Awesome Mixtapes #2 – It’s Immaterial and ‘Driving Away From Home (Jim’s Tune)’

I’m having a bit of a wistful morning. For the last three years, my best friend and I have gone on a wee trip at this exact point in the annual calendar, during the Scottish ‘tattie holidays’. Over the years these trips have been documented here on the blog: Amsterdam in 2017, Belfast in 2018, and last year, Bergen.

I have just been revisiting my pictures from last year, and will share some of them here. We were incredibly lucky with the weather as it can be very wet in Norway during the month of October, but what with autumn in full swing, and blue skies, our first experience of a Nordic country was a really good one.

Bergen in Norway


Well, what a difference a year makes. I’ve not had a single night away from home all year so a song that came to mind when I was revisiting these pictures was this one, Driving Away From Home (Jim’s Tune) by It’s Immaterial. It was the first track on my favourite mixtape, which was written about here when I considered it as an idea for a new series. Somehow, Ariel from Argentina found that post, and got in touch recently to let me know he had put together a playlist on Spotify of all the songs on the IC2 mixtape. I will embed that playlist here in case you are a subscriber. I haven’t set eyes on IC for over 30 years and can’t help thinking he would find it amusing to find his cassette insert, written back in October 1986, on that platform.

Spotify Playlist courtesy of Ariel from Argentina

As for the song, it occurred to me I know nothing either of its backstory, or the band It’s Immaterial, so time to find out. Well it seems they come from Liverpool and were formed in 1980. Today’s featured song was the one they are best-known for but surprisingly it only reached No. 18 in the UK Singles Chart. I still remember it well so thought it had done better, but all down to the sheer number of hours spent listening to music back in those days I suppose. The song was originally recorded in Milwaukee with Jerry Harrison from Talking Heads, but the band were unhappy with it so returned to England to record a new version with producer Dave Bascombe. It seems the ‘Jim’ in the song’s title refers to Jim Lieber, a harmonica-player from a blues band they saw performing in a bar in Milwaukee. He was invited to record with them and they were so happy with his contribution, they credited him in the title.

Driving Away From Home by It’s Immaterial:


So, ‘What’s It All About?’ – I would like nothing more than to drive away from home at the moment (and not just to go to the supermarket or for a walk on the other side of town), but not easy to plan for with new restrictions coming in every day. Let’s hope there is a breakthrough soon and we all get to spread our wings a bit more in the not too distant future.

Until next time….

Driving Away From Home (Jim’s Tune)
(Song by John Campbell/John Whitehead)

Hey,
now just get in
And close the door
And put your foot down

You know, I like this suburb we’re going through
And I’ve been around here many times before
When I was young we were gonna move out this way
For the clean air, healthy, you know
Away from the factories and the smoke
I like that shop, too
You can get anything there

So just get in
And we’ll go for a ride

‘Cos we’ll go driving away from home
Thirty miles or more
And we’ll go moving away from home
Without a care

I’ll tell you what
Why don’t we cross the city limit
And head on down the M62
It’s only thirty nine miles
And forty five minutes to Manchester
And that’s my birth-place, you know

Driving away from home
Thirty miles or more
And we’ll go moving away from home
Without a care in the world

Driving away from home
Thirty miles or more
Yes, we’ll go moving away from home
Without a care

The Beat, ‘Mirror In The Bathroom’ and Another Shower Room Update

Regulars around here might remember that many months ago I shared a picture of our little shower room which was about to be upgraded and transformed by my plumber friend. Ironically, on the 23rd March, just as the old plumbing was fully stripped out, we were plunged into lockdown. Nothing else for it we thought except to tidy everything up and wait the three weeks or so until we could get the job finished.

All through lockdown

Except the three weeks became twelve weeks, and even then it wasn’t easy what with social distancing and mask-wearing. I really wasn’t even supposed to offer the plumber tea or coffee, but I’m afraid I broke that rule, and we’ve lived to tell the tale. Anyway, after a bit of dithering about what floor covering to put down and which accessories to go for, we have finally got the job finished, only five months after we started. The louvery doors (as Del-Boy Trotter used to call them) will have to go at some point but in the meantime we’re just glad it’s now fully funtional.

Post-lockdown

The final piece in the jigsaw was the mirror, and in the end I had to go for a boring old rectangular one, as the one that matched the set was out of stock – Having waited all that time, I just couldn’t wait any longer. When shopping for bathroom mirrors, this song naturally came to mind.

Mirror in the Bathroom by the Beat:


Mirror in the Bathroom by the Beat reached the No. 4 spot in the UK Singles Chart in 1980, just as the ska revival was really taking hold. Although signed to 2 Tone Records my memories of the band are a little sketchy and they were not part of the tour (written about here) which took place that year. They were however one of the most prolific ska bands of the time and between 1979 and 1983 had five Top Ten hits, two of which were successful covers, Tears of a Clown and Can’t Get Used to Losing You.

As for Mirror in the Bathroom, it apparently came about when Dave Wakeling, the songwriter, was in the bathroom one morning shaving. He started to talk to himself whilst looking in the mirror, and it got him to thinking about how self-involvement turns into narcissism, narcissism turns into isolation, and then isolation turns into self-involvement again forming a vicious circle (he was a deep-thinking chap). To quote: “So then I just started thinking about different situations where people would ostensibly look like they were doing something, but in fact they were checking their own reflection out. And you’d see it perhaps on Saturday afternoon with people window shopping, half the time they’re actually just looking at their own reflection. Then this restaurant opened, and it was a big deal at the time because it had glass tables, and I was like, oh, you can watch yourself.”

As for me, any opportunity not to catch my own reflection in a shop window is a bonus nowadays. In our heads we think we are still 21, so a pleasant shopping trip can be ruined when the harsh reality hits home, no matter how good we thought we looked when we left the house.

I was saddened to hear that band member Ranking Roger had passed away last year aged only 56. Roger officially joined the Beat as a teenager in the late ’70s after having appeared on stage with them many times, toasting and singing. His energetic style and Jamaican-influenced vocals, paired with Dave Wakeling, were crucial in distinguishing the Beat from other ska bands.

RIP Ranking Roger

So, “What’s It All About?” – I seem to have been particularly productive around here this week but all because we have a new editor around here at WordPress and I wanted to get to grips with it. The verdict is…. , so far so good. I’d been putting off moving across for some time, but as I now have no other option it was time to bite the bullet, and not as scary as I had suspected. This blog will live to fight another day.

Until next time….

Mirror In The Bathroom Lyrics
(Song by Dave Wakeling)

Mirror in the bathroom
Please talk free
The door is locked
Just you and me.

Can I take you to a restaurant
That’s got glass tables
You can watch yourself
While you are eating.

Mirror in the bathroom
I just can’t stop it,
Every Saturday you see me
Window shopping.

Find no interest
In the racks and shelves
Just ten thousand reflections
Of my own sweet self, self, self…

Mirror in the bathroom
You’re my mirror in the bathroom
You’re my mirror in the bathroom
You’re my mirror in the bathroom…

Mirror in the bathroom
Recompense
For all my crimes
Of self defense.

Cures you whisper
Make no sense
Drift gently into
Mental illness.

Fear Versus FOMO and Some Time Spent “On The Beach”

“Is it me?”, as the affable Terry Wogan used to say, or are others feeling a bit fearful at the moment as we ease into a new kind of normal. We were a bit later in opening up various sectors of our economy here in Scotland, but we’re getting there, and I can finally get my hair licked into shape, visit friends inside, have a meal in a restaurant, and perhaps, even consider a staycation. Of course all this easing of the lockdown makes the possibility of a dreaded second wave more likely, but we can’t stay in our houses for ever, can we?

This week I decided it was time to put myself out there again, so touched base with a few friends, offering up suggestions of things we could do. The responses were interesting. One set of friends wouldn’t be able to do anything for a while, as they were off on a walking holiday for two weeks with three other couples, staying at various fine dining establishments on the way. Other friends, most of whom are usually up for socialising and having fun, are not quite ready to venture out yet, and even a socially-distanced drink in the garden is still a bridge too far. For some, Fear is trumping Fear of Missing Out it seems.

I did have lunch in one of my favourite restaurants this week though, and it was just lovely being able to do such a seemingly normal thing again, albeit in a very empty room where the number of tables has been reduced greatly. The serving staff wore masks and visors, so…. a bit weird, but the new normal as we keep saying. It did concern me that the prices on the menu were exactly the same, as it should be obvious to even the most financially illiterate person that no restaurant can remotely turn in a profit any more if they don’t radically change tack, but at the moment they’re just trying to woo their customers back before it’s too late. But anyway, my old work colleague and I had a wonderful couple of hours, and this time, for me, FOMO trumped Fear.

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My favourite eatery

The next evening I invited another friend round for a movie night. This was the first time we’ve had anyone other than family in the house since March, so a big deal. I still have a DVD player so we picked a film she hadn’t seen before and cracked open a bottle of wine. This was something we used to do quite a lot, but of course not since lockdown, so a real treat. Again, FOMO trumped Fear.

By the Friday, Mr WIAA decided to take the afternoon off, and we headed north in the car in order to work out whether a coastal staycation might be a possibility for late summer. It was a glorious sunny day and after stopping off for some lunch at a place which is now only offering a reduced menu in a open-sided marquee kind of affair, we made it to the beaches of East Sutherland. It was busy, but not Bournemouth on a bank holiday busy, so hoping to book something in one of the many holiday spots soon.

On the way home we took a bit of a detour to visit The Mermaid of The North – Not quite as demure as the little mermaid in Copenhagen, and not something you usually stumble upon whilst visiting the beaches of Scotland, but now on the popular North Coast 500 route map.

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The Mermaid of the North

And here’s a funny one – I didn’t even realise I had taken this picture, but it seems I must have accidentally “clicked”, just after capturing our mesmerised mermaid. I love images of shapes, colours and textures so was quite chuffed when it popped up on my screen without me even knowing it had been taken.

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Pebble beach, far away in time….

All seemed to be going pretty well for me until I got an unexpected booking for the holiday hideaway. As a host I am now responsible for the well-being of the guests who come to stay with me, but with this pesky virus lurking goodness knows where, the cleaning protocols are onerous indeed. Because I have a cousin coming to stay this week I would only have a day to turn everything around, getting the house ready for my new guests. After realising I would have to renew every bit of bedding, remove all soft furnishings & paper, deep clean and covid-sanitise the whole house (even the mattresses), I realised it would be impossible. The thought of one of my guests becoming ill on my watch made me fearful (would I be sued?), so I quickly cancelled their booking and have now foregone what would have been some very welcome earnings. Fear won this time over FOMO.

So, “What’s It All About?” – It’s all about the balance isn’t it and some of us are desperate to get back out there, whereas others are still a tad fearful. I had been experiencing FOMO, so I did put myself out there and had a nice week, but things are most definitely not “normal” and earning your living from the hospitality and tourism sectors at the moment is nigh impossible. Touch wood we turn a corner soon in our efforts to control this thing, but I’m not holding my breath.

After posting non-pandemic related stuff for three weeks now, I seem to have returned to my old ways. Just an interlude though, as I like to get my thoughts down for posterity more than anything else. As for the song, there are many beach-related ones out there and I have already alluded to Echo Beach by Martha and the Muffins in the caption for my pebble shot above. The one I’m going to share however is On The Beach by Chris Rea from 1986. I had a particularly nice summer that year as I went with the flatmates of the time to Zakynthos in Greece for my first ever all-girls holiday. One of those flatmates (the one I spent Live Aid day with and whom I wrote about last time) later moved south and ended up in Berkshire, living in a house next to the one Chris Rea used to own. He had a recording studio in the garden and I often wondered when we went to visit whether On The Beach had actually been recorded there.

On The Beach by Chris Rea:

It seems Chris Rea also had a nice summer in 1986 as On the Beach was inspired by a trip to the Spanish island of Formentera off the coast of Ibiza. Chris is quoted as saying, “That’s where me and my wife, became me and my wife. That’s what it’s about. Yeah, I was ‘between the eyes of love.’ It’s a lovely island”. Sadly, visiting any holiday island is fraught with difficulty at the moment, as we all continue to fight the invisible virus. Time to perhaps just plug in the earbuds, listen to those waves roll in, and imagine yourself there.

What’s your favourite beach-related song? I’d love to hear from you and as you all know by now, I always reply.

Until next time….

On The Beach Lyrics
(Song by Chris Rea)

Between the eyes of love I call your name
Behind the guarded walls I used to go
Upon a summer wind there’s a certain melody
Takes me back to the place that I know
Down on the beach

The secrets of the summer I will keep
The sands of time will blow a mystery
No-one but you and I
Underneath that moonlit sky
Take me back to the place that I know
On the beach

Forever in my dreams my heart will be
Hanging on to this sweet memory
A day of strange desire
And a night that burned like fire
Take me back to the place that I know
On the beach

Postscript:

John Medd from Are We There Yet? reminded me in the comments boxes that a couple of years ago, he’d written about Chris Rea and On The Beach. The version of the song I shared above was the one released as a single, however the original version from the  album of the same name was a much slower, more contemplative affair. If you click on the link to John’s blog you will see that most people now prefer the original, but in case you want to check it out for yourself, here is a clip.

My Live Aid Day Remembered – Freddie, George and “Don’t Let The Sun Go Down On Me”

“It’s twelve noon in London, seven AM in Philadelphia, and around the world it’s time for Live Aid”

live-aid

Those were the words that kicked off probably the most memorable fund-raising event in rock and pop history, and this week was its 35th anniversary. On Monday morning, after being reminded of the date, I decided to revisit my DVD boxset of the event and over the course of the week I’ve watched it all, and taken notes. Sadly these notes fill 12 pages of my shorthand notebook, so I have absolutely no chance of condensing my thoughts into a format suitable for a blog post. I do however remember how I spent the day, so before my aging memory lets me down, I think I’ll approach it that way.

You have to be of a certain age to remember Live Aid at all, mid 40s or older I suspect, but if you do, you’ll probably remember it was held on a glorious, hot summer’s day, the like of which doesn’t often fall on a Saturday in Scotland. I was a big music fan, but the concert would go on all day, so what did my flatmate and I do just before 12 noon on Saturday, the 13th July, 1985? – We went to the local park of course!

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Aberdeen’s Duthie Park

I was prepared however and had brought a small transistor radio with me, so although we weren’t watching the action live on telly we did hear the opening act, Status QuoRockin’ All Over The World. Had I been watching on telly, I would have known that Paul Weller, who was next up with his Style Council, was looking very summery and dare I say healthy that day in his white trousers, but we only had this crackly radio. By 1 pm it was obvious we should head back to our cool, granite, second floor flat – The day had become just too hot and we were missing out on all the action.

Over the next few hours we watched the following artists perform on stage at Wembley in front of an audience of 72,000. Everyone that day was hot and bothered, there is no doubt, but also having the time of their lives.

The Boomtown Rats, Adam Ant, Ultravox, Spandau Ballet, Elvis Costello, Nick Kershaw, Sade, Sting, Phil Collins, Howard Jones, Brian Ferry and Paul Young

Watching this segment of the concert now, 35 years on, it was a veritable Who’s Who of mid ’80s chart toppers (with organiser Bob Geldof included of course). The dress code of the day seemed to be either black leather or baggy white clothing depending on your musical leanings, but those who opted for white definitely suffered less in the baking heat. There were mullets of all persuasions too, even amongst those who were thinning on top (Phil Collins?). The quality of the singing was less than perfect, but hey, there had been little time to rehearse or prepare for this massive event so hats off to them for committing, as some did not and later regretted it. Final observation – So many saxophones! The instrument of choice for the mid ‘80s it seems.

And here is where the day was punctuated with another break from the telly, as the oil company I worked for at the time was hosting a barbeque for its staff that very evening. The flatmate and I duly got ready to head along Queen’s Road to the spot overlooking Rubislaw Quarry (from which Aberdeen was built) where many of these corporate HQs were based. Before we left however we caught the performance by U2 which is often cited as having elevated them to superstardom. Bono was tiptoeing around in his tight black leather trousers and long boots, but after spotting a girl in the crowd, jumped down into the mud at the front of the stage and helped save her from being crushed. They missed out on playing their third song but it was a sign of things to come from him, for sure.

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My workplace on the left

So, we arrived at my workplace in the early evening, but bowing down to pressure from their staff, it had been decided to install a big screen in the underground carpark so we could watch the concert whilst eating the fine barbequed food only an American company could serve up. My workmate was there with her new boyfriend, so was on a bit of a high. As was often the case however with these office romances in Aberdeen, it later transpired he had a wife who lived elsewhere whom he’d conveniently omitted to tell her about. They were slippery characters some of these chaps we worked with who often broke our hearts.

But back to the concert, we were now lined up on chairs watching scenes coming live from Wembley on the big screen. I’m not going to describe the Philadelphia concert here as would get far too bogged down, and anyway, it just wasn’t a patch on our set-up. Wembley, with its enclosed stadium, twin towers and greenery all around, looked beautiful on that hot summer’s day whereas the JFK Stadium in Philadelphia looked like a makeshift set of scaffolding surrounded by carparks and interstate highways.

As the day wore on the stakes were raised and artists of more legendary status started to appear on stage. First up we had Dire Straits but then we had the band who is generally thought to have stolen the show that day, Queen.  I have written about their Live Aid performance around here before and it’s my second most visited post ever (link here) so won’t repeat myself, but Freddie was on especially fine form that day and owned the stage, encouraging the crowd to sing along in unison. His sustained “Aaaaaay-o” during the a cappella section came to be known as the note heard round the world. The last time I wrote about their set on Live Aid day I shared Radio Gaga, but having watched them again this week, the song they finished with was We Are The Champions which was almost as perfect. They certainly were champions that day.

It’s obvious watching this footage that Queen’s set took place just as the sun had gone down, but it wasn’t yet dark. This is my favourite time of the day for any outdoor event as there’s a certain magic about it – No harsh sunlight but not a total absence of light either. In Scotland it’s called The Gloaming and a very special time of the day. Up in Aberdeen it wouldn’t be gloaming for a while yet, so we sat tight and carried on watching the big screen.

Next up was David Bowie, looking very dapper in a powder blue suit and pointy black patent shoes. Another great performance and quoted as being “his last triumph of the 1980s”. He was followed by The Who who hadn’t played together for three years. No powder blue suit for Roger Daltrey, oh no indeed. As ever he had his shirt open showing off his hairless, suntanned torso. Roger must be doing something right in terms of looking after himself, as at the grand old age of 76 he still looks pretty good today, and I imagine the bare-chested look is something he still favours.

But this was Saturday night in the big city and one by one people were drifting off. The hostelry of choice for 20-somethings in 1985 was the Dutch Mill on Queen’s Road, so leaving the concert behind for a while, my flatmate and I headed in that direction. In those pre-mobile phone days, it was highly likely you would bump into most of your friends on a weekend evening, but when we got there on the evening of the 13th July, it was dead, as everyone was at home watching Live Aid. We had a quick drink then walked the short distance back to our flat in the city centre.

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The Dutch Mill, Aberdeen

Once home we settled back into our large beige and brown sofa (it was the ’80s) and turned on our Radio Rentals telly. I can’t be sure, and I would be lying if I said I was, but the artist following on from The Who was Elton John so if we did get back in time for his set that’s who we would have watched next. Having viewed the boxset this week, Elton had the longest time on stage of anyone and he performed a couple of duets, first with his old mucker Kiki Dee, and then joy of joys, with the person I have written about most around here, George Michael.

I have mentioned the making of the Band Aid single before, and how the Wham! boys George and Andrew weren’t treated with much respect that day by the other artists, being proponents at the time of feel-good pop tunes. But here we were just six months on and Elton John saw fit to ask George to sing Don’t Let The Sun Go Down On Me with him. He said he was “a great admirer of his musical talent” when introducing him, and I have to say he gives an impeccable performance here. Also, unlike many others that day, he was dressed simply in jeans, white T-shirt and black leather jacket which is kind of timeless (we’ll ignore the fact it was dark and he’s wearing shades). His Live Aid appearance has stood the test of time and he went on to great things whereas those who had laughed at him are perhaps long forgotten.

Don’t Let The Sun Go Down On Me by George Michael and Elton John:

The Wembley concert finished off with a set by Paul McCartney who had been persuaded out of retirement for the event. Sadly he was the only artist on the night to experience microphone failure, so the audience missed out totally on one of his songs. It was fixed quite quickly but typical it had to happen to him. Once finished, he and Bowie raised Bob Geldof up on their shoulders, and then, along with the rest of the performers from the day (and a few others it seems) they launched into a version of Do They Know It’s Christmas?, the charity single that started the whole thing off. The first two lines were a bit ropey, sung by Bowie and Bob, but then they wisely handed the mic over to a safe pair of hands in the form of George Michael, who very confidently took over.

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I think we spent a good few hours in front of the telly that night as we then watched the rest of the Philadelphia Live Aid concert, which would go on for a fair while yet due to time differences. The programmers also revisited “the best bits” of the day, so by the time I went to bed in the early hours, I’d pretty much seen everything.

So, “What’s It All About?” – I’m not going to get into the whole criticisms and controversy aspect of Live Aid. All the money may not have got to the right places, at the right time, but around 1.9 billion people watched the concerts that day and over £150 million was raised. There is no denying, the publicity generated meant that western governments could no longer ignore humanitarian crises. Through rock ‘n’ roll, the common language of the planet, an issue that was not hitherto on the political agenda, became so.

As for this post, it was for my own benefit really, as I have never documented My Live Aid Day and always wanted to. The flatmate I spent it with FaceTimed me the other day and is coming up to visit next month (as long as that pesky virus is kept under control) and the workmate with the broken heart soon got over it, and we still keep in touch via Christmas cards. The boyfriend of the time chose to spend that summer travelling round France with a work colleague, so missed out on Live Aid totally. Needless to say he soon became the ex-boyfriend upon his return, and we are definitely no longer in touch.

How did you spend your Live Aid day? I have met a few people over the years who were actually at Wembley for the concert and I love hearing their stories. If you have any, I’d love to hear from you.

Until next time….

Don’t Let The Sun Go Down On Me Lyrics
(Song by Elton John/Bernie Taupin)

I can’t light no more of your darkness
All my pictures seem to fade to black and white
I’m growing tired and time stands still before me
Frozen here on the ladder of my life

It’s much too late to save myself from falling
I took a chance and changed your way of life
But you misread my meaning when i met you
Closed the door and left me blinded by the light

Don’t let the sun go down on me
Although I search myself, it’s always someone else I see
I’d just allow a fragment of your life to wander free
But losing everything is like the sun going down on me

I can’t find the right romantic line
But see me once and see the way feel
Don’t discard me just because you think I mean you harm
But these cuts I have they need love to help them heal

Oh, don’t let the sun go down on me
Although I search myself, it’s always someone else I see
I’d just allow a fragment of your life to wander free
Cause’ losing everything is like the sun going down on me

Don’t let the sun go down on me
Although I search myself, it’s always someone else I that see, yeah
I’d just allow a fragment of your life to wander free baby, oh
Cause’ losing everything is like the sun going down on me

The Phenomenon of Ghosting, Motown Girl Groups and “Nathan Jones”

I seem to have veered way off topic on this blog over the last few months and the nostalgic journey through the tracks of my years element (as per the tagline above) has all but been forgotten about. But hey, that’s what a global pandemic will do to you. I now realise however, I may have been a culprit of “doomsurfing/doomscrolling” whereby I spend many hours a day scrolling through the various news streams on my phone, picking up on every new development as it happens. I am well informed, but maybe too well-informed, and I think it has led to some ghosting (“the practice of ending a personal relationship with someone by suddenly and without explanation withdrawing from all communication”) by old friends.

I have been in touch with a fair few old friends since March and am now realising that one or two are no longer replying to my messages and certainly don’t instigate conversation. A side-effect of doomsurfing seems to be that I have become a doom and gloom merchant! But hey, yet again, that’s what a global pandemic will do to you. I’m not sure I can totally change my ways however, so just another downside to the crisis,

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So it seems it’s time for me to change my ways around here, or else I may lose the support of all you lovely followers too. Shit happens as they say, and what better way to drag ourselves out of the doom and gloom than by listening to some great tunes. Last week I shared something by Bananarama and discovered their first hit single, (He Was) Really Saying Something, was unbeknownst to me at the time a cover of an early sixties Velvelettes recording.

The Velvelettes were an American girl group, signed to Motown in the 1960s. Their biggest chart success occurred in 1964, when Norman Whitfield produced Needle in a Haystack which peaked at number 45 on the Billboard Chart. I’m not sure why some of these girl groups went on to great things and others kind of drifted away but it seems they needed to be both championed by those in charge (Berry Gordy) and have a hunger for success above all else. Cue the Supremes. Founded as The Primettes in 1959, the Supremes were the most commercially successful of Motown’s acts, with 12 No. 1 singles on the Billboard Chart. At their peak in the mid-1960s, the Supremes rivalled the Beatles in worldwide popularity and their success possibly made it easier for future African American R&B and soul musicians to find mainstream success.

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And here is where we return to Bananarama yet again, as another of their Top 20 hits, Nathan Jones, was a cover of a Supremes song. By 1971 Diana Ross had left the group and their lead voice was now that of Jean Terrell, but along with Mary Wilson and Cindy Birdsong they racked up a good few more hits during that era, Up The Ladder To The Roof, Stoned Love and Floy Joy to name but a few. Strangely enough both Bananarama versions of these Motown songs were hits 17 years after the original. Maybe that’s just the amount of time it takes for a song to become fresh again and for listeners not to confuse it with its first incarnation. I for one certainly didn’t know about these earlier versions when I was an avid fan of Bananarama in the 1980s.

Nathan Jones by the Supremes:

So, “What’s It All About?” – Funny how things often turn full circle when you write an off-the-cuff blog post as I’m doing today. The song Nathan Jones is apparently about a woman’s former lover, a man named Nathan Jones who left her nearly a year ago “to ease his mind.” Suffering through the long separation (“winter’s passed, spring, and fall”) without any contact or communication between herself and Jones (ghosting?), the narrator is no longer in love with him, remarking that “Nathan Jones, you’ve been gone too long”. It’s a bit of a coward’s way out, but just goes to show, the practice of withdrawing from all communication is still alive and well today, possibly even more so with the advent of online dating apps and such like.

As for me, I plan to curb my “doomsurfing” activities somewhat but going to be hard after all these weeks. Having really enjoyed this nostalgic journey through the tracks of my years, it would be a shame for me to lose all the goodwill I’ve built up by being the merchant of doom! Please feel free to let me know if I overstep the mark.

Until next time….

Nathan Jones Lyrics
(Song by Leonard Caston/Kathy Wakefield)

You packed your bags, as I recall
And you walked slowly down the hall
You said you had to get away to ease your mind
And all you needed was a just little of time

Oh, winter’s passed, spring and fall
You never wrote me, you never called
(Yeah) Nathan Jones, you’ve been gone too long
Gone too long (Gone too long)

If a woman could die of tears
Nathan Jones, I wouldn’t be here
The key that you’re holding won’t fit my door
And there’s no room in my heart for you no more

‘Cause winter’s passed, spring and fall
You never wrote me, you never called
(Oh-oh) Nathan Jones, you’ve been gone too long
Gone too long

Do-do-do

Nathan Jones
Nathan Jones
Mm-hmm
Nathan Jones, oh

Winter’s passed, spring and fall
You never wrote me, you never called
(Oh-oh) Nathan Jones, you’ve been gone too long
Mm-mm-mm, Gone too long (Gone too long)
Nathan Jones, you’ve been gone too long (Gone too long)
You’ve been gone too long (Gone too long)
Hey, Nathan Jones, you’ve been gone too long (Gone too long)
Hey, you know, you’ve been gone (Gone too long)
Nathan Jones, you’ve been gone too long (Gone too long)

Baggy Dungarees, Bananarama and “Cruel Summer”

It’s Saturday morning which is usually my preferred slot for a weekly blogging session however I am struggling to find inspiration. That’s not actually true, it’s more that I am still overwhelmed by what’s going on in the world, and can’t seem to snap out of it. Is it just me, or is the initial relief the country felt at being in full lockdown starting to morph into something quite different? I think it is only now starting to hit home that there won’t be a V-shaped bounce back for the economy, and many will lose their jobs and businesses.

Talking of which, last Saturday we had a tricky manoeuvre to perform in getting DD back home to the Highlands but we managed without breaking (too many) rules. Back in March she had a pretty good life for someone her age but this pandemic has put paid to that – Once you lose your job, bit by bit you lose everything else and although she is by no means the only one, it’s a bitter pill to swallow. Today is the summer solstice, astronomically the first day of summer (written about here before). In years gone by I would have probably had a wee soiree for the neighbours, but this is going to be a Cruel Summer I can tell, so not really in the mood. Cue Bananarama.

Cruel Summer by Bananarama:

Anyone who was around at the time will know that Bananarama were incredibly prolific in the 1980s and they ended up being listed in the Book of Guinness World Records for achieving the world’s highest number of chart entries by an all-female group. They came along just at the time my life as a student was coming to an end but we weren’t ready to cast our student wardrobes aside quite yet and I remember those Bananarama-inspired dungarees and baggy T-shirts were a staple right through those transition years. They had caught the eye of Terry Hall, and in February 1982 released It Ain’t What You Do (It’s The Way That You Do It) with Fun Boy Three, which got to the No. 5 spot in the UK Singles Chart. By the time Cruel Summer hit the charts in July 1983, they’d already had 5 other hit singles!

As we are contemporaries, it’s always interesting to see the girls when they pop up on telly today. Although they lost Siobhan Fahey for a good while as she embarked on other projects, she got back together with fellow Bananaramers Sara Dallin and Keren Woodward in 2017, and they completed a world tour. The dungarees have gone, in favour of the little black dress, but I don’t begrudge them that at all. Once we ladies get to a certain age the clothes of our youth just look silly on us, although we can still rock the shoes. Back in 1982/83, when we copied their look, it was all about the shoes. A large sector of the female population was at that time going down the white stiletto route, even with dungarees. You could always tell which “tribe” a girl belonged to because of her shoes – It was always Doc Martins and loafers for Bananarama and if I’m not mistaken they still marry up their old footwear of choice with their little black dresses of today. Way to go girls.

So “What’s It All About?” – It’s going to be a tough old summer for many of us I suspect. I keep telling DD she is not alone, as if that somehow makes it better, but of course it doesn’t. As my holiday house is sitting empty at the moment she at least has somewhere to stay whilst she tries to regroup. I had been optimistic recently about my ability to reopen the holiday hideaway for staycations later in the summer, but having seen the many cleaning protocols and risk assessments that (understandably) need to be completed ahead of each guest arriving, like many others in the hospitality and tourism sectors, I am starting to wonder whether it will be possible. Based on costs/unit of hospitality, we should now be charging around £30 for each drink in a pub and around £500 for each night away. With a recession looming, just don’t think that’s going to be possible.

I’ve not exactly come back with a very positive post today, but at least I’ve eased the blockage which had stopped me from writing. I have had something very positive happen to me of late however which involves this blog. What did they say to Kevin Costner in Field Of Dreams? – “If you build it, they will come.” Something along those lines and I hope to share more in due course.

Until next time….

Cruel Summer Lyrics
(Song by Sara Dallin/Siobhan Fahey/Steve Jolley/Tony Swain/Keren Woodward)

Hot summer streets
And the pavements are burning
I sit around

Trying to smile
But the air is so heavy and dry

Strange voices are saying
What did they say
Things I can’t understand
It’s too close for comfort
This heat has got right out of hand

It’s a cruel, cruel summer
Leaving me here on my own
It’s a cruel, cruel summer
Now you’re gone

The city is crowded
My friends are away
And I’m on my own

It’s too hot to handle
So I got to get up and go

It’s a cruel, cruel summer
Leaving me here on my own
It’s a cruel,
It’s a cruel, cruel summer
Now you’re gone
You’re not the only one

Earworm Of The Week #4 – Odyssey and “If You’re Looking For A Way Out”

No prizes for guessing how this song popped into my subconscious this week as it’s now all about how we’re going to get out of lockdown, but as an earworm it’s a pleasant one, and it’s made me want to look into the story of the singing group Odyssey a bit more. For a long time I used to confuse them with fellow Americans Rose Royce because their most successful years in the UK Singles Chart coincided, and both produced up-tempo disco numbers but also beautiful ballads.

Odyssey would have first entered my radar during my final year of senior school as their first big hit in the UK reached the No. 2 spot that Christmas. Native New Yorker was more successful over here than in their native US which became a pattern for the rest of their career and eventually led them to move to the UK permanently.

The song was originally written for Frankie Valli but when covered by Odyssey it became their first hit. The song is about a girl who is unlucky in love. The singer is telling her that as a native New Yorker, she should know by now that love is as fabricated as a Broadway show, and that you have to look out for yourself in the city. It’s a song about disillusionment that captures the downside of the self-reliant New York lifestyle.

Now we’re fast-forwarding to the summer of 1980 and it was one of their songs I just couldn’t miss, as it spent 12 weeks on the UK Singles Chart and 2 weeks at the top spot. Believe it or not this song title inavertedly pops up in our house just about every other day, as whenever we look in the fridge and spot something that needs used up, we always ask each other if we should, Use it up and wear it out?“. It’s been hard-wired into our brains by Odyssey that you can’t say the first bit without adding the second!

By the end of the summer of 1980 they released a follow-up single, If You’re Lookin’ for a Way Out with Lillian Lopez again on lead vocals. It’s a bit of a tear-jerker and had I not been all loved-up that summer, but rather going through a painful break up, it would have made for tough listening. This single reached the No. 6 spot and spent 15 weeks on the UK Singles Chart. The common factor in all three featured songs is that they were either written or produced by Sandy Linzer who is a new name for me but seems to have been really prolific in the ’60s/’70s writing for Frankie Valli and The Four Seasons.

So if you’re looking for a way out
I won’t stand here in your way

Don’t look at the tears that I’m crying
They’ll only make you wanna stay
Don’t kiss me again ’cause I’m dying
To keep you from running away

To be fair, the person I was all loved-up with that summer did cause much heartache down the line, and looking at these lyrics I was not as magnanimous. You do feel like you’re dying inside and I did stand in his way, but ultimately to no avail. Does that make me a bad girlfriend? I don’t think so – Just a broken-hearted one.

If You’re Looking For A Way Out by Odyssey:

So, I now know a lot more about the group Odyssey and will no longer confuse them with Rose Royce. It’s also been nice to have a break from writing about all that’s going on in the world at the moment and just concentrate on the music (although this one definitely inspired by what’s going on). I have a few more drafts that would be good to get down in print as I’ve not yet written about any of the sad deaths we’ve had from the world of music this year, which is remiss of me. Easy to get distracted at the moment however.

Until next time….

If You’re Lookin’ For A Way Out Lyrics
(Song by Sandy Linzer, Ralph Kotkov)

Love is crazy baby, I can see it in your eyes
Your kisses taste the same
But it’s just a sweet disguise
Ain’t that just like you
To worry about me
But we promised to be honest
With each other for all eternity
So if you’re looking for a way out
I won’t stand here in your way
And if you’re looking for a way out

Don’t look at the tears that I’m crying
They’ll only make you wanna stay
Don’t kiss me again ’cause I’m dying
To keep you from running away
(Run away, run away, run away, run away, run away, run away)

Oh baby tell me I’m wrong
Just say I’m crazy
It’s with you that I belong
It’s never easy when lovers have to part
Oh come on stop pretending
Tell me what’s in you heart
And if you’re looking for a way out
I won’t stand here in your way
But if you’re looking for a way out

Don’t look at the tears that I’m crying
They’ll only make you wanna stay
Don’t kiss me again ’cause I’m dying
To keep you from running away

Don’t look at the tears that I’m crying
They’ll only make you wanna stay
Don’t love me again ’cause I’m tryin’
To keep you from running away
(Baby don’t run away, baby don’t run away)

Don’t you run away (ooh ooh)
(Ooh ooh)
Oh come on stop pretending
Tell me what’s in your heart

Postscript:

I don’t know if any of you have watched the new BBC adaptation of the Sally Rooney novel Normal People but I would thoroughly recommend it. It made me realise that the Sligo of today in the drama is very like the rural Aberdeenshire I grew up in and many of the storylines resonated. It’s probably not for everyone but just as the song featured above is a real tear-jerker, without giving too much away, the drama is a real tear-jerker too and involves young people who are around the age I was when these songs came into my life.

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 fitting into either – If you watch it, I’d be interested in your thoughts.

NORMAL PEOPLE
Connell and Marianne from Normal People

More Local Hero-Related Pictures and Music

 

220px-Local_Hero_Poster

Last time I included another of the little films I made a couple of years ago around the time of the Spring Equinox. It featured the Mark Knopfler instrumental Going Home from the film Local Hero and regular commenter Lynchie jumped in and regaled us with his tale of having been the first journalist to meet with David Puttnam and Bill Forsyth to hear about their planned production (link here). The village of Pennan on the Aberdeenshire coast had been chosen as the setting for the fictitious village of Ferness which was to be the site for a new oil refinery. The hot-shot executive sent to close the deal gradually adapts to the slower-paced life however and gets to know the eccentric residents. As time goes by he becomes conflicted, as he knows the deal will mark the end of the quaint little village he has come to love. Unbeknownst to him however, the villagers are tired of their hard life and are more than eager to sell, although they feign indifference to induce a larger offer. This all leads to some great comedic moments.

A couple of years ago we decided to take an Australian visitor along the coast to visit Pennan and I managed to get my picture taken outside the iconic red telephone box. I’m pretty sure everyone must do that but only if they successfully navigate the steep single track road down into the village. At one point we had to reverse backwards up the hill to let someone past and I was pretty alarmed by the burning smell coming from under the bonnet. Anyway, the car survived, and we had a really pleasant afternoon in a village that feels as if time forgot.

I only have one other piece of music on this device by Mark Knopfler and it’s called If This Is Goodbye, a duet he recorded with Emmylou Harris. Very beautiful but not the most positive of sounding songs, so to end this post I’ll just share another clip of Mr Knopfler playing a different version of his instrumental from the film.

Until next time….  Take care and keep well.

A Shower Room Update, Appreciating the Little Things and “Going Home”

I have absolutely no idea how to pitch my blog posts at the moment as in the few days between writing something new, the world has yet again been transformed into a place none of us would have recognised only a couple of weeks ago. I admit to having had a rather large wobble over the last 24 hours (too much social media), but after the massive treat of going to the local supermarket for a basketful of basics, and having just met some of my neighbours (at a distance) for the mass round of applause for the NHS, I think I’ve just swung the other way – What a roller-coaster of emotions. Still haven’t spoken to my mum or had any communication from the care home and DD is at the other end of Scotland with her boyfriend in their one bedroom flat (true test of a relationship), so tough.

Last time I wrote about how I had eventually treated myself to a new shower room after 20 years of making do with the previous owner’s version. Although last week the plumber was confident it was a CV-19 Free Build, by late Monday it was obvious he wouldn’t be able to come back. I paid him in full, as he is one of the many self-employed tradesmen who now have no work. A plan came through to help the self-employed this afternoon but many will fall through the cracks, including ourselves – Not complaining as any help should go to those most in need, but I do worry about a lot of the locals who depend on tourism and the service sector for their livelihoods.

Last time I also shared one of the little films I made at the 2018 Spring Equinox after taking a few classes at the Apple Store. Here is the second one, this time featuring a piece of music by Mark Knopfler, which seemed to suit the particular scenes around here really well. I give you Going Home from the excellent 1983 film Local Hero. Watching it now, I cannot believe how quickly something like going for a leisurely drive has turned into a pipe dream. At the moment, I feel as if I will never take anything for granted again.

Until next time, I hope you and your loved ones stay safe and well.

If you are a frontline worker, we are so grateful for all that you are doing. At times like this it becomes obvious which jobs are worthy and necessary, but sometimes poorly paid, and which are very well paid but not necessarily worthy. The Cult of Celebrity has been seen for what it is and for that I am grateful.

Rock & Pop Family Trees, The Easybeats and “Friday On My Mind”

When I was young, and worked in offices, I couldn’t wait for the weekend to come. From this end of the telescope I really want time to slow down a bit more, as the weekend comes round just too quickly (although always a treat to have another edition of Rol’s Saturday Snapshots). Last year I dashed off a quick poem about this phenomenon for my writing class and it made reference to three songs. As I was the most mature (chronologically) of all the students in my group, no-one recognised the songs, but I’m pretty sure regular visitors to this place will pick them out easily.

I Don’t Like Fridays

Always used to have Friday on my mind
Start of the weekend
The promise (often unfulfilled)
of exciting times ahead

Now it comes round too quickly
Another hundred and sixty eight hours gone
Whoa time, slow down,
you move too fast

Boomtown Bob didn’t like Mondays
Now I want Mondays to last forever
So much left to do
So little time…

Friday On My Mind by the Easybeats:

Back then I realised I knew very little about Australian group the Easybeats who had a big hit in 1966 with Friday On My Mind, so I did a little research, and as often happens around here, I discovered a fascinating rock and pop family tree.

This winter has been quite mild here in Scotland but back in 1962-63 we had what was called The Big Freeze, the worst winter on record with snow lying eight feet deep. A TV advert at the time offered assisted travel to families who fancied a new life in Australia, and 15 members of the Young family from Glasgow moved there in June 1963. One of their sons was George Young who went on to form the Easybeats. His younger brothers Malcolm and Angus went on to form AC/DC a decade later. The Easybeats disbanded in 1969 but then in 1976 George got together with his old bandmate Harry Vanda to form new wave group Flash and the Pan.

Had the winter of 1962-63 been a mild one none of these bands might ever have existed. The family initially stayed at Villawood Immigration Detention Centre on the outskirts of Sydney which was where George Young met and became friends with another migrant, Dutchman Harry Vanda, and together they formed the Easybeats. Malcolm and Angus Young then developed the idea for their band. The name came about after their sister Margaret saw the initials “AC/DC” on her sewing machine. The brothers felt this name symbolised the raw energy and power-driven performances of their music. It was she who also came up with the very memorable schoolboy outfit for Angus Young.

I can’t pretend to be a fan of AC/DC but of course I know of their musical output, although probably attributed more to having watched the film School of Rock several times. I can’t pretend to be a fan of Jack Black either, as he always comes across as just a bit too manic for my liking, but that kind of characterisation was just what was needed for this film. (Fast forward to 2:30 for the best bit in this clip.)

The song Waiting For A Train by Flash and the Pan (George and Harry’s new wave band) was the one that did best in the UK Singles Chart. It reached the No. 7 spot in 1983.

So, “What’s It All About? – I know there are lots of you who still long for the weekend but trust me, once you get to my age, you do want the week to slow down a bit more.

As for the song Friday On My Mind, Harry Vanda described it as reminiscent of the days when the band members lived in hostels in Sydney as “new Australians”. They longed for the end of the week because that’s when the fun began. The song has quite a build-up and after the opening cymbal crash, its just a staccato guitar for the next 20 seconds where the lead vocalist runs through the days of the week, explaining why Monday to Thursday doesn’t excite him. The bass finally comes in as he gets closer to the weekend. 30 seconds into the song we hit Friday, and the drums come in to play.

Well, that’s Saturday Snapshots played and my Saturday blogpost written. Better head off now and achieve meaningful things, as before we know it, it’ll be Friday again. Argh.

Until next time….

Friday On My Mind Lyrics
(Song by George Young/Harry Vanda)

Monday mornin’ feels so bad
Ev’rybody seems to nag me
Comin’ Tuesday I feel better
Even my old man looks good
Wed’sday just don’t go
Thursday goes too slow
I’ve got Friday on my mind

Gonna have fun in the city
Be with my girl, she’s so pretty
She looks fine tonight
She is out of sight to me
Tonight I’ll spend my bread, tonight
I’ll lose my head, tonight
I’ve got to get to night
Monday I’ll have Friday on my mind

Do the five day grind once more
I know of nothin’ else that bugs me
More than workin’ for the rich man
Hey! I’ll change that scene one day
Today I might be mad, tomorrow I’ll be glad
‘Cause I’ll have Friday on my mind