Bond Themes, Nancy Sinatra and “You Only Live Twice”

Yesterday I wrote about Rise Like a Pheonix, the song that won the Eurovision Song Contest in 2014, and how it was very much in the style of a James Bond theme song. Led me to think about all those great (and some not so great) themes from over 50 years of Bond films and I have put together my own list, ranked by personal preference. There are many such lists out there and it seems there is mixed opinion on which is the best theme song ever but at the moment, for me, it is You Only Live Twice by Nancy Sinatra from the 1967 film of the same name.

You Only Live Twice by Nancy Sinatra:

The song has a really beautiful intro which Robbie Williams cleverly used for his recording of Millennium in 1998. In the video for Millennium, Robbie, dressed in a tuxedo parodies James Bond and references many of the early Sean Connery films. Turned out to be a great way to get back on top after his departure from Take That.

But back to my list – Nancy up there at the top at the moment but like any list it changes all the time, especially with oft-heard songs such as these. There seems to be a tipping point at which a song has just been listened to just once too often and it goes from being a joy, to something you have become a bit tired and weary of hearing. I hate when that happens and rush to turn off the radio if one of my all-time favourites comes on as I just don’t want to reach that point any sooner than need be.

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All Bond Theme Songs – Personal Ranking (feel free to disagree)

1. You Only Live Twice – 1967 – Nancy Sinatra
2. Live and Let Die – 1973 – Paul McCartney & Wings
3. For Your Eyes Only – 1981 – Sheena Easton
4. The Spy Who Loved Me – 1977 – Carly Simon
5. The Living Daylights – 1987 – A-ha
6. The World Is Not Enough – 1999 – Garbage
7. From Russia with Love – 1963 – Matt Monro
8. Goldfinger – 1964 – Shirley Bassey
9. Skyfall – 2012 – Adele
10.We Have All the Time in the World – 1969 – Louis Armstrong
11.Diamonds Are Forever – 1971 – Shirley Bassey
12.All Time High – 1983 – Rita Coolidge
13.Licence to Kill – 1989 – Gladys Knight
14.A View to a Kill – 1985 – Duran Duran
15.Thunderball – 1965 – Tom Jones
16.GoldenEye – 1995 – Tina Turner
17.Tomorrow Never Dies – 1997 – Sheryl Crow
18.Writing’s on the Wall – 2015 – Sam Smith
19.Die Another Day – 2002 – Madonna
20.The Man with the Golden Gun – 1974 – Lulu
21.Another Way To Die – 2008 – Jack White & Alicia Keys
22.You Know My Name – 2006 – Chris Cornell
23.Moonraker – 1979 – Shirley Bassey

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I still think the Golden Age of Bond movies was the Sean Connery era or perhaps it is just that I am reminded of watching them on television as a child. By the early ’70s they were a staple on high days and holidays and because the world was a much bigger place then, with foreign travel something very few of us experienced, it was worth watching them for the glamorous locations alone. Although the age of feminism and bra-burning had well and truly started by then, it really didn’t filter through to Bond movies until the Timothy Dalton era and for many of us, that was a low point in the franchise. To try and make Bond politically correct was a stretch but with the latest batch of movies starring Daniel Craig as Bond, they seem to have found the right balance.

And if you want to compare intros, here is a clip of Robbie playing Mr Bond – Don’t think he’ll ever get the main gig but it was great fun watching him in those videos from his album “I’ve Been Expecting You”. A wonderful homage to those glamorous films of the ’60s.

Millennium by Robbie Williams:

You Only Live Twice Lyrics
(Song by Leslie Bricusse/John Barry)

You only live twice or so it seems
One life for yourself and one for your dreams
You drift through the years and life seems tame
Till one dream appears and love is it’s name

And love is a stranger who’ll beckon you on
Don’t think of the danger or the stranger is gone

This dream is for you, so pay the price
Make one dream come true, you only live twice

Postscript:

Just in case anyone else has “anorak tendencies” like myself, yes there have been 24 Bond movies to date (and two by other production companies) but the first one, Dr No in 1962, did not have a title song. Monty Norman did however compose the now infamous James Bond theme for it which has been used in all the films since.

For the 1969 film On Her Majesty’s Secret Service starring one-time Bond George Lazenby, John Barry was the composer of the opening theme of the same name but Louis Armstrong’s song We Have All The Time In The World was a secondary theme, played at the end of the film. The only other exception to the rule was that Matt Monro’s vocal version of From Russia With Love was not played for the opening titles to that film but used for the closing credits.

George Martin, The Beatles and “Alfie”

I did say recently that I didn’t want the blog to become an obituary column which seemed to what was happening throughout January and February but I don’t want to omit mentioning the passing this week of one of the music world’s most well-known and influential record producers – George Martin, the 5th Beatle.

Looking back now at photos of George working with The Beatles, he could be their dad, always dressed in his shirt and tie, his brylcreemed hair immaculately combed back. As it turns out he could have been an older brother in age terms but it goes to show how that small age difference in the ’60s meant that you were either part of that pre-war generation who had suffered the hardships and direct involvement, or you were the new post-war “never had it so good” generation who were bringing such innovation to music, film, fashion and ideas.

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George however, although he may not have looked like his protégés, certainly had the ideas that contributed to their incredible success. In fact during their short career (considering their impact on the music world even to this day), they spent half of it in the recording studio with George, choosing that medium for their musical output rather than returning to live shows in front of screaming fans, who wouldn’t have been able to hear the songs anyway. There can’t be many people who haven’t heard of, or listened to, “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” which truly was a landmark album in the history of pop music. It won four Grammy Awards in 1968 and often tops polls of “The Greatest Album Ever Made”. None of this would have come about without George.

Again, I am probably going to horrify people by admitting that I was never a great fan of Sgt. Pepper and preferred The Beatles earlier pure pop output. It is simply that I was too young in 1967 to appreciate its sophistication. As a child, the films A Hard Day’s Night and Help! appealed to me much more and were shown regularly on television. As happened with David Bowie, I was just born too late to appreciate them at their creative height, but have kind of come round since.

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George Martin’s relationship with The Beatles came about because of his link to Brian Epstein, the band’s manager. During the early ’60s, Brian Epstein and George Martin between them, were pretty much responsible for creating the Mersey Sound or Merseybeat as it came to be called. Brian had tried all the major labels to sign his Liverpudlian stable of artists, but it was not until an initially reluctant George Martin at Parlophone saw something there he could work with, that the magic began. As well as The Beatles, other artists such as Cilla Black, Gerry & the Pacemakers and Billy J. Kramer and the Dakotas all made the regular trip south to visit George and the team at Parlophone. Cilla Black may have referred to the orchestra he used as “a bunch of auld fellas” but they certainly all contributed to making those artists the massive recording stars of the day.

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There are just so many songs I could have picked to write about in relation to George Martin but the most obvious for me is of course Alfie, the song I used as inspiration for the title to the blog. Cilla Black was initially reluctant to take on this Bacharach and David classic but after Burt came across to London from the US to play and conduct on this oddly titled song, she could hardly refuse, despite her reservations that it was the name you would give a dog! George Martin was at the mixing desk performing his magic and after many takes of the song, they produced something truly remarkable.

Alfie by Cilla Black:

It’s now over 50 years since Cilla was asked to record Alfie in order to promote the Michael Caine film of the same name. Right at the end, our eponymous hero poses the question, “What’s it all about?” and I have come to realise that after 50 years of listening to popular music and now writing about the memories it inevitably conjures up, the answer is very much love, just as the song lyrics say. It is the love for our family as children, the love for our best friends as teenagers, for the various boyfriends/girlfriends on the way to finding that special someone, and now for me, the love I feel for my husband, daughter and special friends. Since starting this blog, I have never once reminisced about that important work deadline, that crucial exam result or the completion of that lengthy report, it is always about the people along the way. There is the old adage that you never go to your deathbed wishing you had spent more time at the office and after writing this, my 30th post, I am more convinced than ever that this is the case. As The Beatles sang – “All You Need Is Love”!

RIP George Martin.

Alfie Lyrics
(Song By Burt Bacharach/Hal David)

What’s it all about Alfie
Is it just for the moment we live
What’s it all about
When you sort it out, Alfie
Are we meant to take more than we give
Or are we meant to be kind?
And if, if only fools are kind, Alfie
Then I guess it is wise to be cruel
And if life belongs only to the strong, Alfie
What will you lend on an old golden rule?
As sure as I believe there’s a heaven above
Alfie, I know there’s something much more
Something even non-believers can believe in
I believe in love, Alfie
Without true love we just exist, Alfie
Until you find the love you’ve missed
You’re nothing, Alfie
When you walk let your heart lead the way
And you’ll find love any day Alfie, oh Alfie.

Elvis, “If I Can Dream” and the ’68 Comeback Special

Since writing about Elvis Presley last time, and how it came about that the first album I ever bought was one of his, I have done a lot more reading about “The King” and how he re-emerged in 1968 as one of the world’s most electrifying live performers – Hard to believe that prior to the ’68 Comeback Special he had not performed live since 1961.

The thing with Elvis however, and I absolutely understand that he is not for everyone, is that when you watched him perform, you could really tell that he “felt the music” like no other. The reason he got into such bother in the 1950s with his pelvic rotations and thrusts, was simply because couldn’t stop himself! The music he developed with his band was a hybrid, particular to him and his Mississippi roots, of hillbilly, gospel, country and rhythm & blues.

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So, when he performed live over ten years later, in the intimate setting of the the Comeback Special studio at Burbank, you could really tell he was not just singing these songs he was “feeling them” with ever fibre of his being. In some of the Las Vegas shows, there are close-up shots where you can see the small muscles in his face move in time to the nuances of the music. None more so than during the sweet Bahamian lullaby segment within An American Trilogy – This song wasn’t actually written specifically for him but I cannot think of any artist for whom it could have had more significance, thus his obvious empathy with the music, lyrics and drama of the piece. I love watching him sing that one and I’m not even American so goodness how you guys across the pond must feel.

But the song I did want to write about was actually If I Can Dream from the ’68 Comeback Special. For some reason it was not until I re-visited the DVD last year after a friend and I at work had been discussing our love for old Elvis movies, that I really sat up and took notice of this song. It was the very last one of the show and he was dressed all in white, very much the southern gentleman. Now this is not one of those really popular songs that everyone will have heard of, and it wasn’t a big hit when it came out in the UK in 1969, but I was totally blown away by the lyrics and the passion with which he sang it. It had apparently been written just two months after the assassination of Martin Luther King who is directly quoted in the song. There was a definite gospel quality to his performance and whatever your beliefs, this was a powerful message coming from the man in the white suit.

After watching the clip numerous times, I was so blown away with the song that I decided to share it with my Facebook friends. As I said above however he is not to everyone’s taste and when I got no feedback, I took the post down. Imagine my delight therefore when before Christmas last year, a new album was released called “If I Can Dream” featuring vocal recordings of Elvis accompanied by orchestral arrangements from our very own Royal Philharmonic Orchestra. My new favourite Elvis song was the title track. Must have been one of those serendipitous things where I stumbled across something earlier in the year that would become the big hit of last Christmas. Over 47 years had elapsed since the song was written but (sadly) it was now as relevent as ever, if not more so. Probably why it resonated with the buying public so much.

I don’t know which version is best (perhaps Harry Hill could help with that one) but personally I still like the original as it is more purely Elvis. Great idea for an album however and meant that he is now back on top, being the artist with the most No. 1 albums ever in UK chart history. Not bad for someone who passed away 39 years ago.

If I Can Dream Lyrics
(Song by Walter Earl Brown)

There must be lights burning brighter somewhere
Got to be birds flying higher in a sky more blue
If I can dream of a better land
Where all my brothers walk hand in hand
Tell me why, oh why, oh why can’t my dream come true

There must be peace and understanding sometime
Strong winds of promise that will blow away
All the doubt and fear
If I can dream of a warmer sun
Where hope keeps shining on everyone
Tell me why, oh why, oh why won’t that sun appear

We’re lost in a cloud
With too much rain
We’re trapped in a world
That’s troubled with pain
But as long as a man
Has the strength to dream
He can redeem his soul and fly

Deep in my heart there’s a trembling question
Still I am sure that the answer gonna come somehow
Out there in the dark, there’s a beckoning candle
And while I can think, while I can walk
While I can stand, while I can talk
While I can dream, please let my dream
Come true, right now
Let it come true right now

First Albums, Elvis Presley and Flaming Star

Last week I wrote about “bad boys” in film, and Elvis Presley’s name had cropped up. Now I have always been an Elvis fan, and am proud to admit it, so it seems disloyal to call him a bad boy when we all know he had impeccable southern manners and respected his elders. There is no denying however that he caused a furore in the middle-class homes of America when he started appearing on television in the mid 1950s. So much so that he could only be filmed from the waist up, his pelvic rotations proving too animalistic and vulgar for viewers to handle! It seems laughable now but a letter from the Catholic church was sent to FBI director J Edgar Hoover warning him that “Presley is a definite danger to the security of the United States – His actions and motions were such as to rouse the sexual passions of teenaged youth”. So you see where I am coming from when I say that he was branded a “bad boy”.

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It makes me really sad now to think that many people only remember Elvis as the bloated, jumpsuited, cabaret singer who forgot the words to his songs and rambled incoherently during a performance (a lot to do with the sheer number of pretty appalling Elvis impersonators out there). I fortunately, have chosen to erase those Elvis images from my mind and remember mainly those great films from the ’60s, derided by the critics but loved by his fans. If you were a 10-year-old girl living in cold and windswept Scotland, to watch an Elvis film set in Hawaii, was joy personified. My dad and I were great fans of musicals and during the long winter months when there was no gardening or outdoor chores to be done, we spent many a Sunday afternoon watching Fred Astaire, Gene Kelly and of course Elvis, sing and dance their way across our television screens.

And so it came to pass, that the first album I ever bought was an Elvis one. I am highly sceptical of those people whose supposed first purchase was something really cool like Pink Floyd. It is much more plausible that like me, their first purchase was something bought as a child with Christmas or birthday money from a relative, whilst accompanied by a parent. I remember that back in the late ’60s/early ’70s, the best place to buy records was Boots the Chemist’s music department (sounds strange I know but true) and the 10/- (ten shilling) postal order given to me as a present by an aunt was converted to pre-decimalisation cash and then used to buy “Elvis Sings Flaming Star” which was a compilation album released in 1969. An unlikely choice considering he had so many great film soundtrack albums to his name, but I am pretty sure the main reason was that it was a new release based on the success of the ’68 Comeback Special and was on sale for the special price of 9/6 (nine shillings and sixpence) so fitted my budget. I was happy however as the album was full of great Elvis songs including Flaming Star, the title track to the 1960 film of the same name.

Flaming Star by Elvis Presley:

I am pretty sure I had watched that film at some point with my dad, but it was one in which Elvis had a straight acting role with no songs. He desperately wanted to be taken seriously as an actor and turned in one of his best performances to date. Sadly, due to poor box office success compared to his previous films, where he always had a singing role, he was persuaded by his mentor and manager “Colonel” Tom Parker to return to the former. I wonder now how things would have turned out if he had been allowed to carry on with straight acting roles. It is often cited that his Hollywood years were his unhappiest – He knew the films received little or no critical acclaim but he was heavily controlled by those around him whose livelihood depended on them continuing. Generous to a fault, he did what was expected of him, and that hastened the start of his decline, as his dependence on prescription drugs ramped up a gear to cope with the relentless lifestyle.

elvis

Since buying my new turntable I have revisited the album but have just worked out today, when listening to the song again in the clip, that the key change I always thought happened half way through, must have been a scratch on the record causing the needle to jump. Only took me 45 years!

Flaming Star Lyrics
(Song by Sid Wayne/Sherman Edwards)

Ev’ry man, has a flaming star
A flaming star, over his shoulder
And when a man, sees his flaming star
He knows his time, his time has come

Flaming star, don’t shine on me, flaming star
Flaming star, keep behind me, flaming star
There’s a lot of livin’ I’ve got to do
Give me time to make a few dreams come true
Flaming star

When I ride, I feel that flaming star
That flaming star, over my shoulder
And so I ride, front of that flaming star
Never lookin’ around, never lookin’ around

One fine day, I’ll see that flaming star
That flaming star, over my shoulder
And when I see, that old flaming star
I’ll know my time, my time has come

The Ronettes, Phil Spector and “Be My Baby”

Following on from my last post when I wrote about Amy Winehouse’s album “Back to Black”, her image at that time was very much taken from the American girl groups of the early ’60s. The most famous and recognisable of these was probably The Ronettes of Be My Baby fame.

Be My Baby by The Ronettes:

Now I would be lying if I said that I remembered this song from 1963 when it was first released, but it is one of those songs you will have heard throughout your entire life, popping up on the radio and on film soundtracks. Phil Spector, who produced the record, was an innovator and in the early 60s created his now infamous “wall of sound” as a backdrop to the sultry vocals of singers like Veronica (Ronnie) Bennett of The Ronettes and Darlene Love. This new approach to recording included using whole string and horn sections, as well as guitars and drums. The use of echo chambers and multiple tracking was also involved which basically meant that the sound was re-recorded over a demo of the previous recording many times, building up the cacophony of sound that became his trademark.

ronettes

Phil Spector is one of only a few producers who became more famous than many of the artists he worked with and because the “wall of sound” was so clearly associated with him, he was able to release successful albums of his label’s greatest hits under his own name. I bought these two albums in the mid ’80s when they were re-released – Phil Spector’s Greatest Hits & Phil Spector’s Christmas Album. They are still a joy to listen to today and with so few new Christmas songs being released nowadays, his seasonal album has become a staple in our house around that time of year.

In 1987, a low-budget film called Dirty Dancing was released starring Patrick Swayze and Jennifer Grey. Not ever expected to be a big hit, it has become one of the most well-loved films of all time and was the first movie to sell over a million copies on home video. As I have written elsewhere in the blog, adding the “music of the era” to a film soundtrack is a really effective tool and none more so than in the case of Dirty Dancing which was essentially a romantic drama, set in a 1963 holiday resort in the Catskill Mountains.

Be My Baby was used extensively as were other tracks from that year along with a whole load of new ones specially written for the movie. For some reason I didn’t see it when it first came out, but like most people my age, I have since bought the DVD and CD. I remember watching it with my daughter one Bank Holiday Monday and unlike when it came out in 1987, when I was in my late 20s, I felt real nostalgia for all those holiday experiences that Baby was going through. This has happened before when watching movies with my daughter – It seems that you have to be at least a generation removed to feel that emotion. At 27, I was neither young enough or old enough for that to happen. I would wager that the people who enjoyed that movie best when it came out, were either born circa 1970 (they could empathise) or 1950 (they could reflect nostalgically). Of course there are also all those people who would have enjoyed looking back at the music, fashions and social mores of that early sixties period but they would have been war babies and I don’t think that the film was aimed at that demographic when it came out.

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Patrick Swayze and Jennifer Grey partaking in some Dirty Dancing!

Wouldn’t be a blog post if I didn’t mention someone who had passed away and it is sad to think that the the vital, energetic, handsome Patrick Swayze (dancer Johnny Castle in the movie) is no longer with us. Jennifer Grey is still very much with us, however her appearance has changed so much since her days of playing Baby, that I now wouldn’t recognise her. Looking back, her nose was perhaps on the large side but after having it “done”, her film career was pretty much over. A case of perhaps best to have left well alone? Who knows but yet again I end with the familiar three letter acronym – RIP, Patrick.

Be My Baby Lyrics
(Song by Jeff Barry/Ellie Greenwich/Phil Spector)

The night we met I knew I needed you so
And if I had the chance I’d never let you go
So won’t you say you love me
I’ll make you so proud of me
We’ll make ’em turn their heads every place we go

So won’t you, please
(Be my, be my baby) Be my little baby
(My one and only baby) Say you’ll be my darlin’
(Be my, be my baby) Be my baby now
Wha-oh-oh-oh

I’ll make you happy, baby, just wait and see
For every kiss you give me, I’ll give you three
Oh, since the day I saw you
I have been waiting for you
You know I will adore you ’til eternity

Simon & Garfunkel, “The Sound of Silence” and Mrs Robinson

Writing yesterday about the wonderful song I Only Have Eyes For You, got me thinking about Art Garfunkel who also had a big hit with that song in the 1970s. His most successful period however was the 1960s, when he and high school friend Paul Simon formed a duo. They first started recording music as teenagers but got back together in their early twenties to record their first album which featured a simple, pared-down, folk version of The Sound of Silence. Sadly the album was not a great success and the pair went their separate ways. Fortunately for us however, the song’s producer revisited it in the wake of increased airplay, remixed it and transformed it into the kind of folk rock record that was being produced by the Byrds and Bob Dylan at the time. By 1966 The Sound of Silence had become an international hit and needless to say Art Garfunkel headed back from college, and Paul Simon from working in England, in order to capitalise on the renewed interest in their music.

The Sound of Silence by Simon & Garfunkel:

I don’t think I really would have remembered them from that era as I was too young but in 1967 the film The Graduate was released and rather than use a specially written soundtrack, the director chose to use Simon & Garfunkel songs such as “The Sound of Silence”,” Mrs Robinson” and “Scarborough Fair”. The film was a massive success and unlike other film songs I have written about, these are carefully woven into the storyline to great effect, adding another dimension to an already compelling screenplay. Benjamin Braddock has returned home to Pasadena, California after graduating from college. Unsure of what he wants to do with his life, he spends his days lounging in the swimming pool of his parents’ very luxurious home. Enter Mrs Robinson, the wife of one of his father’s colleagues who is similarly bored and and disillusioned with life. Of course the inevitable happens and the affair she draws the inexperienced and clumsy Benjamin into, leads to moments of great two-handed dialogue.

Benjamin: For god’s sake, Mrs. Robinson. Here we are. You got me into your house. You give me a drink. You… put on music. Now you start opening up your personal life to me and tell me your husband won’t be home for hours.
Mrs. Robinson: So?
Benjamin: Mrs. Robinson, you’re trying to seduce me.
Mrs. Robinson: [laughs] Huh?
Benjamin: Aren’t you?

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I really only appreciated the music of Simon & Garfunkel properly after watching the film in the ’70s when it first appeared on television. (Was I too young for it I now wonder? – Doubt it as adult themes but never anything too disturbing.) I don’t think any other film made such good use of its soundtrack, until Saturday Night Fever came along in 1978 featuring the music of The Bee Gees.

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So, “What’s It All About” – Yet again I am writing about music from film or television. The soundtrack to my life has most definitely been heavily influenced by what I used to watch on screen. As a teenager I had a Saturday job in our village newsagents. In my lunch hour I used to go to our local electrical retailer (otherwise known as “The TV Shop”) which had a small rack of vinyl albums up near the back. Nothing there had been anywhere near a chart but there were lots of Greatest Hits (Simon & Garfunkel), Easy Listening (Burt Bacharach) and Film Soundtrack albums (The Graduate, West Side Story etc). All my welfare needs were already catered for by my parents, so the Saturday job wages were used to buy vinyl from this shop. Walking back to the newsagents one Saturday ahead of the afternoon shift with a carrier bag obviously containing an album (they were a very distinctive shape), I bumped into a friend. She immediately asked what I had just bought – “G-Gary Glitter” I quickly replied, embarrassed to admit it was actually a Glenn Miller album as I’d fallen in love with his music watching The Glenn Miller Story with my dad the previous Sunday. Funny how the passage of time has rendered that answer wrong on so many levels – I am proud however to say that I was never, ever again embarrassed to admit that I loved Mr Miller and his unique “sound”!

The Sound of Silence Lyrics
(Song by Paul Simon)

Hello darkness, my old friend,
I’ve come to talk with you again,
Because a vision softly creeping,
Left its seeds while I was sleeping,
And the vision that was planted in my brain
Still remains
Within the sound of silence.

In restless dreams I walked alone
Narrow streets of cobblestone,
‘Neath the halo of a street lamp,
I turned my collar to the cold and damp
When my eyes were stabbed by the flash of a neon light
That split the night
And touched the sound of silence.

And in the naked light I saw
Ten thousand people, maybe more.
People talking without speaking,
People hearing without listening,
People writing songs that voices never share
And no one dared
Disturb the sound of silence.

“Fools,” said I, “You do not know.
Silence like a cancer grows.
Hear my words that I might teach you.
Take my arms that I might reach you.”
But my words like silent raindrops fell
And echoed in the wells of silence

And the people bowed and prayed
To the neon god they made.
And the sign flashed out its warning
In the words that it was forming.
And the sign said, “The words of the prophets are written on the subway walls
And tenement halls
And whispered in the sounds of silence.”

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Postscript:

I feel I can’t finish today’s post without mentioning the sad passing of Sir Terry Wogan – I can’t remember a time when he hasn’t been around on television and radio bringing joy to so many people. It’s akin to losing a favourite uncle (or great-uncle depending on your age). It is appropriate to note on this day therefore, that the guest who caused him most difficulty during his long run of early evening chat shows, was indeed “Mrs Robinson” herself, Anne Bancroft – She apparently sat in a catatonic trance and refused to answer any of his questions.

RIP Sir Terry.

Kids Telly, “White Horses” and Jackie Lee

I’ve come to realise that although I had a plan for how I would select songs to write about, they end up choosing themselves. The death of David Bowie last week led me to spend a lot of time thinking about him and then with the death of Alan Rickman, that led me to thinking about songs from movies. Somehow we ended up with Careless Whisper by George Michael which was the first randomly chosen song of last week as it turned out but followed on very nicely from the post about other early ’80s post-New Romantic pop acts.

So, the soundtrack of our lives can come from a variety of sources and in my case it is as much from television shows and films as from the music charts – This afternoon when I switched on the radio, a French song was playing and it took me right back to the kid’s TV show from the 1960s, Belle and Sebastian. There were still only two channels available at that time on our television set in rural Scotland, so very few programmes to choose from. Belle was a Pyrenean mountain dog and every week from late 1967 to early 1968, Belle and Sebastian enchanted us all, in black and white, with their adventures. It was a French show set in the Alps, and dubbed into English by the BBC. The most memorable thing about it for me however was the deeply moving opening song performed by the boy who played Sebastian – L’Oiseau.  Listening to it again just now, I can still picture that scene right at the beginning where you see young Sebastian scrambling up the snowy mountain-side with his big white dog, Belle.

The TV schedules at that time had many other European children’s dramas such as Tales from Europe (set in the most amazing Medieval locations) and the very best of them all – White Horses. This one was made by a Yugoslavian television company and followed the adventures of Julia and the beautiful Lipizanner horses raised on her Uncle Dimitri’s stud farm outside Belgrade. Again it was in black and white and again dubbed into English. First broadcast on British TV in 1968 it became a firm favourite especially with horse-loving little girls. The best bit of the show however was the theme song White Horses sung by Jackie Lee or, by the time it was released as a single in the April of that year, just Jacky. Some pieces of music just can’t help but make you feel good and this is most definitely one of them, often coming at the top of polls of the best TV theme song ever.

White Horses by Jacky:

What I do remember vividly however from this time of White Horses in the late ’60s, was that I was a very happy child. We were a family of three – My mum, dad and me, with my granny and grandad living next door. We had a big garden with vegetables, soft fruit, flowers and plenty of areas of grass to play on. There were neighbour’s children to play with and my cousins came to stay every school holiday. I realise now how lucky I was – Very different for many city-dwelling children back in those days, and different for nearly all children nowadays. All we would have needed to make it perfect was a big white Lipizanner stallion and Jacky singing White Horses in the background. Ok I’ve gone too far now – I’ll sign out for today before it gets any more schmaltzy!

White Horses Lyrics
(Song by Michael Carr/Ben Nisbet)

On white horses let me ride away
To my world of dreams so far away
Let me run
To the sun.

To a world my heart can understand
It’s a gentle warm and wonderland
Far away
Stars away

Where the clouds are made of candy floss
As the day is born.
When the stars are gone
We’ll race to meet the dawn

So when I can only see the grey
Of a sad and very lonely day
That’s when I softly sigh
On white horses
Snowy white horses
Let me ride away