Old Photos, Lindisfarne and “Fog on the Tyne”

Some of you who visit this place know that I have been having a few technical issues of late which has hampered my usual blogging activities. And so, yet again, I am trying to restore 15 years’ worth of data back onto my PC and although it is apparently in a virtual “cloud” somewhere, it must be so high up in the stratosphere that at the moment it can’t be easily located.

The amazing thing however is that all sorts of things I had totally forgotten about are descending from the skies and as I have temporarily lost my zest for writing due to the technical issues (“ma heid’s mince” as we say in Scotland), this post will be in pictorial form as it very smoothly follows on from my last one which featured the song Misty by Ray Stevens. Back then C, from the wonderful Sun Dried Sparrows blog, mentioned in the comments boxes that Misty immediately made her think of the song Fog on the Tyne by Lindisfarne. Guess what descended from the cloud this afternoon? – The contents of my late father-in-law’s Digi frame which we must have saved onto the computer after he passed away. No long wordy post therefore, just the pics that tell the story of a young man from Newcastle-upon-Tyne who somehow made his way up to the Highlands of Scotland and whose son I ended up marrying.

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The River Tyne and the Tyne Bridge
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A young man who in the 1940s finds himself a job in an office overlooking the Tyne, right in the centre of Newcastle
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That same young man has a passion for climbing and heads off on holiday to the Isle of Skye where he meets a lovely young art student from Birmingham
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The young couple fall in love and marry a few years later
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Their love for the Highlands of Scotland means that they move up there to live and have three children who are all given very Scottish names, the youngest of whom becomes Mr WIAA
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They have a long and happy life together but by 2015 both have passed on, leaving three happily married children and three grandchildren
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And so it turns out that my daughter is one quarter Geordie – This one is for her therefore, Fog on the Tyne by Lindisfarne from their 1971 album of the same name

Fog on the Tyne by Lindisfarne:

Lindisfarne were a folk-rock hybrid formed in the Newcastle-upon-Tyne of 1969 and were named after the historic Holy Island of Lindisfarne off the Northumbrian coast. The lyrics to their songs blended “wistful sensitivity, social sentiments and boozy revelry”. Fog on the Tyne was the biggest selling album by a British band in 1971.

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Lindisfarne in 1971

Fog on the Tyne Lyrics
(Song by Alan Hull)

Sittin’ in a sleazy snack-bar
Suckin’, sickly sausage rolls
Slippin’ down slowly, slippin’ down sideways
Think I’ll sign off the dole

Because the fog on the Tyne is all mine, all mine
The fog on the Tyne is all mine
The fog on the Tyne is all mine, all mine
The fog on the Tyne is all mine

Could a copper catch a crooked coffin maker
Could a copper comprehend
That a crooked coffin maker is just an undertaker
Who undertakes to be a friend?

And the fog on the Tyne is all mine, all mine
The fog on the Tyne is all mine
The fog on the Tyne is all mine, all mine
The fog on the Tyne is all mine

Tell it to tomorrow, today will take it’s time
To tell you what tonight will bring
Presently we’ll have a pint or two together
Everybody do their thing

We can swing together, we can have a wee wee
We can have a wet on the wall
If someone slips a whisper that its simple sister
Slapped them down and slavered on their smalls

‘Cause the fog on the Tyne is all mine, all mine
The fog on the Tyne is all mine
The fog on the Tyne is all mine, all mine
The fog on the Tyne is all mine

Music from Love Actually, Part 2 – Joni Mitchell and “Both Sides Now”

Well, what I hadn’t realised earlier this year when I decided to have a nostalgic revisitation of the “tracks of my years”, was that when we got to Christmas it would all get a bit emotional. Emotional partly because it has, I think we all agree, been one of those years; emotional because I am reminded of all the people who are no longer with us especially my darling dad who crops up on these pages often; emotional because this is the first year my daughter won’t be with us (I hadn’t considered that at some point we would have to share her with her boyfriend’s parents) and finally; emotional because of all the seasonal music my fellow-bloggers are posting.

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But this is only Tuesday so still time to pull myself together, once I get this effort done and dusted. The eagle-eyed amongst you will have noticed that last time, the title of my post was “Music from Love Actually, Part 1”. This then, is to be Part 2.

Since watching the film Love Actually last week I have since re-watched it (overkill maybe), just to remind myself of how significant a role today’s featured song plays in the storyline. Those of you who know the film well will also know that Emma Thompson‘s character, who is married to Harry (played by Alan Rickman RIP), has inadvertently found a beautiful gold necklace she fully expects to be given as a present for Christmas. Upon opening the square shaped box with expectant glee, she discovers that it is instead a Joni Mitchell CD, a great present as she is a big fan, but in that split second she realises that the gold necklace was for someone else, and she has to quickly extricate herself from the room. An emotional (that word again) scene then takes place where she has to pull herself together before re-emerging to join the family.

Throughout this scene in the bedroom, we hear the plaintive sounds of a more mature Joni Mitchell sing Both Sides Now from the album of the same name, released in the year 2000. Maybe it’s just because I’m a lady of a certain age, but it gets me every time. Like Emma’s character in the film, my life for many years was one of putting family first. I ran the school board, organised fund-raisers, took my daughter (and all the kids whose parents worked full-time) to after-school activities, completed courses with the OU and was chief cook and bottle-washer. If I had a pound for every time someone told me I was lucky that I “didn’t work”, I would be a very rich woman. Anyway my point is that poor Emma found herself in the situation where Harry had, she felt, made a fool of her and the life she had chosen. Fortunately for me Mr WIAA is self-employed, and as I have acted as his (unpaid) secretary for years, if anyone was going to get a gold necklace it was going to be me (but I didn’t, because I perhaps stupidly keep a tight control on the finances)!

Both Sides Now by Joni Mitchell:

But of course most people will know the song Both Sides Now from the 1967 Judy Collins version (there it is again, my favourite year). Joni had written the song earlier that year inspired by a passage from a novel by Saul Bellow. A quote from her goes as follows:

“I was reading Saul Bellow’s “Henderson the Rain King” on a plane and early in the book Henderson the Rain King is also up in a plane. He’s on his way to Africa and he looks down and sees these clouds. I put down the book, looked out the window and saw clouds too, and I immediately started writing the song. I had no idea that the song would become as popular as it did.”

Judy Collins won a Grammy Award for Best Folk Performance in 1969 and it has become one of her signature songs. What I find remarkable is that I wrote very recently about how Judy Collins recorded Leonard Cohen’s song Suzanne in 1966 and that it was she who persuaded the reluctant poet Cohen, to get out on stage to perform his own songs. Here we are again with Judy being the catalyst who perhaps made a couple of Canadian songwriters, international artists of great renown in their own right.

Very few of my real-life friends know about this “place” but one who does told me that she liked it, because it wasn’t one of those depressing blogs – Oh dear, I think I may have just disappointed! Hopefully got it all out of my system now but oh my, listening to the mature Joni Mitchell again, really tugs at the heartstrings.

I have decided that on Christmas Day, as darling daughter will not be with us, we will have a festive lunch and then take food out for the homeless. Mr WIAA is not convinced we will find them, as they will probably already be well catered for, but I have my doubts – Even up here in The Highlands, last weekend we had girls my daughter’s age sleeping in doorways, and in 2016 that just can’t be right.

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Tomorrow is the winter solstice, where the day is the shortest of the year and the night the longest – We are at the cusp of something astronomical, looking at both sides now, one side has been getting darker and one will be getting lighter. Very apt song therefore for this post.

I will return in a cheerier mood before the big day. Merry Christmas!

Both Sides Now Lyrics
(Song by Joni Mitchell)

Rows and flows of angel hair
And ice cream castles in the air
And feather canyons everywhere,
I’ve looked at clouds that way.

But now they only block the sun,
They rain and they snow on everyone
So many things I would have done,
But clouds got in my way.

I’ve looked at clouds from both sides now
From up and down and still somehow
It’s cloud illusions I recall
I really don’t know clouds at all

Moons and Junes and Ferris wheels,
The dizzy dancing way that you feel
As every fairy tale comes real,
I’ve looked at love that way.

But now it’s just another show,
You leave ’em laughing when you go
And if you care, don’t let them know,
Don’t give yourself away.

I’ve looked at love from both sides now
From give and take and still somehow
It’s love’s illusions I recall
I really don’t know love at all

Tears and fears and feeling proud,
To say “I love you” right out loud
Dreams and schemes and circus crowds,
I’ve looked at life that way.

Oh but now old friends they’re acting strange,
They shake their heads, they say I’ve changed
Well something’s lost, but something’s gained
In living every day.

I’ve looked at life from both sides now
From win and lose and still somehow
It’s life’s illusions I recall
I really don’t know life at all

I’ve looked at life from both sides now
From up and down, and still somehow
It’s life’s illusions I recall
I really don’t know life at all

It’s life’s illusions I recall
I really don’t know life
I really don’t know life at all

Gale Garnett, The Summer of Love and “We’ll Sing In The Sunshine”

A strange week where I am having a few days off work in order to do all sorts of practical housey-type chores but instead have done everything but. When you are a student and have exams you will do all manner of things rather that buckle down to studying (even flat-cleaning) and now at my age, rather than clear out the loft, do a spot of emulsioning and rake up some leaves, I keep being drawn back to WordPress, Blogspot, my Gmail account, YouTube and Wiki. It is a disaster of the highest order but all too easy to let happen it seems!

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So, what have I been thinking about this week musically? By chance, a really lovely song has come into my life and although not really an earworm (which I have discovered is a calque from the German ohrwurm) I have played it so often now that it is starting to reach the point of over-familiarity – Will have to stop now.

We’ll Sing in the Sunshine was a song both written and recorded by Gale Garnett in 1964 and was a big hit in the US that year. It also won the Grammy Award for “Best Traditional Folk Recording” in 1965 but for some reason it had never been on my radar before, despite having been recorded by just about everyone – Dean Martin, the Fleetwoods, Bobby Bare, Skeeter Davis, Sonny & Cher, Wanda Jackson, Susan Maughan and Dolly Parton. This week I have become both smitten, and troubled by it.

We’ll Sing in The Sunshine – Gale Garnett:

First of all this song has a beautiful harmonica intro which gives it a sweet folksy vibe and then there is also the great hook which has been lodged in my brain all week. That is the smitten part. When I listen to the lyrics properly however I just get really sad:

We’ll sing in the sunshine
We’ll laugh every da-a-y
We’ll sing in the sunshine
Then I’ll be on my way

How awful to have this wonderful year of laughing and singing and sunshine, only to walk away. It is hard enough in life to get one soupçon of that feeling, so why on earth would you then want to walk away? This is where I become troubled – When Gale wrote this song was it just a bit of silly lyric writing that didn’t really make any sense (from the Mike Batt/Katie Melua school of song-writing) or is she making a big philosophical statement about life? Did she just have commitment issues or was she talking about how rubbish it is to have this wonderful life but then get old and die? Not sure, but makes me sad – A touch of the old “mortality reality check” which has been happening a lot this year because of the sheer number of departures from the world of music.

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I have written before about how I keep coming back to the music of the mid to late ’60s in this blog for all sorts of reasons, but possibly one is that I was simply born about a decade too late. Spiritually I think I would have been a flower child. Although this song was from 1964, the video clip above has been put together by someone who obviously associated the lyrics with the hippy movement and perhaps 1967’s Summer of Love, before it all started going a bit wrong.

Gale Garnett herself was actually born in Auckland, New Zealand, and moved to Canada with her family when she was 11. She made her public singing debut in 1960, but managed to have a parallel career in acting making many appearances on television shows and films. By the late ’60s she too had begun to be more influenced by the counter-culture and recorded several albums of psychedelic-inflected music with The Gentle Reign.

So, “What’s It All About?” – As Alfie discovered, at the end of the day it’s all about love, and if you do find someone you want to sing with in the sunshine, walk with in the sunshine, laugh with in the sunshine, ignore Ms Garnett’s silly lyrics and please, please don’t walk away. Maybe it’s just because I’m an old romantic (who doesn’t have commitment issues) but I think you are possibly one of the lucky ones!

We’ll Sing In The Sunshine Lyrics
(Song by Gale Garnett)

We’ll sing in the sunshine
We’ll laugh every da-a-y
We’ll sing in the sunshine
Then I’ll be on my way

I will never love you
The cost of love’s too dear
But though I’ll never love you
I’ll stay with you one year

And we can sing in the sunshine
We’ll laugh every da-a-y
We’ll sing in the sunshine
Then I’ll be on my way

I’ll sing to you each mornin’
I’ll kiss you every night
But darlin’, don’t cling to me
I’ll soon be out of sight

But we can sing in the sunshine
We’ll laugh every da-a-y
We’ll sing in the sunshine
Then I’ll be on my way

My daddy he once told me
“Hey, don’t you love you any man”
“Just take what they may give you”
“And give but what you can”

“And you can sing in the sunshine”
“You’ll laugh every da-a-y”
“You’ll sing in the sunshine”
“Then be on your way”

And when our year has ended
And I have gone away
You’ll often speak about me
And this is what you’ll say

“We sang in the sunshine
“You know, we laughed every da-a-y”
“We sang in the sunshine”
“Then she went away”

St Patrick’s Day, Shane MacGowan and “The Irish Rover”

A short post today but couldn’t ignore the fact that it’s St Patrick’s Day.

What better song to write about then, than The Irish Rover sung by The Pogues and the Dubliners. I wrote earlier this week about Runrig who are a Celtic rock band, but The Pogues, led by the inimitable Shane MacGowan, were very much a Celtic punk band. From their first outing on television, Shane was not a man you could easily forget. His teeth were the worst in show business and he always appeared to be drunk when performing on stage. I doubt very much if this was possible (he always remembered the lyrics) and it was originally, probably, part of his punk image – Since those days however, he has suffered from the problems that arise from years of drug-use and binge-drinking, and it is an absolute revelation that he is still with us when so many others of his generation are not. The toothlessness is no longer with us however – As of last year, he became the proud recipient of 28 new dental implants, one in gold, so at age 57 Shane is now looking better than he has in decades!

But back to today’s song – It was in the UK charts in March 1987 just around the time I was preparing to leave my home city and move to the Highlands. A farewell party was planned and I bought this record and Living In A Box which were my two favourites at the time (odd mix I know). I can’t remember much about Living In A Box now and whether we danced to it or not, but I absolutely remember dancing to The Irish Rover as it lends itself well to the kind of ceilidh dancing we are fond of in Scotland. It was a night to remember!

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And as for Shane, he may have looked less than perfect, but later that year he penned the most perfect Christmas song, so there is the balance that I talked about last time. In December 1987, Fairytale of New York performed with Kirsty MacColl, reached No. 2 in the UK Singles Chart and in 2012 was voted Britain’s Favourite Christmas Song ever – Thoroughly agree with that verdict and look forward to sharing it with you later in the year.

Happy St Patrick’s Day.

The Irish Rover Lyrics
(Song by Unknown – Traditional)

On the fourth of July eighteen hundred and six
We set sail from the sweet cove of Cork
We were sailing away with a cargo of bricks
For the grand city hall in New York
‘Twas a wonderful craft, she was rigged fore-and-aft
And oh, how the wild winds drove her.
She’d got several blasts, she’d twenty-seven masts
And we called her the Irish Rover.

We had one million bales of the best Sligo rags
We had two million barrels of stones
We had three million sides of old blind horses hides,
We had four million barrels of bones.
We had five million hogs, we had six million dogs,
Seven million barrels of porter.
We had eight million bails of old nanny goats’ tails,
In the hold of the Irish Rover.

There was awl Mickey Coote who played hard on his flute
When the ladies lined up for his set
He was tootin’ with skill for each sparkling quadrille
Though the dancers were fluther’d and bet
With his sparse witty talk he was cock of the walk
As he rolled the dames under and over
They all knew at a glance when he took up his stance
And he sailed in the Irish Rover

There was Barney McGee from the banks of the Lee,
There was Hogan from County Tyrone
There was Jimmy McGurk who was scarred stiff of work
And a man from Westmeath called Malone
There was Slugger O’Toole who was drunk as a rule
And fighting Bill Tracey from Dover
And your man Mick McCann from the banks of the Bann
Was the skipper of the Irish Rover

We had sailed seven years when the measles broke out
And the ship lost it’s way in a fog.
And that whale of the crew was reduced down to two,
Just meself and the captain’s old dog.
Then the ship struck a rock, oh Lord what a shock
The bulkhead was turned right over
Turned nine times around, and the poor dog was drowned
I’m the last of the Irish Rover

Celtic Rock, Runrig and “Loch Lomond”

Last time I wrote about George Martin and of his legacy in assisting The Beatles and all those other great Liverpudlian bands and artists achieve great things in the 1960s.  Before that however, the thread I had been following was concerned with artists who are very much identified with their “place” in the world.

Anyone who has read my posts will have worked out by now that I come from the North of Scotland and although my childhood was rural, I have since lived in both of the big(ish) cities up here. You would have thought that the tracks of my years might have been very different to those of someone who has lived all their life in, say, Norfolk or Manchester but no, we pretty much all listen to the same radio stations, watch the same television shows/films and now have access to everything that the world wide web can throw at us.

It was not until I arrived in the Highlands however that I really started to appreciate some of the great Celtic rock bands that hail from this neck of the woods. In 1987, the band always guaranteed to sell out any concert was Runrig, orginally from the Isle of Skye. Their lead singer Donnie Munro had taught my husband art at school in the ’70s, but by the late ’80s he was very much a full-time musician. When he’d told the class he was involved with a band, and that they played a kind of Gaelic/Celtic rock, the class were highly sceptical (this was the decade of glam rock, punk and disco after all) but he certainly proved them all wrong. In the period 1987-1997 they were signed to Chrysalis and released five very successful studio albums. I remember buying “The Cutter And The Clan” in 1987 not long after arriving in the Highlands and I saw them perform three times in a short space of time at various venues, including a large marquee during a memorable homecoming trip to Skye.

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I really don’t know how familiar they would have been to audiences in the rest of the country but they did enter the charts several times during that period so did achieve mainstream success despite the fact they were very much of their “place”, the Gaelic-speaking Isle of Skye.

In 1991, they released an EP which of course I bought, along with the rest of the population of the Highlands. The main song on the EP was Hearthammer but on the B-side was Loch Lomond (really gets going after 3:00), a traditional song given the full-blown Celtic rock treatment.

Although Loch Lomond itself is north of Glasgow and not really closely connected to Runrig’s place in the world, it is a rousing song and I am sure it must go down really well in Canada, New Zealand, the US, Australia and all the other places with a large Scottish diaspora. Suffice to say, if you are at an event in Scotland, it is a definite crowd-pleaser and is often the last song to be played at the end of the night. Lends itself well to the forming a circle and letting the mayhem commence.

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The band has changed its lineup many times since forming in 1973 but the two songwriters Rory Macdonald and Calum Macdonald have been there right since the beginning. Donnie Munro left in 1997 to pursue a career in politics but was replaced by Bruce Guthro, a Canadian from Nova Scotia, who seems to have been just the right fit.

I visited Skye last summer and met up with a native who has been a friend for years. She took us to one of the many fine-dining restaurants on Skye (two have Michelin stars) and pointed out that if we looked closely when the door to the kitchen swung open, we would see Donnie Munro loading the dishwasher! Turns out his son is now a successful chef and his dad is only too happy to help out behind the scenes, even supplying the tablet that we thoroughly enjoyed with our coffee. How things change over the years…..

Loch Lomond Lyrics
(Song by Unknown – Traditional)

By yon bonnie banks and by yon bonnie braes,
Where the sun shines on Loch Lomond.
Where me and my true love spent many days
On the banks of Loch Lomond.

Too sad we parted in yon shady glen,
On the steep sides of Ben Lomond.
Where the broken heart knows no second spring,
Resigned we must be while we’re parting.

You’ll take the high road and I’ll take the low road,
And I’ll be in Scotland before you.
Where me and my true love will never meet again,
On the bonnie, bonnie banks of Loch Lomond.

Ho, ho mo leannan
Ho mo leannan bhoidheach

You’ll take the high road and I’ll take the low road,
And I’ll be in Scotland before you.
Where me and my true love will never meet again,
On the bonnie, bonnie banks of Loch Lomond.