Music from Guardians of the Galaxy #4 -Silver and ‘Wham Bam Shang-A-Lang’

I have many categories on my sidebar that haven’t been added to for some time. I keep meaning to head over to Delaware to rejoin my American Odyssey in Song, or to revisit more songs from the Awesome Mixtape given to me by a friend eons ago, but of course those posts take a fair bit of research, so tend to get side-lined.

There is another very well-known awesome mixtape that has been revisited several times around here however, one that had a bit of a starring role in the film Guardians of the Galaxy. I’m not usually a fan of superhero movies, but when DD introduced us to it a few years back we thoroughly enjoyed it, and I found myself smitten by the soundtrack. It contained many lesser-known, soft rock songs from the 1970s, played over and over on an old Walkman by the lead character, as a link to his dead mother and home in Missouri.

thOG317ONA

The success of the first movie meant there was a sequel a few years later, and of course there was a second awesome mixtape. I was reminded of one of the songs from it the other week, when it popped up as the answer to a clue on Rol’s excellent Saturday Snapshots feature. Wham Bam Shang-A-Lang by the band Silver was never a hit in the UK, which is why I wouldn’t have recognised them in a picture, but of course once I heard the song, it was immediately familiar from the film.

Wham Bam Shang-A-Lang by Silver:

I do like my American country rock from the ’70s, and despite 1967 still wearing the crown as being my favourite year to revisit around here, 1976 is fast becoming a usurper. For the umpteenth time this year I seem to be writing about a song from that year. The band’s record company gave them the song as a single after deciding none of the other tracks on the album they had produced had single potential. Interestingly one of the members of Silver was Tom Leadon, brother of Bernie who was of course in the Eagles at that time (not that I can ever imagine the Eagles recording Wham Bam).

Before I go, I can’t ignore the fact that over here in Britain in the early ’70s we had another couple of hit songs that perhaps formed the inspiration for Wham Bam Shang-A-Lang, via their titles at any rate. Both bands below have been featured around here before, but not sure how well their songs stand the test of time. Sweet had started out as a bubblegum pop outfit but had just morphed into glam rockers for 1972’s Wig-Wam Bam, inspired by Henry Longfellow’s poem Hiawatha. Those tartan teen sensations from Edinburgh, the Bay City Rollers, were at their height when they released Shang-a-Lang in 1974.

Wig-Wam Bam by Sweet:

Shang-a-Lang by the Bay City Rollers:


I am being facetious of course, as neither song has anything to do with the Silver song, but nearly 50 years on it’s fun to revisit these old clips to remind ourselves what (some) music fans of my generation were buying in those days. As for the three songs, not sure if you have a favourite amongst them? I am inclined to think many visitors to this place might say, “None of the above”, in which case this offering from ten years later might be more your thing. Had forgotten how great they were right at the start of the Wham! years. I give you Wham Rap!

Wham Rap! by Wham!:


Until next time…

Wham Bam Shang-A-Lang Lyrics
(Song by Rick Giles)

Starry nights, sunny days
I always thought that love should be that way
Then comes a time that you’re ridden with doubt
You’ve loved all you can, now you’re all loved out

Ooh, ooh, baby, we’ve been a long, long way
And who’s to say where we’ll be tomorrow?
Well, my heart says no but my mind says it’s so
That we gotta love, is it a love to stay?

We got a wham bam shang-a-lang
And a sha-la-la-la-la-la thing
Wham bam shang-a-lang
And a sha-la-la-la-la-la thing

Looking at you, I wanted to say
I think a little emotion goes a long, long way
Careful, now, you don’t get caught in your dreams
Look out, baby, this is not what it seems

Ooh, ooh, baby, you’ve been so good to me
But please don’t make it what it’s not
Well, I thought we agreed on what we need
So, listen to me, I’ll tell you what we’ve got

We got a wham bam shang-a-lang
And a sha-la-la-la-la-la thing
Wham bam shang-a-lang
And a sha-la-la-la-la-la thing

I think you’re seeing what I’ve been saying
Because I hear you singing to the tune I’m playing
Now that it’s said and we both understand
Let’s say our goodbyes before it gets out of hand

Bye bye, baby, I’d really like to stay
But we’ll remember the best time in our life

We had a wham bam shang-a-lang
And a sha-la-la-la-la-la thing
Wham bam shang-a-lang
And a sha-la-la-la-la-la thing

Wham bam shang-a-lang
And a sha-la-la-la-la-la thing
Wham bam shang-a-lang
And a sha-la-la-la-la-la thing

Charity Shops, ‘Madness’ and Another Mini-Bloggers Summit

A bit of a niche post this, for those in the know, but I can’t let the occasion pass without a mention. I don’t know about you, but heading into autumn 2021, I’ve been finding there’s not much going on in the news to raise our spirits. Combine that with the fact life is most definitely not back to normal, nor going to be for some time, and you need to find things that give you a bit of a lift – Things that get you out of the house, meeting up with people again.

Little did I think this week’s lift would be a meetup with long-time blogging buddy CC, from Charity Chic Music. He likes his October holidays does CC, and this year he and his wife were going to be staying in a cottage not far from my home town. When he suggested a get-together over lunch with our other halves, it was a no-brainer we would head through to the beau lieu (beautiful place) written about here recently.

Of course despite having visited each other’s blogs for over five years, there is a large element of anonymity amongst the music blogging community and I wondered how we would identify each other. To avoid any confusion at the restaurant, I made a small sign out of A4, and wrote my blog’s name on it. Having a diner hold up a bit of paper in front of her with the words, “What’s It All About?”, must have alarmed the serving staff at 12.30pm on a Tuesday – Was I having some sort of existential crisis, and would they have to deal with the fallout? Fortunately, I didn’t have to hold my sign up for long, as at the appointed hour, in walked CC holding a newly acquired charity shop album with the lovely Mrs CC by his side.

Of course as happened with blogging buddy C (no relation) when we met up in London, the conversation flowed freely as we’ve known each other virtually for years. Mr WIAA very proudly admitted to never reading my blog, which is good of him, as he likes giving me the freedom to write freely. It wasn’t lost on me however that in some ways our blogging pals know more about us than our real life family, as when you revisit the tracks of your years, as I do, all manner of anecdotes come out. The veil of anonymity means we can do that…, until it comes down that is. Anyway, thankfully CC didn’t spill any beans (as we all went for soup and a sandwich!).

I’m not sure if CC’s purchase, Absolutely by Madness, is really his thing, but as he said, at only a pound he couldn’t not buy it. Madness have popped up around here a couple of times, as they most definitely are my thing. I loved the ska and rocksteady revival of the late ’70s and of course had to go and see them live in 1979 when they came to town as part of the 2 Tone Tour (written about here). Exactly 40 years later they came north again, and I was lucky enough to see them then too (also written about here). They have a vast back catalogue of hits and are still happy to perform them with all the humour and energy they deserve. Lead singer Suggs may be a grandad now, but I never think he has changed that much over the years – Another artist who found his style early on and stuck with it.

Madness

The single releases from Absolutely were, Baggy Trousers, Embarrassment, and this one, The Return of the Los Palmas 7. It’s mainly an instrumental with a bit of ad-libbing at the beginning from Chas Smash and it reached No. 7 in the UK Singles Chart in 1981. Whether you are a fan of Madness or not, the videos for their songs were always a lot of fun and as well as being seen in both a greasy spoon and a posh restaurant in this one, the boys also took on the persona of another set of magnificent seven chaps, albeit this time in Kenwood Park, London and not Mexico. If you concentrate, you will also get a potted history of just about every big event in politics, science, sport and entertainment that took place over the previous few decades, via the many clips interspersed throughout the short video. Blink and you’ll miss some of them.

The Return of the Los Palmas 7 by Madness:

No song lyrics this time so I’ll end with another picture which proves you can’t realistically create a joint Swedey McSwedeface with only one album, but we tried, so points for effort. Also, make sure you don’t have both partners take the shot at the same time, as you end up looking in different directions, which is a bit weird. Oh well, should we ever meet up again, which I hope we will, we’ll be much better prepared.

Until next time…

The Flat-Sharing Years, The Specials and Everything But The Girl

I was away from home last week which explains my blogging absence. We’ve been lying low this summer so as not to jeopardise any of our business ventures by having to self-isolate, but it was time to emerge from WIAA Towers to visit one of my oldest friends who has moved from London to ‘God’s Own Country’, Yorkshire. She has been mentioned around here often, whenever I’ve written about my flat-sharing years in Aberdeen. Between 1979 and 1987 we lived in a total of five different abodes (with up to four others depending on the size of the flat) before finally parting company and heading off in totally different directions, both figuratively and geographically.

Another very famous set of flatmates

We didn’t know each other very well when we moved into that first student flat in 1979 and we were studying very different subjects. As the years go by however, your flatmates become your ‘urban family’ and you form a very special bond that can only come from living in the same shared space for so long. (Oh yes, there were many, many dramas over exams, jobs and boyfriends.) It was lovely to be able to spend time with her last week, sampling the delights of the North Yorkshire Dales, nearly 42 years on from that first flat-sharing experience.

But this is a music blog so what song to share? Back in 1979 we didn’t have laptops, Netflix or Amazon Prime but we did have a black and white telly that sat on an alcove shelf to the right of the bulky gas fire (never serviced of course but thankfully we lived to tell the tale and didn’t die of carbon monoxide poisoning). My musical memories always lead me back to the show that aired on a Thursday night at 7.30pm, and despite the lack of colour, it was great living somewhere again with a telly. The year before we had been in halls, with no access to telly at all, so for a music lover like myself this was a step up in the world indeed.

As it turned out, only being able to view our favourite music show in black and white was not a problem in the autumn of 1979, as that was just when the 2 Tone phenomenon started to grip the nation – Pork pie hats were even spotted on the heads of Aberdonians. Suddenly ska and rocksteady, a genre we had been too young to appreciate first time around, really started to resonate with a new generation of young people. A tour was put together and in November 1979 I went along to a local nightspot with another music-loving friend to witness the stars of 2 Tone in action – Link to post about that night here. The Specials topped the bill and by then we knew all the songs from their eponymously named debut album. Too Much Too Young rattles along at a fair old speed, giving this late ’70s version of ska a whole new punk sensibility.

Too Much Too Young by the Specials:


But this post was supposed to be about the reunion with my old friend and I don’t remember her being a particular fan of ska in 1979. By the time we parted company in 1987 our musical allegiances were much more aligned and one of the albums I bought that year really did resonate with her. We gladly shared any new acquisition and took advantage of the flat ‘music centre’ to (very illegally) record a copy on cassette tape. Here is a song from the album Baby, the Stars Shine Bright by Everything But The Girl, one that apparently always brought a tear to her to eye whilst driving around the North of Scotland in the new company car she had just been given (which unbeknownst to her bosses became the Flatmobile). We had started flat life with steady boyfriends, but by 1987 they had long gone, and we were singletons again ready to start the next chapter.

Come On Home by Everything But The Girl:


So, ‘What’s It All About?’ – I seem to have mislaid a lot of local friends of late so was feeling a bit lonely. This pandemic has put paid to many of my regular routines and several of the friends I used to do things with are now finding themselves either busy with grandchildren, or are retiring, and moving away from the area. Thank goodness for old friends of 42 years standing. I had a lovely time last week and our 2021 ‘digs’, unlike our old flat, were most definitely 5 Star.

Until next time…

Come On Home Lyrics
(Song by Tracey Thorne/Ben Watt)

Baby come home, I miss the sound of the door
Your step on the stair’s not there to wake me no more

And every day’s like Christmas Day without you
It’s cold and there’s nothing to do

And it’s mighty quiet here now that you’re gone
I’ve been behaving myself for too long
‘Cause I don’t like sleeping
Or watching TV on my own
So please come on home

Baby, what’s keeping you all this time
You’re wasting your days out there in the sunshine
And who can I turn to if you believe still
That England don’t love you and she never will

For it’s mighty quiet here now that you’re gone
And I’ve been behaving myself for too long
I don’t like drinking
or painting the town on my own
So please come on home

Baby come on home Please

For it’s mighty quiet here now that you’re gone
And I’ve been behaving myself for too long
‘Cause I don’t like sleeping
Or watching TV on my own
So please come on home

The Return of Beach Holidays, The Byrds and ‘Dolphin’s Smile’

Well, I don’t know about you, but the month of June has really perked me up. A birthday at the start of the month, being able to meet up with friends again, a big football tournament in progress, Wimbledon back on the telly and blow me down, a little holiday. Yes, for the first time in nearly two years we had a few days away and it was such a tonic. Sadly we picked the week with less than perfect weather, and had our trip been this week it would have been glorious, but despite that minor inconvenience we still had a great time.

Then…

Both myself and Mr WIAA had many caravan holidays as children, usually at one of the great beaches that line the Moray Firth coast. Back in those days the caravans were spartan affairs indeed, complete with tables that converted into beds, tiny little gas stoves for cooking and convoluted dual-purpose cupboard space. But it really didn’t matter, as you spent most of your time outside, on the dunes, at the shoreline, or leaping from one Churchill Barrier to the next (that would be at Findhorn). Our parents didn’t even mind either, as for them it was a lovely break away from work and household chores.

and now!

Fortunately for us, our caravan last week was a much fancier affair with a fully fitted kitchen, an en-suite, comfy sofas and a smart telly. In terms of keeping safe, we had it all to ourselves, and also gave it a bit of an additional clean before taking up residence. All very reassuring for our first trip away since the pesky virus put in an appearance.

I have come back laden with pictures but first I’ll attach a link to the post I wrote in 2016, from the last time we visited the beaches of East Sutherland. It seems the same issue arose this time around as it did back then – we had withdrawal symptoms from the lack of Wi-Fi – but once you give in and accept the situation, it’s a great digital detox.

As we arrived on the 21st June, which this year was the day of the summer solstice here in Scotland, I persuaded Mr WIAA to come out for a walk after the sun went down. The problem with living so far north at this time of year is that it never gets truly dark, as these shots (and my early waking sleep patterns) prove. A happy coincidence was that June’s almost full moon was in the sky that night, as I would have missed the perfectly full version later on in the week due to cloud cover.

One of my favourite things to do on a beach holiday is to head off in search of wild flowers which is what I did on the second day of our little break. For once I used my actual camera instead of a phone, so was mighty impressed with some of the close-up shots taken with a macro lens.

Most of our time however was spent on and around the beach itself, and true to form Mr WIAA can still seek out a crab in less than a minute. Probably comes from having spent so much time on such endeavours as a boy.

Despite both being well into middle age now, in fact having just looked it up I am apparently now only four years away from entering old age (scary thought), we do still like building a sand sculpture when at the beach. The site shop fortunately had a good supply of buckets and spades, so, fully equipped, we embarked on this year’s creation. Much to the amusement of passers by, who told us to ‘play nice’, it only took an hour to build this large dolphin which from the air looks as if it’s leaping out of the ocean – A happy coincidence from having picked a spot just above the tide line. I don’t think it’s just me, but it seems to look concave right at the start of the film and then changes to convex as it pans out. An intriguing optical illusion.

As is our habit we built a sand sculpture, then filmed it from the air


But what the heck, this is supposed to be a music blog, so where is the music? To be fair I think you will excuse me rambling on about my holiday, and for sharing so many pictures, it having been such a bizarre 15 months. We seem to be deriving much more enjoyment from simple pleasures, which is a good thing perhaps. The reset button has been pressed which had it not been for such an awful reason, was probably needed anyway (although the airlines and travel companies will no doubt disagree).

When I did a quick search I found quite few ‘dolphin songs’ but here is one that surprised me. Olivia Newton-John recorded the song Physical in 1981, only three years after portraying the virginal Sandy in the film Grease. What I hadn’t realised was that on the B-side was this song, The Promise (The Dolphin Song). Olivia even puts in an appearance halfway through the video clip, swimming with the dolphins rather than Danny Zuko.

The Promise (The Dolphin Song) by Olivia Newton-John:


But for me the winner is this song, Dolphin’s Smile by the Byrds from their fifth album The Notorious Byrd Brothers. I often mention around here that my favourite year to journey back to, in terms of music, is 1967, and sure enough that was when this album was recorded. I also seem to have a great affinity for that late ‘60s blend of psychedelia, folk rock, baroque pop, and jazz championed by bands like the Byrds who had taken up residence in the Laurel Canyon area of LA. Ironically the making of this album was fraught with tension, resulting in the loss of two members of the band. David Crosby was fired in October 1967 and drummer Michael Clarke left the band midway through recording, returning briefly before finally being dismissed after completion of the album. 

Dolphin’s Smile by the Byrds:


So, ‘What’s It All About?’ – Life does seem to be getting back to a semblance of normality here in the UK but there is still seemingly a lot of confusion over rules and restrictions. Wembley Stadium is full of football supporters, yet fathers still have to walk their daughters down the aisle in a facemask in front of a very limited gathering of guests. I am busy hosting holiday-makers at my place, yet am still fearful about travelling myself.

The Byrds, looking very young indeed

But throughout all the confusion we still have music, and I thoroughly enjoyed listening to my music device on holiday last week. I’ve also enjoyed discovering the featured song by the Byrds. It might be next year until we build another sand sculpture, but in the meantime at least we have our little film to remind us of our own dolphin’s smile. (Too much? Yes, I suspected so.)

Until next time…

Dolphin’s Smile Lyrics
(David Crosby/Chris Hillman/Roger McGuinn)

Out at sea for a year
Floating free from all fear

Every day blowin’ spray,
In a dolphin’s smile

Wind-taut line split the sky,
Curlin’crest rollin’ by
Floating free aimlessly,
In a dolphin’s smile

Rainbow’s end everywhere,
Full of light, free as air
Childhood’s dream,
Have you ever seen a dolphin’s smile

A Good Omen? – John Gordon Sinclair and ‘We Have A Dream’

I’m currently on holiday and we’ve just been sunbathing on a beach in Sutherland. Being able to do this in Scotland is a rare event, as is being able to watch our national football team take part in a big tournament, but lo and behold, today seems to be the day for both of these wondrous happenings. Imagine my delight therefore when the first song that popped up on my music device earlier, after pressing shuffle, was this one, written about last November after we qualified. Of the very many possible song choices, it was a long shot indeed, but I really hope it’s a good omen for tonight’s big match despite the pesky virus having depleted our team’s personnel – Come on Scotland, WE HAVE A DREAM.

What's It All About?

I come from a football loving family, and my dad played for our village team until he was in his thirties, but over the years I’ve kind of lost interest in following any particular team. Mr WIAA has never been a fan, and once DD’s boyfriend moved south, I stopped following the local side he used to work for.

I do enjoy the big tournaments however, like The World Cup and The Euros. Maybe it’s the geographer in me, but from a young age I was fascinated by this coming together of teams from around the world, with their different strips and flags. You could kind of work out a nation’s history from its football squad and the names were often so exotic sounding – Eusébio, Maradona and Jairzinho, so different from those of our homegrown players. Also, for a few weeks there is usually a frisson of excitement…

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An Emotional Week, The BRITS and ‘It’s A Sin’

I wish I could say my paucity of blogging was down to telly watching, but it’s really not. Now that we’ve had that revelatory finale to Line Of Duty (NOT), and with a few other things having come to an end, we’re looking for something new. I am missing my Hastings-isms though (and the wee donkey).

Line Of Duty, cottagecore-style

I did however watch a doc on Channel 4 last night and it caused me to shed a tear – I’m not even a fan of hers, but Davina McCall did future generations of women a massive service by lifting the lid on something that affects half the population, yet is still a strictly taboo subject. It turns out I am much more likely to suffer dementia and broken bones in later life because of a scare story that was widely circulated 20 years ago, but was deeply flawed. I am beyond angry at the lack of support and advice we were given, but too late now to turn back the clock. As it’s such a ‘taboo subject’, and because of my male readership, I don’t even feel I can name it here (oh the irony), but to all those men out there who care about their wives and partners, do your research. My own life, and Mr WIAA’s, could have been a lot easier over the last decade if we’d both had all the genuine facts at our disposal. Rant over.

I’ve been having a bit of an emotional week to be honest. The BRIT awards were aired on Tuesday night, and after all this time it was amazing to see thousands of people in the O2 arena again, enjoying live music. An experiment it seems, using key workers as guinea pigs, but the results will help us get events and mass gatherings up and running again post-pandemic.

The theme of the show was Community, Kindness and Giving (After a Difficult Year) so there was a lot of love in the room for those key workers, but the winners of the colourful little statuettes were predominantly women, just like at the Grammys. A bit of a backlash against the gender disparity amongst the previous year’s nominees I think. Dua Lipa was the big winner (Best British Female and Best Album) but there were also awards for Arlo Parks, Little Mix, J Hus, HAIM, Billie Eilish, The Weeknd, Griff and Taylor Swift. In fact it was a very colourful and feminine event, with some very flamboyant outfits worn by both men and women (but not by Lewis Capaldi who just came as himself). There is always a standout collaboration on the night, and for me, this year, it was this performance of the Pet Shop Boys’ song It’s A Sin by Elton John and Olly Alexander.

I’ve always had a bit of a soft spot for Olly as he reminds me of some the boys in DD’s friendship group when she was growing up. (I think I just want to mother him, and make sure he’s eating properly.) The song choice was very much derived from the success of another drama aired earlier on this year, also called It’s A Sin. Olly Alexander played Ritchie Tozer, one of a group of gay boys who came to London in the early 1980s and formed a friendship group. Sadly, the fast developing HIV/AIDS crisis impacted all of their lives and it made for a powerful and emotional (that word again) watch. Anyone who remembers those days will know how much fear, ignorance and stigma there was attached to that particular virus at the time, but the scientists eventually came up with a treatment, and now it can be controlled with one tablet a day. The drama covered the period 1981-1991 when boys were dying alone, sometimes in locked wards, having been disowned by their families. Here’s a very young looking Neil Tennant and Chris Lowe with the original version of It’s A Sin, which made it right to the top of the UK Singles Chart in 1987. (A single of the version from the awards show is being released to raise money for the Elton John Aids Foundation.)

It’s A Sin by The Pet Shop Boys

Just to top things off, another heart-wrenching drama aired earlier this week (currently available on the BBC iPlayer) called Three Families. Again a controversial subject was dealt with, and again women were not always able to get the support they needed. Yes, it’s been a bit of a ‘heavy’ and emotional week, with a recurring theme it seems.

But to end this post, I’m going to add some pictures of a very happy live music event I witnessed this week. No, I wasn’t able to head down to the O2 for the BRIT Awards, and I’m not a key worker, but joy of joys a group of performers set out their stall in my mum’s care home car park. I was supposed to be there for a visit but I knew she couldn’t miss out on all the fun, so I socially distanced on the other side of the car park to let her enjoy their show. Needless to say most of the residents had to watch from the windows of their rooms, but a few hardy souls like my mum braved the elements and headed outside. We’re obviously cut from the same cloth as there was no holding her back and she was out there in front dancing along to their repertoire of mostly 1960s songs (many of which have appeared around here, which is a tad scary). One of the singers came to speak to me at the end, and yes, you’ve guessed it, I got all emotional again when thanking her for the show.

Not expecting much feedback on this one as touched upon a lot of taboo subjects but good to get my thoughts down, as ever.

Until next time…

It’s A Sin Lyrics
(Song by Chris Lowe/Neil Tennant)

When I look back upon my life
It’s always with a sense of shame
I’ve always been the one to blame
For everything I long to do
No matter when or where or who
Has one thing in common, too

It’s a, it’s a, it’s a, it’s a sin
It’s a sin
Everything I’ve ever done
Everything I ever do
Every place I’ve ever been
Everywhere I’m going to
It’s a sin

At school they taught me how to be
So pure in thought and word and deed
They didn’t quite succeed
For everything I long to do
No matter when or where or who
Has one thing in common, too

It’s a, it’s a, it’s a, it’s a sin
It’s a sin
Everything I’ve ever done
Everything I ever do
Every place I’ve ever been
Everywhere I’m going to
It’s a sin

Father, forgive me
I tried not to do it
Turned over a new leaf
Then tore right through it
Whatever you taught me
I didn’t believe it
Father, you fought me
‘Cause I didn’t care
And I still don’t understand

Songs Written In Tribute #1 – ‘When Smokey Sings’ by ABC

As a great fan of alphabetisation, I have often wondered how I could create “a series” by working my way through the 26 letters of our alphabet, in song, but impossible of course, as how on earth could you ever pick only one artist to suitably represent each letter. Had this series ever become a reality, it would have been a no-brainer to kick the whole thing off with the band ABC who had great success in the early 1980s, their album Lexicon of Love spawning no less than four top twenty singles.

The band came from Sheffield, a city that has a rich history of producing successful musicians. I’ve written about this around here before, but it seems twice as many people in Sheffield (percentage-wise) are engaged in the creative industries compared to the national average. The city suffered the collapse of the steel and coal industries in the ’70s and ’80s and there does seem to be a correlation – When work is no longer plentiful, young people have the time and energy to exercise their creativity which no doubt led to a flurry of artists from that city having peppered the charts over the years – Human League, Heaven 17, Pulp, Babybird, Moloko and The Arctic Monkeys, as well as the aforementioned ABC.

After hearing a song by ABC on the radio last week, it occurred to me that another series could be derived from one of their best-loved hits. Over the years songwriters have often paid tribute to artists who have gone before, and in 1987 ABC released When Smokey Sings, a tribute to the great Smokey Robinson. It narrowly missed the UK Top 10 but the song did give the group their biggest hit in the US. Here’s a reminder of how it sounds.

When Smokey Sings by ABC:

Martin Fry, the vocalist and writer of the song is looking very dapper in this clip, as many bands of the blue-eyed soul persuasion did in those days. He was usually dressed in a smart suit with big shoulder pads, and his short blond hair was always neatly blow-dried into place. It was the mid-80s, so of course there had to be a saxophone in the mix, but it really works, and I don’t think this song has dated much at all.

But how does it compare to something by the man himself? Well the song I most associate with Smokey Robinson & the Miracles is this one, Tears of a Clown, written in 1967 but becoming a No. 1 hit in the UK in 1970. Smokey Robinson had arrived at Berry Gordy’s Motown studios in 1957 with a book containing over 100 songs he had written whilst still a schoolboy, so a bit of a “boy wonder”.

Pagliacci, the Sad Clown

Talking of wonder, it was Stevie Wonder who came up with the music for Tears of a Clown with Smokey adding the lyrics later. He decided it sounded like circus music, so came up with lyrics based on the Italian opera Pagliacci all about a clown who must make the audience laugh while he weeps behind his makeup because his wife betrayed him – The sad clown.

Tears of a Clown by Smokey Robinson & the Miracles

Watching this clip, the set designers seem to have had a bit of a field day, as was often the case with light entertainment shows around that time. As someone said in the clip’s comments boxes, they probably went on to work on screen savers for Microsoft in later life. Like Martin Fry, Smokey and the boys are looking very dapper in their purple suits and bow ties, but this time, no big shoulder pads.

So, two songs written 20 years apart, one a tribute and one by the recipient of the tribute, but which artist do we now warm to most all these years later? On this occasion I’m going with Martin Fry and ABC, as their canon of work best fits my era. Controversial perhaps, but as our blogging friend Charity Chic always says, others may chose to disagree.

Until next time…

When Smokey Sings Lyrics
(Song by Martin Fry/Mark White)

Debonair lullabies
In melodies revealed
In deep despair on lonely nights
He knows just how you feel
The slyest rhymes, the sharpest suits
In miracles made real

Like a bird in flight on a hot sweet night
You know you’re right just to hold her tight
He soothes it right, makes it out of sight
And everything’s good in the world tonight

When Smokey sings, I hear violins
When Smokey sings, I forget everything
As she’s packing her things
As she’s spreading her wings
The front door might slam
But the back door it rings
And Smokey sings, he sings

Elegance in eloquence
For sale or rent or hire
Should I say yes and match his best
Then I would be a liar
Symphonies that soothe the rage
When lovers’ hearts catch fire

Like a bird in flight on a hot sweet night
You know you’re right just to hold her tight
He soothes it right, makes it out of sight
And everything’s good in the world tonight

When Smokey sings, I hear violins
When Smokey sings, I forget everything
As she’s packing her things
As she’s spreading her wings
Smashing the hell
With the heaven she brings
Then Smokey sings, he sings

When Smokey sings, I hear violins
When Smokey sings, I forget everything
As she’s packing her things
As she’s spreading her wings
She threw back the ring
When Smokey sings
Smokey sings
Smokey sings

Sofa Slouching, Tears For Fears and It’s A ‘Mad World’

Last weekend I recounted the tale of my little altercation with a pothole, and explained why my foot will be in a boot for the next few weeks. The week it happened I was in great pain but still managed to get about a bit, doing odd jobs around the house, and keeping up with the daily admin required to run a small business. This week I seem to have lost my mojo and have simply holed up on the sofa for much of the last seven days. To be fair I think this is what I’m supposed to be doing to give my poorly ankle a chance to repair, but I can’t remember having done such a thing for many a year. The reason I mention it, is that I’m a bit short on inspiration for the weekly blog post so will have to dig deep.

I remember this particular Saturday from last year really well as life was still unaffected by the pesky virus that has changed all our lives so much. I had spent the morning writing about the Young brothers of Australia (by way of Glasgow). Between them they had not only formed the Easybeats and AC/DC in the 60s/70s, but also Flash and the Pan in the 80s. I love finding out about rock and pop family trees, so it was a really enjoyable blog post to write (link here).

Later on that day we were going to have a bit of a reunion with old friends who were visiting the Highlands for the weekend. I spent the afternoon deciding what to wear and I styled my hair. By early evening we were on our way to the house of mutual friends on the other side of town, and after a short debate on whether we should just bump elbows or actually hug, we hugged (at that stage it still felt rude not to). We then spent the next few hours laughing and reminiscing about our various adventures back in the day. I can honestly say we didn’t discuss the virus much at all, other than wondering whether visitor attractions would be open for our forthcoming holidays.

But that was a year ago today, and unbelievably I don’t think we’ve been inside anyone else’s house since then. We’ve been in a couple of gardens, but with quite strict rules here in Scotland right through the pandemic, it’s all been about sticking to them, and staying at home. Last week I both stayed at home and stayed on the sofa and you know what…

it’s starting…

to drive…

me…

MAD!

Mad World by Tears For Fears:


This song was of course written by the 19-year-old Roland Orzabal from Tears For Fears, and sung by his bandmate Curt Smith. (That’s Roland dancing outside on the deck in the video clip.) The song was their first chart hit and reached the No. 3 spot in the UK Singles Chart in 1982. The album it came from, The Hurting, reached the top of the Album Chart the following year. Roland might well have been a bit depressed when he wrote the song, but after all the success they achieved over the next few years, I hope he then put it all behind him.

As for me, I’m not depressed, just a bit fed up at being locked down (because of my injured foot) during a lockdown. As mentioned above, the whole concept of ‘lockdown’ wasn’t even a thing this time last year, but the term is now bandied about willy nilly as if it’s always been in use. In reality it has just become a convenient way to describe the widescale imposing of restrictions in order to preserve the capacity of our NHS to care for us. I don’t deserve to feel sorry for myself at all, as touch wood none of my family has contracted the virus (that we know of), and so far we have kept the wolf from the door in terms of still being able to earn. I know there are many out there who have not been as fortunate, and of course our healthcare workers are now beyond exhausted.

As I sit here however, reminiscing about that fun night out with friends exactly a year ago, I can’t help pinching myself to check whether it’s all just been a bad dream. Whatever, it certainly has been a mad, mad world.

Until next time…

Mad World Lyrics
(Song by Roland Orzabal)

All around me are familiar faces
Worn out places
Worn out faces
Bright and early for their daily races
Going nowhere
Going nowhere

And their tears are filling up their glasses
No expression
No expression
Hide my head I want to drown my sorrow
No tomorrow
No tomorrow

And I find it kind of funny
I find it kind of sad
The dreams in which I’m dying are the best I’ve ever had
I find it hard to tell you
‘Cause I find it hard to take
When people run in circles it’s a very very
Mad world
Mad world
Mad world
Mad world

Children waiting for the day they feel good
Happy birthday
Happy birthday
Made to feel the way that every child should
Sit and listen
Sit and listen

Went to school and I was very nervous
No one knew me
No one knew me
Hello, teacher, tell me what’s my lesson?
Look right through me
Look right through me

And I find it kind of funny
I find it kind of sad
The dreams in which I’m dying are the best I’ve ever had
I find it hard to tell you
‘Cause I find it hard to take
When people run in circles it’s a very very
Mad world
Mad world
Mad world
Mad world

And I find it kind of funny
I find it kind of sad
The dreams in which I’m dying are the best I’ve ever had
I find it hard to tell you
‘Cause I find it hard to take
When people run in circles it’s a very very
Mad world
Mad world
Halargian world
Mad world

Ten Months of Telly, My Top Ten and ‘Love Will Tear Us Apart’

I’m going to hold my hands up and admit to having watched an awful lot of telly over the last ten months. I don’t think I’m alone here as we haven’t exactly had many other avenues open to us for entertainment since the virus hit our shores, but…, you still feel a bit guilty about perhaps not having spent your time engaged in something more productive.

I have a little side table next to my spot on the sofa with a basket of handy things like glasses for distance (the telly), glasses for close-up (sewing), hand cream, scissors, and most importantly, a notebook & pen set. At the start of lockdown last March I decided to keep a record of all the dramas we were watching, just to keep track, and quite shockingly we seem to have completed 53 seasons of all manner of things. Crikey I thought, that’s one a week on average, until I realised that it’s happened over only ten months which makes the average even higher. Again, I don’t think I’m alone, and all down to the way we watch things nowadays, binging on something in a single week, as opposed to over a period of a few months.

What our mums used to tell us, but so far so good

I’m still wondering when we’re going to run out of new things, as most of what we’ve watched must have been made before the first lockdown, but so far not much sign of it. Mr WIAA is fed up of me saying, ‘You couldn’t do that nowadays,’ or, ‘Do you think we’ll ever be able to do that again?’ when we see mass gatherings of happy people, just going about their lives as we all used to do.

But hey, here is my list taken from that now very dog-eared little notebook. I have highlighted my Top Ten in bold in case you haven’t yet seen them and trust my judgement. Some were on Netflix, some on Amazon Prime and the others on the BBC iPlayer, so most still easily accessible.

Outlander S5, Better Call Saul S5, Westworld S1, Belgravia, Killing Eve S3, Life On Mars S1&2, Unorthodox, After Life S2, Upload, Space Force, White Lines, The Woods, Noughts and Crosses, The Fall S1-3, Hannah S2, The Luminaries, Game Of Thrones S8, Schitt’s Creek S1-6, Normal People, Annika, A Suitable Boy, The Rain S2&3, Strike, The Affair S1-5, Us, The Singapore Grip, Ratched, Life, Roadkill, The End of the F**king World S2, The Crown S4, Queen’s Gambit, Small Axe, Industry, Black Narcissus, Bridgerton, Traces, The Sepent, The Teacher, Lupin.

Last time I got all science-y around here and wrote about that feeling we get when we hear certain songs from our youth, and how they can still elicit such strong emotional responses all these years later. It’s called a neuronic command and it seems our brains never forget those songs we obsessed over during the drama of our teenage years.

I don’t know about you, but I also experience neuronic commands when watching certain coming-of-age films or drama on television. None more so than when I watched last year’s BBC adaptation of the Sally Rooney novel Normal People (one of my Top Ten mentioned above). The Sligo in the drama felt very like the rural Aberdeenshire I grew up in, and many of the storylines resonated. I went to a school that punched above its weight in terms of academic success for its pupils and many of us from what I would call a working class culture headed off to university. Not always easy to assimilate though and I strongly identified with the male character Connell. No, not easy when you find yourself straddling two worlds but not really fitting into either.

One of the songs used in the drama was this one, Love Will Tear Us Apart, performed by Nerina Pallot. I don’t think I would be giving too much away in terms of spoilers if I said it was a perfect choice.

Love Will Tear Us Apart by Joy Division:


Love Will Tear Us Apart was written by the band Joy Division, its lyrics inspired by lead singer Ian Curtis’s marital problems, struggles with epilepsy and mental illness. As the band’s popularity grew, Curtis’s condition made it increasingly difficult for him to perform and he occasionally experienced seizures on stage. The single was released in June 1980, a month after his suicide, aged only 23.

Joy Division, Ian Curtis on the left

So, ‘What’s It All About?’ – I’ve ended on a bit of a downer haven’t I whereas my intention was to highlight all the great telly we’ve had at our disposal during these tough times. Inevitably, if it’s been well-made, some of this telly will make us cry and that’s certainly happened to me at times, although there has been much laughter too (Schitt’s Creek a definite recommendation).

What’s been your favourite thing to watch over the long, long period of lockdown and restrictions? Do any of my choices match your own? I’d love to hear from you, and as you know by now, I always reply.

Until next time…

Love Will Tear Us Apart Lyrics
(Song by Ian Curtis/Peter Hook/Stephen Morris/Bernard Sumner)

When routine bites hard,
And ambitions are low,
And resentment rides high,
But emotions won’t grow,
And we’re changing our ways,
Taking different roads.

Then love, love will tear us apart again.
Love, love will tear us apart again.

Why is the bedroom so cold?
You’ve turned away on your side.
Is my timing that flawed?
Our respect runs so dry.
Yet there’s still this appeal
That we’ve kept through our lives.

But love, love will tear us apart again.
Love, love will tear us apart again.

You cry out in your sleep,
All my failings exposed.
And there’s a taste in my mouth,
As desperation takes hold.
Just that something so good
Just can’t function no more.

But love, love will tear us apart again.
Love, love will tear us apart again.
Love, love will tear us apart again.
Love, love will tear us apart again.

Photo Challenges, Paul Heaton and The Beautiful South

Last Saturday, for my weekly blog post, I decided to just sit down at my keyboard and type, with no particular plan in mind. Most bizarrely I ended up back in the 1920s which I hadn’t anticipated happening at all, especially as I have a massive list of ideas sitting in ‘Posts Pending’. That’s often the problem though, you have so many ideas, you can’t decide between them and end up totally off piste.

Talking of piste, it’s been rather snowy around here of late and to make the daily walk (for exercise) more interesting, I’ve had a bit of a photo challenge going on with a friend who lives in Yorkshire. We choose a theme for the day and take some fitting pictures, exchanging them before 9pm. No prizes of course, and no prizes for guessing what the theme was on this particular day, but it has made the walks a bit more fun as even they are becoming a tad monotonous after ten months of lockdowns and restrictions.

Old Red Eyes Is Back by The Beautiful South:


Great excuse to include something by The Beautiful South as they don’t seem to have popped up around here before, which is odd as they were one of my favourite bands back in the day. But by back in the day I mean when I was in my thirties and forties, and as we all know, however much we appreciate and enjoy the music of our more mature years, it never affects us in quite the same way as when we are young and in our teens. I’m no psychologist, or neuroscientist, but there are certain songs from my teenage years that can still render me an emotional wreck, all these years later. Apparently it’s a neuronic command and no matter how sophisticated our tastes might become, our brains stay jammed on those songs we obsessed over during the drama of adolescence.

Here’s something I’ve never mentioned around here before but in 1989 I got my first VCR and over the next few years, just as we used to do with cassette recorders in earlier decades, I ‘taped’ my favourite songs from TOTP on a Thursday night. I still have many chunky VCR tapes in the loft with all this material, but a bit pointless keeping them really, as we now have access to pretty much everything we might want to watch at the touch of a screen. The reason I mention all that, is because the very first song I ever recorded on my new machine back in 1989 was You Keep It All In by The Beautiful South. Hundreds of songs would follow it, but you always remember your first. (Bit of a messy start to this clip but fine from 0:20.)

You Keep It All In by The Beautiful South:


The Beautiful South rose from the ashes of another band I have very fond memories of, The Housemartins. Former bandmates Paul Heaton and Dave Hemingway, along with Briana Corrigan, formed The Beautiful South in 1988 and despite a frequent change in female vocalist over the years, kept going until 2007. In contrast The Housemartins were only in the spotlight for two years but who could forget this bit of animated fun, Happy Hour from 1986 – Don’t be fooled by the still, as a more lively video clip would be hard to find.

Common to all the songs shared today is that they were written by Paul Heaton who has been described in The Guardian as ‘one of our finest songwriters: his music reveals an exuberant ear for melody, his lyrics a keen eye and a brilliant wit‘. Paul has kept diaries throughout the years and I remember him once producing some of them when being interviewed on telly. They are a beautiful hand-written record of his years with the above mentioned bands complete with doodles. He certainly is a wordsmith which is reflected in his lyrics. Old Red Eyes Is Back is a play on words, from the Sinatra album Ol’ Blue Eyes Is Back, and is about the curse of alcoholism. As for Happy Hour it apparently ‘hammers away at the hypocrisy and sexism of young British business types on the move‘. Very apt for 1986, the era of the ‘yuppie’, when it was written.

Paul Heaton

So, ‘What’s It All About?’ – I’ve gone and done it again. Like alphabetising your record collection rather than tackling a really tricky piece of work, my long list of Posts Pending has not been eaten into for a second week in a row. But, sharing my red-themed pictures has somehow led me to share some Paul Heaton songs, which is a bonus. I may never have had his poster on my bedroom wall, and his lyrics don’t hark back to my own teenage dramas, but he has provided me with a fine set of songs for my digital library, ones I really should revisit more often.

As for that box of old VCR tapes in the loft, I’m really going to have to do something about them aren’t I, but I think I’ll keep that very first one where You Keep It All In was the inaugural song. Being able to rewatch TOTP later in the week was quite something back in the 1980s and this new technology meant we could do that. Compared to what we have at our disposal nowadays it seems positively antiquated, like using a Charles Babbage computer to work from home. Yes, the youngsters of today really are spoilt but I have an inkling the joy I felt at being able to record my favourite songs on video, was as great as anything they might experience today. It’s all relative.

Until next time…

You Keep It All In Lyrics
(Song by Paul Heaton, Dave Rotheray)

You know your problem
You keep it all in
You know your problem
You keep it all in

That’s right
The conversation we had last night
When all I wanted to do was
Knife you in the heart
I kept it all in

You know your problem
You keep it all in
You know your problem
You keep it all in

Midnight, a husband getting ready to fight
A daughter sleeps alone with the light
Turned on, she hears but
Keeps it all in

Just like that murder in ’73
Just like that robbery in ’62
With all these things that have happened to me
I kept them all in
Why do you keep on telling me now

You know your problem
You keep it all in
You know your problem
You keep it all in

That’s sweet
That conversation we had last week
When you gagged and bound me up to my seat
You’re right, I do
I keep it all in