Willie Nelson, Moonlight in Vermont and Snow (Or Rather, the Lack of It)

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

I can scarcely believe it’s been four weeks since my last “moon post”. What is it with time? The older you get, the faster it seems to whizz by. I heard a great quote recently, where the phenomena was described as such: “Life is like a roll of toilet paper. The closer it gets to the end, the faster it goes.” How apt I thought.

Anyway, it is now nearly a month since we witnessed (or didn’t in my case) January’s lunar eclipse. This month, we should witness the Snow Moon on the night of the 19th February. I had intended to use the alternate names for the full moon this year, however last year, because of the 29 and a half day lunar cycle, we didn’t have a full moon in February at all. Instead, we ended up with two Blue Moons (a second full moon in the same calendar month) on either side. As I said at the start of this series, no two years will ever be the same.

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The Snow Moon

As it turns out, there has been very little snow in town this winter at all. In fact, there have been many crisp clear days and beautiful starry nights. Last month, around the time of the full moon, a local photographer posted some of his pictures on social media, and I liked this one so much I asked him if I could use it in my blog. I thought it made the town look really quite romantic, which is just what we need to attract visitors to the place. I have now been the proud owner of a holiday hideaway for a week now, and although I’m another few weeks away from launching Alyson’s Highland Adventures (don’t worry, that name is merely a work in progress), I am getting really excited about the forthcoming season.

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A full moon shining brightly over the town

But this is a moon post, so what song to feature this time. Well, getting back to that old chestnut time, or rather the lack of it this week, I am going to cheat a little and include a song that has previously been included as part of another series. I started out with great gusto on my American Odyssey in Song in early 2017, but floundered last year upon reaching little Delaware. There was only one obvious contender for that state, but I didn’t want to write about it, and that was that. Fortunately, George has picked up the mantle, and is manfully making his way round the 50 states over at CC’s place. Lets hope, unlike me, he doesn’t flounder when he reaches Delaware.

This is a very roundabout way of saying, the song I’m going to include to accompany the Snow Moon, is Moonlight in Vermont by Willie Nelson. I didn’t actually know the song until it was suggested as a contender for my series, and after listening to several versions (it has been recorded by just about everyone), the one I warmed too most was Willie’s version.

Moonlight in Vermont by Willie Nelson:

Willie Nelson is of course one of the greats of country music, and when he decided to record an album of standards called Stardust, in 1978, he wanted the song to be on it. It is considered the unofficial state song of Vermont and is frequently played as the “first dance song” at wedding receptions. It was written in 1944 by John Blackburn and Karl Suessdorf, and is unusual in that the lyrics take the form of a haiku.

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Willie Nelson

And again, I’m going to share this heart-warming little story connecting my grandfather to the state of Vermont and to the song. Whilst doing a bit of research for my “Vermont post” back in 2017, I made an interesting discovery. The blacksmith and inventor John Deere was born there, and he was the man responsible for giving us much of the agricultural and construction equipment still used today, specifically the large steel plough.

My grandfather was not the “lineman for the county”, but he was the “roads supervisor for the county” back in the 1950s. The climate and landscape of the North of Scotland would have been similar in many ways to that of Vermont, so thank goodness for the large snow plough attachments that came across from America just at the time my grandfather was responsible for keeping the often snowbound, highways and byways of Aberdeenshire open. Back then, before the days of television, the wireless was the main form of home entertainment, and I feel sure my grandfather might well have listened to an early version of the song Moonlight in Vermont before heading out for a night-shift on one of those giant snow ploughs.

So, “What’s It All About?” – I apologise for this bit of lazy blogging, but I did kind of fall in love with the song first time around, and always thought it would make a reappearance at some point in this Moon Series. Also, there has been very little snow with us so far this year, and as I needed some snow shots to accompany the post, Vermont manfully came to the rescue.

As for my holiday hideaway, more of that to follow no doubt, as I get it up and running. It has just hit me however, that it has all kind of come about because the daughter of the man in the picture above, my mum, is now an 83-year-old herself, and in need of a care home. Time marches on indeed, and the younger generation becomes the older generation, in what feels like the wink of an eye.

Lord knows I have had plenty of rants over the last year about the current state of adult social care and the dementia tax, so I won’t go there again, but in the event my mum’s funds run out, and I have to contribute to the care home fees, I am at least trying to put in place a means of doing so. For anyone out there who has not yet done so, start having the conversation early on as to how you want things to go should the unthinkable happen. We sadly didn’t, and some bad decisions were made, without the help of professionals. Wouldn’t want to land DD in a similar position.

But hey, I don’t want to end this post on a negative note. There is a lot to be positive about at the moment and I am embarking on a totally new career in my late 50s, so that can’t be bad. Willie Nelson however is still out there campaigning and performing at the age of 85, so it just goes to show, age is no barrier to taking up new challenges.

Until next time…

Moonlight In Vermont Lyrics
(Song by John Blackburn/Karl Suessdorf)

Pennies in a stream
Falling leaves, a sycamore
Moonlight in Vermont

Icy finger-waves
Ski trails on a mountainside
Snowlight in Vermont

Telegraph cables, they sing down the highway
And travel each bend in the road
People who meet in this romantic setting
Are so hypnotized by the lovely
Evening summer breeze
Warbling of a meadowlark
Moonlight in Vermont

Edwin Starr, “War” and a Different Kind of (Eye to Eye) Contact

Well, it’s going to have to be a shorter post this time as I have an awful lot going on at the moment. The new business I hinted at a few weeks ago, came into our possession yesterday, so it’s all systems go now to get it up and running as soon as possible. More on that to follow in the weeks to come, but in the meantime, my featured artist for this post is going to be Edwin Starr.

Why would that be Alyson?

Because this week, of all weeks, I have been afflicted with a nasty eye infection. On Monday evening, my right eye appeared to be glued together, and the redness and swelling surrounding it suggested I had just gone five rounds with Mike Tyson. I had loads of very important business-y type stuff to organise over the next few days in town, and here I was looking like something from Fight Club

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Of late, I have been very good at body-swerving Doctor Google if I have an ailment, as whatever rabbit hole you disappear down, the diagnosis is always a tumour of some sort. In this instance however, I was pretty sure it wasn’t an eye tumour, so I needed a bit of guidance on how to clear up the infection as soon as possible. After a bit of gentle bathing in warm water, Mr WIAA was dispatched to the chemist’s for some eye drops, which I must say have worked their magic. I had to lie low for the whole of Tuesday though, so as not to frighten poor unsuspecting children, and for the rest of the week I have had to be careful not to transfer the bacteria (sounds gross I know) to the other eye. Oh yes, I was already blind in one eye, so important not to make (Eye To Eye) Contact with the other. Cue Mr Starr (starts to really get going at 2:10).

Regulars to this place will know I wrote quite a lengthy post a fortnight ago on the disco genre. A fair bit of research had to be done (I watched a recorded episode of a TOTP Disco Special), and one of the songs I was reminded of, was indeed (Eye To Eye) Contact. It actually found greater success in the UK than across the pond, and reached No. 8 in the Singles Chart in early 1979.

I only found out recently from one of the other music blogs, that Mr Starr, a native of Nashville Tennessee, actually spent his later life living in the North of England. He had become a big “star” on the Northern Soul circuit, where many of his lesser-known Motown classics had found favour with that movement’s faithful. He moved to a village on the outskirts of Nottingham in 1973, and died there in 2003, aged only 61.

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Edwin Starr

But this foray into the world of disco (he also recorded the uplifting H.A.P.P.Y. Radio) was more of a comeback for him. The recording – I’m loath to call it a song as it’s more of a dramatic soul roar – he is probably best remembered for however, is War, the 1970 counter-culture protest song. Powerful stuff.

War

     huh

          yeah

What is it good for?

     Absolutely nothing

          oh hoh, oh 

War by Edwin Starr:

Edwin Starr’s intense vocals transformed this Temptations’ album track into a totally different animal, and it spent three weeks at the top of the Billboard chart. It was an anthem for the anti-war movement, and it continues to appear on movie soundtracks and hip hop music samples today. War appeared on both Starr’s “War & Peace” album, and its follow-up.

And here is where I have made a new discovery. I am usually late to the party but it seems Bruce Springsteen started performing War in concert in 1985. It was initially suggested as something to make the concluding shows of the Born In The USA tour a little bit different and special. Bruce and the E Street Band came up with a rock arrangement that worked well for them, and once released as a single in 1986, it got to No. 8 on the Billboard chart. Again, powerful stuff, and this time a protest against the Reagan Administration’s foreign policy in Central America. 

I will leave you with a video clip of Bruce, who after an impassioned talky intro (starts at 0:50), looks very much as if he might burst a blood vessel performing the song. Fortunately he survived unscathed, and unlike poor old Edwin Starr, is still out there doing his thing today. 

Until next time…

War Lyrics
(Song by Norman Whitfield/Barrett Strong)

War huh yeah
What is it good for?
Absolutely nothing, oh hoh, oh
War huh yeah
What is it good for?
Absolutely nothing, say it again y’all
War, huh good God
What is it good for?
Absolutely nothing, listen to me

Oh, war, I despise
‘Cause it means destruction of innocent lives
War means tear to thousands of mothers eyes
When their sons go off to fight and lose their lives

I said
War, huh good God y’all
What is it good for?
Absolutely nothing, just say it again
War whoa Lord
What is it good for?
Absolutely nothing, listen to me
War, it ain’t nothin’ but a heartbreaker
War, friend only to the undertaker

Oh war, is an enemy to all mankind
The thought of war blows my mind
War has caused unrest within the younger generation
Induction, then destruction who wants to die

War, good God, y’all
What is it good for?
Absolutely nothing, say it, say it, say it
War, uh huh, yeah, huh
What is it good for?
Absolutely nothing, listen to me
War, it ain’t nothin’ but a heartbreaker
War, it’s got one friend that’s the undertaker

Oh, war has shattered many young man’s dreams
Made him disabled bitter and mean
Life is much to short and precious to spend fighting wars these days
War can’t give life it can only take it away, ooh

War, huh, good God y’all
What is it good for?
Absolutely nothing, say it again
War, whoa, Lord
What is it good for?
Absolutely nothing, listen to me
War, it ain’t nothin’ but a heartbreaker
War, friend only to the undertaker

Peace love and understanding tell me
Is there no place for them today
They say we must fight to keep our freedom
But Lord knows there’s got to be a better way

War, huh, good God y’all
What is it good for?
You tell ’em, say it, say it, say it, say it
War, good Lord, huh
What is it good for?
Stand up and shout it, nothing
War, it ain’t nothin’ but a heartbreaker

Rod Stewart, Decade by Decade #3 – “The Killing Of Georgie (Part I and II)”

Well, my planned post for this weekend has been gazumped, as for the last few days Rod Stewart’s The Killing Of Georgie has been playing on repeat in my cranium. Yes, for the  second week in a row I have been inspired by Rol’s Hot 100 Countdown series, where he chooses a song to represent a number, counting down from 100 to 1. Last week I wrote about Le Freak by Chic, as reference is made in the lyrics, to the famous Studio 54 Nightclub in New York City. This time I’ve decided to return to my Rod Stewart series, which was on hiatus, all because of another New York location, the junction of 53rd and 3rd. Back in the 1970s, this was a well-known spot for male prostitution (the Ramones even wrote a song about it called 53rd and 3rd), but I quickly remembered that it also appears in the lyrics of one of my favourite “story songs”, The Killing Of Georgie (Part I and II).

The sight of blood dispersed the gang
A crowd gathered, the police came
An ambulance screamed to a halt on Fifty-third and Third

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The junction of 53rd and 3rd

I started this series towards the end of last year, when Mr Stewart seemed to be omnipresent on telly and radio, promoting his 30th studio album “Blood Red Roses”. He has had such longevity in the music business, I thought it would be a good idea to revisit his body of work, decade by decade. Once I got half way through the ’70s however, I kind of lost my way, as so many of his long-term fans abandoned him, feeling he had sold out. He had changed record label, parted company with the Faces and moved whole-heartedly to LA (acquiring a Hollywood actress as a girlfriend on the way, in the form of Britt Ekland). In retrospect, I can see this was the case, but here’s the thing – In the mid ’70s I was still a teenage girl, lapping up all that TOTP, Radio 1 and the world of teen mags threw at me, and rarely a week went by without us being treated to one of Rod’s new single releases.

There is a trilogy of albums from that time I still own. He released the “Atlantic Crossing” album in 1975, “A Night On The Town” in 1976 and “Foot Loose & Fancy Free” in 1977. My favourite track from the album shown below was his cover of the Isley Brothers song This Old Heart of Mine. I have written often about how our teen idols were just substitutes for “real boys”, as we hadn’t quite got round to proper relationships yet, and wouldn’t do for quite some time. I think of my period of Rod Stewart fandom, as coinciding with the time we had moved on to “real boys” but in that really stupid, hormonally-induced, teenager-y way.

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My copy of Atlantic Crossing. The inner sleeve used to reside on my bedroom wall!

Most towns have them, that group of lads who seem to have an aura around them, who dress well, dance well and can have their pick of the girls. I ended up having a massive crush on a boy who looked just like the Rod who featured on the “Atlantic Crossing” inner sleeve. I pinned it to my bedroom wall, and cried as I listened to This Old Heart… , on repeat. Sometimes, if I was lucky, the boy asked me to dance. Sometimes he even walked me home, but looking back I was being utterly ridiculous – We had nothing in common, there was little conversation (just smooching), and I knew he would move on to another girl the following weekend. We haven’t changed much since Stone Age times I fear, and at a certain age we are still drawn to what we perceive as alpha males, who will in some way provide for us, and protect us from danger. As it turns out, most of these lads, who unlike us did not progress to any form of further or higher education, ended up doing pretty well for themselves, so the whole “aura” thing worked well for them.

But I have become side-tracked, as this post is supposed to be about The Killing Of Georgie (Part I and II). Now that I was actually taking heed of the lyrics in songs (which up until that point, not so much), I was blown away by the lyrics in what ended up being my favourite song from the album “A Night On The Town”. I am not going to include a video clip of Rod performing the song, as I think we can all agree, by this time he had turned into a parody of himself, wearing glam clothes, make-up and not really taking the performance seriously. After the release of Tonight’s The Night a new genre was even born, sex rock, although unbelievably, I was too naïve to pick up on all that back then.

Best to just listen to the audio I think.

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The Killing of Georgie (Part I and II) by Rod Stewart:

I have written about this song before, as part of my post about New York for my American Odyssey series (link here). As I said at the time:

New York has long been known for its flamboyant characters and Sting sang about one of them, eccentric gay icon Quentin Crisp, in his 1988 song Englishman In New York. Another “character” committed to song was when Rod Stewart wrote and recorded The Killing of Georgie (Part I and II) in 1976. This story song tells the tale of a young gay man who became successful and popular amongst Manhattan’s upper class – He was “the toast of the Great White Way”, which is the nickname given to the Theatre District of Midtown Manhattan. Georgie attends the opening night of a Broadway musical, but leaves “before the final curtain call” and heads across town. He is attacked on 53rd and 3rd by a gang of thieves, and one inadvertently kills him. The song was apparently based on a true story about a friend of Rod’s old band The Faces. The song combines the melancholy and sombre Part II (incidentally employing a melody identical to the Beatles’ Don’t Let Me Down) with the more popular Part I.

Before I go, a bit of an embarrassing exposé of something else from Alyson’s Archive (my box of teenage memorabilia). When “Foot Loose & Fancy Free” was released, one of the songs on it really summed up what I have been trying to recount above. I took to “pouring my heart out”, not in song, but in my 1978 diary. Yes, those boys with the aura, had a lot to answer for. I give you my hand-written lyrics to I Was Only Joking from January 1978. I laugh when I read the heading now, as to be honest, there never was a “relationship”, it was all in my head!

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I Was Only Joking by Rod Stewart:

Rod gets a lot of flak for that late ’70s phase of his career, but the two featured songs here show he was a master story-teller. I Was Only Joking is a tale of regret and of the care-free minds of the young. As such, it has become one of Stewart’s best loved songs and it contains one of the best guitar solos in classic rock. Rod co-wrote it with guitarist Gary Grainger. The Susie alluded to in the song was Susannah Boffey, who met Rod in 1961 when she was a 17-year-old art student. In 1963 she gave birth to a daughter, who was fostered out and eventually adopted by a wealthy couple. In 2010 however, Sarah Streeter was finally admitted to her father’s family.

Enough confessionals for today, and time to move onto another theme I think for next week or else Rol will think I’m being a bit weird, stalking his blog for ideas. Plenty more ideas out there, just sadly not always enough time for them all.

Until next week…

The Killing Of Georgie (Part I And II)
(Song by Rod Stewart)

In these days of changing ways
So called liberated days
A story comes to mind of a friend of mine

Georgie boy was gay I guess
Nothin’ more or nothin’ less
The kindest guy I ever knew

His mother’s tears fell in vain
The afternoon George tried to explain
That he needed love like all the rest

Pa said there must be a mistake
How can my son not be straight
After all I’ve said and done for him

Leavin’ home on a Greyhound bus
Cast out by the ones he loves
A victim of these gay days it seems

Georgie went to New York town
Where he quickly settled down
And soon became the toast of the great white way

Accepted by Manhattan’s elite
In all the places that were chic
No party was complete without George

Along the boulevards he’d cruise
And all the old queens blew a fuse
Everybody loved Georgie boy

The last time I saw George alive
Was in the summer of seventy-five
He said he was in love I said I’m pleased

George attended the opening night
Of another Broadway hype
But split before the final curtain fell

Deciding to take a short cut home
Arm in arm they meant no wrong
A gentle breeze blew down Fifth Avenue

Out of a darkened side street came
A New Jersey gang with just one aim
To roll some innocent passer-by

There ensued a fearful fight
Screams rang out in the night
Georgie’s head hit a sidewalk cornerstone

A leather kid, a switchblade knife
He did not intend to take his life
He just pushed his luck a little too far that night

The sight of blood dispersed the gang
A crowd gathered, the police came
An ambulance screamed to a halt on Fifty-third and Third

Georgie’s life ended there
But I ask who really cares
George once said to me and I quote

He said “Never wait or hesitate
Get in kid, before it’s too late
You may never get another chance

‘Cos youth’s a mask but it don’t last
Live it long and live it fast”
Georgie was a friend of mine

Oh Georgie stay, don’t go away
Georgie please stay you take our breath away
Oh Georgie stay, don’t go away
Georgie please stay you take our breath away
Oh Georgie stay, don’t go away
Georgie, Georgie please stay you take our breath away
Oh Georgie stay

Chic, “Le Freak” and Studio 54

We all experience those freaky coincidences from time to time don’t we, when we start thinking of a song we might not have heard in ages, only for it to pop up on the radio a few minutes later. I had such a freaky coincidence this week, which ironically involved the 1978 Chic song, Le Freak.   

Over at My Top Ten, Rol has resumed his Hot 100 Countdown. Every week he chooses a song to represent a number, counting down from 100 to 1. This week suggestions were sought for songs that mention the number 54 in the title or lyrics. As expected quite a few of these suggestions included Le Freak, as the lyrics include the lines: 

Just come on down, to 54
Find a spot out on the floor

A reference of course, to the legendary Studio 54 in New York City, which in the late 1970s was probably the most famous nightclub in the world, the home of disco, and frequented by A-listers from the worlds of music, film, art and fashion. 

As a suggestion for a 54 song, it was a good one, so I too offered it up in the comments boxes. I also left a lame remark about how I had loved Le Freak back in the day, but had no idea at the time what the reference to 54 meant, coming from rural Aberdeenshire as opposed to The Big Apple. Needless to say, once I had slept on it, I realised I could have yet again made a bit of a naïve faux pas, perhaps not realising the number 54 was code for the kind of hedonistic activities that went on there during its heyday (I have been caught out with this number malarkey before). I wasn’t even up yet, but I decided to do a quick Google search on my phone, to find out what the 54 in the song was all about. Yes, you’ve guessed it, just as I clicked on the first entry thrown up by the search engine, I hear the words “Ah…, Freak Out” coming out loud and clear from my new radio alarm. 

As a coincidence, I thought this was an extreme one, but Mr WIAA merely brushed it aside, saying these things happen all the time. Personally I think we have far more influence on the world around us than we will ever understand, and because some of us were collectively thinking of the song Le Freak for Rol’s countdown on Tuesday night, the gods of radio playlists picked it for the Wednesday morning schedules. Oh, and for the record, I hadn’t actually been naïve after all, as it turns out Studio 54 was located at 254 West 54th Street, so that’s how it got its name. But enough about freaky coincidences, how about we actually listen to the song?

Le Freak by Chic:

I think most of us have watched reruns of TOTP2 often enough by now to know the story behind the song, but it seems Bernard Edwards and Nile Rodgers of Chic wrote it after being denied admission to Studio 54, even though they had been invited along by Grace Jones. Their earlier hit Dance, Dance, Dance (Yowsah, Yowsah, Yowsah) was played often inside, but they weren’t on “the list” so the doorman, who didn’t recognise them, turned them away. It was New Year’s Eve, 1977, but they now had nowhere to go, so ended up writing this song as a reply to the doorman. They called it “F**k Off” but when they decided to record it, to appease Bernard Edward’s sensibilities, they changed it to “Freak Out”. Incidentally, the “stomping at the Savoy” line in the song makes reference to Edgar Melvin Sampson, nicknamed The Lamb. He was an American jazz composer, arranger, saxophonist, and violinist born in New York City, his most notable composition being Stompin’ at the Savoy

The disco genre was massive between 1977 to 1978, when I was in my final year of school and heading out every weekend to socialise with my friends. Even in rural Scotland, the venues (local hotelier’s unused function suites) were transformed overnight into mini-Studio 54s, complete with a DJ, glitter balls and floors with flashing lights. We’d also now had the films Saturday Night Fever, and Thank God It’s Friday, which had kind of made disco go mainstream. Young people want to get together and meet other young people at the weekend, and this was a really easy and accessible way to make it happen. (Link here and here to my previous disco-related posts.)

The band Chic were probably the most stylish of all the disco acts at the time, and of course Mr Nile Rodgers is still doing his thing today, having worked with some of the most successful acts of the last 40 years. Back then, they were inspired by Bryan Ferry’s “look” after watching him with Roxy Music, but safe to say, nowadays Nile has adopted the look of a street hippie, and looks very comfortable in his skin I must say. 

Getting back to Studio 54 and its history, it apparently first opened in 1927 as the Gallo Opera House, but it was short-lived. After changing its name several times it eventually became a CBS radio and television studio. Then, in 1977, Steve Rubell and Ian Schrager created the space that became the world-famous nightclub and discotheque. They spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on professional lighting design and kept many of the former TV and theatrical sets, creating a unique dance club that became famous for its celebrity guest lists and restrictive (and subjective) entry policies, based on appearance and style.

I am reminded of a scene from the film American Hustle when one of the main characters, Bradley Cooper, has a night off from his FBI duties and takes Amy Adams dancing at Studio 54. I remember being impressed at how many of the details they got right in terms of fashion and hairstyles for this movie. It reminded me that even in rural Aberdeenshire, back in 1978, the boys took to having their hair permed. A strange sight back on the building sites on a Monday morning (and no doubt a lot of teasing from their older workmates) but ’twas the times. Tough to find a suitable clip, but this one gives a feel for what it must have been like in its heyday.

Something I never knew before, were the names of the two girls who sang lead on Le Freak. For the record they were Alfa Anderson and Luci Martin but in the Chic Choir we also had future luminaries such as Luther Vandross and Jocelyn Brown. The Chic Strings completed the line-up.

So, “What’s It All About?” – I think I have opened a can of worms here, as there was just too much information to get through in order to write only one post on the whole disco phenomenon. If I have a rummage in the loft, I’m sure I’ll be able to find some pictures of me in my dancing gear (basically a leotard, footless tights and a wraparound skirt), and the diary entry reviewing my first night out in one of Aberdeen’s new nightspots. Most of the cinemas had seen better days by the tail end of the ’70s so they were being converted to places like Ruffles (on Diamond Street) and Fusion (on Bridge Place). I think I was unusual in that I truly went to dance, and could often be found hogging that sweet spot in front of the DJ, along with the boys who, like John Travolta, enjoyed a bit of “showboating”.

I will leave you with another Chic clip, this time featuring Norma Jean Wright on lead vocals. Everybody Dance got to No. 9 in the UK Singles Chart in April 1978. Enjoy.

Until next time…

Le Freak Lyrics
(Song by Bernard Edwards/Nile Rodgers)

Ah, freak out!
Le freak, c’est Chic
Freak out!

Ah, freak out!
Le freak, c’est Chic
Freak out!

Have you heard about the new dance craze?
Listen to us, I’m sure you’ll be amazed
Big fun to be had by everyone
It’s up to you, it surely can be done

Young and old are doing it, I’m told
Just one try, and you too will be sold
It’s called le freak, they’re doing it night and day
Allow us, we’ll show you the way

Ah, freak out!
Le freak, c’est Chic
Freak out!

All that pressure got you down
Has your head spinning all around
Feel the rhythm, check the rhyme
Come on along and have a real good time

Like the days of stomping at the Savoy
Now we freak, oh, what a joy
Just come on down, to 54
Find a spot out on the floor

Ah, freak out!
Le freak, c’est Chic
Freak out!

Now freak!

I said freak!

Now freak!

Celestial Phenomena, case/lang/veirs and “Supermoon”

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

Well, it’s that time of the month again – Yes, it’s time for the full moon to make an appearance in our skies, and this month it’s going to be a supermoon. When the moon is at perigee (coming as close to the earth as is possible), it looks disproportionally bigger and brighter, which can make it quite spectacular. Just to complicate things further, this month it will also be a blood moon, as the earth will line up with the sun creating a lunar eclipse.

If you live in the UK, you’ll have to be up at the crack of dawn on Monday the 21st to catch a glimpse, but I’m hopeful that both my alarm, and the clouds, won’t let me down. So far in this series I’ve not had much luck at spotting a lunar eclipse, but perhaps this time I’ll be lucky.

eclipse-2019-super-blood-moon-last-total-lunar-eclipse-2021-1693095And here is why I’ve had to continue with this series into another year. Although I covered 13 full moons last year, there were still many great songs left over which hadn’t been used yet. I discovered this next song song when watching the BBC documentary called Wonders of the Moon which aired just after that trio of supermoons appeared in the skies last year. The makers used all the usual suspects as background music for the show (most of them already having been covered here), but one song was new to me, and I kind of fell in love with it. It took a bit of effort but I later discovered it was by female supergroup case/lang/veirs, and was called Supermoon.

Supermoon by case/lang/veirs:

Although case/lang/veirs sound as if they should be a firm of solicitors or accountants, they were the Canadian-American supergroup made up of k.d. lang, Neko Case and Laura Veirs. I had of course heard of k.d. lang before (it seems she likes to use lower case for her moniker), and I have always liked her music, but I hadn’t heard of the other two members of the group before. They apparently formed in 2013 when Lang invited Case and Veirs to join her on a project. She had been considering retirement, but before that happened she wanted to be part of a band, a real collaborative effort. The group released their eponymous album in June 2016 and it apparently received “ecstatic reviews”. It was of an alt-country persuasion and used natural imagery. One of the songs on this album was Supermoon.

As for the ancient name for this month’s supermoon, January is usually the month of the Wolf Moon (link to last year’s post here), as it used to appear in the sky when the wolves were howling in hunger outside the villages. But for this series I’m using the alternate name, which this time can either be the Moon After Yule or the Old Moon. Because of the way it fell in December, we’ve actually had a full moon since Yule already, so The Old Moon it will have to be.

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Alternate names for my 2019 series

Above is a chart of all the alternate names I’ll be using for the series this year. As ever, if anyone has a cracking moon-related song that could fit any of the names, feel free to offer it up as a suggestion. I do like writing to order, which I think is unusual, but I like the challenge of it all. Quite a few good prompts here, although mainly weather or food & drink related it seems – Could get interesting!

Until next time….

Supermoon Lyrics
(Neko Case/k.d. Lang/Laura Veirs) 

Supermoon
Where all the diamond deals are made
We never used to live this long
We’re pioneers my dear press on, move along

And if my smile
Seems painted on once in awhile
I can count on you
To notice and to take me out

Would you like to start a river
And ride it like a painted carousel
Our life savings aren’t enough
Have to lobby hard and make it up
Make it up

Supermoon
We never used to live this long
We’re pioneers my dear
Pioneers we’re pressing on, move along
And if my smile
Seems straight as the Tropic of Cancer it’s because
Nature isn’t magic it’s just a mystery to us

Would you like to start a river
And ride it like a painted carousel
Our life savings aren’t enough
Have to lobby hard and make it up
Make it up

Tell me if you feel it
And we’ll mine it to reveal it
From the dams up to the turbines

Tell me if you feel it
And we’ll mine it to reveal it
From the dams up to the turbines
They’re running much too hot
Too many

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 however, 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

Ten Sharp, “You” and 2019, What Are You Going to Deliver?

Happy New Year to everyone who visits here. I am conscious of the fact many of you visit without ever leaving a comment – Don’t be shy about joining in with the discussion that often arises. It might sometimes seem as if we have a whole private members thing going on, but trust me, it’s not like that at all. I for one just like writing about the music that’s formed the soundtrack to my life, and when you do that, the stories just start to pour out.

What to write about today though? I did wonder at the end of 2018 whether I could carry on as I have done for yet another year. My posts do tend to be quite wordy and often require a lot of research. The received wisdom however is just to do what feels right. I don’t think I’ll ever get back to writing as many posts as I did in this blog’s first year, as all I did in 2016 was go to work and blog – Amazing Mr WIAA didn’t find himself a new wife really. Fewer posts from me in 2017, as that was the year of big changes at my workplace, which resulted in me throwing in the towel. Would I have done that if I hadn’t become so besotted by blogging? Not sure. As it turns out, my mum’s deteriorating health in 2018 would have probably necessitated my leaving anyway, so just hastened my departure.

2019.jpgSo, here we are entering 2019, and as yet we have no idea what the hot topics will be this year in the blogging world. Three years ago, we were just days away from hearing of the death of David Bowie and for the following twelve months, the tributes just kept on flowing for other iconic artists. It was a brutal year in terms of loss.

It has been a relief, that very few bloggers around here have mentioned the “B” word over the last year. We are all sick and tired of the political shenanigans that dominate the news channels, and fortunately we had a welcome respite from it over the festive period. I have a feeling it’s about to ramp up to a whole new level however, so watch this space, as I do feel a one-off rant coming on!

In the meantime here is a heart-warming picture. No Hogmanay parties for us this year as most of the neighbours were either away or had grandchildren to stay. Changed days indeed, but time for the younger generation to take over perhaps, so DD and her boyfriend decided to host their very own shindig to bring in the New Year. In this digital age she has gone old skool, and now takes most of her pictures with a Polaroid Instax. In the years to come there will be tangible evidence of what they got up to back in the day, as opposed to having tens of thousands images lost in some virtual cloud.

49203393_10211962280643559_8668616275443843072_n And here is where I made a wonderful observation. Looking as this array of pics, I realised most of the local friends had managed to come along, and these local friends included people she has known since school-days along with more recent friends made through college and work. Amongst them, there was a brother and sister from Poland, the brother’s Lithuanian fiancée and two forestry students from The Netherlands. It may well be getting ugly out there, but I know for my daughter and her friends, they will remain staunchly European whatever. Many in her group have lived in the Highlands since junior school, and despite the challenge of studying in what would essentially have been a foreign language, they have already achieved great things both academically and professionally. A massive asset to our community. 

My featured song is therefore going to be this one – My earworm of the week. Mr WIAA has taken to watching YouTube music clips whilst having his morning coffee, and sometimes falls down that rabbit hole, ending up far from where he started. One day last week he ended up listening to this song – You by Ten Sharp. It was from the time when we were still just “dating”, so it conjured up memories of a more carefree time. Back then, like DD, we had a big circle of local friends, but none of them were from anywhere other than Scotland – Changed days indeed. 

You by Ten Sharp:

But the main reason for choosing You as my featured song, is because it’s by a Dutch band, something I hadn’t realised back in 1991 when the song became a big hit for them peaking at No. 10 in the UK Singles Chart. The two Ten Sharp band members are Marcel Kapteijn (vocals) and Niels Hermes (keyboards). The song itself was produced by Michiel Hoogenboezem (almost worth writing this post just to find an excuse to mention that great name).

My American Odyssey in Song series seems to have stalled, so perhaps it’s now time to champion some of the music made by our European neighbours over the years. DD’s Dutch friends were able to arrange a welcoming committee for her ahead of her trip to Amsterdam last year. Meant she spent a few days with a lovely couple of girls who have now become firm friends. Let’s hope none of that camaraderie will be jeopardised by what is to happen in the first few months of 2019.

Until next time….

You Lyrics
(Song by Ton Groen/Niels Hermes)

It’s all right with me
as long as you
are by my side

Talk or just say nothing
I don’t mind your looks never lie
I was always on the run
finding out, what I was looking for
And I was always insecure
just until I found

Words often don’t come easy
I never learned
to show you the inside of me
Oh no my baby

You were always patient
dragging out what I try to hide

I was always on the run
finding out what I was looking for
and I was always insecure
until I found

You, you were always on my mind
you, you’re the one I’ve been living for
you, you’re my everlasting fire
you’re my always shining star

The night’s always a good friend
a glass of wine, and the lights are low
you lying beside me, me full of love and…
and filled with hope…

You, you were always on my mind
you, you’re the one I’ve been living for
you, you’re my everlasting fire
you, ooh
you’re my always shining star
always on my mind
you, you’re the one I’ve been living for
you, you’re my everlasting fire
ooh, ooh
you’re my always shining star
you’re my always…
you’re my always shining star