A Star is Born: Judy, Gaga or Barbra?

Last time I wrote a very serious post, so time for something a bit lighter I think. Regular followers will know my mum is currently in hospital. She is recovering well however and is quite enjoying being cared for I think, so a bit of respite for me. Having had a lot more time to myself over the last few weeks I’ve finally been able to catch up with friends who have been sadly neglected of late. Some of these friends have helped me make full use of the benefits attached to my new Student ID card, by joining me on a fair few trips to the local cinema.

Over the last few weeks I have been to see King of Thieves, the true story of the Hatton Garden jewellery heist, The Seagull based on the Anton Chekov play of the same name and The Escape about a stay-at-home mum who seemingly has it all, but is desperately unhappy. On top of that, DD has started working at our local theatre, so courtesy of the “comps” she gets as a perk of the job we also caught a play, a good old fashioned whodunnit in the form of The Case Of The Frightened Lady which seems to be touring the country at the moment. Our blogging buddy Chris over at Movies and Songs 365 would no doubt now write a pretty good review for each of the above but as that’s not really this blog’s raison d’être, I’ll just say that I enjoyed all four for different reasons: a) secret admiration for the Hatton Garden “Over The Hill Mob”; b) an insight into the complex lives of a rich family of writers and actors in pre-revolution Russia; c) sympathy for the woman (excellently played by Gemma Arterton) whose only means of survival was to escape the role she had found herself in, and finally; d) a bit of a throw-back to the entertainment of a bygone age (and none of us actually correctly identified whodunnit, so quite a good puzzler).

This week, the third remake of A Star Is Born starring Bradley Cooper and Lady Gaga was released in cinemas in the UK. The original film of the same name was made in 1937, one I am somewhat unfamiliar with. I am very familiar however with the 1954 remake starring Judy Garland and James Mason as films from this era used to be shown regularly on telly when I was growing up. I lapped them up and at age 12 could probably have appeared on Mastermind citing The Golden Age of Hollywood as my specialist subject. Much of that knowledge has since left me I’m afraid, replaced with music trivia and the essential but boring work-related stuff we accumulate along the way, but watching the newly released version this week, brought the story all back. Here is a clip showing Judy Garland perform The Man That Got Away, probably the most memorable song from the 1954 version.

This new version stuck to the original storyline pretty much like glue, simply updating each scene for the 21st century. There were stadiums, more guitars, the songs were of a rock persuasion, the bars had drag acts and the clothes were a bit grungier, but other than that it’s a timeless tale of “boy meets girl”, with the backdrop of one career on the way up and the other on the way down. I won’t offer up a spoiler by mentioning which is which, because ahead of the film starting to roll the other night, I inadvertently gave the plotline away to the woman sitting next to me, having assumed everyone already knew the story. I apologised and tried to excuse myself by saying the clue is in the title, A Star Is Born, but she still seemed a bit piqued.

Back in 1954, the star in the ascendance was played by Judy Garland. In 2018, that same role was played by Lady Gaga (oops, spoiled it anyway). I must admit, she was barely recognisable at the start of the film, appearing without her trademark heavy makeup and extrovert clothing. This was Stefani Joanne Angelina Germanotta in the raw without any of the trappings of the Haus of Gaga. Much has been made of the fact that first-time director Bradley Cooper wanted her to audition for the role make-up free, and ahead of her performance produced a few wipes for her to remove it, to ensure authenticity. The irony of course is that the real, or authentic Gaga, is the one with all the stage make-up and costume but hey, it was the unreal Gaga he wanted for the role.

I did enjoy the film despite pretty much knowing (unlike the woman beside me) how each scene would play out and both Bradley and Gaga put in stellar performances. I did expect there to be more standout songs however, as after leaving the cinema I didn’t have any earworms and couldn’t actually remember much of anything included. It seems the first song released as a single was Shallow which I thought was called Shiloh in the film (must have been their accents), but now it makes sense. An actor I did think quite a lot about after leaving the cinema was the lovely Sam Elliot who played lead character Jackson Maine’s long-suffering brother in the movie. If you ever decided to chuck it all in, and head off to live on a ranch in Wyoming, he always looks and sounds as if he would be your man. He would be mine anyway, so hands off!

th5M6AAIRK
The lovely Sam Elliot

But all of this is of course building up to only one thing, delving into the archives to reminisce about the 1976 version of A Star Is Born starring Kris Kristofferson (be still my beating heart) and Barbra StreisandAnyone looking at the “category list” on my sidebar will see that when it comes to decades, I write about songs from the 1970s more than any other. Lots of reasons for that of course (time spent immersing yourself in the world of music as an angst-ridden teenager being one of them), and possibly an idea for a future post, but this clip of Love Theme from “A Star Is Born” (Evergreen) still gives me the collywobbles. The song appeared in the UK Singles Chart in April 1977 and came along just as I was in the midst of my first big (but ultimately highly unsuitable) romance.

Evergreen by Barbra Streisand:

Barbra Streisand has appeared on these pages before as I’m a big fan. Just like Judy and Gaga she is certainly not a conventional beauty, but a great beauty all the same so perfect for the female lead in A Star Is Born.

I often share material from some of the old magazines I still have in my possession dating back from the 1970s. Before I sign off here are a few pages from the April 1977 edition of Words magazine where every month the lyrics to the “top pop songs” of the day were listed. In this edition, A Star Is Born is featured both on the back page and on the Studio Scene and Heard page (hmm…) where current film releases were reviewed. The lyrics to Evergreen also appeared on page 2 along with Knowing Me, Knowing You by ABBA (not Alan Partridge) and Pearl’s A Singer by Elkie Brooks. If you want to have a try, without googling, how many of the other songs would you be able to identify, and attach to an artist? Many of them weren’t big hits, but some were, although scarily over 41 years ago.

img085

img086 img087

As for me, I’m not sure how many cinema visits I might be able to fit in for some time, as there is to be a meeting on Monday to discuss my mum’s discharge plan. We actually sold the idea to her last week that a care home might be the best idea, but having been to see a few over the last couple of days I have now backtracked. She needs company and stimulation more than anything, as well as being looked after, but despite the glossy brochures and the promises of fun, fun, fun…, we didn’t see much of that at all. Instead it was all empty dayrooms and very elderly people slumped in wheelchairs, mostly asleep. We kind of need a half-way house but if they do exist, they are elusive indeed. Back to being a carer for a while I think but maybe that would be the kindest thing to do. I will no doubt return with updates (but possibly no more film reviews for a wee while).

Until next time….

Evergreen Lyrics
(Song by Barbra Streisand/Paul Williams)

Love soft as an easy chair
Love fresh as the morning air
One love that is shared by two
I have found with you
Like a rose under the April snow
I was always certain love would grow
Love ageless and evergreen
Seldom seen by two
You and I will
make each night the first
Everyday a beginning
Spirits rise and their dance is unrehearsed
They warm and excite us
‘Cause we have the brightest love
Two lights that shine as one Morning glory and midnight sun
Time… we’ve learned to sail above
Time… won’t change the meaning of one love
Ageless and ever evergreen…

Another Very Serious Post, John Prine and “When I Get To Heaven”

As is wont to happen, if you update your blog as regularly as I do, aspects of your personal life tends to seep out onto the pages. Although I am fully aware I have a tendency to perhaps over-share, I seem to find it impossible to resist, as this blog is in effect my web-diary as well as the place where I share all the music I’ve enjoyed over the years.

Likewise, I’ve almost stopped counting the number of times I’ve put up a warning I might be absent for a while, only for you loyal followers to find me back in action soon afterwards. Some of you will remember I did that recently, and then wrote a short post explaining why – Right at the start of September my 83-year-old mum had a bad fall, but after taking her to A&E to be checked over, she was proclaimed fit to go home. A very fraught week followed, when just at the time I was supposed to start my long-awaited college course, I had to pretty much provide round-the-clock care for her. It became apparent however that something was very far wrong and after a particularly bad night spent entirely in her living room chair (as she was unable to move), I bravely pulled her flat’s emergency cord to summon help.

It was such a relief to see an ambulance arrive soon after and the guys who piled into her little flat were just brilliant, dealing with my poor mum in a really professional and sensitive manner. It was decided to take her back to A&E where we both spent a long day waiting for the results of tests and X-rays. In fact it wasn’t until around 2pm that I realised I’d not had breakfast yet, but such is the lot of an accompanying relative. By mid afternoon we knew she had fractured her pelvis and it was decided to transfer her to the smaller community hospital which is fortunately situated quite near to where we live.

thG3DRYZHD
Our local community hospital

We are now nearly four weeks on from that momentous day and her physical recovery is going well. I visit daily, but on week one of her stay I suddenly became dog tired, as I think the adrenaline that had kept me going until then, suddenly left town. By week two however I was starting to feel like my old self again. I was able to return to blogging and managed to leave some comments on the various blogs I follow (I even managed to play Rol’s Saturday Snapshots!). As mentioned a few weeks ago, the college course was now a non-starter, but thankfully they let me reapply as a part-time student and that is going really well. Mr WIAA and I have also had a bit of a social life of late, visiting the theatre, the cinema and taking DD and her lovely boyfriend out for food. Even our little online store seems to be picking up lots of orders, as I’ve had the time to properly market it for the first time in quite a while. Life, as they say, is sweet. My mum is being well cared for, and I’ve got my life back on track.

So what’s the problem I hear you ask? Well as those of you who follow this blog know, I’ve spent most of this year struggling to cope with that most dreadful of non-physical ailments which affects so many older people – My mum’s dementia, or specifically in her case, Alzheimer’s Disease. I am reminded of something from Billy Connolly’s latest stand-up routine. “I’ve got Parkinson’s Disease”, he says. “But I wish he’d f**king kept it to himself”. Yes Billy, and I imagine all of those with Alzheimer’s feel exactly the same way, until the time comes when they are no longer even aware of their affliction.

I know there will be moves afoot in the very near future to send her home again. Beds are in short supply and that awful term “bed-blocker” gets applied to so many old souls, who by sheer accident, have found themselves with a fractured hip or pelvis after tripping over a kerb, or in my mum’s case, falling down some stairs. These are people who perhaps kept the home fires burning during the war, raised a family, carried out good deeds for their community, worked until retirement age, and paid taxes. At this stage in life however, they are called “bed blockers”, old folks who seem to be treated as if they are deliberately hogging a hospital bed through sheer ill-will.

Of late I have taken to sneaking in and out of my mum’s hospital room when the nurses are away from their work station, such is my fear of being told I can now take her home. The dementia has ramped up to a whole new level since being in hospital as the daily routine I used to organise for her is no more. I have been reassured by others who have been in a similar situation that she can’t be sent home without a discharge plan, but the worry is still there at the back of my mind. I’ve got my life back, and am reluctant to return to how things were.

As someone who has no siblings, I have been feeling the burden of care acutely of late, and ironically, after waiting for eight months to get help from the social care system, I finally got the call a day after the admission to hospital. They always say there has to be a crisis in order to get help and it seems that is indeed the case. People of my mum’s generation are living longer due to advances in medicine, but sadly, family life has changed. Most of us live in relatively small houses compared to those of my grandparent’s generation, so often no scope for taking in our old folk. The state pension age is now 67, so often no-one at home to do the caring anyway. Also, in the case of dementia, 24 hour care will eventually be needed, so not something many of us would be able to offer anyway.

Big decisions are going to have to be made soon I suspect, and it’s at times like this I wish I could turn to my dad for advice. He was one of my best friends but died a full 15 years ago. By sheer chance I heard this song on the radio whilst coming home from a hospital visit the other week and it has stuck with me. I think the host of the show was Whispering Bob, who at the end of the song said it was by John Prine. Until I started writing this blog I had never heard of John Prine but he often pops up over at CC’s wonderful place and has featured in Jez’s Sunday Morning Coming Down series. Whatever, despite being a bit of a non-believer, I was taken by the lyrics to When I Get To Heaven, written for his new album “The Tree of Forgiveness”. I realise this song choice might appear insensitive for the theme of this particular post, but trust me, the reason I picked it was because of these lines of lyric:

And then I’m gonna go find my mom and dad, and good old brother Doug
Well I bet him and cousin Jackie are still cuttin’ up a rug
I wanna see all my mama’s sisters, ’cause that’s where all the love starts
I miss ’em all like crazy, bless their little hearts

Yes, there is nothing more I would like at the moment than to go find my dad, and ask for his advice (or is it perhaps “his permission” I wonder). Heck, listening to this song, I’m almost prepared to be converted, as there is a definite party atmosphere going on. John Prine has apparently been treated for cancer twice, and it was after his second bout that he wrote this song about some of the things he had to give up following his illness. Here is a quote: “I wrote that song because I figured there’s no cancer in heaven. So when I get up there, I’m going to have a cocktail and a cigarette that’s 9 miles long. That’s my idea of what heaven is like.” Way to go John.

When I Get To Heaven by John Prine:

I’m sorry if I’ve made anyone feel uncomfortable by mentioning such a personal family issue, but hey, our blogs sometimes feel like the most anonymous places we can turn to when a bit of writing therapy is required. From experience, our Facebook friends don’t want to hear of our woes, although if anyone ever does respond it is usually because they have been placed in similar situation. Likewise if anyone out there in the blogosphere has been in such a situation, I’d be very interested to hear your thoughts – Any advice gratefully received.

Until next time, I’m off to give John Prine another whirl. Now 71, and still with us thankfully. Heaven is going to have to wait a while yet.

When I Get To Heaven Lyrics
(Song by John Prine)

When I get to heaven, I’m gonna shake God’s hand
Thank him for more blessings than one man can stand
Then I’m gonna get a guitar and start a rock-n-roll band
Check into a swell hotel, ain’t the afterlife grand?

And then I’m gonna get a cocktail: vodka and ginger ale
Yeah, I’m gonna smoke a cigarette that’s nine miles long
I’m gonna kiss that pretty girl on the tilt-a-whirl
‘Cause this old man is goin’ to town

Then as God as my witness, I’m gettin’ back into show business
I’m gonna open up a nightclub called “The Tree of Forgiveness”
And forgive everybody ever done me any harm
Well, I might even invite a few choice critics, those syph’litic parasitics
Buy ’em a pint of Smithwick’s and smother ’em with my charm

‘Cause then I’m gonna get a cocktail: vodka and ginger ale
Yeah I’m gonna smoke a cigarette that’s nine miles long
I’m gonna kiss that pretty girl on the tilt-a-whirl
Yeah this old man is goin’ to town

Yeah when I get to heaven, I’m gonna take that wristwatch off my arm
What are you gonna do with time after you’ve bought the farm?
And then I’m gonna go find my mom and dad, and good old brother Doug
Well I bet him and cousin Jackie are still cuttin’ up a rug
I wanna see all my mama’s sisters, ’cause that’s where all the love starts
I miss ’em all like crazy, bless their little hearts
And I always will remember these words my daddy said
He said, “Buddy, when you’re dead, you’re a dead pecker-head”
I hope to prove him wrong… that is, when I get to heaven

‘Cause I’m gonna have a cocktail: vodka and ginger ale
Yeah I’m gonna smoke a cigarette that’s nine miles long
I’m gonna kiss that pretty girl on the tilt-a-whirl
Yeah this old man is goin’ to town
Yeah this old man is goin’ to town

Denise Marsa, “Lucky Stars” and Life As A Student (Second Time Around)

Going to pop my head above the parapet for a wee while as this blog is in effect my web diary, and lots to write about since last weekend. Over the last few months I have hinted that I might soon become one of the Highland’s newest intake of students. I jumped through all the hoops and back in June, much to my delight, was offered a place on my chosen course. It all kicked off this week but after only 4 days, because of my mum’s deteriorating health, I have had to withdraw. Very disappointed. On the upside, I have been able to reapply as a part-time student who can pick off one module at a time. Hopefully much more manageable.

Exactly 40 years ago I was preparing to head off to study at a University founded in 1495. The college I now plan to attend only opened in 2015. So much change in the intervening half millennium (bit of an understatement), but it seems that we humans still have a yearning for learning, and fortunately nowadays, much more accessible to all.

And here is where a strange coincidence has come about. Back in my early days of blogging I wrote a post about the song Lucky Stars by Dean Friedman (link here). As I said at the time, whenever I hear it I am reminded of autumn 1978, when I first left home to sample the delights of University life. It was given blanket airplay at the time and got to No. 3 in the UK Singles Chart. That post has become one of this blog’s most frequently visited, so I am obviously not alone in having fond memories of the song.

Lucky Stars by Dean Friedman and Denise Marsa:

The wonderful thing about revisiting songs all these decades later, is that it’s possible to find out so much more of the backstory. In 1978 we knew Dean duetted with a female vocalist on Lucky Stars, but as she wasn’t credited, she became known as the “mystery singer”. In 2016, I discovered she was a singer/songwriter called Denise Marsa, who like Dean, also came from New Jersey. I made sure that in my blog post at any rate, she got full credit for having been part of this great Broadway-esque “musical discussion”. Lo and behold, a few weeks later she found my post and a few emails were exchanged – The wonders of blogging. (If you watch the above clip to the end, at 3:30 you will see Dean and Denise as they are today, having reunited for a special one-off performance.)

denisemarsa_cover_liveforever2

The strange coincidence is that 40 years on, just as I prepare to embark on life as a student for the second time, who should pop up in my life again but Denise Marsa. Back in 1978, her voice was the soundtrack to my early weeks as a nervous young student and here in 2018, she was appearing again. It seems her one-woman show is being staged at the Playground Theatre in London from the 20th September, and she wanted me to spread the word via my blog. Sure thing Denise (extract from her email below).

Hi Alyson

I remember we had a brief encounter via email when you first wrote about Dean Friedman’s LUCKY STARS. Just a quick mention, I am premiering my show THE PASS in London this fall at a new theater, The Playground Theatre. Maybe you could share this news with your readers? Here’s a link to the theater website as well as some recent press.

I also hope you can attend, would like the chance to meet you! Hope you are well!

My best, Denise

Sadly with all that’s going on in my life at the moment I’m not going to be able to head down for the show and potentially meet with Denise (wouldn’t that have really been something), but in the event some Dean and Denise fans visit this post, they will at least have been alerted to the fact she is in the country, and performing live.

All this of course, got me thinking about what the young students of today will be listening to as they embark on their chosen studies. Turns out, all these years later, the idea of featuring a female singer in a song produced by a man is still alive and well. The difference nowadays is that the female gets full credit for lending their vocals to the recording. In the Top 40 at the moment we have songs featuring Anne-Marie, Dua Lipa, Demi Lovato, Cardi B, Camila Cabella, and many more I am unfamiliar with (so could embarrass myself by getting their gender wrong). I do however have a feeling my fellow students will probably follow a whole other set of artists, but it’ll be interesting for the blog getting to know who they are.

Good grief, they’re all clones of each other!

As regular followers know, this year has seen me becoming the very squeezed filling in a generational sandwich, trying to cope with a mum who has health issues just not able to be addressed by the social care system and a daughter who has still not quite flown the nest. My mum is now in hospital, as her fall the other week seems to have caused a (previously undetected) fractured pelvis – Not easy to get over at any age, but at least she is being cared for. DD has started her course at college and seems to be getting on fine so perhaps, just perhaps, I might be able to have some “me-time” and find my feet as a mature student. Who knows, but one thing’s for sure, life is never dull around here.

Hopefully, my new friend Denise Marsa will have a successful run of her one-woman show. Strange to think she first came into my life 40 years ago as I embarked on life as a student, and here she is popping up again, second time around. We couldn’t have predicted back then just how much our lives would change because of this tool we all use daily called The Internet. A force for good (connecting us with old friends, enabling the making of new friends, giving us access to vast amounts of information and services) but also a force for bad (no need to spell it out).

Who knows how things will have evolved in another 40 years but I have a sneaking suspicion that the song Lucky Stars will still occasionally pop up on the musical airwaves of the future. I might not be around to hear it, but hopefully DD will, and she will no doubt have fond memories of her mum and dad “murdering” the song which had become their party-piece of choice. She will also remember how we always forgot the words, despite having listened to it hundreds of times, and she will smile.

Until next time….

Lucky Stars
(Song by Dean Friedman)

What are you crazy? How in the hell can you say what you just said?
I was talking to myself. Shut the door and come to bed.
By the way, I forgot to say, your endearing mother called today.
Did you see Lisa?
Yes I saw Lisa.
Is that why you’re angry?
I wasn’t angry.
Maybe a little.
Not even maybe.
Must be the weather.
Now don’t be a baby.
We’ll how am I supposed to feel with all the things you don’t reveal and
You can thank your lucky stars that we’re not as smart as we’d like to think we are.

Would you like to talk about it?
There’s not much to say.
We had lunch this afternoon. Her life’s in disarray.
She still goes around as if she is always stumbling off a cliff.
Do you still want her?
What are you saying?
Do you still want her?
Baby stop playing.
Really, I mean it. Can you forget her?
Baby, now stop it. You should know better.
I know this is hard to do. but, there’s no one for me but you and
You can thank your lucky stars that we’re not as smart as we’d like to think we are.

Baby, I’m sorry, I was wrong, I have no alibis.
I was acting like a fool and I apologize.
Listen, hon’, I know you’re dumb, but that’s ok, you don’t have to look so glum.
Do you still love me?
Yes, I still love you.
You mean, you’re not just being nice.
No, I’m not just being nice.
Do you feel sleepy.
Aw, you’re so sincere. Yes, I feel sleepy.
Well, slide over here ’cause I may not be all that bright, but I know how to hold you tight and
You can thank your lucky stars that we’re not as smart as we’d like to think we are and

You can thank your lucky stars that we’re not as smart as we’d like to think we are and
We can thank our lucky stars that we’re not as smart as we’d like to think we are.

Sleepless Nights, “Please Mr. Postman” and Songs About Aretha

Tuesday, 21st August, 9.30am

Well, as I sit down to start blogging for the first time in a couple of weeks, I feel a little nauseous – No, not at the thought of blogging, but because half and hour ago I had to leap out of bed and get ready to face the day at breakneck speed. The reason for this haste? – I didn’t want to embarrass myself in front of the postman!

This sounds ridiculous I know, but since giving up work last year I’ve been able to have a more laissez-faire attitude to becoming suited and booted by 8am every morning. Problem is, once you log on for the day, the hours and minutes can whizz by and I sometimes find myself still in pyjamas when the doorbell rings, knowing full well it will be our smiling postman, with some parcel or other I have to sign for. I probably imagine it, but he makes me feel like a tardy teen who has been festering under the duvet, as opposed to a busy bee who has already put on a washing, tidied the kitchen, paid a few bills and checked the various email accounts. To compensate I end up gibbering, telling him about everything that is going on in my life, but a nice little exchange all the same. My friend the postman is the only person other than my family (and the blogging fraternity who very kindly take the time to read my posts) who knows of the journey I have been on over the last year, since deciding the world of the paperless office was not for me.

pp

As this blog always features a song or two, this would therefore seem like the perfect time to squeeze in something I have long wanted to include, Please Mr. Postman. Now this is a song I am very familiar with as one of my favourite duos, the Carpenters, got to No. 2 in the UK Singles Chart in 1975 with their version. It started out however as the debut single for the Marvelettes and in late 1961 became the first Motown song to reach the No. 1 spot on the Billboard Hot 100. The Beatles started performing it as part of their live set at the Cavern Club in 1962 and also included it on one of their first albums. Here is a great clip from those days, the boys dressed in their very smart suits complete with snake hips and mop top haircuts. They would have had no idea back then of what was yet to come.

Last time the Beatles cropped up around these parts was when I did a compare and contrast (link here) between their version of Ticket to Ride and the slower paced one, yet again, by the Carpenters. Seems like a good time to offer up both versions of Mr Postman then (although I won’t inflict the Carpenter’s official Disney-themed video clip on you). Which one do you prefer, or would it be the original by the Marvelettes that floats your boat?

Please Mr. Postman by the Carpenters:

But I digress and have yet to explain my morning nausea caused by leaping out of bed at such speed. I woke up last night at 3.30am, which is fairly normal for me, but I usually get back to sleep at some point and get a few extra hours in before the 7 o’clock alarm goes off. Last night however I didn’t, as I had committed the cardinal sin of surfing the net on my phone before going to sleep as I still hadn’t worked out the angle I was going to take when I eventually get round to writing my Aretha Franklin tribute. Not so long ago, after “experiencing” the song I Say A Little Prayer at great volume on the car radio, I wrote another compare and contrast post (link here). The Aretha version of course won hands down, but other than that I’m finding it difficult to find a personal connection to her music. I can see how she came along at just the right time, when America was going through a period of massive change, but having been born about 20 years later in rural Scotland, other than appreciating that great voice and the passion with which she sang, nothing much else for me to write about.

aretha
Aretha Franklin 1942- 2018

So, the last thing I did last night before switching off my phone was to visit some of the other blogs in my little circle to remind myself what they had written about Aretha. Last week, even before it was announced she had passed away, CC over at Charity Chic Music had posted something very fitting and then Rol dedicated the whole weekend on his My Top Ten blog to the lady and her music. Both of these dedicated daily bloggers chose to include the song Aretha by Rumer and that was the cause of last night’s sleeplessness – After listening to it twice before turning the lights out, it was the first thing to enter my head when I woke up at 3.30am and subsequently formed an earworm for the rest of the night however hard I tried to get back to sleep. As earworms go it’s a very pleasing one, and quite a soporific one you would have thought, Rumer having a voice not that dissimilar to the late great Karen Carpenter. But no, last night it just didn’t work out that way at all.

Aretha by Rumer:

Typically though, once Mr WIAA said goodbye and headed off to work, I slipped into a deep, deep earworm-free sleep, waking up far too late, thus the mad panic to get up and dressed before the postman’s inevitable ring of the doorbell. I made it, just, and so avoided that feeling of guilt at not being up and at it yet. Despite often talking gibberish of a morning, I decided that to recount the tale of the “Rumer earworm” was taking casual conversation a tad too far, so on this occasion resisted – Lucky chap!

As for the tribute song, I may not have had a personal connection to Aretha and her music, but the narrator in this song certainly does – All about a girl who goes to school listening to Aretha Franklin on her headphones. Like the fate of so many others, she’s having trouble there, and as her mother seems to be suffering from depression, she doesn’t have anyone to turn to. Fortunately Aretha comes to life in her imagination, encouraging her to stand up for herself and strike out on her own. The songwriter was asked why she chose Aretha Franklin: “She’s the Queen of Soul. If you’re going to write about somebody who embodies the spirit of music itself you go to the top of the list – and there she is. Her voice is probably the closest you get to God. There’s an incredible amount of passion and heartbreak in her voice as she’s lost a lot of family members. She’s just got something in her voice that puts her at the top of the tree and there’s no negotiation.” And on that note, I think I’ve just written my tribute post.

Until next time, RIP Aretha Franklin.

Aretha Lyrics
(Song by Steve Brown/Sarah Joyce)

I got Aretha in the morning
High on my headphones and walking to school
I got the blues in springtime ’cause I know that I’ll never have the right shoes

Mamma she’d notice but she’s always crying
I got no one to confide in, Aretha nobody but you
Momma she’d notice but she’s always fighting
Something in her mind and it sounds like breaking glass

I tell Aretha in the morning
High on my headphones and walking to school
I got the blues in springtime ’cause I know that I’ll never have the right shoes

You got the words, baby you got the words
You got the words, baby you got the words

“Oh Aretha
Aretha, I don’t want to go to school
‘Cause they just don’t understand me and I think the place is cruel”

“Child singer, raise your voice
Stand up on your own, go out there and strike out”

I tell Aretha in the morning
High on my headphones and walking to school
I got the blues in springtime ’cause I know that I’ll never have the right shoes
But I got the words

Seven in Seven #3: Car Share, Kayleigh and “Back For Good”?

Day Three of my annual challenge to write seven posts in seven days. No pressure on regular visitors to leave comments though, and these are going to have to be shorter posts than usual, but I have a bit of a backlog of blog ideas building up so here’s a chance to play catch up. Fell at the first hurdle last year so lets hope I fare better this year.

Yesterday I had to issue a warning that you might not want to read any further if you were a vegetarian, as the post involved a butcher’s shop (complete with images). Today I should point out that if you haven’t yet watched the supposedly final ever episode of Peter Kay’s Car Share, I might be about to spoil things for you. Having aired a good couple of weeks ago now, I will assume however that everyone who wanted to watch it will have done so by now.

car share 2

Back in May last year, I wrote about the final episode of Series 2 (link here). There was that  wonderful scene where Billy Ocean’s Red Light Spells Danger came on the radio, and as ever, our supermarket colleagues who had that whole “unspoken thing” going on, burst into song – One of the real high points of the whole series but it also led to the end of the unspoken thing, as it finally became a “spoken about thing”, so could only go one of two ways. Kayleigh was accused of living in a fairy-tale world and the cautious John, who came from a background and part of the country where such things were most definitely not spoken about, did not come up with the correct responses. Kayleigh stormed out of the car and – we were led to believe – out of his life for good.

Peter-Kays-Car-Share-Kayleigh-920734But of course life is never that simple and the viewing public were not happy. Another final…, final episode was required. At the time however I was fully in support of Kayleigh’s actions – She was a lady of a certain age and had “no time to waste”. She chose to invoke what I used to call the three-month rule. Fun and laughter can be had with the most unlikely of partners for a few months, but then the rose-coloured spectacles come off, and things about them can really start to grate. If however all is still going well, it is wise to find out where things are “going”, as before you know it the years have rolled by and you find yourself with someone who is unwilling to commit (not that I know of anyone who has had that happen to them of course).

Not everyone wanted a sugar-coated ending to Car Share as realistically life just doesn’t always work out that way, but with these two characters they had come too far to throw it all away, and John was at last forced into taking action. As with his botched attempt at telling Kayleigh how he felt at the end of Series 2, he again went about it via the medium of song. He pulled an all-nighter (despite having work the next day) and dropped off the fruits of his labours at Kayleigh’s house in the early hours of the morning. She was not to be trusted with a digital copy of his self-penned love song, so a Walkman and cassette tape it had to be. I give you Come Back My Car Share Buddy by John Redmond (aka Peter Kay). It is no secret that Peter Kay is a massive Take That fan, so it was perfect that they made him an honorary member of the band for this potentially life-changing three-minute declaration. (Sadly the clip of the Back For Good spoof with Take That has disappeared from YouTube but I’m sure you will remember it.)

By storming off, out of his life, Kayleigh in effect threw down the gauntlet and this time John came up with the correct response. Whether the course of true love runs smoothly for our couple is another story altogether, but they had come too far for it all to end on a busy motorway at rush hour. There are rumours that the door might have been left open for a Christmas Special, but if this truly was the final ever episode, I think I can live with that.

Come Back My Care Share Buddy Lyrics
(Song by Peter Kay – With a little help from Gary Barlow?) 

Hiding from the past and locked up inside
I thought my heart was safe and then you arrived
I never knew I needed someone like you
To lift the grey away and turn my skies blue
You changed my world to colour
Turned off the black and white
You changed my life
You opened up my eyes so…

Come back my car share buddy
I don’t think life is fair
Come back my car share buddy
I’m lost now you’re not there
The road is oh so lonely
It feels like someone’s died
I’m so lost you’re not with me
Please won’t you let me be your ride

I didn’t understand that love could be true
But then you told me how much I mean to you
And never thinking that we’d end up apart
I sat and watched you walk away with my heart
Now I don’t wanna lose you
But I just need some time to do what’s right
To figure out my life so…

Come back my car share buddy
I’m empty now you’re gone
Come back my car share buddy
The journey seems so long
I find it hard to say it
But I’m feeling it inside
I’m so lost you’re not with me
Please won’t you let me be your ride

Postscript:

I don’t know about the rest of you, but I think the bit of visual humour (at 0:45) in this clip is the funniest thing I’ve seen on telly all year. Wasn’t expecting it at all, so real laugh-out-loud stuff.

Also, it’s been quite a while since I’d watched the original Back For Good video made by Take That in 1995, but it’s still a great wee pop song, apparently dashed off by Gary Barlow in only 15 minutes. It was their 6th UK No. 1 and reached No. 7 on the US Billboard chart. It was also the last video to include Robbie Williams, whom I must admit does look a bit disgruntled in this one – He’d had enough of boy bands by this time and was soon off to try out solo ventures, which he did with aplomb. A fortuitous partnership was formed with songwriter Guy Chambers and the rest, as they say, is history. But getting back to the video – I bet it took ages for their coats to dry out!

Edinburgh, Outlander and “A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall”

Another Edinburgh post, as I came home from last week’s trip armed with lots of great pictures that are ripe for sharing. This time we stayed in an apartment right at the top of the Grassmarket, which centuries ago was the site of one of Edinburgh’s main markets. The name apparently came from the grazing livestock, held in pens beyond its western edge.

Daniel Defoe, who visited Edinburgh in the 1720s, described the West Bow at the north-east corner of the Grassmarket (where our apartment was situated) as follows – “This street, which is called the Bow, is generally full of traders and dealers”, and you know what, it still is today, although nowadays the colourful shops are aimed primarily at the many tourists who pass through every year.

Because it was originally a gathering place for market traders and cattle drovers, the Grassmarket was always a place full of taverns, hostelries and temporary lodgings – Again nothing much has changed, bar the prices, and the fact the traders and drovers have been replaced by tourists. In 1803 William Wordsworth took rooms at the White Hart Inn, where the poet Robert Burns had stayed during his visit to Edinburgh in 1791. It was described by him as being “not noisy, and tolerably cheap”. In the film version of Greyfriars Bobby, they chose a lodging in the Grassmarket as the place where the Skye terrier’s owner dies. Yes indeed, lots of history thereabouts.

Having lived in the midst of such history for days, imagine my delight when we got home, to find that the next episode in the box-set we are currently watching on telly, was now set in the Old Town of Edinburgh circa 1766. The show Outlander is based on the historical time travel series of novels by Diana Gabaldon and is a firm favourite with most of us who live in the Highlands, as much of the drama is set here. It stars Caitriona Balfe as Claire Randall, a married World War II nurse who in 1945 finds herself transported back to the Scotland of 1743, where she meets the dashing Highland warrior Jamie Fraser (played by Sam Heughan) and becomes embroiled in the Jacobite risings. It does all sound a bit implausible, and is another of those wibbly wobbly timey wimey kind of things, but possibly because it covers all the bases for a cult drama, has kind of become one.

I will include a clip here of the opening title sequence, which definitely gives a flavour of what the show is all about. Also, it makes use of the music to the Skye Boat Song, which most of us in Scotland are very familiar with – Unlike the very twee versions I was used to hearing in my youth, performed on highly uncool shows like The White Heather Club, this version has been given a 21st century makeover by Bear McCreary. The lyrics, taken from the Robert Louis Stevenson poem Sing Me a Song of a Lad That Is Gone, were adapted to fit the storyline and are performed by Raya Yarbrough,

So here we were this week, still thinking about our trip to an Edinburgh that has changed little since the 1700s, watching a show that was set in that very place and time. It isn’t often that contemporary music is used for the show’s soundtrack, but in one of the episodes we watched this week, a particularly poignant scene was played out to Bob Dylan’s song A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall. All about a blue-eyed son, so very apt really and thankfully (for me) not performed by Bob but by the Canadian band Walk Off the Earth. In case anyone watching the show hasn’t reached season three yet, I won’t give the game away and include a clip of that particular heart-wrenching scene, but suffice to say the song was just perfect for it, and has most definitely formed an earworm this week.

A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall by Walk Off the Earth:

Walk Off the Earth had performed the song just once, for kicks, and then pretty much forgot about it until someone from Outlander contacted them about using it for the episode. Band founder Ryan Marshall said they were surprised, as it was an acoustic cover without any bells and whistles – Just one of those tearjerker songs. When the writers decided they wanted to use the song, because Bob had just won the Nobel Prize an’ all, they knew they would never get his version, but after hearing the cover they kind of fell in love with it, as have I.

geneva

So, “What’s It All About?” – Last time I wrote a post about the film Trainspotting, and here I am now writing about the cult television drama Outlander. Yes, I do like my film and telly, and having emotionally invested in some of the storylines watched on both big and small screens, it can be quite something to find yourself in the very spot where they were filmed. It seems I am not alone however, as only this week I read a story in the local paper about how the Clan Fraser marker stone on Culloden Battlefield has had to be cordoned off, and the road around it relaid due the sheer volume of Outlander fans coming to visit it. Even poor old Greyfriar’s Bobby has had all the paint rubbed off his nose (see picture above) due to the sheer number of visitors to the faithful dog’s statue on Candlemaker Row.

One more Edinburgh post before I move on to new themes, but this next one won’t be about music from film or television. No, it seems the time has come to admit to which band was the first one I ever saw perform live!

Until next time….

A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall Lyrics
(Song by Bob Dylan)

Oh, where have you been, my blue-eyed son?
And where have you been, my darling young one?
I’ve stumbled on the side of twelve misty mountains
I’ve walked and I’ve crawled on six crooked highways
I’ve stepped in the middle of seven sad forests
I’ve been out in front of a dozen dead oceans
I’ve been ten thousand miles in the mouth of a graveyard
And it’s a hard, it’s a hard, it’s a hard, and it’s a hard
It’s a hard rain’s a-gonna fall

Oh, what did you see, my blue-eyed son?
And what did you see, my darling young one?
I saw a newborn baby with wild wolves all around it
I saw a highway of diamonds with nobody on it
I saw a black branch with blood that kept drippin’
I saw a room full of men with their hammers a-bleedin’
I saw a white ladder all covered with water
I saw ten thousand talkers whose tongues were all broken
I saw guns and sharp swords in the hands of young children
And it’s a hard, it’s a hard, it’s a hard, and it’s a hard
It’s a hard rain’s a-gonna fall

And what did you hear, my blue-eyed son?
And what did you hear, my darling young one?
I heard the sound of a thunder, that roared out a warnin’
I heard the roar of a wave that could drown the whole world
I heard one hundred drummers whose hands were a-blazin’
I heard ten thousand whisperin’ and nobody listenin’
I heard one person starve, I heard many people laughin’
Heard the song of a poet who died in the gutter
Heard the sound of a clown who cried in the alley
And it’s a hard, it’s a hard, it’s a hard, it’s a hard
It’s a hard rain’s a-gonna fall

Oh, what did you meet, my blue-eyed son?
Who did you meet, my darling young one?
I met a young child beside a dead pony
I met a white man who walked a black dog
I met a young woman whose body was burning
I met a young girl, she gave me a rainbow
I met one man who was wounded in love
I met another man who was wounded in hatred
And it’s a hard, it’s a hard, it’s a hard, it’s a hard
It’s a hard rain’s a-gonna fall

And what’ll you do now, my blue-eyed son?
And what’ll you do now, my darling young one?
I’m a-goin’ back out ‘fore the rain starts a-fallin’
I’ll walk to the depths of the deepest dark forest
Where the people are many and their hands are all empty
Where the pellets of poison are flooding their waters
Where the home in the valley meets the damp dirty prison
And the executioner’s face is always well hidden
Where hunger is ugly, where souls are forgotten
Where black is the color, where none is the number
And I’ll tell and speak it and think it and breathe it
And reflect from the mountain so all souls can see it
And I’ll stand on the ocean until I start sinkin’
But I’ll know my song well before I start singin’
And it’s a hard, it’s a hard, it’s a hard, and it’s a hard
It’s a hard rain’s a-gonna fall

Award Ceremonies, Dua Lipa’s “New Rules” and Are Men Feeling Under Siege?

I’ve been putting off writing this post for some time as I could land myself in hot water, but I hope not. Last week I tried to stand up for all those young people (like darling daughter), who through no fault of their own have had to suffer the ignominy of returning home to their old school bedrooms. This week I’m standing up for all those decent guys, like Mr WIAA, who have never “behaved inappropriately” towards women, but in light of the rise of certain “movements” must be feeling as if their gender is under siege. (He says no, but I’m using him as a for instance.)

Unlike in previous years, I’ve not yet mentioned any of this year’s big award ceremonies and that would be because I’ve found them both confusing, and troubling. Two years ago I wrote about the Grammys and the Brit Awards – I always enjoy these big extravaganzas as I’m often exposed to new music I may have missed out on in the course of the year, but no, back in 2016 everything was highly predicable and the “Suits”, as Adele called them, would have been very pleased with themselves as well-established, bankable artists took away most of the top prizes.

Last year, the most memorable segments of these two shows for me, were the tributes paid to George Michael and I wrote about both (albeit a bit scathingly at the time although I have since mellowed). This year the #MeToo and Time’s Up movements featured prominently at both music and film award ceremonies but it kind of all got a bit too much I thought. No-one, absolutely no-one with any sense, would condone the kind of harassment, inequality, discrimination or abuse of power cited by these movements but god forbid you leave the house without your white rose or decide to eschew the obligatory black dress – In both cases you would face being named and shamed (the apolitical, pregnant future queen was even pulled up for her choice of a green dress at the BAFTAs).

First of all we had the Grammys and although not as relevant as our home-grown Brit Awards, usually something there of note – Kendrick Lamar swept the board and although I do get why he is so popular, impossible for me to really empathise with his lyrics, not coming from “the hood” an’ all. Incidentally I also still find it weird that James Corden, he of Gavin and Stacey, Comic Relief and Carpool Karaoke fame now hosts the Grammys (who would have predicted that a decade ago) but unless he is really good at faking it, his enthusiasm does shine through, albeit in an bit of an annoying fashion.

JaJanelle-Monae_-2018-GRAMMY-Awards--03-662x1077nelle Monae, dressed in a very serious looking suit, introduced one of the artists and made a powerful speech dedicated to the Time’s Up movement finishing off with these words – “We come in peace, but we mean business. And to those who would dare try to silence us, we offer two words: Time’s Up”. She was scary indeed and if I was a man in the audience who had committed any of the offences she had listed, I would quite rightly have been very worried. And here is my point, even if I was a man who hadn’t committed any of the offences, I would still have been feeling pretty worried, which surely must be wrong.

But hey, it was an awards show so what about the performances. One of the most flamboyant of the evening was when James introduced Daddy Yankee and Luis Fonsi who sang their infectious summer hit Despacito. It was impossible however to concentrate on the pair much at all, as the focus of attention was very much on dancer Zuleyka Rivera who joined them onstage. The Puerto Rican star, a former Miss Universe (didn’t even know that kind of contest still existed) danc911531830ed alongside the singers in a sheer bodysuit with strategically placed gold embellishments. I did a double-take at one point not quite believing what I was seeing. And here is my point again, having just been admonished for their offences against the sisterhood, was it appropriate for the men in the audience to admire Ms Rivera’s obvious talents, or would that have seemed like “inappropriate” behaviour? Argh… – It’s a quagmire. I watched the show with DD and she thought nothing of the naked-suit, so it was a generation thing it seems. Her view was that the girl was a dancer so had the right to wear whatever costume was fitting for the performance. Like Janelle, Zuleyka was a similarly powerful and strong woman  – How can men compete nowadays with these Amazonian females?

britsAt the end of February, along came our own Brit Awards – This time the host was Jack Whitehall who I thought did a pretty good job considering it must be one of the trickiest presenting jobs in the annual calendar. Plenty of white roses on display again and a few messages of solidarity were sent out to the Time’s Up movement by those handing out and receiving awards. Kendrick Lamar popped up again but about half his song had to be muted which seemed a waste of airtime, but because of his lyrics, how it has to be it seems on mainstream telly.

Yet again we had plenty of strong women performing on the night, but who could have predicted a decade ago that two young women whose respective Albanian parents moved to the UK from Kosovo in the 1990s, would now both be successful recording artists and appear on the same Brit Awards show. Both Dua Lipa and Rita Ora put in very impressive performances and despite my reservations about the need to wear such skimpy stage outfits, DD was yet again fully in favour. Dua’s swimsuit was apparently to marry up with the video for her song and Rita’s duet with Liam Payne was from the soundtrack to the latest 50 Shades movie, so it was never going to be demure. Someone else who was present at the awards ceremony, but not performing, was Anne-Marie whose singing style I am quite fond of. Another strong woman who is, believe it or not, a three times Karate World Champion. Hope no-one ever tries to behave “inappropriately” toward her.

Someone who made a pretty big impression on me this year was Stormzy – He won the award for Album of the Year which I think is the “big one”. Although I knew of him, I wasn’t that familiar with his music. He came across as being shy, humble, and very spiritual when receiving his award but my goodness, once he got up to perform we saw another side of him and if Theresa May had been watching (unlikely), she would have seen that post-Grenfell, he was none too happy with her or her government. Stormzy, despite getting very wet, gave us probably one of the most memorable Brit Awards performances ever (link here).

images42E36RLZ

So, “What’s It All About?” – It really looks as if time is up for those who have discriminated against, abused or harassed women in any way, which of course is a good thing. We must remember however that not all of those with a Y chromosome have ever behaved in such a way, and never would. From what I hear, DD’s experiences as a young woman have been quite different to those I faced at the same age – There can’t be many females of my generation for whom #MeToo won’t apply, but it seems that even before these movements took off, the vast majority of today’s young men are already fully aware of how they should behave toward women in the 21st century.

As for these powerful Amazonian women, it seems that back in the day when we all had to wear a lot more clothes (my mum would have insisted), there was a lot more “inappropriate behaviour”. Now that women are a lot more confident (DD would run rings round my younger self), the clothes are skimpier, but the behaviour is better. Who would have guessed. I will leave you with the woman of the hour, Dua Lipa, who won two awards this year at the Brits. In her 2017 song New Rules, she is making sure she keeps her distance from someone she has broken up with, and who is bad for her – She is a strong woman and she is “taking charge”.

As part of her acceptance speech at the ceremony, I seem to remember Dua saying that women were going to take over the world and from what I’ve seen of late, it looks as if it just might be on the cards. Enough now I think – No-one should be getting all Dr Evil here, so time for some balance to be restored between the sexes. When we put our minds to it, we should all get along just fine.

And on that note, time to sign off for today. As ever, I’d love to hear from you, and I always reply.

New Rules Lyrics
(Song by Caroline Ailin/Emily Warren/Ian Kirkpatrick)

One, one, one…

Talkin’ in my sleep at night
Makin’ myself crazy
(Out of my mind, out of my mind)
Wrote it down and read it out
Hopin’ it would save me
(Too many times, too many times)
My love, he makes me feel like nobody else
Nobody else
But my love, he doesn’t love me, so I tell myself
I tell myself

One, don’t pick up the phone
You know he’s only calling ’cause he’s drunk and alone
Two, don’t let him in
You’ll have to kick him out again
Three, don’t be his friend
You know you’re gonna wake up in his bed in the morning
And if you’re under him, you ain’t getting over him

I got new rules, I count ’em
I got new rules, I count ’em
I gotta tell them to myself
I got new rules, I count ’em
I gotta tell them to myself

I keep pushin’ forwards, but he keeps pullin’ me backwards
(Nowhere to turn) no way
(Nowhere to turn) no
Now I’m standing back from it, I finally see the pattern
(I never learn, I never learn)
But my love, he doesn’t love me, so I tell myself
I tell myself
I do, I do, I do

One, don’t pick up the phone
You know he’s only calling ’cause he’s drunk and alone
Two, don’t let him in
You’ll have to kick him out again
Three, don’t be his friend
You know you’re gonna wake up in his bed in the morning
And if you’re under him, you ain’t getting over him

I got new rules, I count ’em
I got new rules, I count ’em
I gotta tell them to myself
I got new rules, I count ’em
I gotta tell them to myself

Practice makes perfect
I’m still tryna’ learn it by heart
(I got new rules, I count ’em)
Eat, sleep, and breathe it
Rehearse and repeat it, ’cause I
(I got new, I got new, I…)

One, don’t pick up the phone
You know he’s only calling ’cause he’s drunk and alone
Two, don’t let him in
You’ll have to kick him out again
Three, don’t be his friend
You know you’re gonna wake up in his bed in the morning
And if you’re under him, you ain’t getting over him

I got new rules, I count ’em
I got new rules, I count ’em
(Oh, whoa-oh)
I gotta tell them to myself
I got new rules, I count ’em
(Baby, you know I count ’em)
I gotta tell them to myself

Don’t let him in, don’t let him in
Don’t, don’t, don’t, don’t
Don’t be his friend, don’t be his friend
Don’t, don’t, don’t, don’t
Don’t let him in, don’t let him in
Don’t, don’t, don’t, don’t
Don’t be his friend, don’t be his friend
Don’t, don’t, don’t, don’t
You gettin’ over him