‘Angie Baby’, Living In A World Of Make-Belief – RIP Helen Reddy

I was saddened to hear of the death of Helen Reddy last week. I can’t pretend to have ever been a avid fan, but I seem to know a fair few of her songs pretty well, despite her only having had one chart entry here in the UK. I think she was one of those artists who appealed to a wide audience, so was probably a regular guest on light entertainment shows back in the 1970s.

I had always thought she was American, but it seems not. She was born in Melbourne, Australia to a showbusiness family but after winning a trip to New York in a talent contest in 1966, she decided to relocate there. After getting a record contract in 1971, she went on to have many hits in the US including three which reached the No. 1 spot – I Am Woman, Delta Dawn and today’s featured song, Angie Baby.

Angie Baby by Helen Reddy:


This song was the only one that made it into the UK Singles Chart, back in 1975, and despite coming from the ‘Easy Listening’ camp, it really isn’t an easy listen at all. As each verse goes by, the story becomes weirder and weirder. Although we start off commiserating with the girl in the song, who seems to have been one of life’s loners, by the end of it we have gone on a bit of a fantasy trip with her and the listener is left to decide what happens to the boy in the song for themselves. Alan O’Day, the song’s writer, meant for that to happen.

Looking back at it all these years later, it strikes me how much has changed. First of all, it’s clearly a song about a girl living with some kind of mental illness, and if written today, the lyrics just wouldn’t contain the same kind of language at all. ‘You’re a little touched you know, Angie baby.’

Also, although many young people are spending far too much time in their rooms at the moment because of the pandemic, if our house is anything to go by, they don’t seem to spend too much time listening to ‘the rock and roll radio’. The kind of radio I grew up with just doesn’t exist any more for young people, which makes me sad, as it certainly did offer up a level of companionship for the teenage me. I don’t remember ever reducing a boy to a soundwave however, which is one of the interpretations of the final verse. Who would it have been I wonder if I had? A teen idol from the days before we discovered ‘real boys’ probably, David Cassidy or Donny Osmond, and it would all have been quite chaste.

It wasn’t until I sat down to write this post that I discovered it was Helen Reddy who sang the song Candle On The Water from the Disney film Pete’s Dragon. This is a lesser-known film from that stable and one I can’t remember ever having watched. The song did however feature on a CD of Disney songs we had when DD was small, and as it was unfamiliar to me compared with the other more obvious inclusions on that disc, it was always the one I warmed to most when played on long car journeys. Thank you Helen for a beautiful song.

So, ‘What’s It All About?’ – I’ve been trying to write this post since last week but have sadly been suffering from blogger’s block. Life had been getting back to some semblance of normality for a while, but we are most definitely going backwards again, and it does drag you down.

I know I’m not alone in this, but the fact I’ve not had a single night away from home all year, is really starting to get me down too. We’ve hung on in the hope work would come in for Mr WIAA, and I might get guests for the holiday hideaway, but not much going on at all at the moment. Thank goodness for my college course where I meet virtually with my classmates once a week. Perhaps it’s because I see too much of Angie in all of us at the moment that I’ve found it hard to revisit the song and write about it – A bit too close to home and a bit of an anthem for our times, except with Netflix substituted for ‘the rock and roll radio’. If I’m struggling, I can only imagine how awful it must be for young people right now.

Until next time….

Angie Baby Lyrics
(Song by Alan O’Day)

You live your life in the songs you hear
On the rock and roll radio
And when a young girl doesn’t have any friends
That’s a really nice place to go
Folks hoping you’d turn out cool
But they had to take you out of school
You’re a little touched you know, Angie baby

Lovers appear in your room each night
And they whirl you across the floor
But they always seem to fade away
When your daddy taps on your door
Angie girl, are you all right
Tell the radio good-night
All alone once more, Angie baby

Angie baby, you’re a special lady
Living in a world of make-believe
Well, maybe

Stopping at her house is a neighbor boy
With evil on his mind
‘Cause he’s been peeking in Angie’s room
At night through the window blind
I see your folks have gone away
Would you dance with me today?
I’ll show you how to have a good time, Angie baby

When he walks in the room, he feels confused
Like he’s walked into a play
And the music’s so loud it spins him around
‘Til his soul has lost its way
And as she turns the volume down
He’s getting smaller with the sound
It seems to pull him off the ground
Toward the radio he’s bound
Never to be found

The headlines read that a boy disappeared
And everyone thinks he died
Except a crazy girl with a secret lover who
Keeps her satisfied
It’s so nice to be insane
No one asks you to explain
Radio by your side, Angie baby

Angie baby, you’re a special lady
Living in a world of make-believe
Well, maybe

Well, maybe (Angie baby, Angie baby)
Well, maybe (Angie baby, Angie baby)
(Angie baby, Angie baby, Angie baby, Angie baby)

Postscript:

As this was a rather downbeat post, here’s a picture to bring it back up again, of Peanut, the new addition to our family. We’ve not had a hamster in the house for 12 years so I’d forgotten what a racket they make on their wheel – all through the night – but he seems to have settled in well. Of course you might suspect I’ve gone a bit stir-crazy, and converted Mr WIAA into a hamster via a radio soundwave, but no, that would just be plain weird.

Well, maybe

Peanut the hamster

Film Nights, The Waterboys and ‘How Long Will I Love You’

I wrote a bit of a depressing post last time, so want to follow it up with something a whole lot lovlier. With trips to the cinema no longer happening in my neck of the woods I have gone old-school and am hosting a socially-distanced weekly soiree at the holiday hideaway (now sitting empty for obvious reasons) where we take turns in picking a DVD to watch. With so much choice out there nowadays via the various streaming services, it’s sometimes more satisfying to just pick a single film and run with it, a bit like when we all went to the local arts centre on the last Thursday of the month to watch whatever was on at 8.30pm. (Made some amazing new discoveries that would otherwise have been missed.)

It was my turn to pick and as the only customer in our local HMV last Saturday I felt duty bound to buy something, so started looking at the section for films starting with the letters A-D (I’m a great fan of alphabetisation). I know he’s not for everyone, but I am also a great fan of Richard Curtis movies so went for this one, About Time from 2013. Mr WIAA is not and never has been a member of Film Club, so the fact it was a very girly movie didn’t matter as he could stay home and watch Movies For Men. Despite finding common ground most of the time, we do occasionally like to veer off to the extremes of the genre spectrum.

As it turned out, the film was not vintage Richard Curtis, and seemed to have been written to a very familiar formula. Plenty of posh middle class Englishmen and smart American women, but somehow not as funny as the other films I’ve written about here and a basic premise that was slightly ridiculous – Time travel effected by standing in a wardrobe and clenching your fists (not quite the Tardis or a DeLorean). One aspect that did work for me however was the soundtrack, and I have been afflicted by yet another earworm this week because of one particular song choice. In the film it was sung by a group of tube station buskers (played by Jon Boden & Friends), who also provided the version for the end credits, but for me, the best version is still the original – How Long Will I Love You by The Waterboys.

How Long Will I Love You by The Waterboys:


It’s a love song, but a low key and not overly sentimental one. A simple proclamation of undying love written by band member Mike Scott for their 1990 album, Room to Roam. I am a great fan of The Waterboys and they have appeared around here before as I shared their 1985 masterpiece The Whole Of The Moon as part of my Full Moon Calendar in Song series. Back then they were proponents of “The Big Music”, anthemic rock popularised by many Scottish and Irish bands of the time, but by 1990 they were more of a folk rock band. Surprisingly this song was never released by them as a single, which is a shame, as 23 years later Ellie Goulding reached the No. 3 spot in the UK Singles Chart with it, no doubt because of the publicity it received from its connection to the film.


Not sure why this song has affected me quite so much this week – Touch wood Mr WIAA and I are still good, despite his occasional foray into the world of Movies For Men and my fondness for the odd rom-com. With DD back living at home I am once again involved in the lives of her friends, and really feel for them trying to navigate this brave new world filled with anxiety, and hurdles to be overcome. Finding love has never been tougher, and I doubt very much if Mike Scott considered a global pandemic when he wrote his beautiful lyrics back in 1990. No, I doubt it very much indeed.

Until next time….

How Long Will I Love You Lyrics
(Song by Mike Scott)

How long will I love you
As long as there are stars above you
And longer if I can

How long will I need you
As long as the seasons need to
Follow their plan

How long will I be with you
As long as the sea is bound to
wash upon the sand

How long will I want you
As long as you want me to
And longer by far

How long will I hold you
As long as your father told you
As long as you are

How long will I give to you
As long as I live to you
However long it you say

How long will I love you
As long as are stars above you
And longer if I may

Earworm of the Week #5 – Feminism, Walter Murphy and ‘A Fifth of Beethoven’

Roll Over Beethoven sang Chuck Berry back in 1956. Oh yes, Chuck was firm in his belief that had Beethoven still been around, it would have been time for him to roll over and dig those rhythm and blues. Strangely enough, only 20 years later, Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony became the basis of a disco instrumental and this week it has formed a bit of an earworm.

Like many of us during this strange time of lockdown and post-lockdown easing, we’ve watched a fair amount of telly, and there is no shortage of great telly out there made both by traditional broadcasters and the newer streaming services such as Netflix and Amazon Prime. (I am however starting to notice that the BBC & ITV are running out of new product, and during prime time slots are having to repeat some of their most successful output. This in turn affects the amount advertisers are willing to pay for a slot, which will jeopardise the making of future programmes should the industry ever get started again. At this rate we’re going to be old and grey yet will still be watching Line of Duty, Death In Paradise, The Durrells and Downtown Abbey!)

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But I digress. A historical drama I was keen to watch this week was Mrs America (now on the BBC iPlayer) which tells the story of the movement to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment in the 1970s, and the unexpected backlash led by conservative activist Phyllis Schlafly. Prominent feminists of the day, such as Betty Freidan and Gloria Steinem, are key characters, and I feel ashamed that I am only now learning of their contribution to a movement that has given me much of what I have always taken for granted. The opening theme for the show, which has caused the aforementioned earworm, is A Fifth of Beethoven by Walter Murphy. It fits the era and was chosen because it represented both sides of the story. Phyllis and her conservative friends listened to classical music, yet the free and easy disco version of Beethoven’s Fifth, better fitted the feminists.

A Fifth of Beethoven by Walter Murphy:

It of course sounded familiar when I watched the first episode of the show, and it didn’t take long for me to remember that it had appeared on the Saturday Night Fever soundtrack album, and was the record playing when lead character Tony Manero enters the 2001: Odyssey disco in 1977 Brooklyn. He exudes the easy confidence that comes from being a big fish in a little pond, and that nightclub was his domain.

I have written about the film Saturday Night Fever often around here as it came out the year my best friend and I left school. We spent the summer frequenting the many converted function suites in our area, where local hoteliers had decided an investment in floors with flashing lights, glitter balls and a weekly DJ could increase takings no end. It was a memorable summer where we practiced our dance moves and had dalliances with the local Tony Maneros, but looking back I don’t think I appreciated that this carefree summer ahead of starting university, only happened because I came of age in 1978. Had I been born only 10 years earlier such opportunities would not have been a given at all, and our parents may well have steered us down a very different path towards work, then marriage and motherhood. As it turns out we’ve now kind of had to do both, simultaneously, so not sure who won in the end but it’s thankfully no longer a given that men have very little to do with childcare, cooking or housework, so…. , yeah us.

As for Walter Murphy, he was an orchestral leader who studied both classical and jazz music piano at the Manhattan School of Music. In college his interests included rock music that had been adapted from classical music, such as Joy by Apollo 100 and A Lover’s Concerto by The Toys. In 1976, whilst writing a disco song for a commercial, a producer suggested the idea of updating classical music, which nobody had done lately. He recorded a demo tape which included A Fifth of Beethoven and sent it various record labels in New York City. It was picked up and reached the No. 1 spot on the Billboard Chart in October 1976.

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Another little snippet I discovered when doing some research for this post, was that in 2017, exactly 40 years on from the release date of the film that made it famous, the 2001: Odyssey was reimagined. By that time it was no longer a nightspot, but a Chinese restaurant, however a successful businessman invested the cash required to make it happen. The Trammps appeared and sang their hit Disco Inferno, and the actress who played Tony Manero’s love interest also turned up. There were plenty of men in polyester shirts & cream three-piece suits and ladies in those free flowing dresses that epitomised the era, as well as some of the original DJs. Must have been quite a night.

And here is something that really hit home with me this week. In listening to these disco hits of 1978 I’ve been transported back in time, reminiscing about that carefree summer after leaving school. Not so for our school-leavers of this year who have had no prom or end of term revelries and face uncertainly about their exam grades. The doors to the places where they all used to come together are still firmly closed, and as DD pointed out earlier in the week, “Its a rubbish year to be single”.

No lyrics this time as an instrumental, but as ever, if you want to leave a comment, I always reply.

Until next time….

Songs About Home Towns, “Húsavík” and The Wacky World Of Eurovision

Many of the songs I share around here come from film and television, as borne out by the sheer number of posts in each of those categories on my sidebar. It was obvious early on in the evolution of this blog, that unless I was revisiting songs from my chart-loving/album buying years of the 1970s and ’80s, much of the music I have warmed to over the decades has come from watching something on the big, or small, screen.

I recently wrote about the Eurovision Song Contest, which like everything else this year didn’t happen, but for us fans of such fluff and nonsense there has been a bit of a reprieve in the form of the new Will Ferrell film Eurovision Song Contest: The Story Of Fire Saga. It went straight to Netflix so despite there being no cinemas yet open around here we have been able to watch it twice. There have been a few scathing reviews and on the whole it was not a winner with the critics, but hey, what do they know? During these dark times it has offered up a couple of hours of pure escapism and as an oficiando of all things Eurovision, and someone who in the past memorised vast amounts of info on the runners and riders, there were some great cameos and in-jokes which will have been lost on our friends across the pond.

Even if you’re not a fan of Eurovision, or a fan of comedic musicals, the scenery alone makes it a worthwhile watch. Our wannabe contest winners, Fire Saga, have become the unlikely representatives for little Iceland and their home town Húsavík is featured heavily in the film – I’m guessing that once we’re able to travel more freely again, it will be heavily inundated by tourists. (Whether they are wanted is another matter, and a standing joke throughout the film, but I’ll leave that for you to discover should you watch it for yourselves.)

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Húsavík in Iceland

One of the showstopping songs from the film is also called Húsavík, written as a love letter to their home town, and performed by Fire Saga member Sigrit Ericksdóttir (expertly played by Rachel McAdams). It has formed a bit of an earworm for me this week, partly because it’s a great song, and partly because it’s so relevant to what’s happening in our neighbourhood.

I mentioned a couple of weeks ago that we had DD back living with us in the Highlands as the current crisis made her realise more than ever that big city life is not for her. But also, one by one, our neighbours’ adult children have similarly returned to their respective nests as this lockdown period has not been kind to the young in terms of job losses, accommodation unsuitable for home-working, and sadly, relationship breakdown. It seems when the chips are down, like Lars and Sigrit from Iceland, your home town is often just where you want to be, and despite all the turmoil of the last few months I haven’t seen DD so happy in years. We don’t have whales up here (as they do in Húsavík), but we do have the Moray Firth Dolphins, and she has loved her long walks along the coast with old friends since returning to her home town.

Where the mountains sing through the screams of seagulls
Where the whales can live ’cause they’re gentle people (or dolphins?)
In my hometown, my hometown

Thought I made it clear, do I have to say it?
It was always there, we just didn’t see it
All I need is you and me and my home

Húsavík by Molly Sandén:

But this of course is a song from a film and it’s not always the case that the actor playing the role of the singer, does the actual singing. It has been a long-standing tradition in the making of movies and I remember well that scene in Singin’ In The Rain when poor old Lina Lamont was humiliated when the curtains went back to reveal a young Debbie Reynolds/Kathy Seldon at the microphone. In the Eurovision film it is Swedish singer Molly (My Marianne) Sandén who takes the honours so credit where credit’s due, although it seems they did mix her voice with that of Rachel McAdams to a certain extent, which seems to have worked well. Turns out Molly represented Sweden in the Junior Eurovision Song Contest in 2006, so quite apt really.

mollysandenuf
Molly Sandén

So, “What’s It All About?” – Sometimes you’re just in the mood for watching a feel-good comedy and the film written about in this post ticked all the boxes for me. A couple of years ago a film called The Greatest Showman was similarly panned by the critics, but unless you lived under a rock in 2018, you will know it spawned a best-selling album and kept returning to the top spot time and time again in terms of box-office takings. The showstopping song in that film, Never Enough, was very similar in style to the one featured above, and although I thought at the time it was sung by actress Rebecca Ferguson, who played Swedish Nightingale Jenny Lind, it was American singer Loren Allred who took the honours that time. Two films, one where a Swede sings for an American and one where an American sings for a Swede!

Never Enough by Loren Allred:

As for our adult children returning to their home town, like many others have found during this crisis, priorities can change. We do have short memories however and as we are seeing an opening up of much of our economy, people seem anxious to get back out there, doing what they used to do. Cross fingers it doesn’t result in the dreaded second wave we keep hearing about. The 21st century phenomenon FOMO (fear of missing out) has been thankfully absent from our lives of late, but as things start to get back to normal it will no doubt return with a vengeance as get-togethers are shared on social media. Let’s hope we have learnt something from this downtime and that the “old normal” does not return in full any time soon.

Until next time….

Húsavík Lyrics
(Song by Fat Max Gsus/Rickard Göransson/Kotecha)

All by myself
With this great big world before me
But it’s all for someone else
I’ve tried and tried again
To let you know just where my heart is
To tell the truth and not pretend

All I needed was to get away
Just to realize that I was meant to stay

Where the mountains sing through the screams of seagulls
Where the whales can live ’cause they’re gentle people
In my hometown, my hometown
Thought I made it clear, do I have to say it?
It was always there, we just didn’t see it
All I need is you and me and my home

Vera með þér, með þér
Í Húsavík við Skjálfanda
Í heimabærinn minn

You want the world (Want the world)
All the neon lights and billboards
To be seen and to be heard (Heard)
And I followed you (Oh-ooh)
But now I know what makes me happy
And I can tell you feel it too

Where the mountains sing through the screams of seagulls
Where the whales can live ’cause they’re gentle people
In my hometown, my hometown
Where the northern lights burst out in colors
And the magic nights surpass all others
Það eina sem ég þrái er, að vera

More Local Hero-Related Pictures and Music

 

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Last time I included another of the little films I made a couple of years ago around the time of the Spring Equinox. It featured the Mark Knopfler instrumental Going Home from the film Local Hero and regular commenter Lynchie jumped in and regaled us with his tale of having been the first journalist to meet with David Puttnam and Bill Forsyth to hear about their planned production (link here). The village of Pennan on the Aberdeenshire coast had been chosen as the setting for the fictitious village of Ferness which was to be the site for a new oil refinery. The hot-shot executive sent to close the deal gradually adapts to the slower-paced life however and gets to know the eccentric residents. As time goes by he becomes conflicted, as he knows the deal will mark the end of the quaint little village he has come to love. Unbeknownst to him however, the villagers are tired of their hard life and are more than eager to sell, although they feign indifference to induce a larger offer. This all leads to some great comedic moments.

A couple of years ago we decided to take an Australian visitor along the coast to visit Pennan and I managed to get my picture taken outside the iconic red telephone box. I’m pretty sure everyone must do that but only if they successfully navigate the steep single track road down into the village. At one point we had to reverse backwards up the hill to let someone past and I was pretty alarmed by the burning smell coming from under the bonnet. Anyway, the car survived, and we had a really pleasant afternoon in a village that feels as if time forgot.

I only have one other piece of music on this device by Mark Knopfler and it’s called If This Is Goodbye, a duet he recorded with Emmylou Harris. Very beautiful but not the most positive of sounding songs, so to end this post I’ll just share another clip of Mr Knopfler playing a different version of his instrumental from the film.

Until next time….  Take care and keep well.

A Shower Room Update, Appreciating the Little Things and “Going Home”

I have absolutely no idea how to pitch my blog posts at the moment as in the few days between writing something new, the world has yet again been transformed into a place none of us would have recognised only a couple of weeks ago. I admit to having had a rather large wobble over the last 24 hours (too much social media), but after the massive treat of going to the local supermarket for a basketful of basics, and having just met some of my neighbours (at a distance) for the mass round of applause for the NHS, I think I’ve just swung the other way – What a roller-coaster of emotions. Still haven’t spoken to my mum or had any communication from the care home and DD is at the other end of Scotland with her boyfriend in their one bedroom flat (true test of a relationship), so tough.

Last time I wrote about how I had eventually treated myself to a new shower room after 20 years of making do with the previous owner’s version. Although last week the plumber was confident it was a CV-19 Free Build, by late Monday it was obvious he wouldn’t be able to come back. I paid him in full, as he is one of the many self-employed tradesmen who now have no work. A plan came through to help the self-employed this afternoon but many will fall through the cracks, including ourselves – Not complaining as any help should go to those most in need, but I do worry about a lot of the locals who depend on tourism and the service sector for their livelihoods.

Last time I also shared one of the little films I made at the 2018 Spring Equinox after taking a few classes at the Apple Store. Here is the second one, this time featuring a piece of music by Mark Knopfler, which seemed to suit the particular scenes around here really well. I give you Going Home from the excellent 1983 film Local Hero. Watching it now, I cannot believe how quickly something like going for a leisurely drive has turned into a pipe dream. At the moment, I feel as if I will never take anything for granted again.

Until next time, I hope you and your loved ones stay safe and well.

If you are a frontline worker, we are so grateful for all that you are doing. At times like this it becomes obvious which jobs are worthy and necessary, but sometimes poorly paid, and which are very well paid but not necessarily worthy. The Cult of Celebrity has been seen for what it is and for that I am grateful.

Alyson’s Archive #7 – 10cc, “I’m Not In Love”

Things are a bit grim, so we need a bit of a distraction. Welcome back to this occasional series where I share the contents of my archive box of teenage memorabilia. I always knew these random bits and pieces would come in handy some day, but little did I think it would be because 2020 is turning out to be the year when everything changed. Let’s hark back to simpler times.

We’re journeying back to March 1976 when I picked up my monthly copy of Words Magazine. On the cover of that edition were 10cc, and on page 3, we get to hear a little more about our cover stars.

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I do sometimes (always?) ramble on a bit around here, but no need for that this time as I recognise some people actually drop by for the tunes. One of my favourite films is Guardians of the Galaxy and it was on telly on Saturday night as a replacement for the rugby which didn’t go ahead. One of the “stars” of that film is the mixtape made for our hero by his mother, full of her favourite songs from the 1970s. The opening scene shows the young Peter listening to his Walkman, and the song playing is I’m Not In Love.

I’m Not In Love by 10cc:

There is a half hour documentary in the BBC iPlayer archives about the making of this one song, so I urge you to seek it out. Written by band members Eric Stewart and Graham Gouldman, it has a really distinctive backing track, composed mostly of the band’s multitracked vocals. Released in May 1975, it became the second of the group’s three number-one singles in the UK and was our smooching song of choice at my local youth club disco. Written mostly by Stewart as a reply to his wife’s declaration that he did not tell her often enough that he loved her (he really did), it was originally played on guitars, but the other two members of the band, Kevin Godley and Lol Creme, disliked the track and it was abandoned. Stewart persuaded the group to give the song another chance and they ending up creating a new version using just voices.

Until next time….

I’m Not In Love Lyrics
(Song by Eric Stewart/Graham Gouldman)

I’m not in love
So don’t forget it
It’s just a silly phase I’m going through
And just because
I call you up
Don’t get me wrong, don’t think you’ve got it made
I’m not in love, no no, it’s because..

I like to see you
But then again
That doesn’t mean you mean that much to me
So if I call you
Don’t make a fuss
Don’t tell your friends about the two of us
I’m not in love, no no, it’s because..

I keep your picture
Upon the wall
It hides a nasty stain that’s lying there
So don’t you ask me
To give it back
I know you know it doesn’t mean that much to me
I’m not in love, no no, it’s because..

Ooh you’ll wait a long time for me
Ooh you’ll wait a long time
Ooh you’ll wait a long time for me
Ooh you’ll wait a long time

I’m not in love
So don’t forget it
It’s just a silly phase I’m going through
And just because I call you up
Don’t get me wrong, don’t think you’ve got it made
I’m not in love
I’m not in love

The Cotton Club, Ella Fitzgerald and “Ill Wind (You’re Blowin’ Me No Good)”

One of the new things I discovered during my month of abstinence from all things computer-related (should have waited until lent really) was a telly channel called Talking Pictures. I have bemoaned of late that hardly any of the mainstream channels show old black and white movies any more, and I miss that. Here however (I think it’s No. 81 on Freeview) was a channel totally dedicated to such fare. It bothers me somewhat that there will be a whole generation of people who have never heard of Humphrey Bogart or Fred Astaire, and have never laid eyes on any of their prodigious output.

Talking-Pictures

One film I recently re-watched on Talking Pictures wasn’t black and white however, in fact it was an extravaganza of colour, but was set right at the start of the 1930s so fitted the channel’s ethos well. Many years ago I had one of those “lost weekend” kind of things. My two flatmates were away for the duration; I had recently split up with the long-term boyfriend; and, for two days had no other commitments, so I holed up in my comfy indoors-y clothes and watched telly. We didn’t have a VCR back in those days, just a basic Radio Rentals telly, but one of the flatmates had recently acquired a new job in sales, and had been given a machine with a built in video-player to dazzle her potential customers. That weekend I aimed to make full use of it, but ended up watching only one film, four times, as I was so blown away by it. The film I rented was Francis Ford Coppola’s The Cotton Club and I can still remember most of the dialogue verbatim. (This clip seems to start in the middle, so needs to be reset.)

Two weeks ago I wrote about the film Paint Your Wagon and about how it was both a Western, and a Musical. The Cotton Club was a Crime-Drama, but also a Musical and like Paint Your Wagon didn’t get brilliant reviews when it came out, as it didn’t particularly appeal to either audience. Personally I loved it and couldn’t understand why it hadn’t been more successful. With the passage of time that opinion has been reassessed however and a remastered version was released in 2017.

The Cotton Club was the name of a Harlem jazz club of the 1930s during the era of Prohibition and Jim Crow racial segregation. Black people could not patronise the Cotton Club, but the venue featured many of the most popular black entertainers of the era, including musicians Duke Ellington, Louis Armstrong, Count Basie, Adelaide Hall, Cab Calloway, Billie Holiday, and dancers such as Bill Robinson and The Nicholas Brothers. In its heyday, the Cotton Club served as a hip meeting spot, with regular “Celebrity Nights” featuring guests such as Jimmy Durante, George Gershwin, Paul Robeson, Al Jolson, Mae West and Fanny Brice, amongst others.

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There were some great musical performances in the film and we got to witness what it would have been like to experience Duke Ellington and Cab Calloway (he of Minnie the Moocher fame) in their prime. The song I most enjoyed when I first watched the film 35 years ago was Ill Wind (You’re Blowin’ Me No Good) and all these years later it was still the song I most enjoyed. The actress Lonette McKee was given the task of singing it, however over the years it has been recorded by all the greats, Frank Sinatra, Dinah Washington and Ella Fitzgerald to name but a few. The song was composed by Harold Arlen who also gave us the soundtrack to The Wizard of Oz. Yes, he was the man responsible for taking us Somewhere Over The Rainbow.

Ill Wind (You’re Blowin’ Me No Good) by Ella Fitzgerald:

One observation from having typed the word “ill” several times for this post, depending on the typeface you use it can look like the number three in Roman numerals. A capital “i”, and the letter “l”, often look the same, but I can assure you it’s neither a song by Lonette McKee the Third, nor a level Three Wind, it is indeed about a wind that we really don’t want, just like the one that whisked Dorothy off to the land of Oz.

These old movies on the Talking Pictures channel are not for everyone but I’ve watched a few now and they are a real insight into our social history. Some of the best lines in The Cotton Club came from a young Lawrence Fishbourne who played mob boss and bookmaker Bumpy Rhodes. They made a real impact on me when I watched the film 35 years ago and his short speech has never left me. Last week I wrote about the BRIT awards and how rapper Dave was responsible for the most powerful performance of the night. 90 years on and I’m realising they are not a million miles apart.

Until next time….

Ill Wind (You’re Blowin’ Me No Good) Lyrics
(Song by Harold Arlen/Ted Koehler)

Blow ill wind,
Blow away,
Let me rest today.
You’re blowin’ me no good,
No good.

Go ill wind,
Go away,
Skies are oh so gray
Around my neighborhood,
And that ain’t good

You’re only misleadin’ the sunshine I’m needin’,
Ain’t that a shame
It’s so hard to keep up with troubles that creep up
From out of nowhere,
When love’s to blame.

So ill wind, blow away.
Let me rest today.
You’re blowin’ me no good.

So, ill wind, blow away,
Please let me rest today.
You’re blowing me no good, no good, no good.

Happy Families At The BRITs, Neneh Cherry and “7 Seconds” of Innocence

This week I watched the BRIT Awards. It’s a big night for those in the music industry as a large clutch of awards can really raise sales to stratospheric levels – But enough about “The Suits” from the record companies, it is also a big night for the artists who have worked hard on their craft and been allowed to shine over the last 12 months. For many, all their dreams have come true, but for others, they may crash and burn – Lets hope most will fall into the former camp.

The big winner at the Grammys this year was American Billie Eilish, who is only 18 years old. She was also a big winner at the BRITs and performed the new Bond theme song No Time To Die written by her brother, who simply goes by the name Finneas. Billie certainly doesn’t follow any of the normal rules associated with pop princesses, and eschews make-up, hair extensions and skimpy clothing. With her lime green hair, she is a breath of fresh air in an increasingly plasticised world. What upset me however was that when she received her award she became quite emotional, as she’d been feeling “hated” of late on social media, but the reception she got from the crowd on Tuesday night had made her feel “loved”. Regulars around here will know my last post was about the #BeKind movement, and for Billie’s sake, I hope those who hide behind their keyboards spouting hatred take heed, and start being kinder.

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Billie Eilish with brother Finneas

Another big winner on Tuesday night was Scotland’s own Lewis Capaldi who won both the award for Best New Artist and also for Song of the Year. Like Billie he is no conventional pop idol, which is great, and as is his way, his acceptance speech was peppered with the kind of language not allowed on pre-watershed telly, so we didn’t get to hear any of it. He is so typically Glaswegian however and has that knack of not taking himself too seriously which I love. His Italian surname is the same as that of fellow Glaswegian Peter Capaldi, and yes, it turns out they are related, sharing a great-grandfather. Peter even appeared in the video for Lewis’ song of the year, Someone You Loved.

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Lewis Capaldi with “cousin” Peter Capaldi aka Dr Who

Another family connection that surprised me when watching Tuesday night’s show, was that Mabel, winner of Best British Female Solo Artist, has a mum who herself is the proud owner of three BRIT awards. Who could this be I wondered and did a quick google search – Her mum turns out to be Neneh Cherry and frighteningly, her awards were all received on the show exactly 30 years ago to the day. I remember watching that show well and honest to goodness, it feels like only about 10 years ago! Mabel also put in a great performance of her big hit Don’t Call Me Up on the night which reminded me a lot of Dua Lipa’s New Rules from two year’s ago. More stories of strong women taking control – A regular theme for the 21st century it seems.

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Mabel with her mum Neneh Cherry

But here is a clip of the most powerful performance of the night. Dave, from Streatham in South London, won the award for British Album of the Year which is apparently “the big one”. As a woman of a certain age living in the Scottish Highlands, I could not be culturally more different from Dave and his “brothers”, but listening to his Brits’ version of Black which had an incredibly moving verse added at the end encompassing a tribute to London Bridge terror attack victim Jack Merritt, it does make me understand their world a little more. Two years ago Stormzy blew me away at the Brits, but this year it was Dave. I urge you to watch until the end, and also, to admire the very clever graphics on the piano.

But getting back to Neneh Cherry, in case anyone has forgotten just how good she was back in the day, here is one of my all-time favourite songs – 7 Seconds by Youssou N’Dour featuring Neneh Cherry. It was released in 1994 as a single, and reached the No. 1 spot in numerous countries. In France it stayed at No. 1 for a record 16 weeks and it also won the MTV Europe Music Award for Best Song of 1994. 7 Seconds is apparently about the first positive 7 seconds in the life of a newborn child, a child who does not know about the problems and violence in our world. Three different languages were used in the song: English, French and Wolof, which is a language spoken in Senegal, Gambia, and Mauritania. Also very apt I think for today’s post.

7 Seconds by Youssou N’Dour and Neneh Cherry:

Until next time….

7 Seconds Lyrics
(Song by Neneh Cherry/Youssou N’Dour/Cameron McVey/Jonathan Sharp)

Boul ma sene, boul ma guiss madi re nga fokni mane
Khamouma li neka thi sama souf ak thi guinaw
Beugouma kouma khol oaldine yaw li neka si yaw
mo ne si man, li ne si mane moye dilene diapale

Roughneck and rudeness,
We should be using
On the ones who practice wicked charms
For the sword and the stone
Bad to the bone
Battle is not over
Even when it’s won

And when a child is born
Into this world
It has no concept
Of the tone the skin is living in

It’s not a second
Seven seconds away
Just as long as I stay
I’ll be waiting
It’s not a second
Seven seconds away
Just as long as I stay
I’ll be waiting
I’ll be waiting
I’ll be waiting

J’assume les raisons qui nous poussent de changer tout,
J’aimerais qu’on oublie leur couleur pour qu’ils esperent
Beaucoup de sentiments de races qui font qu’ils desesperent
Je veux les deux mains ouvertes,
Des amis pour parler de leur peine, de leur joie
Pour qu’ils leur filent des infos qui ne divisent pas
Changer

Seven seconds away
Just as long as I stay
I’ll be waiting
It’s not a second
Seven seconds away
Just as long as I stay
I’ll be waiting
I’ll be waiting
I’ll be waiting

And when a child is born
Into this world
It has no concept
Of the tone the skin it’s living in

And there’s a million voices
And there’s a million voices
To tell you what you should be thinking
So you better sober up for just a second

We’re seven seconds away
Just as long as I stay
I’ll be waiting
It’s not a second
We’re seven seconds away
For just as long as I stay
I’ll be waiting
It’s not a second
Seven seconds away
Just as long as I stay
I’ll be waiting

An Unlikely Chart Topper: Lee Marvin and “Wand’rin’ Star”

I really enjoyed my return to the world of blogging last weekend after a month’s break. I was also pleasantly surprised that my featured song by Edison Lighthouse proved to be such a favourite with so many of you, as I hadn’t expected that at all. I have ended up returning to the UK Singles Chart of 1970 for these first two posts of the new decade, and both songs have been really enjoyable to research and write about. I thought it might be an idea for this calendar year to revisit that chart once a month (a kind of 50-year-retrospective) but you know what, I can’t wait another month to dip into the archives again because the March 1970 No. 1 single was Wand’rin’ Star by Lee Marvin.

I’ve often mentioned around here that the songs hitting the top spot are not always representative of what we were listening to at the time at all – Oh no, it’s often a song that became a hit because of its association with a prime time television show or blockbuster movie. All those people who would never normally go out and buy records suddenly do so, and it invariably skews the chart keeping what are now thought of as pop classics, off the top spot.

Wand’rin’ Star by Lee Marvin:

But, I really do have a soft spot for this song. It was from the film Paint Your Wagon released in 1969 which was one of only two films I went to see at the cinema with my parents (the other being The Sound of Music). Living nearly 30 miles away from the nearest cinema it wasn’t something we ever did as a family, but I think we were on holiday at the time in the south of Scotland, and it being July it was probably wet, so the decision must have been made to hole up for the afternoon watching a film we were all familiar with because of Mr Marvin’s regular appearances on TOTP. I have featured a few really deep voices around here over the years (Barry White, Johnny Cash…. ) but surely Lee must have had the deepest voice of all. It was described, by co-star Jean Seberg, as “like rain gurgling down a rusty pipe” and has also been described as “the first 33⅓ recorded at 45” – Seems about right.

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Paint Your Wagon was a Western, but also a Musical, and it wasn’t really a box-office success, never recouping its cost of production and marketing. Just not the kind of thing people wanted to go and see in 1970 it seems. Musicals of this sort had gone out of fashion and as this Simpson’s clip shows, it had something of a split personality, neither working for rootin’, tootin’, shootin’ western lovers, or lovers of the more sedate musical.

I don’t think Lee ever released any more records but continued to work as an actor right up until his death in 1987. He starred in many classic movies such as The Dirty Dozen and Cat Ballou, winning the 1965 Best Actor Oscar for his role in that film.

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Lee Marvin, 1924-1987

I do remember my mum being a bit concerned, after leaving the cinema, that there had been things in Paint Your Wagon I wouldn’t understand. Yes, there was a fair bit of bodice-ripping and all the excitement of kidnapping “six French tarts” in order to provide the miners with female companionship (There’s a Coach Comin’ In), but even at age ten I wasn’t totally green, just mortified at having to sit beside my parents whilst watching such fodder. Funny, but looking back, the only two films watched in a cinema with my family were about a nun called Maria, and a wind called Maria (albeit pronounced differently) – Cue one last link to a song from the film!

Until next time….

Wand’rin’ Star Lyrics
(Song by Frederick Loewe/Alan Jay Lerner)

I was born under a wanderin’ star.
I was born under a wanderin’ star.

Wheels are made for rollin’, mules are made to pack.
I’ve never seen a site that didn’t look better lookin’ back.

I was born under a wanderin’ star.

Mud can make you prisoner and the plains can bake you dry.
Snow can burn your eyes but only people make you cry.
Home is made for comin’ from, for dreams of goin’ to.
Which with any luck will never come true.

I was born under a wanderin’ star.
I was born under a wanderin’ star.

Do I know where hell is, hell is in hell-o.
Heaven is good-bye forever it’s time for me to go.

I was born under a wanderin’ star, a wanderin’, wanderin’ star.

Mud can make you prisoner and the plains can bake you dry.
Snow can burn your eyes but only people make you cry.
Home is made for comin’ from, for dreams of goin’ to.
Which with any luck will never come true.

I was born under a wanderin’ star.
I was born under a wanderin’ star.

When I get to heaven tie me to a tree.
Or I’ll begin to roam and soon you’ll know where I will be.

I was born under a wanderin’ star.
A wanderin’, wanderin’ star.