Willie Nelson, Moonlight in Vermont and Snow (Or Rather, the Lack of It)

Since discovering that all full moons have a name (given to them by the Native Americans who kept track of the months by the lunar calendar), I have written about each one as they appear in our skies. To accompany the post I always include one of the numerous songs that have been written about the moon and its many foibles.

I can scarcely believe it’s been four weeks since my last “moon post”. What is it with time? The older you get, the faster it seems to whizz by. I heard a great quote recently, where the phenomena was described as such: “Life is like a roll of toilet paper. The closer it gets to the end, the faster it goes.” How apt I thought.

Anyway, it is now nearly a month since we witnessed (or didn’t in my case) January’s lunar eclipse. This month, we should witness the Snow Moon on the night of the 19th February. I had intended to use the alternate names for the full moon this year, however last year, because of the 29 and a 1/2 day lunar cycle, we didn’t have a full moon in February at all. Instead, we ended up with two Blue Moons (a second full moon in the same calendar month) on either side. As I said at the start of this series, no two years will ever be the same.

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The Snow Moon

As it turns out, there has been very little snow in town this winter at all. In fact, there have been many crisp clear days and beautiful starry nights. Last month, around the time of the full moon, a local photographer posted some of his pictures on social media, and I liked this one so much I asked him if I could use it in my blog. I thought it made the town look really quite romantic, which is just what we need to attract visitors to the place. I have now been the proud owner of a holiday hideaway for a week now, and although I’m another few weeks away from launching Alyson’s Highland Adventures (don’t worry, that name is merely a work in progress), I am getting really excited about the forthcoming season.

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A full moon shining brightly over the town

But this is a moon post, so what song to feature this time. Well, getting back to that old chestnut time, or rather the lack of it this week, I am going to cheat a little and include a song that has previously been included as part of another series. I started out with great gusto on my American Odyssey in Song in early 2017, but floundered last year upon reaching little Delaware. There was only one obvious contender for that state, but I didn’t want to write about it, and that was that. Fortunately, George has picked up the mantle, and is manfully making his way round the 50 states over at CC’s place. Lets hope, unlike me, he doesn’t flounder when he reaches Delaware.

This is a very roundabout way of saying, the song I’m going to include to accompany the Snow Moon, is Moonlight in Vermont by Willie Nelson. I didn’t actually know the song until it was suggested as a contender for my series, and after listening to several versions (it has been recorded by just about everyone), the one I warmed too most was Willie’s version.

Moonlight in Vermont by Willie Nelson:

Willie Nelson is of course one of the greats of country music, and when he decided to record an album of standards called Stardust, in 1978, he wanted the song to be on it. It is considered the unofficial state song of Vermont and is frequently played as the “first dance song” at wedding receptions. It was written in 1944 by John Blackburn and Karl Suessdorf, and is unusual in that the lyrics take the form of a haiku.

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Willie Nelson

And again for a second time, I’m going to share this heart-warming little story connecting my grandfather to the state of Vermont and to the song. Whilst doing a bit of research for my “Vermont post” back in 2017, I made an interesting discovery. The blacksmith and inventor John Deere was born there, and he was the man responsible for giving us much of the agricultural and construction equipment still used today, specifically the large steel plough.

My grandfather was not the “lineman for the county”, but he was the “roads supervisor for the county” back in the 1950s. The climate and landscape of the North of Scotland would have been similar in many ways to that of Vermont, so thank goodness for the large snow plough attachments that came across from America just at the time my grandfather was responsible for keeping the often snowbound, highways and byways of Aberdeenshire open. Back then, before the days of television, the wireless was the main form of home entertainment, and I feel sure my grandfather might well have listened to an early version of the song Moonlight in Vermont before heading out for a night-shift on one of those giant snow ploughs.

So, “What’s It All About?” – I apologise for this bit of lazy blogging, but I did kind of fall in love with the song first time around, and always thought it would make a reappearance at some point in this Moon Series. Also, there has been very little snow with us so far this year, and as I needed some snow shots to accompany the post, Vermont manfully came to the rescue.

As for my holiday hideaway, more of that to follow no doubt, as I get it up and running. It has just hit me however, that it has all kind of come about because the daughter of the man in the picture above, my mum, is now an 83-year-old herself, and in need of a care home. Time marches on indeed, and the younger generation becomes the older generation, in what feels like the wink of an eye.

Lord knows I have had plenty of rants over the last year about the current state of adult social care and the dementia tax, so I won’t go there again, but in the event her funds run out and I have to contribute to the care home fees, I am at least trying to put in place a means of doing so. For anyone out there who has not yet done so, start having the conversation early on as to how you want things to go should the unthinkable happen. We sadly didn’t, and some bad decisions were made, without the help of professionals. Wouldn’t want to land DD in a similar position.

But hey, I don’t want to end this post on a negative note. There is a lot to be positive about at the moment and I am embarking on a totally new career in my late 50s, so that can’t be bad. Willie Nelson however is still out there campaigning and performing at the age of 85, so it just goes to show, age is no barrier to taking up new challenges.

Until next time…

Moonlight In Vermont Lyrics
(Song by John Blackburn/Karl Suessdorf)

Pennies in a stream
Falling leaves, a sycamore
Moonlight in Vermont

Icy finger-waves
Ski trails on a mountainside
Snowlight in Vermont

Telegraph cables, they sing down the highway
And travel each bend in the road
People who meet in this romantic setting
Are so hypnotized by the lovely
Evening summer breeze
Warbling of a meadowlark
Moonlight in Vermont

Edwin Starr, “War” and a Different Kind of (Eye to Eye) Contact

Well, it’s going to have to be a shorter post this time as I have an awful lot going on at the moment. The new business I hinted at a few weeks ago, came into our possession yesterday, so it’s all systems go now to get it up and running as soon as possible. More on that to follow in the weeks to come, but in the meantime, my featured artist for this post is going to be Edwin Starr.

Why would that be Alyson?

Because this week, of all weeks, I have been afflicted with a nasty eye infection. On Monday evening, my right eye appeared to be glued together, and the redness and swelling surrounding it suggested I had just gone five rounds with Mike Tyson. I had loads of very important business-y type stuff to organise over the next few days in town, and here I was looking like something from Fight Club

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Of late, I have been very good at body-swerving Doctor Google if I have an ailment, as whatever rabbit hole you disappear down, the diagnosis is always a tumour of some sort. In this instance however, I was pretty sure it wasn’t an eye tumour, so I needed a bit of guidance on how to clear up the infection as soon as possible. After a bit of gentle bathing in warm water, Mr WIAA was dispatched to the chemist’s for some eye drops, which I must say have worked their magic. I had to lie low for the whole of Tuesday though, so as not to frighten poor unsuspecting children, and for the rest of the week I have had to be careful not to transfer the bacteria (sounds gross I know) to the other eye. Oh yes, I was already blind in one eye, so important not to make (Eye To Eye) Contact with the other. Cue Mr Starr (starts to really get going at 2:10).

Regulars to this place will know I wrote quite a lengthy post a fortnight ago on the disco genre. A fair bit of research had to be done (I watched a recorded episode of a TOTP Disco Special), and one of the songs I was reminded of, was indeed (Eye To Eye) Contact. It actually found greater success in the UK than across the pond, and reached No. 8 in the Singles Chart in early 1979.

I only found out recently from one of the other music blogs, that Mr Starr, a native of Nashville Tennessee, actually spent his later life living in the North of England. He had become a big “star” on the Northern Soul circuit, where many of his lesser-known Motown classics had found favour with that movement’s faithful. He moved to a village on the outskirts of Nottingham in 1973, and died there in 2003, aged only 61.

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Edwin Starr

But this foray into the world of disco (he also recorded the uplifting H.A.P.P.Y. Radio) was more of a comeback for him. The recording – I’m loath to call it a song as it’s more of a dramatic soul roar – he is probably best remembered for however, is War, the 1970 counter-culture protest song. Powerful stuff.

War

     huh

          yeah

What is it good for?

     Absolutely nothing

          oh hoh, oh 

War by Edwin Starr:

Edwin Starr’s intense vocals transformed this Temptations’ album track into a totally different animal, and it spent three weeks at the top of the Billboard chart. It was an anthem for the anti-war movement, and it continues to appear on movie soundtracks and hip hop music samples today. War appeared on both Starr’s “War & Peace” album, and its follow-up.

And here is where I have made a new discovery. I am usually late to the party but it seems Bruce Springsteen started performing War in concert in 1985. It was initially suggested as something to make the concluding shows of the Born In The USA tour a little bit different and special. Bruce and the E Street Band came up with a rock arrangement that worked well for them, and once released as a single in 1986, it got to No. 8 on the Billboard chart. Again, powerful stuff, and this time a protest against the Reagan Administration’s foreign policy in Central America. 

I will leave you with a video clip of Bruce, who after an impassioned talky intro (starts at 0:50), looks very much as if he might burst a blood vessel performing the song. Fortunately he survived unscathed, and unlike poor old Edwin Starr, is still out there doing his thing today. 

Until next time…

War Lyrics
(Song by Norman Whitfield/Barrett Strong)

War huh yeah
What is it good for?
Absolutely nothing, oh hoh, oh
War huh yeah
What is it good for?
Absolutely nothing, say it again y’all
War, huh good God
What is it good for?
Absolutely nothing, listen to me

Oh, war, I despise
‘Cause it means destruction of innocent lives
War means tear to thousands of mothers eyes
When their sons go off to fight and lose their lives

I said
War, huh good God y’all
What is it good for?
Absolutely nothing, just say it again
War whoa Lord
What is it good for?
Absolutely nothing, listen to me
War, it ain’t nothin’ but a heartbreaker
War, friend only to the undertaker

Oh war, is an enemy to all mankind
The thought of war blows my mind
War has caused unrest within the younger generation
Induction, then destruction who wants to die

War, good God, y’all
What is it good for?
Absolutely nothing, say it, say it, say it
War, uh huh, yeah, huh
What is it good for?
Absolutely nothing, listen to me
War, it ain’t nothin’ but a heartbreaker
War, it’s got one friend that’s the undertaker

Oh, war has shattered many young man’s dreams
Made him disabled bitter and mean
Life is much to short and precious to spend fighting wars these days
War can’t give life it can only take it away, ooh

War, huh, good God y’all
What is it good for?
Absolutely nothing, say it again
War, whoa, Lord
What is it good for?
Absolutely nothing, listen to me
War, it ain’t nothin’ but a heartbreaker
War, friend only to the undertaker

Peace love and understanding tell me
Is there no place for them today
They say we must fight to keep our freedom
But Lord knows there’s got to be a better way

War, huh, good God y’all
What is it good for?
You tell ’em, say it, say it, say it, say it
War, good Lord, huh
What is it good for?
Stand up and shout it, nothing
War, it ain’t nothin’ but a heartbreaker

Rod Stewart, Decade by Decade #3 – “The Killing Of Georgie (Part I and II)”

Well, my planned post for this weekend has been gazumped, as for the last few days Rod Stewart’s The Killing Of Georgie has been playing on repeat in my cranium. Yes, for the  second week in a row I have been inspired by Rol’s Hot 100 Countdown series, where he chooses a song to represent a number, counting down from 100 to 1. Last week I wrote about Le Freak by Chic, as reference is made in the lyrics, to the famous Studio 54 Nightclub in New York City. This time I’ve decided to return to my Rod Stewart series, which was on hiatus, all because of another New York location, the junction of 53rd and 3rd. Back in the 1970s, this was a well-known spot for male prostitution (the Ramones even wrote a song about it called 53rd and 3rd), but I quickly remembered that it also appears in the lyrics of one of my favourite “story songs”, The Killing Of Georgie (Part I and II).

The sight of blood dispersed the gang
A crowd gathered, the police came
An ambulance screamed to a halt on Fifty-third and Third

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The junction of 53rd and 3rd

I started this series towards the end of last year, when Mr Stewart seemed to be omnipresent on telly and radio, promoting his 30th studio album “Blood Red Roses”. He has had such longevity in the music business, I thought it would be a good idea to revisit his body of work, decade by decade. Once I got half way through the ’70s however, I kind of lost my way, as so many of his long-term fans abandoned him, feeling he had sold out. He had changed record label, parted company with the Faces and moved whole-heartedly to LA (acquiring a Hollywood actress as a girlfriend on the way, in the form of Britt Ekland). In retrospect, I can see this was the case, but here’s the thing – In the mid ’70s I was still a teenage girl, lapping up all that TOTP, Radio 1 and the world of teen mags threw at me, and rarely a week went by without us being treated to one of Rod’s new single releases.

There is a trilogy of albums from that time I still own. He released the “Atlantic Crossing” album in 1975, “A Night On The Town” in 1976 and “Foot Loose & Fancy Free” in 1977. My favourite track from the album shown below was his cover of the Isley Brothers song This Old Heart of Mine. I have written often about how our teen idols were just substitutes for “real boys”, as we hadn’t quite got round to proper relationships yet, and wouldn’t do for quite some time. I think of my period of Rod Stewart fandom, as coinciding with the time we had moved on to “real boys” but in that really stupid, hormonally-induced, teenager-y way.

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My copy of Atlantic Crossing. The inner sleeve used to reside on my bedroom wall!

Most towns have them, that group of lads who seem to have an aura around them, who dress well, dance well and can have their pick of the girls. I ended up having a massive crush on a boy who looked just like the Rod who featured on the “Atlantic Crossing” inner sleeve. I pinned it to my bedroom wall, and cried as I listened to This Old Heart… , on repeat. Sometimes, if I was lucky, the boy asked me to dance. Sometimes he even walked me home, but looking back I was being utterly ridiculous – We had nothing in common, there was little conversation (just smooching), and I knew he would move on to another girl the following weekend. We haven’t changed much since Stone Age times I fear, and at a certain age we are still drawn to what we perceive as alpha males, who will in some way provide for us, and protect us from danger. As it turns out, most of these lads, who unlike us did not progress to any form of further or higher education, ended up doing pretty well for themselves, so the whole “aura” thing worked well for them.

But I have become side-tracked, as this post is supposed to be about The Killing Of Georgie (Part I and II). Now that I was actually taking heed of the lyrics in songs (which up until that point, not so much), I was blown away by the lyrics in what ended up being my favourite song from the album “A Night On The Town”. I am not going to include a video clip of Rod performing the song, as I think we can all agree, by this time he had turned into a parody of himself, wearing glam clothes, make-up and not really taking the performance seriously. After the release of Tonight’s The Night a new genre was even born, sex rock, although unbelievably, I was too naïve to pick up on all that back then.

Best to just listen to the audio I think.

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The Killing of Georgie (Part I and II) by Rod Stewart:

I have written about this song before, as part of my post about New York for my American Odyssey series (link here). As I said at the time:

New York has long been known for its flamboyant characters and Sting sang about one of them, eccentric gay icon Quentin Crisp, in his 1988 song Englishman In New York. Another “character” committed to song was when Rod Stewart wrote and recorded The Killing of Georgie (Part I and II) in 1976. This story song tells the tale of a young gay man who became successful and popular amongst Manhattan’s upper class – He was “the toast of the Great White Way”, which is the nickname given to the Theatre District of Midtown Manhattan. Georgie attends the opening night of a Broadway musical, but leaves “before the final curtain call” and heads across town. He is attacked on 53rd and 3rd by a gang of thieves, and one inadvertently kills him. The song was apparently based on a true story about a friend of Rod’s old band The Faces. The song combines the melancholy and sombre Part II (incidentally employing a melody identical to the Beatles’ Don’t Let Me Down) with the more popular Part I.

Before I go, a bit of an embarrassing exposé of something else from Alyson’s Archive (my box of teenage memorabilia). When “Foot Loose & Fancy Free” was released, one of the songs on it really summed up what I have been trying to recount above. I took to “pouring my heart out”, not in song, but in my 1978 diary. Yes, those boys with the aura, had a lot to answer for. I give you my hand-written lyrics to I Was Only Joking from January 1978. I laugh when I read the heading now, as to be honest, there never was a “relationship”, it was all in my head!

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I Was Only Joking by Rod Stewart:

Rod gets a lot of flak for that late ’70s phase of his career, but the two featured songs here show he was a master story-teller. I Was Only Joking is a tale of regret and of the care-free minds of the young. As such, it has become one of Stewart’s best loved songs and it contains one of the best guitar solos in classic rock. Rod co-wrote it with guitarist Gary Grainger. The Susie alluded to in the song was Susannah Boffey, who met Rod in 1961 when she was a 17-year-old art student. In 1963 she gave birth to a daughter, who was fostered out and eventually adopted by a wealthy couple. In 2010 however, Sarah Streeter was finally admitted to her father’s family.

Enough confessionals for today, and time to move onto another theme I think for next week or else Rol will think I’m being a bit weird, stalking his blog for ideas. Plenty more ideas out there, just sadly not always enough time for them all.

Until next week…

The Killing Of Georgie (Part I And II)
(Song by Rod Stewart)

In these days of changing ways
So called liberated days
A story comes to mind of a friend of mine

Georgie boy was gay I guess
Nothin’ more or nothin’ less
The kindest guy I ever knew

His mother’s tears fell in vain
The afternoon George tried to explain
That he needed love like all the rest

Pa said there must be a mistake
How can my son not be straight
After all I’ve said and done for him

Leavin’ home on a Greyhound bus
Cast out by the ones he loves
A victim of these gay days it seems

Georgie went to New York town
Where he quickly settled down
And soon became the toast of the great white way

Accepted by Manhattan’s elite
In all the places that were chic
No party was complete without George

Along the boulevards he’d cruise
And all the old queens blew a fuse
Everybody loved Georgie boy

The last time I saw George alive
Was in the summer of seventy-five
He said he was in love I said I’m pleased

George attended the opening night
Of another Broadway hype
But split before the final curtain fell

Deciding to take a short cut home
Arm in arm they meant no wrong
A gentle breeze blew down Fifth Avenue

Out of a darkened side street came
A New Jersey gang with just one aim
To roll some innocent passer-by

There ensued a fearful fight
Screams rang out in the night
Georgie’s head hit a sidewalk cornerstone

A leather kid, a switchblade knife
He did not intend to take his life
He just pushed his luck a little too far that night

The sight of blood dispersed the gang
A crowd gathered, the police came
An ambulance screamed to a halt on Fifty-third and Third

Georgie’s life ended there
But I ask who really cares
George once said to me and I quote

He said “Never wait or hesitate
Get in kid, before it’s too late
You may never get another chance

‘Cos youth’s a mask but it don’t last
Live it long and live it fast”
Georgie was a friend of mine

Oh Georgie stay, don’t go away
Georgie please stay you take our breath away
Oh Georgie stay, don’t go away
Georgie please stay you take our breath away
Oh Georgie stay, don’t go away
Georgie, Georgie please stay you take our breath away
Oh Georgie stay

Chic, “Le Freak” and Studio 54

We all experience those freaky coincidences from time to time don’t we, when we start thinking of a song we might not have heard in ages, only for it to pop up on the radio a few minutes later. I had such a freaky coincidence this week, which ironically involved the 1978 Chic song, Le Freak.   

Over at My Top Ten, Rol has resumed his Hot 100 Countdown. Every week he chooses a song to represent a number, counting down from 100 to 1. This week suggestions were sought for songs that mention the number 54 in the title or lyrics. As expected quite a few of these suggestions included Le Freak, as the lyrics include the lines: 

Just come on down, to 54
Find a spot out on the floor

A reference of course, to the legendary Studio 54 in New York City, which in the late 1970s was probably the most famous nightclub in the world, the home of disco, and frequented by A-listers from the worlds of music, film, art and fashion. 

As a suggestion for a 54 song, it was a good one, so I too offered it up in the comments boxes. I also left a lame remark about how I had loved Le Freak back in the day, but had no idea at the time what the reference to 54 meant, coming from rural Aberdeenshire as opposed to The Big Apple. Needless to say, once I had slept on it, I realised I could have yet again made a bit of a naïve faux pas, perhaps not realising the number 54 was code for the kind of hedonistic activities that went on there during its heyday (I have been caught out with this number malarkey before). I wasn’t even up yet, but I decided to do a quick Google search on my phone, to find out what the 54 in the song was all about. Yes, you’ve guessed it, just as I clicked on the first entry thrown up by the search engine, I hear the words “Ah…, Freak Out” coming out loud and clear from my new radio alarm. 

As a coincidence, I thought this was an extreme one, but Mr WIAA merely brushed it aside, saying these things happen all the time. Personally I think we have far more influence on the world around us than we will ever understand, and because some of us were collectively thinking of the song Le Freak for Rol’s countdown on Tuesday night, the gods of radio playlists picked it for the Wednesday morning schedules. Oh, and for the record, I hadn’t actually been naïve after all, as it turns out Studio 54 was located at 254 West 54th Street, so that’s how it got its name. But enough about freaky coincidences, how about we actually listen to the song?

Le Freak by Chic:

I think most of us have watched reruns of TOTP2 often enough by now to know the story behind the song, but it seems Bernard Edwards and Nile Rodgers of Chic wrote it after being denied admission to Studio 54, even though they had been invited along by Grace Jones. Their earlier hit Dance, Dance, Dance (Yowsah, Yowsah, Yowsah) was played often inside, but they weren’t on “the list” so the doorman, who didn’t recognise them, turned them away. It was New Year’s Eve, 1977, but they now had nowhere to go, so ended up writing this song as a reply to the doorman. They called it “F**k Off” but when they decided to record it, to appease Bernard Edward’s sensibilities, they changed it to “Freak Out”. Incidentally, the “stomping at the Savoy” line in the song makes reference to Edgar Melvin Sampson, nicknamed The Lamb. He was an American jazz composer, arranger, saxophonist, and violinist born in New York City, his most notable composition being Stompin’ at the Savoy

The disco genre was massive between 1977 to 1978, when I was in my final year of school and heading out every weekend to socialise with my friends. Even in rural Scotland, the venues (local hotelier’s unused function suites) were transformed overnight into mini-Studio 54s, complete with a DJ, glitter balls and floors with flashing lights. We’d also now had the films Saturday Night Fever, and Thank God It’s Friday, which had kind of made disco go mainstream. Young people want to get together and meet other young people at the weekend, and this was a really easy and accessible way to make it happen. (Link here and here to my previous disco-related posts.)

The band Chic were probably the most stylish of all the disco acts at the time, and of course Mr Nile Rodgers is still doing his thing today, having worked with some of the most successful acts of the last 40 years. Back then, they were inspired by Bryan Ferry’s “look” after watching him with Roxy Music, but safe to say, nowadays Nile has adopted the look of a street hippie, and looks very comfortable in his skin I must say. 

Getting back to Studio 54 and its history, it apparently first opened in 1927 as the Gallo Opera House, but it was short-lived. After changing its name several times it eventually became a CBS radio and television studio. Then, in 1977, Steve Rubell and Ian Schrager created the space that became the world-famous nightclub and discotheque. They spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on professional lighting design and kept many of the former TV and theatrical sets, creating a unique dance club that became famous for its celebrity guest lists and restrictive (and subjective) entry policies, based on appearance and style.

I am reminded of a scene from the film American Hustle when one of the main characters, Bradley Cooper, has a night off from his FBI duties and takes Amy Adams dancing at Studio 54. I remember being impressed at how many of the details they got right in terms of fashion and hairstyles for this movie. It reminded me that even in rural Aberdeenshire, back in 1978, the boys took to having their hair permed. A strange sight back on the building sites on a Monday morning (and no doubt a lot of teasing from their older workmates) but ’twas the times. Tough to find a suitable clip, but this one gives a feel for what it must have been like in its heyday.

Something I never knew before, were the names of the two girls who sang lead on Le Freak. For the record they were Alfa Anderson and Luci Martin but in the Chic Choir we also had future luminaries such as Luther Vandross and Jocelyn Brown. The Chic Strings completed the line-up.

So, “What’s It All About?” – I think I have opened a can of worms here, as there was just too much information to get through in order to write only one post on the whole disco phenomenon. If I have a rummage in the loft, I’m sure I’ll be able to find some pictures of me in my dancing gear (basically a leotard, footless tights and a wraparound skirt), and the diary entry reviewing my first night out in one of Aberdeen’s new nightspots. Most of the cinemas had seen better days by the tail end of the ’70s so they were being converted to places like Ruffles (on Diamond Street) and Fusion (on Bridge Place). I think I was unusual in that I truly went to dance, and could often be found hogging that sweet spot in front of the DJ, along with the boys who, like John Travolta, enjoyed a bit of “showboating”.

I will leave you with another Chic clip, this time featuring Norma Jean Wright on lead vocals. Everybody Dance got to No. 9 in the UK Singles Chart in April 1978. Enjoy.

Until next time…

Le Freak Lyrics
(Song by Bernard Edwards/Nile Rodgers)

Ah, freak out!
Le freak, c’est Chic
Freak out!

Ah, freak out!
Le freak, c’est Chic
Freak out!

Have you heard about the new dance craze?
Listen to us, I’m sure you’ll be amazed
Big fun to be had by everyone
It’s up to you, it surely can be done

Young and old are doing it, I’m told
Just one try, and you too will be sold
It’s called le freak, they’re doing it night and day
Allow us, we’ll show you the way

Ah, freak out!
Le freak, c’est Chic
Freak out!

All that pressure got you down
Has your head spinning all around
Feel the rhythm, check the rhyme
Come on along and have a real good time

Like the days of stomping at the Savoy
Now we freak, oh, what a joy
Just come on down, to 54
Find a spot out on the floor

Ah, freak out!
Le freak, c’est Chic
Freak out!

Now freak!

I said freak!

Now freak!

Christmas Ads, “Your Song” and Music from Moulin Rouge!

A couple of years ago I decided to write about the Randy Crawford song One Day I’ll Fly Away (link here) which featured in the 2016 John Lewis Christmas ad. It led me to share the version performed by Nicole Kidman in Baz Luhrmann’s lavish movie Moulin Rouge!. Her male co-star and love interest in that movie was Ewan McGregor, my favourite Scottish actor.

One of the film’s very memorable duets was Elephant Love Medley, compiled from 13 different love songs – If you are around my age, you will recognise all of them. They came just too thick and fast when I watched the song being performed first time around, but once home, and with the newly purchased CD in the player (it was 17 years ago now), it was easier to identify them. The final song used for the medley, later on performed in full by Mr McGregor, was Elton John’s Your Song. Lo and behold, it’s the song the John Lewis people have used for their newly released 2018 Christmas ad. Two songs from the film Moulin Rouge! in three years – I’m starting to suspect the agency that put these things together are fans!

As luck would have it, I also wrote about Your Song two years ago, as it followed on nicely because of the Moulin Rouge! connection. Long term visitors to this place might recognise what is to follow from back then, but worthy of another outing I feel:

Originally published November 2016

Your Song was originally released back in 1970, and although I know it well, I had been too young back then to really appreciate those great lyrics by Elton’s long-time collaborator, Bernie Taupin. By the time I was a teenager in 1973, Elton John was one of the biggest singer/composer/musicians on the planet, his albums “Don’t Shoot Me I’m Only The Piano Player” and “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road” having received massive critical acclaim. But, at that time my focus was very much on my oh so good-looking teen idols, the Donnys and the Davids. Elton by this time had embraced the full glam-rock persona, with ever more outrageous outfits, glasses and footwear, but not someone I saw as a potential teen idol.

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One of Elton’s outrageous outfits!

This is a roundabout way of saying that it was not until going to see Moulin Rouge! in 2001 that I truly appreciated the sentiment of Your Song. Maybe it’s the old romantic in me, but what a wonderful thing I thought, to have a song written specially for you which includes the line: “How wonderful life is, while you’re in the world”. Unlike Pattie Boyd, who seems to have had oh so many songs written about how wonderful it was to have her in the world, I am pretty sure no-one has ever written a song for me. At best there may have been a limerick or rhyme in a Valentine card at some point, but still perhaps time if Mr WIAA decides to take up the art of song-writing in later life! The really ironic thing is that his real-life profession is actually mentioned in the song, but in a bit of a derogatory fashion. Yes it is a great source of mirth in our house that one of the lines from Your Song goes as follows: “If I were a sculptor (bit of aside laughter at the ridiculousness of the suggestion), but then again, no”. It turns out that Bernie Taupin decided it would be preferable being “a man who makes potions in a travelling show” than to be a sculptor, although I beg to differ.

Your Song by Elton John:

So, “What’s It All About?” – It’s good in later life to revisit songs you may not have truly appreciated first time around, because you were just far too busy swooning over your latest teen idol, who happened to have great hair, teeth, waistcoats and headwear. (That would be Donny Osmond in his trademark purple cap then!) I sadly did not appreciate Your Song first time around, so was glad to rediscover it properly after watching Baz Luhrmann’s lavish film.

Until next time, here is the Moulin Rouge! version of the song, Baz Luhrmann style. Both have their merits but it’s the simple pared down version by Elton for me now – Unlike Pattie Boyd I may never have any songs written for me, or about me, but in the meantime a nice piece of sculptural jewellery will do nicely. The man who makes potions in a travelling show is not the one for me!

Your Song Lyrics
(Song by Elton John/Bernie Taupin)

It’s a little bit funny this feeling inside
I’m not one of those who can easily hide
I don’t have much money but boy if I did
I’d buy a big house where we both could live

If I was a sculptor, but then again, no
Or a man who makes potions in a traveling show
I know it’s not much but it’s the best I can do
My gift is my song and this one’s for you

And you can tell everybody this is your song
It may be quite simple but now that it’s done
I hope you don’t mind
I hope you don’t mind that I put down in words
How wonderful life is while you’re in the world

I sat on the roof and kicked off the moss
Well a few of the verses well they’ve got me quite cross
But the sun’s been quite kind while I wrote this song
It’s for people like you that keep it turned on

So excuse me forgetting but these things I do
You see I’ve forgotten if they’re green or they’re blue
Anyway the thing is what I really mean
Yours are the sweetest eyes I’ve ever seen

And you can tell everybody this is your song
It may be quite simple but now that it’s done
I hope you don’t mind
I hope you don’t mind that I put down in words
How wonderful life is while you’re in the world

A Trip to Belfast, “Van the Man” and The Undertones

This time two weeks ago I was in Belfast. Whenever I have a wee trip, I usually end up writing one of my travelogue style posts (with a relevant song thrown in), so here I am finally getting round to it. Ironically, I was only able to go on this trip because my mum is still in hospital. The day before I left however there was a meeting with hospital staff, when I was told she wouldn’t be able to go home, ever, so a care home will have to be found. Problem is they are generally awful, and all of them have long waiting lists. Glad I managed to fit the trip in now, as a bit stressed at the moment rushing around viewing care homes and marshalling into place the eye-watering amounts of cash needed to pay for them.

But back to the matter in hand and a bit of background. Many years ago, when DD was just a wee tot, I used to head along to the local Mother and Toddler Group with her. These kind of things can be quite grim. A bit of a hit-or-miss. You are desperate for some interaction with other like-minded adults, but often all you have in common is that you have brought a small child into the world, and sometimes that’s just not enough. I did however make one good friend at our local group over 20 years ago. She lived around the corner from us, but as is wont to happen we moved to another part of town before DD went to school, and we kind of lost touch. A couple of years ago I made contact with her again, and we’ve started meeting up quite regularly. We just gel, and it’s such a shame we wasted so many years of potential friendship. Now that we’re making up for lost time, we decided to start having an annual trip together, during what we still call in Scotland, the “tattie holidays”. Last year it was Amsterdam (link here) and this year it was Belfast (both accessible from our local airport). As a great fan of alphabetisation, I can see we should look for a city starting with the letter C next year, and then D the year after, but it could get tricky, so we may have to rethink that plan!

We were very lucky in that the day we touched down at George Best City Airport the sun was shining, and after settling into our very central little apartment we headed off to explore the city. It certainly doesn’t have the unique history and current hip quality of Amsterdam, but of course it does have its very own history and seems to be a city well and truly on the up. The Good Friday Agreement has been in place for 20 years now, so although I remember the nightly news stories from Belfast at the height of The Troubles, there is a whole generation of young people who don’t even remember those dark days, and the population is quite dramatically on the rise again. The Peace Walls are due to come down in 2023 and much regeneration is going on within the city centre, so I really hope this pesky hiccup called Brexit (being sarcastic of course) is not going to jeopardise a lengthy period of calm for the city.

One thing we noticed straight away was that the residents of Belfast are very friendly. Whenever we looked a bit lost or disorientated (happened quite a lot), there was always a local at hand to help us out, offering great advice on which places to visit and where to eat. A ticket for the sight-seeing bus lasts 72 hours so that was our chosen method of transport and as it was one of those hop-on, hop-off affairs, we managed to take in a fair few of the sights – A trip out to Stormont, the seat of the Northern Ireland Assembly (which is sadly going through a period of suspension), a trip out to the new Titanic Experience building and of course, a journey around the many parts of the city where gable end political murals are very much part of the landscape. I did take some pictures, but won’t include them here, as I did find it discomforting being a tourist voyeur, paying to enjoy the spectacle of how these murals still mark out a city very much segregated by history and religion. The flags of the Union and of Ireland still adorn the streets in East and West Belfast, but most were looking a bit tattered and torn which I am hoping means no new ones are being put up to replace them. All being well the peace will continue to last, and with social media, young people who have been segregated through schooling will start to bond with other young people via shared interests, whatever their religion. Maybe I’m oversimplifying a complex issue here, but I am hopeful.

But this is supposed to be a music blog so which songs can I serve up for your delectation? You may well have spotted that along with footballer George Best, “Van the Man” Morrison also appears on the large mural in the picture at the top of the page. A son of East Belfast, he has achieved great things in the world of music and seems to be as prolific as ever, his 40th album due to be released in December. My chosen Van Morrison song is going to be Brown Eyed Girl, which I know is kind of over-familiar to most folk now, but this is my blog and I still love it, so Brown Eyed Girl it’s going to be! Released as a single in June 1967, it is considered to be Van’s signature song.

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Brown Eyed Girl by Van Morrison:

A band I always thought of as hailing from Belfast, were The Undertones. Turns out they weren’t, but from Derry instead. No matter, the fact they recorded this next featured song in Belfast makes it worthy of inclusion. Music lover, DJ and champion of unheard bands John Peel, had one pop song he regarded above all others. At his personal request Teenage Kicks was played at his funeral, and its opening line is inscribed on his gravestone. Released in October 1978 it only reached No. 31 in the UK Singles Chart but will be fondly remembered by so many.

So, “What’s It All About?” – Sometimes it’s just nice to get off the hamster wheel and spend a couple of days exploring new places with a good friend. It’s a long time since I’ve had such a close female friend, as Mr WIAA tends to be my go-to person for most things in life, but it’s been lovely having someone from outwith the family to spend time with (besides you guys of course whom I share everything with!).

As for my mum, her welfare is now in my hands and I am being thwarted at every turn. There are basically too few care home places, and every additional week she spends in hospital she is deteriorating, mentally. We can’t look after her 24 hours a day, and the only care home with places is a brand new, extortionately priced, private one. This I’m afraid, is how we are treating our old folk in the 21st century. Makes me very sad indeed.

Until next time….

Brown Eyed Girl Lyrics

(Song by Van Morrison)

Hey, where did we go

Days when the rains came ?

Down in the hollow

Playing a new game,

Laughing and a-running, hey, hey,

Skipping and a-jumping

In the misty morning fog with

Our, our hearts a-thumping

And you, my brown-eyed girl,

You, my brown-eyed girl.

Whatever happened

To Tuesday and so slow

Going down to the old mine with a

Transistor radio.

Standing in the sunlight laughing

Hide behind a rainbow’s wall,

Slipping and a-sliding

All along the waterfall

With you, my brown-eyed girl,

You, my brown-eyed girl.

Do you remember when we used to sing

Sha la la la la la la la la la la dee dah

Just like that

Sha la la la la la la la la la la dee dah

La dee dah.

So hard to find my way

Now that I’m all on my own.

I saw you just the other day,

My, how you have grown!

Cast my memory back there, Lord,

Sometime I’m overcome thinking about

Making love in the green grass

Behind the stadium

With you, my brown-eyed girl,

You, my brown-eyed girl.

Do you remember when we used to sing

Sha la la la la la la la la la la dee dah

Laying in the green grass

Sha la la la la la la la la la la dee dah

Dee dah dee dah dee dah dee dah dee dah dee

Sha la la la la la la la la la la la la

Dee dah la dee dah la dee dah la

D-d-d-d-d-d-d-d-d-d…

A Star is Born: Judy, Gaga or Barbra?

Last time I wrote a very serious post, so time for something a bit lighter I think. Regular followers will know my mum is currently in hospital. She is recovering well however and is quite enjoying being cared for I think, so a bit of respite for me. Having had a lot more time to myself over the last few weeks I’ve finally been able to catch up with friends who have been sadly neglected of late. Some of these friends have helped me make full use of the benefits attached to my new Student ID card, by joining me on a fair few trips to the local cinema.

Over the last few weeks I have been to see King of Thieves, the true story of the Hatton Garden jewellery heist, The Seagull based on the Anton Chekov play of the same name and The Escape about a stay-at-home mum who seemingly has it all, but is desperately unhappy. On top of that, DD has started working at our local theatre, so courtesy of the “comps” she gets as a perk of the job we also caught a play, a good old fashioned whodunnit in the form of The Case Of The Frightened Lady which seems to be touring the country at the moment. Our blogging buddy Chris over at Movies and Songs 365 would no doubt now write a pretty good review for each of the above but as that’s not really this blog’s raison d’être, I’ll just say that I enjoyed all four for different reasons: a) secret admiration for the Hatton Garden “Over The Hill Mob”; b) an insight into the complex lives of a rich family of writers and actors in pre-revolution Russia; c) sympathy for the woman (excellently played by Gemma Arterton) whose only means of survival was to escape the role she had found herself in, and finally; d) a bit of a throw-back to the entertainment of a bygone age (and none of us actually correctly identified whodunnit, so quite a good puzzler).

This week, the third remake of A Star Is Born starring Bradley Cooper and Lady Gaga was released in cinemas in the UK. The original film of the same name was made in 1937, one I am somewhat unfamiliar with. I am very familiar however with the 1954 remake starring Judy Garland and James Mason as films from this era used to be shown regularly on telly when I was growing up. I lapped them up and at age 12 could probably have appeared on Mastermind citing The Golden Age of Hollywood as my specialist subject. Much of that knowledge has since left me I’m afraid, replaced with music trivia and the essential but boring work-related stuff we accumulate along the way, but watching the newly released version this week, brought the story all back. Here is a clip showing Judy Garland perform The Man That Got Away, probably the most memorable song from the 1954 version.

This new version stuck to the original storyline pretty much like glue, simply updating each scene for the 21st century. There were stadiums, more guitars, the songs were of a rock persuasion, the bars had drag acts and the clothes were a bit grungier, but other than that it’s a timeless tale of “boy meets girl”, with the backdrop of one career on the way up and the other on the way down. I won’t offer up a spoiler by mentioning which is which, because ahead of the film starting to roll the other night, I inadvertently gave the plotline away to the woman sitting next to me, having assumed everyone already knew the story. I apologised and tried to excuse myself by saying the clue is in the title, A Star Is Born, but she still seemed a bit piqued.

Back in 1954, the star in the ascendance was played by Judy Garland. In 2018, that same role was played by Lady Gaga (oops, spoiled it anyway). I must admit, she was barely recognisable at the start of the film, appearing without her trademark heavy makeup and extrovert clothing. This was Stefani Joanne Angelina Germanotta in the raw without any of the trappings of the Haus of Gaga. Much has been made of the fact that first-time director Bradley Cooper wanted her to audition for the role make-up free, and ahead of her performance produced a few wipes for her to remove it, to ensure authenticity. The irony of course is that the real, or authentic Gaga, is the one with all the stage make-up and costume but hey, it was the unreal Gaga he wanted for the role.

I did enjoy the film despite pretty much knowing (unlike the woman beside me) how each scene would play out and both Bradley and Gaga put in stellar performances. I did expect there to be more standout songs however, as after leaving the cinema I didn’t have any earworms and couldn’t actually remember much of anything included. It seems the first song released as a single was Shallow which I thought was called Shiloh in the film (must have been their accents), but now it makes sense. An actor I did think quite a lot about after leaving the cinema was the lovely Sam Elliot who played lead character Jackson Maine’s long-suffering brother in the movie. If you ever decided to chuck it all in, and head off to live on a ranch in Wyoming, he always looks and sounds as if he would be your man. He would be mine anyway, so hands off!

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The lovely Sam Elliot

But all of this is of course building up to only one thing, delving into the archives to reminisce about the 1976 version of A Star Is Born starring Kris Kristofferson (be still my beating heart) and Barbra StreisandAnyone looking at the “category list” on my sidebar will see that when it comes to decades, I write about songs from the 1970s more than any other. Lots of reasons for that of course (time spent immersing yourself in the world of music as an angst-ridden teenager being one of them), and possibly an idea for a future post, but this clip of Love Theme from “A Star Is Born” (Evergreen) still gives me the collywobbles. The song appeared in the UK Singles Chart in April 1977 and came along just as I was in the midst of my first big (but ultimately highly unsuitable) romance.

Evergreen by Barbra Streisand:

Barbra Streisand has appeared on these pages before as I’m a big fan. Just like Judy and Gaga she is certainly not a conventional beauty, but a great beauty all the same so perfect for the female lead in A Star Is Born.

I often share material from some of the old magazines I still have in my possession dating back from the 1970s. Before I sign off here are a few pages from the April 1977 edition of Words magazine where every month the lyrics to the “top pop songs” of the day were listed. In this edition, A Star Is Born is featured both on the back page and on the Studio Scene and Heard page (hmm…) where current film releases were reviewed. The lyrics to Evergreen also appeared on page 2 along with Knowing Me, Knowing You by ABBA (not Alan Partridge) and Pearl’s A Singer by Elkie Brooks. If you want to have a try, without googling, how many of the other songs would you be able to identify, and attach to an artist? Many of them weren’t big hits, but some were, although scarily over 41 years ago.

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As for me, I’m not sure how many cinema visits I might be able to fit in for some time, as there is to be a meeting on Monday to discuss my mum’s discharge plan. We actually sold the idea to her last week that a care home might be the best idea, but having been to see a few over the last couple of days I have now backtracked. She needs company and stimulation more than anything, as well as being looked after, but despite the glossy brochures and the promises of fun, fun, fun…, we didn’t see much of that at all. Instead it was all empty dayrooms and very elderly people slumped in wheelchairs, mostly asleep. We kind of need a half-way house but if they do exist, they are elusive indeed. Back to being a carer for a while I think but maybe that would be the kindest thing to do. I will no doubt return with updates (but possibly no more film reviews for a wee while).

Until next time….

Evergreen Lyrics
(Song by Barbra Streisand/Paul Williams)

Love soft as an easy chair
Love fresh as the morning air
One love that is shared by two
I have found with you
Like a rose under the April snow
I was always certain love would grow
Love ageless and evergreen
Seldom seen by two
You and I will
make each night the first
Everyday a beginning
Spirits rise and their dance is unrehearsed
They warm and excite us
‘Cause we have the brightest love
Two lights that shine as one Morning glory and midnight sun
Time… we’ve learned to sail above
Time… won’t change the meaning of one love
Ageless and ever evergreen…