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.

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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 – It’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

Eurovision Memories, Riverdance and Måns Zelmerlöw

Following on from my last post when I wrote about the sad passing of Sir Terry Wogan, I feel I can’t end that thread until I have mentioned The Eurovision Song Contest. Love it or loathe it, the contest is a big fixture in television’s annual calendar and is watched by, wait for it…… up to 600 million people worldwide!

Terry presided over the television commentary of the contest from 1980 until 2008 after which he hung up his headphones, making way for another witty Irishman, Graham Norton. During his years at the helm, Terry’s commentary was far more of a draw for viewers than the contest, or nonsense as he called it. Who can forget all the “eejit” on-stage hosts we had to endure, and his observation that the Danish pair in 2001 looked like “Doctor Death and the Tooth Fairy”.

My first memories of Eurovision were from 1967 when a barefoot Sandie Shaw won for the UK with Puppet On A String. I have mentioned my “anorak” tendencies before in this blog and The Eurovision Song Contest is a dream for people like me – Endless possibilities when it comes to stats, lists and databases. Who won in which year; where the contest was held; which artist represented each country and so it goes on…

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Anyway, in 1967 when I was still only 6 years old I remember using a little blue Silvine notebook to record my family’s verdict on the songs which had made the shortlist as potential contenders for our entry to that year’s contest. I can’t remember if as a family we did pick Puppet On A String but I do remember that we all had to give each song points out of 10 and I was savvy enough to realise that if I started with a lowish score of 5 out of 10 there would be room for manoeuvre. I also can’t remember if we actually sent in our verdict on a postcard (or if you couldn’t afford one of those a stuck down envelope), but for me, it was the start of a long love affair with all things Eurovision. As the years went by I became an even bigger fan of the contest and when colour came to our television screens things just got better and better.

Sadly when my teens and twenties came along, and I found myself a social life, Eurovision lost out as I tended to be out on a Saturday night but it would have been impossible to miss the fact that we won again in 1976 with Brotherhood of Man’s Save Your Kisses for Me, and soon after in 1981, with Bucks Fizz and Making Your Mind Up.

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The contest at this time was entering a fallow period and it was definitely not cool to admit to being a fan. Terry’s commentary continued to amuse but we didn’t really put up any worthwhile candidates and didn’t win again for another 16 years. During the ’90s however the Celtic Tiger was rearing its head and Ireland won the contest four times in five years. It seemed they could do no wrong and when Bill Whelan’s Riverdance was performed as the interval “filler” during the 1994 contest, a new and very lucrative art form was born. Gone were the days of folksy, green velvet-jacketed Irish dancing and in breezed Michael Flatley and a cast of thousands with their toe and heel-tapping spectaculars. Johnny Logan who won the contest himself for Ireland in 1980 and 1987 also wrote the winning song for Linda Martin in 1992, making him the most successful entrant ever. Wonder if any of this success was down to Terry and his Irish charm?

The times they were a-changing however and when the wall came down, Eastern Europe suddenly wanted to be a part of this music-fest, not realising that here in the UK it was still seen as a bit of light-hearted nonsense. In the rest of Europe, the contest has become a juggernaut of a show with each country putting up their most talented artists and in the build up to the live final, practically bankrupting their country with the promotion of their song. It all got a bit too much for Terry however, and his astute observation that there may well have been some political voting (never!) led to his eventual departure from the commentary box.

Since my daughter has been old enough to enjoy Eurovision with us, it has become one of my favourite nights of the year. We print off the scoresheets, invite friends round, serve the food and drink of the host nation and wave our little flags when the UK entrant appears on stage. Since the debacle of 2003 when Jemini had the distinction of receiving the first ever score of “nil points”, we have generally languished around the bottom of the scoreboard and it is hard to see how things are ever likely to change. We don’t really take it seriously, we are part of the “Big 5” who pay for the thing so go straight through to the final (no-one likes someone to get an unfair advantage) and yes, political voting is absolutely part of the contest and pretty much nobody wants to pal up with us in the world of Eurovision.

You are probably wondering if I am ever going to get round to the song in this post well here we go. Last year after watching the contest for nearly 50 years on television, I went to watch it LIVE in Vienna! We went with our best friends dressed as Bucks Fizz and had the best time ever. As usual the UK came about last but we made loads of new friends and were “papped” constantly in our outfits. The winner was a young Marti Pellow-lookalike called Måns Zelmerlöw from Sweden with his fantastic song Heroes. Sweden are now knocking on the door of Ireland’s record of seven wins in the contest with a very impressive six, their first being the song Waterloo by the most successful Eurovision act of all time, Abba.

Heroes by Måns Zelmerlöw:

There are a lot of problems in the world today and even in Europe we are facing big political decisions in the very near future. I just wish we could gather together some of our leaders for the next Eurovision Song Contest in Stockholm. The whole concept behind the contest in the 1950s was to help a war-torn Europe rebuild itself. The European Broadcasting Union set up a committee to search for ways of bringing countries together, via a “light entertainment programme”. From our first hand experience of Vienna, it certainly works and if Angela Merkel and David Cameron want to join us we have a couple of very fetching Bucks Fizz outfits going spare?

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Heroes Lyrics
(Song by Linnea Deb/Joy Deb/Anton Hård af Segerstad)

Don’t tell the gods I left a mess
I can’t undo what has been done
Let’s run for cover
What if I’m the only hero left
You better fire off your gun
Once and forever
He said go dry your eyes
And live your life like there is no tomorrow son
And tell the others

To go sing it like a hummingbird
The greatest anthem ever heard:

We are the heroes of our time
But we’re dancing with the demons in our minds
We are the heroes of our time
Hero-uh-o-o-oes
O-uh-o-o-oh
We’re dancing with the demons in our minds
Hero-uh-o-o-oes O-uh-o-o-oh

The crickets sing a song for you
Don’t say a word, don’t make a sound
It’s life’s creation
I make worms turn into butterflies
Wake up and turn this world around
In appreciation
He said I never left your side
When you were lost I followed right behind
Was your foundation