RIP Les McKeown: Revisiting the Rollermania Archive

Another Bay City Roller left us this week. Despite getting very little airplay nowadays, the announcement of lead singer Les McKeown’s death made it onto the national news, a nod to the phenomenal success the boys had in the early 1970s.

It took me a long time to admit to having been a fan of the Rollers around here, but a few years ago I finally bit the bullet after having a rummage through my box of teenage memorabilia. As someone who became a teenager in 1973 I was the perfect demographic for these tartan teen sensations. They were Scottish, like me, so looked a lot like the boys we went to school with (a bit pasty and undernourished) but their catchy, feelgood pop songs kept on coming and they became for a time the biggest ‘boy band’ in the world.

RIP Les McKeown

Les was my favourite Roller – He was the lead singer with a great voice, and also had a swagger that belied his age, only 17 when they first found success. As I was very shallow back then, I also thought he was the best-looking of the band. Their success was short-lived, but for those of us who were fans we will never forget those days of Rollermania. I first shared the post below back in April 2018, only a few months before the death of Bay City Rollers founder member Alan Longmuir as it turned out, but in view of this week’s news, I think it deserves another outing.

RIP Les McKeown

Alyson’s Archive – “Rollermania” and Me

“It’s a teenage dream, to be seventeen”, sang Les McKeown back in 1975. But no, I beg to differ Les. Back in 1975 it was a teenage dream to be fourteen, and have pictures of you and the rest of the boys staring down at me from my bedroom wall. Had I been a year or two older, or a year or two younger, it just wouldn’t have happened but I was the perfect demographic for these “tartan teen sensations from Edinburgh”. My generation had missed out on Beatlemania, and Osmondmania was on the wane, it was time for something new and luckily for me the band that inspired this latest mania came from Scotland.

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The humble author’s teenage collection of Bay City Roller pinups!

(I have shared a display like this once before, of David Cassidy pinups. I would just like to reiterate that I honestly don’t spend my evenings pouring over such teen-dream fodder, because that truly would be weird, it’s just that if you’ve ever had to clear out your parents loft when they downsize, it kind of becomes redistributed to your own loft, which fortunately for this blog is where it remains today.)

Anyway, getting back to the Rollers, the band’s founder members were brothers Alan and Derek Longmuir but after a few changes along the way, in late 1973 the classic line-up fell into place, consisting of guitarists Eric Faulkner and Stuart “Woody” Wood, singer Les McKeown, bassist Alan and drummer DerekTam Paton, their (highly controlling) manager was the man in charge, they got a record deal with Bell, and they came up with a unique “look” which consisted of cropped trousers, skimpy V-neck sweaters and plenty of tartan – What could go wrong?

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That’s me on the left in brown corduroy!

All through the year 1974 they were never far from the UK Singles Chart and when we heard the band were coming to the Capitol Theatre in Aberdeen, of course my friends and I (aged only 13) went to see them. This tour was to promote the album “Rollin’” where most of the songs were written by those champions of the short and catchy pop song, Phil Coulter and Bill Martin. First of all we had Remember (Sha-La-La-La), then we had Shang-A-LangSummerlove Sensation and finally All Of Me Loves All Of You. The album went to No. 1 in the Album Chart – The boys were adored by hordes of teeny-bopper fans and were well and truly on their way.

And here are a few personal memories of that time. I don’t know about elsewhere in the country but here in Scotland, back in the 1970s, many young lads left school at 16 after (half-heartedly for many of them) sitting their “O” Grades. They all had apprenticeships lined up and work was plentiful, so why not? There was however the technicality that if you turned 16 later on in the calendar year, you couldn’t leave school until Christmas. As a group they were called “The Christmas Leavers”. They didn’t want to be there and the concept of abiding by strict school uniform rules went out the window. One by one, in 1974, they started to adopt Bay City Roller style clothing wearing trousers with tartan down the side, the cropped jumpers and the short-sleeved shirts. They had Les, Eric and Woody style haircuts and of course had similar accents – For girls like us in the lower grades they became our big crushes. We all had our favourite Roller (mine was Les, quite the showman back in the day) and there were definitely boys in our school who started to look like him – Unlike the clean-cut Osmonds, who kind of came from an alien planet as far as we were concerned, the Rollers were the “boys next door”.

By 1975, Rollermania had really taken hold, and after putting together their second album “Once Upon A Star”, another tour was announced. Again my friends and I persuaded one of the mums to take us into Aberdeen to see them. Their cover of the old Four Seasons song Bye Bye Baby was at No. 1 in the Singles Chart and ended up being the biggest selling record of the year.

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The Rollin’ Tour programme and Once Upon A Star, complete with pull-out pics

Unlike the previous year when we went to see them, this was a far more hysterical concert with girls screaming constantly throughout – I probably went hoarse myself, shouting LES at the top of my voice every time he came near the front of the stage. But strangely, my most vivid memory of that night is of a particular member of security staff, who for one night only had been given free rein to manhandle young girls. This is not a #MeToo confession but I did come home with a whiplash that night, as suddenly, out of nowhere, a pair of hands had grabbed my shoulders and firmly shoved me back down into my seat. Everyone in the entire theatre was standing, but for some reason this one “bouncer” had decided he would go up and down all the rows forcing us back into our seats – I took some time out to watch him, and even at that young age, could tell he was enjoying hurting us. Of course I didn’t tell my parents, as we didn’t in those days, but this was a new concept for me and one I have obviously never forgotten.

But back to the Rollers – In 1976 they were kind of lost to us as they secured a record deal with Arista and were heavily promoted in America. They appeared on Saturday Night Live and ended up at the top of the Billboard Chart with a song that had been a flop in the UK but obviously hit the spot in the US. Saturday Night started off with a chant that also struck a cord with New York band the Ramones – It is no coincidence that their record Blitskrieg Bop starts in the same way. They had watched the Rollers on telly and decided to copy their winning formula of a catchy three minute song, a “uniform” and a football-style chant. Hard to believe I know, but part of rock and pop folklore.

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Most of us by this time had moved on to “real boys”, so we were happy to forget about the Rollers and leave them to their success in other parts of the world such as North America, and strangely enough Japan, where they still have a following today. I have never had any inclination to see them perform as part of a reunion tour, as for me, they were very much of their time. I do however feel very sorry for them sometimes, as it is well known that despite their global success they ended up with none of the money – 300 million albums sold worldwide (in an era where the revenue came from such sales) and no spondulicks. Tam Paton was of course blamed, and he went to his grave taking the secret of where the money went with him. The Rollers were not highly educated and they came from families that were ill-equipped to deal with their fame, so became one of the many financial casualties of that era.

Give A Little Love by the Bay City Rollers:


I am going to end this post with some extracts from what has turned out to be the most interesting part of rifling through old teenage memorabilia – The words that were on the back of the pinups. Prior to being in a band, Alan used to get the horses ready for the local dairy’s milk round (yes really). Eric and Derek (has a nice ring to it) were apprentice joiners and Woody and Les were only 16 when they found fame – Not the best backgrounds from which to go on and “take care of business”. Despite it all falling apart in the late ’70s, it sounds as if the Rollers still have happy memories of their heyday, their time in the sun. The Beatles had a mania, and so did these five boys from Edinburgh – Who would have ever thought it possible?

Lesley's bio from the Rollin' tour programme
Leslie’s stats – Some shockers there!
Magazine feature on the Rollers
Hanging out with the band
The Rollers’ Story Part 1
The Rollers’ Story Part 2

Until next time….

Give A Little Love Lyrics
(Song by Phil Wainman/John Goodison)

It’s a teenage dream to be seventeen
And to find you’re all wrapped up in lo-o-ove
And I found that you made a dream come true
Now I do believe in what they say-ay-at

You’ve got to give a little love, take a little love
Be prepared to forsake a little love
And when the sun comes shining through
We’ll know what to do-oo

Give a little love, take a little love
Be prepared to forsake a little love
And when the sun comes shining through
We’ll know what to do

When I walk with you there is just we two
And the world goes by and I just don’t care-are
And I know one day I will find a way
To be safe and sound within your hear-eart

So until I do, gonna give a little love, take a little love
Be prepared to forsake a little love
And when the sun comes shining through
We’ll know what to do-oo

Give a little love, take a little love
Be prepared to forsake a little love
And when the sun comes shining through
We’ll know what to do

Songs Written In Tribute #2 – ‘Tunic (Song For Karen)’ by Sonic Youth

Welcome back to this occasional series where I plan to write about songs written as a tribute to artists who have gone before. I will also always share something by the recipient of the tribute.

Sonic Youth were an American band I was not very familiar with, but once I discovered they had written a song about the late, great Karen Carpenter I knew it would have to be included in this series. If you know the story of how Karen lost her life to anorexia at the very young age of 32, it makes for sober listening.

Tunic (Song For Karen) by Sonic Youth:


Kim Gordon, from Sonic Youth, was a massive Carpenters fan and Tunic (Song For Karen) is a powerful homage. She imagined her happy in heaven, looking down at her brother Richard.

“I was trying to put myself into Karen’s body. It was like she had so little control over her life, just like a teenager – they have so little control over what’s happening to them, that one way they can get it is through what they eat or don’t eat. Also I think she lost her identity, it got smaller and smaller. And there have been times when I feel I’ve lost mine. When people come and ask me about being famous or whatever and I don’t feel that, it’s not me. But it makes me think about it. The music is definitely about the darker side. But I also wanted to liberate Karen into heaven.”

Karen on the left, Kim Gordon of Sonic Youth on the right

As it’s a Monday, and as it’s rainy here today, there can only be one song choice from the Carpenters vast back catalogue. Rainy Days And Mondays is one of my favourite songs but you do have to be in a pretty good place, mentally, to listen it. I used to have a friend who loved nothing more than to spend an evening in a darkened room listening to melancholy music, but it’s not something I’ve ever mastered without getting a bit blue. The song was written by Paul Williams but Karen always made any song her own, and when you listen to the vocals here, well, it’s all just so sad.

Rainy Days and Mondays by the Carpenters:


I have watched a couple of documentaries in the last fortnight about suicide, one made by the family of Caroline Flack (who sadly took her own life just over a year ago) and one by Roman Kemp called Our Silent Emergency (prompted by his best friend’s suicide). The thing that struck me most was that in both cases the people who died were surrounded by people who loved them, and who would have gone out of their way to help them, but in the end it just wasn’t enough. Vile trolling on social media was most definitely a factor in Caroline’s death, but for young men, who find it hard to talk openly about their worries, silence is the biggest factor.

Looking back at the years when I watched the Carpenters on television, it was obvious something was very wrong. We didn’t know it at the time but Karen’s death was a long slow suicide, right in front of our eyes. She never lost her beautiful voice, but by the end of her life she was a hollow-eyed, shell of the girl she had been behind the drum kit. She had millions of fans who adored her, but like Caroline she struggled with life in the spotlight, and like Roman’s friend, she remained silent.

A bit of a sad one this, but as I said, I really felt the need to include it. Next time the material will hopefully be a little happier.

Sonic Youth

Tunic (Song For Karen) Lyrics
(Song by T. Moore, K. Gordon, L. Ranaldo, S. Shelly)

Dreaming, dreaming of a girl like me
Hey what are you waiting for, feeding, feeding me
I feel like I’m disappearing, getting smaller every day
But I look in the mirror, I’m bigger in every way

She said,
You aren’t never going anywhere
You aren’t never going anywhere
I ain’t never going anywhere
I ain’t never going anywhere

I’m in heaven now, I can see you Richard
Goodbye Hollywood, goodbye Downey, hello Janis
Hello Dennis, Elvis and all my brand new friends
I’m so glad you’re all here with me, until the very end

Dreaming, dreaming of how it’s supposed to be
But now this tunic’s spinning, around my arms and knees
I feel like I’m disappearing, getting smaller every day
But when I open my mouth to sing, I’m bigger in every way

She said,
You aren’t never going anywhere
You aren’t never going anywhere
I ain’t never going anywhere
I ain’t never going anywhere

Hey mom! Look I’m up here, I finally made it
I’m playing the drums again too
Don’t be sad, the band doesn’t sound half bad
And I remember mom, what you said
You said honey, you look so under-fed

Another green salad, another ice tea
There’s a tunic in the closet waiting just for me
I feel like I’m disappearing, getting smaller every day
But I look in your eyes, and I’m bigger in every way

She said,
You aren’t never going anywhere
You aren’t never going anywhere
I ain’t never going anywhere
I ain’t never going anywhere

Goodbye Richard, gotta go now
I’m finally on my own, but Dan’s got a gig
Keep the love lights glowing, little girl’s got the blues
I can still hear momma say: “honey don’t let it go to your head

Things We’ve Missed, ‘Saturday Night At The Movies’ and The Drifters

I don’t know about you but I’ve really missed cinema over the last 12 months. We have a great theatre/arts centre only minutes away from our house and most of my socialising used to take place there. As well as the large 800-seater auditorium, it has two cinemas, a smaller theatre, a restaurant/bar & coffee shop, as well as two performance/dance studios and rooms for classes and exhibitions. It has been closed for over a year now.

Our local theatre/arts centre

I am really looking forward to getting back to the cinema, but not sure at the moment how easy it’s going to be, what with many of the restrictions likely to carry on even after the vaccine rollout to all adults. Tough times lie ahead for our arts sector.

The song on the radio that reminded me how much I’m missing cinema, is this one, Saturday Night At The Movies by The Drifters. I can’t say the lyrics are that appropriate to my current situation, as it’s a long time since I’ve been ‘hugging with my baby last row in the balcony’. Also, I nowadays very much care about what ‘picture I see’, but it’s still a great song that harks back to the America of 1964, all about what they called ‘Going to the Movies’. For the record I still call it ‘Going to the Cinema’ (always have done) and my dad, who was a great fan back in the 40s & 50s, always called it ‘Going to the Pictures’. All depends on where, and when, you were born it seems.

Saturday Night At The Movies by The Drifters:


All this thinking about my favourite pastime led me down a rabbit hole, as I tried to remember the names of the many cinemas that used to exist in Aberdeen, where I spent much of the first half of my life. It’s been a trip down memory lane, and as I know a few Aberdonians visit this place, what is to follow might jog a few memories.

I’m pretty sure the first cinema I ever visited was with my primary school in the late 1960s and it was called Cosmo 2, situated on Diamond Street. Looking at these old pictures, it now makes sense that it had been converted from a stable building in 1936. After many changes in name/ownership over the years, it became Cosmo 2 in 1964 (Cosmo 1 was located in Glasgow) but closed for the final time in 1977. The film we went to see with the school was Disney’s Fantasia (link to the memorable scene with Mickey and the buckets), but the thing I still remember most was that we all got one of those purple lollipops that came in a little foil tray – Something you didn’t get in our village.

The Cosmo 2 on Diamond Street

Another cinema I went to whilst still in primary school was a much grander place altogether. It was the Majestic situated on Union Street, the city’s main thoroughfare, and this time it was to see Bedknobs and Broomsticks. I had been staying with my aunt and uncle in Aberdeen for some of the school holidays and my uncle had found some old complimentary tickets for the Majestic. My aunt and I headed into town and miraculously they accepted them, despite them being about 10 years old at the time (to be clear, we would still have paid to go in had they not). The Majestic was built on the site of an even older cinema and also opened in 1936, but it was eventually demolished in 1973, despite protests to save it.

The Majestic on Union Street

Names of some of the other cinemas that were still around when I was growing up in the Aberdeen area are as follows: Gaumont, Astoria, Odeon, ABC, Capitol, Cinema House, Grand Central, Playhouse and the Queens. The Capitol was also a theatre where we went to watch bands perform, but as a cinema it was where I went as a teenager to watch David Essex in the film Stardust (tagline: Show me a boy who never wanted to be a rock star and I’ll show you a liar). The Grand Central became the home of those naughty X-rated movies.

After moving into the city to live, the two most visited cinemas were the ABC and the Odeon, as both had three screens. The ABC was at the bottom of Union Street so just a short bus ride down King Street from Old Aberdeen where I lived as a student. Once I decanted into town, it was just a short walk up Justice Mill Lane to the Odeon, from my flat on Hardgate. On a summer’s evening we thought nothing of heading out for an ice-cream at the Baskins-Robbins shop on Rose Street before heading home via the cinema to watch a film. Happy days. In July 2000 the projectors stopped purring and the screens went black as the Odeon finally closed its doors – It was the last cinema left standing in the city centre. Some of the cinemas became nightspots, but most have now been replaced by health clubs, office blocks or flats.

The heyday of most of the cinemas mentioned above was probably the ’40s and ’50s when my dad was a big fan. In terms of competition, they really didn’t have much, and it would be a while before television took over so completely. By the 1970s, when I became a film fan, they were closing at an alarming rate but by that time the cinemas had seen better days and although some great films were made in that decade, the industry was somewhat in the doldrums for a time.

Once the large multiplexes began to be built on the edge of our towns there seemed to be a resurgence, and ‘Hollywood Blockbusters’ were being churned out to a bit of a formula, the budgets getting bigger and bigger every year. Of late however, even before the pandemic, I’ve noticed that our multiplex is just not getting the trade it used to, and there are now many special offers on ticket price (the Netflix effect?). It almost feels as if our cinemas are now food outlets that also happen to screen films. Why I like our local arts centre best, but popular mainly with the older generation, so not sure how confident its usual patrons will be in returning to the screens post-pandemic.

But I have become well and truly side-tracked by the history of local cinema. Getting back to The Drifters, I get really confused when I look at their various line-ups, as there were so many changes over the years. I am fairly confident however that lead vocalist on both Saturday Night At The Movies and this song from 1974, Kissin’ in the Back Row of the Movies (when they had a bit of a resurgence in the UK), was Johnny Moore. Yes, they did like to sing about the ‘Movies’, although more as a place to canoodle, rather than get absorbed by what’s taking place on the big screen!

Is your childhood cinema still standing or has it long gone? Are you, like me, missing being able to watch films on the big screen? Cross fingers things can open up again later in the year. I am really looking forward to it.

Until next time…

Saturday Night At The Movies Lyrics
(Song by Doc Pomus/Mort Shuman)

Well, Saturday night at eight o’clock
I know where I’m gonna go
I’m a-gonna pick my baby up
And take her to the picture show
Everybody in the neighborhood
Is dressing up to be there, too
And we’re gonna have a ball
Just like we always do

Saturday night at the movies
Who cares what picture you see
When you’re hugging with your baby
Last row in the balcony?

Well, there’s Technicolor and Cinemascope
A cast out of Hollywood
And the popcorn from the candy stand
Makes it all seem twice as good
There’s always lots of pretty girls
With figures they don’t try to hide
But they never can compare
To the girl sitting by my side

Saturday night at the movies
Who cares what picture you see
When you’re hugging with your baby
Last row in the balcony?

Oh, Saturday night at the movies
Who cares what picture you see
When you’re hugging with your baby
Last row in the balcony?

Whoa, Saturday night at the movies
Who cares what picture you see
When you’re hugging with your baby
Last row in the balcony?

Yeah, Saturday night at the movies

Songs Written In Tribute #1 – ‘When Smokey Sings’ by ABC

As a great fan of alphabetisation, I have often wondered how I could create “a series” by working my way through the 26 letters of our alphabet, in song, but impossible of course, as how on earth could you ever pick only one artist to suitably represent each letter. Had this series ever become a reality, it would have been a no-brainer to kick the whole thing off with the band ABC who had great success in the early 1980s, their album Lexicon of Love spawning no less than four top twenty singles.

The band came from Sheffield, a city that has a rich history of producing successful musicians. I’ve written about this around here before, but it seems twice as many people in Sheffield (percentage-wise) are engaged in the creative industries compared to the national average. The city suffered the collapse of the steel and coal industries in the ’70s and ’80s and there does seem to be a correlation – When work is no longer plentiful, young people have the time and energy to exercise their creativity which no doubt led to a flurry of artists from that city having peppered the charts over the years – Human League, Heaven 17, Pulp, Babybird, Moloko and The Arctic Monkeys, as well as the aforementioned ABC.

After hearing a song by ABC on the radio last week, it occurred to me that another series could be derived from one of their best-loved hits. Over the years songwriters have often paid tribute to artists who have gone before, and in 1987 ABC released When Smokey Sings, a tribute to the great Smokey Robinson. It narrowly missed the UK Top 10 but the song did give the group their biggest hit in the US. Here’s a reminder of how it sounds.

When Smokey Sings by ABC:

Martin Fry, the vocalist and writer of the song is looking very dapper in this clip, as many bands of the blue-eyed soul persuasion did in those days. He was usually dressed in a smart suit with big shoulder pads, and his short blond hair was always neatly blow-dried into place. It was the mid-80s, so of course there had to be a saxophone in the mix, but it really works, and I don’t think this song has dated much at all.

But how does it compare to something by the man himself? Well the song I most associate with Smokey Robinson & the Miracles is this one, Tears of a Clown, written in 1967 but becoming a No. 1 hit in the UK in 1970. Smokey Robinson had arrived at Berry Gordy’s Motown studios in 1957 with a book containing over 100 songs he had written whilst still a schoolboy, so a bit of a “boy wonder”.

Pagliacci, the Sad Clown

Talking of wonder, it was Stevie Wonder who came up with the music for Tears of a Clown with Smokey adding the lyrics later. He decided it sounded like circus music, so came up with lyrics based on the Italian opera Pagliacci all about a clown who must make the audience laugh while he weeps behind his makeup because his wife betrayed him – The sad clown.

Tears of a Clown by Smokey Robinson & the Miracles

Watching this clip, the set designers seem to have had a bit of a field day, as was often the case with light entertainment shows around that time. As someone said in the clip’s comments boxes, they probably went on to work on screen savers for Microsoft in later life. Like Martin Fry, Smokey and the boys are looking very dapper in their purple suits and bow ties, but this time, no big shoulder pads.

So, two songs written 20 years apart, one a tribute and one by the recipient of the tribute, but which artist do we now warm to most all these years later? On this occasion I’m going with Martin Fry and ABC, as their canon of work best fits my era. Controversial perhaps, but as our blogging friend Charity Chic always says, others may chose to disagree.

Until next time…

When Smokey Sings Lyrics
(Song by Martin Fry/Mark White)

Debonair lullabies
In melodies revealed
In deep despair on lonely nights
He knows just how you feel
The slyest rhymes, the sharpest suits
In miracles made real

Like a bird in flight on a hot sweet night
You know you’re right just to hold her tight
He soothes it right, makes it out of sight
And everything’s good in the world tonight

When Smokey sings, I hear violins
When Smokey sings, I forget everything
As she’s packing her things
As she’s spreading her wings
The front door might slam
But the back door it rings
And Smokey sings, he sings

Elegance in eloquence
For sale or rent or hire
Should I say yes and match his best
Then I would be a liar
Symphonies that soothe the rage
When lovers’ hearts catch fire

Like a bird in flight on a hot sweet night
You know you’re right just to hold her tight
He soothes it right, makes it out of sight
And everything’s good in the world tonight

When Smokey sings, I hear violins
When Smokey sings, I forget everything
As she’s packing her things
As she’s spreading her wings
Smashing the hell
With the heaven she brings
Then Smokey sings, he sings

When Smokey sings, I hear violins
When Smokey sings, I forget everything
As she’s packing her things
As she’s spreading her wings
She threw back the ring
When Smokey sings
Smokey sings
Smokey sings

One Year On, Ian Dury and ‘Hit Me With Your Rhythm Stick’

I shared my first pandemic-related post (called Blindsided) this same weekend last year and since then there have been many, many more. I’m glad I have documented all the ups and downs (mainly downs to be fair) of the past 12 months as I no longer keep a paper diary, so in the future it will be interesting to look back at this time and remind myself of how it all played out. Doesn’t really fit the remit of this blog however, which was always supposed to be a nostalgic journey through the tracks of my years.

Does this happen to other music bloggers I wonder – Do you run out of songs to write about and find that your blog has inadvertently veered into new territories? Of course we could never run out of songs per se as we are exposed to tens of thousands of them (more?) in the course of our lifetimes, but only so many really resonate with us and have an entertaining, personal story attached. That’s when the idea of creating ‘a series’ becomes appealing, as you have a theme to anchor you, and I’ve loved the ones I have shared so far. None of my recent ideas have worked out though, for various reasons. The Solar System in Song was supposed to take over from the Full Moon in Song, but once you get past Mars and Venus there is little left to work with (songs about Uranus anyone?).

So, I have done a bit of tidying up around here this week and got rid of all the draft (daft?) ideas that didn’t turn into anything. I have a clean slate to work on, which is quite appealing. I am aware my regular Saturday blog post has turned into a bit of a web-diary affair with an appropriate song thrown in, which I’m still fine with, but I think I really need to get back to revisiting the tracks of my years in some shape or form. Watch this space as they say.

Talking of web-diaries, nothing much to report this week other than that my poorly ankle continues to improve, after the tumble caused by a pesky pothole. I even went to the supermarket yesterday with Mr WIAA which was the first time I’ve ventured out since it happened. I’m never quite sure how fastidious most shoppers are about social distancing, but with my foot in a boot, I certainly got lots of distance as I navigated the aisles. It seems a physical manifestation of benign ill-health is easier to deal with, when it comes to social distancing, than a potentially lethal invisible virus, and there lies the problem I suppose.

But this is a music blog and I have actually been experiencing a bit of an earworm this week, caused by something heard on the radio. I had just finished reading the David Hepworth book Uncommon People: The Rise and Fall of the Rock Stars and particularly enjoyed the chapter on Ian Dury. He first formed a band in 1971 and although he didn’t actually sing, but rather spoke his lyrics, by 1978 he was one of the most successful acts in the country. Omnipresent around the Christmas of that year was Hit Me With Your Rhythm Stick. When it came on the radio this week I was reminded just how great it still sounds, with no less than two saxophone solos (one of them on two different saxophones!). Ian wrote the lyrics in his usual rhyming style, and Chaz Jankel was responsible for the music, which features an impressive bassline.

Hit Me With Your Rhythm Stick by Ian Dury and the Blockheads:


Watching this footage of Ian Dury and the Blockheads, I am also reminded of just what a great performer he was. Despite contracting polio at the age of seven, which resulted in the paralysis and withering of his left leg, shoulder and arm, he didn’t let it get in the way and adopted a distinctive pose at the mike stand. It is no surprise he also became an actor, appearing in many films throughout the ’80s and ’90s. He sadly died at the age of 57 in 2000, but his legacy lives on through his son Baxter Dury.

So, ‘What’s It All About?’ – I realise I have just tagged on a song by someone who had a disability after describing my temporary disability. This is pure coincidence I can assure you. There is no doubt however that Ian’s journey through life was informed by his experiences, his lyrics often exploring the place of disabled people in what he called ‘normal land’ (Spasticus Autisticus).

As for me, if I am to carry on with this blogging malarkey for a while yet, I will have to up my game I think and try to get back to what it was all supposed to be about. I may have got rid of all the daft drafts, but I still have my ‘spreadsheet of ideas’ tucked away in the recesses of my computer. Time to look it out again perhaps.

Until next time…

Hit Me With Your Rhythm Stick Lyrics
(Song by Ian Dury/Chaz Jankel)

In the deserts of Sudan
And the gardens of Japan
From Milan to Yucatán
Every woman, every man

Hit me with your rhythm stick
Hit me! Hit me!
Je t’adore, ich liebe dich
Hit me! Hit me! Hit me!
Hit me with your rhythm stick
Hit me slowly, hit me quick
Hit me! Hit me! Hit me!

In the wilds of Borneo
And the vineyards of Bordeaux
Eskimo, Arapaho
Move their body to and fro

Hit me with your rhythm stick
Hit me! Hit me!
Das ist gut, c’est fantastique
Hit me! Hit me! Hit me!
Hit me with your rhythm stick
It’s nice to be a lunatic
Hit me! Hit me! Hit me!

Hit me! Hit me! Hit!

In the dock of Tiger Bay
On the road to Mandalay
From Bombay to Santa Fé
Over the hills far away

Hit me with your rhythm stick
Hit me! Hit me!
C’est si bon, ist es nicht
Hit me! Hit me! Hit me!
Hit me with your rhythm stick
Two fat persons, click, click, click
Hit me! Hit me! Hit me
!

Hit me! Hit me! Hit me!
Hit me!
Hit me!
Hit me!

Hit me!
Hit me!
Hit me! Hit me!

Hit me!
Hit me!
Hit me!
Hit me!
Hit me!
Hit me!
Hit me! Hit me! Hit me!

A Pesky Pothole, A Trip to A&E and X-Ray Spex

Well it was probably only a matter of time what with all this additional daily walking (for exercise), but in the end it was a pesky gravel-filled pothole that was my (literal) downfall and my left foot is now ensconced inside a muckle great boot. I’m getting used to it all now but it sounds as if I’m going to be out of action for around 4-6 weeks which isn’t great – A lockdown on top of a lockdown. As I’ve never broken a bone before, I’m going to write about my experience here, if nothing else just to remind myself to be more careful in the future (although in reality more likely down to bad luck).

My foot for the next few weeks!

It was a lovely sunny afternoon so we thought we’d fit in the daily walk (for exercise) just after lunch, as Mr WIAA had a really important job to get finished and in the post later on that afternoon. We are lucky enough to have a river flowing through our town with large islands in the middle linked to the banks by a network of ornate bridges. We had parked up at the entrance to the first bridge, traversed the islands, joined the road on the other side and were just on our way back round to the starting point when all of a sudden I found myself sprawled out on the road and in great pain. It being the road along the river, I immediately had visions of cars speeding towards me unable to stop, but thankfully it was a quiet afternoon. I was not dignified at all in my fall from grace, and to Mr WIAA’s great embarrassment I made loud yelping noises, which caused a couple of teenagers who had been standing nearby to quickly scarper.

Eventually we got my battered little body off the road and towards a low wall where I could take the weight off my obviously distressed ankle. A nice lady stopped to ask after me and said she would stay by my side whilst hubby went to get the car. The blood was by this time seeping through my right trouser leg and my left ankle was really swelling up. She thought we should go to A&E but I suspected Mr WIAA (who hurts himself all the time and just brushes it off) would think I was being a big baby…, and I was right. When he eventually got back with the car all he could think of was the job he had to get in the post, so we thanked the kind lady (who was a carer by profession – makes sense) and headed home.

Getting inside the house was a real effort as the drive is narrow and getting out of the car was difficult. The steps up to the front door were a bit of a hindrance too but once on the sofa with an ice pack on my ankle and a dressing on my knee (which refused to stop bleeding), I started to feel a bit better. The priority was “the job” however which I understood – As anyone who is self-employed will know, fulfilling deadlines is of paramount importance and a happy customer will return. Once back from the post office, hubby had another look at the ankle and decided it was probably a sprain although by this time DD had been messaged and was keen for us to visit A&E, just in case.

By 6pm the ankle was still very swollen, and although I’d managed to change into a pair of clean trousers the knee was still spurting blood, so I somehow managed to get into the back of the car with the aid of one of my mum’s old walking sticks and we headed up to our local hospital. During these covid times it’s all a bit different, and difficult. The injured person is the only one allowed in, so I had to mask up, use the hand sanitiser whilst balancing on one leg, and then manfully make my way to the reception area. I told the girl what had happened and she in turn told me to “take a seat”. Easy for you to say I thought.

Fortunately it was really quiet, but maybe it’s quiet all the time now, what with everyone working from home and people scared to go anywhere near a hospital. I got called over to a side room where we naturally had to go through all the covid screening questions re coughs, temperatures etc. Once finished there, I was again told to “take a seat”. Easy for you to say I thought.

In no time at all a wheelchair appeared (hallelujah) and I was taken along a labyrinth of newly built, covid-safe, chipboard corridors linking the waiting room to an area in the main hospital, where I got the once-over. An X-ray was required which was a relief as we would at least find out what had really happened. As I’d suspected my ankle had been fractured and a bone had been chipped, so off I went to get fitted with a support boot and have my knee seen to. It all happened in record time and so fast I forgot to ask all the pertinent questions, but it seems they want you in and out at the speed of light at the moment which is understandable, and high praise indeed to our wonderfully efficient NHS.

Back in the waiting room sitting in my wheelchair I phoned Mr WIAA, who had naturally just arrived home, thinking I might be some time. He turned and came straight back and was allowed in to wheel me out to the car. I would be lying if I said I wasn’t wearing one of those, “I told you so,” looks on my face but I said nothing. Getting into the house was easier this time, what with the boot, but not being able to bend my right knee was proving troublesome as it has remained for the rest of the week. I can sit at my computer for short bursts (which is why this has been written in record time) but a lot of reclining on the sofa will be required over the next few weeks it seems. All these months of staying fit and healthy, going on daily walks, and now my wings have been well and truly clipped – Sod’s law. At least I won’t have guests arriving at the holiday hideaway anytime soon.

But this is a music blog so what song to add to this particular story? I’ve never needed an X-ray before, so how about something from one of our favourite early punk rock bands, X-Ray Spex, headed up by the inimitable Poly Styrene.

Germ Free Adolescents by X-Ray Specs:


Poly Styrene (real name Marion Joan Elliott-Said) became the band’s public face, and remains one of punk’s most memorable front-women. She wore thick braces on her teeth and once said, “I wasn’t a sex symbol and if anybody tried to make me one I’d shave my head tomorrow”. Poly Styrene was inspired to form a band after seeing the Sex Pistols, and through their live performances, she and X-Ray Spex became one of the most talked about acts on the burgeoning punk rock scene. Their 1978 album Germfree Adolescents is widely regarded as a classic of the punk rock genre and spawned five singles, including the title track. Sadly Poly died of cancer in 2011 at the very young age of 53.

So, “What’s It All About?” – Don’t be like me, look where you’re going, or else a pesky pothole might trip you up and keep you out of action for weeks on end. Of course it could be a lot worse in that we are still severely limited in what we can do anyway, but if I get the call to come in for my vaccination, I’ll make damned sure I get myself and my boot down the local health centre pronto.

It’s a big birthday for Mr WIAA next week, and we had originally planned to have a joint celebration to make up for the damp squib that was my big birthday last year – That won’t be happening now and who would have thought back then that nine months on we’d still be in lockdown. Oh well, the big celebration will have to wait for another time now, but I must remember to get off the sofa for long enough to wrap his presents (fortunately all bought online).

Right, that’s long enough sitting at my desk, so I’ll shuffle off to treat my knee with some antiseptic. Although I’ve not been an adolescent for an awful long while, I most definitely want to stay germ-free!

Until next time…

Germ Free Adolescents Lyrics
(Song by Poly Styrene)

I know your antiseptic
Your deodorant smells nice
I’d like to get to know you
You’re deep frozen like the ice


She’s a germ free adolescent
Cleanliness is her obsession
Cleans her teeth ten times a day
Scrub away scrub away scrub away
The S.R. way….

You may get to touch her
If your gloves are sterilised
Rinse your mouth with listerine
Blow disinfectant in her eyes

Her phobia is infection
She needs one to survive
It’s her built-in protection
Without fear she’d give up and die

She’s a germ free adolescent
Cleanliness is her obsession
Cleans her teeth ten times a day
Scrub away scrub away scrub away
The S.R. way….

Postscript:

By sheer coincidence, a new film about the life of Poly Styrene, made by her daughter Celeste Bell, was released this week. It is called I Am A Cliché and here is an excerpt from the film’s website: “She introduced the world to a new sound of rebellion, using her unconventional voice to sing about identity, consumerism, postmodernism, and everything she saw unfolding in late 1970s Britain, with a rare prescience. As the frontwoman of X-Ray Spex, the Anglo-Somali punk musician was also a key inspiration for the riot grrrl and Afropunk movements.”

Sounds as if it would be worth a watch.

Zoom Side Effects, The Faces and ‘Stay With Me’

Well, how are we all doing? It occurred to me that for months now, all I seem to have written about around here is what I’ve been doing from the comfort of my own home – Reading, watching telly, my college course, helping Mr WIAA out with his business…, and so on. There are the walks and the trips to the supermarket, but all very local so nothing much to (literally) write home about.

A most unexpected and unwelcome outcome of lockdown is that I seem to have aged by about 10 years. This one is very much aimed at the ladies of my own age who drop by this place, as I would be very surprised if I feel alone in this. All down to the phenomenon called ‘Zoom Face’. Never before have we had to conduct most of our interactions with others via screens, and it leads to far too much time contemplating our own visages, resulting in a reverse Narcissus experience.

In a normal outward-looking life, we don’t have to spend much time at all perusing at our faces. Other than popping on a bit of mascara and lipstick in the morning (if you are so inclined), and fluffing up the hair with the drier, we tend not to spend that much time looking at our reflections. Nowadays, what with FaceTime calls, family Zoom quizzes and my online college course, all I seem to do is look at my face, and I think it’s made me develop some sort of body dysmorphia. We are usually seen as a complete package, and the essence of who we are comes down to a combination of our personalities, our minds, the kind of clothes we wear and our individual mannerisms, but we are now reduced to a badly lit, high definition… face.

I’ve written about faces that seem to have got younger around here before, but decided I’d give certain ladies in the entertainment industry a pass (Cher and Dolly). Both freely admit to having had ‘absolutely everything done’, but as they are both icons and neither seem to ever take themselves too seriously, I don’t begrudge them the squillions of dollars it must have taken one bit. It has now become very clear however that just about every female we see on our television screens (unless they are very young) has felt the need to go down the cosmetic surgery route, but after experiencing ‘Zoom Face’ myself, I kind of understand why. It was the advent of HD television that swung it apparently, and once you start with the Botox, there’s no going back. Like hair-colouring and leg-waxing, it just becomes a routine part of body maintenance for those in the public eye.

But where does that leave the rest of us who aren’t in the public eye? Feeling a bit shitty about ourselves it seems. I’m writing about all of this as if it’s a purely female problem but perhaps men experience the current reverse Narcissus phenomenon as well. Do tell.

But this is a music blog, I think, although I’m all over the place at the moment. What song would fit this post? At first I thought of Holding Back The Years by Simply Red but the lyrics aren’t really about the kind of holding back of years I’m talking about at all. So instead, I’m going to follow on from last time, when I wrote about the year 1971 in music. Two of the biggest albums of the year were by Rod Stewart (solo artist), and by the Faces (where Rod played lead singer). I’ve never quite got to grips with how the Small Faces morphed into the Faces, so maybe it’s time to find out.

The Small Faces were from London and formed in 1965. The group originally consisted of Steve Marriott, Ronnie Lane, Kenney Jones, and Jimmy Winston, with Ian McLagan replacing Winston as the band’s keyboardist in 1966. The band was one of the most acclaimed and influential mod groups of the 1960s. They got their name because they were all under five feet six inches tall, the face part coming from the Who song, I’m The Face, which showed their mod allegiances. When their first and only No. 1 hit, All Or Nothing, made it to the top of the charts in 1966, it shared the spot with Yellow Submarine by the Beatles.

All Or Nothing by the Small Faces:


The band split up in early 1969, after Steve Marriott went on to form Humble Pie with Peter Frampton. The remaining band members changed their name to the Faces in 1969 when Rod Stewart and Ronnie Wood joined. Both of them were much taller than the other members at the time, so the band wasn’t really ‘small’ any more. When touring, they were known for living a wild hedonistic lifestyle and were banned from many hotel chains.

Their big hit, Stay With Me, reached the No. 6 spot in the UK Singles Chart in 1971 and is the tale of Rita, is who is left under no illusion that she is anything other than a one-night stand. I don’t think family man Rod would get away with writing lyrics like that nowadays, but I suppose 50 years ago they were writing about what they knew, and girls like Rita were not exactly in short supply. It still sounds great, and not dated at all, but some of those lyrics are a tough listen. Funny how the theme of this post is ‘Faces’ and even in the song, reference is made to Rita’s countenance. It seems whatever other qualities we may possess, the one that carries the most weight (when it comes to first impressions) is facial beauty.

You won’t need too much persuading
I don’t mean to sound degrading
But with a face like that
You got nothing to laugh about

Stay With Me by the Faces:


So, ‘What’s It All About?’ – I hope this is a short-lived dysmorphia that leaves me once things start to open up again but having done some research for this post, I know I’m not alone in feeling a bit blah… at the moment. The botulism injectors look as if they’re going to be working round the clock once we all get out there again. Another sad consequence of the pandemic.

As for the Small Faces and the Faces, I now understand the personnel changes along the way and how it led to a slight change in their moniker. Most of them are sadly no longer with us but a few of them still are, Ronnie still playing with the Rolling Stones, and Rod still doing his thing. They are both around the same age as Cher and Dolly pictured above. I questioned whether this obsession with looking young and unlined was just a problem for the female of the species, but it’s hard to tell really. Maybe we could ask Ronnie?

The happily lined and craggy Ronnie Wood – Way to go Ron, but wish we girls were allowed to do the same.

Until next time…

Stay With Me Lyrics
(Song by Rod Stewart/Ronnie Wood)

In the morning
Don’t say you love me
‘Cause I’ll only kick you out of the door

I know your name is Rita
‘Cause your perfume smelling sweeter
Since when I saw you down on the floor, guitar

You won’t need too much persuading
I don’t mean to sound degrading
But with a face like that
You got nothing to laugh about

Red lips hair and fingernails
I hear your a mean old Jezebel
Let’s go up stairs and read my tarot cards, c’mon

Stay with me
Stay with me
For tonight you better stay with me, oh yeah

Stay with me
Stay with me
For tonight you better stay with me, oh rock on

So in the morning
Please don’t say you love me
‘Cause you know I’ll only kick you out the door

Yea I’ll pay your cab fare home
You can even use my best cologne
Just don’t be here in the morning when I wake up, c’mon honey

Stay with me
Stay with me
‘Cause tonight you gonna stay with me
Sit down, get up, get down

Stay with me
Stay with me
‘Cause tonight your going stay with me
Hey, what’s your name again
Oh no, get down, whoo, hey, oh no, woo, get yourself home, slow down babe

Favourite Reads and 1971, the Start of the ‘Rock Era’

I know there are quite a few of us in my little blogging circle who prefer to write anonymously using an alias. It gives us an enormous sense of freedom as we can write about our daily lives, our innermost thoughts, and even hark back to the days of our youth, telling the tales of those times. Of late however, for one reason or another, a few more people in the real world have found out about this place than I might have liked, and although I’m sure they have better things to do than trawl through these pages, it does kind of affect the openness of the writing.

I’m mentioning this because I finally bit the bullet this week and shared the domain name with my course tutor. Regulars around here will know I joined the student body of my local college a couple of years ago, and the new semester has just begun. It got to the point I had mentioned my elusive ‘web-diary’ so often it was getting silly, so to offer up an explanation I sent her a link. As that link will land on the homepage, the pressure is on to make this next post a good one, which is a bit of an oxymoron, as when it comes to writing, pressure and quality never seem to go well together.

Ok, so I’ve had a bit of a wordy lead-in to this one, but I just wanted to get it out there that my course tutor Sara might drop by, and it’s making me nervous. Also, I haven’t really mentioned the fact it’s ostensibly a music blog that’s just grown arms and legs over the years, so it might come as a bit of a surprise.

Last time I wrote about all the great telly shows we’ve been fortunate enough to have at our disposal during these tough times of lockdown and restrictions. Prior to that I shared some of the pictures I’ve been taking on our daily walks and created a little montage. Another of my lockdown pastimes has been reading. Yes, lots and lots of reading, because that’s what students do isn’t it? (Do you think that’s enough to convince Sara?).

The background of choice for many a Zoom call, but have they all been read?

As it turns out, just like music, reading is for many of us as essential to life as the air we breathe, so simply part of our daily routine. Since starting my course, I’ve been keeping a record of what I’ve been reading, and like last time I’m happy to share my lockdown list. Again I’ll highlight my favourites, just in case you trust my judgement.

The complete works of Jenny Eclair (yes, another string to her bow), The Other Half of Augusta Hope by Joanna Glen, Why the Dutch are Different by Ben Coates (explains a lot!), Broken Greek by Peter Paphides, The Forensic Records Society by Magnus Mills), The Dressmaker’s Gift by Fiona Valpy, Department of the Peculiar… Goes Pop, 1&2 by Rol Hirst and Rob Wells (the latest comic book series from our talented blogging pal and his mate), Final Demand by Deborah Moggach, Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng, Queen Bee by Jane Fallon (Ricky Gervais’ other half), Tidelands by Philippa Gregory, The Switch by Beth O’Leary, Uncommon People and 1971, Never A Dull Moment both by David Hepworth.

A very rich and varied selection there and although maybe more aimed at a female market, I have been mighty impressed with Jenny Eclair’s output over the last few years and look forward to whatever she may publish next. On my list are a few books relating to the world of rock and pop, and Pete Paphides’ autobiography about growing up as part of a Greek family in 70’s/80s Britain, really resonated with me. Not because of the Greek part, but because he was a bit of a ‘rock and pop nerd’, and his relationship with radio chart shows, TOTP, and new albums, very much mirrored my own.

The two books below were in my Christmas stocking, and I’ve now finished both. David Hepworth is a fabulous writer and between these two books and the one by Pete Paphides, I have added more new words to my ‘new word notebook’ (it’s a thing), than from all the other books put together. In Uncommon People, the premise is that the era of the rock star came along in the mid-fifties but faded away in the last decade of the 20th century. There is a chapter for all of these ‘uncommon people’, starting with Little Richard in 1955 and ending with Kurt Cobain in 1994. As we often say around here, the 21st century has produced a totally different kind of artist what with the lack of physical product to covet and hold; the committee approach to making hit records; the importance of choreography; and, the mystique-destroying internet.

As for 1971, Never A Dull Moment, David reckoned that for a music fan like himself, having been born in 1950 was the equivalent of having won the winning ticket in the lottery of life, as he turned 21 at just the right time. On New Year’s Eve 1970, Paul McCartney issued a writ in London to wind up the Beatles, thus ending the ‘pop era’. The following day was 1971, and the first day of the ‘rock era’.

In the book, David chronicles those 12 months and it soon becomes clear that it was indeed an exceptional year. Many of those who first achieved stardom in 1971 – David Bowie, Rod Stewart, Pink Floyd, Led Zeppelin, Elton John and Joni Mitchell – went on to have long careers, and looking at the Top 100 albums of the year, many have truly stood the test of time and are still being purchased 50 years on. Songs from some of these albums have on occasion found their way onto this blog and all of them from way before my peak time as a consumer of vinyl, but now just part of our musical heritage:

Rod Stewart – Every Picture Tells A Story
Carole King – Tapestry

The Rolling Stones – Sticky Fingers
Nick Drake – Bryter Layter
The Faces – A Nod’s As Good As A Wink To A Blind Man
Joni Mitchell – Blue
David Bowie – Hunky Dory
Nilsson – Nilsson Schmilsson
John Lennon – Imagine
The Carpenters – Carpenters
Isaac Hayes – Shaft
Cat Stevens – Teaser And The Firecat

etc, etc, etc…

For once, I’ll not get all wordy about the artist or the song, as if you’re reading this you probably already know more about them than I ever will. I’ll simply select three of my favourite songs from a few of the above albums and leave it at that. Hope you approve of my choices.

Reason To Believe by Rod Stewart:

I Feel The Earth Move by Carole King:

Wild Horses by the Rolling Stones:


So, ‘What’s It All About?’ – I kind of got into my stride by the end of this post and forgot that people from the ‘real world’ might drop by. Whenever I’ve been in this position before, I soon regain my confidence, as it seems our family and friends are generally a lot less interested in what we write about than we might suppose. Just as well really.

As for my reading list above, hope I’ve given you a few ideas, as I was in turn by another blogger who frequents this place (he knows who he is). I’m always a sucker for rock and pop related volumes and autobiographies, and would thoroughly recommend the ones mentioned. For the record, a few examples of the new words added to my ‘new word notebook’ are as follows (every day’s a schoolday):

salmagundi – a pot pourri; a miscellaneous collection
gimcrack – cheap or showy ornament; a knick-knack
athwart
across from side to side; so as to be perverse or contradictory
bowdlerised – material removed from a text if deemed ‘improper’ making it weaker or less effective
ululating – a howl or wail as an expression of strong emotion (Yoko Ono was at times prevented from appearing on stage, for fear of her potential ululating!)


Do you wish you’d been born in 1950 in order to have experienced the music of 1971 at age 21, or are you happy with how the die was cast? Although 1971 was a remarkable year that gave us all these monumental albums, I’m personally happy with my own era, and still have the advantage of being able to continually make new discoveries. I think we probably all feel a bit like that, and long may it continue.

Until next time…

Reason To Believe Lyrics
(Song by Tim Hardin)

If I listened long enough to you
I’d find a way to believe that it’s all true
Knowing that you lied straight-faced while I cried
Still I look to find a reason to believe

Someone like you makes it hard to live without
somebody else
Someone like you makes it easy to give
never think about myself

If I gave you time to change my mind
I’d find a way just to leave the past behind
Knowing that you lied straight-faced while I cried
Still I look to find a reason to believe

If I listened long enough to you
I’d find a way to believe that it’s all true
Knowing that you lied straight-faced while I cried
Still I look to find a reason to believe

Someone like you makes it hard to live without
somebody else
Someone like you makes it easy to give
never think about myself

Five Years Of Blogging, Fun Statistics and Favourite Years

Oh the irony. Back in January 2020, after writing my first post of the year I decided to have a month off, as my blog had lost much of its joie de vivre. I’d decided that in the four years I’d been blogging, the world had gone to hell in a handbasket and although nothing to do with me and my little blog, maybe best to recharge the batteries before inflicting any more rants on you lovely followers. As it turns out, although each of them very different in flavour, those four years 2016 to 2019 will now be remembered as a bit of a golden age.

The WordPress Birthday Badge

I am really pleased however to have got to this point – It’s WIAA’s 5th birthday on Monday and I can’t believe I’ve actually kept it going through all the trials and tribulations the world has thrown at us, and through all the ups and downs closer to home. It started off just as the tagline says, “a nostalgic journey through the tracks of my years”, but of course it’s also ended up becoming a personal record of those five years, with many, many songs thrown in.

Heading into my 6th year of blogging I expect the direction of travel will be much the same. Every now and again I’ll have a bit of a rant about what’s going on in the world, but hopefully I’ll not veer too far from my original plan, to look back at the songs of my youth from this end of the conveyor belt of life, and find out so much more about them that was ever possible back in the day.

But first of all, some statistics. Despite having given up my very number-orientated job a few years ago to concentrate on other things (more wordy in nature), I do still love a statistic and I’ve put together a few relating to this blog. Here is a bar graph that shows the number of songs written about by year since WIAA’s inception back in January 2016. As expected, the year I seem to have returned to more than any other is 1967, for all sorts of reasons mentioned around here before. It was probably the first year I was allowed to stay up late enough to watch TOTP; I was a happy child from a comfortable home so no negative memories attached to the songs; I have a great affinity for the baroque, orchestral and sunshine pop of the era; and finally, all the rules changed around then and our parents who were not from the baby boomer generation were not part of it.

Or…, maybe it’s simply because that was the year I fell in love with Davy Jones from The Monkees. Oh yes, he was very much part of my 7-year-old self’s daytime thoughts. Cue Daydream Believer.

Daydream Believer by the Monkees:


Ok, so we’ve worked out that my favourite year to revisit is 1967, but my graph also shows that the median song (sorry to get all mathsy here), the one that ends up bang in the middle of the entire range, falls in the year 1977. Again I’ve written about the reason for this before. A study was carried out, and the findings were that if any company wished to target a particular demographic with their advertising, they should use music from the time that group was 16, which I was for much of 1977. Despite having to sit some heavy duty life-changing exams that year, life was anything but shabby. My material needs were all catered for; I had a tight regime to my day with school and a Saturday job; I saw my best friends daily; my social life was full-on; and we all had a reasonable level of independence, as helicopter parenting wouldn’t start for a few decades yet. Top that off with a few short romances that didn’t cause too much distress when they were over, no social media to mess with your head, and life was sweet. These giant corporations know that, and home in on our weakness for a pop song that reminds us of simpler times. Cue Hot Chocolate with the song that was at the top of the charts when I finished sitting my Scottish Highers in May 1977, So You Win Again.

So You Win Again by Hot Chocolate:


From the opposite end of the spectrum here is Elvis Costello with, quite aptly for this place, his song Alison from the album My Aim Is True. It was the album played most often in our newly commandeered 6th Year Common Room, after returning to school after the long summer holidays.

Alison by Elvis Costello:


But back to the statistics. I don’t know what the other blogging platforms are like, but here at WordPress we have access to some pretty amazing sets of charts as to how our blogs are performing. I’m a bit of a geography nerd, so the map showing all the countries you’ve had visits from is the one I’m most fascinated by. As at the time of writing, this is my map – It’s taken five years, but of the 197 countries in the world recognised by the UN, there are only 21 left where no one has dropped by this place. There are also of course lots of Dependencies and Territories, but I think I’m going to have to keep going until I get a visit from that last 21.

Come on in: Burundi, Central African Republic, Chad, Comoros, Congo (Republic of), Dominica, Equatorial Guinea, Eritrea, Kiribati, Liberia, Mali, Marshall Islands, Mauritania, Niger, North Korea, San Marino, Sao Tome and Principe, Sierra Leone, Solomon Islands, Tuvalu and Vanuatu, your time is up.

To be fair, it’s quite obvious why some of the residents of the above-mentioned countries haven’t dropped by yet, but you do get a few surprises when you peruse your stats. See the last line in this list of Country Views. Wonder who’s been nostalgically revisiting the tracks of his years?

As for stats regarding my most visited posts, it has remained largely unchanged since my first year of blogging. Right at the top is the one I wrote about the Proclaimer’s song Sunshine On Leith and I can always tell when a documentary about them has been aired on television, or the film of the same name shown, as there is a dramatic spike in views. Of course there are a few newer releases now creeping up the chart, so in time there will be a few changes. (For the record, Elvis still seems to top all of those lists relating to Most No. 1s and Most Weeks at No. 1, and the way music is consumed nowadays, that’s unlikely to ever change.)

I find it surprising that Joshua Kadison’s song Jessie has retained its Top 5 position ever since I first wrote about it nearly four years ago. It wasn’t even a song I remembered from when it was released in 1993 as I only discovered it when one of the entertainment team sang it on a family holiday about a decade ago. I have a feeling that depending on how you title your posts, search engines can home in on them more easily than some other offerings, but it still makes for fascinating reading (if you’re a stats nerd like me).

Jessie by Joshua Kadison:


So, “What’s It All About?” – I’ve loved my time on the blogosphere and still can’t quite believe WIAA is still going strong after five years. A lot of it is down to the interaction with my fellow bloggers (many of them on my sidebar) and visitors to the Comments Boxes. I think it would be tough to keep going if writing in a bit of a vacuum with no feedback whatsoever, so thanks for that.

As for the years mentioned above, have a look at your music library and if possible sort it by year – There is a pretty good chance a large chunk of it will centre on the year you turned 16. Hot Chocolate’s song was part of the soundtrack to my life during those busy months of study ahead of my big life-changing exams, and then the song we danced to when all the hard work was over. Looking at the lyrics now they’re not as upbeat as I remember, but they do reflect what our love lives were like back then. Fortunately we got over all the heartache relatively quickly.

As for me I’m off to switch on the telly, and if any adverts come up featuring the sounds of 1977, I’ll no doubt be putty in their hands.

Until next time…

So You Win Again Lyrics
(Song by Russ Ballard)

Just to admit one mistake
That can be hard to take
I know we’ve made them fall
But only fools come back for more
Being the fool I am
I figured in all your plans, darling
Your perfumed letters didn’t say
That you’d be leaving any day

So you win again, you win again
Here I stand again, the loser
And just for fun you took my love and run,
But love had just begun

I can’t refuse her
But now I know that I’m the fool
Who won your love to lose it all
When you come back, you win again
And I’m not proud to say
I let love slip away
Now I’m the one who’s crying
I’m a fool there’s no denying
When will my heartache end?
Will my whole life depend on fading memories
You took the game this time with ease

So you win again, you win again
Here I stand again, the loser
And just for fun you took my love and run,
But love had just begun

Postscript:

Hot Chocolate, a British soul band formed by Errol Brown and Tony Wilson, were incredibly popular during the 1970s and 1980s and had at least one hit every year from 1970 to 1984. Their 1975 song You Sexy Thing made the UK Top 10 three times over three decades, mainly because of its inclusion on the soundtrack to the British film The Full Monty. Here is Robert Carlyle trying to show them how to become Sheffield’s answer to The Chippendales.

And here is Erroll Brown, the epitome of “cool”, showing us how it should be done.

Lovers Rock, Janet Kay and ‘Silly Games’

Well, you don’t experience an ‘earworm’ for weeks and then two come along at once. I wrote about the phenomenon last week in relation to another song, from an advert, but I defy anyone who has watched Steve McQueen’s Lovers Rock not to have Janet Kay’s Silly Games on repeat in their head afterwards. Lovers Rock is the second film in Steve’s anthology film series Small Axe which tells stories about the lives of West Indian immigrants in London during the 1960s and 1970s. The title references a proverb – ‘If you are the big tree, we are the small axe’ – that was popularised by Bob Marley in his song Small Axe.

I was drawn to the episode after watching an interview with Steve where they showed the trailer. I was intrigued, as it was only last month that I first heard the term Lovers Rock. When writing my tribute post to those we have lost from the world of music this year, I found a quote from Boy George who had been saddened by the death of Johnny Nash.

‘R.I.P to the reggae legend Johnny Nash. One of the artists who made me fall in love with lovers rock and reggae music in the early 70s. So many amazing tunes and a voice like silk. I have never really known a time without reggae music. He was one of the greatest.’ – Boy George

At the time I thought it was a typo. I didn’t think it made sense, but then when sharing my story about a break-up, I found a suitable featured song by Alton Ellis who himself was a proponent of Lovers Rock. This short film was the third time it had cropped up in as many weeks, so time to investigate.

It seems Lovers Rock is not a genre or subgenre as such but a style of reggae music noted for its romantic sound and content. It became really popular in South London in the mid-1970s and combined the smooth soul sounds of Chicago and Philadelphia with rocksteady and reggae bassline rhythms. The style had particular appeal amongst women and produced many female stars. Dennis Harris set up a new record label, Lover’s Rock, at his South East London Studio along with Dennis Bovell, which gave the new style a name. It was Bovell who wrote and produced Silly Games, which reached number 2 in the UK Singles Chart in 1979. He got the inspiration for it from an advert where Ella Fitzgerald sang a note and broke a glass – ‘I wanted a song with a note like that. Little girls always try to sing a high note, so when I wrote “Silly Games” and put that high note in there, it meant that every female in the dance would try and sing that note.

Silly Games by Janet Kay:


Back in 1979 I was a great fan of radio and chart music so I know this song well, but I had never heard of Lovers Rock back then so wouldn’t have known it was part of something much bigger, almost spiritual. After watching Steve’s film I now get it. The film is really quite mesmerising and follows the events taking place over a night and morning during a London house party in 1980. There is very little dialogue, but somehow it doesn’t matter and we feel as if we are there with them.

For second-generation West Indian immigrants, who were denied access to white clubs, these parties were a haven where they could dance, drink, smoke and be themselves. It was common in a big house to clear the furniture and carpets to make a dance floor, set up the sound system and have curried goat served up from the kitchen. The main character, Martha, sneaks out of her devout mother’s house after dark and she and her friend Patty take a bus ride to the party. Once there, they pay their 50p to the doorman, cross the threshold and look forward to what the night will bring.

In 1980 I lived at the opposite end of the country from Martha and her friends and come from a totally different cultural background but what struck me most about this film is that there is a commonality amongst young people to want to get together, listen to music and dance. It’s biological. As the night wears on the tempo changes and the music inspires slow sensuous dances but every couple is in their own little bubble, oblivious to those around them. Not that dissimilar to the house parties I went to as a teenager before we were old enough for clubs and pubs. Many of the romances kindled during those parties have survived the test of time, but of course like Martha, our parents knew nothing of them. A lot of sneaking around and the creating of alibis had to be done in the run up to the event.

If you haven’t yet watched the film, I would thoroughly recommend it. I haven’t watched the others in the series yet but I plan to. As for this style of music, first I discovered Alton Ellis, and now I understand the background to some of the chart hits I remember from the 1970s. I’ll finish with Ken Boothe and his 1974 hit Everything I Own. It now makes sense that Boy George also recorded a version.

Until next time…

Silly Games Lyrics
(Song by Dennis Bovell)

I’ve been wanting you
For so long, it’s a shame
Oh, baby
Every time I hear your name
Oh, the pain
Boy, how it hurts me inside

‘Cause every time we meet
We play hide and seek
I’m wondering what I should do
Should I, dear, come up to you
And say, How do you do?
Would you turn me away

You’re as much to blame
‘Cause I know you feel the same
I can see it in your eyes
But I’ve got no time to live this love
No, I’ve got no time to play your silly games
Silly games

Yet, in my mind I say
If he makes his move today
I’ll just pretend to be shocked
Oh, baby
It’s a tragedy
That you hurt me
We don’t even try

You’re as much to blame
‘Cause I know you feel the same
I can see it in your eyes
But I’ve got no time to live this love
No, I’ve got no time to play your silly games
Silly games

Silly games
Silly games (No, don’t wanna play)
Silly games (Your silly)

No, I’ve got no time to play your silly games