Festivals, Sister Sledge and “We Are Family”

It may seem like we live in the sticks up here in the North of Scotland, but this year has certainly been a bumper season for tourism and there has been, proverbally, no room at the inn for most of the summer. Great for those who run hostelries and B&Bs, and great for those of us who like to have a bit of a buzz about the town, none more so than when there is a music festival and last weekend saw the last of the season.

First we had Belladrum’s Tartan Heart Festival which has already been written about (link here), then we had Groove Ness (Scotland’s biggest nightclub under the stars, apparently) and finally Jocktoberfest held at a local farm that specialises in the production of beer (oh how we laughed at that play on words – NOT).

Darling daughter and her friends all headed off to the first festival at the beginning of August however a bad cold had been brewing in the days leading up to it and sadly, possibly due to the relentless rain that muddified the event, it resulted in a trip to A&E on the Sunday night. Fortunately the final festival was blessed with glorious weather and although the smallest of the three, it was the one that proved to be the most fun.

One upside to this summer of festival-going however has been that DD is now a big fan of Sister Sledge. They were on the bill at Belladrum for the second time although sadly this year without Joni who had passed away in March aged only 60. After writing about the passing of Walter Becker of Steely Dan last time I realised that it is now September and I still haven’t paid tribute to Joni and the contribution she and her sisters made to that body of work attributed to the disco genre. Sister Sledge always symbolised strong family values and their 1979 hit We Are Family did that with bells on.

Sister-Sledgeat-Belladrum-2017-
Sister Sledge in their wellies!

We Are Family by Sister Sledge:

I would be lying if I said I’d ever been a massive fan of Sister Sledge but they were for many years a permanent fixture on chart rundowns, their other memorable hits being He’s the Greatest DancerLost in Music and the 1985 UK No. 1 hit, Frankie. That particular song was taken from their Nile Rodgers produced album “When the Boys Meet the Girls” and was apparently about Frank Sinatra (although listening to the lyrics I find that hard to believe).

The reason I particularly remember that song of theirs is because I still have the NOW That’s What I Call Music album on which it appeared! It was only the 5th edition in that long series (of which we are now at number 97 I think) and it had been acquired for a flat party. Back in the mid ’80s, just like now, young people all became property owners by about the age of 25 – Oh no, that’s right, hardly anyone can even save enough for a deposit until about the age of 40 nowadays such has been the ridiculousness of houses becoming financial assets, as opposed to homes, over the last couple of decades. But anyway, pre-rant, my point was going to be that in 1985 most of our friends had bought their own flats and wanted to keep them all pristine, so our large rented one became party central. Looking back at the tracks on this album we had the usual eclectic mix of all that would have been hogging the airwaves that summer from Sister Sledge to Simple Minds, from Duran Duran to The Damned. I wish I could remember how the party turned out but I can’t, although I do know that we often had nice policemen turning up at the door asking us to turn the music down (before returning to join in the fun once their shift was over).

joni

Poor Joni (pictured above) should have been at our local music festival this summer but sadly passed away of natural causes before the event. Her son however was there in her place so the strong Sledge family values will continue it seems.

Until next time…., RIP Joni

We Are Family Lyrics
(Song by Bernard Edwards/Nile Rodgers)

We are family
I got all my sisters with me
We are family
Get up everybody and sing

Everyone can see we’re together
As we walk on by
And we fly just like birds of a feather
I’m not telling no lie

All of the people around us to say
Can we be that close
Just let me state for the record
We’re giving love in a family dose, yeah

Living life is fun and we’ve just begun
To get our share of the world’s delights
High hopes we have for the future
And our goal’s in sight

No we don’t get depressed
Here’s what we call our golden rule
Have faith in you and the things you do
You won’t go wrong, oh no
This is our family Jewel, yeah

We are family
I got all my sisters with me
We are family
Get up everybody and sing

An American Odyssey in Song: New York – Boroughs, Bridges and “Feelin’ Groovy”

Welcome to this occasional series where I am attempting a virtual journey around the 50 States of America in song. For anyone new to this place, I have a continuous route map where I enter and leave each state only once. Suggestions for the next leg always welcome!

It’s quite some time since I continued on my American Odyssey in Song and that would be because I developed a severe case of Odyssey block! After struggling somewhat to identify any songs at all for the New England states, once I hit New York there were just too many. I have started this post on numerous occasions but always gave up half way through. This time, as The Drifters sang in 1961, it’s going to be different, this time I’m going to stay (with it)….

New York.jpg

No time for lengthy paragraphs about the state itself this time though as loads of songs to get through. Suffice to say it must be one of the most diverse states in the whole of the US as not only does it have Long Island, whose “Hamptons” are where rich New Yorkers go to spend their summers, but it also has the wilderness areas to the north where hunting and fishing are the pastimes of choice. The state borders Canada and two of the Great Lakes but at the foot of the triangle there is one of the most iconic and culturally rich cities in the world, New York.

Time to get this party started then and it’s not going to be pretty – Via “a stream of consciousness” is how I’m going to tackle this one. Everyone will have different songs that they associate with New York but these are the ones that have come to mind over the last few weeks. Ready, steady, go….

There can’t be many people who are not familiar with the sights of New York City but just in case, here’s a whistle stop tour courtesy of MGM and those three sailors who had a whirlwind 24-hour leave back in 1949. Ok, ok guys, we’ve got it – “The Bronx is up and the Battery’s down, the people ride in a hole in the ground”.

You can’t have failed to notice that Mr Francis Albert Sinatra plays one of the sailors in that clip and I’m sure it’s expected that his version of the song New York, New York will feature here, but that would just be too obvious, so unusually for me I’ll enter the 21st century and share Empire State of Mind by Mr Shawn Corey Carter (otherwise known as Jay-Z). 

JAYZ
Jay-Z, Rapper and Businessman

Empire State of Mind by Jay-Z featuring Alicia Keys:

Lord knows I’m not usually a fan of rap but I was truly blown away by this “song” (if that’s what it’s called) when it came out in 2009. Some fantastic lines in there referencing Sinatra’s New York, New York but also Afrika Bambaataa, the Bronx DJ who became known as the Godfather of hip-hop. The rap part on it’s own I probably wouldn’t have warmed to that much (although I don’t know), but with the inclusion of Alicia Keys vocals it became something really special. The pair are both from NYC and the song’s main writer, Angela Hunte, grew up in the same building as Jay-Z – 560 State Street, Brooklyn, an address mentioned in the song.

Something that comes across loud and clear from the lyrics of Empire State of Mind is that NYC is not just the island Manhattan as I had often thought as youngster. Oh no, NYC is made up of five boroughs – Brooklyn and Queens on the western end of Long Island, Staten Island which nestles up against New Jersey and The Bronx, north of Manhattan. Manhattan itself only becomes an island because of that tiny sliver of water linking up the East River with the Hudson.

5 boroughs

New York City, despite being made up of these five boroughs is very much centred on Manhattan, so how is it all linked up? Why by ferries and bridges of course. I am reminded of the scene in Saturday Night Fever where John Travolta’s character tries to impress his potential love interest with his knowledge of the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge, that double-decked suspension bridge that connects Staten Island and Brooklyn.

Another iconic bridge is the one that featured in the opening sequence to one of my favourite TV shows from the early ’80s – Taxi starring Danny DeVito and Judd Hirsch. Whenever I hear this theme song I am right back in my student room, my little white portable telly perched precariously on the edge of my desk, just in the right place for the aerial (coat hanger?) to pick up a signal. It would have been mid-week and I was probably having a break from all those laborious hours spent writing everything out in longhand (no computers in those days). A flatmate might have popped in for a coffee whilst we watched the show. Sometimes those memories are the best, ones where nothing in particular was happening, just normal everyday life but hearing that theme reminds me of the scene. A beautiful piece of music called Angela by Bob James.

Angela (Theme from Taxi) by Bob James:

Of course I had to do some research after rewatching that clip to find out which bridge it actually was that came up every week in the titles – Joy, oh joy, it was none other than the Queensboro Bridge – So what I hear you ask? The alternative name for that bridge is The 59th Street Bridge and considering this whole series was inspired by the Paul Simon song America, it is fitting that his song about the bridge be included in this post.

feelin groovy

The 59th Street Bridge Song (Feelin’ Groovy) by Simon and Garfunkel:

Paul Simon said that he’d spent most of 1965 in England but after coming back to the US, and having success with The Sound of Silence, life became really hectic for a while and he found it difficult to adjust. One day, going home to Queens over the 59th Street Bridge, he kind of started to snap out of it as the day had been a really good one, a “groovy one” – Once home he started to write the song subtitled Feelin’ Groovy that went on to appear on the 1966 album “Parsley, Sage, Rosemary and Thyme” recorded with musical partner Art Garfunkel.

But enough about bridges, in the New York of 1977 the phenomenon that was disco had started to really make its mark. Manhattan had Studio 54 where Liza, Michael, Mick and Bianca were regulars but across the Brooklyn Bridge (oops, more bridges), they had a local disco called 2001 Odyssey and every Saturday night, aforementioned John Travolta (playing the character Tony Manero), temporarily left his monotonous life behind and became “king of the dance floor”. Watching him now, the dancing doesn’t look quite as impressive as it did when we first experienced Saturday Night “Fever” and the parodies have been ruthless, but I still have fond memories of going to see that movie when it first came out in the UK in 1978. As someone who has been known to “do a John” over the years and clear the dancefloor, it can be an exhilarating feeling (and not showy-off at all of course!).

You Should Be Dancing by the Bee Gees:

The Saturday Night Fever soundtrack album, featuring disco songs by the Bee Gees, is one of the best-selling soundtracks of all time. How Deep Is Your Love is the song that appears in the closing scenes of the movie as we watch a desolate Tony ride the New York subway late at night. It is one of my all-time favourite love songs (which is probably why it became the choice for my Valentine’s Day post).

So far we’ve checked out the geography of New York and talked about the bridges and the nightlife. What about the people? I read an article recently about the flamboyant octogenarian fashionistas, who cut a dash on 5th Avenue – Way to go ladies!

Of course New York has long been known for its flamboyant characters and Sting sang about one of them, eccentric gay icon Quentin Crisp, in his 1988 song Englishman In New York. Another “character” commited to song was when Rod Stewart wrote and recorded  The Killing of Georgie (Part I and II) in 1976. This story song tells the tale of a young gay man who became successful and popular amongst Manhattan’s upper class – He was “the toast of the Great White Way”, which is the nickname given to the Theatre District of Midtown Manhattan. Georgie attends the opening night of a Broadway musical, but leaves “before the final curtain call” and heads across town. He is attacked near East 53rd Street by a gang of thieves and one inadvertently kills him. The song was apparently based on a true story about a friend of Rod’s old band The Faces.

I have waited a fair amount of time to feature Rod Stewart in this blog as it seems to be universally accepted that by the late ’70s he had sold out and his albums just weren’t up to the calibre of his earlier ones but hey, I was a mere 16-year-old schoolgirl at this time and was a big fan. This song especially, combining the melancholy and sombre Part II with the more popular Part I has long been a favourite of mine.

The Killing Of Georgie (Part I and II) by Rod Stewart:

We’ve spent an awful lot of time in New York City so far in this post but what about the rest of the state? Back in the early sixties before kids started heading off to Europe on holiday they used to go with their parents to resorts such as Kellermans in the Catskill Mountains. This is where “Baby” Houseman spent the summer of 1963, and fell for dashing dance instructor Johnny Castle. Dirty Dancing was a low-budget film that had no major stars but became a massive box office hit and was the first film to sell more than a million copies on home video. It has some great dance scenes and the soundtrack is full of classic songs from that early ’60s era such as Be My Baby, Big Girls Don’t Cry, Will You Love Me Tomorrow, Love Is Strange and this one, Stay by Maurice Williams & The Zodiacs.

kell
Kellermans in the Catskills, the setting for Dirty Dancing

Stay by Maurice Williams & The Zodiacs:

There are some great scenes in the movie where the landscape of the Catskills is kind of the star. I must admit to having become a bit of a fan of this movie in my later years although didn’t really take much heed of it when it first came out – I think it’s down to the nostalgia element, the music choices and the sadness that comes from the realisation that my days of dalliances with a young Johnny Castle are well behind me. Whatever, I’ve ended up writing about songs from it three times now (Be My Baby, Doomed Romances and Summer’s End) and they take the prize for being my least viewed posts – Sacre bleu!

Another song that makes me think of Upstate New York is Woodstock, written by Joni Mitchell but made famous in 1970 by Matthews Southern Comfort. The irony of course is that Joni Mitchell hadn’t even made it to the infamous festival which took place on Max Yasgur’s dairy farm, but wrote about it after having watched it from her hotel room in New York. The lyrics tell the story of a spiritual journey and make prominent use of sacred imagery, comparing the festival site with the Garden of Eden. The saga commences with the narrator’s encounter of a fellow traveller, a “child of God”,  and concludes at their ultimate destination where “we were half a million strong”.

Iain Matthews of Matthews Southern Comfort was actually from Scunthorpe in Lincolnshire but he had previously been with the band Fairport Convention who were at the time heavily influenced by American folk rock.

Well I don’t know about you but I’m exhausted – This post has been a long time coming and I’m sorry it’s so wordy, but I for one am now just pleased that it’s “in the can” so that the journey can continue. Next time we’ll be passing through the Lincoln Tunnel into New Jersey so as ever, suggestions for that state are more than welcome. Unlike with the New England states I have a feeling that it’s now going to get a whole lot easier.

A final clip before I go however – One of my all-time favourite movies is Manhattan directed by Woody Allen. I was given the soundtrack album by the boyfriend of the day after going to see it, as I was just so bowled over by George Gershwin’s compositions. They were all performed by the New York Philharmonic Orchestra and somehow I now always think of Rhapsody In Blue when I see the New York skyline.

manhattan

Rhapsody In Blue by George Gershwin:

The 59th Street Bridge Song (Feelin’ Groovy) Lyrics
(Song by Paul Simon)

Slow down, you move too fast
You got to make the morning last
Just kicking down the cobblestones
Looking for fun and feelin’ groovy
Ba da da da da da da, feelin’ groovy

Hello, lamppost, what’cha knowin’?
I’ve come to watch your flowers growin’
Ain’t’cha got no rhymes for me?
Doot-in doo-doo, feelin’ groovy
Ba da da da da da da, feelin’ groovy

I got no deeds to do
No promises to keep
I’m dappled and drowsy and ready to sleep
Let the morning time drop all its petals on me
Life, I love you
All is groovy

Jimmy Webb, MacArthur Park and Are You Also, Addicted to Blogging?

Well, it’s the Easter long weekend but I’m a bit thrown – Since starting to get interested in, and following, the festivals that align themselves with nature’s calendar, my Ostara happened three weeks ago and I wrote about it here, The Vernal Equinox, Nina Simone and Feeling Good.

Time to spend time with friends and family then, or out in the garden (pictures above) getting it ready for spring/summer. Oh no, that’s right, over the last 15 months whenever I’ve had time off work all I do is spend even more time blogging, researching future blog posts or reading/commenting on the other blogs I follow. I’m starting to think I’m “addicted” – Are any of you similarly afflicted and is it really “a thing”?

Hello – My name is Alyson, and I’m addicted to blogging

I have recognised that this has been an issue for some time now but whenever I try and have a break I end up losing my resolve and start re-posting older stuff. You tell everyone you’re going to be absent for a while, but then make a fool of yourself by popping up again soon after. Anyway, the garden is in great need of some tender loving care as I think is Mr WIAA, as he has had to spend an awful lot of time watching television on his own of late. My American Odyssey In Song is well underway so I can pick that up at any time now. I have the next state almost in the bag and once we’re out of New England it will start to get really interesting. (So many songs about Delaware… NOT!)

In view of this admission I’m going to cheat a bit today by borrowing from last Easter’s post which was from my newbie days so it didn’t get seen by many. It was about the song MacArthur Park written by Jimmy Webb back in 1967. Over the last year I have discovered that Jimmy Webb is a bit of a god in the song-writing world and there’s even a song that proves it (Jimmy Webb is God by The Boo Radleys).

jimmy webb
The great Jimmy Webb

Here is that post from last year:

“Tried to think of a song to write about that relates to Easter but could only think of Easter Parade from the 1948 film of the same name which cannot really be considered a track from my years (I’m not quite that old) and not really a pop song at all but one from the golden age of MGM musicals.

When you do think of other songs that have religious connotations (from Life of Brian, Jesus Christ Superstar) there is the capacity to cause offence and that’s not what this blog is about. So, back to letting the old brainbox come up with something subliminally and that turned out to be MacArthur Park – Not entirely sure how that happened but I think it’s because there is a park involved and at this time of year, in Scotland anyway, the parks are all waking up from their winter sleep and are full of crocuses and daffodils. Easter is a time of rebirth and eggs are a symbol of fertility. Also, the bizarre line in MacArthur Park about the cake being left out in the rain probably made me think of Simnel cake, traditional at this time of the year.

easter

The song MacArthur Park, written and composed by Jimmy Webb, was first recorded by Richard Harris in 1968 but my favourite version was the one by Donna Summer from 1978. She was the undisputed Queen of Disco in the ’70s and 1978 was the year I reached the age of 18 and could legitimately go dancing in the various licensed venues where I lived (although in those days this was not heavily policed and pretty much everyone over 16 was allowed in). This was rural Scotland however and we certainly didn’t have anything resembling Studio 54 but the local hoteliers manned up and kitted out their function suites with glitter balls, strobe lights and if you were very lucky, those flashing tiled floors as seen in Saturday Night Fever. The DJs were often local teenagers who’d had the foresight (or parents with foresight) to invest in the equipment and records needed to hire out their services – A nice little sideline before returning to school on the Monday.

MacArthur Park by Donna Summer:

I have always liked this song although its flowery lyrics are definitely not for everyone and it was not until looking into it a bit more for this post, that I came to understand that the whole “cake left out in the rain” line, was a metaphor for lost love and the end of a relationship. Nearly 40 years on and it now makes sense although back in the day a most unusual song to have been given the full-blown disco treatment. Although I now understand the lyrics a bit more, I do think however that the whole cake metaphor was perhaps just taken that little bit too far.

As for Donna Summer, it was when she happened to be in Germany performing in the musical “Hair” that she had a fortuitous meeting with the producer Giorgio Moroder. Yet again we have a chance encounter that went on to have great significance, this time for the future of electronic dance music or “Disco”.

Poor Donna died quite young in 2012 at the age of 63 but she has left a great legacy, as the defining female voice of the disco era and also because of her influence on the dance music that was to follow by artists such as Madonna and Beyoncé. Thank you Donna for many happy memories on the dance-floor.”

donna 2

So, “What’s It All About?” – Be careful out there and if you start seeing signs that you are becoming addicted to blogging, take steps. Is there a twelve-step programme I wonder for those afflicted? Whatever, I have spent a little too much time of late in this wonderful place so maybe time to redress the balance, for one weekend at least!

Happy Easter to those of you who celebrate it. For the rest of you, the holiday is a great opportunity to spend time with the family and get outdoors – There will always be time to write that next blog post another day but why oh why is it always just so hard to drag yourself away?

MacArthur Park Lyrics
(Song by Jimmy Webb)

Spring was never waiting for us dear
It ran one step ahead
As we followed in the dance

MacArthur’s Park is melting in the dark
All the sweet, green icing flowing down
Someone left the cake out in the rain
I don’t think that I can take it
’cause it took so long to bake it
And I’ll never have that recipe again
Oh, no

I recall the yellow cotton dress
Foaming like a wave
On the ground beneath your knees
The birds like tender babies in your hands
And the old men playing Chinese checkers by the trees

St Valentine’s Day, The Bee Gees and How Deep Is Your Love

By rights I shouldn’t have time for blogging today as it is indeed St Valentine’s Day and I should be spending it being all loved up with Mr WIAA – After being together for 28 years however, it is a bit hard to muster up the enthusiasm for a day of romance but I have just popped in past our local M&S to pick up one of their very delicious special occasion “Dine In For Two” meal deals (no expense spared here at WIAA HQ). I’m sure if we didn’t both have stinky colds it would all taste lovely, but what with the two cards sitting on the mantelpiece and the planned dinner, at least we’re making a bit of an effort.

st-vs-dayThe main reason I wanted to post something today however is that I have been feeling a tad guilty of late for the following reason – Of the 120 original posts that I’ve published since starting the blog 13 months ago, the only one I’ve “trashed” permanently is the one I wrote this day last year, featuring a song by The Bee Gees. Yes, despite the fact that I’ve written about some ropey acts since starting this blog, once I’d accumulated a few followers, the only one I was really embarrassed about having covered was The Bee Gees. I blame the sheer number of comedy sketches that were made about them during their heyday (that would be Kenny Everett then), as how else can it be that a group who have sold 100 million-plus records; penned the world’s biggest-selling soundtrack album; had 10 UK No. 1s; wrote 4 consecutive US No. 1s and were the first group to have UK Top 20s in 5 decades, be embarrassing? No indeed, today is the day to come right out and say it – I’m a Bee Gees fan and am proud to admit it!

bee gees
The Bee Gees circa 1978

For the record, this was last year’s trashed post (fortunately still in a Word doc as I do worry about the day WordPress crashes and we lose all our stuff):

“No long-winded post today as it’s St Valentine’s Day and I’m going to spend it with my lovely husband. (It was a Sunday last year.)

Last time I wrote about the “break-up song” but How Deep Is Your Love by The Bee Gees is from the other end of the spectrum (I think – although retrospectively I’m starting to doubt some of my interpretations of the lyrics). It is still however, my all-time favourite love-song. It was from the soundtrack to the film Saturday Night Fever (starring a young John Travolta) which was released in the summer of 1978. That turned out to be the best summer of my young life to date – School had finished in the June, and the four month period before University was due to start was filled with happy memories that have stayed with me forever. To use the parlance of American teen movies, for my friends and I, that was our coming-of-age summer.

Unusually for me I’m going to leave it there for today – Enjoy that wonderful intro and Barry’s amazing falsetto. Happy Valentine’s day!”

How Deep Is Your Love by The Bee Gees:

But I did say that the main reason for wanting to post something today was to right the wrong of “trashing” a post about this much-loved group of brothers but the second reason is that last night darling daughter and I watched the highlights of the 59th Annual Grammy Awards. Last year I wrote a post about the 58th Grammys where our own Ed Sheerin came away with a couple of awards and I would probably have been writing a post again this year but they have coincided with St Valentine’s Day and anyway, the big awards, yet again, went to Adele. It was pretty much a re-run of our own Brit Awards last year and my thoughts about that ceremony still ring true (The Brits, The “Suits” and Adele), so no point in covering the same old ground.

What was of interest however was finding there had been a Bee Gees tribute on the big night performed by an array of contemporary acts. It is now 40 years since the making of the “Saturday Night Fever” album and 60 years since the brothers first formed a band singing harmonies together. It did make me sad however to see Barry, the only brother still alive, sitting on his own in the front row watching the performance intently, but sometimes also quizzically. Not the way they used to perform these songs back in the day but here is what the 59th Grammys served up.

How Deep Is Your Love Lyrics
(Song by Barry Gibb/Robin Gibb/Maurice Gibb)

I know your eyes in the morning sun
I feel you touch me in the pouring rain
And the moment that you wander far from me
I wanna feel you in my arms again
And you come to me on a summer breeze
Keep me warm in your love and then softly leave
And it’s me you need to show
How Deep Is Your Love

How deep is your love, How deep is your love
I really need to learn
‘Cause we’re living in a world of fools
Breaking us down
When they all should let us be
We belong to you and me

I believe in you
You know the door to my very soul
You’re the light in my deepest darkest hour
You’re my saviour when I fall
And you may not think I care for you
When you know down inside that I really do
And it’s me you need to show
How Deep Is Your Love

Imbolc, Love Unlimited and It May Be Winter Outside (But in My Heart It’s Spring)

Well, all winter I’ve been trying to work out how to fit this song into the blog as although there are loads (and loads) of Christmassy songs, there aren’t that many about winter per se. But today seems to be the day as it’s the 1st of February and on nature’s “wheel of the year”, it is Imbolc. Ever since last year’s autumnal equinox, or Mabon as it is also called on the pagan calendar, I have been taking a key interest in these landmark dates, creating a little display, and hopefully finding an appropriate song to post that day.

imbolc

Imbolc was one of the cornerstones of the Celtic calendar as for them, the success of the new farming season was of great importance. As winter stores of food were getting low, rituals were performed to ensure a steady supply of food until the harvest six months later. As darling daughter pointed out last September however, we don’t really have to perform such rituals nowadays as we go to the supermarket where you can acquire raspberries in December and Brussels sprouts in June, but I would like to at least acknowledge the old ways before we get just too out of touch with nature in our busy 21st century lives.

So today is the day that we celebrate the passing of Winter, and make way for Spring. The featured song may not really be about the world of nature but I have always loved Barry White and his Love Unlimited Orchestra and so far in the blog, no Barry. As it turns out still no Barry, but this song was written by him and then released in the UK in 1975 by the group Love Unlimited who provided backing vocals for him on his albums and concert tours but who then went on to find success in their own right. (Takes around a full minute to get going, but bear with it.)

It May Be Winter Outside by Love Unlimited:

The symbol of Imbolc is the snowdrop but having had a good recce of the area at the weekend, so far no snowdrops. In the garden today however I was pleasantly surprised to see a little clump popping through in the rockery but just a bit too early for us here in the North of Scotland it seems. I looked back at my folder of pictures taken in 2010 when I manfully tried to take a shot of the natural world every day for a year – Back then this snowdrop shot was taken on the 11th of February so in about 10 days they will no doubt be plentiful.

92-11th-feb-first-snowdrops-of-the-year
The first snowdrops of the year

Coincidentally last weekend I wrote about Johnny Cash and how his deep bass baritone voice was something you don’t often hear in music nowadays. Of course another person who had a very deep bass baritone voice was aforementioned, three-time Grammy Award winner Barry White, also known for his romantic image (but I’ll not mention his nickname here as not very becoming). Barry’s music was of a soul/funk/disco/R&B persuasion and his greatest success came in the ’70s both as a solo singer and with his Love Unlimited Orchestra. Looking at his discography, he was barely out of the UK Singles Chart between 1973 and 1979, his biggest hit being You’re The First, The Last, My Everything.

I am constantly amazed when blogging how everything suddenly comes together by the end of the post and when I started to write about today’s special date in the Celtic calendar I didn’t think I would end up with Barry White, but the symbolism around Imbolc is all of the colour white – snowdrops, ewe’s milk (oi-melc) and St Bride – so very apt in an odd kind of way. Perhaps my subconscious was being cleverer than I was.

Just the Way You Are by Barry White:

I will finish with Barry’s version of the Billy Joel song Just the Way You Are. Again there is a bit of a preamble so bear with it but if anyone knows of a performer with a deeper voice, I’d like to know who? Poor Barry died in 2003 after a few years of health problems but again he has left a massive body of work, much of which is in my music library and I have sadly not been brave enough to admit to that yet. Perhaps appropriate then, on this the first day of Spring (in certain calendars), to come clean – As for me I’m off to light my white candle set amidst the little pot of white crocuses I had to buy as a substitute for snowdrops, and listen to a bit more Barry White!

It May Be Winter Outside (But in My Heart It’s Spring) Lyrics
(Song by Barry White/Paul Politi)

When the temperature dips
I miss my baby’s arms
His tender finger tips
Knows just how to keep me warm

It may be zero degrees
With the snow falling down
But I’ve got warm and tender love
Just as long as he’s around

It may be winter outside
But in my heart it’s spring
How much joy and pleasure, baby
Can one guy bring me

Winter nights can be awful cold
Without someone to hold
But when I have him next to me
Baby, I’m in ecstasy

Throughout my life
I’ve had my share of guys
But he’s been the only one
Who can make my temperature rise

Things are just not the same
When he’s not by my side
But yet, I shouldn’t complain
But be waiting with my arms open wide

Earth, Wind & Fire, September and The Autumnal Equinox

Did a bit of an unusual post last time so something a bit more conventional tonight. So, what song came to mind in the course of the day? Why September by Earth, Wind & Fire of course.

Do you remember the 21st night of September?
Love was changing the minds of pretenders
While chasing the clouds away…..

ewf

This song tends to make people happy and it certainly has that effect on me. It was actually a hit for them, not in September, but in the December of 1978 and although Maurice White (who sadly died earlier this year) denied that the date had any other significance than it “sang really well” and was “phonetically fantastic” (not a phrase you hear every day), I find that really hard to believe. He was however a man who put great emphasis into the groove and feel of a song so it could have been the case……but now we’ll never know.

September by Earth, Wind and Fire:

Having read quite a bit about Maurice White after he died (he essentially was EWF as he wrote the songs, sang the songs and produced the songs), I learnt that the name of the band came from his star sign, Sagittarius, which has the elemental quality of Fire and the seasonal qualities of Earth and Air. Earth, Air & Fire quite rightly didn’t sound right, so Air became Wind (no schoolboy jokes please) and the rest as they say, is historyMaurice had a great interest in astrology and Egyptology and their costumes and album cover designs certainly bore that out.

Because of Mr White’s strong spiritual nature, it is entirely appropriate therefore that today’s song should relate to the autumnal equinox. I had a really interesting talk today with a woman at work, who every year celebrates these important dates in nature’s calendar with her sisters. This is the time of year when there is an equal amount of day and night and its Pagan name was Mabon – The harvests are now over and the crops have been stored for the coming winter so it is time to give thanks for the things we have, whether it be abundant crops or other blessings. Well I’m afraid I haven’t contributed to bringing in the crops personally but I am mighty glad that there are others out there who have. A lot of dark nights to look forward to now in Scotland, so traditionally a time to get together with friends and give thanks for the grains needed to conjure up a spot of the old “water of life” or “uisge beatha” (whisky to you and I).

pagan-wheel-of-the-year

But back to the song September, it turns out that Barack Obama is a fan of Earth, Wind & Fire and in 2009 the group became one of the first musical acts to play at the White House after he took office in late 2008. Being probably the “coolest” president there has ever been, I can just imagine him and Michelle “getting down” on the dancefloor to the sounds of EWF after one of those Presidential Dinners. Tricky Dicky or Dubya he ain’t, and come the new year I’m going to really miss some of his cool Obamaisms.

barack-obama-dancing

Until next time – Happy Mabon!

September Lyrics
(Song by Maurice White/Alee Willis/Al McKay)

Do you remember the 21st night of September?
Love was changing the minds of pretenders
While chasing the clouds away

Our hearts were ringing
In the key that our souls were singing.
As we danced in the night,
Remember how the stars stole the night away

Ba de ya, say do you remember
Ba de ya, dancing in September
Ba de ya, never was a cloudy day

Ba de ya de ya de ya
Ba de ya de ya de ya
Ba de ya de ya de ya de ya

My thoughts are with you
Holding hands with your heart to see you
Only blue talk and love,
Remember how we knew love was here to stay

Now December found the love that we shared in September.
Only blue talk and love,
Remember the true love we share today

Ba de ya, say do you remember
Ba de ya, dancing in September
Ba de ya, never was a cloudy day

Ba de ya, say do you remember
Ba de ya, dancing in September
Ba de ya, golden dreams were shinny days

Love bells was ringing
Our souls were singing
Do you remember, never a cloudy day

An Eclectic Mix of Anthony Newley, Nile Rodgers and Noel Coward!

Well it seems ages since I’ve written what I would call a conventional post – One intro, one song, one back story, one memory and one, “Wow, didn’t realise that back in the day” moment. Blame those very compelling Olympics, the fact that summer eventually came to Scotland and a lot of blog admin to be done (who knew that as time goes by there could be so much, but in for a penny in for a pound and all that).

I’m sure all bloggers are the same but even if I haven’t been posting much of late I’ve had plenty of ideas and I find myself scribbling these down on scraps of paper in the course of the day (surreptitiously of course when I’m at work and supposed to be thinking of very serious statistical analysis type stuff). I have now found these scraps of paper and the topics, if I can read them, are as follows:

  1. Random pick from music app – Visions by Cliff Richard
  2. Concerts at Capitol Theatre, Aberdeen
  3. Anthony Newley, Fiddle liddle I doh
  4. Songs from every Olympics since 1968
  5. Duets where girl is forgotten about – Cherrelle, Denise Marsa, Marilyn Martin
  6. Chic – “Don’t live in the past but it’s a nice place to visit” song 
  7. Songs from daughter’s time in musical theatre
  8. Inter-Oil Company Pop Quiz 1985

So lots to choose from there but the random picks of the day are turning out to be quite embarrassing and if from your iTunes library it means you’ve actually parted with hard-earned cash to own them. I can only confess to purchasing Visions because I sometimes struggle with sleep and discovered that Cliff‘s voice and the sentiment of the song are both quite soporific and lullaby-like (that’s my story and I’m sticking to it).

Strawberry Fair by Anthony Newley:

Lots of stories to relate about the excellent concerts I witnessed in a small Art Deco theatre in Aberdeen in the ’70s and ’80s but will keep that one for another day. Anthony Newley‘s Strawberry Fair is our favourite novelty song as a family and if there is a chance to get the phrase “fiddle liddle I doh” into a conversation in the course of the day, we will. (Yes I know the actual phrase is “ri-fol ri-fol tol-de-riddle-li-do, but we never heard it that way.)

As for the Olympics, they have been great but as they end this weekend, anything related to all things Olympian will no longer be topical. I have already written about those very memorable duets, like Lucky Stars, where the girl is kind of forgotten about and wasn’t credited (Denise Marsa) then did it myself last week when I wrote about Saturday Love by Alexander O’Neal. As it turns out the song was actually a Cherrelle one and it was Alexander who was asked to duet with her later – My bad.

cherrelle

Chic, a band that epitomised the whole disco scene of the late ’70s, came back last year with I’ll Be There which was heavily played on the radio at the time. Not that their creator Nile Rodgers has ever been away, as he is the genius behind some of the best-selling albums of all-time which I often hadn’t realised until doing research for this blog. The track popped up this week on the radio and I do like that line, “Don’t live in the past but it’s a nice place to visit” especially when spending time on a project like this – Lovely to look back nostalgically but there is a whole world out there still to be discovered and experienced. Got to remind ourselves sometimes that the relationship we have with our laptops is never going to be as important as real-life relationships (and not being smutty here).

I’ll Be There by Chic:

I’ve mentioned before that my daughter was an aficionad0 of musical theatre and at some point I’m going to post one of her great recordings but to save embarrassment I will probably have to wait until she goes travelling, to a zone with no Wi-Fi. As an aside, anyone who wants to make a lot of money very easily – Set up a Musical Theatre school for little girls! Don’t put your daughter on the stage Mrs Worthington was told, but you know what, that’s exactly what lots of mums are intent on doing nowadays and from what I can see it’s money for old rope. You hire a church hall for a Saturday, get some music teachers to give up a few hours of their weekend, set yourself up with some fancy branding and logos and you’re away. Fees for the “term”, fees to appear in a show, fees for the costumes, fees for the tickets to go and watch the show and all the petrol for the running around. The “teachers” then get very generous Christmas gifts from some parents (which I always cynically thought was a bribe to get star-billing for their offspring – quite rightly it never worked though) and lo and behold come the teenage years they announce they don’t want to do it any more. Hallelujah.

You can tell quite early on however whether your progeny is going to be the next Barbra Streisand or whether they are more likely to make up the chorus. I remember well paying a fortune for tickets so that all the family could see our daughter appear in the local musical theatre school’s extravaganza. There are usually a few favourites that get the starring roles in any show but the vast majority of the other 200 or so make a very brief appearance and this time aforementioned daughter was in the chorus of Cats so no-one even spotted her or knew which “cat” she was! A lot of frustrated impresarios run these schools I feel and their students are not always given age-appropriate material – Fourteen-year-olds performing the Cell Block Tango from Chicago anyone? No I didn’t think so either. Anyway rant over but I still love my daughter’s singing voice and now she sings just for pleasure. Best way to go I think.

So, finally got to the last topic and I think I have used up too many words already so definitely one for next time – Yes the Inter-Oil Company Pop Quiz of 1985. A few funny stories about that one, a bit of of name-dropping and a few good tunes as well so will work on it over the next few days. In the meantime I will leave you with the sage and very witty words of Mr Noel Coward and his Don’t Put Your Daughter on the Stage, Mrs Worthington.

Don’t Put Your Daughter on the Stage, Mrs Worthington Lyrics
(Song by Noel Coward)

Don’t put your daughter on the stage, Mrs. Worthington
Don’t put your daughter on the stage
The profession is overcrowded
The struggle’s pretty tough
And admitting the fact she’s burning to act
That isn’t quite enough
She’s a nice girl and though her teeth are fairly good
She’s not the type I ever would be eager to engage
I repeat, Mrs. Worthington, sweet Mrs. Worthington
Don’t put your daughter on the stage

Regarding yours, dear Mrs. Worthington
Of Wednesday, the 23rd.
Although your baby may be keen on a stage career
How can I make it clear that this is not a good idea
For her to hope and appear, Mrs. Worthington
Is on the face of it absurd
Her personality is not in reality quite big enough, inviting enough
For this particular sphere

Don’t put your daughter on the stage, Mrs. Worthington
Don’t put your daughter on the stage
She’s a bit of an ugly duckling, you must honestly confess
And the width of her seat would surely defeat
Her chances of her success
It’s – it’s a loud voice, and though it’s not exactly flat
She’ll need a little more than that to earn a living wage
On my knees, Mrs. Worthington, please Mrs. Worthington
Don’t put your daughter on the stage

Don’t put your daughter on the stage, Mrs. Worthington
Don’t put your daughter on the stage
Though they said at the school of acting
She was lovely as Peer Gynt
I’m afraid, on the whole, an ingénue role might emphasize her squint
She has nice hands, to give the wretched girl her due
But don’t you think her bust is too developed for her age
No more buts, Mrs. Worthington, nuts! Mrs. Worthington
Don’t put your daughter on the stage