Three Björns, Mix-tapes and “Hooked on a Feeling”

Last time I wrote about the Eurovision Song Contest and how it was devised in 1955 as a means of bringing countries together, post-war, in the form of a “light” television entertainment programme. As it turned out, Saturday night’s winning song and the new more transparent voting system did the antithesis of that so a fantastic production was, for me, marred by the devisive outcome. But we move on and the show itself, hosted by Sweden this year, was possibly the best ever and had a brilliant set of very entertaining “interval fillers”.

The most surprising of these was a film montage of Sweden’s contribution to pop music – Surprising because I hadn’t realised that many of these artists were in fact Swedish. For a small Nordic country it seems to have punched above its weight in that department. Even if they had only produced Abba and then stopped that would have been enough, but no, we have also had Roxette, Europe, Ace of Base and many more that have passed me by, but the younger generation will know well.

The first of these artists to be celebrated was Björn Skifs of the band Blue Swede who hit the No. 1 spot in the US Charts in 1974 with Hooked on a Feeling. At exactly the same time, Björn Ulvaeus and the rest of Abba launched themselves on an unsuspecting world at the Eurovision Song Contest, winning decisively with Waterloo. Just to top things off, that was also the year that Björn Borg really started making a name for himself in the tennis world – So, a good year for Swedes called Björn.

bjorn 1

Looking at him now, our first Björn looks like the archetypal Disney Prince with his “Viking-esque” clothing and blond hair. Abba’s Björn was similarly blond-haired but was landed with having to wear those ridiculous outfits. Our tennis playing, blond-haired Björn became a bit of a teen idol and I remember clearly having his poster all over my bedroom wall in the mid ’70s.

But back to the song Hooked on a Feeling – It was written by Mark James and was first recorded in 1968 by B.J. Thomas (he of Raindrops Keep Fallin’ on My Head fame). The Blue Swede version that did so well in the US has the strange “ooga chaka” chant at the begining which was originally added by Jonathan King in 1971. Until last Saturday night watching Eurovision, I hadn’t realised that this song, which has come into my life twice in the last 20 years, was by a band from Sweden.

A couple of years ago my daughter, during her last summer of living at home, persuaded us to go and see a new Marvel Studios film called Guardians of the Galaxy. My heart sank when she mentioned the name as I am not a fan of superhero-type space films at all, but it turned out to be excellent. The storyline was very clever, local girl Karen Gillan starred in it and best of all, the soundtrack was full of ’70s songs that totally resonated with us. Yes, it was set in space, but it took me right back to my school days and all the memories they conjure up. The ’70s songs were on a mix-tape (remember those?) played over and over by the lead character on an old Walkman, as a link to his mother and home in Missouri.

gotg

The main song was Hooked on a Feeling but there were also ones by 10cc, The Jackson 5, Marvin Gaye, Elvin Bishop and our old friend Rupert Holmes (his name just keeps on popping up – grrr). A must buy soundtrack but ironically it had to be downloaded with a digital picture of a cassette tape attached as no-one has the means to play actual tapes any more.

The success of this mix lies in the fact that the songs chosen were, according to the director, “semi-familiar” – ones you recognise but might not be able to name off the top of your head. As we all know there is a tipping point, when you have heard songs just once too often and become tired of them – This is a shame but we will never run out of material and revisiting these lesser-known songs from the past, and perhaps seeing something in them that was missed first time around, can be really rewarding.

I mentioned that the song had come into my life twice before, the other time being when it popped up on the television show Ally McBeal, a comedy drama set in a Boston legal firm. The use is made of fantasy sequences and the “dancing baby” makes regular appearances, always accompanied by the Blue Swede song Hooked on a Feeling. I loved that show a lot as it came along in the late 90s just at the time I had given up work to be a full-time mum. I think it reminded me of what life was like on the outside but thankfully I don’t remember ever feeling wistful about wanting to return to it which made for a happy time for us.

dancing baby
Ally with that Dancin’ Baby

Hooked On A Feeling by Vonda Shepard:

Ally and her colleagues always frequented the same bar after work where the resident performer was singer Vonda Shepard. It was inevitable that there would be an album of songs from the show and of course I bought it. Hooked on a Feeling was on it of course but again there was a great mix of lesser-known tracks, my favourite being the Skeeter Davis song The End of the World which had accompanied a particularly poignant scene in the show.

So, a song I had come across often but hadn’t realised was by a Swedish band until last weekend. Looking now at pictures of all these Björns in later life, they could be the affluent CEOs of large multinational corporations. The Swedes are successful in music and sport but the “rock ‘n’ roll” lifestyle is obviously not for them – In view of what has been happening to so many of our idols this year, I think I am grateful.

Hooked on a Feeling Lyrics
(Song by Mark James)

Ooga-Chaka Ooga-Ooga
Ooga-Chaka Ooga-Ooga
Ooga-Chaka Ooga-Ooga
Ooga-Chaka Ooga-Ooga

I can’t stop this feeling
Deep inside on me
Girl, you just don’t realize
What you do to me

When you hold me
In your arms so tight
You let me know
Everything’s all right

I’m hooked on a feeling
I’m high on believing
That you’re in love with me

Lips as sweet as candy
It’s taste is on my mind
Girl, you got me thirsty
For another cup o’ wine

Got a bug from you girl
But I don’t need no cure
I’ll just stay a victim
If I can for sure

All the good love
When we’re all alone
Keep it up girl
Yeah, you turn me on

I’m hooked on a feeling
I’m high on believing
That you’re in love with me

Sandie, Cliff and Lulu too!

Well, it’s Eurovision week and like many others I end up reminiscing about those halcyon days, in the long distant past, when we used to win rather a lot and if we didn’t win we usually came in either second or third at worst. But that was back in the late ’60s when London was “Swinging” and all it took was a barefoot Sandie Shaw simply to turn up, in order to sweep the board. Our songs were usually written by the big-selling songwriters of the day and the artists singing those songs were generally international stars. It was in 1967 that the UK first won the contest with the Bill Martin/Phil Coulter song Puppet On A String and they went on to write our 1968 entry Congratulations, this time sung by Cliff Richard. Sadly Cliff didn’t win, although he came a close second, but the royalties must really pour in to this day as it is used whenever a big event is taking place where “congratulations” are the order of the day. (Not very original I know but true.)

Puppet On A String by Sandie Shaw:

Taking us up to the close of the ’60s was Lulu with the song Boom Bang-a-Bang by Alan Moorhouse and Peter Warne. She was the joint winner that year with three other countries, but you can see a pattern forming here whereby very simple pop songs with titles non-specific to any particular European language, became the big winners. The song that had pipped Cliff at the post the previous year was called La La La. The big change in 1969 was that the contest was broadcast in colour, so some of us could watch Lulu sporting her cute little pink dress. Sadly however, like in most homes at that time, I still had to watch in black and white but it is nice to now see, what could have been possible, if my parents had been a bit more cutting-edge with their home entertainment systems.

The philosophy behind the staging of the first contest in the late 1950s was a good one – To help a war-torn Europe rebuild itself via a light entertainment television programme. What would the founding fathers think of what the contest has become? There are now around 40 countries competing as opposed to the original 7 and it is the most watched non-sporting event in television’s annual calendar – A juggernaut of a show.

But when it comes down to it nothing has really changed – The big winners are still the international stars of the day, it’s just that these stars now come from Russia, Sweden or perhaps Serbia. Despite being well-known all over the continent they are pretty much unknown to us in the UK until they turn up at the contest. Our home-grown recording stars won’t touch it with a barge pole as it is seen as being desperately uncool and lacks credibility – To do badly can destroy a career. So it is down to our continental rivals to sweep the board nowadays.

Unknown

The songs that win are excellent and most are generally now sung in English as that is ironically the common language of Europe. Ironic because the songs we sing, in this common language, no-one votes for any more. Yes our heyday in the contest is well and truly in the past but we do still pay for a large chunk of it and many of us will still tune in to watch the whole extravaganza on Saturday night. The staging is now spectacular and having just watched the first semi-final last night, the technical people have done an amazing job this year. As the slogan for this year’s contest says, “Come Together”, but here we are having referendums on coming apart – Not what the EBU meeting in Monaco in 1955 would have envisaged for sure. Let’s hope the whole Eurovision philosophy will see this current episode in European relations through, but still not hopeful that we will see anything other than nil points on the scoreboard for us this year. I live in hope!

Puppet On A String Lyrics
(Song by Bill Martin/Phil Coulter)

I wonder if one day that, you’ll say that, you care
If you say you love me madly, I’ll gladly, be there
Like a puppet on a string

Love is just like a merry-go-round
With all the fun of a fair
One day I’m feeling down on the ground
Then I’m up in the air
Are you leading me on?
Tomorrow will you be gone?

I wonder if one day that, you’ll say that, you care
If you say you love me madly, I’ll gladly, be there
Like a puppet on a string

I may win on the roundabout
Then I’ll lose on the swings
In or out, there is never a doubt
Just who’s pulling the strings
I’m all tied up in you
But where’s it leading me to?

I wonder if one day that, you’ll say that, you care
If you say you love me madly, I’ll gladly, be there
Like a puppet on a string

I wonder if one day that, you’ll say that, you care
If you say you love me madly, I’ll gladly, be there
Like a puppet on a string

Like a puppet on a….. String

Controversy, “Two Tribes” and Frankie Goes To Hollywood

Last week I wrote about Liverpudlians Gerry and the Pacemakers, and how they were the first ever band to reach No. 1 in the UK Singles Chart with their first three releases. Roll forward 21 years and the next band to achieve the same feat also came from Liverpool – Frankie Goes To Hollywood.

Back in 1963, Gerry and the Pacemakers had the good fortune of being managed by Brian Epstein who in turn took the band south to work with record producer George Martin at EMI. It is easy to forget now that Gerry and his band were the ones that started off more successfully than the Beatles, and the first single they released had originally been planned as a Beatles record. The year 1963 belonged to them with How Do You Do It? then I Like It and finally You’ll Never Walk Alone all reaching the top spot.

gerry

It is hard now to believe how quickly things had moved on by 1984. Frankie Goes To Hollywood didn’t make simple, twee pop songs – Their output was overtly sexual and controversial. That was 32 years ago and I don’t think a UK band has caused such a furore in the mainstream media since. A year full of outrageous pop music, but one that ironically ended with the biggest charity single ever – Band Aid’s Do They Know It’s Christmas?

frankie2

I mentioned George Martin earlier as I have come to realise late in life, that most of the records I have enjoyed over the years would never have come about if not for a team of very clever people working behind the scenes. Frankie Goes To Hollywood had producer Trevor Horn as Team Leader as well as NME journalist Paul Morley (co-founder of their record label). The videos were directed by the masters of that new medium, Kevin Godley and Lol Creme, and of course the most important person in the mix of all – Mike Read, the Radio 1 DJ who was so shocked by the lyrics to their first release Relax, that it was banned. Nothing sells records like a bit of controversy so needless to say it went straight to the No. 1 spot and stayed there for five weeks! Despite it being banned, I remember hearing it all the time in early 1984 and probably didn’t even take much heed of the lyrics anyway because the record’s appeal was mainly down to its thumping bassline, dramatic vocals and big production values. Yes, Frankie were the band of the moment. There were even T-shirts to prove it.

The team carried on unabashed, releasing two more records, first in the summer and then just before Christmas. This time the topics to cause controversy were not sex, but politics and religion. The threat of nuclear war was a very real one in 1984 and we had been bombarded by films and mini-series on the horror of it all. Two Tribes was a massive and opulent recording, drawing on all of Trevor Horn’s skills as a producer. It had the voice of Patrick Allen from his Protect and Survive public information films, the air-attack warning siren, American funk, Russian classical, Holly Johnson’s powerful vocals and again that thumping bassline. A wall of sound that stayed at No. 1 for nine weeks.

Their third release in 1984 was The Power of Love, not actually a Christmas song at all but released at that time of year so was married up with a nativity-style video, courtesy of Messers Godley and Creme. Again it reached the No. 1 spot which cemented their position as the most successful band of the year. After that they kind of dropped out of the limelight due to the usual infighting between band members and the departure of Holly Johnson. For one year however, they were the front men for an amazing team of people who had pulled together all their skills, and seemed to know exactly how to make hit records. This has happened before and will happen again – The sad thing is that when the band or artist at “front of house” start to believe their own press, they part company with those that “made” them and then the magic ends.

The Power of Love by Frankie Goes To Hollywood:

As for my memories of 1984, I was in my early twenties and doing a lot of partying with my friends and flatmates. I was enjoying the music of the day whilst out socialising, but not thinking about any of it too deeply. Also, when you are young you are not really shocked by much and you kind of enjoy when the generation in authority get uptight about “what the young people are listening to” – We were not parents yet so didn’t have to care about the moral welfare of our offspring and our adult lives had just begun so we couldn’t (or didn’t want to) compare with “how things used to be”.

So, another Liverpool band that dominated one single year in the charts then pretty much bowed out. I was recently pleasantly surprised however, to hear a new song by Holly Johnson called Ascension, from the movie Eddie the Eagle. We are only a week away from this year’s Eurovision Song Contest and it struck me that this could have been an amazing entry. He still has those great vocals, and a cheeky Liverpudlian smile!

Two Tribes Lyrics
(Song by Holly Johnson/Peter Gill/Mark O’Toole)

The air attack warning sounds like.
This is the sound.
When you hear the air attack warning, You and your family must take cover

Love’s gone, oh

When two tribes go to war
One is all that you can score
(Score no more, score no more)
When two tribes go to war
One is all that you can score
(Workin’ for the black mask)

Comrad number one
A born again poor man’s son
(Poor man’s son)
On the air America
I modeled shirts for Van Heusen
(Workin’ for the black mask)

Switch up your shield
Switch up and feel
I’m walkin’ out, lover hey
I’m givin’ you back a good time
I’m shippin’ out, out
I’m workin’ for the black mask

Tell the world that you’re winning
Nothin’ life, nothin’ life

Listen to the voice sayin’ follow me (x2)

When two tribes go to war
One is all that you can score
When two tribes go to war
One is all that you can score

You’ve got two tribes
(We got to part, we got to part)
Somethin’ this good died

(Spoken: Are we living in a land where sex and
Horror are the new gods?)

When two tribes go to war
One point is all that you can score

Liverpool, Gerry Marsden and “You’ll Never Walk Alone”

A very big week for news as the inquest into the Hillsborough disaster returned a verdict that the supporters were unlawfully killed due to failures by the authorities in what should have been a duty of care. The inquest also found that the design of the stadium contributed to the crush, and that supporters were not to blame for the dangerous conditions.

I remember watching the events of 15th April 1989 unfold on television. I had returned from shopping, as was usual on a Saturday, and switched on the box. It was obvious that the football match being aired had been suspended but it took me a while to work out what was happening. As it became clear that fans were being crushed to death whilst we watched live, it became a deeply emotional experience. I remember not only shedding tears but also sobbing uncontrollably.

liverpool

As a wife and mother, I cannot begin to imagine how those poor women who had waved their husbands and sons goodbye that day, must have felt watching the same footage. 96 fans died as a result of the crush in the penned area from which there was no exit, and hundreds more were injured. At least now, having worked tirelessly for 27 years to get to the truth, these families have got justice for their loved ones. It doesn’t bring them back but they have been vindicated of being the cause of the disaster. Liverpool is a close-knit city with a unique history and I am glad that this tragedy is no longer laid at their door.

As an antidote to my last post, which was yet again about the premature passing of two of my heroes, I was going to write about a happier theme this time – “The Smiliest People in Pop”. That doesn’t seem appropriate now but as one of those people was to be Liverpudlian Gerry Marsden, of Gerry and the Pacemakers, it is perfectly fitting to include You’ll Never Walk Alone as today’s featured song. It was a No. 1 hit for them in 1963 and was subsequently adopted by Liverpool FC fans as their anthem, and has been sung on the terraces of Anfield now for over 50 years.

I have always loved this very stirring song, both Gerry’s version and the original from the musical Carousel. Sadly my husband is not a fan (he finds it over-sentimental and doesn’t “get” football) so I have to listen to it in private – A guilty pleasure. He was once duped however into coming with me to watch Carousel at the theatre. He stupidly got Cabaret and Carousel mixed up so thought he was coming to spend an evening watching the exploits of Sally Bowles at the Kit Kat Club. Anyway my daughter and I had a wonderful evening, the culmination being the reprise of this wonderful song in the final scene. Afterwards my husband did grudgingly admit that he might have been wrong in his judgment.

carousel-original-film-soundtrack.jpg

Gerry and the Pacemakers have been mentioned before in the blog as they were one of the many acts brought down to London by Brian Epstein in the early sixties to work with the producer George Martin. That fortuitous partnership meant that along with Cilla Black, The Beatles and Billy J. Kramer and the Dakotas, they created Merseybeat.

gerry

And as for the other smiley people in pop whom I intended to write about today, they were to be Marti Pellow of Wet Wet Wet and Glenn Gregory of Heaven 17. The mean and moody look is one that has been universally adopted by many of our rock and pop heroes but I have a soft spot for those artists who just can’t suppress a massive smile – Yes they look like the cats that got the cream and why not? They were young, selling lots of records and adored by their fans so who wouldn’t want to smile (most of them apparently).

So another post on a somewhat sombre topic but about an outcome that will hopefully help people move on with their lives. As for our smiley friends pictured above, there will be time to return to them in more detail another day. I will leave you with another version of the song, this time from the Liverpool fans themselves. Rousing stuff – RIP the 96.

You’ll Never Walk Alone Lyrics
(Song by Richard Rodgers/Oscar Hammerstein II)

When you walk through a storm
Hold your head up high
And don’t be afraid of the dark
At the end of the storm
There’s a golden sky
And the sweet silver song of a lark

Walk on through the wind
Walk on through the rain
Though your dreams be tossed and blown

Walk on walk on with hope in your heart
And you’ll never walk alone
You’ll never walk alone

When you walk through a storm
Hold your head up high
And don’t be afraid of the dark
At the end of the storm
Is a golden sky
And the sweet silver song of the lark

Walk on through the wind
Walk on through the rain
Though your dreams be tossed and blown

Walk on walk on with hope in your heart
And you’ll never walk alone
You’ll never walk

You’ll never walk
You’ll never walk alone

Postscript:

The last time I wrote about a song adopted by football fans it was “Sunshine On Leith” by The Proclaimers. I ended up including their version, the fans’ version and the version from the musical of the same name. In the interests of parity, I feel I ought to include a third version of You’ll Never Walk Alone, this time from the 1956 film. It features none other than Shirley Jones who to me, will always be David Cassidy’s mum in The Partridge Family, but that was to be about 15 years in the future. In Carousel she played Julie Jordan, a young millworker from Maine. This was Rodgers and Hammerstein’s second musical and many more were to come – I very much doubt however, when writing the song, that they could have imagined it would end up being sung in so many football grounds around the world, and all down to Gerry Marsden from Liverpool, and his Pacemakers.

Prince, Sinead O’Connor and “Nothing Compares 2 U”

I was struggling for inspiration this week as my last post left me with nowhere to go (it ended up featuring a porn star turned disco diva!), but as has often happened this year, events of the week take over. On Wednesday we heard the sad news that Victoria Wood had died aged only 62, again from cancer. This was devastating news as she has been performing stand-up, singing her wonderfully observant comic songs and writing great sketches and sit-coms for as long as I can remember – Another premature death in 2016 from the world of entertainment. It was Her Majesty the Queen’s 90th birthday this week and celebrations have taken place all round the country but Victoria Wood was a different kind of Queen, a Queen of British Comedy. She was honoured in 2008 with a CBE and had she lived, I’m sure it would only have been a matter of time before she became a Dame.

vic

The great thing about Victoria’s comedy was that it centred around very down to earth, ordinary people and the mundane, but often deeply amusing, aspects of their lives. She was a great observer of the human condition, which shone through in her writing. Julie Walters, her long-term friend and “double-act” partner must feel as if she has lost a limb.

I was still reeling from the loss of Victoria when the news came through on Thursday evening that Prince had been found dead at his Paisley Park mansion.

This is turning out to be a terrible year for losing our heroes. David Bowie died the day I started the blog and since then there has been a steady stream of deaths from the world of entertainment. The loss of Prince will mean more to the people of the US than it will to most of us here in the UK but since researching him for a post I wrote just the other week (link here), I now realise that he was the ultimate artist – Dare I say it, even surpassing Bowie with his breadth of talent. He wrote some of the most amazing songs that will be with us for ever, he sang, played every musical instrument on his albums, produced, could act, danced, choreographed and micro-managed every aspect of his life and the creation of his art. Looking back now, considering he worked 24-hour-days and hardly slept, I am amazed he managed to live as long as he did.

I have now accepted that the number of obituaries coming through from the world of entertainment will increase as the sheer number of artists we have been exposed to through music and television has increased exponentially during my lifetime. Many of these artists are now reaching their senior years, so age-related deaths will inevitably become more commonplace. The demon cancer can strike at any time however and sadly, like with poor Victoria, we are losing people too soon when they still have much more to give. And of course, like with Prince, those who seem to live highly artistic, abnormal lives, seem to be more prone to premature, abnormal deaths.

A very sad week for the world of entertainment and when I started the blog in January this year, I had not anticipated that every other post would be about the death of one my heroes. Nothing light about any of this tragedy but I do think that Miss Wood, if looking down at us now, would find it amusing that the timing of her demise means she is now bizarrely connected to His Royal Purpleness – I’m sure she, Terry Wogan and Ronnie Corbett will take him under their wing and regale tales of Acorn Antiques, the TOGs and Four Candles. In return they may well be rewarded with songs from one of the most exceptional artists of the last 40 years.

I will leave you with Sinéad O’Connor and her moving rendition of the Prince-penned song Nothing Compares 2 U from 1990. Thankfully I had just started “going out” with my new boyfriend (now husband) the month before it reached No. 1 in the charts and because we were all loved-up, a song about a painful breakup didn’t cause me any distress at all. Someone at the other end of the relationship spectrum would definitely have suffered however, as it received blanket coverage in the January of that year. Watching the clip again does remind me how jealous we all were of how good Sinéad looked with a shaved head as we were all slaves to our hairdressing appointments at that time – It was the era of spiral perms and highlights (think Glenn Close in Fatal Attraction) so very high maintenance by comparison.

I don’t think I realised back in 1990 that this song was written by Prince but fitting as it turns out for today’s post. Surely no more premature deaths for some time. RIP Victoria, RIP Prince.

Nothing Compares 2 U
(Song by Prince)

It’s been seven hours and fifteen days
Since u took your love away
I go out every night and sleep all day
Since u took your love away

Since u been gone I can do whatever I want
I can see whomever I choose
I can eat my dinner in a fancy restaurant
But nothing
I said nothing can take away these blues

`Cause nothing compares
Nothing compares 2 u

It’s been so lonely without u here
Like a bird without a song
Nothing can stop these lonely tears from falling
Tell me baby where did I go wrong

I could put my arms around every boy I see
But they’d only remind me of you
I went to the doctor and guess what he told me
Guess what he told me
He said, “Girl, you better try to have fun no matter what you do.”
But he’s a fool

`Cause nothing compares
Nothing compares 2 u

All the flowers that u planted, mama
In the back yard
All died when u went away
I know that living with u baby was sometimes hard
But I’m willing to give it another try

Nothing compares
Nothing compares 2 u
Nothing compares
Nothing compares 2 u
Nothing compares
Nothing compares 2 u

Conventions, Constructions and Andrea True Connection!

I wrote yesterday about the year 1976 and how its music is used ruthlessly by advertisers to target people my age – Apparently if you hear an ad with music from when you were 16, you will mindlessly buy whatever is on offer.

Instead of writing about another of the big hits of that year however, I am going to return to the thread covered earlier in the week – How a weird synchronicity comes about at certain times in your life. All through April ’76 I was busy revising for my first important set of exams, and every time I had a break and switched on the radio, the record that was playing either had the word Connection, Convention or Construction attached to it – Drove me mad. With all the studying my brain was addled and I could never remember which one was which. They were all of a disco persuasion so there is the link, but all very confusing at the time.

This is a first for me, four clips included today, but I need them all just to show you what I was going through at the time. First of all we have American disco artist Andrea True Connection with More, More More.

More, More More by Andrea True Connection:

It turns out that “Andrea True” started out as a mainstream film actress but got drawn into the pornographic industry and made over 50 hardcore movies. During her heyday as a porn actress she was hired to appear in a commercial in Jamaica. A political crisis meant she couldn’t leave the island with her fee so being the resourceful girl that she was, she decided to use that cash to produce a dance track where she added the vocals – The result was More, More More which went on to be one of the top-selling dance tracks of all time. The clip for this song now makes a bit more sense in view of this new information but is still a bit troubling to watch (were they hotpants or just pants?).

Next up we have Silver Convention with their hit Get Up And Boogie. This time deeply troubling to watch and I’m not just talking about the outfits this time – Very odd stage set.

The third offering is Movin’ by Brass Contruction – More of a soul/funk hit but popular on the nation’s dance floors at the time. Unlike with the previous two clips, the kids are in the kind of outfits we wore out in ’76 – Wide flared trousers, tank tops, a lot of denim (Brutus jeans anyone?) and big collars. A few great dancers amongst this bunch.

And finally we have Isaac Hayes (he of “Theme from Shaft” fame) with his Disco Connection, another favourite on the dance floors of ’76 Britain before the temperature rose and we all got too hot and bothered to do much of anything.

As it turned out, those exams went very well but was it because of all these disco classics or in spite of them? Who knows but I probably won’t be revisiting any of these songs for a while as I feel my disco days are far behind me. Andrea True died in 2011 aged 68 and ended her days living off her royalities from More, More More and working as a psychic reader. She certainly sounds as if she led a colourful life and always said she wanted to be remembered as a person who “gave people pleasure” – then added the words – “with my music.”

RIP Andrea.

More, More More Lyrics
(Song by Sam Dees – Not too challenging for him as you will see)

Ooh, how do you like your love?
Ooh, how do you like your love?

But if you want to know how I really feel
Get the cameras rollin’, get the action goin’
Baby, you know, my love for you is real
Take me where you want to
Me and my heart you steal

More, more, more
How do you like it?
How do you like it?

Repeat x 42 times (yes really!)

Long Hot Summers, Advertising and The Music of 1976

Apparently a study has been carried out and the findings are that any company wishing to target a particular demographic with their advertising, should use music from the time that group was 16 – In my case that would be 1976. I can see how this would work. If like me you were lucky and had a stable family background: your material needs were all catered for; you had a tight regime to your day with school and probably a Saturday job; you saw your best friends every single day because you went to school with them, and finally; you probably had a reasonable level of independence, as helicopter parenting wouldn’t start for a few decades yet. Top that off with a few short romances that didn’t cause too much distress when they were over, no social media to mess with your head, and life was sweet.

We humans are essentially simple beings but as the years go by we accumulate baggage, make life complicated for ourselves and lose the people we love – These giant corporations know that, and home in on our weakness for a pop song that reminds us of simpler times. A really expensive car and some life assurance anyone? Yes by golly, I’ll have both!

1976 was indeed a memorable year and one which I have really fond memories of. It was of course the year of the ‘long hot summer’ when a whole new government department had to be created, The Ministry for Drought (which then became the Ministry for Floods when summer turned into autumn).

The UK won the Eurovision Song Contest that year with Brotherhood of Man’s Save Your Kisses For Me. Girl/boy bands like BofM were very popular in 1976 and Abba really solidified their postition as an international supergroup with hits like Mama Mia, FernandoDancing Queen and Money Money Money. Even home grown acts like Guys and Dolls had a modicum of success.

Despite the fact that punk emerged that year, with Malcolm MacLaren’s Sex Pistols out to shock, they or their movement didn’t really make much of an impact on the UK Singles Chart – That was pretty much filled with the usual suspects. We had Disco (Tina Charles, Donna Summer), Country (JJ Barrie, Pussycat and Billie Jo Spears), Novelty songs (The Wurzels), Soft rock (Chicago, Dr Hook), Pop classics (Elton John & Kiki Dee), Soul (The Stylistics, Barry White), Rock (Queen with their amazing Bohemian Rhapsody) and Rock ‘n’ Roll Revival acts (Showaddywaddy).

As for me, I was in my 4th Year of Secondary School which was the last year everyone of my age would have to legally attend. In the May of that year we sat our first important exams, ‘O Grades’ as they were called then (short for Ordinary, although didn’t feel very ordinary when you were having to revise for them). When you have big exams coming up you do spend a lot of your time in your room studying, but of course you also need a bit of down time and the radio is probably switched on a bit more often that should be. I think I am still familiar with just about every song that hit the charts in the spring of 1976 and could still tell you which position they reached in the charts. After the exams were finished, a time of merriement commenced (as per the film Grease) and the two songs I remember clearly from that time are You To Me Are Everything by Liverpool band The Real Thing and Young Hearts Run Free by Candi Staton – If any company used either of those songs in an advert I would be putty in their hands.

As it turned out the exams of 1976 went very well but later on that year a lot of our classmates left school for good as there were plenty of jobs waiting for 16-year-olds in those days. Those of us who went back to school enjoyed the big hit of the autumn, Chicago’s If You Leave Me Now, and then over Christmas we were treated to Johnny Mathis with his version of When A Child Is Born (one for the mums and dads).

As the academic year went by and we all started to turn 17, the serious business of Higher Grade exams loomed which determined whether or not you would go to University. Like our old classmates who had already entered the adult world of work, life had got just that little bit more stressful and not as carefree as for our 16-year-old selves. The advertisers therefore have got it right I reckon – It is not the same for everyone but if you have to pick music from a year that will really boost sales, make it the year your target group turned 16. Works for me and my new really expensive car, and life assurance policy.

I shall leave you with Candi Staton and her June 1976 hit Young Hearts Run Free but it seems bizarre now that this was the track of choice for our end of term merriment. As I’ve said before however I really don’t think we took too much heed of the lyrics at that age – I’d not had any big romances yet and all the mums and dads I knew seemed to be quite happy (or perhaps I was too young and naïve to think otherwise). I loved Candi’s voice though and the song had a great sound to it. Perfect for the school disco.

Young Hearts Run Free by Candi Staton:

Something that has just come to light in the last few years however – Whenever she was mentioned on the radio or on TOTP, she was always called Candi ‘Staton’ (made to sound like Staten Island) but it turns out it should have been pronounced ‘State-en’. Poor lady has had her name mispronounced in the UK for the last 40 years, but hopefully now put right. Tony Blackburn in the clip was obviously one of the main culprits but of course he was the DJ who badly mispronounced ‘Duran Duran’ during a chart rundown in the ’80s so not surprising really. As it turns out I only discovered after his death that I had always mispronounced ‘Bowie’ (as in David) so not always easy to get it right. Another tricky one is ‘Bono’ of U2 – He always ends up sounding like a well-known dog food.

Anyway, time for me to sign off for today. Enjoy the ‘long hot summer song’ of 1976

Young Hearts Run Free Lyrics
(Song by David Crawford)

What’s the sense in sharing this one and only life
Ending up just another lost and lonely wife
You count up the years and they will be filled with tears

Love only breaks up to start over again

You’ll get the babies but you won’t have your man
While he is busy loving every woman that he can  

Say I’m gonna leave a hundred times a day

It’s easier said than done
When you just can’t break away

Young hearts, run free
They’ll never be hung up, hung up like my man and me 
Young hearts, to yourself be true
Don’t be no fool when
Love really don’t love you 

It’s high time now just one crack at life
Who wants to live it in trouble and strife
My mind must be free to learn all I can about me

I’m gonna love me for the rest of my days

Encourage the babies every time they say
Self preservation is what’s really going on today

Say I’m gonna turn loose hundred times a day
How can I turn loose
When I just can’t break away

Better Call Saul, Prefab Sprout and “The King of Rock ‘n’ Roll”

Something very odd has been happening. After writing about Rupert Holmes (of Pina Colada Song fame) a couple of weeks ago I have been bombarded by Rupert Holmes references. I am pretty sure I hadn’t thought about him or his song for years, but lo and behold, one of the writers for my favourite magazine dedicated her entire column to him this week, reminiscing about their time together at a literary festival – It turns out he is now a successful novelist. (Hope he isn’t writing books about men being tired of their “old ladies” – grrr.)

Last night when we were watching Better Call Saul (the great Breaking Bad spin-off series), there was a scene where the main character is caught filming in a schoolyard – When challenged, his story is that he is making a documentary about Rupert Holmes (of Pina Colada Song fame – it always has to be qualified), who went to school there. Of course he didn’t, but of all the people in music to use, how bizarre that it had to be him.

saul

I was still reeling from this when I remembered that last week I wrote a post about the song “A Horse With No Name” which featured in Breaking Bad. Like Breaking Bad, Better Call Saul is set in Albuquerque which is right in the middle of the New Mexico desert. Funny they have never used the Prefab Sprout song The King of Rock’n’ Roll I thought, as Albuquerque is mentioned eight times as part of the chorus. Yes you’ve guessed it, it was the first song to be played on my radio alarm when it came on this morning. It turns out there is even a name for such coincidences – The Baader-Meinhof Phenomenon.

So, a bizarre introduction to the song The King of Rock ‘n’ Roll from 1988, but that is how it popped into my head today. The British band Prefab Sprout had a run of minor hits from the mid ’80s to early ’90s but this was the one that achieved their highest chart position of No.7. It was the second single to be taken from their album “From Langley Park to Memphis” (although from Durham they were obviously into all things American) and is apparently about a washed-up 1950s star who is only remembered for his one-hit novelty song. Don’t really think I would have worked that out for myself but the more I write about songs from “The Soundtrack to My Life”, the more I realise how little I have ever really thought about the lyrics – I either like the whole sound and rhythm of a song or I don’t. I am a sucker for a great intro and that is usually what reels me in.

langley

So, “What’s It All About?” – Personally I think we, the record-buying public, are being led a merry dance much of the time. I read the supposed meaning behind the lyrics and then I find out that the songwriter just needed a word that rhymed – Fans (short for fanatics remember) often read a bit too much into the lyrics I feel, but hey that’s just my opinion. In the meantime I’ll get back to looking out for more Baader-Meinhof Phenomenon coincidences, like being introduced to a new colleague called Rupert Holmes, or being told that someone has just booked a trip……. to Albuquerque!

The King of Rock ‘n’ Roll Lyrics
(Song by Paddy McAloon)

All my lazy teenage boasts are now high precision ghosts
And they’re coming round the track to haunt me
When she looks at me and laughs I remind her of the facts
I’m the king of rock ‘n’ roll completely

Up from, suede shoes, my baby blues
Hot dog, jumping frog, Albuquerque
Hot dog, jumping frog, Albuquerque

The dream helps you forget you ain’t never danced a step
You were never fleet of foot, hippy
All the pathos you can keep for the children in the street
For the vision I have had is sweeping

New broom, this room, sweep it clean baby (hot dog!)
Hot dog, jumping frog, Albuquerque
Hot dog, jumping frog, Albuquerque
Sing out boy…
High kickin’ dandy,
Fine figure fine cut a fine figure fine oh yeah
Long legged candy,
Fine figure fine cut a fine figure fine oh yeah yeah

Now my rhythm ain’t so hot, but it’s the only friend I’ve got
I’m the king of rock’n roll completely
All the pretty birds have flown now I’m dancing on my own
I’m the king of rock’n roll completely

Up from, suede shoes, my baby blues (hot dog!)
Hot dog, jumping frog, Albuquerque
Hot dog, jumping frog, Albuquerque
Are ya lonesome?
High kickin’ dandy,
Fine figure fine cut a fine figure fine oh yeah
Long legged candy,
Fine figure fine cut a fine figure fine oh yeah yeah

Hot dog, jumping frog, Albuquerque
Hot dog, jumping frog, Albuquerque
Sing out boy…
Hot dog, jumping frog, Albuquerque
(The king of rock ‘n’ roll)
Hot dog, jumping frog, Albuquerque, yeah!
Hot dog, jumping frog, Albuquerque
(The king of rock ‘n’ roll)
Hot dog, jumping frog
Albuquerque

Postscript:

As it turns out a comment left from Mark (Manchester) in the boxes below has thrown a bit of light as to the meaning behind these lyrics. To quote: “I have always been told that ‘hot dog, jumping frog and Albuquerque’, are all makes of jukebox.

As I often say around here, every day’s a school day!

Prince, Little Red Corvette and Creative Genius

I wonder if anyone has ever done a study on just how many individual songs the average person in the western world, aged around 55, would have had exposure to during their lifetime, and indeed be familiar with. It must run into tens of thousands – Looking at my iTunes library there are currently 4083 songs there, then there are all the CDs, the vinyl, the bakelite 78s and the cassette tapes in storage. That covers purchased material but what about all the other material that we didn’t buy but have heard over the years on the radio, television, in films, at concerts and within all the other media platforms we have access to nowadays. I’m starting to think that “tens of thousands” might be understatement!

The really scary thing is that in the morning, when the radio comes on and you are still half-asleep, it only takes a few seconds of intro for you to work out what the next song is going to be. This morning it was PrincesLittle Red Corvette which actually starts off a bit slowly and unremarkably – In a heartbeat, my husband and I both knew that it was this 1985 song despite the fact neither of us had ever been particular fans of Prince, or the song. Why, oh why does this not happen at work when you are asked a question about something really important you did just the previous day.

Apparently long-term memories like this are stored in the part of the brain called the hippocampus, so-called because it’s seahorse-shaped. I am totally in awe of how our brain retains all this information and especially of this little seahorse-shaped bit. When you think that early computers, holding and processing very little information, filled massive rooms and had to be treated with kid gloves in order to churn out a few figures – the old hippocampus is a seriously impressive body part. Granted we have come a long way and your average mobile phone will be more powerful than the computers that got men into space, but for a little bit of soft, squidgy, grey tissue to hold all our memories and have the sheer capacity to also remember these tens of thousands of songs – Well, words fail me.

hippo

At this point I usually add a clip of the song I am writing about but it seems Prince has managed to extricate himself from YouTube and all other forms of shared media [the above clip was added after his death – Alyson]. Yet another foible of this artist who in 1993 changed his name to the unpronounceable Love Symbol (can’t even insert it here as not easy to find on a keyboard). There is no denying however that the man from Minneapolis has talent and apparently played all 27 instruments on one of his albums, but again like others I have written about, the more the artist is imbued with creative genius, the slightly weirder they become. Don’t know if you’ve ever seen him on any awards shows but he is definitely “otherworldly”.

symbol

Before leaving the world of Prince entirely however, I did find a clip of his wonderful song Diamonds and Pearls which I think has one of the most beautiful intros ever. It came out in 1991 which was the last year I lived on my own before getting married – It was often played on the Radio 1 Breakfast Show and if you had to wake up alone, at least it made for a lovely start to the day.

prince

Diamonds and Pearls Lyrics
(Song by Prince)

This will be the day
That u will hear me say
That I will never run away

I am here for u
Love is meant for two
Now tell me what u’re gonna do

If I gave u diamonds and pearls
Would u be a happy boy or a girl
If I could I would give u the world
But all I can do is just offer u my love

Which one of us is right
If we always fight
Why can’t we just let love decide (Let love decide)

Am I the weaker man
Because I understand
That love must be the master plan (Love is the master plan)

If I gave u diamonds and pearls
Would u be a happy boy or a girl
If I could I would give u the world
But all I can do is just offer u my love

D to the I to the A to the M
O to the N to the D to the pearls of love
D to the I to the A to the M (To the M)
O to the N to the D to the pearls of love

There will come a time (There will come a time)
When love will blow your mind (Blow your mind)
And everything U’ll look 4 U’ll find (Take a look inside)

That will be the time (That will be the time)
That everything will shine (Forever)
So bright it makes u colorblind (U will be color blind)

If I gave u diamonds and pearls
Would u be a happy boy or a girl
If I could I would give u the world
All I can do is just offer u my love

If I gave u diamonds and pearls (Pearls)
Would u be a happy boy or a girl (Yeah yeah)
If I could I would give u the world (Give u the world)
All I can do is just offer u my love (All I can do)

If I gave u diamonds and pearls (Diamonds)
Would u be, would u, would u
(Would ya, would ya, would ya be happy little baby)
A happy boy or a girl
If I could I would give u the world

Postscript:

Can’t believe that only 11 days after posting this, Prince was found dead at his home in Minneapolis. I now realise that of all the artists I have covered since starting the blog, Prince was the most multi-talented of them all. I hadn’t really appreciated that until writing about him. He not only wrote all those amazing songs but also sang, danced, produced, choreographed, could act and played every musical instument on some of his albums. Don’t know what is going on this year but we are losing our most talented artists at an alarming rate. RIP Prince Rogers Nelson.

Breaking Bad, America and “A Horse With No Name”

I seem to have been languishing in the late ’70s for some time now, writing about songs that many think of as a bit “naff” (although I don’t) so time to move to a slightly different era perhaps, and to a different style of music.

Most people will have heard the song A Horse With No Name by America at some point in their lives. It was a hit in the UK for them in 1971 but it turns out they were actually from Ruislip outside London. Would seem a bit bizarre if not for the fact all three band members had US Airforce Officer fathers who were based over here, and that is how they met. There is no escaping the fact their music is very much in the style of Neil Young, and Crosby, Stills and Nash, but that was exactly what they intended so it worked well for them. I have written before about how kids like myself who came from rural Scotland, found this kind of music very exotic and otherworldly. We had no dark desert highways or tequila sunrises, we certainly didn’t have warm winds blowing the stars around and we wouldn’t have dreamt of crossing a desert on a horse with no name. Oh no, plenty of cows and sheep where I came from and lots of lush grass, but the whole desert imagery thing was something well beyond our ken.

A Horse With No Name by America:

The amusing thing for me about this “desert” song, is that it was actually recorded in the UK, at a studio in Puddletown, Dorset (you couldn’t make it up). It was released here first and it was not until the following year that it was a hit in the US. Yet another group of artists with a hybrid transatlantic upbringing which might have contributed to their success on both sides of the pond (don’t like that term for the massive ocean that is the Atlantic but seems to have become the term used to make us feel closer to each other than is really the case). Rupert Holmes, whom I wrote about last week, was born in Cheshire to an English mother as a result of his US Army Officer father being stationed there. There are many more stories like this and it might be an idea for a series some day.

desrt

But back to the song – For me, it will always be associated with my school days. In Primary School I always wore my long hair tied back in a ponytail so it was inevitable that the joker of the class would assign me an “equine” nickname. Too embarrassing to spill the beans here but suffice to say it was all done in jest and never caused upset. When we moved up to Secondary School I found myself in the same class for most subjects as the “joker” from my junior school days. The ponytail had long gone but of course the song A Horse With No Name had well and truly become a part of our musical memory bank, so for the next six years I often found myself sitting in class, concentrating on a tricky maths or physics problem, suddenly realising that this song was being quietly hummed in the background for my benefit. Sadly we have now lost touch, but I swear that if our middle-aged selves met up again today, I would get a big smile, would be greeted with my old nickname, and given a few bars of A Horse With No Name. Funny how some things stick.

Like most people on the planet last year, we got hooked on the television series Breaking Bad set in Albuquerque, New Mexico. The plot and the acting were all absolutely first class and we binge-watched it over a period of a few weeks. I was constantly amazed how these big cities could have evolved in the middle of a desert, but for various strategic and economic reasons they have, and they continue to prosper. Of course whenever the main characters left the city and drove across the desert, most of the audience must have thought of the song A Horse With No Name and it was only a matter of time before it made a cameo appearance on the show. In Season 3, Episode 2, Walter White is singing along to the song on the radio when he is pulled over by the police for having a broken windshield. That incident is part of a much bigger story arc that I thoroughly recommend you dip into.

I noticed this week that Elton John has come out saying, in his opinion, the best year for music was 1971 and this song came along right at the end of that year. Looking back at lists of what was No. 1 in the Singles Chart however never substantiates such claims as that was also the year that gave us Grandad by Clive Dunn, Ernie by Benny Hill and Chirpy Chirpy Cheep Cheep by Middle of the Road. It’s usually the songs that reached the lower reaches of the charts that best stand the test of time. America reached No. 3 with their desert song and Elton himself only reached No. 7 that year with his wonderful Your Song written with Bernie Taupin.

So, the young songwriters of today should not be deterred as it seems that we just do not know which of their songs will still be around in the future – It only takes the fortuitous selection of a minor hit from the past, for inclusion in a film soundtrack, television show or advert, to turn them into the biggest selling records of all time. We have seen it happen before and we will see it happen again. In the meantime, I’m off to have a wallow in the music of 1971 – If it’s ok for Elton, it’s ok for me!

A Horse With No Name Lyrics
(Song by Dewey Bunnell)

On the first part of the journey
I was looking at all the life
There were plants and birds and rocks and things
There was sand and hills and rings
The first thing I met was a fly with a buzz
And the sky with no clouds
The heat was hot and the ground was dry
But the air was full of sound

I’ve been through the desert on a horse with no name
It felt good to be out of the rain
In the desert you can remember your name
‘Cause there ain’t no one for to give you no pain
La, la …

After two days in the desert sun
My skin began to turn red
After three days in the desert fun
I was looking at a river bed
And the story it told of a river that flowed
Made me sad to think it was dead

You see I’ve been through the desert on a horse with no name
It felt good to be out of the rain
In the desert you can remember your name
‘Cause there ain’t no one for to give you no pain
La, la …

After nine days I let the horse run free
‘Cause the desert had turned to sea
There were plants and birds and rocks and things
there was sand and hills and rings
The ocean is a desert with it’s life underground
And a perfect disguise above
Under the cities lies a heart made of ground
But the humans will give no love

You see I’ve been through the desert on a horse with no name
It felt good to be out of the rain
In the desert you can remember your name
‘Cause there ain’t no one for to give you no pain
La, la …