Memories of Junior School – Cliff, Marc and Alice

Last time, amongst other things, I wrote about the film Gregory’s Girl which in turn led me to reminisce about my days at secondary school. This morning, whilst starting out on a project to declutter the house, I found a booklet that was printed around the time of the centenary of my primary school. A call had gone out asking ex-pupils to submit their memories, and many did, including myself – Unbeknownst to me until after publication however, most contributors stuck to a concise 150-200 words, whereas my “contribution” ended up being a good deal longer so kind of stood out like a sore thumb (nothing changes does it). I did notice however that the piece included a few references to the music of the day so I’m going to recycle it for this place – Hope you can forgive me this little indulgence.

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My old primary school

Extract from 1899-1999 Centenary Booklet (written in 1998):

If like me you joined the school in 1965, and spent the whole of your primary school education there, your memories of the experience will be very similar to mine. I spent an evening conjuring up images from the past and came up with the following whistle stop tour through the seven years.

In Miss Margaret’s Primary One class, courtesy of the Tom and Ann books, we all became literate. For many Aberdeenshire children this was no mean feat since these books were written in English and not in our native Doric. At the same time we were also becoming numerate courtesy of wooden rods number one to ten (or was it twelve in those pre-decimal days?). These rods came in the full spectrum of colours and I’m pretty sure that number three rod was quite an attractive lime green.

By the time we progressed next door to Miss Mabel’s Primary Two class we were ready to pick up on the finer points of spelling, writing and sums. Miss Margaret and Miss Mabel, being sisters and located in rooms next to each other, frequently brought their classes together. Sometimes it was for Music and Movement and sometimes it was to watch a film on the noisy school projector skilfully manned by Mr Anderson the headmaster. (Women in those days were obviously not to be trusted with advanced technology.) The film invariably had a Commonwealth theme (the young queen was very popular in the mid ’60s) and might have been about children on sheep stations in Australia or perhaps in African villages. At the time however I think I was more fascinated by the projector’s light beam picking up the slow moving mass of chalk dust that usually filled the air.

projector

For Primary Three we veered round the corner to Mrs Scott’s classroom next to the staffroom. I seem to remember that we were introduced to the wonderful world of “work cards” which dealt heavily with Stone Age man and the Romans in Britain. At age seven we were full of knowledge about the average Neanderthal or Centurion. Also at that time, it was very important for us to master the new metric system which would soon take over completely from the old imperial system of measurement. Over thirty years later and I still quote my height in feet and inches and order my curtain material in yards – What would Mrs Scott say?

Primary Four, back in 1968, was housed in a hut to the right of the main school building. Mrs Fraser was the teacher and although most classes at that time still had milk monitors, Primary Four was the only class that had a wood-burning stove monitor. A major turning point for the school came that year when the old wooden desks, complete with ink well, were abandoned in favour of new-fangled formica tables that had little plastic drawers on runners. Very much in keeping with the hi-tech furniture of the time.

There was great dismay however for me that year when Helen, my best friend since Primary One, left the village for a new life in Aberdeen (with her parents and younger brother Stuart I hasten to add). We lost touch for many years however met up again at University in 1978 and we both ironically became accountants in later life. Miss Margaret’s number one to ten rods must have had a profound effect on us.

As we come to Primary Five, my memories get more vivid. We were back in the main body of the school and our teacher was Miss Reid who impressed the girls at any rate, with her trendy crocheted waistcoats and short skirts. She also had amazing high hair usually adorned with elaborate accessories. It was now 1969 and great advances were being made in the world of Science and Technology. We were lucky enough to have Mr Bruce take us for science once a week and in one lesson he mass-manufactured bright blue eye-shadow for the girls (much to the anguish of our parents I’m sure). He also invited everyone to his lab to witness one of the first Apollo moon landings. To my eternal shame, not realising the significance of what we were to watch on the grainy black and white TV, I was so busy discussing with new best friend Sheena what a novelty it was to get off normal lessons, that I think I missed the whole thing.

Christmas time always was and still is an exciting time in the school year and as was often the case we performed a nativity play that year. I was the narrator, a major part that called for much learning of lines and constructing of angel wings and head-dress. If you were a girl however the most sought after role was always that of Mary (depending of course on whoever happened to be Joseph that year). The other event that made Christmas special was the annual Christmas party when before dances, the boys would line up on one side of the gym hall and the girls on the other as if about to go into battle. Nine year old boys and girls are not known for being socially at ease with each other but somehow we manfully made it round the hall on an annual basis mastering the finer points of the Gay Gordons, the St Bernard’s Waltz and the Bluebell Polka. To this day, every time I attend a Wedding or Dinner Dance, I thank my primary school for having taught me the rudiments of Scottish Country Dancing.

Incidentally, growing disquiet in the ranks over the choice of music for our annual bash (we were living in the psychedelic ’60s after all in the days of the Beatles and Jimi Hendrix) meant that the teachers had to take steps in acquiring some “pop” records for us as well as the Jimmy Shand perennial favourites. For some strange reason what they came up with was Cliff Richard singing When The Girl In Your Arms Is The Girl In Your Heart. It wasn’t until I was older that I realised it happened to be from The Young Ones filmed in 1961 – Not quite what we had in mind.

Primary Six was Mrs McPhee’s class in the room next to the “Higher Grade” girl’s cloakroom [this was a junior/secondary school that taught kids up to the age of 15 after which, unbelievably, they could leave school and join the adult world of work – A]. At age ten we were in awe of these “women” of 14 and 15 in their wetlook coats and boots, long sleek hair and chokers. Full decimalisation came about in 1970 and I remember the excitement on the first day about paying for our lunch tokens with the already circulated 50p and anticipating the change in shiny new pence. On receiving these new pence we hotfooted it to the local baker’s shop at break time where we regularly went to buy our sweets. Soon a dilemma was to be faced – Apparently during the transition period one new pence was to equate to both the old tuppence and thrupence. It was important to remember to buy a penny chew along with your tuppenny ice-pole or else you lost out bigtime. I think this was also the year that we broke some record or other by being the first school, thanks mainly to the endeavours of Mr Bruce, to have everyone over a certain age pass their cycling proficiency test. We were even photographed for the Aberdeen Press and Journal so fame indeed.

Educationally by this stage, we were covering the whole gamut of school subjects and even received extra tuition from the Higher Grade teachers. One of these teachers was Miss Jaffrey whom the girls at any rate, got for Sewing and Knitting. (I would have said Home Economics but at that age we were obviously not to be let loose with cookers, although when attempting to thread the needle of the electric sewing machine with my friend Lorna that year, we did inadvertently manage to stitch through the top of my finger!) Miss Jaffrey got married when we were in Primary Six and I remember the girls clubbing together to buy her a wedding present – Unfortunately for Miss Jaffrey this wedding present took the form of a pair of plastic ornamental bambis. Much to her credit however she seemed overwhelmingly pleased with her gift although I doubt if they ever took pride of place on her mantelpiece.

And so we come to Primary Seven, our last year in junior school. We were right along the corridor beyond the art room and the janitor’s cupboard. Our teacher was the heavily accented Miss Robertson [she was half German which often came about as a result of servicemen marrying local girls after the war – A]. I remember this being a really enjoyable year despite having to endure the dreaded 11-plus test at some point. Coming up to Christmas we feverishly collected for the Blue Peter Annual Appeal and were rewarded with a personal thank you note from Pete, John and Val. Brenda snuck in a copy of her big sister’s T. Rex LP to the Christmas party (Jeepster had been a big hit in the November of that year) and things were never quite the same after that. Roger and Stephen both got feather cut hairstyles and so ended the era of short back and sides for most of the boys in the class.

Also that year I suffered a nasty bout of appendicitis which took me into the Sick Children’s Hospital for quite some time and off school for about a month. When in hospital I received a box of fruit from the class (as was usual) and Scoop Bookclub paperbacks (remember them?). Unfortunately a schedule of schoolwork also came in the box which I conveniently mislaid and then pleaded ignorance when asked about it later. (Well, there had to be some advantages in having your appendix removed.) In the spring of 1972 both the boys and girls were heavily involved in football and netball tournaments which took us to distant lands (other villages 5 to 10 miles away) – Most of the time however I didn’t even make it into the first team which kind of put me off competitive sport for life although I discovered later that they just didn’t want me to overdo it since I’d been so recently in hospital. The grand finale of Primary Seven was School Camp in Abington, Lanarkshire. We had a great time and made lots of new friends from all over Aberdeenshire, many of whom we met up with in later years [in fact Mr WIAA’s predecessor was a boy I fell for at School Camp who hailed from a nearby village – A].

So there we have it. In the summer of 1972 Alice Cooper was topping the charts with School’s Out and our class went their separate ways. There were choices and some of us went to one nearby academy, some went to another and some stayed at the junior/secondary (although by this time the leaving age had increased to 16). I hadn’t really thought much about my school days until recently when it was time to enrol my daughter for pre-school [this was written in 1998 – A]. I suddenly decided that we would have to move house as I wanted her to go to a school like the one I attended. This must certainly be a testament to the time I spent there, the inspirational teachers and the friends I made along the way.

School’s Out by Alice Cooper:

Until next time….

School’s Out Lyrics
(Song by the Alice Cooper band)

Well we got no choice
All the girls and boys
Makin all that noise
‘Cause they found new toys
Well we can’t salute ya
Can’t find a flag
If that don’t suit ya
That’s a drag

School’s out for summer
School’s out forever
School’s been blown to pieces

No more pencils
No more books
No more teacher’s dirty looks

Well we got no class
And we got no principles
And we got no innocence
We can’t even think of a word that rhymes

School’s out for summer
School’s out forever
School’s been blown to pieces

No more pencils
No more books
No more teacher’s dirty looks

Out for summer
Out till fall
We might not go back at all

School’s out forever
School’s out for summer
School’s out with fever
School’s out completely

Postscript:

Interestingly, despite the fact we wanted more Beatles and less Jimmy Shand (MBE) in the late ’60s, it turns out that much of Jimmy’s success in the charts in the ’50s was down to none other than George Martin! Yes once signed to Parlophone, the master of the button box accordion was given George as a producer, and became the only leader of a Scottish Country Dance Band ever to enter the UK Singles Chart.

Beach Boys, Phil Collins and “There’s a Ghost in My House”

Well, it’s been a bit of a week, with no time for heavily researched blog posts. When that happens I usually resort to a web-diary type affair and a few songs have come to mind. First of all, after reading a post written by Jez over at Dubious Towers last weekend, where he recommended watching the film Love & Mercy about the life of Beach Boy Brian Wilson, I did just that. In doing so I fell in love with the album “Pet Sounds” all over again. I think I knew a bit about the troubled life that Brian had post Beach Boys, but this film really highlighted the nightmare he went through in the 1980s under the supervision of highly controlling psychotherapist Dr Eugene Landy – Fortunately the love of a good woman saved him and joy of joys they are still married today, so a happy ending to a sorry tale.

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What was great about this film however was that we got to witness the creative genius that went into producing “Pet Sounds” back in 1966. The sounds on this album were just that, Brian’s favourite, or pet sounds, and the infamous Wrecking Crew that worked with him on that album acknowledged his genius above all others they collaborated with. Brian at this point was still aged only 24. I have featured the wonderful song God Only Knows before in this blog (link here) so here is another from that album, Wouldn’t It Be Nice. Something interesting that came out of this biopic was that contrary to popular belief, The Beach Boys didn’t actually surf!

Wouldn’t It Be Nice by The Beach Boys:

So, what else has been happening this week? – Turns out that giving up the job you were very generously slotted into post re-structuring and leaving the organisation you’ve been part of for 30 years isn’t easy. I made the terrible mistake of wanting to leave in a good way, leave in a way that caused the least disruption, but it’s making me miserable. Having discussed it with friends who have retired recently, leaving work is a kind of bereavement and there are “stages” you go through. If I’d given the standard four weeks notice, after taking annual leave I would have been gone two weeks ago and all would have been well. Instead, I have hit the wobble zone that comes about a month after resigning when you start to question the rash decision-making that led you to forego your livelihood for a life of speculative self-employment. Fortunately for those that choose to retire there are many courses you can go on to pave the way, but of course I am not retiring, so I’ll just have to wobble on for another three weeks.

Phil_Collins_-_Face_Value

Over at Rich Kamerman’s excellent blog, where in his Forty Year Friday series he reviews  the albums of 1977, the band Genesis were featured last week. This in turn made me look into the whole Phil Collins negativity issue a bit more. Personally I quite liked his albums from the 1980s but somehow down to his sheer omnipresence and success during that decade, and perhaps his not-so-great actions and opinions, he became quite unpopular. Whatever, I did mention in Rich’s comments boxes that when a good wallow is called for this is one of the songs I turn to – Somehow it seems very apt for someone who has all of a sudden decided that the paperless office is not quite so bad (there is still a lot of paper) and that having everyone you’ve ever worked with over a thirty year period in the same building is now a good thing. Oh well, I give you If Leaving Me Is Easy which was one of the singles released from Phil Collins’ 1981 album “Face Value”. The answer by the way is…. No Phil, it’s blinking not.

If Leaving Me Is Easy by Phil Collins:

The final song that comes to mind this week is There’s a Ghost in My House by R. Dean Taylor. Why would that be I hear you ask? Well, whilst at our local art-house cinema with my girlfriends last night (two of whom are the aforementioned 55-year-old retirees), we somehow managed to display the most ridiculous display of giggling fits ever to have taken place in a non-comedy venue. The film we go and see is purely down to whatever is showing on the last Thursday of the month – Some we win, some we lose but it’s easy to organise and a great excuse for a get-together.

Last night’s film was called A Ghost Story and despite expecting it to be all scary and full of the supernatural, it turned out to be (inadvertently) the best comedy we have ever witnessed. The main character was a ghost draped in a sheet and all we could think of whenever he appeared was this character from John Carpenter’s Halloween, a film we had also seen recently and again had a slight fit of the giggles.

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Michael Myers in Halloween

I am very sorry that our fellow cinema-goers had to suffer our childish guffaws but once a giggling fit starts it’s hard to stop and we all fed off each other. At one point I had to rush out of the cinema into the little foyer area for fear that holding my nose and breath for so long would induce a fainting fit. Needless to say I was joined by one of my buddies very soon after and we all threw in the towel after an hour and retired to the bar for a large glass of calming red wine. Just to be clear, this was a very “inventive and artful film about love and loss” but what can I say, even at the combined age of 220, once the giggles start, we four ladies just couldn’t control them!

And so as an homage to our embarrassment here is that song from 1967, There’s A Ghost in My House by R. Dean Taylor. This was a Holland-Dozier-Holland composition from the Motown stable that was not a hit when originally released but then became so in 1974 after finding favour on the Northern Soul circuit. That’s when I remembered it from but only really came to understand the whole Northern Soul phenomenon when I wrote a post about it a few months ago (link here).

So, “What’s it all about?” – Sometimes it’s all about control. Brian Wilson was totally in control of the recording studio in 1966 but by 1986 had lost control of his life to Dr Landy.

Sometimes, our plans go awry because we let a stupid piece of paperwork control them – Had the notice period not been unusually long I wouldn’t be having to endure the current wobble. Had I not lost control of my emotions a month ago, it wouldn’t even be an issue (although I’m sticking to my guns that it’s still the right decision).

ghost

But best of all, although everyone else around us was in control, sometimes a fit of the giggles just can’t be controlled – The rest of the audience might not have approved but it’s been the best therapy I’ve had in years and the plethora of ghost emojis on our phones today, and the visit to my friend’s back garden draped in a sheet goes to prove it!

Until next time….

Wouldn’t It Be Nice Lyrics
(Song by Brian Wilson/Michael Love/Tony Asher)

Wouldn’t it be nice if we were older?
Then we wouldn’t have to wait so long
And wouldn’t it be nice to live together
In the kind of world where we belong

You know it’s gonna make it that much better
When we can say goodnight and stay together

Wouldn’t it be nice if we could wake up
In the morning when the day is new?
And after having spent the day together
Hold each other close the whole night through

Happy times together we’ve been spending
I wish that every kiss was never ending
Wouldn’t it be nice?

Maybe if we think, and wish, and hope, and pray, it might come true
Baby, then there wouldn’t be a single thing we couldn’t do
We could be married
And then we’d be happy

Wouldn’t it be nice?
You know it seems the more we talk about it
It only makes it worse to live without it
But let’s talk about it
Wouldn’t it be nice?

Postcript:

Having just delved into the background to A Ghost Story a little more, I found this quote from the film’s creator David Lowery. He had apparently wanted to make a film for quite some time featuring a man in a simple rudimentary ghost costume – “I just loved that image. I love taking something that is understood to be funny or charming or sweet or naive and instilling it with some degree of gravity“. Oh dear David, I’m afraid we just found it funny!

An American Odyssey in Song: New York – Boroughs, Bridges and “Feelin’ Groovy”

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!

It’s quite some time since I continued on my American Odyssey in Song and that would be because I developed a severe case of Odyssey block! After struggling somewhat to identify any songs at all for the New England states, once I hit New York there were just too many. I have started this post on numerous occasions but always gave up half way through. This time, as The Drifters sang in 1961, it’s going to be different, this time I’m going to stay (with it)….

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No time for lengthy paragraphs about the state itself this time though as loads of songs to get through. Suffice to say it must be one of the most diverse states in the whole of the US as not only does it have Long Island, whose “Hamptons” are where rich New Yorkers go to spend their summers, but it also has the wilderness areas to the north where hunting and fishing are the pastimes of choice. The state borders Canada and two of the Great Lakes but at the foot of the triangle there is one of the most iconic and culturally rich cities in the world, New York.

Time to get this party started then and it’s not going to be pretty – Via “a stream of consciousness” is how I’m going to tackle this one. Everyone will have different songs that they associate with New York but these are the ones that have come to mind over the last few weeks. Ready, steady, go….

There can’t be many people who are not familiar with the sights of New York City but just in case, here’s a whistle stop tour courtesy of MGM and those three sailors who had a whirlwind 24-hour leave back in 1949. Ok, ok guys, we’ve got it – “The Bronx is up and the Battery’s down, the people ride in a hole in the ground”.

You can’t have failed to notice that Mr Francis Albert Sinatra plays one of the sailors in that clip and I’m sure it’s expected that his version of the song New York, New York will feature here, but that would just be too obvious, so unusually for me I’ll enter the 21st century and share Empire State of Mind by Mr Shawn Corey Carter (otherwise known as Jay-Z). 

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Jay-Z, Rapper and Businessman

Empire State of Mind by Jay-Z featuring Alicia Keys:

Lord knows I’m not usually a fan of rap but I was truly blown away by this “song” (if that’s what it’s called) when it came out in 2009. Some fantastic lines in there referencing Sinatra’s New York, New York but also Afrika Bambaataa, the Bronx DJ who became known as the Godfather of hip-hop. The rap part on it’s own I probably wouldn’t have warmed to that much (although I don’t know), but with the inclusion of Alicia Keys vocals it became something really special. The pair are both from NYC and the song’s main writer, Angela Hunte, grew up in the same building as Jay-Z – 560 State Street, Brooklyn, an address mentioned in the song.

Something that comes across loud and clear from the lyrics of Empire State of Mind is that NYC is not just the island Manhattan as I had often thought as youngster. Oh no, NYC is made up of five boroughs – Brooklyn and Queens on the western end of Long Island, Staten Island which nestles up against New Jersey and The Bronx, north of Manhattan. Manhattan itself only becomes an island because of that tiny sliver of water linking up the East River with the Hudson.

5 boroughs

New York City, despite being made up of these five boroughs is very much centred on Manhattan, so how is it all linked up? Why by ferries and bridges of course. I am reminded of the scene in Saturday Night Fever where John Travolta’s character tries to impress his potential love interest with his knowledge of the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge, that double-decked suspension bridge that connects Staten Island and Brooklyn.

Another iconic bridge is the one that featured in the opening sequence to one of my favourite TV shows from the early ’80s – Taxi starring Danny DeVito and Judd Hirsch. Whenever I hear this theme song I am right back in my student room, my little white portable telly perched precariously on the edge of my desk, just in the right place for the aerial (coat hanger?) to pick up a signal. It would have been mid-week and I was probably having a break from all those laborious hours spent writing everything out in longhand (no computers in those days). A flatmate might have popped in for a coffee whilst we watched the show. Sometimes those memories are the best, ones where nothing in particular was happening, just normal everyday life but hearing that theme reminds me of the scene. A beautiful piece of music called Angela by Bob James.

Angela (Theme from Taxi) by Bob James:

Of course I had to do some research after rewatching that clip to find out which bridge it actually was that came up every week in the titles – Joy, oh joy, it was none other than the Queensboro Bridge – So what I hear you ask? The alternative name for that bridge is The 59th Street Bridge and considering this whole series was inspired by the Paul Simon song America, it is fitting that his song about the bridge be included in this post.

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The 59th Street Bridge Song (Feelin’ Groovy) by Simon and Garfunkel:

Paul Simon said that he’d spent most of 1965 in England but after coming back to the US, and having success with The Sound of Silence, life became really hectic for a while and he found it difficult to adjust. One day, going home to Queens over the 59th Street Bridge, he kind of started to snap out of it as the day had been a really good one, a “groovy one” – Once home he started to write the song subtitled Feelin’ Groovy that went on to appear on the 1966 album “Parsley, Sage, Rosemary and Thyme” recorded with musical partner Art Garfunkel.

But enough about bridges, in the New York of 1977 the phenomenon that was disco had started to really make its mark. Manhattan had Studio 54 where Liza, Michael, Mick and Bianca were regulars but across the Brooklyn Bridge (oops, more bridges), they had a local disco called 2001 Odyssey and every Saturday night, aforementioned John Travolta (playing the character Tony Manero), temporarily left his monotonous life behind and became “king of the dance floor”. Watching him now, the dancing doesn’t look quite as impressive as it did when we first experienced Saturday Night “Fever” and the parodies have been ruthless, but I still have fond memories of going to see that movie when it first came out in the UK in 1978. As someone who has been known to “do a John” over the years and clear the dancefloor, it can be an exhilarating feeling (and not showy-off at all of course!).

You Should Be Dancing by the Bee Gees:

The Saturday Night Fever soundtrack album, featuring disco songs by the Bee Gees, is one of the best-selling soundtracks of all time. How Deep Is Your Love is the song that appears in the closing scenes of the movie as we watch a desolate Tony ride the New York subway late at night. It is one of my all-time favourite love songs (which is probably why it became the choice for my Valentine’s Day post).

So far we’ve checked out the geography of New York and talked about the bridges and the nightlife. What about the people? I read an article recently about the flamboyant octogenarian fashionistas, who cut a dash on 5th Avenue – Way to go ladies!

Of course New York has long been known for its flamboyant characters and Sting sang about one of them, eccentric gay icon Quentin Crisp, in his 1988 song Englishman In New York. Another “character” commited to song was when Rod Stewart wrote and recorded  The Killing of Georgie (Part I and II) in 1976. This story song tells the tale of a young gay man who became successful and popular amongst Manhattan’s upper class – He was “the toast of the Great White Way”, which is the nickname given to the Theatre District of Midtown Manhattan. Georgie attends the opening night of a Broadway musical, but leaves “before the final curtain call” and heads across town. He is attacked near East 53rd Street by a gang of thieves and one inadvertently kills him. The song was apparently based on a true story about a friend of Rod’s old band The Faces.

I have waited a fair amount of time to feature Rod Stewart in this blog as it seems to be universally accepted that by the late ’70s he had sold out and his albums just weren’t up to the calibre of his earlier ones but hey, I was a mere 16-year-old schoolgirl at this time and was a big fan. This song especially, combining the melancholy and sombre Part II with the more popular Part I has long been a favourite of mine.

The Killing Of Georgie (Part I and II) by Rod Stewart:

We’ve spent an awful lot of time in New York City so far in this post but what about the rest of the state? Back in the early sixties before kids started heading off to Europe on holiday they used to go with their parents to resorts such as Kellermans in the Catskill Mountains. This is where “Baby” Houseman spent the summer of 1963, and fell for dashing dance instructor Johnny Castle. Dirty Dancing was a low-budget film that had no major stars but became a massive box office hit and was the first film to sell more than a million copies on home video. It has some great dance scenes and the soundtrack is full of classic songs from that early ’60s era such as Be My Baby, Big Girls Don’t Cry, Will You Love Me Tomorrow, Love Is Strange and this one, Stay by Maurice Williams & The Zodiacs.

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Kellermans in the Catskills, the setting for Dirty Dancing

Stay by Maurice Williams & The Zodiacs:

There are some great scenes in the movie where the landscape of the Catskills is kind of the star. I must admit to having become a bit of a fan of this movie in my later years although didn’t really take much heed of it when it first came out – I think it’s down to the nostalgia element, the music choices and the sadness that comes from the realisation that my days of dalliances with a young Johnny Castle are well behind me. Whatever, I’ve ended up writing about songs from it three times now (Be My Baby, Doomed Romances and Summer’s End) and they take the prize for being my least viewed posts – Sacre bleu!

Another song that makes me think of Upstate New York is Woodstock, written by Joni Mitchell but made famous in 1970 by Matthews Southern Comfort. The irony of course is that Joni Mitchell hadn’t even made it to the infamous festival which took place on Max Yasgur’s dairy farm, but wrote about it after having watched it from her hotel room in New York. The lyrics tell the story of a spiritual journey and make prominent use of sacred imagery, comparing the festival site with the Garden of Eden. The saga commences with the narrator’s encounter of a fellow traveller, a “child of God”,  and concludes at their ultimate destination where “we were half a million strong”.

Iain Matthews of Matthews Southern Comfort was actually from Scunthorpe in Lincolnshire but he had previously been with the band Fairport Convention who were at the time heavily influenced by American folk rock.

Well I don’t know about you but I’m exhausted – This post has been a long time coming and I’m sorry it’s so wordy, but I for one am now just pleased that it’s “in the can” so that the journey can continue. Next time we’ll be passing through the Lincoln Tunnel into New Jersey so as ever, suggestions for that state are more than welcome. Unlike with the New England states I have a feeling that it’s now going to get a whole lot easier.

A final clip before I go however – One of my all-time favourite movies is Manhattan directed by Woody Allen. I was given the soundtrack album by the boyfriend of the day after going to see it, as I was just so bowled over by George Gershwin’s compositions. They were all performed by the New York Philharmonic Orchestra and somehow I now always think of Rhapsody In Blue when I see the New York skyline.

manhattan

Rhapsody In Blue by George Gershwin:

The 59th Street Bridge Song (Feelin’ Groovy) Lyrics
(Song by Paul Simon)

Slow down, you move too fast
You got to make the morning last
Just kicking down the cobblestones
Looking for fun and feelin’ groovy
Ba da da da da da da, feelin’ groovy

Hello, lamppost, what’cha knowin’?
I’ve come to watch your flowers growin’
Ain’t’cha got no rhymes for me?
Doot-in doo-doo, feelin’ groovy
Ba da da da da da da, feelin’ groovy

I got no deeds to do
No promises to keep
I’m dappled and drowsy and ready to sleep
Let the morning time drop all its petals on me
Life, I love you
All is groovy

40 Years Ago This Week, Elvis “Left the Building” for the Last Time – Part 2

Last time I told the story of how it came about that my very first vinyl album was an Elvis one. Believe it or not my first CD was an Elvis one as well (and I didn’t even have a CD player yet!). We had been slow to move from vinyl and cassette tape to digital mediums as I just couldn’t get my head round the concept of having to replace nearly 30 years’ worth of music, but the writing was on the wall, so when I decided to buy the new Elvis compilation album “Always On My Mind” in 1997, it had to be in CD format. As new parents money was tight, so the cutting-edge CD player had to wait until later in the year to be purchased. In the meantime however, I played it liberally on our home computer until the ridiculously large VDU (remember those) decided to blow up after over-heating one sunny afternoon. Hard to believe in Scotland I know, but we had stupidly placed it right in front of a single-glazed window.

The anniversary of Elvis’ death sort of crept up on me this week and the post that I published on the actual day itself was a very hastily put together affair. Since then however I have had a chance to read the many other posts written by my fellow bloggers, and after having watched some great video clips, listened to many of his wonderful songs and generally had a good wallow through the memorabilia in my “Elvis Box” (it’s a thing), my love for the man and his music has returned with a vengeance.

Talking of love, the CD “Always On My Mind” was subtitled The Ultimate Love Songs Collection, so not surprisingly it contains an awful lot of songs with that word in the title. Looking at it right now we have: Can’t Help Falling In Love, Love Me Tender, Love Me, Loving You, Love Letters, You Don’t Have To Say You Love Me and It’s Only Love. The word mind also crops up a couple of times as Suspicious Minds (this is a blistering live version) was included as well as the title track, Always On My Mind.

Always On My Mind by Elvis Presley:

Elvis Presley recorded his version of Always On My Mind a few weeks after his final separation from Priscilla. Although Elvis didn’t actually write any of his songs, he might as well have done, for they always seemed to be just so darned personal. Elvis was not the best of letter-writers and Priscilla used to say that they communicated through music instead, as he regularly sent her “meaningful” records after returning home from Germany. Always On My Mind was most definitely for Priscilla which makes it all the more heart-breaking. I don’t really think Elvis ever thought she would leave, but one little lady (albeit with sometimes very big hair) versus the might of the Memphis Mafia, was never going to work out in the long run.

And this is where I’m reminded of the film Blue Hawaii which has become a bit of a tradition in our house as a Boxing Day pick-me-up. Living in Scotland is a cold, damp and dreich affair over the winter months so what could be better than to curl up on the sofa with some slices of fresh pineapple (yes really) and watch Elvis rock-a-hula his way across the sands of Waikiki Beach. I am reminded of the film because of this song, Almost Always True. No, I think it’s a given that Elvis was not “always true” but he was a family man at heart so when Priscilla left, that marked the beginning of the end for him.

Funnily enough, well actually not funny at all as it turns out, my Boxing Day tradition of watching Blue Hawaii did not take place last year as that was the day we found out that George Michael had passed away. I spent most of the day surfing the net and writing the first of my tribute posts. A couple of days later however, the film Viva Las Vegas popped up on the television schedules and whilst watching the antics of Elvis and Ann-Margret (again, their on-screen chemistry suggested he was almost always true), it occurred to me that both men had similarly long careers but both came to a similarly premature, and undignified end.

So, no little paragraph this time with my musings on the “meaning of life”, as just a bit too sad. Instead a photomontage of two of my musical heroes, both taken from us far too soon. I rest my case. RIP Elvis, RIP George.

Always On My Mind Lyrics
(Song by Johnny Christopher/Mark James/Wayne Carson)

Maybe I didn’t love you
Quite as often as I could have
Maybe I didn’t treat you
Quite as good as I should have
If I made you feel second best
Girl I’m sorry I was blind
But you were always on my mind
You were always on my mind

Maybe I didn’t hold you
All those lonely, lonely times
I guess I never told you
That I am so happy that you’re mine
If I made you feel second best
Girl I’m sorry I was blind
But you were always on my mind
You were always on my mind

Tell me, tell me that your sweet love hasn’t died
Give me, give me one more chance
To keep you satisfied
I’ll keep you satisfied
Little things I should have said and done
I just never took the time
But you were always on my mind
You were always on my mind
You were always on my mind
You were always on my mind

Glen Campbell, Jimmy Webb and an American Trilogy

Like many others, I was saddened to hear last night’s news of the death of Glen Campbell. It was not one of those shock deaths we had got so used to hearing about last year as most of us who were fans knew he had been suffering from Alzheimer’s Disease for some time, but it still marked the end of an era. Here is the post I wrote last year when I was still relatively new to blogging and still called my appreciation of the music of Glen Campbell a “guilty pleasure”. I have since discovered that he was one of the most respected and accomplished artists of the 20th century, and the Jimmy Webb songs he recorded in the late 1960s are some of the finest pieces of popular music ever produced. RIP Glen – Despite your sad demise we will continue to hear you “singin’ in the wire” for a long time to come, for which I am very, very grateful.

What's It All About?

I hope I haven’t caused confusion – Yes Elvis Presley recorded the song An American Trilogy in 1972 and it became a bit of a showstopper for him when performed during the massive event that was “Elvis—Aloha from Hawaii” broadcast in 1973. Three 19th century folk songs had been melded together and given the full jumpsuited-Elvis treatment and even today, I can’t think of anyone better suited (no pun intended) for the song. His poverty-stricken southern roots, his close affinity with black music and his subsequent elevation to all-American global superstar.

But no, the songs I want to visit today are the three Jimmy Webb compositions recorded by Glen Campbell in the late ’60s. In the UK at that time London was “Swinging” and we were listening to Sandie Shaw, Cliff Richard and Lulu but in the USA, the average “Easy-Listening” aficionado would have been enjoying Glen Campbell. He was now in…

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Lammas, Nancy & Lee and Summer Wine

Well, I had really promised myself that I would no longer tie myself down to a schedule of time-sensitive posts but I can’t ignore the fact that today is Lammas, one of the four Celtic fire festivals held to celebrate significant dates in the agricultural calendar. It was only last year at the time of the autumnal equinox that I discovered The Wheel Of The Year and I’ve made a point of writing a post on each of the dates as they occur – Today, the 1st of August, completes the annual cycle.

Lammas, meaning “loaf mass” is a festival celebrating the first harvests and is represented by those first loaves baked from the new year’s crops. Mr WIAA did pick up a nice crusty loaf from the supermarket this morning, but better than that, he also picked up a few punnets of strawberries and cherries which are ripe for being harvested at this time of year. The featured song to accompany this post therefore has to be this one:

Summer Wine by Nancy Sinatra and Lee Hazlewood:

I don’t know how it’s happened, but it was not until I wrote about Nancy Sinatra earlier on this year (link here) that I discovered all the wonderful duets she recorded with Lee Hazlewood. It was Lee who wrote Summer Wine in 1966 but it was not a hit until he recorded it with Nancy the following year. I have always had a bit of a girl crush on Nancy, perhaps because that was the era of those highly unrealistic looking dolls we all “had to have” in the sixties, and Nancy certainly was doll-like.

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My girl crush!

As for Lee Hazlewood, he had a really distinctive baritone voice which I absolutely adore and his collaborations with Nancy Sinatra, as well as his solo output in the late ’60s and early ’70s, contributed to a sound often described as cowboy psychedelia. Check out that line, “Take off your silver spurs and help me pass the time“.

It has been a feature of these landmark dates in nature’s calendar for me to say that we are going to have a little soirée for friends and neighbours – Sadly today has been really wet so not suitable for doing anything outdoorsy, and to be honest, this date kind of crept up on me as it wasn’t one I was previously familiar with at all. There is apparently a bank holiday next Monday but today is a boring old work day so other than enjoying some of the bread and strawberries purchased earlier on today, it’ll be a quiet night in for us.

Highly relevant however is the symbolism of today’s date as only yesterday I handed in my notice at work and will no longer be bread-winner. Mr WIAA’s quota of summer wine will be curtailed, but he is ok with that (he says!). Yes, I discovered the wonderful world of blogging and like Chandler Bing, can no longer get my head round the relentless processing of sometimes meaningless numbers, in order to produce the WENUS reports (but you probably need to be a Friends fan to get that one!).

So, “What’s it all about?” – Sometimes we have to do something a little bit scary just to find the impetus to explore new avenues. Actually it’s more than “a little bit scary” and on the hour, every hour, I want to tell them I’ve changed my mind BUT I will then hurtle toward retirement without ever having put myself in the position of trying new things. It’s now or never (as Elvis sang).

As for Summer Wine – Sounds like a bit of a euphemism to me but when I offer some to Mr WIAA tonight it will most definitely be the kind that comes in a bottle. He can leave his silver spurs at the door thank you very much, as I’m going to be far too busy planning for the future.

Happy Lammas!

Summer Wine Lyrics
(Song by Lee Hazlewood) 

Strawberries cherries and an angel’s kiss in spring
My summer wine is really made from all these things

I walked in town on silver spurs that jingled to
A song that I had only sang to just a few
She saw my silver spurs and said lets pass some time
And I will give to you summer wine
Ohh-oh-oh summer wine

Strawberries cherries and an angel’s kiss in spring
My summer wine is really made from all these things
Take off your silver spurs and help me pass the time
And I will give to you summer wine
Ohhh-oh summer wine

My eyes grew heavy and my lips they could not speak
I tried to get up but I couldn’t find my feet
She reassured me with an unfamiliar line
And then she gave to me more summer wine
Mmm-mm summer wine

Strawberries cherries and an angel’s kiss in spring
My summer wine is really made from all these things
Take off your silver spurs and help me pass the time
And I will give to you summer wine
Mmm-mm summer wine

When I woke up the sun was shining in my eyes
My silver spurs were gone my head felt twice its size
She took my silver spurs a dollar and a dime
And left me cravin’ for more summer wine
Ohh-oh-oh summer wine

Strawberries cherries and an angel’s kiss in spring
My summer wine is really made from all these things
Take off your silver spurs and help me pass the time
And I will give to you summer wine
Mmm-mm summer wine

Tartan Heart Festivals, Hippies and the Summer Of Love

Exactly 50 years ago, in 1967, the “hippies” of North America (and other parts of the world) converged on Haight-Ashbury, San Francisco, wearing flowers in their hair. It was the infamous Summer Of Love which has cropped up on these pages often as although I was only aged seven that year, it seems to be a year I have a great fondness for when it comes to revisiting the “tracks of my years”. All sorts of reasons for this which have already been covered but one that hadn’t really occurred to me until recently was that children of six and under generally have a very early bedtime (I know I did), so any opportunity to watch music shows of any kind on telly would have been an impossibility. Looking back now I have a pretty good memory for music from 1967 onwards as that would have been the year it would have been deemed reasonable for me to stay up “late” to watch shows such as Top of the Pops, an absolute must for kids of my generation.

Many songs were written that year referring to this mass migration of up to 100,000 young people to Haight-Ashbury, the most obvious being Scott McKenzie’s San Francisco. I don’t however seem to have that one in my digital library but I do have Let’s Go To San Francisco by British band The Flower Pot Men. As ever I have learnt something new, as I had always taken it forgranted that they were American – The song, a one-hit wonder, very much imitated the style of Brian Wilson, and could easily have been mistaken for a Beach Boys one.

Let’s Go To San Francisco by The Flower Pot Men:

As I’ve also mentioned many times, the Summer of Love never came to my small Scottish village, and if it had, my dad and his fellow civic-minded friends would probably have had something to say about it. It did however, infiltrate the student body of Aberdeen, a city we drove to every other Saturday so that my dad could watch his beloved Aberdeen FC and my mum could do some shopping (with me in tow – grrr). The car park we used was very near the University and right across the street was the building that housed the Students’ Union. It was the social hub of University life where there were bars, dining halls, venues for concerts and little shops selling supplies that are probably no longer needed for the modern-day student, such as pads of foolscap paper, pencils, pocket files and even, books.

This building had a steady stream of “hippies” leave and enter as we passed by and to me they looked just like the singers and groups I loved to watch on Top of the Pops. They had long hair, little round glasses, guitars, even Afghan coats – One day I thought to myself, I want to be just like them, although I definitely kept that plan to myself as my parents used to make it quite clear that come the hour, they wouldn’t want to see me stumble out of that door on Schoolhill a bit worse for the wear and high on plant life. As it turned out I did stumble out of that door frequently over a decade later but the hippie era was long gone by then and new wave had taken its place. Fortunately my parents didn’t see me however, as the black lipstick (it makes your teeth look awful by the way) and nail varnish, complete with leopard spot garments would not have gone down well. Don’t get me wrong, my parents were wonderful and I had a charmed childhood, but they were not what you would have called “open-minded”.

So, where is all this going I hear you ask? – Next weekend a mini Glastonbury (about a tenth of the size in terms of numbers) will be held just a few miles west of where we live and they have a Summer of Love theme going on this year. Darling daughter and her friends have all acquired “flowers for their hair” and are heading along for the whole camping experience. Mr WIAA and I on the other hand will watch on telly, BBC Alba to be precise, which means the presenters are Gaelic speakers and we won’t even understand what they are saying, but the music will still be great. I do feel a bit aggrieved in that I missed the whole Summer of Love experience first time around because I was too young, and just as there was a resurgence of interest in staging festivals, I was kind of too old and had responsibilities. I really don’t think my middle-aged bones and Mr WIAA’s bladder could cope with the whole camping experience now, especially if it rains, but we do enjoy experiencing it vicariously via the young people.

Our mini Glastonbury is called the Belladrum Tartan Heart Festival and looking at the line-up, the band that jumps out at me first is the Pretenders. That would be because they appeared at our aforementioned Students’ Union in 1979, the week they were at No.1 in the UK Singles Chart with Brass In Pocket. A fortuitous booking had obviously been made some time before by the incumbent Union President – Oh yes, that would have been Sky News reporter Glen Oglaza. Back then however (and I really wish I could find a picture but I can’t) he looked just like Frank Zappa. It was 1979 but he was still sporting the look of a Summer of Love hippie. What happened to the hair Glen?

My friend Stuart worked on the student newspaper, The Gaudie, which is the oldest in the UK apparently and got the sought after gig of interviewing Ms Hynde before she went on stage. Chrissie Hynde is one of those timeless looking ladies, a rock chick whose style has changed very little over the decades. Sadly that evening she had decided to cut her trademark long fringe and it had all gone horribly wrong – She was not in the best of moods and the interview was not quite as exciting for the interviewer, as it should have been. A lesson was obviously learnt that night as I don’t remember ever seeing her with anything other the style shown below – She found her look early on and stuck with it.

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Chrissie Hynde with her trademark long fringe

As for darling daughter’s pick for the weekend, she is most looking forward to Twin Atlantic – Not so much psychedelic rock but alternative rock, of the Glaswegian variety. I was introduced to them by her this week and have to say, I am mighty impressed. Last year we had The Proclaimers at Belladrum, those heavily accented twin brothers from Auchtermuchty. This year we are going to have the heavily accented Twin Atlantic – Perfect. Their most successful chart hit so far has been Heart and Soul from 2014 and I look forward to watching them perform it from the comfort of my sofa next weekend!

So, What’s it all about? – One of these days I will have to bite the bullet and head along to Belladrum, just so that I can tick it off the bucket list. I may well need that bucket along with me however as it does have a history of being quite a rain-soaked festival. I could collect water in it to make tea and to wash my hair. It could also be handy for Mr WIAA’s middle-aged bladder (although not all at the same time of course).

I doubt if many of the young people know much at all about the Summer of Love of fifty years ago but no matter, they are young and need to experience everything for the first time, their way. Mobile phones feature heavily at festivals nowadays which would have been inconceivable 50 years ago – No selfies with Frank, Janis, Jimi or Grace back in the day but who knows, maybe Glen Oglaza did get a picture taken with Chrissie Hynde in 1979, before she cut her fringe. Wonder if they keep in touch.

Let’s Go To San Francisco (Belladrum?) Lyrics
(Song by John Carter/Ken Lewis)

Let’s go (let’s go) to San Francisco (let’s go to San Francisco)
Where the flowers grow (flowers grow)
So very high (so high)
Sunshine (sunshine) in San Francisco
(Sunshine in San Francisco)
Makes your mind grow up to the sky.

Lots of sunny (lots of) sunny people
Walking hand in hand(walking hand in hand)
Then a (then a) funny people (funny people)
They have found (they have found) their land.

Let’s go (let’s go) to San Francisco (let’s go to San Francisco)
Where the flowers grow (flowers grow)
So very high (so high)
Sunshine (sunshine) in San Francisco
(Sunshine in San Francisco)
Makes your mind grow up to the sky.

Lots of sunny (lots of) sunny people
Walking hand in hand(walking hand in hand)
Then a (then a) funny people (funny people)
They have found (they have found) their land.