Suits of Armour, Kiss of the Gypsy and “Whatever It Takes”

Well, there was a bit of “throwing down of gauntlets” going on around here last time and the upshot is that I now have a couple of posts to write as a result. Whilst I mull over how best to tackle those posts, I thought it would be a great opportunity to share another picture from our recent trip to Edinburgh. A suit of armour featured, and at the time I wasn’t sure how to shoehorn it in, but now, with all this talk of gauntlets, I think I’ve found the perfect time.

First though, in the comments boxes last time, C over at Sun Dried Sparrows mentioned that she did love that ancient phrase, and would be interested in its origin. Basically, it seemsthrow gauntlets are those long thick gloves which protect your hands, wrists, and forearms and back in medieval times, a knight would throw down one of his metal gauntlets if challenging another knight to a duel. If this second knight picked it up, he was in effect accepting the challenge. Nowadays, if you throw down the gauntlet, you simply do or say something that challenges someone to take action (much less life-threatening).

But back to my suit of armour picture. One of the reasons for our trip to Edinburgh was because Mr WIAA wanted to visit an aunt and uncle who had recently moved to a new house. Rather than downsizing when they reached their eighties, the couple in question seem to have upsized, but we did love our visit and admired the many artefacts which were on display, collected over the course of a lifetime. One of the more recent acquisitions was a suit of armour which now resides in their hall, complete with…, yes you guessed it – gauntlets!

I had promised myself I wouldn’t write any more “wedding posts” as not overly popular with my readership it seems, but a few years ago, Mr WIAA’s cousin decided to get himself married in a suit of armour! It’s the bride’s day they always say, but in this case it was definitely a 50/50 split. The upshot however was that after the wedding they didn’t have space for the suit in the marital home, so it has, along with all sorts of other ephemera, gone to reside at his parent’s abode.

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The magazine spread about the event!

But this is supposed to be a music blog so why am I wittering on about suits of armour? Well I’ve not mentioned this before, but we actually used to have a bona fide rock band in the family and the aforementioned cousin was very much part of it all. As a boy Mr WIAA spent most of his summers with his two cousins, and all they ever wanted to do when they grew up was to play music and join a band. Enter Kiss of the Gypsy.

KOTG were formed in Lancashire in the late ’80s and were described as a blues-based hard rock band. In 1991 they were signed to Atlantic Records USA and their first eponymously named album was released in 1992. Their first single, Whatever It Takes, reached No. 4 in the Rock Charts and was Single of the Week in Kerrang! magazine. Although this is not a great quality clip, it shows that they did reach the dizzy heights of filming in LA with glamourous blondes (neither of the cousins by the way is the lead singer).

Whatever It Takes by Kiss of the Gypsy:

Despite receiving critical acclaim for this first album it seems they were the victims of bad timing, as their style of rock music was coming to an end in the early ’90s and grunge was taking over. After the UK branch of their record company folded, they lost their record deal and the second album was never released. They are still however fondly remembered by those in the know, and of course when one of the brothers got married, it was always going to be quite a unique affair what with suits of armour, a drum kit for guests to autograph, vinyl place settings and a “sign of the horns” wedding cake.

As for me, at the time this kind of music was about as far from what I was familiar with as is possible, but of course not long after Mr WIAA and I became a couple, I got the chance to meet the brothers. As luck would have it I worked in an office quite near Mr WIAA’s parents’ house so I was to drop by after work to be introduced to this new branch of the family. I kind of knew about KOTG but didn’t really know much about the sub-genre of rock music called hair metal (although they wouldn’t take kindly to me calling it that probably), so when I did meet them, all I could think of was, “What a lot of hair!”.

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Kiss of the Gypsy 1991

They are of course now both bald as coots, and two of the loveliest guys you could ever meet, but back then it was a tad disconcerting to be standing in your future in-laws’ suburban sitting room, chatting with what looked like members of Guns N’ Roses. It was also really bad luck that I had come straight from work that day in an office-y type outfit which was about as frumpy as they come. I must have been having one of those days when inspiration left me, so had teamed up a tweed skirt with a old “going-out” blouse – Not up to my usual standard and although he didn’t say it at the time, I’m sure Mr WIAA had hoped I’d change before coming over. All water under the bridge now of course, and so many years ago, but definitely a first meeting I’ll not forget in a hurry.

I shall leave you with another of the tracks from their album which is more of a power ballad, and one I like a lot. Not many of us ever get to live the dream, even for a short while, but these lads from Lancashire did – Something to tell the grandchildren about, although I have a feeling they would scarcely believe them!

Take This Old Heart by Kiss of the Gypsy:

Take This Old Heart Lyrics
(Song by Tony Mitchell)

Lets fly away now on the wings of wonder
Touch me again
The cold breath of winter, hold me in your arms
Shield me again
Like the shadow of night I’ll haunt you
Behind me wherever you may go
Like a kiss on the wind I’ll find you
No matter how far you wish to go….

Take this old heart of mine
It can sustain anything from you but
I can’t face loneliness again
I’ll keep my promise
If it means I’ll never lose you again
I’m going in with my eyes open wide

You can ride on my shoulders
Through the skies like an eagle I’ll carry you
Like a rock I’ll stand and support you
I’ll be earth between you feet, I will be here to hold on to
If you ever grow tired hold on to me….

Seven in Seven #6: George Michael, Fastlove and Songs that Start with the Letter F!

Day Six of my challenge to write seven posts in seven days.

On the home straight now, so looks as if I’m going to achieve my goal of writing “seven in seven”. Today’s post should almost write itself, so here goes….

Last night I went to our local theatre. As a birthday surprise, a kind friend had bought me a ticket for the stage show Fastlove, which has the tagline A Tribute To George Michael. At first I was a tad worried – Although the friend knows I write a blog that is (tenuously at times) linked to the world of music, they have respected my wishes not to share it with them. Writing for complete strangers (who in many cases have become virtual friends I have to say) seems to be a lot easier than writing for people you know. The upshot is that she wouldn’t have known just how upset I was when I heard of George’s death on Christmas Day 2016, and she wouldn’t have known just how many Open Letters I have written to him since – I now have a whole George Michael category on my sidebar (link here) and there seems to be no sign of me ever running out of material for new posts. This one is a case in point.

Fastlove

But back to the show – I shouldn’t have worried. Although I had thought I would never want to hear anyone perform George’s songs except George, to my great surprise I really enjoyed it. It was a highly professional production having started off in London’s West End. They took great pains to make sure, we the audience, realised this was not “A Tribute Act”, but in fact “A Tribute” – to George. The word tribute was never actually mentioned, but instead it was called an opportunity for us all to honour George’s memory, and I think we pretty much achieved that.

george-michael-2016-580x475The chap who played George was excellent, and dare I say it, as good a singer as George himself. We sometimes forget that for every excellent singer out there, only a tiny proportion ever make it big and become recording stars. Here was someone who was a gifted singer but had gone down a different path. Also it is easy to look like solo artist George, as post-Faith (the album), his uniform was usually black trousers, black T-shirt and a smart jacket. Add to that a pair of dark glasses, the distinctive haircut, a neatly trimmed beard and you’re pretty much there.

As for the songs, all the usual suspects were performed (accompanied by a fine band I might add which included a female sax player – her solo at the start of Careless Whisper was a definite crowd-pleaser). We were only a few songs in however when something occurred to me – An awful lot of George’s songs start with the letter F, and if they don’t start with the letter F, they start with the letter A. Obviously the show had kicked off with Fastlove but then we were treated to Father Figure, Faith, Freedom! ’90, Flawless and (Too) Funky. In the second half we had the Wham! hit Freedom but then the A songs started to made their presence felt and we had A Different Corner, As and Amazing. When I got home I decided that if George had written his song lyrics using a qwerty keyboard he must have been left-handed, as when your fingers rest on the home keys, the easiest ones to press are F (forefinger) and A (pinky). One letter and inspiration struck – He was off. (But then again maybe I’ve worked in offices for too long and am overthinking it!)

thDBE1SZ1LSo, what should the featured song for this post be? Since many mentioned above have appeared in previous posts, and are already listed on my Featured Songs page, it should be one of the other F’s – Freedom! ’90 was one of the more up-tempo songs of the evening, so that one it shall be. I see that back in 1990 it was originally released as Freedom! but that probably caused confusion with the Wham! hit Freedom (argh so many exclamation marks!!), so it now seems to have had the year added as a suffix.

Freedom! ’90 by George Michael:

I was surprised at how much I enjoyed last night’s show and had it not been for the ticket bought for me as a gift, I probably wouldn’t have risked it, but a good night was definitely had by all 800 ladies “of a certain age” in the audience. A few of them were up on their feet early on, and I was sorely tempted myself, but always feel bad for the people sitting behind who will then get a rubbish view – By the end of the night however we were all up on our feet, and although sadly it wasn’t George himself, someone who looked awfully like him closed the show, by taking us all to The Edge Of Heaven!

Until next time….

Freedom ’90 Lyrics
(Song by George Michael)

I won’t let you down
I will not give you up
Gotta have some faith in the sound
It’s the one good thing that I’ve got
I won’t let you down
So please don’t give me up
‘Cause I would really, really love to stick around, oh yeah

Heaven knows I was just a young boy
Didn’t know what I wanted to be
I was every little hungry schoolgirl’s pride and joy
And I guess it was enough for me
To win the race? A prettier face!
Brand new clothes and a big fat place
On your rock and roll TV
But today the way I play the game is not the same
No way
Think I’m gonna get myself happy

I think there’s something you should know
I think it’s time I told you so
There’s something deep inside of me
There’s someone else I’ve got to be
Take back your picture in a frame
Take back your singing in the rain
I just hope you understand
Sometimes the clothes do not make the man

All we have to do now
Is take these lies and make them true somehow
All we have to see
Is that I don’t belong to you
And you don’t belong to me yea yea
Freedom
Freedom
Freedom
You’ve gotta give for what you take
Freedom
Freedom
Freedom
You’ve gotta give for what you take

Heaven knows we sure had some fun boy
What a kick just a buddy and me
We had every big shot good-time band on the run boy
We were living in a fantasy
We won the race
Got out of the place
I went back home got a brand new face
For the boys on MTV
But today the way I play the game has got to change
Oh yeah
Now I’m gonna get myself happy

I think there’s something you should know
I think it’s time I stopped the show
There’s something deep inside of me
There’s someone I forgot to be
Take back your picture in a frame
Don’t think that I’ll be back again
I just hope you understand
Sometimes the clothes do not make the man

All we have to do now
Is take these lies and make them true somehow
All we have to see
Is that I don’t belong to you
And you don’t belong to me, yea yea
Freedom
Freedom
Freedom
You’ve gotta give for what you take
Freedom
Freedom
Freedom
You’ve gotta give for what you take

Well it looks like the road to heaven
But it feels like the road to hell
When I knew which side my bread was buttered
I took the knife as well
Posing for another picture
Everybody’s got to sell
But when you shake your ass
They notice fast
And some mistakes were built to last

That’s what you get
That’s what you get
That’s what you get
I say that’s what you get
That’s what you get for changing your mind
That’s what you get for changing your mind

Seven in Seven #4: Capercaillie, “Caledonia” and Letters From America

Day Four of my annual challenge to write seven posts in seven days. No pressure on regular visitors to leave comments though and these….. Oh what the heck, you know the score by now, I’ll just get on with it.

So far so good with this challenge but as I was away last weekend, today the garden beckoned. Lots of plants to be bedded in and pots to be filled. I am seriously cream-crackered so this will definitely have to be a shorter post.

One of the gardening pressures I have, is that I am custodian of the “family begonias”. Some people inherit money and some inherit good genes. After my dad’s death I inherited begonia corms! These corms have passed down the generations and can’t be purchased in garden centres nowadays but continually reproduce every year. I usually have around ten tubs of beautiful red flowers in my garden every summer but as the only child, of an only child, of an only child, I feel the pressure not to render them extinct. Darling daughter is sadly disinterested in gardening at the moment, but then again so was I at her age, so all is not yet lost – Down the line these knobby corms will become hers, and hopefully she will rise to the challenge of keeping them going for another generation.

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The family begonias!

These begonias have been mentioned in this blog before, when I wrote about The Proclaimers’ song Letter From America (link here). The lyrics reminded me that although my family in Scotland is really small, if I included all those who left for America at the turn of the last century to find work, and perhaps their fortunes, it would be enormous. My grandad’s aunts and uncles all left the family croft and made the brave journey across the Atlantic to the New World. To track down their offspring would be an enormous task, and one that might have to be a retirement project, but at this time of the year I often wonder if any of them took a few begonia corms with them, as a reminder of home. If they did, there could well be gardens all over America with pots of red flowers just like mine.

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Letter From America by The Proclaimers:

The Scottish diaspora is said to be around five times the size of our native population, and often far more fervently Scottish. Caledonian Societies abound and many bands from Scotland are probably far more widely known in “The Colonies” than south of the border. The folk band Capercaillie was founded in the 1980s, and is fronted by singer Karen Matheson. The group adapt traditional Gaelic music and lyrics with modern instruments such as electric guitar or bass and are probably one of our most successful exports. Here they are performing Cape Breton Song at Aberdeen’s Capitol Theatre in 1992.

But I always include the lyrics in my posts and although I laboured over Peter Kay’s Car Share Buddy song yesterday (which I couldn’t find anywhere), this time the lyrics are in Gaelic, so I have no chance. Time to think of another song that seems to go down well in those parts of the world where the residents often have a surname with the the prefix Mac. The song Caledonia was written in 1977 by Dougie MacLean – He was on a beach in France, feeling homesick, and wrote it in less than ten minutes. The song has became something of an anthem for Scotland and has been covered by many artists. The version I have in my collection is by Frankie Miller, so the audio clip will be that one, but for the video clip I think it will have to be the man himself. I wonder if he is also custodian of the family begonia corms?

Caledonia by Frankie Miller:

Caledonia Lyrics
(Song by Dougie MacLean)

I don’t know if you can see
The changes that have come over me
In these last few days I’ve been afraid
That I might drift away
I’ve been telling old stories, singing songs
That make me think about where I’ve come from
That’s the reason why I seem
So far away today

Let me tell you that I love you
That I think about you all the time
Caledonia, you’re calling me, now I’m going home
But if I should become a stranger
Know that it would make me more than sad
Caledonia’s been everything I’ve ever had

Now I have moved and I’ve kept on moving
Proved the points that I needed proving
Lost the friends that I needed losing
Found others on the way

I have kissed the fellas and left them crying
Stolen dreams, yes, there’s no denying
I have travelled hard, sometimes with conscience flying
Somewhere with the wind

Let me tell you that I love you
That I think about you all the time
Caledonia, you’re calling me, now I’m going home
But if I should become a stranger
Know that it would make me more than sad
Caledonia’s been everything I’ve ever had

Now I’m sitting here before the fire
The empty room, the forest choir
The flames have cooled, don’t get any higher
They’ve withered, now they’ve gone
But I’m steady thinking, my way is clear
And I know what I will do tomorrow
When hands have shaken, the kisses float
Then I will disappear

Caledonia’s been everything I’ve ever had
Caledonia’s been everything I’ve ever had
Caledonia’s been everything I’ve ever had

Postscript:

Just in case anyone doesn’t know what I’m talking about when I mention the word “corm” – This is what they look like.

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Not very attractive granted, but once buried in some soil they start to perform their annual magic.

The scene of our “End of the Summer” get-together.

Tithe Barns, Sixpence None the Richer and “Kiss Me”

The other week I wrote about the evils of Facebook (link here), or rather the fact you can never admit over there, to having anything other than a dazzlingly perfect life. I decided that when the chips are down we have to keep our troubles to ourselves, but it turns out I was wrong – An old friend who also has a poorly parent messaged me, and offered to step up to the plate in terms of caring duties so that we could all go to the ball! Well, a wedding to be precise, down in Royal Berkshire. This time the couple weren’t Royal, but it was still a grand old affair where one of our own tied the knot with someone who back in the day would have been called a Sassenach. The bride, having grown up in our street, invited most of the neighbours and despite no two journeys being the same, we all (even 91-year-old Albert) managed to make it down to the other end of the country on time. Scotland came to Englandshire for a day, and even in the warm and muggy weather, kilts made an appearance.

The wedding itself was held in a place called a Tithe Barn which I had never heard of before because I’m pretty sure we don’t have them in Scotland, but it was absolutely beautiful and all very rustic, so the decoration of choice tied in with the surroundings – Lots of sunflowers, ivy, hessian and the pièce de résistance, a wedding cake constructed with a stack of artisan cheeses. (The eagle eyed amongst you will also have noticed some Swizzels Love Hearts and disposable cameras on the table, but hey, there had to be a few modern-day concessions.)

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The Wedding Cake: A cheesecake!

But of course this is supposed to be a music blog so what song ties in with a wedding themed post? I have written about a previous wedding we were invited to on these pages (link here) but that was a very different affair, where at the end of the evening I coerced Mr WIAA into joining me for the full seven minute “re-enactment of the lyrics dance” to Bohemian Rhapsody – The cringe moment I suffered the next day was almost worse than the hangover, but this time a ceilidh band was provided which means you need to stay sharp in order to perform the sometimes complex dance routines. Less alcohol was consumed so luckily for me, no cringe moments.

The ceilidh band were good, although our neighbour who is a retired PE teacher adept at Scottish Country Dancing (it’s part of the curriculum up here) got a bit fed up with the 10 minute explanation of the “steps” that preceded each dance. Looking around he quickly assessed the situation and said to the band, “We’re all Scottish here, we know the steps, so just get on with it” – A bit brusque and to the point, but it did save a lot of time which in turn led to more dances, so all good.

thCT1C1ZFHBut earlier in the day during the meal, music was played – It was a digital “mix-tape” of the bride’s favourite songs, and listening to it I realised an awful lot of them have appeared in this blog. But then again her parents are around the same age as us, so the music she grew up with will also have been their favourites, and then the music she discovered herself will have been the same as that played by darling daughter, once she started taking an interest. All the songs had a romantic theme but this is the one that stayed with me for the rest of the day – Kiss Me by Sixpence None the Richer. Somehow it was just perfect for our rustic setting, what with the bearded barley, the green, green grass, the milky twilight, the moonlit floor and the fireflies dance.

Kiss Me by Sixpence None the Richer:

It occurred to me I knew nothing about Sixpence None the Richer other than they did really well with that song, reaching No. 4 in the UK Singles Chart in 1998, when our bride would have been aged only nine. Turns out they are primarily a Christian Rock outfit from Texas and the name of the band was inspired by a passage from the book Mere Christianity by C. S. Lewis. Despite only reaching No. 2 on the Billboard Chart, Kiss Me had great longevity, spending 35 weeks on the chart in total making it the 6th best-selling record of the year. It has also been used on several film soundtracks which is why I must have it in my collection.

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So, “What’s it all about?” – I have mentioned this here before, but as Hal David wrote in the lyrics to the song Alfie, it’s all about love and could there be anything more loved-up than a wedding? The music playing in the background was all about love, romance and kisses and our bride and groom certainly had that glow about them on their big day.

Here’s the thing though – As per that very recent Royal Wedding, both sets of parents are no longer together, so as is often the case at weddings nowadays, there was the tricky business of who sits at the top table, who gives the bride away and who is left out altogether. But despite all this, youngsters don’t seem to have been put off the idea of marriage and willingly spend a large chunk of their hard-earned cash on their nuptials. My generation on the whole have not been great role models for marriage, but cupid’s arrow is still alive and well it seems, and the instinct to settle down with another is as strong as ever. I wish our young couple all the best for the future and I have a sneaking suspicion they are going to do just fine.

Until next time….

Kiss Me Lyrics
(Song by Matt Slocum)

Kiss me out of the bearded barley
Nightly, beside the green, green grass
Swing, swing, swing the spinning step
You wear those shoes and I will wear that dress

Oh, kiss me beneath the milky twilight
Lead me out on the moonlit floor
Lift your open hand
Strike up the band
And make the fireflies dance
Silver moon’s sparkling
So kiss me

Kiss me down by the broken tree house
Swing me upon its hanging tire
Bring, bring, bring your flowered hat
We’ll take the trail marked on your father’s map

Oh, kiss me beneath the milky twilight
Lead me out on the moonlit floor,
Lift your open hand
Strike up the band
And make the fireflies dance
Silver moon’s sparkling
So kiss me

Kiss me beneath the milky twilight
Lead me out on the moonlit floor,
Lift your open hand
Strike up the band
And make the fireflies dance
Silver moon’s sparkling
So kiss me

Conspiracy Theories, R.E.M. and “Man on the Moon”

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.

This month’s full moon appears in our skies on the 29th May. Spring has well and truly sprung by the time May arrives, and flowers and colourful blooms should be dotting the landscape. Very appropriately then, this moon is called the Flower Moon but it’s also sometimes known as the Corn Planting Moon, or Bright Moon because it tends to be one of the brightest. Looking out at my garden right now there aren’t that many flowers in bloom at all yet, as I’ve just taken out the spring bulbs but haven’t yet potted up anything new, as a real risk of frost here in the North of Scotland until the month of June. Probably won’t be one of the brightest moons for me either, as I don’t know about where you live, but sometimes it’s still light now when I go to bed – Will make a special effort however and stay up late on Tuesday to witness it.

flower-moon2

But onto the song choice – This post’s moon-related song was always going to pop up at some point in this series, and having already discovered so much interesting stuff about the moon…..

  • The lunar cycle is 29.5 days and all full moons have a name
  • When the moon is at perigee (that point closest to the earth) it is called a Supermoon
  • A second full moon in the same calendar month is called a Blue Moon
  • A lunar eclipse is called a Blood Moon
  • When waxing, the moon is lit from the right, when waning from the left
  • The opposite of a crescent moon is a gibbous moon, one that is bigger than a half-moon but less than a full moon

….. it’s now time to find out a few more interesting snippets.

As children, we have probably all looked up at the moon and seen a face. That would be because the giant dry seas and craters kind of map out eyes, a nose and a mouth. This only works if you are in the Northern Hemisphere however as in the Southern Hemisphere the features would be upside down. And, these features only appear on the side of the moon facing us as on the other side, the dark side, the surface is merely textured, with no discernible shading at all.

But all that is about the Man In The Moon, or how we perceive him anyway. This post’s featured song is about the first Man On The Moon, or rather the idea that we might have been duped into thinking it actually happened, when in fact there are those out there who would dispute that fact. It all boils down to that pesky flag – After watching a particularly convincing documentary about the moon-landing conspiracy theory, I even started to doubt it all myself. But no, the computer power that could now fire up a pocket calculator (if they still exist) was all that was actually needed to get those first men on the moon, and as for the flag appearing to blow in the wind (?!), it’s actually a much more boring story. An upside down L-shaped frame was made for it and after being crumpled up in the lunar module for some time, it took on the appearance of a flag being wafted about by all those supposedly non-existent winds. It’s still up there, along with another five left by visiting astronauts, although one has apparently now fallen over after having been hit by the lunar module upon its departure.

moon-landing
Neil Armstrong: First Man on the Moon – Or was he?

Back in 1992, the band R.E.M. released a song called Man on the Moon, the second single from their 1992 album “Automatic for the People”. The lyrics were written by lead singer Michael Stipe as a tribute to the comedian and performer Andy Kaufman. We’re probably not that familiar with Andy Kaufman in the UK but it seems he was quite the showman, appearing on Saturday Night Live in a variety of guises. In the song numerous references are made to his career including his Elvis impersonation, wrestling, and the film My Breakfast with Blassie. Because there were always rumours that Kaufman’s death in 1984 was faked, Michael used the moon landing conspiracy theories as an oblique reference to that allusion in the chorus.

Man on the Moon by R.E.M.:

As anyone who visits here regularly knows, I’m usually quite late to the party, and it wasn’t really until “Automatic for the People” that I started to properly appreciate R.E.M. – I’ve mentioned this before, but in 1993 we went on holiday to a far flung place where we very naughtily acquired many, many cassette tapes of the not entirely legitimate nature. This album was one of them, and once back at home it got a serious amount of listening time, as it also included the singles Everybody Hurts, Nightswimming, Drive, The Sidewinder Sleeps Tonight and Find The River.

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Having just done a little research, it seems the band are all around my age and since the album apparently dealt with themes of loss and mourning inspired by “that sense of …. turning thirty”, it obviously resonated with me at the time. We are all almost twice that age now so quite mind-boggling that a 30th birthday could have been such a big deal at the time – A lot of water under the bridge since those days, but more appropriately for this post a lot of full moons, 334 to be precise. So, remember to look out for the one on Tuesday night and cross fingers there will be many, many more, for all of us.

Until next time….

Man on the Moon Lyrics
(Song by Bill Berry/Peter Buck/Mike Mills/Michael Stipe)

Mott the Hoople and the game of Life yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah
Andy Kaufman in the wrestling match yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah
Monopoly, Twenty one, checkers, and chess yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah
Mister Fred Blassie in a breakfast mess yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah
Let’s play Twister, let’s play Risk yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah
I’ll see you in heaven if you make the list yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah

Now, Andy did you hear about this one?
Tell me, are you locked in the punch?
Andy are you goofing on Elvis? Hey, baby
Are we losing touch?

If you believed they put a man on the moon
Man on the moon
If you believe there’s nothing up his sleeve
Then nothing is cool

Moses went walking with the staff of wood yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah
Newton got beaned by the apple good yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah
Egypt was troubled by the horrible asp yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah
Mister Charles Darwin had the gall to ask yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah

Now, Andy did you hear about this one?
Tell me, are you locked in the punch?
Andy are you goofing on Elvis? Hey, baby
Are you having fun?

If you believed they put a man on the moon
Man on the moon
If you believe there’s nothing up his sleeve
Then nothing is cool

Here’s a little agit for the never-believer yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah
Here’s a little ghost for the offering yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah
Here’s a truck stop instead of Saint Peter’s yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah
Mister Andy Kaufman’s gone wrestling yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah

Now, Andy did you hear about this one?
Tell me, are you locked in the punch?
Andy are you goofing on Elvis? Hey, baby
Are we losing touch?

If you believed they put a man on the moon
Man on the moon
If you believe there’s nothing up his sleeve
Then nothing is cool

Postscript:

It’s become a feature of these posts for me to tag onto the bottom a picture of the previous month’s moon, courtesy of my photographer friend (he is purely a hobbyist but I do love his pictures). This one just goes to show that some of the most impressive moon shots are sometimes those where the moon is actually obscured by cloud. And when a viaduct is involved as well, it just gets better and better….

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Picture courtesy of R.J.

Edinburgh, Trainspotting and “Lust for Life”

Last week, despite having just a few too many responsibilities at the moment (regular visitors will know what I mean), Mr WIAA and I managed to spend a few days in our capital city, Edinburgh. Now this is a city steeped in history and awash with culture, but having visited many times before, this time it was nice just to “be” there – Wandering round the Old Town, admiring the New Town (built between 1767 and 1850, so the old town as you can imagine is really old), visiting galleries and stopping for regular refreshments in the city’s many coffee shops and hostelries.

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But you can only do that for so long, so what does a middle-aged lady and her husband decide to do on day 2 of the trip? – Why recreate scenes from the film Trainspotting of course! Danny Boyle’s black comedy was released in 1996 and although set in a very different Edinburgh from the one visited by tourists, it made a massive impact, and on some lists is now ranked one of the 10 best British films ever made.

Based on the novel of the same name by Irvine Welsh, the film was about a group of heroin addicts living in an economically depressed area of the city, and their passage through life. It sounds bleak, which it most definitely was in places, but there were also moments of great humour, and of course for anyone who knows the film well, the soundtrack was a triumph and has gone on to become a pop culture phenomenon. It contained music from the ’70s by artists such as Lou Reed and Iggy Pop, musicians closely associated with drug use, but also music from the Britpop era and ’90s techno-dance music by bands such as Underworld.

Born Slippy .NUXX by Underworld:

The main character in the film, Renton, was played by Ewan McGregor and no-one who has seen it will forget that opening scene where he and his friends are being chased through the streets of central Edinburgh: “Choose life,” began his monologue. “Choose a job. Choose a career. Choose a family. Choose a f**king big television. Choose washing machines, cars, compact disc players, and electrical tin can openers. Choose good health, low cholesterol and dental insurance. Choose fixed-interest mortgage repayments. Choose a starter home ………… But why would I want to do a thing like that? I chose not to choose life. I chose somethin’ else. And the reasons? There are no reasons. Who needs reasons when you’ve got heroin?”.  All played out of course to the sound of Iggy Pop’s 1977 song, Lust for Life.

Lust for Life by Iggy Pop:

The little film above was made over the course of two days as we did a recce on day one just to find the locations. On day two we got the scenes we were looking for, but maybe not wise to have worn a pair of boots with heels – Oh well, next time I decide to recreate scenes from a movie about drug addicts, I will remember that.

Whilst on the trip, I got to thinking about some of the other great scenes from the film, and one that has stuck with me is when Renton meets “wise beyond her years” love-interest Diane for the first time. Turned out the “flatmates” he met the next morning were in fact her parents – One of the funniest moments in the entire film (but perhaps not quite as funny in the 21st century in light of recent news stories):

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Renton: Excuse me, excuse me. I don’t mean to harass you, but I was very impressed with the capable and stylish manner in which you dealt with that situation. And I was thinking to myself, now this girl’s special.
Diane: Thanks.
Renton: What’s your name?
Diane: Diane.
Renton: And where are you going, Diane?
Diane: I’m going home.
Renton: Well, where’s that?
Diane: It’s where I live.
Renton: Great.
Diane: What?
Renton: Well, I’ll come back with you if you like, but like, I’m not promising anything, you know.
Diane: Do you find that this approach usually works? Or let me guess, you’ve never tried it before. In fact, you don’t normally approach girls – am I right? The truth is that you’re a quiet sensitive type but if I’m prepared to take a chance, I might just get to know the inner you: witty, adventurous, passionate, loving, loyal. Taxi! A little bit crazy, a little bit bad. But hey – don’t us girls just love that?
Renton: Eh?
Diane: Well, what’s wrong boy – cat got your tongue?

And of course when Diane doesn’t get Iggy’s name quite right:

Diane: You’re not getting any younger Mark. The world’s changing. Music’s changing. Even drugs are changing. You can’t stay in here all day dreaming about heroin and Ziggy Pop.
Renton: It’s Iggy Pop.
Diane: Whatever. I mean, the guy’s dead anyway.
Renton: Iggy Pop’s not dead. He toured last year! Tommy went to see him.
Diane: The point is, you’ve got to find something new.

I think most of us who were fans of the first film will by now have seen the sequel, made just over 20 years later and called T2 Trainspotting. Back in 1996 “the prevailing anxieties were over the spiritual bankruptcy of western consumerist society”. In the sequel, Renton updates the iconic speech from the original film – The must-have consumer goods of 1996 have gone, replaced by an assault on the dismal features of millennial life, especially social media. “Choose Facebook,” says middle-aged Renton, “Twitter, Instagram and hope that someone, somewhere cares … Choose reality TV, slut shaming, revenge porn. Choose a zero-hours contract, a two-hour journey to work. And choose the same for your kids, only worse, and smother the pain with an unknown dose of an unknown drug made in somebody’s kitchen …”

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Back in 1996 I did choose life, and I don’t mean that I bought into acquiring the consumer goods listed in the monologue, but by giving up work to look after baby DD. Being married to someone in the Arts this was perhaps a rash plan, but it seemed to work out for us and made for a much less stressful life. We’ve never been big on “stuff”, always preferring “time”, but I realise this is not an option for everyone. 20 years on and being liked on social media seems to have replaced the need for consumer goods for millennials, but who can blame them. My generation bought up all the houses and have now bought up the starter flats on a buy-to-let basis, so life is tough for them. As for me, since taking up blogging I have all but abandoned social media but then again, what is blogging if not a different form of social media? We convince ourselves it is to hone our writing skills, but I can’t deny there is a great sense of pleasure when the feedback is favourable and I do love the discussion that can sometimes develop. Let’s see what this one brings.

As for the soundtrack album that went with the first film, I of course bought it back in 1996, ironically with a voucher received as a leaving gift from one the departments I had worked with before giving it all up…… and Choosing Life. Sadly the purchases I made with that voucher were all on cassette tape which was the worst medium for music consumption, but fortunately easy to replace nowadays, which I have now done.

But the last word should probably come from Renton. Trainspotting was a film about drug addicts, primarily watched by people like myself who weren’t drug addicts (don’t do it kids). The film did however make us understand it all a bit more: “People think it’s all about misery and desperation and death and all that shit which is not to be ignored, but what they forget is the pleasure of it. Otherwise we wouldn’t do it. After all, we’re not f**king stupid. At least, we’re not that f**king stupid.”

Until next time….

Lust for Life Lyrics
(Song by Iggy Pop/David Bowie)

Here comes Johnny Yen again
With the liquor and drugs
And a flesh machine
He’s gonna do another strip tease

Hey man, where’d you get that lotion?
I’ve been hurting since I bought the gimmick
About something called love
Yeah, something called love
Well, that’s like hypnotising chickens

Well, I’m just a modern guy
Of course, I’ve had it in the ear before
‘Cause of a lust for life
‘Cause of a lust for life

I’m worth a million in prizes
With my torture film
Drive a G.T.O.
Wear a uniform
All on government loan

I’m worth a million in prizes
Yeah, I’m through with sleeping on the sidewalk
No more beating my brains
No more beating my brains
With the liquor and drugs
With the liquor and drugs

Well, I’m just a modern guy
Of course, I’ve had it in my ear before
‘Cause, of a lust for life (lust for life)
‘Cause of a lust for life (lust for life, oooo)
I’ve got a lust for life (oooh)
Got a lust for life (oooh)
Oh, a lust for life (oooh)
Oh, a lust for life (oooh)
A lust for life (oooh)
I got a lust for life (oooh)
Got a lust for life

Well, I’m just a modern guy
Of course, I’ve had it in my ear before
‘Cause I’ve a lust for life
‘Cause I’ve a lust for life.

Well, here comes Johnny Yen again
With the liquor and drugs
And a flesh machine
I know he’s gonna do another strip tease

Hey man, where’d ya get that lotion?
Your skin starts itching once you buy the gimmick
About something called love
Oh Love, love, love
Well, that’s like hypnotising chickens.

Well, I’m just a modern guy
Of course, I’ve had it in the ear before
And I’ve a lust for life (lust for life)
‘Cause I’ve a lust for life (lust for life)
Got a lust for life
Yeah, a lust for life
I got a lust for life
Oh, a lust for life
Got a lust for life
Yeah a lust for life
I got a lust for life

Dionne, Aretha and “I Say A Little Prayer”

Now that I no longer have to commute to work every day, I seem to be missing out on those wonderful moments when a great song comes on the car radio, and you just have to turn up the volume to full blast.

I did however experience such a thing earlier this week on my way to the supermarket and needless to say it stuck with me for a good few days. The song was this one, I Say a Little Prayer, written by my favourite songwriting team of Burt Bacharach and Hal David. Inevitably the first person to record it back in 1967 was Dionne Warwick, as she was very much Burt’s “go-to” girl when he needed a chanteuse for his great material. What I hadn’t realised until now was that Hal David’s lyrics were meant to convey a woman’s concern for her man, who was serving in the Vietnam War (makes total sense now considering the timing). I have always loved those first few lines where the words wake up and makeup are used to such great effect. The rhyme just works so perfectly and for us girls, anything that happens before the morning ritual of putting on the makeup is early indeed, so doubly emphasizes the urgency of the prayer.

The moment I wake up
Before I put on my makeup
I say a little prayer for you

Although Burt’s recordings with Dionne usually took no more than three takes, I Say a Little Prayer took ten takes and he still disliked the completed track, feeling it rushed. He was nothing if not a perfectionist that Burt Bacharach.

But the version I heard in the car the other day wasn’t by Dionne but instead by the person who had a big hit with it in the UK. Aretha Franklin was in the process of recording her 1968 album entitled “Aretha Now” when her backing vocalists, The Sweet Inspirations, started singing the song just for fun. It suddenly became apparent that I Say a Little Prayer could be a worthy inclusion on the new album which is exactly what happened. The song ended up being released in July 1968 as the B-side to the single The House that Jack Built, but after accruing its own airplay reached No. 10 on the Billboard Chart and No. 4 on the UK Singles Chart.

And here is where the music producers seem to get it horribly wrong at times – It had taken much persuasion for Burt to release the original recording by Dionne Warwick, but with Theme from Valley of the Dolls on the B-side, it became one of the most successful double-sided releases of all time. Aretha’s version was never expected to make any sort of mark in its own right, but in subsequent decades it has been ranked right at the top of lists relating to the “Greatest 150 Singles of All Time”. How bizarre and makes you wonder what other delights have slipped through the net and never been given the air time they indubitably deserved. Then again, is that not the case for every art form? How many great writers and artists (and I include Mr WIAA and some of my blogging buddies in those categories) slip through the net, not seeming to catch that lucky break needed to get to the important next level, where actual money changes hands for exceptional work done.

But before I go, it should also be mentioned that I Say a Little Prayer is one of several Bacharach and David songs to feature prominently in the 1997 rom-com/chick-flick My Best Friend’s Wedding. There was a reggae-style cover by Diana King and a version sung by the film’s cast. Diana’s cover was released as a single which brought the song back to the Top 40 almost thirty years after Dionne Warwick’s original.

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I Say A Little Prayer by Diana King:

So, “What’s It All About?” – Having included all three very different versions in this post, they are ripe for a compare and contrast. Dionne’s does indeed sound a bit too rushed and not typical of Burt Bacharach’s usual orchestral pop style. Diana’s reggae version certainly creates a very different sound where the lyrics are sung Jamaican-style (before mi put on mi makeup). Aretha however, being the Queen of Soul an’ all that, nails it for me and it’s probably why the car radio had to be turned up to such a volume earlier in the week. Some songs, despite having a very low key start in life, end up becoming the most memorable and that’s why I live in hope that some of my wonderful artsy friends also eventually catch that lucky break which leads to their work being reclassified from being ordinary, to being extra-ordinary.

Until next time….

I Say A Little Prayer Lyrics

(Song by Burt Bacharach/Hal David)

The moment I wake up
Before I put on my makeup
I say a little prayer for you
While combing my hair, now
And wondering what dress to wear, now
I say a little prayer for you

Forever, forever, you’ll stay in my heart
And I will love you
Forever, and ever we never will part
Oh, how I’ll love you
Together, together, that’s how it must be
To live without you
Would only be heartbreak for me

I run for the bus, dear
While riding I think of us, dear
I say a little prayer for you
At work I just take time
And all through my coffee break-time
I say a little prayer for you

Forever, forever, you’ll stay in my heart
And I will love you
Forever, and ever we never will part
Oh, how I’ll love you
Together, together, that’s how it must be
To live without you
Would only mean heartbreak for me

I say a little prayer for you
I say a little prayer for you

Forever, forever, you’ll stay in my heart
And I will love you
Forever, and ever we never will part
Oh, how I’ll love you
Together, together, that’s how it must be
To live without you
Would only mean heartbreak for me

My darling, believe me
For me there is no one, but you
Please love me, too
I’m in love with you
Answer my prayer
Say you love me, too
Why don’t you answer my prayer?
You know, every day I say a little prayer
I said, I say, I say a little prayer