The Eclectic Mix of Abba, S’Express and Fred Astaire

Well, things seem to be cautiously opening up again around here, as I imagine they are where you are. A lot of empty units in our local shopping centre though, what with Debenhams, Top Shop and a few other high street stalwarts having shut their doors for good, but still a reasonable vibe about the place. I was chuffed to see that our local HMV is still open for business, as I do love a good browse up and down their aisles. It seems half the store is now given way to vinyl, either classic albums reissued in those beautiful original sleeves, or new stuff by artists who were probably born a good decade after vinyl ceased being the primary vehicle for music consumption.

The inspiration for this post was a clear-out. Yes, Mr WIAA and I have restarted our efforts into clearing some space in our loft and cupboards, but it’s tough, as I get sentimental about keeping things. This morning when tidying out a drawer I found something that reminded me of 7-inch singles, or 45s as they were called. For music lovers this image will probably cause apoplexy, but a few years ago, after a visit to a craft fair, DD presented me with a gift. Someone had set up a stall selling plant pots and little dishes made from old vinyl records. I think we’ve all probably melted some of our vinyl by accident (for me it involved a cold 1970s night in rural Scotland and the close proximity to our stylish 2-bar electric fire), but now it feels like sacrilege to deliberately render a 45 unplayable. Of course I thanked DD very much for her gift at the time, which looked remarkably like an impractical ashtray (not that I’ve ever had need of one).

Take A Chance On Me by Abba:

The little dish/ashtray was made from an Abba single. The song on the A-side was Take A Chance On Me from 1978, one of their many top 10 hits. It occurred to me to check out the B-side and found it was a song called I’m A Marionette, not one I’d ever heard of so time to find out more.

Hmm…, not sure about that one but it seems it was a song from a mini-musical called The Girl With the Golden Hair performed as part of their 1977 concert tour along with Thank You for the Music and The Name of the Game. Now it makes sense.

I don’t have many 45s still in my possession, but the little dish/ashtray made me want to seek them out. What a mixed bag. Really old stuff belonging to my mum and dad, some soppy songs by my teen idols, a few singles given as presents (probably had deep meaning attached at the time), purchases from bargain bins and a few from the dying days of ‘the 45’ as a music format.

Somehow my copy of Queen’s Somebody To Love got accidentally “ironed” (see nick out of top left) when sitting on a table in our student flat, so the first minute was lost to us!

I’m sure many of you will recognise some of the names there, as pretty mainstream stuff, but each piece of vinyl has a story behind it and some of the songs have already put in an appearance around here. Something I had forgotten all about was the single in the middle of the picture called The Brits 1990 (Dance Medley). The medley went down really well on the night of the awards show that year and was released as a 7 inch single straight after. It made it to the No. 2 spot in the UK Singles Chart. I was a bit long in the tooth for such fodder by 1990, but as an avid dancer, who often invited everyone ‘back to mine’ after a night out, it was good to have it for the turntable. Bit of S’Express anyone? Yes please, along with some Double Trouble and the Rebel MC, A Guy Called Gerald, The Beatmasters, Jeff Wayne, 808 State, D Mob and The Cookie Crew. Hard to believe it’s from over 30 years ago now as the video clip (although a bit cringifying in places) doesn’t look as dated as something from 1960 would have looked in 1990. A very different kind of 30 years in terms of the evolution of music and dance (and of course in colour).

Theme From S’Express by S’Express:

All this talk of dancing has reminded me of another clip I have been meaning to share for a while but not got round to yet, going back much, much further in time. The video clip has been doing the rounds for some time but it has been excellently edited and really showcases the talents of some of Hollywood’s greatest dancers. Bruno Mars was just a toddler when Fred Astaire died at age 87, but somehow his 2014 rendition of Uptown Funk (a Mark Ronson song with Bruno on vocals) lends itself well to a medley of some of the best-choreographed dance sequences in film history, many of which inevitably involve Fred.

I think Fred Astaire was my first crush, as I spent so much time watching him in old black and white movies when I was a child. Yes he was balding, yes he wasn’t that strong a singer, but boy could he dance and he had a certain boyish charm. In the 1930s his films were adored by audiences who craved escapism. Maybe why I went on to have such a love for dance, and why I was always the one who took over the dancefloor should the occasion arise (much to the chagrin of my friends who always said I put boys off asking us to dance). But hey, it was my thing, and fortunately I found a willing partner in Mr WIAA when he came into my life.

A Fine Romance by Fred Astaire:

The thrill of dance has always stayed with me, until now of course. Pre-pandemic there were few opportunities left for us ladies of a certain age to exercise their love of dance, but the odd wedding or party sufficed. In the last 15 months there has been no dancing at all for me and as I still seem to be recovering from the broken ankle I suffered a few months ago, I fear George Michael’s lyrics may become a reality – I’m never gonna dance again… the way I danced with you. Let’s hope not, as I don’t think I’m quite ready to hang up my pumps yet.

So, ‘What’s It All About?’ – A bit of a strange ramble this one, so apologies for that, but I’m trying to be more disciplined about my blogging and Thursday seems to be my new regular day. This week the stream of consciousness flowed from old 45s, to dance medleys, to Fred Astaire. You just never know where it’s going to go, which is part of the fun of it.

Until next time…

A Fine Romance Lyrics
(Song by Dorothy Fields/Jerome Kern)

A fine romance, with no kisses
A fine romance, my friend this is
We should be like a couple of hot tomatoes
But you’re as cold as yesterday’s mashed potatoes
A fine romance, you won’t nestle
A fine romance, you won’t wrestle
I might as well play bridge
With my old maid aunt
I haven’t got a chance
This is a fine romance

A fine romance, my good fellow
You take romance, I’ll take jello
You’re calmer than the seals
In the Arctic Ocean
At least they flap their fins
To express emotion
A fine romance with no quarrels
With no insults and all morals
I’ve never mussed the crease
In your blue serge pants
I never get the chance

This is a fine romance

A fine romance, with no kisses
A fine romance, my friend this is
We two should be like clams in a dish of chowder
But we just fizz like parts of a Seidlitz powder
A fine romance, with no clinches
A fine romance, with no pinches
You’re just as hard to land as the Ile de France!
I haven’t got a chance, this is a fine romance

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.

12 thoughts on “The Eclectic Mix of Abba, S’Express and Fred Astaire”

  1. My wife found someone who just cut the area out that was the label of the LP, then did some sort of lamination to them, and they are now drink coasters to protect our furniture. At one point, some of the local carnivals would have booths that would string up the old 78rpm records to be broken with a ball toss. They were quite brittle. Now, if there are some that survive, they are treasured by collectors. As with any medium, there would have been some that were rather rare or just not that popular and thus not reproduced on the new format (be that 33 1/3, cassette, CD, etc.)
    I am certain ABBA does not fall into that category! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You are right of course, an Abba single would not have been that rare so not a disaster that it was made into some sort of dish. Still doesn’t sit well with me though.

      I still have my mum and dad’s 78s – They have survived the various house clearances and moves over the years so definitely want to keep them. Very brittle though as you say made from some sort of shellac so can see how they were used at fairs. Maybe I’m sitting on a fortune but I suspect not as fairly mainstream stuff from the 1950s.

      The lamination of the LP label sounds like an idea – Just the right size for a coaster. My husband’s cousin who played in a band had a very unusual wedding with a suit of armour, drum kit wedding cake and old LPs as place settings! All very quirky.

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  2. I see Dexys Midnight Runners, Swing Out Sister and Fiction Factory in there. Seeing those was a big smile.

    I just saw Top Hat for the first time about a month ago. Not proud it took so long but loved every second of it.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes a couple of Dexys in there but a lot of questionable stuff too (you really didn’t want to see what was hidden underneath!).

      Ah Top Hat – Probably the best of all the Fred and Ginger movies. I watch it every so often and have never got tired of it. The dancing is amazing obviously but the “screwball comedy” plot never fails to amuse either. The dialogue is so funny and Helen Broderick gets some brilliant lines as the long suffering wife of Horace Hardwick. Those two actors often popped up in Fred & Ginger films along with Bates the valet. There were eight RKO F&G movies in the 1930s and they seemed to pop up on our telly screens all the time when I was a child. Cried buckets at The Story of Vernon and Irene Castle but the others were just a lot of fun in the same vein as Top Hat. Glad you discovered the film after all these years.

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    1. Looking at the lyrics though, I don’t think they could be written nowadays. I don’t think they were originally written to be anything other than humorous but from a 21st century perspective, they sound a bit wrong!

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  3. I hadn’t previously seen the Uptown Funk video, but as you say, it is an excellent montage, expertly compiled and a joy to watch. I’ve never been much of a dancer, I’ll admit, but this cross genre compilation does highlight that the movement is every bit as important as the music. Singles-wise, there’s a few 45s in storage up here which probably shouldn’t see the light of day again, though as you say (and demonstrate so brilliantly), every song has a personal story.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It is great isn’t it and to be honest, until I started this blog, my relationship with music was much more based on how it made me feel and how it made me want to dance. There were obviously exceptions but I often hadn’t realised what the lyrics were actually about – Too naïve for my own good sometimes!

      Yes, there were a couple in my collection that didn’t make it to the top layer for my picture, by people who have resided at HM’s Pleasure (RH and GG). Who knew back then. We were all naïve.

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  4. It’s just lovely to see all the bays and racks full of vinyl…. but, who’d have ever thought it?! Working in a record shop just as those new-fangled CDs made their debut, I went through two schools of thought – firstly, quite briefly, that they were a bit gimmicky and wouldn’t catch on with the wider population, followed fairly quickly by what I thought was acceptance that they would replace vinyl forever… Lovely to see that photo of your old singles, some very familiar-looking labels and sleeves there.
    I’ve been so busy I’ve not had chance to get out anywhere yet, but I’m so looking forward to some days off and hoping very much they will coincide with more of a return to a cautiously opened up world!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. To be honest those photos of our HMV are from last Autumn when I think I also shared something similar – Even more aisles now dedicated to vinyl. The youngsters are probably going to stick with their digital mediums but for oldies like us I love seeing the vinyl on display, but not probably buying enough of it to keep the shop in business – Hope it can stay open.

      Yes we all knew the labels our favourite bands were with as right there in the centre of the disc. Doubt if many of us know nowadays.

      Hopefully you will be able to get out there again soon, albeit cautiously. Inevitably social media is awash with everyone’s trips out to restaurants etc and I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t experiencing a bit of FOMO – Something very straightforward about staying at home knowing that everyone is in the same boat. Will have to make tentative plans with people and who knows, the “mini-summit” might be able to be pencilled in at some point.

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  5. I’m trying to work out what might be on those Bell and RCA labels you’ve skilfully hidden from view in your singles display! And might that be a green Chrysalis label lurking beneath Donny? If so, my money’s on either Pinball by Brian Protheroe or They Shoot Horses Don’t They by Racing Cars, the latter being a popular ‘…let’s slow things down a little…’ song at discos of the time as I recall. Brilliant to see Ian Hunter’s Once Bitten Twice Shy sitting proudly atop the pile – one of the great intros ‘…’allo…’

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Eagle eyed Swede – The RCA label was David Bowie’s Sound And Vision, quite respectable. The Bell label was the single shared a few weeks ago after the death of Les McKeown, Give A Little Love by the Bay City Rollers, perhaps not as respectable now but must have been played many, many times during the era of Rollermania. There is some writing on the sleeve because my flatmate once used it to leave a note for me – “See you later…”. Poignant to read now as I think she was the closest friend I’ve ever had but she died young at only 41.

      As for the lime green label it wasn’t Chrysalis but something called Volume records – It was a novelty record bought for another flatmate I think, and I seem to still have it (why my loft is groaning).

      Weird that I picked the Brits medley out of all of them to write about but I think it was the very last 7-inch single I ever bought and it led on nicely to the clip of all the Hollywood dancing stars.

      You must have very fond memories of selling vinyl and the excitement of something new coming into the shop that ended up being a best seller.

      Happy days for you

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