Björk, “It’s Oh So Quiet” and It Turns Out It’s Good To Be Busy!

Well, that old adage, “If you want something done, ask a busy person” turns out to be correct! My old life, which incorporated the heady world of secure employment as well as blogging, acting as Mr WIAA’s unpaid secretary, caring for my mum and filling the role of chief cook and bottle-washer is now a full eight weeks behind me, but I don’t seem to be getting any more done in the course of a week than before – Very strange.

Not having been in this position before I had no idea how it would pan out – I think I had this romantic notion that I would finally get round to writing that opus which would earn me millions, I would sweep through the house like Lawrence Llewelyn-Bowen creating a tranquil “haven in the Highlands” and home-cooked meals would await the family every evening….. The list goes on.

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But no, it turns out that you just get a little more sleep (which is good as I didn’t get enough before, sometimes blogging until well after midnight), you spend a bit more time on housework (but no-one even notices unless for some reason it stops being done, so a bit of a thankless task really), faff about on the computer far too much and watch a bit more telly (quite a bit more actually down to the curse of the boxset). So, a life outside the home awaits me in the new year I’ve decided, although I’m a tad sceptical about how easy it will be for someone of my vintage to actually acquire paid employment in today’s job market – Time will tell I suppose and should make for some interesting blog posts.

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The myth of the jolly housewife!

But although this blog does tend to become a place for me to offload my thoughts, it’s supposed to be about music and this morning that quirky Icelandic songstress Björk was to be heard on the radio promoting a show she is to take part in later on tonight. They don’t get much more bonkers than Bjork in the world of performance but I have always had a soft spot for her right from the days when she fronted The Sugarcubes. What I remember from her little slot on the radio earlier today was something about how she believes you just have to create work based on how you are feeling at the time and that is probably the case for bloggers too, which is why I’ve gone down this route today.

A song by Bjork that immediately springs to mind is this one, It’s Oh So Quiet, which was a big hit for her in November 1995 and reached the No. 4 spot in the UK Singles Chart. I remember it well because that was the month darling daughter made an appearance in the world (yes, we’ve just celebrated her 22nd birthday). It seemed to get blanket airplay right at the time we, as new parents, were navigating that tightrope between trying to be “oh so quiet” and coping with a “riot of crying”, so all very timely. Ironically that was also the last time I was a stay-at-home person, but as anyone who has had children knows, those first few weeks and months are no picnic and unlike now there was never enough time for anything, especially sleep. Different times.

It’s Oh So Quiet by Björk:

Appropriate that Björk Guðmundsdóttir should feature in this post as my last one (link here), before I got blocked, featured music by a Greenlander band called Nanook. She is pretty unique in the world of music and has gone on to have a career spanning four decades having developed an eclectic musical style that draws on a wide range of influences. She has also won numerous awards including five BRITs. As for the song It’s Oh So Quiet it was originally recorded by the American singer Betty Hutton in 1951 as a cover of the German song Und Jetzt Ist Es Still. As I often say around here, every day’s a school day.

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So, “What’s It All About?” – It turns out that unless you are officially retired with an income to match and have no responsibilties to speak of, after a couple of months of enjoying the luxury of being at home when all your old colleagues are still beavering away on the 9 to 5, you start to hanker after a life out in the real world. Back in the days of DD’s “gap year” when she was pondering over what she wanted to do with her life, I kept labouring the point that everyone needs something to get up for, a purpose. Time to heed my own advice I think but will just make sure I finish decluttering the loft first!

Until next time….

It’s Oh So Quiet Lyrics
(Song by Hans Lang/Bert Reisfeld)

It’s. Oh. So quiet
It’s. Oh. So still
You’re all alone
And so peaceful until…

You fall in love
Zing boom
The sky up above
Zing boom
Is caving in
Wow bam
You’ve never been so nuts about a guy
You wanna laugh you wanna cry
You cross your heart and hope to die

‘Til it’s over and then
It’s nice and quiet
But soon again
Starts another big riot

You blow a fuse
Zing boom
The devil cuts loose
Zing boom
So what’s the use
Wow bam
Of falling in love

It’s. Oh. So quiet
It’s. Oh. So still
You’re all alone
And so peaceful until…

You ring the bell
Bim bam
You shout and you yell
Hi ho ho
You broke the spell
Gee. This is swell you almost have a fit
This guy is “gorge” and i got hit
There’s no mistake this is it

‘Til it’s over and then
It’s nice and quiet
But soon again
Starts another big riot

You blow a fuse
Zing boom
The devil cuts loose
Zing boom
So what’s the use
Wow bam
Of falling in love

The sky caves in
The devil cuts loose
You blow blow blow blow blow your fuse
When you’ve fallen in love

Ssshhhhhh…

Postscript:

Having just watched that video clip of Bjork singing It’s Oh So Quiet, I am reminded of the film La La Land which did so well earlier this year at the Oscars. What with the yellow dress and the street scenes where everyone suddenly joins together seamlessly in a well-choreographed dance, it is another wonderful homage to those great musical films of yesteryear.

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

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

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

new-jersey

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

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

Woke Up This Morning by Alabama 3:

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

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

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A young Frank in Hoboken, New Jersey

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

It Was A Very Good Year by Frank Sinatra:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Whitney Houston, RIP

I Will Always Love You by Whitney Houston:

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

Big Girls Don’t Cry by The Four Seasons:

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

Until next time….

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

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

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

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

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

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

My Dear George

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

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

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

Kissing a Fool by George Michael:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Until next time….

Kissing a Fool Lyrics
(Song by George Michael)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Postscript:

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

Leaving Work for the Last Time – Queen and “These Are The Days Of Our Lives”

Forgive me WordPress for I have sinned – Much of the last seven days has been spent over on Facebook as it was my last week at work and I wanted to share pictures of the various colleagues who were to become my best friends over a 30 year period. As anyone who visits here knows I am a bit of a hoarder, and there was no shortage of material to work with as I’ve always been the custodian of our memories, wherever I’ve worked. The exercise was a resounding success and the surprised comments from friends have been rolling in thick and fast, with promises that we’ll keep in touch, have a reunion etc. That remains to be seen but it has been a very sociable week indeed, culminating in a dinner and drinks “leaving do” last night.

leaving

The departure from the world of secure employment came about because of this – I think I’m a bit of a dinosaur in the world of offices as I like my pin boards, folders and stationery. Sadly all the tools of my trade had to go earlier this year as we adopted what is commonly known as agile working i.e. no fixed desk, no paper, no clutter and no talking! I decided that the sterile world of the modern day office was not for me. Goodness knows how we kept the ship on course all those years with just so much paper to hinder us, when instead we could have had terabytes of data at our fingertips with no idea of how to turn it into meaningful information.

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Anyway, a new life awaits me but I cannot help but feel very sad that the old one is now behind me – The world of the ’80s office was a much less pressurised one and, dare I say it, a lot more fun than it is now and I miss that. On the way home from work for the last time the song These Are The Days Of Our Lives came on the radio and it summed up how I was feeling:

When we were kids, when we were young (I was in my twenties)

The days were endless, we were crazy (lots of work nights out!)

Sometimes it seems like lately – I just don’t know (the world of agile working?)

Those were the days of our lives (of my working life definitely)

Those days are all gone now but one thing is true – When I look and I find I still love you (the happy memories will never leave me)

These Are The Days Of Our Lives by Queen:

This song by the band Queen was released as a double A-side in the UK in December 1991, after the death of Freddie Mercury. It entered the UK Singles Chart at No. 1 and remained there for five weeks. It also received a Brit Award for Best Single in 1992.

The accompanying video was the last to feature Freddie and was released in black and white to hide the full extent of his illness. With a knowing farewell look straight at the camera, Freddie whispers “I still love you” as the song ends, which were his last ever words on camera.

RIP Freddie, RIP the 1980s Office.

These Are The Days Of Our Lives Lyrics
(Song by Roger Taylor)

Sometimes I get to feelin’
I was back in the old days – long ago
When we were kids, when we were young
Things seemed so perfect – you know?
The days were endless, we were crazy – we were young
The sun was always shinin’ – we just lived for fun
Sometimes it seems like lately – I just don’t know
The rest of my life’s been – just a show.

Those were the days of our lives
The bad things in life were so few
Those days are all gone now but one thing is true –
When I look and I find I still love you.

You can’t turn back the clock, you can’t turn back the tide
Ain’t that a shame?
I’d like to go back one time on a roller coaster ride
When life was just a game
No use sitting and thinkin’ on what you did
When you can lay back and enjoy it through your kids
Sometimes it seems like lately I just don’t know
Better sit back and go – with the flow

Cos these are the days of our lives
They’ve flown in the swiftness of time
These days are all gone now but some things remain
When I look and I find – no change

Those were the days of our lives yeah
The bad things in life were so few
Those days are all gone now but one thing’s still true
When I look and I find, I still love you,
I still love you.

An Unlikely Mix of Stonehenge, The Summer Solstice and Will Smith

This is going to be a bit of a short post (ironic as it’s the longest day) but I have been taking a keen interest in the pagan, or nature’s calendar over the last year and today is Litha, also known as Midsummer or the Summer Solstice. As ever, the ancient festivals held on these days made use of fires, so tonight Mr WIAA is going to be all manly and will symbolically light our little fire pit. I have also done something that will inspire a bout of manic preparation today – Yes, I have invited the neighbours round for a bit of a soirée. Together we can admire the fire which is supposed to a) provide magical aid to the sun b) drive out evil and c) bring fertility and prosperity to men, crops and herds. Not bad for an evening’s work.

Again, life in modern day suburbia is not quite as it used to be when these rituals were first performed and although I like the sound of driving out evil, I don’t have many crops or herds to consider but am mighty glad that others do, so yeah to the farmers of the world, who keep us well fed throughout the year. I wish their crops and herds well.

litha

Sadly this day has landed on a Wednesday, which is a work day, so I probably won’t be able to stay up late to watch the sunset which is a shame. There will have been many however who made the trek to Stonehenge this morning to watch the sunrise at around 4.15am. It has naturally become quite the gathering place for this ancient ritual but when looking into it further, the guidance was as follows: “The roads around Stonehenge will be very busy and parking facilities for the Summer Solstice at Stonehenge are very limited. We recommend using public transport, car sharing or arranging lifts from taxis and local accommodation providers”.

Somehow the romance of it all gets a bit lost amidst the parking practicalities of 21st century Britain.

shnge

But what should the featured song for this post be? I am going to cheat a little and borrow from the post I wrote this day last year when I was quite upset that the month of June had not panned out weather-wise as I had hoped. Yet again, the last couple of weeks here in Scotland have been quite wet and miserable but it does look as if good weather might be on it’s way. Lets hope so anyway.

First published June 2016:

Although for meteorologists summer starts at the beginning of June, apparently “astronomical summer” is defined as starting on the 21st, the Solstice. Time to re-load summer then, and the first song that came to mind when rethinking all of this was Summertime by DJ Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince. It was released in 1991 when I was in my early thirties, so not really one of the tracks of my years – Had I been a teenager around then I would have known Will Smith well from his television show The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air but I wasn’t, and I didn’t. We still watched TOTP on a Thursday night however and despite the fact I have never really been a fan of rap, this was just a great sounding song that summed up what summertime means for young people.

Will Smith has gone on to great things since and has starred in 21 movies to date with a couple of Oscar nominations under his belt to boot. He is also widely thought of as being the “nicest” A-list movie actor around, always patient with interviewers despite having probably been asked the same question hundreds of times whilst on press junkets promoting a new film.

For now however, I will just enjoy watching the young Will, hang out with DJ Jazzy Jeff (Jeffrey to his mum) and a host of friends and relatives (but probably extras) whilst coming up with some very entertaining rhymes.

Summertime by DJ Jazzy Jeff  The Fresh Prince:

Happy Litha…

Summertime Lyrics
(Song by Will Smith and too many more to mention!)

Drums please, summer, summer, summertime
Time to sit back and unwind

Here it is, the groove slightly transformed
Just a bit of a break from the norm
Just a little somethin’ to break the monotony
Of all that hardcore dance that has gotten to be

A little bit out of control, it’s cool to dance
But what about the groove that soothes
That moves romance, give me a soft, subtle mix
And if ain’t broke then don’t try to fix it

And think of the summers of the past
Adjust the base and let the alpine blast
Pop in my CD and let me run a rhyme and put your car
On cruise and lay back ’cause this is summertime

Summer, summer, summertime
Time to sit back and unwind
Summer, summer, summertime
Time to sit back and unwind

School is out and it’s a sort of a buzz
But back then I didn’t really know what it was
But now I see what have of this
The way that people respond to summer madness

The weather is hot and girls are dressin’ less
And checkin’ out the fellas to tell ’em who’s best
Ridin’ around in your jeep or your Benzos
Or in your Nissan sittin’ on Lorenzo’s

Back in Philly we be out in the park
A place called the plateau is where everybody goes
Guys out huntin’ and girls doin’ likewise
Honkin’ at the honey in front of you with the light eyes

She turn around to see what you beepin’ at
It’s like the summer’s a natural aphrodisiac
And with a pen and pad, I compose this rhyme
To hit you and get you equipped for the summertime

It’s late in the day and I ain’t been on the court yet
Hustle to the mall to get me a short set
Yeah, I got on sneaks but I need a new pair
‘Cause basketball courts in the summer got girls there

The temperature’s about 88
Hop in the water plug just for old times sake
Creak to ya crib, change your clothes once more
‘Cause you’re invited to a barbecue that’s startin’ at 4

Sittin’ with your friends ’cause y’all reminisce
About the days growin’ up and the first person you kiss
And as I think back, makes me wonder how
The smell from a grill could spark up nostalgia

All the kids playin’ out front, little boys messin’ ’round
With the girls playin’ double-dutch
While the DJ’s spinnin’ a tune as the old folks
Dance at your family reunion

Then six ‘o clock rolls around
You just finished wipin’ your car down
It’s time to cruise, so you head to
The summertime hangout, it looks like a car show

Everybody come lookin’ real fine
Fresh from the barber shop or fly from the beauty salon
Every moment frontin’ and maxin’
Chillin’ in the car they spent all day waxin’

Leanin’ to the side but you can’t speed through
Two miles an hour so, everybody sees you
There’s an air of love and of happiness and this is
The Fresh Prince’s new definition of summer madness

LOVE, Young People and “Don’t Look Back In Anger”

Well, I had fully intended to return to my American Odyssey in Song today, or perhaps write about a couple of the songs that have formed earworms over the past few days, but no, even music blogs can’t avoid mentioning what has gone on in our country this week, and yet again, what a week.

Shortly after I pressed the “publish” button last Saturday, there was another terrorist attack, this time right in the centre of London. Again, in the face of such senseless violence, the police, the emergency services and some heroic members of the public performed some amazing acts of bravery (no-one messes with a Millwall supporter). Some innocent weekend socialisers lost their lives, and others are still critically ill in hospital, but yet again no-one who was there has come out and said they will change their behaviour in any way. We are all getting a bit sick of saying it I know, but “life must go on”.

one love.jpgThe One Love Manchester benefit concert was all set to take place on the Sunday, which to some did seem a bit too soon after the atrocity that took place there less than a fortnight earlier, but despite this even more recent atrocity it did go ahead as planned and in retrospect I am really glad. Like many, I didn’t really know much about Ariana Grande until two weeks ago, but of her own accord she really wanted to do something for the people of Manchester and for the fans who had been at the earlier ill-fated concert. For many of these fans, to attend must have been a tough call, but this time Old Trafford (the Cricket Ground) was the venue and that open air Sunday night concert provided much joy, a lot of tears and an awful lot of LOVE.

I watched the concert with DD and it was like being back in her world again after a few years away. She was of the generation that grew up watching Miley Cyrus play the teenage sitcom character Hannah Montana and here was Miley all grown up and being supportive of Ariana, planning to link up with her in making such a thing a regular event. Mr Bieber was there as was Niall Horan of One Direction and girl group Little Mix. Having a 21-year-old in the house is a constant reminder of how things have changed in a generation. Young people are very demonstrative nowadays compared with how things used to be back in the rural Scotland of my youth. Whenever they meet up, they hug and kiss each other, they LOVE each other frequently on social media, in texts and in speech. When they all hang out together, often in our back garden, there is indeed much LOVE in the air (of a spiritual nature I hasten to add) and it sometimes feels as if we have returned to the summer of 1967 when young people wanted to change the world. Although we get cynical as we get older and such idealism can give way to practical reality, the young people I know give me hope for the future.

There were also a fair few acts on the bill that were more familiar to me, namely Take That, Pharrell Williams and the Black Eyed Peas but it was Chris Martin from Coldplay who performed the song which has been used by the people of Manchester in remembrance of the victims, and to show the city’s spirit. Don’t Look Back In Anger is of course a song by the Manchester band Oasis, and was released in 1996 as the fourth single from their album, “(What’s the Story) Morning Glory?”. It was the first Oasis single with lead vocals by Noel Gallagher instead of by his brother Liam, but sadly those two have had a parting of the ways so it was Mr Martin instead who stepped up to the plate. Despite the fact I was a bit disparaging about his singing earlier in the year after his less than perfect rendition at the BRITs (I thought) of George Michael’s song A Different Corner, this time I think it all worked out quite well.

Don’t Look Back In Anger by Oasis:

So, the concert was a success and they will have raised, and will continue to raise (link to site above), lots of money for those who have suffered as a consequence. A lot to take in already for one week you might think but of course this was also the week we went to the polls again, as our incumbent Prime Minister had wanted to secure a larger majority in the House ahead of the Brexit negotiations. Oops!

Turns out she is not very good at campaigning and time and time again she was found wanting in terms of the details of her manifesto, her appearance at debates (she abstained) and her all round ability to engage as a human being instead of the Maybot she became. On the other hand her opponent Mr Corbyn has become the hero of the hour who can quite rightly claim to have, in a way, won the election. Who would have thought that turnaround could have been possible a few months ago. Lord knows he has had a hard time over the last couple of years and the smear campaigns have been brutal but he has definitely engaged with the young people of the country in a way the Maybot would never have been able to do. Again hooray for young people – At long last they have become engaged in politics and it took a jam-making, allotment tending politician whose life has been dedicated to making the world a better place, for that to happen. (He is also much, much better at social media than his opponent and quite rightly took to it with gusto.)

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This time last year I would most definitely not have written a post like this as politics, religion and other controversial topics are usually cited as something to be avoided if you want to broaden your readership and not cause offence. As it turns out, a year on and I have yet to find any other bloggers who do not share my opinions so no problem there then – Where are all these Tory voters I wonder? Certainly not in any corner of the blogosphere I’ve visited that’s for sure.

So, “What’s It All About?” – It’s all about the Young People who are finally becoming energised about politics. They are full of LOVE for each other and I for one have a bit of a spring in my step today because of the outcome of the election – The battle has been lost but with a nation of smart young people coming up behind us we are on track to win the war.

Until next time….

Don’t Look Back In Anger Lyrics
(Song by Noel Gallagher)

Slip inside the eye of your mind
Don’t you know you might find
A better place to play?
You said that you’d never been
But all the things that you’ve seen
They slowly fade away

So I’ll start a revolution from my bed
Cause you said the brains I had went to my head
Step outside, summertime’s in bloom
Stand up beside the fireplace
Take that look from off your face
You ain’t ever gonna burn my heart out

And so, Sally can wait
She knows it’s too late as we’re walking on by
Her soul slides away
But don’t look back in anger
I heard you say

Take me to the place where you go
Where nobody knows if it’s night or day
But please don’t put your life in the hands
Of a Rock ‘n’ Roll band
Who’ll throw it all away

 

An American Odyssey in Song: New Hampshire – Noel Harrison and “The Windmills Of Your Mind”

Welcome to this series where I am going to attempt a virtual journey around the 50 States of America in song – Suggestions for the next leg always welcome!

Last time we started our journey in Maine and our road trip inevitably now takes us to the neighbouring state of New Hampshire. This is a state that has very little coastline but it does have the highest peaks east of the Mississippi – The White Mountains cover about a quarter of the state and are part of the northern Appalachian range. Looking at a map of New Hampshire, New England you could be back in Old England as the place names are all very familiar to us. There is Portsmouth on the coast then slightly inland there is Exeter, Dover and Manchester. Yes when the founding fathers landed in the New World they took a lot of the old world with them.

new hampshire

The most distinctive thing about New Hampshire for me, is that it does seasons like no other state. Autumn, or fall as it is called there, is spectacular and in winter the mountain regions are covered in snow. Spring and summer look quite nifty too and again, although these are not travelogue posts, I’ll include a few pictures.

In popular culture, the Henry/Jane Fonda film On Golden Pond is set in New Hampshire and John Irving, a native of the state, wrote his best-selling novel about the eponymous Hotel. In both crime dramas Breaking Bad and The Sopranos, we have characters who successfully hide out there for long periods, in “cabins in the woods”.

But this is supposed to be a music blog so what song could accompany my post about New Hampshire? The suggestions were not as free-flowing as last time, mainly because there aren’t many well-known songs that mention place names from The Granite State although thanks to Jez for manfully coming up with his suggestion (The Shaw Brothers’ New Hampshire Naturally). Rick, a New-Englander himself, came in with a late suggestion (Tom Rush’s Merrimack County) and CC‘s generic pick (Jonathan Richman’s New England) is being kept for another state. Rol, who can usually be depended on for a multitude of suggestions, was even stumped in finding songs suitable for this blog – As he pointed out there are plenty of songs that refer to Manchester, Portsmouth and even Lebanon but just not the ones in New Hampshire. Time to bend the rules a bit then and this is where I made a wonderful discovery.

On my long list of “posts pending”, which I have mentioned just a few times (I can’t keep up with it), I have the song The Windmills Of Your Mind by Noel Harrison because it is one of Mr WIAA’s favourites. It was written for a key scene in the film The Thomas Crown Affair and wait for it, that key scene is set in New Hampshire where Steve McQueen’s character flies a glider over the little airport in Salem. It’s obviously not autumn because it’s all very green but we do, literally, get a bird’s eye view of the landscape.

The Windmills Of Your Mind by Noel Harrison:

This classic 1968 bank heist film needed an original song for that glider scene and the director asked French composer Michel Legrand, along with American lyricists Alan and Marilyn Bergman, to come up with something that referenced the feelings of Thomas Crown as he calmly flies his glider, whilst experiencing the inner tension of preparing to commit a major robbery. To quote the Bergmans – “The lyrics were a stream-of-consciousness. We felt that the song had to be some kind of mind trip. I think we were thinking of that feeling you have when you try to fall asleep at night and you can’t turn your brain off because thoughts and memories tumble.”

I don’t know about you but I often find that I can’t turn my brain off (maybe why all this outpouring in a blog is so therapeutic) and this song does kind of conjure up images of what is going on in there. As for the film, I am actually more familiar with the very stylish remake from 1999 which starred Pierce Brosnan and Renee Russo. The plotline was adapted somewhat to take account of the times but what I remember most about it was that Ms Russo, a lady of a certain age by that time, kept appearing in the most stunning outfits.

One of my many potential schemes for making money over the last decade has been to devise a wardrobe planning system for busy women. Out there in cyberspace, there is probably still a website called The Little Red Box Wardrobe Planner, although I can’t quite remember where. There were business cards and everything and I even had conversations with the Dragon’s Den TV Show people about it as my online pitch must have caught their interest. Nothing came of it in terms of earning potential (I am exceptionally good at putting in an awful lot of time and effort to that end) but it still works for me on a daily basis – My point being is that one of the things that really causes the windmills to work overtime in a woman’s brain is that eternal dilemma, “What to wear?”. Not so if like Renee Russo in The Thomas Crown Affair you have all your outfits carefully co-ordinated and selected for you, or, if you are the proud owner of a Little Red Box Wardrobe Planning System!

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Noel Harrison

It was of course Noel Harrison (son of Rex) who recorded the original version of The Windmills Of Your Mind and it won the Academy Award for Best Original Song in 1968. The remake in 1999 also featured the song, this time played during the end credits and performed by Sting who along with some other very serious-minded chaps seems to rarely pop up in the music blogosphere. Whatever, I do like his jazzy take on the song and it gives us a chance to revisit the autumnal New Hampshire landscape from that upgraded glider, and see some more of Renee’s great outfits (although in the still for this YouTube clip she seems to be in her birthday suit!).

Next time we’re heading across the state border into Vermont and any suggestions for songs associated with that state would be gratefully received. As you can see from this post it doesn’t necessarily have to be namechecked, just associated in some way. You know where the comments boxes are.

In the meantime, it’s not comments boxes I’m off to look at but Little Red Boxes of the wardrobe planning variety. Why have those windmills going round and round in your head all night when there is no need. Just sayin’.

Until next time…..

The Windmills Of Your Mind Lyrics
(Song by Michel Legrand/Alan Bergman/Marilyn Bergman)

Round like a circle in a spiral, like a wheel within a wheel
Never ending or beginning on an ever spinning reel
Like a snowball down a mountain, or a carnival balloon
Like a carousel that’s turning running rings around the moon
Like a clock whose hands are sweeping past the minutes of its face
And the world is like an apple whirling silently in space
Like the circles that you find in the windmills of your mind

Like a tunnel that you follow to a tunnel of its own
Down a hollow to a cavern where the sun has never shone
Like a door that keeps revolving in a half forgotten dream
Or the ripples from a pebble someone tosses in a stream
Like a clock whose hands are sweeping past the minutes of its face
And the world is like an apple whirling silently in space
Like the circles that you find in the windmills of your mind

Keys that jingle in your pocket, words that jangle in your head
Why did summer go so quickly, was it something that you said?
Lovers walking along a shore and leave their footprints in the sand
Is the sound of distant drumming just the fingers of your hand?
Pictures hanging in a hallway and the fragment of a song
Half remembered names and faces, but to whom do they belong?
When you knew that it was over you were suddenly aware
That the autumn leaves were turning to the colour of her hair!
Like a circle in a spiral, like a wheel within a wheel
Never ending or beginning on an ever spinning reel
As the images unwind, like the circles that you find
In the windmills of your mind