The Phenomenon of Ghosting, Motown Girl Groups and “Nathan Jones”

I seem to have veered way off topic on this blog over the last few months and the nostalgic journey through the tracks of my years element (as per the tagline above) has all but been forgotten about. But hey, that’s what a global pandemic will do to you. I now realise however, I may have been a culprit of “doomsurfing/doomscrolling” whereby I spend many hours a day scrolling through the various news streams on my phone, picking up on every new development as it happens. I am well informed, but maybe too well-informed, and I think it has led to some ghosting (“the practice of ending a personal relationship with someone by suddenly and without explanation withdrawing from all communication”) by old friends.

We all have them, old friends who may no longer think the same way, or live their lives the same way as us, but we have a shared history so keep in touch. I have been in touch with a fair few of these old friends since March and am now realising that one or two are no longer replying to my messages and certainly don’t instigate conversation. A side-effect of doomsurfing seems to be that I have become a doom and gloom merchant! But hey, yet again, that’s what a global pandemic will do to you. I’m not sure I can totally change my ways so these old friends may have to depart from my life, but just another side-effect of the crisis, and maybe something that would inevitably have happened anyway – I’ve never been a fan of the “I’m All Right Jack/Let’s Bury Our Heads in the Sand” school of thinking anyway.

bananarama-and-fun-boy-three-really-saying-something-deram-2

So it seems it’s time for me to change my ways around here, or else I may lose the support of all you lovely followers too. Shit happens as they say, and what better way to drag ourselves out of the doom and gloom than by listening to some great tunes. Last week I shared something by Bananarama and discovered their first hit single, (He Was) Really Saying Something, was unbeknownst to me at the time a cover of an early sixties Velvelettes recording.

The Velvelettes were an American girl group, signed to Motown in the 1960s. Their biggest chart success occurred in 1964, when Norman Whitfield produced Needle in a Haystack which peaked at number 45 on the Billboard Chart. I’m not sure why some of these girl groups went on to great things and others kind of drifted away but it seems they needed to be both championed by those in charge (Berry Gordy) and have a hunger for success above all else. Cue the Supremes. Founded as The Primettes in 1959, the Supremes were the most commercially successful of Motown’s acts, with 12 No. 1 singles on the Billboard Chart. At their peak in the mid-1960s, the Supremes rivalled the Beatles in worldwide popularity and their success possibly made it easier for future African American R&B and soul musicians to find mainstream success.

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And here is where we return to Bananarama yet again, as another of their Top 20 hits, Nathan Jones, was a cover of a Supremes song. By 1971 Diana Ross had left the group and their lead voice was now that of Jean Terrell, but along with Mary Wilson and Cindy Birdsong they racked up a good few more hits during that era, Up The Ladder To The Roof, Stoned Love and Floy Joy to name but a few. Strangely enough both Bananarama versions of these Motown songs were hits 17 years after the original. Maybe that’s just the amount of time it takes for a song to become fresh again and for listeners not to confuse it with its first incarnation. I for one certainly didn’t know about these earlier versions when I was an avid fan of Bananarama in the 1980s.

Nathan Jones by the Supremes:

So, “What’s It All About?” – Funny how things often turn full circle when you write an off-the-cuff blog post as I’m doing today. The song Nathan Jones is apparently about a woman’s former lover, a man named Nathan Jones who left her nearly a year ago “to ease his mind.” Suffering through the long separation (“winter’s passed, spring, and fall”) without any contact or communication between herself and Jones (ghosting?), the narrator is no longer in love with him, remarking that “Nathan Jones, you’ve been gone too long”. It’s a bit of a coward’s way out, but just goes to show, the practice of withdrawing from all communication is still alive and well today, possibly even more so with the advent of online dating apps and such like.

As for me, I plan to curb my “doomsurfing” activities somewhat but going to be hard after all these weeks. Having really enjoyed this nostalgic journey through the tracks of my years, it would be a shame for me to lose all the goodwill I’ve built up by being the merchant of doom! Please feel free to let me know if I overstep the mark.

Until next time….

Nathan Jones Lyrics
(Song by Leonard Caston/Kathy Wakefield)

You packed your bags, as I recall
And you walked slowly down the hall
You said you had to get away to ease your mind
And all you needed was a just little of time

Oh, winter’s passed, spring and fall
You never wrote me, you never called
(Yeah) Nathan Jones, you’ve been gone too long
Gone too long (Gone too long)

If a woman could die of tears
Nathan Jones, I wouldn’t be here
The key that you’re holding won’t fit my door
And there’s no room in my heart for you no more

‘Cause winter’s passed, spring and fall
You never wrote me, you never called
(Oh-oh) Nathan Jones, you’ve been gone too long
Gone too long

Do-do-do

Nathan Jones
Nathan Jones
Mm-hmm
Nathan Jones, oh

Winter’s passed, spring and fall
You never wrote me, you never called
(Oh-oh) Nathan Jones, you’ve been gone too long
Mm-mm-mm, Gone too long (Gone too long)
Nathan Jones, you’ve been gone too long (Gone too long)
You’ve been gone too long (Gone too long)
Hey, Nathan Jones, you’ve been gone too long (Gone too long)
Hey, you know, you’ve been gone (Gone too long)
Nathan Jones, you’ve been gone too long (Gone too long)

Those We Have Lost in 2020 – RIP Kenny, Bill, John and Richard

Because this year has been one like no other, my blogging has changed tack and I have not been keeping up with the sad roll call of people we have lost from the world of music. It is almost inevitable that many of them would have been written about here before, as most were elder statesmen of their particular genres, but time to pay special tribute I think.

My very first post of this year led me back to the chart music of 1970, and at the top spot was Mr Kenny Rogers with his excellent story song Ruby, Don’t Take Your Love To Town. I am not however really that familiar with the First Edition era of Kenny’s career. The Kenny I am more familiar with was his late ’70s persona which gave us the hits Lucille, The Gambler and Coward of the County. Like Ruby these were all very much story songs and their lyrics have given us some great lines which are often quoted. After the news of his death on March the 20th, just ahead of all the upheaval and distress caused by the pandemic, there were many who noted that Kenny had followed the advice within his signature song:

You’ve got to know when to hold ’em
Know when to fold ’em

Ten days after the death of Kenny Rogers, news came through that we had also lost Bill Withers. Last summer, after a particularly lovely day out I shared many pictures in a blog post, so the obvious accompanying song choice was Bill’s 1977 song Lovely Day. To be honest I hadn’t realised until that point just how respected Bill had been in the music world, having won three Grammy Awards and been nominated for six more. His life was even the subject of a 2009 documentary film called Still Bill. Quite something considering he worked as a professional musician for just 15 years, from 1970 to 1985, after which he moved on to other occupations.

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Bill Withers, 1938-2020

My Bill song choice is going to have to be this one however, Ain’t No Sunshine. They’re not for everyone I know, but I am a bit of a fan of Richard Curtis movies, and the song certainly fitted a particularly poignant scene in the film Notting Hill very well – Poor old lovelorn Hugh Grant straddles all four seasons whilst he walks through the market with Bill’s song playing the background [spoiler alert: all turns out well in the end].

Ain’t No Sunshine by Bill Withers:

A week after the death of Bill, we heard of the sad loss of John Prine. John was someone I only discovered since starting this blog, and when I accidentally came across his song When I Get To Heaven one evening when on my way to visit my mum in hospital, I got a bit emotional, all because of these lines of lyric:

And then I’m gonna go find my mom and dad, and good old brother Doug
Well I bet him and cousin Jackie are still cuttin’ up a rug
I wanna see all my mama’s sisters, ’cause that’s where all the love starts
I miss ’em all like crazy, bless their little hearts

Yes, there was nothing more I wanted than to go find my dad who had died 15 years earlier, and ask for his advice on decisions that were going to have to be made. Listening to the song, even us non-believers are almost prepared to be converted, as there is a definite party atmosphere going on. John Prine had apparently been treated for cancer twice, and it was after his second bout that he wrote the song about some of the things he had to give up following his illness. Here is a quote: “I wrote that song because I figured there’s no cancer in heaven. So when I get up there, I’m going to have a cocktail and a cigarette that’s 9 miles long. That’s my idea of what heaven is like.

I hope John is up there right now, sitting with Kenny and Bill, enjoying that cocktail and extremely long cigarette!

When I Get To Heaven by John Prine:

Last but most definitely not least, on the 9th May we lost the artist known best to us as Little Richard. I can’t pretend to know that much about Mr Penniman, as he was a bit before my time, but I do know he was an influential figure in popular music, often nicknamed The Innovator, The Originator, or The Architect of Rock and Roll. His best known work dates back to the mid-1950s, when his charismatic showmanship, dynamic music and frenetic piano playing laid the foundation for rock and roll. He influenced numerous singers and musicians across musical genres from rock to hip hop and in a line-up he would have been easily recognisable because of his pompadour hairstyle.

Tutti Frutti became an instant first hit for him in 1955 but as we started off with Kenny Rogers, and mentioned his song Lucille, I think I’ll come full circle and end with Little Richard’s song of the same name. Lucille became a big hit for him in 1957 but he then abandoned rock and roll for born again Christianity.  When he was persuaded to tour Europe in 1962, the Beatles opened for him and Richard even advised them on how to perform his songs. He is cited as one of the first crossover black artists, and his music and concerts broke down barriers, drawing blacks and whites together despite attempts to sustain segregation. How sad therefore to see what is going on right now as I type, 60 years on.

Until next time, RIP Kenny, Bill, John and Richard, you will not be forgotten.

When I Get To Heaven Lyrics
(Song by John Prine)

When I get to heaven, I’m gonna shake God’s hand
Thank him for more blessings than one man can stand
Then I’m gonna get a guitar and start a rock-n-roll band
Check into a swell hotel, ain’t the afterlife grand?
And then I’m gonna get a cocktail: vodka and ginger ale
Yeah, I’m gonna smoke a cigarette that’s nine miles long
I’m gonna kiss that pretty girl on the tilt-a-whirl
‘Cause this old man is goin’ to town

Then as God as my witness, I’m gettin’ back into show business
I’m gonna open up a nightclub called “The Tree of Forgiveness”
And forgive everybody ever done me any harm
Well, I might even invite a few choice critics, those syph’litic parasitics
Buy ’em a pint of Smithwick’s and smother ’em with my charm

‘Cause then I’m gonna get a cocktail: vodka and ginger ale
Yeah I’m gonna smoke a cigarette that’s nine miles long
I’m gonna kiss that pretty girl on the tilt-a-whirl
Yeah this old man is goin’ to town

Yeah when I get to heaven, I’m gonna take that wristwatch off my arm
What are you gonna do with time after you’ve bought the farm?
And then I’m gonna go find my mom and dad, and good old brother Doug
Well I bet him and cousin Jackie are still cuttin’ up a rug
I wanna see all my mama’s sisters, ’cause that’s where all the love starts
I miss ’em all like crazy, bless their little hearts
And I always will remember these words my daddy said
He said, “Buddy, when you’re dead, you’re a dead pecker-head”
I hope to prove him wrong… that is, when I get to heaven

‘Cause I’m gonna have a cocktail: vodka and ginger ale

Yeah I’m gonna smoke a cigarette that’s nine miles long
I’m gonna kiss that pretty girl on the tilt-a-whirl
Yeah this old man is goin’ to town

Yeah this old man is goin’ to town

Eurovision, Pickettywitch and Another Look At The Chart Hits Of 1970

Well, we’re now coming up to eight weeks in lockdown here in Scotland with no sign yet of an easing of restrictions. We can now go out more than once a day for exercise, however that has somehow lessened its appeal. When something is rationed you make the absolute most of it, but when it is more freely available, it can be squandered. Don’t want to return to my old ways now that I’m feeling so much fitter than I have in years though, so good discipline will have to kick in instead. There is definitely a change in visible activity now with more traffic on the roads and more shops and services finding ways to re-open, but the days of welcoming millions of tourists over the summer months are still a very long way off.

Not many people around here will probably be aware of this, but it should be Eurovision week, culminating with the grand final taking place on Saturday 16th May. The contest this year was to be held in Rotterdam as Duncan Laurence (real name Duncan de Moor) from The Netherlands won last year with his song Arcade, and it is usual for the previous year’s winning country to host the next one.

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Sadly the auditorium in Rotterdam is now an overspill hospital for Dutch Covid-19 patients and this will be the first year since the contest’s inception 64 years ago that it hasn’t gone ahead. 2020 will be the year that never happened for large events where the whole raison d’être is the gathering together of lots and lots of people, all there to enjoy the same thing – The Olympics, the Euros, Glastonbury, Chelsea Flower Show, Wimbledon, the list goes on….

I have been brave enough to mention around here before that a few years ago we went to an actual live contest in Vienna. I’m not going to lie, it was great fun, and although definitely not the “coolest” thing ever to have done, we had a great weekend and found some like-minded fellow Scots to hang around with. If you’re looking for a bit of fluff and nonsense, it can’t be bettered.

Some of my first memories are of watching the contest with my family as a child when our most popular singing stars represented the nation and invariably won or came close to winning – One of my first posts was even about those days (link here). The contest we went to was nothing like the shows I watched as a child, and we of course no longer field the cream of our crop (as it could be career suicide for them), but there have been some worthy and memorable winners over the last few years, Salvador Sobral for one.

salvador 3
Salvador Sobral

This Eurovision themed post comes just at the right time, as I have been manfully making my way through the UK Singles Chart of 1970 in the course of the year as a kind of 50 year retrospective, reflecting simpler times (got that right!). So far we have revisited the hits of Kenny Rogers, Edison Lighthouse, Lee Marvin and Simon & Garfunkel but then the 1970 Eurovision took place and the charts became littered with songs from participating nations as was wont to happen back then.

The song that took over the top spot in the UK Singles Chart from Bridge Over Troubled Water was All Kinds of Everything by very young Irish songstress Dana (the only Eurovision finalist to go on to became an MEP). I would only have been aged nine when this song won the contest and wouldn’t have found it nearly as unbearable to listen to as I do now, but, those sugary sweet songs were just the kind of thing that won back then. In time we would have hard rock winners but that would take a while yet.

The song representing the UK in 1970 was Knock, Knock Who’s There? performed by Welsh songstress Mary Hopkin. She had been the favourite to win on the night but ended up coming second. Most of us in the UK already knew Mary well as she had been one of the first artists to sign with Apple Records, owned by the Beatles. The model Twiggy had apparently seen her winning the British television talent show Opportunity Knocks, and recommended her to Paul McCartney. Her debut single Those Were The Days, produced by McCartney, reached the top spot in the UK in 1968 and yes Mary, the way I’m feeling right now, those definitely were the days.

Lots of Eurovision songs mentioned in this post but what else do I find in that same Singles Chart? Here’s one I haven’t heard in an awful long time but again, it brings back happy memories of watching TOTP with my family as a child. The Same Old Feeling was recorded by the band Pickettywitch and reached the No. 5 spot in 1970. I can still remember watching lead singer Polly Brown in her very short dress, although her immaculately coiffed singing sidekick draws a blank. The band apparently got their moniker after passing a pub of the same name in Yeovil in Somerset. Compared with the wholesome Eurovision ladies, Polly definitely had a bit of an edge.

The Same Old Feeling by Pickettywitch:

Bit of a rambling post this one but a bit sad that we won’t be having our usual get-together for Eurovision this year complete with food and drink of the host nation. As it turns out, Dutch food is not especially noteworthy, so might have been quite a tough one anyway. I did get a chance to revisit the chart of 50 years ago again though, and decided in the end I preferred Pickettywitch to any of the Eurovision entrants. It looks as if the next big chart topper of 1970 was also associated with a major event, but a football one this time. By the time I get round to it, I will have coincided with another cancelled 2020 event.

Until next time….

The Same Old Feeling Lyrics
(Song by John Macleod/Tony Macaulay)

I still get the same old feeling
Tearing at this heart of mine
Telling me that maybe I’m
Not really over you
I still get the same old yearning
Turning my heart inside out
Love, there can’t be any doubt
I’m still not over you

The oak tree where you carved my name
A year ago now
Somehow doesn’t really look the same
I think it closed now
The places we would go
Still play the songs we used to know

The cottage where we used to meet
Is overgrown now
We dreamed we’d live there too someday
Just on our own now
The letters you wrote me
Still bring that sentimental ring

Earworm Of The Week #4 – Odyssey and “If You’re Looking For A Way Out”

No prizes for guessing how this song popped into my subconscious this week as it’s now all about how we’re going to get out of lockdown, but as an earworm it’s a pleasant one, and it’s made me want to look into the story of the singing group Odyssey a bit more. For a long time I used to confuse them with fellow Americans Rose Royce because their most successful years in the UK Singles Chart coincided, and both produced up-tempo disco numbers but also beautiful ballads.

Odyssey would have first entered my radar during my final year of senior school as their first big hit in the UK reached the No. 2 spot that Christmas. Native New Yorker was more successful over here than in their native US which became a pattern for the rest of their career and eventually led them to move to the UK permanently.

The song was originally written for Frankie Valli but when covered by Odyssey it became their first hit. The song is about a girl who is unlucky in love. The singer is telling her that as a native New Yorker, she should know by now that love is as fabricated as a Broadway show, and that you have to look out for yourself in the city. It’s a song about disillusionment that captures the downside of the self-reliant New York lifestyle.

Now we’re fast-forwarding to the summer of 1980 and it was one of their songs I just couldn’t miss, as it spent 12 weeks on the UK Singles Chart and 2 weeks at the top spot. Believe it or not this song title inavertedly pops up in our house just about every other day, as whenever we look in the fridge and spot something that needs used up, we always ask each other if we should, Use it up and wear it out?“. It’s been hard-wired into our brains by Odyssey that you can’t say the first bit without adding the second!

By the end of the summer of 1980 they released a follow-up single, If You’re Lookin’ for a Way Out with Lillian Lopez again on lead vocals. It’s a bit of a tear-jerker and had I not been all loved-up that summer, but rather going through a painful break up, it would have made for tough listening. This single reached the No. 6 spot and spent 15 weeks on the UK Singles Chart. The common factor in all three featured songs is that they were either written or produced by Sandy Linzer who is a new name for me but seems to have been really prolific in the ’60s/’70s writing for Frankie Valli and The Four Seasons.

So if you’re looking for a way out
I won’t stand here in your way

Don’t look at the tears that I’m crying
They’ll only make you wanna stay
Don’t kiss me again ’cause I’m dying
To keep you from running away

To be fair, the person I was all loved-up with that summer did cause much heartache down the line, and looking at these lyrics I was not as magnanimous. You do feel like you’re dying inside and I did stand in his way, but ultimately to no avail. Does that make me a bad girlfriend? I don’t think so – Just a broken-hearted one.

If You’re Looking For A Way Out by Odyssey:

So, I now know a lot more about the group Odyssey and will no longer confuse them with Rose Royce. It’s also been nice to have a break from writing about all that’s going on in the world at the moment and just concentrate on the music (although this one definitely inspired by what’s going on). I have a few more drafts that would be good to get down in print as I’ve not yet written about any of the sad deaths we’ve had from the world of music this year, which is remiss of me. Easy to get distracted at the moment however.

Until next time….

If You’re Lookin’ For A Way Out Lyrics
(Song by Sandy Linzer, Ralph Kotkov)

Love is crazy baby, I can see it in your eyes
Your kisses taste the same
But it’s just a sweet disguise
Ain’t that just like you
To worry about me
But we promised to be honest
With each other for all eternity
So if you’re looking for a way out
I won’t stand here in your way
And if you’re looking for a way out

Don’t look at the tears that I’m crying
They’ll only make you wanna stay
Don’t kiss me again ’cause I’m dying
To keep you from running away
(Run away, run away, run away, run away, run away, run away)

Oh baby tell me I’m wrong
Just say I’m crazy
It’s with you that I belong
It’s never easy when lovers have to part
Oh come on stop pretending
Tell me what’s in you heart
And if you’re looking for a way out
I won’t stand here in your way
But if you’re looking for a way out

Don’t look at the tears that I’m crying
They’ll only make you wanna stay
Don’t kiss me again ’cause I’m dying
To keep you from running away

Don’t look at the tears that I’m crying
They’ll only make you wanna stay
Don’t love me again ’cause I’m tryin’
To keep you from running away
(Baby don’t run away, baby don’t run away)

Don’t you run away (ooh ooh)
(Ooh ooh)
Oh come on stop pretending
Tell me what’s in your heart

Postscript:

I don’t know if any of you have watched the new BBC adaptation of the Sally Rooney novel Normal People but I would thoroughly recommend it. It made me realise that the Sligo of today in the drama is very like the rural Aberdeenshire I grew up in and many of the storylines resonated. It’s probably not for everyone but just as the song featured above is a real tear-jerker, without giving too much away, the drama is a real tear-jerker too and involves young people who are around the age I was when these songs came into my life.

I went to a school that punched above its weight in terms of academic success for its pupils and many of us from what I would call a working class culture headed off to university. Not always easy to assimilate though and I strongly identified with the male character Connell. No, not easy when you find yourself straddling two worlds but not fitting into either – If you watch it, I’d be interested in your thoughts.

NORMAL PEOPLE
Connell and Marianne from Normal People

Thoughts Of The Week, Thin Lizzy and “Dancing In The Moonlight (It’s Caught Me In It’s Spotlight)”

I’ve been surprised at how quickly we become acclimatised to the new normal. Just like the grieving process there seems to be a “lockdown process”, and although different for everyone depending on your circumstances, I am currently in a very different place to the one I was in seven weeks ago, possibly because I’ve entered the acceptance phase. The direct debits have been cancelled, I’ve fired out as many offers of help to neighbours as I can, my weekly menu plans mean we live in a zero food-waste household, and best of all, coming up to a slightly scary big birthday I think I’m the fittest I’ve been in years. Mr WIAA and I worked out yesterday that in terms of miles covered (purely for exercise of course), we could have walked to Aberdeen and back during the lockdown period, a distance of 200 miles.

I’m Gonna Be (500 Miles) by The Proclaimers:

Before anyone thinks I’m starting to sound smug, I am still a tad concerned at how on earth we are going to get our businesses back up and running any time soon, but the blind panic I was experiencing at the beginning has certainly dissipated somewhat. It is a bit of a worry that my mum is in a local care home and I haven’t been able to visit her since the beginning of March, but so far the virus has been kept at bay, which is great. Every time I phone it feels like I am interrupting all the fun, and although she appreciates the call, she can’t wait to get back to what she was doing, painting rainbows or making VE Day bunting with her friends. I think the dynamic in the care home has changed in that it has become so much more self-contained by necessity, and they have become one big family, not having to open up for visitors all day long. It costs a lot, and a week of care home charges could subsidise DD for a month, but I can certainly sleep easy which is good.

Speaking of DD, we have seen more of her in the last seven weeks than we have in years as an awful lot of FaceTiming has been going on. When your offspring first leave home you pine for them and are desperate for them to call home, but realise they are busy with their new lives so try to remain patient. Turns out that during a global pandemic it’s not an issue, and we sometimes even have to cut the call short in order to free ourselves up for the latest instalment of our current boxset (but we won’t tell her that). Families also come together in a way they might not have done in decades. We have a weekly quiz night with Mr WIAA’s extended family who are scattered all over the country and even hosted our own for the first time on Wednesday night. I’d like to say it went well, and it did up to a point, but we totally messed up the scores on the doors and there was ensuing dissidence in the ranks. Fortunately we pulled it back and gave people their correct standings by the time we closed the meeting, so honour was restored.

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We Are Family by Sister Sledge:

This bit of blogging is mainly for my own benefit as I no longer keep a paper diary so my blog is going to be my only record of the times we are living through. I do have a few musical posts in my back pocket however so want to get back to them soon or else the moment will pass. Somehow we are going to have to learn to live with this new virus, as a permanent life in lockdown until there is a safe vaccine is just not an option. We all have our own views on that, and a scary premise indeed, but just as we’ve kind of quickly got used to the whole lockdown scenario, we will have to get used to living in a way that minimises the health risk and preserves the capacity of our NHS. Difficult times indeed.

Before I go, many of you will have spotted the Flower Moon in our skies this week. I have written about it before for my Full Moon Calendar In Song series but the one on Wednesday night was the last supermoon of the year, so was particulary bright. In fact it was so bright I thought I’d left the outside light on and mistakenly got up to switch it off. It kind of caught you in its spotlight making you want to go dancing in the moonlight. Cue Thin Lizzy from 1977.

Dancing In The Moonlight (It’s Caught Me In Its Spotlight) by Thin Lizzy:

I remember well watching Phil Lynott and the rest of the band on TOTP around this time and was always fascinated by their hair. Back in those days, the plethora of hair conditioning products available to us now just didn’t exist, yet his guitarist bandmate Scott Gorham had the most gorgeous long, shiny hair. As a teenage girl I was well jealous. As for Phil, he seemed to have managed to cultivate a “do” that covered his left eye, which was unusual for that time.

Looking at these lyrics now, it’s a song that reminds me of those teenage years when plucking up the courage to ask for that last dance can be so pivotal, and let’s face it, who hasn’t got chocolate stains on their “pants” at the cinema (heck I once dropped a whole ice-cream). You stay out too late and miss the last bus, so have to tell your parents you’re staying with a friend. All worthwhile however as you’ve been caught in the spotlight on a long hot summer night.

Until next time….

Dancing In The Moonlight (It’s Caught Me In Its Spotlight)
(Song by Phil Lynott)

When I passed you in the doorway
Well you took me with a glance
I should have took that last bus home
But I asked you for a dance

Now we go steady to the pictures
I always get chocolate stains on my pants
And my father he’s going crazy
He says I’m living in a trance

But I’m dancing in the moonlight
It’s caught me in its spotlight
It’s alright, alright
Dancing in the moonlight
On this long hot summer night

It’s three o’clock in the morning
And I’m on the streets again
I disobeyed another warning
I should have been in by ten

Now I won’t get out until Sunday
I’ll have to say I stayed with friends
But it’s a habit worth forming
If it means to justify the end

Dancing in the moonlight
It’s caught me in its spotlight
It’s alright, alright
Dancing in the moonlight
On this long hot summer night

And I’m walking home
The last bus has long gone
But I’m dancing in the moonlight

[Instrumental]

Dancing in the moonlight
It’s caught me in its spotlight
It’s alright, alright
Dancing in the moonlight
On this long hot summer night

Dancing in the moonlight (I’m dancing in the moonlight)
It’s caught me in its spotlight (It’s caught me in in it’s spotlight)
Dancing in the moonlight (dancing in the moonlight)
On this long hot summer night (It’s got me hot)

The C Word, Simon & Garfunkel and “Bridge Over Troubled Water”

The first time I mentioned the “C Word” around here was on the 14th of March as that was the week when it suddenly became real for us here in the UK and it wasn’t just something happening elsewhere. Since then I’ve vacillated between trying to remain upbeat (sharing old photos & recipes) and getting down and dirty, having a bit of a rant about certain behaviours.

It’s Saturday morning, which is my usual time for a weekly blogging session, but I’m not really in the mood for upbeat today. I mentioned a couple of weeks ago that I’ve had to back-pedal a fair few times of late, apologising to some friends and neighbours for having been a bit too honest regarding my predictions for the near future. I was apparently spoiling things, as it seems my neck of the woods is loving lockdown life. The weather is fine, the garden beckons and come Thursday evening there is a carnival atmosphere in my street as we Clap for Carers, complete with the dreaded vuvuzela, the scourge of the 2010 South Africa World Cup.

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Having watched footage on telly, it seems the NHS frontline staff do appreciate the support of the nation and in the absence of us being able to come in and help intubate critically ill patients, not much more many of us can do. We are all patting ourselves on the back for staying at home, protecting the NHS and saving lives but it just doesn’t sit well with me at all. At some point the narrative will have to change, and we will have to leave home, but by then everyone will have become so acclimatised to the risks that could bring, they won’t want to.

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The Castle in the centre of town

It has always horrified me how much as a nation we spend on defence and nuclear weaponry, and all because we apparently need a place at some Top Table or other. Not in my name. I really don’t want a place anywhere near that table, and as it’s turned out, we’ve been spending money on the wrong kind of defence. The enemy in this war is an invisible virus and no amount of nuclear missiles could defeat it. Our frontline warriors are doctors, nurses, care workers, cleaners and porters who never signed up for this and whose places of work have been criminally underfunded for years. How much PPE could that new aircraft carrier have bought. Here is a quote from the Defence pages of the Government’s website.

The future flagships for the UK are the 2 new Queen Elizabeth Class aircraft carriers and are the largest British warships ever built.

They, along with the F35B Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter and Merlin Mk2 helicopters will help keep the UK armed forces modern, flexible and powerful.

The combination of the carrier, its aircraft and personnel will enable the UK to protect the nation.

As I said, we’ve been spending the money from our coffers on the wrong kind of defence. I sincerely hope all the frontline workers dealing with this pandemic get the support they are going to need when we move onto the second phase of the “new normal”. It’s an obvious quote to choose I know, but Churchill’s, “Never was so much owed by so many to so few” springs to mind.

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One of the upsides of the lockdown is that many of us are making full use of our one hour of daily exercise. Mr WIAA and I have covered most of the routes radiating from base camp over the last five weeks and taken a fair amount of pictures. Another upside of course is that we are heading into summer and not winter which would have been awful (but of course only for those of us in the Northern Hemisphere). Here are a few of those pictures:

At the start of this year I had decided to revisit the UK Singles Chart of 1970. It contained music from 50 years ago and reflected simpler and happier times I thought (how prescient). I only got as far as Lee Marvin’s Wandrin’ Star (link here) when things started to go horribly wrong and my blog posts changed tack. Picking up where I left off, the record that made it to the No. 1 spot after Lee’s song from the film Paint Your Wagon, was this one by Simon & Garfunkel.

Bridge Over Troubled Water by Simon & Garfunkel:

Somehow this is the 5th time I’ll have featured a song by Simon & Garfunkel around here and they even have their very own category on my sidebar. I don’t think I would have envisioned that happening when I started the blog. They’ve made their way into my adult hippocampus by stealth and are now firmly going to remain there.

I remember Bridge Over Troubled Water well from 1970 as it stayed at the top spot in the charts for many weeks. I also remember that it was one of those situations when the artists never appeared on telly and a very basic little film was shown on TOTP to accompany the song instead. I would be lying if I said it was a favourite of mine from their vast back catalogue having now become a bit over-familiar, but as well as tying in with my revisitation of the Singles Chart of 1970, it is also apt for the times and fits in with one of my pictures above. We are lucky to live within walking distance of the Caledonian Canal, the River Ness and the Beauly Firth, so there are many bridges around here. Hopefully the waters won’t be troubled for too much longer.

I will end with a funny story I remember from one of the many film star biographies I read when I was young. I mentioned the “C Word” in my opening line, but of course that is usually a euphemism for another upsetting ailment, and one used by John Wayne when he called his sons together to break the bad news. They were quite young at the time, but still old enough to misinterpret what he meant. Eldest son quickly replied with the words, “Jeez Dad, you’ve got the clap”.

I seem to have gone full circle in this one from one kind of clap to another, and also from one kind of bridge to another, but often just the way it turns out.

Until next time….

Bridge Over Troubled Water Lyrics
(Song by Paul Simon) 

When you’re weary, feeling small,
When tears are in your eyes
I will dry them all
I’m on your side
Oh when times get rough
And friends just can’t be found

Like a bridge over troubled water
I will lay me down
Like a bridge over troubled water
I will lay me down

When you’re down and out
When you’re on the street
When evening falls so hard
I will comfort you
I’ll take your part
Oh when darkness comes
And pain is all around

Like a bridge over troubled water
I will lay me down
Like a bridge over troubled water
I will lay me down

Sail on, silver girl
Sail on by
Your time has come to shine
All your dreams are on their way
See how they shine
Oh if you need a friend
I’m sailing right behind

Like a bridge over troubled water
I will ease your mind
Like a bridge over troubled water
I will ease your mind

Lockdown Recipes, Gerry Rafferty and “Baker Street”

Here’s a little present for you. Two in fact.

I think I’ve mentioned around here before that I have another blog set up as an homage to my favourite Scottish author, Jane Duncan. I’ve not updated it for a while but today decided to check if anyone had visited recently. Turns out they had, and all because I’d included a recipe for Girdle Scones a fair while back. In these days of staying at home, it seems more and more of us are trying our hands at baking, and girdle scones couldn’t be easier to make. Just to be clear, I’ve not made a typo there, I do mean girdle and not griddle, as that’s just what it’s called around here.

I had included that recipe after paying a visit to MacDonald’s Hardware in Dingwall (click on the link to see what their very Scottish best-selling item is), where I’d spotted a girdle just like the one my granny used to have. Most mornings, especially during the long summer holidays when her grandchildren were around, she would mix together a few ingredients and make some pancakes or scones. I absolutely had to buy one for myself, and soon found the perfect recipe, ironically on a website set up by a lady in Dunedin, New Zealand. Considering Dunedin (Dùn Èideann) is the Scottish Gaelic name for Edinburgh, and considering the fact that New Zealand is awash with the offspring of former Scottish immigrants, I thought it was quite fitting.

In case you want to try them out for yourself (a heavy frying pan can be substituted for a girdle), here is that recipe. Very easy indeed, and quick to make. I took some pictures last time I made some and you must admit, they do look tasty, especially if spread with homemade strawberry jam.

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Girdle Scones

Ingredients:

1 cup plain flour
2 tspns baking powder
1/2 oz butter
pinch of salt
1/2 cup currants
1/2 cup milk

Sift the dry ingredients into a bowl.

Rub in the butter until it resembles fine breadcrumbs.

Stir in the currants (or sultanas if you prefer) and then add just enough milk to make a soft dough. Don’t add all the milk at once though, in case you don’t need all of it. If your dough looks a little sticky don’t be afraid to add a little more flour.

Roll out to roughly 1/2 an inch thick and cut into six wedges.

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Grease the girdle then place on a hob until hot. Carefully transfer the “snuggled up” wedges onto the girdle and wait until golden brown and cooked in the middle. Takes roughly 5 minutes on either side. When turning your wedges, be careful to place them gently on the hot surface, and try to turn them only once.

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Transfer to a cooling rack and enjoy.

But of course this is supposed to be a music blog, so where’s the song? At first I was a bit stumped, as not many songs about baking out there and I’ve already exhausted my stash of kitchen songs for an earlier post. All seemed lost, then a light bulb moment, and I was reminded of this classic from 1978, Baker Street by Gerry Rafferty.

Baker Street by Gerry Rafferty:

Named after a street in London which had no doubt housed bakeries centuries earlier, the song was included on Gerry’s album, City to City. It came along during my last year at senior school and although it didn’t make it to the No.1 spot, it certainly did hang around the charts for an awful long time. The song had apparently been written when he was commuting between his home in Glasgow and his lawyers in London, trying to disentangle himself from the contract he’d had with his previous band Stealers Wheel. “I knew a guy who lived in a little flat off Baker Street,” he said. “We’d sit and chat or play guitar there through the night.” Of course for most of us, the most memorable part of the song is the prominent eight-bar saxophone riff played as a break between verses.

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So, “What’s It All About?” – It’s a funny old business being on lockdown isn’t it, and although I’ve been on a real roller-coaster of emotions over the last few weeks (as can be seem from the material in my blog posts), today I think I just let it go. It’s been lovely and sunny, so our morning walk (for exercise) took in a really picturesque part of town and I made a little film when I came home with the shots taken on my phone. In the afternoon I rearranged the furniture to create a comforting little nook in the now redundant dining room that overlooks the garden. No-one will be coming to visit for some time, so we can live just how we want at the moment. I think we are all appreciating our food a lot more, and valuing where it comes from, so spending time in the kitchen is less of a chore and more of a joy.

Having said all that, if you are a frontline or key worker, or indeed trying to work from home whilst home-schooling children, I know your experience of lockdown will be a totally different one. I do feel guilty that the way things have landed, neither Mr WIAA or myself are currently of much use to anyone, but hopefully our time will come. Tomorrow I might fall to pieces again, but until then, I will enjoy Gerry and enjoy my scones. Should you choose to accept the mission of making them, you will not be disappointed.

Until Next time….

Baker Street Lyrics
(Song by Gerry Rafferty)

Winding your way down on Baker Street
Light in your head and dead on your feet
Well, another crazy day
You’ll drink the night away
And forget about everything
This city desert makes you feel so cold
It’s got so many people, but it’s got no soul
And it’s taken you so long
To find out you were wrong
When you thought it held everything

You used to think that it was so easy
You used to say that it was so easy
But you’re trying, you’re trying now
Another year and then you’d be happy
Just one more year and then you’d be happy
But you’re crying, you’re crying now

Way down the street there’s a light in his place
He opens the door, he’s got that look on his face
And he asks you where you’ve been
You tell him who you’ve seen
And you talk about anything
He’s got this dream about buying some land
He’s gonna give up the booze and the one-night stands
And then he’ll settle down
In some quiet little town
And forget about everything

But you know he’ll always keep moving
You know he’s never gonna stop moving
‘Cause he’s rolling, he’s the rolling stone
And when you wake up, it’s a new morning
The sun is shining, it’s a new morning
And you’re going, you’re going home

Division, Extremes and “Pinball” by Brian Protheroe

I can’t be alone in noticing that this crisis is throwing up the most awful contrasts in the lives of our citizens. I also can’t be alone in cringing when I see “celebrities” (the more pointless of them thankfully now redundant) sharing pictures from their luxury mansions, bemoaning the fact that lockdown is like being in jail. No it’s not – You have five bedrooms, a pool, and access to a stash of cash. If ever there was a time for them to leave social media behind, it would be now.

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Ignore the missing apostrophe, not my doing

But even closer to home, I find myself getting a bit fratchety with some friends and neighbours who just don’t seem to be showing any empathy at all for what certain groups of people are currently going through. How can you live in 21st century Britain without realising this is not all just a bit of an inconvenience but something really, really far-reaching for the future. The division between rich and poor has never been so marked and during a global pandemic it turns out that in the main, it is those who earn the least that are the most valuable. Every day they are putting their lives at risk, for which I am truly grateful, and tell them so at every opportunity.

Poverty-Line

As for our many friends who also work in the craft industries (one of whom always told us his ambition was to one day reach the poverty line), I not only worry about their ability to tick over during this lockdown, but also their mental health. Being a creative type does tend to go hand in hand with a heightened sensitivity to bloody everything, and the NaPoWriMo poems coming in from my writer friends is bearing that out.

But hey, rant over, this is a music blog and I heard a wonderful song from 1974 on the car radio last week as I headed out to forage for provisions. It was all about that feeling of ennui, which makes you hole up at home, not bothering to go out. Ironically we are nearly all now holed up at home, but not from the feeling of ennui, but because we are frankly terrified of going out both for health reasons and for fear of falling foul of fast-changing lockdown rules (unintentional but lively alliteration there).

Brian Protheroe still is and was primarily an actor back in 1974, but he also wrote a few fine songs and released some albums on the Chrysalis label. His most successful single was Pinball and I have become quite smitten by it.

Pinball by Brian Protheroe:

Brian had been out of work and was living in a flea ridden room in Covent Garden. The song came out of the mundane things he saw over the course of the weekend. There is a sax solo but other than that it’s a very simple song, just folky verses and no chorus. It also references the Beatles split from a few years before and all of Brian’s songs are noted for their use of wordplay, some nonsensical, in the vein of John Lennon.

So, “What’s It All About?” – Funny how we are happy to go with the flow when life is normal (and not “the new normal”), but at times of crisis, the glittering lives of those we have elevated to celebrity status are suddenly unimportant. Also, those many acquaintances and Facebook “friends” we are happy to engage with when times are good, are now showing their true colours. I have been really touched by some of the offers of help old friends have given to DD, as her situation is really difficult at the moment. Not needed as yet but I will remember them. I will also remember those who have laughed at me and told me I’m just overthinking things as everything will soon be back to how it was. I know we have to remain positive, but deliberately burying your head in the sand when so many are going to suffer, is just crass. Post-coronavirus all bets are off and only time will tell what “the new, new normal” will really look like.

Until next time, take care as ever, and feel free to leave a comment. I need to know I am not just another music geek, who overthinks things.

Pinball Lyrics
(Song by Brian Protheroe)

And I’ve run out of pale ale
And I feel like I’m in jail
And my music bores me once again
And I’ve been on the pinball
And I know longer know it all
And they say that you never know when you’re insane

Got fleas in my bedroom
Got flies in my bathroom
And the cat just finished off the bread
So I walk over Soho
And I read about Monroe
And I wonder was she really what they said

Got a call from a good friend
Come on down for the weekend
Didn’t know if I could spare the time
I knew a woman who was crazy
About a boy who was lazy
But it didn’t work out ‘cos they just couldn’t make it rhyme

Hey Jude you were alright
I could have grooved with you all night
But you turned your back on the part again
Mama if i keep my head clean
Will I really have a good dream
Or will I wake up in confusion just the same

And I’ve run out of pale ale
And I feel like I’m in jail
Got fleas in the bedroom
Got flies in the bathroom
Got a call from a good friend
Come on down for the weekend
Hey Jude you were alright
I could have grooved with you all night

And I’ve been on the pale ale
And I feel like a pinball

Postscript:

When doing a modicum of research for this post I discovered that Brian Protheroe has been the narrator for the Channel 4 dating show First Dates since 2013. When I travelled south to meet up with the lovely C from Sun Dried Sparrows last summer, we had lunch in that very location.

The Night Sky, Nick Drake and A Super “Pink Moon”

We may be living through the rigours of a global pandemic, but the moon knows nothing about it, and we are about to witness a Super Pink Moon on Tuesday night – Super because it’s at that point in its elliptical orbit when it comes nearest to Earth, so looks larger than usual. I’ve written about the Pink Moon before so time to revisit that post and the song of the same name I think. Looking up at the sky tonight, it’s easy to forget that all is not as it should be in the world right now, but even in lockdown, we should still be able to enjoy this celestial spectacle on Tuesday night.

What's It All About?

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

It passes in a flash doesn’t it? Ever since following the full moon cycle for this blog, the lunar months seem to have rocketed by. This calendar month, on the 30th April, we are to have a Pink Moon appear in our skies. This time the name comes from one of the spring flowers the ancient Native Americans would have seen covering the ground around April’s full moon – The pink Moss Phlox.

Well I can’t say I have such a flower in my garden, but I can…

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NaPoWriMo, The Crusaders and “Street Life” (Or Rather The Lack Of It)

Well, how are we all doing? A whole new collection of words and phrases has entered our vocabulary (self-isolation, social distancing, on furlough et al) and it somehow feels as if they’ve always been with us, but they really haven’t, it’s just that everyone seems to have adapted overnight to “the new normal”.

I’ve already been for my daily walk and fortunately timed it just right, as yesterday we did not, and ended up striding along the banks of the Caledonian Canal in sheet rain. I was wearing one of those coats with a complicated hood full of channels for cords and toggles. By the time we’d worked out how they kept sheet rain out it was too late, but no matter, I certainly wasn’t going anywhere important where I had to look smart and coiffed, just back home.

Home.

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I spend a lot of time at home in my normal life, so not a big change for me. The big change is that economically I now have no purpose, as my purpose was to help Mr WIAA run his business and to prepare for guests coming to stay in the holiday hideaway. Neither of these businesses can operate in this strange new world of staying at home and social distancing, so all a tad disconcerting. I know we have to stay at home to protect the NHS and save lives, but my goodness, the fallout will be with us all for many, many years to come and I fear for the younger generation whose job it will be to navigate this brave new world.

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Spread your wings, but not for a while it seems

A very pleasant distraction that came along yesterday was the start of NaPoWriMo – National Poetry Writing Month. Although I am currently a lapsed student, I am still part of a NaPoWriMo FaceBook group, and a fair few efforts have already come in. I shared some of my fellow students’ work last year (link here) as I was really blown away by their poems, having quickly realised it was not a discipline I had any talent for at all. Whenever I did post something it tended to be a comedic tum-ti-tum kind of affair, and true to form, my first contribution this year seems to have gone along the same lines.

A Loo Roll Dystopia

Handed in a story once upon a time
Up for an assessment, thought it would be fine
Looked forward to the outcome, but ’twas a massive fail!
“Too far-fetched… , dystopian” was deemed to be my tale

But that was then, and this is now
And I find myself with furrowed brow
I had foretold what might come to pass
But missed the obsession we’d have with our ass

Paper products stripped from the shelves
Even those in a pack of twelve
When the threat recedes of what came from Hubei
We’ll be trapped inside, by Triple Velvet 3-ply

(I’ll get my coat!)

No mention of music yet in this post, but I am inclined to share a song I heard on the radio last night before heading to bed. When Randy Crawford started to sing Street Life, the song she recorded with American jazz band The Crusaders, it really hit home that street life as we know it has all but gone, and we miss it. The song reached No. 5 in the UK Singles Chart in 1979 and represented the peak of the band’s commercial popularity. Randy has appeared around here before, a couple of times, as I have always had a great fondness for her voice.

I usually share an audio clip of the featured song but it seems I don’t have The Crusader’s Street Life in my library. What I do have however is another Street Life by Roxy Music, this time from 1973. He certainly was a very dapper chap that Bryan Ferry wasn’t he? Again the lyrics about a world I now know nothing of, bar the suburban streets that run adjacent to the place we call home.

Street Life by Roxy Music:

I hope you and those you love stay safe and well. It hasn’t really hit home what we are up against yet here in the North of Scotland, but for any of you who are key workers caught up in the eye of the storm, you have my immense admiration and gratitude for what you are doing.

Until next time….

Street Life Lyrics
(Song by Will Jennings/Joe Sample)

I play the street life
Because there’s no place I can go
Street life
It’s the only life I know
Street life
And there’s a thousand cards to play
Street life
Until you play your life away

You let the people see

Just who you wanna be
And every night you shine
Just like a superstar
The type of life that’s played
A temptin’ masquerade
You dress you walk you talk
You’re who you think you are

Street life

You can run away from time
Street life
For a nickel or a dime
Street life
But you better not get old
Street life
Or you’re gonna feel the cold

There’s always love for sale

A grown up fairy tale
Prince charming always smiles
Behind a silver spoon
And if you keep it young
Your song is always sung
Your love will pay your way
Beneath the silver moon

Street life

Street life
Street life
Oh street life

I play the street life

Because there’s no place I can go
Street life
It’s the only life I know

Street life

And there’s a thousand cards to play
Street life
Until you play your life away – oh
Street life
Street life
Street life
Oh street life