Nights Out On The Town, Van Morrison and “Moondance”

Since discovering that all full moons have a name (given to them by the Native Americans who kept track of the months by the lunar calendar), I have written about each one as they appear in our skies. To accompany the post I always include one of the numerous songs that have been written about the moon and its many foibles.

Well, it comes round quickly doesn’t it, and I don’t know about you but up here in Scotland I’ve not actually seen any kind of moon for some time, as once the heatwave of 2018 broke here in Scotland, there’s been cloudy night skies ever since. Yesterday evening however I dragged Mr WIAA out on the town, as amazingly the sun had come out and it being the last Saturday night of the summer I felt the need to…, not so much celebrate, but have a last hurrah before it all starts getting a bit autumnal around here.

The town was heaving with tourists who seem to show no sign of going anywhere for a while yet – Great for the local economy, but not maybe so great for the likes of us, who had spontaneously decided to eat out without booking something in advance. After having a bit of a trawl of our favourite eateries it became apparent it would have to be a bar meal, in one of DD’s favourite haunts in fact, but by then we were so hungry we were in no position to be picky and very nice it was too. So, lots of “people watching” ensued (one of my favourite pastimes) and listening to loud music, but also a large glass of wine for me as for once I wasn’t the designated driver.

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With all the sunshine earlier on in the evening I felt sure I would see the moon on the way home, but sadly the clouds had yet again decided to form a blanket across our skies so it wasn’t to be – By this time you see, I was in the mood for a moon dance, and had that taken place I would have probably written this post last night, a tad under the influence. Although tipsy blogging has worked well for me in the past, there is always a risk that something might go horribly wrong and as we all know to our cost, once that publish button is pressed the words are out there for the world to see (or in my case the people who kindly follow this blog or casually stumble upon it) so probably best that I waited.

By now you must have guessed that this month’s moon-related song is going to be Van Morrison’s Moondance. The August full moon should appear in our skies tonight, Sunday the 26th, but looking through the windowpane right now, I’m pretty sure I won’t be seeing this one as it’s expected to rain all day. No matter, I can cheer myself up by watching a clip of Van the Man performing the song in his usual jolly, upbeat fashion – Oh no, that’s right, Van doesn’t do jolly and upbeat so instead it’ll be a bit of an interesting clip that reminds me of the journey home last night (although my one had a lot less traffic).

Moondance by Van Morrison:

This song is the one most frequently performed by Van in concert and although not released as a single until 1977, it was first recorded in 1970 for the album of the same name. He apparently wrote Moondance first of all as a jazz saxophone instrumental and then added the lyrics later. As we all know he is highly reticent to talk about his music, feeling the songs should speak for themselves (the darling of the talk shows he is not), but I’m pretty sure many of us would have Moondance somewhere in our personal Top 100.

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When it comes to Van, I feel he is like one of those friends we all have, the one who is always late or lets us down in some way but whom we continually excuse because they are just such great company when we do get to spend time with them. He may be a bit grumpy on stage, and it’s a bit of a hit or a miss whether his live show will be a triumph or a bit of a disappointment, but we all forgive him because his canon of work is just so sublime.

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But something is missing here isn’t it? I haven’t yet given this August full moon a name. It’s apparently called the Sturgeon Moon, as for the Native Americans that was when they were most likely to catch the giant sturgeon that populate the Great Lakes and Lake Champlain. I’ve known this particular moon was coming up for some time but however hard I try, I just can’t think fish, fish, fish…. No, being a Scot I just think of our First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon and here’s a great clip of Gary: Tank Commander (played by the wonderful Greg McHugh), interviewing the lady herself ahead of the last Scottish Parliament election. Probably hard to understand if you live outwith Scotland, but in my opinion, very funny.

Only two more moons to go in this series before I’ve covered all 12 months but because of the 29 and a half day cycle between full moons, and a few foibles unique to this year, there are a couple that have been missed. As it seems there is a never ending supply of songs with the word moon in their lyrics, this could be one series that just keeps on going. I can never quite get my head round the whole concept of what is beyond the moon, the solar system and the galaxy of stars we find ourselves part of – Infinity it’s called, so maybe this could become the infinite moon series. Let’s see.

Until next time….

Moondance Lyrics
(Song by Van Morrison)

Well it’s a marvellous night for a moondance
With the stars up above in your eyes
A fantabulous night to make romance
‘Neath the cover of October skies
And all the leaves on the trees are falling
To the sound of the breezes that blow
And I’m trying to please to the calling
Of your heart-strings that play soft and low
You know the night’s magic
Seems to whisper and hush
And all the soft moonlight
Seems to shine in your blush…

Can I just have one a’ more moondance with you, my love?
Can I just make some more romance with a’ you, my love?

Well I wanna make love to you tonight
I can’t wait till the morning has come
And I know now the time is just right
And straight into my arms you will run
And when you come my heart will be waiting
To make sure that you’re never alone
There and then all my dreams will come true dear
There and then I will make you my own
And every time I touch you, you just tremble inside
And I know how much you want me that, you can’t hide…

Can I just have one more moondance with you, my love?
Can I just make some more romance with you, my love?

Well it’s a marvellous night for a moondance
With the stars up above in your eyes
A fantabulous night to make romance
‘Neath the cover of October skies
And all the leaves on the trees are falling
To the sound of the breezes that blow
And I’m trying to please to the calling
Of your heart-strings that play soft and low
You know the night’s magic
Seems to whisper and hush
And all the soft moonlight
Seems to shine in your blush…

One more moondance with you
In the moonlight
On a magic night
la, la, la, la, there’s a moonlight
On a magic night
Can’t I just have one more dance
With you my love?

Lunar Eclipses, Mike Oldfield and “Moonlight Shadow”

Since discovering that all full moons have a name (given to them by the Native Americans who kept track of the months by the lunar calendar), I have written about each one as they appear in our skies. To accompany the post I always include one of the numerous songs that have been written about the moon and its many foibles.

Well, this is a first for me, I’m writing a blog post whilst actually on holiday (more of that next week) but as a full moon is due to appear in our skies on Friday it can’t really wait until I get home. This month it’s called the Buck Moon, because it’s the time of year we all run around our gardens buck naked! No…., only joking…., although probably warm enough if you feel so inclined but it got that name because it’s when a buck’s antlers are in full “growth mode”. As someone who lives next to a forest full of deer who come down into our gardens at night and occasionally eat all the plants, I should be an expert, but here’s the thing – In the 20 years we’ve lived beside the forest I’ve never seen one, just the little hoof prints left as evidence in the flower beds the next morning. One of these days however I will be lucky enough to catch one in the act which really would be quite something, and well worth the sacrifice of a few plants.

Another reason for the early alert is because this next full moon will also be a blood moon. Yes, for the second time this year there is going to be a lunar eclipse and in certain parts of the world the moon will turn a red-orange colour for a full 1 hour 43 minutes (I am reliably informed). Yet again however, we here in the UK are unlikely to see it in totality, but if you look south-easterly from around 8.45pm (a bit later if like me you live in Scotland), there should be a definite reddish tinge to the moon.

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Mike Oldfield

But this is a music blog so which song should accompany this particular moon-related post? Last time we had a lunar eclipse I chose Moonshadow by Cat Stevens but as was pointed out at the time I could also have used Moonlight Shadow by Mike (Tubular Bells) Oldfield. I have always liked this 1983 song, not least because it gallops along at a fair old rate, rising and falling in exactly the places you expect it to, the vocals excellently performed by Maggie Reilly who frequently collaborated with Mike. The subject matter is not a happy one however, the song being about a woman whose lover is violently killed in the middle of the night. There was speculation at the time that Mike was referring to the shooting of John Lennon in the lyrics but he said no, although he had been in the vicinity at the time so it may well have entered his subconscious.

Moonlight Shadow by Mike Oldfield featuring Maggie Reilly:

All this talk of moonlight, shadows and deer however has reminded me of something. Like most parents, I read to DD every night at bedtime for many, many years and needless to say we had our favourite books. I suppose it makes sense, but quite a few of our favourites were set during the night-time. There was Owl Babies by Martin Waddell and Shadow the Deer by Theresa Radcliffe and John Butler. I can’t quite remember now if Shadow did indeed visit suburban gardens and eat all their plants (probably not), but I do remember that the illustrations were beautiful, full of forest locations basking in the moonlight.

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I am hopeful we in the UK will catch a glimpse of the lunar eclipse on Friday, the proviso always being that there is no cloud cover. And, as it is the buck moon, a bit of running around buck naked wouldn’t go amiss either, although if we did partake there might well be a few bemused deer looking on, from the safety of their forest high up on the hill!

Only three more moons in this series to go before we will have covered all twelve named by the Native Americans, eons ago. I’m pretty sure I know which “moon songs” I still want to include but if you have any favourites not yet mentioned, please let me know as I feel sure there will have to be a “mopping-up” post done right at the end. You know where the comments boxes are.

Until next time, enjoy that lunar eclipse.

Moonlight Shadow Lyrics
(Song by Mike Oldfield)

The last time ever she saw him
Carried away by a moonlight shadow
He passed on worried and warning
Carried away by a moonlight shadow.
Lost in a riddle that Saturday night
Far away on the other side.
He was caught in the middle of a desperate fight
And she couldn’t find how to push through

The trees that whisper in the evening
Carried away by a moonlight shadow
Sing a song of sorrow and grieving
Carried away by a moonlight shadow
All she saw was a silhouette of a gun
Far away on the other side.
He was shot six times by a man on the run
And she couldn’t find how to push through

I stay, I pray
See you in Heaven far away…
I stay, I pray
See you in Heaven one day.

Four A.M. in the morning
Carried away by a moonlight shadow
I watched your vision forming
Carried away by a moonlight shadow
A star was glowing in the silvery night
Far away on the other side
Will you come to talk to me this night
But she couldn’t find how to push through

I stay, I pray
See you in Heaven far away…
I stay, I pray
See you in Heaven one day.

Far away on the other side.
Caught in the middle of a hundred and five
The night was heavy and the air was alive
But she couldn’t find how to push through
Carried away by a moonlight shadow
Carried away by a moonlight shadow
Far away on the other side.

Postscript:

Well that was a bit of a damp squib wasn’t it. After weeks of sunshine and clear skies, here in the UK there was almost total cloud cover and a fair few thunderstorms on Friday night, so few, if any of us, got to see the lunar eclipse. Thankfully there were plenty of people out with their camera equipment taking shots of the moon globally, so at least we get a chance to see what it would have looked like if the rain gods hadn’t frowned upon us.

Around the world in pictures, courtesy of The Guardian.

Ironically the alternative name for this July full moon is the Thunder Moon as it tends to be the time of the year when thunderstorms are frequent. Didn’t let us down did it?

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Glenn Miller, Carly Simon and “Moonlight Serenade”

Since discovering that all full moons have a name (given to them by the Native Americans who kept track of the months by the lunar calendar), I have written about each one as they appear in our skies. To accompany the post I always include one of the numerous songs that have been written about the moon and its many foibles.

Well I don’t know about you, but it seems ages since I’ve seen a bright moon, as it doesn’t get dark up here in the North of Scotland until way after my bedtime at this time of year. By hook or by crook however I intend to catch the one that should grace our skies later on this week, on Thursday night. This full moon is called the Strawberry Moon, because for the Algonquin tribes of North America, June was the month the wild berries started to ripen and could be harvested.

Different for us nowadays when we can buy soft fruit all year round, but as a child I lived in a house with a massive garden (tended by my dad and I) and in one corner was a large strawberry patch, which meant “pudding” for around two months of the summer was berries and ice-cream. It all got a bit boring, and no longer a treat at all, although once we acquired our new refrigerator complete with tiny ice-making compartment, at least we could keep a small supply of Walls vanilla in block form, which saved me being sent to the shop every evening just ahead of “tea-time”. (We were definitely tea rather than dinner people).

But I digress, this “moon song” was always going to feature at some point in this series and as reference is made to the month of June in the lyrics, this would seem to be the time. It’s soppy and sentimental but harks back to simpler times when boys stood at the gate waiting for their date to appear, and looked forward to “the touch of their hand in the June night”. Moonlight Serenade is a song that could only have been written by someone living in the northern hemisphere, as being outdoors at night, hanging around garden gates feeling all romantic, has never been an attractive proposition during the cold winter months. The music of course was written by big band leader Glenn Miller with the lyrics coming later from Mitchell Parish, but here we have it being performed by Ms Carly Simon – A beautiful version for this romantic summer month, taken from her 2005 album of the same name,

Moonlight Serenade by The Glenn Miller Orchestra:

The reason I am so fond of the Glenn Miller “sound”, is that back in the days when my dad and I were busy tending that large garden with strawberry patches, he and I were also very fond of watching old movies on telly, and if they were musicals, even better. One that we both absolutely loved was The Glenn Miller Story starring Jimmy Stewart and June Allyson. In fact in my head Jimmy Stewart is Glenn Miller because hard sometimes to disassociate the person playing them on the big screen from the real life person whom you’ve seen images of very rarely. I don’t think I’d be giving the game away by saying the film has an incredibly tragic and sad ending (after which I had to retreat to the pre-fridge, sound-proofed “pantry”, to stifle my sobbing), but ahead of that, throughout the hour and fifty minutes of musical action, we are treated to some mighty fine tunes of the swing persuasion: Moonlight Serenade, Tuxedo Junction, Little Brown Jug, In the Mood, A String of Pearls and Pennsylvania 6-5000.

Much of the film was of course a love story which revolved around the courtship between Glenn and his wife-to-be Helen Burger. The song Moonlight Serenade (amongst many others) was written for her, so very apt that the actress who played Helen was called June, as their courtship did seem to play out at garden gates on June nights. Glenn worked hard at finding that unique “sound” he was always looking for, and when he did, he became the world’s best-selling recording artist. In the four years between 1939 and 1943 he scored 23 No. 1 hits – More than Elvis Presley and the Beatles achieved in their respective careers. Sadly, whilst travelling to entertain U.S. troops in France during World War II, his aircraft disappeared in bad weather over the English Channel. Various theories have been put forward as to what happened that night but in the end it was pronounced a death in absentia. Glenn was aged only 40.

So there I was, a pre-teen buying swing albums, which looking back does seem a bit odd, but yet again I think I was ahead of the curve. In 1976 who should appear on the front cover of my monthly copy of Words magazine but The Glenn Miller Orchestra. As well as getting very hot and bothered by the weather, it seems the UK was also experiencing a bit of a nostalgia-fest that year, and Glenn’s music fitted the bill perfectly. A single was released containing a Moonlight Serenade, Little Brown Jug & In The Mood medleyand it reached No. 13 in the UK Singles Chart Suddenly it wasn’t uncool to like this stuff (well maybe just a little bit).

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Glenn, back in the “hit parade” alongside Abba, 32 years after his death

So, “What’s It All About?” – This post seems to have been all about looking back. I’ve enjoyed reminiscing about times spent with my dad, and realise he was probably my best friend until I reached the age of nine. He died 15 years ago but I still miss him every day – I don’t know what he would think of all this blogging malarkey but I suspect he would be quite proud of what I’ve achieved, as that’s just the kind of man he was.

As for the music of Glenn Miller, just like Carly Simon, every now and again an artist records an album of standards and there is a high likelihood that something by Glenn will be in there. Timeless tunes, which I was going to say come from simpler times, but in view of how he died, not simple at all. Different times. At the moment my favourite Glenn Miller tune is this one, I’ve Got a Gal in Kalamazoo – As a great lover of both alphabetisation and unusual sounding place-names, this one really hits the spot. The two dancers here are The Nicholas Brothers who back in the 1930s and ’40s were virtuosos of tap-dancing. I urge you to watch to the end as some incredibly acrobatic stuff here called flash dancing (with of course The Glenn Miller Orchestra playing in the background). Oh, and also remember to look out for that full Strawberry Moon on Thursday night.

Until next time….

Moonlight Serenade Lyrics
(Song by Glenn Miller/Mitchell Parish)

I stand at your gate
and the song that I sing is of moonlight
I stand and I wait
for the touch of your hand in the June night
The roses are sighing a moonlight serenade

The stars are aglow
And tonight how their light sets me dreaming
My love, do you know
That your eyes are like stars brightly beaming?
I bring you, and I sing you a moonlight serenade

Let us stray ’til break of day
In love’s valley of dreams
Just you and I, a summer sky,
A heavenly breeze, kissin’ the trees

So don’t let me wait
Come to me tenderly in the June night
I stand at your gate
And I sing you a song in the moonlight
A love song, my darling, a moonlight serenades

Postscript:

Well it wouldn’t be a “moon post” without a contribution from my friend the amateur photographer. This time however it’s not a picture taken of the last full moon but a picture taken on the night of the Summer Solstice – A waxing gibbous moon back then, a full week shy of this next full moon. Incredible image as ever.

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The Summer Solstice moon: Picture courtesy of R.J.

Conspiracy Theories, R.E.M. and “Man on the Moon”

Since discovering that all full moons have a name (given to them by the Native Americans who kept track of the months by the lunar calendar), I have written about each one as they appear in our skies. To accompany the post I always include one of the numerous songs that have been written about the moon and its many foibles.

This month’s full moon appears in our skies on the 29th May. Spring has well and truly sprung by the time May arrives, and flowers and colourful blooms should be dotting the landscape. Very appropriately then, this moon is called the Flower Moon but it’s also sometimes known as the Corn Planting Moon, or Bright Moon because it tends to be one of the brightest. Looking out at my garden right now there aren’t that many flowers in bloom at all yet, as I’ve just taken out the spring bulbs but haven’t yet potted up anything new, as a real risk of frost here in the North of Scotland until the month of June. Probably won’t be one of the brightest moons for me either, as I don’t know about where you live, but sometimes it’s still light now when I go to bed – Will make a special effort however and stay up late on Tuesday to witness it.

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But onto the song choice – This post’s moon-related song was always going to pop up at some point in this series, and having already discovered so much interesting stuff about the moon…..

  • The lunar cycle is 29.5 days and all full moons have a name
  • When the moon is at perigee (that point closest to the earth) it is called a Supermoon
  • A second full moon in the same calendar month is called a Blue Moon
  • A lunar eclipse is called a Blood Moon
  • When waxing, the moon is lit from the right, when waning from the left
  • The opposite of a crescent moon is a gibbous moon, one that is bigger than a half-moon but less than a full moon

….. it’s now time to find out a few more interesting snippets.

As children, we have probably all looked up at the moon and seen a face. That would be because the giant dry seas and craters kind of map out eyes, a nose and a mouth. This only works if you are in the Northern Hemisphere however as in the Southern Hemisphere the features would be upside down. And, these features only appear on the side of the moon facing us as on the other side, the dark side, the surface is merely textured, with no discernible shading at all.

But all that is about the Man In The Moon, or how we perceive him anyway. This post’s featured song is about the first Man On The Moon, or rather the idea that we might have been duped into thinking it actually happened, when in fact there are those out there who would dispute that fact. It all boils down to that pesky flag – After watching a particularly convincing documentary about the moon-landing conspiracy theory, I even started to doubt it all myself. But no, the computer power that could now fire up a pocket calculator (if they still exist) was all that was actually needed to get those first men on the moon, and as for the flag appearing to blow in the wind (?!), it’s actually a much more boring story. An upside down L-shaped frame was made for it and after being crumpled up in the lunar module for some time, it took on the appearance of a flag being wafted about by all those supposedly non-existent winds. It’s still up there, along with another five left by visiting astronauts, although one has apparently now fallen over after having been hit by the lunar module upon its departure.

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Neil Armstrong: First Man on the Moon – Or was he?

Back in 1992, the band R.E.M. released a song called Man on the Moon, the second single from their 1992 album “Automatic for the People”. The lyrics were written by lead singer Michael Stipe as a tribute to the comedian and performer Andy Kaufman. We’re probably not that familiar with Andy Kaufman in the UK but it seems he was quite the showman, appearing on Saturday Night Live in a variety of guises. In the song numerous references are made to his career including his Elvis impersonation, wrestling, and the film My Breakfast with Blassie. Because there were always rumours that Kaufman’s death in 1984 was faked, Michael used the moon landing conspiracy theories as an oblique reference to that allusion in the chorus.

Man on the Moon by R.E.M.:

As anyone who visits here regularly knows, I’m usually quite late to the party, and it wasn’t really until “Automatic for the People” that I started to properly appreciate R.E.M. – I’ve mentioned this before, but in 1993 we went on holiday to a far flung place where we very naughtily acquired many, many cassette tapes of the not entirely legitimate nature. This album was one of them, and once back at home it got a serious amount of listening time, as it also included the singles Everybody Hurts, Nightswimming, Drive, The Sidewinder Sleeps Tonight and Find The River.

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Having just done a little research, it seems the band are all around my age and since the album apparently dealt with themes of loss and mourning inspired by “that sense of …. turning thirty”, it obviously resonated with me at the time. We are all almost twice that age now so quite mind-boggling that a 30th birthday could have been such a big deal at the time – A lot of water under the bridge since those days, but more appropriately for this post a lot of full moons, 334 to be precise. So, remember to look out for the one on Tuesday night and cross fingers there will be many, many more, for all of us.

Until next time….

Man on the Moon Lyrics
(Song by Bill Berry/Peter Buck/Mike Mills/Michael Stipe)

Mott the Hoople and the game of Life yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah
Andy Kaufman in the wrestling match yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah
Monopoly, Twenty one, checkers, and chess yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah
Mister Fred Blassie in a breakfast mess yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah
Let’s play Twister, let’s play Risk yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah
I’ll see you in heaven if you make the list yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah

Now, Andy did you hear about this one?
Tell me, are you locked in the punch?
Andy are you goofing on Elvis? Hey, baby
Are we losing touch?

If you believed they put a man on the moon
Man on the moon
If you believe there’s nothing up his sleeve
Then nothing is cool

Moses went walking with the staff of wood yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah
Newton got beaned by the apple good yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah
Egypt was troubled by the horrible asp yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah
Mister Charles Darwin had the gall to ask yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah

Now, Andy did you hear about this one?
Tell me, are you locked in the punch?
Andy are you goofing on Elvis? Hey, baby
Are you having fun?

If you believed they put a man on the moon
Man on the moon
If you believe there’s nothing up his sleeve
Then nothing is cool

Here’s a little agit for the never-believer yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah
Here’s a little ghost for the offering yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah
Here’s a truck stop instead of Saint Peter’s yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah
Mister Andy Kaufman’s gone wrestling yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah

Now, Andy did you hear about this one?
Tell me, are you locked in the punch?
Andy are you goofing on Elvis? Hey, baby
Are we losing touch?

If you believed they put a man on the moon
Man on the moon
If you believe there’s nothing up his sleeve
Then nothing is cool

Postscript:

It’s become a feature of these posts for me to tag onto the bottom a picture of the previous month’s moon, courtesy of my photographer friend (he is purely a hobbyist but I do love his pictures). This one just goes to show that some of the most impressive moon shots are sometimes those where the moon is actually obscured by cloud. And when a viaduct is involved as well, it just gets better and better….

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Picture courtesy of R.J.

Nick Drake, “Pink Moon” and Pink Floyd

Since discovering that all full moons have a name (given to them by the Native Americans who kept track of the months by the lunar calendar), I have written about each one as they appear in our skies. To accompany the post I always include one of the numerous songs that have been written about the moon and its many foibles.

It passes in a flash doesn’t it? Ever since following the full moon cycle for this blog, the lunar months seem to have rocketed by. This calendar month, on the 30th April, we are to have a Pink Moon appear in our skies. This time the name comes from one of the spring flowers the ancient Native Americans would have seen covering the ground around April’s full moon – The pink Moss Phlox.

Well I can’t say I have such a flower in my garden, but I can share a picture of what my cherry blossom tree should look like at this time of the year. Sadly, because of that really cold snap back at the beginning of March, it seems that Mother Nature’s work has been delayed, but here is what the blossom looked like at this time last year. Very pink, to coincide with the Pink Moon.

177 4th May Cherry blossom

When I started choosing songs for this series, I couldn’t help but notice there was a song called Pink Moon written and recorded by a man who seems to have become a bit of a cult figure in music circles. Nick Drake only made three albums, and died at the ridiculously young age of 26, but over the last couple of decades has sold hundreds of thousands of albums. Many of these sales came about as a result of the song Pink Moon being used for a car advert which sparked a resurgence of interest. Time to see what caused all the furore then, and for once we seem to have an example of an ad where the inclusion of music was well executed and aesthetically successful.

Pink Moon by Nick Drake:

It’s an incredibly short song, only one verse and a chorus, on repeat, but the spare delivery and acoustic guitar accompaniment just seemed to work. Drake was a troubled soul however and suffered from major depression, often reflected in his lyrics. After completing his 1972 “Pink Moon” album, he withdrew from both live performance and recording, retreating to his parents’ home in rural Warwickshire. On 25 November 1974, he died from an overdose of a prescribed antidepressant. His cause of death was determined to be suicide.

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Nick Drake

Drake’s music remained available through the mid-1970s, but the 1979 release of the retrospective album “Fruit Tree” allowed his back catalogue to be reassessed. By the mid-1980s Drake was being credited as an influence by such artists as Robert Smith and David Sylvian. In 1985, The Dream Academy reached the UK and US charts with Life in a Northern Town, a song written for and dedicated to Drake. By the early 1990s, he had come to represent a certain type of “doomed romantic” musician in the UK music press.

Interestingly, Life in a Northern Town was produced by Dave Gilmour of Pink Floyd. Although never a big fan of Pink Floyd (I was just a tad to young for them I think), I knew that at some point in this series I should include something from their album “Dark Side of the Moon”. I think this post, what with all the pink-ness, should be the one. I will leave you with The Great Gig in the Sky, the fifth track on the album. I was pretty much blown away by Pink Floyd when I watched them at Live 8 in 2005 (the first time they had performed together for 24 years), and subsequently took to listening to Mr WIAA’s collection of Floyd tracks. Whenever I heard Clare Torry’s “wail”, used in effect as a musical instrument on Great Gig, I got goose bumps.

The Great Gig in the Sky by Pink Floyd:

Until next time….

Pink Moon Lyrics
(Song by
Nick Drake)

I saw it written and I saw it say
Pink moon is on it’s way
And none of you stand so tall
Pink moon gonna get you all

It’s a pink moon
Hey, it’s a pink moon
It’s a pink, pink, pink, pink, pink moon.
It’s a pink, pink, pink, pink, pink moon.

I saw it written and I saw it say
Pink moon is on it’s way
And none of you stand so tall
Pink moon gonna get you all

It’s a pink moon
Yeah, it’s a pink moon

Postscript:

I was a tad early in posting this full moon alert, so just in case you missed it, here is a picture of Monday night’s Pink Moon taken by my photographer friend – Stunning as ever.

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Picture courtesy of R.J.

Spotlight Dances, The Marcels and “Blue Moon”

Since discovering that all full moons have a name (given to them by the Native Americans who kept track of the months by the lunar calendar), I have written about each one as they appear in our skies. To accompany the post I always include one of the numerous songs that have been written about the moon and its many foibles.

Well, we had a Blue Moon at the end of January, and now coinciding with Easter, we’re going to have another one at the end of March – All down to timing, as the cycle between full moons is 29 and a half days. The short month February had no full moon at all but both months on either side have had one at the beginning and at the end. This time however there are no complications with it being a Super Blue Blood Moon – Oh no, this time a run-of-the-mill Blue Moon, that name of course also used to describe something that “doesn’t come along very often” (although I beg to differ, as here we are already with two blue moons in the first quarter of the year, but highly unusual granted).

The Rodgers and Hart song Blue Moon is one I have been aware of for most of my life as it has been recorded by just about everyone (Frank Sinatra, Billie Holiday, Elvis Presley, Dean Martin, Billy Eckstine, Mel Tormé, The Supremes, Bing Crosby, Rod Stewart….), and also appeared in many of the old movies I watched on Sunday afternoons as a youngster.

The Dance Contest

The movie I now associate it with most however is Grease, as it was the song used for the “Spotlight Dance” when Danny Zuko and the brash usurper Cha-Cha DiGregorio take to the floor after winning the dance contest which is being broadcast live to an unsuspecting nation (who didn’t realise that a group of so-called “mooners” would gate-crash this bit of poetry in motion).

The Spotlight Dance

Blue Moon by Sha Na Na (aka Johnny Casino and the Gamblers):

And here is where I confused myself earlier in the year – Because this next version of Blue Moon is just so dissimilar from the original, I had convinced myself that it was actually a different song, which meant I would have had one to coincide with each of the blue moons we have had in our skies so far this year. But no, it is of course the same song, it’s just that back in 1961 the Marcels (named after the “marcel waved” hairstyles worn by some of the group) added an infectious, nonsensical introduction performed by bass singer Fred Johnson – Dang-a-dang-dang, ding-a-dong-ding and so on…..

The Marcels novelty version of Blue Moon was an instant hit and topped the charts on both sides of the Atlantic. They followed it with a series of less successful novelty versions of standards and then disbanded in the mid ’60s. Their version of Blue Moon, along with several other moon songs, featured in the John Landis film An American Werewolf in London (one of Mr WIAA’s favourites as he had a bit of a crush on Jenny Agutter as a young man – a common affliction it seems). Having just watched some of the clips that feature the song, all quite unpleasant, so I’ll spare you the gore and just add a picture of the delectable Nurse Alex Price, who until she met backpacker David Kessler was “without a dream in her heart, or a love of her own” (shame he turned out to be a werewolf).

So, “What’s It All About?” – It’s amazing how a single song can be covered just so many times over the years (it was first recorded in 1934), that it can end up barely recognisable compared to the original. Lots of examples out there, and although this time Blue Moon was given the full doo-wop treatment, other songs have been transformed into three minute ska, reggae, or disco triumphs. CC over at Charity Chic Music has run some excellent series over the last year asking us to compare and contrast cover versions to the originals, and I have also written a few posts that do just that (here and here). One of my most surprising discoveries was that the Blondie hit record Denis was actually a cover of a song called “Denise” by American doo-wop band Randy and the Rainbows.

But this is supposed to be a post about tomorrow night’s full moon, so just in case there is cloud cover and we don’t actually get to see it, here is another picture courtesy of my friend with the all singing, all dancing camera. It was taken at the end of January and was cleverly made into a bona fide Blue Moon using a special filter lens. I’m still hoping for a shot at some point that includes the moon alongside some of the amazing scenery we have up here, but not apparently always easy to capture. Only six posts into this series however, and seven to go, so still plenty of time!

Blue Moon highlands
The Blue Moon: Picture courtesy of R.J. and his favourite Nikon filter lens (it’s football related!)

Until next time, have a great Easter and look out for that Blue Moon on Saturday night.

Blue Moon Lyrics
(Song by Richard Rodgers/Lorenz Hart)

Blue Moon, you saw me standing alone
Without a dream in my heart
Without a love of my own

Blue Moon, you knew just what I was there for
You heard me saying a prayer for
Someone I really could care for

And then there suddenly appeared before me
The only one my arms will ever hold
I heard somebody whisper, ‘Please adore me’
And when I looked, the moon had turned to gold

Blue Moon, now I’m no longer alone
Without a dream in my heart
Without a love of my own

Postscript:

One last thing – In case you haven’t heard of The Marcel Wave before, it looked like this…..

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…..and was invented by a Frenchman, who looked like this. Every day’s a school day!

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The RAH Band, “Clouds Across the Moon” and The Sap Is Rising!

Another month seems to have whizzed by so we are approaching our next possible sighting of a full moon (cloud cover permitting). Since discovering at the end of last year that all full moons have a name given to them by the Native Americans who kept track of the months by the lunar calendar, I have written about the:

Beaver Moon – November
Cold Moon – December
Wolf Moon and Blue Moon – January

There were two full moons in January because the cycle between them is 29 and a half days, so just the way it landed, one at the beginning of the month and one at the end. A slight quirk this time is that there will no full moon at all in February (although there should have been a Snow Moon) but skip to the night of the 1st/2nd of March and we should witness the Worm Moon. I don’t know about where you live, but here in the North of Scotland it has been feeling quite springlike of late with lighter nights, crocuses appearing in the garden and a general feeling that mother nature will soon wake up from her winter slumber. (Ok, so there is also a weather front called the Beast from the East giving us a bit of trouble at the moment but freakish for the time of year.)

As for the Native Americans, this spring full moon was given the moniker Worm Moon because the ground was beginning to soften and earthworm casts reappeared inviting the return of robins. It is also however known as the Sap Moon, as it marks the time when maple sap begins to flow and the annual tapping of maple trees begins. Not many maple trees where I live but yes, it seems the sap is indeed rising!

But this is a music blog and I always include one of the many songs that refer to moons in their titles. Right at the start of this series of what will end up being 13 posts, I picked out all the songs I was likely to use to accompany each full moon, but as is wont to happen such worthy choices can often be replaced along the way with new discoveries. This is to be one of those occasions and most definitely not something I had remotely considered at the outset.

Last Saturday night, before heading to bed, Mr WIAA and myself stumbled upon an old episode of TOTP. Always a bit of nostalgia there and can be a bit of a laugh as we witness some of the acts we had long forgotten about, dressed in what now seems ridiculous looking clothing. The episode we watched was from 1985 and although there were quite a few great songs that have stood the test of time (we loved watching Godley and Creme’s Cry), there were also an awful lot of men dressed in oversized suits, jackets and bizarre trousers. The decade that fashion forgot I think.

In amongst all of these highly colourful acts was one I had totally forgotten about but their song has the word moon in the title and because it’s led to a pesky earworm this week, I’m going to include it in this series. Who said all the picks had to be critically acclaimed anyway and always a place in the world for what might now be construed as a bit of a novelty song. I used to like it when there was a bit of spoken word dialogue in a song and this one has it in bucketloads. Yes, not one many of us will remember, but in March 1985 the RAH Band reached No. 6 in the UK Singles Chart with Clouds Across The Moon. A common feature of songs from that era was the (one-way) “telephone conversation” however in this case it is highly unlikely that the futuristic exchange would be carried out via a bulky handset. But hey, the days of the compact mobile phone had not even remotely begun, and people did on the whole still speak to each other rather than simply text or Snapchat, so probably seemed apt at the time.

Clouds Across the Moon by the RAH band:

What I hadn’t realised until revisiting this song was that the RAH Band was in effect one person, Richard Anthony Hewson, an English producer, arranger, conductor and multi-instrumentalist. After graduating from The Guildhall School of Music in the late ’60s, Richard met Peter Asher whose sister Jane was going out with Paul McCartney. Through that contact he was hired as an orchestral arranger and worked with musicians such as The Beatles, The Bee Gees, James Taylor, Supertramp, Carly Simon, Art Garfunkel, Fleetwood Mac and Chris Rea, so quite a pedigree. Apart from his own RAH Band project, he was a producer in the 1980s for Toyah Willcox (makes sense) and in recent years has written music for television shows and advertising slots.

Hewson founded The RAH Band (which obviously took its name from his initials) in 1977 to release an instrumental called The Crunch. This record I do remember as I was chart-obsessed throughout the ’70s – Funnily enough it also reached No. 6 in the UK Singles Chart. As for Clouds Across the Moon, the vocals were provided by his wife Liz, also known as “Dizzy Lizzy”! In an interview at the time, Richard said that the song took place in the future where there was a 100-year-long war going on with Mars. Telephone calls were very expensive due to the privatisation of British Telecom (bit of politics, love it) thus the premature disconnection of the “valuable deep space communication link”.

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Richard Anthony Hewson’s RAH Band

So, an unusual song to have picked for this series but one that fell into my lap last weekend, so had to run with it. I wonder what the Native Americans who named the full moons that we see in our skies would have thought of it? Lets hope on the 1st March there will indeed be no clouds across the moon!

Until Next time….

Clouds Across the Moon Lyrics
(Song by Richard Anthony Hewson)

Good evening
This is the intergalactic operator
Can I help you?”

“Yes. I’m trying to reach flight commander P.R. Johnson, on Mars, flight 2-4-7”
“Very well, hold on please (beeping) you’re through!”
“Thank you operator!”

Hi darling!
How are you doing?
Hey baby, where’re you sleeping?
Oh I’m sorry, but I’ve been really missing you!

Hi darling!
How’s the weather?
Say baby, is that cold better now?
Oh I’m sorry, is there someone there with you?

Ooooh… since you went away, there’s nothing going right!
I just can’t sleep alone at night…
I’m not ashamed to say I badly need a friend…
or it’s the end.

Now, when I look at the clouds across the moon
Here in the night I just hope and pray that soon
Oh baby, you’ll hurry home to me.

Hi darling!
The kids say they love you
Hey baby, is everything fine with you?
Please forgive me, but I’m trying not to cry…

Ooooh… I’ve had a million different lovers on the phone
But I just stayed right here at home
I don’t think that I can take it anymore this crazy war

Now, when I look at the cloud’s across the moon
Here in the night I just hope and pray that soon
Oh darling, you’ll hurry home to me

“I’m sorry to interrupt your conversation,
but we are experiencing violent storm conditions in the asteriod belt at this time
We may lose this valuable deep space communication link
Please, be as brief as possible
Thank you”

Ooooh… since you went away, there’s nothing going right!
I just can’t sleep alone at night…
I’m not ashamed to say I badly need a friend…
or it’s… it’s…

“Hello?”
“Hello operator?”
” Yes, we’ve lost the connection!
Could you try again please?”
“I’m sorry, but I’m afraid we’ve lost contact with Mars 2-4-7 at this time”

“Ok. Thank you very much…
I’ll… I’ll try again next year…
next year…
next year…
next year…”

Postscript:

I have a friend with an all singing, all dancing camera who has been roped in to provide pictures for this series but as yet we’ve not been able to come up with anything that captures the full moon alongside some our unique Highland scenery. Hopefully in due course. In the meantime here are a few shots he took from outside his house last night – The moon still a waxing gibbous one at this stage (more than half full and always illuminated from the right) but pretty impressive how you can get such detail with the right equipment.

Pictures courtesy of R.J.