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

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

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

It Might as Well Rain Until September by Carole King:


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

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


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

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

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

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

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

One Fine Day by The Chiffons:


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

Oh! Carol by Neil Sedaka:


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

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

Until next time…

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

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

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

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

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

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

From Xanadu to Singin’ In The Rain, in Two Steps (of a Roller Skate)

When someone from the world of music leaves us, as Olivia Newton-John did a couple of weeks ago, many of us revisit their back catalogue and also end up watching footage of them we might not have viewed in decades, indeed, if ever.

Last weekend I decided it was high time I watched the film Xanadu, as it’s been mentioned many times since her death, yet it’s something I’ve never seen. The soundtrack album, packed full of songs by both Oliva and the band ELO, was a massive success all over the world (pun intended) and of course I know many of them well. The film however was still a mystery to me. It didn’t do well when it came out in 1980 which is why I probably didn’t see it back then, but having just watched it twice over the last two days (for research purposes of course), I’ve found it a total delight.


I can see why it was a bit of a flop when it came out as it didn’t neatly fit into any particular genre, and audiences going to see Olivia reprise her role as Sandy in the film Grease would have been sorely disappointed. But if you’re fairly open-minded when it comes to your film entertainment, and can wave reality goodbye as you start to watch, Xanadu has a bit of everything. In fact it’s totally bonkers in places, but all the better for it. Animated scenes, a bit of Old Hollywood glamour, lots of roller-skating, girls dressed as Disney princesses, dancers straight out of Studio 54, Mary Poppins-inspired rooftop scenes, big bands, rock bands, country and western bands, leg warmers, tuxedos, circus performers, Greek mythology, the Ready Brek special effect and girls turning into shooting stars. I could go on but you probably get the gist. The love story was the least believable aspect of the whole film, as the male lead was a bit angry and petulant most of the time whereas Olivia’s character Kira was sweetness personified, but hey, this was a film best suited to children under 12 I think, so we couldn’t have had too much raunchiness.

The songs were what it was all about though, and the whole film built up to this final musical scene when Olivia Newton-John breaks free from her ‘daughter of Zeus’ character, and sings the title song, Xanadu. As I said last time in my tribute post to her, she truly was the golden girl at that time and never more so than in this scene – literally everything about her is golden, her skin, her hair and her clothes. The song was written by Jeff Lynne of ELO and it reached the No. 1 spot on the UK Singles Chart in 1980, when the film came out.

And, Xanadu by ELO:


But for me, the most thrilling aspect of the whole film was that Gene Kelly had a main role. He played Danny McGuire, a former big band orchestra leader turned construction mogul, who together with Kira’s love interest Sonny Malone, builds a new night club in a beautiful old art deco building where aforementioned barminess takes place. There’s a big band but also a rock band, the colours are neon bright, and in the opening few seconds of the Xanadu scene, Gene leads out the dancers on roller-skates.

Gene on his roller-skates

Growing up, I was a massive fan of Gene Kelly, and I loved watching all those great 1940s and 50s musicals he starred in. Even at age 68 – which he would have been at the time of filming – he still cut a dash, and still had that dazzling smile and twinkle in his eye that catches your breath. I was yet again smitten, as I used to be as a teenager watching him in films like An American in Paris and Singin’ in the Rain. Gene was very nifty on his roller-skates in Xanadu, but of course he should have been, as he was probably the first person to choreograph an entire tap dance routine whilst wearing them. Here is a clip from the film It’s Always Fair Weather from 25 years earlier (the really impressive bit starts at 2:08), but there is no doubt Gene ‘still had it’ in 1980.


Of course I know the film Xanadu won’t be for everyone, but I think I now get why all those male music bloggers around a decade younger than myself have been so upset by the death of Olivia Newton-John. I think they were probably just the right demographic for her at the peak of her popularity.

Personally, it’s yet another mortality reality check. Although Olivia was around a decade older than me when she died, she always played someone (very successfully) around my own age. When I was 18, she played the 18-year-old Sandy Olsson in Grease, and I’m sure Kira in Xanadu would have been aged around 20 in 1980, which I also would have been. Since starting this blog, we’ve lost an awful lot of the artists of my youth – it’s a bit of a sobering thought.

But I don’t want to end on a morose note. Gene Kelly lived a long life and has gone down in history as having been one of Hollywood’s greatest stars. An actor, dancer, singer, filmmaker, and choreographer – he could do it all, with bells on. I will end with that most famous of scenes from one of the best musicals ever made. I don’t have an audio clip of Singin’ in the Rain sung by Gene but I do have one by someone else. Full marks if anyone can tell me who it is?

Singin’ in the Rain by Matt Monro:


Until next time… RIP Olivia, RIP Gene.

Singin’ In The Rain Lyrics
(Song by Arthur Freed/Nacio Herb Brown)

I’m singing in the rain
Just singing in the rain
What a glorious feeling
I’m happy again
I’m laughing the clouds
So dark up above
The sun’s in my heart
And I’m ready for love

Let the stormy clouds chase
Everyone from the place
Come on with the rain
I have a smile on my face
I walk down the lane
With a happy refrain
And I’m singing
Just singing in the rain

I’m singing in the rain
Just singing in the rain
What a glorious feeling
I’m so happy again
I’m laughing the clouds
So dark up above
The sun’s in my heart
And I’m ready for love

Let the stormy clouds chase
Everyone from the place
Come on with the rain
I have a smile on my face
I walk down the lane
With a happy refrain
And I’m singing
Just singing in the rain

Merry Christmas, 2020 Style and a Pot Pourri of Festive Songs

Well, what a difference a week makes. I had already written my Christmas post but just about everything in it is now obsolete. The five day Festive Bubbles are no more, and for much of the country, no Festive Bubbles at all. I think it was the right call, but for us up here in the Scottish Highlands it’s tough, as we have had a really low infection rate throughout. DD will no longer be going to the boyfriend’s parents for Christmas, so although I said we were going to be on our own for the very first time, not now the case. I do feel for the other set of parents though as they have rarely seen their offspring all year. Cross fingers with vaccines now being rolled out, things will start to improve as we head into Spring.

I have been out and about over the last few days and have taken a fair few pictures of the town, which despite ‘the times’ is still looking very pretty. Here are a few of them, and I’ll subtitle them with a few of the songs we used to play regularly around this time of year, when DD was small. All from festive CDs that are now largely redundant, as we no longer have anything to play them on!

Our Town House looking very festive

Santa Baby by Eartha Kitt:


A Memorial Hall brightly lit for Christmas

Do You Hear What I Hear? by Jack Jones:


Seasonal chandeliers in the Victorian Market

Christmas Cookies and Holiday Hearts by Teresa Brewer:


The footbridge that stretches across the river

I Saw Three Ships by Westminster Abbey Choir:


As for the song Santa Baby, it proved just a bit too suggestive for some Southern States when it was released in 1953, but has become a perennial favourite and been covered by many, many artists including Madonna, Kylie Minogue, Taylor Swift, Ariana Grande and Gwen Stefani.

Despite ‘the times’, A Merry Christmas to everyone who drops by this place. I am no Eartha Kitt, that’s for sure, but I do like having people drop by and leave their thoughts. And as you all know by now, I always reply.

Until next time…

Santa Baby Lyrics
(Song by Joan Javits/Philip Springer/Tony Springer)

Santa Baby, just slip a sable under the tree,
For me.
Been an awful good girl, Santa baby,
So hurry down the chimney tonight.

Santa baby, a 54 convertible too,
Light blue.
I’ll wait up for you dear, Santa baby,
So hurry down the chimney tonight.

Think of all the fun I’ve missed,
Think of all the fellas that I haven’t kissed.
Next year I could be just as good,
If you’ll check off my Christmas list.

Santa baby, I want a yacht, and really that’s not
A lot.
Been an angel all year,
Santa baby, so hurry down the chimney tonight.

Santa honey, one little thing I really need,
The deed
To a platinum mine,
Santa baby, so hurry down the chimney tonight.

Santa cutie, and fill my stocking with a duplex,
And checks.
Sign your ‘X’ on the line,
Santa cutie, and hurry down the chimney tonight.

Come and trim my Christmas tree,
With some decorations bought at Tiffany’s.
I really do believe in you,
Let’s see if you believe in me.

Santa baby, forgot to mention one little thing,
A ring.
I don’t mean on the phone,
Santa baby, so hurry down the chimney tonight.
Hurry down the chimney tonight.
Hurry, tonight.

The NaNoWriMo Challenge, Julie London and ‘November Twilight’

I’m going to attempt something new around here. For one month only, I’m going to set myself the challenge of becoming… A Daily Blogger. Argh, what am I doing to myself?

I’ve tried 7 posts in 7 days before, and succeeded, although the plan to make them shorter didn’t quite come off, so it was quite a task. This time I’ll be kinder to myself and probably use a few shortcuts. If you are a regular visitor, don’t feel any pressure to populate the comments boxes (although always nice), as this is really just a personal challenge tied in with my college course.

I’ve shared poems around here before from the NaPoWriMo (National Poetry Writing Month) challenge, but now it’s time for NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) and we’ve all been encouraged to join in. The idea is to throw down 1650 words per day for the whole of November, and by the end of it all you’ll have a novel. It will probably be rubbish, and just the seed of something to work on in the future, but for many writers it’s a wonderful wordy workout.

Of course I have no illusions about being a writer myself, I’m just an enthusiast who likes using this place as her web-diary, and as somewhere to share the music she has enjoyed over the years. I am never going to write a novel, as that’s just not my thing, but I’m hopeful the ‘essays’ I post around here could be turned into some sort of volume down the line. Something for the grandchildren, if I ever have any. (The way this pandemic is playing out, our single offspring are finding the dating game nigh impossible at the moment, so any future grandchildren might end up being of the virtual variety.)

So, in solidarity with some of my classmates, there will be something new here every day until the end of the month, always including a featured song. Hopefully I will end up with a few gems, but at this stage who knows, it might be an epic fail. I suppose that’s going to be the fun of it.

As today is the first day of November, and as I am a fan of Julie London, here is something liberated from Charity Chic’s blog last year, when he very kindly shared a song at the start of every month from her Calendar Girl album. The song for today is November Twilight.

November Twilight by Julie London:


Looking at the album cover, it does seem to fit the remit well, Julie sporting some very skimpy outfits indeed and not the kind of thing for a dark and dreich November night here in Scotland. Julie was of her time however and always oozed glamour, so in 1956 I imagine this went down well with her fanbase. She has appeared around here a couple of times before (link here) as I’ve always loved her sultry voice, especially when singing her signature song, Cry Me A River.

So, ‘What’s It All About?’ – I’ve ended up being too wordy already and it’s only day one of my challenge, but I will, by necessity I’m sure, have to ease up on the wordcount as the days go by. Thanks again to CC for sharing Julie’s wonderful album last year as we now have a go-to track for the start of every calendar month, should we need it. Looking at the first line of the song, it bears out what’s been happening around here this weekend – What with all the wind, the trees are looking very bare indeed, stripped of all those beautiful autumn colours.

As it looks as if it’s going to be another tough month for the country, I’ll try and make this a fun place to visit for the next 30 days. Always plenty of good music to share (it won’t always be from 1956) and I will avoid mentioning the pesky pandemic as much as possible. By the time Julie is ready to sing Warm In December (that Santa suit doesn’t look very warm at all), things might be a whole lot brighter.

Julie London

Until next time….

November Twilight Lyrics
(Song by Pete King/Paul Francis Webster)

The branches of the trees are bare
The smell of burning leaves is in the air
November twilight steals across my heart

At five o’clock the streets are dark
Across the empty bandstand in the park
November twilight softly falls again

So still that you could hear a voice
If one were calling
So quiet that you could hear a tear
If one were falling

And April’s laughter steals once more
Across the dark pavilion of my heart
And then I miss you most
Miss you with the ache of long lost things
Of sunburnt hours and garden swings
When life was beautiful
And love was young and gay
November twilight must you stay?

Those We Have Lost in 2020 – RIP Kenny, Bill, John and Richard

Because this year has been one like no other, my blogging has changed tack and I have not been keeping up with the sad roll call of people we have lost from the world of music. It is almost inevitable that many of them would have been written about here before, as most were elder statesmen of their particular genres, but time to pay special tribute I think.

My very first post of this year led me back to the chart music of 1970, and at the top spot was Mr Kenny Rogers with his excellent story song Ruby, Don’t Take Your Love To Town. I am not however really that familiar with the First Edition era of Kenny’s career. The Kenny I am more familiar with was his late ’70s persona which gave us the hits Lucille, The Gambler and Coward of the County. Like Ruby these were all very much story songs and their lyrics have given us some great lines which are often quoted. After the news of his death on March the 20th, just ahead of all the upheaval and distress caused by the pandemic, there were many who noted that Kenny had followed the advice within his signature song:

You’ve got to know when to hold ’em
Know when to fold ’em

Ten days after the death of Kenny Rogers, news came through that we had also lost Bill Withers. Last summer, after a particularly lovely day out I shared many pictures in a blog post, so the obvious accompanying song choice was Bill’s 1977 song Lovely Day. To be honest I hadn’t realised until that point just how respected Bill had been in the music world, having won three Grammy Awards and been nominated for six more. His life was even the subject of a 2009 documentary film called Still Bill. Quite something considering he worked as a professional musician for just 15 years, from 1970 to 1985, after which he moved on to other occupations.

bill-withers-2
Bill Withers, 1938-2020

My Bill song choice is going to have to be this one however, Ain’t No Sunshine. They’re not for everyone I know, but I am a bit of a fan of Richard Curtis movies, and the song certainly fitted a particularly poignant scene in the film Notting Hill very well – Poor old lovelorn Hugh Grant straddles all four seasons whilst he walks through the market with Bill’s song playing the background [spoiler alert: all turns out well in the end].

Ain’t No Sunshine by Bill Withers:

A week after the death of Bill, we heard of the sad loss of John Prine. John was someone I only discovered since starting this blog, and when I accidentally came across his song When I Get To Heaven one evening when on my way to visit my mum in hospital, I got a bit emotional, all because of these lines of lyric:

And then I’m gonna go find my mom and dad, and good old brother Doug
Well I bet him and cousin Jackie are still cuttin’ up a rug
I wanna see all my mama’s sisters, ’cause that’s where all the love starts
I miss ’em all like crazy, bless their little hearts

Yes, there was nothing more I wanted than to go find my dad who had died 15 years earlier, and ask for his advice on decisions that were going to have to be made. Listening to the song, even us non-believers are almost prepared to be converted, as there is a definite party atmosphere going on. John Prine had apparently been treated for cancer twice, and it was after his second bout that he wrote the song about some of the things he had to give up following his illness. Here is a quote: “I wrote that song because I figured there’s no cancer in heaven. So when I get up there, I’m going to have a cocktail and a cigarette that’s 9 miles long. That’s my idea of what heaven is like.

I hope John is up there right now, sitting with Kenny and Bill, enjoying that cocktail and extremely long cigarette!

When I Get To Heaven by John Prine:

Last but most definitely not least, on the 9th May we lost the artist known best to us as Little Richard. I can’t pretend to know that much about Mr Penniman, as he was a bit before my time, but I do know he was an influential figure in popular music, often nicknamed The Innovator, The Originator, or The Architect of Rock and Roll. His best known work dates back to the mid-1950s, when his charismatic showmanship, dynamic music and frenetic piano playing laid the foundation for rock and roll. He influenced numerous singers and musicians across musical genres from rock to hip hop and in a line-up he would have been easily recognisable because of his pompadour hairstyle.

Tutti Frutti became an instant first hit for him in 1955 but as we started off with Kenny Rogers, and mentioned his song Lucille, I think I’ll come full circle and end with Little Richard’s song of the same name. Lucille became a big hit for him in 1957 but he then abandoned rock and roll for born again Christianity.  When he was persuaded to tour Europe in 1962, the Beatles opened for him and Richard even advised them on how to perform his songs. He is cited as one of the first crossover black artists, and his music and concerts broke down barriers, drawing blacks and whites together despite attempts to sustain segregation. How sad therefore to see what is going on right now as I type, 60 years on.

Until next time, RIP Kenny, Bill, John and Richard, you will not be forgotten.

When I Get To Heaven Lyrics
(Song by John Prine)

When I get to heaven, I’m gonna shake God’s hand
Thank him for more blessings than one man can stand
Then I’m gonna get a guitar and start a rock-n-roll band
Check into a swell hotel, ain’t the afterlife grand?
And then I’m gonna get a cocktail: vodka and ginger ale
Yeah, I’m gonna smoke a cigarette that’s nine miles long
I’m gonna kiss that pretty girl on the tilt-a-whirl
‘Cause this old man is goin’ to town

Then as God as my witness, I’m gettin’ back into show business
I’m gonna open up a nightclub called “The Tree of Forgiveness”
And forgive everybody ever done me any harm
Well, I might even invite a few choice critics, those syph’litic parasitics
Buy ’em a pint of Smithwick’s and smother ’em with my charm

‘Cause then I’m gonna get a cocktail: vodka and ginger ale
Yeah I’m gonna smoke a cigarette that’s nine miles long
I’m gonna kiss that pretty girl on the tilt-a-whirl
Yeah this old man is goin’ to town

Yeah when I get to heaven, I’m gonna take that wristwatch off my arm
What are you gonna do with time after you’ve bought the farm?
And then I’m gonna go find my mom and dad, and good old brother Doug
Well I bet him and cousin Jackie are still cuttin’ up a rug
I wanna see all my mama’s sisters, ’cause that’s where all the love starts
I miss ’em all like crazy, bless their little hearts
And I always will remember these words my daddy said
He said, “Buddy, when you’re dead, you’re a dead pecker-head”
I hope to prove him wrong… that is, when I get to heaven

‘Cause I’m gonna have a cocktail: vodka and ginger ale

Yeah I’m gonna smoke a cigarette that’s nine miles long
I’m gonna kiss that pretty girl on the tilt-a-whirl
Yeah this old man is goin’ to town

Yeah this old man is goin’ to town

Sleepless Nights, Summer of Rockets and The Music of 1958

Not sure what’s happened but experiencing a bit of blogger’s block at the moment. For me, it’s never about lack of inspiration as at the latest count I have 83 “posts pending” (yes really), a new series on the go, 3 series on hiatus and 4 “series pending”. I think it’s more that my senses are being over-stimulated at the moment, so can’t concentrate on one topic long enough to write about it without being distracted by something else.

My sore neck and shoulder continues to trouble me, so sleep is being disrupted, and when you can’t sleep your mind inevitably goes into overdrive. The darkest hour is just before dawn as we all know, but difficult to control what pops into the old noddle at that time. So, what does a person do when they want to clear their head a bit? – Why they have a notebook at hand at all times ready to capture ideas, thoughts and observations as they pop into the brain, freeing up a few of the terabytes left to fill up with other worries!

I’m making it sound a bit worse than it is as I don’t really have too many major worries compared to a lot of other folks, but being home-based as I am nowadays, I do watch an awful lot of news on telly, and there’s not a lot going on at the moment to give one much hope for the future. Combine that with watching the BBC drama Years and Years which portrays a worrying (but totally believable) picture of what life might be like in just 5 years time, and sleep patterns are inevitably disturbed.

Funnily enough, another drama we binge-watched last week on the BBC iPlayer was Summer of Rockets set in 1958, now over 60 years ago, which should have portrayed a picture of simpler times when we didn’t lie in bed worrying about the future. Not so however, as that was the year of the first hydrogen bomb test, the cold war was ramping up and issues arising from immigration brought out the worst in people. On the upside, I do love a period drama set in the 1950s, as I love the clothes the girls wore – All those wide skirts and petticoats. The omnipresent Keeley Hawes played one of the lead roles, but I was most impressed with another younger actress, called Lily Sacofsky, who played a reluctant debutante being prepared for “the season”. Britain however was on the cusp of major social change and her character Hannah plays a large part the denouement of the main plot. I won’t give too much away as some of the episodes have yet to air on real-time telly, but one to be recommended.

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Hannah the reluctant “deb”

But as I always say at around this point, this is supposed to be a music blog, so which song to include? I wasn’t yet born in 1958 when people were lying in bed worrying about the Bomb, and social change, so have no direct memory of the music of the time. We all know however that rock ‘n’ roll came to our shores in the late ’50s so a really exciting time for young people who were lucky enough to have invested in a record player for the corner of their bedrooms. Looking at the Official UK Singles Chart for this week in 1958 however, there isn’t much rock ‘n’ roll to be found, the top spot being taken by Connie Francis and the Top Ten containing an awful lot of ballads and show tunes.

One band on that list is The Mudlarks, a family group from Luton comprising Jeff, Fred and Mary Mudd who obviously sang like larks! In 1958, they attracted the attention of radio DJ David Jacobs, who got them an appearance on the Six-Five Special TV show, and a recording contract with EMI. They did a cover of the American novelty song Lollipop, but later in 1958 they released Book of Love, which is a song I am familiar with. At the end of the year The Mudlarks were voted top British vocal group by readers of the New Musical Express.

Here is an interesting snippet – Fred Mudd married Leila Williams, who co-hosted the children’s telly show Blue Peter from 1958 until 1962. Most of us of a certain age grew up watching Blue Peter, and remember well the making of the advent crown from tinsel and coat hangers, the annual Appeal, Freda the tortoise and that baby elephant called Lulu, who trod on John Noakes foot after running amok all over the studio. My era of Blue Peter featured presenters Valerie Singleton, Peter Purves and the aforementioned John (get down Shep) Noakes. I also think that was probably the last time I lay in bed and didn’t worry about “stuff”. Note to self: must do better.

Well, that clip never ceases to amuse, and made me laugh out loud. Lulu, I salute you.

Until next time….

Book of Love Lyrics
(Song by Charles Patrick/George Malone/Warren Davis)

I wonder, wonder who, who-oo-ooh, who
(Who wrote the Book Of Love)
Tell me, tell me, tell me
Oh, who wrote the Book Of Love
I’ve got to know the answer
Was it someone from above
(Oh, I wonder, wonder who, ummbadoo-ooh, who)
(Who wrote the Book Of Love)

I love you, Darlin’
Baby, you know I do
But I’ve got to see this Book of Love
Find out why it’s true
(Oh, I wonder, wonder who, ummbadoo-ooh, who)
(Who wrote the Book Of Love)

Chapter One says to love her
You love her with all your heart
Chapter Two you tell her you’re
Never, never, never, never, never gonna part
In Chapter Three remember the meaning of romance
In Chapter Four you break up
But you give her just one more chance
(Oh, I wonder, wonder who, ummbadoo-ooh, wWho)
(Who wrote the Book Of Love)

Baby, baby, baby
I love you, yes I do
Well it says so in this Book Of Love
Ours is the one that’s true
(Oh, I wonder, wonder who, ummbadoo-ooh, who)
(Who wrote the Book Of Love)

Doris Day, Calamity Jane and Another Hollywood Legend Gone

“You take the grey skies out of my way,
You make the sun shine brighter than Doris Day”, sang George Michael back in 1984 and he wasn’t far wrong.

She certainly did shine brightly on the big screen but today she passed away, at the grand old age of 97. Despite her success, life threw her some lemons, but in typical Doris style, she made lemonade.

Back in March, I wrote my final “Moon Post” celebrating the appearance of the Sugar Moon in our skies. To round off the series I chose a couple of Doris Day songs as I had been reminded of her brilliance whilst spending a lovely afternoon watching Calamity Jane with my mum at the care home. She was a force of nature and I have just caught an old interview with her on telly tonight where she admits that the real Doris was Calamity Jane!

RIP to one of the most popular singers and actresses of the 20th century.

What's It All About?

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

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

This week however, I had a really pleasurable afternoon with a number of ladies who suffer from dementia, and it reminded me there are a few more songs I had…

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

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

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

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

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The Sugar Moon

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

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

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

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

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

Until next time….

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

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

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

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

Postscript:

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

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

A Star is Born: Judy, Gaga or Barbra?

Last time I wrote a very serious post, so time for something a bit lighter I think. Regular followers will know my mum is currently in hospital. She is recovering well however and is quite enjoying being cared for I think, so a bit of respite for me. Having had a lot more time to myself over the last few weeks I’ve finally been able to catch up with friends who have been sadly neglected of late. Some of these friends have helped me make full use of the benefits attached to my new Student ID card, by joining me on a fair few trips to the local cinema.

Over the last few weeks I have been to see King of Thieves, the true story of the Hatton Garden jewellery heist, The Seagull based on the Anton Chekov play of the same name and The Escape about a stay-at-home mum who seemingly has it all, but is desperately unhappy. On top of that, DD has started working at our local theatre, so courtesy of the “comps” she gets as a perk of the job we also caught a play, a good old fashioned whodunnit in the form of The Case Of The Frightened Lady which seems to be touring the country at the moment. Our blogging buddy Chris over at Movies and Songs 365 would no doubt now write a pretty good review for each of the above but as that’s not really this blog’s raison d’être, I’ll just say that I enjoyed all four for different reasons: a) secret admiration for the Hatton Garden “Over The Hill Mob”; b) an insight into the complex lives of a rich family of writers and actors in pre-revolution Russia; c) sympathy for the woman (excellently played by Gemma Arterton) whose only means of survival was to escape the role she had found herself in, and finally; d) a bit of a throw-back to the entertainment of a bygone age (and none of us actually correctly identified whodunnit, so quite a good puzzler).

This week, the third remake of A Star Is Born starring Bradley Cooper and Lady Gaga was released in cinemas in the UK. The original film of the same name was made in 1937, one I am somewhat unfamiliar with. I am very familiar however with the 1954 remake starring Judy Garland and James Mason as films from this era used to be shown regularly on telly when I was growing up. I lapped them up and at age 12 could probably have appeared on Mastermind citing The Golden Age of Hollywood as my specialist subject. Much of that knowledge has since left me I’m afraid, replaced with music trivia and the essential but boring work-related stuff we accumulate along the way, but watching the newly released version this week, brought the story all back. Here is a clip showing Judy Garland perform The Man That Got Away, probably the most memorable song from the 1954 version.

This new version stuck to the original storyline pretty much like glue, simply updating each scene for the 21st century. There were stadiums, more guitars, the songs were of a rock persuasion, the bars had drag acts and the clothes were a bit grungier, but other than that it’s a timeless tale of “boy meets girl”, with the backdrop of one career on the way up and the other on the way down. I won’t offer up a spoiler by mentioning which is which, because ahead of the film starting to roll the other night, I inadvertently gave the plotline away to the woman sitting next to me, having assumed everyone already knew the story. I apologised and tried to excuse myself by saying the clue is in the title, A Star Is Born, but she still seemed a bit piqued.

Back in 1954, the star in the ascendance was played by Judy Garland. In 2018, that same role was played by Lady Gaga (oops, spoiled it anyway). I must admit, she was barely recognisable at the start of the film, appearing without her trademark heavy makeup and extrovert clothing. This was Stefani Joanne Angelina Germanotta in the raw without any of the trappings of the Haus of Gaga. Much has been made of the fact that first-time director Bradley Cooper wanted her to audition for the role make-up free, and ahead of her performance produced a few wipes for her to remove it, to ensure authenticity. The irony of course is that the real, or authentic Gaga, is the one with all the stage make-up and costume but hey, it was the unreal Gaga he wanted for the role.

I did enjoy the film despite pretty much knowing (unlike the woman beside me) how each scene would play out and both Bradley and Gaga put in stellar performances. I did expect there to be more standout songs however, as after leaving the cinema I didn’t have any earworms and couldn’t actually remember much of anything included. It seems the first song released as a single was Shallow which I thought was called Shiloh in the film (must have been their accents), but now it makes sense. An actor I did think quite a lot about after leaving the cinema was the lovely Sam Elliot who played lead character Jackson Maine’s long-suffering brother in the movie. If you ever decided to chuck it all in, and head off to live on a ranch in Wyoming, he always looks and sounds as if he would be your man. He would be mine anyway, so hands off!

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The lovely Sam Elliot

But all of this is of course building up to only one thing, delving into the archives to reminisce about the 1976 version of A Star Is Born starring Kris Kristofferson (be still my beating heart) and Barbra StreisandAnyone looking at the “category list” on my sidebar will see that when it comes to decades, I write about songs from the 1970s more than any other. Lots of reasons for that of course (time spent immersing yourself in the world of music as an angst-ridden teenager being one of them), and possibly an idea for a future post, but this clip of Love Theme from “A Star Is Born” (Evergreen) still gives me the collywobbles. The song appeared in the UK Singles Chart in April 1977 and came along just as I was in the midst of my first big (but ultimately highly unsuitable) romance.

Evergreen by Barbra Streisand:

Barbra Streisand has appeared on these pages before as I’m a big fan. Just like Judy and Gaga she is certainly not a conventional beauty, but a great beauty all the same so perfect for the female lead in A Star Is Born.

I often share material from some of the old magazines I still have in my possession dating back from the 1970s. Before I sign off here are a few pages from the April 1977 edition of Words magazine where every month the lyrics to the “top pop songs” of the day were listed. In this edition, A Star Is Born is featured both on the back page and on the Studio Scene and Heard page (hmm…) where current film releases were reviewed. The lyrics to Evergreen also appeared on page 2 along with Knowing Me, Knowing You by ABBA (not Alan Partridge) and Pearl’s A Singer by Elkie Brooks. If you want to have a try, without googling, how many of the other songs would you be able to identify, and attach to an artist? Many of them weren’t big hits, but some were, although scarily over 41 years ago.

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As for me, I’m not sure how many cinema visits I might be able to fit in for some time, as there is to be a meeting on Monday to discuss my mum’s discharge plan. We actually sold the idea to her last week that a care home might be the best idea, but having been to see a few over the last couple of days I have now backtracked. She needs company and stimulation more than anything, as well as being looked after, but despite the glossy brochures and the promises of fun, fun, fun…, we didn’t see much of that at all. Instead it was all empty dayrooms and very elderly people slumped in wheelchairs, mostly asleep. We kind of need a half-way house but if they do exist, they are elusive indeed. Back to being a carer for a while I think but maybe that would be the kindest thing to do. I will no doubt return with updates (but possibly no more film reviews for a wee while).

Until next time….

Evergreen Lyrics
(Song by Barbra Streisand/Paul Williams)

Love soft as an easy chair
Love fresh as the morning air
One love that is shared by two
I have found with you
Like a rose under the April snow
I was always certain love would grow
Love ageless and evergreen
Seldom seen by two
You and I will
make each night the first
Everyday a beginning
Spirits rise and their dance is unrehearsed
They warm and excite us
‘Cause we have the brightest love
Two lights that shine as one Morning glory and midnight sun
Time… we’ve learned to sail above
Time… won’t change the meaning of one love
Ageless and ever evergreen…

Trafalgar Square, Doris Day and “Jimmy Unknown”

My very wordy, heavily researched posts are on the back burner at the moment I’m afraid, but a quick scan of this photograph has given me a great opportunity to write a short and snappy post explaining why. My poor mum had a fall last week, and on top of all her other health issues, it has made life very difficult for her. I’m doing my best to look after her on my own as it seems the resources are no longer there to get help from elsewhere – Eventually, perhaps, but we’ll have to be patient. Will soldier on in the meantime.

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Mum and Dad, circa 1955

This is my favourite picture of my mum and dad, taken in the mid 1950s in Trafalgar Square (didn’t they always look so smart in those days). I think many of my peers will also have a similar picture of their parents from that era. I know Mr Medd from Are We There Yet? does, as he shared it with us recently (click on link for the post).

So that’s the visual, but what would they have been listening to around that time? I still have their old 78s in my collection and the one that always brings a tear to my eye is this one, Jimmy Unknown by Doris Day – My dad was indeed a “Jimmy” and was one of life’s unsung heroes who always led by example, doing lots of great work for his community. At the time of this picture he was general foreman, and my mum the boss’s secretary, at the local building firm which seemed to soak up all the school leavers back in the day. Long gone now of course, but many happy years were spent there for both of them.

Sorry I’ve been absent from the comments boxes of the blogs I usually have time to visit, but will have to curb my blogging activities for a while I’m afraid – Hopefully you will all understand.

Until next time….

Jimmy Unknown Lyrics
(Song by Ruth Roberts/Bill Katz)

Who will be my Jimmy Unknown?
Someone to love me and call me his own
Over the mountain
Over the sea
Somewhere my Jimmy is waiting for me

Will he be handsome? Will he be strong?
Lifting my heart like a beautiful song
Over the mountain
Over the sea
Somewhere my Jimmy is waiting for me

The day I surrendered
My lips to his charms
My secret of love
Will be lost in his arms

Who will be my Jimmy Unknown?
Someone who never would leave me alone
Over the mountain
Over the sea
Somewhere my Jimmy is waiting for me