Black and It’s A “Wonderful Life”, Isn’t It?

Well, look what just dropped into my inbox from the WordPress people. It’s the little badge to signify you’re celebrating an anniversary, and in this case, it’s my blog’s third birthday. Still little more than a toddler then with lots more time to grow, hopefully.

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I still remember the excitement of publishing my very first post, on what was the first back-to-work, non-festive Monday, of 2016. It was a no-brainer that I would write about David Bowie (link here), as we had just woken up to the shock news he had died the day before. For a short number of weeks I became a “daily blogger”, as I had kind of fallen in love with this new hobby where I could indulge in my love of rock and pop trivia, and record my memories of the times.

But that was then, what about today? Now that I have become a weekly, as opposed to a daily blogger, it can get tricky. If you post daily you can write topically, but if you leave it for few days, the moment has passed. Likewise, an earworm that may have formed at the start of the week will have been replaced by the end of it, so no longer relevant. Best to perhaps stick to the tried and tested notion of linking to the previous post.

Last week I featured the song You by Ten Sharp. I don’t know if it’s because the video for Wonderful Life by Black was similarly filmed in black and white, or because it’s a song performed in a similar style, from a similar era, by a male vocalist, but that’s what came to mind. Sadly, once I started to find out a bit more about the song, and the artist called Black, it turned out his life wasn’t quite so wonderful after all.

Wonderful Life by Black:

Although the Liverpudlian band Black started life as a trio, when vocalist/singer-songwriter Colin Vearncombe became the last man standing, he decided to retain the name. Back in 1985 things weren’t going too well for Colin. He’d been in a couple of car crashes, his mother was seriously ill, he’d been dropped by his record company, his first marriage was over and he was homeless. So, what do you do if you’re an artistic type? Why you write an ironic song about just how wonderful life can be. The song was originally released in 1986 but it wasn’t until Black got signed by A&M Records in 1987 that it was re-released and became a massive worldwide hit. He was pretty sure however that few people back then understood the meaning behind his lyrics.

As for the great black and white video, I initially thought it was shot in Mid-West America, but no, those clever cinematographer-type people shot it around Southport, Merseyside, as well as Wallasey near Colin’s hometown of Liverpool. Maybe it’s because of the clothes and haircuts, but we could be back in the 1950s. It also featured New Brighton Lighthouse, the Looping Star rollercoaster, the Galleon fairground ride, the shrimping boat and local shops. A fine video that won an award at the New York Film Festival in 1988.

black32But here’s is the tragic part – Although he happily carried on working in the music industry for the next 30 years, in early 2016 Colin was involved in a car accident near Cork in Southern Ireland. He sustained serious head injuries and died two weeks later aged only 53, leaving behind a wife and three children. He was born two years after me, but died just as this blog was starting to pick up steam, three years ago. Gave me a bit of a jolt when I found that out, despite the fact I hadn’t thought of him in years.

It was inevitable I would stumble upon Frank Capra’s classic fantasy-drama Its A Wonderful Life when trying to find out a little more about the featured song for this post. I’ve watched the film many, many times as it’s always shown around Christmastime, and I never fail to shed a tear. (Seems to be a lot of that going on at the moment in my little circle.)

Most of us will know the story well – George Bailey (played by Jimmy Stewart) is a small-town man whose life seems so desperate he contemplates suicide. He had always wanted to leave Bedford Falls to see the world, but circumstances have led him to stay. He sacrificed his education for his brother’s, kept the family business afloat against all the odds, and protected the town from greedy banker Mr Potter, so for him, it hasn’t been such a wonderful life. As he prepares to jump from a bridge, his guardian angel intercedes, showing him what life would have become for the residents of Bedford Falls had he never lived.

Yes it’s a classic alternate reality movie where we see glimpses of another world that could have been. Marty McFly much preferred the Hill Valley where his father had biffed Biff, and in the Buffyverse, Sunnydale was a much happier place because the slayer had come to town (as opposed to heading to Cleveland), but they are fictional realities. Real life is never quite as saccharine.

We all probably contemplate our own alternate realities from time to time, but best not to dwell on it too much as I have a sneaking suspicion life turns out pretty much how it’s meant to be because of the kind of people we are, and the decisions we make along the way. I read a great book recently called The Versions Of Us by Laura Barnett, where the characters inhabit three different storylines with chapters that run in parallel. I won’t give too much away, but yes, they pretty much end up where they are meant to be, despite the different routes taken to get there.

“It’s a great life if you don’t weaken”, is a phrase my family used to bandy about quite a lot. Something taken from a cartoon by the writer John Buchan I believe. It was always meant in jest, although incorporating an element of truth. Now and again, like George Bailey, we do weaken; now and again, like Colin Vearncombe, we have a run of bad luck; but invariably life has a wonderful way of turning itself around.

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Yesterday however, we heard of the death of a girl DD met at college a few years ago. Before Christmas I wrote about a local charity called Mikey’s Line which offers support to young people who suffer from depression and chronic loneliness. The high rate of suicide amongst young men in the Highlands means that many families have lost a son or brother in recent years, but it seems families are now losing their daughters too. I had a look at the girl’s Facebook page where the tributes were flooding in. She was absolutely beautiful, but in that unreal way, where the pictures had obviously been heavily “photoshopped”.

Is it that some of our young people can’t cope with real life nowadays? Is that that they prefer their unreal, online personas and those of their so-called online “Friends”? Yes, life can be wonderful, but it can also have its slumps when we have to dig deep and “not weaken”. I can’t say that last year was great for me at all, but I am entering 2019 in a better place. At the time I couldn’t see an end to what was going on, but of course a resolution did come about, and we now have a new reality.

As the mother of a young woman, I am constantly on the lookout for signs that all might not be well. I know this is something my own mother never even had to contemplate, but a sign of the times. Fortunately DD seems to be in a good place at the moment, but I will never, ever, let down my guard.

Millennials are called the Snowflake Generation which I find deeply offensive. Yes they have been raised in a totally different manner from the previous generation, which can lead to difficulties in facing some of life’s realities, but it has also furnished many of them with a self-esteem I wish I’d had back in the day. They are entering a world that will be much tougher to navigate than the one I’ve lived through. Let’s do more to support them and not criticise them. The young people I know are AMAZING.

Until next time…

Wonderful Life Lyrics
(Song by Colin Vearncombe)

Here I go out to sea again
The sunshine fills my hair
And dreams hang in the air
Gulls in the sky and in my blue eyes
You know it feels unfair
There’s magic everywhere

Look at me standing
Here on my own again
Up straight in the sunshine
No need to run and hide
It’s a wonderful wonderful life
No need to laugh and cry
It’s a wonderful wonderful life

The sun’s in your eyes
The heat is in your hair
They seem to hate you because you’re there
And I need a friend
Oh I need a friend to make me happy
Not stand here on my own

Look at me standing
Here on my own again
Up straight in the sunshine
No need to run and hide
It’s a wonderful wonderful life
No need to laugh and cry
It’s a wonderful wonderful life

I need a friend
Oh I need a friend
To make me happy
Not so alone

George Michael, The Isley Brothers and “If You Were There”

Well, look what I found in my Christmas Stocking. Not strictly in the stocking as not the best shape to fit, and, not strictly a surprise present from the big man in the red suit (as I had bought it for myself), but a full two years on from his death, I still have a yearning to collect more George Michael goodies. When I saw this glossy mag in our local branch of WH Smith last week, I just knew it had to be mine, all mine…. .

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Christmas Day for us this year was very chilled, and the first of a new regime where we have none of the older generation around any more to join us. A bit strange, but meant there was none of that manic preparation that goes into hosting a formal Christmas lunch complete with all the traditional accompaniments, accoutrements and accessories. A visit to the care home took place in the morning to exchange presents with my mum (DD had ordered a very special bear for her that plays a Jim Reeves song), followed by a mid-day bacon sandwich and the opening of our own presents. Then there was a Facetime call to DD’s boyfriend at the other end of the country, and a virtual first meeting between the two sets of parents (landmark moment). Once we’d had an afternoon walk along the river, followed by a bit of telly, I leisurely prepared a turkey dinner with all the trimmings which we simply ate in our new kitchen this year – Yes, all very chilled indeed.

When it got to evening, George of course beckoned, and by the time I went to bed I think I’d read right to the end of the magazine. Just in case I’d missed anything, I re-read it again from cover to cover on Boxing Day, and although it contained nothing particularly new that I didn’t already know, a few lines jumped out at me, and I took notes: 

George, as we all know, was one of the key vocalists on the 1984 Band Aid charity single Do They Know It’s Christmas?, however on the day of the recording he said he felt really uncomfortable, as Wham! were treated as a bit of a joke by their peers, with (careless?) whispers and in-jokes being made at their expense. By this time Wham! had left their baby-biker image behind, and now sported blond highlights, gold hoop earrings and Day-Glo shorts, but George found it hard to believe people couldn’t see past the image and appreciate the music they were making. He was still only 20, but was writing, producing and arranging these records that jumped out of the radio. If that is true, shame on you fellow Band Aid participants. (Also, did you know that having released Last Christmas shortly before the Band Aid single, they donated all the royalties to the Ethiopia Appeal?)

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Band Aid (George just left of centre)

Something else I learnt from the magazine, was that Wham! would never have come about if not for Andrew Ridgeley, who was the driving force behind forming a band. George was the geeky songwriter, and a career in music was very much frowned upon by his strict father, who wanted him to join the family business. The Wham! image therefore belonged to Andrew, who was outgoing, sociable and loved going out dancing with girls. George lived vicariously through Andrew, but after being impressed by the confidence exuded by the character Tony Manero in Saturday Night Fever, he decided to lose weight, acquire some contact lenses and threw himself into the local disco scene. Without Andrew Ridgeley there would have been no George Michael.

During his career George had to face hostility from artists who attacked him for his appropriation of black music. He fought back, and ended up joining forces at various stages of his career with artists such as Aretha Franklin, Mary J Blige and Whitney Houston, who held him in high regard. His earliest musical influences however had come from artists such as Stevie Wonder and The Isley Brothers. In fact one of my favourite Wham! songs is If You Were There, which was not for once penned by George, but was an Isley Brothers cover included on their second album “Make It Big”. 

If You Were There by Wham!:

If You Were There was also the title of the 1997 Wham! “Best Of” album, which of course I had to buy. DD was a mere toddler back then, but I remember well dancing around the living room with her whilst listening to it, recreating the moves. We were now nearly 15 years on, but yes, I had been there and yes, I did know… .

So, “What’s It All About?” – Whenever I think I’ve written my last George Michael post, something else comes along, and prompts another one. In this case it was the magazine I bought myself as a treat for Christmas (other gifts did appear in my stocking by the way).

I am often embarrassed by some of the songs I share around here, as they are unashamedly of the pop persuasion, but time and time again I have been vindicated (the Bee Gees, the Carpenters et al). George Michael himself proudly championed great pop music as true art. Here is a quote from him:

“If you listen to a Supremes or a Beatles record, which was made in the days when pop was accepted as an art of sorts, how can you not realise that the elation of a good pop record is an art form? Somewhere along the way, pop lost all its respect. And I think I kind of stubbornly stick up for all of that.” 

I don’t think I’ll be back again until the New Year – Can it really be almost 2019, the last year of this decade we didn’t know what to call. Is it “The Teens”? – Not sure. Whatever it’s called, hope your Hogmanay celebrations go well. For one night at least, we can forget all the political shenanigans that surround us at the moment, and just enjoy ourselves. The first few months of 2019 will be interesting, that’s for sure! 

Until next time….

If You Were There Lyrics
(Song by The Isley Brothers)

You’re the one that makes my day a dream come true
They might just be the last
Yet and still you wonder if
I think of you
You ought to see how the other girls behave when you’re not around
And only then you would know that it’s on your finger I’m wound

I you were there you’d know
I you were there you’d know
I you were there you’d know
I you were there you’d know
That I care

There’s no need for you not to have faith in me
‘Cos it’s by your side girl that I long to be
Yes there are times with my friends when I don’t know have to much to
say What you don’t know is with you could never act that way

I you were there you’d know
I you were there you’d know
I you were there you’d know
I you were there you’d know
That I care

I care for you baby, I
Swear that I care
There’s no need for you
Not to have faith in me
‘Cos it’s by your side girl
That I long to be
Yes there are times with
my friends when I don’t know
have to much to say uh, uh
What you don’t know is
with you could never act that way

I you were there you’d know
I you were there you’d know
I you were there you’d know
I you were there you’d know
That I care

I care for you , I
Swear that I care for you
Baby
I do
Have faith in me
I care for you baby

Postscript:

Although not much was made of the circumstances that surrounded George’s death in the magazine, after reading the single page that documented the last four years of his life, it appears a premature death was almost inevitable. He dodged a bullet in 2012, after becoming seriously ill in Vienna during the Symphonica tour, but he was also unwell in 2013, 2014 and 2015. Best to remember him in his prime – How he would have wanted it, I’m sure.

Live Aid, Freddie Mercury and “Radio Ga Ga”

Well, my stats are booming and all because of this particular post, written right at the start of my blogging career. Regular visitors will know I’ve had a bit of a cinema-fest going on of late before life starts to get really busy again, and this week I managed to catch the Freddie Mercury biopic, Bohemian Rhapsody.

It hasn’t received universally fantastic reviews, but for those of us who enjoy rock and pop folklore, it is I feel, a must-see film. Rami Malek played Freddie brilliantly I thought and having to act with those teeth must have been a challenge in itself. (Freddie was apparently born with an extra 4 incisors but forewent the intervention of a dentist in case it affected his voice.) We got a great insight into the early days of Queen and the background to the making of those epic records. The film ends with footage of the Live Aid concert where they pretty much stole the show (and formed the basis for this post). The best way to go I think. We leave the cinema with a smile on our faces, remembering Farrokh Bulsara at his prime, just as he would have wanted.

What's It All About?

I wrote yesterday about the Celtic rock band Runrig and how their rousing live performances induce mass participation, especially when at home in Scotland.

The performance most people my age will remember as being one of the finest ever to take place however, was when Queen arrived on stage for their segment of the Live Aid Concert, held on July the 13th, 1985. I still remember that day well and who knew before the concert began that this would be a seminal performance. To see and hear all 72,000 people in Wembley Stadium sing along with Freddie Mercury to Radio Ga Ga was a landmark moment in pop history. His a cappella section at the end of the song, featuring his amazing vocal range and ability to work the crowd, came to be known as “the note heard round the world”.

Radio Ga Ga by Queen:

There had been…

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The Hunter’s Moon, “The Killing Moon” and Echo & The Bunnymen

Since discovering that all full moons have a name (given to them by the Native Americans who kept track of the months by the lunar calendar), I have written about each one as they appear in our skies. To accompany the post I always include one of the numerous songs that have been written about the moon and its many foibles.

Well, this is a landmark “moon post” as it is the 13th in the series and brings us full circle (no pun intended) to the end of a calendar year of full moons. I started this series last November as we had been witness to the most spectacular supermoon on Bonfire Night and it made me want to investigate our only satellite a little further. Since then I have found out so much about the moon I had hitherto never bothered to question, and hopefully those of you who have followed this series, have gleaned a lot from it also.

The reason why this is the 13th full moon in a calendar year, is because the lunar cycle is 29.5 days – A full moon in early November last year has meant we are going to witness the Hunter’s Moon tonight, just sneaking into the tail end of the month of October. This is a series that just keeps on giving however, as no two years are ever going to be the same, and I’ll never run out of moon-themed songs. I fully intend to keep going with this one ad infinitum.

Over the last year, we’ve had two Blue Moons, three supermoons, two lunar eclipses, a month with no full moon at all (February with its 28 days), a September Harvest Moon and a Super Blue Blood Moon. The most interesting thing of all for me however is that each one has a name, and of course it’s been fun choosing a relevant song for each post from the “tracks of my years”.

The Native Americans called this month’s full moon the Hunter’s Moon for obvious reasons. Now was the time for hunting, and laying in a store of provisions for the long winter ahead. The leaves were falling and the game was fattened. I still have many songs to feature in this series (which is why I’m going to keep going with it), but the one that jumps out at me for this month is of course The Killing Moon by Echo & The Bunnymen.

The Killing Moon by Echo & The Bunnymen:

The song was released in January 1984 as the lead single from their album “Ocean Rain” and reached No. 9 in the UK Singles Chart. Lead singer Ian McCulloch apparently attributed the use of astronomical imagery in the song to a childhood interest in space. He has even come out and said, “When I sing The Killing Moon, I know there isn’t a band in the world who’s got a song anywhere near it” – Others of course may choose to disagree but good to hear of an artist who thinks so highly of their work and freely admits to it. The chords of the song were even based on David Bowie’s Space Oddity, played backwards.

thS8LMZTY6Whenever I watch old footage of Echo & The Bunnymen I am always reminded of the crowd I hung around with back in 1984. The student boyfriend and his friends all looked and dressed like Ian McCulloch & Co, acquiring their outerwear at any rate from one of the charity shops that were around at the time. There weren’t nearly as many back then (only the Oxfam Shop really) as I think we all used to buy far fewer clothes. They were relatively expensive compared to now, so had to be looked after and worn for longer. Many a charcoal Great Coat or black 1960s Car Coat was sported by the guys in our crowd. They had all been students and although those days had now come to an end, they were spinning out the student lifestyle for as long as possible before entering the real world. Sadly, by this time I had entered the real world, so the charity shop wardrobe was now being infiltrated with smart office-wear. My social life was also changing, so pink and white sweatshirts started to make an appearance as well. Yes, student life was firmly behind me and so it seemed was the student boyfriend. We no longer “matched”, and never would again.

So, “What’s It All About?” – I am conscious of the fact I’ve been absent from the comments boxes of the other blogs I follow of late, but as regular visitors to this place know, I have a lot going on at the moment within my family. I did however manage to fit in a trip to Belfast last week (I plan to write one of my travelogue style posts about it soon) which gave me a much needed break. One of the things we did there was to go and see the newly released film First Man, about the life of Neil Armstrong. I won’t say too much about it as many of you won’t have seen it yet, but as I have been immersed in all things lunar for the last twelve months, it was a must-watch for me, and I really enjoyed it.

It was made even better for me because a few months ago I’d read the book Moondust by Andrew Smith – He had gone in search of the remaining 9 “moon walkers” and it was a fascinating read. It is bizarre indeed to think that soon there will be no-one left on Earth who has actually set foot on the moon, and looked down at our planet from up there. The chapter on Neil Armstrong meant I already knew much of his back story before going to see the film, which I think was a good thing.

For me, what came out loud and clear from the book was: a) it wasn’t much fun being a moon walker’s wife; b) the person operating the lunar module didn’t have the same “spiritual experience” as the commander, who could really take in the enormity of what they were doing, and finally; c) the Apollo moon landings were less about beating the Russians at their own game but more about President Kennedy and a bunch of others engaging in the biggest Boy’s Own adventure ever. These missions could never happen today as the public are far more savvy about how their tax dollars are spent and no administration could justify what it took to get those 12 moon walkers up there.

I hope the clouds clear and we get to see the Hunter’s Moon tonight and I plan to return next month with another “moon post”, as fortunately for me, they all seem to have an alternate name. Happy days.

Until next time….

The Killing Moon Lyrics
(Song by Will Sergeant/Ian McCulloch/Les Pattinson/Pete de Freitas)

Under blue moon I saw you
So soon you’ll take me
Up in your arms
Too late to beg you or cancel it
Though I know it must be the killing time
Unwillingly mine

Fate
Up against your will
Through the thick and thin
He will wait until
You give yourself to him

In starlit nights I saw you
So cruelly you kissed me
Your lips a magic world
Your sky all hung with jewels
The killing moon
Will come too soon

Fate
Up against your will
Through the thick and thin
He will wait until
You give yourself to him

Under blue moon I saw you
So soon you’ll take me
Up in your arms
Too late to beg you or cancel it
Though I know it must be the killing time
Unwillingly mine

Fate
Up against your will
Through the thick and thin
He will wait until
You give yourself to him

Fate
Up against your will
Through the thick and thin
He will wait until
You give yourself to him
You give yourself to him

Fate
Up against your will
Through the thick and thin
He will wait until
You give yourself to him
You give yourself to him

Fate
Up against your will
Through the thick and thin
He will wait until
You give yourself to him

Fate
Up against your will
Through the thick and thin
He will wait until
You give yourself to him

Postscript:

Well, I’d never heard of such a thing, but it seems we were also treated to a “moonbow” the other night up here in the north of Scotland – The particular combination of a full moon, a bit of rain and a very black sky made this phenomenon possible. My friend with the fancy-pants camera didn’t actually get a shot of it himself, but he did share on social media a couple of shots taken by other locals. Wish I’d seen it and something I am hell bent now on witnessing in the future. Enjoy.

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Reunions, Raincoats and Rock & Pop Memorabilia

A couple of Saturdays ago I got up at the crack of dawn and caught the first train south to Edinburgh. An ex-flatmate from student days had recently been back in touch – inevitably via Facebook – and she was keen to have a bit of a reunion. As one of the other girls from the flat (we’ll always be girls however old we get) was coming up to Edinburgh for the Fringe Festival, a meet-up there seemed to make sense as the rest of us all still live in Scotland. As an aside, another thing that precipitated this reunion was that one of our number has recently been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s Disease, which came as a massive shock to all of us. It’s too easy to put off these kind of reunions as it can be tricky finding dates that work for everyone, but this news certainly galvanised us into action, for obvious reasons.

There certainly was a lot going on in Edinburgh the Saturday I arrived at Waverley Station. We knew however that much of our time would be spent just catching up, as we hadn’t actually met up with the instigator of this reunion for 37 years. She’d left a year earlier than the rest of us to coincide with her student boyfriend’s departure, as he was a year older. They got married within 12 months, and wait for it, are still together! I suppose I shouldn’t be so shocked, but it just didn’t work out that way for the rest of us, so full of admiration for anyone who has gone the distance so to speak.

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After the mid-morning coffee and the boozy lunch, it had been suggested we head along to the National Museum, as the much-publicised exhibition entitled Rip It Up, The Story of Scottish Pop was currently running. It certainly did chronicle the music we Scots have been responsible for inflicting on an unsuspecting nation (world?) over the last 60 years or so, taking us right back to Lonnie Donegan and ending up with the Chvrches by way of Lulu, The Rollers, Deacon Blue, the Soup Dragons and Franz Ferdinand to name but a few.

Only the previous week however I had finally caught up with all three episodes of the BBC 2 documentary series also called Rip It Up (link here), so I was already familiar with “the story” and had seen most of the audio-visual material used as part of the exhibition. Also, there was a strict no taking pictures policy in operation so that kind of ruined my chances of creating a blog post out of my visit (but I’m still going to try). What was great however was to see all that rock and pop memorabilia, donated both by fans and the pop sensations themselves, which had been pulled together for the exhibition.

My last blog post before this visit was as a result of having been set the challenge of writing about James Yorkston (link here) which is when I found out about Fence Records, set up by Kenny Anderson (aka King Creosote). One of the items on display was the actual fence used as inspiration for the artwork for Kenny’s album, still boldly displaying the words KC RULES OK.

There were of course an awful lot of guitars, records and sheet music filling up the glass cases but for me it was the clothes I enjoyed looking at most. Considering I was meandering around these displays with people I had shared a flat with in 1980/81, a few memories invariably came to mind. Both myself and the instigator of the reunion had been lucky enough to receive little black and white portable tellies from Santa that academic year, so from January 1981 onward we took turns in hosting the viewing of TOTP on Thursdays at 7.30pm. That was of course the era of New Romanticism and the charts were littered with acts who were very prone to dressing up in elaborate frills and falderals.

POP-COMP

A band who will always be remembered for producing a highly pretentious, airy fairy video at that time was Ultravox, headed up by Scottish singer Midge Ure. The song it accompanied was of course Vienna, which became infamous for losing out on the UK Singles Chart’s top spot (for weeks on end) to an Australian called Joe Dolce with his novelty song Shaddap You Face. Along with many other iconic outfits in the exhibition, there was the very raincoat Midge wore for the video.

Vienna by Ultravox:

Other panels of interest contained a display of some of the many albums made by Scottish acts over the years – I can only identify a few of the less obvious ones, but I’m sure a fair few of the blogging buddies could identify many more. Some interesting snippets of info up there too – Did you know that in 1975, the Average White Band was the first Scottish band to get to No. 1 in both the US Singles and Album Charts simultaneously? No, me neither, but I do now courtesy of the exhibition.

Last stop was of course the gift shop, and although I didn’t actually buy this Bay City Rollers badge (because I already have one!), it was worthy of a picture. Plenty of nice new T-shirts on offer as well for those of us whose originals have perhaps seen better days (or perhaps that’s the point).

I will leave you with a link to the playlists of songs inspired by the exhibition – From Scottish pop classics to the tracks that mean the most to the people involved in creating the exhibition. Also, one last image, this time of the iconic outfit worn by Annie Lennox during her Eurythmics partnership with Dave Stewart. Considering our little reunion was the result of having once-upon-a-time shared a student flat in Aberdeen, where Annie was born and brought up, it would be fitting to include something by her. I used to find it quite amusing that during my decade of living in Aberdeen, just about every female I encountered had either been to school with her or knew her – Looking back, if you were 5 years older or 5 years younger you probably did attend school at the same time, but highly unlikely you will still be in touch. Just sayin’.

Neil Hanna Photography www.neilhannaphotography.co.uk 07702 246823

Here Comes The Rain Again by the Eurythmics:

So, “What’s It All About?” – First and foremost, if the chance comes up to reconnect with old friends, don’t keep putting it off as to my cost I have found that some of my old friendship groups are now reduced in number. Not something you really want to think about, but now that people are starting to retire, it should mean get-togethers are logistically a bit easier to organise, but it also means we are all getting older. Enough said.

As for the Rip It Up exhibition, it is on until November, and well worth a visit if you have any interest at all in the history of Scottish Pop. If like me you have already watched the Rip It Up documentary, there is a big overlap, but still lots of memorabilia to bring on a dose of nostalgia. We are used to our museum artefacts from ancient cultures presented to us in the form of pottery, jewellery and crafts. In the future, the artefacts attributed to our time on the planet will be vinyl, trousers with tartan down the sides and button badges. What will they make of us as a culture I wonder, in the year 3000AD?

Until next time…. , Shang-a-Lang!

Vienna Lyrics
(Song by Warren Cann/Chris Cross/Billy Currie/Midge Ure)

Walked in the cold air
Freezing breath on a window pane
Lying and waiting
A man in the dark in a picture frame
So mystic and soulful
A voice reaching out in a piercing cry
It stays with you until

The feeling has gone only you and I
It means nothing to me
This means nothing to me
Oh, Vienna

The music is weaving
Haunting notes, pizzicato strings
The rhythm is calling
Alone in the night as the daylight brings
A cool empty silence
The warmth of your hand and a cold grey sky
It fades to the distance

The image has gone only you and I
It means nothing to me
This means nothing to me
Oh, Vienna

This means nothing to me
This means nothing to me
Oh, Vienna

Dundee: City of Jam, Jute, Journalism and the “Party Fears Two”!

Well, I have a feeling this is going to be another one of my travelogue style posts but there will be a musical connection by the time I get to the end of it, I promise.

First of all, a word to the wise – If your other half decides to do a bit of browsing on your computer, forewarn them you might have set up a faster payment method on some sites, otherwise you could end up seriously out of pocket. This happened to me a fortnight ago. We didn’t really have any holiday plans for this summer, but I had mentioned I would quite like to visit the Scottish city of Dundee at some point, as with the new V&A about to open, along with all the other established attractions, it does seem to be a city on the up. So, whilst I was busy watching some very worthy television (not Love Island, honest…), unbeknownst to me Mr WIAA started to scour Airbnb for accommodation in Dundee. He liked the look of one particular apartment in a converted grand old house on the Perth Road, and tested the booking system to find out its availability. Quick as a flash they came back and said yes, it was available the following week, and the payment promptly came off my account.

It was at this point he decided (very sheepishly) to tell me what he had done – “A lavish apartment…, in Dundee…, next week…,” said I, dubiously. In a former life this would have been a lovely idea, but with a business we run from home and an elderly parent to look after, not easy nowadays to take off on spontaneous jaunts. “But it’s ok”, he said, “you can ask for a refund within 48 hours if you change your mind.” Turns out you only get a refund if the trip is at least 14 days away – Looked as if we were heading to Dundee!

Suffice to say, we quickly got everything organised and had a lovely five days last week in that city famous for it’s Jam, Jute and Journalism. Despite being Scottish I had never really visited Dundee properly before, having just passed through or dropped in for a work-related meeting or course, so it turned out to be a really great trip. Like most urban areas with an industrial past, it’s inner city has seen better and more vibrant days, but it’s a city that is reinventing itself with technology parks (home to the computer games industry), visitor attractions (Captain Scott’s Discovery), arts venues (Dundee Rep, the new V&A) and education (it has two universities and many colleges) now the main source of revenue.

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RRS Discovery berthed in Dundee

For me however, Dundee will always be synonymous with DC Thomson, that long-established publisher responsible for supplying our house with newspapers and magazines when I was growing up. Most homes like mine would have got the Sunday Post (complete with the Oor Wullie and Broons comic strips) and my mum also subscribed to the People’s Friend (the oldest women’s weekly in the world). I could look forward to The Bunty as a pre-teen, and then best of all, Jackie Magazine (link to a previous post) as a teenager. Had I been a boy I would have no doubt relished the antics of Dennis the Menace in The Beano and Desperate Dan in The Dandy but as a bit of a “girly girl” I preferred The Bunty, because of the dressing doll that came on the back page every week. I saw yesterday that The Beano was celebrating it’s 60th birthday and possibly because of that there is currently a big exhibition in Dundee’s very central Art Gallery and Museum, The McManus (aptly renamed The McMenace for the duration).

But this is supposed to be a music blog and when in Dundee I of course thought of all the bands of my youth who came from there. A couple of summer’s ago I wrote a series of posts focusing on the sheer number of great bands who came out of Scotland in the late ’80s. One was Deacon Blue (my sister-in-law went to school with Ricky Ross) and another Danny Wilson (click for links to those posts), both bands from Dundee. As they have featured here previously however, I won’t look to them for this post’s song choice – No, the artist who came to mind was the unforgettable Billy MacKenzie of the Associates whose Party Fears Two reached No. 9 in the UK Singles Chart in 1982.

Billy had a distinctive high tenor voice and dressed like a member of the French Resistance (or Frank Spencer depending on your take) so was memorable in the annals of pop, but like so many around him he died young, after committing suicide in 1997 at the age of 39. I always knew Billy was born and brought up in Dundee, but didn’t realise that he had decamped first to New Zealand at the age of 16 and then to America at 17. Billy got married there to his aunt’s sister-in-law in order to stave off deportation, but returned home after 3 months of marriage, never to see his bride again. It was then that he met Alan Rankine and the pair went on to form the Associates.

Party Fears Two by the Associates:

It’s certainly a strange title for a song and tricky to understand the lyrics other than that a party is involved. Billy did explain the origin however, “My wee brother was at a party watching two girls who wanted to come in. They were smashing windows and attempting to kick the door in with their stiletto heels, which he admired, so he christened them the Party Fears Two and I pinched the title from him.”

Hmm…, that doesn’t say a lot for the calibre of young lady who would have been attending parties in Dundee in the late ’70s/early ’80s, but here’s the thing, parties amongst young people in those days were not soirees involving sociable chit chat and fine wines, it was simply that someone had a venue, and others found out about it! The Scottish stand-up comedian Kevin Bridges sums up nicely the difference between the parties held in American teen movies and the parties the youth of Scotland were more familiar with, and if you watch this clip you’ll probably get a better idea of the “Party Fears Two”. They would probably be middle-aged ladies now – I wonder if they ever found out the song was about them?

So, “What’s It All About?” – Sometimes the best trips are the spontaneous ones that come along without much pre-planning or thought. My trip to Dundee was one of those and I have another couple of posts up my sleeve inspired by the place. The V&A Dundee is to open on the 15th September and they obviously expect lots of visitors as many hotels are springing up in the vicinity. The very modern railway station is also situated just across the road. After never having been to Dundee as a tourist before, it seems I might well end up visiting twice this year – To be thoroughly recommended.

Until next time…

Party Fears Two Lyrics
(Song by Billy MacKenzie/Alan Rankine)

I’ll have a shower and then phone my brother up
Within the hour I’ll smash another cup
Please don’t start saying that or I’ll start believing you
If I start believing you I’ll know that this party fears two

And what if this party fears two?
The alcohol loves you while turning you blue
View it from here from closer to near
Awake me

Don’t turn around I won’t have to look at you
And what’s not found is all that I see in you
My manners are failing me I’m left feeling ugly
And you say it’s wonderful to live with I never will

So what if this party fears two?
The alcohol loves you while turning you blue
View it from here from closer to near
Awake me

I’m standing still and you say I dress to well
Still standing still I might but it’s hard to tell
Even a slight remark makes nonsense and turns to shark
Have I done something wrong?
What wrongs the wrong that’s always in wrong

I’ll have a shower
And then phone my brother up
Within the hour
I’ll smash another cup

Postscript:

One last picture from the exhibition at the McManus – Book titles courtesy of The Bash Street Kids. Every one a winner!

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Lunar Eclipses, Mike Oldfield and “Moonlight Shadow”

Since discovering that all full moons have a name (given to them by the Native Americans who kept track of the months by the lunar calendar), I have written about each one as they appear in our skies. To accompany the post I always include one of the numerous songs that have been written about the moon and its many foibles.

Well, this is a first for me, I’m writing a blog post whilst actually on holiday (more of that next week) but as a full moon is due to appear in our skies on Friday it can’t really wait until I get home. This month it’s called the Buck Moon, because it’s the time of year we all run around our gardens buck naked! No…., only joking…., although probably warm enough if you feel so inclined but it got that name because it’s when a buck’s antlers are in full “growth mode”. As someone who lives next to a forest full of deer who come down into our gardens at night and occasionally eat all the plants, I should be an expert, but here’s the thing – In the 20 years we’ve lived beside the forest I’ve never seen one, just the little hoof prints left as evidence in the flower beds the next morning. One of these days however I will be lucky enough to catch one in the act which really would be quite something, and well worth the sacrifice of a few plants.

Another reason for the early alert is because this next full moon will also be a blood moon. Yes, for the second time this year there is going to be a lunar eclipse and in certain parts of the world the moon will turn a red-orange colour for a full 1 hour 43 minutes (I am reliably informed). Yet again however, we here in the UK are unlikely to see it in totality, but if you look south-easterly from around 8.45pm (a bit later if like me you live in Scotland), there should be a definite reddish tinge to the moon.

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Mike Oldfield

But this is a music blog so which song should accompany this particular moon-related post? Last time we had a lunar eclipse I chose Moonshadow by Cat Stevens but as was pointed out at the time I could also have used Moonlight Shadow by Mike (Tubular Bells) Oldfield. I have always liked this 1983 song, not least because it gallops along at a fair old rate, rising and falling in exactly the places you expect it to, the vocals excellently performed by Maggie Reilly who frequently collaborated with Mike. The subject matter is not a happy one however, the song being about a woman whose lover is violently killed in the middle of the night. There was speculation at the time that Mike was referring to the shooting of John Lennon in the lyrics but he said no, although he had been in the vicinity at the time so it may well have entered his subconscious.

Moonlight Shadow by Mike Oldfield featuring Maggie Reilly:

All this talk of moonlight, shadows and deer however has reminded me of something. Like most parents, I read to DD every night at bedtime for many, many years and needless to say we had our favourite books. I suppose it makes sense, but quite a few of our favourites were set during the night-time. There was Owl Babies by Martin Waddell and Shadow the Deer by Theresa Radcliffe and John Butler. I can’t quite remember now if Shadow did indeed visit suburban gardens and eat all their plants (probably not), but I do remember that the illustrations were beautiful, full of forest locations basking in the moonlight.

Shadow

I am hopeful we in the UK will catch a glimpse of the lunar eclipse on Friday, the proviso always being that there is no cloud cover. And, as it is the buck moon, a bit of running around buck naked wouldn’t go amiss either, although if we did partake there might well be a few bemused deer looking on, from the safety of their forest high up on the hill!

Only three more moons in this series to go before we will have covered all twelve named by the Native Americans, eons ago. I’m pretty sure I know which “moon songs” I still want to include but if you have any favourites not yet mentioned, please let me know as I feel sure there will have to be a “mopping-up” post done right at the end. You know where the comments boxes are.

Until next time, enjoy that lunar eclipse.

Moonlight Shadow Lyrics
(Song by Mike Oldfield)

The last time ever she saw him
Carried away by a moonlight shadow
He passed on worried and warning
Carried away by a moonlight shadow.
Lost in a riddle that Saturday night
Far away on the other side.
He was caught in the middle of a desperate fight
And she couldn’t find how to push through

The trees that whisper in the evening
Carried away by a moonlight shadow
Sing a song of sorrow and grieving
Carried away by a moonlight shadow
All she saw was a silhouette of a gun
Far away on the other side.
He was shot six times by a man on the run
And she couldn’t find how to push through

I stay, I pray
See you in Heaven far away…
I stay, I pray
See you in Heaven one day.

Four A.M. in the morning
Carried away by a moonlight shadow
I watched your vision forming
Carried away by a moonlight shadow
A star was glowing in the silvery night
Far away on the other side
Will you come to talk to me this night
But she couldn’t find how to push through

I stay, I pray
See you in Heaven far away…
I stay, I pray
See you in Heaven one day.

Far away on the other side.
Caught in the middle of a hundred and five
The night was heavy and the air was alive
But she couldn’t find how to push through
Carried away by a moonlight shadow
Carried away by a moonlight shadow
Far away on the other side.

Postscript:

Well that was a bit of a damp squib wasn’t it. After weeks of sunshine and clear skies, here in the UK there was almost total cloud cover and a fair few thunderstorms on Friday night, so few, if any of us, got to see the lunar eclipse. Thankfully there were plenty of people out with their camera equipment taking shots of the moon globally, so at least we get a chance to see what it would have looked like if the rain gods hadn’t frowned upon us.

Around the world in pictures, courtesy of The Guardian.

Ironically the alternative name for this July full moon is the Thunder Moon as it tends to be the time of the year when thunderstorms are frequent. Didn’t let us down did it?

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