Months of the Year in Song: November Nights (with a Nip in the Air)

Well, I had my doubts about this series but with all the great suggestions I got last month this post will practically write itself. As it’s the last day of the month however (also St Andrew’s Day here in Scotland) I’m going to have to be quick or I’ll miss my window of opportunity.

Yet again, as with September and October, the month of November is named after a Latin number, this time nine, or novem, all because the Roman calendar used to have 10 months with a gap for an “unorganised winter”. As we head into next year things will get a bit more interesting, promise.

Another picture by Veli Bariskan, who kindly let me use the banner image above

So far in this series we’ve had Sad September and Orange October. I had hoped there would be an obvious alliterative word to tag on to November, but all I can think of at the moment is Nights. Back in September there was a bit of debate about whether that month was really the tail end of summer rather than the start of autumn. At this point in November, as it’s very cold and dark much of the time, it feels more like winter than autumn. The clocks change back to GMT at the end of October and from then on it starts to get dark at around tea-time (if like me you live in the North of Scotland). If you’re busy at work for much of the day, any social activity will probably be done at night-time, and it will probably be very dark indeed. Great for Bonfire Night on the 5th of November (link here to a previous post) but also for other outdoor extravaganzas where darkness is required. We headed along to Brodie Castle the other week where the castle and grounds were illuminated with all sorts of relevant images and colours. Really pretty indeed and a nice warming hot chocolate to enjoy at the end.

Spot the wee windows on the castle (famous for its daffodils in Spring). We were also blessed with a full moon and a starry, starry night.


But this is supposed to be a music blog, so where are the songs?

Last month the first suggestion came in from Charity Chic, Mr. November by The National, although he did add a warning that it contains ‘sweary words’. If you’re likely to be offended, cover your ears. I was struggling to work out what the song is about, but here is a possible explanation. ‘He was a high school quarterback. November is playoff season for football. He was carried in the arms of cheerleaders. He was a hero. This character has peaked way too early. He’s had his big accomplishment already, so now he sleeps late.’ Makes sense.

The next suggestion came from C of Sun Dried Sparrows, Late November by Pavlov’s Dog. Here are her own words:

‘It comes from around 1975, I think. Sort of uncategorisable. David Surkamp’s vocals are… erm… not easy to describe in a complimentary way, you wouldn’t think they could work, and yet, and yet! – there is something incredibly charming about this – I just can’t put my finger on why. Probably not everyone’s cup of tea and I wouldn’t have thought it could ever be mine. But in this case, it is. Maybe it’s the song as a whole that just gets in there.’

Crikey, I see what you mean about those vocals C, but you are right, it does have a certain je ne sais quoi.

Next up we had a suggestion from Graeme, who remembered that Mike Oldfield had a song called Man in the Rain where the month of November is heavily featured in the chorus. Coming from the Orkney Islands Graeme is probably often a man who finds himself caught in the rain. Let’s have a listen.


Very nice indeed. The vocals on that one were apparently performed by Irish folk singer Cara Dillon.

Rol as ever was not found wanting when it came to suggestions, but one of them also overlapped with a second suggestion from C, so I’ll include it first. Here is what she said about it:

‘Another (different) Late November that comes to mind is the hauntingly beautiful, melancholy song by Sandy Denny. (There are a few versions floating around, some quite stripped back with just piano and vocals but the one I like most has more instrumentation on it.)’

Let’s hope I’ve found the one you were thinking of C.


But back to Rol, here is what he said about this next song, November Rain, the one I would probably have picked myself if thinking of one relating to this month.

‘November begins and ends with Guns n Roses for me. It was my late nephew’s favourite song too, and they played it at his funeral, so much as I enjoy Axl’s histrionics, it always comes with bittersweet memories.’

Hope you don’t mind that I shared your words Rol, and understandable that it would be a tough listen for you nowadays. From the era of the really big budget music video. They don’t make ’em like that any more.

November Rain by Guns N’ Roses:


For the record, Rol’s other suggestions were as follows:

Carter USM – Born On The 5th of November
Tom Waits – November
Harry Chapin – November Rains
Morrissey – November Spawned A Monster
Stornoway – November Song
The Waterboys – November Tale

Quite a range of styles there but an all-male line-up. Maybe we should shoehorn in some Julie London to redress the balance a bit. Here we have her singing November Twilight from her Calendar Girl album (always a good source of material for this series).


Last but definitely not least we have a suggestion from Khayem, who came up with this:

‘I was surprised to find I’ve relatively few ‘November’ songs in my collection. However, I will give a nod to November by Echo & The Bunnymen. The song was a B-side (if it can be classed as such) to their 2009 digital single I Think I Need It Too. I’m not going to pretend that this is anything close to imperial phase E&TB, but I love the opening bassline and musically, it’s far jauntier than I’d expect a song with that title to be.’


To be honest I hadn’t even realised that Echo & The Bunnymen are still active as a band as I don’t think I’ve listened to them since their ‘imperial phase’ as Khayem calls it. A nice reminder of how they used to sound back then, and still do today.

So, that’s your lot for this month, something for everyone I suspect. I’ve been shocked at how quickly winter has come upon us this year and despite all my good intentions about not turning up the thermostat, I have indeed succumbed, so it’s feeling pretty cosy at WIAA Towers with the curtains shut tight of an evening. If you do venture out, as well as fireworks and lightshows, you might have spotted a pretty spectacular crescent moon this week. Some of the planets have also been visible in the night sky.

Next month is December – how the heck did it come round so quickly, but then I say that every year. There will be plenty of song choices for that month I’m sure but feel free to add your tuppence worth to the comments boxes. Always grateful for any of your suggestions.

Until next time…

November Rain Lyrics
(Song by Axl Rose)

When I look into your eyes
I can see a love restrained
But, darlin’, when I hold you
Don’t you know I feel the same? Yeah

‘Cause nothing lasts forever
And we both know hearts can change
And it’s hard to hold a candle
In the cold November rain

We’ve been through this such a long, long time
Just tryna kill the pain, ooh yeah
But lovers always come and lovers always go
And no one’s really sure who’s lettin’ go today, walkin’ away
If we could take the time to lay it on the line
I could rest my head, just knowin’ that you were mine, all mine

So, if you want to love me
Then, darlin’, don’t refrain
Or I’ll just end up walkin’
In the cold November rain

Do you need some time on your own?
Do you need some time all alone?
Ooh, everybody needs some time on their own
Ooh, don’t you know you need some time all alone?

I know it’s hard to keep an open heart
When even friends seem out to harm you
But if you could heal a broken heart
Wouldn’t time be out to charm you, whoa-whoa

Sometimes, I need some time on my own
Sometimes, I need some time all alone
Ooh, everybody needs some time on their own
Ooh, don’t you know you need some time all alone?

And when your fears subside
And shadows still remain, ooh yeah
I know that you can love me
When there’s no one left to blame

So, never mind the darkness
We still can find a way
‘Cause nothin’ lasts forever
Even cold November rain

Don’t ya think that you need somebody?
Don’t ya think that you need someone?
Everybody needs somebody
You’re not the only one, you’re not the only one
Don’t ya think that you need somebody?
Don’t ya think that you need someone?
Everybody needs somebody

Rant Warning! and The Tourists, ‘So Good To Be Back Home Again’

Every now and again we like to have a little rant on our blogs. These rants don’t tend to be about music (although we usually find an appropriate song to tag onto the end) but instead are about something in our day to day lives that is really hacking us off.

Over the last few weeks I have been totally preoccupied with the new legislation around the letting out of holiday accommodation. I don’t tend to mention my little holiday hideaway around here any more, as I’m acutely aware the owners of such premises are being blamed for pretty much all of society’s ills at present. The housing shortage, the hollowing out of communities, noisy party flats full of stags and hens…!

In my defence, the little terraced cottage we took over from our friends a few years back is only seven years old and has never been anything other than a holiday cottage since it was built. It’s just a two-minute walk away from my own house so I’m always there to greet guests and am available to help them with whatever they might need during their stay. Before accepting the booking, I can find out a bit more about the reason for their stay and so am always able to make sure the cottage is a good fit for their needs. No stag or hen parties have ever happened on my watch. In the last year I have had three sets of guests mention in their review that mine is the best holiday let they have ever stayed in, and that I’m a great host! Sounds as if I’m blowing my own trumpet doesn’t it, but despite it being very tying (as I am in effect a 24-hour concierge service), and hard work, I have learnt the ropes and feel as if I’m now pretty good at this hospitality malarkey.


‘So, what’s the problem Alyson?’ I hear you ask.

As of April 2023, Scotland will become the most heavily regulated country in the world when it comes to holiday/short-term lets. The success of the big booking platforms has meant that in places like Edinburgh’s Royal Mile, around 80% of the flats are short-term lets. This has understandably upset many of the locals and those who can’t find affordable long-term rental accommodation, so change was badly needed. Sadly, the legislation which came about as a response, is going to apply to the whole of Scotland, so even those little B&Bs, chalets and cottages on the West Coast which have been very efficiently and safely operating for decades, find themselves caught up in a welter of rules and red tape that would challenge even the most astute business brain.

At this point I just want to make it clear that I am in no way complaining about the new rules and regulations, as lord knows they were needed – it had become like the Wild West with anyone and everyone offering up a decidedly dodgy spare room with no checks being done whatsoever. My issue is this – I have been working on getting the appropriate certificates and adaptations for the cottage for over two months now and still have a long way to go. It has been very expensive, and will continue to be so, as it seems my beautiful glass doors are now going to have to be replaced too. My wee place is going to look like a miniature chain hotel with ugly signage, fire doors, and fire extinguishers in every room. It’s going to scream, ‘Are you sure you want to stay here? There is almost certainly going to be a fire what with the need for all this apparatus everywhere.’

That in itself is bad enough, but for me, and most of my other rule-abiding friends in the business, the biggest concern is that it’s not going to be policed, as no budget has been put in place for the manpower you would need to do so. As ever, those of us who jump through all the hoops and do the right thing are going to have to co-exist with those who will ignore all the new legislation and more than likely, get away with it. Anecdotally, more than half the people who offer up accommodation are still unaware of the new legislation or think it doesn’t apply to them, and that’s where we are with only a few months left to get everything in place.

But we’re going to make it really hard for you…

At the moment I am in two minds about whether I want to carry on, despite having done so much of the work needed already. I had thought the new legislation would make things better, and safer, for guests to our little country but from what I’m hearing, most of those small-scale hosts who have always followed the rules and operated in a really professional manner are going to give up, leaving only those who give the holiday letting business a bad name. Tourism in Edinburgh, which has specifically been designated a planning control zone, will fall off a cliff as very few of the properties there will be allowed to keep operating. I think we can say farewell to the Edinburgh Festival which has been the world’s largest arts gathering for decades now. I also fear for those crofting communities in the far-flung corners of the Highlands, where renting out rooms to tourists over the summer months is the only way they can get by over the tough winter months.

But I am aware this is a First World problem, and in the midst of a cost-of-living crisis this rant is perhaps verging on being tone-deaf. For those of us in areas where tourism is seasonal however, and who rely on the income from their budget range accommodation to see them through the rest of the year, it is causing real anxiety. It will take a year or two to truly filter through, but I fear all that will be left will be expensive hotel rooms, luxury homes, and corporate aparthotels. Morag from Ross-shire will have to shut the door of her wee holiday cottage for good, as it seems we can no longer trust families to spend more than five minutes in our places without setting fire to themselves, interlinked fire-alarms notwithstanding. It’s going to change the face of tourism in Scotland which makes me really sad. If you want to come and stay in some really poor unregulated accommodation however, I’m sure it will still be on offer, as no-one is going to make the effort to police it.

As for the song, I had a bit of an epiphany earlier – I was thinking…, tourists, Scots returning home to visit from elsewhere… and I remembered a concert I went to in Aberdeen many years ago when local girl Annie Lennox was lead singer with the band The Tourists. It was 1980 and they had just reached the No. 8 spot in the UK Singles Chart with this song, So Good To Be Back Home Again. Annie was indeed delighted to be back in Aberdeen that night in front of a home audience, so apt indeed. Luckily for her she could get a bed for the night at her parents’ house. For newbie bands travelling around the country in 2023, I fear they will find it nigh impossible to find any reasonably priced accommodation. Tighter rules were definitely needed but I suspect they have gone just too far, and tourists will find it really hard to visit our lovely country from next year.

So Good To Be Back Home Again by The Tourists:


Not looking for any feedback on this one as I am aware this topic is a controversial one. I’m just sad that I’ve put so much effort into my place only to have been faced first with a pandemic when we all had to stay at home, and now this. I am by nature an abider of ‘the rules’ and certainly don’t want to risk getting a criminal record for having missed a tick box on my licence. It’s a big worry for many of us. The real casualty I fear is going to be one of our most celebrated industries, Scottish tourism.

Until next time…

So Good To Be Back Home Again Lyrics
(Song by Peet Coombes)

It’s so good to be back here again
Having fun with all my friends
When everybody says hello
You know there’s nowhere else to go
It’s so good
(Ooh, ooh, ooh)
Yeah, it’s so good
(Ooh, ooh, ooh)
It’s so good to be back home again

Baby, I’ve been so far away
Been so lonely
Every night and day
There’s only one thing I wanna do
I wanna get back home to you

It’s so good
(Ooh, ooh, ooh)
Yeah, it’s so good
(Ooh, ooh, ooh)
It’s so good to be back home again

It’s so good
(Ooh, ooh, ooh)
Yeah, it’s so good
(Ooh, ooh, ooh)
It’s so good to be back home again

Baby, I’ve been so far away
Been so lonely
Every night and day
When my baby holds me tight
You know I want to stay the night

It’s so good
(Ooh, ooh, ooh)
Yeah, it’s so good
(Ooh, ooh, ooh)
It’s so good to be back home again

It’s so good to be back home again

It’s so good to be back home again

Another Platinum Anniversary and Al Martino, the UK’s First Official Chart-Topper

Al Martino.

Who?

Al Martino. The person who had the honour of reaching the top spot on the very first UK Singles Chart published back in November 1952, 70 years ago this week.


Those of us who used to be chart-obsessed (and in the early ’70s I think I was), will already know this, as the kind of thing that often pops up in quizzes, but to my shame I don’t think I’d be able to identify Al’s chart-topping song even if I heard it. Time to right that wrong.


Well, what can I say, very much of its time and Al remained at the top spot for a further eight weeks so the only chart-topping artist of 1952. Al was born in Philadelphia to Italian immigrant parents and was inspired by the success of a close family friend, someone who had changed his name to Mario Lanza.

Al moved to the UK after the success of Here In My Heart, as he’d got himself into a bit of a pickle with some other Italian Americans who shall remain nameless, but who like to offer ‘protection’ and wear sharp suits. He often appeared at the London Palladium and had another six hits over here in the early ’50s. He eventually managed to return to the US in 1958 but found it hard to re-establish himself after so long away, and with the arrival of rock and roll his style of music had suddenly become very dated.

I did say I had never knowingly listened to Here In My Heart before but I definitely knew of Al Martino as during my chart-obsessed years, he had a No. 5 hit on the UK Singles Chart with this song, Spanish Eyes. I remember well writing his name in my chart listings notebook in July 1973, and on the cardboard insert of the cassette tape where I very illegally recorded the Top 20.

Spanish Eyes by Al Martino:


Spanish Eyes had first been recorded in 1965 after lyrics were added to a tune by German orchestra leader Bert Kaempfert, originally titled Moon Over Naples. It first charted in the UK in 1970 before returning as a big hit in 1973. I didn’t really question it at the time as the chart in those days was full of left-field offerings (it wasn’t all glam rock, we also had Benny Hill, Lieutenant Pigeon and Peters & Lee hitting the top spot!).

But what could it have been that prompted Al Martino’s return to form? Well, it didn’t take me long to find out it was Al who played the character Johnny Fontane in the 1972 film The Godfather, as a ‘mob-associated’ singer (not in any way inspired by Frank Sinatra of course) looking for help from his ‘godfather’ in securing a movie role. After a few false starts we end up with the very memorable bed scene, where the studio-boss woke up next to the severed head of his prize stallion. Needless to say, Johnny did then get the role.

Al with Marlon Brando in The Godfather

I think most of us of a certain age will recognise the Godfather theme music, but I hadn’t realised until now that Al also recorded a version with lyrics called Speak Softly, Love. It was the version by Andy Williams that became the most popular but fitting to have Al, the Italian American who was actually in the film, record it too.


So, ‘What’s It All About?’ – There is so much I could have written about when celebrating 70 years of the UK Singles Chart, but best I think on this occasion to stick with the artist who kick-started the whole thing. It was Percy Dickins of the New Musical Express who first gathered a pool of 52 stores willing to report sales figures – 52 stores in 1952, for 52 weekly charts published annually. How fitting.

It has of course got an awful lot more complicated since those early days. During my chart-obsessed years it was always the British Market Research Bureau who compiled the weekly chart, the one I listened to religiously (no pun intended) on a Sunday evening from 5pm until the big reveal at 7pm. I have to admit I no longer peruse the charts and if I ever do I have absolutely no idea who 90% of the artists on them are. It’s all got a lot more complicated what with streaming and the downloading of music. The songs are somehow not as precious as they used to be, and a lot more disposable.

Unusually for me I do recognise most of the artists on this week’s Official UK Singles Chart – Yeah me!

I still have some of my mum’s old shellac 78s from 70 years ago. I doubt if many of today’s youngsters will have a physical copy of anything they listened to in 2022 in 70 years’ time. Then again, the way things are going they will probably have bigger things to worry about, but I would wager our descendants will still listen to music, and have songs that become favourites above all others, songs that eventually top their 2092 charts.

Until next time…

Here In My Heart Lyrics
(Song by Bill Borrelli/Lou Levinson/Pat Genaro)

Here in my heart I’m alone, I’m so lonely
Here in my heart I just yearn for you only
Here in my arms I long to hold you
Hold you so near, ever close to my heart
So, darling

Say that you care, take these arms I give gladly
Surely you know I need your love so badly
Here is my heart, my life, and my all, dear
Please be mine and stay here in my heart

Say that you care, take these arms I give gladly
Surely you know I need your love so badly
Here is my heart, my life, and my all, dear
Please be mine and stay here in my heart

Bothy Ballads, Gaberlunzie and The Best Fun I Had All Week, Was in a Care Home!

During the darkest days of the pandemic, I often started my posts with the words, ‘How are we all doing?’. It was a stressful time for most of us what with all the uncertainty about how things would pan out. How soon we forget however, and once the vaccines became freely available, we thought life would get back to normal. In 2022 however, every ‘crisis’ imaginable seems to have hit us at the same time. My pandemic question again feels quite pertinent:

How are we all doing?

I’m not ashamed to admit that I sometimes feel overwhelmed by all that is going on in the world, and closer to home, and I am not the same relaxed person I was in 2016 when I started this blog. I should change my name to Anxious Alyson, someone who finds it quite hard to write entertaining and light-hearted posts at the moment, so apologies for that.

The modern-day care home – quite swish really

A most welcome relief from all the anxiety came in the unlikely form of a visit to a care home yesterday. Regulars around here will remember that four years ago we had to find a care home place for my mum, after a stay in hospital made it impossible for her to return to her retirement flat. It all started well but after only 15 months, due to the pandemic, the home closed to nearly all visitors and any non-essential personnel, like entertainers. For two and a half years it proved very difficult to visit at all what with tests being required, masks, much form-filling and social distancing. In the last month however all that has changed, and things have returned to how they used to be when she first took up residence. Sadly, those residents like my mum who have dementia, have deteriorated quite markedly because of the social isolation of the pandemic years. Yes, they were being ‘kept safe’ from the virus, as directed by our government, but time was not on their side, and many passed away during that period. My mum did make it through, but she no longer knows who I am, which makes my visits quite tricky at times, although you do learn how make them work.

Yesterday they had an accordionist in to entertain, a chap who came regularly prior to the pandemic and who is now being invited back again. I joined them all in the big lounge where he had set up shop, and what a joyous afternoon it turned out to be. One of the most bizarre aspects of dementia, and Alzheimer’s especially, is that you have no short-term memory at all, and you can’t remember anything about your previous life, but you do remember all the words to all the songs you grew up listening to. (Come the day, god forbid we music-bloggers end up in such a situation, we’ll be able to quote chapter and verse all the lyrics to all the songs mentioned in our blogs.)

Phil Cunningham, another well-known Scottish accordionist

It being Scotland, one of the most popular portable instruments for playing traditional music is the accordion, and Duncan, its very dextrous operator (just so many keys and buttons), has a lovely way of connecting with the home’s residents. The songs he plays are the ones I would have been mortified listening to as a teenager, as not the kind of fodder to ever pop up on ToTP or on prime-time telly (The White Heather Club being the embarrassing exception), but they are the songs that would have been played at my granny and grandad’s house on the radio, or via shellac 78s, so all very familiar. My mum, it’s safe to say, knew all the words to even the most obscure and forgotten-about traditional Scottish songs, and we had great fun singing along to them. The best bit was that the staff encouraged dancing, and after working out that if I held on to her at all times for support, my mum and I could entertain the troops with our waltzes, Gay Gordons (a Scottish country dance) and freestyle jigs. Every now and again I asked her if she needed a break but that was apparently not an option so we both had a great afternoon of song and dance. Bet she slept well last night.

I can’t believe I’m nearly seven years into this blog without sharing any of the Scottish songs of my youth but they’re definitely not for everyone and very niche. One of yesterday’s songs was a bothy ballad, called The Barnyards of Delgaty. A bothy is a very spartan farm outbuilding, where in the early years of the 1900s farm labourers in the North-East of Scotland would sleep after having been hired at the ‘feeing market’. Both my grandfathers worked as farm labourers in their youth and would have stayed in such places. My mum’s dad, whose songs I would have listened to as a child, himself worked at the farm called The Barnyards of Delgaty so I always think of him when I hear it. With no internet or large screen television sets for entertainment in the evening, bothy ballads were sung. Being a very male environment some of these songs were bawdy indeed, but this one is a story song really about how you could be deceived by the promise of a fine healthy horse to work with, only to find it was skin and bone when you got to the farm.

The Barnyards of Delgaty by Gaberlunzie:


Another song we sang along to yesterday was this one, The Bonnie Lass O’ Fyvie which is all about the unrequited love of a captain of Irish dragoons for a beautiful Scottish girl. The place names are all so familiar as from our neck of the woods, so another one my mum really enjoyed. Both these songs are performed by the Scots folk duo Gaberlunzie who started out in the late ’60s and were still touring in 2018. Turns out their name is from the medieval Scots word for a licensed beggar.


Duncan the accordionist finished off with The Northern Lights of Old Aberdeen, a bit of a shmaltzy one this time, which all these years later still makes me homesick for my old stomping ground. I have such fond memories of living in Aberdeen during my late teens and twenties and of course I had my flat reunion there back in the summer (link here). My mum loves this song, so we did a little waltz, and I have to admit it all got a bit emotional for a myriad of reasons, but I quickly pulled myself together by the end. There are worse ways to spend a wet Thursday afternoon in November. Interestingly the first comment attached to this clip on the video-sharing website is very relevant to this post. It comes from kem10:

In my old job I used to help at a coffee morning which was run to help older adults who were socially isolated – in particular individuals with dementia. We would always play music and it was great to see folk light up and join in. This song was a particular favourite that EVERYONE got involved in and still knew all the words to.

‘It was great to see folk light up and join in.’ Exactly that.

The Northern Lights of Old Aberdeen by the Mill Weavers:


So, ‘What’s It All About?’ – The power of music, eh? If the worst comes to the worst, my generation will be listening to a very different set of tunes in the care home, but they will bring us much joy and we will no longer worry about the really big issues of the day as they will be for the next generation to sort out. We will of course be blamed for having caused them in the first place, and they’ll have a point. People often avoid going to visit relatives with dementia as it can be quite distressing, but it can also be great fun as I found this week. Use music as a tool to connect with them.

Folk music comes and goes in popularity, but it has always been around as it tells the story of our cultural and regional identity, as is the case with bothy ballads. I’ve only shared songs here from the North-East of Scotland but such songs are attached to all parts of the country. Do you have any local favourites you might not have warmed to as a youngster at all, but have come round to as you’ve ‘matured’?

The music of folk duo Simon & Garfunkel has appeared often around here, so I’m going to end with their version of the bothy ballad Pretty Peggy-O. Soldiers from Highland regiments often ended up in bothies, and encounters between soldiers and ‘innocent maids’ were commonplace, thus songs were written about them. The Peggy in this song taken from the Bonnie Lass ‘O Fyvie lyrics and the tune not dissimilar to the Barnyards song either. Lovely stuff.


Until next time…

The Barnyards O’ Delgaty Lyrics
(Song by Unknown – Traditional)

As I came in by Turra Market
Turra Market for to fee,
I fell in wi’ a wealthy farmer,
From the Barnyards O’ Delgaty.

Linten adie toorin adie,
Linten adie toorin ee,
Linten lowrin, lowrin, lowrin
The Barnyards O’ Delgaty

He promised me the two best horses
Ever I set my eyes upon;
When I got home to the Barnyards
There was nothing there but skin and bone.

When I go to the church on Sunday,
Many’s the bonnie lass I see,
Sitting by her faither’s side
And winking ower the pews at me.

Well I can drink and not be drunk
And I can fight and not be slain.
I can lie wi’ anothers man’s lass
And aye be welcome to my ain.

Months Of The Year In Song: Orange October

Welcome to this second instalment of my new series, where I plan to share songs relating to all 12 months of the year. I didn’t start in January but that’s ok as the months just keep rolling by in a continual loop, or so I thought until last month’s discovery that the calendar year used to have 10 months with a gap for an “unorganised winter”, which is why October is confusingly named after the Latin word for eight. In time that got sorted out and we now have the calendar we are familiar with where October is the 10th month, and what a month it is for those of us who live in the Northern Hemisphere. I don’t know about you but over the last couple of weeks I have been privileged to witness the leaves changing colour all around my neighbourhood and what a treat it’s been.

Last month in the comments boxes there was a bit of debate about September being the first month of autumn, as although meteorologically it is, it still feels like the tail end of summer (again I’m referring to those of us who live in the Northern Hemisphere – sorry if I’m alienating my Southern Hemisphere followers). But October is ‘proper autumn’ and what with the colour of the leaves, our warm woollen clothes back on rotation and Halloween making its presence felt at the end of the month, a very orange one indeed in terms of the hues.

But this is a music blog so where are the songs? Last month it became obvious that September songs are quite nostalgic and melancholy, but mainly because the month’s name rhymes with the word ‘remember’. October doesn’t rhyme with much so by default there are less songs that mention it. No matter, some great suggestions were put forward in the comments boxes last time, so I still have plenty of material.

First of all, both Lynchie and The Swede came up with this song for inclusion, October Song by the Incredible String Band. It wasn’t until I watched a recent documentary about the history of popular music in Scotland that I discovered this band. All the usual suspects were included, from Lulu to the Proclaimers but the Incredible String Band were new to me as from a bit before my time and not the kind of band that would have ever popped up on prime time telly when I was growing up. But despite sounding as if they had San Francisco origins, they actually hailed from Edinburgh, and were really successful during the period 1966 to 1974. As you will hear, they were pioneers of psychedelic folk and by fusing a wide variety of traditional music styles and instruments, helped develop world music. October Song was from their first album released in 1966 and it certainly is full of the imagery of autumn. Beautiful in its way but maybe not my thing.

The fallen leaves that jewel the ground
They know the art of dying
And leave with joy their glad gold hearts
In the scarlet shadows lying


Another suggestion came in from Rol who offered up October Swimmer by JJ72. The period that gets mentioned least around here is the turn of the millennium, as I think I was just so busy working, and being a mum to a small child. This could explain how I have absolutely no memory of this song or band at all despite the fact they did really well with it in 2000 and appeared on ToTP. No imagery of autumn this time just quite bleak lyrics, so thanks, but again not really my thing. The band was from Dublin and lead singer and songwriter Mark Greaney (he of the somewhat unusual voice) for a time lived next door to Phil Lynott of Thin Lizzy. Wonder if the young Mark had been inspired to get into music by Phil?

The splash of October swimmers
The cheers of Helsinki winners
My barbed bones of futility
Leaking marrow of ability


Another new discovery in this next clip and this time it came from Darcy. Here are his own words:

“Regarding October songs the only one that immediately comes to mind is Outubro by Azymuth. The album’s title track is very relaxing and fits the northern hemisphere September and early October vibe very well. There are no words, which you may want, and Azymuth are a Southern Hemisphere band which may mean they are going for a Spring feel, but I think it works for us Northerners too.”

Going a bit left field with this one, and an instrumental, but it follows on nicely from my last post which featured Sérgio Mendes & Brasil ’66. Azymuth are also from Brazil and are a jazz-funk trio that formed in 1973. Outubro is Portuguese for October, and as this series of songs relates to months of the year, not seasons, quite appropriate to include it. Very mellow and pretty like the theme music to many a ’70s television drama.


The final suggestion I’m going to include came from C of Sun-Dried Sparrows fame. She had done a bit of research and found something by Amy Winehouse called October Song. I too found that one but hard to work out if it has any connection to the month. Here’s what C came up with:

Amy Winehouse had a track called October Song which was apparently written in memory of her pet canary… or was it about her use of marijuana? … both have been suggested!”

Sadly, we will now never know, and it can be hard to watch clips of the supremely talented Amy looking so healthy when we now know she only lived another seven years after this was filmed. Tragic, but like watching something in slo-mo, we could almost see it coming.


To be honest I’m not entirely sold on any of the above, but they do fit the remit of this series so happy to include them. Something that doesn’t fit the remit at all is this song by Bobby (Boris) Pickett and the Crypt-Kickers but as Halloween is almost upon us, time for a little Monster Mash I feel. This is the kind of song that popped up on Ed (Stewpot) Stewart’s Junior Choice when I was growing up and actually reached the No. 3 spot on the UK Singles Chart in 1973. Bobby Pickett co-wrote Monster Mash with Leonard Capizzi in May 1962. The song was a spoof on the dance crazes popular at the time, including the Twist and the Mashed Potato, which inspired the title. The song also featured Bobby’s impersonations of veteran horror stars Boris Karloff and Bela Lugosi. This must be one of the few novelty records I haven’t tired of as I still find it quite good fun. Maybe just me though?

Monster Mash by Bobby (Boris) Pickett and the Crypt-Kickers:


So, ‘What’s It All About?’ – October is not it seems a month that lends itself to the writing of songs. There were plenty to choose from for September but kind of all over the place this time, what with psychedelic folk, alternative rock and jazz-funk putting in an appearance. Not all the lyrics even mention the month and only one song mentions nature and the falling of leaves.

For me, October is all about the falling leaves and the spectacular colour show natures gives us, but I suppose if you are a city dweller, the month might not conjure up those images. For some, October is all about Halloween, which isn’t a big deal for us nowadays but at DD’s abode she still likes to put up spooky decorations and invite friends over for a themed party. Why I decided to include that old favourite of a song.


Hopefully November will turn out to be a bit more inspirational when it comes to the writing of songs. As ever, your suggestions will be invaluable and gratefully received.

Until next time…

Monster Mash Lyrics
(Song by Bobby Pickett/Leonard Capizzi)

I was working in the lab, late one night
When my eyes beheld an eerie sight
For my monster from his slab, began to rise
And suddenly to my surprise

He did the mash, he did the monster mash
The monster mash, it was a graveyard smash
He did the mash, it caught on in a flash
He did the mash, he did the monster mash

From my laboratory in the castle east
To the master bedroom where the vampires feast
The ghouls all came from their humble abodes
To get a jolt from my electrodes

They did the mash, they did the monster mash
The monster mash, it was a graveyard smash
They did the mash, it caught on in a flash
They did the mash, they did the monster mash

The zombies were having fun
The party had just begun
The guests included Wolfman
Dracula, and his son

The scene was rockin’, all were digging the sounds
Igor on chains, backed by his baying hounds
The coffin-bangers were about to arrive
With their vocal group, ‘The Crypt-Kicker Five’

They played the mash, they played the monster mash
The monster mash, it was a graveyard smash
They played the mash, it caught on in a flash
They played the mash, they played the monster mash

Out from his coffin, Drac’s voice did ring
Seems he was troubled by just one thing
Opened the lid and shook his fist and said
“Whatever happened to my Transylvania Twist?”

It’s now the mash, it’s now the monster mash
The monster mash, and it’s a graveyard smash
It’s now the mash, it caught on in a flash
It’s now the mash, it’s now the monster mash

Now everything’s cool, Drac’s a part of the band
And my Monster Mash is the hit of the land
For you, the living, this mash was meant too
When you get to my door, tell them Boris sent you

Then you can mash, then you can monster mash
The monster mash, and do my graveyard smash
Then you can mash, you will catch on in a flash
Then you can mash, then you can monster mash

Wah-ooh, argh, monster mash, wah-ooh
Easy, Igor, you impetuous young boy
Argh, mash good, mm, argh
Monster mash, wah-ooh, monster mash, wah-ooh

That Revolving Door, A Return to the ‘60s and ‘Fool On The Hill’

WIAA: Alyson, oh Alyson…?

ALYSON: Yes, I am here WIAA, it’s just that I don’t even know how to start with this one. As I treat you as my web-diary as well as a place to share some of my favourite songs, I feel duty bound to pass comment on some of the political upheaval we’ve been faced with as a country over the last few weeks, but I’m sure everyone’s sick and tired of it by now.

WIAA: I have no idea what you’re talking about Alyson.

ALYSON: Ah, that would be because you’re a page on a blogging platform and as long as I can afford to keep paying your subscription fees, you needn’t worry your pretty little head over political infighting, leadership contests and the ‘crashing’ of the economy.


WIAA: It all sounds a bit worrying Alyson.

ALYSON: It’s more than that WIAA, it proves that the ‘systems’ we have in place are no longer fit for purpose and the new Prime Minister who will be in post by this time next week is quite possibly not going to make any better a fist of it than the previous four, yes four, we’ve had over the last six years. It’s all going horribly wrong WIAA, all over the world, and there are some REALLY big issues that need dealt with, but that involves REALLY big change which seems to be impossible to bring about.

WIAA: What about sharing a calming song, Alyson?

ALYSON: Good idea WIAA. Back when I was researching Sérgio Mendes for a previous post, I stumbled upon this cover from 1968. If you’re feeling a bit stressed and anxious by what’s going on in the world just listen to this, Fool on the Hill by Sérgio Mendes & Brasil ’66. I think I need to add it to my sidebar category ‘Balm For The Soul’, as it certainly acts as a balm for me. I just love the girls in this clip, their dresses, their hair, the way they carry themselves and that soft, understated style of delivery they have. Reminds me of the soundtracks to many a late ’60s film, such as The Graduate or Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.

Fool on the Hill by Sérgio Mendes & Brasil ’66:

But of course, we all know that Fool on the Hill is a Lennon & MacCartney composition and just to be clear I didn’t choose the song because I was alluding to any particular ‘fool’ of today. I’m not that clever. It was a Paul song, and it probably related to a character such as the Beatles’ meditation teacher, Maharishi Mahesh Yogi – a solitary figure who was not understood by others but was actually quite wise, apparently. Let’s compare and contrast.

Fool on the Hill by the Beatles:

I seem to have shared more Beatles’ songs this year than in any other year since starting this blog. The Get Back documentary series that aired earlier this year made me fall in love with them all over again, after a good few years of deciding their music had become a bit over-familiar to my ears.

As for Sérgio’s sound, there is nothing like listening to Mas Que Nada on a cold and dreich Scottish Saturday (like today) to raise the mood. His version of Fool on the Hill is not so much a mood-raiser but a mood-calmer. Either way I have become a bit of a fan of the Brazilian maestro who is apparently still with us, so good for him. He is a contemporary of the Beatles but had a very different start in music, first training as a classical pianist at his local ‘conservatoire’. The Cavern Club and its ilk were not for him, but by 1968 here he was covering songs written by these Liverpool lads.

For any of my followers from outside the UK, no need to worry about what’s going on in our country. It’s all good, we know what we’re doing, and a new PM will be in place by this time next weekend sorting everything out. Britain is open for business and it’s all going to be grand. Yes… (big gulp), it’s all going to be grand.

Until next time…

The Fool On The Hill Lyrics
(Song by John Lennon/Paul McCartney)

Day after day, alone on a hill
The man with the foolish grin is keeping perfectly still
But nobody wants to know him
They can see that he’s just a fool
And he never gives an answer

But the fool on the hill
Sees the sun going down
And the eyes in his head
See the world spinning ’round

Well on the way, head in a cloud
The man of a thousand voices talking perfectly loud
But nobody ever hears him
Or the sound he appears to make
And he never seems to notice

But the fool on the hill
Sees the sun going down
And the eyes in his head
See the world spinning ’round

And nobody seems to like him
They can tell what he wants to do
And he never shows his feelings

But the fool on the hill
Sees the sun going down
And the eyes in his head
See the world spinning ’round

He never listens to them
He knows that they’re the fools
They don’t like him

The fool on the hill
Sees the sun going down
And the eyes in his head
See the world spinning ’round

Romantic Gestures, Robbie Williams and ‘She’s The One’

It’s a while since I posted something new around here, but life has been a tad busy of late. A big contract Mr WIAA had been working on for over a year finally came to a conclusion and last weekend we attended a fancy event where the fruits of his labours had a starring role. We’ve both been working really hard all summer so were looking forward to a bit of a break once we came back, but true to form, as soon as we started to relax, we got ill. Nothing more than a regular cold virus thankfully, and starting to feel better now, but just wanted to explain my absence.

I’ve often mentioned that I now know which subject matters are best avoided around here, and one of those is weddings. I make no apologies however for sharing this lovely snippet of news. Right in the middle of our fraught preparations for the big event last weekend we had an unexpected visit from DD’s other half. We were waiting for a camera crew to arrive to film the various pieces Mr WIAA had made, so when the doorbell rang, we thought it was them. But no, ahead of their own weekend away on the Isle of Skye, DD’s boyfriend had dropped by to ask our permission to ‘pop the question’. All very traditional and more than Mr WIAA did back in the day, but we were both very happy about this new development in their relationship and told him so. Needless to say, at this momentous juncture the camera crew did arrive, so a bit of confusion for a time, but in the end all went well with both the filming and the subsequent proposal, so it seems we are going to have a son-in law!

The Fairy Pools on the Isle of Skye – scene of many a romantic gesture

It occurred to me that this blog has inadvertently not only followed the journey my own life has taken over the past seven years, but also the life of DD, as she is mentioned often around here. There have been ups and downs, and two periods of returning to her old school bedroom, but this is a really happy time for her and the ring she is now wearing on her left hand is a real bobby dazzler. The wedding plans are not seriously in place yet, and won’t be for some time, but in the meantime I thought I’d share a song that was DD’s favourite when she was aged just three. He appeared on prime-time telly singing it the weekend of the big proposal, so it seems doubly appropriate – I give you Robbie Williams with She’s The One.

She’s The One by Robbie Williams:


The song came from the album I’ve Been Expecting You from 1998 and it was also one of the standout songs in the pantomime we went to see as a family that year. She’s The One was track number 10 on the CD, and the player we had at the time came with a remote control. It didn’t take her long, but DD soon worked out she had to press both a one and a zero to get her favourite song from the pantomime, and it was played many, many times over that Christmas period. She didn’t always get the singer’s name right however confusing him with another of the artists whose CD we had bought around that time – oh yes, ‘Robbie Michaels’ was an artist often mentioned in our house back then.


I hadn’t realised until today that the song was not a Robbie Williams/Guy Chambers one. She’s The One was actually written by Karl Wallinger of World Party, a band he set up after leaving the Waterboys. Because the song only became a really big hit once released as a single by Robbie, poor Karl’s song-writing credits were for a time overlooked, and a fair bit of rancour developed between the pair. Hopefully all good now though.

Just to round things off nicely for this post, what with talk of engagements and weddings, it’s our own 30th wedding anniversary this weekend (Pearl apparently) and we’re heading off again, to celebrate and hopefully recharge the batteries. I remember writing about my Silver Wedding anniversary five years ago and it feels like only five minutes ago so that’s a bit of a worry. If I can pick up momentum again, I might even still be blogging for the 35th anniversary.

Until next time…

She’s The One Lyrics
(Song by Karl Wallinger)

I was her, she was me
We were one, we were free
And if there’s somebody calling me on
She’s the one
If there’s somebody calling me on
She’s the one

We were young, we were wrong
We were fine all along
If there’s somebody calling me on
She’s the one

When you get to where you wanna go
And you know the things you wanna know
You’re smiling
When you said what you wanna say
And you know the way you wanna play
You’ll be so high you’ll be flying

Though the sea will be strong
I know we’ll carry on
‘Cause if there’s somebody calling me on
She’s the one
If there’s somebody calling me on
She’s the one

When you get to where you wanna go
And you know the things you wanna know
You’re smiling
When you said what you wanna say
And you know the way you wanna say it
You’ll be so high you’ll be flying

I was her, she was me
We were one, we were free
If there’s somebody calling me on
She’s the one
If there’s somebody calling me on
She’s the one

If there’s somebody calling me on
She’s the one
Yeah she’s the one
If there’s somebody calling me on
She’s the one
She’s the one
If there’s somebody calling me on
She’s the one
She’s the one

If there’s somebody calling me on
She’s the one

She’s the one

Months Of The Year In Song: Sad September

I can’t believe I’ve reached the age I have, without noticing the names given to the last four months of the year come from the Latin words for seven, eight, nine and ten: Septem, Octo, Novem and Decem. It’s so obvious now but of course at first glance it makes no sense as we have 12 months in our calendar and those months find themselves sitting at ninth, tenth, eleventh and twelfth positions. That would be because the first calendar was a Roman one, and they liked the decimal system of doing things in tens. Their calendar year started in March but of course the summer and winter months would soon become misplaced so additional days belonging to no particular month were added as an “unorganised winter”, allowing things (nature) to restore to their proper place.


In time the Julian and then Gregorian calendars took over which included January and February, and the introduction of an extra day every four years (a leap year) to more closely approximate the 365.2422-day solar year determined by the Earth’s revolution around the Sun. The mathematically astute amongst you will notice that every so often another adjustment has to be made to keep things in line, but the last time that happened was in the year 1900 and the next time it’ll happen will be the year 2100, so not going to be during my lifetime.

But why am I rabbiting on about calendars? Well, I had prewarned you I intended to start a new series featuring songs relating to months of the year and despite this month having not turned out as I had expected here in the UK, what with the passing of our monarch, there is still time to list the great suggestions put forward for September. As I’ve already written about the Earth, Wind & Fire song September as part of my Wheel of the Year in Song series (link here), I’ll concentrate on new finds.

The first song I’m going to include is September Gurls by Big Star, that suggestion put forward by both Charity Chic and C from Sun Dried Sparrows. This is a new song for me, and to be honest, until I saw the band pop up on some of the other more serious music blogs, I had always assumed Big Star were a pop outfit, lumping them in with Big Fun and Five Star! My bad, but thanks guys for drawing my attention to a band from my favourite era who are very much in my wheelhouse. This song often talked about by fans as “the greatest number-one song that never charted”.


The next suggestion comes from Khayem who is a relatively new follower of this blog but his recent comments have been much appreciated. We could probably include this one again in 11 months time because of the title, but here is August & September by The The. Powerful lyrics there from Matt Johnson.


Another relatively new follower to this blog is Lizza, who is the same age as me and seems to have led a bit of a parallel life, enjoying the same songs in similar contexts. She first mentioned these two suggestions last year when I wrote a post about the Autumnal Equinox and Harvest Moon, which happened to coincide that year. Here are her own words:

“I love September Song, J P Cooper’s 2017 tale of teen romance, and also a much earlier September Song, first recorded by Walter Huston in 1938. It was one of my mum’s favourite songs – it was featured in a 1950s film, September Affair, which she saw on one of her first visits to the cinema after she moved to London to begin her career as a teacher … The singer admits that he’s lost a tooth, and is a little lame – but on the plus side: “I have a little money and I have a little fame”. September Song has been recorded by many other artists since Walter Huston, from Frank Sinatra to Jeff Lynne, but I think they all leave out the reference to the lost tooth and the lameness!”

A couple of great September songs there and the first one takes me right back to my teenage years. Both sad songs however as many that mention the month of September invariably are.



To finish off I’m going to share a couple of songs from opposite ends of the spectrum. The first by Green Day and the second by Julie London who made an entire album of songs, each of them featuring a different month of the year. The Green Day song was an ode to the songwriter’s father, who died in the month of September. Julie’s song is a standard and has been recorded by many others, but again a sad song, this time about nostalgia (first shared by CC who liberated the album from one of the many fine charity shops in his locale and created a whole series out of it!).

Wake Me Up When September Ends by Green Day:

September In The Rain by Julie London:


So, ‘What’s It All About?’ – I always feel a bit sad when we hit September and it seems I’m not alone as the month does seem to be a bit of a metaphor for the passing of time and the end of things (for those of us who live in the Northern Hemisphere). Others however, like my daughter, who enjoy wrapping up in their winter woollies and sitting around roaring fires, would beg to differ.

Whatever camp you fall into, there certainly seem to be plenty of songs out there featuring the month of September. Will there be as many about the month of October? Not sure yet, but hopefully some of you will be able to help me out. As ever, suggestions would be most welcome.

Until next time…


September In The Rain Lyrics
(Song by Al Dubin/Harry Warren)

The leaves of brown came tumbling down
Remember, in September, in the rain
The sun went out just like a dying ember
That September in the rain

To every word of love I heard you whisper
The raindrops seemed to play our sweet refrain
Though spring is here, to me it’s still September
That September in the rain

To every word of love I heard you whisper
The raindrops seemed to play our sweet refrain
Though spring is here, to me it is still September
That September in the rain
That September that brought the pain
That September in the rain

Thoughts of the Week, The Dark Island and Highland Cathedral

I have been music blogging long enough by now to know which subject matters are best avoided – generally football, weddings and the Royal Family. I can’t however ignore the momentous news that our monarch of 70 years died last Thursday at her beloved home in Aberdeenshire, a place very close to my own heart. It came as a bit of a shock in the end, as only two days earlier she had carried out a very important piece of constitutional business, inviting the new leader of the Conservative Party to form a government. That has almost been forgotten about now.

Balmoral Castle in Aberdeenshire

Whatever your thoughts on the place of the monarchy in our national life, someone who was probably the most famous and recognised person in the world has left us, and news channels around the world are covering every step of what happens in the aftermath of such an event.

I seem to be alone in my little corner of the blogosphere, but I have been deeply affected by this massive change in the status quo. Prime Ministers come and go, recessions come and go, wars come and go, but throughout my lifetime the Queen has always been there, on the stamps, the money, giving Christmas broadcasts… . It’s a lot to take in that she is gone for good.

As someone who is a bit of a ‘quitter’ when the going gets tough, who found it hard to juggle work and motherhood, and who has not always kept her own counsel when it would have been wise to do so, I have always admired the many qualities the Queen had in spades. To have suddenly found herself thrust into the ‘big job’ at the tender age of 25 must have been frightening, especially as she was a mother to two young children at the time, but few can question her dedication and work ethic over the 70 years of her reign. There will never be another like her and I suspect things will change quite significantly, both at home and around the Commonwealth, now that she has gone.

The Queen’s coffin leaves Balmoral

Another reason why Mr WIAA and myself have been quite deeply affected by the Queen’s passing, is because we both also lost a parent quite suddenly, and have been reliving the raw emotion that came with it. My mother-in-law was abroad on holiday when she died, and my own dad went into hospital for a routine operation but didn’t ever wake up. They were both 25 years younger than the Queen was when they died – far too young. As for my own mum who now lives in a local care home, but who no longer recognises me, she is of the same generation as the Queen and all through the decades looked just like her. Because of the fashions of the day many of us probably say that about our mothers, but no, my mum always looked just like her. Not many of that wartime generation left now.

Because we have been reliving sad moments over the last few days, I am going to share the two pieces of music used at our own parents’ funerals. The first is called The Dark Island and it was the theme tune to a 1962 television series of the same name set in the Outer Hebrides. Mr WIAA’s parents were from different corners of England but they met whilst on holiday on the Isle of Skye in the 1950s and after watching this TV drama, once married with children, they decided to move to the Highlands of Scotland permanently. The second piece of music is called Highland Cathedral and is often heard at Scottish cultural events. We used it for my dad’s funeral but I hadn’t reckoned on choking up every time I now hear it, which is often.

The Dark Island by Leigh Garden:

Highland Cathedral:


So, ‘What’s It All About?’ – I don’t quite know why everyone has chosen to make no mention of the fact the Queen has died, and I might be committing ‘sidebar suicide’ by doing so, but this place is also my web-diary so it would be weird for me not to.

My place of birth has been showcased in all its glory over the last few days, and I hope others will appreciate why the Aberdeenshire countryside held such a special place in the Queen’s affections. Likewise, Scotland’s capital city, where we had a wonderful Blogger’s Summit earlier in the year, has never looked better. After today the focus will turn to London and all that that entails, but if it was her time, I think the Queen would have been content that she ended her days quietly in Scotland, the only Queen Elizabeth we ever had.


Until next time…


The Dark Island Lyrics
(Song by David Silver/Iain McLachlan)

Away to the westward, I’m longing to be
Where the beauties of heaven unfold by the sea
Where the sweet purple heather blooms fragrant and free
On a hill-top, high above the Dark Island


Oh Isle of my childhood I’m dreaming of thee
As the steamer leaves Oban, and passes Tiree
Soon I’ll capture the magic, that lingers for me
When I’m back, once more upon, the Dark Island

So gentle the sea breeze that ripples the bay
Where the stream joins the ocean, and young children play
On a strand of pure silver, I’ll welcome each day
And I’ll roam forever more, the Dark Island

True gem of the Hebrides, bathed in the light
Like a midsummer dawning, that follows the night
How I long for the cry, of the seagulls in flight
As they circle high above the Dark Island

Carole King and The Brill Building: Another Special Place In Time

We are nearing the end of summer, always a sad time of year for me. I’m a great fan of daylight and soon there will be more hours of darkness in any 24 hour period. All those activities best suited to the great outdoors will be on hold for another year, and we’ll be tucked up inside keeping cosy. Oh no, that’s right, this winter we’ll struggle to keep cosy as the thermostats will be firmly turned down, but hey, that’s another post for another day.

I’ve run quite a few ‘series’ since starting this place but I’m all out of workable ideas at the moment, which is a bit annoying, because I don’t have anything to return to and augment. As we are nearing the start of September I thought a series of posts about months of the year could be something to focus on (September seems to pop up often in a song title), but it turns out some of the other months have not been as inspirational for songwriters. Inevitably, one of the first songs I stumbled upon was this one by a very young Carole King, It Might as Well Rain Until September from 1962.

It Might as Well Rain Until September by Carole King:


I’ve always liked the song, although it’s not really about the month of September at all, but about how the world is no longer a beautiful place because the singer’s love interest is not around. As far as they are concerned the fine weather of the summer might as well be replaced with grey, rainy days. Thinking back I was often of the same opinion when I was a teenager (and this song was definitely aimed at teenagers), as the routines of term-time were often replaced with lots of time spent on your own, as your friends were either off on holiday with their families, or scattered around the country, the new academic year not starting again until September. If you’d found romance during term-time, the summer break was often not your friend.

But of course the Carole King that wrote this song with her husband Gerry Goffin, is not the same Carole King that has appeared on these pages before. That would be the Carole who by the early ’70s had moved to Laurel Canyon, Los Angeles, and had massive success with her 1971 album Tapestry. No indeed, this Carole was the girl from Brooklyn who was a bit of a musical genius and at age 16 had turned up at the Brill Building in Manhattan with a bunch of songs oven-ready for the teen market.


I have often heard of the Brill Building as back in the early ’60s, after Elvis had enlisted (and they thought rock ‘n’ roll was over) but before the British Invasion had begun, it was the place where songwriting teams flourished, producing hit after hit record. The ground floor of the building was home to the Brill family clothing store, but the upper floors were rented out to people in the music industry. Music publishers like Don Kirshner were based there and offices were kitted out with cubicles, each containing a piano, a bench and a chair where songwriters could partner up, one person writing the lyrics and the other coming up with the music. This was songwriting to order, but the songs were aimed at the lucrative new teen market and they were given to some of the many girl groups that had formed in New York City at that time (the Shirelles, the Shangri-Las, the Ronettes and the Chiffons) and also to many of the up-and-coming teen idols (Bobby Darin, Bobby Vee and Gene Pitney).

 The Brill Building is located at 1619 Broadway on 49th Street, in the NYC borough of Manhattan

Before starting this blog, I was often unaware of who had written a particular song as I had always been more interested in the artist who performed it. As time went by however the same names kept popping up, and many of those names were songwriting partnerships who first got together in the Brill Building:

Burt Bacharach and Hal David
Neil Sedaka and Howard Greenfield
Ellie Greenwich and Jeff Barry
Gerry Goffin and Carole King
Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil
Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller
Doc Pomus and Mort Shuman

A lot of famous faces in that montage above and impossible to name them all individually. To finish off I’ll add another couple of clips of songs that came to life in the Brill Building. I know I was bemoaning the end of summer in the opening paragraph, but today has indeed been a very fine, sunny day here in the North of Scotland. I don’t think that’s the kind of fine day The Chiffons were singing about in 1963 but a perfect example of the kind of songs Goffin and King were writing for the girl groups of the Brill Building.

One Fine Day by The Chiffons:


As this post has predominantly focussed on Carole King, it would seem silly not to end with the song Neil Sedaka wrote about her. They had both gone to the same high school in Brooklyn and had briefly dated (when she was still a Carol without the ‘e’). Oh! Carol was Neil’s first big domestic hit and the song also reached the No. 3 spot in the UK Singles Chart in 1959.

Oh! Carol by Neil Sedaka:


Yet again I’ve kind of gone way off piste on this one but once I’d listened to Carole’s September song I decided to find out more about that place in NYC which was a veritable music factory in the late ’50s/early ’60s. Most of us of a certain age have grown up listening to songs that we may or may not have known started life in The Brill Building. I like these posts where I actually take the time to find out geographically where these special places were/still are located. Right there in Midtown Manhattan it seems, just along from Tin Pan Alley where the sheet music of an earlier era had started life.

As for my series about songs referring to months of the year, I’ve not abandoned the idea yet, so if you do have any September songs you’d like me to write about, do let me know. For the record, the Earth, Wind and Fire one has popped up around here a couple of times before, but there will be others I’m sure.

Until next time…

It Might As Well Rain Until September Lyrics
(Song by Carole King/Gerry Goffin)

What shall I write?
What can I say?
How can I tell you how much I miss you?

The weather here has been as nice as it can be
Although it doesn’t really matter much to me
For all the fun I’ll have while you’re so far away
It might as well rain until September

I don’t need sunny skies for thing I have to do
‘Cause I stay home the whole day long and think of you
As far as I’m concerned each day’s a rainy day
So It might as well rain until September

My friends look forward to their picnics on the beach
Yes everybody loves the summertime
But you know darling while your arms are out of reach
The summer isn’t any friend of mine

It doesn’t matter whether skies are grey or blue
It’s raining in my heart ’cause I can’t be with you
I’m only living for the day you’re home to stay
So It might as well rain until September
September, September, oh
It might as well rain until September