Festivals, Sister Sledge and “We Are Family”

It may seem like we live in the sticks up here in the North of Scotland, but this year has certainly been a bumper season for tourism and there has been, proverbally, no room at the inn for most of the summer. Great for those who run hostelries and B&Bs, and great for those of us who like to have a bit of a buzz about the town, none more so than when there is a music festival and last weekend saw the last of the season.

First we had Belladrum’s Tartan Heart Festival which has already been written about (link here), then we had Groove Ness (Scotland’s biggest nightclub under the stars, apparently) and finally Jocktoberfest held at a local farm that specialises in the production of beer (oh how we laughed at that play on words – NOT).

Darling daughter and her friends all headed off to the first festival at the beginning of August however a bad cold had been brewing in the days leading up to it and sadly, possibly due to the relentless rain that muddified the event, it resulted in a trip to A&E on the Sunday night. Fortunately the final festival was blessed with glorious weather and although the smallest of the three, it was the one that proved to be the most fun.

One upside to this summer of festival-going however has been that DD is now a big fan of Sister Sledge. They were on the bill at Belladrum for the second time although sadly this year without Joni who had passed away in March aged only 60. After writing about the passing of Walter Becker of Steely Dan last time I realised that it is now September and I still haven’t paid tribute to Joni and the contribution she and her sisters made to that body of work attributed to the disco genre. Sister Sledge always symbolised strong family values and their 1979 hit We Are Family did that with bells on.

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Sister Sledge in their wellies!

We Are Family by Sister Sledge:

I would be lying if I said I’d ever been a massive fan of Sister Sledge but they were for many years a permanent fixture on chart rundowns, their other memorable hits being He’s the Greatest DancerLost in Music and the 1985 UK No. 1 hit, Frankie. That particular song was taken from their Nile Rodgers produced album “When the Boys Meet the Girls” and was apparently about Frank Sinatra (although listening to the lyrics I find that hard to believe).

The reason I particularly remember that song of theirs is because I still have the NOW That’s What I Call Music album on which it appeared! It was only the 5th edition in that long series (of which we are now at number 97 I think) and it had been acquired for a flat party. Back in the mid ’80s, just like now, young people all became property owners by about the age of 25 – Oh no, that’s right, hardly anyone can even save enough for a deposit until about the age of 40 nowadays such has been the ridiculousness of houses becoming financial assets, as opposed to homes, over the last couple of decades. But anyway, pre-rant, my point was going to be that in 1985 most of our friends had bought their own flats and wanted to keep them all pristine, so our large rented one became party central. Looking back at the tracks on this album we had the usual eclectic mix of all that would have been hogging the airwaves that summer from Sister Sledge to Simple Minds, from Duran Duran to The Damned. I wish I could remember how the party turned out but I can’t, although I do know that we often had nice policemen turning up at the door asking us to turn the music down (before returning to join in the fun once their shift was over).

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Poor Joni (pictured above) should have been at our local music festival this summer but sadly passed away of natural causes before the event. Her son however was there in her place so the strong Sledge family values will continue it seems.

Until next time…., RIP Joni

We Are Family Lyrics
(Song by Bernard Edwards/Nile Rodgers)

We are family
I got all my sisters with me
We are family
Get up everybody and sing

Everyone can see we’re together
As we walk on by
And we fly just like birds of a feather
I’m not telling no lie

All of the people around us to say
Can we be that close
Just let me state for the record
We’re giving love in a family dose, yeah

Living life is fun and we’ve just begun
To get our share of the world’s delights
High hopes we have for the future
And our goal’s in sight

No we don’t get depressed
Here’s what we call our golden rule
Have faith in you and the things you do
You won’t go wrong, oh no
This is our family Jewel, yeah

We are family
I got all my sisters with me
We are family
Get up everybody and sing

Beach Boys, Phil Collins and “There’s a Ghost in My House”

Well, it’s been a bit of a week, with no time for heavily researched blog posts. When that happens I usually resort to a web-diary type affair and a few songs have come to mind. First of all, after reading a post written by Jez over at Dubious Towers last weekend, where he recommended watching the film Love & Mercy about the life of Beach Boy Brian Wilson, I did just that. In doing so I fell in love with the album “Pet Sounds” all over again. I think I knew a bit about the troubled life that Brian had post Beach Boys, but this film really highlighted the nightmare he went through in the 1980s under the supervision of highly controlling psychotherapist Dr Eugene Landy – Fortunately the love of a good woman saved him and joy of joys they are still married today, so a happy ending to a sorry tale.

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What was great about this film however was that we got to witness the creative genius that went into producing “Pet Sounds” back in 1966. The sounds on this album were just that, Brian’s favourite, or pet sounds, and the infamous Wrecking Crew that worked with him on that album acknowledged his genius above all others they collaborated with. Brian at this point was still aged only 24. I have featured the wonderful song God Only Knows before in this blog (link here) so here is another from that album, Wouldn’t It Be Nice. Something interesting that came out of this biopic was that contrary to popular belief, The Beach Boys didn’t actually surf!

Wouldn’t It Be Nice by The Beach Boys:

So, what else has been happening this week? – Turns out that giving up the job you were very generously slotted into post re-structuring and leaving the organisation you’ve been part of for 30 years isn’t easy. I made the terrible mistake of wanting to leave in a good way, leave in a way that caused the least disruption, but it’s making me miserable. Having discussed it with friends who have retired recently, leaving work is a kind of bereavement and there are “stages” you go through. If I’d given the standard four weeks notice, after taking annual leave I would have been gone two weeks ago and all would have been well. Instead, I have hit the wobble zone that comes about a month after resigning when you start to question the rash decision-making that led you to forego your livelihood for a life of speculative self-employment. Fortunately for those that choose to retire there are many courses you can go on to pave the way, but of course I am not retiring, so I’ll just have to wobble on for another three weeks.

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Over at Rich Kamerman’s excellent blog, where in his Forty Year Friday series he reviews  the albums of 1977, the band Genesis were featured last week. This in turn made me look into the whole Phil Collins negativity issue a bit more. Personally I quite liked his albums from the 1980s but somehow down to his sheer omnipresence and success during that decade, and perhaps his not-so-great actions and opinions, he became quite unpopular. Whatever, I did mention in Rich’s comments boxes that when a good wallow is called for this is one of the songs I turn to – Somehow it seems very apt for someone who has all of a sudden decided that the paperless office is not quite so bad (there is still a lot of paper) and that having everyone you’ve ever worked with over a thirty year period in the same building is now a good thing. Oh well, I give you If Leaving Me Is Easy which was one of the singles released from Phil Collins’ 1981 album “Face Value”. The answer by the way is…. No Phil, it’s blinking not.

If Leaving Me Is Easy by Phil Collins:

The final song that comes to mind this week is There’s a Ghost in My House by R. Dean Taylor. Why would that be I hear you ask? Well, whilst at our local art-house cinema with my girlfriends last night (two of whom are the aforementioned 55-year-old retirees), we somehow managed to display the most ridiculous display of giggling fits ever to have taken place in a non-comedy venue. The film we go and see is purely down to whatever is showing on the last Thursday of the month – Some we win, some we lose but it’s easy to organise and a great excuse for a get-together.

Last night’s film was called A Ghost Story and despite expecting it to be all scary and full of the supernatural, it turned out to be (inadvertently) the best comedy we have ever witnessed. The main character was a ghost draped in a sheet and all we could think of whenever he appeared was this character from John Carpenter’s Halloween, a film we had also seen recently and again had a slight fit of the giggles.

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Michael Myers in Halloween

I am very sorry that our fellow cinema-goers had to suffer our childish guffaws but once a giggling fit starts it’s hard to stop and we all fed off each other. At one point I had to rush out of the cinema into the little foyer area for fear that holding my nose and breath for so long would induce a fainting fit. Needless to say I was joined by one of my buddies very soon after and we all threw in the towel after an hour and retired to the bar for a large glass of calming red wine. Just to be clear, this was a very “inventive and artful film about love and loss” but what can I say, even at the combined age of 220, once the giggles start, we four ladies just couldn’t control them!

And so as an homage to our embarrassment here is that song from 1967, There’s A Ghost in My House by R. Dean Taylor. This was a Holland-Dozier-Holland composition from the Motown stable that was not a hit when originally released but then became so in 1974 after finding favour on the Northern Soul circuit. That’s when I remembered it from but only really came to understand the whole Northern Soul phenomenon when I wrote a post about it a few months ago (link here).

So, “What’s it all about?” – Sometimes it’s all about control. Brian Wilson was totally in control of the recording studio in 1966 but by 1986 had lost control of his life to Dr Landy.

Sometimes, our plans go awry because we let a stupid piece of paperwork control them – Had the notice period not been unusually long I wouldn’t be having to endure the current wobble. Had I not lost control of my emotions a month ago, it wouldn’t even be an issue (although I’m sticking to my guns that it’s still the right decision).

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But best of all, although everyone else around us was in control, sometimes a fit of the giggles just can’t be controlled – The rest of the audience might not have approved but it’s been the best therapy I’ve had in years and the plethora of ghost emojis on our phones today, and the visit to my friend’s back garden draped in a sheet goes to prove it!

Until next time….

Wouldn’t It Be Nice Lyrics
(Song by Brian Wilson/Michael Love/Tony Asher)

Wouldn’t it be nice if we were older?
Then we wouldn’t have to wait so long
And wouldn’t it be nice to live together
In the kind of world where we belong

You know it’s gonna make it that much better
When we can say goodnight and stay together

Wouldn’t it be nice if we could wake up
In the morning when the day is new?
And after having spent the day together
Hold each other close the whole night through

Happy times together we’ve been spending
I wish that every kiss was never ending
Wouldn’t it be nice?

Maybe if we think, and wish, and hope, and pray, it might come true
Baby, then there wouldn’t be a single thing we couldn’t do
We could be married
And then we’d be happy

Wouldn’t it be nice?
You know it seems the more we talk about it
It only makes it worse to live without it
But let’s talk about it
Wouldn’t it be nice?

Postcript:

Having just delved into the background to A Ghost Story a little more, I found this quote from the film’s creator David Lowery. He had apparently wanted to make a film for quite some time featuring a man in a simple rudimentary ghost costume – “I just loved that image. I love taking something that is understood to be funny or charming or sweet or naive and instilling it with some degree of gravity“. Oh dear David, I’m afraid we just found it funny!

An American Odyssey in Song: New York – Boroughs, Bridges and “Feelin’ Groovy”

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!

It’s quite some time since I continued on my American Odyssey in Song and that would be because I developed a severe case of Odyssey block! After struggling somewhat to identify any songs at all for the New England states, once I hit New York there were just too many. I have started this post on numerous occasions but always gave up half way through. This time, as The Drifters sang in 1961, it’s going to be different, this time I’m going to stay (with it)….

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No time for lengthy paragraphs about the state itself this time though as loads of songs to get through. Suffice to say it must be one of the most diverse states in the whole of the US as not only does it have Long Island, whose “Hamptons” are where rich New Yorkers go to spend their summers, but it also has the wilderness areas to the north where hunting and fishing are the pastimes of choice. The state borders Canada and two of the Great Lakes but at the foot of the triangle there is one of the most iconic and culturally rich cities in the world, New York.

Time to get this party started then and it’s not going to be pretty – Via “a stream of consciousness” is how I’m going to tackle this one. Everyone will have different songs that they associate with New York but these are the ones that have come to mind over the last few weeks. Ready, steady, go….

There can’t be many people who are not familiar with the sights of New York City but just in case, here’s a whistle stop tour courtesy of MGM and those three sailors who had a whirlwind 24-hour leave back in 1949. Ok, ok guys, we’ve got it – “The Bronx is up and the Battery’s down, the people ride in a hole in the ground”.

You can’t have failed to notice that Mr Francis Albert Sinatra plays one of the sailors in that clip and I’m sure it’s expected that his version of the song New York, New York will feature here, but that would just be too obvious, so unusually for me I’ll enter the 21st century and share Empire State of Mind by Mr Shawn Corey Carter (otherwise known as Jay-Z). 

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Jay-Z, Rapper and Businessman

Empire State of Mind by Jay-Z featuring Alicia Keys:

Lord knows I’m not usually a fan of rap but I was truly blown away by this “song” (if that’s what it’s called) when it came out in 2009. Some fantastic lines in there referencing Sinatra’s New York, New York but also Afrika Bambaataa, the Bronx DJ who became known as the Godfather of hip-hop. The rap part on it’s own I probably wouldn’t have warmed to that much (although I don’t know), but with the inclusion of Alicia Keys vocals it became something really special. The pair are both from NYC and the song’s main writer, Angela Hunte, grew up in the same building as Jay-Z – 560 State Street, Brooklyn, an address mentioned in the song.

Something that comes across loud and clear from the lyrics of Empire State of Mind is that NYC is not just the island Manhattan as I had often thought as youngster. Oh no, NYC is made up of five boroughs – Brooklyn and Queens on the western end of Long Island, Staten Island which nestles up against New Jersey and The Bronx, north of Manhattan. Manhattan itself only becomes an island because of that tiny sliver of water linking up the East River with the Hudson.

5 boroughs

New York City, despite being made up of these five boroughs is very much centred on Manhattan, so how is it all linked up? Why by ferries and bridges of course. I am reminded of the scene in Saturday Night Fever where John Travolta’s character tries to impress his potential love interest with his knowledge of the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge, that double-decked suspension bridge that connects Staten Island and Brooklyn.

Another iconic bridge is the one that featured in the opening sequence to one of my favourite TV shows from the early ’80s – Taxi starring Danny DeVito and Judd Hirsch. Whenever I hear this theme song I am right back in my student room, my little white portable telly perched precariously on the edge of my desk, just in the right place for the aerial (coat hanger?) to pick up a signal. It would have been mid-week and I was probably having a break from all those laborious hours spent writing everything out in longhand (no computers in those days). A flatmate might have popped in for a coffee whilst we watched the show. Sometimes those memories are the best, ones where nothing in particular was happening, just normal everyday life but hearing that theme reminds me of the scene. A beautiful piece of music called Angela by Bob James.

Angela (Theme from Taxi) by Bob James:

Of course I had to do some research after rewatching that clip to find out which bridge it actually was that came up every week in the titles – Joy, oh joy, it was none other than the Queensboro Bridge – So what I hear you ask? The alternative name for that bridge is The 59th Street Bridge and considering this whole series was inspired by the Paul Simon song America, it is fitting that his song about the bridge be included in this post.

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The 59th Street Bridge Song (Feelin’ Groovy) by Simon and Garfunkel:

Paul Simon said that he’d spent most of 1965 in England but after coming back to the US, and having success with The Sound of Silence, life became really hectic for a while and he found it difficult to adjust. One day, going home to Queens over the 59th Street Bridge, he kind of started to snap out of it as the day had been a really good one, a “groovy one” – Once home he started to write the song subtitled Feelin’ Groovy that went on to appear on the 1966 album “Parsley, Sage, Rosemary and Thyme” recorded with musical partner Art Garfunkel.

But enough about bridges, in the New York of 1977 the phenomenon that was disco had started to really make its mark. Manhattan had Studio 54 where Liza, Michael, Mick and Bianca were regulars but across the Brooklyn Bridge (oops, more bridges), they had a local disco called 2001 Odyssey and every Saturday night, aforementioned John Travolta (playing the character Tony Manero), temporarily left his monotonous life behind and became “king of the dance floor”. Watching him now, the dancing doesn’t look quite as impressive as it did when we first experienced Saturday Night “Fever” and the parodies have been ruthless, but I still have fond memories of going to see that movie when it first came out in the UK in 1978. As someone who has been known to “do a John” over the years and clear the dancefloor, it can be an exhilarating feeling (and not showy-off at all of course!).

You Should Be Dancing by the Bee Gees:

The Saturday Night Fever soundtrack album, featuring disco songs by the Bee Gees, is one of the best-selling soundtracks of all time. How Deep Is Your Love is the song that appears in the closing scenes of the movie as we watch a desolate Tony ride the New York subway late at night. It is one of my all-time favourite love songs (which is probably why it became the choice for my Valentine’s Day post).

So far we’ve checked out the geography of New York and talked about the bridges and the nightlife. What about the people? I read an article recently about the flamboyant octogenarian fashionistas, who cut a dash on 5th Avenue – Way to go ladies!

Of course New York has long been known for its flamboyant characters and Sting sang about one of them, eccentric gay icon Quentin Crisp, in his 1988 song Englishman In New York. Another “character” commited to song was when Rod Stewart wrote and recorded  The Killing of Georgie (Part I and II) in 1976. This story song tells the tale of a young gay man who became successful and popular amongst Manhattan’s upper class – He was “the toast of the Great White Way”, which is the nickname given to the Theatre District of Midtown Manhattan. Georgie attends the opening night of a Broadway musical, but leaves “before the final curtain call” and heads across town. He is attacked near East 53rd Street by a gang of thieves and one inadvertently kills him. The song was apparently based on a true story about a friend of Rod’s old band The Faces.

I have waited a fair amount of time to feature Rod Stewart in this blog as it seems to be universally accepted that by the late ’70s he had sold out and his albums just weren’t up to the calibre of his earlier ones but hey, I was a mere 16-year-old schoolgirl at this time and was a big fan. This song especially, combining the melancholy and sombre Part II with the more popular Part I has long been a favourite of mine.

The Killing Of Georgie (Part I and II) by Rod Stewart:

We’ve spent an awful lot of time in New York City so far in this post but what about the rest of the state? Back in the early sixties before kids started heading off to Europe on holiday they used to go with their parents to resorts such as Kellermans in the Catskill Mountains. This is where “Baby” Houseman spent the summer of 1963, and fell for dashing dance instructor Johnny Castle. Dirty Dancing was a low-budget film that had no major stars but became a massive box office hit and was the first film to sell more than a million copies on home video. It has some great dance scenes and the soundtrack is full of classic songs from that early ’60s era such as Be My Baby, Big Girls Don’t Cry, Will You Love Me Tomorrow, Love Is Strange and this one, Stay by Maurice Williams & The Zodiacs.

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Kellermans in the Catskills, the setting for Dirty Dancing

Stay by Maurice Williams & The Zodiacs:

There are some great scenes in the movie where the landscape of the Catskills is kind of the star. I must admit to having become a bit of a fan of this movie in my later years although didn’t really take much heed of it when it first came out – I think it’s down to the nostalgia element, the music choices and the sadness that comes from the realisation that my days of dalliances with a young Johnny Castle are well behind me. Whatever, I’ve ended up writing about songs from it three times now (Be My Baby, Doomed Romances and Summer’s End) and they take the prize for being my least viewed posts – Sacre bleu!

Another song that makes me think of Upstate New York is Woodstock, written by Joni Mitchell but made famous in 1970 by Matthews Southern Comfort. The irony of course is that Joni Mitchell hadn’t even made it to the infamous festival which took place on Max Yasgur’s dairy farm, but wrote about it after having watched it from her hotel room in New York. The lyrics tell the story of a spiritual journey and make prominent use of sacred imagery, comparing the festival site with the Garden of Eden. The saga commences with the narrator’s encounter of a fellow traveller, a “child of God”,  and concludes at their ultimate destination where “we were half a million strong”.

Iain Matthews of Matthews Southern Comfort was actually from Scunthorpe in Lincolnshire but he had previously been with the band Fairport Convention who were at the time heavily influenced by American folk rock.

Well I don’t know about you but I’m exhausted – This post has been a long time coming and I’m sorry it’s so wordy, but I for one am now just pleased that it’s “in the can” so that the journey can continue. Next time we’ll be passing through the Lincoln Tunnel into New Jersey so as ever, suggestions for that state are more than welcome. Unlike with the New England states I have a feeling that it’s now going to get a whole lot easier.

A final clip before I go however – One of my all-time favourite movies is Manhattan directed by Woody Allen. I was given the soundtrack album by the boyfriend of the day after going to see it, as I was just so bowled over by George Gershwin’s compositions. They were all performed by the New York Philharmonic Orchestra and somehow I now always think of Rhapsody In Blue when I see the New York skyline.

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Rhapsody In Blue by George Gershwin:

The 59th Street Bridge Song (Feelin’ Groovy) Lyrics
(Song by Paul Simon)

Slow down, you move too fast
You got to make the morning last
Just kicking down the cobblestones
Looking for fun and feelin’ groovy
Ba da da da da da da, feelin’ groovy

Hello, lamppost, what’cha knowin’?
I’ve come to watch your flowers growin’
Ain’t’cha got no rhymes for me?
Doot-in doo-doo, feelin’ groovy
Ba da da da da da da, feelin’ groovy

I got no deeds to do
No promises to keep
I’m dappled and drowsy and ready to sleep
Let the morning time drop all its petals on me
Life, I love you
All is groovy

Alyson’s Archive #1 – Eddie and the Hot Rods, Radio Stars and Squeeze

Welcome to this occasional series where I will very embarrassingly, 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” thanks to Sir Tim Berners-Lee and his little invention, the world wide web! 

Back in 1978 I used to keep a journal. Here is the extract from Friday, March the 3rd, the day I’d gone in to Aberdeen with the school boyfriend (s bf) to watch Eddie and the Hot Rods at the Capitol Theatre. The Capitol was used as a cinema most of the time but between the mid ’70s and mid ’80s I went to see an awful lot of bands and artists perform there. Eddie and the Hot Rods were the only band on the bill that night who’d had much chart success to date, having got to No. 9 in the UK Singles Chart with Do Anything You Wanna Do in August, 1977. The two support acts were Radio Stars and an unheard of, fledgling band called Squeeze.

If you can read the extract below you will see that I was a very “proper” and not very “cool” teenager (who also didn’t have brilliant writing skills it seems) but hey, I was wearing my new-fangled straight-legged trousers and was still flushed with the success of having won the prize for “Best Pogoing” at our local Community Centre (documented here) so despite my misgivings about punk concerts, it turned out to be a good night. Interesting also to note that the ticket cost only £2.50 but looking back that was what I earned from my Saturday job, working a whole day in a shop – It’s all relative.

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The strange thing is that in later life we seem to develop a selective memory based on subsequent events and I had always thought that the standout act that night was Squeeze – Looking back at my journal entry, the verdict was that “they weren’t bad”. How bizarre as down the line they became one of my favourite bands and Up The Junction is still one of my all-time favourite songs.

Eddie and the Hot Rods were apparently “very good” and we had “no qualms about jumping up and down pogoing”, although it was “an exhausting occupation” (it’s all just so embarrassing). I don’t really think that in the annals of punk, Eddie and the Hot Rods will be remembered as one of that movement’s biggest movers and shakers – They were more of a pub rock band from Canvey Island but I suppose back in 1977, they did fit that whole “new wavey” mould quite well.

It seems that the band I most enjoyed that night were the Radio Stars and looking at the picture of them now, I still remember the showmanship of their lead singer, Andy Ellison. He had bleached blond hair and certainly knew how to work the crowd – I remember how he effortlessly meandered through the audience, niftily navigating his way across the back of the seats in the stalls. Their minor hit record Nervous Wreck also went down well that night and funny how my memories of that night are so at odds with how the respective careers of each of these bands evolved. I don’t know if it’s just me but looking at him now, does he have a hint of the Joe Brown about him?

But I can’t leave it there, for although it seems I didn’t think that much of Squeeze that particular night, they went on to become one of the UK’s best-loved bands. The vast majority of their songs were written by Chris Difford and Glenn Tilbrook, but of course the band Squeeze also spawned one Jools Holland, who seems to have become a bit of a National Treasure and whose annual New Year’s Eve Hootenanny is watched by millions. During the height of their popularity in the late ’70s/early ’80s they had hits with such classics as Cool for Cats, Slap and Tickle, Another Nail in My Heart, Pulling Mussels (from the Shell), Tempted, Labelled with Love, Black Coffee in Bed and Hourglass, as well as the aforementioned Up The Junction.

It was with great joy therefore, whilst watching live footage from Glastonbury this year, that I managed to catch Chris and Glenn pop up as guests in the outdoorsy green room area where Mark Radcliffe and (my other girl crush) Jo Whiley usually reside. They performed a very alternative version of Up The Junction complete with a band of kazoo players – This clip has appeared in my little corner of the blogosphere before but well worth another outing I feel.

Up The Junction (original version) by Squeeze:

So, “What’s It All About?” – Funny how we have a selective memory when it comes to reminiscing about the music of our youth. Just as Fred Astaire’s first audition went badly and notes were made to the effect, “Can’t act, can’t sing, slightly bald, can dance a little”, my diary entry from March ’78 was less than complimentary about Squeeze. Fortunately I soon saw the light and became a big fan down the line – I must have just been far too dazzled on the night by the energetic antics of Joe Brown lookalike Andy Ellison, to really concentrate on the talents of Messrs Difford and Tilbrook. That of course and all the pogoing – “An exhausting occupation”!

Up The Junction Lyrics
(Song by Chris Difford/Glenn Tilbrook)

I never thought it would happen
With me and the girl from Clapham
Out on the windy common
That night I ain’t forgotten
When she dealt out the rations
With some or other passions
I said “you are a lady”
“Perhaps” she said. “I may be”

We moved in to a basement
With thoughts of our engagement
We stayed in by the telly
Although the room was smelly
We spent our time just kissing
The Railway Arms we’re missing
But love had got us hooked up
And all our time it took up

I got a job with Stanley
He said I’d come in handy
And started me on Monday
So I had a bath on Sunday
I worked eleven hours
And bought the girl some flowers
She said she’d seen a doctor
And nothing now could stop her

I worked all through the winter
The weather brass and bitter
I put away a tenner
Each week to make her better
And when the time was ready
We had to sell the telly
Late evenings by the fire
With little kicks inside her

This morning at four fifty
I took her rather nifty
Down to an incubator
Where thirty minutes later
She gave birth to a daughter
Within a year a walker
She looked just like her mother
If there could be another

And now she’s two years older
Her mother’s with a soldier
She left me when my drinking
Became a proper stinging
The devil came and took me
From bar to street to bookie
No more nights by the telly
No more nights nappies smelling

Alone here in the kitchen
I feel there’s something missing
I’d beg for some forgiveness
But begging’s not my business
And she won’t write a letter
Although I always tell her
And so it’s my assumption
I’m really up the junction

An Open Letter to George Michael RIP, Part 3 – The Tributes

Dear George

It’s now been two months since we woke up to the news that you had been found dead on Christmas Day – Of all the shock departures from the world of entertainment last year, yours was the one that affected me most and I still can’t quite believe that you will never again pop up on our screens chatting, singing, campaigning or joining forces with some of our finest comedic talents in one of their fund-raising sketches – Kind of cornered the market with those of late and raised an awful lot of money into the bargain so good on you.

But of course we are now well into Awards Season – Last week we had The Grammys and this week it was our own Brit Awards. Every year there is a short interlude where they give remembrance to those of you who have passed away since the last awards ceremony – 2016 will go down in history I think for being a freakish year in terms of loss. So many of you who were still so young and had so much more to give, left this mortal coil. I did think at the start of the year that this would just be something natural that we would have to get used to, but no, it was indeed a mathematically freakish year and one I don’t want to see repeated for some time.

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At both The Grammys and The Brits, there was a very moving tribute paid to you George, but by golly, for me it just doubly-emphasised what a fantastic singer you were. I never heard you sing out-of-tune ever, which is not something that the people who were given the job of singing your songs seemed to be able to do. First of all we had Adele at The Grammys who is generally very good at the old “live singing”, but even she had to stop and restart her rendition of your 1996 No. 1 Fastlove, because she had messed up. As a means of explaining she said, “I can’t do that to him, I just can’t” which was quite magnanimous of her I suppose. I have a feeling that you and her were probably friends and shared a similar sense of humour but I can’t be sure – Hopefully though you were looking down at her and appreciated what she was trying to do albeit in a bit of a, dare I say it, botched fashion. As for the really slowed down version of Fastlove (oh the irony), I can understand how an up-tempo number would have been inappropriate but somehow it just didn’t work for me. I am therefore going to remind myself of how it should be performed by none other than your good self. I am noticing however that in this video you were going through one of your crisis of confidence phases in terms of how you looked – Yes, it was your “I don’t want to show the right side of my face anymore because it doesn’t look so good” period which was just ridiculous as you were a fantastically attractive man from any angle. Just goes to show how these things can really get into the psyche however and although totally unreasonable, are difficult to shake off. I have a terrible feeling that at the time of your death you were not at all happy with how you looked which is just so sad – Could have been easily resolved if you’d had the right people around you to help.

Fastlove by George Michael:

So, we’ve had Adele with Fastlove complete with a brilliant set of images of you on the big screen – Yes George we even saw the right side of your face and it was lovely. Next up we have The Brit Awards and this time we had none other than Chris Martin of Coldplay doing the tribute song. Hmm… Not my first choice but he does seem to sell an awful lot of records so got the gig – Again not really appropriate for him to have performed one of your more up-tempo numbers (can’t really imagine Chris Martin in a pair of little white shorts and a Choose Life T-shirt singing Wake Me Up Before You Go Go) so what did he go for? – A Different Corner from 1986. But hey, this wasn’t just any old version of A Different Corner – Oh no, it was a really, really bad one! Thankfully at one point they did that really clever thing where a duet is possible with you on the big screen and him on stage (singing out-of-tune) so again your brilliance, from beyond the grave, saved the day.

I have always loved the song A Different Corner and here is a bit of a funny story George. Many years ago before I met Mr WIAA I had a great friend called Anne. We lived in flats only a few doors away from each other and were practically joined at the hip for a few years – We both loved going out socialising at the weekend but often bemoaned the fact that we just hadn’t found the “Big One” yet, the person we would perhaps marry. We decided that we must always have been turning the metaphorical “wrong corner” – If it had been a different corner, as per your song, we might have bumped into the “One”. Oh how we laughed! Anyway, Anne eventually got a new job in another town and she, and the different corner jokes, were sorely missed for a while – I had to shop solo on a Saturday afternoon which was a bit of a lonely business. One day I was heading up the high street when I saw Mr WIAA walking just ahead of me – I knew him from our social circle but despite getting on really well we always went our separate ways at the end of the evening. I decided it was time for action. The day had come for me to turn the correct corner. It was a race against time but I managed to head into the shopping mall, quickly run past all the shops and emerge at the exit right at the top of the high street just as Mr WIAA was arriving at that point. I was breathless but managed one of those convincing, “Gosh fancy bumping into you” greetings as I met him. After a bit of a chat we organised a date for later on that evening and that my dear George was 28 years ago now, so thank you for inspiring me to take the initiative that day and make sure I didn’t indeed turn a different corner.

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I am most definitely not going to share the Chris Martin version of the song here but a version you sang live on television some years ago, perfectly as ever. I think the time has come for me now to let go, and this will probably be my last letter to you. I hope that wherever you are, you have found peace. Despite the less than perfect singing at The Brits it was lovely to see your old pals Andrew Ridgeley, and Pepsi & Shirley read out their own tributes to you – It was a shock however to see Andrew looking like a bit of an old man. If he is looking older then so must we but there is nothing to complain about as at least we will have the luxury of growing older, whereas now you never will.

A Different Corner:

Farewell then my old friend – As these tributes show, you are sorely missed by so many and we thank you for all the wonderful songs you have given us. Because of them (and your amazing acts of generosity) you will never, ever be forgotten.

A Different Corner Lyrics
(Song by George Michael)

I’d say love was a magical thing
I’d say love would keep us from pain
Had I been there, had I been there

I would promise you all of my life
But to lose you would cut like a knife
So I don’t dare, no I don’t dare

‘Cause I’ve never come close in all of these years
You are the only one to stop my tears
And I’m so scared, I’m so scared

Take me back in time maybe I can forget
Turn a different corner and we never would have met
Would you care

I don’t understand it, for you it’s a breeze
Little by little you’ve brought me to my knees
Don’t you care

No I’ve never come close in all of these years
You are the only one to stop my tears
I’m so scared of this love

And if all that there is is this fear of being used
I should go back to being lonely and confused
If I could, I would, I swear

Carrie Bradshaw, Barbra Streisand and Guilty

Although my posts often follow on from each other and are somewhat related, the two I wrote last week (from my sickbed) were very different indeed with no obvious link at all. Yet again however a strange synchronicity has come about, and this is the post that links them.

WARNING: It’s all about to get very girly!

In my last post I featured the song Single Girl by The Primitives/Sandy Posey (take your pick). It was all about a girl feeling a bit sad and lonely in a “great big town”. One of the most infamous groups of “Single Girls” were those Manhattan-based stars of Sex and the City, Carrie Bradshaw and her pals, also at times known to feel a bit sad and lonely in a great big town (although not that often to be fair).

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This reminded me that one of my favourite scenes from a SATC episode was the one where Carrie realises that her failed relationship with Mr Big (the nickname her ex-boyfriend is given – he was supposed to be The Big One, the one she married) was down to the same reason that it didn’t work out for Robert Redford and Barbra Streisand in the 1973 film The Way We Were. The world is made up of “complicated girls” with wild curly hair (Carrie and Barbra) and “simple girls”, the ones with tame straight hair – Big and Redford chose the simple girls!

As mentioned above, the female star of TWWW was Barbra Streisand. Who then appeared on the cover of the magazine that pops through my letterbox on a Saturday? – Yes, it was Barbra Streisand. I don’t know what it is about Streisand but she has always just looked so beautiful and timeless to me – Gorgeous hair, skin and that kinky nose. She is one of a very small group of artists who have won Grammys, Emmys, Tonys and Oscars, such is the breadth of her talent – The Queen of the Divas indeed.

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Got me thinking and joy of joys I discovered that TWWW resides on Netflix so (again from my sickbed) I decided to give it another viewing as I have shockingly never watched it all the way through from beginning to end in one sitting. Of course I had to have a little weep once we got to that scene at the end where Katie (Barbra) tells Hubbell (Robert) that “his girl is lovely” (although she is no doubt crying inside).

Barbra Streisand doesn’t sing in that one but she did record the lovely theme song which contains the following lines:

Can it be that it was all so simple then
Or has time rewritten every line
If we had the chance to do it all again, tell me, would we, could we……?

Ironically, last year, after failing miserably to co-ordinate a date for a reunion weekend with my old “Single Girl” friends, I jokingly sent them an email quoting those very lines with the addendum – Well, apparently not! I thought it was quite funny….but they didn’t. We are all just about talking again now (perhaps that cultural reference was lost on them).

But back to Barbra, it has also of course been known for her to record great duets with some of the biggest artists of the day. Back in 1980 she recorded Guilty with Barry Gibb, on his own, without the rest of The Bee Gees. And this is where the reference to my second post of last week comes in – On St Valentine’s Day I featured a Bee Gees‘ love song and wrote about how sad I felt watching Barry, the lone surviving brother, all on his own at this year’s Grammys, watching a tribute being performed for the 40th anniversary of the album Saturday Night Fever.

Guilty by Barbra Streisand and Barry Gibb:

I am quite frankly amazed that the song Guilty only made it to No. 34 in the UK Singles Chart but looking again at the video clip, Barry and Barbra (nice ring to it) did look oh so very white in it, and this was very much the era of new wave, post-punk and ska where the artists wore very little white indeed and were much, much edgier in terms of their output. Still a great duet however where each of them gets their own boy/girl lines and “nothing to be guilty of” in terms of liking it, as we don’t do that around here any more. The Bee Gees were great songwriters and as mentioned last week I am very proud to have come out and admitted to being a fan.

So, “What’s It All About?” – Who knew that the simple girls always get their man whereas the complicated girls don’t? Well, maybe they didn’t in TWWW, but thirty years later in SATC, Carrie Bradshaw did end up marrying Big. Yes, it turned out he’d made a massive mistake and he did want a complicated girl after all!

As someone with very tame, straight hair but who is not necessarily always simple this is good to know. Sadly back in 1973 it just didn’t seem to be the case but perhaps relationships have evolved and even complicated girls now can have it all!

Until next time….

Guilty Lyrics
(Song by Barry, Robin and Maurice Gibb)

Shadows falling baby, we stand alone
Out on the street anybody you meet got a heartache of their own
(It oughta be illegal)
Make it a crime to be lonely or sad
(It oughta be illegal)
You got a reason for livin’
You battle on with the love you’re livin’ on
You gotta be mine
We take it away
It’s gotta be night and day
Just a matter of time
And we got nothing to be guilty of
Our love will climb any mountain near or far, we are
And we never let it end
We are devotion
And we got nothing to be sorry for
Our love is one in a million
Eyes can see that we got a highway to the sky
I don’t wanna hear your goodbye

Pulse’s racing, darling
How grand we are
Little by little we meet in the middle
There’s danger in the dark
(It oughta be illegal)
Make it a crime to be out in the cold
(It oughta be illegal)
You got a reason for livin’
You battle on with the love you’re buildin’ on
You gotta be mine
We take it away
It’s gotta be night and day
Just a matter of time
And we got nothing to be guilty of
Our love will climb any mountain near or far, we are
And we never let it end
We are devotion
And we got nothing to be sorry for
Our love is one in a million
Eyes can see that we got a highway to the sky

I don’t wanna hear your goodbye

Don’t wanna hear your goodbye

I don’t wanna hear your
And we got nothing, and we got nothing to be guilty of
Our love will climb any mountain near or far, we are
And we never let it end
We are devotion
And we got nothing to be sorry for
Our love is one in a million
Eyes can see that we got a highway to the sky
Don’t wanna hear your goodbye
Don’t wanna hear your
And we got nothing, and we got nothing to be guilty of
Our love will climb any mountain near or far, we are

An Open Letter to George Michael RIP, Part 1 – The Wham! Years

Dear George

George, George, George…, Georgios Kyriacos, Gorgeous one – I probably knew that you had not been “looking after yourself” (as my mum would call it) for some time, but when I heard the news yesterday morning that you had passed away from heart failure, on Christmas Day of all days, it was the first time this year that I actually uttered a guttural roar on the hearing of such news. A loud, “No, no, no……” could be heard emanating from my person followed by a few punches of my pillow. I eventually pulled myself together however and headed off to our little office to see what the world wide web was making of it all. Shitty, shitty 2016.

First of all you were just a tad younger than me, and British, so of all the shiny stars from the world of entertainment who have passed on this year, you were the one I could identify with most (me being an international singer/song-writing superstar an’ all) – But seriously, you appeared in my life just as childhood and the artificial world of the student was coming to an end so you have been with me for the journey that has been my entire adult life. In a non-interfering, almost unnoticed way, you have provided one of the soundtracks to my life and have been there at a few of the most pivotal points. You will never be forgotten.

I spotted you for the first time, as was usual in those days, on Top of The Pops in the summer of 1982. We had just finished our degrees but were allowed to stay on in our Halls of Residence until the new term started in October – This was the first time I had lived in Halls over the summer but I had a job, my 5 best friends were with me, there were no lectures or exams, and the sun was shining – What a great time we had and on Thursday nights at 7.30pm we all piled into my little room for TOTP (as unbelievably in those less technology saturated times, I was the only one who had a little portable telly).

And there you were, joyously strutting your stuff with best mate Andrew, the other half of Wham!, and the girls Pepsi & Shirlie (the future Mrs Martin Kemp). I was, at 22 by this time, too old to be smitten by such teen-dream fodder but hey, it was summer and Young Guns (Go For It) was feel-good pop of the highest order. What not to enjoy. We’d already had New Romanticism with all the falderals and excess that it entailed, but here were a couple of young lads from Hertfordshire having fun in their loafers and rolled up jeans. I am ashamed to admit it now (no, not that I really liked this stuff, as that would never happen), but it was Andrew I was smitten with at first. He was indeed very cute back then and I feel bad about that now, as we all know you had real self-image issues over the years, but as time went by you did kind of grow into yourself and became a very attractive man.

Young Guns (Go For It) by Wham!:

But life moves on and we all decanted to flats in the city centre and became part of the real world, getting ourselves “proper” jobs and entering the 9 to 5. I have written about this before but during these transition years there is usually an overlap with the life left behind and for a while we still tended to frequent the old haunts of our student days. As time went by however, more socialising was done with new colleagues and our haunts of choice changed – This was Aberdeen, the Oil Capital of Europe for goodness sake, money was plentiful and bit by bit we moved up to the much more yuppified side of the town. I feel embarrassed by it now considering what was happening in other parts of the country at the time, but hey, we were young, it always felt like it was summer and life was being played out to all of your great chart singles, Club Tropicana, Wake Me Up Before You Go Go, Careless Whisper and Freedom

I have already written about you twice this year George, once when Careless Whisper became a “random pick of the day” and once when recounting how your song Freedom was the key to securing a place in the final of the prestigious Inter-Oil Company Pop Quiz of 1985. Can be found here (George Michael, Careless Whisper and the Summer of 1984) and here (Pop Quizzes, George Michael and Freedom) – Fun times. But all fun times have their day and ironically that happened soon after we tried to recreate those wonderful scenes from your video for Last Christmas.

Last Christmas by Wham!:

About 10 of us booked a New Year break, not in a swish Alpine resort as per the video, but in the Cairngorms. Scotland was having an uncharacteristically mild winter that year and instead of snow we had…, well whatever it’s called when it’s winter and not snowy…, brown. No matter, we had a great time with days out and about and nights spent eating, drinking and playing games. When I said that all fun times have their day, that is exactly what happened. Hubby and I call it “cottage weekend syndrome” – You have this great time with like-minded single friends of both the male and female persuasion, but one by one everyone starts to pair up and become couples. The very thing that was the catalyst in getting them together in the first place leads to its demise once mortgages and children come along, which is sad, but, it seems that as humans we are destined to want to be couples. I know you have not had an easy time of it George in the relationship department, but I do hope that at the time of your death you had someone in your life who really cared about you. I find it hard to believe that such a fuss was made when you came out as gay in the late ’90s. First of all, I am pretty sure that all of us who were fans knew anyway (you were always just so well-groomed) and secondly it really didn’t matter – I can see that during the ’80s however, when that new virus came along that could lead to AIDs, it would have been a difficult time to tell a loving mother the truth.

My last major recollections of your days in Wham! were during the summer of 1986. After a very long-winded, on-off relationship with the old school boyfriend, who became the student boyfriend, the early ’80s boyfriend and finally the mid ’80s boyfriend, by the summer of ’86 it was definitely over for good. This was a new found freedom I had not experienced in years and it was embraced with open arms. It coincided with the announcement that Wham! were also finally calling it a day and what with the release of a farewell single, The Edge of Heaven and a singles compilation album called “The Final” you were never out of the media. There was also a sell-out concert at Wembley Stadium and the world premiere of the film documenting your landmark tour of China. Put it down to giddy delirium at being single again, but I reverted to being a love-struck teenager and bought both original albums “Fantastic” and “Make It Big” as well as the new one. Very embarrassingly I also acquired some posters and put them up on my bedroom wall but there was also method in this madness. I was very conscious of the fact that being single again after many years as a couple, I could make mistakes of the rebound nature – Having posters of you and Andrew on my wall would surely stop any rash impulses being acted upon. (It worked to a point, but it turns out that if necessary it takes less than 30 seconds to rip down blu-tacked posters, so not as great a barrier method as hoped.)

That summer was also the one I went on holiday to Greece, your father’s country of birth. Those were more demure days when the hedonistic stories of sun, sex and sangria-fuelled partying did not feature as much when travelling to such places (or maybe we just went to a particularly nice island). Anyway, during the holiday we all ended up having little romances and lo and behold the boy I fell for was also called Georgios. I clearly remember shedding a little tear on the way home on the plane and then suffering the embarrassment, once back at work, of having to tell my boss that the password to my computer was indeed “Georgios” when he needed access in a hurry!

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Swimming with George in Greece

So George, my memories of those years, 1982 to 1986 are now complete but there are so many more post-Wham! memories which I am going to leave for Part 2 of my tribute to you.

I have been conscious of late that because I am no longer writing in a vacuum and actually have a few followers, that I perhaps need to be a bit more selective with my choice of featured songs. I chose not to write about Last Christmas the other week as I do still get a bit embarrassed that back in the ’80s my social conscience temporarily left me, and I was swept up in a sea of Club Tropicana and Careless Whispers. But, the received wisdom is that you should always write from the heart and be true to yourself. No-one ever said that you can’t like a variety of musical genres anyway and my mantra has always been that I like music of great quality, whatever the style, so it is perfectly possible to have loved The Smiths as well as Wham!.  

So long then, to the young Greek Adonis of my youth. Until next time, RIP George.

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Young Guns (Go For It) Lyrics
(Song by George Michael)

Hey sucker
(What the hell’s got into you?)
Hey sucker
Hey sucker
(What the hell’s got into you?)
Hey sucker
(Now there’s nothing you can do)

Well I hadn’t seen your face around town awhile,
So I greeted you, with a knowing smile,
When I saw that girl upon your arm,
I knew she won your heart with a fatal charm.
I said “Soul Boy, let’s hit the town!”
I said “Soul Boy, what’s with the frown?”
But in return, all you could say was
“Hi George, meet my fiancée”

Young Guns,
Having some fun
Crazy ladies keep ’em on the run.
Wise guys realise there’s danger in emotional ties.
See me, single and free
No tears, no fears, what I want to be.
One, two, take a look at you
Death by matrimony!

Hey sucker,
(What the hell’s got into you?)
Hey sucker!
(Now there’s nothing you can do.)

A married man? you’re out of your head
Sleepless nights, on an H.P. bed
A daddy by the time you’re twenty-one
If your happy with a nappy then you’re in for fun.
But you’re here
And you’re there
Well there’s guys like you just everywhere
Looking back on the good old days?
Well this young gun says CAUTION PAYS!

Young Guns,
Having some fun
Crazy ladies keep ’em on the run.
Wise guys realise there’s danger in emotional ties.
See me, single and free
No tears, no fears, what I want to be.
One, two, take a look at you
Death by matrimony!

I remember when he such fun and everthing was fine,
I remember when we use to have a good time,
Partners in crime.
Tell me that’s all in the past and I will gladly walk away,
Tell me that you’re happy now,
Turning my back
Nothing to say!
“Hey tell this jerk to take a hike,
There’s somethin’ ’bout that boy I don’t like”
“Well sugar he don’t mean the things he said”
“Just get him outta my way, ’cause I’m seeing red
We got plans to make, we got things to buy
And you’re wasting time on some creepy guy”
“Hey shut up chick, that’s a friend of mine,
Just watch your mouth babe, you’re out of line”

GET BACK
HANDS OFF
GO FOR IT!

Young Guns,
Having some fun
Crazy ladies keep ’em on the run.
Wise guys realise there’s danger in emotional ties.
See me, single and free
No tears, no fears, what I want to be.
One, two, take a look at you
Death by matrimony!