Alyson’s Archive #6 – “Rollermania” and Me

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

I’ve been threatening to write this post for a while, and it seems the time is right, coming at the end of a trilogy of posts inspired by my recent trip to Edinburgh. On our last day there we met some friends in an area of the city called The Meadows, a large green space near the Old Town. Bordering the Meadows is a large building which I discovered was Edinburgh’s Royal Infirmary, however in days gone by it was called Simpson’s Hospital. And why did that sound familiar? Because it’s where most baby boomers from that city were born, including those five lads who for a brief period of time went on to be the world’s biggest boy band – Yes, I’m talking about Les, Eric, Woody, Derek and Alan: The Bay City Rollers.

1302094_65967631
Simpson’s Hospital where the Rollers were born

“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.

fullsizeoutput_6dc
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 Derek. Tam 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?

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-Lang, Summerlove 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 our 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.

img059
The humble author in brown corduroy on the left – On our way to see the Rollers!

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.

IMG_1554
The Rollin’ tour programme and Once Upon A Star, complete with pull-out pics

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.

bay2.jpg

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?

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

Edinburgh, Trainspotting and “Lust for Life”

Last week, despite having just a few too many responsibilities at the moment (regular visitors will know what I mean), Mr WIAA and I managed to spend a few days in our capital city, Edinburgh. Now this is a city steeped in history and awash with culture, but having visited many times before, this time it was nice just to “be” there – Wandering round the Old Town, admiring the New Town (built between 1767 and 1850, so the old town as you can imagine is really old), visiting galleries and stopping for regular refreshments in the city’s many coffee shops and hostelries.

edinburgh

But you can only do that for so long, so what does a middle-aged lady and her husband decide to do on day 2 of the trip? – Why recreate scenes from the film Trainspotting of course! Danny Boyle’s black comedy was released in 1996 and although set in a very different Edinburgh from the one visited by tourists, it made a massive impact, and on some lists is now ranked one of the 10 best British films ever made.

Based on the novel of the same name by Irvine Welsh, the film was about a group of heroin addicts living in an economically depressed area of the city, and their passage through life. It sounds bleak, which it most definitely was in places, but there were also moments of great humour, and of course for anyone who knows the film well, the soundtrack was a triumph and has gone on to become a pop culture phenomenon. It contained music from the ’70s by artists such as Lou Reed and Iggy Pop, musicians closely associated with drug use, but also music from the Britpop era and ’90s techno-dance music by bands such as Underworld.

Born Slippy .NUXX by Underworld:

The main character in the film, Renton, was played by Ewan McGregor and no-one who has seen it will forget that opening scene where he and his friends are being chased through the streets of central Edinburgh: “Choose life,” began his monologue. “Choose a job. Choose a career. Choose a family. Choose a f**king big television. Choose washing machines, cars, compact disc players, and electrical tin can openers. Choose good health, low cholesterol and dental insurance. Choose fixed-interest mortgage repayments. Choose a starter home ………… But why would I want to do a thing like that? I chose not to choose life. I chose somethin’ else. And the reasons? There are no reasons. Who needs reasons when you’ve got heroin?”.  All played out of course to the sound of Iggy Pop’s 1977 song, Lust for Life.

Lust for Life by Iggy Pop:

The little film above was made over the course of two days as we did a recce on day one just to find the locations. On day two we got the scenes we were looking for, but maybe not wise to have worn a pair of boots with heels – Oh well, next time I decide to recreate scenes from a movie about drug addicts, I will remember that.

Whilst on the trip, I got to thinking about some of the other great scenes from the film, and one that has stuck with me is when Renton meets “wise beyond her years” love-interest Diane for the first time. Turned out the “flatmates” he met the next morning were in fact her parents – One of the funniest moments in the entire film (but perhaps not quite as funny in the 21st century in light of recent news stories):

untitled-article-1441882776-body-image-1441883689

Renton: Excuse me, excuse me. I don’t mean to harass you, but I was very impressed with the capable and stylish manner in which you dealt with that situation. And I was thinking to myself, now this girl’s special.
Diane: Thanks.
Renton: What’s your name?
Diane: Diane.
Renton: And where are you going, Diane?
Diane: I’m going home.
Renton: Well, where’s that?
Diane: It’s where I live.
Renton: Great.
Diane: What?
Renton: Well, I’ll come back with you if you like, but like, I’m not promising anything, you know.
Diane: Do you find that this approach usually works? Or let me guess, you’ve never tried it before. In fact, you don’t normally approach girls – am I right? The truth is that you’re a quiet sensitive type but if I’m prepared to take a chance, I might just get to know the inner you: witty, adventurous, passionate, loving, loyal. Taxi! A little bit crazy, a little bit bad. But hey – don’t us girls just love that?
Renton: Eh?
Diane: Well, what’s wrong boy – cat got your tongue?

And of course when Diane doesn’t get Iggy’s name quite right:

Diane: You’re not getting any younger Mark. The world’s changing. Music’s changing. Even drugs are changing. You can’t stay in here all day dreaming about heroin and Ziggy Pop.
Renton: It’s Iggy Pop.
Diane: Whatever. I mean, the guy’s dead anyway.
Renton: Iggy Pop’s not dead. He toured last year! Tommy went to see him.
Diane: The point is, you’ve got to find something new.

I think most of us who were fans of the first film will by now have seen the sequel, made just over 20 years later and called T2 Trainspotting. Back in 1996 “the prevailing anxieties were over the spiritual bankruptcy of western consumerist society”. In the sequel, Renton updates the iconic speech from the original film – The must-have consumer goods of 1996 have gone, replaced by an assault on the dismal features of millennial life, especially social media. “Choose Facebook,” says middle-aged Renton, “Twitter, Instagram and hope that someone, somewhere cares … Choose reality TV, slut shaming, revenge porn. Choose a zero-hours contract, a two-hour journey to work. And choose the same for your kids, only worse, and smother the pain with an unknown dose of an unknown drug made in somebody’s kitchen …”

thA7E9MTUR

Back in 1996 I did choose life, and I don’t mean that I bought into acquiring the consumer goods listed in the monologue, but by giving up work to look after baby DD. Being married to someone in the Arts this was perhaps a rash plan, but it seemed to work out for us and made for a much less stressful life. We’ve never been big on “stuff”, always preferring “time”, but I realise this is not an option for everyone. 20 years on and being liked on social media seems to have replaced the need for consumer goods for millennials, but who can blame them. My generation bought up all the houses and have now bought up the starter flats on a buy-to-let basis, so life is tough for them. As for me, since taking up blogging I have all but abandoned social media but then again, what is blogging if not a different form of social media? We convince ourselves it is to hone our writing skills, but I can’t deny there is a great sense of pleasure when the feedback is favourable and I do love the discussion that can sometimes develop. Let’s see what this one brings.

As for the soundtrack album that went with the first film, I of course bought it back in 1996, ironically with a voucher received as a leaving gift from one the departments I had worked with before giving it all up…… and Choosing Life. Sadly the purchases I made with that voucher were all on cassette tape which was the worst medium for music consumption, but fortunately easy to replace nowadays, which I have now done.

But the last word should probably come from Renton. Trainspotting was a film about drug addicts, primarily watched by people like myself who weren’t drug addicts (don’t do it kids). The film did however make us understand it all a bit more: “People think it’s all about misery and desperation and death and all that shit which is not to be ignored, but what they forget is the pleasure of it. Otherwise we wouldn’t do it. After all, we’re not f**king stupid. At least, we’re not that f**king stupid.”

Until next time….

Lust for Life Lyrics
(Song by Iggy Pop/David Bowie)

Here comes Johnny Yen again
With the liquor and drugs
And a flesh machine
He’s gonna do another strip tease

Hey man, where’d you get that lotion?
I’ve been hurting since I bought the gimmick
About something called love
Yeah, something called love
Well, that’s like hypnotising chickens

Well, I’m just a modern guy
Of course, I’ve had it in the ear before
‘Cause of a lust for life
‘Cause of a lust for life

I’m worth a million in prizes
With my torture film
Drive a G.T.O.
Wear a uniform
All on government loan

I’m worth a million in prizes
Yeah, I’m through with sleeping on the sidewalk
No more beating my brains
No more beating my brains
With the liquor and drugs
With the liquor and drugs

Well, I’m just a modern guy
Of course, I’ve had it in my ear before
‘Cause, of a lust for life (lust for life)
‘Cause of a lust for life (lust for life, oooo)
I’ve got a lust for life (oooh)
Got a lust for life (oooh)
Oh, a lust for life (oooh)
Oh, a lust for life (oooh)
A lust for life (oooh)
I got a lust for life (oooh)
Got a lust for life

Well, I’m just a modern guy
Of course, I’ve had it in my ear before
‘Cause I’ve a lust for life
‘Cause I’ve a lust for life.

Well, here comes Johnny Yen again
With the liquor and drugs
And a flesh machine
I know he’s gonna do another strip tease

Hey man, where’d ya get that lotion?
Your skin starts itching once you buy the gimmick
About something called love
Oh Love, love, love
Well, that’s like hypnotising chickens.

Well, I’m just a modern guy
Of course, I’ve had it in the ear before
And I’ve a lust for life (lust for life)
‘Cause I’ve a lust for life (lust for life)
Got a lust for life
Yeah, a lust for life
I got a lust for life
Oh, a lust for life
Got a lust for life
Yeah a lust for life
I got a lust for life

Kate Bush, The Motors and The Summer of 1978

Last time I shared a little film of my hometown, which highlighted just how blue the skies were on the first day of Spring. Since then, I have been feeling a bit nostalgic about the band ELO – That of course would be because the music I chose to accompany the film was Mr. Blue Sky, from their 1977 album “Out of the Blue”. The cover for that particular album was very memorable for me, because it was one of the pieces of artwork that graced the walls of the very basic cottage I shared with my best friend the summer after leaving school.

out of the blue

We had headed off to work in a very posh country house hotel and luckily for us accommodation came with the job. It was basic indeed, but we had our first taste of independence, with no parents hovering over us asking about our movements – Needless to say that summer we worked hard (being a breakfast waitress plus jack-of-all-trades is a tough gig) but also played hard – Living off the beaten track, we built up a good working relationship with Diamond Doug, the taxi-man who got that nickname because he seemed to favour wearing a certain style of patterned jumper.

That summer, over the course of a weekend, it was not unusual to:

  • Work until 10pm.
  • Rush back to the cottage to change into our “going-out” clothes. (This being 1978 the previously under-used function suites of our local hotels had suddenly become kitted out with flashing dance floors and glitter balls as per the film Saturday Night Fever, but the clothes to match came later. That summer for us was still the summer of peasant skirts and broderie anglais tops as worn by Linda Ronstadt et al.)
  • Get picked up by Doug who would take us to our destination of choice by 11pm.
  • Bop until 1am (hoping that the last dance of the night, to the refrains of The Commodores mega-ballad Three Times A Lady, would be with one of our local T-Bird equivalents, that name taken from the summer’s other film phenomenon, Grease).
  • Have a bit of a smooch with the aforementioned T-Bird (who for one summer only had decided that girls of the Sandy persuasion were perhaps preferable to those of the Rizzo persuasion) whilst waiting for Doug to come and drive us home again, just in time to grab around 3 hours of sleep before getting up and doing it all over again!

The Summer of ’78 summed up for an 18-year-old girl!

Phew, I’m exhausted just writing about that so am amazed that my younger self managed to actually live life at that pace – The energy of youth. But back to the album cover for “Out of the Blue”, my friend Catriona definitely had that one up on her side of our bedroom wall, and I had some of my favourites over on mine. Looking at my album collection now, I can still tell which ones they were as they have those telltale blu tack, or even worse, sellotape marks on the covers. The vinyl itself must have been simply kept in the inner sleeve but was played constantly on the little mono record player I had brought from my parents’ house. It was the predecessor to the massive Toshiba Music Centre that had replaced it only 6 months previously, but I was never going to be allowed to take that with me, so the mono player it had to be.

Although our social life revolved around going dancing, we were both massive music fans and played anything and everything during our time off that summer. BBC Radio 1 woke us up and entertained us during the day but we also loved playing our records, and roped in friends and relatives to bring us new releases from record shops in the city when they came to visit. So, it was not only the soundtrack albums to Saturday Night Fever and Grease along with ELO and The Commodores we listened to that summer, oh no, it was also punk (Blondie, Sham 69), reggae (Bob Marley), pop and soft rock (Marshall Hain, Jackson Browne) and of course the obligatory novelty song (Father Abraham and the Smurfs!).

I still have one of the singles that Catriona’s sister bought on my behalf that summer – They didn’t really have many other hits and were short lived indeed but there was something about The Motors song Airport that I really liked and whenever I hear it now, I always think of that summer at the cottage with our mono record player.

Airport by The Motors:

As for my friend, the single she had requested, and which was duly delivered by her sister was this one by Kate Bush. Yes, The Man with the Child in His Eyes was also a hit that summer but I have just discovered that Kate actually first recorded it in 1975 and had written it three years earlier at the age of 13. To quote the title of another of her songs – Wow!

So, “What’s It All About?” – Funnily enough, when I sat down to write this post it was going to be all about ELO; about how it was actually the brainchild of Roy Wood; about how he soon moved on but left Jeff Lynne and the others to create something really quite amazing fusing modern rock and pop songs with classical instrumentation; about how Jeff’s partner for many years was the wonderful Rosie Vela whose song Magic Smile has been a bit of an earworm this week; but no, as is wont to happen, looking at the artwork for that ELO album cover just brought back so many memories of that wonderful summer.

The awful thing about reminiscing about the happenings of the summer of 1978 is that I can no longer talk about them with Catriona, as she died 16 years ago, leaving behind a husband and two young children. By then we were living on opposite sides of the Atlantic but if we ever got together, it was just like old times. I didn’t realise back then that I would never have such a close friendship with any other female, ever again. There have been many friends in the intervening years and some lovely friends are part of my life now, but how can you ever recreate what you had with the person you were closest to during those formative years, aged 16 to 21.

Before I go, here is a shot taken with my trusty Kodak Instamatic, of the little cottage Catriona and I shared that summer. Happy memories indeed of a very special person, who had her own magic smile. She made the world that little bit better for all of us who knew her and is sadly missed.

Our very basic cottage (garden needed a bit of tending!)

Until next time….

Airport Lyrics
(Song by Andrew McMaster)

So many destination faces going to so many places
Where the weather is much better
And the food is so much cheaper.
Well I help her with her baggage for her baggage is so heavy
I hear the plane is ready by the gateway to take my love away.
And I can’t believe that she really wants to leave me and it’s getting me so,
It’s getting me so.

Airport –
Airport, you’ve got a smiling face,
you took the one I love so far away
Fly her away – fly her away – airport.
Airport, you’ve got a smiling face
You took my lady to another place
Fly her away – fly her away.

The plane is on the move,
And the traces of the love we had in places
Are turning in my mind – how I wish I’d been much stronger
For the wheels are turning faster as I hear the winds are blowing
and I know that she is leaving
On the jet plane way down the runaway.
And I can’t believe that she really wants to leave me – and it’s
getting me so,
It’s getting me so.

Airport –
Airport, you’ve got a smiling face,…

Airport –
Airport, you’ve got a smiling face,…

Postscript:

As luck would have it I found another entry in my 1978 journal where I’ve jotted down a short and snappy review of the the two big movies Catriona and I went to see that summer, one at the beginning and one right at the end. Again, embarrassing to read my words from back then (and my penmanship seems to have deteriorated) but interesting all the same. Yet again I seem to have not been particularly impressed with either of these films at the time, yet they are now two of my favourites movies of all time – The nonchalance of youth!

img055 (3)

The Vernal Equinox, ELO and “Mr. Blue Sky”

No long wordy post today but I had to share some pictures as it’s the Vernal Equinox, one of my favourite days of the year. At quarter past four this afternoon we reached one of only two points in the year when the number of hours of night and day are equal. Because it’s March, and I’m in the Northern Hemisphere, that means it’s just going to get lighter and brighter every day now for the next three months. Makes me all perky so decided to go out for a drive and take some footage on the newly acquired dash cam. Tomorrow is the day I go for my “personal training” (of the computer variety) so it made sense to make use of some of my new found skills to put together a little film, in the way of homework. Here we are driving through the centre of town and although I would have loved to leave in the original audio (as Mr WIAA and I ended up having a bit of a domestic and a fit of the giggles over the best route), it was decided that it should be replaced – Just too embarrassing.

Mr. Blue Sky by ELO:

I only thought of using this song for my little film as another ELO song, Strange Magic, had come on the radio earlier in the day when I was out taking footage of some of the beautiful scenery we have around here. Seemed apt somehow but that film will be quite time-consuming to make, so for another day [see Postscript].

Mr. Blue Sky featured on ELO’s seventh studio album “Out of the Blue” and was written and produced by the band’s frontman Jeff Lynne. It peaked at No. 6 in the UK Singles Chart in 1978. The song was apparently played as a wake-up call to the astronauts on the final mission of Space Shuttle Atlantis and of course, it was the music used by the Guardians of the Galaxy film people for the Baby Groot dancing scene – Just love that little guy.

thO9PAJN43Until next time…

Mr. Blue Sky Lyrics
(Song by Jeff Lynne)

Morning! Today’s forecast calls for blue skies

Sun is shining in the sky
There ain’t a cloud in sight
It’s stopped raining
Everybody’s in a play
And don’t you know
It’s a beautiful new day
Hey ay ay!

Runnin’ down the avenue
See how the sun shines brightly
In the city
On the streets where once was pity
Mr. Blue
Sky is living here today
Hey ay ay!

Mr. Blue Sky
Please tell us why
You had to hide away
For so long (so long)
Where did we go wrong?

Hey you with the pretty face
Welcome to the human race
A celebration
Mr. Blue Sky’s up there waitin’
And today
Is the day we’ve waited for
Ooorrr

Oh, Mr. Blue Sky
Please tell us why
You had to hide away
For so long (so long)
Where did we go wrong?

Hey there Mr. Blue
We’re so pleased to be with you
Look around see what you do
Everybody smiles at you

Postscript:

I managed to put together another little film from the dash cam footage after my lesson. Decided against Strange Magic in the end and went for another piece of music by Mark Knopfler, which seemed to suit the particular scenes around here really well. I give you Going Home from the excellent 1983 film Local Hero.

Snow Scenes, the Beatles and “Ticket to Ride”

Well, this post has come about because of the plethora of snow images that seem to have come my way this week. It’s been a really cold one and although we’ve avoided snowfall in our neck of the woods, I know that many other parts of the country have had a fair bit – Beautiful if falling in remote scenic places but a bit of a pain if you have to dig your car out for the commute to work.

Yesterday morning we had the Opening Ceremony for the 2018 Winter Olympics which are taking place this time in South Korea. A spectacle of a show as expected with technology playing a large part in the proceedings. I can hardly believe however that there is to be a joint Team Korea at these games. Athletes from the North and South walked into the stadium together, dressed in identical “cosy” outfits behind a unifying blue and white flag. Considering the childish badinage that has taken place between some of our world leaders of late (who really should know better), this was a wonderful sight – The power of sport in bringing people together toward a common goal.

winter olympics

But here are the pictures that have inspired today’s song choice. Our “across the road neighbours” got back from their skiing holiday this week and sent me a few of the shots they had taken there. Turns out they had visited Obertauern in Austria, which is where they filmed those very snowy segments for the Beatles film Help!. Over 50 years later and it seems that it’s still the resort’s main claim to fame, as the pictures below show.

Obertauern

Obertauern
Obertauern in Austria where the Beatles filmed Help!

I always loved the snow scenes in that film and of course that was also when the song Ticket to Ride was included, to accompany their “madcap” antics. The Beatles were dressed in those iconic outfits, black against the white snow, complete with top hats, cape-like jackets and “bunnets”.

To quote Paul:
“It was good to make Help! and it’s a nice film. It’s funny. It’s a period film now. We just took it all very lightly, we had a laugh, and in the snow. All the snow scenes were cos the lads wanted a holiday, they were fed up working.”

Ticket to Ride by the Beatles:

I am not going to insult anyone’s intelligence by explaining who the Beatles were so we’ll stick to the song. Released as a single in April 1965, it became the Beatles’ seventh consecutive No. 1 hit in the UK and their third consecutive No. 1 in the US. It similarly topped the charts in many other parts of the world. The song was recorded in London for the album “Help!” and it marked a progression in their work relative to previous releases. The Beatles it seems were growing up!

But of course being a great fan of the Carpenters, I will have to include their version which was originally recorded in 1969 but then re-recorded for their first Greatest Hits album in 1973. Arranged by Richard Carpenter, the song has a very different sound – The long piano intro means it doesn’t even really kick in until 0:35, and in the capable hands of Karen Carpenter, the line “I think I’m gonna be sad” sounds truly convincing.

No snow here today fortunately, and blue skies, so we’re going to head out shortly to enjoy the day. Hopefully these Winter Olympics in South Korea will provide a fair bit of entertainment over the next couple of weeks as unlike in years gone by, Team GB actually win a fair amount of medals nowadays, on the ice and on the snow. There are also usually a few locals in the Curling Team which always adds to the excitement and has made us all experts. It looks comical, but it’s always impressive how they can sweep the ice to make the stone curl, or go faster. I will leave you with a picture of the view I wake up to from my bedroom window if there’s been a fall of snow overnight – Lucky me, but sadly no Carpenters lurking amongst the trees in my forest!

45 22nd Dec Craig Phadrig hill covered in snow

Until next time….

Ticket to Ride Lyrics
(Song by John Lennon/Paul McCartney)

I think I’m gonna be sad
I think it’s today, yeah
The girl that’s driving me mad
Is going away

She’s got a ticket to ride
She’s got a ticket to ride
She’s got a ticket to ride
But she don’t care

She said that living with me
Is bringing her down, yeah
For she would never be free
When I was around

She’s got a ticket to ride
She’s got a ticket to ride
She’s got a ticket to ride
But she don’t care

I don’t know why she’s riding so high
She ought to think twice
She ought to do right by me
Before she gets to saying goodbye
She ought to think twice
She ought to do right by me

I think I’m gonna be sad
I think it’s today, yeah
The girl that’s driving me mad
Is going away, yeah

Oh, she’s got a ticket to ride
She’s got a ticket to ride
She’s got a ticket to ride
But she don’t care

I don’t know why she’s riding so high
She ought to think twice
She ought to do right by me
Before she gets to saying goodbye
She ought to think twice
She ought to do right by me

She said that living with me
Is bringing her down, yeah
For she would never be free
When I was around

Ah, she’s got a ticket to ride
She’s got a ticket to ride
She’s got a ticket to ride
But she don’t care

My baby don’t care, my baby don’t care
My baby don’t care, my baby don’t care
My baby don’t care, my baby don’t care….

The Jukebox Time Machine #1 – Bowie, The Sweet and a load of “Hocus Pocus”

Lately, I seem to have somewhat lost track of the original premise behind this blog. The eagle-eyed amongst you might have spotted that the domain name for this site contains the words Jukebox Time Machine but it wasn’t long before I decided to veer away from simply randomly journeying back in time to select a “track from my years”. Oh no, the featured song instead became inspired by what was going on in the news, by the seasons, or indeed what was happening in my own life. Once you delve into the back story to a song you find out so much more than was ever available back in the day, so it became appropriate to change the name of the blog to “What’s It All About?” (a nod to the opening lyric from the song Alfie, written by my favourite songwriting team Burt Bacharach and Hal David).

But just for a bit of a change (and perhaps an idea for a new series), I am going to resurrect the idea of having an honest to goodness “time machine” that could randomly whisk me back through the years in order to find out what we were listening to, in terms of the music of the day. There are a fair few time machines in popular culture but the one I’m going to use this time is the contraption conjured up by H.G. Wells (very steampunk) and put together by some clever prop designers for the 1960 film The Time Machine starring Rod Taylor.

So now we have a vehicle to take us back in time, but how will we randomly generate the date to which we will be taken? Fortunately there are lots of devices at our disposal and I’m going to use an online random number generator. The year will be generated from between 1964 and 2006, when the popular UK chart music show Top of the Pops aired on the BBC. I can, at a push, remember watching that show with my parents right from the beginning (yes I’m that old) and I stuck with it, through the good and bad years, until they pulled the plug on it in the mid-noughties. Since then I have kind of lost the plot as far as non-mainstream new music goes, so will stick to those more familiar years. The month and date can also be randomly generated after which all we have to do is refer to the Official UK Top 40 Archive. All sounds very complicated but trust me, it’s not.

Totp_logo_1998.svg

Time to climb aboard then and generate the first date. Here goes:

Year – 1973
Month2, i.e. February
Date – 14 (cute, it’s St Valentine’s Day!)

Anyone who visits here regularly will know that this year could not be better for me in terms of conjuring up memories, as it was not only the year I became a teenager, but it was also the year I became obsessed with pop music and chart rundowns (already written about here). Referring to the Official Top 40 Chart from the 14th Feb 1973, the act at the No. 1 spot was this one, Scottish glam-rock band The Sweet with their only chart-topper, Blockbuster.

Blockbuster by Sweet:

I’m not going to dilly-dally too long writing about that one however as it has been showcased very recently over at Charity Chic Music (link here), where quite a few of us chimed in with our schoolday memories of the song. It still amazes me, watching this footage of the band perform, how they somehow managed to look “macho” whilst wearing just so much glitter, gold lamé and make-up. ‘Twas the times obviously. Lead singer Brian Connolly was a good-looking man back then and I was very envious of his long blonde hair (although oddly in this song, he refers to someone with long black hair). I think I actually sported a not too dissimilar hairstyle myself for much of the noughties, but hadn’t realised until now that the inspiration for it must have been Brian from The Sweet.

But what else was in the 1973 St Valentine’s Day chart. Well as luck would have it, a song I have already featured in the blog – The Jean Genie by David Bowie (link here). It was pointed out back then by The Swede, that the opening riff of Jean Genie bore a striking similarity to that of The Sweet’s Blockbuster which was recorded for the same record label, at around the same time and released just a couple of months later (go on, do a quick compare and contrast). But it was The Sweet who made it to the top spot on this occasion as Bowie’s offering only made it to No. 2. Having done a little digging, the date we’re travelling back to in time to was very relevant to Mr Bowie as it seems that it was on the 14th of February 1973 that he collapsed from exhaustion after a performance at New York’s Madison Square Garden. He had been touring and giving press conferences as his alter-ego Ziggy Stardust for some time, but soon after this collapse, he abruptly retired the character live on stage at London’s Hammersmith Odeon.

The Jean Genie by David Bowie:

So far we’ve revisited two songs that sound very similar to each other but what else in the chart also sounded very similar? Although I can’t say I was a big fan back then, in the fullness of time I have come to appreciate all the falderals involved in the making of a Focus record (a bit of yodelling anyone?) and February 1973 was their time in the sun as far as chart success went. Their instrumental Sylvia was a climber at No.5 and Hocus Pocus was also climbing up the chart at No. 22.

Focus-2-1-
The Dutch prog rock outfit, Focus.

I may well have forgotten all about these Dutch prog rockers had it not been that the album I got for Christmas that year was “Arcade’s 20 Fantastic Hits by the Original Artists”, the emphasis on the word original, as up until then most of these compilations were very much by the unoriginal artists. If you look closely you will see that Blockbuster, The Jean Genie and Hocus Pocus (Track 7 on Side 2) all featured, so this February chart certainly seems to have spawned a fair few of the year’s most memorable hits. (Interesting to note there is a picture of the artist who is apparently Python Lee Jackson which caused lots of confusion at the time. Turned out PLJ was the name of an Aussie band and Rod Stewart had been a guest vocalist.)

20-fantastic-hits_arcade_back.jpg

Hocus Pocus by Focus:

Although we have travelled back in time 45 years, so many of these songs are now part of popular culture and I can’t imagine them ever being forgotten whereas can we really say that about much of what is in the charts today? Maybe I’m wrong but could we envisage a time in the future when there will be another television cop show, this time inspired by the music of 2018? Not sure, but it certainly happened around 10 years ago when Life On Mars was made for our own BBC. The lead character Sam Tyler goes back in time to 1973 and finds himself working under the highly misogynistic, homophobic, borderline alcoholic Detective Chief Inspector Gene Hunt – The Gene Genie. For those of us who remember those days there were many, many amusing musical exchanges between Sam and Gene only made possible because Sam knew the legacy that would be left behind by some of the artists they listened to, on the Ford Granada car radio, or during a nightclub raid. For Gene all this music was as yet unknown, and anyway, he and his wife preferred listening to Roger Whittaker!

Ok, so Life On Mars aired a fair few years ago now but I think it is generally agreed that one of last year’s best films, for music fans at any rate, was this one – Edgar Wright’s Baby Driver. I’m not usually a fan of films that feature multiple car chases, but this one was a very different animal, and the best car chase of all was played out to the sounds of Focus with what has turned out to be their most memorable recording (was it because the words rhymed so well I wonder?). Watching this excellent clip again, the lead character Baby, could definitely give Lewis Hamilton a run for his money.

So, “What’s It All About?” – I hope you’ve enjoyed joining me on my Jukebox Time Machine journey back to February 1973. All you need is a random number generator it seems and we’re good to go, although I may change the mode of transport for next time as H.G. Wells’ time machine was a tad uncomfortable at times – Doc Brown’s DeLorean might make for a smoother ride.

As to whether the music of 2018 will feature in the movies and telly of the future, having thought about it a bit more, it probably will. As the music-obsessed youngsters of today become the movers and shakers of tomorrow, they will use the “tracks of their years” when making directorial debuts, peppering their films with the works of Kendrick Lamar and Childish Gambino (yes I watched the Grammys this week so am “down with the kids”). Problem is, by the time you make it in that world and are entrusted with the big budgets you are a generation older than the majority of your audience. Great for parents taking their kids to the cinema though as there is something for everyone, the action for the youngsters and the music for the mums and dads (Guardians of the Galaxy springs to mind) – All in all, a win-win situation.

Until next time….

Blockbuster Lyrics
(Song by Mike Chapman/Nicky Chinn)

Ahhh, Ahh Ahhh
You better beware, you better take care
You better watch out if you’ve got long black hair
He’ll come from behind, you’ll go out of your mind
You better not go, you never know what you’ll find
Ahh Ahh, Ahh Ahhh

Can’t look into his eyes, you’ll be surprised
If don’t know what going on behind his disguse
Nobody knows where Buster goes
He’ll steal your woman out from under your nose

Does anyone know the way, did we hear someone say
(We just haven’t got a clue what to do)
Does anyone know the way, there’s got to be a way
To Blockbuster

The cops are out, they’re running about
Don’t know if they’ll ever be able to blockbuster out
He’s gotta be caught, he’s gotta be taught
‘Cause he is more evil then anyone here ever thought

Does anybody know the way, did we hear someone say
(We just haven’t got a aho)
Does anybody know the way, there’s got to be a way
To Blockbuster

Does anybody know the way, did we hear someone say
(We just haven’t got a clue what to do)
Does anybody know the way, there’s got to be a way
To Blockbuster

Ahh Ahh, Ahh Ahh
Ahh Ahh, Ahh Ahh

Buster buster blockbuster
Buster buster blockbuster
Buster buster blockbuster
Buster buster blockbuster

Buster buster blockbuster
Buster buster blockbuster

Postscript:

It occurred to me that although the journey back in time was primarily to find out what we were listening to in February 1973, perhaps it might be interesting to remind myself what I was doing at school. As luck would have it (that trusty archive box came up trumps once again), I still have a self-penned “magazine” which we all had to produce in English (the subject not the language) that year.

All very embarrassing as ever, but I was only 12 remember, and one of the “stories” was essentially an exchange between my mum and myself as to the merits of acquiring one of those new-fangled cassette recorders that had just come on the market. Ignore the fact that I seem to have missed the letter “t” in the title (should be tempted) and please ignore the fact that it seems my family were a bit tight with the cash, as in reality I did get a SONY cassette recorder later that year. It was my absolute pride and joy and was heavily used for the rest of my teenage years. I give you an extract from the Reader’s Realm February ’73 edition (adverts were included).

img049 (2)

An American Odyssey in Song: Pennsylvania – The Delfonics and “Didn’t I (Blow Your Mind This Time)”

Welcome to this occasional series where I am attempting a virtual journey around the 50 States of America in song. For anyone new to this place, I have a continuous route map where I enter and leave each state only once. Suggestions for the next leg always welcome!

Looking back at the “history” for this post (we get that here at WordPress), I started writing it back in November! I really need to pick up the pace with this series otherwise it looks as if I’m going to be in my dotage before I make it all the way round to my final destination, Florida. Anyway, as it’s now been over three months since I entered New Jersey (must have lost track of time in those vast gambling emporiums in Atlantic City), the great state of Pennsylvania now beckons. Yet again however we are entering a state that cannot be neatly summed up as having a single character. Pennsylvania has wide stretches of farmland, forests and mountains but it also has Philadelphia, the sixth largest city in the US.

pennsylvaniaA few random facts about Pennsylvania. It was one of the 13 original founding states and came into being as a result of a royal land grant given to William Penn, an English Quaker and son of the state’s namesake. Philadelphia played an important role in the American Revolution as a meeting place for the Founding Fathers of the United States – The Declaration of Independence was signed there on the 4th of July, 1776. It is also home to the cracked Liberty Bell, an iconic symbol of American independence.

During the American Civil War, the Battle of Gettysburg was fought in the south central region of the state and is the place where Abraham Lincoln delivered his landmark address. The Pennsylvania Dutch (who were actually German/Deutsch) settled in the south-east of the state and there are still Christian groups living there today who separate themselves from the world favouring simple living and plain dressing.

But what do I associate with Pennsylvania when it comes to music. Last time a few suggestions were offered up for which I am always grateful. Rol over at My Top Ten suspected I might choose Pennsylvania 6-5000 by The Glenn Miller Orchestra which was most definitely going to be a contender until I discovered it was actually the telephone number for the Hotel Pennsylvania in New York City! C, from Sun Dried Sparrows suggested I’m in Pittsburgh (and It’s Raining) by the Outcasts, a sort of “sub-Stones US ’60s garage classic” she tells us. Last but not least Lynchie, a frequent and very knowledgeable visitor to the music blogosphere, came up with two songs by Loudon Wainwright III. “I don’t think you’ll find the first one on YouTube” he said, and he was right, but fortunately he gave us some of the lyrics for Have You Ever Been To Pittsburgh.

Have you ever been to Pittsburgh
Do you think you’d wanna go?
Have you ever been to Pittsburgh
(It’s in Pennsylvania)
Do you think you’d wanna go?
Well – if you wanna go to Pittsburgh
Get on the bus and go!

“Loudon however”, he added, “also wrote the more affectionate Ode To Pittsburgh” and this time it could be found YouTube. A nice little film to accompany the song that gives us a bit of a flavour of what it might be like to live there. Not heard it myself before, but I find myself strangely smitten.

But as ever, music and film go hand in hand for me, and three movies immediately came to mind for this Pennsylvania post. The tunes from them are by no means all favourites, but they do for me, sum up the state. As tends to happen at award ceremonies, I will announce the results in reverse order:

First of all, when I saw that the next state we would be entering was Pennsylvania, I was immediately reminded of the film The Deer Hunter as the main characters in that epic Vietnam war drama were steelworkers from Clairton, Pennsylvania, a small working class town south of Pittsburgh. The images of that grim steel town have obviously stayed with me but also the scenes in the mountains where that trio of friends, played by Robert De Niro, Christopher Walken and John Savage, spend much of their time deer hunting. I didn’t see the film when it first came out in 1979, but I do remember that the piece of music called Cavatina (popularly known as “Theme from The Deer Hunter”) received much radio airplay at the time and reached No. 13 in the UK Singles Chart. It was performed by classical guitarist John Williams whom I have just discovered is not the same John Williams responsible for writing the film scores for ET and Jurassic Park. Obvious now, but the same name and from a long time ago.

poster_thedeerhunter

Cavatina by John Williams:

The second film I was reminded of was of course Rocky where the main character, played by new kid on the block Sylvester Stallone, is to be seen pounding the streets of Philadelphia in his grey sweats, whilst carrying out his gruelling training regime. These scenes were of course very memorably played out to the sounds of Gonna Fly Now (popularly known as the “Theme from Rocky”) which was composed by Bill Conti. The lyrics (all 30 words of them), were performed by DeEtta Little and Nelson Pigford. Released in February 1977, the song has become part of American popular culture after Rocky Balboa runs up the 72 stone steps leading to the Philadelphia Museum of Art and then raises his arms in a victory pose.

Whenever I watch 1970s footage of American cities (like in this clip), I think of “the three B’s”, boxes, braziers and back alleys, as just about everything I watched on telly back then seemed to feature these three elements. Maybe it was just because there was a plethora of gritty cop shows and crime dramas, but also our inner cities were in real need of gentrification. I am sure however that the Philadelphia of today looks quite different, and I’m also sure that Neil from Yeah, Another Blogger, who is a resident, will keep us right on that score?

Gonna Fly Now by DeEtta Little and Nelson Pigford:

But of course I can’t write a post about PA, without mentioning all the great music that came to be known as the Philadelphia Sound, or Philly Soul. Any regular visitors to this place might remember that I wrote about how it all came to pass recently (The O’Jays, The Three Degrees and a “Year Of Decision”). It does seem that there were three pivotal players without whom it might never have happened – Philadelphia International Records was founded in 1971 by the very talented writer-producer duo Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff, along with collaborator Thom Bell. It very much showcased a new genre of music based on the gospel, doo-wop and soul music of the time. Throughout the 1970s the label released a string of worldwide hits which featured lavish orchestral instrumentation, heavy bass and driving percussion. Some of their most popular and best selling acts included The O’Jays, The Three Degrees, Harold Melvin & the Blue Notes, Teddy Pendergrass, Billy Paul, Patti LaBelle and Lou Rawls.

0000219089

But I have written about some of those artists before so this time I’m going to go a little further back in time to 1969 when Didn’t I (Blow Your Mind This Time) was written by producer Thom Bell and William Hart, lead singer of the Philadelphia R&B/Soul vocal group The Delfonics. It was released by the group on the Philly Groove record label and is regarded as a classic, winning a Grammy Award for Best R&B Performance by a Duo or Group.

And this is where my third film choice comes in, as for many of us, it is simply that great song from the Tarantino film Jackie Brown. It very much plays a pivotal role in the film as it underscores the relationship between main characters Jackie, and Max Cherry. Like many others I was probably a bit too young for a song like this when it first came along in 1969 but after re-discovering it in 1997, when the film came out, I found a new appreciation for Philadelphia based groups like The Delfonics.

Didn’t I (Blow Your Mind This Time) by The Delfonics:

So that’s your lot as far as Pennsylvania goes. When I started this series it was with a view to featuring one song per state but of course once you start to do the research it becomes impossible to limit it to just that. Next time however we will be entering Delaware, a very small state indeed which at the moment is not offering up any inspiration (bar the obvious candidate). If you have any suggestions feel free to leave them in the comments boxes, as left to my own devices it’s going to be a very short post.

It has just occurred to me, as I returned to the top of the page to insert a title, that I may have inadvertently been a tad insensitive having included both the Theme from The Deer Hunter and Didn’t I (Blow Your Mind This Time) in the same post – To anyone who has “experienced” the film The Deer Hunter, they will probably know what I mean. Enough said.

See you in Delaware….

Didn’t I (Blow Your Mind This Time) Lyrics
(Song by Thom Bell/William Hart)

I gave my heart and soul to you, girl
Now didn’t I do it, baby didn’t I do it baby
Gave you the love you never knew, girl, oh
Didn’t I do it, baby didn’t I do it baby

I’ve cried so many times and that’s no lie
It seems to make you laugh each time I cry

Didn’t I blow your mind this time, didn’t I
Didn’t I blow your mind this time, didn’t I
Yes sir

I thought that heart of yours was true, girl
Now, didn’t I think it baby didn’t I think it baby
But this time I’m really leavin’ you girl oh
Hope you know it baby hope you know it baby

Ten times or more, yes, I’ve walked out that door
Get this into your head, there’ll be no more

Didn’t I blow your mind this time, didn’t I
Didn’t I blow your mind this time, didn’t I
Yes sir

(Didn’t I do it baby didn’t I do it baby)
(Didn’t I do it baby didn’t I do it baby)

Ten times or more, yes, I’ve walked out that door
Get this into your head, there’ll be no more

Didn’t I blow your mind this time, didn’t I (oh)
Didn’t I blow your mind this time, didn’t I (Hoo
Didn’t I blow your mind this time, didn’t I (Did I blow your mind, baby)
Didn’t I blow your mind this time, didn’t I (Can’t you see)
Didn’t I blow your mind this time, didn’t I (Did I blow your mind)
Didn’t I blow your mind this time, didn’t I (Ooh baby, ooh)

Girl, can we talk for a second
I know it’s been a long time
Since some someone’s blown your mind, like I did
There’ll be other times, for me and you
And I can see the tears fallin’ from your eyes

Tell me girl, did I blow your mind

Didn’t I blow your mind this time, didn’t I (Did I blow your mind baby)
Didn’t I blow your mind this time, didn’t I (Ooh, ooh, ooh, ooh, ooh, ooh, ooh)