The Halfway Point, Is It a ‘Stop’ or a ‘Don’t Stop’?

Well, I’ve just passed the halfway point in my challenge to write 30 posts in 30 days, and although my neck and shoulder injury seems to have righted itself, I am starting to flag a little. Should I keep going I wonder, or just content myself with having kept up the pace for as long as I have?

I am acutely aware that all you lovely followers might be finding it rather tedious having so much thrown at them in a single month, but I do still have a few more ideas up my sleeve. Feedback is positively encouraged as I don’t want to lose people along the way.

Anyway, I’m happy either way, so should it be a Stop

… or a Don’t Stop?

Don’t Stop by Fleetwood Mac:


I was totally the wrong demographic for the phenomenon that was the Spice Girls in the mid ’90s, but they were omnipresent, so you just couldn’t avoid their catchy pop tunes – There are a fair few I’ll admit to still being quite fond of. That was unbelievably nearly 25 years ago now, when DD was just a tot. Where has the time gone?

The Rumours album was a Christmas gift from the school boyfriend in 1977. Sadly it was in cassette tape format, so didn’t stand up well to the wear and tear of being played so often in the subsequent months – Remember having to rewind the tape back into the casing manually, after it getting scrunched up the machine?

Considering the many relationship breakdowns that happened within Fleetwood Mac before recording started, it’s quite something the album ever got made at all, but it did, and became one of the best-sellers of all time. Certainly plenty of material there to shape the song-writing.

Don’t Stop Lyrics
(Song by Christine McVie)


If you wake up and don’t want to smile
If it takes just a little while
Open your eyes and look at the day
You’ll see things in a different way

Don’t stop thinking about tomorrow
Don’t stop, it’ll soon be here
It’ll be here better than before
Yesterday’s gone, yesterday’s gone


Why not think about times to come?
And not about the things that you’ve done?
If your life was bad to you
Just think what tomorrow will do


Don’t stop thinking about tomorrow
Don’t stop, it’ll soon be here
It’ll be here better than before
Yesterday’s gone, yesterday’s gone

All I want is to see you smile
If it takes just a little while
I know you don’t believe that it’s true
I never meant any harm to you

Don’t stop thinking about tomorrow
Don’t stop, it’ll soon be here
It’ll be here better than before
Yesterday’s gone, yesterday’s gone

Focus and a Whole Load Of ‘Hocus Pocus’

A couple of weeks ago I mentioned that the domain name for this place is one quite a few other parties would like to get their hands on, as it reflects the name of their product or business. I have therefore had to remove any mention of it in the blog in case I get a take down notice.

H.G. Wells time machine

Anyway, back in 2017 I had planned to start a new series where I journeyed back in time in my ‘magical jukebox’ (you see where I’m going with this?) but only got as far as one spin the random number generator (I had it all thought out). It took me back to this date:

Year – 1973
Month – 2, i.e. February
Date – 14 (St Valentine’s Day!)

The act at the top of the UK Singles Chart on that date was Sweet, with their only chart-topper Blockbuster. I wrote about that song recently (link here) so time to mention another band who appeared in that very first post in the ‘series that never was’. Although I can’t say I was a big fan back then, in the fullness of time I have come to appreciate the falderals involved in the making of a Focus record (a bit of yodelling anyone?) and February 1973 was their time in the sun as far as chart success went. Their instrumental Sylvia was a climber at No.5 and Hocus Pocus was also climbing up the chart at No. 22.

The Dutch prog rock outfit, Focus.

I may well have forgotten all about these Dutch prog rockers had it not been the album I got for Christmas that year was ‘Arcade’s 20 Fantastic Hits by the Original Artists’, the emphasis on the word original, as up until then most of these compilations were very much by the unoriginal artists – I still have the album and Hocus Pocus is Track 7 on Side 2.

Hocus Pocus by Focus:


I don’t know if you’ve ever watched Edgar Wright’s Baby Driver but I’d thoroughly recommend it. I’m not usually a fan of films that feature multiple car chases, but this one was a very different animal, and the best car chase of all was played out to the sounds of Focus with what has turned out to be their most memorable recording (was it because the words rhymed so well I wonder?). Watching this excellent clip again, the lead character Baby, could definitely give Lewis Hamilton a run for his money.

I hope you’ve enjoyed my second journey back to February 1973. All you need is a random number generator it seems and we’re good to go, although the mode of transport was a tad uncomfortable. If there is a next time, I might have to trade in H.G. Wells’ time machine for Doc Brown’s DeLorean. Might make for a smoother ride.

Until next time….

Memories of Junior School: Cliff, Marc and Alice

Recently, whilst starting out on a project to declutter the house, I found a booklet that was printed for my old primary school’s centenary celebrations. A call had gone out asking ex-pupils to submit their memories, and many did, including myself – Unbeknownst to me until after publication however, most contributors stuck to a concise 150-200 words, whereas my ‘contribution’ ended up being a good deal longer so kind of stood out like a sore thumb. Anyway, I did notice that the piece included a few references to the music of the day, so I’m going to recycle it for this place – Hope you can forgive me this little indulgence.

My old Primary School

Extract from 1899-1999 Centenary Booklet (written in 1998):

If like me you joined the school in 1965, and spent the whole of your primary school education there, your memories of the experience will be very similar to mine. I spent an evening conjuring up images from the past and came up with the following whistle stop tour through the seven years.

In Miss Margaret’s Primary One class, courtesy of the Tom and Ann books, we all became literate. For many Aberdeenshire children this was no mean feat since these books were written in English and not in our native Doric. At the same time we were also becoming numerate courtesy of wooden rods number one to ten (or was it twelve in those pre-decimal days?). These rods came in the full spectrum of colours and I’m pretty sure that number four rod was quite an attractive lime green.

By the time we progressed next door to Miss Mabel’s Primary Two class we were ready to pick up on the finer points of spelling, writing and sums. Miss Margaret and Miss Mabel, being sisters and located in rooms next to each other, frequently brought their classes together. Sometimes it was for Music and Movement, and sometimes it was to watch a film on the noisy school projector, skilfully manned by Mr Anderson the headmaster as women in those days were obviously not to be trusted with advanced technology. The film invariably had a Commonwealth theme (the young queen was very popular in the mid ’60s) and might have been about children on sheep stations in Australia or perhaps in African villages. At the time however I think I was more fascinated by the projector’s light beam picking up the slow moving mass of chalk dust that usually filled the air.

For Primary Three we veered round the corner to Mrs Scott’s classroom next to the staffroom. I seem to remember we were introduced to the wonderful world of Work Cards which dealt heavily with Stone Age Man and the Romans in Britain. At age seven we were highly versed in the life of the average Neanderthal or Centurion. Also at that time, it was very important for us to master the new metric system which would soon take over completely from the old imperial system of measurement. Over thirty years later and I still quote my height in feet and inches and order my curtain material in yards – What would Mrs Scott say?

Primary Four, back in 1968, was housed in a hut to the right of the main school building. Mrs Fraser was the teacher and although most classes at that time still had milk monitors, Primary Four was the only class that had a wood-burning stove monitor. A major turning point for the school came that year when the old wooden desks, complete with ink well, were abandoned in favour of new-fangled formica tables that had little plastic drawers on runners. Very much in keeping with the hi-tech furniture of the time.

There was great dismay for me that year however when Helen, my best friend since Primary One, left the village for a new life in Aberdeen (with her parents and younger brother Stuart I hasten to add). We lost touch for many years but met up again at University in 1978 and we both ironically became accountants in later life. Miss Margaret’s number one to ten rods must have had a profound effect on us.

As we come to Primary Five, my memories get more vivid. We were back in the main body of the school and our teacher was Miss Reid who impressed the girls at any rate, with her trendy crocheted waistcoats and short skirts. She also had amazing high hair usually adorned with elaborate accessories. It was now 1969 and great advances were being made in the world of Science and Technology. We were lucky enough to have Mr Bruce take us for science once a week and in one lesson he mass-manufactured bright blue eye-shadow for the girls (much to the anguish of our parents I’m sure). He also invited everyone to his lab to witness one of the first Apollo moon landings. To my eternal shame, not realising the significance of what we were to watch on the grainy black and white TV, I was so busy discussing the novelty of getting off normal lessons with new best friend Sheena, that I think I missed the whole thing.

Christmas time always was and still is an exciting time in the school year and as was often the case we performed a nativity play that year. I was the narrator, a major part that called for much learning of lines and constructing of angel wings and head-dress. If you were a girl however the most sought after role was always that of Mary (depending of course on whoever happened to be Joseph that year). The other event that made Christmas special was the annual Christmas party when before dances, the boys would line up on one side of the gym hall and the girls on the other, as if about to go into battle. Nine year old boys and girls are not known for being socially at ease with each other but somehow we manfully made it round the hall on an annual basis mastering the finer points of the Gay Gordons, the St Bernard’s Waltz and the Bluebell Polka. To this day, every time I attend a Wedding or Dinner Dance, I thank my primary school for having taught me the rudiments of Scottish Country Dancing.

What we had to dance to – Jimmy Shand
What we wanted to dance to – The other Jimi

Incidentally, growing disquiet in the ranks over the choice of music for our annual bash (we were living in the psychedelic ’60s after all in the days of the Beatles and Jimi Hendrix) meant the teachers had to take steps in acquiring some ‘pop’ records for us as well as the Jimmy Shand perennial favourites. For some strange reason what they came up with was Cliff Richard singing the waltz-friendly When The Girl In Your Arms Is The Girl In Your Heart. It wasn’t until I was older that I realised it happened to be from The Young Ones filmed in 1961 – Not quite what we had in mind.

Primary Six was Mrs McPhee’s class in the room next to the ‘Higher Grade’ girl’s cloakroom. (It was a junior/secondary school that taught kids up to the age of 15 after which, unbelievably, they could leave school and join the adult world of work.) At age ten we were in awe of these ‘women’ of 14 and 15 in their wetlook coats and boots, long sleek hair and chokers. Full decimalisation came about in 1970 and I remember the excitement on the first day about paying for lunch tokens with the already circulated 50p and anticipating the change in shiny new pence. On receiving these new pence we hotfooted it to the local baker’s shop at break time where we regularly went to buy our sweets. Soon a dilemma was to be faced – Apparently during the transition period, one new pence was to equate to both the old tuppence and thrupence. It was important to remember to buy a penny chew along with your tuppenny ice-pole or else you lost out bigtime. I think this was also the year we broke some record or other by being the first school, thanks mainly to the endeavours of Mr Bruce, to have everyone over a certain age pass their cycling proficiency test. We were even photographed for the Aberdeen Press and Journal, so fame indeed.

Educationally by this stage, we were covering the whole gamut of school subjects and even received extra tuition from the Higher Grade teachers. One of these teachers was Miss Jaffrey whom the girls at any rate, got for Sewing and Knitting. (I would have said Home Economics but at that age we were obviously not yet let loose with cookers, although when attempting to thread the needle of the electric sewing machine with my friend Lorna that year, we did inadvertently manage to stitch through the top of my finger – ouch.) Miss Jaffrey got married when we were in Primary Six and I remember the girls clubbing together to buy her a wedding present – Unfortunately for Miss Jaffrey this wedding present took the form of a pair of ornamental plastic bambis. Much to her credit however she seemed overwhelmingly pleased with her gift, although I doubt if they ever took pride of place on her mantelpiece.

And so we come to Primary Seven, our last year in junior school. We were right along the corridor beyond the art room and the janitor’s cupboard. Our teacher was the heavily accented Miss Robertson (she was half German which often came about as a result of servicemen marrying local girls after the war). I remember this being a really enjoyable year despite having to endure the dreaded 11-plus test at some point. Coming up to Christmas we feverishly collected for the Blue Peter Annual Appeal and were rewarded with a personal thank you note from Pete, John and Val. Brenda snuck in a copy of her big sister’s T. Rex LP to the Christmas party (Jeepster had been a big hit in the November of that year) and things were never quite the same after that. Robert and Stephen both got feather cut hairstyles and so ended the era of short back and sides for most of the boys in the class.

Also that year I suffered a nasty bout of appendicitis which took me into the Sick Children’s Hospital for quite some time and off school for about a month. When in hospital I received a box of fruit from the class and Scoop Bookclub paperbacks (remember them?). Unfortunately a schedule of schoolwork also came in the box which I conveniently mislaid and then pleaded ignorance when asked about it later (there had to be some advantages in having your appendix removed.) In the spring of 1972 both the boys and girls were heavily involved in football and netball tournaments which took us to distant lands (other villages 5 to 10 miles away) – Most of the time however I didn’t even make it into the first team which kind of put me off competitive sport for life although I discovered later they just didn’t want me to overdo it since I’d been so recently in hospital. The grand finale of Primary Seven was School Camp in Abington, Lanarkshire. We had a great time and made lots of new friends from all over Aberdeenshire, many of whom we met up with in later years. (Mr WIAA’s predecessor was a boy I fell for at School Camp who hailed from a nearby village).

So there we have it. In the summer of 1972 Alice Cooper was topping the charts with School’s Out and our class went their separate ways. There were choices, and some of us went to one nearby academy, some went to another, and some stayed at the junior/secondary (although by this time the leaving age had increased to 16). When it was time to enrol my daughter for pre-school, I decided we would have to move house, as I wanted her to go to a school like the one I had attended. This must certainly be a testament to the time I spent there, the inspirational teachers and the friends made along the way.

School’s Out by Alice Cooper:


Until next time….

School’s Out Lyrics
(Song by the Alice Cooper band)

Well we got no choice
All the girls and boys
Makin all that noise
‘Cause they found new toys
Well we can’t salute ya
Can’t find a flag
If that don’t suit ya
That’s a drag

School’s out for summer
School’s out forever
School’s been blown to pieces

No more pencils
No more books
No more teacher’s dirty looks

Well we got no class
And we got no principles
And we got no innocence
We can’t even think of a word that rhymes

School’s out for summer
School’s out forever
School’s been blown to pieces

No more pencils
No more books
No more teacher’s dirty looks

Out for summer
Out till fall
We might not go back at all

School’s out forever
School’s out for summer
School’s out with fever
School’s out completely

Postscript:

Interestingly, despite the fact we wanted more Beatles and less Jimmy Shand MBE in the late ’60s, it turns out that much of Jimmy’s success in the charts in the 1950s was down to none other than George Martin! Yes once signed to Parlophone, the master of the button box accordion was given George as a producer, and became the only leader of a Scottish Country Dance Band ever to enter the UK Singles Chart.

Elections, Maps and The Music of Pennsylvania

Well, I certainly made a brave attempt at becoming a daily blogger around here but it seems my style of blogging just isn’t suited to such regular delivery. My poor shoulder and neck is now aching, even after a night’s sleep, so I think I’m going to have to call time on this challenge for a wee while, in order to prioritise work, and my college course.

Most of us will have been keeping tabs on what’s going on across the pond right now, and dare I say, it’s almost nice to have something else going on in the news. Looking at all those red and blue maps of the 50 states (does anyone else find it confusing that red means right and blue means left in the US?), I was reminded of my American Odyssey in Song series. I’ve loved the ‘Full Moon’ and ‘Wheel Of The Year’ series (on my sidebar), but that journey around the states in song was definitely my favourite. Again, like this challenge, it was labour intensive, so by the time I got nine states under my belt I had run out of steam. A retirement project perhaps, although they keep changing the goalposts, so who knows when we will be able to retire in this brave new world.

Anyway, as the great state of Pennsylvania has become the focus of so much attention in this election, and because that’s where I am currently holed up on my American Odyssey ahead of journeying on to Delaware (which is not an easy state from which to find musical inspiration), I’m going to share that post again. A very diverse state, and one with a lot of history – Hope you enjoy it.

——–

An American Odyssey in Song: Pennsylvania

(First posted 1st February 2018)

Welcome to this occasional series where I am attempting a virtual journey around the 50 States of America in song. For anyone new to this place, I have a continuous route map where I enter and leave each state only once. Suggestions for the next leg always welcome!

I really need to pick up the pace with this series otherwise it looks as if I’m going to be in my dotage before I make it all the way round to my final destination, Florida. Anyway, as it’s now been over three months since I entered New Jersey (must have lost track of time in those vast gambling emporiums in Atlantic City), the great state of Pennsylvania now beckons. Yet again however we are entering a state that cannot be neatly summed up as having a single character. Pennsylvania has wide stretches of farmland, forests and mountains but it also has Philadelphia, the sixth largest city in the US.

pennsylvania

A few random facts about Pennsylvania. It was one of the 13 original founding states and came into being as a result of a royal land grant given to William Penn, an English Quaker and son of the state’s namesake. Philadelphia played an important role in the American Revolution as a meeting place for the Founding Fathers of the United States – The Declaration of Independence was signed there on the 4th of July, 1776. It is also home to the cracked Liberty Bell, an iconic symbol of American independence.

During the American Civil War, the Battle of Gettysburg was fought in the south central region of the state and is the place where Abraham Lincoln delivered his landmark address. The Pennsylvania Dutch (who were actually German/Deutsch) settled in the south-east of the state and there are still Christian groups living there today who separate themselves from the world favouring simple living and plain dressing.

But what do I associate with Pennsylvania when it comes to music. Last time a few suggestions were offered up for which I am always grateful. Rol over at My Top Ten suspected I might choose Pennsylvania 6-5000 by The Glenn Miller Orchestra which was most definitely going to be a contender until I discovered it was actually the telephone number for the Hotel Pennsylvania in New York City! C, from Sun Dried Sparrows suggested I’m in Pittsburgh (and It’s Raining) by the Outcasts, a sort of ‘sub-Stones US ’60s garage classic’ she tells us. Last but not least Lynchie, a frequent and very knowledgeable visitor to the music blogosphere, came up with two songs by Loudon Wainwright III. ‘I don’t think you’ll find the first one on YouTube’ he said, and he was right, but fortunately he gave us some of the lyrics for Have You Ever Been To Pittsburgh.

Have you ever been to Pittsburgh
Do you think you’d wanna go?
Have you ever been to Pittsburgh
(It’s in Pennsylvania)
Do you think you’d wanna go?
Well – if you wanna go to Pittsburgh
Get on the bus and go!

‘Loudon however’, he added, ‘also wrote the more affectionate Ode To Pittsburgh‘ and this time it could be found YouTube. A nice little film to accompany the song that gives us a flavour of what it might be like to live there. Not heard it myself before, but I find myself strangely smitten.

But as ever, music and film go hand in hand for me, and three movies immediately came to mind for this Pennsylvania post. The tunes from them are by no means all favourites, but they do for me, sum up the state. As tends to happen at award ceremonies, I will announce the results in reverse order:

First of all, when I saw that the next state we would be entering was Pennsylvania, I was immediately reminded of the film The Deer Hunter as the main characters in that epic Vietnam war drama were steelworkers from Clairton, Pennsylvania, a small working class town south of Pittsburgh. The images of that grim steel town have obviously stayed with me but also the scenes in the mountains where that trio of friends, played by Robert De NiroChristopher Walken and John Savage, spend much of their time deer hunting. I didn’t see the film when it first came out in 1979, but I do remember that the piece of music called Cavatina (popularly known as ‘Theme from The Deer Hunter’) received much radio airplay at the time and reached No. 13 in the UK Singles Chart. It was performed by classical guitarist John Williams whom I have just discovered is not the same John Williams responsible for writing the film scores for ET and Jurassic Park. Obvious now, but the same name and from a long time ago.

poster_thedeerhunter
Cavatina by John Williams:


The second film I was reminded of was of course Rocky where the main character, played by new kid on the block Sylvester Stallone, is to be seen pounding the streets of Philadelphia in his grey sweats, whilst carrying out his gruelling training regime. These scenes were of course very memorably played out to the sounds of Gonna Fly Now (popularly known as the ‘Theme from Rocky’) which was composed by Bill Conti. The lyrics (all 30 words of them), were performed by DeEtta Little and Nelson Pigford. Released in February 1977, the song has become part of American popular culture after Rocky Balboa runs up the 72 stone steps leading to the Philadelphia Museum of Art and then raises his arms in a victory pose.

Whenever I watch 1970s footage of American cities (like in this clip), I think of ‘the three B’s’, boxes, braziers and back alleys, as just about everything I watched on telly back then seemed to feature these three elements. Maybe it was just because there was a plethora of gritty cop shows and crime dramas, but also our inner cities were in real need of gentrification. I am sure however that the Philadelphia of today looks quite different, and I’m also sure that Neil from Yeah, Another Blogger, who is a resident, will keep us right on that score.

Gonna Fly Now by DeEtta Little and Nelson Pigford:


But of course I can’t write a post about PA, without mentioning all the great music that came to be known as the Philadelphia Sound, or Philly Soul. Any regular visitors to this place might remember that I wrote about how it all came to pass recently (The O’Jays, The Three Degrees and a ‘Year Of Decision’). It does seem there were three pivotal players without whom it might never have happened – Philadelphia International Records was founded in 1971 by the very talented writer-producer duo Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff, along with collaborator Thom Bell. It very much showcased a new genre of music based on the gospel, doo-wop and soul music of the time. Throughout the 1970s the label released a string of worldwide hits which featured lavish orchestral instrumentation, heavy bass and driving percussion. Some of their most popular and best selling acts included The O’Jays, The Three Degrees, Harold Melvin & the Blue Notes, Teddy Pendergrass, Billy Paul, Patti LaBelle and Lou Rawls.

0000219089

But I have written about some of those artists before so this time I’m going to go a little further back in time to 1969 when Didn’t I (Blow Your Mind This Time) was written by producer Thom Bell and William Hart, lead singer of the Philadelphia R&B/Soul vocal group The Delfonics. It was released by the group on the Philly Groove record label and is regarded as a classic, winning a Grammy Award for Best R&B Performance by a Duo or Group.

And this is where my third film choice comes in, as for many of us, it is simply that great song from the Tarantino film Jackie Brown. It very much plays a pivotal role in the film as it underscores the relationship between main characters Jackie, and Max Cherry. Like many others I was probably a bit too young for a song like this when it first came along in 1969 but after re-discovering it in 1997, when the film came out, I found a new appreciation for Philadelphia based groups like The Delfonics.

Didn’t I (Blow Your Mind This Time) by The Delfonics:


So that’s your lot as far as Pennsylvania goes. When I started this series it was with a view to featuring one song per state but of course once you start to do the research it becomes impossible to limit it to just that. Next time however we will be entering Delaware, a very small state indeed which at the moment is not offering up any inspiration (bar the obvious candidate). If you have any suggestions feel free to leave them in the comments boxes, as left to my own devices it’s going to be a very short post.

It has just occurred to me, as I returned to the top of the page to insert a title, that I may have inadvertently been a tad insensitive having included both the Theme from The Deer Hunter and Didn’t I (Blow Your Mind This Time) in the same post – To anyone who has ‘experienced’ the film The Deer Hunter, they will probably know what I mean. Enough said.

See you in Delaware….

Didn’t I (Blow Your Mind This Time) Lyrics
(Song by Thom Bell/William Hart)

I gave my heart and soul to you, girl
Now didn’t I do it, baby didn’t I do it baby
Gave you the love you never knew, girl, oh
Didn’t I do it, baby didn’t I do it baby

I’ve cried so many times and that’s no lie
It seems to make you laugh each time I cry

Didn’t I blow your mind this time, didn’t I
Didn’t I blow your mind this time, didn’t I
Yes sir

I thought that heart of yours was true, girl
Now, didn’t I think it baby didn’t I think it baby
But this time I’m really leavin’ you girl oh
Hope you know it baby hope you know it baby

Ten times or more, yes, I’ve walked out that door
Get this into your head, there’ll be no more

Didn’t I blow your mind this time, didn’t I
Didn’t I blow your mind this time, didn’t I
Yes sir

(Didn’t I do it baby didn’t I do it baby)
(Didn’t I do it baby didn’t I do it baby)

Ten times or more, yes, I’ve walked out that door
Get this into your head, there’ll be no more

Didn’t I blow your mind this time, didn’t I (oh)
Didn’t I blow your mind this time, didn’t I (Hoo)
Didn’t I blow your mind this time, didn’t I (Did I blow your mind, baby)
Didn’t I blow your mind this time, didn’t I (Can’t you see)
Didn’t I blow your mind this time, didn’t I (Did I blow your mind)
Didn’t I blow your mind this time, didn’t I (Ooh baby, ooh)

Girl, can we talk for a second
I know it’s been a long time
Since some someone’s blown your mind, like I did
There’ll be other times, for me and you
And I can see the tears fallin’ from your eyes

Tell me girl, did I blow your mind

Didn’t I blow your mind this time, didn’t I (Did I blow your mind baby)
Didn’t I blow your mind this time, didn’t I (Ooh, ooh, ooh, ooh, ooh, ooh, ooh)

Bonfire Night, More Bond Themes and ‘Live And Let Die’

Well, it’s Guy Fawkes Night, but there will be no big ‘town display’ tonight down at the municipal playing fields. There will probably be a few small displays in back gardens (look out for your pets folks), but nothing grander. Shame all these festivals, Halloween, Christmas and Bonfire Night, land during the coldest and wettest time of the year here in Scotland, as we’ve had a fair few soakings and frostbitten fingers over the years.

For those who are not from the UK, Guy Fawkes Night will mean nothing to you, so by way of explanation, here is an abbreviated version of the Wiki entry about the aforementioned chap:

Guy Fawkes (1570 – 1606), was a member of a group of English Catholics who was involved in the failed Gunpowder Plot of 1605. Fawkes had fought for Catholic Spain in the Eighty Years’ War against Protestant Dutch reformers. When he returned to England he was introduced to Robert Catesby, who planned to assassinate King James I, and restore a Catholic monarch to the throne.

Guy Fawkes

The plotters leased an ‘undercroft’ (a cellar) beneath the House of Lords and Fawkes was placed in charge of the gunpowder they stockpiled there. An anonymous letter to the authorities prompted a search of Westminster Palace during the early hours of 5 November, and they found Fawkes with the explosives. After being tortured he confessed to wanting to blow up the House of Lords.

Fawkes was later sentenced to death but he became synonymous with the Gunpowder Plot, the failure of which has been commemorated in the UK as Guy Fawkes Night since 5 November 1605, when his effigy is traditionally burned on a bonfire, accompanied by fireworks.

Growing up, it was an exciting annual event, and as our back garden was joined to three others (we had the gable-end, prized in a terrace), the dads usually built a big communal bonfire. In the preceding couple of weeks, all the kids collected their fireworks. There were ‘selection boxes’, with a mix of all the usual suspects, Catherine wheels, bangers, and rockets, but also packets of sparklers and individual fireworks of the more spectacular nature.

Needless the say, over the years there were a fair amount of nasty accidents involving fireworks (none for us thankfully), so nowadays people are encouraged to attend well-supervised, organised displays. Let’s hope this year there won’t be a return to the past, as the dads, although well intentioned, just don’t have the training of our local Fire Officers.

The best display our town ever held was when they used Bond themes to choreograph the igniting of the fireworks. It was a dry night for once, with clear skies, so a pretty spectacular event. I’ve written about Bond themes this week already, so appropriate to share this song, as it’s often accompanied by stunning pyrotechnics even when it’s not Guy Fawkes night. I give you Live And Let Die by Wings from 1973.

Live And Let Die by Wings:


The song was written for the film of the same name, the eighth in the Bond series, this time starring Roger Moore. Paul McCartney, along with wife Linda, wrote the song and on this occasion George Martin wrote the film score, as John Barry was unavailable. Performed by their group Wings, it was the first ‘rock and roll’ song used to open a Bond film, and became a major success, reaching No. 9 on the UK Singles Chart and No. 2 in the US. It was nominated for an Academy Award, but lost out that year to The Way We Were.

Stay safe, as we keep saying nowadays, but tonight I mean beware of stray fireworks. No doubt we’ll still see a fair few light up our skies.

Until next time….

Live And Let Die Lyrics
(Song by Paul McCartney/Linda McCartney)

When you were young and your heart was an open book
You used to say live and let live
(you know you did, you know you did you know you did)
But if this ever changing world in which we’re living
Makes you give in and cry

Say live and let die
Live and let die
Live and let die
Live and let die

What does it matter to ya
When you got a job to do
You gotta do it well
You gotta give the other fellow hell

When you were young and your heart was an open book
You used to say live and let live
(you know you did, you know you did you know you did)
But if this ever changing world in which we’re living
Makes you give in and cry

Say live and let die
Live and let die
Live and let die
Live and let die

The Sweet, ‘Blockbuster’ and A Domain Name That Can Never Be Mentioned!

I’ve only had to ‘take down’ one post since starting this blog and sadly it was one I was quite proud of. As it turns out, the domain name for this place is one quite a few other parties would like to get their hands on, as it reflects the name of their product or business. Back in 2016 I had also gone down that route before deciding it all sounded a bit too Dr Who-ish so changed tack. The post that caused objection used the domain name as a title, as it was going to kickstart a new series where I journeyed back in time via a magical jukebox (yes, an idea a 10-year-old might have come up with in retrospect, but I went there). The first spin of the dial, using a random generator no less, took me back to this date:

Year – 1973
Month – 2, i.e. February
Date – 14 (St Valentine’s Day!)

This year could not have been better for me, as it was the year I became a teenager, and also the year I became obsessed with pop music and chart rundowns (already written about here). Referring to the UK Singles Chart from the 14th Feb 1973, the act at the No. 1 spot was this one, glam-rock band the Sweet with their only chart-topper, Blockbuster.

Blockbuster by Sweet:


Since first writing that post (now trashed), it’s become apparent there was much love for the band Sweet back in the day and they are often mentioned in the various blogs I visit. Mr Medd over at Are We There Yet? has a whole category dedicated to them. It still amazes me, watching footage of the band perform, how they somehow manage to look macho whilst wearing so much gold lamé and glitter. Steve Priest, the band’s bassist, sadly died in June of this year aged only 72. He was the one who always got the spoken word lines in any song:

‘We just haven’t got a clue what to do

It was also Steve who wore the most outrageous outfits and unlike the other members of the band, was always ‘plastered in makeup’ (his words). He got quite miffed when it was cited Bowie set the bar when it came to glam costumes, because he was the first to wear hot pants on TOTP. It was hot water he got himself into however when he decided to sport a German helmet on the 1973 Christmas edition of the aforementioned show. Brian Connolly (he of the long blond, not ‘long black hair’) was a great singer, but it was Steve who brought personality to the band. Unlike Bowie he was not an innovator, or an artist, he was a bloke who wanted to be in a band and had a bloody good time doing it.

The many faces of Steve Priest

There are many tributes I still have to write for people from the world of music who have died this year, but we’ve all been pre-occupied with other life-changing stuff, so I’m a bit behind. Watching this footage of the Sweet from 1973 reminds me as ever of simpler times. There were still only three channels on telly and you all sat around watching the same shows as a family. We had no central heating when I was growing up (not that we were poor, it just wasn’t a thing yet), so in the month of February there was no chance of me being anywhere else except in front of our two bar electric fire (complete with feature faux fireplace) watching the box with my parents. With no social media to mess with your head, and the concept of helicopter parenting not having been invented yet, life was indeed ‘sweet’.

I have written about the Sweet around here before when I shoe-horned Little Willy and Hell Raiser into posts, so won’t go there again. I will end with another clip however, this time of the band performing Teenage Rampage from 1974, where yet again Steve makes his own unique contribution. Sweet were incredibly successful during those post-bubblegum pop, pre-hard rock years, but the lifestyle took its toll and now only Andy Scott of the classic line-up is still with us. I accidentally caught myself watching an interview with Brian ahead of his death in 1997, but wished I hadn’t gone there. Best to remember your teen idols as they were I think.

So, ‘What’s It All About?’ – Well I think I’ve gotten away with it this time and not mentioned the offending term that brought about the threat of legal action. I’ve still only mentioned one of the songs however that was written about in that original ‘magical jukebox’ journey, so hopefully I’ll be able to reinstate the others at some point, by stealth.

I wonder if anyone else has had a sticky situation where they’ve had a ‘take down notice’ or been threatened with legal action? I know that Feargal Sharkey‘s name used to strike fear (no pun intended) into many a music blogger’s heart, but maybe those days have gone. I’d love to hear from you, and as you know by now, I always reply.

Until next time….


Blockbuster Lyrics
(Song by Mike Chapman/Nicky Chinn)

Ahhh, Ahh Ahhh

You better beware, you better take care
You better watch out if you’ve got long black hair
He’ll come from behind, you’ll go out of your mind
You better not go, you never know what you’ll find

Ahh Ahh, Ahh Ahhh

Can’t look into his eyes, you’ll be surprised
If don’t know what going on behind his disguse
Nobody knows where Buster goes
He’ll steal your woman out from under your nose

Does anyone know the way, did we hear someone say
(We just haven’t got a clue what to do)
Does anyone know the way, there’s got to be a way
To Blockbuster

The cops are out, they’re running about
Don’t know if they’ll ever be able to blockbuster out
He’s gotta be caught, he’s gotta be taught
‘Cause he is more evil then anyone here ever thought

Does anybody know the way, did we hear someone say
(We just haven’t got a aho)
Does anybody know the way, there’s got to be a way
To Blockbuster


Does anybody know the way, did we hear someone say
(We just haven’t got a clue what to do)
Does anybody know the way, there’s got to be a way
To Blockbuster

Ahh Ahh, Ahh Ahh
Ahh Ahh, Ahh Ahh

Buster buster blockbuster
Buster buster blockbuster
Buster buster blockbuster
Buster buster blockbuster
Buster buster blockbuster
Buster buster blockbuster

‘Angie Baby’, Living In A World Of Make-Belief – RIP Helen Reddy

I was saddened to hear of the death of Helen Reddy last week. I can’t pretend to have ever been a avid fan, but I seem to know a fair few of her songs pretty well, despite her only having had one chart entry here in the UK. I think she was one of those artists who appealed to a wide audience, so was probably a regular guest on light entertainment shows back in the 1970s.

I had always thought she was American, but it seems not. She was born in Melbourne, Australia to a showbusiness family but after winning a trip to New York in a talent contest in 1966, she decided to relocate there. After getting a record contract in 1971, she went on to have many hits in the US including three which reached the No. 1 spot – I Am Woman, Delta Dawn and today’s featured song, Angie Baby.

Angie Baby by Helen Reddy:


This song was the only one that made it into the UK Singles Chart, back in 1975, and despite coming from the ‘Easy Listening’ camp, it really isn’t an easy listen at all. As each verse goes by, the story becomes weirder and weirder. Although we start off commiserating with the girl in the song, who seems to have been one of life’s loners, by the end of it we have gone on a bit of a fantasy trip with her and the listener is left to decide what happens to the boy in the song for themselves. Alan O’Day, the song’s writer, meant for that to happen.

Looking back at it all these years later, it strikes me how much has changed. First of all, it’s clearly a song about a girl living with some kind of mental illness, and if written today, the lyrics just wouldn’t contain the same kind of language at all. ‘You’re a little touched you know, Angie baby.’

Also, although many young people are spending far too much time in their rooms at the moment because of the pandemic, if our house is anything to go by, they don’t seem to spend too much time listening to ‘the rock and roll radio’. The kind of radio I grew up with just doesn’t exist any more for young people, which makes me sad, as it certainly did offer up a level of companionship for the teenage me. I don’t remember ever reducing a boy to a soundwave however, which is one of the interpretations of the final verse. Who would it have been I wonder if I had? A teen idol from the days before we discovered ‘real boys’ probably, David Cassidy or Donny Osmond, and it would all have been quite chaste.

It wasn’t until I sat down to write this post that I discovered it was Helen Reddy who sang the song Candle On The Water from the Disney film Pete’s Dragon. This is a lesser-known film from that stable and one I can’t remember ever having watched. The song did however feature on a CD of Disney songs we had when DD was small, and as it was unfamiliar to me compared with the other more obvious inclusions on that disc, it was always the one I warmed to most when played on long car journeys. Thank you Helen for a beautiful song.

So, ‘What’s It All About?’ – I’ve been trying to write this post since last week but have sadly been suffering from blogger’s block. Life had been getting back to some semblance of normality for a while, but we are most definitely going backwards again, and it does drag you down.

I know I’m not alone in this, but the fact I’ve not had a single night away from home all year, is really starting to get me down too. We’ve hung on in the hope work would come in for Mr WIAA, and I might get guests for the holiday hideaway, but not much going on at all at the moment. Thank goodness for my college course where I meet virtually with my classmates once a week. Perhaps it’s because I see too much of Angie in all of us at the moment that I’ve found it hard to revisit the song and write about it – A bit too close to home and a bit of an anthem for our times, except with Netflix substituted for ‘the rock and roll radio’. If I’m struggling, I can only imagine how awful it must be for young people right now.

Until next time….

Angie Baby Lyrics
(Song by Alan O’Day)

You live your life in the songs you hear
On the rock and roll radio
And when a young girl doesn’t have any friends
That’s a really nice place to go
Folks hoping you’d turn out cool
But they had to take you out of school
You’re a little touched you know, Angie baby

Lovers appear in your room each night
And they whirl you across the floor
But they always seem to fade away
When your daddy taps on your door
Angie girl, are you all right
Tell the radio good-night
All alone once more, Angie baby

Angie baby, you’re a special lady
Living in a world of make-believe
Well, maybe

Stopping at her house is a neighbor boy
With evil on his mind
‘Cause he’s been peeking in Angie’s room
At night through the window blind
I see your folks have gone away
Would you dance with me today?
I’ll show you how to have a good time, Angie baby

When he walks in the room, he feels confused
Like he’s walked into a play
And the music’s so loud it spins him around
‘Til his soul has lost its way
And as she turns the volume down
He’s getting smaller with the sound
It seems to pull him off the ground
Toward the radio he’s bound
Never to be found

The headlines read that a boy disappeared
And everyone thinks he died
Except a crazy girl with a secret lover who
Keeps her satisfied
It’s so nice to be insane
No one asks you to explain
Radio by your side, Angie baby

Angie baby, you’re a special lady
Living in a world of make-believe
Well, maybe

Well, maybe (Angie baby, Angie baby)
Well, maybe (Angie baby, Angie baby)
(Angie baby, Angie baby, Angie baby, Angie baby)

Postscript:

As this was a rather downbeat post, here’s a picture to bring it back up again, of Peanut, the new addition to our family. We’ve not had a hamster in the house for 12 years so I’d forgotten what a racket they make on their wheel – all through the night – but he seems to have settled in well. Of course you might suspect I’ve gone a bit stir-crazy, and converted Mr WIAA into a hamster via a radio soundwave, but no, that would just be plain weird.

Well, maybe

Peanut the hamster

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

California Dreamin’ by the Mamas & the Papas:


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Until next time….

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

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

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

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

Freshers Week, Student Life 2020 and The Long Journey From ‘Grease’ to ‘GREECE’

I seem to have lost my blogging mojo at the moment which is a bit of a worry as I am due to return to college on Monday and a fair amount of writing is required for the course I’m enrolled on. Hopefully all will go well, but of course this time there will be no meeting up with fellow students, no hours spent in the library and no visits to the support team, who can very impressively advise on a myriad of issues relevant to the student body (especially mature students like myself who don’t find the technology quite as easy to navigate).

Like for many other colleges and universities this semester all of our lectures and tutorials will be online, so not the experience it should be at all, and for students entering higher education for the first time it must be a real disappointment. There is no denying many youngsters head to ‘Uni’ nowadays more for the social life than the actual academia, but that seems to have gone online as well. It’s over 40 years since I first experienced a Freshers Week but I still remember it fondly – Not sure if an online Freshers Week will go down in memory in quite the same way.

None of this in 2020
…. but more of this.

This year has certainly not turned out the way any of us expected it to, and you know what, I really don’t think we’re going to get back to anything resembling the old normal, ever. The upside is that much of the old normal was not good for us, so we’re happy to say goodbye to it (air pollution, long commutes now replaced by effective working from home) but the stuff that was good for us has also gone (joyous mass gatherings, planned trips, being able to hug our friends), and that’s what I miss most. For young people, nearly everything that made their lives worth living has been made more difficult or complicated and it can’t be lost on them that they are the ones who have been disproportionately affected by the crisis. Although not the wisest thing to do at the moment, can you blame them for wanting to hold illicit parties and gatherings. A euphemism used on breakfast news this morning was “intimate socialising” when discussing student Freshers Week. None of that hanky panky allowed this year I’m afraid!

Whenever I compare eras like this, I also like to compare the music of the day, and back in 1978 when I left home to embark on student life for the first time, the music charts were very different to the ones of today. For a start we had far less exposure to new music and only really had Radio One at our disposal. If one of your favourites was allocated a slot on that week’s TOTP, record sales were bound to rise exponentially selling a volume of “units” unheard of nowadays. Now and again the songs from popular films would make their way into the charts, and in the autumn of 1978 that’s exactly what happened after John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John sashayed their way across the big screen in that summer’s bit hit musical Grease. Oh yes, the week I started University, the song at the No. 1 spot was Summer Nights, at No. 5 was the title track Grease by Frankie Valli and at No. 9 was Sandy sung by broken-hearted T-Bird Danny Zuko.

Grease by Frankie Valli:


Looking at today’s chart, it paints a very different picture. Eight of the Top Ten songs is a collaboration, and I only recognise a couple of names in there. By some strange coincidence there is a song called GREECE (different kind from the one of 1978) by DJ Khaled (feat. Drake) but what comes across loud and clear from the video is that whatever the era, young people like to get together in mass gatherings, listen to music, and dance with each other. Not really been possible this summer at all.


So, ‘What’s It All About?’ – I will hopefully return to more entertaining blog posts soon, but by the time I tussle with the MyDay, Webex, Brightspace, MyStudentMail and MyStudentHub sites just added to my homepage, my brain might be addled. Let’s hope not.

As for the Freshers of 2020, to anyone who has been a student themselves, especially back in the days of generous maintenance grants and zero tuition fees, let’s spare a thought for them and what they are missing out on. Many youngsters we know are not even leaving home, so will be starting the new academic year in their school bedroom. Not quite the rite of passage it ought to be, but student life as we knew it has just become yet another casualty of 2020.

Until next time….

Grease Lyrics
(Song by Barry Gibb)

I solve my problems and I see the light
We got a lovin’ thing, we gotta feed it right
There ain’t no danger we can go too far
We start believing now that we can be who we are
Grease is the word

They think our love is just a growing pain
Why don’t they understand, it’s just a crying shame
Their lips are lying, only real is real
We stop the fight right now, we got to be what we feel
Grease is the word

(Grease is the word, is the word that you heard)
It’s got a groove, it’s got a meaning
Grease is the time, is the place, is the motion
Grease is the way we are feeling

GREECE Lyrics
(Song by Aubrey Graham/Calvin Tarvin/Elijah Maynard/Khaled Khaled/Ozan Yildirim/Peter Eddins)

Come with me, leave all of your things, yeah
We can stop at Gucci, stop at Louis V, yeah
Come with me, fly you out to Greece
Full speed, survoler Paris, yeah

Speedboats, baby, in Nikki Beach
Waves in my ears, smokin’ weed (Oui, oui)
Whippin’ through the sand in a Jeep (Oui, oui)
All because of what I did on beats, baby
Life’s sweet, baby, iced out, baby
You just go get ready, we go out, baby
Long time lookin’ for the bounce, yeah
OZ had the bounce, yeah

Earworm of the Week #5 – Feminism, Walter Murphy and ‘A Fifth of Beethoven’

Roll Over Beethoven sang Chuck Berry back in 1956. Oh yes, Chuck was firm in his belief that had Beethoven still been around, it would have been time for him to roll over and dig those rhythm and blues. Strangely enough, only 20 years later, Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony became the basis of a disco instrumental and this week it has formed a bit of an earworm.

Like many of us during this strange time of lockdown and post-lockdown easing, we’ve watched a fair amount of telly, and there is no shortage of great telly out there made both by traditional broadcasters and the newer streaming services such as Netflix and Amazon Prime. (I am however starting to notice that the BBC & ITV are running out of new product, and during prime time slots are having to repeat some of their most successful output. This in turn affects the amount advertisers are willing to pay for a slot, which will jeopardise the making of future programmes should the industry ever get started again. At this rate we’re going to be old and grey yet will still be watching Line of Duty, Death In Paradise, The Durrells and Downtown Abbey!)

Mrs.-America-season-1-poster-FX-key-art-1

But I digress. A historical drama I was keen to watch this week was Mrs America (now on the BBC iPlayer) which tells the story of the movement to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment in the 1970s, and the unexpected backlash led by conservative activist Phyllis Schlafly. Prominent feminists of the day, such as Betty Freidan and Gloria Steinem, are key characters, and I feel ashamed that I am only now learning of their contribution to a movement that has given me much of what I have always taken for granted. The opening theme for the show, which has caused the aforementioned earworm, is A Fifth of Beethoven by Walter Murphy. It fits the era and was chosen because it represented both sides of the story. Phyllis and her conservative friends listened to classical music, yet the free and easy disco version of Beethoven’s Fifth, better fitted the feminists.

A Fifth of Beethoven by Walter Murphy:

It of course sounded familiar when I watched the first episode of the show, and it didn’t take long for me to remember that it had appeared on the Saturday Night Fever soundtrack album, and was the record playing when lead character Tony Manero enters the 2001: Odyssey disco in 1977 Brooklyn. He exudes the easy confidence that comes from being a big fish in a little pond, and that nightclub was his domain.

I have written about the film Saturday Night Fever often around here as it came out the year my best friend and I left school. We spent the summer frequenting the many converted function suites in our area, where local hoteliers had decided an investment in floors with flashing lights, glitter balls and a weekly DJ could increase takings no end. It was a memorable summer where we practiced our dance moves and had dalliances with the local Tony Maneros, but looking back I don’t think I appreciated that this carefree summer ahead of starting university, only happened because I came of age in 1978. Had I been born only 10 years earlier such opportunities would not have been a given at all, and our parents may well have steered us down a very different path towards work, then marriage and motherhood. As it turns out we’ve now kind of had to do both, simultaneously, so not sure who won in the end but it’s thankfully no longer a given that men have very little to do with childcare, cooking or housework, so…. , yeah us.

As for Walter Murphy, he was an orchestral leader who studied both classical and jazz music piano at the Manhattan School of Music. In college his interests included rock music that had been adapted from classical music, such as Joy by Apollo 100 and A Lover’s Concerto by The Toys. In 1976, whilst writing a disco song for a commercial, a producer suggested the idea of updating classical music, which nobody had done lately. He recorded a demo tape which included A Fifth of Beethoven and sent it various record labels in New York City. It was picked up and reached the No. 1 spot on the Billboard Chart in October 1976.

walter-murphy-and-the-big-apple-band-a-fifth-of-beethoven-private-stock-10

Another little snippet I discovered when doing some research for this post, was that in 2017, exactly 40 years on from the release date of the film that made it famous, the 2001: Odyssey was reimagined. By that time it was no longer a nightspot, but a Chinese restaurant, however a successful businessman invested the cash required to make it happen. The Trammps appeared and sang their hit Disco Inferno, and the actress who played Tony Manero’s love interest also turned up. There were plenty of men in polyester shirts & cream three-piece suits and ladies in those free flowing dresses that epitomised the era, as well as some of the original DJs. Must have been quite a night.

And here is something that really hit home with me this week. In listening to these disco hits of 1978 I’ve been transported back in time, reminiscing about that carefree summer after leaving school. Not so for our school-leavers of this year who have had no prom or end of term revelries and face uncertainly about their exam grades. The doors to the places where they all used to come together are still firmly closed, and as DD pointed out earlier in the week, “Its a rubbish year to be single”.

No lyrics this time as an instrumental, but as ever, if you want to leave a comment, I always reply.

Until next time….