Months Of The Year In Song: May, the Start of Celtic Summer and RIP Anna “Mae” Bullock

Not too many days left in the current month, so I’d better crack on with the latest instalment of this series. We usually start off with the story behind the naming of the month so let’s see which Roman god May is named after. Well, blow me down, this time it’s not a Roman god but a Greek goddess, Maia. She was the mother of Hermes (the Greek god of parcel deliveries) and was associated with fertility for the Romans. Many people still get a holiday on the 1st of May as it was traditionally a time for festivals celebrating the start of summer. In England there would have been the setting up of a Maypole and the crowning of a May Queen whereas up here in Scotland, the festival was called Beltane which included the building of bonfires (written about here).

Fortunately May does not have as many songs that refer to it which is lucky for me as last month’s instalment nearly broke me with all the song suggestions. Not entirely true of course but a bit of a respite before we hit the month of June which I suspect will be very song heavy.

The first visitor to come up with suggestions for May, was Ernie Goggins. Here are his own words:

A couple of suggestions for May to get the ball rolling. My Girl The Month Of May by Dion. It is from the mid 1960s by which time he had given up rock ‘n roll and become a hippy folkie type. The other is The Watersons’ version of the Swinton May Song, one of the many traditional ‘May songs’ marking the peak of Spring and the imminent coming of Summer.

Thanks Ernie, and as I said in reply last month, I hadn’t known about Dion’s later change in direction until recently. He has had a long career and is still going strong it seems at age 83. As for The Watersons, all very Steeleye Span, but I like it.

The second set of song suggestions came from Rigid Digit and as ever he had lots of them:

Can I have Led Zeppelin’s Stairway To Heaven for the line “it’s just a spring clean for the May Queen”?
No – how about Robert Plant’s
May Queen instead then.

Anything by Brian May ?
And continuing to push it, the first of May is celebrated with a May Fair.
So … The Quireboys debut single, Mayfair would fit.
That’s 3 duff suggestions and one sensible one

Back to being sensible: The Bee GeesFirst Of May

Thanks RD and I hope I’ve correctly identified the one sensible suggestion of the first four?

As for the Bee Gees song it was always going to be one of my own suggestions as I am a bit of a fan. A lovely little film there of the brothers too. You forget how young the twins were when they started out with big brother Barry at the helm. It was this song that was their undoing for a time however as Robin had wanted the song he sang vocals on to be the A-side of this record, but Barry decided it should be on the B-side. This precipitated them parting company. Fortunately for us (if like me you are a fan) they got back together again a year later.

First of May by the Bee Gees:

The next suggestion came in from three different visitors last month – C, John Medd and Khayem – and although not month-related I feel duty bound to include it as they have all enthused about it so much. Here is Kevin Ayers with his song May I. Here is what C said about it:

Regarding May – may I suggest May I?! I mean ‘May I’ by Kevin Ayers and The Whole World. There’s a lovely clip of them performing it on OGWT on youtube. I love Kevin’s rich voice and his quite subtle, arty eccentricity, in my mind anyway I see him in a similar way to Syd Barrett, Julian Cope, Robyn Hitchcock. I know it’s not about the month of May but I do like to bend the rules a little. The lyrics might be seen as either sweet or a bit stalkery nowadays – but I’ll go for sweet!

It is sweet C, and what a lovely deep voice he has. Quite sad that we have to continually question nowadays if something is “stalkery” or not, as I’m pretty sure it wasn’t meant to imply that when it was written.

The final month-of-May-related song suggestion came from Khayem. Here is what he said about it:

Just one suggestion from me this time, but it’s from one of my favourite subversive pop bands, Black Box Recorder. May Queen is from their second album, The Facts Of Life, released in 2000. With Luke Haines (The Auteurs) one of the trio, along with John Moore and Sarah Nixey, sublime music and unsettling lyrics and vocals are present and correct.

From the image in the clip I wasn’t expecting that sound at all – sublime music and vocals as you say Khayem. As for the lyrics, yes a tad unsettling perhaps.

I usually like to add a picture of someone whose name is that of the current month before I finish, but other than Brian May mentioned above, not thinking of many. Perhaps timely therefore to include someone born with the middle name Mae who sadly died this week. Yes, it’s the Queen of Rock ‘n’ Roll herself, Anna Mae Bullock, more commonly known as Tina Turner. For some unfathomable reason she has never appeared around here although some of my favourite songs from the ’80s were by her. I still own my vinyl copy of her wonderful album Private Dancer. She was in her mid 40s when her career relaunched in 1983 after the success of her cover of Al Green’s Let’s Stay Together. Back in the day we didn’t watch YouTube, we watched The Tube on telly after coming home from work on a Friday. I still remember being blown away by her singing this song as she was no longer the, dare I say it,”mumsy lady” I had seen interviewed a year or so before. Against all the odds she was back, and this time there was no stopping her.

Well, that’s it for this month. As ever song suggestions for next month, the month of June, will be gratefully received.

RIP Tina Turner

Until next time…

First Of May Lyrics
(Song by Barry Gibb, Robin Gibb, Maurice Gibb)

When I was small and Christmas trees were tall
We used to love while others used to play
Don’t ask me why, but time has passed us by
Some one else moved in from far away

Now we are tall and Christmas trees are small
And you don’t ask the time of day
But you and I, our love will never die
But guess we’ll cry come first of May

The apple tree that grew for you and me
I watched the apples falling, one by one
And I recall the moment of them all
The day I kissed your cheek and you were mine

Now we are tall and Christmas trees are small
And you don’t ask the time of day
But you and I, our love will never die
But guess we’ll cry come first of May

When I was small and Christmas trees were tall
Do-do-do-do-do, do-do-do-do
Don’t ask me why, but time has passed us by
Some one else moved in from far away

The Holy Trinity of Topics Best Avoided – Clearing the Backlog and Starting Afresh, Hopefully…

WIAA: Hey Alyson, it looks as if you’ve become a blogger who no longer blogs.

ALYSON: It does look a bit like that doesn’t it WIAA, and I’ve lost count of how many posts I’ve started recently apologising for my much reduced output. It’s kind of getting boring now so I either have to reinvent this place or bow out.

WIAA: How could you reinvent my pages Alyson? I am feeling a bit lonely and unloved to be honest.

ALYSON: Still not sure WIAA, but I think I’ve almost exhausted all my music-related anecdotes and delved into the back stories of most of my rock and pop heroes. I also used to share a lot of personal stuff around here (oversharing was my middle name), but now that I’m not as anonymous as I used to be, not as easy to do without feeling self-conscious.

WIAA: I remember the days when you rushed home from work and couldn’t wait to start blogging.

ALYSON: Indeed WIAA, and here’s a funny thing that’s happened this week. DD has just started a new job at my old workplace and has already met up with many of my old workmates. They have regaled the tales of “Breaking Bad Day” when I wore a Walter White mask, and of how I was generally the instigator of social events. I’m not ashamed to admit I’m in a bit of a rut at the moment and hearing her stories has made me a tad envious of her exciting new start. Although recounted on these pages, I seem to have conveniently erased all my bad work memories and if I did partly give up my job six years ago to spend more time blogging (which I think I did), I really owe it to myself to keep going, but it has to be enjoyable.

WIAA: I get that Alyson. How about we join forces to get you out of that rut and for me to feel less lonely and unloved?

ALYSON: Sounds like a plan WIAA. Give me a prompt and I’ll see what I can come up with?

WIAA: Well last time you wrote about telly shows you’d watched recently. How about we start there. Anything new to add to the list?

ALYSON: Funny you should suggest that WIAA as I’ve partly kept a low profile around here over the last few weeks because of my viewing habits. I know which topics it’s best to avoid around here by now, and lo and behold we’ve had a conflagration of all three of them over the last three weeks: The Royal Family, Eurovision and Football!

I was always going to watch The Coronation but I am also acutely aware it’s something more than half the population most certainly had no intention of watching, Mr WIAA and DD included. It wasn’t lost on me however that it might well be the only coronation I ever see as something that’s been happening for around a 1000 years in the same spot, seems likely to die out on our watch (there seems to be a pattern forming here). Much of it made me feel uncomfortable and I’m pretty sure the new king felt just as uncomfortable – the wording of the oaths, being stripped down to his nightgown and the canopied “anointing”, BUT, there was also much to be in awe of – Penny Mordaunt’s impressive sword-holding skills, Princess Anne’s red feathered hat perfectly obscuring the errant prince, the king’s very professional “hot” kilted equerry and the assembled congregation’s bladder control (they had to arrive at 6.30am).

Music played a large part in proceedings and I learnt a lot from the commentators. I had no idea that the piece of music we most associate with coronations was written by Handel back in 1727 for the crowning of George II. The words, which until now I had always thought were in Latin as hard to decipher, were translated from the biblical account of the anointing of Solomon by Zadok the Priest, and they have been used in every coronation since that of King Edgar in the year 973. Anyway, if you are a fervent Republican you can close your ears now but I found a whole new appreciation for a piece of music I had only ever heard accompanying some very grainy black and white footage of a coronation from 70 years earlier. I give you Zadok the Priest by George Frideric Handel. Rousing stuff at 1:20.

Zadok the Priest by George Frideric Handel:

On the Sunday night after the coronation there was a concert held outside Windsor Castle and for once the line-up was not purely made up of people from the world of pop music, old and new. In fact other than some dodgy singing from Lionel Richie, and Katy Perry looking like the Quality Street toffee penny, it was all very professional and this segment where the pianist Alexis Ffrench and singer Zak Abel performed a cover of the Simple Minds’ song Don’t You (Forget About Me) was for me the highlight of the show. It was a reference to how we must look after the natural world (one of the new king’s passions) and the drone display that accompanied it was beautiful indeed. If you only watch the section at 3:20 where a whale emerges from the centre stage, I hope you’ll agree it was worth it.

Don’t You (Forget About Me) by Simple Minds:

WIAA: Crikey Alyson, considering this was a topic you were going to avoid you really got into your stride there. What was the second topic you decided no-one would want to read about?

ALYSON: Ah that would be the equally marmite-y topic, Eurovision. The song contest that started out in Switzerland in 1956 to bring the countries of Europe closer together (??) was held in Liverpool this year on behalf of last year’s winning country Ukraine. It’s 25 years since it took place in the UK and the BBC certainly milked it, sending all their DJs and television presenters up there to cover the hoopla. I’m a fan of Eurovision, which I mainly put down to my love of facts and figures (just so many), and all things geographical (37 countries take part). The music itself is a real hotch-potch of pop, metal, the bizarre and the beautiful, but the contest has really grown in stature over the last decade and is now a week long extravaganza.

For the first time since before the pandemic our friends who were the other half of Bucks Fizz with us when we went to the contest in 2015 (written about here) came along to join us on the night. DD and her other half were also invited, so a great excuse for a celebration of the food and drink of the participating nations. The music at these get-togethers is often the sideshow but for the record we all voted for the Finnish entrant Käärijä to win, along with the rest of Europe it seems in the public vote. Sadly the national juries had other ideas and the Swedish entrant Loreen won, ensuring the contest will head to Sweden next year for the 50th anniversary of Abba’s win with Waterloo. The conspiracy theorists have been out in force. I will share a clip of the Finnish song Cha Cha Cha which ended up in second place, a song which probably sums up the wacky nature of Eurovision and is typical of the kind of thing entered by that Scandi nation.

WIAA: You’re doing well Alyson, two topics no-one will want to read about, only one left to go. You’ve also gone from Handel to “metal-dance-pop fusion” in one step – what’s next?

ALYSON: In for a penny in for a pound WIAA. Just a short one this but last night I watched a great documentary about how in four short years, Aberdeen FC went from being the nearly men of Scottish football to winning the European Cup Winners Cup. It’s called Aberdeen ’83: Once In A Lifetime and was made because the 40th anniversary of their amazing victory in Gothenburg has just been celebrated. I lived in Aberdeen at the time and the whole city came alive both in the build up to the match, and once the victors returned home. The most poignant part of the programme was watching footage of the 19-year-old Neale Cooper, my friend’s brother, who sadly died back in 2018 and whom I dedicated a tribute post to (link here). He was the youngest of the “Gothenburg Greats” but is the only one to have passed on. I know it will have been tough viewing for his family but they were included in the recent celebrations which must have been really special for them.

When I wrote my tribute to Neale I included this abomination of a song which was hurriedly put together ahead of the big final 40 years ago. Is it the worst football song ever made? Quite possibly, but if you lived in Aberdeen back in 1983 and were a fan of football the European Song would have been played on repeat for sure. Happy memories of a great time for the city.

WIAA: And now a football anthem! If you really are thinking of reinventing this blog Alyson, you’re certainly getting rid of the backlog that’s been building up of topics to avoid. Also if you were going to make things a bit less personal around here I think you’ve failed.

ALYSON: You know what WIAA, I’ve kind of enjoyed writing this one in the end. It’s taken me nearly all day but you’re right, the topics I didn’t think I would broach have now all been broached so a clean slate as they say. Thanks for chivvying me up today as it’s got me writing again. Maybe the rut is just a shallow one.

Until next time…

Don’t You (Forget About Me Lyrics)
(Song by Steve Schiff/Keith Forsey)

Won’t you come see about me?
I’ll be alone, dancing, you know it, baby

Tell me your troubles and doubts
Giving everything inside and out and
Love’s strange, so real in the dark
Think of the tender things that we were working on

Slow change may pull us apart
When the light gets into your heart, baby

Don’t you, forget about me
Don’t, don’t, don’t, don’t
Don’t you, forget about me

Will you stand above me?
Look my way, never love me
Rain keeps falling, rain keeps falling
Down, down, down

Will you recognize me?
Call my name or walk on by
Rain keeps falling, rain keeps falling
Down, down, down, down

Hey, hey, hey, hey
Ooh, woah

Don’t you try and pretend
It’s my feeling we’ll win in the end
I won’t harm you or touch your defenses
Vanity and security, ah

Don’t you forget about me
I’ll be alone, dancing, you know it, baby
Going to take you apart
I’ll put us back together at heart, baby

Don’t you, forget about me
Don’t, don’t, don’t, don’t
Don’t you, forget about me

As you walk on by
Will you call my name?
As you walk on by
Will you call my name?
When you walk away

Or will you walk away?
Will you walk on by?
Come on, call my name
Will you call my name?

I say
La, la-la-la-la, la-la-la-la
La-la-la-la, la-la-la-la
La-la-la-la, la-la-la-la
When you walk on by
And you call my name
When you walk on by

Months Of The Year In Song: April, Time for Things to “Open Up”

Thank goodness for this series, as I seem to have lost my blogging momentum. I return with the latest edition a bit earlier than usual this month in the hope it will kickstart things. Watch this space as they say.

We’re now well through the month of April and at last it’s starting to feel quite springlike with record temperatures around here this week. It hit 23 degrees on Tuesday so there was a mad scramble to find some summery clothes. As ever, such unseasonal temperatures are more a cause for concern than joy nowadays, but still nice to see blue skies again after a long winter (of discontent).

Yet again I suspect the naming of the month of April will have something to do with the Romans, as has every other month since I started this series. I haven’t checked yet but let’s have a look. Yep, although the derivation is not certain it is thought to come from the Latin verb aperire, to open, it being the month when trees and flowers begin “to open” for spring. Thankfully my garden is indeed now looking a lot more interesting as trees and shrubs start to flower, making them a lot less stick-like. Roll on summer I say.

My Forsythia shrub now in full bloom

The great thing about these series where we ask for song suggestions is that they almost write themselves. This might not be the series I’ve enjoyed researching the most, but I have really enjoyed making new musical discoveries courtesy of those who drop by the comments boxes with their contributions. As I always say, I couldn’t do this one without you, so thank you.

One of the first suggestions last time came in from Martin and it was April Come She Will by Simon & Garfunkel. Considering they have their own category on my sidebar this was a welcome contribution as I love the music they made around the time of The Graduate film soundtrack which this song was on. Although I re-watched the film recently after carrying out a clearance of old DVDs (The Graduate was definitely a keeper), I wouldn’t have specifically remembered it – but next time I’ll know when to look out for it. The song was written in 1964 when Paul Simon was living in England. The lyrics apparently use the changing nature of the seasons as a metaphor for a girl’s changing moods. Girls…, Changing Moods…, don’t know what you’re talking about Paul.

April Come She Will by Simon & Garfunkel:

As ever there was a fair amount of overlap when it came to suggestions, and Khayem and Rol both came up with these next two songs.

First we have April Skies by The Jesus & Mary Chain. I really should know more about this band as they are Scottish, but somehow they weren’t on my radar in the late ’80s, possibly because they didn’t pop up on shows like TOTP very often. This song seems to have been the one that achieved their highest chart placing, reaching the No. 8 spot in 1987. I did like this comment attached to the clip on the video sharing website. “My hometown band – it can be a bleak and desolate place, but so glad that East Kilbride gifted them to the music world.” A proud fan from Scotland’s first New Town, designated in 1947.

Secondly, we have that musical genius from Minneapolis, Prince, with his song Sometimes It Snows in April. Again it’s from the soundtrack to a film, this time Under the Cherry Moon. I’ll have to admit I’ve never seen this film but it was very much Prince’s baby as he both directed it and starred in it. His character in the film was someone called Christopher Tracy, and deeply affected by the character’s death, the singer expresses their desire to rejoin them in heaven. Understandably it received much attention after Prince’s sudden death in April, 2016. I had only been blogging for a few months and after researching him for a tribute post realised I had totally underestimated his talent over the years – the man could do everything – but burnt out at far too young an age.

Ernie Goggins is another regular contributor to this series and one of his suggestions was April Anne by John Phillips, whom I know better as one of the Papas from the Mamas & the Papas. What a sweet sounding song this is from his first solo album, and although containing none of the harmonies we associate with his former group, it shows us what his solo work was like. Quite country-ish? I’m struggling with the language in the lyrics and sometimes wonder whether I’m just too naïve for the music blogging world, sharing things I sometimes don’t quite understand. Having just checked however, the (April) Ann in the song seems to have been based on a real person, and as I suspected, there are veiled references in there to real people such as Dennis Hopper, Michelle Phillips and Mick Jagger.

Time to mix things up a bit so we’ll now share something by an artist called April. Here is C from Sun Dried Sparrows in her own words:

I’m going slightly leftfield here but the first song thing that came to mind for me was Teach Me Tiger by April Stevens – if you’ll permit the bending of the rules there. It’s so kitsch you just gotta love it and once heard, never forgotten…

Indeed C, I won’t forget that one in a hurry, and I quite liked it. Lots of breathy wa wa wa wahs and even naïve little old me knows what April is getting up to.

Now that we’ve moved onto artists with April in their name, time to share another such suggestion. Here are a few words from Bill P:

As for April, since you chose the band name to carry March, I could offer April Wine as the band name for this month. They weren’t super famous, but they did have a few songs that charted rather high.

Thanks Bill P, a Canadian rock band from Novia Scotia it seems. Here is Roller from 1979. Very much of their time and didn’t get the recognition they deserved it seems.

For a total change in tempo here is Bill P’s other suggestion. It’s back to songs with April in the title, and as a fan of Ella & Louis, he tells us, “you can’t miss with April in Paris“.

I’ve never been to Paris in the springtime so maybe something to tick off the bucket list as it sounds as if it would be beautiful. This year the people were revolting on the streets of Paris in the springtime, but that’s their prerogative, and they’re not happy about having their pension age increased. We Brits are not ones for revolting so just take it on the chin, but I’m at the stage of wondering if I’ll ever make it to pension age.

There was an awful lot of overlap with suggestions last time and I hope I’m managing to cover them all but here is a song that both Khayem and Ernie Goggins came up with, April Grove by Chrysalis. Here are Khayem’s words:

I’d like to pretend I’m so cool that I knew about it first, but it was Martina Topley-Bird’s excellent cover version that alerted me to the song April Grove.

And here is Ernie’s reply:

Unlike Khayem I have long been familiar with ‘April Grove’ by Chrysalis. I don’t think that makes me cool, just old. (You’re in good company Ernie!)

Rigid Digit arrived a bit too late to the comments boxes this time and two of his suggestions had already gone. First one was the JAMC song but the second was this instrumental from Deep Purple, also suggested by Mr Sun Dried Sparrows who tells us it was the flipside to their Hallelujah single from 1969. Here is April Part 1 (there were also Parts 2 & 3).

Despite his main two suggestions having already gone, RD did wrack his brain, and his hard drive, to come up with these other picks. As he says:

Something to do with the month perhaps, but none of these choices could be described as upbeat.

Real Estate – April’s Song
Ron Sexsmith – April After All
Rufus Wainwright – April Fools

His final suggestion was this one by Three Dog Night Pieces Of April. Very pretty indeed despite being quite sad. Thanks RD.

A final bit of mopping up to do with Khayem’s other suggestions (yes, there were even more – he was full of them for April).

Here are a few more for the pot:
April 5th – Talk Talk
April In Portugal – Les Baxter & His Orchestra

As for your Cocteau Twins suggestion KM, I’m going to save that one for May, as a bit of a twofer, but thanks as ever for your contribution. Before I finish I can’t let someone called Les Baxter go by without hearing what he has to offer. April in Portugal – wonder if they revolted there this spring?

Only four months left to go in this series but it does seem to be gaining momentum month on month. As ever, suggestions for May will be gratefully received. I had said recently I was feeling under the cosh having time-sensitive posts to write for series, but the flip side to that is that it gives you the discipline to sit down and put something together when you might otherwise not have got your ass in gear. Maybe I need more series and not less. Will have to revisit some ideas.

Remember her? April Merroney from The Brothers, an early 1970s TV Drama

Until next time…

April Come She Will Lyrics
(Song by Paul Simon)

April, come she will
When streams are ripe and swelled with rain
May, she will stay
Resting in my arms again

June, she’ll change her tune
In restless walks she’ll prowl the night
July, she will fly
And give no warning to her flight

August, die she must
The autumn winds blow chilly and cold
September, I’ll remember
A love once new has now grown old

Bowie, Merry Christmas Mr Lawrence and ‘Forbidden Colours’- RIP Ryuichi Sakamoto

If you are a music blogger and check your stats regularly, you soon sense something is amiss when one of your really old posts suddenly gets a lot of traffic. As it turns out I had already heard the news of Ryuichi Sakamoto’s death on the car radio, but true to form, once I got home and checked, a post I had written in my first week of blogging back in 2016 was already the most visited of the day.

I was still reeling from the death of David Bowie when I wrote it (so most of it is about him) but back then the whole raison d’être of this blog was for me to revisit favourite songs from the past, and all these years later, Sylvian and Sakamoto’s Forbidden Colours was still a favourite. Here is that post again from seven years ago.

First Posted 17th January 2016:

Inevitably I got to thinking a lot about David Bowie this week and like many of us, have ended up spending a fair bit of time online looking back at his many guises. One that has thrown me a bit is the early ‘80s Let’s Dance phase. Early ‘70s David Bowie hid behind bizarre “spaceman” characters but by 1983 he had gone seriously mainstream. Or was he playing another character? I heard him say in an interview that he felt far more confident on stage playing a character such as Ziggy but by 36, as he would have been by this time, it looks as if he was confident enough to be himself. Amazingly, after looking pale, thin, malnourished and let’s be honest, a tad weird a decade earlier, he had turned into one of the best-looking guys in the industry (we’ll ignore the teeth). This was the post-New Romantic period and he was very much adopting the sharp, elegant look that bands such as Duran Duran, ABC and Japan favoured.

I am still unsure who copied who, but in 1983 there were a series of events that seemed to tie in and feed off each other. He released the Let’s Dance album that year and a string of hits came from it starting off with the title track in March. He had approached Nile Rodgers to act as producer on it, and his brief was to “give him hit singles”, which is exactly what he did. A massive world tour followed and I remember my flatmate of the time heading downtown with her sleeping bag in order to queue all night for tickets (no computers or Ticketmaster in those days, we were old school).

We knew that Bowie had a film coming out later that summer, Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence, and leading the advance party were David Sylvian (ex of the band Japan) and Ryuichi Sakamoto, a musician who acted in the film but who had also produced the soundtrack album. The beautiful song Forbidden Colours was released in July 1983 and looking at a picture of David Sylvian from back then, there is more than a passing resemblance to ‘83 Bowie (although he is not as suntanned as he hadn’t been on location in a tropical rainforest).

Ryuichi Sakamoto and David Sylvian

The lyrics again are a bit bizarre but the theme is a forbidden love, which is also reflected in the storyline of the film. I do remember going to see it when it came out the following month and Bowie turned in a really good performance. A male colleague from that era had also been to see it and when I asked his opinion he decided that there had been something lacking, in that there were no women in it. That would of course have been because it was set in a male prisoner of war camp.

Forbidden Colours by David Sylvian and Ryuichi Sakamoto:

So, unlike with his earlier creations, David Bowie in 1983 was very much part of the zeitgeist making highly commercial pop music and looking and dressing very much like his younger counterparts. He was back acting, and feeding off the people he worked with. Happy memories of those days – the real start of big ’80s hair (perms and bleaching were de rigueur), bold bright earrings, tanned skin, and lots of white shoes and clothing. Those of us who got on board with the whole look have probably ruined our hair and skin in the process but boy did we feel good when stepping out for a “night on the town”.

Scene from Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence

Not very much about Ryuichi himself in this repost for which I apologise, but other than the soundtrack to the film mentioned, I didn’t really know much about him. I have just discovered however that he also composed the soundtrack to another film I really enjoyed from the 1980s, The Last Emperor, for which he won an Oscar. He won a BAFTA as recently as 2015, for the soundtrack to the film The Revenant. A respected composer, record producer and actor who, like Bowie, sounds as if he was taken far too soon.

Until next time… RIP Ryuichi Sakamoto.

Forbidden Colours Lyrics
(Song by David Sylvian/Ryuichi Sakamoto)

The wounds on your hands never seem to heal
I thought all I needed was to believe
Here am I, a lifetime away from you
The blood of Christ, or the beat of my heart
My love wears forbidden colours
My life believes

Senseless years thunder by
Millions are willing to give their lives for you
Does nothing live on?

Learning to cope with feelings aroused in me
My hands in the soil, buried inside of myself
My love wears forbidden colours
My life believes in you once again

I`ll go walking in circles
While doubting the very ground beneath me
Trying to show unquestioning faith in everything
Here am I, a lifetime away from you
The blood of Christ, or a change of heart

My love wears forbidden colours
My life believes
My love wears forbidden colours
My life believes in you once again

St Patrick’s Day, Red Nose Day and an Irish Band Trigger Warning

I’m going to be really controversial around here today but here we go.

It’s been obvious since joining the music blogging community that there are some artists and bands best avoided if you don’t want negative comments coming your way. Yesterday however, because it was St Patrick’s Day, I thought it might be interesting to finally get to grips with why “That Irish Band” attracts such vitriol from so many quarters.

Is it because of Bono’s glasses?

Is it because they became the biggest band in the world?

Is it because Bono (to quote Noel Gallagher) is a “Do-Gooder”?

Is it because they dropped their album into our iTunes libraries uninvited? (One we couldn’t then delete.)

Is it because their guitarist is called The Edge (and apparently isn’t very skilled)?

Is it because they’ve become billionaires but harp on about poverty?

Is it because they harp on about poverty but use tax avoidance schemes?

U2 in 2017

Hmm…, now that I’ve made that list it does make for a compelling argument as to why they attract so much, well…, hate.

Hate though. It’s a strong word and one I try never to use as it can’t be healthy to subject yourself to that kind of emotion. Let’s see if I can come up with any reasons to cut them some slack, as I worry about anyone who gets so hot under the collar about a bunch of musicians.

First of all, the easy ones. Bono has glaucoma so has to wear the glasses, but yes, I do think he likes the look a bit too much, what with the Gucci frames an’ all. But…, he’s a rock star, and just the kind of thing rock stars would wear if they had to. As for their silly names, I don’t know about where you come from but during my schooldays most groups of lads got silly nicknames, and many of them have stuck right into adulthood. Bon(i)o also being the name of a dog food hasn’t helped of course, and The Edge doesn’t sound as if he has ever been the edgiest guitarist, but too late to change their handles now I suppose. Possible to cut them some slack?

I was one of the victims of the Songs Of Innocence iTunes drop, as was my 80-year-old father-in-law who had just acquired his first Apple device (and who only listened to classical music). We didn’t want it but there didn’t seem to be any way of deleting it – annoying if you set your listening device to shuffle. It seems everyone involved now realises this was a bad plan – like giving you a free pint of milk but not just putting it on the doorstep but coming into your house and pouring it on your cereal, even if you were lactose intolerant. The upshot is the iTunes people had to develop a means of deleting such freebie downloads (and for the first time in years I’ve tried it and found it successful – farewell Sounds Of Innocence) but who amongst us hasn’t made an error of judgement along the way, or a major boo boo with technology? Sending an email to All-Users instead of the one person it was meant for, or accidentally letting a virus into your work computer network that creates all sorts of havoc (I can tick both those boxes). Possible to cut them some slack?

Cover of album we were ‘gifted’ whether we wanted it or not!

Are U2 the biggest band in the world right now? Not sure, but because they just keep on touring, they must be up there. As a nation we like it when bands stay small, niche and stick to the music, but if you set out to become the biggest band in the world and manage to achieve that feat (especially coming from a small country of only 5 million people), surely there should be some kudos. Possible to cut them some slack?

Now for the big one – the political activism and philanthropy. It seems as well as not liking bands to get too successful, we also don’t like them to refashion themselves as the next Messiah, which Bono kind of has. We don’t mind our rock and pop stars doing good (it was only after George Michael’s death that we found out how much good he did over the years) we just don’t want them to make a song and dance about it, especially if they are billionaires who engage in tax avoidance schemes. It was Red Nose Day yesterday and of course Mr Bono popped up on screen at one point encouraging us all, during a cost of living crisis, to part with some of our hard-earned cash. As ever I did, but it wasn’t lost on me that had he parted with 5% of his monthly income, as I did, there would no longer be any need for such charity fundraising events, but maybe I’m missing the point. Is it ever right to “hate” someone for being a Do-Gooder though? Maybe it would be better to quietly get on with things behind the scenes but not for everyone apparently. Possible to cut them some slack?

I don’t think I’m going to change anyone’s opinion of the band but maybe we should be more like my blogging buddy Rich (who is revisiting his favourite albums of 1983 at the moment), who “tries not to let artists’ personal stuff interfere with his enjoyment of their work” (his words). He wrote about their album War recently and it made me revisit some of their output from that time – rousing stuff indeed. Here is Sunday Bloody Sunday from their set which took place on that very hot sunny day at Wembley in 1985. Hindsight is a great thing, and we should probably have known from this performance what was to come from Mr Bono, but back then, their set was one of the ones I enjoyed most (not so sure about his high-heeled boots though).

Sunday Bloody Sunday by U2:

But if you have innocently dropped by and now been traumatised by what you have just read, watched and listened to, here is something to cleanse the palate. As I said it was St Patrick’s Day yesterday, but it was also Red Nose Day. On the live show it was a no-brainer that they would have an Irish group perform, but you’re quite safe, it was another one! I heard them earlier that day on the radio and here they were again on my telly screen. I give you those girls from Dublin who popped up on all of DD’s pop compilation albums when she was a wee tot, B*Witched, with Blame It On The Weatherman.

Blame It On The Weatherman by B*Witched:

Until next time…

Sunday Bloody Sunday Lyrics
(Song by Dave Evans/Paul David Hewson/Adam Clayton/Larry Mullen)

I can’t believe the news today
Oh, I can’t close my eyes and make it go away

How long? How long must we sing this song?
How long? How long?
‘Cause tonight, we can be as one tonight

Broken bottles under children’s feet
Bodies strewn across the dead end street
But I won’t heed the battle call
It puts my back up
Puts my back up against the wall

Sunday, Bloody Sunday
Sunday, Bloody Sunday
Sunday, Bloody Sunday
Sunday, Bloody Sunday
Alright, let’s go

And the battle’s just begun
There’s many lost, but tell me, who has won?
The trench is dug within our hearts
And mothers, children, brothers, sisters torn apart

Sunday, Bloody Sunday
Sunday, Bloody Sunday

How long? How long must we sing this song?
How long? How long?
‘Cause tonight, we can be as one tonight

Sunday, Bloody Sunday (Tonight, tonight)
Sunday, Bloody Sunday (Tonight, tonight)
Come get some

Wipe the tears from your eyes
Wipe your tears away
Oh, wipe your tears away
Oh, wipe your tears away

Sunday, Bloody Sunday (Oh, wipe your bloodshot eyes)
Sunday, Bloody Sunday
Sunday, Bloody Sunday
Sunday, Bloody Sunday, oh
Sunday, Bloody Sunday
Sunday, Bloody Sunday, oh
Yeah, let’s go

And it’s true, we are immune
When fact is fiction and TV reality
And today, the millions cry (Sunday, Bloody Sunday)
We eat and drink while tomorrow, they die (Sunday, Bloody Sunday)
The real battle just begun (Sunday, Bloody Sunday)
To claim the victory Jesus won (Sunday, Bloody Sunday)

Sunday, Bloody Sunday, yeah, yeah
Sunday, Bloody Sunday

Another Trip to Dundee, Aztec Camera and Keeping it in the Family

I was away from home last weekend and suspect I may have fallen behind with visiting some of my fellow bloggers’ sites. Apologies for that, but for once we left home with no devices other than a phone. We are slaves to the various shopping sites and booking platforms we peddle our wares on (you lose all your brownie points if you take too long to acknowledge sales or reply to queries), but sometimes you just want it all to STOP, if only for a few days, which we did manage to do. The box of padded envelopes which arrived when we were away sadly suffered the fate of being left outside our garage for three days, next to a leaky downpipe. Fortunately I saved most of them by lining them up along the radiators but for once the sometimes risky practice of leaving deliveries in the recycling bin might have been a better option.

So, where did I go? Nowhere warm and exotic sadly, but to celebrate Mr WIAA’s birthday we decided to, wait for it…, head to Dundee. We chose Dundee as a place for a short break a few years ago (written about here) and really enjoyed it so thought we’d give it another whirl. Dundee certainly doesn’t have the same tourist appeal of places like Edinburgh, and like most post-industrial cities it has its fair share of problems, but it’s definitely a city on the up. There has been much development going on along the waterfront of late and it also has some of the most interesting visitor attractions in Scotland. Everywhere we went the people were really friendly and a fair bit of ‘banter’ was had with the locals.

Dundee: The home of DC Thomson, Desperate Dan, The McManus Art Gallery, The Transport Museum and some fine local graffiti

We did head along to the V&A Dundee which is housed in an impressive new building designed in the shape of a ship, overhanging the Tay. The building itself is actually the most impressive thing about it however and so far the permanent collections are a bit sparse. A nice restaurant, gift shop and conference facilities, but not much else. Give me the McManus, the Transport Museum and a revamped Jute Mill any day, but maybe just me. Perhaps it will improve with time.

One exhibit in the V&A that did pique my interest was this one. Many visitors to this place will recognise these album covers but until now I hadn’t realised they were the work of Scottish artist David Band. As it says in the caption, his bold graphic style helped define the look of early 80s music. He apparently collaborated closely with Altered Images, Spandau Ballet and Aztec Camera to create these covers. As the first two bands in that list have appeared around here before, a good time to include something by Aztec Camera who quite unfathomably have never been featured. Here is the song Oblivious from their first album High Land, Hard Rain on display below, from 1983.

Oblivious by Aztec Camera:

Perhaps I should have chosen something by a Dundee band for this post but the usual suspects, Deacon Blue, Danny Wilson and The Associates have all already appeared. When writing about those bands I always expressed surprise that their most familiar songs only reached the lower reaches of the UK Singles Chart. Here we are again with Scottish band Aztec Camera, as their song Oblivious apparently only reached the No. 18 spot and that was after being re-released – what were we thinking. Aztec Camera were one of those bands first championed by Postcard Records, the Glasgow-based independent record label co-founded by Edwyn Collins and Alan Horne, a fertile period for music-making in Scotland. Roddy Frame of Aztec Camera was aged only 16 when he joined Postcard Records and doesn’t he look young in the clip above. Roddy is still active in the industry today.

Another reason we chose Dundee last weekend was because Mr WIAA has family who have moved to a place not too far from the city. Last time we visited them, I recounted the tale of how his two cousins have had a life-long involvement in the music industry which even included being signed to Atlantic Records for a time. We met up with them at their parents’ house on the Saturday and heard of the EP released to commemorate the 30th anniversary of that first signing. A lot of water under the bridge in the intervening period, regular jobs, families and lives going in totally different directions, but quite something to have ‘got the band back together again’. I give you Kiss of the Gypsy with Forever Loved:

Of course I had to take a few family photos on Saturday and here is one that shows how things can change over the years. Back in the day they could have been construed as a Hair Metal band. Now…, not so much!

All very Rock ‘n’ Roll, a photoshoot in your mum and dad’s conservatory!

Back in the day, the cousin on the left took the role of roadie for the band, however he has always been a drummer and is currently a member of Scottish punk band The Tolerated. This next clip is certainly a far cry from the soft rock and orchestral pop I usually share around here, but here they are with their cover of Maxwell Murder. Some very energetic drumming going on there.

So, ‘What’s It All About?’ – Despite being a home-loving kind of girl, I really enjoyed my few days away, and yet again found a great affinity for the city of Dundee. I would thoroughly recommend giving it a visit sometime although it might be best during the summer months, when it would be a lot warmer (it was very parky).

Cousins are in most cases the family members we see least once we are fully grown adults making our own way in the world. If you do ever meet up however, there are always lots of memories to share. As Mr WIAA spent most of his childhood holidays with his two cousins – in caravans by the beach usually – they had a lot of catching up to do. The music might be of the hard metal and punk persuasion, but you’d be hard-pressed to find a nicer couple of chaps. Glad they are still plying their trade.

Until next time…

Oblivious Lyrics
(Song by Roddy Frame)

From the mountain tops
Down to the sunny street
A different drum is playing a different kind of beat
It’s like a mystery
That never ends
I see you crying and I want to kill your friends

I hear your footsteps in the street
It won’t be long before we meet
It’s obvious
Just count me in and count me out
And I’ll be waiting for the shout

Met Mo and she’s okay
Said no one really changed
Got different badges but they wear them just the same
Down by the ballroom
I recognized
That flaming fountain in those kindred caring eyes

I hear your footsteps in the street
It won’t be long before we meet
It’s obvious
Just count me in and count me out
And I’ll be waiting for the shout

I hope it haunts me ’til I’m hopeless
I hope it hits you when you go
And sometimes on the edge of sleeping
It rises up to let me know
It’s not so deep, I’m not so slow

They’re calling all the shots
They’ll call and say they phoned
They’ll call us lonely when we’re really just alone
And like a funny film
It’s kinda cute
They’ve bought the bullets and there’s no one left to shoot

I hear your footsteps in the street
It won’t be long before we meet
It’s obvious
Just count me in and count me out
And I’ll be waiting for the shout


As I’m feeling a tad guilty about not having shared any music by Dundonians in this post, here is a discovery I made recently. Two of the founding members of the Average White Band were from Dundee and met whilst at Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art. Roger Ball and Malcolm ‘Molly’ Duncan were affectionately known as the ‘Dundee Horns’ as they both played saxophone.

I was a teenager when they were at their peak in the 1970s and to be honest didn’t even realise they were Scottish, what with funk and R&B not really being on the musical menu up here back then. They were the first Scottish band, in 1974, to get to No. 1 in both the US Singles and Album Charts simultaneously. Here they are with Let’s Go Round Again from 1980. (Still find it hard to believe they are Scottish – they don’t look or sound like any of the Dundonians I met last weekend!)

Let’s Go Round Again by the Average White Band:

And, that’s your lot for this time – you can’t say I don’t give you plenty of variety around here.

Months Of The Year In Song: February, The Start of Celtic Spring

It is with good grace that I return to this series with another edition. Last time I had complained that such series can end up not being as much fun as was anticipated at the outset. It has come to my attention several times this week however that this is very much a First World problem. Yesterday marked the first anniversary of the Russian invasion of Ukraine and it occurred to me that if any of the displaced Ukrainians being put up locally in hotels stumbled upon my post, they would not be impressed. They have lost everything. I have just temporarily lost my enthusiasm for something which in the grand scheme of things, is a bit of light-hearted fluff and nonsense. With that it mind let’s get on with it.

The name February apparently comes from the Latin term februum which means purification. The Roman ritual Februa was always held on February the 15th to ‘purify the city’, promoting health and fertility. Hmm…, interesting, NOT. I don’t know about you but I feel these Latin names used for the months of the year have well and truly lost their meaning in today’s world, but they’re too engrained now to be changed or updated. Valentine-uary or Snowdrop-uary anyone? No, that definitely wouldn’t work either, for all sorts of reasons, so we’re stuck with them. A safe and familiar pair of hands I suppose. Let’s look at the songs that reference February.

I’ll start off with a song suggested by two of last month’s visitors. First of all we had C who remembered a song she has never been too keen on, but which fits the remit. Here are her own words:

I can’t think of anything at all, apart from January February by Barbara Dickson which as I’m sure you know is not my cup of tea at all, but for some reason I seem to know it very well – it must have had a lot of radio play at the time.

Rigid Digit also came up with Barbara’s song as a suggestion, ‘a Scottish MOR Folkie Two For The Price Of One’, he said. Sadly I had forgotten about it for the January edition so a lost opportunity, but happy to include it now as I quite like Scottish MOR Folk. She’s had a long career Barbara Dickson and I feel a certain loyalty to her as first of all she’s Scottish, but also she used to work for a good friend’s dad way back in the day before she got her big break. Yes, Barbara used to be a humble civil servant in Rosyth where she grew up. A lot less glamorous than the world of West End Theatre, where she ended up.

January February by Barbara Dickson:

I look at Barbara in that clip and remember a perm I had in 1978 (and in 1979, in 1980…) that looked just like her one. That was a really popular style for girls back then and although it looks very dated now, and a bit poodle-like, it was a great low-maintenance style that just needed to be washed and left to dry naturally. A bit of a fluff up with one of those afro combs and you were good to go. My middle-aged hair needs much more maintenance, so I look back at those days fondly, although I now realise there was an element of cultural appropriation going on. The afro comb became recognised as a way of saying no to oppression, and wearing it in the hair led to a kind of comradeship amongst those whose hair grows up and out, not down. I was definitely not aware of this back in 1978 when I headed along to our local salon.

But this is supposed to be all about February songs so what else was suggested last time. Rick dropped by again:

Not a ton of great February songs but Xmas in February by Lou Reed is a good one, pretty sad tale though it is.

Crikey Rick that really is a sad tale – what a song though. It often occurs to me that had some of the American bloggers who visit this place been born a few years earlier, Vietnam would have beckoned. Not lost on you either I imagine.

Next up we have Ernie Goggins whose blog I have just discovered (apologies for the delay Ernie). Here are his own words:

Only a couple of suggestions for February, both of them as miserable as Rick’s suggestion – Cold Days of February by Edinburgh’s own Incredible String Band and Sad February by The Unthanks.

I had started this series with September songs and they were pretty sad but February seems to be upping the ante. Here are Ernie’s suggestions.

Martin from the New Amusements blog offered up this song by Billy Bragg, The Fourteenth of February. This is the studio version but Martin also added a link to a lovely, simple, live version. What a beautiful love song. Unlike Billy I do remember everything about the first time I met Mr WIAA but just down to the kind of memory I have. He, needless to say, remembers nothing.

Rol decided he couldn’t beat Martin’s suggestion, but offered up February by Dar Williams as an ‘also-ran’. Hope Dar never drops by as not an ‘also-ran’ song at all, although September by now has well and truly been usurped by February in the sadness stakes.

Neil came up with another Two For The Price Of One suggestion – Van Morrison’s March Winds In February. Thanks Neil, a new one for me from Mr Grumpy of Belfast, a Mr Grumpy who delivers sublime songs.

Nearly at the end of the suggestions now but Rigid Digit did come up with a second one. Here are his own words:

From the Foo Fighters The Colour & The Shape – is it the best Foos album? – comes February Stars. Actually, writing out that album title, I’ve just noticed – The Foo Fighters spell “Colour” properly, not the US English version sans U.

Yes Neil and Rick, funny that an American band used the British English spelling as opposed to the American English version, or as RD calls it, the proper version! Here is their February song.

Finally, we have Khayem’s pick for February:

My February suggestion is a lovely little instrumental ditty by Australian musical collective Architecture In Helsinki. One Heavy February is the opening song of their debut album (Fingers Crossed) from 2003, just under a minute long but with a fun video. 

He goes on to say:

I own a different version from 2008 on the Like It Or Not EP. No video for this one (though an image pops up around 0:38) but it’s a veritable extended club banger, with a handy run through of the calendar towards the end, all done in under three minutes. That’ll blow the cobwebs away! 

It certainly will Khayem, so thanks for suggesting that Australian collective with a Scandinavian capital in their name. Having just looked it up they apparently got their name after cutting up a newspaper and re-arranging the words. Was it a Finnish newspaper I wonder.

So, that brings our February edition to a close. All new songs for me apart from the Barbara one but regulars to this place would probably have expected that. A lot of sad songs amongst them, but personally I’ve quite enjoyed February this year. In the Celtic calendar, Spring starts on the 1st of February (Imbolc, written about here), and the lighter nights and flowers in my garden would attest to that.


Imbolc was one of the cornerstones of the Celtic calendar, as the success of the new farming season was of great importance. Winter stores of food were getting low and rituals were performed to ensure a steady supply of food until the harvest six months later. This year, it seems that however many rituals are performed, supermarkets are still going to be low on supplies of certain fruits and vegetables. All to do with climate change and politics though. Compared with what the people of Ukraine have been through over the last year I think we can forego our raspberries and cucumbers this month without too much complaint.

Next month is definitely a Spring month (if you live in the Northern Hemisphere) and it also means we are now half way through this series. If you have any March songs you would like to see included, please add them to the comments boxes. I couldn’t do this one without you.

Until next time…

Xmas In February Lyrics
(Song by Lou Reed)

Xmas in February
Sam was lyin’ in the jungle
Agent orange spread against the sky like marmalade
Hendrix played on some foreign jukebox
They were praying to be saved
Those gooks were fierce and fearless
That’s the price you pay when you invade
Xmas in February

Sam lost his arm in some border town
His fingers are mixed with someone’s crop
If he didn’t have that opium to smoke
The pain would never ever stop
Half his friends are stuffed into black body bags
With their names printed at the top
Xmas in February

Sammy was a short order cook
In a short order black and blue collar town
Everybody worked the steel mill
But the steel mill got closed down
He thought if he joined the army
He’d have a future that was sound
Like no xmas in February

Sam’s staring at the vietnam wall
It’s been a while now that he’s home
His wife and kid have left, he’s unemployed
He’s a reminder of the war that wasn’t won
He’s the guy on the street with the sign that reads
“Please help send this vet home”
But he is home
And there’s no xmas in February
No matter how much he saves

Months of the Year in Song: December Departed

Yet again I’m up against a deadline, sneaking the latest edition of this series into the tail end of the month, and what a month it’s been. I had fully expected this edition to be a really festive one, full of jollity and Christmas songs, but for me, December 2022 has been memorable for the sheer number of deaths there have been both in the world of celebrity and closer to home.

The latest tally ‘closer to home’ is now seven deaths since the start of the month. None of them family or really close friends, but people I knew through their offspring, through work, or from my neighbourhood. Out there in the wider world the obituaries just keep on coming. Last night we heard of the death of Vivienne Westwood (would punk have happened in quite the same way without her?), and yesterday we also lost Pele, whose playing style probably gave football the moniker, ‘the beautiful game’. On Christmas Eve we lost Maxi Jazz, lead vocalist of British electronic band Faithless. To be honest, until reading a comment about him on another blog just before his death, I wouldn’t have known his name, but there can’t be many of us who weren’t aware of him. Such a striking man whose struggle with Insomnia gave us the dance track that even those of us who missed the Ibiza boat knew well. I’ve already written tributes for Christine McVie and Terry Hall this month, but we’ve also lost Jet Black of the Stranglers, and many others from the world of music and entertainment.

In clockwise direction: Vivienne Westwood and pals, Christine McVie, Terry Hall, Maxi Jazz, Jet Black

Insomnia by Faithless:

But this is supposed to be a post full of December songs and appropriately I’m going to kick things off with George Michael, who himself died on Christmas Day, 2016. That year had been incredibly cruel for losses but his death was the one that hit me hardest as his music had accompanied me throughout my entire adult life up until that point. I’ve shared his December Song (I Dreamed of Christmas) around here before, but no reason not to share it again.

December Song (I Dreamed of Christmas) by George Michael:

It always seems a bit odd listening to Christmas songs after the 25th so apologies for the timing of this post. Hope everyone who visits this place had a good time over the peak festive period, but I am also aware it can be a tough time for many. For the second year in a row we went out for Christmas lunch as it seemed high time that DD and the new fiancé gave it a bash. I can report back that everything went really well and I think she got a lot less stressed than I usually do when juggling so many dishes at the same time. When we got back home in the evening though it was just the two of us, so very different from the years when we had our own parents, Mr WIAA’s siblings and DD to entertain. Just the place we’ve reached on the conveyor belt of life I suppose.

DD’s Christmas table complete with fancy napkins!

Before I get on with the song suggestions, here is the bit of trivia I found really interesting back in September, but now find a bit boring and repetitive. Yes, yet again the month of December is named after a Latin number, this time ten, or decem, all because the Roman calendar used to have 10 months with a gap for an ‘unorganised winter’. Phew, think we’re done with all that now, so it should get a bit more interesting once we head into a new calendar year.

The first suggestion last time came in from Rick who thought the line, ‘I wanted to assassinate Christmas’, in the Teenage Fanclub song, December, was a really good one. First time this Scottish band has put in an appearance around here, so thanks Rick, and yes, a sentiment many of us probably agree with.

Our next pick came from Ernie Goggins who suggested Merle Haggard’s song, If We Make It Through December. Listening to the lyrics I can’t help thinking there must be many, many families out there thinking exactly the same thing this year. Sadly, the way things are going, I don’t think there will be much respite in January, or February, and the current incumbent at No. 10 is not going to offer up any easy fixes. But thanks Ernie, a new song for me, and I do like Merle’s voice despite the sad lyrics.

Got laid off down at the factory
And their timing’s not the greatest in the world
Heaven knows I been workin’ hard
Wanted Christmas to be right for daddy’s girl

I don’t mean to hate December
It’s meant to be the happy time of year
And my little girl don’t understand
Why daddy can’t afford no Christmas here

Next up we have a suggestion from Khayem who for the second time in this series came up with something from the band The The (I think he must be a big fan). Here are his own words:

‘Unsurprisingly, lots and lots of December songs out there, so I’m just going to stick with one, although it’s been re-recorded and covered several times over. It’s DecemberSunlight (no spacing) by The The. The original version appeared on the 2000 album NakedSelf.’

Thanks Khayem, and anyone who wants to investigate some of the many covers can find them in last month’s comments boxes (link here).

Rol promised to be kind this time, with fewer suggestions to drown me with. As it turns out, a couple of the songs he mentioned, I would have included myself anyway. First of all, I can’t write a December themed post without including this song from the Four Seasons. I always used to think it was simply called, Oh What a Night, but the official title is December, 1963 (Oh, What a Night). This time the lead vocals came from drummer Gerry Polci, with Frankie Valli just singing the bridge sections and backing vocals. Whenever I hear this song I am transported back to 1975 when our newly minted community centre was the focal point for teenage social life (no iPhones in those days). Most of our year at school headed along every Saturday night for the ‘disco’, where the decks were manned by some of our enterprising classmates. Fun times played out to songs like this one, and as I’ve said around here before, I think the Four Seasons provided the backdrop to my first kiss!

December, 1963 (Oh, What A Night) by the Four Seasons:

Another of Rol’s suggestions was this one, December, by Count Basie & the Mills Brothers. The Mills Brothers, originally known as the Four Kings of Harmony, were an American jazz and traditional pop vocal quartet who made more than 2,000 recordings that sold more than 50 million copies. They were active from 1928 to 1980 and were the first African-American artists to have their own show on national network radio in the US.

December by The Mills Brothers:

I am reminded of a Christmas several years ago when our blogging buddy Jez used to ask for suggestions for his very entertaining feature, The Chain. I’m not sure how it came about but I remember offering up this Mills Brothers song back then as I had it in my library, and no suggestions were ever rejected. As it turns out Jez isn’t very well at the moment, so if he reads this, we’re all wishing you well and hope you can get back to the important business of blogging soon. No pressure though, health comes first an’ all that.

A suggestion now from C of Sun Dried Sparrows fame. Here are her own words:

‘The first song that springs to mind for me is My<Dsmbr by Linkin’ Park featuring Kelli Ali – I know, you’d have thought they could have spelt it correctly, will it be disqualified on the grounds of having no vowels? I’m no Linkin’ Park fan usually, but I like Kelli Ali for her time with Sneaker Pimps and creator of some great solo material and there’s just something about this song that seems to fit the mood of the month.’

No, won’t be disqualified C, so lets give it a listen. Yes, I do hear what you say about it fitting the mood of the month. Thanks for this one.

This next song was alluded to by Rol, but it was left to Rigid Digit to come out and suggest it properly. December Will Be Magic Again, by Kate Bush from 1980. Kate, who now lives quietly in an English village, became the artist de jour this last summer after her 1985 song Running Up That Hill was used for an important scene in the hit television drama Stranger Things. After 37 years it finally made it to the top spot on the UK Singles Chart, Kate’s first No. 1 since Wuthering Heights in 1978. For some reason her Christmas song is not one of the staples you hear on the radio much nowadays, which is a great shame, as classic Kate Bush.

The final song for this post comes from our blogging pal The Swede, who has been conspicuous by his absence this festive period. I suspect he might be too jiggered for blogging after long shifts keeping the nation fed, but hopefully all is well with him. Here are his own words:

‘My suggestion for the next instalment in this series is Fred Neil’s cover of December’s Dream, a song that unfathomably remained unreleased in his lifetime. Fred’s voice can reduce me to a blubbering wreck at the best of times, but here he just about finishes me off. The original version of the song by John Braheny is also excellent.’

Crikey TS, I see what you mean about that song, it’s got me reduced to a blubbering wreck too. A new artist and song for me, but what a beautiful and pure voice he has. Thank you for that suggestion.

Right, that’s definitely your lot for this month, and for the 2022 segment of this series. The next edition will come out before the end of January so yet again I would be most grateful for any of your song suggestions for that month (but please be sparing as these posts take a lot out of a person – I was warned!).

It’s going to be a quiet Hogmanay for us this year as there has been a radical change in our neighbourhood over the last few years meaning that the people we used to party with have either moved away, suffered illness or sadly passed away. On a positive note, I went to visit my mum in her care home earlier today and despite many of them having come down with flu, she was in good spirits and sporting a hat made out of balloons in the shape of a reindeer. (They’d had a magician in to entertain.) The mum I used to know would never have contemplated wearing a balloon hat, but the mum I now have is much more fun-loving and up for anything, so a bit of a blessing really.

Whatever you do for Hogmanay, whether it be watching a firework display, heading off to a party, or cosying up in front of the telly, I hope you have a good one.

Until next time…

December, 1963 (Oh, What A Night) Lyrics
(Song by Bob Gaudio/Judy Parker)

Oh, what a night
Late December, back in ’63
What a very special time for me
As I remember, what a night

Oh, what a night
You know, I didn’t even know her name
But I was never gonna be the same
What a lady, what a night

Oh, I, I got a funny feeling
When she walked in the room
And my, as I recall
It ended much too soon

(Oh, what a night)
Hypnotizing, mesmerisin’ me
She was everything I dreamed she’d be
Sweet surrender, what a night

And I felt a rush
Like a rolling bolt of thunder
Spinning my head around
And takin’ my body under
(Oh, what a night)

Oh, I got a funny feeling
When she walked in the room
And my, as I recall
It ended much too soon

(Oh, what a night)
Why’d it take so long to see the light?
Seemed so wrong, but now it seems so right
What a lady, what a night

Oh, I felt a rush
Like a rolling bolt of thunder
Spinning my head around
And takin’ my body under

(Oh, what a night)
Do do do, do do, do do do do
(Oh, what a night)
Do do do, do do, do do do do
(Oh, what a night)
Do do do, do do, do do do do
(Oh, what a night)
Do do do, do do, do do do do.

He Was Special, He Was Fun: RIP Terry Hall

WIAA: Alyson, oh Alyson… ?

ALYSON: I know, WIAA, it looks as if I’ve gone AWOL the week before Christmas but year on year I get more and more nostalgic about days gone by and for all those Christmases spent with family and friends who are no longer with us.

WIAA: I suspected that might have been the case – I suppose it doesn’t help that this is a retrospective music blog where you revisit those festive songs enjoyed throughout your life, especially those from your youth.

ALYSON: Indeed. I will no doubt snap out of it before the big day but in the last few weeks: three of my close friends have lost a parent; last night I found out that an old work colleague had died suddenly at the age of 62; and today, I woke up to the awful news that Terry Hall has also died. He was only 63.

WIAA: Terry Hall?

ALYSON: You might not remember, WIAA, but he has appeared on these pages before, in the context of being attached to one of the most exciting new labels in the history of British music – 2 Tone Records. In fact the band he was in, The Specials, got the whole 2 tone movement started, something intrinsically linked to my time as a student, whilst I was still in my late teens. Such a great time to be alive.

You know what, WIAA, I think you’ve just snapped me out of my fug. The festive post can wait for now as instead I really want to pay tribute to Terry Hall, someone whose death is eliciting great sadness today in fans of a certain age.

My last post was about the death of Christine McVie, and I mentioned that the Fleetwood Mac album Rumours had found its way into my Christmas stocking in 1977. What I hadn’t said then was that it had been a gift from the school boyfriend. In 1979 the self-titled album The Specials also found its way into my Christmas stocking, and it was from the same boy, except this time he was the student boyfriend. We had parted company for quite some time after school but at the tail end of the ’70s we had found each other again and immediately reconnected, spending most of our free time together, listening to albums by artists like The Specials and Elvis Costello. I will always associate The Specials with that time in my life. Although it was really Jerry Dammers’ band, Terry Hall was the very stolid, ‘unjumpy’ lead vocalist, so much of the focus was always on him. Here they are with Too Much Too Young, a song from that first 1979 album.

Too Much Too Young by The Specials:

The music we were listening to was no longer the slick, soft rock made in studios on the West Coast of America, which suited the comfortable lives we had led in our parents’ warm homes whilst at school. Things had changed, we were now poor students dressed in charity shop finds, living in pretty grotty cold tenement flats and becoming aware of the social injustices documented in songs by bands like The Specials. Their music came on the back of punk but was combined with ska and rocksteady which also made it very danceable. It was right for the times.

The Specials were short-lived as a band but before they split they released this non-album single, Ghost Town, a song that spent three weeks at the No. 1 spot on the UK Singles Chart in 1981. Again it felt right for the times and evoked themes of urban decay, unemployment and violence in our inner cities, something that came to a head in the summer of 1981. The song was hailed as a major piece of popular social commentary, and all three of the major UK music magazines awarded Ghost Town the accolade of Single of the Year.

Ghost Town by The Specials:

After his time with The Specials, Terry Hall, along with Neville Staple and Lynval Golding formed the Fun Boy Three. This time the songs were less frenetic, less political and more… fun. They teamed up with Banarama for a couple of single releases and even recorded a beautiful cover of the standard, Summertime. Here is the song Terry wrote with Jane Wiedlen of the Go-Go’s during their short-lived romance, My Lips Are Sealed. Both bands released the song as a single but of course on their respective sides of the pond. Needless to say the Fun Boy Three version did best on the UK Singles Chart reaching the No. 2 spot in 1983. (Terry’s hair definitely looking a bit different from when he was with The Specials – ’twas the times.)

Our Lips Are Sealed by Fun Boy Three:

But Terry never stood still for long (no pun intended) and by 1984 he had formed another band The Colourfield. Their first album was full of really beautiful songs like this one, Thinking Of You. He was still just in his mid-20s but was now a very different artist to the one who signed up with The Specials only seven years earlier. I too was a very different person in my mid-20s to the one who had first discovered The Specials in 1979. The world of work had beckoned and the flats had got nicer. The city I lived in, Aberdeen, was experiencing a bit of an oil boom, so the lyrics to those earlier songs didn’t really resonate with me or my friends any more. The school/student boyfriend and I didn’t last the distance, and we eventually parted company just as Terry’s time as a chart artist was also coming to an end. Terry would never be as commercially successful again in terms of record sales, but I’m glad he carried on making new music, collaborating with other artists right up until his untimely and premature death.

RIP Terry Hall

So, ‘What’s It All About?’ – I’m sorry I’ve not managed anything festive yet this year, but still time hopefully. I’ve been having one of those intense spells of contacting bereaved friends, and organising flowers & sympathy cards. Just as you hope there’s going to be a bit of a respite something like this comes along, an artist you haven’t really been following for a long time dies suddenly, and all the memories from a certain period in your life come flooding back. I’ve been trying to remember what other albums I got as a gift from the same boyfriend, as that’s two now that have featured in back to back tribute posts – I won’t say, as I don’t want to tempt fate, but as we music bloggers of a certain age always say, it’s kind of inevitable that we’re going to be writing tribute posts on a more regular basis as time goes by.

My condolences to Terry’s family and friends who along with his many fans will be grieving today.

Until next time… RIP Terry Hall.

Our Lips Are Sealed Lyrics
(Song by Terry Hall/Jane Wiedlin)

Can you hear them talking ’bout us
Telling lies? Is that a surprise?
Can you see them, see right through them?
They have a shield, nothing must be revealed
It doesn’t matter what they say
No one listens anyway
Our lips are sealed

There’s a weapon that we can use
In our defense, silence
Well, just look at them, look right through them

That’s when they disappear, that’s when we lose the fear
It doesn’t matter what they say
In the jealous games people play
Our lips are sealed
It doesn’t matter what they say
No one’s listening anyway
Our lips are sealed

Hush, my darling, don’t you cry
Guardian angel, forget their lies

Can you hear them talking ’bout us
Telling lies? Well, that’s no surprise
Can you see them, see right through them?
They have a shield, nothing must be revealed
It doesn’t matter what they say
In the jealous games people play
Our lips are sealed
Pay no mind to what they say
It doesn’t matter anyway
Our lips are sealed
Our lips are sealed
Our lips are sealed

Rant Warning! and The Tourists, ‘So Good To Be Back Home Again’

Every now and again we like to have a little rant on our blogs. These rants don’t tend to be about music (although we usually find an appropriate song to tag onto the end) but instead are about something in our day to day lives that is really hacking us off.

Over the last few weeks I have been totally preoccupied with the new legislation around the letting out of holiday accommodation. I don’t tend to mention my little holiday hideaway around here any more, as I’m acutely aware the owners of such premises are being blamed for pretty much all of society’s ills at present. The housing shortage, the hollowing out of communities, noisy party flats full of stags and hens…!

In my defence, the little terraced cottage we took over from our friends a few years back is only seven years old and has never been anything other than a holiday cottage since it was built. It’s just a two-minute walk away from my own house so I’m always there to greet guests and am available to help them with whatever they might need during their stay. Before accepting the booking, I can find out a bit more about the reason for their stay and so am always able to make sure the cottage is a good fit for their needs. No stag or hen parties have ever happened on my watch. In the last year I have had three sets of guests mention in their review that mine is the best holiday let they have ever stayed in, and that I’m a great host! Sounds as if I’m blowing my own trumpet doesn’t it, but despite it being very tying (as I am in effect a 24-hour concierge service), and hard work, I have learnt the ropes and feel as if I’m now pretty good at this hospitality malarkey.

‘So, what’s the problem Alyson?’ I hear you ask.

As of April 2023, Scotland will become the most heavily regulated country in the world when it comes to holiday/short-term lets. The success of the big booking platforms has meant that in places like Edinburgh’s Royal Mile, around 80% of the flats are short-term lets. This has understandably upset many of the locals and those who can’t find affordable long-term rental accommodation, so change was badly needed. Sadly, the legislation which came about as a response, is going to apply to the whole of Scotland, so even those little B&Bs, chalets and cottages on the West Coast which have been very efficiently and safely operating for decades, find themselves caught up in a welter of rules and red tape that would challenge even the most astute business brain.

At this point I just want to make it clear that I am in no way complaining about the new rules and regulations, as lord knows they were needed – it had become like the Wild West with anyone and everyone offering up a decidedly dodgy spare room with no checks being done whatsoever. My issue is this – I have been working on getting the appropriate certificates and adaptations for the cottage for over two months now and still have a long way to go. It has been very expensive, and will continue to be so, as it seems my beautiful glass doors are now going to have to be replaced too. My wee place is going to look like a miniature chain hotel with ugly signage, fire doors, and fire extinguishers in every room. It’s going to scream, ‘Are you sure you want to stay here? There is almost certainly going to be a fire what with the need for all this apparatus everywhere.’

That in itself is bad enough, but for me, and most of my other rule-abiding friends in the business, the biggest concern is that it’s not going to be policed, as no budget has been put in place for the manpower you would need to do so. As ever, those of us who jump through all the hoops and do the right thing are going to have to co-exist with those who will ignore all the new legislation and more than likely, get away with it. Anecdotally, more than half the people who offer up accommodation are still unaware of the new legislation or think it doesn’t apply to them, and that’s where we are with only a few months left to get everything in place.

But we’re going to make it really hard for you…

At the moment I am in two minds about whether I want to carry on, despite having done so much of the work needed already. I had thought the new legislation would make things better, and safer, for guests to our little country but from what I’m hearing, most of those small-scale hosts who have always followed the rules and operated in a really professional manner are going to give up, leaving only those who give the holiday letting business a bad name. Tourism in Edinburgh, which has specifically been designated a planning control zone, will fall off a cliff as very few of the properties there will be allowed to keep operating. I think we can say farewell to the Edinburgh Festival which has been the world’s largest arts gathering for decades now. I also fear for those crofting communities in the far-flung corners of the Highlands, where renting out rooms to tourists over the summer months is the only way they can get by over the tough winter months.

But I am aware this is a First World problem, and in the midst of a cost-of-living crisis this rant is perhaps verging on being tone-deaf. For those of us in areas where tourism is seasonal however, and who rely on the income from their budget range accommodation to see them through the rest of the year, it is causing real anxiety. It will take a year or two to truly filter through, but I fear all that will be left will be expensive hotel rooms, luxury homes, and corporate aparthotels. Morag from Ross-shire will have to shut the door of her wee holiday cottage for good, as it seems we can no longer trust families to spend more than five minutes in our places without setting fire to themselves, interlinked fire-alarms notwithstanding. It’s going to change the face of tourism in Scotland which makes me really sad. If you want to come and stay in some really poor unregulated accommodation however, I’m sure it will still be on offer, as no-one is going to make the effort to police it.

As for the song, I had a bit of an epiphany earlier – I was thinking…, tourists, Scots returning home to visit from elsewhere… and I remembered a concert I went to in Aberdeen many years ago when local girl Annie Lennox was lead singer with the band The Tourists. It was 1980 and they had just reached the No. 8 spot in the UK Singles Chart with this song, So Good To Be Back Home Again. Annie was indeed delighted to be back in Aberdeen that night in front of a home audience, so apt indeed. Luckily for her she could get a bed for the night at her parents’ house. For newbie bands travelling around the country in 2023, I fear they will find it nigh impossible to find any reasonably priced accommodation. Tighter rules were definitely needed but I suspect they have gone just too far, and tourists will find it really hard to visit our lovely country from next year.

So Good To Be Back Home Again by The Tourists:

Not looking for any feedback on this one as I am aware this topic is a controversial one. I’m just sad that I’ve put so much effort into my place only to have been faced first with a pandemic when we all had to stay at home, and now this. I am by nature an abider of ‘the rules’ and certainly don’t want to risk getting a criminal record for having missed a tick box on my licence. It’s a big worry for many of us. The real casualty I fear is going to be one of our most celebrated industries, Scottish tourism.

Until next time…

So Good To Be Back Home Again Lyrics
(Song by Peet Coombes)

It’s so good to be back here again
Having fun with all my friends
When everybody says hello
You know there’s nowhere else to go
It’s so good
(Ooh, ooh, ooh)
Yeah, it’s so good
(Ooh, ooh, ooh)
It’s so good to be back home again

Baby, I’ve been so far away
Been so lonely
Every night and day
There’s only one thing I wanna do
I wanna get back home to you

It’s so good
(Ooh, ooh, ooh)
Yeah, it’s so good
(Ooh, ooh, ooh)
It’s so good to be back home again

It’s so good
(Ooh, ooh, ooh)
Yeah, it’s so good
(Ooh, ooh, ooh)
It’s so good to be back home again

Baby, I’ve been so far away
Been so lonely
Every night and day
When my baby holds me tight
You know I want to stay the night

It’s so good
(Ooh, ooh, ooh)
Yeah, it’s so good
(Ooh, ooh, ooh)
It’s so good to be back home again

It’s so good to be back home again

It’s so good to be back home again