The Eagles, Relationship Trouble and “I Can’t Tell You Why”

I always wondered how I would fit this song into the blog but today seems to be the day. Without giving too much away, someone very close to us is going through heavy duty relationship stuff at the moment and of course it ends up affecting us all.

Until we uploaded all our CDs onto the computer a few years ago I don’t think I would have remembered this song by The Eagles from their 1979 album “The Long Run”, but after rediscovering it, I think it has become the one I gravitate to most from their vast back catalogue – I Can’t Tell You Why is about a broken relationship, and what is to be done about it. Those opening few bars of music followed by the first few lines of lyric, still sends shivers up my spine every time I hear it.

Look at us baby
Up all night
Tearin’ our love apart
Aren’t we the same two people
Who lived through years in the dark
Every time I try to walk away
Somethin’ makes me turn and stay
I can’t tell you why

I Can’t Tell You Why by The Eagles:

Unless you have been really lucky in love you will no doubt recognise what the couple in the song are going through. When all is not going well in a relationship, and the two of you have reached breaking point, there can be these emotional “all-nighters” of discussion and argument which invariably never lead to a satisfactory conclusion. Of course staying up all night to “tear your love apart” is not the wisest choice – As Mama Cass sang, “The darkest hour is just before dawn” and not the time to make life-changing decisions.

The song itself ends up having no real conclusion and leaves the listener with an intentional melancholy (it certainly has that effect on me). The couple in the song are neither reconciled nor torn apart, and the song fades out on this point of uncertainty.

As someone who shared a flat with five other girls as a student, then with three other girls in my twenties, we had our fair share of “relationship-trouble” and there were many emotional all-night sessions like the one in the song. Wouldn’t change any of it however as I think it is a necessary part of the journey to finding “the one” (as per Bridget Jones). Doesn’t mean to say it makes it any easier however to watch your young people suffer as you did in your younger days – Cross fingers all will sort itself out soon as I don’t have the constitution for all this any more, even vicariously.

I have written about The Eagles before and of how their albums were a staple of my high school years, often listened to whilst hanging out at friends’ houses. Their line-up changed several times over the years but in 1977 bass player Timothy B. Schmit replaced Randy Meisner. When he joined the band, he brought a portion of the song I Can’t Tell You Why with him (loosely based on his own experiences). He then worked on it with Don Henley and Glenn Frey who were credited as co-writers. Timothy, he of the enviably long, dark locks, performed lead vocals on it and Glenn Frey (RIP) was once quoted as saying that “I Can’t Tell You Why” and “One Of These Nights” were the two Eagles songs he would put into a time capsule to represent their best work. Sounds fair to me.

So, “What’s It All About?” – This love stuff ain’t always easy and even at my age, I still can’t tell you why…..

I Can’t Tell You Why Lyrics
(Song by Don Henley/Timothy B Schmit/Glenn Frey)

Look at us baby
Up all night
Tearin’ our love apart
Aren’t we the same two people
Who lived through years in the dark

Every time I try to walk away
Somethin’ makes me turn and stay

I can’t tell you why

When we get crazy
It just ain’t right
(Try to keep your head on, girl)
‘Cause girl I get lonely too
You don’t have to worry
Just hold on tight
(Don’t get caught in your little world)
‘Cause I love you

Nothin’s wrong as far as I can see
We make it harder than it has to be

I can’t tell you why
No, baby, I can’t tell you why
I can’t tell you why

Every time I try to walk away
Somethin’ makes me turn around and stay

I can’t tell you why
No, baby, I can’t tell you why
I can’t tell you why
I can’t tell you why, yeah

No, baby
Ooooh, I can’t tell you why

Earth, Wind & Fire, “September” and The Autumnal Equinox

A bit of an unusual post last time, so now for something a bit more conventional. What song would have come to mind in the course of today? Why September by Earth, Wind & Fire of course.

Do you remember the 21st night of September?
Love was changing the minds of pretenders
While chasing the clouds away…..

ewf

This song tends to make people happy and it certainly has that effect on me. It was actually a hit for them, not in September, but in the December of 1978 and although Maurice White (who sadly died earlier this year) denied that the date had any other significance than it “sang really well” and was “phonetically fantastic” (not a phrase you hear every day), I find that really hard to believe. He was however a man who put great emphasis into the groove and feel of a song so it could have been the case….. but now we’ll never know.

September by Earth, Wind and Fire:

Having read quite a bit about Maurice White after he died (he essentially was EWF as he wrote the songs, sang the songs and produced the songs), I learnt that the name of the band came from his star sign, Sagittarius, which has the elemental quality of Fire and the seasonal qualities of Earth and Air. Earth, Air & Fire quite rightly didn’t sound right, so Air became Wind (no schoolboy jokes please) and the rest as they say, is historyMaurice had a great interest in astrology and Egyptology and their costumes, and album cover designs, certainly bore that out.

Because of Mr White’s strong spiritual nature, it is entirely appropriate therefore that today’s song should relate to the autumnal equinox. I had a really interesting talk today with a woman at work, who every year celebrates these important dates in nature’s calendar with her sisters. This is the time of year when there is an equal amount of day and night and its Pagan name was Mabon – The harvests are now over and the crops have been stored for the coming winter so it is time to give thanks for the things we have, whether it be abundant crops or other blessings. Well I’m afraid I haven’t contributed to bringing in the crops personally but I am mighty glad that there are others out there who have. A lot of dark nights to look forward to now in Scotland, so traditionally a time to get together with friends and give thanks for the grains needed to conjure up a spot of the old “water of life” or “uisge beatha” (whisky to you and I).

pagan-wheel-of-the-year

But back to the song September, it turns out that Barack Obama is a fan of Earth, Wind & Fire and in 2009 the group became one of the first musical acts to play at the White House after he took office. Being probably the “coolest” president there has ever been, I can just imagine him and Michelle “getting down” on the dancefloor to the sounds of EWF after one of those Presidential Dinners. Tricky Dicky or Dubya he ain’t, and come the new year I’m going to really miss some of his cool Obamaisms.

barack-obama-dancing

Until next time – Happy Mabon!

September Lyrics
(Song by Maurice White/Alee Willis/Al McKay)

Do you remember the 21st night of September?
Love was changing the minds of pretenders
While chasing the clouds away

Our hearts were ringing
In the key that our souls were singing.
As we danced in the night,
Remember how the stars stole the night away

Ba de ya, say do you remember
Ba de ya, dancing in September
Ba de ya, never was a cloudy day

Ba de ya de ya de ya
Ba de ya de ya de ya
Ba de ya de ya de ya de ya

My thoughts are with you
Holding hands with your heart to see you
Only blue talk and love,
Remember how we knew love was here to stay

Now December found the love that we shared in September.
Only blue talk and love,
Remember the true love we share today

Ba de ya, say do you remember
Ba de ya, dancing in September
Ba de ya, never was a cloudy day

Ba de ya, say do you remember
Ba de ya, dancing in September
Ba de ya, golden dreams were shinny days

Love bells was ringing
Our souls were singing
Do you remember, never a cloudy day

Punk, Late ’70s Fashion and The Wrong Trousers

Wrote a very serious post last time so a bit of a change is called for I think. If like me you were aged around seventeen in 1977, you will remember that not only did the musical landscape change quite dramatically that year, so did the trousers!

As we had entered the ’70s, trousers still had a hint of the ’60s about them. They could even be ordered from the music papers and were called “loon pants”. As the decade progressed we often copied the fashion sense of our favourite pop stars and wore flared velvet or satin trousers, as worn by Marc Bolan and Rod Stewart. When Scotland became responsible for the latest teen “mania” by producing those boys-next-door The Bay City Rollers, some of us even took to having a stripe of tartan down the side of our trousers (but not me just to be clear).

loon-pants

In 1976, a stroke of marketing genius by the Brutus Clothing Company made their jeans the must-have brand. David Dundas sang the song for their advert, then had a hit with it later on that year reaching No. 3 in the UK Singles Chart. The song was simply called Jeans On and the lyric was changed from “Pull my Brutus jeans on” in the advert to “Pull my old blue jeans on” for the single. Of course I had to have a pair and the must-have top to go with them that year was a cropped, cheesecloth shirt that tied at the midriff. Of course this was not the kind of outfit that parents were too keen on seeing their daughters head off into the night wearing (those were more demure days), so a long jacket was always worn until you made it to the end of your street, after which the jacket came off and went into the (coincidentally very large) handbag.

By this time, jeans were the only type of trouser any self-respecting teen would wear and of course they had to have wide flares. The music of the moment was very much American country rock, and the more we looked like dudes who would hang out on dark desert highways drinking in those tequila sunrises, the better. If like me you were a girl, your shoes would also have sported massive soles and wedge heels – All the better for that swathe of flared trouser fabric to drape across. Cleverly worn, you could add a good few inches to your height, like those circus-type performers who look really, really tall but are simply walking on stilts.

But of course this is a music blog (or is it a fashion blog tonight?) so what song comes to mind when writing about all of this. Well first of all it was actually a book that came to mind, by Tony Parsons, called Stories We Could Tell. I read it a few years ago but have just downloaded another copy in order to read it again. The story all takes place on one night in August 1977 when a group of diverse, music-loving young people, each have life-changing experiences. It really highlighted how that was a time of real cultural change in the UK and if you were young, like me, you will remember it well. The music of the moment was no longer that of The Eagles and Fleetwood Mac, it was punk and new wave. All of a sudden the very American, western-style clothing we wore looked ridiculous, and in order to be part of this brave new world it was imperative you get a pair of tight-fitting, straight-legged trousers, pretty damned quickly.

Always keen to be at the forefront of fashion, I prided myself on being the first of my group to acquire a pair of these new revolutionary trousers – They weren’t even denim, but a very fetching brown corduroy (of the elephant variety). The first time I wore them out, they were the talking point of the night – Everyone wanted to know where I’d bought them and what they cost. Sounds ridiculous now but after years of wearing acres of denim and checked shirts, this new pared down look was definitely something just a bit different.

Of course we were now used to the new style of music that was sweeping the country but it wasn’t all contrived or out to shock. My favourite punk/new wave band from that period was The Stranglers and in 1977, just after the night at the centre of the book I am about to revisit, they gave us the classic No More Heroes. Their sound (having just looked it up) was driven by Jean-Jacques Burnel’s melodic bass but also gave prominence to Dave Greenfield’s keyboards (every day’s a school day). Hugh Cornwell was the lead singer and quite rightly he didn’t look like a teen idol but his gruff vocals were perfect for the band. Over time, they grew more refined and sophisticated and managed, quite amazingly, to have a record in the UK Singles Chart every year between 1977 and 1992. Summing up their contribution to popular music, critic Dave Thompson wrote, “From bad-mannered yobs to purveyors of supreme pop delicacies, the group was responsible for music that may have been ugly and might have been crude – but it was never, ever boring.” Amen to that.

No More Heroes by The Stranglers:

No More Heroes Lyrics
(Song by Hugh Cornwell/Jean Jacques Burnel/Dave Greenfield/Jet Black)

Whatever happened to Leon Trotsky?
He got an ice pick
That made his ears burn

Whatever happened to dear old Lenny?
The great Elmyra,
And Sancho Panza?

Whatever happened to the heroes?
Whatever happened to the heroes?

Whatever happened to all the heroes?
All the Shakespearoes?
They watched their Rome burn

Whatever happened to the heroes?
Whatever happened to the heroes?
No more heroes any more
No more heroes any more

Whatever happened to all the heroes?
All the Shakespearoes?
They watched their Rome burn

Whatever happened to the heroes?
Whatever happened to the heroes?
No more heroes any more
No more heroes any more
No more heroes any more
No more heroes any more

Postscript:

And if it seems somewhat bizarre to have leapt from writing about Burt Bacharach songs to writing about The Stranglers in one post, the astute amongst you will remember that in 1978 the wonderful Bacharach and David song Walk On By was indeed recorded by The Stranglers (there’s the link). Dionne Warwick it wasn’t but somehow it just worked and was right for the times – Wonder what Burt thought?

Butch Cassidy, Burt Bacharach and “Raindrops Keep Fallin’ On My Head”

When is a song not a song? Why of course when it’s one of those pad a dap a dapadda, doob be doobee doop, pum… pum… pum… padadappada “a cappella-type” numbers performed by vocal harmony groups. I read a review this week for the 1969 film Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid and immediately had those scenes in my head where Butch and Sundance are being chased down by the posse, led by white-hatted Lefors (“Who are those guys?”). It becomes clear they have to flee, and so they head to Bolivia with Sundance’s schoolteacher lover, in search of a more successful criminal career. Throughout the movie we are treated to Burt Bacharach’s amazing soundtrack, and when they hit Bolivia, it is the perfect cue for South American Getaway.

South American Getaway by Burt Bacharach:

Now I had always thought that this part of the soundtrack was by The Swingle Singers, that a cappella group that seemed to pop up with great regularity on Saturday night telly in the 1970s, but no, South American Getaway was by the Ron Hicklin Singers, a group of Los Angeles-based studio singers. They are most famously known as being the real backing singers behind The Partridge Family recordings but also worked on The Good, the Bad and the Ugly theme, MacArthur Park and Suicide Is Painless (the theme to the film M*A*S*H). They were the vocal equivalent of (and often worked with) The Wrecking Crew, that bunch of top session musicians who played on many ’60s and ’70s records. They were the house band for Phil Spector but also worked with Sonny & Cher, The Beach Boys, The Mamas & the Papas, Frank Sinatra and even Elvis. Getting back to the Ron Hicklin Singers, Ron himself was lead tenor but there was also an alto, a soprano, a bass and a couple of brothers called Bahler, who performed tenor harmonies on South American Getaway.

I was too young to have seen Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid at the cinema in 1969 so would only have seen it a few years later on television, but what an impact it made. The two lead actors, Paul Newman and Robert Redford had amazing on-screen chemistry and for me, it marked the start of a major crush on both of them. In 1974 Paul Newman starred in The Towering Inferno, one of the many disaster movies around at that time and fortunately I was now old enough to see it at the cinema. The blue-eyed Mr Newman was actually five years older than my dad by that time which seems kind of creepy now but with film stars the whole age thing never seems to matter and even today stars like Brad Pitt and Johnny Depp, who are positively middle-aged, are adored by legions of young female fans around the world.

Around this time it was deemed that my childhood bedroom was in need of redecoration and I was given carte blanche on what the new scheme should be. (Bear with me here, there is a reason for this bit of sidestepping.) Down came the ’60s style wallpaper and the posters of Donny Osmond, David Cassidy and Bjorn Borg and up went woodchip wallpaper, which could be painted any colour I wanted. After pouring over paint charts for some time I went for an attractive mustard colour which would, I thought, look good with my new brown and orange curtains – Of course paint charts can be notoriously misleading and once my dad had finished the room it was most definitely a khaki green colour as opposed to mustard but hey, I was happy, it being so modern with the woodchip an’ all.

colour schemes.png

One of the house rules for this newly decorated bedroom was that there were to be fewer posters and certainly none attached with drawing pins – Instead I could use that new-fangled stuff called blu-tack. And so it came to pass that a giant poster of Paul Newman was purchased and a slightly smaller one of Robert Redford to feature on the newly painted khaki green walls – I honestly think they remained there until I left home about four years later so I obviously stayed true to this pair for a sizeable chunk of my teenage years.

Because I usually end a post with lyrics, which is not really possible with South American Getaway, I will also include a clip of the most familiar piece of music from that film’s soundtrack, Raindrops Keep Fallin’ On My Head. Again this was a Bacharach composition and I always knew that the person singing it in the film was BJ Thomas but of course in the UK at the start of 1970, it was that dashing Frenchman Sacha Distel who got to No. 10 in the singles chart with the song.

Raindrops Keep Fallin’ On My Head by BJ Thomas:

It’s a bizarre kind of song to have inserted into a film about “The Wild West” but somehow it just works. This was a film all about the relationship between Butch, Sundance and Katharine Ross’s character Etta Place. Despite the desperately sad ending, there were just so many comedic moments and this scene on the bicycle kind of sums it up for me. Over the years I have tried to put together the recipe for a “perfect day” and a lot of the ingedients are contained within the video for this song:

  • It’s got to be a sunny day and if dappled sunlight is present (like here) even better.
  • Got to be with good friends you can truly relax with and be yourself.
  • Got to be wearing possibly quirky, but definitely comfy, casual clothes.
  • Important that there is no timetable or agenda for the day so that you can just go with the flow.
  • Not got to be a costly day but to be full of simple pleasures.
  • Get to go home to your own bed at night!

Not for everyone I know but works for me and watching this scene from the film again, I just love how Butch and Etta have that easy relaxed friendship, riding around in dappled sunlight, picking apples from the tree. Very late ’60s indeed and oh to have been Miss Ross on that very special day – Stepford was still many years in the future so for the time-being, until the going got a bit tough down Bolivia-way, she could enjoy being part of one of the most famous trios in film history.

Raindrops Keep Fallin’ On My Head Lyrics
(Song by Burt Bacharach/Hal David)

Raindrops are falling on my head
And just like the guy whose feet
Are too big for his bed
Nothing seems to fit
Those raindrops
Are falling on my head
They keep falling

So I just did me some
Talking to the sun
And I said I didn’t like the way
He got things done
Sleeping on the job
Those raindrops
Are falling on my head
They keep fallin’

But there’s one thing I know
The blues they send to meet me
Won’t defeat me, it won’t be long
Till happiness
Steps up to greet me

Raindrops keep falling on my head
But that doesn’t mean my eyes
Will soon be turning red
Crying’s not for me ’cause,
I’m never gonna stop the rain
By complaining,
Because I’m free
Nothing’s worrying me

It won’t be long
Till happiness
Steps up to greet me

Raindrops keep falling on my head
But that doesn’t mean my eyes
Will soon be turning red
Crying’s not for me cause,
I’m never gonna stop the rain
By complaining,
Because I’m free, ’cause nothing’s worrying me

Radio, Chart Shows and The Music of 1973

Last time I wrote about Jackie Magazine and although it ran for 30 years, its heyday was definitely the early 1970s. Its sales figures would make any newspaper boss of today green with envy. Although full of great features on fashion and make-up, a problem page, a Dear Doctor column and “dreamy” love stories, for many of us the main attraction was lots of behind the scenes gossip on the everyday lives of our favourite pop stars. This remember, was an era long before we had the internet and one of only three TV channels so information was very limited indeed.

For me at that time, the highlight of the week was Thursday night’s Top Of The Pops but we also had BBC Radio One whose stars were DJs like Tony Blackburn, Noel Edmonds and Kid Jenson. If we were really lucky we might pick up a crackly, late-night signal from Radio Luxembourg giving us the voice of Tony Prince or Emperor (please) Rosko. So, we heard all the music but were desperate to find out more about the artists and that is where Jackie Magazine was happy to oblige. I remember they once gave us a free flexi-disc with the voice of a very bored-sounding David Cassidy recording a message for his fans in the UK. I found it recently after buying my new turntable and after playing it, now realise that the strain of being a pop idol in 1973 was definitely telling on him by this time.

But back to the music. As well as Jackie magazine, Radio One and Radio Luxembourg we had Sunday night’s Top 20 Chart Show (only an hour so they had to really rattle through it) which culminated in finding out who had either made it to the No. 1 spot or who had held on to it. If like me you were a fervent pop music fan, you decanted to your room at 5.55pm with your cassette recorder at the ready. The key was to press record/play, at just the right time to avoid any annoying voice-over, but also not to miss out on any of the song. Although I had a little tranny (short for transistor radio of course) at the time, my parents had moved their old GEC “wireless” (lots of wires actually) to my room after updating their own sound system and although very old-fashioned to look at, it had a great sound quality. The front of this monster of a device had words like Hilversum (where the Philips radio factory was based), Hamburg, Light, Scottish, but the only thing that mattered was that I knew how to tune into the station which would give me the new chart (and funnily enough it wasn’t 247 on MW, it was indeed on LW which really helped with the quality of my recordings).

Another embarrassing admission is that not only did I record my favourite songs on C90 Philips cassette tapes (such a furore nowadays about illegal downloading but we were all party to criminal activity on a vast scale in those days) but I also listed and carefully dated the new chart in a notebook. My best friend at school was similarly afflicted and we both went on to study accountancy in later life so something about that kind of mind-set obviously.

So, after a lot of preambling, here comes a Top 10 chart listing from the week I became a teenager in June 1973 and when my anorak tendencies were obviously at their height. An eclectic mix indeed.

Tum…, tum…, tum…, tum……, tum, tum, tum…, tum, tum, tum…, (surely you remember the music).

At No. 10 – Walking In The Rain by The Partridge Family. (A David Cassidy vehicle essentially but a song originally recorded by The Ronettes – excuse his very girly blouse!)

At No. 9 – Tie A Yellow Ribbon Round The Old Oak Tree by Tony Orlando and Dawn. (That ribbon still in circulation today.)

At No. 8 – Hell Raiser by Sweet. (The beautiful Brian Connelly with his long blond hair and half-brother of Taggart as it turned out – Somehow he manages to look both macho but also not dissimilar to Tammy Wynette.)

At No. 7 – You Are The Sunshine Of My Life by Stevie Wonder. (A slightly more svelte Stevie in those days but still a wonderful song.)

At No. 6 – Albatross (1973) by Fleetwood Mac. (Re-issued. Why?)

At No. 5 – Rubber Bullets by 10cc. (Excellent band and about the only one from this list whose material has stood the test of time. Followed this up with other big hits like I’m Mandy Fly Me and I’m Not In Love.)

At No. 4 – And I Love You So by Perry Como. (One for the Mums and Dads.)

At No. 3 – One And One Is One by Medicine Head. (Had forgotten all about them – Not quite a one-hit wonder but their only record of note.)

At No. 2 – Can The Can by Suzi Quatro. (The Amercian rock chick.)

And finally at No. 1 – See My Baby Jive by Wizzard. (With the unforgettable Roy Wood ex of The Move whose “Flowers In The Rain” was of course the first song ever to be played on Radio One.)

Before I move on, yet another reference to my old friend Joe Strummer (his name keeps popping up in this blog) – Despite the fact that young teenagers like myself adored Radio 1 in the 1970s, the older, wiser Joe came out in protest at what had happened to radio at this time – The “establishment” he felt, had in effect outlawed the pirate stations but then didn’t cater for the market they had created. He stated, “There is no music station for young people any more, only for housewives and trendies in Islington”. My older self can now see that this was the case but at the time I was just a teenage girl, so what did I know. The Clash famously refused to appear on ToTP but had to suffer the ignominy of having Legs and Co perform one of their very literal dance routines to Bankrobber. Watch it and weep!

See My Baby Jive Lyrics
(Song by Roy Wood)

Look out! look out! your Momma will shout
You might as well go home
She said my bed get’s into your hair
So give me back my comb
But you
You make things that get along
Turn out so wrong
Doo ron, doo ron
You’d better rock on
The band might play our song

See my baby jive
See my baby jive
She hangs onto me and she really goes
Whoa (whoa) whoa
See my baby jive
Such a lazy jive
Well every one you meet coming down the street
Just to see my baby jive

That tenor horn is turning me on
He’s dropped down to his knees
Oh boy that sax is calling me back
This dog ain’t got no fleas
But you
You dance all the guys up town
Into the ground
Doo ron, doo ron
You gotta rock on
Your Daddy ain’t coming home

See my baby jive
See my baby jive
She hangs on to me and she really goes
Whoa (whoa) whoa
See my baby jive
Such a lazy jive
Well every one you meet coming down the street
Just to see my baby jive

Too bad,So long,it’s driving me mad
The top down on my car
I don’t suppose that everyone knows
Exactly who you are
But you
You make things that get along
Turn out so wrong
Doo ron, doo ron
You gotta rock on
The band might play our song

Jackie Magazine, Jackie The Musical and “Sad Sweet Dreamer”

If like me you became a teenager in 1973, when I mention Jackie magazine you will know exactly where I am coming from. Between 1972 and 1974 the magazine was selling in excess of 1.1 million copies per week and was a must-buy for “go-ahead” teens – its target market. I don’t know if my friends and I were indeed all that go-ahead, but Thursday was one of the best days of the week as it was not only Top Of The Pops night, but it was also the day when we picked up our copy of Jackie. With centrefold posters of the pop idols of the day, titbits of gossip about their likes and dislikes, great fashion spreads and the Cathy & Claire page (where all those problems we couldn’t possibly discuss with our mums were aired and very sensibly answered), it truly was the bible for girls trying to find their way in the world.

As we all know, they will make a musical about practically anything nowadays, but last week I went to see “Jackie The Musical” (excellent by the way) and if this blog is all about looking back nostalgically, by revisiting the Tracks of My Years, this was the stage musical equivalent. The main character was 54-year-old Jackie, a woman with an adult son still living at home, going through the trauma of divorce, and experimenting with online dating. Whilst packing up the contents of her house she finds her old teen magazines and of course starts to reminisce about her hopes and dreams back then. Her younger self even makes an appearance dressed in very authentic early ‘70s-style clothing (flares/big collars/platform shoes) to great comedic effect, often quoting verbatim what Cathy & Claire would have advised.

But of course the raison d’être behind any musical is the performance of the songs and this Jukebox Musical did not disappoint – Interwoven into the storyline were a host of very nostalgia-provoking songs such as Could It Be Forever (by David Cassidy), I Love To Love (by Tina Charles), Crazy Horses (by The Osmonds), The Things We Do For Love (by 10cc), Hold Me Close (by David Essex), Tiger Feet (by Mud), Puppy Love (by Donny Osmond) and many, many, more.

It was no coincidence of course that the vast majority of the audience were ladies of a certain age with very few men, quite sensibly, choosing to partake in this very girly extravaganza. By chance I met lots of people I knew, which was really nice, but of course it is also no coincidence that the main character was a stereotypical 54-year-old of today, and sad to say the chances of being separated or divorced are indeed quite high. Sad also to reflect that Cathy & Claire would not have anticipated that being the outcome for the Jackie Class of 1972-74 and although this is not the place to conjecture what has gone wrong, from a purely observational point of view, it seems that No – We can’t have it all. I have my own theories on that one, but perhaps for another time.

As a Scot, I am really proud that DC Thomson of Dundee, that city famed for Jam, Jute and Journalism was the publisher responsible for a magazine that both entertained and helped so many of my generation negotiate their way through those tricky teenage years. I probably still have my pillowcase somewhere with the Donny Osmond iron-on transfer (in purple – his favourite colour) and my heart-broken/heart-mended badge, both free gifts from that golden era.

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So many songs from the show that I could feature here but as I have already written about a few of the most obvious contenders, I think I will pick one of the lesser known songs that may have been forgotten about in the intervening years. Before the days of Pop Idol and The X-Factor we had much less lavish mid-week talent shows such as New Faces. One of the acts that did really well on that show were an 8-piece soul group from Manchester, called Sweet Sensation. Once signed to Pye Records, under the guidance of one of the judges Tony Hatch they started to release records and although their first didn’t make it to the charts, their second, Sad Sweet Dreamer, made it all the way to the No. 1 spot in October 1974. (Again – just so much purple.)

The readers of Jackie magazine were often sad (mainly due to boyfriend trouble – the lack of one), they were young so generally still quite sweet, and, they were all overwhelmingly “dreamers”. There couldn’t have been a similar magazine for boys at that time and practically none of the songs in the show would ever have appealed to them anyway – The Davids and the Donnys belonged to us, and boy did we dream!

Sad Sweet Dreamer Lyrics
(Song by David Parton)

Sad sweet dreamer
It’s just one of those things you put down to experience
Sad sweet dreamer
It’s just one of those things you put down to experience

Been another blue day without you girl
Been another sad summer song
I’ve been thinking about you girl
All night long

Been another sad tear on my pillow
Been another memory to tell me you’re the one, girl
I kept thinking about you girl
All night long

Sad sweet dreamer
It’s just one of those things you put down to experience
Sad sweet dreamer
It’s just one of those things you put down to experience

Been another long night and I’ve missed you girl
Been another story from those endless magazines
Can’t help thinking about you girl
All night long

Was so happy when I found you
But how was I to know
That you would leave me walking down that road

Been another hard luck story
Been another man who thought that he was oh so strong
Been thinking about you girl
All night long

Postscript:

I often feel we go in circles here as since starting the blog so many hitherto unknown connections have come to light. It turns out that the bass player with Sweet Sensation, Barry Johnson, later joined reggae band Aswad whom I wrote about only last week. Different style of music but definitely more in tune with his roots as like many of his fellow bandmates from Sweet Sensation, he was born in Kingston, Jamaica.

Katie Melua, Mike Batt and “Nine Million Bicycles”

Last time I wrote about the great punk-rock beauty Debbie Harry. Roll forward to the mid noughties and another rare beauty came along in the form of Katie Melua. Although born in Georgia (the former Soviet Republic one) she had moved to Northern Ireland with her family as a child, before heading across to London to attend the BRIT school in her late teens. She has been one of its most successful attendees along with the late Amy Winehouse and of course Adele.

Unlike Debbie Harry however, Katie did not give us punk attitude, instead she gave us…… Really annoying lyrics! I have written before about songs that I had hitherto quite enjoyed because I had never really listened to the lyrics properly (Rupert Holmes’ Pina Colada song – grrr) but it didn’t take long at all for some of Katie’s songs to really grate.

Exhibit A – Nine Million Bicycles which charted in September 2005. I know I am probably being pedantic here but every time I heard her sing about “the fact”, “the thing we just couldn’t deny” (those nine million bicycles traversing the streets of Beijing), I kind of had to say to myself – Really? Could it not possibly be nine and a half million, or perhaps a bit less than nine million now that car ownership has risen? But no, Katie was emphatic in her song that nine million was the exact number.

Nine Million Bicycles by Katie Melua:

Of course we then get on to the next verse and now she tells us that “we are twelve billion light years from the edge” but that “it was a guess and no-one could ever say if that was true”. As it turns out they could, and no, it wasn’t true. Cosmologist Simon Singh took to writing an article for the Guardian pointing out that scientists had pretty much worked out after much research and careful measurement that the universe was actually 13.7 billion years old. A playful spat ensued with Katie re-recording the song with this new information contained within – Needless to say it wasn’t a howling success and both parties had a bit of a laugh about it and agreed that a modicum of poetic license was needed for the song to work, but just shows how hot under the collar we can get when faced with incorrect facts.

I put it all down to the “fact” that the song was written by Mike Batt who despite massive success in many different strands of the music industry will, for me, always be “Head Womble”. There can be no-one of my age who will not have occasionally dipped into an episode of The Wombles on television after coming home from school in the afternoon. They were way ahead of their time with all their recycling, now part of our modern day lives, but back in the 1970s a bit of a novelty and a cue for entertainment.

When Mike Batt got the job of writing the theme song for the animated show, rather than accept a flat fee he chose to acquire the character rights for The Wombles and formed a pop group, releasing a string of top-selling singles and albums between 1973 and 1975. Must have been very hot work “Wombling Free” around BBC Television Centre but quite liberating, as the costumes could be worn by whoever was available on the day. It turns out this was often members of Steeleye Span or the guitarist Chris Spedding (he of Motor Bikin’ fame) whom Mike worked with frequently.

So when Mike discovered Katie in the mid noughties, I think he was so thrown by her amazing beauty that his old Wombling song-writing skills momentarily left him and he put together odd lyrics juxtaposing “facts about love” with erroneous “scientific facts”.

Just one more bone of contention however about a line from the song before I move on – Katie sang about how she would “never tire of the love she would be given every night”. Written by a man indeed as I don’t know of any of my female friends, however happy with their other halves, who would not tire of being given love every night! Sometimes a mug of cocoa and a good book is all that is required – Just sayin’…..

Nine Million Bicycles Lyrics
(Song by Mike Batt)

There are nine million bicycles in Beijing
That’s a fact,
It’s a thing we can’t deny
Like the fact that I will love you till I die.

We are twelve billion light years from the edge,
That’s a guess,
No-one can ever say it’s true
But I know that I will always be with you.

I’m warmed by the fire of your love everyday
So don’t call me a liar,
Just believe everything that I say

There are six billion people in the world
More or less
and it makes me feel quite small
But you’re the one I love the most of all

We’re high on the wire
With the world in our sight
And I’ll never tire,
Of the love that you give me every night

Postscipt:

And in case anyone can’t remember how much fun it was to be a Womble in 1974, here is a clip from Top Of The Pops to remind you (just try to avert your eyes from Noel Edmonds’ revealing shirt and medallion during the introduction). All members present and correct I think – Orinoco, Madame Cholet, Great Uncle Bulgaria, Wellington and Tobermory. Didn’t even have to look it up, such is the power of a childhood memory.