Live Aid, Freddie Mercury and “Radio Ga Ga”

Well, my stats are booming and all because of this particular post, written right at the start of my blogging career. Regular visitors will know I’ve had a bit of a cinema-fest going on of late before life starts to get really busy again, and this week I managed to catch the Freddie Mercury biopic, Bohemian Rhapsody.

It hasn’t received universally fantastic reviews, but for those of us who enjoy rock and pop folklore, it is I feel, a must-see film. Rami Malek played Freddie brilliantly I thought and having to act with those teeth must have been a challenge in itself. (Freddie was apparently born with an extra 4 incisors but forewent the intervention of a dentist in case it affected his voice.) We got a great insight into the early days of Queen and the background to the making of those epic records. The film ends with footage of the Live Aid concert where they pretty much stole the show (and formed the basis for this post). The best way to go I think. We leave the cinema with a smile on our faces, remembering Farrokh Bulsara at his prime, just as he would have wanted.

What's It All About?

I wrote yesterday about the Celtic rock band Runrig and how their rousing live performances induce mass participation, especially when at home in Scotland.

The performance most people my age will remember as being one of the finest ever to take place however, was when Queen arrived on stage for their segment of the Live Aid Concert, held on July the 13th, 1985. I still remember that day well and who knew before the concert began that this would be a seminal performance. To see and hear all 72,000 people in Wembley Stadium sing along with Freddie Mercury to Radio Ga Ga was a landmark moment in pop history. His a cappella section at the end of the song, featuring his amazing vocal range and ability to work the crowd, came to be known as “the note heard round the world”.

Radio Ga Ga by Queen:

There had been…

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The Hunter’s Moon, “The Killing Moon” and Echo & The Bunnymen

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

Well, this is a landmark “moon post” as it is the 13th in the series and brings us full circle (no pun intended) to the end of a calendar year of full moons. I started this series last November as we had been witness to the most spectacular supermoon on Bonfire Night and it made me want to investigate our only satellite a little further. Since then I have found out so much about the moon I had hitherto never bothered to question, and hopefully those of you who have followed this series, have gleaned a lot from it also.

The reason why this is the 13th full moon in a calendar year, is because the lunar cycle is 29.5 days – A full moon in early November last year has meant we are going to witness the Hunter’s Moon tonight, just sneaking into the tail end of the month of October. This is a series that just keeps on giving however, as no two years are ever going to be the same, and I’ll never run out of moon-themed songs. I fully intend to keep going with this one ad infinitum.

Over the last year, we’ve had two Blue Moons, three supermoons, two lunar eclipses, a month with no full moon at all (February with its 28 days), a September Harvest Moon and a Super Blue Blood Moon. The most interesting thing of all for me however is that each one has a name, and of course it’s been fun choosing a relevant song for each post from the “tracks of my years”.

The Native Americans called this month’s full moon the Hunter’s Moon for obvious reasons. Now was the time for hunting, and laying in a store of provisions for the long winter ahead. The leaves were falling and the game was fattened. I still have many songs to feature in this series (which is why I’m going to keep going with it), but the one that jumps out at me for this month is of course The Killing Moon by Echo & The Bunnymen.

The Killing Moon by Echo & The Bunnymen:

The song was released in January 1984 as the lead single from their album “Ocean Rain” and reached No. 9 in the UK Singles Chart. Lead singer Ian McCulloch apparently attributed the use of astronomical imagery in the song to a childhood interest in space. He has even come out and said, “When I sing The Killing Moon, I know there isn’t a band in the world who’s got a song anywhere near it” – Others of course may choose to disagree but good to hear of an artist who thinks so highly of their work and freely admits to it. The chords of the song were even based on David Bowie’s Space Oddity, played backwards.

thS8LMZTY6Whenever I watch old footage of Echo & The Bunnymen I am always reminded of the crowd I hung around with back in 1984. The student boyfriend and his friends all looked and dressed like Ian McCulloch & Co, acquiring their outerwear at any rate from one of the charity shops that were around at the time. There weren’t nearly as many back then (only the Oxfam Shop really) as I think we all used to buy far fewer clothes. They were relatively expensive compared to now, so had to be looked after and worn for longer. Many a charcoal Great Coat or black 1960s Car Coat was sported by the guys in our crowd. They had all been students and although those days had now come to an end, they were spinning out the student lifestyle for as long as possible before entering the real world. Sadly, by this time I had entered the real world, so the charity shop wardrobe was now being infiltrated with smart office-wear. My social life was also changing, so pink and white sweatshirts started to make an appearance as well. Yes, student life was firmly behind me and so it seemed was the student boyfriend. We no longer “matched”, and never would again.

So, “What’s It All About?” – I am conscious of the fact I’ve been absent from the comments boxes of the other blogs I follow of late, but as regular visitors to this place know, I have a lot going on at the moment within my family. I did however manage to fit in a trip to Belfast last week (I plan to write one of my travelogue style posts about it soon) which gave me a much needed break. One of the things we did there was to go and see the newly released film First Man, about the life of Neil Armstrong. I won’t say too much about it as many of you won’t have seen it yet, but as I have been immersed in all things lunar for the last twelve months, it was a must-watch for me, and I really enjoyed it.

It was made even better for me because a few months ago I’d read the book Moondust by Andrew Smith – He had gone in search of the remaining 9 “moon walkers” and it was a fascinating read. It is bizarre indeed to think that soon there will be no-one left on Earth who has actually set foot on the moon, and looked down at our planet from up there. The chapter on Neil Armstrong meant I already knew much of his back story before going to see the film, which I think was a good thing.

For me, what came out loud and clear from the book was: a) it wasn’t much fun being a moon walker’s wife; b) the person operating the lunar module didn’t have the same “spiritual experience” as the commander, who could really take in the enormity of what they were doing, and finally; c) the Apollo moon landings were less about beating the Russians at their own game but more about President Kennedy and a bunch of others engaging in the biggest Boy’s Own adventure ever. These missions could never happen today as the public are far more savvy about how their tax dollars are spent and no administration could justify what it took to get those 12 moon walkers up there.

I hope the clouds clear and we get to see the Hunter’s Moon tonight and I plan to return next month with another “moon post”, as fortunately for me, they all seem to have an alternate name. Happy days.

Until next time….

The Killing Moon Lyrics
(Song by Will Sergeant/Ian McCulloch/Les Pattinson/Pete de Freitas)

Under blue moon I saw you
So soon you’ll take me
Up in your arms
Too late to beg you or cancel it
Though I know it must be the killing time
Unwillingly mine

Fate
Up against your will
Through the thick and thin
He will wait until
You give yourself to him

In starlit nights I saw you
So cruelly you kissed me
Your lips a magic world
Your sky all hung with jewels
The killing moon
Will come too soon

Fate
Up against your will
Through the thick and thin
He will wait until
You give yourself to him

Under blue moon I saw you
So soon you’ll take me
Up in your arms
Too late to beg you or cancel it
Though I know it must be the killing time
Unwillingly mine

Fate
Up against your will
Through the thick and thin
He will wait until
You give yourself to him

Fate
Up against your will
Through the thick and thin
He will wait until
You give yourself to him
You give yourself to him

Fate
Up against your will
Through the thick and thin
He will wait until
You give yourself to him
You give yourself to him

Fate
Up against your will
Through the thick and thin
He will wait until
You give yourself to him

Fate
Up against your will
Through the thick and thin
He will wait until
You give yourself to him

Postscript:

Well, I’d never heard of such a thing, but it seems we were also treated to a “moonbow” the other night up here in the north of Scotland – The particular combination of a full moon, a bit of rain and a very black sky made this phenomenon possible. My friend with the fancy-pants camera didn’t actually get a shot of it himself, but he did share on social media a couple of shots taken by other locals. Wish I’d seen it and something I am hell bent now on witnessing in the future. Enjoy.

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Reunions, Raincoats and Rock & Pop Memorabilia

A couple of Saturdays ago I got up at the crack of dawn and caught the first train south to Edinburgh. An ex-flatmate from student days had recently been back in touch – inevitably via Facebook – and she was keen to have a bit of a reunion. As one of the other girls from the flat (we’ll always be girls however old we get) was coming up to Edinburgh for the Fringe Festival, a meet-up there seemed to make sense as the rest of us all still live in Scotland. As an aside, another thing that precipitated this reunion was that one of our number has recently been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s Disease, which came as a massive shock to all of us. It’s too easy to put off these kind of reunions as it can be tricky finding dates that work for everyone, but this news certainly galvanised us into action, for obvious reasons.

There certainly was a lot going on in Edinburgh the Saturday I arrived at Waverley Station. We knew however that much of our time would be spent just catching up, as we hadn’t actually met up with the instigator of this reunion for 37 years. She’d left a year earlier than the rest of us to coincide with her student boyfriend’s departure, as he was a year older. They got married within 12 months, and wait for it, are still together! I suppose I shouldn’t be so shocked, but it just didn’t work out that way for the rest of us, so full of admiration for anyone who has gone the distance so to speak.

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After the mid-morning coffee and the boozy lunch, it had been suggested we head along to the National Museum, as the much-publicised exhibition entitled Rip It Up, The Story of Scottish Pop was currently running. It certainly did chronicle the music we Scots have been responsible for inflicting on an unsuspecting nation (world?) over the last 60 years or so, taking us right back to Lonnie Donegan and ending up with the Chvrches by way of Lulu, The Rollers, Deacon Blue, the Soup Dragons and Franz Ferdinand to name but a few.

Only the previous week however I had finally caught up with all three episodes of the BBC 2 documentary series also called Rip It Up (link here), so I was already familiar with “the story” and had seen most of the audio-visual material used as part of the exhibition. Also, there was a strict no taking pictures policy in operation so that kind of ruined my chances of creating a blog post out of my visit (but I’m still going to try). What was great however was to see all that rock and pop memorabilia, donated both by fans and the pop sensations themselves, which had been pulled together for the exhibition.

My last blog post before this visit was as a result of having been set the challenge of writing about James Yorkston (link here) which is when I found out about Fence Records, set up by Kenny Anderson (aka King Creosote). One of the items on display was the actual fence used as inspiration for the artwork for Kenny’s album, still boldly displaying the words KC RULES OK.

There were of course an awful lot of guitars, records and sheet music filling up the glass cases but for me it was the clothes I enjoyed looking at most. Considering I was meandering around these displays with people I had shared a flat with in 1980/81, a few memories invariably came to mind. Both myself and the instigator of the reunion had been lucky enough to receive little black and white portable tellies from Santa that academic year, so from January 1981 onward we took turns in hosting the viewing of TOTP on Thursdays at 7.30pm. That was of course the era of New Romanticism and the charts were littered with acts who were very prone to dressing up in elaborate frills and falderals.

POP-COMP

A band who will always be remembered for producing a highly pretentious, airy fairy video at that time was Ultravox, headed up by Scottish singer Midge Ure. The song it accompanied was of course Vienna, which became infamous for losing out on the UK Singles Chart’s top spot (for weeks on end) to an Australian called Joe Dolce with his novelty song Shaddap You Face. Along with many other iconic outfits in the exhibition, there was the very raincoat Midge wore for the video.

Vienna by Ultravox:

Other panels of interest contained a display of some of the many albums made by Scottish acts over the years – I can only identify a few of the less obvious ones, but I’m sure a fair few of the blogging buddies could identify many more. Some interesting snippets of info up there too – Did you know that in 1975, the Average White Band was the first Scottish band to get to No. 1 in both the US Singles and Album Charts simultaneously? No, me neither, but I do now courtesy of the exhibition.

Last stop was of course the gift shop, and although I didn’t actually buy this Bay City Rollers badge (because I already have one!), it was worthy of a picture. Plenty of nice new T-shirts on offer as well for those of us whose originals have perhaps seen better days (or perhaps that’s the point).

I will leave you with a link to the playlists of songs inspired by the exhibition – From Scottish pop classics to the tracks that mean the most to the people involved in creating the exhibition. Also, one last image, this time of the iconic outfit worn by Annie Lennox during her Eurythmics partnership with Dave Stewart. Considering our little reunion was the result of having once-upon-a-time shared a student flat in Aberdeen, where Annie was born and brought up, it would be fitting to include something by her. I used to find it quite amusing that during my decade of living in Aberdeen, just about every female I encountered had either been to school with her or knew her – Looking back, if you were 5 years older or 5 years younger you probably did attend school at the same time, but highly unlikely you will still be in touch. Just sayin’.

Neil Hanna Photography www.neilhannaphotography.co.uk 07702 246823

Here Comes The Rain Again by the Eurythmics:

So, “What’s It All About?” – First and foremost, if the chance comes up to reconnect with old friends, don’t keep putting it off as to my cost I have found that some of my old friendship groups are now reduced in number. Not something you really want to think about, but now that people are starting to retire, it should mean get-togethers are logistically a bit easier to organise, but it also means we are all getting older. Enough said.

As for the Rip It Up exhibition, it is on until November, and well worth a visit if you have any interest at all in the history of Scottish Pop. If like me you have already watched the Rip It Up documentary, there is a big overlap, but still lots of memorabilia to bring on a dose of nostalgia. We are used to our museum artefacts from ancient cultures presented to us in the form of pottery, jewellery and crafts. In the future, the artefacts attributed to our time on the planet will be vinyl, trousers with tartan down the sides and button badges. What will they make of us as a culture I wonder, in the year 3000AD?

Until next time…. , Shang-a-Lang!

Vienna Lyrics
(Song by Warren Cann/Chris Cross/Billy Currie/Midge Ure)

Walked in the cold air
Freezing breath on a window pane
Lying and waiting
A man in the dark in a picture frame
So mystic and soulful
A voice reaching out in a piercing cry
It stays with you until

The feeling has gone only you and I
It means nothing to me
This means nothing to me
Oh, Vienna

The music is weaving
Haunting notes, pizzicato strings
The rhythm is calling
Alone in the night as the daylight brings
A cool empty silence
The warmth of your hand and a cold grey sky
It fades to the distance

The image has gone only you and I
It means nothing to me
This means nothing to me
Oh, Vienna

This means nothing to me
This means nothing to me
Oh, Vienna

Dundee: City of Jam, Jute, Journalism and the “Party Fears Two”!

Well, I have a feeling this is going to be another one of my travelogue style posts but there will be a musical connection by the time I get to the end of it, I promise.

First of all, a word to the wise – If your other half decides to do a bit of browsing on your computer, forewarn them you might have set up a faster payment method on some sites, otherwise you could end up seriously out of pocket. This happened to me a fortnight ago. We didn’t really have any holiday plans for this summer, but I had mentioned I would quite like to visit the Scottish city of Dundee at some point, as with the new V&A about to open, along with all the other established attractions, it does seem to be a city on the up. So, whilst I was busy watching some very worthy television (not Love Island, honest…), unbeknownst to me Mr WIAA started to scour Airbnb for accommodation in Dundee. He liked the look of one particular apartment in a converted grand old house on the Perth Road, and tested the booking system to find out its availability. Quick as a flash they came back and said yes, it was available the following week, and the payment promptly came off my account.

It was at this point he decided (very sheepishly) to tell me what he had done – “A lavish apartment…, in Dundee…, next week…,” said I, dubiously. In a former life this would have been a lovely idea, but with a business we run from home and an elderly parent to look after, not easy nowadays to take off on spontaneous jaunts. “But it’s ok”, he said, “you can ask for a refund within 48 hours if you change your mind.” Turns out you only get a refund if the trip is at least 14 days away – Looked as if we were heading to Dundee!

Suffice to say, we quickly got everything organised and had a lovely five days last week in that city famous for it’s Jam, Jute and Journalism. Despite being Scottish I had never really visited Dundee properly before, having just passed through or dropped in for a work-related meeting or course, so it turned out to be a really great trip. Like most urban areas with an industrial past, it’s inner city has seen better and more vibrant days, but it’s a city that is reinventing itself with technology parks (home to the computer games industry), visitor attractions (Captain Scott’s Discovery), arts venues (Dundee Rep, the new V&A) and education (it has two universities and many colleges) now the main source of revenue.

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RRS Discovery berthed in Dundee

For me however, Dundee will always be synonymous with DC Thomson, that long-established publisher responsible for supplying our house with newspapers and magazines when I was growing up. Most homes like mine would have got the Sunday Post (complete with the Oor Wullie and Broons comic strips) and my mum also subscribed to the People’s Friend (the oldest women’s weekly in the world). I could look forward to The Bunty as a pre-teen, and then best of all, Jackie Magazine (link to a previous post) as a teenager. Had I been a boy I would have no doubt relished the antics of Dennis the Menace in The Beano and Desperate Dan in The Dandy but as a bit of a “girly girl” I preferred The Bunty, because of the dressing doll that came on the back page every week. I saw yesterday that The Beano was celebrating it’s 60th birthday and possibly because of that there is currently a big exhibition in Dundee’s very central Art Gallery and Museum, The McManus (aptly renamed The McMenace for the duration).

But this is supposed to be a music blog and when in Dundee I of course thought of all the bands of my youth who came from there. A couple of summer’s ago I wrote a series of posts focusing on the sheer number of great bands who came out of Scotland in the late ’80s. One was Deacon Blue (my sister-in-law went to school with Ricky Ross) and another Danny Wilson (click for links to those posts), both bands from Dundee. As they have featured here previously however, I won’t look to them for this post’s song choice – No, the artist who came to mind was the unforgettable Billy MacKenzie of the Associates whose Party Fears Two reached No. 9 in the UK Singles Chart in 1982.

Billy had a distinctive high tenor voice and dressed like a member of the French Resistance (or Frank Spencer depending on your take) so was memorable in the annals of pop, but like so many around him he died young, after committing suicide in 1997 at the age of 39. I always knew Billy was born and brought up in Dundee, but didn’t realise that he had decamped first to New Zealand at the age of 16 and then to America at 17. Billy got married there to his aunt’s sister-in-law in order to stave off deportation, but returned home after 3 months of marriage, never to see his bride again. It was then that he met Alan Rankine and the pair went on to form the Associates.

Party Fears Two by the Associates:

It’s certainly a strange title for a song and tricky to understand the lyrics other than that a party is involved. Billy did explain the origin however, “My wee brother was at a party watching two girls who wanted to come in. They were smashing windows and attempting to kick the door in with their stiletto heels, which he admired, so he christened them the Party Fears Two and I pinched the title from him.”

Hmm…, that doesn’t say a lot for the calibre of young lady who would have been attending parties in Dundee in the late ’70s/early ’80s, but here’s the thing, parties amongst young people in those days were not soirees involving sociable chit chat and fine wines, it was simply that someone had a venue, and others found out about it! The Scottish stand-up comedian Kevin Bridges sums up nicely the difference between the parties held in American teen movies and the parties the youth of Scotland were more familiar with, and if you watch this clip you’ll probably get a better idea of the “Party Fears Two”. They would probably be middle-aged ladies now – I wonder if they ever found out the song was about them?

So, “What’s It All About?” – Sometimes the best trips are the spontaneous ones that come along without much pre-planning or thought. My trip to Dundee was one of those and I have another couple of posts up my sleeve inspired by the place. The V&A Dundee is to open on the 15th September and they obviously expect lots of visitors as many hotels are springing up in the vicinity. The very modern railway station is also situated just across the road. After never having been to Dundee as a tourist before, it seems I might well end up visiting twice this year – To be thoroughly recommended.

Until next time…

Party Fears Two Lyrics
(Song by Billy MacKenzie/Alan Rankine)

I’ll have a shower and then phone my brother up
Within the hour I’ll smash another cup
Please don’t start saying that or I’ll start believing you
If I start believing you I’ll know that this party fears two

And what if this party fears two?
The alcohol loves you while turning you blue
View it from here from closer to near
Awake me

Don’t turn around I won’t have to look at you
And what’s not found is all that I see in you
My manners are failing me I’m left feeling ugly
And you say it’s wonderful to live with I never will

So what if this party fears two?
The alcohol loves you while turning you blue
View it from here from closer to near
Awake me

I’m standing still and you say I dress to well
Still standing still I might but it’s hard to tell
Even a slight remark makes nonsense and turns to shark
Have I done something wrong?
What wrongs the wrong that’s always in wrong

I’ll have a shower
And then phone my brother up
Within the hour
I’ll smash another cup

Postscript:

One last picture from the exhibition at the McManus – Book titles courtesy of The Bash Street Kids. Every one a winner!

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Lunar Eclipses, Mike Oldfield and “Moonlight Shadow”

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

Well, this is a first for me, I’m writing a blog post whilst actually on holiday (more of that next week) but as a full moon is due to appear in our skies on Friday it can’t really wait until I get home. This month it’s called the Buck Moon, because it’s the time of year we all run around our gardens buck naked! No…., only joking…., although probably warm enough if you feel so inclined but it got that name because it’s when a buck’s antlers are in full “growth mode”. As someone who lives next to a forest full of deer who come down into our gardens at night and occasionally eat all the plants, I should be an expert, but here’s the thing – In the 20 years we’ve lived beside the forest I’ve never seen one, just the little hoof prints left as evidence in the flower beds the next morning. One of these days however I will be lucky enough to catch one in the act which really would be quite something, and well worth the sacrifice of a few plants.

Another reason for the early alert is because this next full moon will also be a blood moon. Yes, for the second time this year there is going to be a lunar eclipse and in certain parts of the world the moon will turn a red-orange colour for a full 1 hour 43 minutes (I am reliably informed). Yet again however, we here in the UK are unlikely to see it in totality, but if you look south-easterly from around 8.45pm (a bit later if like me you live in Scotland), there should be a definite reddish tinge to the moon.

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Mike Oldfield

But this is a music blog so which song should accompany this particular moon-related post? Last time we had a lunar eclipse I chose Moonshadow by Cat Stevens but as was pointed out at the time I could also have used Moonlight Shadow by Mike (Tubular Bells) Oldfield. I have always liked this 1983 song, not least because it gallops along at a fair old rate, rising and falling in exactly the places you expect it to, the vocals excellently performed by Maggie Reilly who frequently collaborated with Mike. The subject matter is not a happy one however, the song being about a woman whose lover is violently killed in the middle of the night. There was speculation at the time that Mike was referring to the shooting of John Lennon in the lyrics but he said no, although he had been in the vicinity at the time so it may well have entered his subconscious.

Moonlight Shadow by Mike Oldfield featuring Maggie Reilly:

All this talk of moonlight, shadows and deer however has reminded me of something. Like most parents, I read to DD every night at bedtime for many, many years and needless to say we had our favourite books. I suppose it makes sense, but quite a few of our favourites were set during the night-time. There was Owl Babies by Martin Waddell and Shadow the Deer by Theresa Radcliffe and John Butler. I can’t quite remember now if Shadow did indeed visit suburban gardens and eat all their plants (probably not), but I do remember that the illustrations were beautiful, full of forest locations basking in the moonlight.

Shadow

I am hopeful we in the UK will catch a glimpse of the lunar eclipse on Friday, the proviso always being that there is no cloud cover. And, as it is the buck moon, a bit of running around buck naked wouldn’t go amiss either, although if we did partake there might well be a few bemused deer looking on, from the safety of their forest high up on the hill!

Only three more moons in this series to go before we will have covered all twelve named by the Native Americans, eons ago. I’m pretty sure I know which “moon songs” I still want to include but if you have any favourites not yet mentioned, please let me know as I feel sure there will have to be a “mopping-up” post done right at the end. You know where the comments boxes are.

Until next time, enjoy that lunar eclipse.

Moonlight Shadow Lyrics
(Song by Mike Oldfield)

The last time ever she saw him
Carried away by a moonlight shadow
He passed on worried and warning
Carried away by a moonlight shadow.
Lost in a riddle that Saturday night
Far away on the other side.
He was caught in the middle of a desperate fight
And she couldn’t find how to push through

The trees that whisper in the evening
Carried away by a moonlight shadow
Sing a song of sorrow and grieving
Carried away by a moonlight shadow
All she saw was a silhouette of a gun
Far away on the other side.
He was shot six times by a man on the run
And she couldn’t find how to push through

I stay, I pray
See you in Heaven far away…
I stay, I pray
See you in Heaven one day.

Four A.M. in the morning
Carried away by a moonlight shadow
I watched your vision forming
Carried away by a moonlight shadow
A star was glowing in the silvery night
Far away on the other side
Will you come to talk to me this night
But she couldn’t find how to push through

I stay, I pray
See you in Heaven far away…
I stay, I pray
See you in Heaven one day.

Far away on the other side.
Caught in the middle of a hundred and five
The night was heavy and the air was alive
But she couldn’t find how to push through
Carried away by a moonlight shadow
Carried away by a moonlight shadow
Far away on the other side.

Postscript:

Well that was a bit of a damp squib wasn’t it. After weeks of sunshine and clear skies, here in the UK there was almost total cloud cover and a fair few thunderstorms on Friday night, so few, if any of us, got to see the lunar eclipse. Thankfully there were plenty of people out with their camera equipment taking shots of the moon globally, so at least we get a chance to see what it would have looked like if the rain gods hadn’t frowned upon us.

Around the world in pictures, courtesy of The Guardian.

Ironically the alternative name for this July full moon is the Thunder Moon as it tends to be the time of the year when thunderstorms are frequent. Didn’t let us down did it?

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The Cairngorms, “In A Big Country” and Heatwaves in Scotland!

Tuesday seems to have become my default day for posting something new, however with all this fine weather I haven’t been spending much time on the computer, or pondering blog ideas. Hmm…

Time to resort to the dash cam!

Last Saturday Mr WIAA and myself headed down the A9 to The Cairngorms as only 45 minutes from home and a great place to visit on a beautiful sunny day. Yes – unbelievably – Scotland is also experiencing this very uncharacteristic heatwave that seems to be sweeping the country. The film I took was hard won I can tell you, as every few minutes the device over-heated and had to be slotted into the car’s air-conditioning vent to cool down. I have however managed to piece together the following and when asked what music might be appropriate for it, Mr WIAA suggested In A Big Country by who else but Big Country.

In A Big Country by Big Country:

Big Country formed in Dunfermline in 1981 and had their heyday in the mid ’80s. The band had a very distinctive music style which involved engineering their guitar sound to evoke the spirit of bagpipes, fiddles and other traditional folk instruments. In A Big Country was released in May 1983 as the third single from their debut studio album “The Crossing”, and reached No. 17 in the UK Singles Chart. The album was a hit in the United States which is how my friend Rich from Kamer Tunes Blog must have come to know about them and how they became his favourite band during his high school years (I know this because he has mentioned it often). He is on hiatus at the moment but because of his great affinity with Scotland, here are a few more pictures taken whilst out and about recently, just in case he drops by.

It actually rained today, for the first time in about five weeks. Can it really carry on like this for much longer? Who knows, but with all the political shenanigans going on right now, it’s nice to be able to just chill out under the shade of a tree. Scotland may not in reality be a “big” country, in fact it’s really quite small, but it has a big heart which was what those boys from Big Country capitalised on back in the ’80s.

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Until next time enjoy the sunshine, and remember that even in Scotland, we still need to wear sunscreen. I can’t turn the clock back and tell my teenage self of the dangers of too much sun (let’s face it we all got burnt every single year) but a bit older and wiser now fortunately. Cross fingers it’s shaping up to be another Summer of ’76!

In A Big Country Lyrics
(Song by Stuart Adamson/Mark Brzezicki/Tony Butler/Bruce Watson)

I’ve never seen you look like this without a reason
Another promise fallen through, another season passes by you
I never took the smile away from anybody’s face
And that’s a desperate way to look for someone who is still a child

In a big country, dreams stay with you
Like a lover’s voice fires the mountainside
Stay alive

I thought that pain and truth were things that really mattered
But you can’t stay here with every single hope you had shattered
I’m not expecting to grow flowers in a desert
But I can live and breathe and see the sun in wintertime

In a big country, dreams stay with you
Like a lover’s voice fires the mountainside
Stay alive

In a big country, dreams stay with you
Like a lover’s voice fires the mountainside
Stay alive

So take that look out of here, it doesn’t fit you
Because it’s happened doesn’t mean you’ve been discarded
Pull up your head off the floor, come up screaming
Cry out for everything you ever might have wanted
I thought that pain and truth were things that really mattered
But you can’t stay here with every single hope you had shattered

I’m not expecting to grow flowers in a desert
But I can live and breathe and see the sun in wintertime

In a big country, dreams stay with you
Like a lover’s voice fires the mountainside
Stay alive

In a big country, dreams stay with you
Like a lover’s voice fires the mountainside
Stay alive

Postscript:

It may be a small country but Scotland extends a bit wider in all directions courtesy of the many islands off its coasts. One of these is South Uist, the second largest island of the Outer Hebrides, and I couldn’t help but gasp in wonder at the pictures shared recently by a friend after a visit. She grew up there and those beaches used to be her childhood playground. Spectacular, and barely a soul in sight.

Canvey Island, Brit Funk and the “Southern Freeez”

Considering we in the UK are experiencing a bit of a heatwave at the moment, this post title sounds a bit ironic but all will soon make sense, so please bear with me. Living up here in the North of Scotland, there are lot of places “down south” that I’ve heard of, but don’t necessarily know much about. One such place is Canvey Island and since starting this blog, it keeps coming up in the research as having spawned an awful lot of bands. But where is Canvey Island, and is it indeed an island? Well technically it does seem to be, but like a few other similar landmasses, it’s separated from the mainland of Essex by a mere sliver of water.

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Canvey Island off the coast of Essex

The first time Canvey Island came up in the research was when I wrote about Eddie and the Hot Rods (link here) as they came from the place, as it seems did The Kursaal Flyers and the band who came to be known as “Canvey Island’s finest”, Dr. Feelgood. The whole pub rock musical genre flourished there in the 1970s and that part of Essex became the destination of choice for artists such as Graham Parker, Nick Lowe and Elvis Costello.

But it’s not pub rock I’m going to write about here, it’s another phenomenon that found its roots on Canvey Island – A genre of music that came to be known as Brit funk. Again, living in the North of Scotland I would have had no idea such places existed, but in the early ’70s an old coastal Country Club was turned into a nightclub called the Goldmine. The DJ in residence was Chris Hill and the club came to specialise in “soul nights” where only serious and devoted fans came to get their fix. By 1978 however coach loads of soul fans were arriving from all over the country to experience a piece of the funk action and this unprepossessing building on Canvey Island was firmly on the map as the soul, jazz & funk mecca of the UK – Strange but true.

Acts that came to be associated with Brit funk were Light of the World, Level 42, Beggar and Co, Linx and Freeez. These bands enjoyed chart success in the early ’80s making regular appearances on TOTP, but today’s featured song is the one I remember best from that era, and have fond memories of – Southern Freeez by the band Freeez. It reached No. 8 in the UK Singles Chart in February 1981 with the very “cool” Ingrid Mansfield Allman providing the vocals.

Southern Freeez by Freeez:

The reason I have fond memories of this particular song, despite not really knowing anything about the whole Brit funk scene at the time, is because it came about the year I turned 21. I was a student back then and just about every week an invitation to a fellow student’s birthday bash popped through the mailbox. Mid-week venues were plentiful as many a landlord was happy to throw open the doors to their unused function suites, and provide DJs of varying abilities in return for lucrative bar takings. Being a dance record, and having been a hit early on in the year, Southern Freeez regularly made it onto the playlist and the lyrics always made me smile. I don’t think it happens so much nowadays, but back then an awful lot of romances started life on the dancefloor and all down to whether you “liked their style”, “saw it in their eyes” or were driven to distraction watching them “on the floor doing the Southern Freeez” (which it turns out was a dance move – the band dropped out for a bar and everyone froze).

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As someone who (until recently) always had a closer relationship with the whole sound and feel of a song as apposed to the lyrics, I kind of liked how you could tell so much about a person by how they danced. Mr WIAA and I were always the dancers in our social group and because of that we always gravitated towards each other, being “soul” mates of sorts. It seems that nowadays, where relationships invariably start life on Tinder or via some other virtual medium, attraction is down to looks alone and with a quick “swipe” you are out of the picture for good. Such pressure on everyone to look a certain way, and sometimes all very false and unreal. If I could bottle it I would, but when you really immerse yourself in the music on the dance floor, you are showing your true colours – Nothing false or unreal there. (Fervent non-dancers however, will probably choose to disagree?)

Getting back to Brit funk, it seems that many 1980s pop groups such as Haircut 100, Wham! and notably Spandau Ballet tapped into the style and sound to help launch their careers. This scene reduced racial boundaries in the clubs and raised the profile of black and white musicians working together – All down to a converted Country Club on Canvey Island!

Until next time enjoy the sunshine, but if it all gets a bit too much, you could always drop out and freeze.

Southern Freeez Lyrics
(Song by Andy Stennett, John Rocca, Peter Maas)

Love saw it in your eyes
Sensed it in your smile
Boy I like your style
Oh yeah

When I saw you on the floor doing the southern freeez
Then I knew you were the one the only one for me

Love feel it in your touch
In the way you move
I like it very much yes I do

Time time is moving on
Guess it’s getting late
Soon you’ll take me home

People everywhere doing the southern freeez
Laughing all the time this is the life for me

Heartbeat whisper in my ears
Now it won’t be long no
Just you and me my dear yeah
Sweet darling making love so slow
Your so beautiful yes you are
You got me all a glow

When I saw you on the floor doing the southern freeez
Then I knew you were the one, the only one for me