Those We Have Lost in 2020 – RIP Kenny, Bill, John and Richard

Because this year has been one like no other, my blogging has changed tack and I have not been keeping up with the sad roll-call of people we have lost from the world of music. It is almost inevitable that many of them would have been written about here before, as most were elder statesmen of their particular genres, but time to pay special tribute I think.

My very first post of this year led me back to the chart music of 1970, and at the top spot was Mr Kenny Rogers with his excellent story song Ruby, Don’t Take Your Love To Town. I am not however really that familiar with the First Edition era of Kenny’s career. The Kenny I am more familiar with was his late ’70s persona which gave us the hits Lucille, The Gambler and Coward of the County. Like Ruby these were all very much story songs and their lyrics have given us some great lines which are often quoted. After the news of his death on March the 20th, just ahead of all the upheaval and distress caused by the pandemic, there were many who noted that Kenny had followed the advice within his signature song:

You’ve got to know when to hold ’em
Know when to fold ’em

Ten days after the death of Kenny Rogers, news came through that we had also lost Bill Withers. Last summer, after a particularly lovely day out I shared many pictures in a blog post, so the obvious accompanying song choice was Bill’s 1977 song Lovely Day. To be honest I hadn’t realised until that point just how respected Bill had been in the music world, having won three Grammy Awards and been nominated for six more. His life was even the subject of a 2009 documentary film called Still Bill. Quite something considering he worked as a professional musician for just 15 years, from 1970 to 1985, after which he moved on to other occupations.

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My Bill song choice is going to have to be this one however, Ain’t No Sunshine. They’re not for everyone I know, but I am a bit of a fan of Richard Curtis movies, and the song certainly fitted a particularly poignant scene in the film Notting Hill very well – Poor old lovelorn Hugh Grant straddles all four seasons whilst he walks through the market with Bill’s song playing the background [spoiler alert: all turns out well in the end].

Ain’t No Sunshine by Bill Withers:

A week after the death of Bill, we heard of the sad loss of John Prine. John was someone I only discovered since starting this blog, and when I accidentally came across his song When I Get To Heaven one evening when on my way to visit my mum in hospital, I got a bit emotional, all 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 was nothing more I wanted than to go find my dad who had died 15 years earlier, and ask for his advice on decisions that were going to have to be made. Listening to the song, even us non-believers are almost prepared to be converted, as there is a definite party atmosphere going on. John Prine had apparently been treated for cancer twice, and it was after his second bout that he wrote the 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.

I hope John is up there right now, sitting with Kenny and Bill, enjoying that cocktail and extremely long cigarette!

When I Get To Heaven by John Prine:

Last but most definitely not least, on the 9th May we lost the artist known best to us as Little Richard. I can’t pretend to know that much about Mr Penniman, as he was a bit before my time, but I do know he was an influential figure in popular music, often nicknamed The Innovator, The Originator, or The Architect of Rock and Roll. His best known work dates back to the mid-1950s, when his charismatic showmanship, dynamic music and frenetic piano playing laid the foundation for rock and roll. He influenced numerous singers and musicians across musical genres from rock to hip hop and in a line-up he would have been easily recognisable because of his pompadour hairstyle.

Tutti Frutti became an instant first hit for him in 1955 but as we started off with Kenny Rogers, and mentioned his song Lucille, I think I’ll come full circle and end with Little Richard’s song of the same name. Lucille became a big hit for him in 1957 but he then abandoned rock and roll for born again Christianity.  When he was persuaded to tour Europe in 1962, the Beatles opened for him and Richard even advised them on how to perform his songs. He is cited as one of the first crossover black artists, and his music and concerts broke down barriers, drawing blacks and whites together despite attempts to sustain segregation. How sad therefore to see what is going on right now as I type, 60 years on.

Until next time, RIP Kenny, Bill, John and Richard, you will not be forgotten.

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

A Memorial Bench, Another Sad Loss and “Try A Little Kindness”

Many regulars to this place will remember the series of posts I published at the end of last year following the tragic death of my friend’s daughter. She was only 18, but after a tough few months, on the 1st November she took her own life. Last week, her mum sent me a picture of the rainbow-coloured bench they have been allowed to place next to her grave. A tiny bit of comfort for those many friends and relatives who will visit her resting place.

Holly

At the time I suggested her death certificate should have stated Death by Social Media, as she had been the victim of the most awful cyber-bullying over the years. Hard for those of us of a certain age to comprehend I know, but something that is very real in today’s world. Her family therefore decided to have the words “Be Kind Always” inscribed on the bench, as a kind of long-lasting legacy.

Holly (2)

So, this was only last Friday. On Saturday afternoon, news broke that one of our best-loved television presenters had been found dead in her home, having taken her own life. Not everyone will have been familiar with Caroline Flack, but she seems to have been responsible for getting the younger generation back in love with terrestrial telly again, hosting shows that drew in large viewing figures. Sadly, her professional and personal life had hit a rocky patch of late, but rather than being left to nurse her wounds and rebuild her confidence in private, she became an absolute magnet for social media trolls, and was hounded relentlessly by the press. Her story was apparently of public interest, but was it really? She was obviously a very vulnerable young woman for whom this level of abuse was unsustainable.

Moving tributes have been pouring in from fellow celebrities, and even from our politicians. After losing her daughter at the end of last year, my friend wanted to do something to highlight the potentially tragic consequences of cyber-bullying. Tough however to get the message out to a wider audience. Now, with a high profile victim such as Caroline, the message really is starting to get out there, and change will have to come.

One politician, Lisa Nandy, has come out saying social media companies cannot be left to police themselves, suggesting the current situation is like the Wild West. “I worry about the approaches that say we allow the social media companies to regulate themselves,” she said. “In no other area of life would we allow private companies to self-police. We ought to make sure the state has a system of regulation and support around that.”

MP Kate Osamor, who appeared in the press herself for a threatening confrontation with journalists who went to her home after her son was convicted of drug offences, wrote: “The trolling & abuse she suffered at the hands of the media was relentless. Being kind is so underrated. RIP Caroline Flack.”

Since Saturday, the #BeKind hashtag has been appearing everywhere. Let’s hope there is a sea change in behaviour going forward, but you know what, I’m not holding my breath. I started to look for songs about being kind for this post, but not as easy as you would think. I did however find this oldie from 1969 recorded by Glen Campbell, who has often popped up around here. Try A Little Kindness was written by Curt Sapaugh & Bobby Austin and, I think, is just the kind of thing I want to listen to at the moment.

Try A Little Kindness by Glen Campbell:

So, “What’s It All About?” – I have been really lucky around here in that I’ve never had to suffer any unpleasantness. Of course the WordPress people do a pretty good job of filtering out spam, but my experience has been a really positive one. Sadly, if you are in the public eye, or indeed a teenager of today, this will not be the case. I really hope people start being kinder, but failing that, I hope regulation of some sort will be forced upon the social media companies. My friend won’t get her daughter back, nor will Caroline Flack’s parents, but hopefully their stories will be the catalyst for change.

Until next time….  RIP Holly, RIP Caroline Flack, #BeKind.

Try A Little Kindness Lyrics
(Song by Bobby Austin/Curt Sapaugh)

If you see your brother standing by the road
With a heavy load from the seeds he’s sowed
And if you see your sister falling by the way
Just stop and say, you’re going the wrong way

You got to try a little kindness
Yes show a little kindness
Just shine your light for everyone to see
And if you try a little kindness
Then you’ll overlook the blindness
Of narrow-minded people on the narrow-minded streets

Don’t walk around the down and out
Lend a helping hand instead of doubt
And the kindness that you show every day
Will help someone along their way

You got to try a little kindness
Yes show a little kindness
Just shine your light for everyone to see
And if you try a little kindness
Then you’ll overlook the blindness
Of narrow-minded people on the narrow-minded streets

Kenny Rogers, “Ruby” and A Tentative Peek Into 2020

I have been putting off writing this, my first post of the new calendar year, as somehow my foray into the world of blogging has coincided with the world going to hell in a handbasket. I know this has nothing to do with me and my little blog, but weird how things have worked out, both closer to home and in the world at large.

Can it really be that only four years ago we were still very much in the EU; Barrack Obama was at the helm in the US; David Bowie, George Michael and Prince were still with us; Mr WIAA and I both had jobs we enjoyed; my mum was well and living independently; my back, neck and shoulders didn’t ache all the time; and my daughter lived in a flat just round the corner? None of these things now apply. Also, we seem to be on the verge of war, and one of our continents is on fire.

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My blog’s timeline

Heading into a new decade, can I really still justify spending most of my free time researching, and writing about, the pop music of my youth? I admit to having lost much of my joie de vivre of late and I know this has been reflected in my blogging which was always meant to be light-hearted and fun. It’s just really tough trying to stay upbeat at the moment, but I suppose we must try.

Looking at my sidebar on the right, I have a long list of categories that seem to have built up over the years. The first ones on the list are the decades from which the songs I write about come. Looks as if there will have to be a new decade added soon, as although on a technicality it seems we are not actually in the 2020s yet, I think most of us would agree it makes sense for us to think of it as such. The decade I seem to have revisited more often than any other around here is the 1970s which is probably the decade I spent most time listening to, and obsessing over, chart music. Perhaps then, in order to get past this obstacle of publishing my first post of the year, I should look back at what we were listening to 50 years ago just as a new decade was dawning.

Well, well, maybe things haven’t changed that much after all – The song at the top of the UK Singles Chart on the 6th January 1970 was actually the very first single I ever bought with my own money, yet it is one (look it up here) I have never been able to admit to around here, as the artist involved spent a fair bit of time residing At Her Majesty’s Pleasure.

Time to move on then and joy of joys, the record at the No. 2 spot was one of the best story songs ever written, Ruby, Don’t Take Your Love To Town performed by the wonderful Kenny Rogers when he was still with The First Edition.

Ruby, Don’t Take Your Love To Town by Kenny Rogers and The First Edition:

Took me a while to recognise Kenny in that clip as many of us are more used to his silver fox appearance in the later stages of his career. His very distinctive, understated vocals are perfect for this song however, and I especially love the sound patterning in this line (even Kenny has a sly grin as he sings it):
And the wants and the needs of a woman your age, Ruby, I realize

The percussion accompanying this line is also just perfect and mimics the footsteps outside the door:
She’s leaving now ’cause I just heard the slamming of the door

Less said about this next line the better. Suffice to say not to be recommended:
And if I could move I’d get my gun and put her in the ground

And finally he almost whispers:
…. for God’s sakes turn around

Because of the timeline, it’s assumed the crazy Asian war they refer to in the song is the Vietnam War so yet again maybe things haven’t changed so much after all. Maybe it’s just that in 1970 my life was as yet unaffected by the kind of stuff we worry about as adults.

So, “What’s It All About?” – I wasn’t sure if I would be able to carry on blogging this year as it seems somehow frivolous to write about pop music when life just seems to be getting tougher year on year. Then again, as it’s often mentioned around here, it can be a real stress-buster and possibly I’ve just had one too many personal knocks of late which has coloured my view of the world. Also, as I’ve just discovered by revisiting the music charts of 1970, back then we had songs about wars happening on the other side of the world and songs by artists who were later found to be sexual predators of the worst kind. Maybe it’s time to concentrate on doing the best for our families, friends and community, and not worry too much about the stuff we can do little about. We have to hope that humanity wins out in the end.

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Until next time….  Happy New Year (I think).

Ruby, Don’t Take Your Love To Town Lyric
(Song by Mel Tillis)

You’ve painted up your lips and rolled and curled your tinted hair
Ruby, are you contemplating going out somewhere?
The shadow on the wall tells me the sun is going down

Oh, Ruby,
Don’t take your love to town

It wasn’t me that started that old crazy Asian war
But I was proud to go and do my patriotic chore
And yes, it’s true that I’m not the man I used to be

Oh, Ruby,
I still need some company

It’s hard to love a man whose legs are bent and paralyzed
And the wants and the needs of a woman your age, Ruby, I realize
But it won’t be long I’ve heard them say until I’m not around

Oh, Ruby,
Don’t take your love to town

She’s leaving now ’cause I just heard the slamming of the door
The way I know I’ve heard it slam one hundred times before
And if I could move I’d get my gun and put her in the ground 

Oh, Ruby,
Don’t take your love to town

Oh, Ruby,
for God’s sakes turn around

Postscript:

Interestingly an answer song to Ruby was also released in 1969 by an artist called Geraldine Stevens. Called Billy, I’ve Got To Go To Town the melody is just the same, but this time the lyrics confirm Ruby’s love for her paralysed husband and she pleads for him to have faith in her fidelity. Not a big hit this one, but fascinating how these larger-than-life characters in songs can then spawn new songs, continuing the story-telling. If anyone knows of any other similar answer songs please share, as I’m now kind of intrigued.

Cher and Dolly Get a Pass, and It’s Not One For the Bus!

I’ve been meaning to write this one for a while, so here goes.

At what age do we start to feel old nowadays? For me it happened last year, and nothing to do with my chronological age or any physical changes that have come over me, it’s just that a new epidemic, in a very stealthy fashion, has taken the country by storm.

Never a week passes by without some female actor, presenter or well-known musician suddenly appearing on our screens looking ten years younger. I sometimes have to do a double take, as I find it hard to delve behind the frozen expression to find the lady within, one whom I often used to warm to greatly because of their enthusiastic and energetic performance. Now the acting seems wooden, as facial expressions are restricted to the mouth and chin – Nothing else moves a muscle, literally, for they are frozen into place with all manner of toxic bacteria.

How have we got to this point in our evolution? There seems to be no turning the tide either, as even those whom I thought would never partake, seem to be coerced into such madness for fear of their careers being over without it. We all know which “celebrities” are roughly the same age as ourselves (that would be 58 in my case) – Jeremy Clarkson is allowed to get grey and crinkly, whilst Carol Vorderman now looks about 20 years younger, and sports that polyurethane type of skin best suited to a child’s baby doll.

“They look really great for their age”, is a remark I often hear bandied about – Well yes, of course they do, as they’ve spent thousands of pounds nipping, tucking and freezing everything into place! I can’t help thinking some of these poor souls are going to suffer greatly in the years to come, as those syringes full of chemicals and fat, start to take their toll. There can be difficulty speaking, and a breakdown of the skin. Whoever decided a fat top lip was a good look anyway? It is the natural order of things that our bottom lip should be the predominant one, no doubt having evolved that way to best support feeding ourselves, talking and breathing.

thI3DN6OZONothing to be done but just accept that as a gender, females in the public eye are no longer allowed to grow old, which makes the rest of us who are not in the public eye, and have no intention of transforming ourselves, feel a bit shit. Just as well I’m a blogger and not a vlogger, as my 58-year-old appearance would no doubt have you faithful readers running for the hills.

But of course there are a few exceptions to my ire, and they are ladies who have made no secret of changing their appearance over the years, and who exist in the firmament of stars because they are indeed masters of human transformation – One of these is Cher and the other Dolly Parton. I can’t believe neither of these ladies have put in an appearance around here before, as I am a big fan of both.

Cher is now aged 72 and had a cameo role in the second of the Mama Mia! franchise of jukebox musicals last summer. We went to see it when on holiday, and the most hilarious scene in the entire film was when flawless “grandmother” Cher looked across the courtyard, only to catch the eye of her beau of many years previously, Fernando. This was a convoluted turn to the plotline indeed, but an excuse of course to include the song of the same name. Whilst promoting Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again, Cher confirmed she was working on an album that would feature cover versions of songs by the band Abba, and Dancing Queen, was released in the September of 2018. It topped the Billboard Album Sales chart (the crowd-pleasing one), making it Cher’s first ever number-one album.

Another septuagenarian who popped up on our screens recently is Dolly Parton. She was across in the UK promoting the new West End extravaganza, 9 to 5: The Musical. Here is a clip from a few years ago when she appeared in the Legends slot at Glastonbury. I don’t know what Dolly’s undergarments are like, or if it’s all cosmetically augmented, but she certainly has a perky bottom for someone of her years.

Jolene by Dolly Parton:

There is of course so much I could write about these two ladies, but for another day probably. In the meantime, as if proof were needed (no not really), here is a photo-montage of two remarkable artists who have both been around since the 1960s, but like Peter Pan, don’t seem to have aged one iota. Both freely admit to having had “absolutely everything done” when it comes to holding the years at bay, but as neither of them seem to ever take themselves too seriously, I don’t begrudge them the squillions of dollars that must have taken one bit.

As for the song Jolene, even to this day Mr WIAA winces when he hears it. It came out at just the wrong time for him, before he’d had work done to remedy his slightly discoloured teeth, which had come about because of the tablets his mum had taken for morning sickness ahead of his birth. Oh yes, kids can be cruel, and because his teeth had a “greenish” hue, his classmates’ playground taunt was Joe Green, Joe Green, Joe Green, Joe Green…. , sung along to the melody of Dolly’s famous 1976 hit. Needless to say, his schooldays weren’t “the best years of his life” but it just goes to show, sometimes a bit of “work” is needed to make life as a teen just that little bit more tolerable.

Until next time….

Jolene Lyrics
(Song by Dolly Parton)

Jolene, Jolene, Jolene, Jolene
I’m begging of you please don’t take my man
Jolene, Jolene, Jolene, Jolene
Please don’t take him just because you can

Your beauty is beyond compare
With flaming locks of auburn hair
With ivory skin and eyes of emerald green

Your smile is like a breath of spring
Your voice is soft like summer rain
And I cannot compete with you, Jolene

He talks about you in his sleep
There’s nothing I can do to keep
From crying when he calls your name, Jolene

And I can easily understand
How you could easily take my man
But you don’t know what he means to me, Jolene

Jolene, Jolene, Jolene, Jolene
I’m begging of you please don’t take my man
Jolene, Jolene, Jolene, Jolene
Please don’t take him just because you can

You could have your choice of men
But I could never love again
He’s the only one for me, Jolene

I had to have this talk with you
My happiness depends on you
And whatever you decide to do, Jolene

Jolene, Jolene, Jolene, Jolene
I’m begging of you please don’t take my man
Jolene, Jolene, Jolene, Jolene
Please don’t take him even though you can

Jolene, Jolene

The Band, “The Weight” and a Bit of a Puzzler.

A while back I featured this song by Abba in one of my posts, and it led to a new discovery for me. I wouldn’t have spotted it myself, but in the comments boxes at the time, The Swede pointed out that one of the albums Agnetha was sadly storing away, post-divorce in her new abode, was Music From Big Pink recorded in 1968 by The Band (all happens very quickly at 0:58).

Back in 1968 I definitely wouldn’t have known about The Band and to be honest even in 1981 when the Abba video came out, all I knew of them was that they used to play with Bob Dylan and made a documentary movie called The Last Waltz.

Since having their great album cover pointed out to me however, I have been bombarded with references to it, especially after asking for song suggestions for the state of Pennsylvania for my American Odyssey series. Turns out their song The Weight, written by Band member Robbie Robertson, is about a traveller’s experiences arriving, visiting, and departing a town called Nazareth, Pennsylvania. Robbie chose this town  because it was the home of Martin Guitars, and he had written the guitar parts for Music From Big Pink on a 1951 Martin D-28. The Weight has been named as one of the best songs of the ’60s and is named as one of the 500 Songs that Shaped Rock and Roll.

The Weight by The Band:

The song was also featured the other week over at Rich Kamerman’s place, his Satur-debut post having been dedicated to Music From Big Pink. I of course had to point out my discovery that the album puts in an appearance in that 1981 Abba video, but after checking the exact location (0:58 as it turns out), I noticed that Agnetha places a second album on the shelf straight afterwards. For the last fortnight or so I have been driving myself mad trying to work out what it is, so if anyone can help me out I would be most grateful? At one point I thought it was Boz Scaggs Silk Degrees, but on closer inspection, definitely not. A bench it seems, and people in white clothing, but other than that I’m stumped. It has to be from earlier than 1981 otherwise we would be having a weird wibbly wobbly timey wimey kind of thing going on, but as I say, any help in identifying it would be much appreciated.

As for the title of the album Music From Big Pink, I have now discovered it’s because the music was composed partly in “Big Pink”, the house shared by several of the band members in West Saugerties, New York. The cover artwork is a painting by Bob Dylan. I am no art expert, so it could either be a work of genius or the daubs of a child, but whatever it is considered to be, it certainly does make for memorable cover art.

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Big Pink with its pastel siding

So, “What’s It All About?” – So many songs make reference to other songs in their lyrics but it also seems that reference is made to other albums in videos. Makes sense as in the giant oak that is rock and pop’s family tree, everyone is influenced by someone else. Where did it all begin? Who knows, but like human life itself, I suspect it all came Out of Africa.

Bit of a heavy ending there so going to add some footage from the Martin Scorsese film The Last Waltz, the song this time being The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down. The Last Waltz was originally the name of a concert held on Thanksgiving Day 1976, at the Winterland Ballroom in San Francisco. It was advertised as The Band’s “farewell concert appearance”, and they were joined by more than a dozen special guests, including Eric Clapton, Ringo Starr, Bob Dylan, Ronnie Wood, Muddy Waters, Neil Young, Neil Diamond, Van Morrison, Dr. John, Emmylou Harris, Joni Mitchell, and The Staple Singers. The event was filmed and made into a documentary of the same title, released in 1978.

Before next time, I hope someone can help me out with the puzzler?

The Weight Lyrics
(Song by Robbie Robertson)

I pulled into Nazareth, was feelin’ about half past dead
I just need some place where I can lay my head
“Hey, mister, can you tell me where a man might find a bed?”
He just grinned and shook my hand, “no” was all he said

Take a load off, Annie
Take a load for free
Take a load off, Annie
And (and, and) you put the load right on me
(You put the load right on me)

I picked up my bag, I went lookin’ for a place to hide
When I saw Carmen and the Devil walkin’ side by side
I said, “Hey, Carmen, come on let’s go downtown.”
She said, “I gotta go but my friend can stick around.”

Take a load off, Annie
Take a load for free
Take a load off, Annie
And (and, and) you put the load right on me
(You put the load right on me)

Go down, Miss Moses, there’s nothin’ you can say
It’s just old Luke and Luke’s waitin’ on the Judgment Day
“Well, Luke, my friend, what about young Anna Lee?”
He said, “Do me a favor, son, won’t you stay and keep Anna Lee company?”

Take a load off, Annie
Take a load for free
Take a load off, Annie
And (and, and) you put the load right on me
(You put the load right on me)

Crazy Chester followed me and he caught me in the fog
He said, “I will fix your rack if you take Jack, my dog.”
I said, “Wait a minute, Chester, you know I’m a peaceful man.”
He said, “That’s OK, boy, won’t you feed him when you can?”

Yeah, take a load off, Annie
Take a load for free
Take a load off, Annie
And (and, and) you put the load right on me
(You put the load right on me)

Catch a cannon ball now to take me down the line
My bag is sinkin’ low and I do believe it’s time
To get back to Miss Annie, you know she’s the only one
Who sent me here with her regards for everyone

Take a load off, Annie
Take a load for free
Take a load off, Annie
And (and, and) you put the load right on me
(You put the load right on me)

Willie Nelson, Moonlight in Vermont and Snow (Or Rather, the Lack of It)

Since 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 have written about each one as they appear in our skies. To accompany the post I always include one of the numerous songs that have been written about the moon and its many foibles.

I can scarcely believe it’s been four weeks since my last “moon post”. What is it with time? The older you get, the faster it seems to whizz by. I heard a great quote recently, where the phenomena was described as such: “Life is like a roll of toilet paper. The closer it gets to the end, the faster it goes.” How apt I thought.

Anyway, it is now nearly a month since we witnessed (or didn’t in my case) January’s lunar eclipse. This month, we should witness the Snow Moon on the night of the 19th February. I had intended to use the alternate names for the full moon this year, however last year, because of the 29 and a half day lunar cycle, we didn’t have a full moon in February at all. Instead, we ended up with two Blue Moons (a second full moon in the same calendar month) on either side. As I said at the start of this series, no two years will ever be the same.

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The Snow Moon

As it turns out, there has been very little snow in town this winter at all. In fact, there have been many crisp clear days and beautiful starry nights. Last month, around the time of the full moon, a local photographer posted some of his pictures on social media, and I liked this one so much I asked him if I could use it in my blog. I thought it made the town look really quite romantic, which is just what we need to attract visitors to the place. I have now been the proud owner of a holiday hideaway for a week now, and although I’m another few weeks away from launching Alyson’s Highland Adventures (don’t worry, that name is merely a work in progress), I am getting really excited about the forthcoming season.

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A full moon shining brightly over the town

But this is a moon post, so what song to feature this time. Well, getting back to that old chestnut time, or rather the lack of it this week, I am going to cheat a little and include a song that has previously been included as part of another series. I started out with great gusto on my American Odyssey in Song in early 2017, but floundered last year upon reaching little Delaware. There was only one obvious contender for that state, but I didn’t want to write about it, and that was that. Fortunately, George has picked up the mantle, and is manfully making his way round the 50 states over at CC’s place. Lets hope, unlike me, he doesn’t flounder when he reaches Delaware.

This is a very roundabout way of saying, the song I’m going to include to accompany the Snow Moon, is Moonlight in Vermont by Willie Nelson. I didn’t actually know the song until it was suggested as a contender for my series, and after listening to several versions (it has been recorded by just about everyone), the one I warmed too most was Willie’s version.

Moonlight in Vermont by Willie Nelson:

Willie Nelson is of course one of the greats of country music, and when he decided to record an album of standards called Stardust, in 1978, he wanted the song to be on it. It is considered the unofficial state song of Vermont and is frequently played as the “first dance song” at wedding receptions. It was written in 1944 by John Blackburn and Karl Suessdorf, and is unusual in that the lyrics take the form of a haiku.

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Willie Nelson

And again, I’m going to share this heart-warming little story connecting my grandfather to the state of Vermont and to the song. Whilst doing a bit of research for my “Vermont post” back in 2017, I made an interesting discovery. The blacksmith and inventor John Deere was born there, and he was the man responsible for giving us much of the agricultural and construction equipment still used today, specifically the large steel plough.

My grandfather was not the “lineman for the county”, but he was the “roads supervisor for the county” back in the 1950s. The climate and landscape of the North of Scotland would have been similar in many ways to that of Vermont, so thank goodness for the large snow plough attachments that came across from America just at the time my grandfather was responsible for keeping the often snowbound, highways and byways of Aberdeenshire open. Back then, before the days of television, the wireless was the main form of home entertainment, and I feel sure my grandfather might well have listened to an early version of the song Moonlight in Vermont before heading out for a night-shift on one of those giant snow ploughs.

So, “What’s It All About?” – I apologise for this bit of lazy blogging, but I did kind of fall in love with the song first time around, and always thought it would make a reappearance at some point in this Moon Series. Also, there has been very little snow with us so far this year, and as I needed some snow shots to accompany the post, Vermont manfully came to the rescue.

As for my holiday hideaway, more of that to follow no doubt, as I get it up and running. It has just hit me however, that it has all kind of come about because the daughter of the man in the picture above, my mum, is now an 83-year-old herself, and in need of a care home. Time marches on indeed, and the younger generation becomes the older generation, in what feels like the wink of an eye.

Lord knows I have had plenty of rants over the last year about the current state of adult social care and the dementia tax, so I won’t go there again, but in the event my mum’s funds run out, and I have to contribute to the care home fees, I am at least trying to put in place a means of doing so. For anyone out there who has not yet done so, start having the conversation early on as to how you want things to go should the unthinkable happen. We sadly didn’t, and some bad decisions were made, without the help of professionals. Wouldn’t want to land DD in a similar position.

But hey, I don’t want to end this post on a negative note. There is a lot to be positive about at the moment and I am embarking on a totally new career in my late 50s, so that can’t be bad. Willie Nelson however is still out there campaigning and performing at the age of 85, so it just goes to show, age is no barrier to taking up new challenges.

Until next time…

Moonlight In Vermont Lyrics
(Song by John Blackburn/Karl Suessdorf)

Pennies in a stream
Falling leaves, a sycamore
Moonlight in Vermont

Icy finger-waves
Ski trails on a mountainside
Snowlight in Vermont

Telegraph cables, they sing down the highway
And travel each bend in the road
People who meet in this romantic setting
Are so hypnotized by the lovely
Evening summer breeze
Warbling of a meadowlark
Moonlight in Vermont

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.

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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