An American Odyssey in Song: Rhode Island – “Young and Beautiful” by Lana Del Rey

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!

Last time we visited Massachusetts (tricky to spell but that’s probably the last time I’ll have to do it) so we are now heading west towards New York, first passing through Rhode Island. This tiny state, only 37 miles wide and 48 miles long is made up of islands, inlets and peninsulas but also what appears to be chunks of mainland America plucked from Connecticut and Massachusetts (drat had to spell it again). The name came about because the Italian explorer Giovanni Verrazzano thought that the large pear-shaped island sitting in Narragansett Bay looked like the Greek island of Rhodes. The official name is actually the State of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations, the plantations part being an archaic name for “colony”.

Rhode Island

And now for the part I am coming to enjoy most about this series – The random fact element. Rhode Island is also called the Ocean State and due to its geography has a long history of sailing. The America’s Cup, offered up as a prize by the British Royal Yacht Squadron in 1851, was first won by a boat called America which is how it got its name. The cup has spent much of its time in Newport, Rhode Island ever since and poor Britain has never won it back. The MGM musical High Society was set in one of the many fully staffed mansions that littered the state back then and one of the most memorable scenes was when Bing Crosby and Grace Kelly took a trip on the True Love which in turn inspired the song for the movie. I do remember being troubled by their age difference when first watching it as a child – Having just looked it up, Bing was 53 and Grace 27 when the film was shot, but not unusual amongst wealthy Rhode Islanders back then I suppose. In fact the mansions, or “cottages” as they were called, were originally built by rich plantation owners in order to escape the heat of the Southern summer. Later on rich Northern families started to do the same as the Gilded Age of Vanderbilts and Astors reached its staggeringly opulent zenith. Never had so much money, been made so fast, by so few, and much of this wealth was reflected in the Cliff Walk properties of Newport, RI.

But hey, as usual I am being side-tracked, for this is supposed to be a music blog. Not many obvious contenders for this state but last time both CC and Rol came up with the suggestion Sweet Rhode Island Red by Ike and Tina Turner. A good one but not my featured song for this post as although most of us who are not even au fait with the world of poultry farming have heard of the Rhode Island Red hen (the state bird), the song is not about the hen or even set in the state. Also, although I really enjoyed Tina’s output during her reincarnation of the 1980s, I’m not so fond of the songs she recorded with Ike (or Ike), especially Nutbush City Limits, but we’ll come to the reason for that another day.

ike and tina

But not everyone in Rhode Island lives in mansions and owns yachts. Some of you will know of the animated sitcom Family Guy created by Seth MacFarlane. The series centres on the Griffins family who have an anthropomorphic pet dog called Brian. Seth MacFarlane is not only a talented actor, writer, singer, film-maker but is also (I think) extremely good-looking and it turns out he is even descended from one of the original passengers from The Mayflower (grrr…). He studied animation at the Rhode Island School of Design so not unusual to have set the show in the fictional city of Quahog, RI. I give you the Road To Rhode Island by Brian and Stewie!

All this talk of the Gilded Age and opulent mansions however has made me look into it a bit more and has inspired my choice of featured song for this post. One of the largest “cottages” was Hammersmith Farm owned by the stepfather of Jacqueline Bouvier, Hugh D. Auchincloss. She of course went on to marry John F Kennedy and their wedding reception was held there. The property was also used as the setting for the 1974 film version of The Great Gatsby starring Robert Redford and Mia Farrow. I have a feeling that Grace Kelly may well have also “graced” the terraces of Hammersmith Farm at some point, perhaps not in High Society as that appeared to be a film set, but perhaps in her role as Princess Grace of Monaco.

Some of you will know that Baz Luhrmann also made a dazzling version of The Great Gatsby back in 2013 and the song Young and Beautiful was specially written and recorded for it by Lana Del Rey. It was perfect for the film as she has a deep, sultry voice and a look that is evocative of a much earlier time. Also, a song about “the young and the beautiful” was totally appropriate for the tale of The Great Gatsby. All of the people mentioned in the paragraph above were rich, young and beautiful but whether characters in fiction or real people, they all died prematurely or experienced tragedy in their lives. Again a very tenuous link to this state, and again from a film, but just reinforces the knowledge we all have that a life of wealth and privilege does not necessarily bring happiness.

Young and Beautiful by Lana Del Rey:

Having done a bit of research, it seems that Lana Del Rey adopted her exotic sounding Latin name and look after spending time with friends in Miami. She is however originally from New York and has a Scottish heritage. Her real name is Lizzy Grant which I find amusing as where I come from in the North-East of Scotland there are many older ladies called Lizzy Grant – Absolutely none of them look like Lana Del Rey!

So, a longish post about the smallest state. Heading into Connecticut next and drawing a blank myself for that state at the moment, so again, any suggestions more than welcome. I can think of a couple of siblings who came from there and whose songs I have featured in this place recently, so may well go down that route. We’ll see, but in the meantime, I think I’ll have another listen to the haunting and sombre sound of Young and Beautiful.

Until next time….

Young And Beautiful Lyrics
(Song by Lana Del Ray/Rick Nowels)

I’ve seen the world
Done it all
Had my cake now
Diamonds, brilliant
And Bel Air now
Hot summer nights, mid July
When you and I were forever wild
The crazy days, city lights
The way you’d play with me like a child

Will you still love me
When I’m no longer young and beautiful?
Will you still love me
When I got nothing but my aching soul?
I know you will, I know you will
I know that you will
Will you still love me when I’m no longer beautiful?

I’ve seen the world, lit it up
As my stage now
Channelling angels in the new age now
Hot summer days, rock ‘n’ roll
The way you play for me at your show
And all the ways I got to know
Your pretty face and electric soul

Will you still love me
When I’m no longer young and beautiful?
Will you still love me
When I got nothing but my aching soul?
I know you will, I know you will
I know that you will
Will you still love me when I’m no longer beautiful?

Dear lord, when I get to heaven
Please let me bring my man
When he comes tell me that you’ll let him in
Father tell me if you can
Oh that grace, oh that body
Oh that face makes me wanna party
He’s my sun, he makes me shine like diamonds

Will you still love me
When I’m no longer young and beautiful?
Will you still love me
When I got nothing but my aching soul?
I know you will, I know you will
I know that you will
Will you still love me when I’m no longer beautiful?
Will you still love me when I’m no longer beautiful?
Will you still love me when I’m not young and beautiful

Postscript:

Because I mentioned the film High Society a fair few times above, I feel I should share this excellent clip of the inimitable Mr Louis “Satchel Mouth” Armstrong giving us a potted version of what is to come. Yes, this was high society Rhode Island-style, back in 1956. Enjoy.

Car Share, Now 48 and the Fairytale World of Kayleigh Kitson

Well, I know he’s probably not for everyone, but I have absolutely loved the recent set of Car Share episodes, written by and starring, Peter Kay. In case of inadvertently issuing a spoiler however, I thought I should wait until they had actually all been aired on the BBC before writing about them. Like most fans of the first series, I dived in a few weeks ago as soon as they first appeared on the iPlayer – By the time the closing credits came up on a very emotional final ever episode, I had already viewed it around 5 times.

In case you haven’t watched the series, the half-hour episodes could not be simpler in terms of plot-line – Supermarket assistant manager John Redmond (Peter Kay) and supermarket worker Kayleigh Kitson (Sian Gibson) have taken part in their firm’s car share scheme and inevitably over the months, get to know each other really well. They develop a kind of sympatico whilst driving back and forth to work every day, all the time listening to the fictitious Forever FM on John’s Fiat 500 digital radio. Peter Kay has an encyclopaedic knowledge of pop music, especially from the ’80s and ’90s and the third star of this show became that Forever FM soundtrack (took me right back to those days). Moments of great humour emerged when just the right track was picked for a particular scene. The very first episode started off with Martika’s Kitchen and the final episode ended with Marillion’s Kayleigh, the reason for which will become clear (SPOILER ALERT).

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One of the strange outcomes from a hit series like this is that the Now That’s What I Call Music people have had to start repressing copies of Now 48. At the end of the first series, Kayleigh, who was moving house and would no longer be car-sharing with John, left him a parting gift in the form of the aforementioned CD. She also left a little note inside with the not-so-cryptic message that he should listen to Track 2 which was Hear’say’s Pure and Simple. Thinking back, this is the kind of thing I might have given my latest crush as a teenager but there is something very childlike about Kayleigh and this was her favourite CD, so it did seem apt. Not the kind of thing your average 43-year-old man would normally listen to but hey, Kayleigh had her message to get across and this was her way of doing it.

Track 3 on this CD (which became the soundtrack to the fantasy dream sequence starring John, Kayleigh and a Monster Truck!) was Never Had a Dream Come True by S Club 7 which was the official Children In Need charity single that year. This is not the kind of song that would normally be enjoyed by a lady of my age either, but I do have a soft spot for both it, and S Club 7, for the following reasons. S Club 7 were a manufactured pop act put together by ex-Spice Girls manager Simon Fuller and they starred in four really successful kids’ sitcoms. This all happened around the turn of the millennium which was just when I was having a few years off work to be a stay-at-home mum. There was big excitement in our house when Miami 7 first aired on kids’ telly and although she would be embarrassed to admit it now, darling daughter’s very first single (a cassette single actually) was Never Had a Dream Come True. If this blog was a Nostalgic Journey Through the Tracks Of Her Years, this song would most definitely feature. By default therefore, it also features in mine.

Never Had a Dream Come True by S Club 7:

But getting back to Car Share, true-life never runs quite as smoothly as in the fairy-tale world of kids’ telly and John has conveniently chosen to ignore the message offered up in the form of the lyrics to Pure and Simple. They do however reinstate their car-sharing routine and get ever closer by the day as is wont to happen when you spend so much time together.

billy ocean

In the final episode there is a wonderful scene where Billy Ocean’s Red Light Spells Danger comes on the radio and as ever, our supermarket colleagues who have that whole “unspoken thing” going on, burst into song – It is one of the real high points of the whole series but also spells the end of the unspoken thing, as it finally becomes a “spoken about thing” so can only go one of two ways. Kayleigh is accused of living in a fairy-tale world (which to be honest is preferable to the one we seem to be living in at the moment) and the cautious John, who comes from a background and part of the country where such things are most definitely not spoken about, does not come up with the correct responses. Kayleigh gets out of the car and out of his life. Sadly, if she had waited just a few more minutes, she would have realised that John had engineered a message of his own via the dulcet tones of Forever FM’s drive-time presenter and the playing of that song which bears her name.

So, “What’s It All About?” – As a long-term observer of the human condition, this was an excellent piece of writing from Mr Kay and his song choices throughout were impeccable. As a lady of a certain age, Kayleigh had indeed “no time to waste” and she had to invoke what I used to call, the 3-month rule. Even with the most unlikely of partners, you can have a lot of fun for around three months, but it is highly likely that after that point the rose-coloured spectacles come off and lots of things about them really start to grate. If however all is still going well, it is wise to find out where things are “going”, as before you know it the years have rolled by and you find yourself with someone who is unwilling to commit (not that I know of anyone who has had that happen to them of course).

As for Car Share, it sounds as if that truly is the end of it, and so it should be as we are left to decide for ourselves how things turned out for our supermarket heroes. I choose to think there would have been a happy ending as to think otherwise, for me, is not an option. As for the songs, I’m off to have another wallow in that Forever FM soundtrack as it takes me right back to those days of dalliances and the invoking of the 3-month rule. As for Now 48 I might just pass on that one, but for darling daughter, however strenuously she denies it in the future, I will always know that Track 3 was her very first single!

Never Had A Dream Come True Lyrics
(Song by Cathy Dennis/Simon Ellis)

Everybody’s got something
They had to leave behind
One regret from yesterday
That just seems to grow with time
There’s no use looking back, or wondering
How it could be now or might’ve been
All this I know
But still I can’t find ways to let you go

I never had a dream come true
‘Til the day that I found you
Even though I pretend that I’ve moved on
You’ll always be my baby
I never found the words to say
You’re the one I think about each day
And I know no matter where life takes me to
A part of me will always be with you

Somewhere in my memory
I’ve lost all sense of time
And tomorrow can never be
‘Cause yesterday is all that fills my mind
There’s no use looking back, oh wondering
How it should been, now oh might’ve been
All this I know
But, still I can’t find ways to let you go

I never had a dream come true
‘Til the day that I found you
Even though I pretend that I’ve moved on
You’ll always be my baby
I never found the words to say
You’re the one I think about each day
And I know no matter where life takes me to
A part of me will always be with you

You’ll always be the dream that fills my head
Yes you will
Say you will
You know you will oh baby
You’ll always be the one I know I’ll never forget
There’s no use looking back, oh wondering
Because love is a strange and funny thing
No matter how hard I try and try
I just can’t say good bye

An American Odyssey in Song: Massachusetts – Jonathan Richman & The Modern Lovers and Roadrunner

Welcome to this occasional series where I am attempting a virtual journey around the 50 States of America in song – Suggestions for the next leg always welcome!

Well, I seem to have enjoyed my time in Vermont so much I stayed there for over a week! Time to move on again though and this time we’re heading down into Massachusetts (tricky to spell as was pointed out last time), named after its indigenous people.

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The random fact element of this post will have to be brief this time as more songs to get through than has been the case to date. Suffice to say it was where the Pilgrim Fathers settled after arriving on The Mayflower in 1620. They formed the Plymouth Colony and after a tough first winter, with the help of the local Wampanoag people, learnt how survive by growing corn. They then held a three day Thanksgiving event to celebrate their first harvest and that celebration of course still goes on today.

The island of Nantucket, more famous now for its beaches and holiday cottages, was home to the whaling trade back in the 18th century and the tale of Moby-Dick was set there. That infamous Tea Party occurred in Boston, but being British I’ll gloss over that one. I am reminded however that our own Alex Harvey put that story to song in 1976 with his version of The Boston Tea Party.

The Kennedy compound was at Hyannis Port in Massachusetts, presided over by dad Joe and mother Rose. Education is big business in Massachusetts and the city of Cambridge is home to both Harvard and the research institute, MIT. In popular culture the film Jaws was set there, mostly filmed on Martha’s Vineyard.

But which song to feature this time? I know that everyone expects it to be this one and it would be remiss of me not to include it, but not one of my favourite Bee Gee songs, and at the time of writing it they had never even been to Massachusetts. It was 1967, the year of The Summer of Love, and the hippies were all heading west to San Francisco so it felt as if here on the East Coast it was time to switch the lights out, as everyone had left. I remember well watching them perform this song on TOTP as a child but didn’t realise until later that the twins Robin and Maurice were aged only 17 at the time. So young but already so prolific.

Massachusetts by The Bee Gees:

Thanks go out again to my blogging buddies who offered up suggestions for songs associated with Massachusetts (links to their blogs on my sidebar). Rol came up with Feelin’ Massachusetts by the Juliana Hatfield Three, Massachusetts Avenue by Amanda Palmer and “something” from the band Boston (More Than A Feeling?). Both he and Lynchie came up with the Steely Dan song The Boston Ragalthough to be fair Lynchie decided that he was allowed to call them simply The Dan as he had been a fan right from the beginning.

Before I get down to the actual featured song for this state, how would you like to come for a quick drink with me in a great bar I know called Cheers? It’s right here in Boston and for the guys who go there, it’s like their “blogosphere” – Nice to be in a place “Where Everybody Knows Your Name“.

Making your way in the world today takes everything you’ve got.
Taking a break from all your worries, sure would help a lot. 
Wouldn’t you like to get away? 
Sometimes you want to go 
Where everybody knows your name,
and they’re always glad you came.
You wanna be where you can see,
our troubles are all the same
You wanna be where everybody knows
Your name.

So, lots of suggestions already, but for this post it could only really be the one that came in from both CC and C (no relation) – Roadrunner by Massachusetts natives Jonathan Richman and The Modern Lovers, first recorded in 1972 but a hit for them in 1977, when all of a sudden their proto-punk sound fitted the “times” perfectly. I don’t know what I was doing during my teenage years but it certainly doesn’t seem to have been listening to the lyrics of songs properly as until CC pointed out the whole Jonathan Richman/New England connection when I started this series, the Roadrunner I remembered best from those days was this one!

roadrunnerNo matter, it has now clicked and the Massachusetts comedian John Hodgman came out saying that the song was, “Woven as deeply into the cultural landscape of Massachusetts as the Turnpike itself. It is the pulsing sound of the night and the future. It connects the midnight ride of Paul Revere with the dream of every Massachusetts teenager who has just gotten their license and is discovering the Freedom Trail that is Route 128 after the last movie lets out“.

Roadrunner by Jonathan Richman and The Modern Lovers:

This song came out the summer I turned 17 and after a few disastrous driving lessons with my dad (who in every other walk of life was patience personified), I gave up. The boys who were the same age however did not, and one by one they passed their driving tests and acquired “wheels”. We lived in the country and just like Jonathan Richman and his buddies, these local boys became weekend roadrunners. They had no particular place to go but the radio was on and they just wanted to hang out with friends and burn some rubber. Needless to say, every couple of years or so there was a tragic car crash and some of them didn’t make it. Fortunately all my close friends did get through that phase unscathed but the village cemetery is littered with the graves of those who did not. This one is therefore for them. Dougie, Wendy and Neil – You are not forgotten.

Next time we’ll travel into the smallest of the 50 states, Rhode Island. I do have a song idea for that one of my own but definitely “tenuous” so again I would be really grateful for any other suggestions connected in some way to that state (you know where the comments boxes are). We’re still in New England but are now getting ever closer to New York where I now realise there will have to be a Part 1 and a Part 2. Songs about Rhode Island – not so much. Songs about New York – where does it end?

Until next time….

Roadrunner Lyrics
(Song by Jonathan Richman)

One-two-three-four-five-six!
Roadrunner, roadrunner
Going faster miles an hour
Gonna drive past the Stop ‘n’ Shop
With the radio on
I’m in love with Massachusetts
And the neon when it’s cold outside
And the highway when it’s late at night
Got the radio on
I’m like the roadrunner

Alright
I’m in love with modern moonlight
1:28 when it’s dark outside
I’m in love with Massachusetts
I’m in love with the radio on
It helps me from being alone late at night
Helps me from being lonely late at night
I don’t feel so bad now in the car
Don’t feel so alone, got the radio on
Like the roadrunner
That’s right

Said welcome to the spirit of 1956
Patient in the bushes next to ’57
The highway is your girlfriend as you go by quick
Suburban trees, suburban speed
And it smells like heaven, I say
Roadrunner once
Roadrunner twice
I’m in love with rock & roll and I’ll be out all night
Roadrunner
That’s right

Well now
Roadrunner, roadrunner
Going faster miles an hour
Gonna drive to the Stop ‘n’ Shop
With the radio on at night
And me in love with modern moonlight
Me in love with modern rock & roll
Modern girls and modern rock & roll
Don’t feel so alone, got the radio on
Like the roadrunner
O.K. now you sing Modern Lovers

(Radio On!)
I got the AM
(Radio On!)
Got the car, got the AM
(Radio On!)
Got the AM sound, got the
(Radio On!)
Got the rockin’ modern neon sound
(Radio On!)
I got the car from Massachusetts, got the
(Radio On!)
I got the power of Massachusetts when it’s late at night
(Radio On!)
I got the modern sounds of modern Massachusetts
I’ve got the world, got the turnpike, got the
I’ve got the, got the power of the AM
Got the, late at night, hit ’em wide, rock & roll late at night
The factories and the auto signs got the power of modern sounds
Alright

Right, bye bye!

Postscript:

I kind of ran out of space above for this little story but still worthy of inclusion I think. The family that lived next door to us in our Scottish village when I was growing up actually did the unthinkable and emigrated to Boston, Massachusetts (they had relatives there and it must have been a lot easier in those days).

They had a son around my age called Graham and it is weird now to think that he will have had a parallel life to my own but of the “American” variety. He will support the Boston Red Sox or the New England Patriots as opposed to our beloved Aberdeen FC. He will have had a Prom instead of a school disco, will have a Boston accent instead of a Scottish one and no doubt became a roadrunner after having “gotten his licence” as opposed to having “passed his driving test”. As a family we didn’t keep in touch, as it was just so far away in those days and communication methods were very primitive – Hope he has had a good life however and in the unlikely event he ever comes upon these pages, hello from Scotland!

Stress-Busters, “Superstar” and the Mellifluous Voice of Karen Carpenter

Well, it’s safe to say that stress levels are running at an all-time high in my workplace. The conversion to a LEAN working environment is making the carrying out of normal duties nigh impossible as on an hourly basis, the tools of our trade, namely desks, shelving, files and stationery are being shipped out to that mythical warehouse, where items that do not fit the modern day workplace, end their days. Considering I am having to re-apply for my own job in this brave new world, I’m starting to worry that I am also going to end up in that mythical warehouse – Mr WIAA may well have to send out a search party. But, being serious, it will probably be great when it’s all finished, it’s just that I’m not a great handler of stress and yesterday’s migraine (of the ziggy-zaggy variety) proved it.

stress head

Very recently I admitted on these pages that I seem to have now found myself addicted to blogging. The feedback was very much of the opinion however that it can also be seen as a great stress-buster – Last night, at 10pm, I decided to test that theory out. I am happy to say that after an hour of visiting my favourite blogs and leaving a few comments (although a mere nano-second after posting something I always wish I’d worded it better or corrected the grammar – I hope I’m not alone in this), I was indeed feeling a lot less stressed. I had the best nights sleep I’ve had all week and thus handled today’s chaos of moving to a LEAN and orderly workplace, a lot better. Thank you then fellow-bloggers, the stress-busting theory does seem to work.

Music of course is another great stress-buster and for me, in my current situation, it had to come from the world of – as the Americans call it – Adult Contemporary. On the way home from work I needed a bit of Karen Carpenter to smooth my furrowed brow. She had the most wonderfully soothing singing voice as she was a contralto, the lowest female voice type. I must also be a contralto then, as whenever I tried to sing chart hits when growing up, those Carpenter songs were the ones I seemed to master best – I could even do that twiddly key changing bit that sounds like yodelling (although there is probably a technical term for it). On the odd occasion a karaoke machine appears at an event, I always start off by refusing point blank to sing, BUT, after a few drinks I end up having to have the mic forcibly removed from my hand once my Karen Carpenter repertoire kicks in. (Although my versions of her songs are a pale imitation of course.)

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The only downside to listening to The Carpenters back catalogue is that the lyrics are all just so damn melancholy – There was Goodbye To Love, Rainy Days and Mondays, Yesterday Once More and Solitaire. Even the jaunty upbeat songs somehow ended up sounding sad at the hands of Karen and brother Richard (Top of the World, Please Mr Postman). As a fan I do enjoy a wallow in all of that sadness from time to time but not to be recommended as a regular pastime.

I have still not really come to terms with how she lost her grasp on life at the very young age of 32 due to complications arising from the illness anorexia nervosa. I was still a child when The Carpenters first started appearing on television but over the years even I noticed the dramatic change in her appearance and wondered what on earth was going on. We knew so little about that particular illness back then and the solution offered up by her management was that she wear a jacket on stage – It now beggars belief but those of course were far less enlightened times although even today, with an early diagnosis, there is not always a positive outcome.

Superstar by The Carpenters:

This afternoon however I just wanted to hear a little bit of that mellifluous singing voice and of late, the Carpenters‘ song I am drawn to most is Superstar from 1971 – It is about a brief liaison with a rock star who has now moved on to the next town. The girl is sad, lonely and yearning for him to return but it still sounds just so beautiful at the hands of the singing maestro that was Karen Carpenter.

So, “What’s It All About?” – As a stress-buster, blogging certainly does seem to have its place but so does listening to music and thankfully we all have our own particular favourites for that function. The Carpenters were never seen as “cool” but no-one could deny their talent and Karen’s voice certainly eases my stress. Grammy Award winners The Starland Vocal Band were never seen as “cool” either, but their 1976 solution for stress was adopted by the Taco Bell people who of course realised that all the LEAN office needs is the occasional opportunity to head out for a tasty snack! I give you, Afternoon Delight.

Superstar Lyrics
(Song by Leon Russell/Bonnie Bramlett)

Long ago, and, oh, so far away
I fell in love with you before the second show
Your guitar, it sounds so sweet and clear
But you’re not really here, it’s just the radio

Don’t you remember, you told me you loved me baby?
You said you’d be coming back this way again baby
Baby, baby, baby, baby, oh baby
I love you, I really do

Loneliness is such a sad affair
And I can hardly wait to be with you again
What to say to make you come again?
Come back to me again and play your sad guitar

Don’t you remember, you told me you loved me baby?
You said you’d be coming back this way again baby
Baby, baby, baby, baby, oh baby
I love you, I really do

Music from Guardians of the Galaxy #2 – Rupert Holmes and that Piña Colada Song!

Saturday is the day I go for my Stormfront lesson – Sounds like I’m in training to become a Marvel superhero-type figure but no, after purchasing my new Apple laptop from the local Stormfront computer shop, I thought it would be a good idea to actually learn how to use all the bells and whistles on it. It turns out you can buy a year’s Personal Trainer Card which gives you up to 200 hours of one-to-one training. No-one has ever fitted in 200 hours of training in a year to date, but I am working on being the first – Works out at 39p per session if you do, so excellent value for money (and no jokes please about the fact that I am Scottish and therefore unfairly regarded as being a bit tight with the old spondulicks).

Of course whenever anything sounds just too good to be true, it usually is, and by the time you pay for the car parking and shove in time at one of the many nearby stores (if you’ve got there a bit too early), it has already cost you about £15 before you begin but hey, it’s my new Saturday routine, and so far I’ve learnt a lot.

The shop right next door to Stormfront is Lakeland, which of course sells all sorts of highly priced but colourful kitchen accessories that you never knew you needed. Last week I ended up buying Easter egg moulds and a fancy silicon pastry brush which meant we made some dodgy homemade chocolate eggs which came out at around £10 per unit as opposed to the nice shop-bought ones that could have been purchased for a £1.

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Today I had another browse, as I had again arrived about ten minutes too early, and what was piled up on a table by the front entrance, but loads of pots of ready-made frosting (or icing as we would call it) for cup cakes. Considering I wrote about cakes and icing last Saturday for my MacArthur Park post, I had to have a proper look at these brightly packaged tubs. One of the flavours was “Piña Colada” which of course reminded me of Escape (The Piña Colada Song) released in 1979 by Rupert Holmes. Funnily enough I had already been trying to work out which song to feature next from the excellent Marvel Guardians of the Galaxy soundtrack album, full of lesser-known ’70s pop fodder. Here it was falling into my lap!

Escape (The Piña Colada Song) by Rupert Holmes:

I did write about this song last year as I had always thought I liked it because of the jaunty upbeat chorus. After revisiting it however I took more heed of the lyrics and realised (as often happens), that it was not really a jaunty upbeat tale at all. I even ended up having a bit of a spat with an American blogger due to our different interpretation of the lyrics. He seems to have disappeared from the blogosphere since and if it had anything to do with me I am truly sorry, but I doubt it. You need stamina to keep going with all this malarkey and it can really separate the men from the boys (or girls).

The spat came about because of our very different take on the twist to the song. After being tired of his “old lady” Rupert replies to a personal ad in a newspaper but lo and behold, who turns up for their clandestine meeting but his own “lovely lady” – What happened to the “old lady” he was so tired of?

So I waited with high hopes, then she walked in the place
I knew her smile in an instant, I knew the curve of her face
It was my own lovely lady, and she said, “Oh, it’s you”
And we laughed for a moment, and I said, “I never knew”

I know this might sound totally unreasonable but in my opinion if your other half was the person who turned up at O’Malley’s, there would be no sniggers of laughter and playful chiding about how little you knew each other, it would be curtains for the relationship. In the first place you would both have been caught out so you would become all angry and defensive, and secondly, the excitement of perhaps meeting someone with whom to plan your escape has all of a sudden dissipated. I fear there would be no turning back, from this “turn of events”.

My American blogging friend however decided that after the initial shock of finding each other at O’Malley’s, they would indeed get over it, have a laugh about it, and start to rebuild their relationship. He obviously doesn’t know Scottish women!

So, “What’s It All About?” – If you’re thinking of placing sneaky little personal ads or going down the modern day online equivalent, run it by your other half first as you just never know, they might be thinking of doing exactly the same thing! As for me, Mr WIAA has just arrived with a large glass containing a Piña Colada made with the cocktail mix I bought in the Lakeland shop today after my lesson – A pre-emptive strike is the best kind of strike but I do think that this time, I’ll give the dunes of the cape a miss!

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Escape (The Piña Colada Song) Lyrics
(Song by Rupert Holmes)

I was tired of my lady, we’d been together too long
Like a worn-out recording, of a favourite song
So while she lay there sleeping, I read the paper in bed
And in the personals column, there was this letter I read

“If you like Pina Coladas, and getting caught in the rain
If you’re not into yoga, if you have half a brain
If you like making love at midnight, in the dunes of the cape
I’m the love that you’ve looked for, write to me, and escape”

I didn’t think about my lady, I know that sounds kind of mean
But me and my old lady, had fallen into the same old dull routine
So I wrote to the paper, took out a personal ad
And though I’m nobody’s poet, I thought it wasn’t half bad

“Yes, I like Pina Coladas, and getting caught in the rain
I’m not much into health food, I am into champagne
I’ve got to meet you by tomorrow noon, and cut through all this red tape
At a bar called O’Malley’s, where we’ll plan our escape”

So I waited with high hopes, then she walked in the place
I knew her smile in an instant, I knew the curve of her face
It was my own lovely lady, and she said, “Oh, it’s you”
And we laughed for a moment, and I said, “I never knew”

“That you liked Pina Coladas, and getting caught in the rain
And the feel of the ocean, and the taste of champagne
If you like making love at midnight, in the dunes of the cape
You’re the love that I’ve looked for, come with me, and escape”

“If you like Pina Coladas, and getting caught in the rain
If you’re not into yoga, if you have half a brain
If you like making love at midnight, in the dunes of the cape
I’m the love that you’ve looked for, come with me, and escape”

An American Odyssey in Song: Vermont – Willie Nelson and “Moonlight in Vermont”

Welcome to this series where I am going to attempt a virtual journey around the 50 States of America in song – Suggestions for the next leg always welcome!

Well, I’ve just spent a week in New Hampshire but it’s time to move on again and the next state we’re heading into is Vermont. The name comes from old French, meaning “Green Mountain”, and that pretty much sums up the whole state. There are indeed mountains, lots of forests and green, green pastures.

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Green pastures of course lead to daily farming and Vermont is where those quirky ice-cream makers called Ben and Jerry set up shop, wowing us with their wittily named flavours (Vermonty Python being one). Their visitor centre is the most visited attraction in the state. Vermont is also where those singing Von Trapps settled when they arrived in America. They built a Lodge in the picturesque Stowe which must have reminded them of their home in Austria. Climb every mountain indeed.

But what song to choose for this state, as again, a bit of tricky one? A few suggestions came in from fellow bloggers – Rol (from My Top Ten) came up with a couple that had the name Vermont in the title but not songs I’m familiar with (Long Vermont Roads by The Magnetic Fields and Just Give Me Moonlight In Vermont by Amy Allison). Another suggestion (from Rich at KamerTunesBlog) was that I use the theme tune for the ’80s TV Series Newhart which was of course set in Bob’s Vermont B&B. I do remember that show and it seemed to come along just at the time American sitcoms started to get really funny, and ours became less so. If you want to see what it would be like to live in that green, green land, check out this clip. Very nice indeed.

But no, my last couple of song choices for states have been a tad tenuous so this time I’m going for a song that really paints a picture of the state – Moonlight in Vermont. There have been numerous versions of this standard from 1944, recorded by a variety of artists, but the one I have enjoyed listening to most over the last week was the one by Willie Nelson. Like Roger Miller, Willie is from Texas but no matter, when he decided to record an album of standards in 1978 called “Stardust”, he wanted this song to be on it. The song is considered the unofficial state song of Vermont and is frequently played as the first dance song at wedding receptions.

Moonlight in Vermont by Willie Nelson:

Willie Nelson is one of the greats of country music and will turn 84 (god willing) later on this month. He was one of the main figures of “outlaw country”, a subgenre of country music that developed in the late 1960s as a reaction to the restrictions of the “Nashville sound”. Willie has also acted in over 30 films, co-authored several books, has been involved in activism and (not surprisingly) the legalisation of marijuana.

The phenomenally successful ballad Crazy, most closely associated with Patsy Cline, was composed by Willie as were many other country standards from the 1950s. After great success he retired in 1972 but of course that didn’t last long and he is still performing today, still sporting his trademark pigtails and bandana. His version of Always On My Mind, although made famous by Elvis, is still my favourite.

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But this post needs something else, a little heart-warming story, and whilst doing a bit of background reading about the State of Vermont, I make an interesting discovery. The blacksmith and inventor John Deere was born there and was 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 1940s/50s. 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 that my grandfather might well have listened to an early version of the song Moonlight in Vermont before heading out for a night time shift on one of those giant snow ploughs. He would not have probably realised however that the large steel attachment at the front, was all down to a man called John Deere, from Vermont.

So, next time we’re going to be heading down into Massachusetts, and although I have a couple of ideas up my sleeve, I would be very grateful for some more song suggestions connected to that state. We’re still in New England but are now heading back along the coastal states towards New York where the problem will no doubt be, that there are just too many songs to choose from!

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
Ev´ning summer breeze
Warbling of a meadowlark
Moonlight in Vermont

Music from Guardians of the Galaxy #1 – Blue Swede and Hooked on a Feeling

Hope everyone had a lovely Easter Monday. My day was particularly good in that it was spent almost entirely away from a computer screen. Considering that in my last post I wrote of my suspected “addiction to blogging”, this is a good thing. Instead my day was spent licking the back garden into shape, getting the outdoor furniture back in its usual spot in order to read the last few chapters of the book I’ve been stuck on for ages and having a lovely meal cooked for us by darling daughter.

The icing on the cake however was that one of our favourite films was on telly in the evening so for the first time in ages “we three” watched something together and not in different rooms of the house as is wont to happen nowadays. What was the film? – Why it was Guardians of the Galaxy which is an unusual choice for me but it is a very different animal from other films of its ilk because one of its stars is a “mix-tape”. I wrote about this mix-tape last year as the most important song on it was Hooked On A Feeling by Blue Swede and it was only after watching last year’s Eurovision Song Contest (yes I watch it) that I discovered it was actually by a band from Sweden. In the interests of continuing my detox from the computer screen for a little longer, I hope you don’t mind if I do another little cut and paste from last year:

Guardians of the Galaxy
Those intrepid Guardians of the Galaxy!

“Last time I wrote about the Eurovision Song Contest and the show itself, hosted by Sweden this year, was possibly the best ever and had a brilliant set of very entertaining “interval fillers”. The most surprising of these was a film montage of Sweden’s contribution to pop music – Surprising, because I hadn’t realised that many of these artists were in fact Swedish. For a small Nordic country it seems to have punched above its weight in that department. Even if they had only produced Abba and then stopped that would have been enough, but no, we have also had Roxette, Europe, Ace of Base and many more that have passed me by, but the younger generation will know well.

The first of these artists to be celebrated was Björn Skifs of the band Blue Swede who hit the No. 1 spot in the US Charts in 1974 with Hooked on a Feeling. At exactly the same time, Björn Ulvaeus and the rest of Abba launched themselves on an unsuspecting world at the Eurovision Song Contest, winning decisively with Waterloo. Just to top things off, that was also the year that Björn Borg really started making a name for himself in the tennis world – So, all in all, a good year for Swedes called Björn.

Blue Swede

Looking at him now, our first Björn looks like the archetypal Disney Prince with his “Viking-esque” clothing and blond hair. The song Hooked on a Feeling was written by Mark James and was first recorded in 1968 by B.J. Thomas (he of Raindrops Keep Fallin’ on My Head fame). The Blue Swede version that did so well in the US has the strange “ooga chaka” chant at the beginning which was originally added by Jonathan King in 1971. Until last Saturday night watching Eurovision, I hadn’t realised that this song, which has come into my life twice in the last 20 years, was by a band from Sweden.

Hooked on a Feeling by Blue Swede:

A couple of years ago darling daughter persuaded us to go and see a new Marvel Studios film called Guardians of the Galaxy. My heart sank when she mentioned the name as I am not a fan of superhero-type space films at all, but it turned out to be excellent. The writing was predictably sharp and witty, local girl Karen Gillan starred in it and best of all, the soundtrack was full of ’70s songs that totally resonated with us. Yes, it was set in space, but it took me right back to my school days and all the memories they conjure up. The ’70s songs were on a mix-tape (remember those?) played over and over by the lead character on an old Walkman, as a link to his dead mother and home in Missouri.

The main song was Hooked on a Feeling but there were also ones by 10cc, The Jackson 5, Marvin Gaye, Elvin Bishop and Rupert Holmes. An excellent soundtrack album was released but ironically had to be downloaded with a digital picture of a cassette tape attached as no-one has the means to play actual tapes any more. The success of this mix lay in the fact that the songs chosen were, according to the director, “semi-familiar” – Ones you recognise but might not be able to name off the top of your head.

I mentioned that the song had come into my life twice before, the other time being when it popped up on the television show Ally McBeal, a comedy drama set in a Boston legal firm. The use was made of fantasy sequences and the “dancing baby” made regular appearances, always accompanied by the Blue Swede song Hooked on a Feeling. I loved that show as it came along in the late ’90s just at the time I had given up work to be a full-time mum. I think it reminded me of what life was like on the outside but thankfully I don’t remember ever feeling wistful about wanting to return to it which made for a happy time for us.

Hooked On A Feeling by Vonda Shepard:

Ally and her colleagues always frequented the same bar after work where the resident performer was singer Vonda Shepard. It was inevitable therefore that there would be an album of songs from the show and of course I bought it. Hooked on a Feeling was on it of course but again there was a great mix of lesser-known tracks, my favourite being the Skeeter Davis song The End of the World which had accompanied a particularly poignant scene in the show.

So, a song I had come across often but hadn’t realised was by a Swedish band until last weekend. Looking now at pictures of all the aforementioned Björns in later life, they could be the affluent CEOs of large multinational corporations. The Swedes are successful in music and sport but the “rock ‘n’ roll” lifestyle is obviously not for them – In view of what has been happening to so many of our idols of late, I think I am grateful.”

Hooked on a Feeling Lyrics
(Song by Mark James)

Ooga-Chaka Ooga-Ooga
Ooga-Chaka Ooga-Ooga
Ooga-Chaka Ooga-Ooga
Ooga-Chaka Ooga-Ooga

I can’t stop this feeling
Deep inside on me
Girl, you just don’t realize
What you do to me

When you hold me
In your arms so tight
You let me know
Everything’s all right

I’m hooked on a feeling
I’m high on believing
That you’re in love with me

Lips as sweet as candy
It’s taste is on my mind
Girl, you got me thirsty
For another cup o’ wine

Got a bug from you girl
But I don’t need no cure
I’ll just stay a victim
If I can for sure

All the good love
When we’re all alone
Keep it up girl
Yeah, you turn me on

I’m hooked on a feeling
I’m high on believing
That you’re in love with me

Postscript:

For those who have seen the movie, here is a wee fellow you may recognise – Made by Mr WIAA for darling daughter as she was such a fan.

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Baby Groot!