Earworm Of The Week #4 – Odyssey and “If You’re Looking For A Way Out”

No prizes for guessing how this song popped into my subconscious this week as it’s now all about how we’re going to get out of lockdown, but as an earworm it’s a pleasant one, and it’s made me want to look into the story of the singing group Odyssey a bit more. For a long time I used to confuse them with fellow Americans Rose Royce because their most successful years in the UK Singles Chart coincided, and both produced up-tempo disco numbers but also beautiful ballads.

Odyssey would have first entered my radar during my final year of senior school as their first big hit in the UK reached the No. 2 spot that Christmas. Native New Yorker was more successful over here than in their native US which became a pattern for the rest of their career and eventually led them to move to the UK permanently.

The song was originally written for Frankie Valli but when covered by Odyssey it became their first hit. The song is about a girl who is unlucky in love. The singer is telling her that as a native New Yorker, she should know by now that love is as fabricated as a Broadway show, and that you have to look out for yourself in the city. It’s a song about disillusionment that captures the downside of the self-reliant New York lifestyle.

Now we’re fast-forwarding to the summer of 1980 and it was one of their songs I just couldn’t miss, as it spent 12 weeks on the UK Singles Chart and 2 weeks at the top spot. Believe it or not this song title inavertedly pops up in our house just about every other day, as whenever we look in the fridge and spot something that needs used up, we always ask each other if we should, Use it up and wear it out?“. It’s been hard-wired into our brains by Odyssey that you can’t say the first bit without adding the second!

By the end of the summer of 1980 they released a follow-up single, If You’re Lookin’ for a Way Out with Lillian Lopez again on lead vocals. It’s a bit of a tear-jerker and had I not been all loved-up that summer, but rather going through a painful break up, it would have made for tough listening. This single reached the No. 6 spot and spent 15 weeks on the UK Singles Chart. The common factor in all three featured songs is that they were either written or produced by Sandy Linzer who is a new name for me but seems to have been really prolific in the ’60s/’70s writing for Frankie Valli and The Four Seasons.

So if you’re looking for a way out
I won’t stand here in your way

Don’t look at the tears that I’m crying
They’ll only make you wanna stay
Don’t kiss me again ’cause I’m dying
To keep you from running away

To be fair, the person I was all loved-up with that summer did cause much heartache down the line, and looking at these lyrics I was not as magnanimous. You do feel like you’re dying inside and I did stand in his way, but ultimately to no avail. Does that make me a bad girlfriend? I don’t think so – Just a broken-hearted one.

If You’re Looking For A Way Out by Odyssey:

So, I now know a lot more about the group Odyssey and will no longer confuse them with Rose Royce. It’s also been nice to have a break from writing about all that’s going on in the world at the moment and just concentrate on the music (although this one definitely inspired by what’s going on). I have a few more drafts that would be good to get down in print as I’ve not yet written about any of the sad deaths we’ve had from the world of music this year, which is remiss of me. Easy to get distracted at the moment however.

Until next time….

If You’re Lookin’ For A Way Out Lyrics
(Song by Sandy Linzer, Ralph Kotkov)

Love is crazy baby, I can see it in your eyes
Your kisses taste the same
But it’s just a sweet disguise
Ain’t that just like you
To worry about me
But we promised to be honest
With each other for all eternity
So if you’re looking for a way out
I won’t stand here in your way
And if you’re looking for a way out

Don’t look at the tears that I’m crying
They’ll only make you wanna stay
Don’t kiss me again ’cause I’m dying
To keep you from running away
(Run away, run away, run away, run away, run away, run away)

Oh baby tell me I’m wrong
Just say I’m crazy
It’s with you that I belong
It’s never easy when lovers have to part
Oh come on stop pretending
Tell me what’s in you heart
And if you’re looking for a way out
I won’t stand here in your way
But if you’re looking for a way out

Don’t look at the tears that I’m crying
They’ll only make you wanna stay
Don’t kiss me again ’cause I’m dying
To keep you from running away

Don’t look at the tears that I’m crying
They’ll only make you wanna stay
Don’t love me again ’cause I’m tryin’
To keep you from running away
(Baby don’t run away, baby don’t run away)

Don’t you run away (ooh ooh)
(Ooh ooh)
Oh come on stop pretending
Tell me what’s in your heart

Postscript:

I don’t know if any of you have watched the new BBC adaptation of the Sally Rooney novel Normal People but I would thoroughly recommend it. It made me realise that the Sligo of today in the drama is very like the rural Aberdeenshire I grew up in and many of the storylines resonated. It’s probably not for everyone but just as the song featured above is a real tear-jerker, without giving too much away, the drama is a real tear-jerker too and involves young people who are around the age I was when these songs came into my life.

I went to a school that punched above its weight in terms of academic success for its pupils and many of us from what I would call a working class culture headed off to university. Not always easy to assimilate though and I strongly identified with the male character Connell. No, not easy when you find yourself straddling two worlds but not fitting into either – If you watch it, I’d be interested in your thoughts.

NORMAL PEOPLE
Connell and Marianne from Normal People

NaPoWriMo, The Crusaders and “Street Life” (Or Rather The Lack Of It)

Well, how are we all doing? A whole new collection of words and phrases has entered our vocabulary (self-isolation, social distancing, on furlough et al) and it somehow feels as if they’ve always been with us, but they really haven’t, it’s just that everyone seems to have adapted overnight to “the new normal”.

I’ve already been for my daily walk and fortunately timed it just right, as yesterday we did not, and ended up striding along the banks of the Caledonian Canal in sheet rain. I was wearing one of those coats with a complicated hood full of channels for cords and toggles. By the time we’d worked out how they kept sheet rain out it was too late, but no matter, I certainly wasn’t going anywhere important where I had to look smart and coiffed, just back home.

Home.

hsh

I spend a lot of time at home in my normal life, so not a big change for me. The big change is that economically I now have no purpose, as my purpose was to help Mr WIAA run his business and to prepare for guests coming to stay in the holiday hideaway. Neither of these businesses can operate in this strange new world of staying at home and social distancing, so all a tad disconcerting. I know we have to stay at home to protect the NHS and save lives, but my goodness, the fallout will be with us all for many, many years to come and I fear for the younger generation whose job it will be to navigate this brave new world.

napofeature2
Spread your wings, but not for a while it seems

A very pleasant distraction that came along yesterday was the start of NaPoWriMo – National Poetry Writing Month. Although I am currently a lapsed student, I am still part of a NaPoWriMo FaceBook group, and a fair few efforts have already come in. I shared some of my fellow students’ work last year (link here) as I was really blown away by their poems, having quickly realised it was not a discipline I had any talent for at all. Whenever I did post something it tended to be a comedic tum-ti-tum kind of affair, and true to form, my first contribution this year seems to have gone along the same lines.

A Loo Roll Dystopia

Handed in a story once upon a time
Up for an assessment, thought it would be fine
Looked forward to the outcome, but ’twas a massive fail!
“Too far-fetched… , dystopian” was deemed to be my tale

But that was then, and this is now
And I find myself with furrowed brow
I had foretold what might come to pass
But missed the obsession we’d have with our ass

Paper products stripped from the shelves
Even those in a pack of twelve
When the threat recedes of what came from Hubei
We’ll be trapped inside, by Triple Velvet 3-ply

(I’ll get my coat!)

No mention of music yet in this post, but I am inclined to share a song I heard on the radio last night before heading to bed. When Randy Crawford started to sing Street Life, the song she recorded with American jazz band The Crusaders, it really hit home that street life as we know it has all but gone, and we miss it. The song reached No. 5 in the UK Singles Chart in 1979 and represented the peak of the band’s commercial popularity. Randy has appeared around here before, a couple of times, as I have always had a great fondness for her voice.

I usually share an audio clip of the featured song but it seems I don’t have The Crusader’s Street Life in my library. What I do have however is another Street Life by Roxy Music, this time from 1973. He certainly was a very dapper chap that Bryan Ferry wasn’t he? Again the lyrics about a world I now know nothing of, bar the suburban streets that run adjacent to the place we call home.

Street Life by Roxy Music:

I hope you and those you love stay safe and well. It hasn’t really hit home what we are up against yet here in the North of Scotland, but for any of you who are key workers caught up in the eye of the storm, you have my immense admiration and gratitude for what you are doing.

Until next time….

Street Life Lyrics
(Song by Will Jennings/Joe Sample)

I play the street life
Because there’s no place I can go
Street life
It’s the only life I know
Street life
And there’s a thousand cards to play
Street life
Until you play your life away

You let the people see

Just who you wanna be
And every night you shine
Just like a superstar
The type of life that’s played
A temptin’ masquerade
You dress you walk you talk
You’re who you think you are

Street life

You can run away from time
Street life
For a nickel or a dime
Street life
But you better not get old
Street life
Or you’re gonna feel the cold

There’s always love for sale

A grown up fairy tale
Prince charming always smiles
Behind a silver spoon
And if you keep it young
Your song is always sung
Your love will pay your way
Beneath the silver moon

Street life

Street life
Street life
Oh street life

I play the street life

Because there’s no place I can go
Street life
It’s the only life I know

Street life

And there’s a thousand cards to play
Street life
Until you play your life away – oh
Street life
Street life
Street life
Oh street life

The Bee Gees, “I Started A Joke” and Tribute Bands, Is It Ok?

The other day I was heading back from visiting my mum in the care home, when I decided to swing by our local theatre to find out what was on. I still had a gift voucher which ironically was acquired when I had to return my mum’s outstanding theatre tickets last year after her admission to the home. It was due to expire soon, so I needed to convert it into readies, and if not readies, bona fide tickets at any rate. When I discovered that a show called Jive Talkin’, championing the music of the Bee Gees was taking place that very night, it was a no-brainer that I would ask about seats. As luck would have it there were only two left, in a second circle box, so I snapped them up.

It took me a long time to admit to being a Bee Gees fan around here, as I know they have been heavily parodied over the years and Barry’s late ’70s falsetto has been the subject of much mirth, but only Elvis, the Beatles, and he who shall no longer be named, have outsold them. They wrote all their own songs, performed perfect harmonies and continually reinvented themselves “for the times”. I’ve written about them a few times and I suspect a new category on my sidebar will have to be set up after I press the publish button.

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The original Bee Gees line-up – Kind of obvious which of them is a Gibb brother!

But of course there is sadly now only one Bee Gee left, Barry, and I do feel for him if I ever catch him on telly, as he cuts a lonely figure without the rest of his brothers in tow. In view of the fact I will now never see them live, I had no difficulty in making the decision that it was ok to head along to our fantastic theatre, to watch this trio (plus backing band complete with string section) sing songs from the vast back catalogue at their disposal.

I wrote last year about a show called Fastlove, dedicated to the George Michael back catalogue. They took great pains to make sure that, we, the audience, realised this was not “A Tribute Act” but in fact “A Tribute” to George, so I was hoping this show would follow the same lines. As it turned out, there was a bit more of a pantomime quality to this one, but the voices were pitch perfect and from where I was seated in the second circle, they looked uncannily like the real Bee Gees.

I Started A Joke by the Bee Gees:

The first half was dedicated to their 1960s incarnation and they rattled through 16 classic hits such as Gotta Get A Message To You, To Love Somebody, Words, How Can You Mend A Broken Heart (written about here before) and my personal favourite I Started A Joke from the album “Idea” released in 1968. Apparently the melancholic melody of the song was inspired by the sounds on board an aeroplane. To quote Robin Gibb: “The melody to this one was heard aboard a British Airways Vickers Viscount about a hundred miles from Essen. It was one of those old four engine “prop” jobs, that seemed to drone the passenger into a sort of hypnotic trance, only with this it was different. The droning, after a while, appeared to take the form of a tune, which mysteriously sounded like a church choir. As soon as we landed and reached the hotel, we finished the lyrics.”

As for me, this era of the Bee Gees just reminds me of watching telly with my parents as a child. They were frequent visitors to the TOTP studio and there were always a few raised eyebrows in our house at Robin’s vibrato, as not many pop voices like that at the time. I only realised later that the twins, Robin and Maurice, were still teenagers – A massive amount of success for those so young, the pressure of which led to Robin leaving the band for a while.

beegees2.gif

So, we’ve had the first half where they were dressed in the classic late era Bee Gees’ uniform of black trousers, shirts and jackets, but what would the second half bring? As expected there had to be an element of pantomime, as the 1970s brought disco, and Barry’s falsetto rose to unnaturally new heights. There is nothing more unnerving than seeing a middle-aged man dressed in tight white trousers and a silver jacket revealing chest hair, but here we were. To be honest I don’t think many of the ladies in the audience cared however, we were all teenagers again, reminding ourselves of the time we heard these songs first time around – Night Fever, Stayin’ Alive, You Should Be Dancing and many more.

Up in my second circle box, no-one’s view would have been blocked if I stood up and danced along to the songs, so that was just what happened. Mr WIAA did not partake in the dancing, and was a bit bemused by the whole thing I think, but he was also aware I’ve been working really hard of late trying to support everyone, so if anyone needed to let their hair down, it was me (as he no longer has any).

Every now and again, when emotions are running high, it can only take a few bars of a familiar song, to make you feel quite overcome by it all. When the trio on stage sang More Than A Woman, I was right back in 1978, a year I’ve often mentioned in this blog as it was the summer I left school and went off to work in a country house hotel with my best friend Catriona, who sadly died at age 41. By day we were jack-of-all-trades, chambermaids, laundrymaids, barmaids (yes, still called that back then) but by night we were disco divas, trying out our routines in the local nightspots. At the start of the summer we were a novelty, new girls in town, but as the summer progressed there were a few romances that we knew would go nowhere, but still made the heart flutter. One of the songs that made the heart flutter was this one. The dancing looks tame now and frankly a bit comical, but funny how 40 years on, a warm glow came over me when listening to it – More than goose-bumps, but rather an overwhelming feeling of nostalgia for simpler times.

More Than A Woman by the Bee Gees:

I know tribute acts are the source of much derision, but sometimes an evening of honest to goodness nostalgia is just what is needed, and that’s what I experienced this week. Because of the ongoing situation regarding how to pay for my mum’s care, stress levels have been running high in our house of late, but funnily enough, my evening with the pretend Bee Gees has put paid to that. Mr WIAA will be really glad he (reluctantly) agreed to come along with me.

Until next time….

I Started A Joke Lyrics
(Song by Barry Gibb/Maurice Gibb/Robin Gibb)

I started a joke, which started the whole world crying
But I didn’t see that the joke was on me, oh no

I started to cry, which started the whole world laughing
Oh, if I’d only seen that the joke was on me

I looked at the skies, running my hands over my eyes
And I fell out of bed, hurting my head from things that I’d said

Till I finally died, which started the whole world living
Oh, if I’d only seen that the joke was on me

I looked at the skies, running my hands over my eyes
And I fell out of bed, hurting my head from things that I’d said

‘Till I finally died, which started the whole world living
Oh, if I’d only seen that the joke was on me

Edwin Starr, “War” and a Different Kind of (Eye to Eye) Contact

Well, it’s going to have to be a shorter post this time as I have an awful lot going on at the moment. The new business I hinted at a few weeks ago, came into our possession yesterday, so it’s all systems go now to get it up and running as soon as possible. More on that to follow in the weeks to come, but in the meantime, my featured artist for this post is going to be Edwin Starr.

Why would that be Alyson?

Because this week, of all weeks, I have been afflicted with a nasty eye infection. On Monday evening, my right eye appeared to be glued together, and the redness and swelling surrounding it suggested I had just gone five rounds with Mike Tyson. I had loads of very important business-y type stuff to organise over the next few days in town, and here I was looking like something from Fight Club

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Of late, I have been very good at body-swerving Doctor Google if I have an ailment, as whatever rabbit hole you disappear down, the diagnosis is always a tumour of some sort. In this instance however, I was pretty sure it wasn’t an eye tumour, so I needed a bit of guidance on how to clear up the infection as soon as possible. After a bit of gentle bathing in warm water, Mr WIAA was dispatched to the chemist’s for some eye drops, which I must say have worked their magic. I had to lie low for the whole of Tuesday though, so as not to frighten poor unsuspecting children, and for the rest of the week I have had to be careful not to transfer the bacteria (sounds gross I know) to the other eye. Oh yes, I was already blind in one eye, so important not to make (Eye To Eye) Contact with the other. Cue Mr Starr (starts to really get going at 2:10).

Regulars to this place will know I wrote quite a lengthy post a fortnight ago on the disco genre. A fair bit of research had to be done (I watched a recorded episode of a TOTP Disco Special), and one of the songs I was reminded of, was indeed (Eye To Eye) Contact. It actually found greater success in the UK than across the pond, and reached No. 8 in the Singles Chart in early 1979.

I only found out recently from one of the other music blogs, that Mr Starr, a native of Nashville Tennessee, actually spent his later life living in the North of England. He had become a big “star” on the Northern Soul circuit, where many of his lesser-known Motown classics had found favour with that movement’s faithful. He moved to a village on the outskirts of Nottingham in 1973, and died there in 2003, aged only 61.

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Edwin Starr

But this foray into the world of disco (he also recorded the uplifting H.A.P.P.Y. Radio) was more of a comeback for him. The recording – I’m loath to call it a song as it’s more of a dramatic soul roar – he is probably best remembered for however, is War, the 1970 counter-culture protest song. Powerful stuff.

War

     huh

          yeah

What is it good for?

     Absolutely nothing

          oh hoh, oh 

War by Edwin Starr:

Edwin Starr’s intense vocals transformed this Temptations’ album track into a totally different animal, and it spent three weeks at the top of the Billboard chart. It was an anthem for the anti-war movement, and it continues to appear on movie soundtracks and hip hop music samples today. War appeared on both Starr’s “War & Peace” album, and its follow-up.

And here is where I have made a new discovery. I am usually late to the party but it seems Bruce Springsteen started performing War in concert in 1985. It was initially suggested as something to make the concluding shows of the Born In The USA tour a little bit different and special. Bruce and the E Street Band came up with a rock arrangement that worked well for them, and once released as a single in 1986, it got to No. 8 on the Billboard chart. Again, powerful stuff, and this time a protest against the Reagan Administration’s foreign policy in Central America. 

I will leave you with a video clip of Bruce, who after an impassioned talky intro (starts at 0:50), looks very much as if he might burst a blood vessel performing the song. Fortunately he survived unscathed, and unlike poor old Edwin Starr, is still out there doing his thing today. 

Until next time…

War Lyrics
(Song by Norman Whitfield/Barrett Strong)

War huh yeah
What is it good for?
Absolutely nothing, oh hoh, oh
War huh yeah
What is it good for?
Absolutely nothing, say it again y’all
War, huh good God
What is it good for?
Absolutely nothing, listen to me

Oh, war, I despise
‘Cause it means destruction of innocent lives
War means tear to thousands of mothers eyes
When their sons go off to fight and lose their lives

I said
War, huh good God y’all
What is it good for?
Absolutely nothing, just say it again
War whoa Lord
What is it good for?
Absolutely nothing, listen to me
War, it ain’t nothin’ but a heartbreaker
War, friend only to the undertaker

Oh war, is an enemy to all mankind
The thought of war blows my mind
War has caused unrest within the younger generation
Induction, then destruction who wants to die

War, good God, y’all
What is it good for?
Absolutely nothing, say it, say it, say it
War, uh huh, yeah, huh
What is it good for?
Absolutely nothing, listen to me
War, it ain’t nothin’ but a heartbreaker
War, it’s got one friend that’s the undertaker

Oh, war has shattered many young man’s dreams
Made him disabled bitter and mean
Life is much to short and precious to spend fighting wars these days
War can’t give life it can only take it away, ooh

War, huh, good God y’all
What is it good for?
Absolutely nothing, say it again
War, whoa, Lord
What is it good for?
Absolutely nothing, listen to me
War, it ain’t nothin’ but a heartbreaker
War, friend only to the undertaker

Peace love and understanding tell me
Is there no place for them today
They say we must fight to keep our freedom
But Lord knows there’s got to be a better way

War, huh, good God y’all
What is it good for?
You tell ’em, say it, say it, say it, say it
War, good Lord, huh
What is it good for?
Stand up and shout it, nothing
War, it ain’t nothin’ but a heartbreaker

Chic, “Le Freak” and Studio 54

We all experience those freaky coincidences from time to time don’t we, when we start thinking of a song we might not have heard in ages, only for it to pop up on the radio a few minutes later. I had such a freaky coincidence this week, which ironically involved the 1978 Chic song, Le Freak.   

Over at My Top Ten, Rol has resumed his Hot 100 Countdown. Every week he chooses a song to represent a number, counting down from 100 to 1. This week suggestions were sought for songs that mention the number 54 in the title or lyrics. As expected quite a few of these suggestions included Le Freak, as the lyrics include the lines: 

Just come on down, to 54
Find a spot out on the floor

A reference of course, to the legendary Studio 54 in New York City, which in the late 1970s was probably the most famous nightclub in the world, the home of disco, and frequented by A-listers from the worlds of music, film, art and fashion. 

As a suggestion for a 54 song, it was a good one, so I too offered it up in the comments boxes. I also left a lame remark about how I had loved Le Freak back in the day, but had no idea at the time what the reference to 54 meant, coming from rural Aberdeenshire as opposed to The Big Apple. Needless to say, once I had slept on it, I realised I could have yet again made a bit of a naïve faux pas, perhaps not realising the number 54 was code for the kind of hedonistic activities that went on there during its heyday (I have been caught out with this number malarkey before). I wasn’t even up yet, but I decided to do a quick Google search on my phone, to find out what the 54 in the song was all about. Yes, you’ve guessed it, just as I clicked on the first entry thrown up by the search engine, I hear the words “Ah…, Freak Out” coming out loud and clear from my new radio alarm. 

As a coincidence, I thought this was an extreme one, but Mr WIAA merely brushed it aside, saying these things happen all the time. Personally I think we have far more influence on the world around us than we will ever understand, and because some of us were collectively thinking of the song Le Freak for Rol’s countdown on Tuesday night, the gods of radio playlists picked it for the Wednesday morning schedules. Oh, and for the record, I hadn’t actually been naïve after all, as it turns out Studio 54 was located at 254 West 54th Street, so that’s how it got its name. But enough about freaky coincidences, how about we actually listen to the song?

Le Freak by Chic:

I think most of us have watched reruns of TOTP2 often enough by now to know the story behind the song, but it seems Bernard Edwards and Nile Rodgers of Chic wrote it after being denied admission to Studio 54, even though they had been invited along by Grace Jones. Their earlier hit Dance, Dance, Dance (Yowsah, Yowsah, Yowsah) was played often inside, but they weren’t on “the list” so the doorman, who didn’t recognise them, turned them away. It was New Year’s Eve, 1977, but they now had nowhere to go, so ended up writing this song as a reply to the doorman. They called it “F**k Off” but when they decided to record it, to appease Bernard Edward’s sensibilities, they changed it to “Freak Out”. Incidentally, the “stomping at the Savoy” line in the song makes reference to Edgar Melvin Sampson, nicknamed The Lamb. He was an American jazz composer, arranger, saxophonist, and violinist born in New York City, his most notable composition being Stompin’ at the Savoy

The disco genre was massive between 1977 to 1978, when I was in my final year of school and heading out every weekend to socialise with my friends. Even in rural Scotland, the venues (local hotelier’s unused function suites) were transformed overnight into mini-Studio 54s, complete with a DJ, glitter balls and floors with flashing lights. We’d also now had the films Saturday Night Fever, and Thank God It’s Friday, which had kind of made disco go mainstream. Young people want to get together and meet other young people at the weekend, and this was a really easy and accessible way to make it happen. (Link here and here to my previous disco-related posts.)

The band Chic were probably the most stylish of all the disco acts at the time, and of course Mr Nile Rodgers is still doing his thing today, having worked with some of the most successful acts of the last 40 years. Back then, they were inspired by Bryan Ferry’s “look” after watching him with Roxy Music, but safe to say, nowadays Nile has adopted the look of a street hippie, and looks very comfortable in his skin I must say. 

Getting back to Studio 54 and its history, it apparently first opened in 1927 as the Gallo Opera House, but it was short-lived. After changing its name several times it eventually became a CBS radio and television studio. Then, in 1977, Steve Rubell and Ian Schrager created the space that became the world-famous nightclub and discotheque. They spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on professional lighting design and kept many of the former TV and theatrical sets, creating a unique dance club that became famous for its celebrity guest lists and restrictive (and subjective) entry policies, based on appearance and style.

I am reminded of a scene from the film American Hustle when one of the main characters, Bradley Cooper, has a night off from his FBI duties and takes Amy Adams dancing at Studio 54. I remember being impressed at how many of the details they got right in terms of fashion and hairstyles for this movie. It reminded me that even in rural Aberdeenshire, back in 1978, the boys took to having their hair permed. A strange sight back on the building sites on a Monday morning (and no doubt a lot of teasing from their older workmates) but ’twas the times. Tough to find a suitable clip, but this one gives a feel for what it must have been like in its heyday.

Something I never knew before, were the names of the two girls who sang lead on Le Freak. For the record they were Alfa Anderson and Luci Martin but in the Chic Choir we also had future luminaries such as Luther Vandross and Jocelyn Brown. The Chic Strings completed the line-up.

So, “What’s It All About?” – I think I have opened a can of worms here, as there was just too much information to get through in order to write only one post on the whole disco phenomenon. If I have a rummage in the loft, I’m sure I’ll be able to find some pictures of me in my dancing gear (basically a leotard, footless tights and a wraparound skirt), and the diary entry reviewing my first night out in one of Aberdeen’s new nightspots. Most of the cinemas had seen better days by the tail end of the ’70s so they were being converted to places like Ruffles (on Diamond Street) and Fusion (on Bridge Place). I think I was unusual in that I truly went to dance, and could often be found hogging that sweet spot in front of the DJ, along with the boys who, like John Travolta, enjoyed a bit of “showboating”.

I will leave you with another Chic clip, this time featuring Norma Jean Wright on lead vocals. Everybody Dance got to No. 9 in the UK Singles Chart in April 1978. Enjoy.

Until next time…

Le Freak Lyrics
(Song by Bernard Edwards/Nile Rodgers)

Ah, freak out!
Le freak, c’est Chic
Freak out!

Ah, freak out!
Le freak, c’est Chic
Freak out!

Have you heard about the new dance craze?
Listen to us, I’m sure you’ll be amazed
Big fun to be had by everyone
It’s up to you, it surely can be done

Young and old are doing it, I’m told
Just one try, and you too will be sold
It’s called le freak, they’re doing it night and day
Allow us, we’ll show you the way

Ah, freak out!
Le freak, c’est Chic
Freak out!

All that pressure got you down
Has your head spinning all around
Feel the rhythm, check the rhyme
Come on along and have a real good time

Like the days of stomping at the Savoy
Now we freak, oh, what a joy
Just come on down, to 54
Find a spot out on the floor

Ah, freak out!
Le freak, c’est Chic
Freak out!

Now freak!

I said freak!

Now freak!

Long Hot Summers, Advertising and The Music of 1976

The year 1976 is certainly being bandied about a lot at the moment, because until this current heatwave hit us, there had been no year with a long hot summer that could compete with it. For those of us who remember it first hand however, it was a very different time. It was also the year I turned 16, and so much has changed for the average teenager since then….

I didn’t have to worry about applying high factor sunscreen…, because it didn’t exist yet. I didn’t have to worry about global warming…, because the ice caps were still fully intact and hadn’t begun to seep into the oceans yet. I didn’t have to worry about whether my hair extensions and lip fillers would cope with the heat…, because we simply had short blow-dried hair, and if we were really lucky, little pots of lip gloss. I didn’t have to worry about whether my boyfriend was “talking” to other girls via social media…, because the only social medium we had was the local youth club, so it would have been pretty obvious. Yes, simpler times indeed.

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A Jackie magazine cover from 1976

Back in my first year of blogging I wrote a post about the music of 1976, and as no-one saw it back then (except me), time for another airing I feel. A bit of lazy blogging I know, but as I’m still a bit preoccupied with home improvements, time ran out for me this week. Such is life but hopefully back to business as usual very soon.

First published April 2016

Apparently a study has been carried out, and the findings are that any company wishing to target a particular demographic with their advertising, should use music from the time that group turned 16 – In my case that would be 1976. I can see how this would work. If like me you were lucky, and had a stable family background, your material needs were all catered for. You also had a tight regime to your day, with school and probably a Saturday job. You saw your best friends every single day because you went to school with them, and you had a reasonable level of independence as helicopter parenting wouldn’t start for a few decades yet. Top that off with a few short romances that didn’t cause too much distress when they were over, no social media to mess with your head and life was sweet.

We humans are essentially simple beings but as the years go by we accumulate baggage, make life complicated for ourselves and lose the people we love – These giant corporations know that, and home in on our weakness for a pop song that reminds us of simpler times. A really expensive car and some life assurance anyone? Yes by golly, I’ll have both.

1976 was indeed a memorable year and one which I have really fond memories of. It was of course the year of the “long hot summer” where a new government department had to be created – The Ministry for Drought (which then became the Ministry for Floods when summer turned into autumn).

The UK won the Eurovision Song Contest that year with Brotherhood of Man’s Save Your Kisses For Me. Girl/boy bands like BofM were very popular in 1976 and Abba really solidified their position as an international supergroup with hits like Mama Mia, FernandoDancing Queen and Money Money Money. Other home grown acts like Guys and Dolls even had a modicum of success.

Despite the fact that punk emerged that year, with Malcolm MacLaren’s Sex Pistols out to shock, they or their movement weren’t really making much of an impact on the UK Singles Chart yet – That was pretty much filled with the usual suspects. We had Disco (Tina Charles, Donna Summer), Soft Rock (Chicago, Dr Hook), Country (JJ Barrie, Pussycat and Billie Jo Spears), Novelty songs (The Wurzels), Rock (Queen with their amazing Bohemian Rhapsody), Pop classics (Elton John & Kiki Dee), Soul (The Stylistics, Barry White) and Rock ‘n’ Roll Revival acts (Showaddywaddy).

As for me, I was in my 4th year of secondary school which was the last year everyone my age would have to legally attend. In the May of that year we sat our first important exams, “O” Grades as they were called then (short for Ordinary although they didn’t feel very ordinary when you were having to revise for them). When you have big exams coming up, you do spend a lot of time in your bedroom studying, but of course you also need a bit of down time and the radio is probably switched on a fair bit more often than should be. I think I’m still familiar with just about every song that hit the charts in the spring of 1976 and could still tell you which position they reached. After the exams finished, a time of merriment commenced (as per the film Grease) and the two songs I remember clearly from that time are You To Me Are Everything by Liverpool band The Real Thing and Young Hearts Run Free by Candi Staton – If any company used either of those songs in an advert, I would be putty in their hands.

As it turned out the exams of 1976 went very well but later on that year many of our classmates left school for good as there were plenty of jobs waiting for 16-year-olds in those days. Those of us who went back to school enjoyed the big hit of the autumn, Chicago’s If You Leave Me Now, and then over Christmas we were treated to Johnny Mathis with his version of When A Child Is Born (one for the mums and dads).

As the academic year went by and we all started to turn 17, the serious business of Higher Grade exams loomed which determined whether or not you would go to University. Like for our old classmates who had already entered the adult world of work, life had got just that little bit more serious and not as carefree as for our 16-year-old selves. The advertisers have therefore got it right I reckon – It’s not the same for everyone, but if you have to pick music from a year that will really boost sales, make it the year your target group turned 16. Works for me and my new really expensive car, and life assurance policy!

I shall leave you with Candi Staton and her June 1976 hit Young Hearts Run Free but it seems bizarre now that this was the track of choice for our end-of-term merriment. As I’ve said before however, I really don’t think we took too much heed of the lyrics at that age – I’d not had any big romances yet and all the mums and dads I knew seemed to be quite happy (or perhaps I was too young and naïve to think otherwise). I loved Candi’s voice though, the song seemed to be aimed at my generation and it was perfect for the school disco.

Young Hearts Run Free by Candi Staton:

Something has only come to light in the last few years however – Whenever she was mentioned on the radio or on TOTP, she was always called Candi “Staton” (made to sound like Staten Island) but it turns out it should have been pronounced “State-en”. Poor lady had her name mispronounced in the UK for over 40 years, but hopefully now put right. Tony Blackburn in the clip was obviously one of the main culprits, but of course he was also the DJ who badly mispronounced “Duran Duran” during a chart rundown in the ’80s, so not surprising really. As it turns out, I only discovered after his death that I had always mispronounced “Bowie” (as in David), so not always easy to get it right. And as for “Bono” – He always ends up sounding like a well-known dog food!

Until next time…

Young Hearts Run Free Lyrics
(Song by David Crawford)

What’s the sense in sharing this one and only life
Ending up just another lost and lonely wife
You count up the years and they will be filled with tears

Love only breaks up to start over again

You’ll get the babies but you won’t have your man
While he is busy loving every woman that he can  

Say I’m gonna leave a hundred times a day

It’s easier said than done
When you just can’t break away

Young hearts, run free
They’ll never be hung up, hung up like my man and me 
Young hearts, to yourself be true
Don’t be no fool when
Love really don’t love you 

It’s high time now just one crack at life
Who wants to live it in trouble and strife
My mind must be free to learn all I can about me

I’m gonna love me for the rest of my days

Encourage the babies every time they say
Self preservation is what’s really going on today

Say I’m gonna turn loose hundred times a day
How can I turn loose
When I just can’t break away

Kate Bush, The Motors and The Summer of 1978

Last time I shared a little film of my hometown, which highlighted just how blue the skies were on the first day of Spring. Since then, I have been feeling a bit nostalgic about the band ELO – That of course would be because the music I chose to accompany the film was Mr. Blue Sky, from their 1977 album “Out of the Blue”. The cover for that particular album was very memorable for me, because it was one of the pieces of artwork that graced the walls of the very basic cottage I shared with my best friend the summer after leaving school.

out of the blue

We had headed off to work in a very posh country house hotel and luckily for us accommodation came with the job. It was basic indeed, but we had our first taste of independence, with no parents hovering over us querying our movements – Needless to say that summer we worked hard (being a breakfast waitress plus hotel jack-of-all-trades is a tough gig) but also played hard – Living off the beaten track, we built up a good working relationship with Diamond Doug, our local taxi-driver who seemed to favour wearing a certain style of patterned jumper.

That summer, over the course of a weekend, it was not unusual to:

  • Work until 10pm.
  • Rush back to the cottage to change into our “going-out” clothes. (This being 1978 the previously under-used function suites of our local hotels had suddenly become kitted out with flashing dance floors and glitter balls as per the film Saturday Night Fever, but the clothes to match came later. That summer for us was still the summer of peasant skirts and broderie anglais tops as worn by Linda Ronstadt et al.)
  • Get picked up by Doug who would take us to our destination of choice by 11pm.
  • Bop until 1am (hoping that the last dance of the night, to the refrains of The Commodores mega-ballad Three Times A Lady, would be with one of our local T-Bird equivalents, that name taken from the summer’s other film phenomenon, Grease).
  • Have a bit of a smooch with the aforementioned T-Bird (who for one summer only had decided that girls of the Sandy persuasion were perhaps preferable to those of the Rizzo persuasion) whilst waiting for Doug to come and drive us home again, just in time to grab around 3 hours of sleep before getting up and doing it all over again!

The Summer of ’78 summed up for an 18-year-old girl!

Phew, I’m exhausted just writing about that so am amazed that my younger self managed to actually live life at that pace – The energy of youth. But back to the album cover for “Out of the Blue”, my friend Catriona definitely had that one up on her side of our bedroom wall, and I had some of my favourites over on mine. Looking at my album collection now, I can still tell which ones they were as they have those telltale blu tack, or even worse, sellotape marks on the covers. The vinyl itself must have been simply kept in the inner sleeve but was played constantly on the little mono record player I had brought from my parents’ house. It was the predecessor to the massive Toshiba Music Centre that had replaced it only 6 months previously, but I was never going to be allowed to take that with me, so the mono player it had to be.

Although our social life revolved around going dancing, we were both massive music fans and played anything and everything during our time off that summer. BBC Radio 1 woke us up and entertained us during the day but we also loved playing our records, and roped in friends and relatives to bring us new releases from record shops in the city when they came to visit. So, it was not only the soundtrack albums to Saturday Night Fever and Grease along with ELO and The Commodores we listened to that summer, oh no, it was also punk (Blondie, Sham 69), reggae (Bob Marley), pop and soft rock (Marshall Hain, Jackson Browne) and of course the obligatory novelty song (Father Abraham and the Smurfs!).

I still have one of the singles that Catriona’s sister bought on my behalf that summer – They didn’t really have many other hits and were short lived indeed but there was something about The Motors song Airport that I really liked and whenever I hear it now, I always think of that summer at the cottage with our mono record player.

Airport by The Motors:

As for my friend, the single she had requested, and which was duly delivered by her sister was this one by Kate Bush. Yes, The Man with the Child in His Eyes was also a hit that summer but I have just discovered that Kate actually first recorded it in 1975 and had written it three years earlier at the age of 13. To quote the title of another of her songs – Wow!

So, “What’s It All About?” – Funnily enough, when I sat down to write this post it was going to be all about ELO; about how it was actually the brainchild of Roy Wood; about how he soon moved on but left Jeff Lynne and the others to create something really quite amazing fusing modern rock and pop songs with classical instrumentation; about how Jeff’s partner for many years was the wonderful Rosie Vela whose song Magic Smile has been a bit of an earworm this week; but no, as is wont to happen, looking at the artwork for that ELO album cover just brought back so many memories of that wonderful summer.

The awful thing about reminiscing about the happenings of the summer of 1978 is that I can no longer talk about them with Catriona, as she died 16 years ago, leaving behind a husband and two young children. By then we were living on opposite sides of the Atlantic but if we ever got together, it was just like old times. I didn’t realise back then that I would never have such a close friendship with any other female, ever again. There have been many friends in the intervening years and some lovely friends are part of my life now, but how can you ever recreate what you had with the person you were closest to during those formative years, aged 16 to 21.

Before I go, here is a shot taken with my trusty Kodak Instamatic, of the little cottage Catriona and I shared that summer. Happy memories indeed of a very special person, who had her own magic smile. She made the world that little bit better for all of us who knew her and is sadly missed.

Our very basic cottage (garden needed a bit of tending!)

Until next time….

Airport Lyrics
(Song by Andrew McMaster)

So many destination faces going to so many places
Where the weather is much better
And the food is so much cheaper.
Well I help her with her baggage for her baggage is so heavy
I hear the plane is ready by the gateway to take my love away.
And I can’t believe that she really wants to leave me and it’s getting me so,
It’s getting me so.

Airport –
Airport, you’ve got a smiling face,
you took the one I love so far away
Fly her away – fly her away – airport.
Airport, you’ve got a smiling face
You took my lady to another place
Fly her away – fly her away.

The plane is on the move,
And the traces of the love we had in places
Are turning in my mind – how I wish I’d been much stronger
For the wheels are turning faster as I hear the winds are blowing
and I know that she is leaving
On the jet plane way down the runaway.
And I can’t believe that she really wants to leave me – and it’s
getting me so,
It’s getting me so.

Airport –
Airport, you’ve got a smiling face,…

Airport –
Airport, you’ve got a smiling face,…

Postscript:

As luck would have it I found another entry in my 1978 journal where I’ve jotted down a short and snappy review of the the two big movies Catriona and I went to see that summer, one at the beginning and one right at the end. Again, embarrassing to read my words from back then (and my penmanship seems to have deteriorated) but interesting all the same. Yet again I seem to have not been particularly impressed with either of these films at the time, yet they are now two of my favourites movies of all time – The nonchalance of youth!

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