Glenn Miller, Carly Simon and “Moonlight Serenade”

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

Well I don’t know about you, but it seems ages since I’ve seen a bright moon, as it doesn’t get dark up here in the North of Scotland until way after my bedtime at this time of year. By hook or by crook however I intend to catch the one that should grace our skies later on this week, on Thursday night. This full moon is called the Strawberry Moon, because for the Algonquin tribes of North America, June was the month the wild berries started to ripen and could be harvested.

Different for us nowadays when we can buy soft fruit all year round, but as a child I lived in a house with a massive garden (tended by my dad and I) and in one corner was a large strawberry patch, which meant “pudding” for around two months of the summer was berries and ice-cream. It all got a bit boring, and no longer a treat at all, although once we acquired our new refrigerator complete with tiny ice-making compartment, at least we could keep a small supply of Walls vanilla in block form, which saved me being sent to the shop every evening just ahead of “tea-time”. (We were definitely tea rather than dinner people).

But I digress, this “moon song” was always going to feature at some point in this series and as reference is made to the month of June in the lyrics, this would seem to be the time. It’s soppy and sentimental but harks back to simpler times when boys stood at the gate waiting for their date to appear, and looked forward to “the touch of their hand in the June night”. Moonlight Serenade is a song that could only have been written by someone living in the northern hemisphere, as being outdoors at night, hanging around garden gates feeling all romantic, has never been an attractive proposition during the cold winter months. The music of course was written by big band leader Glenn Miller with the lyrics coming later from Mitchell Parish, but here we have it being performed by Ms Carly Simon – A beautiful version for this romantic summer month, taken from her 2005 album of the same name,

Moonlight Serenade by The Glenn Miller Orchestra:

The reason I am so fond of the Glenn Miller “sound”, is that back in the days when my dad and I were busy tending that large garden with strawberry patches, he and I were also very fond of watching old movies on telly, and if they were musicals, even better. One that we both absolutely loved was The Glenn Miller Story starring Jimmy Stewart and June Allyson. In fact in my head Jimmy Stewart is Glenn Miller because hard sometimes to disassociate the person playing them on the big screen from the real life person whom you’ve seen images of very rarely. I don’t think I’d be giving the game away by saying the film has an incredibly tragic and sad ending (after which I had to retreat to the pre-fridge, sound-proofed “pantry”, to stifle my sobbing), but ahead of that, throughout the hour and fifty minutes of musical action, we are treated to some mighty fine tunes of the swing persuasion: Moonlight Serenade, Tuxedo Junction, Little Brown Jug, In the Mood, A String of Pearls and Pennsylvania 6-5000.

Much of the film was of course a love story which revolved around the courtship between Glenn and his wife-to-be Helen Burger. The song Moonlight Serenade (amongst many others) was written for her, so very apt that the actress who played Helen was called June, as their courtship did seem to play out at garden gates on June nights. Glenn worked hard at finding that unique “sound” he was always looking for, and when he did, he became the world’s best-selling recording artist. In the four years between 1939 and 1943 he scored 23 No. 1 hits – More than Elvis Presley and the Beatles achieved in their respective careers. Sadly, whilst travelling to entertain U.S. troops in France during World War II, his aircraft disappeared in bad weather over the English Channel. Various theories have been put forward as to what happened that night but in the end it was pronounced a death in absentia. Glenn was aged only 40.

So there I was, a pre-teen buying swing albums, which looking back does seem a bit odd, but yet again I think I was ahead of the curve. In 1976 who should appear on the front cover of my monthly copy of Words magazine but The Glenn Miller Orchestra. As well as getting very hot and bothered by the weather, it seems the UK was also experiencing a bit of a nostalgia-fest that year, and Glenn’s music fitted the bill perfectly. A single was released containing a Moonlight Serenade, Little Brown Jug & In The Mood medleyand it reached No. 13 in the UK Singles Chart Suddenly it wasn’t uncool to like this stuff (well maybe just a little bit).

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Glenn, back in the “hit parade” alongside Abba, 32 years after his death

So, “What’s It All About?” – This post seems to have been all about looking back. I’ve enjoyed reminiscing about times spent with my dad, and realise he was probably my best friend until I reached the age of nine. He died 15 years ago but I still miss him every day – I don’t know what he would think of all this blogging malarkey but I suspect he would be quite proud of what I’ve achieved, as that’s just the kind of man he was.

As for the music of Glenn Miller, just like Carly Simon, every now and again an artist records an album of standards and there is a high likelihood that something by Glenn will be in there. Timeless tunes, which I was going to say come from simpler times, but in view of how he died, not simple at all. Different times. At the moment my favourite Glenn Miller tune is this one, I’ve Got a Gal in Kalamazoo – As a great lover of both alphabetisation and unusual sounding place-names, this one really hits the spot. The two dancers here are The Nicholas Brothers who back in the 1930s and ’40s were virtuosos of tap-dancing. I urge you to watch to the end as some incredibly acrobatic stuff here called flash dancing (with of course The Glenn Miller Orchestra playing in the background). Oh, and also remember to look out for that full Strawberry Moon on Thursday night.

Until next time….

Moonlight Serenade Lyrics
(Song by Glenn Miller/Mitchell Parish)

I stand at your gate
and the song that I sing is of moonlight
I stand and I wait
for the touch of your hand in the June night
The roses are sighing a moonlight serenade

The stars are aglow
And tonight how their light sets me dreaming
My love, do you know
That your eyes are like stars brightly beaming?
I bring you, and I sing you a moonlight serenade

Let us stray ’til break of day
In love’s valley of dreams
Just you and I, a summer sky,
A heavenly breeze, kissin’ the trees

So don’t let me wait
Come to me tenderly in the June night
I stand at your gate
And I sing you a song in the moonlight
A love song, my darling, a moonlight serenades

Postscript:

Well it wouldn’t be a “moon post” without a contribution from my friend the amateur photographer. This time however it’s not a picture taken of the last full moon but a picture taken on the night of the Summer Solstice – A waxing gibbous moon back then, a full week shy of this next full moon. Incredible image as ever.

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The Summer Solstice moon: Picture courtesy of R.J.

An Eclectic Mix of Anthony Newley, Nile Rodgers and Noel Coward!

Well it seems ages since I’ve written what I would call a conventional post – One intro, one song, one back story, one memory and one, “Wow, didn’t realise that back in the day” moment. Blame those very compelling Olympics, the fact that summer eventually came to Scotland and a lot of blog admin to be done (who knew that as time goes by there could be so much, but in for a penny in for a pound and all that).

I’m sure all bloggers are the same but even if I haven’t been posting much of late I’ve had plenty of ideas and I find myself scribbling these down on scraps of paper in the course of the day (surreptitiously of course when I’m at work and supposed to be thinking of very serious statistical analysis type stuff). I have now found these scraps of paper and the topics, if I can read them, are as follows:

  1. Random pick from music app – Visions by Cliff Richard
  2. Concerts at Capitol Theatre, Aberdeen
  3. Anthony Newley, Fiddle liddle I doh
  4. Songs from every Olympics since 1968
  5. Duets where girl is forgotten about – Cherrelle, Denise Marsa, Marilyn Martin
  6. Chic – “Don’t live in the past but it’s a nice place to visit” song 
  7. Songs from daughter’s time in musical theatre
  8. Inter-Oil Company Pop Quiz 1985

So lots to choose from there but the random picks of the day are turning out to be quite embarrassing and if from your iTunes library it means you’ve actually parted with hard-earned cash to own them. I can only confess to purchasing Visions because I sometimes struggle with sleep and discovered that Cliff‘s voice and the sentiment of the song are both quite soporific and lullaby-like (that’s my story and I’m sticking to it).

Strawberry Fair by Anthony Newley:

Lots of stories to relate about the excellent concerts I witnessed in a small Art Deco theatre in Aberdeen in the ’70s and ’80s but will keep that one for another day. Anthony Newley‘s Strawberry Fair is our favourite novelty song as a family and if there is a chance to get the phrase “fiddle liddle I doh” into a conversation in the course of the day, we will. (Yes I know the actual phrase is “ri-fol ri-fol tol-de-riddle-li-do, but we never heard it that way.)

As for the Olympics, they have been great but as they end this weekend, anything related to all things Olympian will no longer be topical. I have already written about those very memorable duets, like Lucky Stars, where the girl is kind of forgotten about and wasn’t credited (Denise Marsa) then did it myself last week when I wrote about Saturday Love by Alexander O’Neal. As it turns out the song was actually a Cherrelle one and it was Alexander who was asked to duet with her later – My bad.

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Chic, a band that epitomised the whole disco scene of the late ’70s, came back last year with I’ll Be There which was heavily played on the radio at the time. Not that their creator Nile Rodgers has ever been away, as he is the genius behind some of the best-selling albums of all-time which I often hadn’t realised until doing research for this blog. The track popped up this week on the radio and I do like that line, “Don’t live in the past but it’s a nice place to visit” especially when spending time on a project like this – Lovely to look back nostalgically but there is a whole world out there still to be discovered and experienced. Got to remind ourselves sometimes that the relationship we have with our laptops is never going to be as important as real-life relationships (and not being smutty here).

I’ll Be There by Chic:

I’ve mentioned before that my daughter was an aficionado of musical theatre and at some point I’m going to post one of her great recordings but to save embarrassment I will probably have to wait until she goes travelling, to a zone with no Wi-Fi. As an aside, anyone who wants to make a lot of money very easily – Set up a Musical Theatre school for little girls! Don’t put your daughter on the stage Mrs Worthington was told, but you know what, that’s exactly what lots of mums are intent on doing nowadays and from what I can see it’s money for old rope. You hire a church hall for a Saturday, get some music teachers to give up a few hours of their weekend, set yourself up with some fancy branding and logos and you’re away. Fees for the “term”, fees to appear in a show, fees for the costumes, fees for the tickets to go and watch the show and all the petrol for the running around. The “teachers” then get very generous Christmas gifts from some parents (which I always cynically thought was a bribe to get star-billing for their offspring – quite rightly it never worked though) and lo and behold come the teenage years they announce they don’t want to do it any more. Hallelujah.

You can tell quite early on however whether your progeny is going to be the next Barbra Streisand or whether they are more likely to make up the chorus. I remember well paying a fortune for tickets so that all the family could see our daughter appear in the local musical theatre school’s extravaganza. There are usually a few favourites that get the starring roles in any show but the vast majority of the other 200 or so make a very brief appearance and this time aforementioned daughter was in the chorus of Cats so no-one even spotted her or knew which “cat” she was! A lot of frustrated impresarios run these schools I feel and their students are not always given age-appropriate material – Fourteen-year-olds performing the Cell Block Tango from Chicago anyone? No I didn’t think so either. Anyway rant over but I still love my daughter’s singing voice and now she sings just for pleasure. Best way to go I think.

So, finally got to the last topic and I think I have used up too many words already so definitely one for next time – Yes the Inter-Oil Company Pop Quiz of 1985. A few funny stories about that one, a bit of of name-dropping and a few good tunes as well so will work on it over the next few days. In the meantime I will leave you with the sage and very witty words of Mr Noel Coward and his Don’t Put Your Daughter on the Stage, Mrs Worthington.

Don’t Put Your Daughter on the Stage, Mrs Worthington Lyrics
(Song by Noel Coward)

Don’t put your daughter on the stage, Mrs. Worthington
Don’t put your daughter on the stage
The profession is overcrowded
The struggle’s pretty tough
And admitting the fact she’s burning to act
That isn’t quite enough
She’s a nice girl and though her teeth are fairly good
She’s not the type I ever would be eager to engage
I repeat, Mrs. Worthington, sweet Mrs. Worthington
Don’t put your daughter on the stage

Regarding yours, dear Mrs. Worthington
Of Wednesday, the 23rd.
Although your baby may be keen on a stage career
How can I make it clear that this is not a good idea
For her to hope and appear, Mrs. Worthington
Is on the face of it absurd
Her personality is not in reality quite big enough, inviting enough
For this particular sphere

Don’t put your daughter on the stage, Mrs. Worthington
Don’t put your daughter on the stage
She’s a bit of an ugly duckling, you must honestly confess
And the width of her seat would surely defeat
Her chances of her success
It’s – it’s a loud voice, and though it’s not exactly flat
She’ll need a little more than that to earn a living wage
On my knees, Mrs. Worthington, please Mrs. Worthington
Don’t put your daughter on the stage

Don’t put your daughter on the stage, Mrs. Worthington
Don’t put your daughter on the stage
Though they said at the school of acting
She was lovely as Peer Gynt
I’m afraid, on the whole, an ingénue role might emphasize her squint
She has nice hands, to give the wretched girl her due
But don’t you think her bust is too developed for her age
No more buts, Mrs. Worthington, nuts! Mrs. Worthington
Don’t put your daughter on the stage