The Clash, Big Decisions and Girlfriend Trouble

We are now over a 1000 days on from this post and it seems as relevant as ever. In my original opening paragraph, I said that with only a day to go, many of us were still none the wiser as to which way to vote. That worked out well, didn’t it?

What's It All About?

Short post, but with only a day to go, there should be no-one in the UK who doesn’t understand the significance of today’s clip. If the EU was our girlfriend this is how it would be playing out right now but despite the 24/7 debate and news coverage from both sides (all very balanced so as not to show any bias of course) many of us are still none the wiser as to which way to vote.

Should I Stay Or Should I Go by The Clash:

Not entirely sure why Angela Merkel and Co. haven’t been getting involved in the debate but it seems that they don’t want to affect the outcome one way or another, so are leaving it to the people of the UK themselves.

So, no tearful last minute pleadings – “It’s not you, it’s me”, “I think we just need a break” and “You’re too good for me”…

View original post 408 more words

Janis Ian, “At Seventeen” and The Fate of the Ugly Duckling

One of the pitfalls of writing a bit of an “uncool” post around here, is that for the next few days, the title appears in all its glory on the sidebars of the blogs whose hosts have been kind enough to create a link to our own. My last post was a “moon-related” one, as the March full moon appeared in our skies on Wednesday night. Although I love all those old movie songs sung by people like Doris Day, they are not the staple of the blogging community, so best to move on to another a featured song perhaps.

between250

As I am heading off shortly to meet a cousin who only in the last few years returned to live in Scotland after over 40 years of living abroad, the song I’m going to chose is Janis Ian’s heart-rending At Seventeen. Having just referred to the long list of “posts pending” in my trusted blogging notebook (which hasn’t been referred to for quite some time as it turns out), it was the most obvious choice, as the aforementioned cousin set sail for a new life in South Africa at that very age, 17. I was a mere 13-year-old back then, so she seemed really grown up to me, and ready for it, but looking back that was a really brave thing to do. She was going to live with an aunt and uncle for a start, so not totally entering the unknown, but back in the early 1970s the world was a much bigger place, and for most of the next 40 years all we exchanged was the occasional letter.

But back to Janis’ song. In 1970s Scotland, most 17-year-old girls were not doing brave things like leaving their families to head off for a new life on the other side of the world. Oh no, most of us were instead having massive crises of confidence, and having our hearts broken, just like the girl in this song.

At Seventeen by Janis Ian:

The song was a big hit for Janis in the US in 1975, and although it never appeared in the UK charts, it soon became a staple of the airwaves. The song is about a girl who is somewhat of a social outcast in high school, and so it became a kind of anthem. She was inspired to write the single after reading a newspaper article about a young woman who believed her life would improve after a debutante ball, and her subsequent disappointment when it did not.

All these years later nothing has changed, and with social media to muddy the waters, if anything, things have got worse. I remember the year my daughter and her friends turned 17 and were experiencing the kind of anxieties as recounted in the song. I got them to listen to this song, as I think it summed up how they were feeling. Many nights were spent bemoaning the fact they were not one of The Populars, that group of girls with “clear skinned smiles” who always seem to get the boy.

I would argue that my daughter and her friends may well have been the ugly ducklings at school, but a few years on, they have now emerged as swans (but I would say that wouldn’t I). Janis Ian herself was even quoted as saying: “To me it’s never been a depressing song. It says ‘ugly duckling girls like me,’ and to me the ugly duckling always turns into a swan. It offers hope that there is a world out there of people who understand.”

Before I go, I feel I should add this second version of the more mature Janis perform the song. In a lovely preamble she tells the audience how blessed she feels that she has written a song that truly resonates with so many people, from all genders, races and cultures. One song, one time, that touches everyone who hears it, and they make it their own – Has made it a life worth living.

Until next time….

At Seventeen Lyrics
(Song by Janis Ian)

I learned the truth at seventeen
That love was meant for beauty queens
And high school girls with clear skinned smiles
Who married young and then retired
The valentines I never knew
The Friday night charades of youth
Were spent on one more beautiful
At seventeen I learned the truth

And those of us with ravaged faces
Lacking in the social graces
Desperately remained at home
Inventing lovers on the phone
Who called to say come dance with me
And murmured vague obscenities
It isn’t all it seems
At seventeen

A brown eyed girl in hand me downs
Whose name I never could pronounce
Said, “Pity please the ones who serve,
They only get what they deserve”
The rich relationed hometown queen
Marries into what she needs
With a guarantee of company
And haven for the elderly

Remember those who win the game
Lose the love they sought to gain
In debentures of quality
And dubious integrity
Their small town eyes will gape at you
In dull surprise when payment due
Exceeds accounts received
At seventeen

To those of us who know the pain
Of valentines that never came
And those whose names were never called
When choosing sides for basketball
It was long ago and far away
The world was younger than today
And dreams were all they gave for free
To ugly duckling girls like me

We all play the game and when we dare
To cheat ourselves at solitaire
Inventing lovers on the phone
Repenting other lives unknown
That call and say, come dance with me
And murmur vague obscenities
At ugly girls like me
At seventeen

Postscript:

Incidentally, the reason this song appeared on the “posts pending” section of my blogging notebook in the first place, was because it very aptly put in an appearance on the soundtrack of the excellent but very dark comedy-drama The End of the F***ing World, which Mr WIAA and myself binge-watched in one evening last year. The episodes were all under half an hour in length so although we are not usually prone to such behaviour we got hooked in and just kept going.

th6G4VKD6E

The song At Seventeen was an obvious contender for the show as the storyline follows James, a 17-year-old who believes himself to be a psychopath, and Alyssa, his rebellious classmate. We watched it on Netflix but I think it can be found elsewhere too. I hear a second series is due to come out later on this year – One to look out for.

The Sugar Moon, Doris Day and The Golden Age of Hollywood

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.

To be honest I didn’t think I was going to write any more “moon posts” as I think I’ve  clocked up 17 now, and have had to start using the alternate name for the full moon. Also, most of my favourite moon-related songs have been written about now, so starting to scrape the bottom of the barrel a bit.

This week however, I had a really pleasurable afternoon with a number of ladies who suffer from dementia, and it reminded me there are a few more songs I had intended to include at some point but just not got round to yet, as definitely not from the “cool” camp at all. Appropriately, the March full moon which appeared so spectacularly in our skies last night, is also known as the Sugar Moon, because this is the time of year when the sugar maples of Nova Scotia are starting to produce sap. Appropriate because the songs that are going to be featured here, are sugary sweet indeed.

a9009ff0-5568-4641-959c-a40496d938d2-stocksy_txp1bb389353do100_small_937421
The Sugar Moon

But back to my story. I arrived at my mum’s care home on Tuesday afternoon only to find her watching a film in the home’s very swish inhouse cinema. This room was no doubt set up with the best of intentions, but sadly most of the residents are either too physically infirm to make use of it, or in the case of the dementia sufferers, no longer have the concentration needed to sit through a long film. (We won’t mention the “comfort break” issue, but definitely also a problem.)

On Tuesday afternoon however, there were about five of them watching Calamity Jane starring Doris Day. When I say watching, they were definitely flagging when I arrived, and the carer who was with them was on the verge of abandoning the viewing. “No way”, I thought, this could be a lot more fun than our usual visits where the conversation is tricky to put it mildly. As a great fan of old movies, I knew a lot of the background to Calamity Jane (not least that the Hollywood-ised version was nothing like the life of the real Martha Jane Cannary), so we continued to watch it with me giving a running commentary about the actors, the state it was set in, the storyline and the songs. Of course when you’re in an honest to goodness cinema where actual cash changes hands for a ticket, this is impossible, or very rude at any rate, but in the care home it works well.

The songs from Calamity Jane are standards now, and most of us of a certain age know them well. One of the foibles of dementia is that you don’t remember what you had for breakfast but you remember all the words to old songs, and fortunately most of the ladies in the room were in that position. My mum still has a good singing voice so we all enjoyed singing along to The Deadwood Stage (Whip-Crack-Away!), Just Blew in from the Windy City, The Black Hills of Dakota and best of all, Secret Love. We had a rare old afternoon and I’ve offered to come in next time they plan to show a film – Fingers crossed it’s one I know just as well.

Doris Day (born Doris Mary Ann Kappelhoff) is still with us today, and is about to turn 97 in April (possibly due to her rewarding work as an animal welfare activist – good for body and soul). She recorded more than 650 songs from 1947 to 1967, which made her one of the most popular singers of the 20th century. Her film career began during the latter part of the Classical Hollywood Film Era and she starred in a series of successful films, including musicals, comedies, and dramas. Some of her most successful films were the “bedroom comedies” she made co-starring Rock Hudson and James Garner. Among her awards, Doris received a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award and was given the Cecil B. DeMille Award for lifetime achievement in motion pictures.

In 1951 Doris starred in the film On Moonlight Bay with Gordon MacRae. It was so successful, a sequel was made in 1953 called By The Light of the Silvery Moon. Of course there were songs of the same name to accompany the films, and to celebrate the sighting of the Sugar Moon, they are my featured songs for this post. They don’t make ’em like this any more.

Until next time….

On Moonlight Bay Lyrics
(Song by Percy Wenrich/Edward Madden)

We were sailing along on Moonlight Bay
We could hear the voices ringing
They seemed to say
“You have stolen her heart”
“Now don’t go ‘way”
As we sang love’s old sweet song on Moonlight Bay

We were sailing along on Moonlight Bay
We could hear the voices ringing
They seemed to say
“You have stolen her heart”
“Now don’t go ‘way”
As we sang love’s old sweet song on Moonlight Bay

We were sailing along on Moonlight Bay
We could hear the voices ringing
They seemed to say
“You have stolen her heart” (You have stolen her heart)
“Now don’t go ‘way”
As we sang love’s old sweet song on Moonlight Bay
(Sailing through the moonlight on Moonlight Bay)

Postscript:

I seem to be unusually productive this week in terms of my blogging output. That would be because I have an academic essay to hand in on Friday for my college course, and I seem to be doing everything I can to avoid completing it. Thought I would find it all a bit easier second time around but it turns out students will be students, whatever their age.

Before I buckle down to finishing my essay (that would be 80% of it), I think we should have another look at Doris playing Calamity Jane. She was a right wee bundle of energy and it certainly worked wonders this week in terms of raising my spirits. Hopefully it will raise yours too.

Gloria Estefan, “Anything For You” and Heart-Wrenching Lyrics

A bit of a strange thing happened on Sunday that left me momentarily discombobulated, but it also led me to revisit an album from the late 1980s I had all but forgotten about. I had taken my mum out of the care home for a wee outing, and we went to one of those big garden centres that also has a coffee shop. We were just leaving when I saw a long shelf of picture frames, all shapes and sizes. I’m still adding the final touches to the Highland Hideaway, so thought I might find something suitable.

A middle-aged chap with a bald head was standing right in front of the shelf however, and thought I was staring at him. I wasn’t wearing my glasses at the time (vanity dictates I leave them in the car) which means I never recognise people in shops or in the street if they’re more than a few feet away, but once I focused I realised it was Mr WIAA’s predecessor, a chap I had a whirlwind romance with 30 years ago before deciding it was all just too safe, secure and dare I say, boring. Why settle down with someone who has a good job, a nice car, is kind and considerate, when you could potentially meet a penniless artist who lives in his Mum’s sewing room, but could make life a bit of an adventure. Well, regular visitors to this place will know which route I took, and no regrets, but it was weird to have this blast from the past standing in front of me.

What did we do? Nothing. There was a knowing look, and nod of acknowledgement from both of us, but he was with his wife/partner (?) and I was with my mum whom he hadn’t laid eyes on since she was a vital, working woman of 53. Getting into any kind of conversation was going to be complicated, so we obviously both made the split-second decision to just go our separate ways, again. I do find it really bizarre that we can still be in touch with people we worked with for just a short time decades ago, but people we knew on a whole different level are, once the magic ends, usually out of our lives for good. Doesn’t happen in all cases I know, but in my case it always has.

R-525340-1382028594-1304.jpeg

Anyway, later on that evening I remembered that a few months after we split it was my birthday, and he kindly showed up with a present, a Gloria Estefan album. She was really popular at the time, so it made sense. Thanks very much I said, and casually added it to the shelf of other albums in my “corner unit” which housed the telly, the VCR and the music centre (lets face it we all had them). I probably did play it quite a bit, but back then I was a party-going flibbertigibbet and was more interested in the danceability of records rather that the lyrical content, so it’s taken me thirty years to actually listen to the title track properly, and boy are the lyrics heart-wrenching.

Anything For You by Gloria Estefan and Miami Sound Machine:

Anything For You was written by Gloria Estefan and recorded with Miami Sound Machine. The song appeared on their 1987 album “Let It Loose” (although it was released as “Anything for You” in Europe). The song became their first US No. 1 in the summer of 1988 and reached No. 10 in the UK by the September.

Estefan had famously been married to Miami Sound Machine founder Emilio Estefan Jr., for 10 years when she wrote this song, and fans wondered how this supposedly happily married singer could write such a heart-wrenching ballad about love gone wrong. She explained to Billboard in 1988:

“I think that’s where the artist uses his creative license. I might have experienced these feelings awhile back or maybe vicariously through somebody else, maybe friends of mine who have gone through a similar thing. I think the artist always writes from within, from the soul, and even if you didn’t experience it yourself, you have to feel how would people in this situation feel, and how would they say it. I always try to write very conversationally, and think how would someone want to say it to someone else and then I try to make it more musical.”

Thirty years on, and suddenly I feel a bit of a heel.

Until next time….

Anything For You Lyrics
(Song by Gloria Estefan)

Anything for you
Though you’re not here
Since you said we’re through
It seems like years
Time keeps dragging on and on
And forever’s been and gone
Still I can’t figure what went wrong

I’d still do anything for you
I’ll play your game
You hurt me through and through
But you can have your way

I can pretend each time I see you
That I don’t care and I don’t need you
And though you’ll never see me cryin’
You know inside I feel like dying

And I’d do anything for you
In spite of it all
I’ve learned so much from you
You made me strong
But don’t you ever think that I don’t love you
That for one minute I forgot you
But sometimes things don’t work out right
And you just have to say goodbye

I hope you find someone to please you
Someone who’ll care and never leave you
But if that someone ever hurts you
You just might need a friend to turn to

And I’d do anything for you
I’ll give you up
If that’s what I should do
To make you happy

I can pretend each time I see you
That I don’t care and I don’t need you
And though inside I feel like dying
You know you’ll never see me cryin’

Don’t you ever think that I don’t love you
That for one minute I forgot you
But sometimes things don’t work out right
And you just have to say goodbye

The Band, “The Weight” and a Bit of a Puzzler.

A while back I featured this song by Abba in one of my posts, and it led to a new discovery for me. I wouldn’t have spotted it myself, but in the comments boxes at the time, The Swede pointed out that one of the albums Agnetha was sadly, post-divorce, storing away in her new abode, was Music From Big Pink recorded in 1968 by The Band (all happens very quickly at 0:58).

Back in 1968 I definitely wouldn’t have known about The Band and to be honest even in 1981 when the Abba video came out, all I knew of them was that they used to play with Bob Dylan and made a documentary movie called The Last Waltz.

Since having their great album cover pointed out to me however, I have been bombarded with references to it, especially after asking for song suggestions for the state of Pennsylvania for my American Odyssey series. Turns out their song The Weight, written by Band member Robbie Robertson, is about a traveller’s experiences arriving, visiting, and departing a town called Nazareth, Pennsylvania. Robbie chose this town  because it was the home of Martin Guitars, and he had written the guitar parts for Music From Big Pink on a 1951 Martin D-28. The Weight has been named as one of the best songs of the ’60s and is named as one of the 500 Songs that Shaped Rock and Roll.

The Weight by The Band:

The song was also featured the other week over at Rich Kamerman’s place, his Satur-debut post having been dedicated to Music From Big Pink. I of course had to point out my discovery that the album puts in an appearance in that 1981 Abba video, but after checking the exact location (0:58 as it turns out), I noticed that Agnetha places a second album on the shelf straight afterwards. For the last fortnight or so I have been driving myself mad trying to work out what it is, so if anyone can help me out I would be most grateful? At one point I thought it was Boz Scaggs Silk Degrees, but on closer inspection, definitely not. A bench it seems, and people in white clothing, but other than that I’m stumped. It has to be from earlier than 1981 otherwise we would be having a weird wibbly wobbly timey wimey kind of thing going on, but as I say, any help in identifying it would be much appreciated.

As for the title of the album Music From Big Pink, I have now discovered it’s because the music was composed partly in “Big Pink”, the house shared by several of the band members in West Saugerties, New York. The cover artwork is a painting by Bob Dylan. I am no art expert, so it could either be a work of genius or the daubs of a child, but whatever it is considered to be, it certainly does make for memorable cover art.

250px-The_Big_Pink_(crop)
Big Pink with its pastel siding

So, “What’s It All About?” – So many songs make reference to other songs in their lyrics but it also seems that reference is made to other albums in videos. Makes sense as in the giant oak that is rock and pop’s family tree, everyone is influenced by someone else. Where did it all begin? Who knows, but like human life itself, I suspect it all came Out of Africa.

Bit of a heavy ending there so going to add some footage from the Martin Scorsese film The Last Waltz, the song this time being The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down. The Last Waltz was originally the name of a concert held on Thanksgiving Day 1976, at the Winterland Ballroom in San Francisco. It was advertised as The Band’s “farewell concert appearance”, and they were joined by more than a dozen special guests, including Eric Clapton, Ringo Starr, Bob Dylan, Ronnie Wood, Muddy Waters, Neil Young, Neil Diamond, Van Morrison, Dr. John, Emmylou Harris, Joni Mitchell, and The Staple Singers. The event was filmed and made into a documentary of the same title, released in 1978.

Before next time, I hope someone can help me out with the puzzler?

The Weight Lyrics
(Song by Robbie Robertson)

I pulled into Nazareth, was feelin’ about half past dead
I just need some place where I can lay my head
“Hey, mister, can you tell me where a man might find a bed?”
He just grinned and shook my hand, “no” was all he said

Take a load off, Annie
Take a load for free
Take a load off, Annie
And (and, and) you put the load right on me
(You put the load right on me)

I picked up my bag, I went lookin’ for a place to hide
When I saw Carmen and the Devil walkin’ side by side
I said, “Hey, Carmen, come on let’s go downtown.”
She said, “I gotta go but my friend can stick around.”

Take a load off, Annie
Take a load for free
Take a load off, Annie
And (and, and) you put the load right on me
(You put the load right on me)

Go down, Miss Moses, there’s nothin’ you can say
It’s just old Luke and Luke’s waitin’ on the Judgment Day
“Well, Luke, my friend, what about young Anna Lee?”
He said, “Do me a favor, son, won’t you stay and keep Anna Lee company?”

Take a load off, Annie
Take a load for free
Take a load off, Annie
And (and, and) you put the load right on me
(You put the load right on me)

Crazy Chester followed me and he caught me in the fog
He said, “I will fix your rack if you take Jack, my dog.”
I said, “Wait a minute, Chester, you know I’m a peaceful man.”
He said, “That’s OK, boy, won’t you feed him when you can?”

Yeah, take a load off, Annie
Take a load for free
Take a load off, Annie
And (and, and) you put the load right on me
(You put the load right on me)

Catch a cannon ball now to take me down the line
My bag is sinkin’ low and I do believe it’s time
To get back to Miss Annie, you know she’s the only one
Who sent me here with her regards for everyone

Take a load off, Annie
Take a load for free
Take a load off, Annie
And (and, and) you put the load right on me
(You put the load right on me)

AHA, A-ha and “Take On Me”

Well, I didn’t put in an appearance around here at all last weekend, so going to put together a web-diary kind of affair so as to not lose momentum. The main reason why I was MIA last weekend was because I went “live” with my new venture called….

Yes, Alyson’s Highland Adventures is now taking bookings, so it’s been all systems go on getting everything ready for visitors to our neck of the woods. In terms of timing, it has also coincided with the sale of my mum’s flat, which has to be empty by next weekend – What the heck do you do with a lifetimes’ worth of possessions and memorabilia? I suspect a lot of it is going to end up in my loft, and possibly the loft of the Highland Hideaway, but a bit of a sad business. On the upside, my mum barely remembers she had a flat, and is still happy in her new care home, so not too upsetting for her that it had to be sold. I am finding however that my visits to the care home are having to be a bit more plentiful and as unexpected as possible – The care of our old folk is down to people who barely know them, and especially in the case of residents with dementia, they really need an advocate to fight their corner.

overwhelmedOnly.jpg

On top of all that, the deadline was yesterday for my college course’s first assessment of the semester; and there has been a flurry of activity with Mr WIAA’s business which I administer; and I had to trawl through my blog this week to weed out any reference to he who shall no longer be named, after watching the troubling documentary Leaving Neverland. Not going to say any more about the doc in this post, but suffice to say, whatever the truth behind it all, I am now well and truly done with him.

To cleanse the palate we need a great tune, and of course when mentioning AHA, I am immediately reminded of that great Norwegian export of the late ’80s, A-ha. The video to accompany their song Take On Me was probably one of the best of the decade, and it was lovely to watch it again earlier this week. The boys sport mullets and stonewashed denim, but their look is quite toned down, and doesn’t seem as dated as that adopted by many other ’80s bands. The generic Marty McFly look – Maybe why the Back To The Future movies are still so popular?

Take On Me by A-ha:

Although written a few years previously, it wasn’t until a new video was commissioned in 1985, that the song struck gold. It didn’t do any harm either that lead singer Morten Harket was, to quote the record company executive at the time, “one of the best-looking men in the world.” I remember having a work colleague a few years ago who still had a picture of Morten in the locket she used to wear regularly around her neck. She had been happily married for years, but the locket was a hangover from her teenage years, so Morten remained in place!

Strangely enough, the song popped up over at Rol’s place earlier this week as Weezer have included it on their new covers album (another great video for their version). Also, after visiting CC’s Double Digits series this morning, I had to sort my digital database by artist – What immediately starts to play (if not set on shuffle mode)? Why A-ha of course, with Take On Me. A nice bit of synchronicity.

aha.jpg
A-ha in 2018 – Not too shabby!

So, “What’s It All About?” – Life is a rollercoaster (as little Ronan Keating used to sing) and I have had quite a ride over the last couple of years, but it’s really looking as if a new routine is on the cards, so looking forward to that a lot.

As for AHA (Alyson’s Highland Adventures), as you’ve probably guessed, that’s my blogging name for the new venture, so you won’t find it by googling. Should anyone want to find out a bit more however, the Contact Me button is at the top of the page.

Until next time….

Take On Me Lyrics
(Song by Magne Furuholmen/Morten Harket/Pål Waaktaar)

Talking away
I don’t know what I’m to say
I’ll say it anyway
Today is another day to find you
Shying away
I’ll be coming for your love. OK?

Take on me (take on me)
Take me on (take on me)
I’ll be gone
In a day or two

So needless to say
Of odds and ends
But I’ll be stumbling away
Slowly learning that life is OK.
Say after me,
“It’s no better to be safe than sorry.”

Take on me (take on me)
Take me on (take on me)
I’ll be gone
In a day or two

Oh, things that you say. Yeah.
Is it life or just to play my worries away?
You’re all the things I’ve got to remember
You’re shying away
I’ll be coming for you anyway

Take on me (take on me)
Take me on (take on me)
I’ll be gone
In a day

Take on me (take on me)
Take me on (take on me)
I’ll be gone
In a day

Take on me (take on me)
Take me on (take on me)

Postscript:

As Alan Partridge popped up at the top of this post, can I ask, is it just me or is the new series on BBC1 a bit of a disappointment? I have been watching, but not quite as good as I was expecting. Will stick with it though and see how it evolves.

I also mentioned the sorting of my digital database by artist. Had I sorted it by song, at the top of the list would have been one by he who shall not be named and his brothers. I think it’s obvious which song it is, but sadly, it will now have to go.

Peter Tork, The Monkees and “Shades of Gray”

Saddened to hear the news that Peter Tork of the Monkees has died. Since starting this project, where I journey back in time reminiscing about the music of my youth, it has become apparent that it all started for me at around the age of six, which in my case was 1966. Coincidentally that was when the Monkees first made an appearance on our black and white television screens, and although I was aware of other artists who popped up on the prime time slots watched by my mum and dad, the Monkees belonged to me.

thRXPD4TMH
Peter Tork, RIP

I am sorry Peter, but the Monkee I was most infatuated with at age six, was Davy Jones, and one of the first posts I published on this blog was about him (link here). But you Peter, were the Howard Donald of the Monkees. You weren’t the cutest or the zaniest; you had a bowl haircut, didn’t wear a hat and were the oldest of the group; but like Howard of Take That fame, in time you became my favourite Monkee.

Despite being an accomplished Greenwich Village folk musician when you got the role in the sitcom that would change your life, at the start you weren’t even allowed to play your own instruments. That would change with time however, and you became the man in charge of keyboards and bass. You didn’t get the role of star vocalist very often, but here is a lovely song where you did share lead vocals with Davy Jones. Shades of Gray (American spelling of grey) is also very apt for this post, as it starts off with the lines:

When the world and I were young
Just yesterday
Life was such a simple game
A child could play, (yes, that would have been 1966 for me)

and ends with the verse:

But today there is no day or night
Today there is no dark or light
Today there is no black or white
Only shades of gray, (oh yes, as our politicians can testify, how complicated life has become in 2019)

Shades of Gray was another of those great ’60s songs written by Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil. It was recorded by The Monkees for their 1967 album “Headquarters” and was the first song on which the group played all their own instruments.

But here is another great song from that era, the clip this time in colour, where the boys are wearing those iconic dark red shirts with the silver buttons. Of course back in 1966 we wouldn’t have known their shirts were red, would we, because we watched telly in black and white? But here is where I beg to differ. Our local football team, Aberdeen FC played in red, and whenever their matches were aired on television, the grey of their shirts matched the grey of the Monkees shirts. At age six I was obviously pretty good at working out what the colours should be, based on the shades of grey of the various team shirts. Living in a football loving household meant you developed all sorts of useful skills of a televisual nature.

Last Train To Clarksville by the Monkees:

Tommy Boyce and Bobby Hart wrote Last Train To Clarksville as a protest to the Vietnam War but had to keep that quiet in order to get it recorded. It is about a guy who gets drafted, and the train is taking him to the army base. He knows he may die in Vietnam, and at the end of the song he states, “I don’t know if I’m ever coming home.”

Peter Tork was one of the many artists of my youth to have been born in 1942, right in the middle of a World War, but yet a vintage year for the birth of future musical legends (what was that all about?). Unlike in 2016, when I started this blog, I haven’t actually written any tributes so far this year. Cross fingers there won’t be too many more, but considering the span of time I write about here, I suspect there will be. A great chance to revisit the music though, and I have a feeling that a lot of people who had all but forgotten about the Monkees, might have had a sneaky peek at an old clip of Daydream Believer yesterday – I know I did.

the monkeesUntil next time…

Shades of Gray Lyrics
(Song by Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil)

When the world and I were young
Just yesterday
Life was such a simple game
A child could play
It was easy then to tell right from wrong
Easy then to tell weak from strong
When a man should stand and fight
Or just go along

But today there is no day or night
Today there is no dark or light
Today there is no black or white
Only shades of gray

I remember when the answers seemed so clear
We had never lived with doubt or tasted fear
It was easy then to tell truth from lies
Selling out from compromise
Who to love and who to hate
The foolish from the wise

But today there is no day or night
Today there is no dark or light
Today there is no black or white
Only shades of gray

It was easy then to know what was fair
When to keep and when to share
How much to protect your heart
And how much to care

But today there is no day or night
Today there is no dark or light
Today there is no black or white
Only shades of gray
Only shades of gray