More From Laurel Canyon, Fiona Apple and ‘In My Room’

Thankfully I’ve managed to keep most of my pandemic related thoughts to myself around here of late. I’m all pandemicked-out, so instead have been enjoying writing about some new musical discoveries. Most of these discoveries have come about via telly, which I seem to have been watching an unhealthy amount of recently. It feels wrong, but my regular trips to the cinema/theatre are in abeyance, and trying to meet up with with friends is becoming a bit of a logistical nightmare. With the nights drawing in and the weather getting a tad colder, it’s quite comforting to curl up on the sofa with a cuppa and a full set of remotes – Hopefully I’ll not start morphing into a Maris Piper anytime soon.

Before the rules changed (yet again), I’d been regularly meeting up with my friend Eve, as we are working our way through The Affair, that award winning drama starring Ruth Wilson and Dominic West. Somehow I’d missed it when it aired first time around, but it had been mentioned in the comments boxes around here in relation to a particular song, so I got curious and thought I’d give it a whirl. I should have known from the title there would be many, many scenes of a sexual nature, and although I’m no prude, it can be a bit awkward watching such shenanigans with your ‘walking buddy’. Now that we can no longer meet indoors here in Scotland, my blushes will be spared for the foreseeable, but as we both intend to carry on watching it independently, we’ll still be able to discuss the latest twists and turns when we meet up for our weekly walk outdoors. Such times.

And here is where a wonderful bit of synchronicity has kicked in. I have really been enjoying the show’s theme song, Container, but only took note of who recorded it last week. It was Fiona Apple, an American singer-songwriter who was new to me, as I seem to to be firmly stuck in the last millennium when it comes to such things.

Fiona Apple

How good is that? Fiona also wrote the song and in the first line she is ‘screaming into the canyon’. Over the last week I have spent much of my time revisiting the music that poured forth from the artists who lived in California’s Laurel Canyon in the late ’60s and as well as the documentary written about last time, I’ve also watched Echo In The Canyon fronted by Jakob Dylan, son of Bob.

The young Bob and Jakob

He looks and sounds uncannily like his dad at times during the film, where he and a selection of other musicians cleverly intersperse candid interviews with performances of some of the most memorable songs from the era. One of these guest musicians was my new discovery, Fiona Apple. I was bowled over when they got up on stage to sing the Brian Wilson song In My Room. Short, but oh so beautiful.

In My Room by Fiona Apple and Jakob Dylan:


Brian Wilson from the Beach Boys had been a Laurel Canyon resident in the late ’60s and despite starting out writing songs that represented the youth culture of southern California (basically surfin’, surfin’ and more surfin’) it soon became obvious that Brian was a bit of a musical genius, the like of whom doesn’t come along very often. Their album Pet Sounds, written and produced by Brian, was released in 1966 and is often cited as having inspired the Beatles to make Sgt. Pepper.

Apparently Brian had been an agoraphobic during his teens and had refused to leave his bedroom for some time. The song was written from the perspective of a teenager who felt safe and comfortable there. I’m pretty sure DD doesn’t have agoraphobia, but the amount of time she has been spending in her old school bedroom since returning home is concerning me. She is studying, and possibly doesn’t want to interfere with our routines, but as for many other young people who may not have work right now and can no longer be with friends, it just doesn’t feel very healthy at all. Maybe why I’ve been affected by the song so much.

Although it’s the Fiona Apple/Jakob Dylan version that I’ve fallen in love with this week, I can’t go without sharing the original by the Beach Boys themselves. Lots of screaming from the girls in the audience, but I think we still get the sense of it (and a lovely boyish smile from Brian at 0:35).

So, ‘What’s It All About?’ – I may have over-egged the pudding about how much television I’m watching, but with many other leisure-time activities still unavailable to us, it has become a bit of a saviour. I’m trying to avoid watching rolling news channels nowadays and instead am finding escapism in quality dramas and documentaries – Why so many people flocked to the cinema during the war to watch Hollywood musicals I suppose.

As for DD, she is currently ‘in her room’, but hopefully she’ll join us to watch Gogglebox later on, which always raises a smile. The world in 2020 – We work from home on laptops, socialise via Zoom, and sit in our living rooms watching television programs about other people sitting in their living rooms watching television programs. Like a wacky hall of mirrors, it really doesn’t sound healthy at all does it?

The ‘Stars’ of Gogglebox

Until next time….

In My Room Lyrics
(Song by Brian Wilson)

There’s a world where I can go and tell my secrets to
In my room, in my room
In this world I lock out all my worries and my fears
In my room, in my room

Do my dreaming and my scheming
Lie awake and pray
Do my crying and my sighing
Laugh at yesterday

Now it’s dark and I’m alone
But I won’t be afraid
In my room, in my room
In my room, in my room
In my room, in my room

California Dreamin’: Laurel Canyon, A Special Place In Time

Like many others I’ve not had a holiday this year, but I did spend much of last week in Laurel Canyon, that hotbed of creativity that became the epicentre of the late ’60s folk rock scene. First of all I watched the two-part series Laurel Canyon, A Place In Time and then I revisited Quentin Tarantino’s latest film, Once Upon A Time In Hollywood, where much of the action takes place in the same location, at the same point in time. (Both can be found on Amazon Prime.)

I’ve watched many documentaries over the years about the music and lifestyles of those who resided in Laurel Canyon, but this was a particularly good one, as the only two ‘talking heads’ were photographers from those days (Henry Diltz and Nurit Wilde) who shared many of their candid shots. We saw Joni Mitchell looking all loved up with Graham Nash, Peter Tork larking around in Frank Zappa’s back garden, Jim Morrison on his bicycle and David Crosby hanging out with future sidekick Stephen Stills.

During my first year of blogging, as some regulars might remember, I kept returning to the year 1967, as for some reason there is a special place in my heart for the music from that era. Perhaps it’s because I was just a little too young to remember it from first time around, so still have many new discoveries to make, or maybe I’m just a bit of a hippie at heart and if I could hire an honest-to-goodness time machine for a day, I think I would head back to Laurel Canyon. In the early ’60s the music industry was still very much centred in New York, but by 1967 many Greenwich Village folk artists were moving west to California and setting up home in the houses and cabins which littered the hillsides of the West Hollywood district of Los Angeles. Doors were left unlocked, residents hung out and partied, but best of all, they made great music.

Laurel Canyon in the Hollywood Hills, a district of Los Angeles

As for choosing a featured song for this post, there are literally too many to choose from. I took notes whilst watching the first episode of the documentary and they stretched to six pages. The names of some of the people who lived in Laurel Canyon in the late ’60s are as follows:

The Byrds, ‘Crosby, Stills and Nash’, Love, Joni Mitchell, Brian Wilson, Neil Young, Jackson Browne, Buffalo Springfield, Jim Morrison, Frank Zappa, Alice Cooper, Peter Tork, Mickey Dolenz and The Mamas & the Papas.

Considering Mama Cass used to have an open house policy, and seems to have been one of the main figures of Canyon life, maybe this song would be a good choice. It was written when the Mamas & the Papas were still based in cold and wet New York, but were contemplating a move to California, which just like many others before them is exactly what they did.

All the leaves are brown and the sky is grey.
I’ve been for a walk on a winter’s day.
I’d be safe and warm if I was in L.A.;
California dreamin’ on such a winter’s day.

California Dreamin’ by the Mamas & the Papas:


But of course all good things come to an end and that’s kind of what happened to this free-loving, drug-fuelled community a few years later. Doors could no longer be left open after The Manson Family killings, and a couple of the key players died way before their time (Jim Morrison and Mama Cass). As we headed into the 1970s bands like the Eagles entered the frame, and the music became more about making money, which was a new direction for Canyon residents. One by one they started to head down to more salubrious residences in more upmarket districts such as Beverley Hills.

The film Once Upon A Time In Hollywood is set in 1969, and is a tribute to the final moments of Hollywood’s golden age. The main character is Rick Dalton (played by Leonardo DiCaprio), a star who fears his career is fading, and his stunt double Cliff Booth (played by Brad Pitt) who now acts as his gofer. As ever with Tarantino, the plot follows multiple storylines all coming together at the end. Rick’s house on Cielo Drive is right next to the one rented by Sharon Tate (a Manson Family victim) and her husband Roman Polanski. I won’t spoil the film for anyone who hasn’t seen it yet, but suffice to say it was vintage Tarantino. Cielo Drive is not in Laurel Canyon but a bit further west, however it’s still located in the Hollywood Hills. With winter now approaching here in Scotland, I know where I’d rather be (without the murders of course).

I’ve long known about the community who took up residence in these hills, just a stone’s throw from downtown Los Angeles, but I never took the time to work out where on the map Laurel Canyon is actually located. Now I’ve got that sorted it’s time to revisit the good times, before it started to go wrong, and enjoy the music that was inspired by the place.

There was a lovely story in the documentary about how the song Our House by Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young came about. Graham Nash and Joni Mitchell, both young and in love, had gone down into Los Angeles for some breakfast. On the way they’d stopped at an antique shop where Joni bought a simple, blue vase. When they got home, Graham suggested she stroll through the woods to pick flowers for the vase. Rather than build the fire he had promised, he sat down at her piano and began writing a song about their shared domestic bliss: “I’ll light the fire, you put the flowers in the vase that you bought today”. I’m an old romantic so really loved that story but find it hard to believe that by the time the song was released, they were no longer a couple. Makes me sad.

This one by Buffalo Springfield always sends shivers down my spine, and it has appeared in many a Vietnam War film. Although often considered an anti-war song, Stephen Stills was inspired to write it because of the Sunset Strip curfew riots in November 1966, a series of early counterculture-era clashes that took place between police and young people.

Of course we can’t forget about Joni Mitchell, that Lady of the Canyon.

Finally, something from Jim Morrison and The Doors, one of the most iconic and influential frontmen in rock history, who sadly died at the age of 27 in 1971. Jim was a true bohemian and poet who struggled to cope with his fame. Perhaps his brooding good looks were a hindrance to him, but he remains on many a deep-thinker’s bedroom wall to this day.

Until next time….

California Dreamin’ Lyrics
(Song by John Phillips/Michelle Phillips)

All the leaves are brown and the sky is grey.
I’ve been for a walk on a winter’s day.
I’d be safe and warm if I was in L.A.;
California dreamin’ on such a winter’s day.

Stopped in to a church I passed along the way.
Well I got down on my knees and I pretend to pray.
You know the preacher liked the cold;
He knows I’m gonna stay.
California dreamin’ on such a winter’s day.

All the leaves are brown and the sky is gray.
I’ve been for a walk on a winter’s day.
If I didn’t tell her I could leave today;
California dreamin’ on such a winter’s day.
California dreamin’ on such a winter’s day.
California dreamin’ on such a winter’s day.

Petula Clark, ‘Downtown’ and The Death Of The High Street

It’s a strange old time isn’t it? I’ve tried to lift my spirits of late by keeping busy and thankfully Mr WIAA seems to have orders coming in again, but I had a bit of a reality check yesterday regarding the times we are living through. After dropping off some packages at our local post office I headed into the town centre to do some banking, and it was a sobering experience to put it mildly. First of all the bank now shuts early so I had missed the boat so to speak, but as I walked from the somewhat empty car park (unusual) to the High Street, I counted four empty shop units in a row of five. Some were boarded up and some were just empty shells, with nothing left of their former glory days. Once I turned the corner it was no better as I was faced with large TO LET signs and only a few of the high-end shops are still operating. One popular tourist shop even had a notice asking customers to ring a bell if they wanted to come in, and only then, one at a time.

This really can’t go on.

I later found out that DD’s former workplace on one of the side streets has been closed down entirely, with four of the six staff made redundant, the other two now working from home. She hasn’t worked there for a couple of years now, but I still have fond memories of popping in past to take her out for lunch, and having a chat with the rest of the staff. There was such a buzz about the place and DD was the first person you met when you went in.

Happy days…. , but no more.

I’ve mentioned this around here before, but Highland, where I live, was the fourth most visited region in the world in 2018 (and probably 2019 too) as millions of tourists used to flock here over the summer months. Along the High Street of an evening, street performers danced and played traditional instruments (yes, even those noisy bagpipes) as they entertained the many holiday-makers strolling up and down the busy pedestrianed thoroughfare.

This year, no hanging baskets, and the streets are empty.

Before I headed home, banking matters unfulfilled, I cut through our large shopping centre, or mall as they like to call them in America. By half past four on a Tuesday it was dead, and it seems highly likely the flagship deparment store (where DD had a Saturday job back in the day) will soon shut its doors for the last time. We all know the era of the High Street is over, as we do much of our shopping online nowadays, but this pandemic has brought its demise forward by about a decade. To see so many empty and boarded up town centre units was just depressing, and for all those people like DD who found work in them over the years, it must be doubly so.

Our shopping centre on Tuesday afternoon

But hey, this is a music blog and I’m afraid I’m going way back in time with the song choice, but it just came to me as I wrote the above. It was common for us to head down town on a Saturday for a spot of lunch and a bit of leisurely shopping, or to walk along the river on a summer’s evening soaking in the atmosphere that comes from living in a tourist town, but those days have most certainly gone and who knows when they may return. Back when I lived the life of a singleton, I often used to walk the short distance down town when at a loose end, as there was a good chance you would bump into someone you knew and plans would be made.

Tony Hatch knew the appeal of Downtown when he wrote the song for Petula Clark back in 1964. Yes, Tony knew that if you were a bit sad and lonely, all you needed to do was head towards the city centre and everything would be waiting for you. In 2020, …. not so much.

When you’re alone and life is making you lonely
You can always go, Downtown

Downtown
Things will be great when you’re
Downtown
No finer place for sure
Downtown
Everything’s waiting for you

Downtown by Petula Clark:


Petula, or Pet Clark as she used to be known, was one of the first singers I remember watching on television as a child, as she was a staple of those flimsy but entertaining prime time shows we used to watch with our families in the 1960s. Petula is still active in music today, aged 87, and released a new album in 2018. Considering she started out during World War II as an entertainer on BBC Radio, she is one of only a few artists to have had a career that spans eight decades.

So, “What’s It All About?” – I’ve been trying to avoid pandemic-related stuff around here of late but that trip into town yesterday really got me down. We knew the economic fallout from the health crisis was going to be harsh, but I have a terrible feeling it’s going to be even worse than is currently being predicted. We are a nation that loved (past tense) social spending – Shopping, eating out, and going to theatres, cinemas, bars and nightclubs, but those days are over for the time-being. Many whose lives have not been unduly affected by the pandemic yet in terms of income (the retired and those who can work from home) have understandably no desire to go into town any more and without them, the social spending on which so many livelihoods depend, is at rock bottom. Tough times ahead I fear.

Until next time….

Downtown Lyrics
(Song by Tony Hatch)

When you’re alone and life is making you lonely
You can always go
Downtown

When you’ve got worries, all the noise and the hurry
Seems to help, I know
Downtown

Just listen to the music of the traffic in the city
Linger on the sidewalk where the neon signs are pretty
How can you lose?
The lights are much brighter there
You can forget all your troubles, forget all your cares

So go
Downtown
Things will be great when you’re
Downtown
No finer place for sure
Downtown
Everything’s waiting for you

Don’t hang around and let your problems surround you
There are movie shows
Downtown
Maybe you know some little places to go to
Where they never close
Downtown

Just listen to the rhythm of a gentle bossa nova
You’ll be dancing with ’em too before the night is over
Happy again
The lights are much brighter there
You can forget all your troubles, forget all your cares

So go
Downtown
Where all the lights are bright
Downtown
Waiting for you tonight
Downtown
You’re gonna be alright now
Downtown

The Phenomenon of Ghosting, Motown Girl Groups and “Nathan Jones”

I seem to have veered way off topic on this blog over the last few months and the nostalgic journey through the tracks of my years element (as per the tagline above) has all but been forgotten about. But hey, that’s what a global pandemic will do to you. I now realise however, I may have been a culprit of “doomsurfing/doomscrolling” whereby I spend many hours a day scrolling through the various news streams on my phone, picking up on every new development as it happens. I am well informed, but maybe too well-informed, and I think it has led to some ghosting (“the practice of ending a personal relationship with someone by suddenly and without explanation withdrawing from all communication”) by old friends.

I have been in touch with a fair few old friends since March and am now realising that one or two are no longer replying to my messages and certainly don’t instigate conversation. A side-effect of doomsurfing seems to be that I have become a doom and gloom merchant! But hey, yet again, that’s what a global pandemic will do to you. I’m not sure I can totally change my ways however, so just another downside to the crisis,

bananarama-and-fun-boy-three-really-saying-something-deram-2

So it seems it’s time for me to change my ways around here, or else I may lose the support of all you lovely followers too. Shit happens as they say, and what better way to drag ourselves out of the doom and gloom than by listening to some great tunes. Last week I shared something by Bananarama and discovered their first hit single, (He Was) Really Saying Something, was unbeknownst to me at the time a cover of an early sixties Velvelettes recording.

The Velvelettes were an American girl group, signed to Motown in the 1960s. Their biggest chart success occurred in 1964, when Norman Whitfield produced Needle in a Haystack which peaked at number 45 on the Billboard Chart. I’m not sure why some of these girl groups went on to great things and others kind of drifted away but it seems they needed to be both championed by those in charge (Berry Gordy) and have a hunger for success above all else. Cue the Supremes. Founded as The Primettes in 1959, the Supremes were the most commercially successful of Motown’s acts, with 12 No. 1 singles on the Billboard Chart. At their peak in the mid-1960s, the Supremes rivalled the Beatles in worldwide popularity and their success possibly made it easier for future African American R&B and soul musicians to find mainstream success.

OIPPZJVE93O

And here is where we return to Bananarama yet again, as another of their Top 20 hits, Nathan Jones, was a cover of a Supremes song. By 1971 Diana Ross had left the group and their lead voice was now that of Jean Terrell, but along with Mary Wilson and Cindy Birdsong they racked up a good few more hits during that era, Up The Ladder To The Roof, Stoned Love and Floy Joy to name but a few. Strangely enough both Bananarama versions of these Motown songs were hits 17 years after the original. Maybe that’s just the amount of time it takes for a song to become fresh again and for listeners not to confuse it with its first incarnation. I for one certainly didn’t know about these earlier versions when I was an avid fan of Bananarama in the 1980s.

Nathan Jones by the Supremes:

So, “What’s It All About?” – Funny how things often turn full circle when you write an off-the-cuff blog post as I’m doing today. The song Nathan Jones is apparently about a woman’s former lover, a man named Nathan Jones who left her nearly a year ago “to ease his mind.” Suffering through the long separation (“winter’s passed, spring, and fall”) without any contact or communication between herself and Jones (ghosting?), the narrator is no longer in love with him, remarking that “Nathan Jones, you’ve been gone too long”. It’s a bit of a coward’s way out, but just goes to show, the practice of withdrawing from all communication is still alive and well today, possibly even more so with the advent of online dating apps and such like.

As for me, I plan to curb my “doomsurfing” activities somewhat but going to be hard after all these weeks. Having really enjoyed this nostalgic journey through the tracks of my years, it would be a shame for me to lose all the goodwill I’ve built up by being the merchant of doom! Please feel free to let me know if I overstep the mark.

Until next time….

Nathan Jones Lyrics
(Song by Leonard Caston/Kathy Wakefield)

You packed your bags, as I recall
And you walked slowly down the hall
You said you had to get away to ease your mind
And all you needed was a just little of time

Oh, winter’s passed, spring and fall
You never wrote me, you never called
(Yeah) Nathan Jones, you’ve been gone too long
Gone too long (Gone too long)

If a woman could die of tears
Nathan Jones, I wouldn’t be here
The key that you’re holding won’t fit my door
And there’s no room in my heart for you no more

‘Cause winter’s passed, spring and fall
You never wrote me, you never called
(Oh-oh) Nathan Jones, you’ve been gone too long
Gone too long

Do-do-do

Nathan Jones
Nathan Jones
Mm-hmm
Nathan Jones, oh

Winter’s passed, spring and fall
You never wrote me, you never called
(Oh-oh) Nathan Jones, you’ve been gone too long
Mm-mm-mm, Gone too long (Gone too long)
Nathan Jones, you’ve been gone too long (Gone too long)
You’ve been gone too long (Gone too long)
Hey, Nathan Jones, you’ve been gone too long (Gone too long)
Hey, you know, you’ve been gone (Gone too long)
Nathan Jones, you’ve been gone too long (Gone too long)

Rock & Pop Family Trees, The Easybeats and “Friday On My Mind”

When I was young, and worked in offices, I couldn’t wait for the weekend to come. From this end of the telescope I really want time to slow down a bit more, as the weekend comes round just too quickly (although always a treat to have another edition of Rol’s Saturday Snapshots). Last year I dashed off a quick poem about this phenomenon for my writing class and it made reference to three songs. As I was the most mature (chronologically) of all the students in my group, no-one recognised the songs, but I’m pretty sure regular visitors to this place will pick them out easily.

I Don’t Like Fridays

Always used to have Friday on my mind
Start of the weekend
The promise (often unfulfilled)
of exciting times ahead

Now it comes round too quickly
Another hundred and sixty eight hours gone
Whoa time, slow down,
you move too fast

Boomtown Bob didn’t like Mondays
Now I want Mondays to last forever
So much left to do
So little time…

Friday On My Mind by the Easybeats:

Back then I realised I knew very little about Australian group the Easybeats who had a big hit in 1966 with Friday On My Mind, so I did a little research, and as often happens around here, I discovered a fascinating rock and pop family tree.

This winter has been quite mild here in Scotland but back in 1962-63 we had what was called The Big Freeze, the worst winter on record with snow lying eight feet deep. A TV advert at the time offered assisted travel to families who fancied a new life in Australia, and 15 members of the Young family from Glasgow moved there in June 1963. One of their sons was George Young who went on to form the Easybeats. His younger brothers Malcolm and Angus went on to form AC/DC a decade later. The Easybeats disbanded in 1969 but then in 1976 George got together with his old bandmate Harry Vanda to form new wave group Flash and the Pan.

Had the winter of 1962-63 been a mild one none of these bands might ever have existed. The family initially stayed at Villawood Immigration Detention Centre on the outskirts of Sydney which was where George Young met and became friends with another migrant, Dutchman Harry Vanda, and together they formed the Easybeats. Malcolm and Angus Young then developed the idea for their band. The name came about after their sister Margaret saw the initials “AC/DC” on her sewing machine. The brothers felt this name symbolised the raw energy and power-driven performances of their music. It was she who also came up with the very memorable schoolboy outfit for Angus Young.

I can’t pretend to be a fan of AC/DC but of course I know of their musical output, although probably attributed more to having watched the film School of Rock several times. I can’t pretend to be a fan of Jack Black either, as he always comes across as just a bit too manic for my liking, but that kind of characterisation was just what was needed for this film. (Fast forward to 2:30 for the best bit in this clip.)

The song Waiting For A Train by Flash and the Pan (George and Harry’s new wave band) was the one that did best in the UK Singles Chart. It reached the No. 7 spot in 1983.

So, “What’s It All About? – I know there are lots of you who still long for the weekend but trust me, once you get to my age, you do want the week to slow down a bit more.

As for the song Friday On My Mind, Harry Vanda described it as reminiscent of the days when the band members lived in hostels in Sydney as “new Australians”. They longed for the end of the week because that’s when the fun began. The song has quite a build-up and after the opening cymbal crash, its just a staccato guitar for the next 20 seconds where the lead vocalist runs through the days of the week, explaining why Monday to Thursday doesn’t excite him. The bass finally comes in as he gets closer to the weekend. 30 seconds into the song we hit Friday, and the drums come in to play.

Well, that’s Saturday Snapshots played and my Saturday blogpost written. Better head off now and achieve meaningful things, as before we know it, it’ll be Friday again. Argh.

Until next time….

Friday On My Mind Lyrics
(Song by George Young/Harry Vanda)

Monday mornin’ feels so bad
Ev’rybody seems to nag me
Comin’ Tuesday I feel better
Even my old man looks good
Wed’sday just don’t go
Thursday goes too slow
I’ve got Friday on my mind

Gonna have fun in the city
Be with my girl, she’s so pretty
She looks fine tonight
She is out of sight to me
Tonight I’ll spend my bread, tonight
I’ll lose my head, tonight
I’ve got to get to night
Monday I’ll have Friday on my mind

Do the five day grind once more
I know of nothin’ else that bugs me
More than workin’ for the rich man
Hey! I’ll change that scene one day
Today I might be mad, tomorrow I’ll be glad
‘Cause I’ll have Friday on my mind

A Memorial Bench, Another Sad Loss and “Try A Little Kindness”

Many regulars to this place will remember the series of posts I published at the end of last year following the tragic death of my friend’s daughter. She was only 18, but after a tough few months, on the 1st November she took her own life. Last week, her mum sent me a picture of the rainbow-coloured bench they have been allowed to place next to her grave. A tiny bit of comfort for those many friends and relatives who will visit her resting place.

Holly

At the time I suggested her death certificate should have stated Death by Social Media, as she had been the victim of the most awful cyber-bullying over the years. Hard for those of us of a certain age to comprehend I know, but something that is very real in today’s world. Her family therefore decided to have the words “Be Kind Always” inscribed on the bench, as a kind of long-lasting legacy.

Holly (2)

So, this was only last Friday. On Saturday afternoon, news broke that one of our best-loved television presenters had been found dead in her home, having taken her own life. Not everyone will have been familiar with Caroline Flack, but she seems to have been responsible for getting the younger generation back in love with terrestrial telly again, hosting shows that drew in large viewing figures. Sadly, her professional and personal life had hit a rocky patch of late, but rather than being left to nurse her wounds and rebuild her confidence in private, she became an absolute magnet for social media trolls, and was hounded relentlessly by the press. Her story was apparently of public interest, but was it really? She was obviously a very vulnerable young woman for whom this level of abuse was unsustainable.

Moving tributes have been pouring in from fellow celebrities, and even from our politicians. After losing her daughter at the end of last year, my friend wanted to do something to highlight the potentially tragic consequences of cyber-bullying. Tough however to get the message out to a wider audience. Now, with a high profile victim such as Caroline, the message really is starting to get out there, and change will have to come.

One politician, Lisa Nandy, has come out saying social media companies cannot be left to police themselves, suggesting the current situation is like the Wild West. “I worry about the approaches that say we allow the social media companies to regulate themselves,” she said. “In no other area of life would we allow private companies to self-police. We ought to make sure the state has a system of regulation and support around that.”

MP Kate Osamor, who appeared in the press herself for a threatening confrontation with journalists who went to her home after her son was convicted of drug offences, wrote: “The trolling & abuse she suffered at the hands of the media was relentless. Being kind is so underrated. RIP Caroline Flack.”

Since Saturday, the #BeKind hashtag has been appearing everywhere. Let’s hope there is a sea change in behaviour going forward, but you know what, I’m not holding my breath. I started to look for songs about being kind for this post, but not as easy as you would think. I did however find this oldie from 1969 recorded by Glen Campbell, who has often popped up around here. Try A Little Kindness was written by Curt Sapaugh & Bobby Austin and, I think, is just the kind of thing I want to listen to at the moment.

Try A Little Kindness by Glen Campbell:

So, “What’s It All About?” – I have been really lucky around here in that I’ve never had to suffer any unpleasantness. Of course the WordPress people do a pretty good job of filtering out spam, but my experience has been a really positive one. Sadly, if you are in the public eye, or indeed a teenager of today, this will not be the case. I really hope people start being kinder, but failing that, I hope regulation of some sort will be forced upon the social media companies. My friend won’t get her daughter back, nor will Caroline Flack’s parents, but hopefully their stories will be the catalyst for change.

Until next time….  RIP Holly, RIP Caroline Flack, #BeKind.

Try A Little Kindness Lyrics
(Song by Bobby Austin/Curt Sapaugh)

If you see your brother standing by the road
With a heavy load from the seeds he’s sowed
And if you see your sister falling by the way
Just stop and say, you’re going the wrong way

You got to try a little kindness
Yes show a little kindness
Just shine your light for everyone to see
And if you try a little kindness
Then you’ll overlook the blindness
Of narrow-minded people on the narrow-minded streets

Don’t walk around the down and out
Lend a helping hand instead of doubt
And the kindness that you show every day
Will help someone along their way

You got to try a little kindness
Yes show a little kindness
Just shine your light for everyone to see
And if you try a little kindness
Then you’ll overlook the blindness
Of narrow-minded people on the narrow-minded streets

Sunrise, Sunset #1 – The Walker Brothers and “The Sun Ain’t Gonna Shine (Anymore)”

The two series I have most enjoyed putting together for this blog have been the ones concerning the natural world. First there was The Wheel Of The Year In Song and over the last couple of years, as regular visitors to this place know, I have become a bit of an expert on all thing pertaining to our only satellite, the moon. I have written 21 posts in total for The Full Moon Calendar In Song and can see there will be a few more to be added, as the way the full moon falls, no two years will ever be the same. When writing about the annual rituals performed by the ancient Celts or Native Americans, it is clear that Mother Nature was the overriding influence over everything they did and how they lived. Oh how things change.

As someone who is usually heavily invested in the political coverage ahead of a general election, this time it leaves me cold. We are in effect watching our leaders “fiddle whilst Rome burns” but the political system being what it is, we seem to be relatively helpless in doing anything about it. Life has changed just so much in the last 10 years (and yes, I’m looking at you Mr iPhone) but we struggle to adapt quickly enough to these changes. My recent posts documenting the suicide of a close friend’s daughter due to cyber-bullying, is a case in point.

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So, what do you do if you have decided to bank all the hours usually reserved for watching political debate, and commune with nature instead? Why you go off in search of sunsets of course. Our forefathers would have had a short day at this time of year, as sunset was at 15:47 here today in the North of Scotland. After a period of twilight when we would have passed through civil, nautical and astronomical dusk, the sun reaches a point 18 degrees below the horizon and it becomes night.

I have long been fascinated by this period of twilight and have built up a fair knowledge of its foibles over the years, so my new series about the natural world is going to be called Sunrise, Sunset. One of the highlights of my recent trip to Bergen in Norway was travelling to the top of Mount Fløyen on the funicular, just before sunset. With its magnificent views over the city we took some great pictures, but I’m going to save them for another time. Instead, here are some I took only last week by the shores of Loch Ness. We’d had an Australian friend staying with us and as it was her last day we tried to find somewhere special to take her, and the sunset was just perfect. Sadly the temperatures were sub-zero so we couldn’t linger long enough to wait until darkness fell, but hopefully down the line we shall.

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Loch Ness just before Sunset

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Loch Ness just after Sunset

But of course this is a music blog, and as with the moon, there are many, many songs that relate to “the sun, sunsets and sunrises”. As ever I would love to hear your suggestions for future posts, but to get us started, and because I’m still feeling rather sad about our recent tragic bereavement, this time I’m going to feature The Sun Ain’t Gonna Shine (Anymore) by The Walker Brothers. It was written by the prolific songwriting pair Bob Crewe and Bob Gaudio. They wrote many hits for The Four Seasons (Gaudio was a member of the group) and although originally released as a single by Frankie Valli, it was much more successful when recorded by The Walker Brothers in 1966. It topped the UK Singles Chart and also became their highest rating song on the Billboard Hot 100 where it peaked at No. 13.

It can be described as a very despondent song about the feeling that comes with the loss of love. In an interview Bob Gaudio explained: “I remember it was a rainy day and Bob Crewe and I were in his office, which was in the Atlantic Records building in the Lincoln Center area of New York, and it started to come together. It was a gloomy day and we were both a little depressed. And out it came.”

The Sun Ain’t Gonna Shine (Anymore) by The Walker Brothers:

As for The Walker Brothers, they were an American pop group who moved to Britain around the time the British Invasion was happening at home, where bands like the Beatles were dominating the US Charts. They ended up achieving much more success in the UK than in their home country. They were unrelated and used The Walker Brothers showbusiness name simply because they liked it. After splitting up, all three continued to release solo records, with Scott Walker being by far the most successful and creating a large cult following.

So, “What’s It All About?” – I think I have a new series on my hands and I look forward to venturing out and about taking pictures of the perfect sunset or sunrise. Like with the moon, no two are ever the same so plenty of material to work with. Plenty of songs that refer to the sun, or phenomena associated with the sun (rainbows?) so feel free to come up with your own suggestions. And by this time you know, “I always reply”.

Until next time….

thLKRIJNXC

The Sun Ain’t Gonna Shine (Anymore) Lyrics
(Song by Bob Crewe/Bob Gaudio)

Loneliness
Is a cloak you wear
A deep shade of blue
Is always there

The sun ain’t gonna shine anymore
The moon ain’t gonna rise in the sky
The tears are always clouding your eyes
When you’re without love, baby

Emptiness
Is a place you’re in
With nothing to lose
But no more to win

The sun ain’t gonna shine anymore
The moon ain’t gonna rise in the sky
The tears are always clouding your eyes
When you’re without love

Lonely
Without you baby
Girl I need you
I can’t go on

The sun ain’t gonna shine anymore
(The sun ain’t gonna shine anymore)
The moon ain’t gonna rise in the sky
(The moon ain’t gonna rise in the sky)
The tears are always clouding your eyes
(The tears are always clouding your eyes)
The sun ain’t gonna shine anymore
When you’re without love, baby

(The sun ain’t gonna shine anymore)
(The sun ain’t gonna shine anymore)
(The sun ain’t gonna shine anymore)
(The sun ain’t gonna shine anymore)
(The sun ain’t gonna shine anymore)

Earworm of the Week #3 – Elvis, Doc Pomus and “She’s Not You”

Not sure how this has come about, but for over a week now the slow build-up to She’s Not You by Elvis Presley has been spinning around in my head. He starts way down in his boots with the “her hair is soft” part, and then gradually climbs up the scale by the end of the first verse. I’ve probably described that badly, and yet again I don’t think this part of the song is called “the hook”, but it’s the part that’s formed an earworm that’s for sure.

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I’ve written about Elvis often around here as the very first album bought with my own money (aged 9) was indeed an Elvis one, and although they are oft derided, I did love watching his antics in all those happy-go-lucky movies made during the 1960s, when his manager “Colonel” (a made-up title much like General Tom Thumb) Tom Parker took him off the road, and he became permanently holed up in Hollywood. Had Elvis been a stronger character this would probably never have happened, but he was a polite southern boy who had been brought up to respect his elders, so he did as he was told and pretty much killed his credibility for much of the decade. Fortunately, the triumph that was the ’68 Comeback Special got him out performing in front of live audiences again, and his career entered it’s third stage – The Las Vegas residencies. Again, the Colonel took care of business, and as we all now know this turn of events didn’t end well for our boy, but watching him in this clip he certainly was a fine looking young man.

She’s Not You by Elvis Presley:

As for the song, there’s not a lot I can say about it other than it was one of many Elvis hits to reach the top of the UK Singles Chart, in 1962 in this case. It was however written by Doc Pomus (aka Jerome Solon Felder) in collaboration with Leiber and Stoller who between them were responsible for many of the songs we of a certain age grew up with. Looking at their respective songwriting credits, as well as writing many, many songs for Elvis, they also wrote for The Coasters, Bobby Darin, Dion and the Belmonts, The Drifters, Perry Como and Andy Williams (amongst others).

There is so much that could be written about Elvis but most of it is already well documented (even in this blog), so I won’t bore you, but here is something new I’ve discovered – The name Presley is a common one here in the North of Scotland and Elvis’ family do have roots in Aberdeenshire. The name in our neck of the woods is always pronounced Prez-ley, but apparently the correct pronunciation of Elvis’ name is Press-ley. I think I’ve been getting it wrong my whole life. Also, we know his middle name was Aaron but it turns out he was given the name Elvis Aron at birth to tie in with his stillborn twin brother’s name Jesse Garon. Down the line it was decided to change it to the more biblical Aaron. As I often say around here, every day’s a schoolday.

It occurred to me that the subject matter of this song is not an unusual one. How many times have we had our hearts broken because the boy we really want to dance with, picks another girl? I remember crying all the way home from a local dance when I was a teenager because when it came to the slow dance at the end of the night, the object of my affection danced with someone else and I had to dance with the friend. To quote Elvis, or more specifically Doc Pomus, “he’s not you”.

And of course this reminds me of another 1962 Elvis song by Doc Pomus, (Marie’s The Name) His Latest Flame which covered just the same dilemma – How we were ever expected to find “the one” when we all seemed to be dancing with the WRONG people is a mystery, but who knows, maybe at the end of the day, Mr Wrong turns out to be Mr Right.

Until next time….

She’s Not You Lyrics
(Song by Doc Pomus/Jerry Leiber/Mike Stoller)

Her hair is soft and her eyes are oh so blue
She’s all the things a girl should be,
but she’s not you.

She knows just how to make me laugh when I feel blue
She’s ev’rything a man could want,
but she’s not you.

And when we’re dancing
It almost feels the same
I’ve got to stop myself from
Whisp’ring your name

She even kisses me like you used to do.
And it’s just breaking my heart
’cause she’s not you.

The Bee Gees, “I Started A Joke” and Tribute Bands, Is It Ok?

The other day I was heading back from visiting my mum in the care home, when I decided to swing by our local theatre to find out what was on. I still had a gift voucher which ironically was acquired when I had to return my mum’s outstanding theatre tickets last year after her admission to the home. It was due to expire soon, so I needed to convert it into readies, and if not readies, bona fide tickets at any rate. When I discovered that a show called Jive Talkin’, championing the music of the Bee Gees was taking place that very night, it was a no-brainer that I would ask about seats. As luck would have it there were only two left, in a second circle box, so I snapped them up.

It took me a long time to admit to being a Bee Gees fan around here, as I know they have been heavily parodied over the years and Barry’s late ’70s falsetto has been the subject of much mirth, but only Elvis, the Beatles, and he who shall no longer be named, have outsold them. They wrote all their own songs, performed perfect harmonies and continually reinvented themselves “for the times”. I’ve written about them a few times and I suspect a new category on my sidebar will have to be set up after I press the publish button.

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The original Bee Gees line-up – Kind of obvious which of them is a Gibb brother!

But of course there is sadly now only one Bee Gee left, Barry, and I do feel for him if I ever catch him on telly, as he cuts a lonely figure without the rest of his brothers in tow. In view of the fact I will now never see them live, I had no difficulty in making the decision that it was ok to head along to our fantastic theatre, to watch this trio (plus backing band complete with string section) sing songs from the vast back catalogue at their disposal.

I wrote last year about a show called Fastlove, dedicated to the George Michael back catalogue. They took great pains to make sure that, we, the audience, realised this was not “A Tribute Act” but in fact “A Tribute” to George, so I was hoping this show would follow the same lines. As it turned out, there was a bit more of a pantomime quality to this one, but the voices were pitch perfect and from where I was seated in the second circle, they looked uncannily like the real Bee Gees.

I Started A Joke by the Bee Gees:

The first half was dedicated to their 1960s incarnation and they rattled through 16 classic hits such as Gotta Get A Message To You, To Love Somebody, Words, How Can You Mend A Broken Heart (written about here before) and my personal favourite I Started A Joke from the album “Idea” released in 1968. Apparently the melancholic melody of the song was inspired by the sounds on board an aeroplane. To quote Robin Gibb: “The melody to this one was heard aboard a British Airways Vickers Viscount about a hundred miles from Essen. It was one of those old four engine “prop” jobs, that seemed to drone the passenger into a sort of hypnotic trance, only with this it was different. The droning, after a while, appeared to take the form of a tune, which mysteriously sounded like a church choir. As soon as we landed and reached the hotel, we finished the lyrics.”

As for me, this era of the Bee Gees just reminds me of watching telly with my parents as a child. They were frequent visitors to the TOTP studio and there were always a few raised eyebrows in our house at Robin’s vibrato, as not many pop voices like that at the time. I only realised later that the twins, Robin and Maurice, were still teenagers – A massive amount of success for those so young, the pressure of which led to Robin leaving the band for a while.

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So, we’ve had the first half where they were dressed in the classic late era Bee Gees’ uniform of black trousers, shirts and jackets, but what would the second half bring? As expected there had to be an element of pantomime, as the 1970s brought disco, and Barry’s falsetto rose to unnaturally new heights. There is nothing more unnerving than seeing a middle-aged man dressed in tight white trousers and a silver jacket revealing chest hair, but here we were. To be honest I don’t think many of the ladies in the audience cared however, we were all teenagers again, reminding ourselves of the time we heard these songs first time around – Night Fever, Stayin’ Alive, You Should Be Dancing and many more.

Up in my second circle box, no-one’s view would have been blocked if I stood up and danced along to the songs, so that was just what happened. Mr WIAA did not partake in the dancing, and was a bit bemused by the whole thing I think, but he was also aware I’ve been working really hard of late trying to support everyone, so if anyone needed to let their hair down, it was me (as he no longer has any).

Every now and again, when emotions are running high, it can only take a few bars of a familiar song, to make you feel quite overcome by it all. When the trio on stage sang More Than A Woman, I was right back in 1978, a year I’ve often mentioned in this blog as it was the summer I left school and went off to work in a country house hotel with my best friend Catriona, who sadly died at age 41. By day we were jack-of-all-trades, chambermaids, laundrymaids, barmaids (yes, still called that back then) but by night we were disco divas, trying out our routines in the local nightspots. At the start of the summer we were a novelty, new girls in town, but as the summer progressed there were a few romances that we knew would go nowhere, but still made the heart flutter. One of the songs that made the heart flutter was this one. The dancing looks tame now and frankly a bit comical, but funny how 40 years on, a warm glow came over me when listening to it – More than goose-bumps, but rather an overwhelming feeling of nostalgia for simpler times.

More Than A Woman by the Bee Gees:

I know tribute acts are the source of much derision, but sometimes an evening of honest to goodness nostalgia is just what is needed, and that’s what I experienced this week. Because of the ongoing situation regarding how to pay for my mum’s care, stress levels have been running high in our house of late, but funnily enough, my evening with the pretend Bee Gees has put paid to that. Mr WIAA will be really glad he (reluctantly) agreed to come along with me.

Until next time….

I Started A Joke Lyrics
(Song by Barry Gibb/Maurice Gibb/Robin Gibb)

I started a joke, which started the whole world crying
But I didn’t see that the joke was on me, oh no

I started to cry, which started the whole world laughing
Oh, if I’d only seen that the joke was on me

I looked at the skies, running my hands over my eyes
And I fell out of bed, hurting my head from things that I’d said

Till I finally died, which started the whole world living
Oh, if I’d only seen that the joke was on me

I looked at the skies, running my hands over my eyes
And I fell out of bed, hurting my head from things that I’d said

‘Till I finally died, which started the whole world living
Oh, if I’d only seen that the joke was on me

A Manic Summer, 50th Anniversaries and “Dancing In The Moonlight”

What’s it all about indeed – I seem to have lost my blogging momentum, that’s what, due to the fact there is just far too much to blog about at the moment and I can’t keep up! Although this place is ostensibly where I have a saunter down memory lane, revisiting the “tracks of my years”, it is also my web-log, or web diary, where I record what I’ve been up to, ponder on what’s happening in the world (rather a lot!) and post pictures taken whilst out and about.

I am still gutted that I missed writing a “moon post” on the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing, as between Nov ’17 and March ’19 I wrote a total of eighteen posts featuring a song inspired by the ancient name given to the full moon by the Native Americans. Most of the time the song referred to the beauty of the moon, the colour of the moon or its part in creating a setting for romance, but on the 20th of July 1969, it was all about the science. When Neil Armstrong made that small step for [a] man, his name in the history books was set in stone (or moondust).

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I watched much of the news footage between the 16th and the 20th of this month, where Michael Collins (the astronaut who didn’t get to walk on the moon) was present at the anniversary celebrations and gave some great interviews recounting their experiences. On television, some fabulous programmes were aired, and if you haven’t yet watched it I would thoroughly recommend Channel 4’s Moon Landing Live made up of original footage from 50 years ago. I was only aged nine back then so despite being really excited by the news stories of the launch and subsequent moon landing, I don’t think I would have appreciated the sheer significance of what was happening. Also, what did all those men dressed in identical white shirts and black ties do at Mission Control? Something a few kilobytes of computer fire power could probably do nowadays, but just makes it all the more impressive that in those far less technologically advanced days, it could happen at all. Poor old Lyndon B. is looking a bit hot and bothered in this clip but had it not been for this famous speech, and the statement made at 1:30, things might well have turned out differently. (Anyone else transfixed by JFK’s accent here? – Mixture of Boston-Irish, Trans-Atlantic, RP and pure Kennedy apparently.)

Coincidentally, a partial lunar eclipse took place in the UK on the 16th of July 2019, coinciding with the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 launch and despite missing it last time, my friend with the perfect camera for such shots, managed to capture it.

Pictures courtesy of R.J.

Considering this post was going to be a summary of what I’d missed blogging about over the last fortnight – DD’s departure, trips to Edinburgh and Glasgow, a steady stream of guests in the holiday hideaway and my elevation to Superhost, my continuing “pain in the neck”, two more cinema visits, Mr WIAA’s stint as zoo-keeper for a day and resignation from his nice secure job (purely coincidental), the current heatwave, the new occupant of No. 10, a long lost cousin from Australia appearing with a full account of my paternal family tree, the “loft project” and the anniversary of those moon landings – I only seem to have touched on this last one it seems, but apt because of what has gone before I suppose. I will therefore include two moon-related songs, the first being a suggestion made by Brian from Linear Tracking Lives, and the second, one that just didn’t make the cut whilst the series was in full flow.

Swingin’ on the Moon was a 1960 album by Mel Tormé (with a great cover), where every track but one contained the word “moon” in the title. The moon certainly seemed to be a favourite theme for artists of a Swing/Vocal Jazz persuasion, as Mr Sinatra also recorded many such songs. Mel was probably more familiar to our friends across the pond, as he also appeared in many films and television shows in America from the 1940s onward. Here’s an interesting snippet, he apparently composed the music for seasonal favourite The Christmas Song (Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire) and co-wrote the lyrics. Not a bad earner in terms of royalties that one.

My next pick is a song that features dancing in the moonlight, which is a fine pastime I imagine if you live in a country where it is warm enough to do so. I don’t (current heatwave aside), but I still like the idea of it. The band Toploader had a big hit with a cover of Dancing in the Moonlight in the year 2000. I always loved the intro to this song (great percussion) but didn’t realise at the time it had been written and originally recorded by the French-American rock group King Harvest. It was released as a single in 1972 and reached number 13 on the Billboard Hot 100. In view of the fact I recently discovered the band Looking Glass, who look and sound very similar to King Harvest, not much wonder it is now my favourite version of the two.

Dancing In The Moonlight by Toploader:

So, “What’s It All About?” – I don’t think I knew what I was going to end up writing about when I sat down at my desk today, but nice to be back, and I’ll try to keep up the momentum now I’ve cleared the blockage, so to speak.

Two years ago I had a very distinct routine to my day and to my week, but with all the changes that have happened since then every day is now different, with no discernible routine at all. The biggest change is that we will now have to earn all the spondulicks from self-employment alone and Mr WIAA is trying to be the calm one, whereas I’m running around like Corporal Jones shouting, “Don’t panic!”. Can I justify putting as many hours into blogging when I should really be trying to earn a crust? Probably not, but as has been pointed out around here many times, it does serve as a great stress-buster. I suspect I won’t be going anywhere soon, and to those of you who came up with a number from the master spreadsheet of “posts pending”, I have not forgotten about you, I have just been distracted.

Until next time….

Dancing In The Moonlight Lyrics
(Song by Sherman Kelly)

We get it on most every night
When that moon is big and bright
It’s a supernatural delight
Everybody’s dancing in the moonlight

Everybody here is out of sight
They don’t bark and they don’t bite
They keep things loose, they keep things light
Everybody’s dancing in the moonlight

Dancing in the moonlight
Everybody’s feeling warm and bright
It’s such a fine and natural sight
Everybody’s dancing in the moonlight

We like our fun and we never fight
You can’t dance and stay uptight
It’s a supernatural delight
Everybody was dancing in the moonlight

Dancing in the moonlight
Everybody’s feeling warm and bright
It’s such a fine and natural sight
Everybody’s dancing in the moonlight

Everybody here is out of sight
They don’t bark and they don’t bite
They keep things loose, they keep things light
Everybody was dancing in the moonlight

Everybody’s dancing in the moonlight
Everybody’s feeling warm and bright
It’s such a fine and natural sight
Everybody’s dancing in the moonlight (everybody)
Dancing in the moonlight
Everybody’s feeling warm and bright
It’s such a fine and natural sight
Everybody’s dancing in the moonlight
Everybody’s dancing in the moonlight
Everybody’s feeling warm and bright
It’s such a fine and natural sight
Everybody’s dancing in the moonlight (everybody)
Dancing in the moonlight
Everybody’s feeling warm and bright
It’s such a fine and natural sight
Everybody’s dancing in the moonlight