Blondie, Debbie Harry and “Denis”

I seem to have stumbled upon “new wave” with my last couple of posts, writing first about The Clash and then Madness. I am still however not entirely sure how to define new wave which does seem to be a common problem. Although it started out with ties to late ’70s punk-rock, it eventually covered a myriad of sub-genres and the distinction between them leaves me confused and bewildered. Suffice to say it wasn’t “old wave” which up to that point had been rock, pop, country and soul.

The new wave artist that caused a fair bit of excitement when she first appeared on Thursday night’s Top Of The Pops in February 1978 was Debbie Harry, or Deborah as she preferred to be called. She was the lead singer with the band Blondie and this was the first time we had seen them perform the song Denis (pronounced Denee). Dressed in her “swimsuit” with what appeared to be her dad’s old tuxedo jacket casually thrown on top, she really made us sit up and take notice. She was stunningly beautiful with perfectly applied make-up but everything else was of a punk persuasion – Hair bleached a white blonde (it either had to be jet black or blonde if you were a girl) and odd combinations of black/red/white/striped clothes.

Denis by Blondie:

I was in my final year of high school and of course the topic of conversation the next day was Debbie Harry. I don’t know how it was done in those pre-internet days, but the shocking news got out quite early on that she was the grand old age of 32. Considering some of us probably had mothers who were not much older, I can see now how that would have been newsworthy. In the North of Scotland at that time (or anywhere?), our mothers just didn’t look like Debbie Harry.

The difference in look was because these guys were American and had emerged from New York’s punk-rock scene whose music venue of choice was CBGBs based in Manhattan’s East Village. This was where The Ramones, Television, Patti Smith and Talking Heads had also cut their teeth, but possibly because Blondie had Debbie Harry, they quickly moved on to more mainstream success, especially with their top-selling album “Parallel Lines” from which they took their disco-influenced single, Heart of Glass.

Yet again Debbie looked stunning, despite the fact her long hair seemed to have been roughly chopped off with a blunt pair of scissors and then dragged through the proverbial hedge backwards. Her dress appeared to have been fashioned from a bit of old sackcloth then suspended loosely from one shoulder, but as ever she looked marvellous. The hits kept on coming for a few more years until, as is wont to happen, they started to fall out of favour with the record-buying public.

A bit of trivia about the song Denis – It was originally recorded by American doo-wop group Randy & the Rainbows in 1963 but back then was called Denise. Changing it to a song about a boy sounded better with a silent “s” so the boy became French. Debbie sang the last two verses in that language although a bit of poetic license was used it seems with grammar, but who cared – Debbie in her swimsuit could sing the telephone directory, badly, and still get away with it.

randy .jpg

As someone who had their hair chopped off yesterday after having it long for over 20 years, I couldn’t help thinking that in life there are the Debbie Harrys, and then there are the rest of us. I would have loved to be able to carry off the sackcloth and mussed-up hair look back then and even now, but sadly I will continue to be a slave to hair products and styling techniques for the foreseeable future. As for Debbie, aged now 71, she still looks great and I will very magnanimously put that down to excellent genes.

Debbie+Harry+SHOT+Psycho+Spiritual+Mantra+rdbprDS6J8Cl.jpg

Denis Lyrics
(Song by Neil Levenson)

Oh Denis doo-be-do
I’m in love with you, Denis doo-be-do
I’m in love with you, Denis doo-be-do
I’m in love with you
Denis Denis, oh with your eyes so blue
Denis Denis, I’ve got a crush on you
Denis Denis, I’m so in love with you

Oh when we walk it always feels so nice
And when we talk it seems like paradise
Denis Denis I’m so in love with you

You’re my king and I’m in heaven every time I look at you
When you smile it’s like a dream
And I’m so lucky ’cause I found a boy like you

Denis Denis, avec tes yeux si bleux
Denis Denis, moi j’ai flashe a nous deux
Denis Denis, un grand baiser d’eternite

Denis Denis, je suis si folle de toi
Denis Denis, oh embrasse-moi ce soir
Denis Denis, un grand baiser d’eternite

Oh Denis doo-be-do
I’m in love with you, Denis doo-be-do
I’m in love with you, Denis doo-be-do
I’m in love with you

Postscript:

The law relating to freaky coincidences strikes again. I discovered after writing this post about Debbie Harry, that it happened to be her birthday today – Many happy returns D!

“The Prince”, Madness and The 2 Tone Label

A joyful evening in the midst of all the political upheaval, as the band Madness have just been performing at this year’s Glastonbury Festival and I am reminded of how much I enjoyed them in the late ’70s when the 2 Tone label suddenly flooded the charts with great ska music, updated for a new generation. In those pre-internet days, pretty much the first and only time you would ever see a band perform would be on Thursday night’s Top Of The Pops. If you liked pop music it was a must-watch show and even in the sterile atmosphere of that little studio at television centre, with an often-bored looking audience being marshalled from stage to stage, you could really tell that these young lads were just a little bit special. Of course I didn’t realise at the time that The Prince they were singing about was in fact an early sixties Jamaican ska artist called Prince Buster, and that they had taken their name from one of his songs from that period.

The Prince by Madness:

As was wont to happen in those days, a new cultural movement emerged overnight and suddenly the soft rock and disco records that we were used to listening to seemed ridiculous and irrelevant, especially to young urban males. The 2 Tone label was set up in Coventry by Jerry Dammers of the Specials and very quickly ska/reggae/punk influenced records were being released by The Specials, Madness, The Beat and The Selector. The artwork for  the record sleeves was of course two tone, featuring a black and white checkerboard and a man wearing the ska uniform of black suit, white shirt, black tie, white socks, black loafers and of course, the very necessary pork pie hat.

220px-Specials_Message_to_You_Rudy_single_cover

As for me, I was a student at the time and when we discovered that the 2 Tone Tour (has a nice ring to it) of late 1979 was coming to our city it was a no-brainer that we should go and see all these great acts live. It was going to be held in one of the big night-clubs usually frequented by weekend John/Joan Travoltas and this is where I made my first mistake – Because of the venue, I wore one of my “disco-dancing” outfits (wasn’t called clubbing in those days) complete with footless tights and shocking pink sparkly accessories. I don’t know how they managed it, but 99 percent of the audience that night were dressed in full “rude-boy” uniform complete with pork pie hat. This was the North of Scotland for goodness sake but all the charity shops within a 50 mile radius must have been totally raided of vintage clothing, and who knew that so many pork-pie hats could still have been in circulation. Yes, the shocking pink accessories stood out amongst all the black and white so in order to feel less conspicuous we quickly moved up to one of the balcony areas, to witness the phenomemon that was 2 Tone, from there.

The night started off with The Selector and frontwoman Pauline Black turned in an energetic performance culminating with their hit record On My Radio. Next up was Madness and of course we were treated to The Prince but the difference here was that they had Chas Smash whose role in the band was pretty much solely, dancer. Looking back at the clip now, this is exactly how he performed right through the set. He and Suggs made a great double act, a couple of likely lads from Camden Town doing something that was totally different.

chas smash

I was sad to see that Chas Smash was not with the band at Glastonbury as he is “off doing solo projects” at the moment (they’ve had a falling out then). Something I have just got to the bottom of however is this – During the 1979 concert Chas at one point got down into the audience and it was hard to work out what he was doing. It looked as if he was in a fight, but then again the punches looked as if they were choreographed and part of his style of dancing. Turns out that it was commonplace for a skinhead element to come to the concerts somehow thinking that because of the style of clothing and haircuts, these bands had a similar mentality. Of course this could not have been further from the truth and if certain racist remarks were made, some of the band members got down into the audience to deal with it themselves – Young men and lots of testosterone.

The final band to perform that night were Coventry-based, 2 Tone founders, The Specials.  Not so much “nutty boys” but more politically informed which came through in their lyrics. Terry Hall, their lead singer, always had a bit of the Herman Munster look about him I felt which was probably intentional. Not possible to sing about the really serious issues of the day (Ghost Town) if you look like a teen-idol. We definitely witnessed something from music history that night however as the whole 2 Tone concept was short-lived and quickly morphed into something else.

As for Madness they are still out there doing their thing and although the dancing is no longer quite as energetic, they still make me smile. Aged only 18 in the clip, Suggs is now 55 and he got his grandchildren up on stage at Glastonbury at the end of their set to view the ocean of festival-goers. Could he have envisaged doing that back in 1979 when they were surrepticiously beating up unsavoury audience members? I doubt it very much, but I am very glad he did.

The Prince Lyrics
(Song by Lee Thompson)

Buster, he sold the heat with a rock-steady beat

An earthquake is erupting, but not in Orange street
A ghost-dance is preparing, You got to help us with your feet
If you’re not in the mood to dance, step back, grab yourself a seat
This may not be uptown Jamaica, but we promise you a treat

Buster, bowl me over with your bogus dance, shuffle me off my feet
Even if I keep on runnin’, I’ll never get to Orange street

So I’ll say there’s nothin’ left to say, for the man who set the beat
So I’ll leave it up to you out there, to get him back on his feet

Buster, bowl me over with your bogus dance, shuffle me off my feet
Even if I’ll keep on runnin’, I’ll never get to Orange Street

Bring back the
Who is the
We want the
Bring back the Prince…aahh!

Three Björns, Mix-tapes and “Hooked on a Feeling”

Last time I wrote about the Eurovision Song Contest and how it was devised in 1955 as a means of bringing countries together, post-war, in the form of a “light” television entertainment programme. As it turned out, Saturday night’s winning song and the new more transparent voting system did the antithesis of that so a fantastic production was, for me, marred by the devisive outcome. But we move on and the show itself, hosted by Sweden this year, was possibly the best ever and had a brilliant set of very entertaining “interval fillers”.

The most surprising of these was a film montage of Sweden’s contribution to pop music – Surprising because I hadn’t realised that many of these artists were in fact Swedish. For a small Nordic country it seems to have punched above its weight in that department. Even if they had only produced Abba and then stopped that would have been enough, but no, we have also had Roxette, Europe, Ace of Base and many more that have passed me by, but the younger generation will know well.

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

bjorn 1

Looking at him now, our first Björn looks like the archetypal Disney Prince with his “Viking-esque” clothing and blond hair. Abba’s Björn was similarly blond-haired but was landed with having to wear those ridiculous outfits. Our tennis playing, blond-haired Björn became a bit of a teen idol and I remember clearly having his poster all over my bedroom wall in the mid ’70s.

But back to the song Hooked on a Feeling – It was written by Mark James and was first recorded in 1968 by B.J. Thomas (he of Raindrops Keep Fallin’ on My Head fame). The Blue Swede version that did so well in the US has the strange “ooga chaka” chant at the begining which was originally added by Jonathan King in 1971. Until last Saturday night watching Eurovision, I hadn’t realised that this song, which has come into my life twice in the last 20 years, was by a band from Sweden.

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

gotg

The main song was Hooked on a Feeling but there were also ones by 10cc, The Jackson 5, Marvin Gaye, Elvin Bishop and our old friend Rupert Holmes (his name just keeps on popping up – grrr). A must buy soundtrack but ironically it had to be downloaded with a digital picture of a cassette tape attached as no-one has the means to play actual tapes any more.

The success of this mix lies in the fact that the songs chosen were, according to the director, “semi-familiar” – ones you recognise but might not be able to name off the top of your head. As we all know there is a tipping point, when you have heard songs just once too often and become tired of them – This is a shame but we will never run out of material and revisiting these lesser-known songs from the past, and perhaps seeing something in them that was missed first time around, can be really rewarding.

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

dancing baby
Ally with that Dancin’ Baby

Hooked On A Feeling by Vonda Shepard:

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

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

Hooked on a Feeling Lyrics
(Song by Mark James)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Conventions, Constructions and Andrea True Connection!

I wrote yesterday about the year 1976 and how its music is used ruthlessly by advertisers to target people my age – Apparently if you hear an ad with music from when you were 16, you will mindlessly buy whatever is on offer.

Instead of writing about another of the big hits of that year however, I am going to return to the thread covered earlier in the week – How a weird synchronicity comes about at certain times in your life. All through April ’76 I was busy revising for my first important set of exams, and every time I had a break and switched on the radio, the record that was playing either had the word Connection, Convention or Construction attached to it – Drove me mad. With all the studying my brain was addled and I could never remember which one was which. They were all of a disco persuasion so there is the link, but all very confusing at the time.

This is a first for me, four clips included today, but I need them all just to show you what I was going through at the time. First of all we have American disco artist Andrea True Connection with More, More More.

More, More More by Andrea True Connection:

It turns out that “Andrea True” started out as a mainstream film actress but got drawn into the pornographic industry and made over 50 hardcore movies. During her heyday as a porn actress she was hired to appear in a commercial in Jamaica. A political crisis meant she couldn’t leave the island with her fee so being the resourceful girl that she was, she decided to use that cash to produce a dance track where she added the vocals – The result was More, More More which went on to be one of the top-selling dance tracks of all time. The clip for this song now makes a bit more sense in view of this new information but is still a bit troubling to watch (were they hotpants or just pants?).

Next up we have Silver Convention with their hit Get Up And Boogie. This time deeply troubling to watch and I’m not just talking about the outfits this time – Very odd stage set!

The third offering is Movin’ by Brass Contruction – More of a soul/funk hit but popular on the nation’s dance floors at the time. Unlike with the previous two clips, the kids are in the kind of outfits we wore out in ’76 – Wide flared trousers, tank tops, a lot of denim (Brutus jeans anyone?) and big collars. A few great dancers amongst this bunch.

And finally we have Isaac Hayes (he of “Theme from Shaft” fame) with his Disco Connection, another favourite on the dance floors of ’76 Britain before the temperature rose and we all got too hot and bothered to do much of anything.

As it turned out, those exams went very well but was it because of all these disco classics or in spite of them? Who knows but I probably won’t be revisiting any of these songs for a while as I feel my disco days are far behind me. Andrea True died in 2011 aged 68 and ended her days living off her royalities from More, More More and working as a psychic reader. She certainly sounds as if she led a colourful life and always said she wanted to be remembered as a person who “gave people pleasure” – then added the words – “with my music.”

RIP Andrea.

More, More More Lyrics
(Song by Sam Dees – Not too challenging for him as you will see)

Ooh, how do you like your love?
Ooh, how do you like your love?

But if you want to know how I really feel
Get the cameras rollin’, get the action goin’
Baby, you know, my love for you is real
Take me where you want to
Me and my heart you steal

More, more, more
How do you like it?
How do you like it?

Repeat x 42 times (yes really!)

Long Hot Summers, Advertising and The Music of 1976

Apparently a study has been carried out and the findings are that any company wishing to target a particular demographic with their advertising, should use music from the time that group was 16 – In my case that would be 1976. I can see how this would work. If you were lucky like me, and had a stable family background, your material needs were all catered for; you had a tight regime to your day with school and probably a Saturday job; you saw your best friends every single day because you went to school with them and you had a reasonable level of independence as helicopter parenting wouldn’t start for a few decades yet. Top that off with a few short romances that didn’t cause too much distress when they were over, no social media to mess with your head and life was sweet.

We humans are essentially simple beings but as the years go by we accumulate baggage, make life complicated for ourselves and lose the people we love – These giant corporations know that, and home in on our weakness for a pop song that reminds us of simpler times. A really expensive car and some life assurance anyone? Yes by golly, I’ll have both!

1976 was indeed a memorable year and one which I have really fond memories of. It was of course the year of the “long hot summer” where a new government department had to be created – The Ministry for Drought (which then became the Ministry for Floods when summer turned into autumn).

The UK won the Eurovision Song Contest that year with Brotherhood of Man’s Save Your Kisses For Me. Girl/boy bands like BofM were very popular in 1976 and Abba really solidified their postition as an international supergroup with hits like Mama Mia, FernandoDancing Queen and Money Money Money. Even home grown acts like Guys and Dolls had a modicum of success.

Despite the fact that punk emerged that year, with Malcolm MacLaren’s Sex Pistols out to shock, they or their movement didn’t really make much of an impact on the UK Singles Chart – That was pretty much filled with the usual suspects. We had Disco (Tina Charles, Donna Summer), Country (JJ Barrie, Pussycat and Billie Jo Spears), Novelty songs (The Wurzels), Soft rock (Chicago, Dr Hook), Pop classics (Elton John & Kiki Dee), Soul (The Stylistics, Barry White), Rock (Queen with their amazing Bohemian Rhapsody) and Rock ‘n’ Roll Revival acts (Showaddywaddy).

As for me, I was in my 4th Year of Secondary School which was the last year everyone of my age would have to legally attend. In the May of that year we sat our first important exams, “O” Grades as they were called then (short for Ordinary although didn’t feel very ordinary when you were having to revise for them). When you have big exams coming up you do spend a lot of your time in your room studying, but of course you also need a bit of down time and the radio is probably switched on a bit more often that should be. I think I am still familiar with just about every song that hit the charts in the spring of 1976 and could still tell you which position they reached in the charts. After the exams were finished, a time of merriement commenced (as per the film Grease) and the two songs I remember clearly from that time are You To Me Are Everything by Liverpool band The Real Thing and Young Hearts Run Free by Candi Staton – If any company used either of those songs in an advert I would be putty in their hands.

As it turned out the exams of 1976 went very well but later on that year a lot of our classmates left school for good as there were plenty of jobs waiting for 16-year-olds in those days. Those of us who went back to school enjoyed the big hit of the autumn, Chicago’s If You Leave Me Now, and then over Christmas we were treated to Johnny Mathis with his version of When A Child Is Born (one for the mums and dads).

As the academic year went by and we all started to turn 17, the serious business of Higher Grade exams loomed which determined whether or not you would go to University. Like our old classmates who had already entered the adult world of work, life had got just that little bit more stressful and not as carefree as for our 16-year-old selves. The advertisers therefore have got it right I reckon – It is not the same for everyone but if you have to pick music from a year that will really boost sales, make it the year your target group turned 16. Works for me and my new really expensive car, and life assurance policy!

I shall leave you with Candi Staton and her June 1976 hit Young Hearts Run Free but it seems bizarre now that this was the track of choice for our end of term merriment. As I’ve said before however I really don’t think we took too much heed of the lyrics at that age – I’d not had any big romances yet and all the Mums and Dads I knew seemed to be quite happy (or perhaps I was too young and naïve to think otherwise). I loved Candi’s voice though and the song had a great sound to it. Perfect for the school disco.

Young Hearts Run Free by Candi Staton:

Something that has only come to light in the last few years however – Whenever she was mentioned on the radio or on TOTP, she was always called Candi “Staton” (made to sound like Staten Island) but it turns out it should have been pronounced “State-en”. Poor lady has had her name mispronounced in the UK for the last 40 years but hopefully now put right. Tony Blackburn in the clip was obviously one of the main culprits but of course he was the DJ who badly mispronounced “Duran Duran” during a chart rundown in the ’80s so not surprising really. As it turns out I only discovered after his death that I had always mispronounced “Bowie” (as in David) so not always easy to get it right. Another tricky one is “Bono” of U2 – He always ends up sounding like a well-known dog food! Enough now…., time for me to sign off for today.

Young Hearts Run Free Lyrics
(Song by David Crawford)

What’s the sense in sharing this one and only life
Ending up just another lost and lonely wife
You count up the years and they will be filled with tears

Love only breaks up to start over again

You’ll get the babies but you won’t have your man
While he is busy loving every woman that he can  

Say I’m gonna leave a hundred times a day

It’s easier said than done
When you just can’t break away

Young hearts, run free
They’ll never be hung up, hung up like my man and me 
Young hearts, to yourself be true
Don’t be no fool when
Love really don’t love you 

It’s high time now just one crack at life
Who wants to live it in trouble and strife
My mind must be free to learn all I can about me

I’m gonna love me for the rest of my days

Encourage the babies every time they say
Self preservation is what’s really going on today

Say I’m gonna turn loose hundred times a day
How can I turn loose
When I just can’t break away

Breaking Bad, America and “A Horse With No Name”

I seem to have been languishing in the late ’70s for some time now, writing about songs that many think of as a bit “naff” (although I don’t) so time to move to a slightly different era perhaps, and to a different style of music.

Most people will have heard the song A Horse With No Name by America at some point in their lives. It was a hit in the UK for them in 1971 but it turns out that they were actually from Ruislip outside London! Would seem a bit bizarre if not for the fact that all three band members had US Airforce Officer fathers who were based over here and that is how they met. There is no escaping the fact that their music is very much in the style of Neil Young, and Crosby, Stills and Nash, but that was exactly what they intended so worked well for them. I have written before of how kids like myself who came from rural Scotland found this kind of music very exotic and otherworldly. We had no dark desert highways or tequila sunrises, we certainly didn’t have warm winds blowing the stars around and we wouldn’t have dreamt of crossing a desert on a horse with no name – Plenty of cows and sheep where I came from and lots of lush grass, but no, the whole desert imagery was something beyond our ken.

A Horse With No Name by America:

The amusing thing for me about this “desert” song, is that it was actually recorded in the UK, at a studio in Puddletown, Dorset (you couldn’t make it up). It was released here first and it was not until the following year that it was a hit in the US. Yet another group of artists with a hybrid transatlantic upbringing which might have contributed to their success on both sides of the pond (don’t like that term for the massive ocean that is the Atlantic but seems to have become the term used to make us feel closer to each other than is really the case). Rupert Holmes, whom I wrote about last week, was born in Cheshire to an English mother as a result of his US Army Officer father being stationed there. There are many more stories like this and it might be an idea for another post, another day.

desrt

But back to the song – For me, it will always be associated with my school days. In Primary School I always wore my long hair tied back in a ponytail so it was inevitable that the joker of the class would assign me an “equine” nickname. Too embarrassing to spill the beans here but suffice to say it was all done in jest and never caused upset. When we moved up to Secondary School I found myself in the same class for most subjects as the “joker” from my junior school days. The ponytail had long gone but of course the song A Horse With No Name had well and truly become a part of our musical memory bank, so for the next six years I often found myself sitting in class, concentrating on a tricky maths or physics problem, suddenly realising that this song was being quietly hummed in the background for my benefit! Sadly we have now lost touch but I swear that if our middle-aged selves met up today, I would get a big smile, would be greeted with my old nickname and given a few bars of A Horse With No Name. Funny how some things stick.

Like most people on the planet last year, we got hooked on the television series Breaking Bad set in Albuquerque, New Mexico. The plot and the acting were all absolutely first class and we binge-watched it over a period of a few weeks. I was constantly amazed how these big cities could have evolved in the middle of the desert but for various strategic and economic reasons they have, and they continue to prosper. Of course whenever the main characters left the city and drove across the desert, most of the audience must have thought of the song A Horse With No Name and it was only a matter of time before it made a cameo appearance on the show. In Season 3, Episode 2, Walter White is singing along to the song on the radio when he is pulled over by the police for having a broken windshield, and that is part of a much bigger storyline that I thoroughly recommend you dip into.

I noticed this week that Elton John has come out saying, that in his opinion, the best year for music was 1971 and this song came along right at the end of that year. Looking back at lists of what was No. 1 in the Singles Chart however never substantiates such claims as that was also the year that gave us “Grandad” by Clive Dunn, “Ernie” by Benny Hill and “Chirpy Chirpy Cheep Cheep” by Middle of the Road. It is usually the songs that reached the lower reaches of the charts that best stand the test of time. America reached No. 3 with their desert song and Elton himself only reached No. 7 that year with the wonderful “Your Song” written by Bernie Taupin.

So, the young songwriters of today should not be deterred as it seems that we just do not know which of their songs will still be around in the future – It only takes the fortuitous selection of a minor hit from the past, for inclusion in a film soundtrack, television show or advert, to turn them into the biggest selling records of all time. We have seen it happen before and we will see it happen again. In the meantime though I’m off to have a wallow in the music of 1971 – If it’s ok for Elton, it’s ok for me!

A Horse With No Name Lyrics
(Song by Dewey Bunnell)

On the first part of the journey
I was looking at all the life
There were plants and birds and rocks and things
There was sand and hills and rings
The first thing I met was a fly with a buzz
And the sky with no clouds
The heat was hot and the ground was dry
But the air was full of sound

I’ve been through the desert on a horse with no name
It felt good to be out of the rain
In the desert you can remember your name
‘Cause there ain’t no one for to give you no pain
La, la …

After two days in the desert sun
My skin began to turn red
After three days in the desert fun
I was looking at a river bed
And the story it told of a river that flowed
Made me sad to think it was dead

You see I’ve been through the desert on a horse with no name
It felt good to be out of the rain
In the desert you can remember your name
‘Cause there ain’t no one for to give you no pain
La, la …

After nine days I let the horse run free
‘Cause the desert had turned to sea
There were plants and birds and rocks and things
there was sand and hills and rings
The ocean is a desert with it’s life underground
And a perfect disguise above
Under the cities lies a heart made of ground
But the humans will give no love

You see I’ve been through the desert on a horse with no name
It felt good to be out of the rain
In the desert you can remember your name
‘Cause there ain’t no one for to give you no pain
La, la …

Dean Friedman, Denise Marsa and “Lucky Stars”

Today I want to revisit the song Lucky Stars by Dean Friedman. Now this was a song that was very much a two-hander with Denise Marsa but for some reason she didn’t get credited on the record. Time to right that wrong – Lucky Stars by Dean Friedman and Denise Marsa.

Lucky Stars by Dean Friedman and Denise Marsa:

This does seem to be the kind of song you either love or hate but for me I have always loved it and it turned out that my husband, whom I met 12 years after it was released, also loved it so another reason why we seem to have rubbed along quite nicely all these years. A great little party piece if you are up for the challenge of remembering the lyrics and not afraid to “perform” in front of friends and family.

Again it is a story-song from the late ’70s but unlike with The Pina Colada Song which I wrote about last time, the lyrics here make total sense – A couple having a bit of a late night bicker about a meeting with an ex-girlfriend. Yes a bit of jealousy going on and a bit of defensive anger but thankfully all forgiven by the time they go to sleep.

I was a little cruel about Rupert Holmes last time saying that he looked somewhat uncool performing his song in 1979 and looking at these two now in the video clip, they do also look somewhat uncool but no, I was there, and let me assure you that in 1978 this was the look of choice. All through the ’70s girls had sported either long flowing locks with a centre parting or the layered look that, if your hair was long, required a high level of maintenance and the use of curling tongs. In 1978 however, the shaggy perm became fashionable for both girls and boys which was great – You just washed your hair and let it dry naturally, sometimes adding little flowers as decoration (if you were a girl).

dean

Some songs always remind you of a certain time in your life, and for me, this song is from the time I left home to go to University (not called Uni in those days). After years of living in a family home with all the comfort that affords, you now find yourself in a small room with a bed, a desk, a wardrobe and a little wash-hand basin. I did however have a radio and a cassette recorder, so music was always being played. In the autumn of 1978 this song was being given blanket airplay so my memories of that time – of making new friends, of finding my way around a new city and best of all, being independent – are kind of tied in with it. Bizarre how the memory works but I can still remember being in a clothes shop changing room with it playing on their sound system. I had settled into my new student room and was now trying to build up a new student wardrobe – I already had the shaggy perm, I had acquired a vintage fur coat (sorry, but different times) and now needed some bits and pieces to complete the look. Happy days….

uni

Going to listen to it one more time before I sign off, and enjoy that wonderful bit of saxophone playing. For some reason, although both singers were Americans from New Jersey, it was only a hit in the UK and not in the US. Thank you therefore Dean and Denise (has a nice ring to it) for those happy memories.

Lucky Stars
(Song by Dean Friedman)

What are you crazy? How in the hell can you say what you just said?
I was talking to myself. Shut the door and come to bed.
By the way, I forgot to say, your endearing mother called today.
Did you see Lisa?
Yes I saw Lisa.
Is that why you’re angry?
I wasn’t angry.
Maybe a little.
Not even maybe.
Must be the weather.
Now don’t be a baby.
We’ll how am I supposed to feel with all the things you don’t reveal and
You can thank your lucky stars that we’re not as smart as we’d like to think we are.

Would you like to talk about it?
There’s not much to say.
We had lunch this afternoon. Her life’s in disarray.
She still goes around as if she is always stumbling off a cliff.
Do you still want her?
What are you saying?
Do you still want her?
Baby stop playing.
Really, I mean it. Can you forget her?
Baby, now stop it. You should know better.
I know this is hard to do. but, there’s no one for me but you and
You can thank your lucky stars that we’re not as smart as we’d like to think we are.

Baby, I’m sorry, I was wrong, I have no alibis.
I was acting like a fool and I apologize.
Listen, hon’, I know you’re dumb, but that’s ok, you don’t have to look so glum.
Do you still love me?
Yes, I still love you.
You mean, you’re not just being nice.
No, I’m not just being nice.
Do you feel sleepy.
Aw, you’re so sincere. Yes, I feel sleepy.
Well, slide over here ’cause I may not be all that bright, but I know how to hold you tight and
You can thank your lucky stars that we’re not as smart as we’d like to think we are and

You can thank your lucky stars that we’re not as smart as we’d like to think we are and
We can thank our lucky stars that we’re not as smart as we’d like to think we are.