Madonna, Desperately Seeking Susan and “Crazy For You”

Realised after ten days of randomly (or not so randomly as it turned out) choosing songs to write about, that none (other than Jacky’s “White Horses” theme song) were by women. How could this have happened I wondered? I then looked back at lists of No. 1 hits over the decades and in 1968, only 2 out of a total of 21 featured women (Mary Hopkin, and Esther Ofarim of Cinderella Rockefella fame) but by 1998, 17 out of a total of 29 featured women (mainly girl bands like The Spice Girls, Aqua, All Saints and B*Witched) – How things had changed.

Right in the middle of that 30 year period, a young lady from Michigan really started to make her mark, and it got me wondering how much of it was down to her? Probably lots of factors contributed, but the incredibly driven and self-confident Madonna Louise Ciccone burst onto the scene in 1984 and immediately had a string of great dance-floor hit records. Nile Rodgers again got on board (his name keeps popping up) and produced her first album – The rest is history. She is the most successful female chart act of all time. Like Bowie she continually reinvents herself so hard to work out who the real Madonna is. We will probably never know but I tend to think that the real Madonna was probably not unlike her streetwise character in the 1985 film Desperately Seeking Susan. Breezing through Manhattan’s East Village (pre-gentrification), pulling off that quirky look, getting into scrapes! Great film and because she essentially played herself, the only one where she received critical acclaim (sorry Madge).

Anyway, she released some great songs that year and my favourite is Crazy For You. It was actually from another film, which I have never seen and didn’t stand the test of time, but there is something about that song that gives me goosebumps. Not from hearing it in 1985 but after watching the film 13 Going On 30 with my daughter much, much later (key song on the soundtrack). The lyrics and “feel” of the song took me back to that coming-of-age time in your life when the most important thing in the world, at the end of a night out, was to find yourself in the arms of the boy you adored from afar, hoping he adored you back. The ’70s dance halls where we converged were very smokey and very dark so really conjured up those memories. All too often we went home full of despair having witnessed the boy of our dreams in the arms of another girl. We would however always return the following week, in the hope he would again be there, and that this time it would end differently….

Crazy For You by Madonna:

Crazy For You Lyrics
(Song by John Bettis/Jon Lind)

Swaying room as the music starts
Strangers making the most of the dark
Two by two their bodies become one

I see you through the smokey air
Can’t you feel the weight of my stare
You’re so close but still a world away
What I’m dying to say, is that

I’m crazy for you
Touch me once and you’ll know it’s true
I never wanted anyone like this
It’s all brand new, you’ll feel it in my kiss
I’m crazy for you, crazy for you

Trying hard to control my heart
I walk over to where you are
Eye to eye we need no words at all

Slowly now we begin to move
Every breath I’m deeper into you
Soon we two are standing still in time
If you read my mind, you’ll see

It’s all brand new, I’m crazy for you
And you know it’s true
I’m crazy, crazy for you

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England Dan & John Ford Coley, Warm Winds and “I’d Really Love To See You Tonight”

Listening to Lyin’ Eyes yesterday and reminiscing about The Eagles’ great music got me thinking about all the other ’70s American artists we loved to listen to. There were a group of them living in Laurel Canyon, Los Angeles who collaborated to create amazing American country rock – Linda Ronstadt, Jackson Browne and Bob Seger.

For teenagers in rural Scotland, the lyrics in their songs conjured up something totally other-worldly – “Dark desert highways”, “Blue bayous” and “Tequila sunrises”. Also until then I hadn’t really listened to the lyrics of songs properly, it was always about the melody or the artist (typical teenage girl) but these guys were telling a whole story in a song. Yesterday’s Lyin’ Eyes tells an incredibly sad story and makes me realise how lucky I am to have married my best friend and not had to resort to “the cheatin’ side of town”. (One of the best lines ever in a song.)

Anyway, by chance when I was in the car today, this song came on the radio and although more from the soft rock/easy listening camp, it totally reminded me of those great American songs from that mid ’70s era. I’d Really Love To See You Tonight was in the UK Singles Chart in September 1976 and told the sweet story of a guy who just wanted to “hang out” with (probably) an old girlfriend, no strings attached. It was recorded by England Dan and John Ford Coley and was their biggest hit in the UK.

I’d Really Love To See You Tonight by England Dan & John Ford Coley:

They definitely weren’t teen idols (see picture below) but there is something about this song that I’ve always loved – What not to love about the line “there’s a warm wind blowing the stars around, and I’d really love to see you tonight”. Where we lived there was never, ever a warm wind blowing and the stars were usually hidden by cloud, so something really exotic and romantic-sounding.

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I am partial to a “story song” and re-reading these lines, know that I’ve been there. Sometimes it’s just really nice to meet up with an old boyfriend, post-breakup, knowing you are never going to get back together but just to reminisce about good times. All very lovely until you bump into them with their new girlfriend, in which case the pain comes right back, but tolerable if you’ve put on a great outfit that day and perfected the hair and makeup. My 16-year-old self didn’t know about any of that as not really had any great romances yet, but boy did I enjoy listening to that line about the warm wind blowing the stars around.

I’d Really Love to See You Tonight Lyrics
(Song by Parker McGee)

Hello, yeah, it’s been a while
Not much, how ’bout you?
I’m not sure why I called
I guess I really just wanted to talk to you
And I was thinking maybe later on
We could get together for a while
It’s been such a long time
And I really do miss your smile

I’m not talking ’bout moving in
And I don’t want to change your life
But there’s a warm wind blowing the stars around
And I’d really love to see you tonight

We could go walking through a windy park
Or take a drive along the beach
Or stay at home and watch tv
You see, it really doesn’t matter much to me

I’m not talking ’bout moving in
And I don’t want to change your life
But there’s a warm wind blowing the stars around
And I’d really love to see you tonight

I won’t ask for promises
So you don’t have to lie
We’ve both played that game before
Say I love you, then say goodbye

Glenn Frey, The Eagles and “Lyin’ Eyes”

After last week’s shock news of the death of David Bowie, I had hoped it would be some time before the blog would end up being about the death of another ’70s rock legend but here we are again. Woke up this morning to the news that Glenn Frey from The Eagles had died yesterday aged 67.

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Got me thinking that we are maybe at the tipping point, where our post-war baby boomers who entered the music industry in the ’60s and ’70s and by their own admission lived a hedonistic drug-fuelled lifestyle, are now maybe running out of luck. I don’t know the details of his death and don’t really want to delve into all that, but a pattern is definitely emerging here. Again, as with Bowie, I am really sorry for his family and friends who will no longer be able to spend time with him but for the rest of us, we will always have those fantastic songs.

I have decided therefore to make today’s featured song Lyin’ Eyes from 1975 as it was one of The Eagles’ early ones where Frey performed lead vocals. If this blog is supposed to reflect the soundtrack to my life, Lyin’ Eyes definitely played a large part in forming the soundtrack to the mid ’70s. I was still at school and not really old enough for pubs and clubs, but local bands were regularly booked to play the town and village halls in our area. Their music of choice tended to be cover versions of songs by soft rock bands such as The Eagles, and Lyin’ Eyes (all 6 minutes of it) was most definitely a favourite. If a boy you weren’t too keen on asked you to dance, but you were far too polite to refuse, it was a very long song.

Lyin’ Eyes by The Eagles:

By the time we got to 6th year at school, everyone owned their Greatest Hits 1971-1975 album and many an evening was spent hanging out with friends listening to it. I have just double-checked but already knew that Lyin’ Eyes was track number 3 on side 1. I miss that nowadays with digital downloads – We knew exactly where, on every piece of vinyl, our favourite tracks lay. The technology of the day didn’t involve touchscreens or keyboards, you simply had to pick up the arm of the record-player and place it gently on the record – If you had good control and eyesight you could seamlessly jump straight to the song of choice and in my case it was often Lyin’ Eyes.  RIP Glenn.

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Lyin’ Eyes Lyrics
(Song by Don Henley/Glenn Frey)

City girls just seem to find out early
How to open doors with just a smile
A rich old man
And she won’t have to worry
She’ll dress up all in lace and go in style

Late at night a big old house gets lonely
I guess every form of refuge has its price
And it breaks her heart to think her love is
Only given to a man with hands as cold as ice

So she tells him she must go out for the evening
To comfort an old friend who’s feelin’ down
But he knows where she’s goin’ as she’s leavin’
She is headed for the cheatin’ side of town

You can’t hide your lyin’ eyes
And your smile is a thin disguise
I thought by now you’d realize
There ain’t no way to hide your lyin eyes

On the other side of town a boy is waiting
with fiery eyes and dreams no one could steal
She drives on through the night anticipating
‘Cause he makes her feel the way she used to feel

She rushes to his arms,
They fall together
She whispers that it’s only for awhile
She swears that soon she’ll be comin’ back forever
She pulls away and leaves him with a smile

You can’t hide your lyin’ eyes
And your smile is a thin disguise
I thought by now you’d realize
There ain’t no way to hide you lyin’ eyes

She gets up and pours herself a strong one
And stares out at the stars up in the sky
Another night, it’s gonna be a long one
She draws the shade and hangs her head to cry

She wonders how it ever got this crazy
She thinks about a boy she knew in school
Did she get tired or did she just get lazy?
She’s so far gone she feels just like a fool

My, oh my, you sure know how to arrange things
You set it up so well, so carefully
Ain’t it funny how your new life didn’t change things
You’re still the same old girl you used to be

You can’t hide your lyin eyes
And your smile is a thin disguise
I thought by now you’d realize
There ain’t no way to hide your lyin’ eyes
There ain’t no way to hide your lyin’ eyes
Honey, you can’t hide your lyin’ eyes

Kids Telly, “White Horses” and Jackie Lee

I’ve come to realise that although I had a plan for how I would select songs to write about, they end up choosing themselves. The death of David Bowie last week led me to spend a lot of time thinking about him and then with the death of Alan Rickman, that led me to thinking about songs from movies. Somehow we ended up with Careless Whisper by George Michael which was the first randomly chosen song of last week as it turned out but followed on very nicely from the post about other early ’80s post-New Romantic pop acts.

So, the soundtrack of our lives can come from a variety of sources and in my case it is as much from television shows and films as from the music charts – This afternoon when I switched on the radio, a French song was playing and it took me right back to the kid’s TV show from the 1960s, Belle and Sebastian. There were still only two channels available at that time on our television set in rural Scotland, so very few programmes to choose from. Belle was a Pyrenean mountain dog and every week from late 1967 to early 1968, Belle and Sebastian enchanted us all, in black and white, with their adventures. It was a French show set in the Alps, and dubbed into English by the BBC. The most memorable thing about it for me however was the deeply moving opening song performed by the boy who played Sebastian – L’Oiseau.  Listening to it again just now, I can still picture that scene right at the beginning where you see young Sebastian scrambling up the snowy mountain-side with his big white dog, Belle.

The TV schedules at that time had many other European children’s dramas such as Tales from Europe (set in the most amazing Medieval locations) and the very best of them all – White Horses. This one was made by a Yugoslavian television company and followed the adventures of Julia and the beautiful Lipizanner horses raised on her Uncle Dimitri’s stud farm outside Belgrade. Again it was in black and white and again dubbed into English. First broadcast on British TV in 1968 it became a firm favourite especially with horse-loving little girls. The best bit of the show however was the theme song White Horses sung by Jackie Lee or, by the time it was released as a single in the April of that year, just Jacky. Some pieces of music just can’t help but make you feel good and this is most definitely one of them, often coming at the top of polls of the best TV theme song ever.

White Horses by Jacky:

What I do remember vividly however from this time of White Horses in the late ’60s, was that I was a very happy child. We were a family of three – My mum, dad and me, with my granny and grandad living next door. We had a big garden with vegetables, soft fruit, flowers and plenty of areas of grass to play on. There were neighbour’s children to play with and my cousins came to stay every school holiday. I realise now how lucky I was – Very different for many city-dwelling children back in those days, and different for nearly all children nowadays. All we would have needed to make it perfect was a big white Lipizanner stallion and Jacky singing White Horses in the background. Ok I’ve gone too far now – I’ll sign out for today before it gets any more schmaltzy!

White Horses Lyrics
(Song by Michael Carr/Ben Nisbet)

On white horses let me ride away
To my world of dreams so far away
Let me run
To the sun.

To a world my heart can understand
It’s a gentle warm and wonderland
Far away
Stars away

Where the clouds are made of candy floss
As the day is born.
When the stars are gone
We’ll race to meet the dawn

So when I can only see the grey
Of a sad and very lonely day
That’s when I softly sigh
On white horses
Snowy white horses
Let me ride away

George Michael, “Careless Whisper” and the Summer of 1984

The original premise of this blog was to write about a random piece of music heard on the radio, and in my case that is usually BBC Radio 2 nowadays. So many musical memories by the time you get to your mid-fifties that just about everything played on that station conjures up something, so it made sense. The Soundtrack of My Life would end up becoming The Story of My Life.

What appears to have happened is that this has been an exceptional week – David Bowie and Alan Rickman both died.  This kind of threw me and instead of writing randomly, a lot of the week was spent looking back at songs associated with both of those people. Occurred to me that this is highly likely to become a feature of this blog as the music I remember from the 1960s onwards, would have been made by people if not a generation older than myself, certainly a good few years and sadly they will be approaching an advanced age by now. Enough of this maudlin talk however – Hoping there will be no more shock news this coming week or indeed for quite some time. Too much to take in.

So today I did try to stick to my original premise and when I turned on the radio this morning it was Steve Wright with his Sunday Love Songs. Not a fan but decided to stick with it. The first song was Love is All Around by The Troggs but ironically I have already written about that one this week so passed on it. The next was Careless Whisper by George Michael. Perfect, as this is one of my all-time favourite songs. It was released in the summer of 1984 and was George’s first solo effort, his work to date always having been with his best friend Andew Ridgeley, the other half of Wham!. Although they had started out as a duo it had become apparent that Ridgeley was mainly there for moral support as he didn’t sing, play an instrument or write the songs. To be fair, George has always said that he wouldn’t have had the confidence to start out in music if Andrew hadn’t been by his side so just as well it happened that way, but by 1984, it seems he needed a few solo projects.

Careless Whisper by George Michael:

It was summertime and George had yet again come up with an amazing-sounding song. The video was shot in Miami which added the necessary glamour, and the saxophone-playing gave it a sultry, jazzy sound. Sad lyrics but George was looking good and his teen-idol status went through the roof. Yes, lots of girls with his picture on their walls that summer!

As for me, I was still in the midst of my big hair, tanned skin, and pastel-coloured clothes and lipstick period – Unusual not to have been in the mid ’80s. I was living in a really nice flat with my best friends and had, for the first time in eight years, no exams to sit that summer. I know there was a lot of unemployment and social unrest at the time but if you were 24 and in work, life was not too shabby. In London, the term “yuppie” had been coined and although we weren’t earning “loadsamoney” (like the Harry Enfield character of the time) we were definitely young, urban and professional. A lot of partying was done that year and not a lot of saving for the future. The music in the background was a mixture of all that was popular at the time and it most definitely included George Michael with his big ballad – A slow dance number if ever there was one.

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A slight downside to the year of partying in 1984 was that we all split up with our long-term University boyfriends. Still not sure if that would have happened if we hadn’t been having such a great social life but as careers took off, more time was being spent with new colleagues and that ended up being the result. Or, could it have been that 1984 was the year we all decided to knit them a jumper? Months of hard work (fortunately I opted for a fairly simple pattern) and at the end of the year, no boyfriend. I for one even ended up at the doctors with a worryingly mysterious ailment – Turned out it was muscle strain from all the knitting (these were big, sporty lads and by the time you reached row 300 there was a lot of wool to support). Who knows, but at least in the midst of all the trauma and health scares, we had George Michael and Careless Whisper for solace.

Careless Whisper Lyrics
(Song by George Michael)

I feel so unsure
As I take your hand
And lead you to the dance floor
As the music dies
Something in your eyes
Calls to mind a silver screen
And all it’s sad goodbyes

I’m never gonna dance again
Guilty feet have got no rhythm
Though it’s easy to pretend
I know you’re not a fool
I should have known better than to cheat a friend
And waste a chance that I’ve been given
So I’m never gonna dance again
The way I danced with you

Time can never mend
The careless whisper of a good friend
To the heart and mind
Ignorance is kind
There’s no comfort in the truth
Pain is all you’ll find

Tonight the music seems so loud
I wish that we could lose this crowd
Maybe it’s better this way
We’d hurt each other with the things we want to say
We could have been so good together
We could have lived this dance forever
But now who’s gonna dance with me
Please stay

Eighties Bowie, David Sylvian and “Forbidden Colours”

Inevitably I got to thinking a lot about David Bowie this week and like many of us, have ended up spending a fair bit on time online looking back at his many guises. One that has thrown me a bit is the early ’80s “Let’s Dance” phase. Early ’70s David Bowie hid behind bizarre “spaceman” characters but by 1983 he had gone seriously mainstream – Or was he playing another character? I heard him say in an interview that he felt far more confident on stage playing a character such as Ziggy but by 36, as he would have been by this time, it looks as if he was confident enough to be himself. Amazingly, after looking pale, thin, malnourished and let’s be honest, a tad weird a decade earlier, he had turned into one of the best-looking guys in the industry (we’ll ignore the teeth). This was the post-New Romantic period and he was very much adopting the sharp, elegant look that bands such as Duran Duran, ABC and Japan favoured.

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I am still unsure who copied who, but in 1983 there were a series of events that seemed to tie in and feed off each other. He released the “Let’s Dance” album that year and a string of hits came from it starting off with the title track in March. He had approached Nile Rodgers to act as producer on it, and his brief was to “give him hit singles“, which is exactly what he did. A massive world tour followed and I remember my flatmate of the time heading downtown with her sleeping bag in order to queue all night for tickets (no computers or Ticketmaster in those days, we were old school).

We knew that Bowie had a film coming out later that summer, Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence, and leading the advance party were David Sylvian (ex of the band Japan) and Ryuichi Sakamoto (also an actor in the film), who had produced the soundtrack album. The beautiful song Forbidden Colours was released in July 1983 and looking at a picture of David Sylvian now, there is more than a passing resemblance to Bowie at that time although not as suntanned (as he hadn’t been on location in a tropical rainforest).

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The lyrics again are a bit bizarre but the theme is a forbidden love, which is also reflected in the storyline of the film. I do remember going to see it when it came out the following month and Bowie turned in a really good performance. A male colleague from that era had also been to see it and when I asked his opinion he decided that there had been something lacking, in that there were no women in it. That would of course have been because it was set in a male prisoner of war camp!

Forbidden Colours by David Sylvian and Ryuichi Sakamoto:

So, unlike with his earlier creations, David Bowie in 1983 was very much part of the zeitgeist making highly commercial pop music and looking and dressing very much like his younger counterparts. He was back acting, and feeding off the people he worked with. Happy memories of those days – The real start of big ’80s hair (perms and bleaching were de rigueur), bold bright earrings, tanned skin, and lots of white shoes and clothing. Those of us who got on board with the whole look have probably ruined our hair and skin in the process but boy did we feel good when stepping out for a “night on the town”!

Forbidden Colours Lyrics
(Song by David Sylvian/Ryuichi Sakamoto)

The wounds on your hands never seem to heal
I thought all I needed was to believe
Here am I, a lifetime away from you
The blood of Christ, or the beat of my heart
My love wears forbidden colours
My life believes

Senseless years thunder by
Millions are willing to give their lives for you
Does nothing live on?

Learning to cope with feelings aroused in me
My hands in the soil, buried inside of myself
My love wears forbidden colours
My life believes in you once again

I`ll go walking in circles
While doubting the very ground beneath me
Trying to show unquestioning faith in everything
Here am I, a lifetime away from you
The blood of Christ, or a change of heart

My love wears forbidden colours
My life believes
My love wears forbidden colours
My life believes in you once again

Four Weddings, “Love Is All Around” and Wet Wet Wet

I wrote yesterday about Bryan Adams’ monopolisation of the British music charts in 1991 with his movie song. 1994 was most definitely monopolised by another movie song – The Troggs’ Love Is All Around, this time recorded by Wet Wet Wet. As it turns out it would have beaten Bryan Adams record of 16 weeks at No. 1 had the band themselves not taken the decision to delete it from sale after week 15. They were fully aware by this time that everyone was fed up hearing it and some radio stations had even taken to banning it from the airwaves.

Love Is All Around by Wet Wet Wet:

The song had been attached to the fantastically popular film Four Weddings and a Funeral and yet again, droves of fans of the film took to purchasing possibly their first single in many a year. It hit the number one spot at the end of May and stayed there until October!

I remember going to see it that summer with my husband and his family who were home from abroad for a visit. Seemed like a good idea for a night out and I must admit to loving the film so much, I went back the following week for a second viewing. Hugh Grant had been around in films for a while but when Richard Curtis cast him as the smart, funny, good-looking but slightly awkward Charles in Four Weddings, he struck gold. The whole cast of mainly British actors (we’ll not mention Ms MacDowell as I think she was included to appease the American market) were fabulous and although set in “Richard Curtis-world” where everyone lives in stately homes or Notting Hill townhouses with no discernable income stream to match, the film was a tremendous success. When Liz Hurley hit the red carpet on Hugh Grant’s arm in the safety pin dress, her career took a discernable turn for the better also, so lots of winners here.

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I expect the biggest winner of all was Reg Presley of The Troggs who had written the song in 1967 and had a top ten hit with it back then. Nearly 30 years on and here he was, the writer of the biggest-selling single of all time. Very nice for the pension pot.

Not too shabby either for Wet Wet Wet but sadly this was to be one of their last forays into the pop charts. They had started out in the ’80s as a Celtic Soul band but as happened with my earlier pop hero David Cassidy, the good looks (and incredibly smiley face) of lead singer Marti Pellow meant they quickly became teen idols. A long string of pop hits followed culminating with the truly massive Love Is All Around. As with many acts like Wet Wet Wet, they had great commercial success but really craved credibility – Hard to get both and when they went their separate ways, problems ensued. As the comedian Kevin Bridges commented in his latest standup routine, Marti Pellow must have been the only person to leave Clydebank, and become a heroin addict (no slur on Clydebank intended). All that seems to be behind him now however and he has become a bit of a West End star turning up in many big productions.

Something I never got to the bottom of however – All through his Wet Wet Wet career which included numerous TOTP appearances, Marti sported the short, spikey haircut that boys from that era tended to have. All of a sudden he was belting out the now big production number that was Love Is All Around, sporting long, luscious locks. That was hair which would have taken years of growth and high-level maintenance. Still don’t know how he did it and probably never will!

Love Is All Around Lyrics
(Song by Reg Presley)

I feel it in my fingers
I feel it in my toes
Love is all around me
And so the feeling grows

It’s written on the wind
It’s everywhere I go
So if you really love me
Come on and let it show

You know I love you, I always will
My mind’s made up by the way that I feel
There’s no beginning, there’ll be no end
‘Cause on my love you can depend

I see your face before me
As I lay on my bed
I kinda get to thinking
Of all the things you said

You gave your promise to me and I gave mine to you
I need someone beside me in everything I do

You know I love you, I always will
My mind’s made up by the way that I feel
There’s no beginning, there’ll be no end
‘Cause on my love you can depend