St David’s Day, the Stereophonics and Spring Is Here (Isn’t It?)

I have been watching the news coverage from around the country and am frankly amazed that the North of Scotland has got off so lightly in terms of snow. At the moment we seem to have avoided the full impact of what is being called “the Beast from the East”. (Why do weather fronts all need a name nowadays? Makes them much scarier somehow than they often need to be.) Anyway, although very cold here today I am just glad there have been more blue skies, but I’d better not get too smug as we may still bear the brunt of the “Beast” later on in the week.

As today however is meteorologically the first day of Spring, and as my friend’s moon shots seemed to go down quite well last time, here is what he shared on his Facebook page earlier on today. Yes, Spring might not have come to the rest of the country, but it has arrived in the North of Scotland.

Pictures courtesy of R.J.

But today of course is also Saint David’s Day when the people of Wales celebrate the life of their patron saint. It is common, apparently, to pin a daffodil or leek to clothing, but if the snow has been as bad as I suspect it has in Wales today there will have been no picking of daffodils going on. Also, last time I bought leeks in the supermarket they were monstrous things and with only three I managed to make a large pot of leek and potato soup – Doubt if they’re the kind of leeks that could be worn on the lapel of your jacket somehow, but possibly could adorn those giant black hats that make up part of Welsh national dress.

Alms house residents

I am probably going to be unpopular here but I’m really glad that our national dress involves the kilt, as despite being essentially a skirt, it somehow always manages to look macho, and smart – I love seeing Mr WIAA turn up at an event in his kilt outfit (despite being English by birth) whereas if he decided to turn up in one of those Morris Dancer outfits I think I would be less than impressed. Just sayin’.

But this is a music blog, so what comes to mind when I think of Wales? Well here is something from a band I have long admired and who are still going strong after 25 years in the business. Stereophonics are a Welsh rock band that formed in 1992 in the village of Cwmaman in the Cynon Valley, one of many former coal mining valleys within South Wales. The band’s lead singer Kelly Jones does sound really Welsh when he is interviewed, but somehow when he starts to sing it all disappears and he has been described as having “whiskey vocals”. Lots of songs to choose from by that band but as this has been a spur of the moment post inspired by the fine weather (apologies to those currently snowbound), the mobile device I am using only has Dakota saved within, so it’ll have to be it (but a fine choice as it turns out).

Dakota by Stereophonics:

Dakota reached the No. 1 spot in the UK Singles Chart in 2005 and was the first Stereophonics record to chart in the US. It was apparently first called Vermillion after the name of the US town in which it was written but after another band released a song with the same name, they decided to change the title to “Dakota” after the apartment building in New York City (and of course where John Lennon lived at the time of his death).

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Kelly Jones on Live 8 Day

The band have also been praised for their live performances which have landed them headlining slots at many of the UK and Ireland’s most high-profile music festivals. I think most of us of a certain vintage remember Live Aid day well (and I intend to write about my memories of the event at some point). Live 8 however was a benefit concert which took place on 2nd July 2005 to precede the G8 conference held at the Gleneagles Hotel here in Scotland. Unlike with Live Aid, when for one reason or another I missed out on large chunks of the day, I did watch all of Live 8 from beginning to end. On the Monday at work, I discussed the concert with a colleague (who had been present at the original Live Aid as a mere lad of 17) – When asked which act I had enjoyed the most, I decided it was Stereophonics. Considering who was on the bill that day, quite something. Kelly and the boys did well.

For those of you suffering the worst of the bad weather, hope things improve soon. For those of you in Wales, hope you’ve enjoyed your St. David’s Day – Time now to get those leeks off your lapels and make them into a large pot of warming soup!

Until next time….

Dakota Lyrics
(Song by Kelly Jones)

Thinking back, thinking of you
Summertime think it was June
Yeah think it was June
Laying back, head on the grass
Chewing gum having some laughs
Yeah having some laughs.

You made me feel like the one
Made me feel like the one
The one
You made me feel like the one
Made me feel like the one
The one

Drinking back, drinking for two
Drinking with you
When drinking was new
Sleeping in the back of my car
We never went far
Didn’t need to go far

You made me feel like the one
Made me feel like the one
The one
You made me feel like the one
Made me feel like the one
The one

I don’t know where we are going now
I don’t know where we are going now

Wake up call, coffee and juice
Remembering you
What happened to you?
I wonder if we’ll meet again
Talk about life since then
Talk about why did it end

You made me feel like the one
Made me feel like the one
The one
You made me feel like the one
Made me feel like the one
The one

I don’t know where we are going now
I don’t know where we are going now

So take a look at me now

Postscript:

If you follow my Full Moon series, it seems that on top of taking great scenery shots during the daytime, my friend was also busy at night-time on the 1st March and managed to capture the elusive Worm Moon which appeared in its full state just after midnight. Here it is viewed from our (almost) clear skies.

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The Worm Moon: Picture courtesy of R.J.

Live Aid, Freddie Mercury and “Radio Ga Ga”

I wrote yesterday about the Celtic rock band Runrig and how their rousing live performances induce mass participation, especially when at home in Scotland.

The performance most people my age will remember as being one of the finest ever to take place however, was when Queen arrived on the stage for their segment of the Live Aid Concert, held on July the 13th, 1985. I still remember that day well and who knew before the concert began that this would be a seminal performance. To see and hear all 72,000 people in Wembley Stadium sing along with Freddie Mercury to Radio Ga Ga was a landmark moment in pop history. His a cappella section at the end of the song, featuring his amazing vocal range and ability to work the crowd, came to be known as “The Note Heard Round the World”.

Radio Ga Ga by Queen:

There had been quite a build up to Live Aid day but mostly what we had been hearing about was the sheer logistical nightmare of having so many artists performing on one stage on one day. Also, there was to be a parallel concert in the US, in Philadelphia, with Phil Collins jetting between the two venues. Harvey Goldsmith, the promoter behind the staging of the Wembley show, was a man under pressure to deliver. Bob Geldof, who with Midge Ure had first come up with the idea of raising money for the Ethiopian famine crisis by making a charity single (Do They Know It’s Christmas?), was now the main driving force behind the event. A man renowned for his dishevelled appearance, Bob was now looking even more so than ever, but there could be no denying that his passion for the cause was immense and who could forget his impatience with the presenters when they just weren’t taking the business of pledging money seriously enough – “F**k the address, let’s get the number”, “Don’t go to the pub tonight, stay in and give us the money”, “There are people dying NOW so give us the money” and so it went on…..

live aid

But back to Radio Ga Ga – It was actually written by Queen’s drummer Roger Taylor and the silly sounding song title belies the fact it has some very serious lyrics about the state of the music industry in 1984. The emergence of MTV and the pop video in the early ’80s led a lot of artists to think that visuals were going to take over from radio and the aural-only music experience. Ironic really as Queen had been one of the first bands to make a film to accompany their 1975 masterpiece, the triumph that was Bohemian Rhapsody. They needn’t have worried however as all these years later people are still making records, and although the visuals can be really impressive they have never taken over, yet.

It has become a cliché, too often used by talent show judges, but it is fair to say that Freddie “owned the stage” that hot summer’s day in 1985. He was in control, and had the crowd in the palm of his hand. I think the band did have the advantage over a lot of the younger artists that day in that they had experience on their side, both in terms of age (Freddie was nearly 40 – hard to believe looking at the footage now and also hard to believe that he was dead six years later) and in playing in front of these large crowds. I think they knew the impact the concert would have on the careers of those taking part that day, so they had hired a large theatre to practice in during the build up to the concert.

freddie

Having written about a few extrovert artists now who have this ability to create such magic on stage, there is a common personality trait amongst them all – They are generally very shy people. Surprising to those of us who are not that way inclined but I think that is where the balance lies – If you are a shy person you need to create an alter-ego as an outlet. David Bowie in the ’70s was very shy thus his Ziggy Stardust creation. Elvis Presley and Michael Jackson were both very shy and Freddie notoriously gave few interviews due to his shyness. All I can say is thank goodness we were given the privilege of watching them perform and although sadly all of the above have now passed away, we are lucky to still have amazing footage of them in action. In Radio Ga Ga Roger Taylor was worried about the visuals taking over but I say thank goodness for them, as now we can share them with the generations to come.

RIP Freddie.

Radio Ga Ga Lyrics
(Song by Roger Taylor)

I’d sit alone and watch your light
My only friend through teenage nights
And everything I had to know
I heard it on my radio

You gave them all those old time stars
Through wars of worlds invaded by Mars
You made ’em laugh, you made ’em cry
You made us feel like we could fly.
Radio.

So don’t become some background noise
A backdrop for the girls and boys
Who just don’t know or just don’t care
And just complain when you’re not there

You had your time, you had the power
You’ve yet to have your finest hour
Radio, Radio.

All we hear is Radio ga ga
Radio goo goo
Radio ga ga
All we hear is Radio ga ga
Radio blah blah
Radio, what’s new?
Radio, someone still loves you!

We watch the shows, we watch the stars
On videos for hours and hours
We hardly need to use our ears
How music changes through the years.

Let’s hope you never leave old friend
Like all good things on you we depend
So stick around ’cause we might miss you
When we grow tired of all this visual

Postscript:

Just in case you’ve never seen Bob in full flow on Live Aid Day, a record was made sampling his now infamous lines. Just shows what you can do nowadays with a clever bit of technology – Love it.