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!

Pete Burns, Premature Deaths and Music from the 1980s (it was a bit over the top!)

Despite the fact we are hurtling through the month of December, I have very deliberately managed to avoid the “C” word so far. I was determined that this year I would embrace the Christmas spirit, but yet again the mass consumerism and enforced jollity of it all is leaving me cold. Maybe in another week I will be more in the mood for it and will no doubt revisit some of the festive records of my youth (before the very sought after Christmas No. 1 slot was highjacked by reality TV shows), but before then I want to mention another 2016 departure from the world of entertainment.

I have picked a very bizarre year to start nostalgically revisiting the tracks of my years, as we have lost just so many big names – Since January I feel as if I have been either writing obituaries, or reeling at how someone I may have just written about suddenly passes away. It was not until I did the research needed to write about Prince that I truly appreciated the sheer breadth of his talent – Only ten days later he was dead. Some of the departures have not been quite as shocking however and although I wrote about Leonard Cohen earlier in the year, he had at least been gifted with a reasonably long and very interesting life.

Sadly, next year will probably bring more of the same, as the musical heroes I have grown up with are simply reaching that age where the grim reaper is, according to the laws of probability, more likely to come a-callin’. Interestingly however, with musical heroes, you will always have that great back catalogue to revisit and enjoy whereas with Victoria Wood, I am still desperately sad that she will no longer pop up on our television screens with her very funny comedy sketches; I am sad that Alan Rickman will give us no more great Hans Gruber type characters; I am sad that Children In Need will no longer be presided over by Sir Terry Wogan; and I am sad that Ronnie Corbett’s “armchair monologues” are consigned to history. What a year.

The person I had started to write about, but who then passed away before I could press the “publish” button, was Pete Burns, ex-frontman of the ’80s band Dead Or Alive. An unusual person to have chosen to write about you may think as he was latterly more famous for his numerous plastic surgery procedures, and his participation in some of the less savoury reality TV shows. No, I don’t think anyone would class Pete Burns as someone who has left a lasting legacy in the world of pop music but back in mid-October his massive 1985 No. 1 hit You Spin Me Round (Like A Record) was the unexpected crowd-pleasing number in a show Mr WIAA and I had gone to watch at our local theatre.

You Spin Me Round (Like A Record) by Dead Or Alive:

Back in October we had an anniversary but as it wasn’t a particularly significant one in terms of the number (that will come next year), we didn’t feel the need to celebrate unduly with a posh dinner. Instead we thought a trip to our local theatre might be a good idea for a night out. But what was on? It turned out to be one of those Tribute Reunion type shows called 80s Mania where we would be treated to (looky-likey) performances from all the big mainstream pop acts of the 1980s. Very much from our era so we bought some tickets and headed down for a night of reminiscing.

I don’t know about you but one of the most troubling scenes for me in a horror movie is when a character you think of as young (a bride, a child etc.) suddenly turns around and is in fact a bit of an old crone – Totally freaks me out (along with dolls, puppets and clowns but think that’s universal). Now I’m not saying that some of our fellow theatre-goers were old crones, but it is quite troubling to see middle aged women in ra-ra skirts, cropped silver jackets and crimped hair complete with ribbons! Anyway, the dressing up is not for me unless it’s age-appropriate, so we tried to ignore the horror of it all and settled down to enjoy the show once the lights went down.

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It turned out to be a great, fun-packed extravaganza where only four performers (one girl and three men) and a few dancers managed to recreate, wait for it, the musical output of: Gary Numan, Phil Oakey, Boy George, Alphaville, Kim Wilde, Frankie Goes To Hollywood, Toni Basil, Wham!, Madonna, Kraftwerk, Adam Ant, Madness, Erasure, Duran Duran, Tony Hadley, The Buggles, Aneka, Ray Parker Jr, Cyndi Lauper, Nena, Giorgio Moroder, Tears For Fears, A-ha, Depeche Mode, Trio, Bananarama, Simple Minds and last but not least Dead Or Alive.

It was of course also a bit of a pantomime of a show, as some of the above artists used to wear remarkably over the top costumes and sport some very distinctive haircuts (think Boy George, Cyndi Lauper, Adam Ant and Phil Oakey). One particular tribute act performer always walked on with a cheeky grin on his face as if to say, “Guess who I am now?”. Not difficult to guess at all as it turned out!

Of course with these kind of shows, audience participation is positively encouraged. Early on there was a smattering of ra-ra skirt wearing, middle-aged ladies (buoyed up by alcohol I suspect) up on their feet, but the rest of us were playing it cool. As the evening wore on the numbers on their feet increased until by the end, the whole audience was joining in. And that is where my Pete Burns reference comes in – Although just about everyone got up on their feet for Karma Chameleon, Baggy Trousers and surprisingly, A Little Respect by Erasure the real stand-out performance was when Dead Or Alive (tribute act style) hit the stage. Oh yes, even the old stick-in-the-muds, who had remained firmly seated until that point were up on their feet, spinning those imaginary records around in the air (including my good self, hubby and hubby’s “big boss” who coincidentally was sitting a few rows in front of us). I certainly remembered this record from back in 1985 and it was indeed a big hit at the time, but in my memory banks I had kind of just lumped it in with all those other records by the myriad of over-the-top androgynous performers around at that time. Hadn’t expected it to bring so much joy all these years later.

Once home, that show, and my memories of mainstream pop music from the 1980s went down on my list of potential ideas for future “posts”. Seven days later, news came through that Pete Burns had died aged 57, following a sudden cardiac arrest. I don’t think anyone would have been massively surprised as he’d had all sorts of health issues over the previous ten years, most of them arising from his increasingly ramped up addiction to cosmetic plastic surgery. I have written recently about Michael Jackson and how he had morphed into someone totally different over the years, unrecognisable from the little boy of his Jackson 5 days. At the time of his death Pete Burns was totally unrecognisable from his Dead Or Alive days and I will take the higher ground and not include pictures of the freakish mannequin he turned into, but of the Pete I remember from mid ’80s Top Of The Pops, up on stage “spinning around like a record”.

pb1
A very handsome young Pete Burns

So, What’s It all About? – To want to change your appearance as drastically as Pete did in his later years is unusual and as we have seen with Michael Jackson, does not seem to be conducive to a long and happy life. In some ways it is probably best that they did end their very flamboyant lives at a young age as I can only imagine it would have become more freakish with time. Does make me sad however and makes me even more determined not to go down the “nip and tuck” route – Where would it all end?

This year really has made many of us, of a certain age, reassess our retirement plans but one thing is for sure, although a night out watching the outrageous acts of the 1980s perform their very memorable hits has its merits, I won’t be wearing my old ra-ra skirts or crimping my hair anytime soon. I have always loved fashion and if I look after myself and dress age-appropriately I might just get away with not having to do anything too drastic to keep age at bay.

And talking of fashion (specifically trousers which I do a lot around here), after that show we did remark on just how much leather was around in the ’80s which in turn reminded me of a very memorable scene from the show Friends. Still makes me laugh now and confirms that I never, ever want to own a pair of leather trousers!

You Spin Me Round (Like A Record) Lyrics
(Song by Pete Burns/Steve Coy/Wayne Hussey/Tim Lever/Mike Percy)

If I, I get to know your name
Well if I, could trace your private number, baby

All I know is that to me
You look like you’re lots of fun
Open up your lovin’ arms
I want some, want some

I set my sights on you (and no one else will do)
And I, I’ve got to have my way now, baby

All I know is that to me
You look like you’re having fun
Open up your lovin’ arms
Watch out here I come

You spin me right round, baby
Right round like a record, baby
Right round round round
You spin me right round, baby
Right round like a record, baby
Right round round round

Post 101, The Jackson 5 and and Got To Be There

Well this is embarrassing. After basking in the achievement of having just reached the momentous target of publishing 100 posts; after being incredibly grateful to my band of blogging buddies for leaving such great comments and finally; after telling everyone I would carry on for another 100 posts – I now have writer’s (or should it be blogger’s) block!

thvk0cdelk

To be fair it’s not really blogger’s block, it’s just that the list of ideas for “songs and stories” I have jotted down over the months for future posts, now seem a bit dull and boring. I always thought that writing about songs would be easy as I could never, ever run out of material, so could it be that my best stories are behind me? I do hope not. Also as a self-confessed anorak when it comes to listings, cataloguing and alphabetisation, that magical number 100 against “No. of Posts Published” on my WordPress Summary page, is a really tidy one, and when I next press the “publish” tab, it will turn into a bit of an untidy number 101.

Lots of significance however to the number 101 – There is of course the torture room in the George Orwell novel Nineteen Eighty-Four which has in turn been the inspiration for the Radio then TV show Room 101 where celebrity guests are invited to discuss their pet hates and persuade the host to consign them to that fictional room. Works well and hosted by the affable Frank Skinner whom I am warming to more and more as both he and I get older. His Saturday morning show on Absolute Radio is one of my favourites.

Although there have been many albums inspired by the aforementioned novel, the only one I remember personally is The Eurythmics’ soundtrack album for the film Nineteen Eighty-Four which contains the song Sexcrime (Nineteen Eighty-Four), but not something I have in my collection nor would I want to (too intense for my liking). Having lived in Aberdeen for the best part of the ’80s I do feel disloyal to Annie Lennox for having said that, especially as about half the locals I worked with claimed they’d been to school with her (must have been a very big school), but not one of my favourites from that era. Nonetheless Ms Lennox always gave 110 percent as they tend to say on those reality/singing/karaoke shows (although a numerical impossibility) and also gave us some very striking and androgynous looks over the years.

But back to the number 101 – It does of course also look very much like a “binary number” and if I remember correctly (ok I cheated and looked it up), it equates in decimal to the number 5. There have indeed been many bands and songs with the number 5 in their name – The Jackson 5, Maroon 5, The Dave Clark 5, Five and of course those personable Pearsons from Reading, 5 Star! As for songs, I recently featured that upbeat ditty from McFly called 5 Colours in Her Hair (although not sure if my readership appreciated that one too much).

I have kind of avoided mentioning Michael Jackson too much in this blog so far, and haven’t really come to terms yet with what became of him. It saddens me so much that the gorgeous little boy who first stepped out on stage with his brothers (the place he obviously found to be the most comfortable on earth), morphed into someone totally different and died in such a nonsensical manner. If like me, you were a pre-teen back in the early ’70s, The Jackson 5 were omnipresent and even had their own cartoon series (The Jackson 5ive). It was a must-watch show after coming home from school and they recorded just so many great songs during that era, this one being I Want You Back from 1970.

Final thoughts on the number 101 – Since starting this blog I have found myself in the company of some serious music buffs whose knowledge way surpasses my own and the first time I joined in with The Chain Gang, the link was to a song by the 101ers whom I hadn’t heard of until that point. They were the band that a young Joe Strummer (whose name has cropped up on these pages) left to join The Clash. The band’s name apparently came from the number of the squat they lived in at 101 Walterton Road, Maida Vale. I saw it as a “palindrome number” so came up with the suggestion Pacific State, the 1989 electronic chill-out track by that other palindromic outfit 808 State. Looking back, this choice was probably met with raised eyebrows as not the kind of thing you often see appearing over on The Chain. It was a favourite of an ex-colleague of mine, or rather I kept thinking it was whereas the one he actually did like was called Pacific Highway by someone else. It has become a great source of mirth however that I always got the two mixed up but ended up getting to like the wrong one better anyway. Oh yes, we know how to keep ourselves amused up here in Scotland during the long, dark, winter nights. (And, I only mentioned that because he is one of my very few real-life friends who know about this place.)

So, “What’s It All About?” – I think it’s just about having a bit of a crisis of confidence when sometimes you feel it’s best to quit whilst you’re ahead, but don’t really want to. Having revisited my list of “song and story” ideas however, there are definitely still quite a few in the tank, so you’re stuck with me for a while yet. I will quickly therefore get this post out of the way, as once onto number 102 it won’t seem quite so daunting and will simply be back to business as usual.

But wait a minute, before I go this post is all wrong (in more ways than one you might say) – I haven’t included a music clip or the lyrics yet! Fear not, in light of the fact that I have inadvertently revisited the Jackson 5‘s back catalogue by associating the binary number 101 with the decimal number 5, I am going to think back to 1972 when I was aged just 11 and loved watching the very young Michael Jackson sing lyrically inappropriate ballads, just for me. Got To Be There is a beautiful Motown track and is still one of my favourites from those much more innocent times. RIP Michael.

Got To Be There by Michael Jackson:

Got To Be There Lyrics
(Song By Elliott Willensky)

Got to be there, got to be there in the morning
When she says hello to the world.
Got to be there, got to be there,
Bring her good times and show her that she’s my girl.
Oh, what a feeling there’ll be
The moment I know she loves me.
‘Cause when I look in her eyes.
I realize I need her sharing the world beside me.
So I’ve got to be there, got to be there in the morning,
And welcome her into my world,
And show her that she’s my girl.
When she says hello world!
Got to be there.
I need her sharing the world beside me.

That’s why I’ve got to be there, got to be there
Where love begins and that’s everywhere she goes,
I’ve got to be there so she knows
That when she’s with me she’s home, yeah

Got to be there, got to be there, got to be there.
Got to be there, got to be there, got to be there.

Christmas Adverts, Randy Crawford and One Day I’ll Fly Away

You know that the festive season is just around the corner when John Lewis comes up with another of their “heart-warming” Christmas adverts. I first watched it properly a few nights ago and much to my chagrin, this year they are using one of my all-time favourite songs, One Day I’ll Fly Away. The version for the ad is by South London band Vaults (no The apparently) but the version I fell in love with many years ago was by Randy Crawford. Incredibly, despite being from Georgia, she didn’t ever crack the Billboard Hot 100 in the US but achieved great success in Europe and the UK making it to No. 2 in our Singles Chart in 1980 with that song.

One Day I’ll Fly Away by Randy Crawford:

My chagrin comes from the fact that a song I have always loved will by the end of the festive period have lost all its charm due to having been listened to just once too often. One upside of blogging however is that it does leave very little time for television, so what I do watch nowadays tends to be very carefully cherry-picked from recordings or on-demand services (that would be Netflix then) – With any luck I might be spared the over-exposure. To be fair however, the ad, featuring a very excited Buster the Boxer joyously jumping up and down on the trampoline from Santa, is a great one and not the sadvert they were accused of putting out last year. I do wonder whether it actually does lead to a hike in sales nowadays, when so many of us do our Christmas shopping online, but they have kind of set the bar for this new art form and as yet have seen off the competition. A lot of course is down to the song choice, and I certainly can’t fault Vaults performance in this one (One Day I’ll Fly Away – John Lewis style).

But back to the song itself – In 1979 Randy Crawford sang with The Crusaders, providing vocals for their excellent hit Street Life. Joe Sample and Will Jennings from The Crusaders then wrote One Day I’ll Fly Away specifically for Randy. The song is apparently about emotional bondage and the longing to be free of it. Coincidentally it came to mind the other Sunday (the same day I took to “tipsy blogging”) on my drive to the supermarket when I felt I had just too much to do that day. How wonderful I thought it would be to get off the hamster wheel and just keep on driving, flying away to a new less busy life. (Just to be clear no emotional bondage to be free of, as Mr WIAA is a great other half, just wouldn’t mind there being a bit less “to-do-list” bondage in an average week.) Needless to say I didn’t fly away that afternoon but did the shopping and then went home to cook the Sunday dinner as per usual!

But the video clip I’m going to share today is actually from the sumptuous 2001 Baz Luhrmann musical Moulin Rouge! where Nicole Kidman turned in a great performance playing Star Courtesan Satine. Who knew she could sing so well (I didn’t anyway) and the scene in the amazing “Red Room Elephant” where she sings One Day I’ll Fly Away was my favourite of the whole movie. Satine is not particularly yearning to be free of emotional bondage or even to-do-list bondage, but she longs to leave the life she is living at The Moulin Rouge, and become a “real” actress.

One Day I’ll Fly Away by Nicole Kidman:

This was a typical Baz Luhrmann, over-the-top production with many great songs but with a very simple boy-meets-girl storyline. Enter poet/writer Christian, played by my favourite Scottish actor Ewan McGregor, who falls in love with Satine. Who knew he could sing so well either, but the pair of them performed many memorable duets in that movie some of which I will leave for another day.

No great light-bulb revelation with this post other than a pleasant revisitation of a song I have enjoyed over the years, albeit prompted by a Christmas ad. It is my abiding hope that it doesn’t get ruined for me over the festive period through over-exposure. One mini revelation however was finding out that the main hook in the song (its title) was based on the opening sequence from Tchaikovsky’s Waltz of the Flowers – Every day’s a school day!

One Day I’ll Fly Away Lyrics
(Song by Will Jennings/Joe Sample)

I follow the night
Can’t stand the light

When will I begin?
To live again?

One day I’ll fly away
Leave all this to yesterday
What more could your love do for me
When will love be through with me
Why live life from dream to dream
And dread the day when dreaming ends

One day I’ll fly away!
Leave all this to yesterday!
Why live life from dream to dream!?
And dreamt the day when dreaming end

Bob Marley, MJ and Come Together

Wasn’t going to mention the outcome of Tuesday’s presidential election in America as have tried to stay away from controversial topics since starting the blog. I seem to be one of the few in my little circle who hasn’t however, so here goes. (The caveat of course being that the following is just my opinion.)

I was not in the slightest surprised that the election went Trump’s way, just as I was not surprised in June, with our referendum on whether to leave or remain in the EU, that the Leave camp won.

First of all polls don’t work – Too many people are not keen to share what they know could be construed as unpopular views, albeit ones they hold, thus we end up with the Shy Tory, the Shy Brexiteer and now it seems the Shy Trump-Supporter. Yet how campaigns are run is dictated by polls so here’s an idea for future elections and referendums – Forget what the pollsters say and LISTEN TO THE PEOPLE.

Talking of the people, here in the UK it became clear after our referendum just how divided we were as a nation and now it appears the US has gone the same way. The urban areas appear in one colour whereas the mainly rural and traditionally industrial areas appear in another colour (Scotland and N. Ireland being the exceptions but then we have our own devolved parliament/assembly). Whoever has been in charge for the last couple of decades hasn’t been LISTENING TO THE PEOPLE. Just as in the UK after Brexit, I don’t believe for a minute that the vast number of Trump voters in the US agree with his very extreme views but if they would rather go down that route than vote for the alternative, there seems to be a very big problem.

So here we are in a state of limbo in the UK awaiting the outcome of the machinations that will decide whether we go down the hard or soft Brexit route. In the US they will find out what kind of President Donald J will become – The businessman-cum-reality television star will set up home in The White House! In an era of 24-hour Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Reality TV, Netflix, X-Box, iPhones, iTunes, Soundbites, Drive-through McDonalds, Zero-hour contracts, Temporary contracts, Student loans, Crippling house prices, Aging populations, Sink Estates, Clothing at throwaway prices – none of it surprises me. As for Mr Trump, I am trusting there are enough checks and balances built into the constitution of the United States to save anything truly dire happening.

I used to worry about such things, but here’s what changed all that – A large graph showing population growth on the wall of Edinburgh’s Science Centre. The population of the world was around 3 billion when I was born but by the time I leave this mortal coil it will be around 9 billion – Sadly there is not much Donald Trump or the Leaders of Europe are going to be able to do about that, it is a fact, and unless we all come together to deal with the problem, it will be curtains anyway. We have the know-how to share our thoughts, pictures and ideas with people on the other side of the planet at a stroke, but we still drive around in cars powered by internal combustion engines. We have the know-how to develop amazing life-saving drugs but we can’t work out to feed and care for the people. We can do better.

ourworldindata_world-population-growth-1750-2100

But this is supposed to be a music blog and these are the three songs that have come to mind to compliment this post. The first is One Love by Bob Marley & the Wailers. Marley wrote this song during the turmoil of the Jamaican elections of December 1976. Marley had supported Michael Manley when he won the election in 1972 and became Prime Minister of Jamaica, but four years later, although Marley was by far the most popular person in Jamaica, he refused to take a political stance as the country was divided between Manley’s People’s National Party and the Jamaican Labour Party. It was very violent time in the country, and Marley tried to stay politically neutral while offering peace and shelter however he could – His home was kind of a safehouse for people with nowhere to go.

One Love by Bob Marley & the Wailers:

This next one is Come Together, a song written by John Lennon but performed here by the Arctic Monkeys for the Opening Ceremony of the London 2012 Olympics. It was ironically inspired by a political campaign, when Timothy Leary stood against Ronald Reagan for Governor of California. Although Lennon freely admitted that the lyrics are gobbledygook, I love this performance, and the sentiment of “coming together”.

And so to my last pick, Black Or White by Michael Jackson. Whatever you think of Michael, I always thought that his heart was in the right place and the lyrics of this song are a plea for racial tolerance. After an ugly campaign, I think it is important to include this clip which at the end, morphs several different people of differing races and nationalities, into one another (shown as “talking heads”).

So, “What’s It All About?” – I get that there are a lot of forgotten people out there who feel as if they have been hung out to dry by successive governments, but the challenges are just so insurmountable that we seem to be reaching a tipping point whereby life in the western world will just carry on getting a little harder every year.

I do fear for my daughter and her generation who were sold the dream of going to University in order to get a good job, but in reality, for the majority, the only jobs they get are in retail or hospitality (we have the most highly qualified army of baristas in history). They are generally heavily in debt due to student loans and if they ever do manage to buy property, they will just make it onto the first rung of the ladder, the only rung they will ever be able to afford. We have middle-aged parents in large houses with offspring raising a family in converted basements for goodness sake. We will of course try our best to help, and those little cartoons you see showing recent retirees “spending the kids inheritance” don’t amuse me – The majority will need you, and your cash, for some time to come.

I do try to keep my posts light and amusing and realise that this one hasn’t been at all. Felt it needed to be said however as this is primarily a web-log (with music thrown in). Hopefully back to business as usual soon!

One Love Lyrics
(Song by Bob Marley)

One Love!
One Heart!
Let’s get together and feel all right.
Hear the children cryin’
(One Love! );
Hear the children cryin’
(One Heart! ),
Sayin’: give thanks and praise
To the Lord and I will feel all right;
Sayin’: let’s get together
And feel all right.
Wo wo-wo wo-wo!

Let them all pass all their dirty
Remarks (One Love! );
There is one question
I’d really love to ask (One Heart! ):
Is there a place for the hopeless sinner,
Who has hurt all mankind just
To save his own beliefs?

One Love! What about the one heart?
One Heart!
What about?
Let’s get together and feel all right
As it was in the beginning
(One Love! );
So shall it be in the end
(One Heart! ),
All right!
Give thanks and praise to the Lord
And I will feel all right;
Let’s get together
And feel all right.
One more thing!

Let’s get together to fight
This Holy Armagiddyon (One Love! ),
So when the Man comes there will be no,
No doom (One Song! ).
Have pity on those whose
Chances grows t’inner;
There ain’t no hiding place
From the Father of Creation.

Sayin’: One Love!
What about the One Heart?
(One Heart! )
What about the?
Let’s get together and feel all right.
I’m pleadin’ to mankind!
(One Love! );
Oh, Lord!
(One Heart)
Wo-ooh!

Give thanks and praise to the Lord
And I will feel all right;
Let’s get together and feel all right.
Give thanks and praise to the Lord
And I will feel all right;
Let’s get together and feel all right.