A Better Week for Women, Taylor Swift and ‘The Lakes’

Last week I said I’d decided to delete all the draft posts I had backing up around here so that I could start again with a clean slate – Well, here is that clean slate, but already I’m torn between several blog ideas I’ve had over the last week, not all of them relating to music it must be said. I think I’m just going to have to accept that this blog has indeed morphed into something quite different from what was originally intended when I started out, but nothing wrong with that I suppose. There will always be a song(s) though, and that will never change.

I made no mention of it last weekend, but anyone watching the news that week will know it hadn’t been a good one for women. On International Women’s Day, a young, high-profile, mixed-race woman was lambasted and disbelieved by a white, middle-aged, male broadcaster (who trust me, could never have truly understood how she was feeling); the next day, the body of a murdered girl who had simply risked walking home on her own after dark, was found in Kent; at the weekend, those who met up for a peaceful vigil in the place where she had gone missing were found to be flouting covid restrictions, and there were ugly scenes of women being pinned to the ground and handcuffed by police.

As someone who comes from a long line of strong women who pretty much ran the show in their respective households (in a good way of course), I have always found it hard to personally relate to those who class themselves as feminists. Born at the start of the ’60s, by the time I reached adulthood all the hard work had been done (for which I am very grateful) and I have never felt that any barriers have been put in my way, other than those which were self-imposed. My working life was mainly in the public sector where the majority of my ‘bosses’ were always female, at one point all five departmental heads being of that gender. Life can be tough at various stages along the way, but if we all pulled together as a diverse group of humans (as opposed to humans with labels) it could all be so much easier. It seems we still have a way to go. As for walking home alone in the dark, it has always been something I’ve avoided unless absolutely necessary. It’s scary, for both sexes, and however much guidance is put out on how to make us feel less scared and vulnerable, I would always advise against it. Sad but true.

On the upside, the big winners at the Grammys this year were women, which was a first. Hopefully not purely down to a bias within the judging panel, so good to see. I haven’t been able to watch much of the show, but it seems it was all very covid-safe, which made it a bit of a different affair from the usual extravaganza. As Album Of The Year is usually the big one, here is something from Taylor Swift’s winning album folklore. The other ladies who did well were Beyoncé (she broke the record for all-time wins by a woman), Billie Eilish, Dua Lipa and Megan Thee Stallion.

Taylor’s new album was a bit of a surprise, even to her, as it was conceived during lockdown in 2020, after her planned tour had to be postponed. She describes it as a collection of songs and stories that flowed like ‘a stream of consciousness’. It consists of mellow ballads telling stories rooted in escapism and romanticism reflecting her desire for the music to have a lasting legacy, akin to folk songs. This song, the lakes, was inspired by a holiday Taylor once had in that very beautiful region of England called The Lake District (with Harry Styles, another big winner at the Grammys).

Take me to the lakes where all the poets went to die
I don’t belong, and my beloved, neither do you
Those Windermere peaks look like a perfect place to cry
I’m setting off, but not without my muse

In carrying out a modicum of research for Taylor’s new album I discovered a term that is new to me, cottagecore, which is what the album’s artwork and aesthetic was based on. Apparently it reflects a movement that celebrates idealised rural life and is popular with Generation Z. It developed throughout the 2010s and values traditional skills and crafts such as baking and pottery. It’s obvious when trawling through the various television guides of an evening, that programmes championing such traditional crafts are very much in vogue and we ourselves really enjoyed the final of the Great Pottery Throw Down last weekend (won by a woman). I myself spent much of this last week finishing off some tiny garments I had knitted all the pieces for, but never got round to making up – As a stress-buster, crafting takes some beating and I felt really chuffed when they were finished. All I need now is for the button shop to open up again, and for some grandchildren to dress them in (but no pressure DD).

Spring flowers and teeny weeny garments

Yet again I’ve veered way off topic and haven’t got round to some of the other ideas I had for today. I have one or two ‘new series’ ideas which I hope to explore soon though, so watch this space as they say.

As for Taylor Swift, she has become one of the best-selling artists of all time, in a relatively short space of time. I remember her being interviewed on a breakfast telly show many years ago when she was still a teenager. A clearly talented youngster, she and her family had relocated from Pennsylvania to Nashville when she was aged only 14, so that the young Taylor could pursue her career in country music. It was 2008 and she had just released her second album Fearless which I know DD was a fan of, and I seem to have some songs from it in my digital library.

Love Story by Taylor Swift:

Taylor wrote Love Story about a relationship that was not popular among the narrator’s family and friends. A common theme for teens, and one that’s been around since time immemorial – Why she decided to relate the song to the plot of Romeo and Juliet. Luckily for the couple in question, she replaced the play’s original tragic conclusion with a happy ending. The song was a huge commercial success and received widespread critical acclaim. The start of big things for an artist who has been able to cross over into other genres, transcending her country roots. I wouldn’t be surprised if like Dolly Parton, she manages to stay relevant and popular for many decades to come.

As for me, my poorly ankle is well and truly on the mend, so not long now before I can get about without ‘the boot’. In the meantime, I feel a bit more crafting coming on. Mr WIAA got me some new balls of wool this morning so the cottagecore aesthetic certainly is alive and well in our house at the moment. As for Taylor Swift, I hope she’s enjoyed her foray into yet another new genre – I think it suits her. Also, bit of trivia, she was named after singer/songwriter James Taylor so that was a masterstroke by her parents as it’s obviously brought her good luck (although with her prodigious talent I don’t think she needed a bit of it).

Until next time…

the lakes lyrics
(Song by Taylor Swift)

Is it romantic how all my elegies eulogize me?
I’m not cut out for all these cynical clones
These hunters with cell phones

Take me to the lakes, where all the poets went to die
I don’t belong and, my beloved, neither do you
Those Windermere peaks look like a perfect place to cry
I’m setting off, but not without my muse

What should be over burrowed under my skin
In heart-stopping waves of hurt
I’ve come too far to watch some name-dropping sleaze
Tell me what are my Wordsworth

Take me to the lakes, where all the poets went to die
I don’t belong and, my beloved, neither do you
Those Windermere peaks look like a perfect place to cry
I’m setting off, but not without my muse

I want auroras and sad prose
I want to watch wisteria grow right over my bare feet
‘Cause I haven’t moved in years
And I want you right here
A red rose grew up out of ice frozen ground
With no one around to tweet it
While I bathe in cliff-side pools
With my calamitous love and insurmountable grief

Take me to the lakes, where all the poets went to die
I don’t belong and, my beloved, neither do you
Those Windermere peaks look like a perfect place to cry
I’m setting off, but not without my muse
No, not without you

Freshers Week, Student Life 2020 and The Long Journey From ‘Grease’ to ‘GREECE’

I seem to have lost my blogging mojo at the moment which is a bit of a worry as I am due to return to college on Monday and a fair amount of writing is required for the course I’m enrolled on. Hopefully all will go well, but of course this time there will be no meeting up with fellow students, no hours spent in the library and no visits to the support team, who can very impressively advise on a myriad of issues relevant to the student body (especially mature students like myself who don’t find the technology quite as easy to navigate).

Like for many other colleges and universities this semester all of our lectures and tutorials will be online, so not the experience it should be at all, and for students entering higher education for the first time it must be a real disappointment. There is no denying many youngsters head to ‘Uni’ nowadays more for the social life than the actual academia, but that seems to have gone online as well. It’s over 40 years since I first experienced a Freshers Week but I still remember it fondly – Not sure if an online Freshers Week will go down in memory in quite the same way.

None of this in 2020
…. but more of this.

This year has certainly not turned out the way any of us expected it to, and you know what, I really don’t think we’re going to get back to anything resembling the old normal, ever. The upside is that much of the old normal was not good for us, so we’re happy to say goodbye to it (air pollution, long commutes now replaced by effective working from home) but the stuff that was good for us has also gone (joyous mass gatherings, planned trips, being able to hug our friends), and that’s what I miss most. For young people, nearly everything that made their lives worth living has been made more difficult or complicated and it can’t be lost on them that they are the ones who have been disproportionately affected by the crisis. Although not the wisest thing to do at the moment, can you blame them for wanting to hold illicit parties and gatherings. A euphemism used on breakfast news this morning was “intimate socialising” when discussing student Freshers Week. None of that hanky panky allowed this year I’m afraid!

Whenever I compare eras like this, I also like to compare the music of the day, and back in 1978 when I left home to embark on student life for the first time, the music charts were very different to the ones of today. For a start we had far less exposure to new music and only really had Radio One at our disposal. If one of your favourites was allocated a slot on that week’s TOTP, record sales were bound to rise exponentially selling a volume of “units” unheard of nowadays. Now and again the songs from popular films would make their way into the charts, and in the autumn of 1978 that’s exactly what happened after John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John sashayed their way across the big screen in that summer’s bit hit musical Grease. Oh yes, the week I started University, the song at the No. 1 spot was Summer Nights, at No. 5 was the title track Grease by Frankie Valli and at No. 9 was Sandy sung by broken-hearted T-Bird Danny Zuko.

Grease by Frankie Valli:


Looking at today’s chart, it paints a very different picture. Eight of the Top Ten songs is a collaboration, and I only recognise a couple of names in there. By some strange coincidence there is a song called GREECE (different kind from the one of 1978) by DJ Khaled (feat. Drake) but what comes across loud and clear from the video is that whatever the era, young people like to get together in mass gatherings, listen to music, and dance with each other. Not really been possible this summer at all.

So, ‘What’s It All About?’ – I will hopefully return to more entertaining blog posts soon, but by the time I tussle with the MyDay, Webex, Brightspace, MyStudentMail and MyStudentHub sites just added to my homepage, my brain might be addled. Let’s hope not.

As for the Freshers of 2020, to anyone who has been a student themselves, especially back in the days of generous maintenance grants and zero tuition fees, let’s spare a thought for them and what they are missing out on. Many youngsters we know are not even leaving home, so will be starting the new academic year in their school bedroom. Not quite the rite of passage it ought to be, but student life as we knew it has just become yet another casualty of 2020.

Until next time….

Grease Lyrics
(Song by Barry Gibb)

I solve my problems and I see the light
We got a lovin’ thing, we gotta feed it right
There ain’t no danger we can go too far
We start believing now that we can be who we are
Grease is the word

They think our love is just a growing pain
Why don’t they understand, it’s just a crying shame
Their lips are lying, only real is real
We stop the fight right now, we got to be what we feel
Grease is the word

(Grease is the word, is the word that you heard)
It’s got a groove, it’s got a meaning
Grease is the time, is the place, is the motion
Grease is the way we are feeling

GREECE Lyrics
(Song by Aubrey Graham/Calvin Tarvin/Elijah Maynard/Khaled Khaled/Ozan Yildirim/Peter Eddins)

Come with me, leave all of your things, yeah
We can stop at Gucci, stop at Louis V, yeah
Come with me, fly you out to Greece
Full speed, survoler Paris, yeah

Speedboats, baby, in Nikki Beach
Waves in my ears, smokin’ weed (Oui, oui)
Whippin’ through the sand in a Jeep (Oui, oui)
All because of what I did on beats, baby
Life’s sweet, baby, iced out, baby
You just go get ready, we go out, baby
Long time lookin’ for the bounce, yeah
OZ had the bounce, yeah

‘Dancing In The Moonlight’ by Jubël, and Sweden, Thank You for the Music

Having just looked back at my blog post from this same weekend last year, I seem to be faced with exactly the same dilemma – Not a lack of inspiration, but instead just too many ideas to choose from, and I currently have five drafts on the go. (Sadly none of these are fit for the role of “guest post” over at one of my fellow blogger’s places, but I do have a few ideas up my sleeve for those too, promise.)

Last weekend I did return to the topic none of us seem to be able to avoid at the moment, but won’t go down that route again today, so my old friend the moon is going to be my saviour, as a full moon (the Sturgeon Moon) is due to put in an appearance on Monday night. Regulars around here know that throughout 2018 I became immersed in all things moon-related, and after discovering that all full moons have a name (given to them by the Native Americans who kept track of the months by the lunar calendar), I managed to find an appropriate song for each one, which in turn led to an interesting new series.

supermoon-sturgeon
August was when these huge freshwater fish could be found in lakes and rivers

The sturgeon is not the most attractive looking fish, it must be said, and not the most attractive sounding name either (I feel for our First Minister), but the moon always lends itself to some very attractive sounding songs, and by sheer coincidence I’m going to share a different version of the song featured this same weekend last year. Since DD returned home a month ago, I can’t help but take heed of what she is currently listening to, and this song has been regularly played on her various devices over the last couple of weeks – Dancing In The Moonlight by Swedish electronic duo Jubël (feat. NEIMY). 

Although the version I am most familiar with is the one by Toploader from 1999, this time last year I had just discovered the original from 1972 by King Harvest which we all agreed at the time had the edge. The song was written in 1969 by Sherman Kelly who was the brother of the King Harvest drummer. He apparently wrote it whilst recovering from an attack by a gang and was trying to “envision an alternate reality, the dream of a peaceful and joyful celebration of life”. How bizarre then that just as we are back together again as a family, my daughter is discovering something for the first time that could possibly have been listened to both by her parents and her grandparents in its different guises. Like my moon series, it seems to be a song that just keeps on giving.

unnamed

Of course my knowledge of Swedish electronic music is scant, but it has been noticeable over the last 50 years or so, that Sweden has punched above it’s weight in terms of its musical contribution to the world. Even if they had just produced Abba and then stopped that would have been enough, but there has been so much more. A quick bit of research this morning has led me to the following interesting facts:

  • Abba are the second most successful group ever after the Beatles in terms of record sales.
  • Excluding the UK, Sweden is the European country to have had the most No. 1 hits on the Billboard Hot 100 – Songs by Blue Swede (written about here before), Abba, Roxette (with four) and Ace of Base.
  • Songwriters/Producers Denniz Pop and his protegé Max Martin from Cheiron Studios are behind many of the big hits recorded by Britney Spears, Backstreet Boys, Westlife, Katy Perry and Pink. Only Paul McCartney and John Lennon have written more Billboard No. 1 hits than Max Martin. 
  • Sweden has won the Eurovision Song Contest six times, only one less than record holders Ireland.
  • Such has been its success abroad, clubs specialising in Swedish dance music have sprung up in major cities like Berlin, Barcelona and London.
  • Other well-known Swedish names not already mentioned above include: Avicii, Europe, Neneh and Eagle Eye Cherry, Swedish House Mafia, First Aid Kit, The Cardigans, Robyn, Dr Alban, Sylvia, Harpo, Wannadies, The Hives and Eric Prydz – Wow!

Thank You for the Music by Abba:

So, on top of producing all that furniture we love (IKEA), and cars (Volvo/Saab), and clothes (H&M), and devices (Ericsson), Sweden has given us a pretty impressive body of musical talent too. I would argue that the songs of Max Martin have been written to a successful formula, and may not stand the test of time compared to those of Lennon and McCartney, but hey, I’m old-school, so for future generations that might not be the case.

There is another reason why I chose to return to Dancing In The Moonlight for this post however. By some quirk of fate, a producer from BBC Radio recently stumbled upon my Full Moon Calendar In Song series, and got in touch. After a bit of toing and froing we managed to record my contribution to a show that’s due to be aired in the coming week. I try to remain anonymous around here, and have been a bit shy about sharing my blog with even my nearest and dearest, but I’m quite excited about it all and am (nervously) looking forward to tuning in. It’s been a topsy-turvey old year, but something positive has come out of it for me.

With all this hot and muggy weather, I didn’t catch the moon at all in the sky last night, but hopefully we’ll be lucky on Monday night. Wonder if Nicola knows about her moon?!

Until next time….

Dancing In The Moonlight Lyrics
(Song by Sherman Kelly)

We get it on most every night
When that moon is big and bright
It’s a supernatural delight
Everybody’s dancing in the moonlight

Everybody here is out of sight
They don’t bark and they don’t bite
They keep things loose, they keep things light
Everybody’s dancing in the moonlight

Dancing in the moonlight
Everybody’s feeling warm and bright
It’s such a fine and natural sight
Everybody’s dancing in the moonlight

We like our fun and we never fight
You can’t dance and stay uptight
It’s a supernatural delight
Everybody was dancing in the moonlight

Dancing in the moonlight
Everybody’s feeling warm and bright
It’s such a fine and natural sight
Everybody’s dancing in the moonlight

Everybody here is out of sight
They don’t bark and they don’t bite
They keep things loose, they keep things light
Everybody was dancing in the moonlight

Everybody’s dancing in the moonlight
Everybody’s feeling warm and bright
It’s such a fine and natural sight
Everybody’s dancing in the moonlight (everybody)
Dancing in the moonlight
Everybody’s feeling warm and bright
It’s such a fine and natural sight
Everybody’s dancing in the moonlight
Everybody’s dancing in the moonlight
Everybody’s feeling warm and bright
It’s such a fine and natural sight
Everybody’s dancing in the moonlight (everybody)
Dancing in the moonlight
Everybody’s feeling warm and bright
It’s such a fine and natural sight
Everybody’s dancing in the moonlight

Songs About Home Towns, ‘Húsavík’ and The Wacky World Of Eurovision

Many of the songs I share around here come from film and television, as borne out by the sheer number of posts in each of those categories on my sidebar. It was obvious early on in the evolution of this blog, that unless I was revisiting songs from my chart-loving/album buying years of the 1970s and ’80s, much of the music I have warmed to over the decades has come from watching something on the big, or small, screen.

I recently wrote about the Eurovision Song Contest, which like everything else this year didn’t happen, but for us fans of such fluff and nonsense there has been a bit of a reprieve in the form of the new Will Ferrell film Eurovision Song Contest: The Story Of Fire Saga. It went straight to Netflix so despite there being no cinemas yet open around here we have been able to watch it twice. There have been a few scathing reviews and on the whole it was not a winner with the critics, but hey, what do they know? During these dark times it has offered up a couple of hours of pure escapism and as an oficiando of all things Eurovision, and someone who in the past memorised vast amounts of info on the runners and riders, there were some great cameos and in-jokes which will have been lost on our friends across the pond.

Even if you’re not a fan of Eurovision, or a fan of comedic musicals, the scenery alone makes it a worthwhile watch. Our wannabe contest winners, Fire Saga, have become the unlikely representatives for little Iceland and their home town Húsavík is featured heavily in the film – I’m guessing that once we’re able to travel more freely again, it will be heavily inundated by tourists. (Whether they are wanted is another matter, and a standing joke throughout the film, but I’ll leave that for you to discover should you watch it for yourselves.)

original_80250CE3D0489E6591CA92E0A321B98C
Húsavík in Iceland

One of the showstopping songs from the film is also called Húsavík, written as a love letter to their home town, and performed by Fire Saga member Sigrit Ericksdóttir (expertly played by Rachel McAdams). It has formed a bit of an earworm for me this week, partly because it’s a great song, and partly because it’s so relevant to what’s happening in our neighbourhood.

I mentioned a couple of weeks ago that we had DD back living with us in the Highlands as the current crisis made her realise more than ever that big city life is not for her. But also, one by one, our neighbours’ adult children have similarly returned to their respective nests as this lockdown period has not been kind to the young in terms of job losses, accommodation unsuitable for home-working, and sadly, relationship breakdown. It seems when the chips are down, like Lars and Sigrit from Iceland, your home town is often just where you want to be, and despite all the turmoil of the last few months I haven’t seen DD so happy in years. We don’t have whales up here (as they do in Húsavík), but we do have the Moray Firth Dolphins, and she has loved her long walks along the coast with old friends since returning to her home town.

Where the mountains sing through the screams of seagulls
Where the whales can live ’cause they’re gentle people (or dolphins?)
In my hometown, my hometown

Thought I made it clear, do I have to say it?
It was always there, we just didn’t see it
All I need is you and me and my home

Húsavík by Molly Sandén:

But this of course is a song from a film and it’s not always the case that the actor playing the role of the singer, does the actual singing. It has been a long-standing tradition in the making of movies and I remember well that scene in Singin’ In The Rain when poor old Lina Lamont was humiliated when the curtains went back to reveal a young Debbie Reynolds/Kathy Seldon at the microphone. In the Eurovision film it is Swedish singer Molly (My Marianne) Sandén who takes the honours so credit where credit’s due, although it seems they did mix her voice with that of Rachel McAdams to a certain extent, which seems to have worked well. Turns out Molly represented Sweden in the Junior Eurovision Song Contest in 2006, so quite apt really.

mollysandenuf
Molly Sandén

So, ‘What’s It All About?’ – Sometimes you’re just in the mood for watching a feel-good comedy and the film written about in this post ticked all the boxes for me. A couple of years ago a film called The Greatest Showman was similarly panned by the critics, but unless you lived under a rock in 2018, you will know it spawned a best-selling album and kept returning to the top spot time and time again in terms of box-office takings. The showstopping song in that film, Never Enough, was very similar in style to the one featured above, and although I thought at the time it was sung by actress Rebecca Ferguson, who played Swedish Nightingale Jenny Lind, it was American singer Loren Allred who took the honours that time. Two films, one where a Swede sings for an American and one where an American sings for a Swede!

Never Enough by Loren Allred:

As for our adult children returning to their home town, like many others have found during this crisis, priorities can change. We do have short memories however and as we are seeing an opening up of much of our economy, people seem anxious to get back out there, doing what they used to do. Cross fingers it doesn’t result in the dreaded second wave we keep hearing about. The 21st century phenomenon FOMO (fear of missing out) has been thankfully absent from our lives of late, but as things start to get back to normal it will no doubt return with a vengeance as get-togethers are shared on social media. Let’s hope we have learnt something from this downtime and that the “old normal” does not return in full any time soon.

Until next time….

Húsavík Lyrics
(Song by Fat Max Gsus/Rickard Göransson/Kotecha)

All by myself
With this great big world before me
But it’s all for someone else
I’ve tried and tried again
To let you know just where my heart is
To tell the truth and not pretend

All I needed was to get away
Just to realize that I was meant to stay

Where the mountains sing through the screams of seagulls
Where the whales can live ’cause they’re gentle people
In my hometown, my hometown
Thought I made it clear, do I have to say it?
It was always there, we just didn’t see it
All I need is you and me and my home

Vera með þér, með þér
Í Húsavík við Skjálfanda
Í heimabærinn minn

You want the world (Want the world)
All the neon lights and billboards
To be seen and to be heard (Heard)
And I followed you (Oh-ooh)
But now I know what makes me happy
And I can tell you feel it too

Where the mountains sing through the screams of seagulls
Where the whales can live ’cause they’re gentle people
In my hometown, my hometown
Where the northern lights burst out in colors
And the magic nights surpass all others
Það eina sem ég þrái er, að vera