Grace Slick, “White Rabbit” and NaPoWriMo

Not a lot of writing around here for a while as I’ve been a bit preoccupied with writing elsewhere. Last time I posted something, it was about the Weekend Residential I had in Cromarty with my college classmates (link here). I had been a bit harsh about the regime (no alcohol allowed on the premises, lots of uber-healthy foodstuffs etc), but you know what, by the end of the weekend we had all really bonded and have been in constant touch ever since. I had written that post on the Saturday morning, but by Saturday evening I had kind of fallen in with the music-loving group of students who had brought guitars and fiddles. An impromptu jamming session began in the big kitchen on the ground floor. I was amazed at how many older songs these youngsters knew well, many of which have put in an appearance around here. One of our number was a young student with a fantastic voice, who could have given Grace Slick of Jefferson Airplane a run for her money when performing her version of White Rabbit (the backstory to that song in a previous post, link here).

White Rabbit by Jefferson Airplane:

I would never have known this had it not been for the course, but April is NaPoWriMo, otherwise known as National Poetry Writing Month. The challenge is to write 30 poems during the month, one every day. There is a closed group set up on Facebook for our class, and everyone is manfully posting their efforts on a daily basis. I’m in awe of the talent within our little group, and of course feel as if my own efforts fall short. They still don’t know about this place, and I’m going to keep it that way, which means I can anonymously share some of our efforts in honour of this fantastic creative project.

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Presumed Paris Syndrome

‘Creatures scratchin’….
A new moon, a sideways glance
A friend she ain’t made yet
Raising a feathered hand at the bar

She’s loose in the French Quarter
Allowed to dip her toe in
(Because even in her dreams she ain’t that golden)

Cloistered black magnolia shadows
Dripping deep ripples into purple pools

A whole city drenched in graveyards
Night-wakeful, and bloodshot
This; where the old gods came to die
or at least drink heavily
Before whispers sucked ’em down into molasses

She’s heard voices talking this city up for years
A long black coat hanging just inside the door
Crickets in his footsteps

When the city’s hot and sticky on your back
Like a drunk you had to come and carry home
Throttle of a motorcycle, opened up on a straight stretch
Out to the bayou where the gallow trees hang low at 3pm

She drinks burgundy here
And sleeps in the afternoon
Because the nights are incandescent.

A slither, aged shiver
Full of heavy mud, meconium
Passing like a paddle in the painted-silver night
Suzanne sits pitting pebbles
Orange seeds in clefs and trebles
Underneath a red Louisiana moon

From the other end of the spectrum…

Heilan’ Coo

I’ll write a haiku
aboot a big heilan’ coo
ginger, hairy, moo

And finally…

The “B” Word (A Brexit Acrostic)

Ballsed-up badly – It was supposed to be advisory
Rigidly stuck to her plan, didn’t make it revisory
Exiting Strangeways in a straightjacket, would have been easier
X marks the spot for those who peddle political amnesia
If democracy fails, will anarchy sweep the land?
Theresa of the Wheat Fields, it’s in the palm of your hand

I’ll leave it up to you to guess which of the above (first drafts) is mine, if any.

At this point I thought it would be great to share a clip of Saturday morning kid’s telly stalwarts Trev and Simon, performing something from Poetry Corner. Sadly my memory had let me down and it was Singing Corner they championed. Poetry Corner was a feature from Harry Hill’s Saturday night telly show. There are loads of examples, but these will give you the gist.

No lyrics this time as lots of poetry type stuff already included in this one.

In other news however, Theresa May has been From Paris to Berlin as she is still Looking For A Way Out. Yes, she has found herself in a bit of hole, but not as black as the one they’ve finally managed to take a picture of. Turns out the heart of the galaxy looks a bit like a Halloween pumpkin with one eye. Who knew?

BBVNQks.jpgUntil next time….

Postscript:

How bizarre. I woke up this morning to discover the new extension date for us leaving the EU is the 31st October, Halloween. I think a few heads had been turned yesterday by that photo of the black hole, and they too subliminally decided it looked like a giant pumpkin, so set the date accordingly. Lots more bats in the belfry before then no doubt.

The Band, “The Weight” and a Bit of a Puzzler.

A while back I featured this song by Abba in one of my posts, and it led to a new discovery for me. I wouldn’t have spotted it myself, but in the comments boxes at the time, The Swede pointed out that one of the albums Agnetha was sadly, post-divorce, storing away in her new abode, was Music From Big Pink recorded in 1968 by The Band (all happens very quickly at 0:58).

Back in 1968 I definitely wouldn’t have known about The Band and to be honest even in 1981 when the Abba video came out, all I knew of them was that they used to play with Bob Dylan and made a documentary movie called The Last Waltz.

Since having their great album cover pointed out to me however, I have been bombarded with references to it, especially after asking for song suggestions for the state of Pennsylvania for my American Odyssey series. Turns out their song The Weight, written by Band member Robbie Robertson, is about a traveller’s experiences arriving, visiting, and departing a town called Nazareth, Pennsylvania. Robbie chose this town  because it was the home of Martin Guitars, and he had written the guitar parts for Music From Big Pink on a 1951 Martin D-28. The Weight has been named as one of the best songs of the ’60s and is named as one of the 500 Songs that Shaped Rock and Roll.

The Weight by The Band:

The song was also featured the other week over at Rich Kamerman’s place, his Satur-debut post having been dedicated to Music From Big Pink. I of course had to point out my discovery that the album puts in an appearance in that 1981 Abba video, but after checking the exact location (0:58 as it turns out), I noticed that Agnetha places a second album on the shelf straight afterwards. For the last fortnight or so I have been driving myself mad trying to work out what it is, so if anyone can help me out I would be most grateful? At one point I thought it was Boz Scaggs Silk Degrees, but on closer inspection, definitely not. A bench it seems, and people in white clothing, but other than that I’m stumped. It has to be from earlier than 1981 otherwise we would be having a weird wibbly wobbly timey wimey kind of thing going on, but as I say, any help in identifying it would be much appreciated.

As for the title of the album Music From Big Pink, I have now discovered it’s because the music was composed partly in “Big Pink”, the house shared by several of the band members in West Saugerties, New York. The cover artwork is a painting by Bob Dylan. I am no art expert, so it could either be a work of genius or the daubs of a child, but whatever it is considered to be, it certainly does make for memorable cover art.

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Big Pink with its pastel siding

So, “What’s It All About?” – So many songs make reference to other songs in their lyrics but it also seems that reference is made to other albums in videos. Makes sense as in the giant oak that is rock and pop’s family tree, everyone is influenced by someone else. Where did it all begin? Who knows, but like human life itself, I suspect it all came Out of Africa.

Bit of a heavy ending there so going to add some footage from the Martin Scorsese film The Last Waltz, the song this time being The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down. The Last Waltz was originally the name of a concert held on Thanksgiving Day 1976, at the Winterland Ballroom in San Francisco. It was advertised as The Band’s “farewell concert appearance”, and they were joined by more than a dozen special guests, including Eric Clapton, Ringo Starr, Bob Dylan, Ronnie Wood, Muddy Waters, Neil Young, Neil Diamond, Van Morrison, Dr. John, Emmylou Harris, Joni Mitchell, and The Staple Singers. The event was filmed and made into a documentary of the same title, released in 1978.

Before next time, I hope someone can help me out with the puzzler?

The Weight Lyrics
(Song by Robbie Robertson)

I pulled into Nazareth, was feelin’ about half past dead
I just need some place where I can lay my head
“Hey, mister, can you tell me where a man might find a bed?”
He just grinned and shook my hand, “no” was all he said

Take a load off, Annie
Take a load for free
Take a load off, Annie
And (and, and) you put the load right on me
(You put the load right on me)

I picked up my bag, I went lookin’ for a place to hide
When I saw Carmen and the Devil walkin’ side by side
I said, “Hey, Carmen, come on let’s go downtown.”
She said, “I gotta go but my friend can stick around.”

Take a load off, Annie
Take a load for free
Take a load off, Annie
And (and, and) you put the load right on me
(You put the load right on me)

Go down, Miss Moses, there’s nothin’ you can say
It’s just old Luke and Luke’s waitin’ on the Judgment Day
“Well, Luke, my friend, what about young Anna Lee?”
He said, “Do me a favor, son, won’t you stay and keep Anna Lee company?”

Take a load off, Annie
Take a load for free
Take a load off, Annie
And (and, and) you put the load right on me
(You put the load right on me)

Crazy Chester followed me and he caught me in the fog
He said, “I will fix your rack if you take Jack, my dog.”
I said, “Wait a minute, Chester, you know I’m a peaceful man.”
He said, “That’s OK, boy, won’t you feed him when you can?”

Yeah, take a load off, Annie
Take a load for free
Take a load off, Annie
And (and, and) you put the load right on me
(You put the load right on me)

Catch a cannon ball now to take me down the line
My bag is sinkin’ low and I do believe it’s time
To get back to Miss Annie, you know she’s the only one
Who sent me here with her regards for everyone

Take a load off, Annie
Take a load for free
Take a load off, Annie
And (and, and) you put the load right on me
(You put the load right on me)

Peter Tork, The Monkees and “Shades of Gray”

Saddened to hear the news that Peter Tork of the Monkees has died. Since starting this project, where I journey back in time reminiscing about the music of my youth, it has become apparent that it all started for me at around the age of six, which in my case was 1966. Coincidentally that was when the Monkees first made an appearance on our black and white television screens, and although I was aware of other artists who popped up on the prime time slots watched by my mum and dad, the Monkees belonged to me.

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Peter Tork, RIP

I am sorry Peter, but the Monkee I was most infatuated with at age six, was Davy Jones, and one of the first posts I published on this blog was about him (link here). But you Peter, were the Howard Donald of the Monkees. You weren’t the cutest or the zaniest; you had a bowl haircut, didn’t wear a hat and were the oldest of the group; but like Howard of Take That fame, in time you became my favourite Monkee.

Despite being an accomplished Greenwich Village folk musician when you got the role in the sitcom that would change your life, at the start you weren’t even allowed to play your own instruments. That would change with time however, and you became the man in charge of keyboards and bass. You didn’t get the role of star vocalist very often, but here is a lovely song where you did share lead vocals with Davy Jones. Shades of Gray (American spelling of grey) is also very apt for this post, as it starts off with the lines:

When the world and I were young
Just yesterday
Life was such a simple game
A child could play, (yes, that would have been 1966 for me)

and ends with the verse:

But today there is no day or night
Today there is no dark or light
Today there is no black or white
Only shades of gray, (oh yes, as our politicians can testify, how complicated life has become in 2019)

Shades of Gray was another of those great ’60s songs written by Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil. It was recorded by The Monkees for their 1967 album “Headquarters” and was the first song on which the group played all their own instruments.

But here is another great song from that era, the clip this time in colour, where the boys are wearing those iconic dark red shirts with the silver buttons. Of course back in 1966 we wouldn’t have known their shirts were red, would we, because we watched telly in black and white? But here is where I beg to differ. Our local football team, Aberdeen FC played in red, and whenever their matches were aired on television, the grey of their shirts matched the grey of the Monkees shirts. At age six I was obviously pretty good at working out what the colours should be, based on the shades of grey of the various team shirts. Living in a football loving household meant you developed all sorts of useful skills of a televisual nature.

Last Train To Clarksville by the Monkees:

Tommy Boyce and Bobby Hart wrote Last Train To Clarksville as a protest to the Vietnam War but had to keep that quiet in order to get it recorded. It is about a guy who gets drafted, and the train is taking him to the army base. He knows he may die in Vietnam, and at the end of the song he states, “I don’t know if I’m ever coming home.”

Peter Tork was one of the many artists of my youth to have been born in 1942, right in the middle of a World War, but yet a vintage year for the birth of future musical legends (what was that all about?). Unlike in 2016, when I started this blog, I haven’t actually written any tributes so far this year. Cross fingers there won’t be too many more, but considering the span of time I write about here, I suspect there will be. A great chance to revisit the music though, and I have a feeling that a lot of people who had all but forgotten about the Monkees, might have had a sneaky peek at an old clip of Daydream Believer yesterday – I know I did.

the monkeesUntil next time…

Shades of Gray Lyrics
(Song by Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil)

When the world and I were young
Just yesterday
Life was such a simple game
A child could play
It was easy then to tell right from wrong
Easy then to tell weak from strong
When a man should stand and fight
Or just go along

But today there is no day or night
Today there is no dark or light
Today there is no black or white
Only shades of gray

I remember when the answers seemed so clear
We had never lived with doubt or tasted fear
It was easy then to tell truth from lies
Selling out from compromise
Who to love and who to hate
The foolish from the wise

But today there is no day or night
Today there is no dark or light
Today there is no black or white
Only shades of gray

It was easy then to know what was fair
When to keep and when to share
How much to protect your heart
And how much to care

But today there is no day or night
Today there is no dark or light
Today there is no black or white
Only shades of gray
Only shades of gray

The Winter Solstice, “Fly Me To The Moon” and A Very Merry Christmas

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

Well, it’s all coming together at just the same time! Today is Yule, the day of the winter solstice, that pivot point in the year after which the days will start to get longer again. Tomorrow is the day of the December full moon, very appropriately called both the Cold Moon, and the Long Nights Moon. Last but not least, we are also right in the middle of Christmastime, that annual festival commemorating the birth of Jesus Christ, which seems to have become a cultural phenomenon celebrated around the world by billions of Christians and non-Christians alike.

But this is my Moon Series, so what song to feature this time? Unbelievably, I have yet to share a Frank Sinatra song in this series, which is bizarre, as the Chairman of the Board was known to record a fair few songs with the word moon in the title over the course of his career. I shared a version of Fly Me To The Moon by Julie London just before I started this series, but now that we’re into its second calendar year, time to revisit the song I think, and time for a bit of Francis Albert at Christmastime.

Fly Me To The Moon by Frank Sinatra:

Fly Me To The Moon was written in 1954 by Bart Howard, but originally had the title “In Other Words”. Kaye Ballard recorded it first, but since then it has become a jazz standard, often featured in popular culture. Frank Sinatra’s 1964 version was closely associated with the first Apollo missions to the moon.

A few great moon shots have again been captured by my friend with the all singing, all dancing camera over the last week. Here are a few of the best.

I’ve mentioned this often since starting the blog, but the year I seem to warm to most when revisiting the tracks of my years, is 1967. Lots of reasons for that, but the main one seems to be that it’s the year I was just starting to take an interest in the music I heard on the radio and on television – I was a kid, I was happy, loved and nothing bad had yet happened in my young life. For this reason I took to retuning one of the car’s digital radio stations recently to Absolute60s. I figured that whenever I tuned in, there would be a one in ten chance something from my favourite year would be playing, which would in turn take me to my “happy place” (if I was having a bit of a stressful day).

As luck would have it, the first song played on this new retuned station was Somethin’ Stupid by Frank & Nancy Sinatra from, yes you’ve guessed it, 1967. This of course reminded me that in 2001, Robbie Williams & Nicole Kidman recorded a great cover version of the song which became the Christmas No. 1 hit that year. Both artists were at the top of their game in terms of their respective careers, and the video for the song, although obviously staged, still makes me feel all Christmassy. If I had to choose one year other than 1967 to take me to my happy place, it would be 2001, a time when DD herself was just a kid and starting to take an interest in music. She was old enough to enjoy all the wonderment of this time of year without yet being taken in by the commercialisation of it all.

Somethin’ Stupid by Frank & Nancy Sinatra:

So, “What’s It All About?” – I suspect I won’t return with anything new now before the big day, so to everyone who visits here, have a wonderful Christmas. Remember to look out for the full moon that should appear in our skies on Saturday night, and look forward to the fact the days are now lengthening again.

Just one more thing. Last night, Mr WIAA and myself headed into town to take part in an awareness raising event for a local charity. The high rate of suicide amongst young men in the Highlands means that many families have lost a son or brother in recent years. Mikeysline has been set up to offer support to people who suffer from depression and chronic loneliness. Yes, it may well be “the most wonderful time of the year” for some, but keep a close eye on those who could well be feeling even lonelier than usual.

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We lit up the bridges for Mikeysline

An added bonus to last night, was that we managed to take a few pictures whilst walking through the town centre, and of course, our almost full moon made it’s way into the shot.

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The moon peeping over the top of our Townhouse

Merry Christmas from all of us at WIAA. Hope you have a good one.

Fly Me To The Moon Lyrics
(Song by Bart Howard)

Fly me to the moon
Let me play among the stars
Let me see what spring is like
On a-Jupiter and Mars

In other words: hold my hand
In other words: baby, kiss me

Fill my heart with song
And let me sing for ever more
You are all I long for
All I worship and adore

In other words: please, be true
In other words: I love you

Fill my heart with song
Let me sing for ever more
You are all I long for
All I worship and adore

In other words: please, be true
In other words, in other words: I love you

Another Kind of Chain – Gene Pitney and “Twenty Four Hours from Tulsa”

Don’t panic, I’m not about to highjack that most excellent of features, Jez’s “The Chain”, but I seem to be experiencing blogger’s block, and want to find a way of kick starting things again around here. 

I wrote last time about how I have very nearly completed my third year on the blogosphere. It’s been a joy, and although each year has been totally different for me in terms of what’s going on in the real world, this virtual world has been my anchor, my constant amongst all of life’s ups and downs.

Something that has kept me going more than anything else however, is that I seem to have become part of a little community, which I hadn’t bargained for when I started out in the blogging world. I suspect I would never have found this little community had I not discovered Jez’s place back in the early days, when I pretty much only wrote about the music (with a little anecdote thrown in). One of my early posts featured the three Jimmy Webb songs recorded by Glen Campbell in the late 1960s. One of these  songs was Galveston, and back then I used to perform a quick search before pressing the publish button, to check whether anyone else had written about it recently. Someone had, Jez, and as usual he had included a very funny story.

Many of us around here know that Jez has been a bit poorly of late, but after being absent for a wee while he seems to back firing on all cylinders in terms of his blogging output. I suspect there are a few more chapters to go in terms of what happened, but as ever, he has made what must have been a pretty awful time, very entertaining. Cross fingers he’s well and truly on the road to recovery.

Back in my early days of blogging, I used to find that each post linked to the previous one in terms of the thought process. I sometimes ended up with a string of posts all connected to each other in some way, as is wont to happen when you revisit older songs. Davy Jones followed on from David Bowie, for obvious reasons. Seals and Crofts followed on from the Isley Brothers, for possibly less obvious reasons, but great fun for me to delve into the respective backstory to their songs.

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Linked posts

Suggestions for Jez’s Chain were creative indeed. In fact there used to be a prize for the most tenuous link of the week, which led to a fair bit of “showboating”. Anyway, we all still miss The Chain, but respect the fact it took an awful lot of time and effort to put together, so no pressure to see it make a comeback. No indeed, no pressure at all!

But back to my chain and Galveston – What song links to it in terms of the thought process for me? Well I don’t know about you, but my immediate thoughts turned to Gene Pitney’s 1964 hit, Twenty Four Hours from Tulsa. We’ve moved across the state line from Texas into Oklahoma, but we’re still in the Southern States of the USA, we’re still in the 1960s, and it’s another song about leaving a girl behind. Oh yes, it wasn’t until I checked it out properly, that I came to realise the lyrics were about a chap finding himself just 24 hours from home, but falling head over heels in love with a woman he meets after stopping at a motel for the night. Apparently he “lost control as he held her charms“. This woman must have had stupendous “charms”, as hitherto, Gene had been looking forward to being back in the “arms” (not charms) of his wife.

Twenty Four Hours from Tulsa by Gene Pitney:

As a kid of course, back in the 1960s, I would never in a month of Sundays have worked out the meaning behind those lyrics when I first saw Gene perform the song on British telly. I do remember however that my dad used to do quite a good impression of him, as he did have quite a distinctive style. Oh how our little family of three laughed. But that was over 50 years ago, and for the first time ever, Mr WIAA and I will have none of our parents with us on Christmas Day. Only my mum left now, and she will have lunch in the care home. It really hit me this week, as I finally got round to doing some festive preparation, that our family has shrunk somewhat in the time we’ve been in our current house. The year we moved in, we had to hire a table and chairs to accommodate everyone, but over time we have lost a mum, two dads, an auntie and a best friend. Only ourselves and DD now, until the next generation make an appearance (and not quite ready for that yet, so will be patient).

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I hoped this post would kick start the writing juices again, and it seems it has. A whole week to go until Christmas Day, so time to return with something festive before then I think. And, another full moon post to fit in as well – Will have to exercise the act of brevity when blogging, something I’m not great at delivering on. Good luck with all the last minute shopping, and again, all the best to Jez for his continued recovery.   

Until next time….

Twenty Four Hours from Tulsa Lyrics
(Song by Burt Bacharach and Hal David)

Dearest darling
I had to write to say that I won’t be home any more
For something happened to me
While I was driving home and I’m not the same any more

Oh, I was only twenty four hours from Tulsa
Ah, only one day away from your arms
I saw a welcoming light
And stopped to rest for the night

And that is when I saw her
As I pulled in outside of the small hotel she was there
And so I walked up to her
Asked where I could get something to eat and she showed me where

Oh, I was only twenty four hours from Tulsa
Ah, only one day away from your arms
She took me to the café
I asked her if she would stay
She said, “Okay”

Oh, I was only twenty four hours from Tulsa
Ah, only one day away from your arms
The jukebox started to play
And night time turned into day

As we were dancing closely
All of a sudden I lost control as I held her charms
And I caressed her, kissed her
Told her I’d die before I would let her out of my arms

Oh, I was only twenty four hours from Tulsa
Ah, only one day away from your arms
I hate to do this to you
But I love somebody new
What can I do
When I can never, never, never go home again?

The Frost Arrives, Creedence Clearwater Revival and “Bad Moon Rising”

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

Welcome to my second November “moon post”. No two years are ever going to be the same as far as the lunar calendar is concerned, so this seems to be the series that can just keep on giving! The inspiration for these posts came from witnessing a fantastic low-lying supermoon this time last year (link here). It led me to wanting to find out all about our only satellite, as unbelievably, I had pretty much taken it for granted until then.

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All full moons have a name, and the November full moon, which will appear in our skies on Friday night, is called the Beaver Moon. I carefully sidestepped any further comment about that name last year, and will do so again, because joy of joys it has an alternate name, the Frost Moon. We certainly have had some frosty mornings around here of late, but also clear skies, which led myself and Mr WIAA to head out for another bit of filming on the dash cam. Some of you will recognise the route taken, as it’s the same one used for a previous film clip, but back then it was all sunshine and blue skies. We’re heading into a very different season at this time of year.

Bad Moon Rising by Creedence Clearwater Revival:

When I started this series last year, I put out a request for moon-related songs, and one of the most frequently suggested, was Bad Moon Rising by Creedence Clearwater Revival. So far I’ve managed to avoid using it, as I have never been a fan of the song. I realise it does need to be included at some point however, so I’ve added it to my film clip above. It did really well in the UK Singles Chart, reaching the No. 1 spot in August 1969, but somehow not a song I have ever warmed to. I have a theory that songs have genders, some male and some female. Most of my favourite songs have a leaning towards the feminine side, whether performed by men or women. This song for me, is testosterone laden, and fully masculine, so not really my bag.

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Creedence Clearwater Revival

As mentioned recently, I’ve taken to heading out of an evening, enjoying long walks around my neighbourhood. Over the last couple of weeks, the moon has been a constant feature in our night skies, and has changed from being a half moon, to a waxing gibbous (look at me with all the jargon). Last night it looked pretty full to me, but if you looked closely, there was indeed a slight shading on the top left corner, as if someone had just started to rub it out with an eraser, then changed their mind.

My friend with the fancy camera has also been out and about over the last week, and I am going to share some of his pictures of the waxing gibbous moon – Some taken at a distance, and one taken with the full-on power of a zoom lens. Amazing shots as ever.

Pictures courtesy of R.J.

Before I go, another snippet about the featured song. A line from it has became one of rock’s most famous cases of misheard lyrics. Due to John Fogerty’s distinctive delivery, a large proportion of radio listeners thought he was singing: “There’s a bathroom on the right”! A classic mondegreen. As for the actual lyrics, considering all the political shenanigans going on at the moment, possibly quite apt for “our times”.

Until next time…

Bad Moon Rising Lyrics
(Song by John Fogerty)

I see the bad moon a-rising
I see trouble on the way
I see earthquakes and lightning
I see bad times today

Don’t go around tonight
Well, it’s bound to take your life
There’s a bad moon on the rise

I hear hurricanes a-blowing
I know the end is coming soon
I fear rivers overflowing
I hear the voice of rage and ruin

Don’t go around tonight
Well, it’s bound to take your life

There’s a bad moon on the rise

Hope you got your things together
Hope you are quite prepared to die
Looks like we’re in for nasty weather
One eye is taken for an eye

Don’t go around tonight
Well, it’s bound to take your life
There’s a bad moon on the rise

A Trip to Belfast, “Van the Man” and The Undertones

This time two weeks ago I was in Belfast. Whenever I have a wee trip, I usually end up writing one of my travelogue style posts (with a relevant song thrown in), so here I am finally getting round to it. Ironically, I was only able to go on this trip because my mum is still in hospital. The day before I left however there was a meeting with hospital staff, when I was told she wouldn’t be able to go home, ever, so a care home will have to be found. Problem is they are generally awful, and all of them have long waiting lists. Glad I managed to fit the trip in now, as a bit stressed at the moment rushing around viewing care homes and marshalling into place the eye-watering amounts of cash needed to pay for them.

But back to the matter in hand and a bit of background. Many years ago, when DD was just a wee tot, I used to head along to the local Mother and Toddler Group with her. These kind of things can be quite grim. A bit of a hit-or-miss. You are desperate for some interaction with other like-minded adults, but often all you have in common is that you have brought a small child into the world, and sometimes that’s just not enough. I did however make one good friend at our local group over 20 years ago. She lived around the corner from us, but as is wont to happen we moved to another part of town before DD went to school, and we kind of lost touch. A couple of years ago I made contact with her again, and we’ve started meeting up quite regularly. We just gel, and it’s such a shame we wasted so many years of potential friendship. Now that we’re making up for lost time, we decided to start having an annual trip together, during what we still call in Scotland, the “tattie holidays”. Last year it was Amsterdam (link here) and this year it was Belfast (both accessible from our local airport). As a great fan of alphabetisation, I can see we should look for a city starting with the letter C next year, and then D the year after, but it could get tricky, so we may have to rethink that plan!

We were very lucky in that the day we touched down at George Best City Airport the sun was shining, and after settling into our very central little apartment we headed off to explore the city. It certainly doesn’t have the unique history and current hip quality of Amsterdam, but of course it does have its very own history and seems to be a city well and truly on the up. The Good Friday Agreement has been in place for 20 years now, so although I remember the nightly news stories from Belfast at the height of The Troubles, there is a whole generation of young people who don’t even remember those dark days, and the population is quite dramatically on the rise again. The Peace Walls are due to come down in 2023 and much regeneration is going on within the city centre, so I really hope this pesky hiccup called Brexit (being sarcastic of course) is not going to jeopardise a lengthy period of calm for the city.

One thing we noticed straight away was that the residents of Belfast are very friendly. Whenever we looked a bit lost or disorientated (happened quite a lot), there was always a local at hand to help us out, offering great advice on which places to visit and where to eat. A ticket for the sight-seeing bus lasts 72 hours so that was our chosen method of transport and as it was one of those hop-on, hop-off affairs, we managed to take in a fair few of the sights – A trip out to Stormont, the seat of the Northern Ireland Assembly (which is sadly going through a period of suspension), a trip out to the new Titanic Experience building and of course, a journey around the many parts of the city where gable end political murals are very much part of the landscape. I did take some pictures, but won’t include them here, as I did find it discomforting being a tourist voyeur, paying to enjoy the spectacle of how these murals still mark out a city very much segregated by history and religion. The flags of the Union and of Ireland still adorn the streets in East and West Belfast, but most were looking a bit tattered and torn which I am hoping means no new ones are being put up to replace them. All being well the peace will continue to last, and with social media, young people who have been segregated through schooling will start to bond with other young people via shared interests, whatever their religion. Maybe I’m oversimplifying a complex issue here, but I am hopeful.

But this is supposed to be a music blog so which songs can I serve up for your delectation? You may well have spotted that along with footballer George Best, “Van the Man” Morrison also appears on the large mural in the picture at the top of the page. A son of East Belfast, he has achieved great things in the world of music and seems to be as prolific as ever, his 40th album due to be released in December. My chosen Van Morrison song is going to be Brown Eyed Girl, which I know is kind of over-familiar to most folk now, but this is my blog and I still love it, so Brown Eyed Girl it’s going to be! Released as a single in June 1967, it is considered to be Van’s signature song.

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Brown Eyed Girl by Van Morrison:

A band I always thought of as hailing from Belfast, were The Undertones. Turns out they weren’t, but from Derry instead. No matter, the fact they recorded this next featured song in Belfast makes it worthy of inclusion. Music lover, DJ and champion of unheard bands John Peel, had one pop song he regarded above all others. At his personal request Teenage Kicks was played at his funeral, and its opening line is inscribed on his gravestone. Released in October 1978 it only reached No. 31 in the UK Singles Chart but will be fondly remembered by so many.

So, “What’s It All About?” – Sometimes it’s just nice to get off the hamster wheel and spend a couple of days exploring new places with a good friend. It’s a long time since I’ve had such a close female friend, as Mr WIAA tends to be my go-to person for most things in life, but it’s been lovely having someone from outwith the family to spend time with (besides you guys of course whom I share everything with!).

As for my mum, her welfare is now in my hands and I am being thwarted at every turn. There are basically too few care home places, and every additional week she spends in hospital she is deteriorating, mentally. We can’t look after her 24 hours a day, and the only care home with places is a brand new, extortionately priced, private one. This I’m afraid, is how we are treating our old folk in the 21st century. Makes me very sad indeed.

Until next time….

Brown Eyed Girl Lyrics
(Song by Van Morrison)

Hey, where did we go
Days when the rains came ?
Down in the hollow
Playing a new game,
Laughing and a-running, hey, hey,
Skipping and a-jumping
In the misty morning fog with
Our, our hearts a-thumping
And you, my brown-eyed girl,
You, my brown-eyed girl.

Whatever happened
To Tuesday and so slow
Going down to the old mine with a
Transistor radio.
Standing in the sunlight laughing
Hide behind a rainbow’s wall,
Slipping and a-sliding
All along the waterfall
With you, my brown-eyed girl,
You, my brown-eyed girl.

Do you remember when we used to sing
Sha la la la la la la la la la la dee dah
Just like that
Sha la la la la la la la la la la dee dah
La dee dah.

So hard to find my way
Now that I’m all on my own.
I saw you just the other day,
My, how you have grown!
Cast my memory back there, Lord,
Sometime I’m overcome thinking about
Making love in the green grass
Behind the stadium
With you, my brown-eyed girl,
You, my brown-eyed girl.

Do you remember when we used to sing
Sha la la la la la la la la la la dee dah
Laying in the green grass
Sha la la la la la la la la la la dee dah
Dee dah dee dah dee dah dee dah dee dah dee
Sha la la la la la la la la la la la la
Dee dah la dee dah la dee dah la

D-d-d-d-d-d-d-d-d-d…