An American Odyssey in Song: Rhode Island – “Young and Beautiful” by Lana Del Rey

Welcome to this occasional series where I am attempting a virtual journey around the 50 States of America in song. For anyone new to this place, I have a continuous route map where I enter and leave each state only once. Suggestions for the next leg always welcome!

Last time we visited Massachusetts (tricky to spell but that’s probably the last time I’ll have to do it) so we are now heading west towards New York, first passing through Rhode Island. This tiny state, only 37 miles wide and 48 miles long is made up of islands, inlets and peninsulas but also what appears to be chunks of mainland America plucked from Connecticut and Massachusetts (drat had to spell it again). The name came about because the Italian explorer Giovanni Verrazzano thought that the large pear-shaped island sitting in Narragansett Bay looked like the Greek island of Rhodes. The official name is actually the State of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations, the plantations part being an archaic name for “colony”.

Rhode Island

And now for the part I am coming to enjoy most about this series – The random fact element. Rhode Island is also called the Ocean State and due to its geography has a long history of sailing. The America’s Cup, offered up as a prize by the British Royal Yacht Squadron in 1851, was first won by a boat called America which is how it got its name. The cup has spent much of its time in Newport, Rhode Island ever since and poor Britain has never won it back. The MGM musical High Society was set in one of the many fully staffed mansions that littered the state back then and one of the most memorable scenes was when Bing Crosby and Grace Kelly took a trip on the True Love which in turn inspired the song for the movie. I do remember being troubled by their age difference when first watching it as a child – Having just looked it up, Bing was 53 and Grace 27 when the film was shot, but not unusual amongst wealthy Rhode Islanders back then I suppose. In fact the mansions, or “cottages” as they were called, were originally built by rich plantation owners in order to escape the heat of the Southern summer. Later on rich Northern families started to do the same as the Gilded Age of Vanderbilts and Astors reached its staggeringly opulent zenith. Never had so much money, been made so fast, by so few, and much of this wealth was reflected in the Cliff Walk properties of Newport, RI.

But hey, as usual I am being side-tracked, for this is supposed to be a music blog. Not many obvious contenders for this state but last time both CC and Rol came up with the suggestion Sweet Rhode Island Red by Ike and Tina Turner. A good one but not my featured song for this post as although most of us who are not even au fait with the world of poultry farming have heard of the Rhode Island Red hen (the state bird), the song is not about the hen or even set in the state. Also, although I really enjoyed Tina’s output during her reincarnation of the 1980s, I’m not so fond of the songs she recorded with Ike (or Ike), especially Nutbush City Limits, but we’ll come to the reason for that another day.

ike and tina

But not everyone in Rhode Island lives in mansions and owns yachts. Some of you will know of the animated sitcom Family Guy created by Seth MacFarlane. The series centres on the Griffins family who have an anthropomorphic pet dog called Brian. Seth MacFarlane is not only a talented actor, writer, singer, film-maker but is also (I think) extremely good-looking and it turns out he is even descended from one of the original passengers from The Mayflower (grrr…). He studied animation at the Rhode Island School of Design so not unusual to have set the show in the fictional city of Quahog, RI. I give you the Road To Rhode Island by Brian and Stewie!

All this talk of the Gilded Age and opulent mansions however has made me look into it a bit more and has inspired my choice of featured song for this post. One of the largest “cottages” was Hammersmith Farm owned by the stepfather of Jacqueline Bouvier, Hugh D. Auchincloss. She of course went on to marry John F Kennedy and their wedding reception was held there. The property was also used as the setting for the 1974 film version of The Great Gatsby starring Robert Redford and Mia Farrow. I have a feeling that Grace Kelly may well have also “graced” the terraces of Hammersmith Farm at some point, perhaps not in High Society as that appeared to be a film set, but perhaps in her role as Princess Grace of Monaco.

Some of you will know that Baz Luhrmann also made a dazzling version of The Great Gatsby back in 2013 and the song Young and Beautiful was specially written and recorded for it by Lana Del Rey. It was perfect for the film as she has a deep, sultry voice and a look that is evocative of a much earlier time. Also, a song about “the young and the beautiful” was totally appropriate for the tale of The Great Gatsby. All of the people mentioned in the paragraph above were rich, young and beautiful but whether characters in fiction or real people, they all died prematurely or experienced tragedy in their lives. Again a very tenuous link to this state, and again from a film, but just reinforces the knowledge we all have that a life of wealth and privilege does not necessarily bring happiness.

Young and Beautiful by Lana Del Rey:

Having done a bit of research, it seems that Lana Del Rey adopted her exotic sounding Latin name and look after spending time with friends in Miami. She is however originally from New York and has a Scottish heritage. Her real name is Lizzy Grant which I find amusing as where I come from in the North-East of Scotland there are many older ladies called Lizzy Grant – Absolutely none of them look like Lana Del Rey!

So, a longish post about the smallest state. Heading into Connecticut next and drawing a blank myself for that state at the moment, so again, any suggestions more than welcome. I can think of a couple of siblings who came from there and whose songs I have featured in this place recently, so may well go down that route. We’ll see, but in the meantime, I think I’ll have another listen to the haunting and sombre sound of Young and Beautiful.

Until next time….

Young And Beautiful Lyrics
(Song by Lana Del Ray/Rick Nowels)

I’ve seen the world
Done it all
Had my cake now
Diamonds, brilliant
And Bel Air now
Hot summer nights, mid July
When you and I were forever wild
The crazy days, city lights
The way you’d play with me like a child

Will you still love me
When I’m no longer young and beautiful?
Will you still love me
When I got nothing but my aching soul?
I know you will, I know you will
I know that you will
Will you still love me when I’m no longer beautiful?

I’ve seen the world, lit it up
As my stage now
Channelling angels in the new age now
Hot summer days, rock ‘n’ roll
The way you play for me at your show
And all the ways I got to know
Your pretty face and electric soul

Will you still love me
When I’m no longer young and beautiful?
Will you still love me
When I got nothing but my aching soul?
I know you will, I know you will
I know that you will
Will you still love me when I’m no longer beautiful?

Dear lord, when I get to heaven
Please let me bring my man
When he comes tell me that you’ll let him in
Father tell me if you can
Oh that grace, oh that body
Oh that face makes me wanna party
He’s my sun, he makes me shine like diamonds

Will you still love me
When I’m no longer young and beautiful?
Will you still love me
When I got nothing but my aching soul?
I know you will, I know you will
I know that you will
Will you still love me when I’m no longer beautiful?
Will you still love me when I’m no longer beautiful?
Will you still love me when I’m not young and beautiful

Postscript:

Because I mentioned the film High Society a fair few times above, I feel I should share this excellent clip of the inimitable Mr Louis “Satchel Mouth” Armstrong giving us a potted version of what is to come. Yes, this was high society Rhode Island-style, back in 1956. Enjoy.

May Day, Ella Fitzgerald and Summertime

Well, it’s May Day and I don’t know about you but up here in Scotland it’s been a wonderful sunny day. As ever I am celebrating this landmark date in the calendar with a few of the old customs. First of all I managed to do a symbolic washing of my face with morning dew – With any luck I may wake up tomorrow morning looking like a young maiden, but I’m not holding out much hope.

Next on the agenda was to gather some spring flowers for the little shrine I’ve got used to putting together on such days – Cherry blossom, narcissi and a few pink flowers I don’t know the name of. Along with a candle, some ribbon and some symbolic dew, it all looks very nice.

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Holy wells are popular places to visit on May Day or Beltane as it used to be called here in Scotland. As luck would have it we have a clootie well a short drive away and as Mr WIAA and I were both on holiday, that seemed like a good plan. This ancient spring is dedicated to Saint Curetán where the rags, dipped in the water from the well, are hung on the surrounding bushes and trees. It was once thought to have had the power to cure sick children. The spring runs into a kind of basin and just as we got there a young maiden was indeed washing her face – Just as well we knew the significance of the day or it would have all been a bit weird.

Beltane marked the beginning of summer for the ancient Celts and that was when their cattle were driven out to the higher pastures and rituals were performed to protect cattle, crops and people. Bonfires were kindled, their flames, smoke and ashes deemed to have protective powers.

Most of us are no longer pastoral people with cattle, but suburban people with garden furniture and fire pits so instead of driving my cattle to high pastures today, I have just got the rest of the accoutrements of summer out of the shed and lit a symbolic fire to celebrate Beltane. A wee spot of Drambuie also slipped down nicely and was my toast to the coming of summer.

Whenever a fire is lit the young people all seem to want to congregate round it – Darling daughter did a bit of texting and we now have a garden-full. Perhaps a bit of a novelty that drags them away from their electronic devices – Whatever, we have now left them to it, so time for a quick post to celebrate this special day.

The song I’ve chosen could not be less Scottish if it tried, but one I have always loved. Summertime was composed in 1934 by George Gershwin for the opera Porgy and Bess. The one I have in my music library is by Ella Fitzgerald who would have last week reached the age of 100. For over half a century Ella was the jazz singer who commanded the largest popular following and her musical collaborations with Louis Armstrong were amongst her most notable. No long wordy post from me today then, just this lovely version of one of Gershwin’s finest compositions.

Summertime by Ella Fitzgerald & Louis Armstrong:

Summertime Lyrics
(Song by George Gershwin/Dubose Heyward)

Summertime, and the livin’ is easy
Fish are jumpin’ and the cotton is high
Oh, your daddy’s rich and your ma is good-lookin’
So hush little baby, Don’t you cry

One of these mornings you’re gonna rise up singing
And you’ll spread your wings and you’ll take to the sky
But ’til that morning, there ain’t nothin’ can harm you
With Daddy and Mammy standin’ by

Summertime, and the livin’ is easy
Fish are jumpin’ and the cotton is high
Oh, your daddy’s rich and your ma is good-lookin’
So hush little baby, Don’t you cry

One of these mornings you’re gonna rise up singing
And you’ll spread your wings and you’ll take to the sky
But ’til that morning, there ain’t nothin can harm you
With Daddy and Mammy standin’ by

Postscript:

It’s not an Oscar winner and I’m still learning how to do this, but here is my little film of our day out – It all ends rather abruptly I’m afraid but I will improve!

Ray Stevens, Misty and the Story of a Song

My last post was about the Roberta Flack song featured in the film Play Misty for Me and in the comments boxes, Rol, whose excellent My Top Ten blog is one I visit often, threw down the gauntlet and asked, “Any chance of a follow-up post on Misty itself, by Ray Stevens? If you don’t, I will!”.

After watching the film again the other night, it confirmed for me that the version of Misty that was requested so often (tring, tring, …”Play Misty for me”) by mad-stalker-woman Jessica clintWalter, was not indeed the one by Ray Stevens (as it wouldn’t have been recorded for another four years), nor by Johnny Mathis who did a very romantic version in 1959, but in fact the original instrumental composed by jazz pianist Erroll Garner. Mr Garner was born in Pittsburgh in 1923 and started playing piano at the age of three. He came from a very musical family all of whom played piano but he never did learn how to read music and always played by ear. I give you the original Misty, composed in 1954 (the familiar part starts at 0:30).

And here is where I made a brand new discovery – I mainly know Johnny Mathis from his mid ’70s offerings I’m Stone In Love With You and of course When A Child Is Born, the big 1976 Christmas No. 1 hit. At that time Johnny always looked as if he’d just got off the golf course but in the late ’50s and early ’60s he was apparently the “Master of The Love Ballad” or more crudely put, “The King of Necking Music”. Despite being an outstanding athlete, he chose music as a career and amazingly Sinatra and Presley are the only male artists to have sold more albums. It should come as no surprise therefore, that when Johnny Burke wrote lyrics for the previously instrumental Misty, Johnny Mathis would be the very person to record this new version which became a big hit for him in 1959.

But this was supposed to be a post about the Ray Stevens‘ version of the song and at last I am getting round to it. Although Ray Stevens had been a very successful, multi-talented entertainer from the early ’60s onward, I probably only knew him from his early ’70s comedic novelty songs. There was Bridget the Midget (Queen of the Blues) in 1971 and then The Streak in 1974 released on the back of that very unusual fad of running naked through sporting venues. Fortunately, British bobbies’ helmets at that time were well designed for containing those body parts best kept under wraps, but still amused the crowds at Twickenham, Wimbledon and even at a Winter Olympics curling final (brrr…).

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In 1975 Ray Stevens decided to record a very countrified, up-tempo version of Misty which was a bit of a departure for him after so many novelty records. He was however born in Georgia in 1939 (still with us, I have just checked) and became a producer and studio musician in Nashville, so it would have made sense for him to go down that route especially as during the mid-’70s country music had kind of become mainstream. Looking back at the charts of 1975, around a quarter of the records were by people whose names ended in a “y” or an “ie” – Tammy, Dolly, Johnny, Kenny, Billie, Charlie and so on. Yes, country-pop as a sub-genre had come of age, even outwith the US, and I think a lot of it was down to the fact that for the first time in ages, people of my parents’ generation had new music they could identify with and enjoy. Maybe it was different in the cosmopolitan cities, but where I came from in Scotland, venues were packed out with people keen to watch their American country stars of choice perform songs that were set in the Appalachians, in Tennessee or Kentucky. Very apt really as these songs were written by the offspring of the Scottish, Irish and other Celtic immigrants who played well-known traditional instruments, such as fiddles, banjos, harmonicas and acoustic guitars.

Misty by Ray Stevens:

Ray Stevens‘ version of Misty is the one I know best and whenever I hear that intro I know exactly what is going to come next – That first line about being so love-struck that you’re “as helpless as a kitten up a tree”. Yes, we’ve all been there, but fortunately not for some time in my case (the helpless kitten part). I’m not sure if Erroll Garner or Johnny Mathis would have approved of this version, but it was certainly the most commercially successful here in the UK and won a Grammy Award in the category of Music Arrangement of the Year. Ray was never as well-known here as in his native US but I have just had a bit of a déjà vu moment where I am reminded of watching him appear on the Andy Williams Show back in the late ’60s. He was a regular as it turns out, but at the time I would have been just far too preoccupied with that very good-looking band of Osmond brothers who also used to appear regularly, performing their very polished barbershop routines.

So, “What’s It All About?” – Not sure how well I’ve risen to the challenge of writing about this song, but I have enjoyed revisiting Misty and finding out so much more of its back story. I know Rol would have probably approached it differently but hey, this is how I do things here at WIAA? so hopefully whoever drops by will find something of interest. The question now is, do I continue to ask for suggestions on what song to write about next? I think this approach is sufficiently different to what we do on The Chain, so for one more post only, please enter suggestions in the comments boxes below to a song that links to Misty by Ray Stevens and I’ll see what I can come up with – A challenge indeed!

Misty Lyrics
(Song by Erroll Garner/Johnny Burke) 

Look at me
I’m as helpless as a kitten up a tree
Ah, I’m walkin’ on a cloud
I can’t understand, Lord
I’m misty holdin’ your hand

Walk my way
And a thousand violins begin to play
Or it might be the sound of your “hello”
That music I hear, Lord
I’m misty the moment you’re near

You can say that you’re leadin’ me on
But it’s just what I want you to do
Don’t ya notice how hopelessly I’m lost
That’s why I’m followin’ you

Ooh, on my own
Should I wander through this wonderland alone, now
Never knowin’ my right foot from my left
My hat from my glove, Lord
I’m misty, and too much in love

You can say that you’re leadin’ me on
But it’s just what I want you to do
Don’t ya notice how hopelessly I’m lost
That’s why I’m followin’ you

Ooh, on my own
Should I wander through this wonderland alone, now
Never knowin’ my right foot from my left
My hat from my glove, Lord
I’m misty, and too much in love

(Misty) too much in love
(Misty) too much in love
(Misty)
(Misty) too much in love…

Changes, Referendums and its “Raining In My Heart”

Well, it’s the day I usually put together a post featuring a song from my past, but not in the best frame of mind for it for several reasons. I finally bit the bullet this week and replaced my trusty old steed (my ten year old PC) for an all-singing and dancing wireless version (a stallion amongst PCs) but needless to say it is taking me a while to navigate all the set-up routines, transfer over data and get used to how different it all is. I don’t do well with change and this one is frustrating me.

This song, Changes by David Bowie, is not really relevant to my particular problem but it inevitably came to mind when writing about change. From the “Hunky Dory” album, it became one of his most popular recordings ever but not a hit when it was first released in 1972 – Ironically it charted for the first time this year, just after his death.

Changes by David Bowie:

On top of the domestic upheaval with new computers, we have this momentous decision to make on Thursday which could possibly take us out of the EU and it very much seems as if people are going to the ballot box loaded with highly dubious facts, figures and scaremongering. Not a great way forward for any democratic nation. This may sound flippant but if we had a greater affinity with Europe in terms of music and film, the decision would probably have been far easier. Despite the fact that the rest of Europe puts us to shame with their excellent grasp of English, there is still that cultural barrier that sets us apart and makes us different.

Looking back over the “tracks of my years”, I can think of very few artists from the rest of Europe who have done well in the British charts. That dashing Frenchman Sasha Distel popped up in the early ’70s and the not-so-dashing Charles Aznavour a while later. There have also been a few Greeks (Demis Roussos, now forever associated with the Mike Leigh play Abigail’s Party), the phenomenon that was Abba, Boney M and A-Ha. In the late ’70s when punk kind of became mainstream, our favourite record at the local “youth club” (the only pub happy to admit 16 and 17-year-olds) was Ça Plane Pour Moi by Belgian Plastic Bertrand. A one-hit wonder, but thoroughly memorable even now.

This next one is a bit before my time but it still kind of sums up the difference between us Brits and our French neighbours – Je T’aime… Moi Non Plus by Jane Birkin and Serge Gainsbourg was inevitably banned when it was released in 1969 due to its explicit lyrics and “sound effects” but of course this just led to it becoming an ever bigger hit. I’m sure the French find our prudishness very amusing and their sub-titled films shown on television in the ’70s were awash with casual disrobing, which caused much anguish for the parents of teenagers at the time.

Getting back to the whole referendum issue however, the campaigning has now been put on hold as one of our best-loved MPs was tragically shot dead a couple of days ago in Yorkshire. This, on top of the mass shooting earlier this week in a night club in Florida, has caused an outpouring of grief and questions are being asked as to the motive for such happenings – The work of lone gunmen or part of something bigger and more sinister.

A fellow blogger was writing yesterday about songs that refer to rain and how, in a song, that particular weather condition usually symbolises sadness and dark times – This week, the sadness felt in this 1959 Buddy Holly song, Raining In My Heart, sums up how I feel. Not about a lost love but about the loss of something in society that can’t easily be identified, but something that is definitely no longer with us.

On a very literal note, it really hasn’t helped either that we have had a pretty awful week of weather with rain every day. My favourite month is not panning out as expected this year. The tennis has been heavily disrupted and the poor ladies at Ascot were draped in waterproof ponchos, their beautiful hats and outfits in many cases ruined.

As for Buddy, the non-stop touring schedule that came about as a result of his meteoric rise to fame led to the plane crash that took his life in 1959. Rock ‘n’ roll was in its heyday and he was one of its brightest stars. Considering he died very young, aged only 22, he left many songs that most people of a certain age will be familiar with – Peggy Sue, It Doesn’t Matter Any More, Rave On, Oh Boy!, That’ll Be The Day, True Love Ways and many moreHe even made horn-rimmed glasses look cool – Great for the eyesight of 1950s teenagers.

As for me, I’ll try to rid myself of the black dog by this time next week when we’ll also know if we are still “in” or now “out”. Interesting times indeed.

Raining In My Heart
(Song by Bouleaux Bryant/Felice Bryant)

The sun is out, the sky is blue
There’s not a cloud to spoil the view
But it’s raining, raining in my heart

The weatherman says clear today
He doesn’t know you’ve gone away
And it’s raining, raining in my heart

Oh, misery, misery
What’s gonna become of me?

I tell my blues they mustn’t show
But soon the tears are bound to flow
‘Cause it’s raining, raining in my heart

It’s raining, raining in my heart

Oh, misery, misery
What’s gonna become of me

Raining in my heart!
Raining in my heart!

Richard Rodgers, Oscar Hammerstein and June Is Bustin’ Out All Over!

Sorry, but couldn’t resist posting this clip today as it’s the 1st of June and it marks the start of my favourite month of the year – Yes, it has to be June Is Bustin’ Out All Over from the Rodgers and Hammerstein musical Carousel. It looks dated granted, and we are not used to seeing men in such high-waisted trousers (troubling somehow), but it does sum up how I feel about today.

There are so many great things about the month of June if, like me, you live in Scotland (as there would have been in Maine, where Carousel was set) – The light nights, warm weather and (if you’re lucky) sunshine. The garden is starting to look interesting and it’s safe at last to plant out those tender young plants without having to worry about frost.

As the month goes by we’ll have tennis to watch, starting off with the French Open (Andy Murray won today) and towards the end of the month, Wimbledon. Mid-month The Royal Family will be on parade at Ascot, and some very smart ladies will be modelling those quirky hats. If you’re a football fan, a big tournament is about to take place and outdoor events, impossible during the long winter months and risky even in spring and autumn, suddenly fill the calendar. There will be Highland Games, Fetes and Music Festivals taking place every weekend – It may rain granted, but at least the rain will be warm.

In Scotland the school year lasts until the end of June but for some reason the really serious, life-changing exams always took place in May. This also happened when you moved on to College or University, so even now I still recall the relief that was felt in June, once those exams were over and you could finally relax after all the hard work. It was like that final scene in the film Grease when the Principal makes a short speech before the “commencement of commencement” – Happy memories indeed. June of course is also the month before everything becomes “weird” when a normal routine is disrupted with people disappearing off on holiday. When you were at school it meant that you no longer saw your best friends every day, and it still is a bit like that as dates for get-togethers with friends become nigh impossible to arrange. Thirty days therefore to pack in as much as possible.

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I have mentioned the film Carousel before, when writing about the song You’ll Never Walk Alone. It is not my favourite Rodgers and Hammerstein musical and the juvenile in me finds the song title “June Is Bustin’ Out All Over” a trifle amusing, but, included alongside Oklahoma!, South Pacific, The King and I and The Sound of Music, it completes an impressive body of work and one which was much appreciated by my dad and I on a wet Sunday afternoon when I was young. Nothing brightened the spirit more than to watch these all-singing, all-dancing spectaculars on television. Apparently my dad and his friends, in their youth, had gone into the city from our village every fortnight to watch their football team play in home games. They always finished the day off with a nice meal and a trip to the “pictures” to watch the big movies of the day. These invariably were musicals, featuring the likes of Fred Astaire and Gene Kelly which gave him a life-long love of the genre, and one which he passed on to me. Maybe I’m wrong, but I’m not convinced that your average football fan of today would appreciate the works of Rodgers and Hammerstein – Different times obviously, and different forms of entertainment today to whet a young man’s appetite, but I’m just glad that my dad was able to experience all these films, unabashed.

So, will I be able to fit in many posts this month when there is just so much to enjoy out there? We’ll see, but in the meantime I’ll leave you with the (exceptionally long therefore abbreviated) lyrics to this very seasonal song – Enjoy.

June Is Bustin’ Out All Over Lyrics
(Song by Richard Rodgers/Oscar Hammerstein ll)

June is bustin’ out all over!
All over the meadow and the hill!
Buds’re bustin’ outa bushes
And the rompin’ river pushes
Ev’ry little wheel that wheels beside the mill!

June is bustin’ out all over!
The feelin’ is gettin’ so intense
That the young Virginia creepers
Hev been huggin’ the bejeepers
Outa all the mornin’-glories on the fence.
Because it’s June!
June, June, June
Jest because it’s June, June, June!

June is bustin’ out all over!
The ocean is full of Jacks and Jills,
With her little tail a-swishin’
Ev’ry lady fish is wishin’
That a male would come
And grab her by the gills!

Because it’s June! June, June, June
Just because it’s June, June, June!

Sadie Hawkins Dances, The Flamingos and I Only Have Eyes For You

Had a few days off organising the rest of my life but ready to get back to the blog. This random means of choosing songs is turning out to be anything but random however as the radio station I usually tune into caters in the main for people of my generation, so a lot of ’70s/’80s material. Also these songs are likely to be the mainstream, highly commerical, chart hits of the day so unlikely to come across something quirky or unusual.

Time therefore to return to the thread linking the previous posts (before I decided it had reached a natural conclusion) – Was proving to be a fine way of progressing despite the fact that a new thread often had to start on the days we found out that yet another of our rock legends had died. Crossing fingers that won’t happen for a while so back to Buffy the Vampire Slayer the television show and another song that came, this time, from a Season 2 episode. I have already talked about the show, its cult status and importance to our family in my last post won’t go there again but will encourage you to watch it, all the way through from the begining, to the final scene where Sunnydale disappears into the collapsed Hellmouth. I know – it all sounds fantastical – and it is, which is why you must watch it. A life-enhancing experience (in my opinion).

The song that featured heavily in the Buffy episode “I Only Have Eyes For You” was the song of the same name by The Flamingos. We’ll ignore the fact that the episode was set in 1955 whereas this recording was made in 1959 – Didn’t make any difference as it was a wonderful, romantic, “doo-wop” song that really captured the mood of the decade. The lyrics were also highly relevant to the storyline and the key characters in it. I Only Have Eyes For You was actually written much earlier in 1934 for a film starring a young Ruby Keeler but has been covered many times, the most familiar to me being the beautiful 1975 version by Art Garfunkel (during his clown-hair period).

I Only Have Eyes For You by The Flamingos:

This episode featured an event I had never heard of before, the forthcoming “Sadie Hawkins Dance” and how a tragic happening from that same dance in 1955 rears its ghostly head again for Buffy and her friends in 1998.

Having done a little research it seems that Sadie Hawkins Day is a folk event particular to America – An annual “holiday” that originated in Al Capp’s classic hillbilly comic strip, Li’l Abner. When the character Sadie reached the age of 35 and was still a spinster, her father called together all the unmarried men from the town and declared it “Sadie Hawkins Day”. A race was decreed, with Sadie in hot pursuit of the town’s eligible bachelors. With matrimony as the consequence of losing the race, the men of the town were running for their freedom! This inspired real-world Sadie Hawkins dances, where girls asked boys out – Simple gender role-reversal.

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Anyway, back to Buffy and the “ghostly” episode. The doomed romance between a female teacher and male student in 1955 had led to a sorry end for both of them (he shot her and then committed suicide). The ghost of the student, in an effort to gain forgiveness, keeps returning to possess the bodies of various 1998 characters but every time the ending is the same. When Buffy and Angelus are possessed however, the story of their doomed romance cleverly mirrors that of the teacher and student and with the roles this time reversed, Angelus the vampire is unable to be killed and a happy conclusion is reached for the ghost of the poor student. All of this drama of course is played out to the strains of I Only Have Eyes For You.

sadie hawkins

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The whole theme of this episode was role-reversal but even now the idea of my younger self asking a boy out, or even to dance, fills me with horror. I am full of admiration for the girls of America who probably still have Sadie Hawkins Dances. Looking back, I don’t think I really appreciated how nerve-wracking it must have been for the teenage boys of my youth to pluck up the courage to ask girls out, yet that was just how it all worked. I know on occasion I came up with pretty lame excuses for not accepting a date and sometimes it marked the end of a friendship as once the line has been crossed between friendship and potential romance, it is hard to go back.

I had always thought it was a pretty good system, as at any one point in time you had your eye on a few boys you liked, and just had to hope that one of them would ask you out. I’m sure there must a name for that kind of law – The Law of Teenage Mutual Selection or something. Looking back, it worked for the girls as they didn’t have to suffer the humiliation and rejection of being turned down but they did I suppose have to suffer the heartache of not perhaps being asked out, by the one boy they really wanted.

Roll on to your twenties, thirties and beyond and things get a whole lot more complicated but perhaps Sadie Hawkins had the answer. Dismiss dating websites, pubs, clubs and friends trying to set you up at dinner parties. Just arrange an annual race for all the single ladies who want a partner – All those eligible bachelors who want to be caught will be the tortoises and those who don’t will be the hares. Possibly as good a system as any!

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 I Only Have Eyes For You Lyrics (had to leave in the Sha bop sha bops!)
(Song by Harry Warren/Al Dubin)

My love must be a kind of blind love
I can’t see anyone but you
Sha bop sha bop
Sha bop sha bop
Sha bop sha bop
Sha bop sha bop
Sha bop sha bop

Are the stars out tonight
I don’t know if it’s cloudy or bright
I only have eyes for you dear
Sha bop sha bop

The moon may be high
Sha bop sha bop
But I can’t see a thing in the sky
I only have eyes for you

I don’t know if we’re in a garden
Or on a crowded avenue
Sha bop sha bop

You are here
Sha bop sha bop
And so am I
Sha bop sha bop

Maybe millions of people go by
But they all disappear from view
And I only have eyes for you

Sha bop sha bop
Sha bop sha bop
Sha bop sha bop
Sha bop sha bop
Sha bop sha bop

Patti Page, Changing Partners and Old 78s

Well, I’ve just bought myself a turntable, but a bizarre thing has happened. After first trying out my old vinyl on the new turntable, I ended up going on to enjoy the sound of the old bakelite 78s the most. Possibly reminded me of my very first musical experiences when at around six or seven-years-old I was deemed old enough to play my mum and dad’s records on their little mono record-player. One of my favourites back then was Changing Partners by Patti Page so that was the first one I listened to. This song was recorded by at least three artists in 1954 (the others I know of being Kay Starr and Bing Crosby) but this is a beautiful, soft and gentle version.

Patti Page was a big American recording artist who hailed from Tulsa, Oklahoma and had her roots in country music. She’d already had a really big hit with Tennessee Waltz and Changing Partners had definitely borrowed heavily from that earlier song (very heavily). She was also the artist responsible for How Much Is That Doggie In The Window which had appeared in the fledgling UK charts in 1953 but I’ll forgive her for that one as that was after all, the decade of the novelty song.

In my last post I wrote about Crazy For You by Madonna which had really conjured up memories of my late teens and the ritual of the “last dance” of the evening. This song was from 25 years prior to that and from my parents’ ballroom-dancing days. Every generation has its “last dance” ritual and this song reflected their one, although unlike us they were dressed in beautiful gowns, evening suits and had immaculately coiffed hair. So many of my generation owe our very existence to those ballrooms – It was where many of our parents would have met, fell in love and started on the journey that would have become the rest of their lives. Simpler times in lots of ways but very, very important to choose your dance partner well I imagine – Not the time to be bowled over by good looks, a sharp suit and a brilliantined pate as many who married in haste, later “repented at leisure”.

There were so many great American lady singers during that era – Dinah Shore, Doris Day, Peggy Lee, Rosemary Clooney, Patsy Cline, Dinah Washington, Sarah Vaughan, the list goes on and on. Their songs can seem old-fashioned and overly sentimental today but they were of their time and these ladies were the big stars of the day.

Something else however that they had in their favour – Not a lot of colour photography in those days and boy did they look great in pictures. Flawless skin and alluring décolletage.

Note to self – Close-up photos now to be taken in black and white. Much more forgiving!

Changing Partners Lyrics
(Song by Larry Coleman/Joe Darion)

We were waltzing together to a dreamy melody
When they called out “Change partners”
And you waltzed away from me
Now my arms feel so empty as I gaze around the floor
And I’ll keep on changing partners
Till I hold you once more

Though we danced for one moment and too soon we had to part
In that wonderful moment something happened to my heart
So I’ll keep changing partners till you’re in my arms and then
Oh, my darling I will never change partners again