Key Largo, Kokomo and Yet Another Outrageous Musical Sub-Genre

I’ve not been a very productive blogger of late – only six posts over the last three months which is my publication rate since setting up this place over six years ago. I’d like to say it’s purely because I’ve been so busy, which I have, but in reality I think I’ve become a bit of a telly addict and come evening Mr WIAA and I are drawn to the many delights offered up on the small screen. That said, even when I sat down to write this afternoon, the words just wouldn’t come – Mr WIAA suggested I try some blogging prunes, but before I avail myself of these delicacies (I think we all need them from time to time), I’ll try and make use of this draft, put together straight after revisiting the song Ride Like the Wind by Christopher Cross. It’s been sitting as a draft because I decided it might be a bridge too far, even for this place, but in the absence of anything new coming to mind, I’ll try again.

It’s actually all Rol’s fault, but ever since this chap popped up on his regular Saturday Snapshots quiz feature, I’ve been wondering how to shoehorn his one-hit wonder into the blog. I very recently shared a song by Christopher Cross, whose music, back in the ’80s, fell into a sub-genre called Yacht Rock. Aha I thought, as a follow-up post I can finally share that spectacular example of yacht rock from 1982, Key Largo by Bertie Higgins. When I looked into it a bit more however, it turns out that Bertie’s song was attributed to yet another sub-genre called Tropical Rock, one I had never heard of before. Is there truly no end to the number of labels we attach to the three minute pop song.

Key Largo by Bertie Higgins:


The premise of Bertie’s song is that a romance is compared to the one between Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall, who famously fell in love and married after starring opposite each other in ‘To Have and Have Not’, when she was 19 and he was 44. The Hollywood couple went on to make many more films together, one of which being Key Largo set in the upper Florida Keys. Bertie himself was from Florida so it’s not a stretch to see how the inspiration for his song came about. Watching the video for the song now, in terms of style it just screams Miami Vice with all the boxes ticked: white clothes, jacket sleeves rolled up, gold medallion, patterned shirt with upturned collar, Barry Gibb hair and beard, a tropical breeze, speedboats, sunsets and cigarettes. The romance portrayed in the video also mirrors the Bogie/Bacall romance in that the age difference between Bertie and his co-star is obviously sizeable (20 years to be exact) but somehow this bit of tropical glamour from the early ’80s has not stood the test of time, and it ends up looking a bit comedic in 2022.

An on-screen couple who still look pretty cool today are the original stars of Key Largo, Bogie and ‘Betty’ (as he used to call her – her real name). I loved watching these old black and white movies when they popped up on telly when I was growing up and I had a pretty good knowledge of all the Hollywood greats and the films they starred in at a very young age. These oldies don’t crop up very often on our viewing schedules nowadays but if you ever seek them out on some of the streaming services, they are still well worth a watch. It’s a really difficult thing to define but if you want to know what ‘cool’ looks like on screen, watch some of Bogie’s films. He has that elusive quality in spades (Sam Spades – an in-joke). Bertie, not so much.


But what else can be attributed to this newfound sub-genre called Tropical Rock? According to the well-known online encyclopaedia, its main focus was on ‘escapism’ – a laid back lifestyle, tropical places, boating and having fun. (Well, that tallies with Bertie’s video). It is also usually associated with southern Florida and the Gulf Coast of the US.

The Beach Boys in 1988

Another perfect example of tropical rock must be that Beach Boys (minus Brian) song Kokomo then, I thought to myself, except it turns out Kokomo is not even an actual place but a fictional island off the Florida Keys. Whatever, the song about it featured in the 1988 film Cocktail starring a young Tom Cruise. I think I even went to see that film at the cinema when it came out, but yet again it perhaps hasn’t stood the test of time, because it was so very much ‘of its time’.


An awful lot of clips in this one already but my current addiction to telly means this scene came to mind when I thought of the song Kokomo. If you haven’t yet watched the American comedy drama Space Force, created by and starring Steve Carell, I would thoroughly recommend it. Whenever poor old General Naird is under severe pressure and is fast approaching a meltdown, the solution is to launch into a version of Kokomo and here we see the main cast all joining him in the final ever scene (not too much of a spoiler there).


So, ‘What’s it all about? – I seem to have managed to unblock the blockage without resorting to blogging prunes. I also seem to have found out about another sub-genre of music I had never encountered before. Despite being a supposed music blogger (although I never actually call myself that) barely a post goes by without me making some reference to a film, or television show, as that’s pretty much where I get all my inspiration from. I know a lot of you out there do probably sit in a darkened room, just listening to music, but nowadays I like mine to come with moving pictures too.

I always feel bad if I’ve been a bit dismissive about someone I’ve written about as that’s not what this place is about. It’s not lost on me either that an awful lot of the music made by George Michael, of whom I was and still am a great fan, could probably have come under the umbrella Tropical Rock – The Careless Whisper video was shot in Miami (where the humidity caused real problems for George’s naturally very curly hair) and the Club Tropicana video looks as if it’s a scene straight out of the film Cocktail. No indeed, if Bertie ever drops by to see what I’ve written about him, I can only congratulate him on having had his time in the sun (both literally and figuratively) and if I’m not mistaken he’s still going strong today, so good for him.

Any more outrageous musical sub-genres I should write about? There are certainly plenty of them out there so this one could run and run.

Until next time…

Key Largo Lyrics
(Song by Bertie Higgins/Sonny Limbo)

Wrapped around each other
Trying so hard to stay warm
That first cold winter together
Lying in each other’s arms

Watching those old movies
Falling in love so desperately
Honey, I was your hero
And you were my leading lady

We had it all
Just like Bogie and Bacall
Starring in our own late, late show
Sailing away to Key Largo

Here’s lookin’ at you kid
Missing all the things we did
We can find it once again, I know
Just like they did in Key Largo

Honey, can’t you remember
We played all the parts
That sweet scene of surrender
When you gave me your heart

Please say you will
Play it again
Cause I love you still
Baby this can’t be the end

We had it all (we had it all)
Just like Bogie and Bacall
Starring in our old late, late show
Sailing away to Key Largo

Here’s lookin’ at you kid (here’s lookin’ at you kid)
Missing all the things we did
We can find it once again, I know
Just like they did in Key Largo

We had it all (we had it all)
Just like Bogie and Bacall

FREE AGAIN…!, Christopher Cross and ‘Ride Like The Wind’

I’ve been a bit of a part-time blogger of late because my college course has been taking up most of my spare time. The last assessment has now been submitted however, so as of this week, I’M FREE AGAIN…

but I don’t have to ride like the wind,

I don’t have a long way to go,

and I don’t have to make it to the border of Mexico…, to be free again. Phew.

Cue Christopher Cross from 1980, with Ride Like The Wind.

Ride Like The Wind by Christopher Cross:


Well, I genuinely didn’t intend to revisit Christopher’s song when I sat down to blog today, but as soon as I’d typed those words about being free again, as happens with predictive text on our phones, the rest of the the lyrics jumped into my head. I can’t remember what I did yesterday but I can remember all the words to a song from over 40 years ago that only reached the No. 69 spot on the UK Singles Chart. To be fair it gets quite a bit of airplay on some of the mainstream radio stations and it also popped up on the soundtrack to a film I went to see last week…, so that could explain why the predictive lyrics popped into my head.

My Last Thursday of the Month Film Club is getting back on track and last week we went to see The Phantom of the Open starring Mark Rylance. I come from a sport-loving family so all through my childhood and teenage years I had a fairly good knowledge of what was happening in the world of sport – The Olympics, The World Cup, Wimbledon and golf’s British Open were all watched in our house. For some reason however, I didn’t remember the name Maurice Flitcroft, the non-golfer who somehow blagged his way into the 1976 British Open. It could never happen in today’s world, but back then the administration behind these big competitions was a lot more analogue, and ‘players’ like Maurice could slip through the net. It was a really enjoyable watch, very funny in places, but it also had a lot of heart. The soundtrack was chock full of ’70s and ’80s songs I knew well, and to accompany one of Maurice’s flights from the fairway whilst being chased by officials, they used Ride Like The Wind (had Maurice and his caddy son been in a buggy it would have made even more sense, but it still worked with them on foot).


Christopher Cross has appeared around here before when his song about being caught between the moon and New York city featured in my Full Moon In Song series. Back then I mentioned that Christopher had been pigeon-holed as a proponent of Yacht Rock, a sub-genre of Soft Rock which sadly was poked fun at back in the day. Anyone who visits this place regularly will know I don’t have a problem with soft rock at all, but of course I am conscious that such fodder might not fit the sidebars of some of the serious music blogs I have very kindly been added to. Hope we are a broad enough church around here to accept all comers and that I don’t sully your ‘cool’ blogs with my post titles.

It was Christopher’s song Sailing that led the pack when it came to having yacht rock credentials. Such music apparently related to the stereotype of the yuppie yacht owner, who enjoyed smooth music while out for a sail. Since sailing was a popular leisure activity in Southern California, many yacht rockers deliberately made nautical references in their lyrics, videos, and album artwork. Ride Like The Wind on the other hand, was inspired by the cowboy movies Christopher grew up with. He came from San Antonio near Mexico so as a kid he always thought of the border as being a place where an outlaw could escape authority, drink and behave in a debauched manner. Cowboy boots and hard liquor rather than designer deck shoes and cocktails with little parasols this time.


So, ‘What’s It All About?’ – If you ever have to take a break from blogging, for whatever reason, it’s quite hard to get back into it again as I think you lose your momentum, and your confidence. In some ways it was a lot easier when I started out as a music blogger as no-one knew about me and few people dropped by. I could revisit whoever I wanted to, without feeling self-conscious about whether they fell into the ‘cool’ camp or not. Anyway, I’m back, and I’ve shared Christopher Cross, someone whose songs I’ve always enjoyed. If I have to be removed from some of the sidebars, so be it (but I hope not).

Something nice that did happen this week was that I got a badge from the WordPress people telling me I had now clocked up over 500,000 views around here. A new one on me and not a landmark I would have spotted had I not received the alert. I may not always be ‘cool’ with my song choices but I must be doing something right.

My badge from the WordPress people

Until next time…

Ride Like The Wind Lyrics
(Song by Christopher Cross)

It is the night
My body’s weak
I’m on the run
No time to sleep

I’ve got to ride
Ride like the wind
To be free again

And I’ve got such a long way to go
To make it to the border of Mexico
So I’ll ride like the wind
Ride like the wind

I was born the son of a lawless man
Always spoke my mind with a gun in my hand
Lived nine lives
Gunned down ten
Gonna ride like the wind

And I’ve got such a long way to go
To make it to the border of Mexico
So I’ll ride like the wind
Ride like the wind

Accused and tried and told to hang
I was nowhere in sight when the church bells rang
Never was the kind to do as I was told
Gonna ride like the wind before I get old

It is the night
My body’s weak
I’m on the run
No time to sleep
I’ve got to ride
Ride like the wind
To be free again

And I’ve got such a long way to go
To make it to the border of Mexico
So I’ll ride like the wind
Ride like the wind

Postscipt:

Another soft rock legend Michael McDonald, ex of the Doobie Brothers and Steely Dan can be heard singing backing vocals on Ride Like The Wind.

‘Such a long way to go’ – Yep, that’s his line (immortalised in The Cleveland Show).

A Return to Live Theatre, Dolly Parton and the Legacy of ‘9 to 5’

Last time I wrote a bit of a frivolous post about people in the music business with very ‘big’ hair, inspired by the fact my own locks are currently proving troublesome (damp winter weather I think). It didn’t take long for me to get to Dolly Parton, as although in today’s world her look could almost be seen as understated, back in the 1970s her blousy, blonde wigs did raise a few eyebrows.

Dolly then and Dolly now

I was probably also drawn to Dolly because last week I had my first time back in our local theatre since before the pandemic. If you live in the far north of Scotland, the opportunities to see a West End show are limited indeed, so if a production comes to us, it feels only right we should support it.

My friend and I had bought tickets for Dolly’s stage musical 9 to 5 nearly two years ago, but after having been postponed twice, this time the show actually went ahead. Sadly the friend I should have been going with has not been well for some time, another victim not of the virus, but of one of the many side-effects of the pandemic itself. I wish her well and hope she is back to her old self soon, but in the meantime she very magnanimously said I could give her ticket to another. In the end it wasn’t easy, as some of us are still nervous about attending mass gatherings and no-one relished the prospect of wearing a mask throughout the show, but quite appropriately an old colleague from my days of working in offices said she’d love to come.

I went to see the film 9 to 5 when it first came out back in 1980. It was the first time Dolly had appeared on the big screen and just as with everything else she turns her hand to, she rose to the challenge beautifully, and ended up winning several awards, both for her acting and for the title song. The film was the brainchild of fellow 9 to 5 actor Jane Fonda, and she wanted it to be a comedy rather than a preachy, feminist drama, in order to get the message across more subtly. If you’ve never seen it, the basic premise is that three very capable women live out their fantasies of getting even with, and overthrowing, the company’s ‘autocratic, sexist, egotistical, lying, hypocritical bigot’ boss (the full gamut). They show you can run an office without a boss, but you can’t run an office without the secretaries.

9 to 5 by Dolly Parton:


To be honest I think I just took it at comedic face value first time around and I hadn’t yet stepped foot in a working office to know how things were anyway. Watching the stage show last week, in 2021, I was blown away by how much things have changed over the decades. Just possibly, the empowerment given to female office workers back in 1980 via the film, kickstarted the revolution that led to equal pay for equal work, flexible working, job-share schemes and so on. I know it was well underway by the time I joined the workforce, and by the time I had DD, the opportunity to work part-time or flexibly was firmly in place.

It’s not lost on me that since the pandemic, most people now seem to work from home, and a return to the 9 to 5-style office will probably never happen again, but I really appreciate that I entered (and left) the workplace at probably just the right time. Coincidentally, C over at Sun Dried Sparrows recently shared some job adverts from 1975 which were a real eye-opener. As I say, we’ve come a long way.

An unexpected surprise for me at last week’s show was that Dolly herself appeared on stage, albeit via a big screen. She wrote all the songs for the musical but is also the narrator. In her inimitable style, she gives us many ‘Dollyisms’ and also sings 9 to 5. It was a fun way to break myself back into theatre-going. If you listen carefully to the song’s intro, the clacking typewriter rhythm was devised by running her acrylic fingernails back and forth against one another.

So, ‘What’s It All About?’ – I’m not sure if this is a temporary blip or what, but when I returned to blogging this time last week I was a bit down and admitted to not feeling myself. Turns out she doesn’t even have to bottle it, all you have to do is immerse yourself in Dolly World (as opposed to Dollywood) for 48 hours and your spirits are raised no end. The feedback to my first Dolly post was very positive which shows just how much she is loved and admired. She seems to be a genuinely ‘good’ person who is now putting all her energies into making life better for others, whether it be through scholarships, her Imagination Library, creating local job opportunities, or simply through her music.

There are many, many famous quotes from her out there but I think most of us know them already, so to finish off I’m going to share the address she delivered to students at the University of Tennessee when she received her honorary degree. I think she won over a great many of the sceptical academics that day, and quite rightly so (we’ll ignore Prof Grumpy to her right) – She may be blonde but Dolly is most definitely not dumb. If you scroll through to 3:55 you will get to the point where she passes on some of the wisdom she has used to great effect in her own journey through life. I really hope the graduating students took heed, as they have one helluva fairy godmother in Dolly.

Until next time…

9 to 5 Lyrics
(Song by Dolly Parton)

Tumble out of bed
And stumble to the kitchen
Pour myself a cup of ambition
And yawn and stretch and try to come to life

Jump in the shower
And the blood starts pumpin’
Out on the streets, the traffic starts jumpin’
For folks like me on the job from 9 to 5

Workin’ 9 to 5
What a way to make a livin’
Barely gettin’ by
It’s all takin’ and no givin’

They just use your mind
And they never give you credit

It’s enough to drive you
Crazy if you let it

9 to 5
For service and devotion
You would think that I
Would deserve a fat promotion

Want to move ahead
But the boss won’t seem to let me
I swear sometimes that man is
Out to get me, hmmm

They let you dream
Just a watch ’em shatter
You’re just a step on the boss man’s ladder
But you got dreams he’ll never take away

In the same boat with a lot of your friends
Waitin’ for the day your ship’ll come in
And the tide’s gonna turn
And it’s all gonna roll you away

Workin’ 9 to 5
What a way to make livin’
Barely gettin’ by
It’s all takin’ and no givin’

They just use your mind
And you never get the credit
It’s enough to drive you
Crazy if you let it

9 to 5
Yeah, they got you were they want you
There’s a better life
And you think about it, don’t you?

It’s a rich man’s game
No matter what they call it
And you spend your life
Putting money in his wallet

9 to 5
Oh, what a way to make a livin’
Barely gettin’ by
It’s all takin’ and no givin’

They just use your mind
And they never give you credit

It’s enough to drive you
Crazy if you let it

The New College Experience, Soft Cell and ‘Bedsitter’

It’s a fair while since I posted anything new around here and I can’t help but compare my current blogging output to that of the same month last year. Back then I had very ambitiously decided to come out in support of my college chums, who were embarking on NaNoWriMo, and decided to attempt 30 posts in 30 days. I was never going to write a novel so this was my blogging equivalent. Amazingly I got to day 18 before calling time on my challenge, more down to the worsening ache in my neck and shoulders rather than any lack of inspiration, and I actually outdid some of the wannabe novel writers in the class in terms of word count.

But here we are a year on, and suffice to say I’m not myself at the moment. I don’t know about you, but I’ve not been a fan of 2021, which is ironic considering what hit us last year. My old life has gone and isn’t coming back any time soon. Considering I use this place as my web diary, as well as a place to share music from my past, probably best that I’ve stayed away for a while.

My college course has all been online again this year, but no mention of NaNoWriMo this time around and few now drop by for the ‘live’ lectures. We seem to be just going through the motions to get the grades, and the institution appears to prefer it that way, so this will now be the future of higher education in my neck of the woods. Lectures are now finished for the semester and only one assessment still to submit but I haven’t got to know a single person from the new class this year and only know what three of them look like (ironically the other more mature students). I fear the younger ones who would have been excited about ‘going to Uni’ back in September, will have been disappointed.

At times like this I often hark back to when I last was a student, around 40 years ago. Back then the idea of gaining a degree without ever leaving your room would have been unthinkable. It was probably a really inefficient use of our time, but many happy hours were spent in the library sourcing material and copying it out in longhand before decanting to the refectory for food, or to the student bar for a very sociable drink. Wherever we went there were hundreds of people and you got to know a great many of them during that first term. Now, not so much.

I think many of us of a certain age have kind of lost the plot when it comes to new music and what young people are listening to at the moment. 40 years ago however I was in my final year of completing a really enjoyable degree in geography and was pretty familiar with everything that remotely made it near the charts. Looking at the chart from this same week all those years ago, here is something that jumps out at me, Bedsitter by Soft Cell. This was only their second single release after the massive success of Tainted Love earlier on in 1981. This time however it was self-penned and it reached No. 4 in the UK Singles Chart.

Bedsitter by Soft Cell:


I look at the lyrics in this song and think of some of today’s students holed up in their rooms for most of the day, rarely venturing out. We had to write a piece in the early weeks of this semester about a typical day in our lives, and some of the submissions shocked me. Other than popping to the supermarket for a pizza, most students now spend all day in front of a screen, as when the studying ends, gaming and the watching of YouTube clips takes over. Unlike Marc Almond who just seemed to spend his time in bedsitter land in between going out clubbing, I don’t think our town’s nightlife has really got started again yet after the pandemic. With covid restrictions still in place and the mandatory wearing of facemasks, perhaps a life lived online is still preferable, and more than Marc had in 1981.

Sorry I’m not on my best form at the moment, but decided to not hold off any longer before sharing something new. I’ve had quite a lot on this month and have more stories to tell so will return with them in due course. It’s been a crazy couple of years and we’ve all had our ups and downs. Hopefully I’ll pull myself out of this down sooner rather than later. In the meantime I have that last assessment to finish – Onward and upward.

Until next time…

Bedsitter Lyrics
(Song by David Ball/Marc Almond)

Sunday morning going slow
I’m talking to the radio
Clothes and records on the floor

Memories of the night before
Out in club-land having fun
And now I´m hiding from the sun
Waiting for a visitor
Though no-one knows I’m here for sure

Dancing laughing
Drinking loving
And now I’m all alone
In bedsit land
My only home

I think it’s time to cook a meal
To fill the emptiness I feel
Spent my money going out
I’ve nothing I’m left without
Clean my teeth and comb my hair
Look for something new to wear
Start the nightlife over again
Kid myself I’m having fun

Look out from my window view
I’ve really nothing else to do
Read a book and write a letter
Mother, things are getting better
Watch the mirror count the lines
The battle scars of all the good times
Look around and I can see
A thousand people just like me

Dancing laughing
Drinking loving
And now I’m all alone
In bedsit land
My only home

I’m waiting for something
I’m only passing time

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

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

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

thOG317ONA

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

Wham Bam Shang-A-Lang by Silver:

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

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

Wig-Wam Bam by Sweet:
Shang-a-Lang by the Bay City Rollers:


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

Wham Rap! by Wham!:


Until next time…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Madness, ‘The Return of the Los Palmas 7’ and Another Mini-Bloggers Summit

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

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

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

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

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

Madness

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

The Return of the Los Palmas 7 by Madness:

No lyrics this time so it would have been good to end with a picture of us both at our meet-up. Sadly, as I hadn’t taken an album with me, I was woefully unprepared for a Swedey McSwedeface which was a shame. Should I ever meet up with a fellow-blogger again, I’ll be much better prepared.

Until next time…

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

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

Another very famous set of flatmates

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

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

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

Too Much Too Young by the Specials:


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

Come On Home by Everything But The Girl:


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

Until next time…

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

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

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

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

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

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

Baby come on home Please

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

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

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

Then…

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

and now!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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


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

Dolphin’s Smile by the Byrds:


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

The Byrds, looking very young indeed

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

Until next time…

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

Out at sea for a year
Floating free from all fear

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

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

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

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

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

What's It All About?

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

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

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

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

Line Of Duty, cottagecore-style

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

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

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

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

It’s A Sin by The Pet Shop Boys

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

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

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

Until next time…

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

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

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

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

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

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