Seven in Seven #7: The Summing Up, Matt Monro and “Born Free”

Day Seven of my challenge to write seven posts in seven days.

Well, as this is my 7th post, it seems I’ve achieved my goal of writing “Seven in Seven”. This was a self-imposed challenge (ahead of applying for a college course) to find out if I actually had the free time and the discipline to do it, and I’ve not been found wanting. Did I enjoy it however? – Not so much.

7For me at this stage in my blogging career, it’s the feedback and discussion part that I enjoy as much as the actual writing. Over the last week I didn’t want regular visitors to feel under pressure to leave comments, but now that I’ve done about two months worth of blogging in nine days (it actually turned out to be “Eight in Nine”), it’s back to business as usual – Feel free to leave comments, and as you all know by now, I always reply! By checking out my stats for the last week I’m guessing posts about weddings, and gardening, are not top of the pops, so that’s good to know going forward.

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Now that I’ve kind of caught up with the “posts pending” in my blogging notebook (it’s a thing), I’m going to throw down the gauntlet and hand over to you guys, the people who visit this place. I’m always up for a challenge so if you have any ideas of your own for a blog post that could include a featured song, feel free to let me know via the comments boxes, or indeed the Contact Me page. You perhaps don’t always enjoy doing the research, but I do, so as long as it involves a song or artist that I’m likely to have heard of, I’m up for it. (And to the person who contacted me recently about writing a fan fiction story involving David Cassidy and a Princess, not usually my thing, but I promise to give it some serious thought.)

But what to include song-wise, in this, the seventh and final post in the series? Well I didn’t really want to admit it, but for me it seems that blogging has become an alternative form of social media. I have kind of put the more mainstream platforms behind me of late (that would be Facebook then), as anything remotely insightful was always met with a tumbleweed moment, whereas a cute cat video could go viral. Whilst in the car yesterday, Matt Monro’s version of the song Born Free came on the radio, so as an homage to all forms of mainstream social media (and to try and entice back my followers), I too am going to share a cute cat video.

Born Free by Matt Monro:

Born Free was of course written for the 1966 film of the same name and won an Academy Award for Best Original Song. It starred the real life couple Bill Travers and Virginia McKenna, and the making of the film was a life-changing experience for both of them, as they became animal rights activists and were instrumental in creating the Born Free Foundation. If you’ve never watched the film, I urge you to seek it out, but it’s a real tear-jerker in places and I did shed a tear just watching this short trailer yesterday (although a lot to do with the fact that Virginia McKenna reminds me of my late mother-in-law…., scarily so).

As for the song, it’s a firm favourite in our house along with another Matt Monro classic from the movies, On Days Like These. If ever he’s feeling a bit blue, Mr WIAA takes himself off to watch our copy of The Italian Job where the song is played during the opening titles. Lyricist Don Black managed British singer Matt Monro at the time, and made him the film industry’s go-to guy when it came to recording soundtrack themes. The producer of these themes was always, not surprisingly, George Martin.

R-5906845-1406016734-2141So, “What’s It All About?” – My Seven in Seven challenge is now done and dusted so back to business as usual (which is probably around one published post per week). I’ve learnt a lot though, about my ability to put in the hours and about the kind of blogging I enjoy most. Note to self however – Music bloggers are not too keen on wedding, or gardening posts. If the gauntlet is indeed picked up, not expecting any songs covering those themes to pop up (although I do have a good Billy Idol/White Wedding anecdote).

Until next time….

Born Free Lyrics
(Song by Don Black/John Barry)

Born free, as free as the wind blows
As free as the grass grows
Born free to follow your heart

Live free and beauty surrounds you
The world still astounds you
Each time you look at a star

Stay free where no walls divide you
You’re free as the roaring tide
So there’s no need to hide

Born free and life is worth living
But only worth living
‘Cause you’re born free

Stay free where no walls divide you
You’re free as the roaring tide
So there’s no need to hide

Edinburgh, Trainspotting and “Lust for Life”

Last week, despite having just a few too many responsibilities at the moment (regular visitors will know what I mean), Mr WIAA and I managed to spend a few days in our capital city, Edinburgh. Now this is a city steeped in history and awash with culture, but having visited many times before, this time it was nice just to “be” there – Wandering round the Old Town, admiring the New Town (built between 1767 and 1850, so the old town as you can imagine is really old), visiting galleries and stopping for regular refreshments in the city’s many coffee shops and hostelries.

edinburgh

But you can only do that for so long, so what does a middle-aged lady and her husband decide to do on day 2 of the trip? – Why recreate scenes from the film Trainspotting of course! Danny Boyle’s black comedy was released in 1996 and although set in a very different Edinburgh from the one visited by tourists, it made a massive impact, and on some lists is now ranked one of the 10 best British films ever made.

Based on the novel of the same name by Irvine Welsh, the film was about a group of heroin addicts living in an economically depressed area of the city, and their passage through life. It sounds bleak, which it most definitely was in places, but there were also moments of great humour, and of course for anyone who knows the film well, the soundtrack was a triumph and has gone on to become a pop culture phenomenon. It contained music from the ’70s by artists such as Lou Reed and Iggy Pop, musicians closely associated with drug use, but also music from the Britpop era and ’90s techno-dance music by bands such as Underworld.

Born Slippy .NUXX by Underworld:

The main character in the film, Renton, was played by Ewan McGregor and no-one who has seen it will forget that opening scene where he and his friends are being chased through the streets of central Edinburgh: “Choose life,” began his monologue. “Choose a job. Choose a career. Choose a family. Choose a f**king big television. Choose washing machines, cars, compact disc players, and electrical tin can openers. Choose good health, low cholesterol and dental insurance. Choose fixed-interest mortgage repayments. Choose a starter home ………… But why would I want to do a thing like that? I chose not to choose life. I chose somethin’ else. And the reasons? There are no reasons. Who needs reasons when you’ve got heroin?”.  All played out of course to the sound of Iggy Pop’s 1977 song, Lust for Life.

Lust for Life by Iggy Pop:

The little film above was made over the course of two days as we did a recce on day one just to find the locations. On day two we got the scenes we were looking for, but maybe not wise to have worn a pair of boots with heels – Oh well, next time I decide to recreate scenes from a movie about drug addicts, I will remember that.

Whilst on the trip, I got to thinking about some of the other great scenes from the film, and one that has stuck with me is when Renton meets “wise beyond her years” love-interest Diane for the first time. Turned out the “flatmates” he met the next morning were in fact her parents – One of the funniest moments in the entire film (but perhaps not quite as funny in the 21st century in light of recent news stories):

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Renton: Excuse me, excuse me. I don’t mean to harass you, but I was very impressed with the capable and stylish manner in which you dealt with that situation. And I was thinking to myself, now this girl’s special.
Diane: Thanks.
Renton: What’s your name?
Diane: Diane.
Renton: And where are you going, Diane?
Diane: I’m going home.
Renton: Well, where’s that?
Diane: It’s where I live.
Renton: Great.
Diane: What?
Renton: Well, I’ll come back with you if you like, but like, I’m not promising anything, you know.
Diane: Do you find that this approach usually works? Or let me guess, you’ve never tried it before. In fact, you don’t normally approach girls – am I right? The truth is that you’re a quiet sensitive type but if I’m prepared to take a chance, I might just get to know the inner you: witty, adventurous, passionate, loving, loyal. Taxi! A little bit crazy, a little bit bad. But hey – don’t us girls just love that?
Renton: Eh?
Diane: Well, what’s wrong boy – cat got your tongue?

And of course when Diane doesn’t get Iggy’s name quite right:

Diane: You’re not getting any younger Mark. The world’s changing. Music’s changing. Even drugs are changing. You can’t stay in here all day dreaming about heroin and Ziggy Pop.
Renton: It’s Iggy Pop.
Diane: Whatever. I mean, the guy’s dead anyway.
Renton: Iggy Pop’s not dead. He toured last year! Tommy went to see him.
Diane: The point is, you’ve got to find something new.

I think most of us who were fans of the first film will by now have seen the sequel, made just over 20 years later and called T2 Trainspotting. Back in 1996 “the prevailing anxieties were over the spiritual bankruptcy of western consumerist society”. In the sequel, Renton updates the iconic speech from the original film – The must-have consumer goods of 1996 have gone, replaced by an assault on the dismal features of millennial life, especially social media. “Choose Facebook,” says middle-aged Renton, “Twitter, Instagram and hope that someone, somewhere cares … Choose reality TV, slut shaming, revenge porn. Choose a zero-hours contract, a two-hour journey to work. And choose the same for your kids, only worse, and smother the pain with an unknown dose of an unknown drug made in somebody’s kitchen …”

thA7E9MTUR

Back in 1996 I did choose life, and I don’t mean that I bought into acquiring the consumer goods listed in the monologue, but by giving up work to look after baby DD. Being married to someone in the Arts this was perhaps a rash plan, but it seemed to work out for us and made for a much less stressful life. We’ve never been big on “stuff”, always preferring “time”, but I realise this is not an option for everyone. 20 years on and being liked on social media seems to have replaced the need for consumer goods for millennials, but who can blame them. My generation bought up all the houses and have now bought up the starter flats on a buy-to-let basis, so life is tough for them. As for me, since taking up blogging I have all but abandoned social media but then again, what is blogging if not a different form of social media? We convince ourselves it is to hone our writing skills, but I can’t deny there is a great sense of pleasure when the feedback is favourable and I do love the discussion that can sometimes develop. Let’s see what this one brings.

As for the soundtrack album that went with the first film, I of course bought it back in 1996, ironically with a voucher received as a leaving gift from one the departments I had worked with before giving it all up…… and Choosing Life. Sadly the purchases I made with that voucher were all on cassette tape which was the worst medium for music consumption, but fortunately easy to replace nowadays, which I have now done.

But the last word should probably come from Renton. Trainspotting was a film about drug addicts, primarily watched by people like myself who weren’t drug addicts (don’t do it kids). The film did however make us understand it all a bit more: “People think it’s all about misery and desperation and death and all that shit which is not to be ignored, but what they forget is the pleasure of it. Otherwise we wouldn’t do it. After all, we’re not f**king stupid. At least, we’re not that f**king stupid.”

Until next time….

Lust for Life Lyrics
(Song by Iggy Pop/David Bowie)

Here comes Johnny Yen again
With the liquor and drugs
And a flesh machine
He’s gonna do another strip tease

Hey man, where’d you get that lotion?
I’ve been hurting since I bought the gimmick
About something called love
Yeah, something called love
Well, that’s like hypnotising chickens

Well, I’m just a modern guy
Of course, I’ve had it in the ear before
‘Cause of a lust for life
‘Cause of a lust for life

I’m worth a million in prizes
With my torture film
Drive a G.T.O.
Wear a uniform
All on government loan

I’m worth a million in prizes
Yeah, I’m through with sleeping on the sidewalk
No more beating my brains
No more beating my brains
With the liquor and drugs
With the liquor and drugs

Well, I’m just a modern guy
Of course, I’ve had it in my ear before
‘Cause, of a lust for life (lust for life)
‘Cause of a lust for life (lust for life, oooo)
I’ve got a lust for life (oooh)
Got a lust for life (oooh)
Oh, a lust for life (oooh)
Oh, a lust for life (oooh)
A lust for life (oooh)
I got a lust for life (oooh)
Got a lust for life

Well, I’m just a modern guy
Of course, I’ve had it in my ear before
‘Cause I’ve a lust for life
‘Cause I’ve a lust for life.

Well, here comes Johnny Yen again
With the liquor and drugs
And a flesh machine
I know he’s gonna do another strip tease

Hey man, where’d ya get that lotion?
Your skin starts itching once you buy the gimmick
About something called love
Oh Love, love, love
Well, that’s like hypnotising chickens.

Well, I’m just a modern guy
Of course, I’ve had it in the ear before
And I’ve a lust for life (lust for life)
‘Cause I’ve a lust for life (lust for life)
Got a lust for life
Yeah, a lust for life
I got a lust for life
Oh, a lust for life
Got a lust for life
Yeah a lust for life
I got a lust for life

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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Kate Bush, The Motors and The Summer of 1978

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

out of the blue

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Airport by The Motors:

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

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

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

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

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

Until next time….

Airport Lyrics
(Song by Andrew McMaster)

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

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

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

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

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

Postscript:

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

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Snow Scenes, the Beatles and “Ticket to Ride”

Well, this post has come about because of the plethora of snow images that seem to have come my way this week. It’s been a really cold one and although we’ve avoided snowfall in our neck of the woods, I know that many other parts of the country have had a fair bit – Beautiful if falling in remote scenic places but a bit of a pain if you have to dig your car out for the commute to work.

Yesterday morning we had the Opening Ceremony for the 2018 Winter Olympics which are taking place this time in South Korea. A spectacle of a show as expected with technology playing a large part in the proceedings. I can hardly believe however that there is to be a joint Team Korea at these games. Athletes from the North and South walked into the stadium together, dressed in identical “cosy” outfits behind a unifying blue and white flag. Considering the childish badinage that has taken place between some of our world leaders of late (who really should know better), this was a wonderful sight – The power of sport in bringing people together toward a common goal.

winter olympics

But here are the pictures that have inspired today’s song choice. Our “across the road neighbours” got back from their skiing holiday this week and sent me a few of the shots they had taken there. Turns out they had visited Obertauern in Austria, which is where they filmed those very snowy segments for the Beatles film Help!. Over 50 years later and it seems that it’s still the resort’s main claim to fame, as the pictures below show.

Obertauern

Obertauern
Obertauern in Austria where the Beatles filmed Help!

I always loved the snow scenes in that film and of course that was also when the song Ticket to Ride was included, to accompany their “madcap” antics. The Beatles were dressed in those iconic outfits, black against the white snow, complete with top hats, cape-like jackets and “bunnets”.

To quote Paul:
“It was good to make Help! and it’s a nice film. It’s funny. It’s a period film now. We just took it all very lightly, we had a laugh, and in the snow. All the snow scenes were cos the lads wanted a holiday, they were fed up working.”

Ticket to Ride by the Beatles:

I am not going to insult anyone’s intelligence by explaining who the Beatles were so we’ll stick to the song. Released as a single in April 1965, it became the Beatles’ seventh consecutive No. 1 hit in the UK and their third consecutive No. 1 in the US. It similarly topped the charts in many other parts of the world. The song was recorded in London for the album “Help!” and it marked a progression in their work relative to previous releases. The Beatles it seems were growing up!

But of course being a great fan of the Carpenters, I will have to include their version which was originally recorded in 1969 but then re-recorded for their first Greatest Hits album in 1973. Arranged by Richard Carpenter, the song has a very different sound – The long piano intro means it doesn’t even really kick in until 0:35, and in the capable hands of Karen Carpenter, the line “I think I’m gonna be sad” sounds truly convincing.

No snow here today fortunately, and blue skies, so we’re going to head out shortly to enjoy the day. Hopefully these Winter Olympics in South Korea will provide a fair bit of entertainment over the next couple of weeks as unlike in years gone by, Team GB actually win a fair amount of medals nowadays, on the ice and on the snow. There are also usually a few locals in the Curling Team which always adds to the excitement and has made us all experts. It looks comical, but it’s always impressive how they can sweep the ice to make the stone curl, or go faster. I will leave you with a picture of the view I wake up to from my bedroom window if there’s been a fall of snow overnight – Lucky me, but sadly no Carpenters lurking amongst the trees in my forest!

45 22nd Dec Craig Phadrig hill covered in snow

Until next time….

Ticket to Ride Lyrics
(Song by John Lennon/Paul McCartney)

I think I’m gonna be sad
I think it’s today, yeah
The girl that’s driving me mad
Is going away

She’s got a ticket to ride
She’s got a ticket to ride
She’s got a ticket to ride
But she don’t care

She said that living with me
Is bringing her down, yeah
For she would never be free
When I was around

She’s got a ticket to ride
She’s got a ticket to ride
She’s got a ticket to ride
But she don’t care

I don’t know why she’s riding so high
She ought to think twice
She ought to do right by me
Before she gets to saying goodbye
She ought to think twice
She ought to do right by me

I think I’m gonna be sad
I think it’s today, yeah
The girl that’s driving me mad
Is going away, yeah

Oh, she’s got a ticket to ride
She’s got a ticket to ride
She’s got a ticket to ride
But she don’t care

I don’t know why she’s riding so high
She ought to think twice
She ought to do right by me
Before she gets to saying goodbye
She ought to think twice
She ought to do right by me

She said that living with me
Is bringing her down, yeah
For she would never be free
When I was around

Ah, she’s got a ticket to ride
She’s got a ticket to ride
She’s got a ticket to ride
But she don’t care

My baby don’t care, my baby don’t care
My baby don’t care, my baby don’t care
My baby don’t care, my baby don’t care….

Dionne, Aretha and “I Say A Little Prayer”

Now that I no longer have to commute to work every day, I seem to be missing out on those wonderful moments when a great song comes on the car radio, and you just have to turn up the volume to full blast.

I did however experience such a thing earlier this week on my way to the supermarket and needless to say it stuck with me for a good few days. The song was this one, I Say a Little Prayer, written by my favourite songwriting team of Burt Bacharach and Hal David. Inevitably the first person to record it back in 1967 was Dionne Warwick, as she was very much Burt’s “go-to” girl when he needed a chanteuse for his great material. What I hadn’t realised until now was that Hal David’s lyrics were meant to convey a woman’s concern for her man, who was serving in the Vietnam War (makes total sense now considering the timing). I have always loved those first few lines where the words wake up and makeup are used to such great effect. The rhyme just works so perfectly and for us girls, anything that happens before the morning ritual of putting on the makeup is early indeed, so doubly emphasizes the urgency of the prayer.

The moment I wake up
Before I put on my makeup
I say a little prayer for you

Although Burt’s recordings with Dionne usually took no more than three takes, I Say a Little Prayer took ten takes and he still disliked the completed track, feeling it rushed. He was nothing if not a perfectionist that Burt Bacharach.

But the version I heard in the car the other day wasn’t by Dionne but instead by the person who had a big hit with it in the UK. Aretha Franklin was in the process of recording her 1968 album entitled “Aretha Now” when her backing vocalists, The Sweet Inspirations, started singing the song just for fun. It suddenly became apparent that I Say a Little Prayer could be a worthy inclusion on the new album which is exactly what happened. The song ended up being released in July 1968 as the B-side to the single The House that Jack Built, but after accruing its own airplay reached No. 10 on the Billboard Chart and No. 4 on the UK Singles Chart.

And here is where the music producers seem to get it horribly wrong at times – It had taken much persuasion for Burt to release the original recording by Dionne Warwick, but with Theme from Valley of the Dolls on the B-side, it became one of the most successful double-sided releases of all time. Aretha’s version was never expected to make any sort of mark in its own right, but in subsequent decades it has been ranked right at the top of lists relating to the “Greatest 150 Singles of All Time”. How bizarre and makes you wonder what other delights have slipped through the net and never been given the air time they indubitably deserved. Then again, is that not the case for every art form? How many great writers and artists (and I include Mr WIAA and some of my blogging buddies in those categories) slip through the net, not seeming to catch that lucky break needed to get to the important next level, where actual money changes hands for exceptional work done.

But before I go, it should also be mentioned that I Say a Little Prayer is one of several Bacharach and David songs to feature prominently in the 1997 rom-com/chick-flick My Best Friend’s Wedding. There was a reggae-style cover by Diana King and a version sung by the film’s cast. Diana’s cover was released as a single which brought the song back to the Top 40 almost thirty years after Dionne Warwick’s original.

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I Say A Little Prayer by Diana King:

So, “What’s It All About?” – Having included all three very different versions in this post, they are ripe for a compare and contrast. Dionne’s does indeed sound a bit too rushed and not typical of Burt Bacharach’s usual orchestral pop style. Diana’s reggae version certainly creates a very different sound where the lyrics are sung Jamaican-style (before mi put on mi makeup). Aretha however, being the Queen of Soul an’ all that, nails it for me and it’s probably why the car radio had to be turned up to such a volume earlier in the week. Some songs, despite having a very low key start in life, end up becoming the most memorable and that’s why I live in hope that some of my wonderful artsy friends also eventually catch that lucky break which leads to their work being reclassified from being ordinary, to being extra-ordinary.

Until next time….

I Say A Little Prayer Lyrics

(Song by Burt Bacharach/Hal David)

The moment I wake up
Before I put on my makeup
I say a little prayer for you
While combing my hair, now
And wondering what dress to wear, now
I say a little prayer for you

Forever, forever, you’ll stay in my heart
And I will love you
Forever, and ever we never will part
Oh, how I’ll love you
Together, together, that’s how it must be
To live without you
Would only be heartbreak for me

I run for the bus, dear
While riding I think of us, dear
I say a little prayer for you
At work I just take time
And all through my coffee break-time
I say a little prayer for you

Forever, forever, you’ll stay in my heart
And I will love you
Forever, and ever we never will part
Oh, how I’ll love you
Together, together, that’s how it must be
To live without you
Would only mean heartbreak for me

I say a little prayer for you
I say a little prayer for you

Forever, forever, you’ll stay in my heart
And I will love you
Forever, and ever we never will part
Oh, how I’ll love you
Together, together, that’s how it must be
To live without you
Would only mean heartbreak for me

My darling, believe me
For me there is no one, but you
Please love me, too
I’m in love with you
Answer my prayer
Say you love me, too
Why don’t you answer my prayer?
You know, every day I say a little prayer
I said, I say, I say a little prayer

The Jukebox Time Machine #1 – Bowie, The Sweet and a load of “Hocus Pocus”

Lately, I seem to have somewhat lost track of the original premise behind this blog. The eagle-eyed amongst you might have spotted that the domain name for this site contains the words Jukebox Time Machine but it wasn’t long before I decided to veer away from simply randomly journeying back in time to select a “track from my years”. Oh no, the featured song instead became inspired by what was going on in the news, by the seasons, or indeed what was happening in my own life. Once you delve into the back story to a song you find out so much more than was ever available back in the day, so it became appropriate to change the name of the blog to “What’s It All About?” (a nod to the opening lyric from the song Alfie, written by my favourite songwriting team Burt Bacharach and Hal David).

But just for a bit of a change (and perhaps an idea for a new series), I am going to resurrect the idea of having an honest to goodness “time machine” that could randomly whisk me back through the years in order to find out what we were listening to, in terms of the music of the day. There are a fair few time machines in popular culture but the one I’m going to use this time is the contraption conjured up by H.G. Wells (very steampunk) and put together by some clever prop designers for the 1960 film The Time Machine starring Rod Taylor.

So now we have a vehicle to take us back in time, but how will we randomly generate the date to which we will be taken? Fortunately there are lots of devices at our disposal and I’m going to use an online random number generator. The year will be generated from between 1964 and 2006, when the popular UK chart music show Top of the Pops aired on the BBC. I can, at a push, remember watching that show with my parents right from the beginning (yes I’m that old) and I stuck with it, through the good and bad years, until they pulled the plug on it in the mid-noughties. Since then I have kind of lost the plot as far as non-mainstream new music goes, so will stick to those more familiar years. The month and date can also be randomly generated after which all we have to do is refer to the Official UK Top 40 Archive. All sounds very complicated but trust me, it’s not.

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Time to climb aboard then and generate the first date. Here goes:

Year – 1973
Month2, i.e. February
Date – 14 (cute, it’s St Valentine’s Day!)

Anyone who visits here regularly will know that this year could not be better for me in terms of conjuring up memories, as it was not only the year I became a teenager, but it was also the year I became obsessed with pop music and chart rundowns (already written about here). Referring to the Official Top 40 Chart from the 14th Feb 1973, the act at the No. 1 spot was this one, Scottish glam-rock band The Sweet with their only chart-topper, Blockbuster.

Blockbuster by Sweet:

I’m not going to dilly-dally too long writing about that one however as it has been showcased very recently over at Charity Chic Music (link here), where quite a few of us chimed in with our schoolday memories of the song. It still amazes me, watching this footage of the band perform, how they somehow managed to look “macho” whilst wearing just so much glitter, gold lamé and make-up. ‘Twas the times obviously. Lead singer Brian Connolly was a good-looking man back then and I was very envious of his long blonde hair (although oddly in this song, he refers to someone with long black hair). I think I actually sported a not too dissimilar hairstyle myself for much of the noughties, but hadn’t realised until now that the inspiration for it must have been Brian from The Sweet.

But what else was in the 1973 St Valentine’s Day chart. Well as luck would have it, a song I have already featured in the blog – The Jean Genie by David Bowie (link here). It was pointed out back then by The Swede, that the opening riff of Jean Genie bore a striking similarity to that of The Sweet’s Blockbuster which was recorded for the same record label, at around the same time and released just a couple of months later (go on, do a quick compare and contrast). But it was The Sweet who made it to the top spot on this occasion as Bowie’s offering only made it to No. 2. Having done a little digging, the date we’re travelling back to in time to was very relevant to Mr Bowie as it seems that it was on the 14th of February 1973 that he collapsed from exhaustion after a performance at New York’s Madison Square Garden. He had been touring and giving press conferences as his alter-ego Ziggy Stardust for some time, but soon after this collapse, he abruptly retired the character live on stage at London’s Hammersmith Odeon.

The Jean Genie by David Bowie:

So far we’ve revisited two songs that sound very similar to each other but what else in the chart also sounded very similar? Although I can’t say I was a big fan back then, in the fullness of time I have come to appreciate all the falderals involved in the making of a Focus record (a bit of yodelling anyone?) and February 1973 was their time in the sun as far as chart success went. Their instrumental Sylvia was a climber at No.5 and Hocus Pocus was also climbing up the chart at No. 22.

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The Dutch prog rock outfit, Focus.

I may well have forgotten all about these Dutch prog rockers had it not been that the album I got for Christmas that year was “Arcade’s 20 Fantastic Hits by the Original Artists”, the emphasis on the word original, as up until then most of these compilations were very much by the unoriginal artists. If you look closely you will see that Blockbuster, The Jean Genie and Hocus Pocus (Track 7 on Side 2) all featured, so this February chart certainly seems to have spawned a fair few of the year’s most memorable hits. (Interesting to note there is a picture of the artist who is apparently Python Lee Jackson which caused lots of confusion at the time. Turned out PLJ was the name of an Aussie band and Rod Stewart had been a guest vocalist.)

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Hocus Pocus by Focus:

Although we have travelled back in time 45 years, so many of these songs are now part of popular culture and I can’t imagine them ever being forgotten whereas can we really say that about much of what is in the charts today? Maybe I’m wrong but could we envisage a time in the future when there will be another television cop show, this time inspired by the music of 2018? Not sure, but it certainly happened around 10 years ago when Life On Mars was made for our own BBC. The lead character Sam Tyler goes back in time to 1973 and finds himself working under the highly misogynistic, homophobic, borderline alcoholic Detective Chief Inspector Gene Hunt – The Gene Genie. For those of us who remember those days there were many, many amusing musical exchanges between Sam and Gene only made possible because Sam knew the legacy that would be left behind by some of the artists they listened to, on the Ford Granada car radio, or during a nightclub raid. For Gene all this music was as yet unknown, and anyway, he and his wife preferred listening to Roger Whittaker!

Ok, so Life On Mars aired a fair few years ago now but I think it is generally agreed that one of last year’s best films, for music fans at any rate, was this one – Edgar Wright’s Baby Driver. I’m not usually a fan of films that feature multiple car chases, but this one was a very different animal, and the best car chase of all was played out to the sounds of Focus with what has turned out to be their most memorable recording (was it because the words rhymed so well I wonder?). Watching this excellent clip again, the lead character Baby, could definitely give Lewis Hamilton a run for his money.

So, “What’s It All About?” – I hope you’ve enjoyed joining me on my Jukebox Time Machine journey back to February 1973. All you need is a random number generator it seems and we’re good to go, although I may change the mode of transport for next time as H.G. Wells’ time machine was a tad uncomfortable at times – Doc Brown’s DeLorean might make for a smoother ride.

As to whether the music of 2018 will feature in the movies and telly of the future, having thought about it a bit more, it probably will. As the music-obsessed youngsters of today become the movers and shakers of tomorrow, they will use the “tracks of their years” when making directorial debuts, peppering their films with the works of Kendrick Lamar and Childish Gambino (yes I watched the Grammys this week so am “down with the kids”). Problem is, by the time you make it in that world and are entrusted with the big budgets you are a generation older than the majority of your audience. Great for parents taking their kids to the cinema though as there is something for everyone, the action for the youngsters and the music for the mums and dads (Guardians of the Galaxy springs to mind) – All in all, a win-win situation.

Until next time….

Blockbuster Lyrics
(Song by Mike Chapman/Nicky Chinn)

Ahhh, Ahh Ahhh
You better beware, you better take care
You better watch out if you’ve got long black hair
He’ll come from behind, you’ll go out of your mind
You better not go, you never know what you’ll find
Ahh Ahh, Ahh Ahhh

Can’t look into his eyes, you’ll be surprised
If don’t know what going on behind his disguse
Nobody knows where Buster goes
He’ll steal your woman out from under your nose

Does anyone know the way, did we hear someone say
(We just haven’t got a clue what to do)
Does anyone know the way, there’s got to be a way
To Blockbuster

The cops are out, they’re running about
Don’t know if they’ll ever be able to blockbuster out
He’s gotta be caught, he’s gotta be taught
‘Cause he is more evil then anyone here ever thought

Does anybody know the way, did we hear someone say
(We just haven’t got a aho)
Does anybody know the way, there’s got to be a way
To Blockbuster

Does anybody know the way, did we hear someone say
(We just haven’t got a clue what to do)
Does anybody know the way, there’s got to be a way
To Blockbuster

Ahh Ahh, Ahh Ahh
Ahh Ahh, Ahh Ahh

Buster buster blockbuster
Buster buster blockbuster
Buster buster blockbuster
Buster buster blockbuster

Buster buster blockbuster
Buster buster blockbuster

Postscript:

It occurred to me that although the journey back in time was primarily to find out what we were listening to in February 1973, perhaps it might be interesting to remind myself what I was doing at school. As luck would have it (that trusty archive box came up trumps once again), I still have a self-penned “magazine” which we all had to produce in English (the subject not the language) that year.

All very embarrassing as ever, but I was only 12 remember, and one of the “stories” was essentially an exchange between my mum and myself as to the merits of acquiring one of those new-fangled cassette recorders that had just come on the market. Ignore the fact that I seem to have missed the letter “t” in the title (should be tempted) and please ignore the fact that it seems my family were a bit tight with the cash, as in reality I did get a SONY cassette recorder later that year. It was my absolute pride and joy and was heavily used for the rest of my teenage years. I give you an extract from the Reader’s Realm February ’73 edition (adverts were included).

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