Heatwaves, Starbuck and ‘Moonlight Feels Right’

Is it the hot weather I ask myself or something else, but many of us are struggling to come up with content for our blogs at the moment and I’m no exception. So this one’s going to be off the cuff, but don’t worry, it’s not going to be about football this time.

Having a heatwave over the summer used to be seen as a good thing, but of course nowadays it’s happening so regularly it’s seen as a rather worrying trend. Up here in the North of Scotland we’ve not yet had the really high temperatures that makes sleep impossible, but there are of course all sorts of other downsides. If you are a fair-skinned person like myself you know full well that sunbathing is a big no-no, but we never learn do we, and over the years I’ve had a fair few bad cases of sunburn. The damage caused comes home to roost however and I’m off to the skin clinic next week to be checked out. Don’t want any of these chaps to become a problem.

If you are British, and of my demographic, the summer we always hark back to is The Long Hot Summer of 1976. There have been summers just as hot since but they didn’t happen when I was aged 16, just about the best age to enjoy a heatwave with friends. Once the sunburnt skin had peeled off we did start to turn a nice shade of golden brown, with the help of some cooking oil, or if you could afford it, some Ambre Solaire. As for SPFs, they didn’t exist yet. Dressed in our Brutus jeans, wedge sandals and skimpy cheesecloth shirts we thought we looked the bees knees.

But what were we listening to back in the summer of 1976? Well I’ve written such a post before (link here), so most of the really memorable pop hits by the likes of Elton & Kiki, The Real Thing and Candi Staton have already been covered. Time therefore to revisit another song, one I heard on the radio the other day, and one that seems to have lodged itself in my head as an earworm.

As it turns out Moonlight Feels Right by Starbuck was never a hit in the UK, so although I know the song well it must be from hearing it on the radio over the years. It was however a big hit in the US, Canada and Australia, so wonder why it didn’t strike a cord over here. To me it just screams 1976 America (as we called it back then), and reminds me of another song from across the pond I also like from that era. Yes, one of the very first songs I ever wrote about around here was I’d Really Love To See You Tonight by England Dan & John Ford Coley. In Scotland, even during a heatwave, it is never warm after dark, so back in 1976 I just loved the idea of those “warm winds blowin’ the stars around”. Likewise, in Moonlight…, we are painted a picture of warm summer evenings by the coast, with the moon and stars shining brightly in the night sky. With foreign travel off the cards for most of us at the moment, I will have to content myself with song lyrics for the time being.

I’ll take you on a trip beside the ocean
And drop the top at Chesapeake Bay
Ain’t nothin’ like the sky to dose a potion
The moon’ll send you on your way

We’ll lay back and observe the constellations
And watch the moon smilin’ bright
I’ll play the radio on southern stations
‘Cause southern belles are hell at night

Moonlight Feels Right by Starbuck:


After hearing the song on the radio this week I realised I had never taken the time to pick up on the artist’s name, so had to google it. Inevitably when I found out it was a band called Starbuck I just pictured a coffee cup, such is the ubiquitous nature of that name nowadays – Back in 1974 when Starbuck formed, the large coffee chain had been trading in Seattle for just three years, purely as a wholesaler of beans. It’s now their 50th anniversary year and how things have changed.

Moonlight… was promoted as the first rock song ever to feature a marimba and if you fast forward to 1:50 on the video clip you will see a jumpsuited Bo Wagner performing his instrumental solo. As mentioned before in my post about the England Dan & John Ford Coley song, back in 1976 we had often no idea what the artist behind the song looked liked. Without being cruel, I think for 16-year-old girls, it was good that some songs remained a radio staple only.

So, ‘What’s It All About?’ – After writing 23 full moon related posts, I don’t know how I missed including this song, but as luck would have it July’s Buck Moon should appear in our skies tonight. For those of you whose sleep patterns are affected by the heatwave, you might be lucky enough to witness it. A tiny upside.

As for me, on top of the skin clinic visit I have a screening appointment (much delayed due to the pandemic), a dental visit (also much delayed) and as a result of my recent fractured ankle, a bone density scan, all in the next 10 days. Like buses, they all come at once but sadly goes with the whole process of getting older. Until I get the all-clear I am going to keep my time in the sun to a minimum which makes life difficult when you live with a dedicated sunseeker. To all my fellow fair-skinned followers out there, as Sergeant Phil in Hill Street Blues used to say, ‘Let’s be careful out there’.

Until next time…

Moonlight Feels Right Lyrics
(Song by Bruce Blackman)

The wind blew some luck in my direction
I caught it in my hands today
I finally made a tricky French connection
You winked and gave me your O.K.
I’ll take you on a trip beside the ocean
And drop the top at Chesapeake Bay
Ain’t nothing like the sky to dose a potion
The moon’ll send you on your way

Moonlight feels right
Moonlight feels right

We’ll lay back and observe the constellations
And watch the moon smilin’ bright
I’ll play the radio on southern stations
‘Cause southern belles are hell at night
You say you came to Baltimore from Ole Miss
Class of seven-four, gold ring
The eastern moon looks ready for a wet kiss
To make the tide rise again

Moonlight feels right
Moonlight feels right

We’ll see the sun come up on Sunday morning
And watch it fade the moon away
I guess you know I’m giving you a warning
‘Cause me and moon are itching to play
I’ll take you on a trip beside the ocean
And drop the top at Chesapeake Bay
Ain’t nothin’ like the sky to dose a potion
The moon’ll send you on your way

Moonlight feels right
Moonlight feels right

Moonlight feels right
Moonlight feels right

A Summer of Sport, Coin Collections and Songs from Simpler Times

Well, I don’t suppose I can write this week’s blog post without mentioning sport, as there’s an awful lot of it going on right now, and I’ve got caught up in all the excitement. Unlike many Scots I am always happy if any of our home nations does well in a big football tournament, as it extends the excitement that bit longer and you can experience it all vicariously via their fans. Although I am no longer a fan of club football, I do still love the big tournaments and there will be an awful lot of UK citizens tuning in on Sunday night for the final. Sadly DD and her boyfriend had chosen that one weekend to head off to a fancy-pants hotel for a bit of R & R. She is most definitely not a fan of football but her boyfriend certainly is. Their Sunday night “dining experience” will be cut short I fear.

An absolute dream for a fan of spreadsheets, lists and statistics – My ‘beflagged’, almost completed wallchart

But anyway, with tennis back at Wimbledon, the Tour de France in progress, our national football teams giving the country a much needed lift, and the Tokyo Olympics (sans spectators it seems) just round the corner, it feels like summers of old. Odd that everything is now out of sync in terms of the year though, UEFA Euro 2020 and the Tokyo 2020 Olympics both being held in 2021. In the fullness of time, when we look back at those long lists of annual sporting achievements, the year 2020 will be erased from time, something that didn’t even happen during the two world wars. The pesky virus, invisible to the eye, has shut down international gatherings like never before in history.

There have been many football anthems over the years and I shared one from Scotland’s 1982 campaign a couple of weeks ago (link here). Time to focus on the home nation who will appear in Sunday’s final then. Over the years, England have had many songs recorded to accompany their football tournament journey, but only four have made it to the top spot on the UK Singles Chart. The first was this one, Back Home, from 1970, the year I first became invested in football and from the days when the actual team lined up for singing duties. (Bobby Charlton looking a bit sad there in the still, or is he embarrassed?).

I had been just too young to remember the 1966 campaign (down to a very early bedtime in those days I’ve now realised) but by the time I reached the age of 10, I could join my dad in watching the matches, and collecting those coins that were given out at petrol stations. I do still have some of the sticker books petrol stations gave away during the Olympics of that era, but sadly no longer have my coin collection. Fortunately I’ve found some sets online shared by people who have very sensibly held on to theirs. Some very familiar names there from the 1966 World Cup winning team, but sadly not many of them still with us. Bobby’s brother Jack Charlton died just last year, and so did Nobby Stiles. A great shame they didn’t live long enough to see their team reach another final.

So the song Back Home, written by top pop songwriters of the day Bill Martin and Phil Coulter, reached No. 1 on the UK Singles Chart in May 1970. It took another 20 years for an England campaign football song to reach to top spot and this time it was a very different animal. World in Motion was written/performed by New Order and Keith Allen with the football squad joining in for the chorus. Footballer John Barnes took the song to a whole new level by very ably adding a rap section, and unlike Back Home, I think it has stood the test of time.

I had just starting going out with Mr WIAA and I remember watching much of Italia ’90 with him. This time there were no coins to collect, but many of us did find ourselves warming to opera, after being serenaded by Luciano Pavarotti’s Nessun Dorma every evening ahead of watching the television coverage.

Luciano Pavarotti

The third No. 1 football song was of course Three Lions which seems to have become the unofficial anthem for every England campaign since. It was written back in 1996 for the Euros held in England so it made sense for the songwriters to add the line, “It’s coming home”. It didn’t as it turned out, but 25 years on there is the chance for that to happen on Sunday night. This time the song was written by comedians David BaddielFrank Skinner, and the band Lightning Seeds. Don’t know about you but it doesn’t feel like 25 years since that tournament, but then again DD was just a baby back then, and now she’s off to expensive hotels with her boyfriend. How time flies.

Scotland found themselves in the same group as England at Euro 96 and I remember well sitting with a piece of paper on the night of the final group stage matches, working out the changing goal difference between teams each time the ball found itself at the back of the net. For a time it was looking as if Scotland would progress, but a last minute goal by The Netherlands put paid to that dream. As they were playing England many of us thought they possibly let that happen, but that would be casting aspersions wouldn’t it.

For the sake of completeness I feel I should add the fourth and final anthem to have reached the top spot, Shout for England, but I can’t say I even remember it. It was written for the South Africa 2010 World Cup tournament and samples Tears for Fears Shout as well as sections of rap by Dizzee Rascal. James Corden also seems to have played a part on that one. This tournament largely passed me by, because of intense work pressures around that time, but who could forget the dreaded vuvuzela.

And so we come to now, and very oddly a song from 1969 has captured the imagination of the fans on the terraces. It has worked its magic in stadiums throughout the US, but who would have thought Neil Diamond’s Sweet Caroline would hit that sweet spot just as we reach Sunday’s final. All apparently because of its very particular lyrics:

Good times never seemed so good (especially if you’ve just won a big match)

Hands, touchin’ hands
Reachin’ out, touchin’ me, touchin’ you
(rises to a rousing crescendo, and a fine sentiment for fans who have been kept apart for so long)

I always knew the name Caroline in the song was inspired by JFK’s daughter, but only found out today that it was because his wife’s name, Marcia, just didn’t work phonetically. After reading a magazine article about Caroline, he worked out the syllables in her name fitted better, so changed it.

Sweet Caroline by Neil Diamond:

So, “What’s It All About?” – I don’t think many music lovers who follow this blog are fans of football, so excuse me this little indulgence, but it’s been an exciting few weeks with three of our home nations doing really well in the Euros. I was sad when Scotland didn’t progress beyond the group stages, but we were all really proud of our team and can always say we held one of the tournament finalists (we don’t yet know who will win) to a draw. Many think we should have won that match.

As for the songs, just wanted to cover the ones that made it to the top spot in the singles chart but of course there are many, many more. If the England team do the business on Sunday night, and win their match against Italy, I’m sure 60,000 football fans will find their voices, and the sounds of Sweet Caroline will fill Wembley stadium.

Until next time…

Sweet Caroline Lyrics
(Song by Neil Diamond)

Where it began
I can’t begin to knowin’
But then I know it’s growin’ strong

Was in the spring
And spring became the summer
Who’d have believed you’d come along

Hands, touchin’ hands
Reachin’ out, touchin’ me, touchin’ you

Sweet Caroline
Good times never seemed so good
I’ve been inclined
To believe they never would

But now I…

…look at the night
And it don’t seem so lonely
We fill it up with only two

And when I hurt
Hurtin’ runs off my shoulders
How can I hurt when holdin’ you?

Warm, touchin’ warm
Reachin’ out, touchin’ me, touchin’ you

Sweet Caroline
Good times never seemed so good
I’ve been inclined

To believe they never would
Oh, no, no

Sweet Caroline
Good times never seemed so good
Sweet Caroline
I believed they never could

Sweet Caroline
Good times never seemed so good

Six Years of Birthday Blogging and the Phrase, ‘We All Now Know How That Turned Out’

I had a birthday this week, my sixth since starting this blog, and it occurred to me to look back at what I was writing about in each of those years at this time. It made for interesting reading, as although there is always a song around here, from the get-go it has also been my web-diary, and I’ve been pretty honest about all the ups and downs that life has very naturally thrown my way.

2016 – Back then I was still concentrating primarily on the music, and for my birthday post I decided to write about music from the year of my birth, music that certainly didn’t feature in my own musical memories, but it might have done for my parents had they not been quite so busy coping with a new baby in the house. My next post was all about that momentous decision we were about to make, which could possibly take us out of the EU. (Well, we all now know how that turned out and a right hullaballoo it’s still causing all these years later, this week regarding the humble British banger.) But getting back to the year of my birth, here’s a bit of Adam Faith for you.

What Do You Want by Adam Faith:

2017 – This was the summer of terrorist attacks and tragic fires. The Manchester Arena and London Bridge attacks and then the horrors of Grenfell Tower. At the same time our new PM Theresa May decided to hold a snap election to consolidate her majority in The House of Commons ahead of Brexit negotiations. (Again, we all now know how that turned out.) On a more positive note, a very successful benefit concert called One Love was held in Manchester shortly after the atrocity at the arena, and we also celebrated the 50th anniversary of the Beatles’ seminal album Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.

Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band by the Beatles:

2018 – By this time I was really getting into my blogging stride and in early June I wrote a couple of wedding posts, one a very royal affair (we all now know how that turned out – there’s a pattern forming here) and one for a girl from our neighbourhood. To challenge myself I also embarked on a whole week of blogging which culminated with me posting 7 in 7 (seven posts in seven days). I was very proud of myself but now realise whenever I set myself these kind of challenges I understandably lose followers along the way, as overkill really. It certainly does help flex the blogging muscles though. On a positive note, my Full Moon Calendar in Song series was really gathering pace and is still my favourite because of all I discovered, both about our only satellite, and about the many moon-related songs that were included. I thought Carly Simon’s version of Moonlight Serenade was just perfect for June’s Strawberry Moon.

Moonlight Serenade by the Glenn Miller Orchestra:


2019 – By the time my birthday came around two years ago I was already headlong into greeting guests at the holiday hideaway we had taken on earlier in the year, but having worked in an office for 35 years it turned out I wasn’t ‘match fit’, and my back, neck and shoulders were already giving me gyp. I wrote about the sleepless nights that ensued, compounded by the sheer number of troubling television dramas that filled our screens of an evening. One BBC drama called Years and Years portrayed a worrying picture of what life might be like in only five years time, with everyone working from home at their kitchen tables, communication all being done virtually via screens, and everything we consume being ordered online. (Well, well, well – Again, we all now know how that turned out and it didn’t take five years, just one.) On a really positive note however, I finally made it down to London that month to meet long time blogging buddy C from Sun Dried Sparrows. As we used mock-ups of our first albums to recognise each other this song by the Clash seems appropriate (for C anyway – my first album wasn’t quite as ‘cool’).

London Calling by the Clash:

2020 – This is the big one isn’t it. I had reached a milestone birthday but couldn’t celebrate it with anyone as we all had to stay at home, protect the NHS and save lives. Not complaining of course, as there seemed little other choice at the time, but by June it was becoming apparent there would be no V-shaped bounce back to the economy and that restrictions could be in place for another few weeks yet (a year on, we all now know how that turned out). DD’s life in Glasgow was in disarray and there would be a complicated manoeuvre to get her home safely – It was going to be a Cruel Summer, I could tell. One positive thing from that time was that our country’s entertainers rallied round, and I enjoyed a fair few online concerts cobbled together via the wonders of modern-day technology. One was by Take That which aired just before my birthday. I had been a bit too old for the Take That phenomenon when they first appeared on the scene in the early ‘90s, but they are now a middle-aged man band as opposed to a boy band, with a great back catalogue of songs, so it was a real treat to watch them in action when everything was still looking very bleak. The song that always ends their shows is Never Forget, and I think we can all agree, unlike Y2K which came and went with very little drama, none of us will ever forget the year 2020.

Never Forget by Take That:


2021 – So, ‘What’s It All About?’ – It has become apparent from writing this post that life can throw us some pretty spectacular curve balls and from one year to the next we find it impossible to predict how things might turn out. I wasn’t able to celebrate my big birthday much last year, but the +1 version was a whole lot better – Afternoon tea at a posh hotel courtesy of DD. Very nice indeed. Who knows what next year’s birthday will throw up, but let’s hope it will be that life is a whole lot better for all of us.

Until next time…

Never Forget Lyrics
(Song by Gary Barlow)

We’ve come a long way
But we’re not too sure where we’ve been
We’ve had success we’ve had good times
But remember this

Been on this path of life for so long
Feel I’ve walked a thousand miles
Sometimes strolled hand in hand with love
Everybody’s been there

With danger on my mind
I would stand on the line
Of hope and I knew I could make it

Once I knew the boundaries
I looked into the clouds
And saw my face in the moonlight

Just then I realised what a fool I could be
Just ’cause I look so high I don’t have to see me
Finding a paradise wasn’t easy but still
There’s a road going down the other side of this hill

Never forget where you’ve come here from
Never pretend that it’s all real
Someday soon this will all be someone else’s dream
This will be someone else’s dream

Safe from the arms of disappointment for so long
Feel each day we’ve come too far
Yet each day seems to make much more
Sure it’s good to be here

I understand the meaning
Of “I can’t explain this feeling”
Now that it feels so unreal

At night I see the hand
That reminds me of the stand
That I make the fact of reality

Never forget where you’ve come here from
Never pretend that it’s all real
Someday soon this will all be someone else’s dream
This will be someone else’s dream

We’ve come so far and we’ve reached so high
And we’ve looked each day and night in the eye
And we’re still so young and we hope for more
But remember this

We’re not invincible, we’re not invincible, no
We’re only people, we’re only people
Hey we’re not invincible, we’re not invincible
So again I’ll tell you

Never forget where you’ve come here from
Never pretend that it’s all real
Someday soon this will all be someone else’s dream
This will be someone else’s dream

Never
Never forget babe
Never pretend that it’s all real
Someday soon this will all be someone else’s dream
This will be someone else’s dream

Friendships, Bob Dylan and ‘Baby, Stop Crying’

Last time I announced that Thursday was to be my new regular day for blogging, but last week’s Thursday came and went without anything new from me at all and unless I quickly get my act together, the same will happen again this week. I have the will, it’s just that with the easing of restrictions many of us feel the need to catch up with those friends who have been neglected over the last 15 months, and I am no exception. There have been many visits, lunch dates, film nights, and a sneaky wee Eurovision get-together (something so utterly uncool that it has almost become cool by default), so I have been somewhat time poor. Not complaining, of course, just offering up an explanation for my absence.

Last week Bob Dylan turned 80 and much was made of it on the various newsfeeds and on social media. Who would have thought back in 1961, when a young folk singer called Robert Zimmerman rolled up in Greenwich Village, New York, he would still be touring and making new music 60 years later. Many of his generation have sadly fallen by the wayside, but he is one of a small band of artists from that time who seem to have been able to just keep on going.

Two of Bob’s songs have appeared around here before, performed by other people for television soundtracks (here and here). His son Jakob has even appeared (link here), but so far no Bob. Time therefore to right that wrong. There are many songs I could feature but I’m going to pick Baby, Stop Crying from 1978 because it was on the album Street Legal owned by the girl who was my best friend back then. I’ve written about her here before because she features in so many of my musical memories. Between the ages of 17 and 20 we were joined at the hip and together we experienced the final years of school, first romances, holiday jobs, heading off to university, Interrailing, and so much more. When I hear this song I am transported to her mum and dad’s little back sitting room which housed the music centre and the sofa bed I often availed myself of after a night out. It was dated (the sofa bed) and had come from the front living room of the house they had recently moved from, but when you are 18, having such a space to hang out in with friends, is priceless.

Baby, Stop Crying by Bob Dylan:

I think it’s because I’ve been making a really big effort to catch up with people of late that I’ve been thinking of my old friend so much. I can no longer catch up with her because she died 20 years ago at the very young age of 41, which still makes me really sad. The shared memories of those formative years can never again be discussed, and laughed about, but for the time being at least I still have them, and hold them dear.

As for the song, I knew it had made it to the Top 20 of the UK Singles Chart, as back in 1978 that was how girls like us found out about new music. I can’t say I have ever been a fan of Bob’s voice, but my friend obviously had no problem with it, as I know she went on to buy more of his albums. As a student of English Literature she perhaps also admired his lyrics, him being a future recipient of that Nobel Prize for being clever with words.

At face value it seems to be a simple song about trying to get a woman to stop crying, but then a gun puts in an appearance, which adds a sinister dimension. Is the narrator the ‘bad man’ or is it someone else? Commenting on the content of this song, Bob once said, ‘The man in that song has his hand out and is not afraid of getting it bit.’ If anyone has ever worked out the meaning, please share your thoughts.

So, ‘What’s It All About?’ – I don’t know about you but I know I have been overly cavalier about friendships in the past, casting them aside for new ones when life changes occur, not realising that some come along only once in a lifetime. That’s how I still feel about my old Bob Dylan-loving friend, and when she died I wrote to her parents telling them as much.

I have done a lot of catching up over the last few weeks, which has been nice, but having moved geographically half way through my life, and having changed jobs a fair few times before finally calling it a day, I no longer have really old friends in my everyday life, which is not the case for a lot of people I know. Mr WIAA is of course my very best friend but perhaps I take him for granted, living with him on a day-to-day basis. (Note to self: must remember not to do that.) Funnily enough, since starting this blog I seem to have made many new friends of the virtual nature, whom I’m in regular contact with via the comment boxes – A lovely little bonus from this hobby of ours. If I keep going, you may one day become some of my oldest friends. A nice thought to end on, and with the easing of restrictions, that long-awaited bloggers summit might finally become a reality.

Until next time…

Baby, Stop Crying Lyrics
(Song by Bob Dylan)

You been down to the bottom with a bad man, babe
But you’re back were you belong
Go get me my pistol, babe
Honey, I can’t tell right from wrong.

Baby, please stop crying, stop crying, stop crying
Baby, please stop crying, stop crying, stop crying
Baby, please stop crying
You know, I know the sun will always shine
So baby, please stop crying ’cause it’s tearing up my mind.

Go down to the river, babe
Honey, I will meet you there
Go down to the river, babe
Honey, I will pay your fare.

Baby, please stop crying, stop crying, stop crying
Baby, please stop crying, stop crying, stop crying
Baby, please stop crying
You know, I know the sun will always shine
So baby, please stop crying ’cause it’s tearing up my mind.

If you’re looking for assistance, babe
Or if you just want some company
Or if you just want a friend you can talk to
Honey, come and see about me.

Baby, please stop crying, stop crying, stop crying
Baby, please stop crying, stop crying, stop crying
Baby, please stop crying
You know, I know the sun will always shine
So baby, please stop crying ’cause it’s tearing up my mind.

You been hurt so many times
And I know what you’re thinking of
Well, I don’t have to be no doctor, babe
To see that you’re madly in love.

Baby, please stop crying, stop crying, stop crying
Baby, please stop crying, stop crying, stop crying
Baby, please stop crying
You know, I know the sun will always shine
So baby, please stop crying ’cause it’s tearing up my mind.

An Eclectic Mix of Abba, S’Express and Fred Astaire

Well, things seem to be cautiously opening up again around here, as I imagine they are where you are. A lot of empty units in our local shopping centre though, what with Debenhams, Top Shop and a few other high street stalwarts having shut their doors for good, but still a reasonable vibe about the place. I was chuffed to see that our local HMV is still open for business, as I do love a good browse up and down their aisles. It seems half the store is now given way to vinyl, either classic albums reissued in those beautiful original sleeves, or new stuff by artists who were probably born a good decade after vinyl ceased being the primary vehicle for music consumption.

The inspiration for this post was a clear-out. Yes, Mr WIAA and I have restarted our efforts into clearing some space in our loft and cupboards, but it’s tough, as I get sentimental about keeping things. This morning when tidying out a drawer I found something that reminded me of 7-inch singles, or 45s as they were called. For music lovers this image will probably cause apoplexy, but a few years ago, after a visit to a craft fair, DD presented me with a gift. Someone had set up a stall selling plant pots and little dishes made from old vinyl records. I think we’ve all probably melted some of our vinyl by accident (for me it involved a cold 1970s night in rural Scotland and the close proximity to our stylish 2-bar electric fire), but now it feels like sacrilege to deliberately render a 45 unplayable. Of course I thanked DD very much for her gift at the time, which looked remarkably like an impractical ashtray (not that I’ve ever had need of one).

Take A Chance On Me by Abba:

The little dish/ashtray was made from an Abba single. The song on the A-side was Take A Chance On Me from 1978, one of their many top 10 hits. It occurred to me to check out the B-side and found it was a song called I’m A Marionette, not one I’d ever heard of so time to find out more.

Hmm…, not sure about that one but it seems it was a song from a mini-musical called The Girl With the Golden Hair performed as part of their 1977 concert tour along with Thank You for the Music and The Name of the Game. Now it makes sense.

I don’t have many 45s still in my possession, but the little dish/ashtray made me want to seek them out. What a mixed bag. Really old stuff belonging to my mum and dad, some soppy songs by my teen idols, a few singles given as presents (probably had deep meaning attached at the time), purchases from bargain bins and a few from the dying days of ‘the 45’ as a music format.

Somehow my copy of Queen’s Somebody To Love got accidentally “ironed” (see nick out of top left) when sitting on a table in our student flat, so the first minute was lost to us!

I’m sure many of you will recognise some of the names there, as pretty mainstream stuff, but each piece of vinyl has a story behind it and some of the songs have already put in an appearance around here. Something I had forgotten all about was the single in the middle of the picture called The Brits 1990 (Dance Medley). The medley went down really well on the night of the awards show that year and was released as a 7 inch single straight after. It made it to the No. 2 spot in the UK Singles Chart. I was a bit long in the tooth for such fodder by 1990, but as an avid dancer, who often invited everyone ‘back to mine’ after a night out, it was good to have it for the turntable. Bit of S’Express anyone? Yes please, along with some Double Trouble and the Rebel MC, A Guy Called Gerald, The Beatmasters, Jeff Wayne, 808 State, D Mob and The Cookie Crew. Hard to believe it’s from over 30 years ago now as the video clip (although a bit cringifying in places) doesn’t look as dated as something from 1960 would have looked in 1990. A very different kind of 30 years in terms of the evolution of music and dance (and of course in colour).

Theme From S’Express by S’Express:

All this talk of dancing has reminded me of another clip I have been meaning to share for a while but not got round to yet, going back much, much further in time. The video clip has been doing the rounds for some time but it has been excellently edited and really showcases the talents of some of Hollywood’s greatest dancers. Bruno Mars was just a toddler when Fred Astaire died at age 87, but somehow his 2014 rendition of Uptown Funk (a Mark Ronson song with Bruno on vocals) lends itself well to a medley of some of the best-choreographed dance sequences in film history, many of which inevitably involve Fred.

I think Fred Astaire was my first crush, as I spent so much time watching him in old black and white movies when I was a child. Yes he was balding, yes he wasn’t that strong a singer, but boy could he dance and he had a certain boyish charm. In the 1930s his films were adored by audiences who craved escapism. Maybe why I went on to have such a love for dance, and why I was always the one who took over the dancefloor should the occasion arise (much to the chagrin of my friends who always said I put boys off asking us to dance). But hey, it was my thing, and fortunately I found a willing partner in Mr WIAA when he came into my life.

A Fine Romance by Fred Astaire:

The thrill of dance has always stayed with me, until now of course. Pre-pandemic there were few opportunities left for us ladies of a certain age to exercise their love of dance, but the odd wedding or party sufficed. In the last 15 months there has been no dancing at all for me and as I still seem to be recovering from the broken ankle I suffered a few months ago, I fear George Michael’s lyrics may become a reality – I’m never gonna dance again… the way I danced with you. Let’s hope not, as I don’t think I’m quite ready to hang up my pumps yet.

So, ‘What’s It All About?’ – A bit of a strange ramble this one, so apologies for that, but I’m trying to be more disciplined about my blogging and Thursday seems to be my new regular day. This week the stream of consciousness flowed from old 45s, to dance medleys, to Fred Astaire. You just never know where it’s going to go, which is part of the fun of it.

Until next time…

A Fine Romance Lyrics
(Song by Dorothy Fields/Jerome Kern)

A fine romance, with no kisses
A fine romance, my friend this is
We should be like a couple of hot tomatoes
But you’re as cold as yesterday’s mashed potatoes
A fine romance, you won’t nestle
A fine romance, you won’t wrestle
I might as well play bridge
With my old maid aunt
I haven’t got a chance
This is a fine romance

A fine romance, my good fellow
You take romance, I’ll take jello
You’re calmer than the seals
In the Arctic Ocean
At least they flap their fins
To express emotion
A fine romance with no quarrels
With no insults and all morals
I’ve never mussed the crease
In your blue serge pants
I never get the chance

This is a fine romance

A fine romance, with no kisses
A fine romance, my friend this is
We two should be like clams in a dish of chowder
But we just fizz like parts of a Seidlitz powder
A fine romance, with no clinches
A fine romance, with no pinches
You’re just as hard to land as the Ile de France!
I haven’t got a chance, this is a fine romance

RIP Les McKeown: Revisiting the Rollermania Archive

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

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

RIP Les McKeown

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

RIP Les McKeown

Alyson’s Archive – “Rollermania” and Me

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

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

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

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

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That’s me on the left in brown corduroy!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Give A Little Love by the Bay City Rollers:


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

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

Until next time….

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tunic (Song For Karen) by Sonic Youth:


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

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

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

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

Rainy Days and Mondays by the Carpenters:


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

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

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

Sonic Youth

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Our local theatre/arts centre

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

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

Saturday Night At The Movies by The Drifters:


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

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

The Cosmo 2 on Diamond Street

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

The Majestic on Union Street

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

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

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

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

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

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

Until next time…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Yeah, Saturday night at the movies

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

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

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

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

When Smokey Sings by ABC:

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

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

Pagliacci, the Sad Clown

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

Tears of a Clown by Smokey Robinson & the Miracles

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

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

Until next time…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

Until next time…

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

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

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

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

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

Hit me! Hit me! Hit!

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

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

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

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

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