Greenland, Guam and How Often Do You Check Your Stats?

A bit of a silly post this but I have previously asked the question, “Are you also addicted to blogging?” and the responses were interesting. Like me, many others would admit to being addicted, but in a good way. To share our thoughts with others in this community can be a great stress-buster at the end of a busy day and the community itself is something to be cherished, a beautiful add-on to a world of real-life friends and colleagues.

My question today is, “How often do you check your stats?”. I ask because I tend to check mine quite frequently. I’m not sure how it works on other platforms but here at WordPress we get all sorts of breakdowns on a daily basis as to how our blog posts are faring – How many visitors and views, where these visitors come from and which posts are the most popular. Having dealt with statistics for most of my working life, I know that we have to take these stats with a pinch of salt, as there are many underlying reasons as to why a particular result might arise – Still makes for interesting reading though.

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An example of the WordPress stats page

At the moment my most visited post by a country mile is this one – The Proclaimers, Hibs and Sunshine On Leith. It was written right at the start of my blogging career but by sheer coincidence I picked a post title that matches exactly what a Hibernian Football Club fan would enter into a search engine after winning a big match. The song Sunshine On Leith is the anthem the fans sing from the terraces whilst supporting their team and those who want to relive that emotional moment probably stumble upon my post. This in turn pushes it up the search engines so when the recent documentary about the twins was aired on telly, that post started getting another massive hike in views. Interesting stuff but whether these visitors hang around and read any of my other posts is debatable.

Another statistic I love is looking at that map of the world which shows where your visitors come from. First thing in the morning your top views are likely to be from North America and Australasia as those are the English-speaking regions that have been surfing the net whilst we in the UK are sound asleep. By mid afternoon however the tables turn and your most frequent visitors are likely to come from the UK and the rest of Europe. A fellow blogger wrote recently about all of this – I mentioned in his comments boxes that it fascinates me too and that I have had views from countries as diverse as Greenland and Guam. I threw those two in as I thought it formed a nice bit of alliteration – Imagine my surprise therefore, when only last week, on a single day, I had views from both those countries! There is a good chance that any visits to ours blogs are merely the result of a google search for something else and the surfer didn’t linger long – Just in case that was not the case for my visitors from Greenland and Guam however, I decided to do a little research into the music of those two, very different countries.

Greenland:

Most of us will know that Greenland is that island within the Arctic Circle that always looks enormous on a conventional map but mainly down to the way the globe is stretched at the north and south poles via Mercator projection. It is however still the world’s largest island although it is also the world’s least densely populated country, no doubt because of that giant ice cap that practically covers it. Although part of the North American continent it has long been politically and culturally associated with Europe and more specifically Scandinavia. Its people are in the main of Inuit and Danish descent.

The traditional music of Greenland features drum dances but modern day music tends to be influenced primarily by rock bands from the US and the UK – According to native drummer Hans Rosenberg, Greenland is definitely a rock country, both musically and literally. With the wonders of modern technology at my disposal it didn’t take me long to find something by this popular modern day Greenlander band Nanook. The video clip gives a really good impression of what it would be like to live there (brrr…) and I have become quite smitten by this song which is tricky to spell but hopefully I’ve got it right – Ingerlaliinnaleqaagut.

Guam:

Unlike Greenland, Guam has a tropical rainforest climate and is the largest island in Micronesia. Most of us will know that it’s a territory of the United States and since the 1960s the economy has been supported by two main industries – Tourism and the United States Armed Forces. Indigenous Guamanians are the Chamorros who are related to other Austronesian natives to the west in the Philippines and Taiwan. A frequently used territorial motto is “Where America’s Day Begins”, which refers to the island’s close proximity to the international date line.

Modern music from Guam has American, Spanish, Filipino and Polynesian influences however it seems that of all the popular Chamorro musicians, Flora Baza Quan is the “Queen”. Her most famous recording was of the song Hagu so time to head down to Pika’s Café where Jen and RJ perform a fine cover version. 

So, another little geography lesson from me at “What’s It All About?” – Other countries that seem to pop up on my stats quite frequently, but unusually I think, are Japan, Finland and The Philippines. Always interested in who drops by this place so please pop your head round the door if you do indeed visit from these countries.

Getting back to my native Scotland, it does seem appropriate that my most popular post to date featured those heavily accented twins from Auchtermuchty, The Proclaimers. I do have a category dedicated to Scottish bands (link here) of which there are many, but for this post I should really include something else by Craig and Charlie Reid. As there is a lot of “love in the air” around here at the moment (yes, darling daughter has a new boyfriend), it will have to be I’m Gonna Be (500 Miles) from 1988. I’m not entirely sure if the new boyfriend would yet walk 500 miles, and then 500 more, to fall down at her door but as love songs go it’s a belter and not schmaltzy at all.

I’m Gonna Be (500 Miles) by The Proclaimers:

Until next time….

I’m Gonna Be (500 Miles) Lyrics
(Song by Craig Reid/Charlie Reid)

When I wake up, well I know I’m gonna be,
I’m gonna be the man who wakes up next you
When I go out, yeah I know I’m gonna be
I’m gonna be the man who goes along with you
If I get drunk, well I know I’m gonna be
I’m gonna be the man who gets drunk next to you
And if I haver up, yeah I know I’m gonna be
I’m gonna be the man who’s havering to you

But I would walk 500 miles
And I would walk 500 more
Just to be the man who walks a thousand miles
To fall down at your door

When I’m working, yes I know I’m gonna be
I’m gonna be the man who’s working hard for you
And when the money, comes in for the work I do
I’ll pass almost every penny on to you
When I come home (when I come home) well I know I’m gonna be
I’m gonna be the man who comes back home to you
And if I grow-old (when I grow-old) well I know I’m gonna be
I’m gonna be the man who’s growing old with you

But I would walk 500 miles
And I would walk 500 more
Just to be the man who walks a thousand miles
To fall down at your door

When I’m lonely, well I know I’m gonna be
I’m gonna be the man who’s lonely without you
And when I’m dreaming, well I know I’m gonna dream
I’m gonna dream about the time when I’m with you
When I go out (when I go out) well I know I’m gonna be
I’m gonna be the man who goes along with you
And when I come home (when I come home) yes I know I’m gonna be
I’m gonna be the man who comes back home with you
I’m gonna be the man who’s coming home with you

But I would walk 500 miles
And I would walk 500 more
Just to be the man who walks a thousand miles
To fall down at your door

Fireworks, Full Moons and “Arthur’s Theme (Best That You Can Do)”

Well, socially it’s a busy time of the year in my neck of the woods and there have been two soirées in the last week alone. Last Tuesday our “across-the-road” neighbours hosted a Halloween party which was great fun. We all specialise in different kinds of events (I do quiz nights and landmark dates in the calendar) but Halloween belongs to them. Despite being in their late sixties now, their son’s old baby bath is hauled out to enable “dooking for apples”, the garage is given a spooky makeover and all the local kids drop by in their costumes.

Then on Saturday, friends who live across on what is called the Black Isle (it’s not actually an island but it’s bordered on three sides by firths, so almost), asked if we’d like to join them for their local Bonfire Night celebrations. The best bit of the whole night however was that we witnessed the most spectacular full moon I think I’ve ever seen. The picture below is not of that actual moon, as I wasn’t quite on the ball with my camera equipment, but it could well have been.

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Having looked into it a bit more it was called the Frost Moon which peaked this year on the 4th November. It is also called the Beaver Moon however, that name coming from the Native Americans as this was the time of year they set their beaver traps to make sure there were enough warm furs ahead of winter. It turns out all full moons have a name which is something I hadn’t realised before. Over the next 12 months we will have the following:

December – Cold Moon
January – Wolf Moon
February – Snow Moon
March – Worm Moon
April – Pink Moon
May – Flower Moon
June – Strawberry Moon
July – Buck Moon
August – Sturgeon Moon
September – Fruit Moon
October – Hunter’s Moon 
November – Beaver Moon

Over the last year I have written about all the landmark dates in the ancient Pagan, or Celtic calendar, but as that cycle is now complete I think I can feel a new series coming on, this time all about moons! But of course Saturday’s moon wasn’t just impressive because it was a full one – Oh no, it was also a “supermoon”, when it comes to that point nearest the Earth. Despite being only about 26,000 miles closer than at other times, it appears around 14% larger and a whopping 30% brighter than usual. I love all this stuff.

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But this is a music blog, so which song came to mind as I wandered along the beach on Saturday night on my way to the bonfire? Perhaps because I have written both about Frank Sinatra and the song Fly Me To The Moon in my last couple of posts, I ended up going down the Rat Pack route, and serenaded our friends with this golden oldie.

In Napoli where love is king
When boy meets girl, here’s what they say:

“When the moon hits your eye like a big pizza pie, that’s amore”

That’s Amore is a song written by Harry Warren and Jack Brooks which became a big hit (and signature song) for Dean Martin in 1953. Funnily enough, I remember it best from the Cher film Moonstruck, where she plays a widowed Italian-American who falls in love with her fiancé’s estranged, hot-tempered younger brother (played by Nicolas Cage). Cher won the Oscar for Best Actress in that one and as I haven’t watched it in years, I think I will now go and seek it out.

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But what else comes to mind when I think of songs with the word moon in the title or lyrics. Well, this might be a good time to include something by Christopher Cross in the blog. I have held off as long as possible as it seems that Christopher has unfortunately ended up being attributed to that category of artists who produce what is called soft rock, or even worse yacht rock. Apparently yacht rock relates to the stereotype of the yuppie yacht owner, who enjoys smooth music while out for a sail. Also, since sailing was a popular leisure activity in Southern California, many yacht rockers made nautical references in their lyrics, videos, and album artwork, particularly Sailing by Christopher Cross.

But hey, I have never owned a yacht nor am I ever likely to, but I still warm to the melodic tones of Mr Cross and always enjoy that romantic line from his Academy award winning song Arthur’s Theme (Best That You Can Do)If you get caught between the Moon and New York City, the best that you can do is fall in love”.

Arthur’s Theme (Best That You Can Do) by Christopher Cross:

It is no surprise really that I have always liked this song as it was written by Burt Bacharach (amongst others) for the 1981 film Arthur starring our own Dudley Moore. Burt’s song Wives and Lovers featured in my last post so definitely on a Frank and Burt roll at the moment it seems. What I have just discovered however is that the line about getting caught between the moon and New York City was inspired not by a romantic encounter but because one of the credited songwriters, Peter Allen, got stuck in a holding pattern waiting to land at JFK airport in New York several years earlier. Oh well, best not to know sometimes how these memorable lines came to pass.

So, “What’s It All About?” – I seem to have a new series on my hands! (Yes, I know I have a few others in progress but I will make time for them too, promise.) There are certainly many, many songs that mention the word “moon” in the title but which are your favourites?

In December, all being well we will witness the Cold Moon, that name again from the Native Americans as it was associated with the month when winter cold fastens its grip and the nights become long and dark. Any suggestions for songs therefore that relate to both the moon, and to the cold grip of winter, gratefully received. I will get my thinking cap on myself before that date and apologies that I couldn’t muster up anything this time that related both to the moon, and to beavers – Might have been a stretch?!

Until next time….

Arthur’s Theme (Best That You Can Do) Lyrics
(Song by Burt Bacharach/Carole Bayer Sager/Christopher Cross/Peter Allen)

Once in your life you find her
Someone that turns your heart around
And next thing you know you’re closing down the town
Wake up and it’s still with you
Even though you left her way across town
Wondering to yourself, “Hey, what’ve I found?”

When you get caught between the Moon and New York City
I know it’s crazy, but it’s true
If you get caught between the Moon and New York City
The best that you can do,
The best that you can do is fall in love

Arthur he does as he pleases
All of his life, he’s mastered choice
Deep in his heart, he’s just, he’s just a boy
Living his life one day at a time
And showing himself a really good time
Laughing about the way they want him to be

When you get caught between the Moon and New York City
I know it’s crazy, but it’s true
If you get caught between the Moon and New York City
The best that you can do,
The best that you can do is fall in love

Postscript:

Out of interest here are a few pictures from the display we went along to on Saturday night – The fireworks were indeed spectacular but not quite as spectacular as that amazing full moon reflected on the water of the firth. Very special indeed.

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An American Odyssey in Song: New Jersey – Frank, The Sopranos and “It Was A Very Good Year”

Welcome to this occasional series where I am attempting a virtual journey around the 50 States of America in song. For anyone new to this place, I have a continuous route map where I enter and leave each state only once. Suggestions for the next leg always welcome!

Well, I seem to have been tettering on the edge of the George Washington bridge for two months now, as my New York post ended up being rather a long one, and New Jersey doesn’t look as if it will be much shorter, or easier to put together. After this state I will really try and get back to the original premise of one state, one song, but in the meantime it will have to be another “stream of consciousness” kind of affair. Here goes….

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New Jersey is tantalisingly close to wealthy and sophisticated Manhattan, but here, a mere 10 minutes across the bridge (or through the tunnel), we have a much more workaday state. To use another British analogy, New Jersey is probably the Essex of America where “Joisey” girls and boys tend to be the butt of many a joke. It is called the Garden State but the area bordering the Hudson is heavily industrialised and provides a home to many a chemical plant. The beautiful Ivy League University Princeton however is in New Jersey and further south we have the many fine beaches. Atlantic City, with it’s seven miles of boardwalk, was a highly successful and popular resort in the 19th and early 20th centuries. Post WWII it fell into decline but in 1976 came the legalisation of gambling after which massive casino hotels were built such as the Trump Taj Mahal. The original was one of the seven wonders of the world, but inside this one day and night merge into one, as high and low rollers from all over the world are sucked in leaving the old boardwalks neglected and empty.

But this is a music blog so what, and who, comes to mind when I think of New Jersey? First of all here is a clip showing the opening sequence to the television show The Sopranos – It shows the journey made by its lead character Tony Soprano (played by James Gandolfini), all the way from the New Jersey Turnpike to his comfortable suburban home. The theme music for this show (Woke Up This Morning) was ironically provided by British band Alabama 3 and I have written about that song here before as I’ve always really liked it. The short film also gives a pretty good whistle stop tour of that part of the state, just across the Hudson from NYC.

Woke Up This Morning by Alabama 3:

Like many other successful television dramas it wasn’t long before a CD was released featuring the songs included in the show, and being a big fan of course I bought it. Being a drama very much focused on Italian-Americans, it was inevitable that one of New Jersey’s most famous sons, born to Italian immigrants living in Hoboken, would pop up quite early on in the series. Not in person of course, as he died the year before the show first aired, but by providing It Was A Very Good Year, the soundtrack to the opening sequence for Season 2.

Frank Sinatra was possibly the very first teen idol, the hero of the “bobby-soxers” who sang with the Tommy Dorsey band in the ’40s and appeared in many lavish MGM musicals. After his career started to slump in the early ’50s he turned to Las Vegas, becoming one of the infamous Rat Pack. A second successful film and recording career followed in the later half of that decade and then a long period of recording and performing live in concert, right up until 1995. In terms of retirement, it never really worked out for him.

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A young Frank in Hoboken, New Jersey

Although Frank didn’t ever learn how to read music, he had a fine, natural understanding of it and was known to be a perfectionist. It is often mentioned that he had wonderful “phrasing”, which is how a musician shapes a sequence of notes in a passage of music in order to express an emotion or impression – I do believe that with It Was A Very Good Year, he does that with bells on.

It Was A Very Good Year by Frank Sinatra:

Another reason I wanted to include this song in my New Jersey post is because its whole sentiment is very appropriate for what I am doing with this blog – I am probably now in the autumn of my years myself but it is enjoyable to look back nostalgically over my life, telling the stories and sharing the music of my youth.

When I was seventeen, it was a very good year:

Right at the start of my teenage years a new Community Centre was built next to the Academy I attended, and so for the next five years, until I reached the age of 17, it became the focus of our social life. Unlike today when very few parents/community leaders are willing (or allowed) to supervise a few hundred teenagers with raging hormones, back in the ’70s they were plentiful. Nearly every weekend we headed along to the Saturday night “disco” held in one of the big halls. The records, played by some of our classmates who had been insightful enough to buy the equipment, were all the current chart hits and of course it was there that we experienced first kisses, fumbles and romance.

Funnily enough one of my most vivid memories of those years is dancing to songs by a band that really should be more closely associated with the ’60s. Those original Jersey Boys, Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons had a bit of a resurgence in popularity in the ’70s and I am pretty sure my first kiss took place whilst the song December, 1963 (Oh, What A Night) was playing in the background. Ironically, when good friends of ours recently moved to another town, their new next-door neighbour turned out to be the recipient of that first kiss – I went to say hello as we’d been right through secondary school together, but at first he didn’t recognise me because he didn’t have his glasses on! Oh the cruel passage of time and how it affects our senses.

When I was twenty-one, it was a very good year:

By the age of 21 I had done the unthinkable, I had dropped all my female friends because I wanted to spend most of my day with my student boyfriend. He was never alone however so it was usually a group of about five lads and myself, in the library, in the bar, in the dining hall…., you get the picture. (“Yes, we see, he was the Leader of the Pack” – sorry couldn’t resist).

Anyway, they were all great fans of that other famous son of New Jersey Bruce Springsteen, so when a rumour went round that he was coming to play the NEC in Birmingham, tickets were acquired. The boyfriend’s parents’ Volvo was commandeered and on the day of my 21st birthday we headed off, driving through the night to the West Midlands. I will have to admit that at age 21 I was more of a fan of Ultravox, Spandau, Visage and Adam Ant so my knowledge of Bruce’s back catalogue was scant indeed. In the weeks before the concert I therefore immersed myself in his album “The River”. By the time the concert came along I was sufficiently au fait with his material to really enjoy the whole experience, especially the saxophone playing of Clarence Clemons. As for the song The River, Bruce cited his inspiration as being his sister and brother-in-law who are still married today. Unlike my New Romantic bands from the early ’80s, Bruce has kept on writing and touring to this day. Never having been a follower of fashion in any way (his stage outfit remains almost unchanged) he has never gone out of fashion – He is the bard of New Jersey but a campaign to get Bruce’s Born To Run named as official state song did flounder, as in reality the song was all about getting the hell out of New Jersey!

When I was thirty-five, it was a very good year:

By 35 I was a working mum and a very busy bee indeed so music didn’t feature quite as highly in my life but it would have been hard to miss the fact that Ms Whitney Houston, one of New Jersey’s most famous daughters, had really achieved success of the stratospheric nature. Pop royalty, she was the cousin of Dionne Warwick, the daughter of Cissy Houston, Darlene Love was her godmother and Aretha Franklin an honorary aunt. She had been around since the mid ’80s but after appearing in films such as The Bodyguard the awards just kept on coming. The lead single from the film’s original soundtrack, I Will Always Love You, received the Grammy Award for Record of the Year in 1994 and became the best-selling single by a female in music history. I think I now prefer the original version, by the writer of the song Dolly Parton, but no-one can deny that Whitney had a stupendous set of pipes back then.

Sadly, Whitney died in 2012 at the very young age of 48, but she certainly has left us with a wonderful back catalogue of songs. She was one of the first singers to make use of that vocal technique called melisma, where by packing in a series of different notes, a single syllable can take nearly six seconds to sing. The technique inspired a host of imitators in the ’90s but what Whitney perhaps nailed best was moderation. Earlier this year I went to the cinema to see the new Kevin Macdonald documentary film Whitney: Can I Be Me – The upshot seemed to be that no, she couldn’t.

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Whitney Houston, RIP

I Will Always Love You by Whitney Houston:

So there we have it, by using Frank’s song I have been able to link three other musical legends from New Jersey into this post. Incidentally there is another link you might not have noticed. Frankie Valli actually made several appearances in The Sopranos, playing the mobster Rusty Millio. Also, the Four Seasons’ music is heard in many episodes, especially Big Girls Don’t Cry. Steven Van Zandt, a long term member of Bruce Springsteen’s E Street Band, played the character Silvio Dante in all six seasons of The Sopranos and finally, Whitney Houston, was a mezzo-soprano (tenuous that one, but you can’t win them all).

Big Girls Don’t Cry by The Four Seasons:

Next time we head across the border into Pennsylvania – As ever, ideas for song choices gratefully received.

Until next time….

It Was a Very Good Year Lyrics
(Song by Ervin Drake)

When I was seventeen, it was a very good year
It was a very good year for small town girls
And soft summer nights
We’d hide from the lights
On the village green
When I was seventeen

When I was twenty-one, it was a very good year
It was a very good year for city girls
Who lived up the stairs
With all that perfumed hair
That came undone
When I was twenty-one

When I was thirty-five, it was a very good year
It was a very good year for blue-blooded girls
Of independent means
We’d ride in limousines
Their chauffeurs would drive
When I was thirty-five

But now the days are short, I’m in the autumn of the years
And now I think of my life as vintage wine
From fine old kegs
From the brim to the dregs
It poured sweet and clear
It was a very good year

Amsterdam, Van der Valk and a “Lost Weekend”

Ever since I got back from my trip to Amsterdam last week I have been meaning to write a short post about it all – Problem is, I’ve struggled to come up with anything particularly “Dutch” to include as a featured song. Tonight however, as I made my way home from my regular Friday night rendezvous with my mum at her retirement complex (the fun just never ends around here!), I switched on the radio to partake in a bit of Friday Night Is Music Night. I do love the affable Ken Bruce, and he does a great job of hosting this show, which is apparently the longest-running live orchestral music programme in the world. In terms of the particular inspiration for each show, you just never know what you’re going to get and this week it was Espionage, so a night of great spy theme music got underway. The programme included music from The Ipcress File, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, The Third Man, The Avengers and, of course, 007 himself James Bond.

Listening to some of those great TV Theme tunes reminded me of the wonderful Van der Valk, that ’70s television series produced by Thames Television. It starred Barry Foster as Dutch detective Commissaris Piet van der Valk. The stories were mostly based in and around Amsterdam, where Commissaris van der Valk was a “cynical yet intuitive detective”.

Watching this very old piece of footage (wasn’t the colour poor in those days) reminded me of the very locations where I spent time last week, as in a city of canals the street pattern of central Amsterdam hasn’t changed much in about 400 years. The best thing about the show Van der Valk however was its very memorable theme tune, Eye Level, composed by Jack Trombey and played by the Simon Park Orchestra. Unbelievably, it even reached the UK Chart’s No. 1 spot back in 1973. I’m pretty sure that just couldn’t happen today but I still remember them well appearing on ToTP, as those were the days when I religiously taped the show on my little cassette recorder and carefully entered all the chart positions, in my “Chart Positions Notebook”!

thBut what did we get up to last week? The big irony of course was that despite the fact that Mr WIAA and I were also celebrating our Silver Wedding Anniversary, off I went gallivanting with one of my best female friends. It had all been booked a long time ago and the bad timing was down to that old chestnut, the annual leave window. Of course I am no longer even in the job that I couldn’t get leave from at any other time, but no matter, Mr WIAA was more than happy to hold down the fort and is now promised a trip of his own sometime soon.

Day 1: Headed down to Dam Square where an enormous Ferris Wheel was in operation – Great to get a view of the whole city I thought not realising that my poor friend has a massive fear of such things. She did it though and yes, we did get a great view of the whole city.

Day 2: The obligatory boat trip around the canal system. No room for any more house boats though as all the berths now taken. Also paid a visit to the Museum of Bags and Purses (it’s a thing) and the infamous Red Light District, De Wallen. Learnt a lot in the Museum of Prostitution (yes, it’s also a thing).

Day 3: Visited the Rijksmuseum where you could seriously get lost for a whole day – Pondered over probably some of the most valuable paintings in the world (Rembrandt’s The Night Watch?) and enjoyed glasses of mint tea – Maybe I’m just unsophisticated but up here in Scotland our tea doesn’t come with a bunch of mint leaves and a small pot of honey but very, very nice.

Day 4: Our last day so spent time in the harbour area where our hotel, which used to be the accommodation for Naval Officers, was based. A fantastic table with artwork depicting the harbour took pride of place in the dining room. Oh and it had its own brewery – Bonus.

Although I did say that I couldn’t really think of any songs with a Dutch theme, it was inevitable that this 1985 recording of Lost Weekend by Lloyd Cole and the Commotions would form a bit of an earworm whilst I was away. The lyrics however were not particularly appropriate for our trip as: a) we didn’t catch pneumonia b) the price of the medicine therefore wasn’t an issue and c) we came home before the weekend, so not really a lost one. Great excuse to include a song however that I have always really liked and I’ve now worked out why a band from Glasgow just didn’t sound very Scottish. Turns out Lloyd was from Derbyshire and formed the band whilst studying Philosophy and English at the University of Glasgow. Every day’s a school day.

Lost Weekend by Lloyd Cole and the Commotions:

Until next time….

Lost Weekend Lyrics
(Song by Lawrence Donegan/Lloyd Cole/Neil Clark)

It took a lost weekend in a hotel in Amsterdam
And double pneumonia in a single room
And the sickest joke was the price of the medicine
Are you laughing at me now may I please laugh along with you

This morning I woke up from a deep unquiet sleep
With ashtray clothes and miss lonely heart’s pen
With which I wrote for you a lovesong in tattoo
Upon my palm ’twas stolen from me when Jesus took my hand

You see I, I wouldn’t say it if I didn’t mean it
Drop me and I’ll fall to pieces too easily

I was a king bee with a head full of attitude
Wore my heart on my sleeve like a stained
My aim was to taboo you
Could we meet in the marketplace
Did I ever hey please did you wound my knees

You see I, I wouldn’t say it if I didn’t mean it
Drop me and I’ll fall to pieces

Yes it’s too easy and there’s nobody else to blame
Will I hang my head in a crying shame
There is nobody else to blame nobody else except my sweet self

Again it took a lost weekend in a hotel in Amsterdam
Twenty four gone years to conclude in tears
That the sickest joke was the price of the medicine
Are you laughing at me now
May I please laugh along

I was a king bee with a head full of attitude
And ashtray heart on my sleeve wounded knees
And my one love song was a tattoo upon my palm
You wrote upon me when you took my hand

You see I, I wouldn’t say it if I didn’t mean it
Drop me and I’ll fall to pieces too easily

Postscript:

Apologies for the quality of these pictures – Not up to my usual standard but when on a short trip like this we just didn’t want to spend lots of time fiddling with our camera equipment, so done on the hop on our phones. Sometimes the best way to go.

An Open Letter to George Michael RIP, Part 4 – The Documentary

My Dear George

Just when I thought I had nothing else to say to you, and I would finally have to accept you are gone, up you pop on our television screens with a brand new documentary called Freedom.  All about your life and career, and with contributions from many of those who were your friends and musical collaborators, it was seemingly in the process of being completed just before you died. It was even directed by you, so very much your baby. You really had no idea how ill you were at that time did you? What the heck were those around you doing for goodness sake – Not looking after your health it seems. To be fair you were an adult and should have taken responsibility for that yourself but not always easy I imagine for someone in your position who had already experienced so many ups and downs in life.

But I digress, the documentary called Freedom was a wonderful gift for those of us who would always want to eke out a little more new and original George Michael goodness before all that is left is the back catalogue and archived footage. I have already written to you about my memories of the Wham! and solo years but here we had all of it, and narrated by none other than your good self. The voice was a bit deeper and more gravelly than I remember, but it was most definitely you, although sadly there had to be a lookalike actor sitting there in your Highgate house supposedly typing out the dialogue for the film. We always knew how self-conscious you were about your looks and it seems you were not prepared to appear in the 2016 film as you were at the time – Sad but understandable.

One of the wonderful things about the film was that along with the really big hits from the “Faith” and “Listen Without Prejudice Vol I” eras, some of the less commercially successful songs made an appearance and this one, Kissing a Fool, has really stayed with me over the last week. Apparently you recorded the vocals for this beautiful, jazzy ballad in one take – It all sounds sublime and despite only making it to No. 18 in the UK Singles Chart, the song remains a firm favourite with fans and I can totally understand why.

Kissing a Fool by George Michael:

But what did I learn about you that hasn’t been covered in my previous letters? First of all I had no idea just how big you were in America once you went solo and released the album “Faith”. The marketing machine went into overdrive and you were on the cover of every magazine, you topped the Billboard chart with 5 of the singles released from the album and won numerous awards, including those in the R&B/Soul category. It was inevitable that there would be a backlash and for fear of burnout you had to walk away from it all for a while.

GM4 When you did come back with the very appropriately titled “Listen Without Prejudice Vol I”, you were making a statement – “Don’t pigeon-hole me, just take these songs as they come”. As James Corden said in the film however, there are some people in life who seem to have a layer or two of skin missing and appear to bruise more easily than the rest of us. You were one of them and when you sang the songs from this album for us, the pain you felt was palpable. All of this was written and recorded when you were still aged only 27 – An old head on young shoulders it seems.

When I wrote previously about that stunning performance you gave at the Freddie Mercury Tribute Concert I was just taking it at face value. Now however I understand how you were able to lift that performance to a whole new level – Having finally found love with Anselmo, you had learnt that he had also been diagnosed as HIV positive. He was in the crowd that night and although your fans didn’t even know about your sexuality at that time (well we did, but not officially), and he was unknown to us, you were singing the song for him and your heart was breaking for what was to come. The anger you felt at the unfairness of the situation was taken out on the record company from which you desperately wanted a divorce. A landmark case indeed but one which you lost in the end – As one of the executives said however, you may have lost the battle but you won the war as it was a given that you wouldn’t record anything for them again, so like with a top footballer you went on the transfer market and were snapped up by Virgin.

With the album “Older” you were able to both heal and recover from the grief you felt at the loss of Anselmo, but, then your mother got ill and died soon after so for much of the early ’90s it seems you were suffering from something much deeper than depression, a permanent fear of bereavement. By the second half of that decade you had started to come out the other side and the MTV Unplugged concert in 1996 was a fantastic example of you at your very best. You had the voice of an angel and had the ability to share raw emotion via your lyrics. A gift that possibly comes along once in a generation.

But I don’t want to say my final farewell to you George on a sad note. First of all, I noticed that the song used for the opening titles of your documentary was the Adele version of Fastlove performed at this year’s Grammys. Also the song used for the closing credits was the one jointly performed by Chris Martin and your good self (on a big screen) at the Brits. These were obviously added after your death and although I was a bit (quite a bit actually) disparaging about both of them earlier in the year, the passage of time must have made me warm to them as I thought they were both perfect for this film which turned out to be an unintented obituary. Secondly, I think James Corden has a lot to thank you for as your willingness to always step up to the plate when it came to making a bit of a fool of yourself in comedy sketches for charity, has in turn led to a new art form – Carpool Karaoke! I did love this when it first aired and never tire of watching it.

So, yet again I prepare to sign off for the last time – No more letters but before I go I just want to quote what you said during an earlier interview, included right at the end of the documentary. When asked what you would like to be remembered for, you said that you… “would like to be remembered for your songs and for your integrity, but that was very unlikely, so it was probably all a waste of effort”. I think you were just being modest there, as I expect we all would be if faced with a similar question, but of course in reality you will always be remembered – For the songs, your integrity, your performances, your generosity and yes, for those comedy sketches.

Farewell then George and thank you for that bonus gift you gave us last week in the form of your wonderful documentary. It was much appreciated.

Until next time….

Kissing a Fool Lyrics
(Song by George Michael)

You are far
When I could have been your star
You listened to people
Who scared you to death, and from my heart
Strange that you were strong enough
To even make a start
But you’ll never find
Peace of mind,
‘Til you listen to your heart

People
You can never change the way they feel
Better let them do just what they will
For they will
If you let them
Steal your heart from you
People
Will always make a lover feel a fool
But you knew I loved you
We could have shown them all
We should have seen love through

Fooled me with the tears in your eyes
Covered me with kisses and lies
So goodbye
But please don’t take my heart

You are far
I’m never gonna be your star
I’ll pick up the pieces
And mend my heart
Maybe I’ll be strong enough
I don’t know where to start
But I’ll never find
Peace of mind
While I listen to my heart

People
You can never change the way they feel
Better let them do just what they will,
For they will
If you let them
Steal your heart

And people
Will always make a lover feel a fool
But you knew I loved you
We could have shown them all

But remember this
Every other kiss
That you ever give
Long as we both live
When you need the hand of another man
One you really can surrender with
I will wait for you
Like I always do
There’s something there
That can’t compare with any other

You are far
When I could have been your star
You listened to people
Who scared you to death, and from my heart
Strange that I was wrong enough
To think you’d love me too
I guess you were kissing a fool
You must have been kissing a fool

Postscript:

As of the 20th October, the reissued “Listen Without Prejudice / MTV Unplugged” Double CD is available everywhere. A worthy addition to any fan’s collection.

Orange Juice, Altered Images and Gregory’s Girl

Last time I perhaps foolishly put out a request asking for song suggestions – My previous post (link here) had featured two songs from the Gamble & Huff stable in Philadelphia, Year Of Decision by The Three Degrees and Back Stabbers by the O’Jays. As ever you didn’t disappoint and there were quite a few Should I Stay Or Should I Go suggestions but that Clash song featured here last year (link here), as part of my “pre-EU Referendum going-to-the-polls” post (we all did one let’s face it and I’m just glad that over a year on, everything is progressing so well on that front, with negotiations going swimmingly!). Other suggestions were mainly for songs I didn’t really know or for another song by the same artist so I decided to plump for this one, Rip It Up by Orange Juice (that suggestion from Rol over at My Top Ten).

Rip It Up By Orange Juice:

Every now and again a particular city seems to be at the epicentre of things, musically speaking, and in the early 1980s that city seemed to be Glasgow. The independent Postcard Records, started in a tenement flat bedroom, spawned many fine acts, two of which were Edwyn Collins’ Orange Juice and Roddy Frame’s Aztec Camera. Postcard Records didn’t last long but both of these bands were soon signed by bigger labels and started making headway in the charts. In 1983 the single Rip It Up made it to No. 8 in the UK Singles Chart which was their only top 40 success which surprises me. This single was less post-punk than their earlier material and they used synthesisers to create a more disco-oriented sound. Edwyn went on to become a solo artist and had a worldwide hit in 1994 with A Girl Like You. There also can’t be many people who don’t know that Edwyn suffered two cerebral haemorrhages in 2005 which resulted in a long period of rehabilitation – A documentary film on his recovery, titled The Possibilities Are Endless, was released in 2014. He now lives on the old family croft in Sutherland, north of where I am, and has his own recording studio up there. His speech is still affected but when he sings it all magically comes together – The power of music.

RipItUpOrangeJuice

I did try to put together a list of all those bands that came out of Glasgow in the late ’70s/early ’80s but just too many to mention and if you’re here already, you probably know who I’m talking about anyway – Suffice to say there were many. I always remembered Claire Grogan from the band Altered Images saying in an interview that when they travelled south to London in those days to record ToTP, it was a bit of a home from home, as half the dressing rooms were filled with bands they knew well from their home city. Altered Images also fitted into that post-punk genre when they started out, although like Orange Juice soon started making headway in the charts reaching No. 7 in 1983 with this fine song, Don’t Talk To Me About Love. The “pop pixie” Claire only needed a big baggy top, a pair of dangly earrings, a quick blow-dry at the hairdressers and a bit of gold eyeshadow to make us all fall in love with her back then. So much more demure than the pop princesses of today and for me, much sexier – Just sayin’ girls!

Don’t Talk To Me About Love by Altered Images:

But of course for people of my generation, and specifically Scottish people I imagine, Claire Grogan is best remembered for playing Susan in Bill Forsyth’s wonderful coming-of-age romantic comedy Gregory’s Girl. If like me you went to a straight down the middle, semi-modern state secondary school (usually called an academy), this film will resonate in so many ways. All the stereotypes were present – The gangly and awkward Gregory (played by John Gordon Sinclair), his socially inept friends (think the Inbetweeners 40 years ago), the football obsessed PE teacher, the more mature and business-savvy Steve who offers dating advice, the confident and sporty Dorothy and the slightly quirky but impossibly cute Susan.

This film was made in 1980 and I left school in the summer of 1978 but little had changed and when I went to see it all those fond memories came flooding back. I realise now in later life that I was one of the lucky ones as my schooldays were charmed, full of fun, friends and laughter (and hard work of course). Like in the film, the machinations that took place between girls in order to contrive an evening date “up the country park” (heady stuff), were something to behold. Also what was it with Scottish schools and football? – At our one, all other sports were pretty much side-lined as the focus of attention was on getting as many boys as possible into the prestigious North of Scotland Select – Our school was so focussed on this goal (no pun intended) that we had five boys at one point in that team and when school-boyfriend scored the winning goal in a grudge match with the South of Scotland, he huffed for a week when I wasn’t suitably impressed!

I still really enjoy watching this film today and never tire of it – The music by Colin Tully recorded for the title sequence was just perfect and I can’t listen to the sound of that wonderful saxophone without having a massive pang of nostalgia for my schooldays – I know it doesn’t happen this way for everyone but my schooldays really were the best days of my life, yet I didn’t realise that at the time, which is sad. (I’m not saying of course that it’s all been rubbish since, but as an adult there are always pesky responsibilities and worries that detract from that feeling of pure happiness – As you get older and your kids get older the worries sadly don’t seem to ease, they just change!)

But before I go, it just occurred to me that in the picture recently posted from my final year at school, there was a strong similarity to the “look” sported by Dorothy, Gregory’s love interest in the film – It was from about three years earlier but what with the cream V-neck waistcoat and the carefully “curling-tonged” hair, it was obviously one of the looks of choice back then. Of course I don’t think Dee Hepburn who played Dorothy had used quite as much Sun-In hair “brightener” in the build up to the making of the movie, as my hair does have a distinct orange tinge to it which was what tended to happen with overuse. Nowadays I spend a pretty penny on getting the locks looking just the right colour but back then all that was needed was 39p and a bottle of Sun-In – Not much wonder I was happy. Were you a Susan or a Dorothy, or neither? As it says at the top of the comments boxes, I’d love to hear from you!

Until next time….

Rip It Up Lyrics
(Song by Edwyn Collins)

When I first saw you
Something stirred within me
You were standing sultry in the rain
If I could’ve held you
I would’ve held you
Rip it up and start again

Rip it up and start again
Rip it up and start again
I hope to God you’re not as dumb as you make out
I hope to God
I hope to God
And I hope to God I’m not as numb as you make out
I hope to God
I hope to God

And when I next saw you
My heart reached out for you
But my arms stuck like glue to my sides
If I could’ve held you
I would’ve held you
But I’d choke rather than swallow my pride
Rip it up and start again

Rip it up and start again
Rip it up and start again
I hope to God you’re not as dumb as you make out
I hope to God
I hope to God
And I hope to God I’m not as numb as you make out
I hope to God
I hope to God

And there was times I’d take my pen
And feel obliged to start again
I do profess
That there are things in life
That one can’t quite express
You know me I’m acting dumb-dumb
You know this scene is very humdrum
And my favourite song’s entitled ‘boredom’

Rip it up and start again
I said rip it up and start again
I said rip it up and rip it up and rip it up and rip it up and rip it up and start again

Festivals, Sister Sledge and “We Are Family”

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

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

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

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

Sister-Sledgeat-Belladrum-2017-
Sister Sledge in their wellies!

We Are Family by Sister Sledge:

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

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

joni

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

Until next time…., RIP Joni

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

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

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

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

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

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

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