as this one though, and next week it will have to be another full moon post so watch this space and watch the skies – it’s going to be a good ‘un.

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      1. Happy 3rd Blogging Birthday. I started my blog in January of 2012 *I think* There’s just something about the start of a new year that brings the blogger out in us!

        I may be breaking protocol here, but back in the early 00s when I worked in a jobcentre just outside Liverpool one of my regular customers was the guy who played bass in Black.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Thanks – It was my New Year’s resolution 3 years ago to start writing regularly and I thought with a blog there would be a fair chance I would stick to it. Didn’t expect to be still here 3 years on – I can’t be sure, but I suspect my blogging activities have affected my “real world” life, considering the amount of hours I used to put in. Perhaps my real world life needed changing however and probably for the better. Look at you 7 years on. A lot of the blogs I follow started around then so I was a late starter.

          Thanks for that snippet about the Black bassist – Sure after all this time it’s ok to mention it and most fledgling bands would have popped by the old job centre back in the day. Wham! wrote a song about it.

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    1. Thanks – I doubt if I’d have been able to keep going had it not been for all the lovely comments people like yourself leave.

      It’s also been interesting hearing some of your tales of life in Aberdeen back in the day – We probably frequented the same hostelries and concert venues over the years.

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  2. Happy 3rd. birthday Alyson. You know how much I enjoy reading your stuff – keep it up! Daily/Weekly/Fortnightly – whatever feels right.

    Colin Vearncombe – I really had no idea. His acoustic album recorded at Abbey Road has always been one of my favourites, especially his re-workings of both Wonderful Life and Sweetest Smile. Some people just seem destined to checkout early.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks – Weekly feels about right so will try and stick to that. Yes the 7 in 7 challenge was fine for one week but my style of blogging doesn’t lend itself to being a daily blogger (too wordy).

      Thanks for the link to the Abbey Road album – Didn’t even know his real name was Colin Vearncombe until last week but that’s why I enjoy writing this blog, as I love doing the research. Was saddened to hear he’d died young though – From my perspective, it feels like no age at all.

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  3. I wouldn’t want to be young in today’s world…but I suspect most people feel that way as they grow older. I see the Facebook profiles of some of my students and shudder at the artificiality they create and the desperate need to be “liked”.

    It’s A Wonderful Life is one of my favourite films. Pure fantasy though.

    Happy 3rd. Many happy returns.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks – as I said above, I doubt if I’d have been able to keep going had I not received such supportive comments from people like yourself.

      I do sometimes think we forget it was not “all singing, all dancing” back in our younger day either though – It’s just it wasn’t talked about as much and we certainly never shared our problems with our parents. Looking back, I can now see there were a few anorexics, depressives and lonely souls in my school but if they weren’t in your immediate friendship group you knew nothing about them or their lives. Problem with social media is that it exists 24/7 so you never (unless you are stupendously disciplined) get any respite from it. If I was ever having a hard time with anyone at school, at least come 4pm, I was free of them until the next day, or the following Monday. Also, on the whole, we all looked the same. Short-ish mousey hair and brown clothes. If we ever did take a selfie with our Kodak Instamatic, we looked great, as the resolution was so shit. Yes we have access to much nicer hair and clothes now, and loads of great technology, but it comes with a price.

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  4. Happy 3rd Blog birthday Alyson – just a young thing!
    I’m with Rol – not sure I’d like to be young now with the selfie generation and the fact that you will more than likely die before you get your pension -assuming you can find a “real” job that is. There is also a lack of resilience these days .

    Just realised that the above makes me look like an old fogey – which to young folk I probably am

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Compared with some, yes I am! Will we all still be doing this in 10 years I wonder? Doubt if the technology will be the same actually – We’ll all have to become Vloggers (which in my case is never going to happen)!

      Just replied to Rol re the younger generation, not sure about the lack of resilience actually, they have had so much more to deal with than our generation ever did. Mr WIAA and I are horrified at what DD has been expected to put up with in the world of work – We would never have been able to cope with some of the regimes she’s had to endure. 4 hours on your feet with no break at all/unsocial hours with irregular mealtimes. Bosses who just don’t seem to have the qualities that bring out the best in their staff. I think I threw in the towel at the right time as it was definitely heading that way in my organisation.

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  5. Happy birthday! You should be proud of this achievement. A lot to take in here, and my one takeaway is similar to Rol’s. This is not the best time to be growing up, and I can’t fathom how social media has made those already awkward teen years so much worse than in previous generations. Now get off my lawn!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks – Still a bairn compared to the rest of you though!

      Yes kind of glad I’m not a youngster in today’s world but as I said to Rol above, perhaps we look back with rose-coloured spectacles. The big difference is that a generation on we are so much more involved in our kid’s lives. My parents were relieved of any stress and worry about me because I told them absolutely nothing, and think it was the same for most of my friends – We relied on our peer group for support. I’m still heavily involved in DD’s life and I’m sure you’ll be there for your kids as they grow up – Means you have sleepless nights worrying about them and their futures, but you also get all the good stuff when things go well. Wouldn’t have it any other way.

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  6. I remember the song Wonderful Life well, sticks in your head once you’ve heard it a few times. Thanks for sharing the back story. Sad to hear how his life ended.

    I love the message in the film A Wonderful Life that we may fail to notice the impact we have on those around us.

    Versions Of Us by Laura Barnett reminds me of the Gwyneth Paltrow film Sliding Doors (1998) with the tagline ”have you ever wondered what might have been?”

    Sounds like you’re an attentive mother towards DD

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes, I love any film or book that shows us two parallel universes. Sliding Doors is another isn’t it, but didn’t want to mention that one as had a different kind of ending – will leave it at that.

      Yes I suppose attentive (in a good way) is one word for it – As I’ve said to the others above, we are much more involved in our kids lives than parents were in my day. This can lead to criticism and the tag Snowflake Generation but it’s a totally different world nowadays so not a bad thing. My grandparents were born in Victorian times and my own parents just before WW2. I was a child of the ’60s so each childhood would have been very different – how it is.

      Wonderful World formed an earworm for me too which is why I ended up writing about it – Sad he died so young.

      Liked by 1 person

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