My 400th Post and Christmas, WIAA Style

WIAA: Alyson…, oh Alyson.

ALYSON: Hi WIAA, I am here, it’s just that I’m feeling a bit discombobulated by all the uncertainly that’s crept in over the last week so don’t know where to go with this one. Last year I wrote a (hopefully humorous) blog post about the planned five day Christmas Bubbles, but then at the 11th hour, the rules all changed. It’s looking like that might happen again, and for the second year in a row, many of us will find ourselves…

WIAA: Do you have any Christmas songs to share with your lovely followers?

ALYSON: To be honest WIAA, as this is my fifth Christmas as a music blogger I fear I may have revisited all my favourites already (link here), and despite the fact many well-known artists have recorded something new this year, none of their songs have really resonated with me. Here’s something to kick off with though – I mentioned at the end of 2020 that my favourite ‘new song discovery’ of that year was José Felicianos version of California Dreamin’. As the whole world still seems to be going through a topsy-turvey time, it doesn’t feel that unusual for a music blogger from the Highlands of Scotland to be drawn to a Christmas song by a Puerto Rican singer/songwriter from 1970. I give you Feliz Navidad (don’t think you’ll need a translation).

Feliz Navidad by José Feliciano:


WIAA: Good one Alyson. What have you been doing in the build up to Christmas this year?

ALYSON: Well, it’s a bit of a weird one, as we’re now having to lie low to keep ourselves virus-free in advance of guests arriving at the holiday hideaway. Personally I think both sets will now cancel, which will be a bit of a blow, but before the whole lying low thing happened, I had tentatively returned to my regular cinema-going ways.

WIAA: What have you been to see?

ALYSON: It didn’t occur to me until now but maybe the reason I thought of José’s song is that I went to see Stephen Spielberg’s remake of West Side Story last week, all about the rivalry between two New York gangs, the Jets, and the Puerto Rican Sharks.

WIAA: Did you enjoy it?

ALYSON: I think I’m still processing it. The 1961 film won 10 Academy Awards, and when I first watched it as a teenager, I was blown away by it – Although some of the musical numbers were outstanding in the new film, as were the two female leads, there was something about it that felt a bit ‘silly’ for 2021. Our viewing habits have become a lot more sophisticated and I don’t think the younger generation would see it as a period drama. The clothes and themes could almost be contemporary, but the language used by the gangs and their balletic style of dance is most definitely not contemporary. Again, I was discombobulated and wondered if it really needed to be remade.

WIAA: Did you cry at the end?

ALYSON: Oh WIAA, you know me well. I did indeed despite knowing how it ended having watched the original many times. The love story was inspired by Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, but a story that never dates it seems, and just as relevant today. Stephen Sondheim, the musical’s lyricist, died aged 91 at the end of November, just at the time of the film’s release. As a bit of a tribute to him, here is the Tonight Quintet from the original film, an incredible piece of ‘opera’ based on the duet between Maria and Tony from earlier on in the musical. The five parts of the quintet are sung by the Jets, the Sharks, Tony, Maria, and Anita.

Tonight Quintet by the West Side Story Cast:


WIAA: Well, you really got into your stride there despite me feeling a bit unloved earlier on – A blank page sitting on a blogging platform with only five days to go until Christmas.

ALYSON: Yes I can always rely on you to get me back on track. Can you believe that when I press the publish button on this one, we’ll have racked up a total of 400 blog posts together. It’s been a journey, and we’re not finished yet are we? I think I can fly solo now WIAA, so happy to let you head off and do whatever blogs have to do behind the scenes, fixing broken links and the like. Merry Christmas to you.

WIAA: Merry Christmas Alyson.

Five years ago, in my first year of blogging, I bemoaned the fact I was one of the sandwich generation, someone who worked full-time but also had adult offspring still living at home and an elderly parent to look out for. As regulars around here will know, none of these things now apply – I waved goodbye to my old workplace four years ago, my mum moved into her care home three years ago and DD headed out into the world two years ago. It’s happened gradually, but it turns out you kinda miss being the squished filler in a sandwich, especially around Christmastime.

It’s become traditional at this time of year that I share some songs relevant to each generation of my family, and Mr WIAA and I have had some fun this week watching old clips on YouTube when we probably should have been engaged in something more productive, by hey, I’m a loose filler who has lost her bread, so it’s allowed.

2 Become 1 by the Spice Girls:


Can you believe it’s 25 years since Girl Power became ‘a thing’ courtesy of those larger than life Spice Girls. Back then I was a busy mum with a baby and a responsible job so they really weren’t aimed at my demographic, but you couldn’t fail to get caught up in all their Zig-a-Zig-ah-ing back in 1996. They’d already had two No. 1 hits that year and at Christmastime they did it again with this one, 2 Become 1. I just loved the video for it set in New York, and it reminded me that Mr WIAA and I had become an item just before Christmas a few years earlier – A great time of year to be all loved up. I was shocked therefore to learn it was all filmed in a studio on Old Compton Street, London, using a ‘green screen’. Anyway, this one’s for DD, as although I know what the song is really all about, the romantic in me just wants to acknowledge the fact it’s also about two individuals forming a relationship and perhaps welcoming a new little person into the world one day.

Yesterday I went to visit my mum at the care home. I had to wear full PPE and the visit was heavily supervised as her care home has yet again been forced into lockdown and all their Christmas activites were cancelled. I did however manage to play her a few Christmas songs on my phone from the only festive album that resided in our house when I was growing up. Yes, yet again it’s going to be that Texan Jim Reeves, with one of the songs from his best-selling album, Twelve Songs of Christmas. My mum was my age 25 years ago when the Spice Girls were at No.1 with their song, and a big help to me when I was a busy mum myself. How things change with the passage of time, and food for thought indeed. Think she enjoyed hearing Jim though, and hopefully it did bring back memories from the distant past.

As for us, I’m going to defer to Mr WIAA who seems to find good clips to watch. Another person we lost from the world of music recently was John Miles. As 1976 seems to have been my favourite year to revisit these last 12 months, here is an epic 2001 Proms performance of his song, Music, which reached the No. 3 spot on our UK Singles Chart back in ’76. It’s not a Christmas song, but the audience certainly make it look festive with all those lights. He was only aged 72 when he died. RIP John.

Music by John Miles:


One final indulgence, and yet again not a Christmas song, but one that is set to clips from the Emma Thompson film Last Christmas. In terms of plot, if you are using the lyrics from the song Last Christmas as inspiration, it really can’t get any more literal than this, and a bit ridiculous really. If however you are a fan of the songs of George Michael, as I am, it was a no-brainer you would go and see it at the cinema when it came out two years ago.

Five years ago George Michael died on Christmas Day, and his passing affected me more than any other person we’ve lost since I started this blog. My sidebar has a couple of categories dedicated to him. The song used is Praying for Time from 1990, and it still gives me goose-bumps when I listen to it. The song deals with, “the many social injustices faced by so many, and questions the conditioning society has created and why it can be so hard to be kind to one another.” He was a good egg George, and many of his random acts of kindness were only discovered after his death. Around this time of year we should all try and take a leaf out of his book, as over 30 years on, those social injustices are still around and have become compounded by the pandemic.

Praying for Time by George Michael:


Another final, final, indulgence (nearly done now I promise) – If you scroll forward to 0:22 in the clip above you’ll find the logo for an established London restaurant. Mr WIAA is commissioned by third parties to make miniature sculptures for their various clients. Sometimes we have samples left over, and I liked this chap, so he sits on my desk. Watching that video clip, we just found out who he was for!

Anyway, it’s a very wordy one this, but as it’s my 400th post and my 5th Christmas as a music blogger I really did want to get something published before the big day. Thankfully, with my blog’s encouragement, I got there in the end.

If you celebrate it, hope you have a lovely Christmas Day with no last minute changes to your plans. Unlike 25 years ago, or indeed 5 years ago, we’ll be having a very quiet time indeed but that’s just how life rolls. As ever I’ll raise a glass to George on the day – He is missed, but never forgotten.

Until next time…

Praying For Time Lyrics
(Song by George Michael)

These are the days of the open hand
They will not be the last
Look around now
These are the days of the beggars and the choosers

This is the year of the hungry man
Whose place is in the past
Hand in hand with ignorance
And legitimate excuses

The rich declare themselves poor
And most of us are not sure
If we have too much
But we’ll take our chances
‘Cause God’s stopped keeping score

I guess somewhere along the way
He must have let us all out to play
Turned his back and all God’s children
Crept out the back door

And it’s hard to love, there’s so much to hate
Hanging on to hope
When there is no hope to speak of
And the wounded skies above say it’s much much too late
Well maybe we should all be praying for time

These are the days of the empty hand
Oh, you hold on to what you can
And charity is a coat you wear twice a year

This is the year of the guilty man
Your television takes a stand
And you find that what was over there is over here

So you scream from behind your door
Say, “What’s mine is mine and not yours”
I may have too much but I’ll take my chances
‘Cause God’s stopped keeping score

And you cling to the things they sold you
Did you cover your eyes when they told you
That he can’t come back
‘Cause he has no children to come back for

It’s hard to love, there’s so much to hate
Hanging on to hope when there is no hope to speak of
And the wounded skies above say it’s much too late
So maybe we should all be praying for time

Nostalgia, The Monkees and RIP Mike Nesmith

Nostalgia.

That was to be the theme of today’s post as it’s something many of us feel acutely at this time of year. When I started this retrospective music blog nearly six years ago, I hadn’t yet realised that writing about old Christmas songs can really pull at the heart strings. You remember happy Christmases with your family as a child, you remember happy Christmases with your friends as a young adult, and then happy Christmases with your own children when they came along. (Link to previous festive posts here.)

From this end of the conveyor belt of life it’s all a bit different – Many of the people in those memories are no longer with us and this year DD will be with her boyfriend’s parents on the big day, which seems only fair after having bagsied them for two years in a row because of last year’s sudden change in ‘the rules’. I am still hopeful we might have grandchildren some day, which would really perk things up around here, but of course a grandchild is not just for Christmas so I’ll have to be patient on that front.

But back to nostalgia, defined as, “the pleasure and sadness that is caused by remembering something from the past and wishing that you could experience it again”. Looking at various examples of its use in a sentence, nostalgia can be either a good thing or be somewhat crippling, as in reality we can’t go back in time. Best to just remember it all as it was and enjoy the memories.

It soon became apparent that my first musical memories were from 1966 when I was aged six. I was already aware of the Beatles, and of many of the singers who appeared on the prime time shows my parents watched, but when the Monkees television show (also called The Monkees) hit our screens that year, I was immediately smitten. Their scheduled slot in the UK was teatime on a Saturday, so perfect for family viewing. I was therefore saddened to hear of the death of Mike Nesmith last night before going to bed, the third Monkee to leave us.

(Theme From) The Monkees by the Monkees:


I have written about both Davy Jones and Peter Tork around here before, and now it’s going to be Mike Nesmith. Let’s hope it’s a while before Micky Dolenz puts in an appearance.

Anyone who remembers those days will know that Mike was the tall Monkee with the woolly hat and the Texan drawl (although at age six I wouldn’t have known what a drawl was). He was one of the older Monkees and was primarily a musician rather than an actor. The show ran for two seasons, between 1966 and 1968, and followed the adventures of four young men trying to make a name for themselves as a band. Ironically, because of the success of the show, they became one of the most popular bands of the 1960s, but got increasingly frustrated at the control exerted over them by the show’s creator. They were acting out their roles and were never expected to actually play their own instruments or write their own songs. In time that changed however and some of their own songs, many written by Mike Nesmith, proved to be the most popular of all.

Mike Nesmith 1942 – 2021

It sounds as if Mike hadn’t been well for some time but he had been well enough to head out on one last Farewell Tour which ended only last month. He was no longer the young man in the woolly hat, and had to stay seated for the first few shows of the tour, but made it through to the bitter end. A fitting conclusion perhaps to his life.

My favourite fun fact about Mike Nesmith is that his mother invented Liquid Paper (known to others perhaps as Tippex or correction fluid). She went from being a ‘single mom’ to being the owner of a multi-million dollar company. As someone who went through a lot of Liquid Paper working in offices over the years, I thank her for helping us keep our paperwork looking tidy. I’m guessing in these days of paperless offices, it is no longer needed.

Since starting this blog I’ve made a lot of new song discoveries and one of my favourites is Different Drum by Linda Ronstadt and the Stone Poneys. It was written by Mike Nesmith back in 1964, long before his years with the Monkees so thank you Mike for that amazing song. Time to hear what it sounded like in your hands.

Different Drum by Linda Ronstadt and the Stone Poneys:


So, ‘What’s It All About?’ – I suppose it was inevitable that if I started to revisit the music of my youth, there was a fair chance many of the associated artists would already be no longer be with us, and many more tributes have been written around here over the last few years. The upside however is that you get a chance to revisit their back catalogue of songs and enjoy listening to them all over again. Keeping nostalgia in check is a tough ask at this time of year for those of us no longer in the first flush of youth, but there is definitely a pleasurable side to it too.

Until next time… RIP Mike Nesmith

Different Drum Lyrics
(Song by Mike Nesmith)

You and I travel to the beat of a diff’rent drum
Oh, can’t you tell by the way I run
Every time you make eyes at me Wo oh
You cry and you moan and say it will work out
But honey child I’ve got my doubts
You can’t see the forest for the trees

So, don’t get me wrong it’s not that I’m knockin’
It’s just that I’m not in the market
For a boy who wants to love only me
Yes, and I ain’t sayin’ you ain’t pretty
All I’m sayin’s I’m not ready for any person
Place or thing to try and pull the reins in on me
So Goodbye, I’ll be leavin’
I see no sense in the cryin’ and grievin’
We’ll both live a lot longer if you live without me

Oh, don’t get me wrong it’s not that I’m knockin’
It’s just that I’m not in the market
For a boy who wants to love only me
Yes, and I ain’t sayin’ you ain’t pretty
All I’m sayin’s I’m not ready for any person
Place or thing to try and pull the reins in on me
So Goodbye, I’ll be leavin’
I see no sense in the cryin’ and grievin’
We’ll both live a lot longer if you live without me

A Break From Rolling News, A Return To The Sixties and More Northern Soul: ‘What’ by Judy Street

Another Saturday and another blog post from me. I’ve suddenly become quite prolific after a bit of a fallow period. We’ve all had our ups and downs over the last couple of years but thankfully my downs seem to be temporary. I feel for those whose mental health has really been affected however, as there just doesn’t seem to be enough help out there for the increased demand. This week’s news headlines won’t have helped – Could Christmas be cancelled yet again?

Something Mr WIAA and I have actively tried to cut back on over the last fortnight, is rolling news. Being home-based, we never wanted to fall into the trap of watching daytime telly, so always kept the screen in the kitchen tuned to a news channel. Problem is, in 2021 the stories have been bleak indeed, and not just down to the pandemic. Best to simply catch the radio news first thing in the morning then stay well away from it all for the rest of the day – Turns out a bit of property porn, or touching base with the heir-hunters when having a break, is far less depressing.

Kay Burley from the world of rolling news

Forgive me this indulgence, but over the years, whenever something quite big happened in our family, we didn’t just rush home to tell each other. Oh no, we also burst into song, the first lines from this song to be specific. One of DD’s favourite films as a young child was Summer Holiday and it was watched many, many times. Near the end of the film, Don (Cliff Richard) puts the world’s press right, via the medium of song. Here he is singing Big News from 1963. (Starts at 0:33.)

Big News by Cliff Richard:

Sticking with a 1960s theme, my Saturday morning starts well nowadays. Not just because of Rol’s Saturday Snapshots, but also because of the radio show Sounds of the Sixties. The current presenter Tony Blackburn is now aged 78, but his enthusiasm for the songs he plays is infectious, and in a 15 minute period he can fit in around five classic songs, punctuated with his short and snappy, so bad they’re good, dad jokes.

Couldn’t get to sleep so went to buy a new mattress – Salesman said if you lie near the edge you’ll soon drop off.

Tony started out in pirate radio and of course was the first DJ to be heard on BBC Radio 1 when it launched in 1967. The first record he played was The Move’s Flowers in the Rain, a useful fact for pop quizzes. He’s had a long career and even provided the inspiration for many a comedy sketch about aging, ‘not-so-cool’ DJs. Think Tony has had the last laugh though, as here he is still doing a job he adores all these years later – How many of us can say that nowadays. His first love was soul music and he always includes a floor-filler from the days of Northern Soul on his show. This morning’s pick was this gem from 1968, What by Judy Street.

What by Judy Street:

I’ve become fascinated by Northern Soul over the last few years and have written a fair few posts about the phenomenon that hit the North of England in the mid 1970s. I love to watch those dancers in action and live in hope I’ll master their moves whilst still fit enough to do so. The music usually drives the dance style, but because I wasn’t there at the time, tricky to pick it up in later life it seems. Maybe I’ll have to get one of those big circular skirts and put some talc on my laminate floor.

The song What was originally recorded by Melinda Marx, daughter of Groucho, and released in 1965. Judy recorded it in 1968 as the B-side to her single You Turn Me On. After being exported to England, it was picked up by DJs at Wigan Casino and became a big hit on the Northern Soul circuit.

So, ‘What’s It All About?’ – I used to be shocked when people I worked with said they didn’t really watch the news, as I always like to be well-informed about what’s going on in the world. It does start to wear you down however, when everything is negative, worrying and doesn’t give you much hope for the future. I will no doubt return to my old ways in due course, but for the moment, nice to have a bit of a break from it all.

It was a real delight to listen to back to back songs from the 1960s earlier on this morning – In a short space of time we were treated to Oh, Happy Day, Waterloo Sunset, Ain’t Nothing Like The Real Thing, Do You Know The Way To San Jose and I Couldn’t Live Without Your Love, as well as the song written about above. As for Tony Blackburn, just like Kay Burley in the world of television news, he’s not for everyone, but when interviewed he’s like the cat that got the cream, as he still can’t quite believe he gets paid for playing all these songs he loves. He is apolitical and never offers up his opinions, so his show makes for a nice relaxed start to the weekend. His predecessor Brian Matthews was more a connoisseur of ’60s music I think, often playing lesser known tracks, but Tony is a people pleaser and sticks to the ones we all know and love.

Right, time to dust off my plimsoles and get working on my spins and shuffles. If you want to find out more about Northern Soul, this episode of The Culture Show does well in explaining it all.

Until next time…

What Lyrics
(Song by H.B. Barnum)

Do you want me to get down on my knees
Beg you baby please cry a million tears
Do you want me to call you on the phone
Beg you to come home think of all the years

When I once lived in paradise
When the love light showed in your eyes

Oh tell me what
What (what) can I do when I still love you

What (what) can I say when I still want you
What can I do what can I say
You’ll never know this way

Do you want me to follow you around everywhere in town do you want a clown
Why do you treat me mean and cruel breaking every rule can’t I be your fool
We could make this a happy home
So come back where you belong

Oh tell me what (what) can I do when I still love you
What (what) can I say when I still want you
What can I do what can I say
You’ll never know this way

Please forgive me come back and then
We can fall in love
Over and over and over and over again

Oh tell me what (what) can I do
What (what) can I say
Say you’ll come back don’t stay away
What (what) can I do now baby

Postscript:

After pressing the publish button I made a bit of an interesting discovery. At the start of last week, my first post back after a break of a few weeks featured a song by Soft Cell. I of course mentioned that their first big hit in 1981 was a cover of Tainted Love, a Northern Soul favourite originally recorded by Gloria Jones.

In 1982 they also recorded What, and it got to the No. 3 spot on the UK Singles Chart. For some bizarre reason I don’t remember it at all, so can only put that down to the fact my life as a student had just come to an end and the world of paid work had begun – Different priorities. Anyway, here are Soft Cell with a very different version of today’s featured song. They obviously had an affinity for Northern Soul.

The End of An Era, Crosby, Stills & Nash and ‘Marrakesh Express’

I don’t know if this applies to everyone, but because life hasn’t been ‘normal’ for such a long time now, I’ve almost forgotten what it used to be like. I do know that I miss it however, and what has replaced it just doesn’t cut the mustard for me, for all sorts of reasons. Compared with many, I have been spared some of the worst outcomes of the pandemic, and of our departure from the EU, but I can’t seem to curb that continual feeling of anxiety about what is potentially coming round the corner next. I was horrified to hear this week, that worries about climate change are really affecting children, even young ones – How sad is that. Lets hope COP26 in Glasgow goes some way to allaying their fears, but I’m not holding my breath.

WIAA: Whoa Alyson, you’re being a bit miserable in this one. Can we raise the mood a bit please?

ALYSON: Sorry WIAA. Of course, but sometimes we just get a bit overwhelmed by everything negative going on in the news and closer to home. I seem to have lost a lot of people from my life of late and last week our neighbours of 18 years, who were also close friends, moved away from the area.

WIAA: That’s a shame.

ALYSON: It’s good for them of course, as they have a whole new life planned for where they are going, but there have been many, many get-togethers over the years, and we’ll miss that. They specialised in Murder Mystery Parties when we all dressed up in costume, and coming out of lockdown last year when we were still only allowed two people in our gardens, they joined me for a (very pared down) 60th birthday bash.

WIAA: What can I say Alyson? Things change, but I’m sure you’ll keep in touch and your new neighbours might also become friends. Any songs you associate with them?

ALYSON: Many, but here’s one that became very relevant a few years ago after they booked a trip to Morocco. Whenever they mentioned their holiday destination, I had to give a few bursts of this gem of a song, Marrakesh Express by Crosby, Stills and Nash.

Marrakesh Express by Crosby, Stills and Nash:

Yet again I am revisiting artists who set up camp in late ’60s Laurel Canyon but I have a great affinity for the music of those days, despite having been a bit too young for it at the time. The song came about after Graham Nash journeyed from Casablanca to Marrakesh on the ‘Express’. He soon realised there was little to interest him in his first-class compartment so moved down the train and experienced all the sights and sounds written about in the lyrics of the song. When he got back to England, his band The Hollies rejected the song for not being commercial enough, which precipitated him parting company with them and he headed to LA. Once there, he got together with Stephen Stills and David Crosby to form Crosby, Stills and Nash. The song became the first single from their debut album.

I love the story behind this album cover. The band had been driving around with their photographer friend Henry Diltz when they saw an abandoned house with a sofa outside. They took the iconic picture and then went home. After finalising the name of the band, they realised they should change the seating order. Sadly when they returned to the same spot, the house had been reduced to a pile of timber, so the original picture stood.

So, ‘What’s It All About?’ – Things change over time and it saddens me that we will never have the same experiences with new neighbours as we did with the ones who have moved. We’re just not in that age demographic any more. Fortunately they have not moved to Morocco, so we will hopefully be able to arrange a few visits over the coming months and years, but it’s not the same as living next door.

Life in late ’60s Laurel Canyon, where Crosby, Stills and Nash set up camp, really sounded idyllic. All these musicians and artists living in close proximity to each other, in those rustic houses overlooking downtown Los Angeles, formed a hotbed of creativity which has had a long-lasting impact. It too came to an end however, as all things must.

ALYSON: Hope I’ve redeemed myself, WIAA, by sharing a classic song?

WIAA: You have indeed. Chin up. The world leaders at COP26 will sort out all our problems in one fell swoop, I’m sure of it.

ALYSON: Let’s hope so, otherwise the North of Scotland might end up looking like Marrakesh. Strange times, as I often say around here.

Until next time…

Marrakesh Express Lyrics
(Song by Graham Nash)

Looking at the world through the sunset in your eyes
Traveling the train through clear Moroccan skies
Ducks and pigs and chickens call
Animal carpet wall to wall
American ladies five-foot tall in blue

Sweeping cobwebs from the edges of my mind
Had to get away to see what we could find
Hope the days that lie ahead
Bring us back to where they’ve led
Listen not to what’s been said to you

Wouldn’t you know we’re riding on the Marrakesh Express
Wouldn’t you know we’re riding on the Marrakesh Express
They’re taking me to Marrakesh
All aboard the train, all aboard the train

I’ve been saving all my money just to take you there
I smell the garden in your hair

Take the train from Casablanca going south
Blowing smoke rings from the corners of my mouth
Colored cottons hang in the air
Charming cobras in the square
Striped djellebas we can wear at home Well, let me hear you now

Wouldn’t you know we’re riding on the Marrakesh Express
Wouldn’t you know we’re riding on the Marrakesh Express
They’re taking me to Marrakesh

Wouldn’t you know we’re riding on the Marrakesh Express
Wouldn’t you know we’re riding on the Marrakesh Express
They’re taking me to Marrakesh
All on board the train, all on board the train
All on board

A Summer of Sport, Coin Collections and Songs from Simpler Times

Well, I don’t suppose I can write this week’s blog post without mentioning sport, as there’s an awful lot of it going on right now, and I’ve got caught up in all the excitement. Unlike many Scots I am always happy if any of our home nations does well in a big football tournament, as it extends the excitement that bit longer and you can experience it all vicariously via their fans. Although I am no longer a fan of club football, I do still love the big tournaments and there will be an awful lot of UK citizens tuning in on Sunday night for the final. Sadly DD and her boyfriend had chosen that one weekend to head off to a fancy-pants hotel for a bit of R & R. She is most definitely not a fan of football but her boyfriend certainly is. Their Sunday night “dining experience” will be cut short I fear.

An absolute dream for a fan of spreadsheets, lists and statistics – My ‘beflagged’, almost completed wallchart

But anyway, with tennis back at Wimbledon, the Tour de France in progress, our national football teams giving the country a much needed lift, and the Tokyo Olympics (sans spectators it seems) just round the corner, it feels like summers of old. Odd that everything is now out of sync in terms of the year though, UEFA Euro 2020 and the Tokyo 2020 Olympics both being held in 2021. In the fullness of time, when we look back at those long lists of annual sporting achievements, the year 2020 will be erased from time, something that didn’t even happen during the two world wars. The pesky virus, invisible to the eye, has shut down international gatherings like never before in history.

There have been many football anthems over the years and I shared one from Scotland’s 1982 campaign a couple of weeks ago (link here). Time to focus on the home nation who will appear in Sunday’s final then. Over the years, England have had many songs recorded to accompany their football tournament journey, but only four have made it to the top spot on the UK Singles Chart. The first was this one, Back Home, from 1970, the year I first became invested in football and from the days when the actual team lined up for singing duties. (Bobby Charlton looking a bit sad there in the still, or is he embarrassed?).

I had been just too young to remember the 1966 campaign (down to a very early bedtime in those days I’ve now realised) but by the time I reached the age of 10, I could join my dad in watching the matches, and collecting those coins that were given out at petrol stations. I do still have some of the sticker books petrol stations gave away during the Olympics of that era, but sadly no longer have my coin collection. Fortunately I’ve found some sets online shared by people who have very sensibly held on to theirs. Some very familiar names there from the 1966 World Cup winning team, but sadly not many of them still with us. Bobby’s brother Jack Charlton died just last year, and so did Nobby Stiles. A great shame they didn’t live long enough to see their team reach another final.

So the song Back Home, written by top pop songwriters of the day Bill Martin and Phil Coulter, reached No. 1 on the UK Singles Chart in May 1970. It took another 20 years for an England campaign football song to reach to top spot and this time it was a very different animal. World in Motion was written/performed by New Order and Keith Allen with the football squad joining in for the chorus. Footballer John Barnes took the song to a whole new level by very ably adding a rap section, and unlike Back Home, I think it has stood the test of time.

I had just starting going out with Mr WIAA and I remember watching much of Italia ’90 with him. This time there were no coins to collect, but many of us did find ourselves warming to opera, after being serenaded by Luciano Pavarotti’s Nessun Dorma every evening ahead of watching the television coverage.

Luciano Pavarotti

The third No. 1 football song was of course Three Lions which seems to have become the unofficial anthem for every England campaign since. It was written back in 1996 for the Euros held in England so it made sense for the songwriters to add the line, “It’s coming home”. It didn’t as it turned out, but 25 years on there is the chance for that to happen on Sunday night. This time the song was written by comedians David BaddielFrank Skinner, and the band Lightning Seeds. Don’t know about you but it doesn’t feel like 25 years since that tournament, but then again DD was just a baby back then, and now she’s off to expensive hotels with her boyfriend. How time flies.

Scotland found themselves in the same group as England at Euro 96 and I remember well sitting with a piece of paper on the night of the final group stage matches, working out the changing goal difference between teams each time the ball found itself at the back of the net. For a time it was looking as if Scotland would progress, but a last minute goal by The Netherlands put paid to that dream. As they were playing England many of us thought they possibly let that happen, but that would be casting aspersions wouldn’t it.

For the sake of completeness I feel I should add the fourth and final anthem to have reached the top spot, Shout for England, but I can’t say I even remember it. It was written for the South Africa 2010 World Cup tournament and samples Tears for Fears Shout as well as sections of rap by Dizzee Rascal. James Corden also seems to have played a part on that one. This tournament largely passed me by, because of intense work pressures around that time, but who could forget the dreaded vuvuzela.

And so we come to now, and very oddly a song from 1969 has captured the imagination of the fans on the terraces. It has worked its magic in stadiums throughout the US, but who would have thought Neil Diamond’s Sweet Caroline would hit that sweet spot just as we reach Sunday’s final. All apparently because of its very particular lyrics:

Good times never seemed so good (especially if you’ve just won a big match)

Hands, touchin’ hands
Reachin’ out, touchin’ me, touchin’ you
(rises to a rousing crescendo, and a fine sentiment for fans who have been kept apart for so long)

I always knew the name Caroline in the song was inspired by JFK’s daughter, but only found out today that it was because his wife’s name, Marcia, just didn’t work phonetically. After reading a magazine article about Caroline, he worked out the syllables in her name fitted better, so changed it.

Sweet Caroline by Neil Diamond:

So, “What’s It All About?” – I don’t think many music lovers who follow this blog are fans of football, so excuse me this little indulgence, but it’s been an exciting few weeks with three of our home nations doing really well in the Euros. I was sad when Scotland didn’t progress beyond the group stages, but we were all really proud of our team and can always say we held one of the tournament finalists (we don’t yet know who will win) to a draw. Many think we should have won that match.

As for the songs, just wanted to cover the ones that made it to the top spot in the singles chart but of course there are many, many more. If the England team do the business on Sunday night, and win their match against Italy, I’m sure 60,000 football fans will find their voices, and the sounds of Sweet Caroline will fill Wembley stadium.

Until next time…

Sweet Caroline Lyrics
(Song by Neil Diamond)

Where it began
I can’t begin to knowin’
But then I know it’s growin’ strong

Was in the spring
And spring became the summer
Who’d have believed you’d come along

Hands, touchin’ hands
Reachin’ out, touchin’ me, touchin’ you

Sweet Caroline
Good times never seemed so good
I’ve been inclined
To believe they never would

But now I…

…look at the night
And it don’t seem so lonely
We fill it up with only two

And when I hurt
Hurtin’ runs off my shoulders
How can I hurt when holdin’ you?

Warm, touchin’ warm
Reachin’ out, touchin’ me, touchin’ you

Sweet Caroline
Good times never seemed so good
I’ve been inclined

To believe they never would
Oh, no, no

Sweet Caroline
Good times never seemed so good
Sweet Caroline
I believed they never could

Sweet Caroline
Good times never seemed so good

The Return of Beach Holidays, The Byrds and ‘Dolphin’s Smile’

Well, I don’t know about you, but the month of June has really perked me up. A birthday at the start of the month, being able to meet up with friends again, a big football tournament in progress, Wimbledon back on the telly and blow me down, a little holiday. Yes, for the first time in nearly two years we had a few days away and it was such a tonic. Sadly we picked the week with less than perfect weather, and had our trip been this week it would have been glorious, but despite that minor inconvenience we still had a great time.

Then…

Both myself and Mr WIAA had many caravan holidays as children, usually at one of the great beaches that line the Moray Firth coast. Back in those days the caravans were spartan affairs indeed, complete with tables that converted into beds, tiny little gas stoves for cooking and convoluted dual-purpose cupboard space. But it really didn’t matter, as you spent most of your time outside, on the dunes, at the shoreline, or leaping from one Churchill Barrier to the next (that would be at Findhorn). Our parents didn’t even mind either, as for them it was a lovely break away from work and household chores.

and now!

Fortunately for us, our caravan last week was a much fancier affair with a fully fitted kitchen, an en-suite, comfy sofas and a smart telly. In terms of keeping safe, we had it all to ourselves, and also gave it a bit of an additional clean before taking up residence. All very reassuring for our first trip away since the pesky virus put in an appearance.

I have come back laden with pictures but first I’ll attach a link to the post I wrote in 2016, from the last time we visited the beaches of East Sutherland. It seems the same issue arose this time around as it did back then – we had withdrawal symptoms from the lack of Wi-Fi – but once you give in and accept the situation, it’s a great digital detox.

As we arrived on the 21st June, which this year was the day of the summer solstice here in Scotland, I persuaded Mr WIAA to come out for a walk after the sun went down. The problem with living so far north at this time of year is that it never gets truly dark, as these shots (and my early waking sleep patterns) prove. A happy coincidence was that June’s almost full moon was in the sky that night, as I would have missed the perfectly full version later on in the week due to cloud cover.

One of my favourite things to do on a beach holiday is to head off in search of wild flowers which is what I did on the second day of our little break. For once I used my actual camera instead of a phone, so was mighty impressed with some of the close-up shots taken with a macro lens.

Most of our time however was spent on and around the beach itself, and true to form Mr WIAA can still seek out a crab in less than a minute. Probably comes from having spent so much time on such endeavours as a boy.

Despite both being well into middle age now, in fact having just looked it up I am apparently now only four years away from entering old age (scary thought), we do still like building a sand sculpture when at the beach. The site shop fortunately had a good supply of buckets and spades, so, fully equipped, we embarked on this year’s creation. Much to the amusement of passers by, who told us to ‘play nice’, it only took an hour to build this large dolphin which from the air looks as if it’s leaping out of the ocean – A happy coincidence from having picked a spot just above the tide line. I don’t think it’s just me, but it seems to look concave right at the start of the film and then changes to convex as it pans out. An intriguing optical illusion.

As is our habit we built a sand sculpture, then filmed it from the air


But what the heck, this is supposed to be a music blog, so where is the music? To be fair I think you will excuse me rambling on about my holiday, and for sharing so many pictures, it having been such a bizarre 15 months. We seem to be deriving much more enjoyment from simple pleasures, which is a good thing perhaps. The reset button has been pressed which had it not been for such an awful reason, was probably needed anyway (although the airlines and travel companies will no doubt disagree).

When I did a quick search I found quite few ‘dolphin songs’ but here is one that surprised me. Olivia Newton-John recorded the song Physical in 1981, only three years after portraying the virginal Sandy in the film Grease. What I hadn’t realised was that on the B-side was this song, The Promise (The Dolphin Song). Olivia even puts in an appearance halfway through the video clip, swimming with the dolphins rather than Danny Zuko.

The Promise (The Dolphin Song) by Olivia Newton-John:


But for me the winner is this song, Dolphin’s Smile by the Byrds from their fifth album The Notorious Byrd Brothers. I often mention around here that my favourite year to journey back to, in terms of music, is 1967, and sure enough that was when this album was recorded. I also seem to have a great affinity for that late ‘60s blend of psychedelia, folk rock, baroque pop, and jazz championed by bands like the Byrds who had taken up residence in the Laurel Canyon area of LA. Ironically the making of this album was fraught with tension, resulting in the loss of two members of the band. David Crosby was fired in October 1967 and drummer Michael Clarke left the band midway through recording, returning briefly before finally being dismissed after completion of the album. 

Dolphin’s Smile by the Byrds:


So, ‘What’s It All About?’ – Life does seem to be getting back to a semblance of normality here in the UK but there is still seemingly a lot of confusion over rules and restrictions. Wembley Stadium is full of football supporters, yet fathers still have to walk their daughters down the aisle in a facemask in front of a very limited gathering of guests. I am busy hosting holiday-makers at my place, yet am still fearful about travelling myself.

The Byrds, looking very young indeed

But throughout all the confusion we still have music, and I thoroughly enjoyed listening to my music device on holiday last week. I’ve also enjoyed discovering the featured song by the Byrds. It might be next year until we build another sand sculpture, but in the meantime at least we have our little film to remind us of our own dolphin’s smile. (Too much? Yes, I suspected so.)

Until next time…

Dolphin’s Smile Lyrics
(David Crosby/Chris Hillman/Roger McGuinn)

Out at sea for a year
Floating free from all fear

Every day blowin’ spray,
In a dolphin’s smile

Wind-taut line split the sky,
Curlin’crest rollin’ by
Floating free aimlessly,
In a dolphin’s smile

Rainbow’s end everywhere,
Full of light, free as air
Childhood’s dream,
Have you ever seen a dolphin’s smile

Photo Challenges, Simon & Garfunkel and ‘Scarborough Fair’

I am going to have to admit defeat today as neither of the posts I’ve started have worked out – It happens, and I’m sure some of my blogging pals will recognise that feeling. Just too much going on I think, after over a year of very little going on at all. Our senses are being overloaded.

Time therefore to resort to the sharing of a photograph, which is exactly what some of the music blogging fraternity have been doing of late. I will first refer you to The Swede over at Unthought Of, Though, Somehow, to check out his excellent Friday Photo, and then to John over at Are We There Yet? for his equally excellent, but very different, Two of a Kind photographs.

Here is my photo, taken just yesterday evening when we decided to make the short trip through to a nearby village for an ice-cream. The village, called Beauly because French-speaking Mary Queen of Scots called it a beau lieu (beautiful place), has a very old Priory which in the evening sun looked striking. Needless to say, the locally renowned fish and chip shop where we got our very delicious Mr Whippy ice-cream, is called The Friary. Love it.


But what song to include in a picture post such as this? As we wandered round the inside of the ruined priory licking ice-cream (probably a sacrilege), we couldn’t help but notice the dates on some of the tombstones, a few going as far back as the 15th century. It will therefore have to be a very old song, and off the top of my head this one comes to mind, Scarborough Fair by that duo who have appeared around here often, Simon & Garfunkel. To be fair (no pun intended), it’s a traditional English ballad, but it does seem to have a lot in common with a Scottish ballad called The Elfin Knight, so not too unreasonable.

The lyrics are about trying to attain true love by performing impossible tasks. In Medieval times, the herbs mentioned in the song represented virtues – Parsley was comfort, sage was strength, rosemary was love, and thyme was courage. As I often say around here, every day’s a school day.

The song was released as a single in 1968, after it was used on the soundtrack to one of my all-time favourite films, The Graduate. Paul Simon learned of the song whilst on tour in England, after hearing it performed by folk singer Martin Carthy. Martin Carthy in turn had learned the song from a Ewan MacColl songbook.

Scarborough Fair/Canticle by Simon & Garfunkel:


So, ‘What’s It All About?’ – When you’re stumped for inspiration, or suffering blogger’s block, resort to a picture post. A song will surely follow as it has done for me here.

As for this flurry of photo sharing amongst the community, I’m also up for the challenge and look forward to seeing what the others share next.

I have been very careful (until now) to avoid any mention of the momentous football match which will take place tomorrow night between Scotland and England. It’s 25 years since we played each other in the Euros, but I still remember that night well. DD was a just a little baby so the return match has been a long time coming. Talking of Scottish/English rivalry, I’ve just shared an English ballad which was based on a Scottish ballad, but not sure which is best. Time perhaps to share a version of The Elfin Knight, on this occasion by Kate Rusby. Personally I’m torn, as both very different in style, but would be interested to hear your thoughts.

As for who will fair best on the football pitch tomorrow night, we have yet to find out, so I’m glad I got this one in ahead of kick-off. I’m not a massive football fan, but I do like the big tournaments and used to watch them all with my dad as a girl. I’m Scottish, but Mr WIAA is English – Could make for an interesting time in our house tomorrow night.

Until next time…

Scarborough Fair Lyrics
(Traditional)

Are you going to Scarborough Fair:
Parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme.
Remember me to one who lives there.
She once was a true love of mine.

On the side of a hill in the deep forest green.
Tracing of sparrow on snow-crested brown.
Blankets and bedclothes the child of the mountain
Sleeps unaware of the clarion call.

Tell her to make me a cambric shirt:
Parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme;
Without no seams nor needle work,
Then she’ll be a true love of mine.

On the side of a hill a sprinkling of leaves.
Washes the grave with silvery tears.

A soldier cleans and polishes a gun.
Sleeps unaware of the clarion call.

Tell her to find me an acre of land:
Parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme;
Between the salt water and the sea strand,
Then she’ll be a true love of mine.

War bellows blazing in scarlet battalions.
General order their soldiers to kill.
And to fight for a cause they’ve long ago forgotten.

Tell her to reap it with a sickle of leather:
Parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme;
And gather it all in a bunch of heather,
Then she’ll be a true love of mine.

Six Years of Birthday Blogging and the Phrase, ‘We All Now Know How That Turned Out’

I had a birthday this week, my sixth since starting this blog, and it occurred to me to look back at what I was writing about in each of those years at this time. It made for interesting reading, as although there is always a song around here, from the get-go it has also been my web-diary, and I’ve been pretty honest about all the ups and downs that life has very naturally thrown my way.

2016 – Back then I was still concentrating primarily on the music, and for my birthday post I decided to write about music from the year of my birth, music that certainly didn’t feature in my own musical memories, but it might have done for my parents had they not been quite so busy coping with a new baby in the house. My next post was all about that momentous decision we were about to make, which could possibly take us out of the EU. (Well, we all now know how that turned out and a right hullaballoo it’s still causing all these years later, this week regarding the humble British banger.) But getting back to the year of my birth, here’s a bit of Adam Faith for you.

What Do You Want by Adam Faith:

2017 – This was the summer of terrorist attacks and tragic fires. The Manchester Arena and London Bridge attacks and then the horrors of Grenfell Tower. At the same time our new PM Theresa May decided to hold a snap election to consolidate her majority in The House of Commons ahead of Brexit negotiations. (Again, we all now know how that turned out.) On a more positive note, a very successful benefit concert called One Love was held in Manchester shortly after the atrocity at the arena, and we also celebrated the 50th anniversary of the Beatles’ seminal album Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.

Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band by the Beatles:

2018 – By this time I was really getting into my blogging stride and in early June I wrote a couple of wedding posts, one a very royal affair (we all now know how that turned out – there’s a pattern forming here) and one for a girl from our neighbourhood. To challenge myself I also embarked on a whole week of blogging which culminated with me posting 7 in 7 (seven posts in seven days). I was very proud of myself but now realise whenever I set myself these kind of challenges I understandably lose followers along the way, as overkill really. It certainly does help flex the blogging muscles though. On a positive note, my Full Moon Calendar in Song series was really gathering pace and is still my favourite because of all I discovered, both about our only satellite, and about the many moon-related songs that were included. I thought Carly Simon’s version of Moonlight Serenade was just perfect for June’s Strawberry Moon.

Moonlight Serenade by the Glenn Miller Orchestra:


2019 – By the time my birthday came around two years ago I was already headlong into greeting guests at the holiday hideaway we had taken on earlier in the year, but having worked in an office for 35 years it turned out I wasn’t ‘match fit’, and my back, neck and shoulders were already giving me gyp. I wrote about the sleepless nights that ensued, compounded by the sheer number of troubling television dramas that filled our screens of an evening. One BBC drama called Years and Years portrayed a worrying picture of what life might be like in only five years time, with everyone working from home at their kitchen tables, communication all being done virtually via screens, and everything we consume being ordered online. (Well, well, well – Again, we all now know how that turned out and it didn’t take five years, just one.) On a really positive note however, I finally made it down to London that month to meet long time blogging buddy C from Sun Dried Sparrows. As we used mock-ups of our first albums to recognise each other this song by the Clash seems appropriate (for C anyway – my first album wasn’t quite as ‘cool’).

London Calling by the Clash:

2020 – This is the big one isn’t it. I had reached a milestone birthday but couldn’t celebrate it with anyone as we all had to stay at home, protect the NHS and save lives. Not complaining of course, as there seemed little other choice at the time, but by June it was becoming apparent there would be no V-shaped bounce back to the economy and that restrictions could be in place for another few weeks yet (a year on, we all now know how that turned out). DD’s life in Glasgow was in disarray and there would be a complicated manoeuvre to get her home safely – It was going to be a Cruel Summer, I could tell. One positive thing from that time was that our country’s entertainers rallied round, and I enjoyed a fair few online concerts cobbled together via the wonders of modern-day technology. One was by Take That which aired just before my birthday. I had been a bit too old for the Take That phenomenon when they first appeared on the scene in the early ‘90s, but they are now a middle-aged man band as opposed to a boy band, with a great back catalogue of songs, so it was a real treat to watch them in action when everything was still looking very bleak. The song that always ends their shows is Never Forget, and I think we can all agree, unlike Y2K which came and went with very little drama, none of us will ever forget the year 2020.

Never Forget by Take That:


2021 – So, ‘What’s It All About?’ – It has become apparent from writing this post that life can throw us some pretty spectacular curve balls and from one year to the next we find it impossible to predict how things might turn out. I wasn’t able to celebrate my big birthday much last year, but the +1 version was a whole lot better – Afternoon tea at a posh hotel courtesy of DD. Very nice indeed. Who knows what next year’s birthday will throw up, but let’s hope it will be that life is a whole lot better for all of us.

Until next time…

Never Forget Lyrics
(Song by Gary Barlow)

We’ve come a long way
But we’re not too sure where we’ve been
We’ve had success we’ve had good times
But remember this

Been on this path of life for so long
Feel I’ve walked a thousand miles
Sometimes strolled hand in hand with love
Everybody’s been there

With danger on my mind
I would stand on the line
Of hope and I knew I could make it

Once I knew the boundaries
I looked into the clouds
And saw my face in the moonlight

Just then I realised what a fool I could be
Just ’cause I look so high I don’t have to see me
Finding a paradise wasn’t easy but still
There’s a road going down the other side of this hill

Never forget where you’ve come here from
Never pretend that it’s all real
Someday soon this will all be someone else’s dream
This will be someone else’s dream

Safe from the arms of disappointment for so long
Feel each day we’ve come too far
Yet each day seems to make much more
Sure it’s good to be here

I understand the meaning
Of “I can’t explain this feeling”
Now that it feels so unreal

At night I see the hand
That reminds me of the stand
That I make the fact of reality

Never forget where you’ve come here from
Never pretend that it’s all real
Someday soon this will all be someone else’s dream
This will be someone else’s dream

We’ve come so far and we’ve reached so high
And we’ve looked each day and night in the eye
And we’re still so young and we hope for more
But remember this

We’re not invincible, we’re not invincible, no
We’re only people, we’re only people
Hey we’re not invincible, we’re not invincible
So again I’ll tell you

Never forget where you’ve come here from
Never pretend that it’s all real
Someday soon this will all be someone else’s dream
This will be someone else’s dream

Never
Never forget babe
Never pretend that it’s all real
Someday soon this will all be someone else’s dream
This will be someone else’s dream

Sérgio Mendes, ‘Mas Que Nada’ and Being Chivvied Up By WIAA

WIAA: Alyson…? Oh Alyson…? Where are you?

ALYSON: Sorry WIAA, I am still around, just not had much time for blogging of late.

WIAA: What’s been happening with you?

ALYSON: Well, last week marked the end of the semester for my college course and we had to get our assignments in. Turns out none of the 373 posts I’ve written here provided much in the way of inspiration, which was disappointing, but fair. It even sparked a discussion with our class tutor, about how using lines from song lyrics in our writing, or the name of a musician for a character, is a big no-no. Copyright issues, obviously.

WIAA: Thank goodness for the niche world of music blogging then, where anything goes. ‘You can check out any time you like, but you can never leave’. Sorry, couldn’t resist.

ALYSON: Just realised Rol will think I’m stealing his Conversations With Ben feature. But no, you’ve popped up around here before to drag me out of a blogging fug and of course you’re not real, like Ben, you’re just a blank page on my blogging platform.

WIAA: Blank page…, on a blogging platform. Not showing much loyalty there, Alyson, after all we’ve been through.

ALYSON: Sorry, WIAA, you’re right. We’ve been through a lot these last five and half years and if I can get my ass in gear there will be more stories to tell, and more songs to write about. As well as submitting my assignments last week, I also had to get the holiday house ready for my first set of guests. They had a lovely time and I got a glowing review, but with no tourists from abroad yet, and the idea of ‘staycations’ (hate that word) in towns and cities not quite taking off yet, it could be another quiet season. There’s also the issue of the snow.

WIAA: The snow?

ALYSON: Yep, this is what we woke up to this morning. Only a month and a half until the Summer Solstice, so we live in hope Spring might briefly put in an appearance before then.

WIAA: Gosh, I wouldn’t have known, me just being a ‘blank page on a blogging platform’. If I’d been real, like Ben, you could have compared notes about the weather in his neck of the woods. Excuse me for not being a bit more corporeal.

ALYSON: You know I love you, WIAA. It’s just that I’m finding the idea of getting back to some semblance of normality tough after a year of being holed up at home. I’d love to meet up with friends and do fun things, but after not seeing them for so long, it’s tough reconnecting. A touch of social anxiety I think. Also, the things I love most, like cinema, theatre, cosy country pubs, are still kind of out of bounds for the older, not-yet-fully-vaccinated individual. Doesn’t leave much to write about.

WIAA: I’m sure you’ll do it, Alyson. In the meantime, have you thought of a song to share, as if I’m not mistaken this is supposed to be a music blog?

ALYSON: You are right of course, Mr (now not so) Blank Page. And can I just say thank you for drawing me back in today, as I couldn’t seem to unblock the blockage around here. I have my new Tribute Series to add to, and another few ideas in the pipeline, so good to be back. Here’s something to cheer us both up though – No, not the full six and half minutes of the song you alluded to above, but something quite different. I don’t know if it was the sight of the snow this morning, but when the other half fired up his computer at 9am, he went straight to YouTube for a fix of something from warmer climes. I give you Sérgio Mendes and Brasil ’66 (sounds like a football tournament, but no, we’ll never be allowed to forget who won that one), with his signature song Mas Que Nada, the first time a song in Portuguese became a hit all over the world.

Mas Que Nada by Sérgio Mendes and Brasil ’66:

WIAA: Brilliant stuff, Alyson, and right up your alley as your visitors often say. They do look a bit hot and sweaty in that clip, not something that’ll be troubling you today by the sounds of it, what with all the snow. Not sure how the group of singers coped in that rainforest though, dressed as they were.

ALYSON: Ah, I did love a cute little crocheted dress with some matching clacker earrings. I’ve been loving my cottagecore crafting of late, but I think my days of wearing a crocheted dress are now definitely over, so I won’t be fashioning one for myself. I googled Sergio straight after watching the clip this morning and was pleased to see he is still with us, and still making new music. He apparently specialises in ‘bossa nova heavily crossed with jazz and funk’, and it seems he is still married to Gracinha Leporace, who has performed with him since the early 1970s. Good for Sergio.

Sérgio Mendes and Brasil ’66

WIAA: Are you going to include the lyrics on this one? Not sure if we’ll know ‘what it’s all about’ otherwise.

ALYSON: Good point. I’ll see if I can find a translation. It’s bound to be something really deep and meaningful. A torrid love story laced with danger. Or…, maybe not as it turns out, maybe more suited to a disinterested teenager. I give you the translated lyrics to Mas Que Nada, or rather, Whatever.

Until next time…

Whatever (Mas Que Nada) Lyrics
(Song by Jorge Ben)

Oari rai
Oba oba boa
Whatever
Get out of my way
I wanna pass
Because samba is really exciting
And I wanna dance [samba]


This samba
That is mixed with maracatu
Old black samba
Black samba you
Whatever
A samba like this is so nice
You don’t want to it to end

Postscript:

We do like a compare and contrast around here so it would be remiss of me not to also include the version of Mas Que Nada that Sergio recorded with The Black Eyed Peas back in 2006. How things change in 40 years.

Outlander, The Association and ‘Never My Love’

A new song came into my life last week which I have just discovered is one of the most listened to of the 20th century. Why am I only finding out about it now, as for me, it ticks all the boxes?

  • Released in 1967
  • Recorded by a band of the sunshine pop persuasion
  • Made with members of the legendary Wrecking Crew (that group of session musicians based in Los Angeles who worked with Sonny & Cher, the Mamas & the Papas, the 5th Dimension, the Monkees, the Beach Boys and many others)

The Association were until last week unknown to me, however according to the well-known online encyclopaedia, they hit the No. 1 spot in the charts in October 1967, and had four other top ten hits in the late 1960s. Ah…, but not here in the UK, in America (as I would have called it then). That would explain it, as it seems they largely bypassed the notice of the great British public. The song I have become quite smitten by is this one, their version of Never My Love.

Never My Love by The Association:


The reason I stumbled upon this beautiful song from over 50 years ago was because it featured in the final episode of the historical television drama Outlander, which we have just finished binge watching for the second time. Overkill perhaps I know, but we needed something to fill the gaps in our viewing schedule and the storyline is about events and people from our neck of the woods. It’s also one of the reasons why we’ve been getting so many visitors to the Highlands over the last few years (pre-pandemic), as what with time-travel and romance as well as drama, the Outlander books and television series have quite the cult following.

Anyway, I won’t give too much away in terms of spoilers in case anyone hasn’t reached the final episode of season five yet, but the main character Claire returns to her own time, the late 1960s, in a surreal, dream-like set of scenes. The song Never My Love would have been chosen because it fitted the era, as well as the love story that runs through the whole plotline. Here is a clip that uses some of that footage, as well as footage from the mid 1700s, where she goes back in time and meets her handsome Highlander, Jamie Fraser.

It was a strange coincidence then that we reached the end of a series that all kicked off with the build up to the Jacobite Rising, just as we were about to mark the 275th anniversary of the Battle of Culloden, the last pitched battle held on British soil. As most people know, the Jacobite army led by Charles Edward Stewart was decisively defeated by government troops on 16th April 1746, and over 2000 Highlanders were killed or wounded.

Although 275 is not a particularly round number for anniversaries, a large event had been planned at the visitor centre for last Friday, but sadly, due to continuing pandemic-related restrictions, it all moved online. The battlefield was still open for walks however, and as we are local we decided to go up with our new camera equipment, hoping to make a little film. I’ve shared a few dashcam films around here before, but this time all credit goes to Mr WIAA who put this effort together. A few Outlander fans were there on the day looking for the Clan Fraser stone (Jamie’s clan) and as usual it had a few floral tributes in front of it.

Culloden Battlefield – Site of the last pitched battle fought on British soil

So, ‘What’s It All About?’ – I love that I’m still making lots of new discoveries from the late ’60s as I do seem to have a real affinity for the music from that time. More often than not it comes from having heard it on a film or television soundtrack, and as there is nothing like an older song to evoke the era, film-makers usually choose wisely.

As for the Outlander phenomenon, not so many visitors for us over the last year, but I am hopeful that by summer we will be able to open up again and welcome people back. My little holiday hideaway is being prepped and made appealing for bookings as we speak. I know we won’t get many from abroad this year (nor should we), but hopefully we’ll get some guests from other parts of the UK. I hate the word ‘staycation’ which keeps being bandied about – For someone like me brought up in the ’60s and ’70s we never went abroad, and all our great ‘holidays’ were in Scotland. A staycation would have happened during one of those summers when for one reason or another we had to stay at home, and just had day trips instead – Something quite different to my mind.

Jamie Fraser from Outlander

Anyway, whatever it’s called, all being well we will be able to travel more freely this summer and you would be made very welcome if visiting the Highlands. Hopefully the visitor centre at Culloden will be open for business again and I can thoroughly recommend it – You can even dress up in a kilt, just like the one worn by Jamie in Outlander. As for the term Outlander, it apparently means foreigner, or more specifically an English person (used to describe Claire) although I’d personally never heard it before and am more familiar with the word Sassenach which essentially means the same thing. But again, whatever it’s called, you would be made very welcome, so what are you waiting for? The midges await!

Until next time…

Never My Love Lyrics
(Song by Don Addrisi/Dick Addrisi)

You ask me
If there’ll come a time
When I grow tired of you
Never my love
Never my love

You wonder
If this heart of mine
Will lose its desire for you
Never my love
Never my love

What makes you think love will end
When you know that my whole life depends
On you?
On you

You say you fear
I’ll change my mind
I won’t require you
Never my love
Never my love

How can you think love will end
When I’ve asked you to spend
Your whole life
With me?
With me

You ask me
If there’ll come a time
When I grow tired of you
Never my love
Never my love

Never my love
Never my love

Never my love
Never my love