Orange Juice, Altered Images and Gregory’s Girl

Last time I perhaps foolishly put out a request asking for song suggestions – My previous post (link here) had featured two songs from the Gamble & Huff stable in Philadelphia, Year Of Decision by The Three Degrees and Back Stabbers by the O’Jays. As ever you didn’t disappoint and there were quite a few Should I Stay Or Should I Go suggestions but that Clash song featured here last year (link here), as part of my “pre-EU Referendum going-to-the-polls” post (we all did one let’s face it and I’m just glad that over a year on, everything is progressing so well on that front, with negotiations going swimmingly!). Other suggestions were mainly for songs I didn’t really know or for another song by the same artist so I decided to plump for this one, Rip It Up by Orange Juice (that suggestion from Rol over at My Top Ten).

Rip It Up By Orange Juice:

Every now and again a particular city seems to be at the epicentre of things, musically speaking, and in the early 1980s that city seemed to be Glasgow. The independent Postcard Records, started in a tenement flat bedroom, spawned many fine acts, two of which were Edwyn Collins’ Orange Juice and Roddy Frame’s Aztec Camera. Postcard Records didn’t last long but both of these bands were soon signed by bigger labels and started making headway in the charts. In 1983 the single Rip It Up made it to No. 8 in the UK Singles Chart which was their only top 40 success which surprises me. This single was less post-punk than their earlier material and they used synthesisers to create a more disco-oriented sound. Edwyn went on to become a solo artist and had a worldwide hit in 1994 with A Girl Like You. There also can’t be many people who don’t know that Edwyn suffered two cerebral haemorrhages in 2005 which resulted in a long period of rehabilitation – A documentary film on his recovery, titled The Possibilities Are Endless, was released in 2014. He now lives on the old family croft in Sutherland, north of where I am, and has his own recording studio up there. His speech is still affected but when he sings it all magically comes together – The power of music.

RipItUpOrangeJuice

I did try to put together a list of all those bands that came out of Glasgow in the late ’70s/early ’80s but just too many to mention and if you’re here already, you probably know who I’m talking about anyway – Suffice to say there were many. I always remembered Claire Grogan from the band Altered Images saying in an interview that when they travelled south to London in those days to record ToTP, it was a bit of a home from home, as half the dressing rooms were filled with bands they knew well from their home city. Altered Images also fitted into that post-punk genre when they started out, although like Orange Juice soon started making headway in the charts reaching No. 7 in 1983 with this fine song, Don’t Talk To Me About Love. The “pop pixie” Claire only needed a big baggy top, a pair of dangly earrings, a quick blow-dry at the hairdressers and a bit of gold eyeshadow to make us all fall in love with her back then. So much more demure than the pop princesses of today and for me, much sexier – Just sayin’ girls!

Don’t Talk To Me About Love by Altered Images:

But of course for people of my generation, and specifically Scottish people I imagine, Claire Grogan is best remembered for playing Susan in Bill Forsyth’s wonderful coming-of-age romantic comedy Gregory’s Girl. If like me you went to a straight down the middle, semi-modern state secondary school (usually called an academy), this film will resonate in so many ways. All the stereotypes were present – The gangly and awkward Gregory (played by John Gordon Sinclair), his socially inept friends (think the Inbetweeners 40 years ago), the football obsessed PE teacher, the more mature and business-savvy Steve who offers dating advice, the confident and sporty Dorothy and the slightly quirky but impossibly cute Susan.

This film was made in 1980 and I left school in the summer of 1978 but little had changed and when I went to see it all those fond memories came flooding back. I realise now in later life that I was one of the lucky ones as my schooldays were charmed, full of fun, friends and laughter (and hard work of course). Like in the film, the machinations that took place between girls in order to contrive an evening date “up the country park” (heady stuff), were something to behold. Also what was it with Scottish schools and football? – At our one, all other sports were pretty much side-lined as the focus of attention was on getting as many boys as possible into the prestigious North of Scotland Select – Our school was so focussed on this goal (no pun intended) that we had five boys at one point in that team and when school-boyfriend scored the winning goal in a grudge match with the South of Scotland, he huffed for a week when I wasn’t suitably impressed!

I still really enjoy watching this film today and never tire of it – The music by Colin Tully recorded for the title sequence was just perfect and I can’t listen to the sound of that wonderful saxophone without having a massive pang of nostalgia for my schooldays – I know it doesn’t happen this way for everyone but my schooldays really were the best days of my life, yet I didn’t realise that at the time, which is sad. (I’m not saying of course that it’s all been rubbish since, but as an adult there are always pesky responsibilities and worries that detract from that feeling of pure happiness – As you get older and your kids get older the worries sadly don’t seem to ease, they just change!)

But before I go, it just occurred to me that in the picture recently posted from my final year at school, there was a strong similarity to the “look” sported by Dorothy, Gregory’s love interest in the film – It was from about three years earlier but what with the cream V-neck waistcoat and the carefully “curling-tonged” hair, it was obviously one of the looks of choice back then. Of course I don’t think Dee Hepburn who played Dorothy had used quite as much Sun-In hair “brightener” in the build up to the making of the movie, as my hair does have a distinct orange tinge to it which was what tended to happen with overuse. Nowadays I spend a pretty penny on getting the locks looking just the right colour but back then all that was needed was 39p and a bottle of Sun-In – Not much wonder I was happy. Were you a Susan or a Dorothy, or neither? As it says at the top of the comments boxes, I’d love to hear from you!

Until next time….

Rip It Up Lyrics
(Song by Edwyn Collins)

When I first saw you
Something stirred within me
You were standing sultry in the rain
If I could’ve held you
I would’ve held you
Rip it up and start again

Rip it up and start again
Rip it up and start again
I hope to God you’re not as dumb as you make out
I hope to God
I hope to God
And I hope to God I’m not as numb as you make out
I hope to God
I hope to God

And when I next saw you
My heart reached out for you
But my arms stuck like glue to my sides
If I could’ve held you
I would’ve held you
But I’d choke rather than swallow my pride
Rip it up and start again

Rip it up and start again
Rip it up and start again
I hope to God you’re not as dumb as you make out
I hope to God
I hope to God
And I hope to God I’m not as numb as you make out
I hope to God
I hope to God

And there was times I’d take my pen
And feel obliged to start again
I do profess
That there are things in life
That one can’t quite express
You know me I’m acting dumb-dumb
You know this scene is very humdrum
And my favourite song’s entitled ‘boredom’

Rip it up and start again
I said rip it up and start again
I said rip it up and rip it up and rip it up and rip it up and rip it up and start again

Chuck Berry, Back To The Future and “Johnny B. Goode”

My last two posts have in effect been tributes to artists who passed away in 2017. Another colossus from the world of music who died earlier this year, but whom I omitted to write about at the time, was Chuck Berry. It was not until after his death at the grand old age of 90, that I discovered he’d led such a colourful life, and not always because of his success as one of the pioneers of rock ‘n’ roll. Oh no, over the years it was common to see him having been incarcerated for a variety of misdemeanours, so despite having come from a reasonably well-off, middle class family, there was something about his personality that must have made that likely to happen.

Chuck_Berry_circa_1958
Chuck Berry in 1958

As for me, being a child of the ’60s, Mr Berry’s rock ‘n’ roll career had kind of passed its heyday by the time I got to know about him, and ironically when I did, it was only because of the truly awful novelty song My Ding a Ling. For some reason, despite its awfulness, it must have resonated with the record-buying public back in 1972, and hit the No. 1 spot in several countries including the UK.

Chuck Berry has graced these pages before (link here) but only because I had written a post about songs chosen for crime dramas. Quentin Tarantino, a master at picking lesser-known and somehow timeless tracks for his movies, had used Chuck’s You Never Can Tell for the infamous twist contest scene in Pulp Fiction, where Mia Wallace instructs a nervous Vincent Vega that she wants to win that trophy (and what Mia wants, Mia gets).

pulpfictiondance

But no, I’m sure we’d all agree that the song most closely associated with Chuck Berry is none other than Johnny B. Goode. It was written back in 1955 and was all about an illiterate, guitar-playing country boy from Louisiana who dreamt of having his name in lights. Although originally about a “coloured boy”, Chuck changed the lyrics to “country boy” to make sure of airplay and it sits at No. 7 on that list of 500 Greatest Songs of All Time.

There also however can’t be many people of my age who don’t know that his whole career was based on a chance phonecall from his cousin Marvin Berry, who had accidentally injured his hand and needed a guitar-playing stand-in at short notice. Fortunately, a time-travelling kid from 1985 was literally waiting in the wings for his chance to shine and the rest as they say, is history – Chuck had finally found that new sound he was looking for. (Check out the proof at 1:30)

Johnny B. Goode by Chuck Berry:

But of course that couldn’t really have happened, even in the fanciful world of Steven Spielberg movies, as it would have constituted a paradox. Marty McFly in the film Back To The Future would never have known the song Johnny B. Goode in 1985 had Chuck not written it in 1955, but a great little bit of space-time continuum humour for the movie. In October 2015, whilst on holiday, it became apparent via social media that we were celebrating Back To The Future Day – As luck would have it the day was a bit of a miserable one weather-wise, so how better to spend it than to watch all three BTTF movies back to back – How accurate had the film-makers been in predicting how we would live in the future? Not too bad at all as it turns out although to date I have never popped to the shops on a hover board!

And here is where my geek credentials come to the fore – I do love the whole concept of time-travel (this blog’s domain name is “jukeboxtimemachine.com” after all) so I decided, once and for all, to document the BTTF journeys made by Marty and Doc Brown. It’s easy to get a tad confused over the sheer number of trips made by our intrepid duo over the course of the trilogy but by the end of film number two it was all on paper, and was making total sense – A seemingly inconsequential action taking place in an alternate past can change the future from being a rosy one, to one of utter chaos and that’s exactly what had happened. It was time to go further back in time, to 1885.

Now it was starting to get really complicated but I soldiered on over the course of the afternoon recording the many, many DeLorean journeys back and forth in time. By early evening I thought I had it, and clearly marked on the bit of paper I had commandeered from our holiday cottage sideboard, that there were indeed no paradoxes. What a fool I was however as I had clearly not considered the fact that Mr Berry’s song, duck walk and guitar riff had, according to cousin Marvin, not even been thought of yet. As it turns out, many other paradoxes have been discovered over the years by eagle-eyed fans (or should that be pedantic geeks), but on that evening of 21st October 2015, I was still feeling really quite chuffed with myself.

IMG_0884

So, “What’s It All About?” – It seems that for someone my age, Chuck Berry is not so much remembered for being pivotal in the melding of rhythm & blues with country music and bringing it to a mainstream audience in the form of rock ‘n’ roll, but instead for a (really bad) novelty song, the music used for Pulp Fiction’s twist contest and for that highly entertaining musical paradox in a film about a pair of time travellers. What can I say, I am a product of the pop culture of my times.

I feel as if I have now caught up with this year’s tributes and am crossing fingers that no more will have to be written for a while, although unlikely considering the age of some of the rock royalty still around – We wouldn’t want to admit it but I can’t be the only one who has conjectured on who will be next. Before I go however we should really see some more of Chuck in action, as it sounds as if without him there might not have been any Beatles or a myriad of other ’60s bands influenced by him and his ilk. Without Chuck there would probably have been no British Invasion, so however his life panned out, that is quite a legacy to leave.

Until next time….

Johnny B. Goode Lyrics
(Song by Chuck Berry)

Deep down in Louisiana close to New Orleans
Way back up in the woods among the evergreens
There stood a log cabin made of earth and wood
Where lived a country boy named Johnny B. Goode
Who never ever learned to read or write so well
But he could play a guitar just like a-ringing a bell

Go go
Go Johnny go!
Go
Go Johnny go!
Go
Go Johnny go!
Go
Go Johnny go!
Go
Johnny B. Goode!

He used to carry his guitar in a gunny sack
Go sit beneath the tree by the railroad track
Oh, the engineer would see him sittin’ in the shade
Strummin’ with the rhythm that the drivers made
The people passing by, they would stop and say
“Oh my, but that little country boy could play”

Go go
Go Johnny go!
Go
Go Johnny go!
Go
Go Johnny go!
Go
Go Johnny go!
Go
Johnny B. Goode!

His mother told him, “Someday you will be a man,
And you will be the leader of a big ol’ band
Many people comin’ from miles around
To hear you play your music when the sun go down
Maybe someday your name’ll be in lights
Sayin’ ‘Johnny B. Goode tonight!'”

Go go
Go Johnny go!
Go go go Johnny go!
Go go go Johnny go!
Go go go Johnny go!
Go
Johnny B. Goode!

The Bee Gees, Al Green and “How Can You Mend A Broken Heart”

Like many of us, I probably spend far too much time in a day visiting the various blogs I follow but today’s visit to a great series called The Songwriters by Chris over at Winding Road has got me all emotional. Any regulars to this place know that I’m a bit fragile at the moment anyway because of my impending “retirement” so it doesn’t take much to push me over the edge. The songwriters of choice today were The Bee Gees and although it took me quite some time to admit to being a fan of both them and their music around here, once I did I was flooded with affirmation that it was ok, so a bit of a relief really.

One of the featured songs in Chris’ post was How Can You Mend A Broken Heart, written by The Bee Gees but covered by Al Green in 1972. You probably reside in much calmer households, but with darling daughter back living with us, there seems to be no end of broken hearts around here nowadays and somehow we get caught up in it all. The simple relationships she and her friends had during their schooldays and beyond appear to be far behind them now, and never a weekend seems to go by without some drama or other. This weekend has been no exception so needless to say this song has suddenly become very pertinent.

Because of the subject matter, it pops up all the time on film soundtracks and I probably remember it best from the Richard Curtis film Notting Hill. Poor old Hugh Grant had very bravely but sensibly rejected Hollywood A-lister Julia Roberts’ advances, but it wasn’t an easy decision and he had to suffer the emotional fall-out as a result. Cue Al Green and his beautiful version of the song.

Barry and Robin Gibb wrote the song one afternoon in 1970 after getting back together after a period of estrangement. How Can You Mend A Broken Heart obviously was relevant to their situation but it also cries out to all those broken-hearted souls who have just seen a parting of the ways. Fortunately for us the Gibb brothers did mend their broken hearts otherwise everything they did after 1970 would have been lost to us. I don’t think this is a spoiler alert because just about everyone who would have wanted to watch Notting Hill will have done so by now, but Hugh’s broken heart also ends up being mended too!

I did spend a fair bit of time watching Glastonbury on telly this year, dipping in and out over the weekend of festivites. Sunday afternoon is reserved for the Legend Slot and this year the artist performing was none other than Barry Gibb himself. It was for me the highlight of the weekend (and there were many this year) but what can I say, this blog’s tagline is “A Nostalgic Journey Through the Tracks of My Years” and it doesn’t get much more nostalgic for me than hearing Barry sing all those great songs he recorded with his brothers over a 40-year period. The sadness came from the fact that he (ironically the eldest of the four brothers) is now the only one still alive, but they are always up there on stage with him he says, and at one point a large image of the missing Bee Gees came up on the screen behind him. Here is a clip of one of the last times they would have performed How Can You Mend A Broken Heart together on stage, pretty much just as it would have sounded back on that fateful afternoon in 1970.

How Can You Mend A Broken Heart by The Bee Gees:

So, “What’s it all about?” – From experience broken hearts do get mended, but usually all down to that old chestnut time. Try telling that to a 21-year-old who has just had their heart broken however – It doesn’t tend to go down very well.

Until next time….

How Can You Mend A Broken Heart Lyrics
(Song by Barry Gibb/Robin Gibb)

I can think of younger days
When living for my life
Was everything a man could want to do
I could never see tomorrow
But I was never told about the sorrow

How can you mend a broken heart?
How can you stop the rain from falling down?
How can you stop the sun from shining?
What makes the world go round?

How can you mend this broken man?
How can a loser ever win?
Please help me mend my broken heart
And let me live again

I can still feel the breeze
That rustles through the trees
And misty memories of days gone by
We could never see tomorrow
But no one said a word about the sorrow

How can you mend a broken heart?
How can you stop the rain from falling down
How can you stop the sun from shining
What makes the world go round

And how can you mend this broken man?
How can a loser ever win?
Please help me mend my broken heart
And let me live again

An American Odyssey in Song: New York – Boroughs, Bridges and “Feelin’ Groovy”

Welcome to this occasional series where I am attempting a virtual journey around the 50 States of America in song. For anyone new to this place, I have a continuous route map where I enter and leave each state only once. Suggestions for the next leg always welcome!

It’s quite some time since I continued on my American Odyssey in Song and that would be because I developed a severe case of Odyssey block! After struggling somewhat to identify any songs at all for the New England states, once I hit New York there were just too many. I have started this post on numerous occasions but always gave up half way through. This time, as The Drifters sang in 1961, it’s going to be different, this time I’m going to stay (with it)….

New York.jpg

No time for lengthy paragraphs about the state itself this time though as loads of songs to get through. Suffice to say it must be one of the most diverse states in the whole of the US as not only does it have Long Island, whose “Hamptons” are where rich New Yorkers go to spend their summers, but it also has the wilderness areas to the north where hunting and fishing are the pastimes of choice. The state borders Canada and two of the Great Lakes but at the foot of the triangle there is one of the most iconic and culturally rich cities in the world, New York.

Time to get this party started then and it’s not going to be pretty – Via “a stream of consciousness” is how I’m going to tackle this one. Everyone will have different songs that they associate with New York but these are the ones that have come to mind over the last few weeks. Ready, steady, go….

There can’t be many people who are not familiar with the sights of New York City but just in case, here’s a whistle stop tour courtesy of MGM and those three sailors who had a whirlwind 24-hour leave back in 1949. Ok, ok guys, we’ve got it – “The Bronx is up and the Battery’s down, the people ride in a hole in the ground”.

You can’t have failed to notice that Mr Francis Albert Sinatra plays one of the sailors in that clip and I’m sure it’s expected that his version of the song New York, New York will feature here, but that would just be too obvious, so unusually for me I’ll enter the 21st century and share Empire State of Mind by Mr Shawn Corey Carter (otherwise known as Jay-Z). 

JAYZ
Jay-Z, Rapper and Businessman

Empire State of Mind by Jay-Z featuring Alicia Keys:

Lord knows I’m not usually a fan of rap but I was truly blown away by this “song” (if that’s what it’s called) when it came out in 2009. Some fantastic lines in there referencing Sinatra’s New York, New York but also Afrika Bambaataa, the Bronx DJ who became known as the Godfather of hip-hop. The rap part on it’s own I probably wouldn’t have warmed to that much (although I don’t know), but with the inclusion of Alicia Keys vocals it became something really special. The pair are both from NYC and the song’s main writer, Angela Hunte, grew up in the same building as Jay-Z – 560 State Street, Brooklyn, an address mentioned in the song.

Something that comes across loud and clear from the lyrics of Empire State of Mind is that NYC is not just the island Manhattan as I had often thought as youngster. Oh no, NYC is made up of five boroughs – Brooklyn and Queens on the western end of Long Island, Staten Island which nestles up against New Jersey and The Bronx, north of Manhattan. Manhattan itself only becomes an island because of that tiny sliver of water linking up the East River with the Hudson.

5 boroughs

New York City, despite being made up of these five boroughs is very much centred on Manhattan, so how is it all linked up? Why by ferries and bridges of course. I am reminded of the scene in Saturday Night Fever where John Travolta’s character tries to impress his potential love interest with his knowledge of the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge, that double-decked suspension bridge that connects Staten Island and Brooklyn.

Another iconic bridge is the one that featured in the opening sequence to one of my favourite TV shows from the early ’80s – Taxi starring Danny DeVito and Judd Hirsch. Whenever I hear this theme song I am right back in my student room, my little white portable telly perched precariously on the edge of my desk, just in the right place for the aerial (coat hanger?) to pick up a signal. It would have been mid-week and I was probably having a break from all those laborious hours spent writing everything out in longhand (no computers in those days). A flatmate might have popped in for a coffee whilst we watched the show. Sometimes those memories are the best, ones where nothing in particular was happening, just normal everyday life but hearing that theme reminds me of the scene. A beautiful piece of music called Angela by Bob James.

Angela (Theme from Taxi) by Bob James:

Of course I had to do some research after rewatching that clip to find out which bridge it actually was that came up every week in the titles – Joy, oh joy, it was none other than the Queensboro Bridge – So what I hear you ask? The alternative name for that bridge is The 59th Street Bridge and considering this whole series was inspired by the Paul Simon song America, it is fitting that his song about the bridge be included in this post.

feelin groovy

The 59th Street Bridge Song (Feelin’ Groovy) by Simon and Garfunkel:

Paul Simon said that he’d spent most of 1965 in England but after coming back to the US, and having success with The Sound of Silence, life became really hectic for a while and he found it difficult to adjust. One day, going home to Queens over the 59th Street Bridge, he kind of started to snap out of it as the day had been a really good one, a “groovy one” – Once home he started to write the song subtitled Feelin’ Groovy that went on to appear on the 1966 album “Parsley, Sage, Rosemary and Thyme” recorded with musical partner Art Garfunkel.

But enough about bridges, in the New York of 1977 the phenomenon that was disco had started to really make its mark. Manhattan had Studio 54 where Liza, Michael, Mick and Bianca were regulars but across the Brooklyn Bridge (oops, more bridges), they had a local disco called 2001 Odyssey and every Saturday night, aforementioned John Travolta (playing the character Tony Manero), temporarily left his monotonous life behind and became “king of the dance floor”. Watching him now, the dancing doesn’t look quite as impressive as it did when we first experienced Saturday Night “Fever” and the parodies have been ruthless, but I still have fond memories of going to see that movie when it first came out in the UK in 1978. As someone who has been known to “do a John” over the years and clear the dancefloor, it can be an exhilarating feeling (and not showy-off at all of course!).

You Should Be Dancing by the Bee Gees:

The Saturday Night Fever soundtrack album, featuring disco songs by the Bee Gees, is one of the best-selling soundtracks of all time. How Deep Is Your Love is the song that appears in the closing scenes of the movie as we watch a desolate Tony ride the New York subway late at night. It is one of my all-time favourite love songs (which is probably why it became the choice for my Valentine’s Day post).

So far we’ve checked out the geography of New York and talked about the bridges and the nightlife. What about the people? I read an article recently about the flamboyant octogenarian fashionistas, who cut a dash on 5th Avenue – Way to go ladies!

Of course New York has long been known for its flamboyant characters and Sting sang about one of them, eccentric gay icon Quentin Crisp, in his 1988 song Englishman In New York. Another “character” commited to song was when Rod Stewart wrote and recorded  The Killing of Georgie (Part I and II) in 1976. This story song tells the tale of a young gay man who became successful and popular amongst Manhattan’s upper class – He was “the toast of the Great White Way”, which is the nickname given to the Theatre District of Midtown Manhattan. Georgie attends the opening night of a Broadway musical, but leaves “before the final curtain call” and heads across town. He is attacked near East 53rd Street by a gang of thieves and one inadvertently kills him. The song was apparently based on a true story about a friend of Rod’s old band The Faces.

I have waited a fair amount of time to feature Rod Stewart in this blog as it seems to be universally accepted that by the late ’70s he had sold out and his albums just weren’t up to the calibre of his earlier ones but hey, I was a mere 16-year-old schoolgirl at this time and was a big fan. This song especially, combining the melancholy and sombre Part II with the more popular Part I has long been a favourite of mine.

The Killing Of Georgie (Part I and II) by Rod Stewart:

We’ve spent an awful lot of time in New York City so far in this post but what about the rest of the state? Back in the early sixties before kids started heading off to Europe on holiday they used to go with their parents to resorts such as Kellermans in the Catskill Mountains. This is where “Baby” Houseman spent the summer of 1963, and fell for dashing dance instructor Johnny Castle. Dirty Dancing was a low-budget film that had no major stars but became a massive box office hit and was the first film to sell more than a million copies on home video. It has some great dance scenes and the soundtrack is full of classic songs from that early ’60s era such as Be My Baby, Big Girls Don’t Cry, Will You Love Me Tomorrow, Love Is Strange and this one, Stay by Maurice Williams & The Zodiacs.

kell
Kellermans in the Catskills, the setting for Dirty Dancing

Stay by Maurice Williams & The Zodiacs:

There are some great scenes in the movie where the landscape of the Catskills is kind of the star. I must admit to having become a bit of a fan of this movie in my later years although didn’t really take much heed of it when it first came out – I think it’s down to the nostalgia element, the music choices and the sadness that comes from the realisation that my days of dalliances with a young Johnny Castle are well behind me. Whatever, I’ve ended up writing about songs from it three times now (Be My Baby, Doomed Romances and Summer’s End) and they take the prize for being my least viewed posts – Sacre bleu!

Another song that makes me think of Upstate New York is Woodstock, written by Joni Mitchell but made famous in 1970 by Matthews Southern Comfort. The irony of course is that Joni Mitchell hadn’t even made it to the infamous festival which took place on Max Yasgur’s dairy farm, but wrote about it after having watched it from her hotel room in New York. The lyrics tell the story of a spiritual journey and make prominent use of sacred imagery, comparing the festival site with the Garden of Eden. The saga commences with the narrator’s encounter of a fellow traveller, a “child of God”,  and concludes at their ultimate destination where “we were half a million strong”.

Iain Matthews of Matthews Southern Comfort was actually from Scunthorpe in Lincolnshire but he had previously been with the band Fairport Convention who were at the time heavily influenced by American folk rock.

Well I don’t know about you but I’m exhausted – This post has been a long time coming and I’m sorry it’s so wordy, but I for one am now just pleased that it’s “in the can” so that the journey can continue. Next time we’ll be passing through the Lincoln Tunnel into New Jersey so as ever, suggestions for that state are more than welcome. Unlike with the New England states I have a feeling that it’s now going to get a whole lot easier.

A final clip before I go however – One of my all-time favourite movies is Manhattan directed by Woody Allen. I was given the soundtrack album by the boyfriend of the day after going to see it, as I was just so bowled over by George Gershwin’s compositions. They were all performed by the New York Philharmonic Orchestra and somehow I now always think of Rhapsody In Blue when I see the New York skyline.

manhattan

Rhapsody In Blue by George Gershwin:

The 59th Street Bridge Song (Feelin’ Groovy) Lyrics
(Song by Paul Simon)

Slow down, you move too fast
You got to make the morning last
Just kicking down the cobblestones
Looking for fun and feelin’ groovy
Ba da da da da da da, feelin’ groovy

Hello, lamppost, what’cha knowin’?
I’ve come to watch your flowers growin’
Ain’t’cha got no rhymes for me?
Doot-in doo-doo, feelin’ groovy
Ba da da da da da da, feelin’ groovy

I got no deeds to do
No promises to keep
I’m dappled and drowsy and ready to sleep
Let the morning time drop all its petals on me
Life, I love you
All is groovy

40 Years Ago This Week, Elvis “Left the Building” for the Last Time – Part 2

Last time I told the story of how it came about that my very first vinyl album was an Elvis one. Believe it or not my first CD was an Elvis one as well (and I didn’t even have a CD player yet!). We had been slow to move from vinyl and cassette tape to digital mediums as I just couldn’t get my head round the concept of having to replace nearly 30 years’ worth of music, but the writing was on the wall, so when I decided to buy the new Elvis compilation album “Always On My Mind” in 1997, it had to be in CD format. As new parents money was tight, so the cutting-edge CD player had to wait until later in the year to be purchased. In the meantime however, I played it liberally on our home computer until the ridiculously large VDU (remember those) decided to blow up after over-heating one sunny afternoon. Hard to believe in Scotland I know, but we had stupidly placed it right in front of a single-glazed window.

The anniversary of Elvis’ death sort of crept up on me this week and the post that I published on the actual day itself was a very hastily put together affair. Since then however I have had a chance to read the many other posts written by my fellow bloggers, and after having watched some great video clips, listened to many of his wonderful songs and generally had a good wallow through the memorabilia in my “Elvis Box” (it’s a thing), my love for the man and his music has returned with a vengeance.

Talking of love, the CD “Always On My Mind” was subtitled The Ultimate Love Songs Collection, so not surprisingly it contains an awful lot of songs with that word in the title. Looking at it right now we have: Can’t Help Falling In Love, Love Me Tender, Love Me, Loving You, Love Letters, You Don’t Have To Say You Love Me and It’s Only Love. The word mind also crops up a couple of times as Suspicious Minds (this is a blistering live version) was included as well as the title track, Always On My Mind.

Always On My Mind by Elvis Presley:

Elvis Presley recorded his version of Always On My Mind a few weeks after his final separation from Priscilla. Although Elvis didn’t actually write any of his songs, he might as well have done, for they always seemed to be just so darned personal. Elvis was not the best of letter-writers and Priscilla used to say that they communicated through music instead, as he regularly sent her “meaningful” records after returning home from Germany. Always On My Mind was most definitely for Priscilla which makes it all the more heart-breaking. I don’t really think Elvis ever thought she would leave, but one little lady (albeit with sometimes very big hair) versus the might of the Memphis Mafia, was never going to work out in the long run.

And this is where I’m reminded of the film Blue Hawaii which has become a bit of a tradition in our house as a Boxing Day pick-me-up. Living in Scotland is a cold, damp and dreich affair over the winter months so what could be better than to curl up on the sofa with some slices of fresh pineapple (yes really) and watch Elvis rock-a-hula his way across the sands of Waikiki Beach. I am reminded of the film because of this song, Almost Always True. No, I think it’s a given that Elvis was not “always true” but he was a family man at heart so when Priscilla left, that marked the beginning of the end for him.

Funnily enough, well actually not funny at all as it turns out, my Boxing Day tradition of watching Blue Hawaii did not take place last year as that was the day we found out that George Michael had passed away. I spent most of the day surfing the net and writing the first of my tribute posts. A couple of days later however, the film Viva Las Vegas popped up on the television schedules and whilst watching the antics of Elvis and Ann-Margret (again, their on-screen chemistry suggested he was almost always true), it occurred to me that both men had similarly long careers but both came to a similarly premature, and undignified end.

So, no little paragraph this time with my musings on the “meaning of life”, as just a bit too sad. Instead a photomontage of two of my musical heroes, both taken from us far too soon. I rest my case. RIP Elvis, RIP George.

Always On My Mind Lyrics
(Song by Johnny Christopher/Mark James/Wayne Carson)

Maybe I didn’t love you
Quite as often as I could have
Maybe I didn’t treat you
Quite as good as I should have
If I made you feel second best
Girl I’m sorry I was blind
But you were always on my mind
You were always on my mind

Maybe I didn’t hold you
All those lonely, lonely times
I guess I never told you
That I am so happy that you’re mine
If I made you feel second best
Girl I’m sorry I was blind
But you were always on my mind
You were always on my mind

Tell me, tell me that your sweet love hasn’t died
Give me, give me one more chance
To keep you satisfied
I’ll keep you satisfied
Little things I should have said and done
I just never took the time
But you were always on my mind
You were always on my mind
You were always on my mind
You were always on my mind

Barbra, Ariana and Carly – A Week of Highs and Lows

Well, emotional times indeed.

First of all it’s Chelsea Flower Show week and back at the beginning of this week I had fully intended to perhaps write a heart-warming story about my dad, who in my opinion, had one of the nicest gardens in our village – It was small but perfectly formed and just about all the plants were grown from seed in his greenhouse. I thought I’d include a few pictures and find an appropriate florally-inclined song to accompany the post. Having already shared Barbra Streisand’s duets with both Kris Kristofferson and Barry Gibb, it was perhaps time to revisit the duet she recorded with Neil Diamond.

You Don’t Bring Me Flowers by Barbra and Neil:

You Don’t Bring Me Flowers (Any More) was actually a song about a couple who have drifted apart but somehow, taken literally, that song title really struck a cord with me this week. My dad died back in 2003 but prior to that he always used to arrive on this, the last week of May, with scores of bedding plants for my garden as he always produced way more than were needed. His green fingers meant that I too ended up with a colourful summer garden but of course since 2003 there have been no trays of bedding plants which is what made me think of that song. (Pictures from Dad’s garden below.)

Secondly, on Monday night before going to bed, I spotted a Facebook update from one of darling daughter’s best friends (so close she features on his FB profile photo). He was in Manchester at the Ariana Grande concert and it was obvious there was much excitement in the air. I knew very little about Ariana Grande before this week but now of course we have all heard of her and not for the reasons she would have ever wanted. It appears she started off in musical theatre which led on to a role in a very popular Nickelodeon television show and from there to life as a recording artist. She is very, very pretty (in a Cheryl Tweedy/Cole/Fernandez-Versini kind of way) which always helps, and although much has been made of her fan base being teenage girls, I know from personal experience that she is also much loved by young gay men. Fortunately, the young gay man we know who went to the concert came to no harm on Monday night but of course the same cannot be said for those in the foyer area who found themselves at the mercy of a happening I find very hard to comprehend.

manchester

The people of Manchester have shown themselves to be predictably strong, caring and full of community spirit, with many stories of random acts of kindness unfolding in the course of the week. From taxi drivers to homeless people to nurses to schoolchildren, everyone rallied round. Life must go on as before and that great city has certainly shown that they will be doing just that (some even grudgingly applauding the fact that Man U won their match on Wednesday night). The electioneering all had to grind to a halt for a while for which I was grateful – Coming from Scotland we have now had five trips to the ballot box in just over two and a half years and for once I will not be staying up all night to watch the results come in. Maybe it’s just me, but I’m all electioned-out.

Ariana Grande herself has announced she is to return for a benefit concert in aid of the bereaved families and I’ve just had a quick delve into the music database to see if we have anything of hers stored there – It appears that we do, from back in 2013, before darling daughter went down different music purchasing avenues. Having just listened to it and watched the video, I don’t feel I can include it however, as just a bit too raunchy for this place but in the meantime here is Ariana on the Jimmy Fallon show doing some of her great musical impressions. I do think this young lady is going to have a hard time dealing with what happened on Monday night so I really hope she gets the support she will no doubt need.

Finally, this week we heard of the death of Roger Moore. He was 89 so not one of those shock deaths we had got so used to hearing about last year, but still the end of an era for those of us who remembered him well as The Saint, Lord Brett Sinclair and of course as the most light-hearted, comedic James Bond of them all. Last year I wrote a post about Bond themes (Bond Themes and Nancy Sinatra) and ranked them by personal preference. Although You Only Live Twice came at the top, it is interesting to note that the next three were from the Roger Moore era so perhaps a bit of a golden age, if not for the franchise, for the theme song. (We’ll not mention Moonraker however which came at the bottom of my list!)

thQY1FAW1J

Not in the mood at the moment for the big production number that is Live and Let Die nor for Sheena Easton so instead I’ll end this meandering post with the theme song to the 1977 film The Spy Who Loved Me, which was Roger’s third outing as Bond. Nobody Does It Better was composed by Marvin Hamlisch, the lyrics were by Carole Bayer Sager and it was performed by Carly Simon. It was the first theme song with a title that was different from the name of the film and for many, nobody did Bond better than Roger.

Nobody Does It Better by Carly Simon:

So, “What’s It All About?” – Despite the fact that this week has turned out to be one of great sadness, it has also provided a fair few highs as well. Because our back garden is now a much more open space with fewer bedding plants, it is perfect as a gathering place for the young people, who held an impromptu get-together to welcome the return of their friend from Manchester, unscathed. The weather has also been absolutely glorious over the last few days so tonight there is to be a party in another garden to celebrate a neighbour’s 90th birthday. Poor Roger didn’t make it to 90 but Albert has, and although he didn’t ever drive a Lotus Esprit or meet Barbara Bach, he did once serve Princess Margaret breakfast in bed. Yes, you don’t get to be an nonagenarian without having a fair few tales to tell and that one is perhaps again, for another day!

Until next time….

Nobody Does It Better Lyrics
(Song by Marvin Hamlisch/Carole Bayer Sager)

Nobody does it better
Makes me feel sad for the rest
Nobody does it half as good as you
Baby, you’re the best

I wasn’t looking
But somehow you found me
It tried to hide from your love light
But like Heaven above me
The spy who loved me
Is keeping all my secrets safe tonight

And nobody does it better

Though sometimes I wish someone could
Nobody does it quite the way you do
Why’d you have to be so good?

The way that you hold me
Whenever you hold me
There’s some kind of magic inside you
That keeps me from running
But just keep it coming
How’d you learn to do the things you do?

And nobody does it better
Makes me feel sad for the rest
Nobody does it half as good as you
Baby, baby, darlin’, you’re the best

Baby, you’re the best
Darlin’, you’re the best

An American Odyssey in Song: Rhode Island – “Young and Beautiful” by Lana Del Rey

Welcome to this occasional series where I am attempting a virtual journey around the 50 States of America in song. For anyone new to this place, I have a continuous route map where I enter and leave each state only once. Suggestions for the next leg always welcome!

Last time we visited Massachusetts (tricky to spell but that’s probably the last time I’ll have to do it) so we are now heading west towards New York, first passing through Rhode Island. This tiny state, only 37 miles wide and 48 miles long is made up of islands, inlets and peninsulas but also what appears to be chunks of mainland America plucked from Connecticut and Massachusetts (drat had to spell it again). The name came about because the Italian explorer Giovanni Verrazzano thought that the large pear-shaped island sitting in Narragansett Bay looked like the Greek island of Rhodes. The official name is actually the State of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations, the plantations part being an archaic name for “colony”.

Rhode Island

And now for the part I am coming to enjoy most about this series – The random fact element. Rhode Island is also called the Ocean State and due to its geography has a long history of sailing. The America’s Cup, offered up as a prize by the British Royal Yacht Squadron in 1851, was first won by a boat called America which is how it got its name. The cup has spent much of its time in Newport, Rhode Island ever since and poor Britain has never won it back. The MGM musical High Society was set in one of the many fully staffed mansions that littered the state back then and one of the most memorable scenes was when Bing Crosby and Grace Kelly took a trip on the True Love which in turn inspired the song for the movie. I do remember being troubled by their age difference when first watching it as a child – Having just looked it up, Bing was 53 and Grace 27 when the film was shot, but not unusual amongst wealthy Rhode Islanders back then I suppose. In fact the mansions, or “cottages” as they were called, were originally built by rich plantation owners in order to escape the heat of the Southern summer. Later on rich Northern families started to do the same as the Gilded Age of Vanderbilts and Astors reached its staggeringly opulent zenith. Never had so much money, been made so fast, by so few, and much of this wealth was reflected in the Cliff Walk properties of Newport, RI.

But hey, as usual I am being side-tracked, for this is supposed to be a music blog. Not many obvious contenders for this state but last time both CC and Rol came up with the suggestion Sweet Rhode Island Red by Ike and Tina Turner. A good one but not my featured song for this post as although most of us who are not even au fait with the world of poultry farming have heard of the Rhode Island Red hen (the state bird), the song is not about the hen or even set in the state. Also, although I really enjoyed Tina’s output during her reincarnation of the 1980s, I’m not so fond of the songs she recorded with Ike (or Ike), especially Nutbush City Limits, but we’ll come to the reason for that another day.

ike and tina

But not everyone in Rhode Island lives in mansions and owns yachts. Some of you will know of the animated sitcom Family Guy created by Seth MacFarlane. The series centres on the Griffins family who have an anthropomorphic pet dog called Brian. Seth MacFarlane is not only a talented actor, writer, singer, film-maker but is also (I think) extremely good-looking and it turns out he is even descended from one of the original passengers from The Mayflower (grrr…). He studied animation at the Rhode Island School of Design so not unusual to have set the show in the fictional city of Quahog, RI. I give you the Road To Rhode Island by Brian and Stewie!

All this talk of the Gilded Age and opulent mansions however has made me look into it a bit more and has inspired my choice of featured song for this post. One of the largest “cottages” was Hammersmith Farm owned by the stepfather of Jacqueline Bouvier, Hugh D. Auchincloss. She of course went on to marry John F Kennedy and their wedding reception was held there. The property was also used as the setting for the 1974 film version of The Great Gatsby starring Robert Redford and Mia Farrow. I have a feeling that Grace Kelly may well have also “graced” the terraces of Hammersmith Farm at some point, perhaps not in High Society as that appeared to be a film set, but perhaps in her role as Princess Grace of Monaco.

Some of you will know that Baz Luhrmann also made a dazzling version of The Great Gatsby back in 2013 and the song Young and Beautiful was specially written and recorded for it by Lana Del Rey. It was perfect for the film as she has a deep, sultry voice and a look that is evocative of a much earlier time. Also, a song about “the young and the beautiful” was totally appropriate for the tale of The Great Gatsby. All of the people mentioned in the paragraph above were rich, young and beautiful but whether characters in fiction or real people, they all died prematurely or experienced tragedy in their lives. Again a very tenuous link to this state, and again from a film, but just reinforces the knowledge we all have that a life of wealth and privilege does not necessarily bring happiness.

Young and Beautiful by Lana Del Rey:

Having done a bit of research, it seems that Lana Del Rey adopted her exotic sounding Latin name and look after spending time with friends in Miami. She is however originally from New York and has a Scottish heritage. Her real name is Lizzy Grant which I find amusing as where I come from in the North-East of Scotland there are many older ladies called Lizzy Grant – Absolutely none of them look like Lana Del Rey!

So, a longish post about the smallest state. Heading into Connecticut next and drawing a blank myself for that state at the moment, so again, any suggestions more than welcome. I can think of a couple of siblings who came from there and whose songs I have featured in this place recently, so may well go down that route. We’ll see, but in the meantime, I think I’ll have another listen to the haunting and sombre sound of Young and Beautiful.

Until next time….

Young And Beautiful Lyrics
(Song by Lana Del Ray/Rick Nowels)

I’ve seen the world
Done it all
Had my cake now
Diamonds, brilliant
And Bel Air now
Hot summer nights, mid July
When you and I were forever wild
The crazy days, city lights
The way you’d play with me like a child

Will you still love me
When I’m no longer young and beautiful?
Will you still love me
When I got nothing but my aching soul?
I know you will, I know you will
I know that you will
Will you still love me when I’m no longer beautiful?

I’ve seen the world, lit it up
As my stage now
Channelling angels in the new age now
Hot summer days, rock ‘n’ roll
The way you play for me at your show
And all the ways I got to know
Your pretty face and electric soul

Will you still love me
When I’m no longer young and beautiful?
Will you still love me
When I got nothing but my aching soul?
I know you will, I know you will
I know that you will
Will you still love me when I’m no longer beautiful?

Dear lord, when I get to heaven
Please let me bring my man
When he comes tell me that you’ll let him in
Father tell me if you can
Oh that grace, oh that body
Oh that face makes me wanna party
He’s my sun, he makes me shine like diamonds

Will you still love me
When I’m no longer young and beautiful?
Will you still love me
When I got nothing but my aching soul?
I know you will, I know you will
I know that you will
Will you still love me when I’m no longer beautiful?
Will you still love me when I’m no longer beautiful?
Will you still love me when I’m not young and beautiful

Postscript:

Because I mentioned the film High Society a fair few times above, I feel I should share this excellent clip of the inimitable Mr Louis “Satchel Mouth” Armstrong giving us a potted version of what is to come. Yes, this was high society Rhode Island-style, back in 1956. Enjoy.