Earworm of the Week #5 – Feminism, Walter Murphy and ‘A Fifth of Beethoven’

Roll Over Beethoven sang Chuck Berry back in 1956. Oh yes, Chuck was firm in his belief that had Beethoven still been around, it would have been time for him to roll over and dig those rhythm and blues. Strangely enough, only 20 years later, Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony became the basis of a disco instrumental and this week it has formed a bit of an earworm.

Like many of us during this strange time of lockdown and post-lockdown easing, we’ve watched a fair amount of telly, and there is no shortage of great telly out there made both by traditional broadcasters and the newer streaming services such as Netflix and Amazon Prime. (I am however starting to notice that the BBC & ITV are running out of new product, and during prime time slots are having to repeat some of their most successful output. This in turn affects the amount advertisers are willing to pay for a slot, which will jeopardise the making of future programmes should the industry ever get started again. At this rate we’re going to be old and grey yet will still be watching Line of Duty, Death In Paradise, The Durrells and Downtown Abbey!)

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But I digress. A historical drama I was keen to watch this week was Mrs America (now on the BBC iPlayer) which tells the story of the movement to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment in the 1970s, and the unexpected backlash led by conservative activist Phyllis Schlafly. Prominent feminists of the day, such as Betty Freidan and Gloria Steinem, are key characters, and I feel ashamed that I am only now learning of their contribution to a movement that has given me much of what I have always taken for granted. The opening theme for the show, which has caused the aforementioned earworm, is A Fifth of Beethoven by Walter Murphy. It fits the era and was chosen because it represented both sides of the story. Phyllis and her conservative friends listened to classical music, yet the free and easy disco version of Beethoven’s Fifth, better fitted the feminists.

A Fifth of Beethoven by Walter Murphy:

It of course sounded familiar when I watched the first episode of the show, and it didn’t take long for me to remember that it had appeared on the Saturday Night Fever soundtrack album, and was the record playing when lead character Tony Manero enters the 2001: Odyssey disco in 1977 Brooklyn. He exudes the easy confidence that comes from being a big fish in a little pond, and that nightclub was his domain.

I have written about the film Saturday Night Fever often around here as it came out the year my best friend and I left school. We spent the summer frequenting the many converted function suites in our area, where local hoteliers had decided an investment in floors with flashing lights, glitter balls and a weekly DJ could increase takings no end. It was a memorable summer where we practiced our dance moves and had dalliances with the local Tony Maneros, but looking back I don’t think I appreciated that this carefree summer ahead of starting university, only happened because I came of age in 1978. Had I been born only 10 years earlier such opportunities would not have been a given at all, and our parents may well have steered us down a very different path towards work, then marriage and motherhood. As it turns out we’ve now kind of had to do both, simultaneously, so not sure who won in the end but it’s thankfully no longer a given that men have very little to do with childcare, cooking or housework, so…. , yeah us.

As for Walter Murphy, he was an orchestral leader who studied both classical and jazz music piano at the Manhattan School of Music. In college his interests included rock music that had been adapted from classical music, such as Joy by Apollo 100 and A Lover’s Concerto by The Toys. In 1976, whilst writing a disco song for a commercial, a producer suggested the idea of updating classical music, which nobody had done lately. He recorded a demo tape which included A Fifth of Beethoven and sent it various record labels in New York City. It was picked up and reached the No. 1 spot on the Billboard Chart in October 1976.

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Another little snippet I discovered when doing some research for this post, was that in 2017, exactly 40 years on from the release date of the film that made it famous, the 2001: Odyssey was reimagined. By that time it was no longer a nightspot, but a Chinese restaurant, however a successful businessman invested the cash required to make it happen. The Trammps appeared and sang their hit Disco Inferno, and the actress who played Tony Manero’s love interest also turned up. There were plenty of men in polyester shirts & cream three-piece suits and ladies in those free flowing dresses that epitomised the era, as well as some of the original DJs. Must have been quite a night.

And here is something that really hit home with me this week. In listening to these disco hits of 1978 I’ve been transported back in time, reminiscing about that carefree summer after leaving school. Not so for our school-leavers of this year who have had no prom or end of term revelries and face uncertainly about their exam grades. The doors to the places where they all used to come together are still firmly closed, and as DD pointed out earlier in the week, “Its a rubbish year to be single”.

No lyrics this time as an instrumental, but as ever, if you want to leave a comment, I always reply.

Until next time….

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.

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Connell and Marianne from Normal People

Earworm of the Week #3 – Elvis, Doc Pomus and “She’s Not You”

Not sure how this has come about, but for over a week now the slow build-up to She’s Not You by Elvis Presley has been spinning around in my head. He starts way down in his boots with the “her hair is soft” part, and then gradually climbs up the scale by the end of the first verse. I’ve probably described that badly, and yet again I don’t think this part of the song is called “the hook”, but it’s the part that’s formed an earworm that’s for sure.

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I’ve written about Elvis often around here as the very first album bought with my own money (aged 9) was indeed an Elvis one, and although they are oft derided, I did love watching his antics in all those happy-go-lucky movies made during the 1960s, when his manager “Colonel” (a made-up title much like General Tom Thumb) Tom Parker took him off the road, and he became permanently holed up in Hollywood. Had Elvis been a stronger character this would probably never have happened, but he was a polite southern boy who had been brought up to respect his elders, so he did as he was told and pretty much killed his credibility for much of the decade. Fortunately, the triumph that was the ’68 Comeback Special got him out performing in front of live audiences again, and his career entered it’s third stage – The Las Vegas residencies. Again, the Colonel took care of business, and as we all now know this turn of events didn’t end well for our boy, but watching him in this clip he certainly was a fine looking young man.

She’s Not You by Elvis Presley:

As for the song, there’s not a lot I can say about it other than it was one of many Elvis hits to reach the top of the UK Singles Chart, in 1962 in this case. It was however written by Doc Pomus (aka Jerome Solon Felder) in collaboration with Leiber and Stoller who between them were responsible for many of the songs we of a certain age grew up with. Looking at their respective songwriting credits, as well as writing many, many songs for Elvis, they also wrote for The Coasters, Bobby Darin, Dion and the Belmonts, The Drifters, Perry Como and Andy Williams (amongst others).

There is so much that could be written about Elvis but most of it is already well documented (even in this blog), so I won’t bore you, but here is something new I’ve discovered – The name Presley is a common one here in the North of Scotland and Elvis’ family do have roots in Aberdeenshire. The name in our neck of the woods is always pronounced Prez-ley, but apparently the correct pronunciation of Elvis’ name is Press-ley. I think I’ve been getting it wrong my whole life. Also, we know his middle name was Aaron but it turns out he was given the name Elvis Aron at birth to tie in with his stillborn twin brother’s name Jesse Garon. Down the line it was decided to change it to the more biblical Aaron. As I often say around here, every day’s a schoolday.

It occurred to me that the subject matter of this song is not an unusual one. How many times have we had our hearts broken because the boy we really want to dance with, picks another girl? I remember crying all the way home from a local dance when I was a teenager because when it came to the slow dance at the end of the night, the object of my affection danced with someone else and I had to dance with the friend. To quote Elvis, or more specifically Doc Pomus, “he’s not you”.

And of course this reminds me of another 1962 Elvis song by Doc Pomus, (Marie’s The Name) His Latest Flame which covered just the same dilemma – How we were ever expected to find “the one” when we all seemed to be dancing with the WRONG people is a mystery, but who knows, maybe at the end of the day, Mr Wrong turns out to be Mr Right.

Until next time….

She’s Not You Lyrics
(Song by Doc Pomus/Jerry Leiber/Mike Stoller)

Her hair is soft and her eyes are oh so blue
She’s all the things a girl should be,
but she’s not you.

She knows just how to make me laugh when I feel blue
She’s ev’rything a man could want,
but she’s not you.

And when we’re dancing
It almost feels the same
I’ve got to stop myself from
Whisp’ring your name

She even kisses me like you used to do.
And it’s just breaking my heart
’cause she’s not you.

Earworm of the Week #2 – Carly Simon and “Let The River Run”

I have been banished to the office to “do some therapeutic blogging”, as I think I’m starting to drive Mr WIAA a little mad (in a nice way) with my whinging. When we acquired the holiday hideaway earlier this year to help pay my mum’s care home fees, I hadn’t reckoned on the sheer physicality of having so many changeovers to carry out in a relatively short space of time. My poor neck and shoulder still cries out in pain when I have to lift, push or carry anything with my right arm, and there will be no respite now until the end of September. I am bracing myself for the next seven weeks when we are to have a total of 18 changeovers, as most guests book for only two nights. I was an office wallah for 35 years, so however fit I thought I was, the shock to the system has been intense. Best foot forward though, and we’ll get through it, but just willing the season to now be over so that I can rejig my business model and yet again have a fully functional neck and shoulder.

As this is an imposed and not a planned session of blogging, the easiest song to write about would be the one that is currently spinning around in my head. I must have heard it on the radio the other day and when I woke up at 3am the other night, it was the first thing that came into my head and has barely left since. Let The River Run was a 1988 song written by Carly Simon for the film Working Girl and she swept the board with it when it came to awards season the following year winning a Grammy, an Oscar and a Golden Globe. It definitely has an anthemic quality to it – She apparently wanted to write a hymn to New York with a contemporary jungle beat under it, and it sounds as if she pretty much nailed it.

Let The River Run by Carly Simon:

Carly has appeared in this blog before, once when I wrote about the death of Roger Moore (she sang the theme to The Spy Who Loved Me) and again when I wrote a “moon-post” featuring the Glenn Miller song Moonlight Serenade (she recorded an album of standards and this was the title track). It occurred to me that she is one of those artists who has had great longevity in the industry yet quietly got on with business without ever becoming over-exposed or over-familiar.

I’m pretty sure that as I teenager I would have loved to look like Carly Simon – She had a great mane of hair, a natural tan and that rock ‘n’ roll kind of face as sported by some of her male counterparts. A handsome woman rather than a pretty one, which is always a good thing if you want to be taken seriously, and again, there was all that great hair. Being a Scottish person I rarely had a tan, have quite fine, straight hair and as for the rock ‘n’ roll face, not in my family genes I’m afraid but not jealous, honest!

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Carly Simon

The thing about earworms is that a particular line can keep repeating itself in your head and you don’t always know the name of the song it’s from, but in this case it was quite easy once I’d revisited Carly’s discography. I had seriously forgotten just how many albums she’d made and although not all her single releases became big hits in the UK, they do still get airplay so we are familiar with much of her output over the years. You’re So Vain of course (although we will probably never know for sure who it was about) but also Coming Around Again, Why, The Right Thing To Do and Mockingbird (with husband James Taylor), as well as the other songs mentioned above.

As for the film Working Girl, I remember well going to see it in 1988 and quite possibly had big permed hair at the time like Melanie Griffith, who played wannabe investment broker Tess McGill from Staten Island. She had worked hard, gone to night school and wanted the big job, but it turned out big hair and big jobs don’t go together, so a period of reinvention had to take place. All these years later I’m not sure if much has changed and it’s probably tougher than ever for women (and men) from what seems to be called disadvantaged backgrounds to climb the corporate ladder. Higher education is increasingly only for those whose parents can afford to help out with the cost, which is sad. In the late 70s, I unbelievably used to save some of my student grant, as I just didn’t need it all. Was this education wasted on me though, as I never did get what would be described as the big job but merely a pot-boiler job which was satisfactory but never stellar. Thinking back I definitely had big hair however, so perhaps I now see where I went wrong, unless you’re a rock star like Carly Simon of course where the bigger the hair the better.

So, “What’s It All About?” – I have a lot of work to get through so I’d better buckle down and get on with it. The kind of hair I have no longer affects me a jot but I think I will listen to a little more Carly Simon in the course of the day and dream of holidays in her beloved Martha’s Vineyard.

Before I go I’m going to include a clip of her joining Taylor Swift in concert where they perform a version of You’re So Vain. Apparently Taylor has now been let into the secret of who the song is about – As for us, I doubt if we’ll ever really know.

Until next time….

Let The River Run Lyrics
(Song by Carly Simon)

We’re coming to the edge,
running on the water,
coming through the fog,
your sons and daughters.

Let the river run,
let all the dreamers
wake the nation.
Come, the New Jerusalem.

Silver cities rise,
the morning lights
the streets that meet them,
and sirens call them on
with a song.

It’s asking for the taking.
Trembling, shaking.
Oh, my heart is aching.

We’re coming to the edge,
running on the water,
coming through the fog,
your sons and daughters.

We the great and small
stand on a star
and blaze a trail of desire
through the dark’ning dawn.

It’s asking for the taking.
Come run with me now,
the sky is the color of blue
you’ve never even seen
in the eyes of your lover.

Oh, my heart is aching.
We’re coming to the edge,
running on the water,
coming through the fog,
your sons and daughters.

It’s asking for the taking.
Trembling, shaking.
Oh, my heart is aching.
We’re coming to the edge,
running on the water,
coming through the fog,
your sons and daughters.

Let the river run,
let all the dreamers
wake the nation.
Come, the New Jerusalem.

Earworm of the Week #1 – Motown Supergroups and “I’m Gonna Make You Love Me”

In my last post I mentioned that I now had 83 ideas backing up in my list of “posts pending” and needed some help in making inroads. C from Sun-Dried Sparrows stepped up to the plate and randomly picked no. 63. That turned out to be an idea added only last week (as this list is in spreadsheet form and is sorted by category then alphabetically). It was also potentially going to kick start a new series called Earworm of the Week.

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We all know what an earworm is – That catchy piece of music that continually repeats in your head long after you’ve heard it, and apparently a calque (a word or phrase borrowed from another language via a literal word-for-word translation) from the German Ohrwurm. Two weeks ago my Earworm of the Week was Tony Christie’s Avenues and Alleyways, but the moment passed for me to write about it, despite having done the research (the theme tune to the TV show The Protectors I discovered). This last week, the earworm was I’m Gonna Make You Love Me by Diana Ross & The Supremes and The Temptations.

Not sure if this part of the song is the “hook”, if fact I’m pretty sure it’s not, but the line that keeps going round and round in my head is this one:

“I’m gonna use every trick in the book”

Having studied such things as part of my course this last year, poets and lyric writers make great use of the sound patterning of words, and both trick and book end with the hard letter k, which means that line exhibits the sound pattern called consonance. Perhaps that’s why it has really taken hold this last week. Whatever, lets have a listen to the whole song, a wonderful example of what can happen when two of Motown’s top groups get together for a recording. The song was incidentally written not by Holland-Dozier-Holland in this case, but by that wonderful team Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff who went on to form Philadelphia International Records as a rival to Berry Gordy’s Motown.

I’m Gonna Make You Love Me by Diana Ross & The Supremes and The Temptations:

The song peaked at No. 2 on the Hot 100 in the United States and at No. 3 on the UK Singles Chart in January 1969. Putting those two groups together was a masterstroke, but long delayed, as they had known each other since their Detroit school days. The Supremes were originally called the The Primettes, the sister group to a singing group known as The Primes formed by Paul Williams and Eddie Kendricks who would go on to become The Temptations. As a Motown supergroup however, the name is a tad cumbersome what with the word “and” featuring twice. At least one is an ampersand, but still, a bit of a mouthful.

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Gamble and Huff

From experience, earworms don’t usually last longer than a week, which is fortunate as although this is a fairly pleasurable one, they can be really annoying. Around the time of the Eurovision Song Contest it’s important to avoid catching the 1981 winner Making Your Mind Up by Bucks Fizz on the radio, as once it’s in there, impossible to budge.

So, “What’s It All About?” – My long list of ideas is going to take a fair while to eat into, as it keeps being added to at a faster rate than I can keep up. I think I can knock two ideas off the list now though, as poor old Tony Christie doesn’t look as if he’s going to be written about now, although a shame, as I had no idea he’d had such a long and interesting career, continually reinventing himself. I had also assumed when I was young that he was American, as he always seemed to sing about places in the US such as Amarillo. Not so, he was a product of the Working Men’s Clubs of the North of England and lived most of his life in Sheffield.

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Tony Christie – Still going strong

Thanks C for the prompt. Happy to oblige if anyone else wants to throw me a few numbers between 1 and 81? You can take the number cruncher out of the workplace, but you can’t take the number crunching out of the girl!

Until next time….

I’m Gonna Make You Love Me Lyrics
(Song by Kenny Gamble/Leon Huff/Jerry Ross)

I’m gonna do all the things for you, a girl wants a man to do.
Oh, baby (Oh, baby)
I’ll sacrifice for you, I’ll even do wrong for you.
Oh, baby (Oh, baby)

Every minute, every hour.
I’m gonna shower you with love and affection.
Look out it’s coming in your direction.
And I’m… I’m gonna make you love me.
Oh, yes I will.
Yes I will.
I’m gonna make you love me.
Oh, yes I will.
Yes I will.

Look it here.
My love is strong, you see.
I know you’ll never get tired of me.
Oh, baby (She’ won’t) (Oh baby)
And I’m gonna use every trick in the book.
I’ll try my best to get you hooked.
Hey, baby (Take me I’m yours) (Hey, baby)

And every night, every day.
I’m gonna say.
I’m gonna get you, I’m gonna get you.
Look out boy, ’cause I’m gonna get you.

I’m gonna make you love me.
Ooo, yes I will.
Yes I will.
And I’m gonna make you love me.
Ooo, yes I will
You know I will.

Every breathe I take.
And each and every step I make.
Brings me closer, baby.
Closer to you.

And with each beat of my heart.
For every day we are apart.
I’ll hunger for every wasted hour.

And every night and every day.
I’m gonna get you, I’m gonna get you.
Look out ’cause I’m gonna get you.

And I’m gonna make…
I’m gonna make you love me.
Oh, oh. (Yes I will)
I’m gonna make you love me.
Ooo, yes I will. Yes I will.
I’m gonna make you love me.
Yes I will. (Yes I will)
Ooo, I’m gonna make you love me.
Yes I will.
Yes I will.