An American Odyssey in Song: Rhode Island – “Young and Beautiful” by Lana Del Rey

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!

Last time we visited Massachusetts (tricky to spell but that’s probably the last time I’ll have to do it) so we are now heading west towards New York, first passing through Rhode Island. This tiny state, only 37 miles wide and 48 miles long is made up of islands, inlets and peninsulas but also what appears to be chunks of mainland America plucked from Connecticut and Massachusetts (drat had to spell it again). The name came about because the Italian explorer Giovanni Verrazzano thought that the large pear-shaped island sitting in Narragansett Bay looked like the Greek island of Rhodes. The official name is actually the State of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations, the plantations part being an archaic name for “colony”.

Rhode Island

And now for the part I am coming to enjoy most about this series – The random fact element. Rhode Island is also called the Ocean State and due to its geography has a long history of sailing. The America’s Cup, offered up as a prize by the British Royal Yacht Squadron in 1851, was first won by a boat called America which is how it got its name. The cup has spent much of its time in Newport, Rhode Island ever since and poor Britain has never won it back. The MGM musical High Society was set in one of the many fully staffed mansions that littered the state back then and one of the most memorable scenes was when Bing Crosby and Grace Kelly took a trip on the True Love which in turn inspired the song for the movie. I do remember being troubled by their age difference when first watching it as a child – Having just looked it up, Bing was 53 and Grace 27 when the film was shot, but not unusual amongst wealthy Rhode Islanders back then I suppose. In fact the mansions, or “cottages” as they were called, were originally built by rich plantation owners in order to escape the heat of the Southern summer. Later on rich Northern families started to do the same as the Gilded Age of Vanderbilts and Astors reached its staggeringly opulent zenith. Never had so much money, been made so fast, by so few, and much of this wealth was reflected in the Cliff Walk properties of Newport, RI.

But hey, as usual I am being side-tracked, for this is supposed to be a music blog. Not many obvious contenders for this state but last time both CC and Rol came up with the suggestion Sweet Rhode Island Red by Ike and Tina Turner. A good one but not my featured song for this post as although most of us who are not even au fait with the world of poultry farming have heard of the Rhode Island Red hen (the state bird), the song is not about the hen or even set in the state. Also, although I really enjoyed Tina’s output during her reincarnation of the 1980s, I’m not so fond of the songs she recorded with Ike (or Ike), especially Nutbush City Limits, but we’ll come to the reason for that another day.

ike and tina

But not everyone in Rhode Island lives in mansions and owns yachts. Some of you will know of the animated sitcom Family Guy created by Seth MacFarlane. The series centres on the Griffins family who have an anthropomorphic pet dog called Brian. Seth MacFarlane is not only a talented actor, writer, singer, film-maker but is also (I think) extremely good-looking and it turns out he is even descended from one of the original passengers from The Mayflower (grrr…). He studied animation at the Rhode Island School of Design so not unusual to have set the show in the fictional city of Quahog, RI. I give you the Road To Rhode Island by Brian and Stewie!

All this talk of the Gilded Age and opulent mansions however has made me look into it a bit more and has inspired my choice of featured song for this post. One of the largest “cottages” was Hammersmith Farm owned by the stepfather of Jacqueline Bouvier, Hugh D. Auchincloss. She of course went on to marry John F Kennedy and their wedding reception was held there. The property was also used as the setting for the 1974 film version of The Great Gatsby starring Robert Redford and Mia Farrow. I have a feeling that Grace Kelly may well have also “graced” the terraces of Hammersmith Farm at some point, perhaps not in High Society as that appeared to be a film set, but perhaps in her role as Princess Grace of Monaco.

Some of you will know that Baz Luhrmann also made a dazzling version of The Great Gatsby back in 2013 and the song Young and Beautiful was specially written and recorded for it by Lana Del Rey. It was perfect for the film as she has a deep, sultry voice and a look that is evocative of a much earlier time. Also, a song about “the young and the beautiful” was totally appropriate for the tale of The Great Gatsby. All of the people mentioned in the paragraph above were rich, young and beautiful but whether characters in fiction or real people, they all died prematurely or experienced tragedy in their lives. Again a very tenuous link to this state, and again from a film, but just reinforces the knowledge we all have that a life of wealth and privilege does not necessarily bring happiness.

Young and Beautiful by Lana Del Rey:

Having done a bit of research, it seems that Lana Del Rey adopted her exotic sounding Latin name and look after spending time with friends in Miami. She is however originally from New York and has a Scottish heritage. Her real name is Lizzy Grant which I find amusing as where I come from in the North-East of Scotland there are many older ladies called Lizzy Grant – Absolutely none of them look like Lana Del Rey!

So, a longish post about the smallest state. Heading into Connecticut next and drawing a blank myself for that state at the moment, so again, any suggestions more than welcome. I can think of a couple of siblings who came from there and whose songs I have featured in this place recently, so may well go down that route. We’ll see, but in the meantime, I think I’ll have another listen to the haunting and sombre sound of Young and Beautiful.

Until next time….

Young And Beautiful Lyrics
(Song by Lana Del Ray/Rick Nowels)

I’ve seen the world
Done it all
Had my cake now
Diamonds, brilliant
And Bel Air now
Hot summer nights, mid July
When you and I were forever wild
The crazy days, city lights
The way you’d play with me like a child

Will you still love me
When I’m no longer young and beautiful?
Will you still love me
When I got nothing but my aching soul?
I know you will, I know you will
I know that you will
Will you still love me when I’m no longer beautiful?

I’ve seen the world, lit it up
As my stage now
Channelling angels in the new age now
Hot summer days, rock ‘n’ roll
The way you play for me at your show
And all the ways I got to know
Your pretty face and electric soul

Will you still love me
When I’m no longer young and beautiful?
Will you still love me
When I got nothing but my aching soul?
I know you will, I know you will
I know that you will
Will you still love me when I’m no longer beautiful?

Dear lord, when I get to heaven
Please let me bring my man
When he comes tell me that you’ll let him in
Father tell me if you can
Oh that grace, oh that body
Oh that face makes me wanna party
He’s my sun, he makes me shine like diamonds

Will you still love me
When I’m no longer young and beautiful?
Will you still love me
When I got nothing but my aching soul?
I know you will, I know you will
I know that you will
Will you still love me when I’m no longer beautiful?
Will you still love me when I’m no longer beautiful?
Will you still love me when I’m not young and beautiful

Postscript:

Because I mentioned the film High Society a fair few times above, I feel I should share this excellent clip of the inimitable Mr Louis “Satchel Mouth” Armstrong giving us a potted version of what is to come. Yes, this was high society Rhode Island-style, back in 1956. Enjoy.

Salvador Sobral, Amar Pelos Dois and Harking Back to Simpler Times

A short post compared to my usual tomes but last week I had a bit of a meltdown, where the very thought of looking at my home computer screen induced the collywobbles. ‘Tis all the fault of this new-fangled, hot desking, paperless office I have to turn up to every day – It’s not for me I’ve decided and Mr WIAA and I have been having very serious talks about what is to be done.

In the meantime, as this is in effect my web-diary, I want to record the fact that a very simple jazz ballad sung by a chap with a dicky ticker won last weekend’s Eurovision Song Contest for Portugal. It was written by his sister and after being announced as the winner, the pair got up on stage to perform the song together.

salvador

I am a fan of Eurovision and over the last 12 years we have watched it with the same set of friends who again came round for Saturday night’s show. I had intended to do a series of posts last week about the “Wacky World of Eurovision” (which is why some of you saw that title appear on your sidebar), but after the meltdown, that didn’t come to pass. Also I think I possibly had a bit of a wobble about ruining any music-blogging credibility I may have left!

In the end however, amidst a sea of the usual weird and wonderful big production numbers, it was a simple love song that came out on top. We all scored it in our top three in our house and it seems the rest of Europe agreed. Reassuringly, our own UK entry sung by Lucie Jones also did pretty well (relatively speaking) and here I was thinking that after all the “triggering” that’s been going on around here recently, we would end up at the bottom of the pile.

And so I give you the winning song, Amar Pelos Dois, written by Luisa Sobral and sung by her brother Salvador Sobral. The lyrics were performed in Portuguese but somehow we could still tell that it was the story of a lost love and of the singer’s continuous search to find her.

Amar Pelos Dois by Salvador Sobral:

So, “What’s It All About?” – I love what all this new technology can do for us but having just worked out that some days I will now perhaps spend 16 hours in front of a bank of computer screens, something will have to be done. Mr Sobral above has given up all social media and the backdrop for his song was not pyrotechnics but calming scenes from nature. Why did his song win? It was beautiful indeed but I also think that those of us with addled brains found it a real solace to listen to, and for me, it harked back to simpler times. In the short-term I think I’ll have to battle on, but for the longer-term, the life of a robot is not for me – Thank you Salvador for reminding me of that on Saturday night and please, please look after that dicky ticker because I want you, and your sweet songs, to be around for some time to come.

Amar Pelos Dois Lyrics
(Song by Luisa Sobral)

If one day someone asks about me
Tell them I lived to love you
Before you, I only existed
Tired and with nothing to give

My dear, listen to my prayers
I beg you to return, to want me again
I know that one can’t love alone
Maybe slowly you might learn again

My dear, listen to my prayers
I beg you to return, to want me again
I know that one can’t love alone
Maybe slowly you might learn again

If your heart doesn’t wish to give in
Not to feel passion, not to suffer
Without making plans of what will come after
My heart can love for the both of us

Postscript:

Although I initially thought that Salvador’s win at Eurovision was purely down to the simplicity of his song there was most definitely another factor at play – The big winner at this year’s Oscars was the film La La Land (although we have to remind ourselves it didn’t actually win the award for Best Film despite having been announced as such by Warren Beatty on the night). It also harked back in style to the romantic musicals of the ’40s and ’50s, and the musical numbers were simple, jazz influenced, piano-accompanied delights. The “halo effect” is definitely a thing, and one I am always highly influenced by, so it is likely that those of us who enjoyed Salvador’s song subconsciously associated it with the music from La La Land. In case you’re not aware of any of the songs from its soundtrack, here is my favourite, City Of Stars sung by its two stars, Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone.

City of Stars by Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone:

Bob Marley, MJ and Come Together

Wasn’t going to mention the outcome of Tuesday’s presidential election in America as have tried to stay away from controversial topics since starting the blog. I seem to be one of the few in my little circle who hasn’t however, so here goes. (The caveat of course being that the following is just my opinion.)

I was not in the slightest surprised that the election went Trump’s way, just as I was not surprised in June, with our referendum on whether to leave or remain in the EU, that the Leave camp won.

First of all polls don’t work – Too many people are not keen to share what they know could be construed as unpopular views, albeit ones they hold, thus we end up with the Shy Tory, the Shy Brexiteer and now it seems the Shy Trump-Supporter. Yet how campaigns are run is dictated by polls so here’s an idea for future elections and referendums – Forget what the pollsters say and LISTEN TO THE PEOPLE.

Talking of the people, here in the UK it became clear after our referendum just how divided we were as a nation and now it appears the US has gone the same way. The urban areas appear in one colour whereas the mainly rural and traditionally industrial areas appear in another colour (Scotland and N. Ireland being the exceptions but then we have our own devolved parliament/assembly). Whoever has been in charge for the last couple of decades hasn’t been LISTENING TO THE PEOPLE. Just as in the UK after Brexit, I don’t believe for a minute that the vast number of Trump voters in the US agree with his very extreme views but if they would rather go down that route than vote for the alternative, there seems to be a very big problem.

So here we are in a state of limbo in the UK awaiting the outcome of the machinations that will decide whether we go down the hard or soft Brexit route. In the US they will find out what kind of President Donald J will become – The businessman-cum-reality television star will set up home in The White House! In an era of 24-hour Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Reality TV, Netflix, X-Box, iPhones, iTunes, Soundbites, Drive-through McDonalds, Zero-hour contracts, Temporary contracts, Student loans, Crippling house prices, Aging populations, Sink Estates, Clothing at throwaway prices – none of it surprises me. As for Mr Trump, I am trusting there are enough checks and balances built into the constitution of the United States to save anything truly dire happening.

I used to worry about such things, but here’s what changed all that – A large graph showing population growth on the wall of Edinburgh’s Science Centre. The population of the world was around 3 billion when I was born but by the time I leave this mortal coil it will be around 9 billion – Sadly there is not much Donald Trump or the Leaders of Europe are going to be able to do about that, it is a fact, and unless we all come together to deal with the problem, it will be curtains anyway. We have the know-how to share our thoughts, pictures and ideas with people on the other side of the planet at a stroke, but we still drive around in cars powered by internal combustion engines. We have the know-how to develop amazing life-saving drugs but we can’t work out to feed and care for the people. We can do better.

ourworldindata_world-population-growth-1750-2100

But this is supposed to be a music blog and these are the three songs that have come to mind to compliment this post. The first is One Love by Bob Marley & the Wailers. Marley wrote this song during the turmoil of the Jamaican elections of December 1976. Marley had supported Michael Manley when he won the election in 1972 and became Prime Minister of Jamaica, but four years later, although Marley was by far the most popular person in Jamaica, he refused to take a political stance as the country was divided between Manley’s People’s National Party and the Jamaican Labour Party. It was very violent time in the country, and Marley tried to stay politically neutral while offering peace and shelter however he could – His home was kind of a safehouse for people with nowhere to go.

One Love by Bob Marley & the Wailers:

This next one is Come Together, a song written by John Lennon but performed here by the Arctic Monkeys for the Opening Ceremony of the London 2012 Olympics. It was ironically inspired by a political campaign, when Timothy Leary stood against Ronald Reagan for Governor of California. Although Lennon freely admitted that the lyrics are gobbledygook, I love this performance, and the sentiment of “coming together”.

And so to my last pick, Black Or White by Michael Jackson. Whatever you think of Michael, I always thought that his heart was in the right place and the lyrics of this song are a plea for racial tolerance. After an ugly campaign, I think it is important to include this clip which at the end, morphs several different people of differing races and nationalities, into one another (shown as “talking heads”).

So, “What’s It All About?” – I get that there are a lot of forgotten people out there who feel as if they have been hung out to dry by successive governments, but the challenges are just so insurmountable that we seem to be reaching a tipping point whereby life in the western world will just carry on getting a little harder every year.

I do fear for my daughter and her generation who were sold the dream of going to University in order to get a good job, but in reality, for the majority, the only jobs they get are in retail or hospitality (we have the most highly qualified army of baristas in history). They are generally heavily in debt due to student loans and if they ever do manage to buy property, they will just make it onto the first rung of the ladder, the only rung they will ever be able to afford. We have middle-aged parents in large houses with offspring raising a family in converted basements for goodness sake. We will of course try our best to help, and those little cartoons you see showing recent retirees “spending the kids inheritance” don’t amuse me – The majority will need you, and your cash, for some time to come.

I do try to keep my posts light and amusing and realise that this one hasn’t been at all. Felt it needed to be said however as this is primarily a web-log (with music thrown in). Hopefully back to business as usual soon!

One Love Lyrics
(Song by Bob Marley)

One Love!
One Heart!
Let’s get together and feel all right.
Hear the children cryin’
(One Love! );
Hear the children cryin’
(One Heart! ),
Sayin’: give thanks and praise
To the Lord and I will feel all right;
Sayin’: let’s get together
And feel all right.
Wo wo-wo wo-wo!

Let them all pass all their dirty
Remarks (One Love! );
There is one question
I’d really love to ask (One Heart! ):
Is there a place for the hopeless sinner,
Who has hurt all mankind just
To save his own beliefs?

One Love! What about the one heart?
One Heart!
What about?
Let’s get together and feel all right
As it was in the beginning
(One Love! );
So shall it be in the end
(One Heart! ),
All right!
Give thanks and praise to the Lord
And I will feel all right;
Let’s get together
And feel all right.
One more thing!

Let’s get together to fight
This Holy Armagiddyon (One Love! ),
So when the Man comes there will be no,
No doom (One Song! ).
Have pity on those whose
Chances grows t’inner;
There ain’t no hiding place
From the Father of Creation.

Sayin’: One Love!
What about the One Heart?
(One Heart! )
What about the?
Let’s get together and feel all right.
I’m pleadin’ to mankind!
(One Love! );
Oh, Lord!
(One Heart)
Wo-ooh!

Give thanks and praise to the Lord
And I will feel all right;
Let’s get together and feel all right.
Give thanks and praise to the Lord
And I will feel all right;
Let’s get together and feel all right.

An Eclectic Mix of Anthony Newley, Nile Rodgers and Noel Coward!

Well it seems ages since I’ve written what I would call a conventional post – One intro, one song, one back story, one memory and one, “Wow, didn’t realise that back in the day” moment. Blame those very compelling Olympics, the fact that summer eventually came to Scotland and a lot of blog admin to be done (who knew that as time goes by there could be so much, but in for a penny in for a pound and all that).

I’m sure all bloggers are the same but even if I haven’t been posting much of late I’ve had plenty of ideas and I find myself scribbling these down on scraps of paper in the course of the day (surreptitiously of course when I’m at work and supposed to be thinking of very serious statistical analysis type stuff). I have now found these scraps of paper and the topics, if I can read them, are as follows:

  1. Random pick from music app – Visions by Cliff Richard
  2. Concerts at Capitol Theatre, Aberdeen
  3. Anthony Newley, Fiddle liddle I doh
  4. Songs from every Olympics since 1968
  5. Duets where girl is forgotten about – Cherrelle, Denise Marsa, Marilyn Martin
  6. Chic – “Don’t live in the past but it’s a nice place to visit” song 
  7. Songs from daughter’s time in musical theatre
  8. Inter-Oil Company Pop Quiz 1985

So lots to choose from there but the random picks of the day are turning out to be quite embarrassing and if from your iTunes library it means you’ve actually parted with hard-earned cash to own them. I can only confess to purchasing Visions because I sometimes struggle with sleep and discovered that Cliff‘s voice and the sentiment of the song are both quite soporific and lullaby-like (that’s my story and I’m sticking to it).

Strawberry Fair by Anthony Newley:

Lots of stories to relate about the excellent concerts I witnessed in a small Art Deco theatre in Aberdeen in the ’70s and ’80s but will keep that one for another day. Anthony Newley‘s Strawberry Fair is our favourite novelty song as a family and if there is a chance to get the phrase “fiddle liddle I doh” into a conversation in the course of the day, we will. (Yes I know the actual phrase is “ri-fol ri-fol tol-de-riddle-li-do, but we never heard it that way.)

As for the Olympics, they have been great but as they end this weekend, anything related to all things Olympian will no longer be topical. I have already written about those very memorable duets, like Lucky Stars, where the girl is kind of forgotten about and wasn’t credited (Denise Marsa) then did it myself last week when I wrote about Saturday Love by Alexander O’Neal. As it turns out the song was actually a Cherrelle one and it was Alexander who was asked to duet with her later – My bad.

cherrelle

Chic, a band that epitomised the whole disco scene of the late ’70s, came back last year with I’ll Be There which was heavily played on the radio at the time. Not that their creator Nile Rodgers has ever been away, as he is the genius behind some of the best-selling albums of all-time which I often hadn’t realised until doing research for this blog. The track popped up this week on the radio and I do like that line, “Don’t live in the past but it’s a nice place to visit” especially when spending time on a project like this – Lovely to look back nostalgically but there is a whole world out there still to be discovered and experienced. Got to remind ourselves sometimes that the relationship we have with our laptops is never going to be as important as real-life relationships (and not being smutty here).

I’ll Be There by Chic:

I’ve mentioned before that my daughter was an aficionad0 of musical theatre and at some point I’m going to post one of her great recordings but to save embarrassment I will probably have to wait until she goes travelling, to a zone with no Wi-Fi. As an aside, anyone who wants to make a lot of money very easily – Set up a Musical Theatre school for little girls! Don’t put your daughter on the stage Mrs Worthington was told, but you know what, that’s exactly what lots of mums are intent on doing nowadays and from what I can see it’s money for old rope. You hire a church hall for a Saturday, get some music teachers to give up a few hours of their weekend, set yourself up with some fancy branding and logos and you’re away. Fees for the “term”, fees to appear in a show, fees for the costumes, fees for the tickets to go and watch the show and all the petrol for the running around. The “teachers” then get very generous Christmas gifts from some parents (which I always cynically thought was a bribe to get star-billing for their offspring – quite rightly it never worked though) and lo and behold come the teenage years they announce they don’t want to do it any more. Hallelujah.

You can tell quite early on however whether your progeny is going to be the next Barbra Streisand or whether they are more likely to make up the chorus. I remember well paying a fortune for tickets so that all the family could see our daughter appear in the local musical theatre school’s extravaganza. There are usually a few favourites that get the starring roles in any show but the vast majority of the other 200 or so make a very brief appearance and this time aforementioned daughter was in the chorus of Cats so no-one even spotted her or knew which “cat” she was! A lot of frustrated impresarios run these schools I feel and their students are not always given age-appropriate material – Fourteen-year-olds performing the Cell Block Tango from Chicago anyone? No I didn’t think so either. Anyway rant over but I still love my daughter’s singing voice and now she sings just for pleasure. Best way to go I think.

So, finally got to the last topic and I think I have used up too many words already so definitely one for next time – Yes the Inter-Oil Company Pop Quiz of 1985. A few funny stories about that one, a bit of of name-dropping and a few good tunes as well so will work on it over the next few days. In the meantime I will leave you with the sage and very witty words of Mr Noel Coward and his Don’t Put Your Daughter on the Stage, Mrs Worthington.

Don’t Put Your Daughter on the Stage, Mrs Worthington Lyrics
(Song by Noel Coward)

Don’t put your daughter on the stage, Mrs. Worthington
Don’t put your daughter on the stage
The profession is overcrowded
The struggle’s pretty tough
And admitting the fact she’s burning to act
That isn’t quite enough
She’s a nice girl and though her teeth are fairly good
She’s not the type I ever would be eager to engage
I repeat, Mrs. Worthington, sweet Mrs. Worthington
Don’t put your daughter on the stage

Regarding yours, dear Mrs. Worthington
Of Wednesday, the 23rd.
Although your baby may be keen on a stage career
How can I make it clear that this is not a good idea
For her to hope and appear, Mrs. Worthington
Is on the face of it absurd
Her personality is not in reality quite big enough, inviting enough
For this particular sphere

Don’t put your daughter on the stage, Mrs. Worthington
Don’t put your daughter on the stage
She’s a bit of an ugly duckling, you must honestly confess
And the width of her seat would surely defeat
Her chances of her success
It’s – it’s a loud voice, and though it’s not exactly flat
She’ll need a little more than that to earn a living wage
On my knees, Mrs. Worthington, please Mrs. Worthington
Don’t put your daughter on the stage

Don’t put your daughter on the stage, Mrs. Worthington
Don’t put your daughter on the stage
Though they said at the school of acting
She was lovely as Peer Gynt
I’m afraid, on the whole, an ingénue role might emphasize her squint
She has nice hands, to give the wretched girl her due
But don’t you think her bust is too developed for her age
No more buts, Mrs. Worthington, nuts! Mrs. Worthington
Don’t put your daughter on the stage

Conchita Wurst, Eurovision and The Smörgåsbord

It has just occurred to me that I have now written about Celtic soul, Celtic rock and Celtic punk since starting the blog two months ago and have ended up writing about two traditional songs with lyrics attributed to unknown in the last week alone. Time to get back to more mainstream pop material I think but as mentioned earlier this week, the song Loch Lomond sung by Runrig is a great way to end a “do” and last night that is exactly what happened at my sister-in-law’s “big birthday” party. All age groups gather in a circle and after about 3 minutes of hand-holding and arm-swinging, the mayhem ensues. You’ll have to come to Scotland and experience it sometime.

So, what could be the opposite of Celtic music I wonder – Something unconventional, not traditional; something from a country far from the fringes of Northwestern Europe; something perhaps by a solo artist and not a band of instrumentalists – I know, Rise Like a Phoenix by Conchita Wurst, the winner of the 2014 Eurovision Song Contest!

Rise Like A Phoenix by Conchita Wurst:

I have written about my love for all things Eurovision before and how last year, after watching the song contest on television for nearly 50 years, I went with friends to watch it LIVE in Vienna. The reason it was held in that beautiful city was of course because the previous year’s winner was the inimitable Conchita Wurst, an Austrian drag queen who treated us to an amazing performance of her country’s entry, Rise Like a Pheonix (a potential James Bond theme song if ever there was one).

It is now nearing the end of March and this year’s contest is just around the corner being held this year in Stockholm as the wonderful Måns Zelmerlöw won last year for Sweden with his song Heroes. But back to the story of how a drag queen ended up winning the 2014 contest. She was selected to represent her country after receiving the most votes during the selection process but of course she is not going to be for everyone, and many did see her selection as promoting LGBT rights. On the other hand, she has now established herself as a gay icon and regularly performs at pride parades and has been invited to the UN Office in Vienna and the European Parliament.

conchita

The inclusion of the beard as part of the Wurst character was very much a statement to say that “you can achieve anything, no matter who you are or how you look.” Her message is very much one of tolerance and as Graham Norton said after the contest, it seemed like Eurovision had done something for once that mattered just a little bit.

Despite the controversy about the inclusion of Conchita and her song in the 2014 contest, especially in Eastern Europe, from the personal experience of having visited Vienna last year, she is a bit of a national treasure there. She was one of the co-hosts of the show and presided over the green room. Her voice featured on the metro system as she had recorded announcements for visitors. Her face was on the cover of just about every newspaper and magazine and I lost count of the many groups of people wearing little knitted beards. (There must have been a pattern made available in advance of the contest.)

eurovision.jpg

As for us, it doesn’t look as if we will be making the trip to this year’s contest in Stockholm so it will be back to the usual plan of hosting a get-together and supplying little flags, score-sheets and the food & drink of the host nation. Some countries are easier than others, Greece for example, but when Lordi won there in 2006 they took the next contest to Finland which was a catering challenge indeed for our 2007 get-together! Looks as if we’ll be consuming a Smörgåsbord of Svinhufvud, Hummer and Speksill (?) this year but that’s the great thing about Eurovision, the sheer cultural diversity between all the countries that participate. In 2014, having a drag queen win the grand final for Austria did appear to be a victory for diversity and tolerance in Europe – Long may it continue.

2012-01-19-0119201209_44_54AM.jpg

Rise Like a Pheonix Lyrics
(Song by Charlie Mason/Joey Patulka/Ali Zuckowski/Julian Maas)

Waking in the rubble
Walking over glass
Neighbors say we’re trouble
Well that time has passed

Peering from the mirror
No, that isn’t me
Stranger getting nearer
Who can this person be

You wouldnt know me at all today
From the fading light I fly

Rise like a phoenix
Out of the ashes
Seeking rather than vengeance
Retribution
You were warned
Once I’m transformed
Once I’m reborn
You know I will rise like a phoenix
But you’re my flame

Go about your business
Act as if you’re free
Noone could have witnessed
What you did to me

Cause you wouldn’t know me today
And you have got to see
To believe
From the fading light I fly

Rise like a phoenix
Out of the ashes
Seeking rather than vengeance
Retribution
You were warned
Once I’m transformed
Once I’m reborn

I rise up to the sky
You threw me down but
I’m gonna fly

And rise like a phoenix
Out of the ashes
Seeking rather than vengeance
Retribution
You were warned
Once I’m transformed
Once I’m reborn
You know I will rise like a phoenix
But you’re my flame

The BRITs, The “Suits” and Adele

Thought this post would be really easy to write as it was BRITs week and we found out who the big winners were on Wednesday night’s live show. Unlike my husband, I have always watched the BRITs, since the days they were called the BPI Awards. Back then, in 1982, it was cosy little affair held in a smallish venue, not the juggernaut of show now held in the O2 Arena with an audience of thousands.

The great thing about the BRITs for me, is that I get a chance to find out about all those artists who may have slipped under my radar in the course of the year. Apart from Tame Impala who won the award for Best International Group, I had heard of everyone and sorry to say, most of the nomimees have been around for a very long time. Coldplay won the award for Best British Group and yes they are a great group, and yes they have had massive success, but their first BRIT award was in 2001 for goodness sake. When it came to nominations for Best International Female, Bjork’s name was read out which surprised me as she has been around since the 1980s when she fronted the indie band The Sugarcubes. Lo and behold – Bjork was the winner.

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So it seems that the British Phonograph Industry has gone the same way as a lot of other well-established industries. The median age of the people running them is going up every year, and this is reflected in who wins awards. Maybe I am wrong here, but to me, the winners were all a pretty respectable bunch who have been around for a long time and are a safe pair of hands when it comes to their musical output. None more so than Adele who every few years produces a new album that sweeps the board at award ceremonies and outsells everything else on the market – She did it at 19, at 21 and now at 25. She was the big winner of the night and bar the fact that the bleeper man misjudged his timing, and let one of her conversational expletives slip through to live television, all the “Suits” as she herself has called them, must have been feeling pretty smug with themselves.

So if the awards themselves were a bit predictable, what about the performances – There are usually a few excellent ones in the course of the evening including a pretty special duet and something we will all be talking about the next day. Last year there was Madonna’s spectacular “fall” from grace when her cape fastening malfunctioned. This year, other than some questionable choreography from Rhianna and Drake, there was nothing of note. I did enjoy James Bay’s guitar accompaniment to Justin Bieber’s vocals but nothing to write home about. Jess Glynn did a great set but although very now and of the moment, I feel she could have come from any of the last few decades – Something about her style I think.

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Adele, the big winner of the night, performed her song “Hello” to close the show. It was predictably perfect but didn’t blow me away quite as much as her rendition of Someone Like You at the 2011 BRITs. She was quite a bit younger then and was visibly moved by the song she was singing, which was about a failed relationship.

I have written on a few occasions now about the “break-up song” and this one really tugs at the heartstrings. My break-ups were all a lot earlier than 2011 thankfully otherwise this song could have caused immense distress but watching Adele perform it that night at the BRITs did bring back memories. How many of us I wonder have split up with a significant other because they say they never want to get married, only to find that they do exactly that a couple of years later with someone else? I used to think, bitterly, that it wasn’t that they didn’t want to get married, it was just that they didn’t want to marry me. As I’ve matured I’ve realised that it’s rarely that simple, it’s just that the  timing was wrong. I have a pretty big hunch that had I met my husband ten years earlier we would not be married today. Fortunately for us, when we did meet, the timing was just right!

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Someone Like You Lyrics
(Song by Adele/Dan Wilson)

I heard that you’re settled down
That you found a girl and you’re married now.
I heard that your dreams came true.
Guess she gave you things I didn’t give to you.

Old friend, why are you so shy?
Ain’t like you to hold back or hide from the light.

I hate to turn up out of the blue uninvited
But I couldn’t stay away, I couldn’t fight it.
I had hoped you’d see my face and that you’d be reminded
That for me it isn’t over.

Never mind, I’ll find someone like you
I wish nothing but the best for you too
Don’t forget me, I beg
I’ll remember you said,
“Sometimes it lasts in love but sometimes it hurts instead,
Sometimes it lasts in love but sometimes it hurts instead”

You know how the time flies
Only yesterday was the time of our lives
We were born and raised
In a summer haze
Bound by the surprise of our glory days

Nothing compares
No worries or cares
Regrets and mistakes
They are memories made.
Who would have known how bittersweet this would taste?

The Grammys, Ed Sheerin and The A Team

Today we found out who had won awards at this year’s Grammy Awards. The ceremony would have taken place last night but with the time difference, it’s always the next day until you find out who won. Not a big deal in my life nowadays I have to say, but part of awards season so always interesting to see if any of our home-grown British acts did well. As usual we did, with Ed Sheerin coming away with two awards.

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I am really conscious of the fact that since starting this blog, I have (except for last year’s Eurovision winner) not written about any songs post 1994. I suspected this might happen early on as it seems that once you pass your late 30s, the shutters go up and your brain wants to let you know that there’s enough in there already – No room for new songs! We buy the greatest hits albums of the artists we enjoyed in our youth, we buy soundtrack albums, ones advertised on television and of course have to continually re-purchase all our old material but in a different format. I was of the generation that bought everything originally on vinyl and cassette tape then had to collect it all again in CD format and now digitally – Good for the arists I imagine as they keep on collecting those royalties every time the medium of choice changes, but it means a lot of us are perhaps not investigating enough of what is new out there.

Also, it doesn’t help that the radio stations I listen to, primarily play older music so unless something is really mainstream and award-winning I’m not experiencing it any more. My daughter’s music collection features, in the main, people I have never heard of but that would have been the case for my parents and the music I loved in the 1970s. Probably being really uncool here but if I never hear another Kanye West track, my life will be the better for it – Sorry but just don’t get him.

But back to Mr Sheerin and his awards. One was for Thinking Out Loud which won Song of the Year. Now this is indeed a great song (although I am perplexed about what happens when he gets to 71) but I think I want to write about the one that first brought him to our attention – The A Team. It became a big breakthrough hit for him in the summer of 2011 when Ed was aged just 20 and although a great sounding song to listen to, it had a really dark theme about the world of drugs and prostitution.

The A Team by Ed Sheerin:

I can hardly believe that Ed was only 18 when he wrote it after performing at a homeless shelter. He admitted later that he had been naïve about the problems faced by some of the young people he met there, as I would have been at his age, so really quite brave of him to tackle writing such a song. Made a lot of us sit up and think however – A few bad breaks in life and not easy to get out of that downward spiral. Ed has carried on raising money for charities that help young people who find themselves in a desperate situation, like the girl in the song. Hopefully his success will have the beneficial effect of helping many others too – Good karma.

ed 2

Over the last few years we seem to have produced a lot of very successful singer/songwriters who do especially well at the Grammys. Last year it was Sam Smith and before that we had Adele and of course the late, great Amy Winehouse. Whenever they get up to receive their awards, I suddenly feel really nervous for them and just hope and pray that their little thank you speech is filled with nothing too rude, rebelious or controversial. Yes, I am at the age that I think of them as my children and want them to give a good account of themselves. No pressure then – Its’s not enough that they have won one of the biggest prizes in the global music industry, they have to make us proud of their social skills as well. No problem with Mr Sheerin as he always comes across as a fine young man with a lovely speaking voice but there is a part of me that would just love to give his hair a good tidy, and his clothes a thorough iron before he steps out to collect his award.

And there we have it – the main reason I find it hard to write about recent songs is that I am now emotionally attached to these young artists in a maternal way with the days of teen idolatry far behind me. You can never feel the same way about songs in later life as you did in your youth (especially if you are a girl) because those hormones are just no longer there (literally) and if you have moved onto a happy marriage and family life, there will be no “last dance songs”, “break-up songs” or “new-found-love songs” to torture the soul. Thank goodness as I don’t think I could go through all that again, but it does explain why, in the main, I will probably be writing about songs from the ’60s, ’70s and ’80s!

Congratulations to Ed – a worthy winner.

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The A Team Lyrics
(Song by Ed Sheerin)

White lips, pale face
Breathing in snowflakes
Burnt lungs, sour taste

Light’s gone, day’s end
Struggling to pay rent
Long nights, strange men

And they say
She’s in the Class A Team
Stuck in her daydream
Been this way since eighteen
But lately her face seems
Slowly sinking, wasting
Crumbling like pastries
And they scream
The worst things in life come free to us
Cause we’re just under the upper hand
And go mad for a couple grams
And she don’t want to go outside tonight
And in a pipe she flies to the Motherland
And sells love to another man
It’s too cold outside
For angels to fly
Angels to fly

Ripped gloves, rain coat
Tried to swim and stay afloat
Dry house, wet clothes

Loose change, bank notes
Weary-eyed, dry throat
Call girl, no phone

An angel will die
Covered in white
Closed eyed
And hoping for a better life
This time, we’ll fade out tonight
Straight down the line