Another Platinum Anniversary and Al Martino, the UK’s First Official Chart-Topper

Al Martino.

Who?

Al Martino. The person who had the honour of reaching the top spot on the very first UK Singles Chart published back in November 1952, 70 years ago this week.


Those of us who used to be chart-obsessed (and in the early ’70s I think I was), will already know this, as the kind of thing that often pops up in quizzes, but to my shame I don’t think I’d be able to identify Al’s chart-topping song even if I heard it. Time to right that wrong.


Well, what can I say, very much of its time and Al remained at the top spot for a further eight weeks so the only chart-topping artist of 1952. Al was born in Philadelphia to Italian immigrant parents and was inspired by the success of a close family friend, someone who had changed his name to Mario Lanzo!

Al moved to the UK after the success of Here In My Heart, as he’d got himself into a bit of a pickle with some other Italian Americans who shall remain nameless, but who like to offer ‘protection’ and wear sharp suits. He often appeared at the London Palladium and had another six hits over here in the early ’50s. He eventually managed to return to the US in 1958 but found it hard to re-establish himself after so long away, and with the arrival of rock and roll his style of music had suddenly become very dated.

I did say I had never knowingly listened to Here In My Heart before but I definitely knew of Al Martino as during my chart-obsessed years, he had a No. 5 hit on the UK Singles Chart with this song, Spanish Eyes. I remember well writing his name in my chart listings notebook in July 1973, and on the cardboard insert of the cassette tape where I very illegally recorded the Top 20.

Spanish Eyes by Al Martino:


Spanish Eyes had first been recorded in 1965 after lyrics were added to a tune by German orchestra leader Bert Kaempfert, originally titled Moon Over Naples. It first charted in the UK in 1970 before returning as a big hit in 1973. I didn’t really question it at the time as the chart in those days was full of left-field offerings (it wasn’t all glam rock, we also had Benny Hill, Lieutenant Pigeon and Peters & Lee hitting the top spot!).

But what could it have been that prompted Al Martino’s return to form? Well, it didn’t take me long to find out it was Al who played the character Johnny Fontane in the 1972 film The Godfather, as a ‘mob-associated’ singer (not in any way inspired by Frank Sinatra of course) looking for help from his ‘godfather’ in securing a movie role. After a few false starts we end up with the very memorable bed scene, where the studio-boss woke up next to the severed head of his prize stallion. Needless to say, Johnny did then get the role.

Al with Marlon Brando in The Godfather

I think most of us of a certain age will recognise the Godfather theme music, but I hadn’t realised until now that Al also recorded a version with lyrics called Speak Softly, Love. It was the version by Andy Williams that became the most popular but fitting to have Al, the Italian American who was actually in the film, record it too.


So, ‘What’s It All About?’ – There is so much I could have written about when celebrating 70 years of the UK Singles Chart, but best I think on this occasion to stick with the artist who kick-started the whole thing. It was Percy Dickins of the New Musical Express who first gathered a pool of 52 stores willing to report sales figures – 52 stores in 1952, for 52 weekly charts published annually. How fitting.

It has of course got an awful lot more complicated since those early days. During my chart-obsessed years it was always the British Market Research Bureau who compiled the weekly chart, the one I listened to religiously (no pun intended) on a Sunday evening from 5pm until the big reveal at 7pm. I have to admit I no longer peruse the charts and if I ever do I have absolutely no idea who 90% of the artists on them are. It’s all got a lot more complicated what with streaming and the downloading of music. The songs are somehow not as precious as they used to be, and a lot more disposable.

Unusually for me I do recognise most of the artists on this week’s Official UK Singles Chart – Yeah me!

I still have some of my mum’s old shellac 78s from 70 years ago. I doubt if many of today’s youngsters will have a physical copy of anything they listened to in 2022 in 70 years’ time. Then again, the way things are going they will probably have bigger things to worry about, but I would wager our descendants will still listen to music, and have songs that become favourites above all others, songs that eventually top their 2092 charts.

Until next time…

Here In My Heart Lyrics
(Song by Bill Borrelli/Lou Levinson/Pat Genaro)

Here in my heart I’m alone, I’m so lonely
Here in my heart I just yearn for you only
Here in my arms I long to hold you
Hold you so near, ever close to my heart
So, darling

Say that you care, take these arms I give gladly
Surely you know I need your love so badly
Here is my heart, my life, and my all, dear
Please be mine and stay here in my heart

Say that you care, take these arms I give gladly
Surely you know I need your love so badly
Here is my heart, my life, and my all, dear
Please be mine and stay here in my heart

Months Of The Year In Song: Orange October

Welcome to this second instalment of my new series, where I plan to share songs relating to all 12 months of the year. I didn’t start in January but that’s ok as the months just keep rolling by in a continual loop, or so I thought until last month’s discovery that the calendar year used to have 10 months with a gap for an “unorganised winter”, which is why October is confusingly named after the Latin word for eight. In time that got sorted out and we now have the calendar we are familiar with where October is the 10th month, and what a month it is for those of us who live in the Northern Hemisphere. I don’t know about you but over the last couple of weeks I have been privileged to witness the leaves changing colour all around my neighbourhood and what a treat it’s been.

Last month in the comments boxes there was a bit of debate about September being the first month of autumn, as although meteorologically it is, it still feels like the tail end of summer (again I’m referring to those of us who live in the Northern Hemisphere – sorry if I’m alienating my Southern Hemisphere followers). But October is ‘proper autumn’ and what with the colour of the leaves, our warm woollen clothes back on rotation and Halloween making its presence felt at the end of the month, a very orange one indeed in terms of the hues.

But this is a music blog so where are the songs? Last month it became obvious that September songs are quite nostalgic and melancholy, but mainly because the month’s name rhymes with the word ‘remember’. October doesn’t rhyme with much so by default there are less songs that mention it. No matter, some great suggestions were put forward in the comments boxes last time, so I still have plenty of material.

First of all, both Lynchie and The Swede came up with this song for inclusion, October Song by the Incredible String Band. It wasn’t until I watched a recent documentary about the history of popular music in Scotland that I discovered this band. All the usual suspects were included, from Lulu to the Proclaimers but the Incredible String Band were new to me as from a bit before my time and not the kind of band that would have ever popped up on prime time telly when I was growing up. But despite sounding as if they had San Francisco origins, they actually hailed from Edinburgh, and were really successful during the period 1966 to 1974. As you will hear, they were pioneers of psychedelic folk and by fusing a wide variety of traditional music styles and instruments, helped develop world music. October Song was from their first album released in 1966 and it certainly is full of the imagery of autumn. Beautiful in its way but maybe not my thing.

The fallen leaves that jewel the ground
They know the art of dying
And leave with joy their glad gold hearts
In the scarlet shadows lying


Another suggestion came in from Rol who offered up October Swimmer by JJ72. The period that gets mentioned least around here is the turn of the millennium, as I think I was just so busy working, and being a mum to a small child. This could explain how I have absolutely no memory of this song or band at all despite the fact they did really well with it in 2000 and appeared on ToTP. No imagery of autumn this time just quite bleak lyrics, so thanks, but again not really my thing. The band was from Dublin and lead singer and songwriter Mark Greaney (he of the somewhat unusual voice) for a time lived next door to Phil Lynott of Thin Lizzy. Wonder if the young Mark had been inspired to get into music by Phil?

The splash of October swimmers
The cheers of Helsinki winners
My barbed bones of futility
Leaking marrow of ability


Another new discovery in this next clip and this time it came from Darcy. Here are his own words:

“Regarding October songs the only one that immediately comes to mind is Outubro by Azymuth. The album’s title track is very relaxing and fits the northern hemisphere September and early October vibe very well. There are no words, which you may want, and Azymuth are a Southern Hemisphere band which may mean they are going for a Spring feel, but I think it works for us Northerners too.”

Going a bit left field with this one, and an instrumental, but it follows on nicely from my last post which featured Sérgio Mendes & Brasil ’66. Azymuth are also from Brazil and are a jazz-funk trio that formed in 1973. Outubro is Portuguese for October, and as this series of songs relates to months of the year, not seasons, quite appropriate to include it. Very mellow and pretty like the theme music to many a ’70s television drama.


The final suggestion I’m going to include came from C of Sun-Dried Sparrows fame. She had done a bit of research and found something by Amy Winehouse called October Song. I too found that one but hard to work out if it has any connection to the month. Here’s what C came up with:

Amy Winehouse had a track called October Song which was apparently written in memory of her pet canary… or was it about her use of marijuana? … both have been suggested!”

Sadly, we will now never know, and it can be hard to watch clips of the supremely talented Amy looking so healthy when we now know she only lived another seven years after this was filmed. Tragic, but like watching something in slo-mo, we could almost see it coming.


To be honest I’m not entirely sold on any of the above, but they do fit the remit of this series so happy to include them. Something that doesn’t fit the remit at all is this song by Bobby (Boris) Pickett and the Crypt-Kickers but as Halloween is almost upon us, time for a little Monster Mash I feel. This is the kind of song that popped up on Ed (Stewpot) Stewart’s Junior Choice when I was growing up and actually reached the No. 3 spot on the UK Singles Chart in 1973. Bobby Pickett co-wrote Monster Mash with Leonard Capizzi in May 1962. The song was a spoof on the dance crazes popular at the time, including the Twist and the Mashed Potato, which inspired the title. The song also featured Bobby’s impersonations of veteran horror stars Boris Karloff and Bela Lugosi. This must be one of the few novelty records I haven’t tired of as I still find it quite good fun. Maybe just me though?

Monster Mash by Bobby (Boris) Pickett and the Crypt-Kickers:


So, ‘What’s It All About?’ – October is not it seems a month that lends itself to the writing of songs. There were plenty to choose from for September but kind of all over the place this time, what with psychedelic folk, alternative rock and jazz-funk putting in an appearance. Not all the lyrics even mention the month and only one song mentions nature and the falling of leaves.

For me, October is all about the falling leaves and the spectacular colour show natures gives us, but I suppose if you are a city dweller, the month might not conjure up those images. For some, October is all about Halloween, which isn’t a big deal for us nowadays but at DD’s abode she still likes to put up spooky decorations and invite friends over for a themed party. Why I decided to include that old favourite of a song.


Hopefully November will turn out to be a bit more inspirational when it comes to the writing of songs. As ever, your suggestions will be invaluable and gratefully received.

Until next time…

Monster Mash Lyrics
(Song by Bobby Pickett/Leonard Capizzi)

I was working in the lab, late one night
When my eyes beheld an eerie sight
For my monster from his slab, began to rise
And suddenly to my surprise

He did the mash, he did the monster mash
The monster mash, it was a graveyard smash
He did the mash, it caught on in a flash
He did the mash, he did the monster mash

From my laboratory in the castle east
To the master bedroom where the vampires feast
The ghouls all came from their humble abodes
To get a jolt from my electrodes

They did the mash, they did the monster mash
The monster mash, it was a graveyard smash
They did the mash, it caught on in a flash
They did the mash, they did the monster mash

The zombies were having fun
The party had just begun
The guests included Wolfman
Dracula, and his son

The scene was rockin’, all were digging the sounds
Igor on chains, backed by his baying hounds
The coffin-bangers were about to arrive
With their vocal group, ‘The Crypt-Kicker Five’

They played the mash, they played the monster mash
The monster mash, it was a graveyard smash
They played the mash, it caught on in a flash
They played the mash, they played the monster mash

Out from his coffin, Drac’s voice did ring
Seems he was troubled by just one thing
Opened the lid and shook his fist and said
“Whatever happened to my Transylvania Twist?”

It’s now the mash, it’s now the monster mash
The monster mash, and it’s a graveyard smash
It’s now the mash, it caught on in a flash
It’s now the mash, it’s now the monster mash

Now everything’s cool, Drac’s a part of the band
And my Monster Mash is the hit of the land
For you, the living, this mash was meant too
When you get to my door, tell them Boris sent you

Then you can mash, then you can monster mash
The monster mash, and do my graveyard smash
Then you can mash, you will catch on in a flash
Then you can mash, then you can monster mash

Wah-ooh, argh, monster mash, wah-ooh
Easy, Igor, you impetuous young boy
Argh, mash good, mm, argh
Monster mash, wah-ooh, monster mash, wah-ooh

Months Of The Year In Song: Sad September

I can’t believe I’ve reached the age I have, without noticing the names given to the last four months of the year come from the Latin words for seven, eight, nine and ten: Septem, Octo, Novem and Decem. It’s so obvious now but of course at first glance it makes no sense as we have 12 months in our calendar and those months find themselves sitting at ninth, tenth, eleventh and twelfth positions. That would be because the first calendar was a Roman one, and they liked the decimal system of doing things in tens. Their calendar year started in March but of course the summer and winter months would soon become misplaced so additional days belonging to no particular month were added as an “unorganised winter”, allowing things (nature) to restore to their proper place.


In time the Julian and then Gregorian calendars took over which included January and February, and the introduction of an extra day every four years (a leap year) to more closely approximate the 365.2422-day solar year determined by the Earth’s revolution around the Sun. The mathematically astute amongst you will notice that every so often another adjustment has to be made to keep things in line, but the last time that happened was in the year 1900 and the next time it’ll happen will be the year 2100, so not going to be during my lifetime.

But why am I rabbiting on about calendars? Well, I had prewarned you I intended to start a new series featuring songs relating to months of the year and despite this month having not turned out as I had expected here in the UK, what with the passing of our monarch, there is still time to list the great suggestions put forward for September. As I’ve already written about the Earth, Wind & Fire song September as part of my Wheel of the Year in Song series (link here), I’ll concentrate on new finds.

The first song I’m going to include is September Gurls by Big Star, that suggestion put forward by both Charity Chic and C from Sun Dried Sparrows. This is a new song for me, and to be honest, until I saw the band pop up on some of the other more serious music blogs, I had always assumed Big Star were a pop outfit, lumping them in with Big Fun and Five Star! My bad, but thanks guys for drawing my attention to a band from my favourite era who are very much in my wheelhouse. This song often talked about by fans as “the greatest number-one song that never charted”.


The next suggestion comes from Khayem who is a relatively new follower of this blog but his recent comments have been much appreciated. We could probably include this one again in 11 months time because of the title, but here is August & September by The The. Powerful lyrics there from Matt Johnson.


Another relatively new follower to this blog is Lizza, who is the same age as me and seems to have led a bit of a parallel life, enjoying the same songs in similar contexts. She first mentioned these two suggestions last year when I wrote a post about the Autumnal Equinox and Harvest Moon, which happened to coincide that year. Here are her own words:

“I love September Song, J P Cooper’s 2017 tale of teen romance, and also a much earlier September Song, first recorded by Walter Huston in 1938. It was one of my mum’s favourite songs – it was featured in a 1950s film, September Affair, which she saw on one of her first visits to the cinema after she moved to London to begin her career as a teacher … The singer admits that he’s lost a tooth, and is a little lame – but on the plus side: “I have a little money and I have a little fame”. September Song has been recorded by many other artists since Walter Huston, from Frank Sinatra to Jeff Lynne, but I think they all leave out the reference to the lost tooth and the lameness!”

A couple of great September songs there and the first one takes me right back to my teenage years. Both sad songs however as many that mention the month of September invariably are.



To finish off I’m going to share a couple of songs from opposite ends of the spectrum. The first by Green Day and the second by Julie London who made an entire album of songs, each of them featuring a different month of the year. The Green Day song was an ode to the songwriter’s father, who died in the month of September. Julie’s song is a standard and has been recorded by many others, but again a sad song, this time about nostalgia (first shared by CC who liberated the album from one of the many fine charity shops in his locale and created a whole series out of it!).

Wake Me Up When September Ends by Green Day:

September In The Rain by Julie London:


So, ‘What’s It All About?’ – I always feel a bit sad when we hit September and it seems I’m not alone as the month does seem to be a bit of a metaphor for the passing of time and the end of things (for those of us who live in the Northern Hemisphere). Others however, like my daughter, who enjoy wrapping up in their winter woollies and sitting around roaring fires, would beg to differ.

Whatever camp you fall into, there certainly seem to be plenty of songs out there featuring the month of September. Will there be as many about the month of October? Not sure yet, but hopefully some of you will be able to help me out. As ever, suggestions would be most welcome.

Until next time…


September In The Rain Lyrics
(Song by Al Dubin/Harry Warren)

The leaves of brown came tumbling down
Remember, in September, in the rain
The sun went out just like a dying ember
That September in the rain

To every word of love I heard you whisper
The raindrops seemed to play our sweet refrain
Though spring is here, to me it’s still September
That September in the rain

To every word of love I heard you whisper
The raindrops seemed to play our sweet refrain
Though spring is here, to me it is still September
That September in the rain
That September that brought the pain
That September in the rain

Alyson’s Archive #10 – Farewell Olivia Newton-John

I was away from home last week, meeting up with old friends of the same age. When we heard the news that Olivia Newton-John had died, we all felt a great sadness, not particularly because we were big fans but because she was part of our teenage years and not really that much older than us. Poor Olivia had been treated for the illness that finally took her life several times over the last 30 years, so in some ways she got more time than many others with the same diagnosis. She certainly put that time to good use becoming both an advocate for breast cancer research, and an activist for environmental and animal rights causes.

There weren’t many pinups of female music artists in the magazines I bought as a young teenager – they were all full of Donny Osmond, David Cassidy and the Bay City Rollers – but amazingly I found this one of Olivia in my box of teenage memorabilia, a box that’s provided a lot of material for this blog. I can’t be quite sure when that picture was taken but I’m guessing it’s from 1972/73 before she changed her hair to the long layered style that suited her so well. She was a regular throughout all four series of Cliff Richard’s prime time television show and families like mine would always tune in on a Saturday night. It wasn’t edgy entertainment and no boundaries were pushed, but for households who had probably only recently acquired colour sets, it was must-watch telly.

A pinup from FAN magazine

She was the golden girl with wholesome good looks, great hair and a fine voice. In the early ’70s she had hits in the UK with If Not For You, Banks of the Ohio and Take Me Home Country Roads. She was also chosen to represent the UK in the Eurovision Song Contest in 1974 with this very lacklustre song, Long Live Love, which even she herself admitted to not liking. She still came fourth however as back then we tended to do pretty well every year. Changed days (until this year of course). She looks as if she’s wearing her nightie and seems to be overcompensating for the poor song with her enthusiastic arm movements. A perfect example of how the contest was at that time though and nothing like the extravaganza it has now become. (And, as a fan of Eurovision it’s inevitable I would have had this song in my music library!)

Long Live Love by Olivia Newton-John:


Perhaps it was the ignominy of coming fourth in the contest that led to her wholeheartedly try her luck in the US and with the support of fellow Australian Helen Reddy ( who herself died only two years ago) she was soon the golden girl over there too, scoring several No. 1 hits on the Adult Contemporary Chart, one of them being I Honestly Love You. Again nothing edgy there and no boundaries pushed but Olivia was a ‘nice’ girl, who was never going to do anything to shock, ever. Or was she?

There can’t be many of us who have never heard of the 1978 film musical Grease, as it has become a bit of a cultural phenomenon. Set in late 1950s California, it follows the lives of 10 students as they navigate their final year of high school. It took a bit of persuasion, and a screen test, to convince her she could play a teenager, but eventually Olivia was cast as Sandy Olsson, the ‘nice girl’ who fell for ‘bad boy’ Danny Zuko, played by John Travolta. What is it with Olivia and nighties but here she is again dressed in one, singing Hopelessly Devoted to You from the film, a song that earned an Oscar nomination.

Hopelessly Devoted to You by Olivia Newton-John:


Ok, so Olivia is still the nice girl we are used to seeing on screen, dressed in her nightie, singing pleasant songs suited to the Adult Contemporary chart. What we didn’t expect was this, the scene that wrapped up the movie, after which she flies off into the sunset in a car called Greased Lightnin’ with aforementioned bad boy Danny Zuko. The nightie has gone, to be replaced by black skin-tight trousers (that she had to be sewn into every day of shooting), a black leather jacket, teased hair and red lipstick. This was not the Olivia we were used to seeing and she certainly set a lot of teenage boys’ pulses racing. It has been pointed out many times this last week that the plotline perhaps doesn’t stand the test of time and that it couldn’t be made the same way nowadays. They are right of course, but in 1978 I had just turned 18, and for me and my friends it was just a light-hearted movie full of great songs and dance routines that we didn’t take too seriously. For Olivia, You’re the one That I Want, made her a bit of a superstar.

You’re the One That I Want by John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John:


After the film Grease, Olivia adopted a slightly raunchier persona, even getting Physical, but just like with her ‘transformation’ in the film, I think we all knew that deep down she was still the same girl who used to appear on Saturday night telly with Cliff Richard. In 1980 they even recorded a duet together, Suddenly, for the film Xanadu. It has ridiculous lyrics (motions and oceans) but it’s a love song and I have always liked it, so a good clip to end with. Olivia was no longer the guest star in Cliff’s universe, the tables had turned and he was now a guest in hers.

Suddenly by Olivia Newton-John and Cliff Richard:


So, yet another of the artists I grew up with has left us. Farewell Olivia, the golden girl who sounds as if she truly was a beautiful person inside and out. She will be missed by all who knew her.


Until next time…

Suddenly Lyrics
(Song by John Farrar)

She walks in and I’m suddenly a hero
I’m taken in my hopes begin to rise
Look at me can’t you tell I’d be so
Thrilled to see the message in your eyes
You make it seem I’m so close to my dream
And then suddenly it’s all there

Suddenly the wheels are in motion
And I, I’m ready to sail any ocean
Suddenly I don’t need the answers
Cos I, I’m ready to take all my chances with you

How can I feel you’re all that matters
I’d rely on anything you say
I’ll take care that no illusions shatter
If you dare to say what you should say
You make it seem I’m so close to my dream
And then suddenly it’s all there

Suddenly the wheels are in motion
And I, I’m ready to sail any ocean
Suddenly I don’t need the answers
Cos I, I’m ready to take all my chances with you

Why do I feel so alive when you’re near
There’s no way any hurt can get thru
Longing to spend every moment of the day with you

Suddenly the wheels are in motion
And I, I’m ready to sail any ocean
Suddenly I don’t need the answers
Cos I, I’m ready to take all my chances with you

Missing Out On Festivals: There Could Have Been ‘Good Times’ at Belladrum

You know that feeling, the one you get when you know you really should be somewhere else having a whale of a time, but you dithered and missed out on the opportunity, leaving others to have all the fun. I’m having that feeling today as despite promising myself I would definitely go this year, if only for a day, it’s just not happened.

I’m talking about our local music festival, called the Belladrum Tartan Heart Festival (theme this year – Myths and Legends). It didn’t happen in 2020 or 2021 due to the pandemic, but it’s very much back on this year, and what a line-up. DD always used to go when she was younger and we acted as a taxi service taking her and her friends back and forth, sometimes even if they were camping. Nice to be able to pop home for a shower and dry out the wellies, especially if it was a wet and muddy year. Until recently I had been happy to leave the rigours of an open-air festival to the youngsters but I’m conscious of the fact I’m getting on a bit now (sad but true), and there may be few opportunities left for me to see some of these acts live.


But I did dither and here I am sitting at my computer instead. There were still day tickets left this week but I had guests arriving at the holiday hideaway, and the weather forecast was for rain. Needless to say I don’t now think it will rain, and despite being a dedicated host (remember my plans for ‘Alyson’s Highland Adventures’), who tells her guests she is available 24/7 to help out in any way, most of them rarely bother me once they’ve been handed the house keys and the Wi-Fi code.

So, next year there will be no dithering. I will block off all the calendars (and in my current life there are many) well in advance, and will be prepared for all-weathers. If anyone wants to join me, you know where to find me – there will even be an empty holiday hideaway for you to stay in. Of course next year there will be a totally different line-up but as the eagle-eyed amongst you might have spotted there are always a fair few very lively Scottish folk bands on the bill. All adds to the local flavour of the festival.

He’s certainly been busy this summer popping up at all sorts of outdoor events so I would have loved to see the legend that is Nile Rodgers perform live. Here is a clip of him from Glastonbury 2017, a set I remember watching on television and it certainly doesn’t feel like five years ago. (The pesky pandemic has played havoc with the timeline of our memories.)

Good Times by Chic:


It’s a long time since he’s affected the ‘chic’ sharp-suited look, apparently inspired by Bryan Ferry, but I do like his 21st century ‘street hippie’ look just as much. He’s probably going to be staying in one of our premier hotels tonight (no, not that one) – wonder if I could persuade Mr WIAA to hover around the foyer nursing a drink with me, just in case we get a chance to schmooze with him after his headline act performance. A long shot though, on both counts.

Another act on the bill I would have loved to see live are these guys from Iceland, Daði Freyr. They will always be remembered as the band who would have won the Eurovision Song Contest in 2020 had it not been cancelled, again due to the pandemic. No matter, they have made quite a name for themselves now anyway, and their dance routines have been copied many times on those social media platforms that feature short videos.


I really am going to have to get my act together aren’t I? Mr WIAA is not a particular fan of big open air concerts, as his middle-aged brain seems to no longer connect with his middle-aged bladder, reminding it that having no ‘facilities’ nearby really isn’t the end of the world! Too much information perhaps, but issues the youngsters don’t have to think about at all.

Time to start blocking off this same weekend in next year’s calendar I think. If I am still blogging this time next July, you will hopefully be reading about my exploits at Belladrum 2023. If not, feel free to give me a serious rollicking. No more missing out.

Until next time…

Good Times Lyrics
(Song by Nile Rodgers/Bernard Edwards)

Good times
These are the good times
Leave your cares behind
These are the good times

Good times
These are the good times
Our new state of mind
These are the good times

Happy days are here again
The time is right for making friends
Let’s get together, how ’bout a quarter to ten?
Come tomorrow, let’s all do it again

Boys will be boys, better let them have their toys
Girls will be girls, cute ponytails and curls
Must put an end to this stress and strife
I think I want to live the sporty life

Good times
These are the good times
Leave your cares behind
These are the good times

Good times
These are the good times
Our new state of mind
These are the good times

A rumor has it that it’s getting late
Time marches on, just can’t wait
The clock keeps turning, why hesitate?
You silly fool, you can’t change your fate

Let’s cut the rug, a little jive and jitterbug
We want the best, we won’t settle for less
Don’t be a drag, participate
Clams on the half shell and roller-skates, roller-skates

Good times
These are the good times
Leave your cares behind
These are the good times

A Bloggers Meet-Up In Edinburgh, The Selector and ‘On My Radio’

Last time, I wrote about the television drama Stranger Things, where a tear in the fabric of reality means the town of Hawkins, Indiana, is exposed to a hostile alternate reality after a local scientific facility inadvertently creates a portal. I do like a drama with alternate realities, but of course I didn’t ever expect to become part of one…, until last week!

Hawkins from Stranger Things – a bad alternate reality

But don’t be alarmed – the alternate reality I was exposed to wasn’t hostile in the slightest, it was merely a bunch of like-minded music bloggers finally getting together in the real world, in Edinburgh to be exact, as opposed to virtually in the comments boxes of our blogs.

Edinburgh with blogging buddies – a good alternate reality


I have recounted the story of why I started this blog many times so won’t bore you with it again, but suffice to say, I like sharing my thoughts, and I like rock and pop trivia – a blog merging those two themes would serve me well I thought. In time I found other music blogs, Jez’s A History of Dubious Taste was the first, and by contributing to the comments boxes over at his place I found more music bloggers who were kind enough to add me to their sidebars. I certainly didn’t anticipate this happening when I started this place, but over the years I have actually met up with a few of them, and after a lot of delays due to the pandemic a date was finally fixed in the calendar for me to meet up again with the lovely C from Sun-Dried Sparrows. We had met up three years earlier in London, which was written about here, but now it was maybe time to include those other bloggers who have also expressed an interest in meeting up in the real world.

And so it came to pass that six of us (and partners) spent a really enjoyable few days in Scotland’s capital city last week. As most of us use an alias for our blogs, there was still an element of virtual reality going on, but to be honest, going by anything but your blog name would just feel weird in such a scenario. C and I stayed at a perfectly comfortable chain hotel five minutes from Waverley (which was handy for me as I think I heavily overpacked), CC and his wife came through from Glasgow on the second day, The Swede made a bit of a holiday of it staying for the week, Martin came all the way up for a single day (which was much appreciated), and John Medd (who has never gone by an alias and was teased relentlessly about it – I’M JOHN MEDD!) and his wife were on their way to a family wedding in Moray, so a perfect stopping off point. Everyone had already met at least one person in the group before, and on that Venn diagram of blog sidebars, we all overlap, so although there were a few initial nerves (for myself and C at any rate), it all went really well. To those of you who couldn’t make it this time, maybe another time, another city?


Needless to say a fair few hostelries were visited which was another break from reality for me, as just not something I do much in my current life, but when on a bloggers summit an’ all that. One of the highlights of the few days came about because John had found a Wednesday afternoon Open Mic session, and we all met up to hear him perform some of his own material. The ‘Old Boys Network’ was really welcoming, and quite bemused I think to hear we were a bunch of music bloggers who had (in the main) never met before. Being the only person in the group not to go by an alias, I’m sure John won’t mind me sharing a picture and a link to his Soundcloud where you will find some of the songs he performed (Camberwick Green being my favourite). A really enjoyable afternoon.

But it wasn’t all eating, drinking and making merry, we all did our own thing for much of the day and as C had never visited Edinburgh before we did a lot of walking together over the few days. In fact it wasn’t until I came home and DD showed me how to work out how many steps I’d done on my phone, I realised just how much walking we had done. Up and down the Royal Mile a few times, along Princes Street a few times, out to Haymarket and in the other direction out to Holyrood Park, almost climbing Arthur’s Seat in the process (but cut off at the pass). The weather was warm but not too sunny, which was a blessing considering how hot it was in the south of the country last week.


But what is it I always say at around this point – this is a music blog, so where is the music? Well here’s a thought. At one point in proceedings the conversation turned to, ‘What was your favourite ever gig?’. Of course blind panic kicked in for me, as over the last few decades I’ve not been known to attend many. As it turned out I shouldn’t have worried, as nearly everyone picked one from when they were a late teenager. There must be something about that time in your life that heightens the senses to everything you experience, and as we get older those senses are sadly dulled. My favourite ‘gig’ (although I would still refer to it as a concert) was the 2 Tone Tour that came to Aberdeen when I was aged 19. I’ve written about it around here already and shared something from Madness that time, so perhaps time to give Pauline Black and The Selector a mention this time. Oh to still have that much energy.

On My Radio by The Selector:


On My Radio was The Selector’s biggest hit and reached the No. 8 spot on the UK Singles Chart in 1979, just around the time I went to see them, along with Madness and fellow Coventry-based band The Specials. What a time to be alive. Glad I had it up my sleeve as a ‘gig’ to remember.

So, ‘What’s It All About?’ – An odd song choice for a post about a bloggers get-together in historic Edinburgh, but then again, quite apt in a way. If I hadn’t been obsessed by listening to my little transistor radio as a teenager, I probably wouldn’t have got into chart music quite so much, and if I hadn’t got into chart music back then I wouldn’t have had as much to write about around here. You see where I’m going? Without the stories and songs written about in this blog I wouldn’t have like-minded followers and without those followers on my sidebar there would have been no ‘bloggers summit’.

As most of us still like to wear the blogger’s cloak of anonymity, I won’t share any of the pictures taken in Edinburgh, but they do exist, so who knows, maybe one day. As I said I didn’t expect to ever meet up with any of the people who visit this place, and whose blogs I also follow, but now that it’s happened (several times now), I see it as a wonderful upside to this hobby of ours. As for all the personal stuff I’ve shared around here, I’m now regretting some of it, but hey ho, the price you have to pay to venture through that tear between the virtual and real world. I would thoroughly recommend it.

Until next time…

On My Radio Lyrics
(Song by Neol Davies)

I bought my baby a red radio
He played it all day, a-go-go a-go-go
He liked to dance to it down in the streets
He said he loved me but he loved the beat

But when I switch on I rotate the dial
I could see it there driving him so wild
I bought my baby a red radio
He said he loved me but he had to go

It’s just the same old show on my radio
It’s just the same old show on my radio
It’s just the same old show on my radio
It’s just the same old show on my radio
On my radio, on my radio, on my radio

I bought my baby a red radio
He played it all day a-go-go a-go-go
He liked to dance to it down in the streets
He said he loved me but he loved the beat

It’s just the same old show on my radio
It’s just the same old show on my radio
It’s just the same old show on my radio
It’s just the same old show on my radio
On my radio on my radio on my radio

It’s just the same old show on my radio (I bought my baby a red radio)
It’s just the same old show on my radio (A red radio a-go-go a-go-go)
It’s just the same old show on my radio (A red radio I rotate the dial)
It’s just the same old show on my radio (A red radio driving him so wild)

It’s just the same old show on my radio (I bought my baby a red radio)
It’s just the same old show on my radio

‘We May Never Pass This Way Again’ – RIP Jim Seals

It’s become a bit of a thing in our house that rarely an hour, heck 10 minutes goes by, without me saying, ‘I’ve written about that song’. Yes, the songs I revisit around here are generally well-known classics that regularly pop up on mainstream radio, and on the soundtracks to television dramas. Every now and again a lesser known song I’ve written about pops up however, and that happened the other day when I heard We May Never Pass This Way Again by Seals & Crofts on the radio, a song that was new to me around five years ago and one I immediately fell in love with. It wasn’t until the folowing day that I realised it had been played because one half of the duo, Jim Seals, had died, or passed as we euphemistically like to call it.

Regulars around here will know that I’m a bit of a fan of 1970s soft rock and Seals and Crofts fitted that genre nicely. It wasn’t until I delved into them a bit more that I discovered all sorts of connections to other songs written about earlier on in this blog. It was a fun post to write so I’m going to share it again. Jim was 80 when he died, so not one of those tragic departures like we’ve had of late, but of course for his family, friends and fans he will be sadly missed. RIP Jim Seals.

Seals and Crofts, England Dan and ‘We May Never Pass This Way Again

First published 25th July 2017

Early on in my days of blogging, long before I kind of lost the plot as to what it was all supposed to be about (that would be a nostalgic journey through the tracks of my years), I covered the soft rock classic I’d Really Love To See You Tonight by England Dan and John Ford Coley (link here). My previous post before I had a break for the summer featured Summer Breeze by The Isley Brothers which has always been a favourite of mine, but, whilst doing a bit of research as to its provenance I made a wonderful discovery. The song was not indeed written by the Isley Brothers as I had always thought but by the writing duo Seals and Crofts, Jim Seals being the older brother of Dan Seals, or England Dan as he became known because of his great love for the Beatles.

Although from Texas, that nickname was given to him by big brother Jim after he briefly affected an English (or was it Liverpudlian?) accent. And this is what my blog was always supposed to be about – finding out the backstory to the songs and artists of my youth. There is so much more information out there now (ok some might be a bit dubious) but back in the day, all we had was Jackie magazine and a few more worthy publications – we lived in blissful ignorance, which was perhaps a good thing in light of a few revelations of late, but as you may have guessed I am a bit of a rock & pop ‘facts and figures’ aficionado, so for me, this brave new digital world is just perfect.

So, what follows on from Summer Breeze? Well by good fortune I heard a song on the car radio the other day by none other than Seals and Crofts and was immediately smitten by it – Like little brother’s output, the music of Jim Seals and his singing partner Darrell ‘Dash’ Crofts, fitted nicely into the soft rock camp which now seems to have become a bit of a derogatory term but when it comes to rock I have always preferred mine to be of the soft rather than the hard variety anyway (and my listening to be easy as opposed to difficult). These genres and labels we give music truly baffle me as at the end of the day there is music of great quality and music that really is a bit rubbish, but there is also music that just gives lots of pleasure, to lots of people, and this song does that for me. The Carpenters whom I featured recently (link here) also came from the soft rock camp and the passage of time, and Karen’s tragic death, seems to have erased any preconceptions many had about their output. When it comes to music of quality, it doesn’t get much better than The Carpenters.

We May Never Pass This Way Again by Seals and Crofts:

The song We May Never Pass This Way (Again), from 1973, didn’t ever enter the UK Singles Chart but it did reach No. 21 on the Billboard Hot 100. I can honestly say I don’t remember ever having listened to Seals and Crofts before (neither can Mr WIAA) but theirs was very much the kind of music that was all pervasive during my teenage years. Originating in southern California, soft rock was a style that largely featured acoustic guitars and slow-to-mid tempos – simple, melodic songs with big, lush productions. I very much doubt if we called it soft rock back then but when listening to the radio from the early ’70s onward much of what we heard was by bands and artists such as Anne Murray, John Denver, Linda Ronstadt, Rod Stewart, Carole King, Cat Stevens, James Taylor, Toto, England Dan & John Ford Coley, the Eagles, Chicago, America and the reformed Fleetwood Mac whose ‘Rumours’ was the best-selling album of the decade. In the late ’70s, prominent soft rock acts included Boz Scaggs, Michael McDonald, Christopher Cross and Captain & Tennille. A lot of albums were brought in to school and exchanged amongst friends for the very naughty practice of home-taping. Good to know such illicit activity doesn’t happen today!

Since we are featuring big brother Jim’s song in this post, I can’t leave little brother Dan out, so here is another soft rock delight, this time from the late ’70s. Love Is The Answer was written by Todd Rundgren and was a hit for England Dan and John Ford Coley in 1979. Although I loved this soundtrack to my teenage years, we weren’t really awash with visuals in those days and YouTube was still a few decades away. This sounds really shallow but I am quite glad now as somehow these lush love-songs sound better when you don’t think of the moustachioed pair who sang them. My bedroom walls at the time may have had an array of good-looking boys on them, but when it just came down to the lyrics, who wouldn’t want ‘a ticket to paradise’?


Until next time….

We May Never Pass This Way (Again) Lyrics
(Song by Jim Seals/Dash Crofts)

Life, so they say, is but a game and we let it slip away.
Love, like the Autumn sun, should be dyin’ but it’s only just begun.
Like the twilight in the road up ahead, they don’t see just where we’re goin’.
And all the secrets in the Universe, whisper in our ears

And all the years will come and go, take us up, always up.
We may never pass this way again. We may never pass this way again.
We may never pass this way again.
Dreams, so they say, are for the fools and they let ’em drift away.

Peace, like the silent dove, should be flyin’ but it’s only just begun.
Like Columbus in the olden days, we must gather all our courage.
Sail our ships out on the open sea. Cast away our fears
And all the years will come and go, and take us up, always up.

We may never pass this way again. We may never pass this way again.
We may never pass this way again.
So, I want to laugh while the laughin’ is easy. I want to cry if it makes it worthwhile.
We may never pass this way again, that’s why I want it with you.

‘Cause, you make me feel like I’m more than a friend.
Like I’m the journey and you’re the journey’s end.

We may never pass this way again, that’s why I want it with you, baby.
We may never pass this way again. We may never pass this way again.
We may never pass this way again. We may never pass this way again

Big Voice, Big Performances, Big Personality: RIP Meat Loaf

Well, after writing a couple of themed posts, I fully intended to use this week’s effort to pay tribute to some of the people from the world of film and music we’ve already lost this year. First there was Sidney Poitier, then Ronnie Spector, and last week R. Dean Taylor, all of whom have appeared around here over the years in some guise. But I’m a music blogger of a certain vintage and the artists I grew up listening to are inevitably now of an even older vintage and we are losing them at an alarming rate. Few of us yesterday could have failed to notice who else has just been added to the growing list of ‘those we have lost in 2022’.

RIP Meat Loaf 1947-2022

He hailed from a big state, and was a big man with a big voice who gave big performances. Marvin Lee Aday is not a name many of us would have been familiar with but when you mention the name Meat Loaf, all that changes. The amount of time dedicated to him on mainstream news channels yesterday proved that. The last tribute I wrote was about another man from Texas, Mike Nesmith. He was primarily a singer who became an actor. Meat Loaf was primarily an actor who became a singer, and it showed. Like long-term collaborator Jim Steinman (who sadly died last year) he had a background in musical theatre, so when they came to making their first album together, Bat Out of Hell, it was very much in that vein – a tough sell to record companies in the mid-1970s.

Bat Out of Hell by Meat Loaf:


Considering it was such a tough sell, it’s remarkable to think that it’s now clocked up over 500 weeks on the UK Albums Chart and sold over 43 million copies worldwide. (I have a feeling those numbers will now rise for a time as always happens after the sudden death of a much-loved artist).

We often go in circles around here and it wasn’t lost on me that my original plan to write about Ronnie Spector today could possibly have led to Bat Out of Hell anyway. Working in the opposite direction, The Meat Loaf album is often compared to the music of Bruce Springsteen, and in particular his album Born to Run. Bruce’s album is often noted for it’s Phil Spector-like ‘Wall of Sound’ arrangements and production, used so effectively when recording Ronnie’s albums with the Ronettes. Others may choose to disagree, but I’m buying that connection.

Two Out of Three Ain’t Bad by Meat Loaf:


The album cover for Bat Out of Hell is a very familiar one to most of us of a certain age as even if we didn’t own it ourselves (I never did), we had friends who would have done. Here is where the ‘memory’ part of this post comes in. Back in 1978 when the album was unleashed on an unsuspecting nation, I had just finished school and moved into the city to start life as a student. The familiar routines had all gone, the school boyfriend and I had parted company for a time, and many of my friends had moved elsewhere in the country. Some thrive on such new beginnings, but I’m not ashamed to admit that I didn’t, and was a bit of a lost soul that first term.

By good fortune, my across-the-corridor neighbour in our halls of residence came from a village only about 10 miles from where I grew up. By a quirk of geography she had gone to a different secondary school but it turned out she knew a lot of people from my village and we soon became friends, always heading to the dining hall together for meals (very scary to enter that cavernous hall on your own – some risked starvation as they avoided it completely). When we weren’t studying we often visited each other’s rooms and although I had brought my cassette player from home, she had her record player and the album Bat Out of Hell. We listened to it often and I seem to remember the combination of Meat Loaf, a bit too much Leibfraumilch, and falling down the steps to our corridor one evening, led to a trip to A&E for me the following morning. It turned out to be just a sprain, but I felt bad, as although my exams had already finished, my new friend (who came with me) had one that afternoon. I think she did ok however as she spent much of her time in the hospital waiting area revising.

Paradise by the Dashboard Light by Meat Loaf with Karla DeVito:


Music wise, I’ve barely scratched the surface here but despite not making any money from that first album (a common theme it seems for 1970s artists), Meat Loaf continued to make new albums for decades to come, so made up for it later in life. There were fallings out with Jim Steinman who understandably felt as the creative force behind the albums he was being overlooked, but fortunately they made up down the line. The pair of them will possibly be up there right now, contemplating Bat Out of Hell IV. (A bit of a contradiction in terms!)

Meat Loaf and Jim Steinman

As for me, the loss of Meat Loaf will not affect me greatly, but as ever you feel for their family and friends who will miss them immensely. Is it because we are all getting older ourselves that we start to wonder when we will be at that age when never a week goes by without losing someone from our personal lives. It’s getting closer all the time and things I had never contemplated when I started this blog only six years ago (wills and pensions) have started to rear their heads.

When we lose someone from the world of music however, we can’t help but remember what we were doing when they released their seminal album, and I have enjoyed revisiting that time when my new friend and I were 18-year-old freshers, and a bit wet behind the ears. The album was played at many a party that year (when we plucked up courage to go) but I will remember it most from those evenings spent in her student room – Haven’t seen her for nearly 40 years so perhaps time to visit ‘the socials’ and see what she’s up to.

Until next time… RIP Meat Loaf.

Bat Out Of Hell Lyrics
(Song by Jim Steinman)

The sirens are screaming and the fires are howling
Way down in the valley tonight.
There’s a man in the shadows with a gun in his eye
And a blade shining, oh, so bright.
There’s evil in the air and there’s thunder in sky,
And a killer’s on the bloodshot streets.
Oh, and down in the tunnel where the deadly are rising,
Oh, I swear I saw a young boy down in the gutter,
He was starting to foam in the heat.

Oh, baby, you’re the only thing in this whole world,
That’s pure and good and right.
And wherever you are and wherever you go,

There’s always gonna be some light.
But I gotta get out,
I gotta break it out now,
Before the final crack of dawn.
So we gotta make the most of our one night together.
When it’s over you know,
We’ll both be so alone.

Like a bat out of hell
I’ll be gone when the morning comes.
When the night is over
Like a bat out of hell
I’ll be gone-gone-gone.
Like a bat out of hell
I’ll be gone when the morning comes.
But when the day is done, and the sun goes down,
And the moonlight’s shining through,
Then like a sinner before the gates of heaven,
I’ll come crawling on back to you.

I’m gonna hit the highway like a battering ram
On a silver black phantom bike.
When the metal is hot and the engine is hungry,
And we’re all about to see the light.
Nothing ever grows in this rotting old hole.
And everything is stunted and lost.
And nothing really rocks
And nothing really rolls
And nothing’s ever worth the cost.

And I know that I’m damned if I never get out,
And maybe I’m damned if I do,
But with every other beat I’ve got left in my heart,
You know I’d rather be damned with you.

Well, if I gotta be damned you know I wanna be damned
Dancing through the night with you.
Well, if I gotta be damned you know I wanna be damned—
Gotta be damned, you know I wanna be damned—
Gotta be damned, you know I wanna be damned
Dancing through the night—
Dancing through the night—
Dancing through the night with you.

Oh, baby, you’re the only thing in this whole world,
That’s pure and good and right.
And wherever you are and wherever you go,
There’s always gonna be some light.
But I gotta get out,
I gotta break it out now,
Before the final crack of dawn.
So we gotta make the most of our one night together.
When it’s over you know
We’ll both be so alone.

Like a bat out of hell
I’ll be gone when the morning comes.
When the night is over
Like a bat out of hell
I’ll be gone gone gone.
Like a bat out of hell
I’ll be gone when the morning comes.
But when the day is done and the sun goes down,
And the moonlight’s shining through,
Then like a sinner before the gates of heaven,
I’ll come crawling on back to you.
Then like a sinner before the gates of heaven,
I’ll come crawling on back to you.

I can see myself tearing up the road
Faster than any other boy has ever gone.
And my skin is raw but my soul is ripe.
No one’s gonna stop me now,
I’m gonna make my escape.
But I can’t stop thinking of you,
And I never see the sudden curve until it’s way too late.

And I never see the sudden curve ’til it’s way too late.

Then I’m dying at the bottom of a pit in the blazing sun.
Torn and twisted at the foot of a burning bike.
And I think somebody somewhere must be tolling a bell.
And the last thing I see is my heart
Still beating,
Breaking out of my body and flying away,
Like a bat out of hell.

Then I’m dying at the bottom of a pit in the blazing sun.
Torn and twisted at the foot of a burning bike.
And I think somebody somewhere must be tolling a bell.
And the last thing I see is my heart
Still beating, still beating,
Breaking out of my body and flying away,
Like a bat out of hell.
Like a bat out of hell.
Like a bat out of hell.
Oh, like a bat out of hell!
Like a bat out of hell!
Like a bat out of hell!

Alyson’s Archive #9 – David Bowie, Six Years Gone and ‘Sorrow’

Welcome to this occasional series where I share the contents of my archive box of teenage memorabilia. I always knew these random bits and pieces would come in handy some day, but little did I think back in the 1970s, they would find their way onto such a thing as a ‘blog’, courtesy of that as yet unthought of invention, the world wide web.

I got a little badge this week from the WordPress people as it was my blog’s 6th birthday. It’s not difficult to forget when that anniversary comes around as I posted my first set of ‘memories’ the day we heard of the death of David Bowie. Six years already though – Hard to believe, on either score. Time perhaps to delve back into my box of teenage memorabilia and it didn’t take long to find something of interest.

Back in 1973 I often bought pop magazines aimed at teenage girls and one of these was Hit (note the star instead of the dot – an often used graphics ploy back in those days). What a diverse group of artists (and tennis players!) mentioned on the cover, but we were also invited to David Bowie’s exclusive party which was apparently being held to mark his farewell to pop performances. Well, we all know how that turned out, but in July ’73 he had abruptly retired the character Ziggy Stardust during a show at London’s Hammersmith Odeon, so maybe more to do with temporary burnout. To quote David, “Ziggy wouldn’t leave me alone for years. That was when it all started to go sour. My whole personality was affected. It became very dangerous. I really did have doubts about my sanity.”

Does anyone recognise the woman with David?

I love reading these snippets from the past as they are exactly that, primary sources, written at the time. Interesting to hear who was at the party and of the marriages that were in place at the time. Mick Jagger had come out top on the dance floor apparently which has held him in good stead as he is still performing those moves on stage today. On the menu were such culinary delights as smoked salmon, turkey and strawberries and cream – We were easily pleased back then it seems as the era of the ‘foodie’ and the celebrity chef was still a long way off.

1973 was an incredibly busy year for David Bowie and at one point he had six albums concurrently in the UK Albums Chart. It had been ‘his time’. Got me to thinking about how I consumed this wealth of Bowie goodness back then and it didn’t take long for me to remember that my 1972 Christmas present (from Santa) was a Murphy cassette recorder – For soon-to-be-teens like myself, the affordability of these machines changed our lives. When visiting some of the music blogs written by Americans, like Rich from KamerTunesBlog, I am constantly amazed how many albums they owned by the time they were out of single digits. As a family we certainly weren’t poor, but my pocket money at that time wouldn’t have extended beyond the odd single, or a compilation album bought with birthday or Christmas money. Having my own cassette player/recorder (emphasis on the recorder) changed all that, and unbelievably I still have the operating instructions for it in my box of memorabilia. By the time we got to September 1973 when his ‘farewell party’ (got to laugh, but not like a gnome) took place, I would have been able to tape four of his chart singles from that year already.

But as we all know, he didn’t retire from pop performances in 1973 but continued to reinvent himself every few years, always coming up with a new persona and style of music. I’ve done a fair bit of reading about him this week and am starting to wonder if we will ever see his like again as he was also an actor of renown, an artist and so much more.

Got me to thinking about the many albums he made during the period 1969 to 1984 when I would have been following his music more than I would have done in his later years. Would I be able to put them in order of release if I tested myself. Here they are in a random layout – How would you do? (Answer in the Postscript.)

But my goodness we’ve come a long way with this one and still no song. Since the magazine article above was from 1973 I think it’ll have to be something from that year. As I’ve already shared The Jean Genie and Life On Mars? on the blog, here is Sorrow from later on in 1973, taken from the Pinups album featuring songs by British bands from the 1960s that influenced David as a teenager. The song was first recorded by the McCoys in 1965, and then by the Merseys in 1966. David’s version reached the No. 3 spot on the UK Singles Chart in Oct 1973. If you watch the clip to the end, there’s a bit of a funny out-take.

Sorrow by David Bowie:


What’s your favourite album of those shown above? As ever, I’d love to hear from you.

Until next time…

Sorrow Lyrics
(Song by Richard Gottehrer/Jerry Goldstein/Bob Feldman)

With your long blonde hair and your eyes of blue
The only thing I ever got from you
Was sorrow sorrow
You acted funny
Trying to spend my money
You’re out there playing your high-class games of sorrow sorrow

You never do what you know you ought to
Something tells me you’re a Devil’s daughter
Sorrow, sorrow
Ah, ah, ah

I tried to find her
Cause I can’t resist her
(I tried to find her)
I never knew just how much I missed her sorrow sorrow

With your long blonde hair and your eyes of blue
The only thing I ever got from you
Was sorrow sorrow

Oh-oh-oh-oh
Oh-oh-oh, oh-oh

With your long blonde hair
I couldn’t sleep last night
With your long blonde hair

Ah, ah, ah
Ah, ah, ah, oh, yeah
Ah, ah, ah
Ah, ah, ah, oh, yeah

Postscript:

Easy for Bowie fans but for the rest of us here is the order of David’s studio album releases.

M. David Bowie (1969)
I. The Man Who Sold the World (1970)
N. Hunky Dory (1971)
H. The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars (1972)
I. Aladdin Sane (1973)
D. Pin Ups (1973)
K. Diamond Dogs (1974)
J. Young Americans (1975)
O. Station to Station (1976)
B. Low (1977)
F. “Heroes” (1977)
A. Lodger (1979)
C. Scary Monsters (and Super Creeps) (1980)
E. Let’s Dance (1983)
G. Tonight (1984)

For any of you who also remember with great fondness the analogue world of cassette recorders, here are some pages from my little manual of operating instructions. Happy days.

Aretha, Clarence and Muscle Shoals: Another Special Place In Time

A new year and a renewed vigour to find out more about the music that’s accompanied me through life. In 2020, I finally got round to pinning down Laurel Canyon on the map. I’d known about it as a place for years, and of how it became a hotbed of creativity for those musicians who went to live there in the late 1960s, but I’d never taken the time to investigate the geography of it. The special place I’m going to pin down this time, is Muscle Shoals.

Strangely enough, although I’d often heard of Muscle Shoals as the place where musicians gravitated to whenever they wanted to create a bit of rhythm and blues magic, it hadn’t clicked that the spelling is not the one used for the shellfish. Anything linked to the word shoal must surely be fishy related and coastal I thought, but no, Muscle Shoals is a smallish town (called a city in the US) in the far north-west corner of Alabama. It does sit on the Tennessee River however and early settlers did find a shallow area where mussels and clams were gathered. Before the distinct spelling for the shellfish came about, they simply called the place Muscle Shoals.

The first film I went to see back at our local cinema after a pandemic-enforced break of 18 months, was Respect, the Aretha Franklin biopic. I learnt so much more about her from watching it, and now understand how she became the Queen of Soul. None of that might have happened however if she’d not made her way down to Muscle Shoals at a crucial juncture in her career.

Rick Hall, Producer/Engineer and his FAME Studios in Muscle Shoals

In the late 1950s, a very driven local lad called Rick Hall set up a recording studio in Muscle Shoals and recruited session musicians from nearby Sheffield and Florence. These musicians became known as the Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section, and despite being individually unremarkable, they soon became a tight unit and ended up creating a unique sound, fusing the blues, country and gospel. It came as a great shock to many black artists, such as Wilson Pickett, to find his backing band full of very ordinary looking ‘white dudes’.

The Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section later known as the Swampers

But back to Aretha Franklin. After years of trying to make it as a jazz singer, she was persuaded to start finding songs that ‘moved her’ rather than trying to come up with a polished image. After securing a deal with Jerry Wexler at Atlantic Records, they both headed down to Alabama where she paired up with Rick Hall and the Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section. Their modus operandi was not to work with an arranger, or with sheet music, but to instead jam their way to a hit record. Her first recording with them was, I Never Loved A Man (The Way I Love You). The hits then just kept on coming. Aretha had found her new ‘sound’.

I Never Loved A Man (The Way I Love You) by Aretha Franklin:

Many artists and bands recorded at Rick Hall’s studio over the years, the Rolling Stones, Percy Sledge, Candi Staton, Etta James, Clarence Carter and many more. As often happens however, in 1969 the Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section jumped ship and set up their own rival studio, also in Muscle Shoals. Rick wasn’t deterred and soon replaced them with new musicians who also knew how to create that very special crossover sound. Both studios did well and this small town, for a time, became the unlikely epicentre of the music business.

When trying to learn more about Muscle Shoals earlier on this week, I discovered a wonderful 2013 documentary on YouTube (link here). You may well have seen it already, but if not I would thoroughly recommend it. It explains how the Muscle Shoals sound could really only have happened in that geographical area. Those ‘white dudes’ had grown up absorbing black music so it was part of their DNA. There were no barriers when making music together and whether black or white, everyone had ‘soul’.


In 1974 the band Lynyrd Skynyrd had a big hit with the song Sweet Home Alabama. I’ve always liked it but only now understand the significance of the following lines of lyric:

Now Muscle Shoals has got the Swampers
And they’ve been known to pick a song or two

Lord, they get me off so much
They pick me up when I’m feelin’ blue
Now how about you?

The song is a bit of a controversial one, and was written in answer to two songs by Neil Young. That verse however was added to acknowledge the help given to the band by the Swampers in their early days, making demo reels with them at their Muscle Shoals studios. A nice tip of the hat. Lynyrd Skynyrd remain connected to Muscle Shoals, having since recorded a number of times there and making it a regular stop on their concert tours

Sweet Home Alabama by Lynyrd Skynyrd:


But this is the song that’s stayed with me more than any other since watching the Muscle Shoals documentary. In the interviews with an older Rick Hall, it came across loud and clear he had been brought up dirt poor and although he knew his dad had done his best, the desire to pull his family out of poverty was the driving force behind his phenomenal work ethic, without which there would have been no Muscle Shoals sound. Patches was a song written by the lead singer of Chairmen of the Board, but when Rick Hall heard it he felt it related to his own personal history, and he persuaded Clarence Carter to record it at his FAME Studios. In 1971 it won the Grammy for Best Rhythm and Blues Song.

Patches by Clarence Carter:


As happened with my Laurel Canyon post, I finally feel as if I understand what happened in Muscle Shoals back in the 1960s/70s and how it came about. I also now realise it’s not a place on the Alabama coast after all, but a small town on the Tennessee River. The geography of the place definitely had a lot to do with the magic that was created there but none of it would have happened without Rick Hall, or Patches as he was called as a boy, because his clothes were so ragged. Without him there would have been no studio, and no Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section. Without those musicians there would have been no special sound, and perhaps no Aretha. Most definitely a very special place in time.

Until next time…

Patches Lyrics
(Song by Ronald Dunbar/Norman Johnson)

I was born and raised down in Alabama
On a farm way back up in the woods
I was so ragged that folks used to call me Patches
Papa used to tease me about it
‘Cause deep down inside he was hurt
‘Cause he’d done all he could

My papa was a great old man
I can see him with a shovel in his hands, see
Education he never had
He did wonders when the times got bad
The little money from the crops he raised
Barely paid the bills we made

For, life had kick him down to the ground
When he tried to get up
Life would kick him back down
One day Papa called me to his dyin’ bed
Put his hands on my shoulders
And in his tears he said

He said, Patches
I’m dependin’ on you, son
To pull the family through
My son, it’s all left up to you

Two days later Papa passed away, and
I became a man that day
So I told Mama I was gonna quit school, but
She said that was Daddy’s strictest rule

So every mornin’ ‘fore I went to school
I fed the chickens and I chopped wood too
Sometimes I felt that I couldn’t go on
I wanted to leave, just run away from home
But I would remember what my daddy said
With tears in his eyes on his dyin’ bed

He said, Patches
I’m dependin’ on you, son
I tried to do my best
It’s up to you to do the rest

Then one day a strong rain came
And washed all the crops away
And at the age of 13 I thought
I was carryin’ the weight of the
Whole world on my shoulders
And you know, Mama knew
What I was goin’ through, ’cause

Every day I had to work the fields
‘Cause that’s the only way we got our meals
You see, I was the oldest of the family
And everybody else depended on me
Every night I heard my Mama pray
Lord, give him the strength to make another day

So years have passed and all the kids are grown
The angels took Mama to a brand new home
Lord knows, people, I shedded tears
But my daddy’s voice kept me through the years

Sing,
Patches, I’m dependin’ on you, son
To pull the family through
My son, it’s all left up to you

Oh, I can still hear Papa’s voice sayin’
Patches, I’m dependin’ on you, son
I’ve tried to do my best
It’s up to you to do the rest

I can still hear Papa, what he said
Patches, I’m dependin’ on you, son
To pull the family through
My son, it’s all left up to you