Well, it’s all looking a bit fraught across the pond today with the election result in the balance and the votes still being counted (very legally). All a bit tense here in the UK too, with a new lockdown due to start at midnight. As an antidote to all that real world nonsense, let’s head back in time to a country that doesn’t even exist any more, and spend some time with Julia and her beautiful Lipizanner horses.
I started a new series recently called Balm For The Soul and I think this next song fits that category perfectly. If like me you were born at the start of the ’60s, you will remember kids telly featured many European dramas, such as Belle and Sebastian (the Scottish indie band took their name from it) and the wonderful White Horses. It was made by a Yugoslavian television company and followed the adventures of Julia and the Lipizanner horses raised on her Uncle Dimitri’s stud farm outside Belgrade. It came to our shores in 1968, dubbed into English, and soon became a firm favourite with horse-loving girls. The best bit of the show however was the theme song, White Horses sung by Jacky. Some pieces of music just can’t help but make you feel good and this is most definitely one of them, often coming at the top of polls for the best TV theme song ever.
Looking at my trusty Guinness Book of British Hit Singles, it seems White Horses reached the No. 10 spot in April 1968. Jacky was actually Jackie Lee from Ireland who had another hit in 1971 with Rupert, the song from the show based on the famous cartoon character, Rupert Bear. She certainly seems to have cornered that sector of the market.
I remember once feeling incredibly stressed ahead of a particular set of exams. One morning, rather than hitting the books, I took myself along to the only television lounge in our student Halls of Residence and spent a good few hours watching kids telly. By lunchtime I felt refreshed and ready to pick up my revision timetable again (as you expect, I had many). Of course I can’t now remember if White Horses was one of the shows I watched, but it is highly likely as it was repeated often, right through the ’70s. That theme song, and the whole nostalgia aspect, would have got me right back on track I’m sure. Let’s hope it does the same for us now.
Until next time….
White Horses Lyrics (Song by Michael Carr/Ben Nisbet)
On white horses let me ride away To my world of dreams so far away Let me run To the sun.
To a world my heart can understand It’s a gentle warm and wonderland Far away Stars away
Where the clouds are made of candy floss As the day is born. When the stars are gone We’ll race to meet the dawn
So when I can only see the grey Of a sad and very lonely day That’s when I softly sigh On white horses Snowy white horses Let me ride away
It’s been a while since I posted anything new around here, but life has suddenly got quite busy for me, what with my college course, our business, and delivering guest posts (I’m over at Rol’s place this week), so finding it tough to set aside some time for the blog. I will now attempt to right that wrong.
It’s exactly six months since we first went into lockdown here in the UK, and as of today the rules have really tightened up again (especially in Scotland) with a whole raft of new restrictions kicking in, so almost back to where we started. I think most of us are now accepting the old normal has gone for the foreseeable, so maybe it’s time to throw in the towel and adapt to this post-pandemic world – There’s still a lot of great stuff out there to enjoy, and whether we simply stumble upon it, or actively seek it out, it can provide a balm for the soul.
I myself stumbled upon something last weekend that led me to think of that phrase, as it just seemed so apt. On Saturday night I caught Mr WIAA perusing the library of recordings on the machine attached to the telly, as we seem to be all caught up at the moment with our ‘boxsets’. I returned later to find him revisiting theGeorge Michael documentary Freedom, which was released nine months after his death. Ironically, back in 2017, it premiered on our screens the same night as my 25th Wedding Anniversary, so I very unromantically spent the evening watching George as opposed to being all loved up with Mr WIAA. Much to his credit he didn’t even mind, as he knew I was (and still am) a big fan, which perhaps goes a long way to explaining how we made it to that landmark number, and now beyond.
I wrote about the documentary back in 2017 in my final Open Letter to George when I think I was still grieving for him, but three years on I could watch it again with less sadness, from the perspective of someone who has accepted he is gone, but is still so grateful we have his wonderful back catalogue of songs. The doc is peppered first of all with the Wham! hits, and then the solo stuff, progressing from the Faith album right through to Symphonica. As happened last time, I homed in on a couple of the songs featured, and they have stayed with me all week. One is Heal The Pain and the other Desafinado (with Astrud Gilberto).
How beautiful is that? Oh yes George, from beyond the grave you are healing my pain with your song. I accept the situation the world has found itself in and I accept you have gone – Your music is indeed a balm for the soul. Something I hadn’t realised until now is that this song came about as an homage to Paul McCartney in whose style the song was written. In 2005 George got the chance to record a version with Paul, and it ended up being included on his greatest hits collection Twenty Five. Heal The Pain was the was the fourth of five singles taken from the album Listen Without Prejudice Vol. 1 entering the UK Singles Chart in February 1991 and peaking at number 31. It followed a pattern of reaching a slightly lower spot than its predecessor (the previous three singles having peaked at numbers 6, 23 and 28 respectively) which I now find quite unbelievable, considering the quality of the song.
Something else I find quite unbelievable is that until this week I didn’t actually own a hard copy of Listen Without Prejudice Vol. 1 (there never was a Vol. 2 but that’s a whole other story), so when in town on Monday I swung by our local HMV which thankfully still seems to be trading. I was very tempted by a lovely looking vinyl copy sitting on one of the long display shelves at the entrance, but I dithered, and tussled with my conscience, as it was expensive and I don’t even have a half-decent turntable at the moment. On the other hand the CD shelves were awash with his albums, so in one fell swoop, for the grand sum of £15, I filled the gaps in my Wham!/George Michael collection of music. I’ve not even played them yet, but that wasn’t the point. The point was to have something tangible as opposed to digital, which although highly practical and portable, just doesn’t always hit the spot.
Before I go I want to share the other song that’s stayed with me since rewatching the doc last weekend. During these troubled times, what could be better than a bit of bossa nova, combined with the dulcet tones of George Michael & Astrud Gilberto (The Girl from Ipanema). It seems Desafinado has been recorded by at least 65 people since 1959 and is translated into English as ‘Out of Tune’ or ‘Off Key’, originally written as a response to critics who claimed bossa nova was a new genre for singers who couldn’t sing. Well this pair certainly can sing, and listening to the 1996 recording feels like being wrapped in a large, fluffy, comfort blanket. Yet another balm for the soul.
So, “What’s It All About?” – Not sure if I can keep up the positivity around here long-term but it seems being just that little bit too busy is also good for the soul, as it leaves little time for doomsurfing/doomscrolling, which I’ve spent far too much time doing of late.
As for my apparent fan worship of George Michael, it’s really not like that at all. In fact it wasn’t until he died on Christmas Day 2016 that I realised he had been there by my side for the entire journey that was my adult life. In a non-interfering, almost unnoticed way, he had provided one of its soundtracks and was there at a few of the most pivotal points, including the birth of DD (but not literally). Like many others I will probably continue to make new George Michael discography discoveries, and will thank the universe for having allowed this kind, sensitive, genius of a man, into our lives.
Until next time….
Heal The Pain Lyrics (Song by George Michael)
Let me tell you a secret Put it in your heart and then keep it Something that I want you to know Do something for me Listen to my simple story And maybe we’ll have something to show
You tell me you’re cold on the inside How can the outside world Be a place that your heart can embrace Be good to yourself Because nobody else Has the power to make you happy
How can I help you Please let me try to I can heal the pain That you’re feeling inside Whenever you want me You know that I will be Waiting for the day That you say you’ll be mine
He must have really hurt you To make you say the things that you do He must have really hurt you To make those pretty eyes look so blue
He must have known That he could That you’d never leave him Now you can’t see my love is good And that I’m not him
How can I help you Please let me try to I can heal the pain Won’t you let me inside Whenever you want me You know that I will be Waiting for the day That you say you’ll be mine
Won’t you let me in Let this love begin Won’t you show me your heart now I’ll be good to you I can make this thing true Show me that heart right now
Who needs a lover That can’t be a friend Something tells me I’m the one you’ve been looking for If you ever should see him again Won’t you tell him you’ve found someone who gives you more
Someone who will protect you Love and respect you All those things That he never could bring to you Like I do Or rather I would Won’t you show me your heart Like you should