My 400th Post and Christmas, WIAA Style

WIAA: Alyson…, oh Alyson.

ALYSON: Hi WIAA, I am here, it’s just that I’m feeling a bit discombobulated by all the uncertainly that’s crept in over the last week so don’t know where to go with this one. Last year I wrote a (hopefully humorous) blog post about the planned five day Christmas Bubbles, but then at the 11th hour, the rules all changed. It’s looking like that might happen again, and for the second year in a row, many of us will find ourselves…

WIAA: Do you have any Christmas songs to share with your lovely followers?

ALYSON: To be honest WIAA, as this is my fifth Christmas as a music blogger I fear I may have revisited all my favourites already (link here), and despite the fact many well-known artists have recorded something new this year, none of their songs have really resonated with me. Here’s something to kick off with though – I mentioned at the end of 2020 that my favourite ‘new song discovery’ of that year was José Felicianos version of California Dreamin’. As the whole world still seems to be going through a topsy-turvey time, it doesn’t feel that unusual for a music blogger from the Highlands of Scotland to be drawn to a song by a Puerto Rican singer/songwriter from 1970. I give you Feliz Navidad (don’t think you’ll need a translation).

Feliz Navidad by José Feliciano:


WIAA: Good one Alyson. What have you been doing in the build up to Christmas this year?

ALYSON: Well, it’s a bit of a weird one, as we’re now having to lie low to keep ourselves virus-free in advance of guests arriving at the holiday hideaway. Personally I think both sets will now cancel, which will be a bit of a blow, but before the whole lying low thing happened, I had tentatively returned to my regular cinema-going ways.

WIAA: What have you been to see?

ALYSON: It didn’t occur to me until now but maybe the reason I thought of José’s song is that I went to see Stephen Spielberg’s remake of West Side Story last week, all about the rivalry between two New York gangs, the Jets, and the Puerto Rican Sharks.

WIAA: Did you enjoy it?

ALYSON: I think I’m still processing it. The 1961 film won 10 Academy Awards, and when I first watched it as a teenager, I was blown away by it – Although some of the musical numbers were outstanding in the new film, as were the two female leads, there was something about it that felt a bit ‘silly’ for 2021. Our viewing habits have become a lot more sophisticated and I don’t think the younger generation would see it as a period drama. The clothes and themes could almost be contemporary, but the language used by the gangs and their balletic style of dance is most definitely not contemporary. Again, I was discombobulated and wondered if it really needed to be remade.

WIAA: Did you cry at the end?

ALYSON: Oh WIAA, you know me well. I did indeed despite knowing how it ended having watched the original many times. The love story was inspired by Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, but a story that never dates it seems, and just as relevant today. Stephen Sondheim, the musical’s lyricist, died aged 91 at the end of November, just at the time of the film’s release. As a bit of a tribute to him, here is the Tonight Quintet from the original film, an incredible piece of ‘opera’ based on the duet between Maria and Tony from earlier on in the musical. The five parts of the quintet are sung by the Jets, the Sharks, Tony, Maria, and Anita.

Tonight Quintet by the West Side Story Cast:


WIAA: Well, you really got into your stride there despite me feeling a bit unloved earlier on – A blank page sitting on a blogging platform with only five days to go until Christmas.

ALYSON: Yes I can always rely on you to get me back on track. Can you believe that when I press the publish button on this one, we’ll have racked up a total of 400 blog posts together. It’s been a journey, and we’re not finished yet are we? I think I can fly solo now WIAA, so happy to let you head off and do whatever blogs have to do behind the scenes, fixing broken links and the like. Merry Christmas to you.

WIAA: Merry Christmas Alyson.

Five years ago, in my first year of blogging, I bemoaned the fact I was one of the sandwich generation, someone who worked full-time but also had adult offspring still living at home and an elderly parent to look out for. As regulars around here will know, none of these things now apply – I waved goodbye to my old workplace four years ago, my mum moved into her care home three years ago and DD headed out into the world two years ago. It’s happened gradually, but it turns out you kinda miss being the squished filler in a sandwich, especially around Christmastime.

It’s become traditional at this time of year that I share some songs relevant to each generation of my family, and Mr WIAA and I have had some fun this week watching old clips on YouTube when we probably should have been engaged in something more productive, by hey, I’m a loose filler who has lost her bread, so it’s allowed.

2 Become 1 by the Spice Girls:


Can you believe it’s 25 years since Girl Power became ‘a thing’ courtesy of those larger than life Spice Girls. Back then I was a busy mum with a baby and a responsible job so they really weren’t aimed at my demographic, but you couldn’t fail to get caught up in all their Zig-a-Zig-ah-ing back in 1996. They’d already had two No. 1 hits that year and at Christmastime they did it again with this one, 2 Become 1. I just loved the video for it set in New York, and it reminded me that Mr WIAA and I had become an item just before Christmas a few years earlier – A great time of year to be all loved up. I was shocked therefore to learn it was all filmed in a studio on Old Compton Street, London, using a ‘green screen’. Anyway, this one’s for DD, as although I know what the song is really all about, the romantic in me just wants to acknowledge the fact it’s also about two individuals forming a relationship and perhaps welcoming a new little person into the world one day.

Yesterday I went to visit my mum at the care home. I had to wear full PPE and the visit was heavily supervised as her care home has yet again been forced into lockdown and all their Christmas activites were cancelled. I did however manage to play her a few Christmas songs on my phone from the only festive album that resided in our house when I was growing up. Yes, yet again it’s going to be that Texan Jim Reeves, with one of the songs from his best-selling album, Twelve Songs of Christmas. My mum was my age 25 years ago when the Spice Girls were at No.1 with their song, and a big help to me when I was a busy mum myself. How things change with the passage of time, and food for thought indeed. Think she enjoyed hearing Jim though, and hopefully it did bring back memories from the distant past.

As for us, I’m going to defer to Mr WIAA who seems to find good clips to watch. Another person we lost from the world of music recently was John Miles. As 1976 seems to have been my favourite year to revisit these last 12 months, here is an epic 2001 Proms performance of his song, Music, which reached the No. 3 spot on our UK Singles Chart back in ’76. It’s not a Christmas song, but the audience certainly make it look festive with all those lights. He was only aged 72 when he died. RIP John.

Music by John Miles:


One final indulgence, and yet again not a Christmas song, but one that is set to clips from the Emma Thompson film Last Christmas. In terms of plot, if you are using the lyrics from the song Last Christmas as inspiration, it really can’t get any more literal than this, and a bit ridiculous really. If however you are a fan of the songs of George Michael, as I am, it was a no-brainer you would go and see it at the cinema when it came out two years ago.

Five years ago George Michael died on Christmas Day, and his passing affected me more than any other person we’ve lost since I started this blog. My sidebar has a couple of categories dedicated to him. The song used is Praying for Time from 1990, and it still gives me goose-bumps when I listen to it. The song deals with, “the many social injustices faced by so many, and questions the conditioning society has created and why it can be so hard to be kind to one another.” He was a good egg George, and many of his random acts of kindness were only discovered after his death. Around this time of year we should all try and take a leaf out of his book, as over 30 years on, those social injustices are still around and have become compounded by the pandemic.

Praying for Time by George Michael:


Another final, final, indulgence (nearly done now I promise) – If you scroll forward to 0:22 in the clip above you’ll find the logo for an established London restaurant. Mr WIAA is commissioned by third parties to make miniature sculptures for their various clients. Sometimes we have samples left over, and I liked this chap, so he sits on my desk. Watching that video clip, we just found out who he was for!

Anyway, it’s a very wordy one this, but as it’s my 400th post and my 5th Christmas as a music blogger I really did want to get something published before the big day. Thankfully, with my blog’s encouragement, I got there in the end.

If you celebrate it, hope you have a lovely Christmas Day with no last minute changes to your plans. Unlike 25 years ago, or indeed 5 years ago, we’ll be having a very quiet time indeed but that’s just how life rolls. As ever I’ll raise a glass to George on the day – He is missed, but never forgotten.

Until next time…

Praying For Time Lyrics
(Song by George Michael)

These are the days of the open hand
They will not be the last
Look around now
These are the days of the beggars and the choosers

This is the year of the hungry man
Whose place is in the past
Hand in hand with ignorance
And legitimate excuses

The rich declare themselves poor
And most of us are not sure
If we have too much
But we’ll take our chances
‘Cause God’s stopped keeping score

I guess somewhere along the way
He must have let us all out to play
Turned his back and all God’s children
Crept out the back door

And it’s hard to love, there’s so much to hate
Hanging on to hope
When there is no hope to speak of
And the wounded skies above say it’s much much too late
Well maybe we should all be praying for time

These are the days of the empty hand
Oh, you hold on to what you can
And charity is a coat you wear twice a year

This is the year of the guilty man
Your television takes a stand
And you find that what was over there is over here

So you scream from behind your door
Say, “What’s mine is mine and not yours”
I may have too much but I’ll take my chances
‘Cause God’s stopped keeping score

And you cling to the things they sold you
Did you cover your eyes when they told you
That he can’t come back
‘Cause he has no children to come back for

It’s hard to love, there’s so much to hate
Hanging on to hope when there is no hope to speak of
And the wounded skies above say it’s much too late
So maybe we should all be praying for time

A Return to Live Theatre, Dolly Parton and the Legacy of ‘9 to 5’

Last time I wrote a bit of a frivolous post about people in the music business with very ‘big’ hair, inspired by the fact my own locks are currently proving troublesome (damp winter weather I think). It didn’t take long for me to get to Dolly Parton, as although in today’s world her look could almost be seen as understated, back in the 1970s her blousy, blonde wigs did raise a few eyebrows.

Dolly then and Dolly now

I was probably also drawn to Dolly because last week I had my first time back in our local theatre since before the pandemic. If you live in the far north of Scotland, the opportunities to see a West End show are limited indeed, so if a production comes to us, it feels only right we should support it.

My friend and I had bought tickets for Dolly’s stage musical 9 to 5 nearly two years ago, but after having been postponed twice, this time the show actually went ahead. Sadly the friend I should have been going with has not been well for some time, another victim not of the virus, but of one of the many side-effects of the pandemic itself. I wish her well and hope she is back to her old self soon, but in the meantime she very magnanimously said I could give her ticket to another. In the end it wasn’t easy, as some of us are still nervous about attending mass gatherings and no-one relished the prospect of wearing a mask throughout the show, but quite appropriately an old colleague from my days of working in offices said she’d love to come.

I went to see the film 9 to 5 when it first came out back in 1980. It was the first time Dolly had appeared on the big screen and just as with everything else she turns her hand to, she rose to the challenge beautifully, and ended up winning several awards, both for her acting and for the title song. The film was the brainchild of fellow 9 to 5 actor Jane Fonda, and she wanted it to be a comedy rather than a preachy, feminist drama, in order to get the message across more subtly. If you’ve never seen it, the basic premise is that three very capable women live out their fantasies of getting even with, and overthrowing, the company’s ‘autocratic, sexist, egotistical, lying, hypocritical bigot’ boss (the full gamut). They show you can run an office without a boss, but you can’t run an office without the secretaries.

9 to 5 by Dolly Parton:


To be honest I think I just took it at comedic face value first time around and I hadn’t yet stepped foot in a working office to know how things were anyway. Watching the stage show last week, in 2021, I was blown away by how much things have changed over the decades. Just possibly, the empowerment given to female office workers back in 1980 via the film, kickstarted the revolution that led to equal pay for equal work, flexible working, job-share schemes and so on. I know it was well underway by the time I joined the workforce, and by the time I had DD, the opportunity to work part-time or flexibly was firmly in place.

It’s not lost on me that since the pandemic, most people now seem to work from home, and a return to the 9 to 5-style office will probably never happen again, but I really appreciate that I entered (and left) the workplace at probably just the right time. Coincidentally, C over at Sun Dried Sparrows recently shared some job adverts from 1975 which were a real eye-opener. As I say, we’ve come a long way.

An unexpected surprise for me at last week’s show was that Dolly herself appeared on stage, albeit via a big screen. She wrote all the songs for the musical but is also the narrator. In her inimitable style, she gives us many ‘Dollyisms’ and also sings 9 to 5. It was a fun way to break myself back into theatre-going. If you listen carefully to the song’s intro, the clacking typewriter rhythm was devised by running her acrylic fingernails back and forth against one another.

So, ‘What’s It All About?’ – I’m not sure if this is a temporary blip or what, but when I returned to blogging this time last week I was a bit down and admitted to not feeling myself. Turns out she doesn’t even have to bottle it, all you have to do is immerse yourself in Dolly World (as opposed to Dollywood) for 48 hours and your spirits are raised no end. The feedback to my first Dolly post was very positive which shows just how much she is loved and admired. She seems to be a genuinely ‘good’ person who is now putting all her energies into making life better for others, whether it be through scholarships, her Imagination Library, creating local job opportunities, or simply through her music.

There are many, many famous quotes from her out there but I think most of us know them already, so to finish off I’m going to share the address she delivered to students at the University of Tennessee when she received her honorary degree. I think she won over a great many of the sceptical academics that day, and quite rightly so (we’ll ignore Prof Grumpy to her right) – She may be blonde but Dolly is most definitely not dumb. If you scroll through to 3:55 you will get to the point where she passes on some of the wisdom she has used to great effect in her own journey through life. I really hope the graduating students took heed, as they have one helluva fairy godmother in Dolly.

Until next time…

9 to 5 Lyrics
(Song by Dolly Parton)

Tumble out of bed
And stumble to the kitchen
Pour myself a cup of ambition
And yawn and stretch and try to come to life

Jump in the shower
And the blood starts pumpin’
Out on the streets, the traffic starts jumpin’
For folks like me on the job from 9 to 5

Workin’ 9 to 5
What a way to make a livin’
Barely gettin’ by
It’s all takin’ and no givin’

They just use your mind
And they never give you credit

It’s enough to drive you
Crazy if you let it

9 to 5
For service and devotion
You would think that I
Would deserve a fat promotion

Want to move ahead
But the boss won’t seem to let me
I swear sometimes that man is
Out to get me, hmmm

They let you dream
Just a watch ’em shatter
You’re just a step on the boss man’s ladder
But you got dreams he’ll never take away

In the same boat with a lot of your friends
Waitin’ for the day your ship’ll come in
And the tide’s gonna turn
And it’s all gonna roll you away

Workin’ 9 to 5
What a way to make livin’
Barely gettin’ by
It’s all takin’ and no givin’

They just use your mind
And you never get the credit
It’s enough to drive you
Crazy if you let it

9 to 5
Yeah, they got you were they want you
There’s a better life
And you think about it, don’t you?

It’s a rich man’s game
No matter what they call it
And you spend your life
Putting money in his wallet

9 to 5
Oh, what a way to make a livin’
Barely gettin’ by
It’s all takin’ and no givin’

They just use your mind
And they never give you credit

It’s enough to drive you
Crazy if you let it

Music from Guardians of the Galaxy #4 – Silver and ‘Wham Bam Shang-A-Lang’

I have many categories on my sidebar that haven’t been added to for some time. I keep meaning to head over to Delaware to rejoin my American Odyssey in Song, or to revisit more songs from the Awesome Mixtape given to me by a friend eons ago, but of course those posts take a fair bit of research, so tend to get side-lined.

There is another very well-known awesome mixtape that has been revisited several times around here however, one that had a bit of a starring role in the film Guardians of the Galaxy. I’m not usually a fan of superhero movies, but when DD introduced us to it a few years back we thoroughly enjoyed it, and I found myself smitten by the soundtrack. It contained many lesser-known, soft rock songs from the 1970s, played over and over on an old Walkman by the lead character, as a link to his dead mother and home in Missouri.

thOG317ONA

The success of the first movie meant there was a sequel a few years later, and of course there was a second awesome mixtape. I was reminded of one of the songs from it the other week, when it popped up as the answer to a clue on Rol’s excellent Saturday Snapshots feature. Wham Bam Shang-A-Lang by the band Silver was never a hit in the UK, which is why I wouldn’t have recognised them in a picture, but of course once I heard the song, it was immediately familiar from the film.

Wham Bam Shang-A-Lang by Silver:

I do like my American country rock from the ’70s, and despite 1967 still wearing the crown as being my favourite year to revisit around here, 1976 is fast becoming a usurper. For the umpteenth time this year I seem to be writing about a song from that year. The band’s record company gave them the song as a single after deciding none of the other tracks on the album they had produced had single potential. Interestingly one of the members of Silver was Tom Leadon, brother of Bernie who was of course in the Eagles at that time (not that I can ever imagine the Eagles recording Wham Bam).

Before I go, I can’t ignore the fact that over here in Britain in the early ’70s we had another couple of hit songs that perhaps formed the inspiration for Wham Bam Shang-A-Lang, via their titles at any rate. Both bands below have been featured around here before, but not sure how well their songs stand the test of time. Sweet had started out as a bubblegum pop outfit but had just morphed into glam rockers for 1972’s Wig-Wam Bam, inspired by Henry Longfellow’s poem Hiawatha. Those tartan teen sensations from Edinburgh, the Bay City Rollers, were at their height when they released Shang-a-Lang in 1974.

Wig-Wam Bam by Sweet:
Shang-a-Lang by the Bay City Rollers:


I am being facetious of course, as neither song has anything to do with the Silver song, but nearly 50 years on it’s fun to revisit these old clips to remind ourselves what (some) music fans of my generation were buying in those days. As for the three songs, not sure if you have a favourite amongst them? I am inclined to think many visitors to this place might say, “None of the above”, in which case this offering from ten years later might be more your thing. Had forgotten how great they were right at the start of the Wham! years. I give you Wham Rap!

Wham Rap! by Wham!:


Until next time…

Wham Bam Shang-A-Lang Lyrics
(Song by Rick Giles)

Starry nights, sunny days
I always thought that love should be that way
Then comes a time that you’re ridden with doubt
You’ve loved all you can, now you’re all loved out

Ooh, ooh, baby, we’ve been a long, long way
And who’s to say where we’ll be tomorrow?
Well, my heart says no but my mind says it’s so
That we gotta love, is it a love to stay?

We got a wham bam shang-a-lang
And a sha-la-la-la-la-la thing
Wham bam shang-a-lang
And a sha-la-la-la-la-la thing

Looking at you, I wanted to say
I think a little emotion goes a long, long way
Careful, now, you don’t get caught in your dreams
Look out, baby, this is not what it seems

Ooh, ooh, baby, you’ve been so good to me
But please don’t make it what it’s not
Well, I thought we agreed on what we need
So, listen to me, I’ll tell you what we’ve got

We got a wham bam shang-a-lang
And a sha-la-la-la-la-la thing
Wham bam shang-a-lang
And a sha-la-la-la-la-la thing

I think you’re seeing what I’ve been saying
Because I hear you singing to the tune I’m playing
Now that it’s said and we both understand
Let’s say our goodbyes before it gets out of hand

Bye bye, baby, I’d really like to stay
But we’ll remember the best time in our life

We had a wham bam shang-a-lang
And a sha-la-la-la-la-la thing
Wham bam shang-a-lang
And a sha-la-la-la-la-la thing

Wham bam shang-a-lang
And a sha-la-la-la-la-la thing
Wham bam shang-a-lang
And a sha-la-la-la-la-la thing

Harvests, Autumnal Equinoxes and ‘Can’t Fight The Moonlight’

Did you see it? Last night it was time for the Harvest Moon to put in an appearance and I was lucky enough to catch sight of it before heading to bed. The moon in the picture I took on my phone is a bit blurry, but what with the clouds and the treeline, I thought it looked a bit like a celestial scene from an old master painting.

September’s Harvest Moon

Harvest Moon by Neil Young:

So, September’s full moon appeared in our skies last night, and today is the Autumnal Equinox, one of only two dates in the annual calendar when there is an equal amount of night and day. Regulars around here might remember two of the series I’ve put together since starting this blog, the Full Moon Calendar in Song and nature’s Wheel of the Year in Song. Although both are now complete, I still take enjoyment from marking the relevant dates.

September by Earth, Wind & Fire:


I would like to say we’re planning a wee soiree tonight to give thanks for the harvests and the fact crops have yet again been stored for the coming winter, but I can’t, for two reasons. I don’t know about where you live but our supermarket shelves are all looking a bit empty. I had never thought much about supply chains until recently, as in the 21st century we are used to being able to quite easily source whatever we need. Now, not so much.

The national shortage of lorry drivers is causing real problems, especially for us here in the North of Scotland. With the anticipated CO2 shortage coming into play as well, it sounds as if fresh meat and vegetables will become a bit of a rarity. Will we have to be issued with ration books and queue up for a few under-the-counter sausages?

The second reason for the lack of a soiree is that my house looks as if a bomb has dropped. Who knew that putting in a new bathroom would cause such chaos (well I didn’t anyway) and if you have a smallish house it’s disruptive indeed. Again, because of supply chain issues we had to order the bits and bobs early to avoid problems with delivery, so currently have a bath in our living room and a toilet sitting in DD’s old bedroom (not plumbed in of course!).

At least the walls are up again!

With dustsheets and other bathroom paraphernalia spread liberally throughout the house, a get-together with friends really isn’t an option. I shouldn’t use wartime analogies yet again, as really not in the same league, but with the water and electricity also turned off for much of the day, you do need to muster up a bit of Blitz spirit.

But this is a music blog, so time for the song. It’s astronomical autumn as of today so it’s getting pretty dark early on in the evening. Although it’ll now be starting to wane, the moon will still look pretty full for a couple of days yet, so hopefully you’ll catch sight of it, cloud cover permitting. A moon-related song that failed to make the cut for my series first time around is this one by LeAnn Rimes, Can’t Fight The Moonlight. Here’s the official video clip showing Ms Rimes doing her thing standing on the bar, in the film Coyote Ugly.

Can’t Fight The Moonlight by LeAnn Rimes:


The song was the film’s main theme and did really well in the charts, reaching the top spot in the UK Singles Chart in November 2000, and it did the same in another 12 countries. The rom-com got its inspiration from an article written about a real-life bar, the Coyote Ugly Saloon, which in the late ’90s became a favourite with New York’s Lower East Side hipsters. The film seems to have become a bit of a cult classic, an icon of early-2000s fashion and culture, but if I watched it again now I think I would be troubled by it. Twenty years on, is it still ok to enjoy a film about girls dancing on a bar, in wet T-shirts, for tips – It was supposed to be about female empowerment, but really, are we still buying that? As it turns out the ‘saloon’ is still in operation today and has spawned a franchise model that seems to be working well for them, so what do I know.

As for the song, it was written by that most prolific of songwriters Diane Warren and was produced by Trevor Horn, so it almost couldn’t fail. Just like most other moon-related songs, it’s all about being out at night in the moonlight with the one you love.

You can try to resist
Try to hide from my kiss
But you know

But you know that you can’t fight the moonlight

I’ve seen the day, but being quite honest, if Mr WIAA suggested we go out in the moonlight tonight I think I would find it quite easy to resist. It’s suddenly got quite cold around here so a mug of cocoa and a box-set it’ll have to be. The plumber has just left for the day but will be back in the morning so I need to get all those jobs out of the way that require water and power – That would be just about everything. Only a week of this still to go – Argh.

Until next time…

Can’t Fight The Moonlight Lyrics
(Song by Diane Warren)

Under a lovers’ sky
Gonna be with you
And no one’s gonna be around
If you think that you won’t fall
Well, just wait until
‘Til the sun goes down

Underneath the starlight, starlight
There’s a magical feeling, so right
It’ll steal your heart tonight

You can try to resist
Try to hide from my kiss
But you know
But you know that you can’t fight the moonlight
Deep in the dark
You’ll surrender your heart
But you know
But you know that you can’t fight the moonlight
No, you can’t fight it
It’s gonna get to your heart

There’s no escape from love
Once a gentle breeze

Weaves its spell upon your heart
No matter what you think

It won’t be too long
‘Til you’re in my arms
Underneath the starlight, starlight
We’ll be lost in the rhythm, so right
Feel it steal your heart tonight

You can try to resist
Try to hide from my kiss
But you know
But you know that you can’t fight the moonlight
Deep in the dark
You’ll surrender your heart
But you know
But you know that you can’t fight the moonlight
No you can’t fight it
No matter what you do
The night is gonna get to you

Don’t try then
You’re never gonna win

Underneath the starlight, starlight
There’s a magical feeling, so right
It will steal your heart tonight

You can try to resist
Try to hide from my kiss
But you know
But you know that you can’t fight the moonlight
Deep in the dark
You’ll surrender your heart
But you know
But you know that you can’t fight the moonlight
No, you can’t fight it

Alyson’s Archive #8 – My Sporting Ineptitude and More Musical Memories from the Summer of ’76

Considering I go back to college in less than a month’s time, I really need to get back into the swing of putting pen to paper, or rather, typing words on a screen. It’s a very wordy course and this blog used to keep me limbered up so to speak. Going to hold my hands up and admit to being a bit off my game at the moment however, and although not for any one specific reason, a slew of minor anxieties all coming along at the same time can do that to a person. I’m sure I’ll get back on track soon, once we can re-emerge from WIAA Towers having avoided all contact with other humans for the last month in case we’re “pinged”. Both being self-employed it had to happen, but it does get a bit monotonous, especially as life returns to a semblance of normality for everyone else.

The Olympics did raise my spirits for a while but the live events often happened during the night due to the time difference and I’m coming round to the realisation (why has it taken so long?) that akin to football, where you end up on the medals table is down to how much money has been spent. As most of the funding comes via the National Lottery, I can’t help thinking some of it hasn’t given a great rate of return and could have been diverted to initiatives that help more of the people who buy those lottery tickets in the first place. Having said that, I am full of admiration for those who have worked hard in their chosen discipline and won medals, but by now we know it never turns us into a nation of superfit athletes. We’re great at sitting on our couches watching others swim, row, cycle, run and jump, but not so great at partaking ourselves.

A 100 years ago they trained by running along the beach. Mo performed in front of a home crowd in 2012 but this time, because of the pandemic, the stadiums were empty.

I’ve been reminiscing about the year 1976 a lot of late – First of all because of the Long Hot Summer mentioned around here last time, secondly because it was also an Olympic year (Montreal) but mainly because it was the last time I remember having absolutely no worries or anxieties. Sounds dramatic I know, and it doesn’t mean my life has been riddled with anguish since (I’ve had the odd year off!), but in 1976 when I was aged 16, life was indeed sweet.

Time for a family anecdote. My dad inevitably loved watching the 1976 Olympics as he had been quite an athlete in his youth and excelled at many different sports. I on the other hand was no athlete, and despite being encouraged by him to try lots of disciplines I could tell I was a bit of a disappointment when it came to my sporting prowess. Then he had an epiphany – Tennis. The village tennis courts where he had played as a youngster were in a state of disrepair and had long been out of use. He would rebuild the courts and perhaps, just perhaps, his daughter might become the next Wimbledon champion.

Not our courts, but similar

As was my dad’s way he simply went down to the courts every evening for a week sizing up the job to be done and taking measurements. People in the community gradually became interested and many of his friends started to join him. Materials were acquired to create a new clay court and the fences were repaired. The pavilion next to the courts was also refurbished and then painted, so the wives joined in too. For us teenagers it became a great place to hang out during that long hot summer. A coach was hired from the city to come and give us lessons, but yes, you guessed it, although I loved the social scene around the pavilion, tennis turned out not to be my thing either.

But what were we listening to in the summer of 1976? By good fortune I have just found my copy of Words magazine from the August of that year. This periodical has appeared around here before as I was a subscriber and as well as sharing song lyrics, the mag kept teens like myself up to date with all that was happening in the world of pop music. Here is the contents page from that issue along with the front and back covers. Lots of songs there that have really stood the test of time along with a surprising amount of reissues from the ’60s. Not sure if you can read from the picture, but how many of the artists would you identify from this list of songs without looking them up?

As for the cover star, it was Peter Frampton, who was becoming a bit of a big cheese in America around that time and had just released his Frampton Comes Alive! album. To be honest his previous role as frontman of the band Humble Pie had passed me by and I’m sure it was quite some time before I realised he was actually British, but there is no denying that 1976 was a good year for him.

The song Show Me the Way had reached No. 10 in the UK Singles Chart in the May of 1976 as the lead single from his new album. Peter was also one of the first artists to make extensive use of a talk box .

Show Me The Way by Peter Frampton:


But what else were we talking about whilst hanging out in our newly refurbed pavilion (rather than playing tennis). On the back page of the magazine was a picture of some of the characters from the new film Bugsy Malone. I have nothing but fond memories of this film – Great acting from its incredibly young cast, great songs and a lot of slapstick humour. I seem to remember I went to see it at our local cinema with a potential beau once the schools went back after the summer holidays. At the interval I dropped my ice-cream on the floor after falling over a single seat that had been left down in the row. Very much in tune with the slapstick nature of the film however, so thankfully the date was saved. Once DD came along she loved watching our video recording of the film on telly, but always called it Bugsy Alone (poor Bugsy).

Bugsy Malone – The final scene


So, a trip down memory lane for me and hopefully for some of you too. Out of interest here are some of the other bands that were written about in that particular edition of Words. Hard to imagine that some of them were just starting out, so the writers had no idea yet of what was to come.

The 16-year-old Angus Young
Ian Anderson who went on to become a successful fish farmer around these parts!

I’m going to end with another song featured in my magazine. Kiss and Say Goodbye was a massive worldwide hit in 1976 recorded by American R&B vocal group The Manhattans. I had another listen to it this week and it reminds me of so many other songs coming out of America at that time. It was written by Winfred Lovett, the bass singer, who also got the job of intoning the spoken work introduction. A love affair was coming to an end it seems for these reasons:

Because of my obligations, and the ties that you have

Well, if you both have obligations and ties that will happen, but at age 16 I always thought it was a very pragmatic and unlikely line to have included in such a beautiful but sad song – Shows what I knew about love triangles back then. I was still dropping my ice-cream on the cinema floor on my dates.

Kiss and Say Goodbye by The Manhattans:


I seem to have gone way over my usual wordcount which is good for me in terms of getting in some writing practice, but maybe not so good for you. Having said that I love revisiting these old magazines and reading the contemporary reviews, so hope you do too. Some turn out to be prophetic, but not all of them, as some music journalists got it horribly wrong.

As for me, I might look out my old tennis racquet – I’m going to have to spend more time on sport and less time sitting in front of a computer it seems if I’m to keep these old bones in tip top shape. I might have let my dad down back in 1976 by not becoming a Wimbledon champion, but to fair, I’m sure he always thought of it as a long shot. As it turned out, because of his efforts, the whole village had a thoroughly good summer down at our previously neglected tennis courts. Nice one Dad.

Until next time…

Kiss And Say Goodbye Lyrics
(Song by Winfred Lovett)

This has got to be the saddest day of my life
I called you here today for a bit of bad news
I won’t be able to see you anymore
Because of my obligations, and the ties that you have
We’ve been meeting here everyday
And since this is our last day together
I wanna hold you just one more time
When you turn and walk away, don’t look back
I wanna remember you just like this
Let’s just kiss and say goodbye

I had to meet you here today
There’s just so many things to say
Please don’t stop me ’till I’m through
This is something I hate to do
We’ve been meeting here so long
I guess what we done, oh was wrong
Please darling, don’t you cry
Let’s just kiss and say goodbye

Many months have passed us by
(I’m gonna miss you)
I’m gonna miss you, I can’t lie
(I’m gonna miss you)
I’ve got ties, and so do you
I just think this is the thing to do
It’s gonna hurt me, I can’t lie
Maybe you’ll meet, you’ll meet another guy
Understand me, won’t you try, try, try, try, try, try, try
Let’s just kiss and say goodbye

(I’m gonna miss you)
I’m gonna miss you, I can’t lie
(I’m gonna miss you)
Understand me, won’t you try
(I’m gonna miss you)
It’s gonna hurt me, I can’t lie
(I’m gonna miss you)
Take my handkerchief, wipe your eyes

(I’m gonna miss you)
Maybe you’ll find, you’ll find another guy
(I’m gonna miss you)
Let’s kiss and say goodbye, pretty baby

(I’m gonna miss you)
Please, don’t you cry
(I’m gonna miss you)
Understand me, won’t you try
(I’m gonna miss you)

Let’s just kiss
And say goodbye

Jay Gatsby, George Gershwin and ‘Rhapsody In Blue’

Had life been remotely normal at the moment, I could perhaps choose to start this 6th year of blogging with a 30, 40 or even 50 year retrospective (as I did last year before discovering some real stinkers made it to the top spot on the UK Singles Chart in 1970). I could add to some of the series that are still in progress or perhaps start a new one. I could share an earworm of the week… . But life isn’t “normal” at the moment is it, and that kind of blogging requires a calm and uncluttered mind.

We have had relatively low infection rates here in the North of Scotland up until now, but those days have gone, and part of me just wants to hunker down until I get my jab (the preferred medical term it seems). In the early days of the pandemic when the outlook seemed bleak, many of us probably had a few sleepless nights thinking this might be it – I know I did. As time went by we got used to this new way of doing things, and sleep came easier. With all these vaccines coming onstream, hope is now on the horizon, and if things pan out as they did in the aftermath of the Spanish Flu pandemic of 1918, we might even end up having another Roaring ’20s. Cue Jay Gatsby’s pad on Long Island, circa 1922 (Baz Luhrmann style).

I’m not going to hold my breath about that, and I think we’ve got more pressing problems to sort out before we party, but it seems many bank accounts are full to brimming at the moment as if you’ve been lucky enough to stay in work there has been very little opportunity to spend your spare cash of late (despite Mr Bezos waltzing off with much of it). In a balanced economy everyone gets a share of the pot, so I’m hoping some of this cash will help those hard hit sectors get back on their feet again.

It occurred to me I have never shared something from as far back as 100 years before, but then I looked again and discovered I have, all from film soundtracks of course. Rhapsody in Blue, written by George Gershwin in 1924, was used in the Woody Allen film Manhattan and I included it in my New York post, when journeying round the 50 States in Song (link here).

Apparently F. Scott Fitzgerald was of the opinion that “Rhapsody in Blue idealised the youthful zeitgeist of the Jazz Age” and in subsequent decades Fitzgerald’s literary works have often been culturally linked with Gershwin’s composition. Rhapsody in Blue was used as a dramatic leitmotif (a short, recurring musical phrase associated with a particular person, place, or idea) for F.Scott’s character of Jay Gatsby in Baz’s 2013 film. A nice bit of synchronicity for this post.

Rhapsody in Blue by George Gershwin:


If you watched the Gatsby party clip at the top of the page you might have spotted the bandleader was none other than Cab Calloway. He had a very distinctive look and performance style, so it could only be him. Most of us know of Cab, not from the 1920s (as I doubt if many visitors to this place were around back then), but from the film The Blues Brothers where he hooks up with the boys and turns in a great performance of Minnie The Moocher (link here).

Cab Calloway

Cab was one of the bandleaders at the infamous New York Jazz Club The Cotton Club, and after watching the film of the same name last year I wrote about it here. This time it’s an actor playing Cab but I think he did a great job.

So, “What’s It All About?” – I have no idea what happened here as I certainly had no intention of revisiting the music of the 1920s when I sat down at my desk today, but here we are. I suppose I am just hoping against hope that things do start to get better now that vaccines are being rolled out, and the idea of meeting up with more than one person at a time becomes a possibility. Watching these scenes at parties and jazz clubs however fills me with horror, as after only ten months we have become so acclimatised to social distancing and mask-wearing, I can’t yet envisage venturing into such a venue ever again, not that I’m ever likely to be invited to a Jay Gatsby kind of party anyway, no longer being of the right demographic. Cue Young and Beautiful, the haunting song from The Great Gatsby soundtrack by Lana Del Rey.

Young and Beautiful by Lana Del Rey:


I think I’m going to have to seek out our DVD copy of the film for tonight’s viewing, as I’ve been reminded how much I enjoyed it when it came out in 2013. It was one of the films I watched with my Last Thursday of the Month Film Club friends. Who knows, maybe Film Club will be able to be resurrected before too long – Like many others, I think I’ve missed going to the cinema more than just about anything else.

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

A Bit of a Festive Ramble, Not Dreaming of a White Christmas and ‘Medicinal Compound, Most Efficacious in Every Case’

Well, last month I tried to become a daily blogger for a time but all that momentum left me when I called time on my challenge. At times like this it’s sometimes a good idea just to sit down and write ‘something’, to unblock the blockage, so it’s going to be a bit of a web-diary kind of affair I’m afraid with some songs thrown in.

How are we all doing? Back in Spring/Summer I did mention the pandemic a fair bit around here (an understatement) but as time went by I decided to leave well alone as people come here to escape all that negativity. Also, the awful truth is that this new way of living – with masks, social distancing, working from home and being apart from friends and family – has kind of become normalised and I’ve almost forgotten what my old life was like. If we do ever manage to get back together again in large groups, will we have lost all our social skills? What will we do with all the books that seem to have been acquired for Zoom call backdrops and will wearing comfy indoorsy trousers at all times become the norm?

But here we are coming up to Christmas and it’s all getting a bit complicated. We’ve been given the green light to get together in Festive Bubbles, but in some ways it makes things more difficult. We are trusted to be sensible and not put our elderly relatives in danger, but being realistic, sitting outside for Christmas dinner or even inside with all the doors and windows open is not a very appealing prospect. No-one will be ‘dreaming of a White Christmas‘ in my neck of the woods this year. Cue Bing Crosby, or alternatively, the Darlene Love version courtesy of Phil Spector.

White Christmas by Bing Crosby – The teen idol who smoked a pipe!

White Christmas by Darlene Love – That’s her at the back in the yellow cardi


As it turns out we will be on our own for the first time ever. After having lived at home with us for the last six months, DD has now decanted to the holiday hideaway and set up a ‘new household’ with her significant other who has given up his glamorous but all-consuming job and returned to the Highlands. The pair of them have had a really tough year but perhaps things are now looking up and with any luck they will both get back on track in 2021. We had them with us for Christmas last year, so it’s the other set of parents’ turn this year which seems entirely reasonable. On the upside, I think our relationship with DD will improve, as make no mistake, having your adult offspring back living with you is the ultimate test. After six months I think we were all more than ready for a change in living arrangements!

The cottage from the Christmas film The Holiday

My little mum always used to join us for Christmas dinner, but she of course is imprisoned in her care home, being kept safe. To be fair, she has stayed upbeat and smiling throughout this whole sorry situation as her condition means she pretty much lives in the moment. I have been able to visit indoors until recently (under super-strict conditions) but the home has now been shut for a couple of weeks after a scare that some staff might have contracted the virus (they hadn’t). Due to an admin error on their part, I also seem to have slipped through the net for a Christmas Day visit. It’s almost tougher not being able to see your loved ones now than at the start of the crisis and somehow more distressing at this time of year. You remember happy times as a child when your parents seemed invincible and could fix any problem. Sadly, I can’t fix the problem of not being able to visit, as totally outwith my control.

It has become customary for me to share a song that would appeal to my mum around this time. In the past it has often been something by Jim Reeves but I also remember her watching the Andy Williams Christmas shows on telly when I was growing up so how about something from him. We don’t call the festive period ‘The Holidays’ here in Scotland, but hey, let’s roll with it this once. (At least I’ve not shared the song that is bound to make someone who is NOT having the most wonderful time of the year, feel even worse. Oops, did it anyway.)

Andy (with three doppelgangers it seems) and the Osmond Brothers – Whatever became of them?


So, ‘What’s It All About?’ – I’m quite early around here with a Christmas post but somehow writing about anything else just didn’t seem right. Let’s hope all this festive bubbling doesn’t leave too many people taking needless risks. Apparently the messaging is going to be strong on what is advisable. With vaccines just round the corner it seems Easter 2021 is being touted as the best time to celebrate Christmas 2020. Let’s see how that goes?!

Festive bubbles

As for us, I really can’t complain as this pandemic has come along when we were both working from home anyway, and although our business ventures have brought in little this year, I come from the kind of family where having a ‘rainy day fund’ is engrained. In 2020 it’s been torrential. I really do miss socialising with my friends and going to the cinema but I’ve experienced less FOMO via social media, because no-one is doing anything – No exotic holidays, fancy nights out or festivals in my social circle this year, and if anyone does share something they are quickly pulled up on it. ‘When was this taken?’ ‘Where did you go?’ ‘You’re awfully close to each other’ (The ‘Rules Police’ are out in force – grrr…)

2020 has been a year of just trying to tick over, walking and watching television, an awful lot of television. Watching breakfast news this morning a government minister (today’s lamb to the slaughter) was asked about the vaccine that is being rolled out and he replied that it was efficacious. Crikey I thought, last time I heard that word being used was in the song Lily the Pink. Got me thinking, that’s where we’ve been going wrong. What we all need is a hefty dose of ‘Medicinal Compound’ – Cue The Scaffold.

The Scaffold – Mike McGear (Macca’s little bro), John Gorman and Roger McGough


I remember this song well as it reached the No. 1 spot in the UK Singles Chart for four weeks around Christmastime 1968. I know my mum would still remember it if only I was allowed in to see her. What I hadn’t realised was that it’s based on an older folk song called ‘The Ballad of Lydia Pinkham’. She was the inventor of a herbal-alcoholic women’s tonic which is still on sale today in a modified form. Pinkham’s Medicinal Compound was aggressively marketed and became the subject of a bawdy drinking song chronicling its efficacious cures. Hard to believe I know but the backing vocalists on The Scaffold record included Graham Nash, Reg Dwight (the future Mr Elton John) and Tim RiceJack Bruce (of Cream) played bass guitar.

I shall return before Christmas Day but in the meantime I hope your plans for the big day pan out. I suspect many of us will be deferring the whole shebang until Easter.

Until next time…

Lily the Pink Lyrics
(Song by John Gorman, Mike McGear, Roger McGough)

We’ll drink a drink a drink
To Lily the Pink the Pink the Pink
The saviour of the human race
For she invented medicinal compound
Most efficacious in every case.

Mr. Frears
had sticky-out ears
and it made him awful shy
and so they gave him medicinal compound
and now he’s learning how to fly.

Brother Tony
Was notably bony
He would never eat his meals
And so they gave him medicinal compound
Now they move him round on wheels.

We’ll drink a drink a drink
To Lily the Pink the Pink the Pink
The saviour of the human race
For she invented medicinal compound
Most efficacious in every case.

Old Ebeneezer
Thought he was Julius Caesar
And so they put him in a Home
where they gave him medicinal compound
and now he’s Emperor of Rome.

Johnny Hammer
Had a terrible stammer
He could hardly say a word
And so they gave him medicinal compound
Now he’s seen (but never heard)!

We’ll drink a drink a drink
To Lily the Pink the Pink the Pink
The saviour of the human race
For she invented medicinal compound
Most efficacious in every case.

Auntie Millie
Ran willy-nilly
When her legs, they did recede
And so they rubbed on medicinal compound
And now they call her Millipede.

Jennifer Eccles
had terrible freckles
and the boys all called her names
but she changed with medicinal compound
and now he joins in all their games.

We’ll drink a drink a drink
To Lily the Pink the Pink the Pink
The saviour of the human race
For she invented medicinal compound
Most efficacious in every case.

Lily the Pink, she
Turned to drink, she
Filled up with paraffin inside
and despite her medicinal compound
Sadly Picca-Lily died.

Up to Heaven
Her soul ascended
All the church bells they did ring
She took with her medicinal compound
Hark the herald angels sing.

Oooooooooooooooo Weeeeeeeeeeeeeeee’ll drink a drink a drink
To Lily the Pink the Pink the Pink
The saviour of the human race
For she invented medicinal compound
Most efficacious in every case
.

Postscript:

I didn’t think of googling it at the time but yes, it didn’t take long to find some Medicinal Compound for sale online. Had never thought to look before, but all these years later it’s still going strong.

Elections, Maps and The Music of Pennsylvania

Well, I certainly made a brave attempt at becoming a daily blogger around here but it seems my style of blogging just isn’t suited to such regular delivery. My poor shoulder and neck is now aching, even after a night’s sleep, so I think I’m going to have to call time on this challenge for a wee while, in order to prioritise work, and my college course.

Most of us will have been keeping tabs on what’s going on across the pond right now, and dare I say, it’s almost nice to have something else going on in the news. Looking at all those red and blue maps of the 50 states (does anyone else find it confusing that red means right and blue means left in the US?), I was reminded of my American Odyssey in Song series. I’ve loved the ‘Full Moon’ and ‘Wheel Of The Year’ series (on my sidebar), but that journey around the states in song was definitely my favourite. Again, like this challenge, it was labour intensive, so by the time I got nine states under my belt I had run out of steam. A retirement project perhaps, although they keep changing the goalposts, so who knows when we will be able to retire in this brave new world.

Anyway, as the great state of Pennsylvania has become the focus of so much attention in this election, and because that’s where I am currently holed up on my American Odyssey ahead of journeying on to Delaware (which is not an easy state from which to find musical inspiration), I’m going to share that post again. A very diverse state, and one with a lot of history – Hope you enjoy it.

——–

An American Odyssey in Song: Pennsylvania

(First posted 1st February 2018)

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!

I really need to pick up the pace with this series otherwise it looks as if I’m going to be in my dotage before I make it all the way round to my final destination, Florida. Anyway, as it’s now been over three months since I entered New Jersey (must have lost track of time in those vast gambling emporiums in Atlantic City), the great state of Pennsylvania now beckons. Yet again however we are entering a state that cannot be neatly summed up as having a single character. Pennsylvania has wide stretches of farmland, forests and mountains but it also has Philadelphia, the sixth largest city in the US.

pennsylvania

A few random facts about Pennsylvania. It was one of the 13 original founding states and came into being as a result of a royal land grant given to William Penn, an English Quaker and son of the state’s namesake. Philadelphia played an important role in the American Revolution as a meeting place for the Founding Fathers of the United States – The Declaration of Independence was signed there on the 4th of July, 1776. It is also home to the cracked Liberty Bell, an iconic symbol of American independence.

During the American Civil War, the Battle of Gettysburg was fought in the south central region of the state and is the place where Abraham Lincoln delivered his landmark address. The Pennsylvania Dutch (who were actually German/Deutsch) settled in the south-east of the state and there are still Christian groups living there today who separate themselves from the world favouring simple living and plain dressing.

But what do I associate with Pennsylvania when it comes to music. Last time a few suggestions were offered up for which I am always grateful. Rol over at My Top Ten suspected I might choose Pennsylvania 6-5000 by The Glenn Miller Orchestra which was most definitely going to be a contender until I discovered it was actually the telephone number for the Hotel Pennsylvania in New York City! C, from Sun Dried Sparrows suggested I’m in Pittsburgh (and It’s Raining) by the Outcasts, a sort of ‘sub-Stones US ’60s garage classic’ she tells us. Last but not least Lynchie, a frequent and very knowledgeable visitor to the music blogosphere, came up with two songs by Loudon Wainwright III. ‘I don’t think you’ll find the first one on YouTube’ he said, and he was right, but fortunately he gave us some of the lyrics for Have You Ever Been To Pittsburgh.

Have you ever been to Pittsburgh
Do you think you’d wanna go?
Have you ever been to Pittsburgh
(It’s in Pennsylvania)
Do you think you’d wanna go?
Well – if you wanna go to Pittsburgh
Get on the bus and go!

‘Loudon however’, he added, ‘also wrote the more affectionate Ode To Pittsburgh‘ and this time it could be found YouTube. A nice little film to accompany the song that gives us a flavour of what it might be like to live there. Not heard it myself before, but I find myself strangely smitten.

But as ever, music and film go hand in hand for me, and three movies immediately came to mind for this Pennsylvania post. The tunes from them are by no means all favourites, but they do for me, sum up the state. As tends to happen at award ceremonies, I will announce the results in reverse order:

First of all, when I saw that the next state we would be entering was Pennsylvania, I was immediately reminded of the film The Deer Hunter as the main characters in that epic Vietnam war drama were steelworkers from Clairton, Pennsylvania, a small working class town south of Pittsburgh. The images of that grim steel town have obviously stayed with me but also the scenes in the mountains where that trio of friends, played by Robert De NiroChristopher Walken and John Savage, spend much of their time deer hunting. I didn’t see the film when it first came out in 1979, but I do remember that the piece of music called Cavatina (popularly known as ‘Theme from The Deer Hunter’) received much radio airplay at the time and reached No. 13 in the UK Singles Chart. It was performed by classical guitarist John Williams whom I have just discovered is not the same John Williams responsible for writing the film scores for ET and Jurassic Park. Obvious now, but the same name and from a long time ago.

poster_thedeerhunter
Cavatina by John Williams:


The second film I was reminded of was of course Rocky where the main character, played by new kid on the block Sylvester Stallone, is to be seen pounding the streets of Philadelphia in his grey sweats, whilst carrying out his gruelling training regime. These scenes were of course very memorably played out to the sounds of Gonna Fly Now (popularly known as the ‘Theme from Rocky’) which was composed by Bill Conti. The lyrics (all 30 words of them), were performed by DeEtta Little and Nelson Pigford. Released in February 1977, the song has become part of American popular culture after Rocky Balboa runs up the 72 stone steps leading to the Philadelphia Museum of Art and then raises his arms in a victory pose.

Whenever I watch 1970s footage of American cities (like in this clip), I think of ‘the three B’s’, boxes, braziers and back alleys, as just about everything I watched on telly back then seemed to feature these three elements. Maybe it was just because there was a plethora of gritty cop shows and crime dramas, but also our inner cities were in real need of gentrification. I am sure however that the Philadelphia of today looks quite different, and I’m also sure that Neil from Yeah, Another Blogger, who is a resident, will keep us right on that score.

Gonna Fly Now by DeEtta Little and Nelson Pigford:


But of course I can’t write a post about PA, without mentioning all the great music that came to be known as the Philadelphia Sound, or Philly Soul. Any regular visitors to this place might remember that I wrote about how it all came to pass recently (The O’Jays, The Three Degrees and a ‘Year Of Decision’). It does seem there were three pivotal players without whom it might never have happened – Philadelphia International Records was founded in 1971 by the very talented writer-producer duo Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff, along with collaborator Thom Bell. It very much showcased a new genre of music based on the gospel, doo-wop and soul music of the time. Throughout the 1970s the label released a string of worldwide hits which featured lavish orchestral instrumentation, heavy bass and driving percussion. Some of their most popular and best selling acts included The O’Jays, The Three Degrees, Harold Melvin & the Blue Notes, Teddy Pendergrass, Billy Paul, Patti LaBelle and Lou Rawls.

0000219089

But I have written about some of those artists before so this time I’m going to go a little further back in time to 1969 when Didn’t I (Blow Your Mind This Time) was written by producer Thom Bell and William Hart, lead singer of the Philadelphia R&B/Soul vocal group The Delfonics. It was released by the group on the Philly Groove record label and is regarded as a classic, winning a Grammy Award for Best R&B Performance by a Duo or Group.

And this is where my third film choice comes in, as for many of us, it is simply that great song from the Tarantino film Jackie Brown. It very much plays a pivotal role in the film as it underscores the relationship between main characters Jackie, and Max Cherry. Like many others I was probably a bit too young for a song like this when it first came along in 1969 but after re-discovering it in 1997, when the film came out, I found a new appreciation for Philadelphia based groups like The Delfonics.

Didn’t I (Blow Your Mind This Time) by The Delfonics:


So that’s your lot as far as Pennsylvania goes. When I started this series it was with a view to featuring one song per state but of course once you start to do the research it becomes impossible to limit it to just that. Next time however we will be entering Delaware, a very small state indeed which at the moment is not offering up any inspiration (bar the obvious candidate). If you have any suggestions feel free to leave them in the comments boxes, as left to my own devices it’s going to be a very short post.

It has just occurred to me, as I returned to the top of the page to insert a title, that I may have inadvertently been a tad insensitive having included both the Theme from The Deer Hunter and Didn’t I (Blow Your Mind This Time) in the same post – To anyone who has ‘experienced’ the film The Deer Hunter, they will probably know what I mean. Enough said.

See you in Delaware….

Didn’t I (Blow Your Mind This Time) Lyrics
(Song by Thom Bell/William Hart)

I gave my heart and soul to you, girl
Now didn’t I do it, baby didn’t I do it baby
Gave you the love you never knew, girl, oh
Didn’t I do it, baby didn’t I do it baby

I’ve cried so many times and that’s no lie
It seems to make you laugh each time I cry

Didn’t I blow your mind this time, didn’t I
Didn’t I blow your mind this time, didn’t I
Yes sir

I thought that heart of yours was true, girl
Now, didn’t I think it baby didn’t I think it baby
But this time I’m really leavin’ you girl oh
Hope you know it baby hope you know it baby

Ten times or more, yes, I’ve walked out that door
Get this into your head, there’ll be no more

Didn’t I blow your mind this time, didn’t I
Didn’t I blow your mind this time, didn’t I
Yes sir

(Didn’t I do it baby didn’t I do it baby)
(Didn’t I do it baby didn’t I do it baby)

Ten times or more, yes, I’ve walked out that door
Get this into your head, there’ll be no more

Didn’t I blow your mind this time, didn’t I (oh)
Didn’t I blow your mind this time, didn’t I (Hoo)
Didn’t I blow your mind this time, didn’t I (Did I blow your mind, baby)
Didn’t I blow your mind this time, didn’t I (Can’t you see)
Didn’t I blow your mind this time, didn’t I (Did I blow your mind)
Didn’t I blow your mind this time, didn’t I (Ooh baby, ooh)

Girl, can we talk for a second
I know it’s been a long time
Since some someone’s blown your mind, like I did
There’ll be other times, for me and you
And I can see the tears fallin’ from your eyes

Tell me girl, did I blow your mind

Didn’t I blow your mind this time, didn’t I (Did I blow your mind baby)
Didn’t I blow your mind this time, didn’t I (Ooh, ooh, ooh, ooh, ooh, ooh, ooh)

Bonfire Night, More Bond Themes and ‘Live And Let Die’

Well, it’s Guy Fawkes Night, but there will be no big ‘town display’ tonight down at the municipal playing fields. There will probably be a few small displays in back gardens (look out for your pets folks), but nothing grander. Shame all these festivals, Halloween, Christmas and Bonfire Night, land during the coldest and wettest time of the year here in Scotland, as we’ve had a fair few soakings and frostbitten fingers over the years.

For those who are not from the UK, Guy Fawkes Night will mean nothing to you, so by way of explanation, here is an abbreviated version of the Wiki entry about the aforementioned chap:

Guy Fawkes (1570 – 1606), was a member of a group of English Catholics who was involved in the failed Gunpowder Plot of 1605. Fawkes had fought for Catholic Spain in the Eighty Years’ War against Protestant Dutch reformers. When he returned to England he was introduced to Robert Catesby, who planned to assassinate King James I, and restore a Catholic monarch to the throne.

Guy Fawkes

The plotters leased an ‘undercroft’ (a cellar) beneath the House of Lords and Fawkes was placed in charge of the gunpowder they stockpiled there. An anonymous letter to the authorities prompted a search of Westminster Palace during the early hours of 5 November, and they found Fawkes with the explosives. After being tortured he confessed to wanting to blow up the House of Lords.

Fawkes was later sentenced to death but he became synonymous with the Gunpowder Plot, the failure of which has been commemorated in the UK as Guy Fawkes Night since 5 November 1605, when his effigy is traditionally burned on a bonfire, accompanied by fireworks.

Growing up, it was an exciting annual event, and as our back garden was joined to three others (we had the gable-end, prized in a terrace), the dads usually built a big communal bonfire. In the preceding couple of weeks, all the kids collected their fireworks. There were ‘selection boxes’, with a mix of all the usual suspects, Catherine wheels, bangers, and rockets, but also packets of sparklers and individual fireworks of the more spectacular nature.

Needless the say, over the years there were a fair amount of nasty accidents involving fireworks (none for us thankfully), so nowadays people are encouraged to attend well-supervised, organised displays. Let’s hope this year there won’t be a return to the past, as the dads, although well intentioned, just don’t have the training of our local Fire Officers.

The best display our town ever held was when they used Bond themes to choreograph the igniting of the fireworks. It was a dry night for once, with clear skies, so a pretty spectacular event. I’ve written about Bond themes this week already, so appropriate to share this song, as it’s often accompanied by stunning pyrotechnics even when it’s not Guy Fawkes night. I give you Live And Let Die by Wings from 1973.

Live And Let Die by Wings:


The song was written for the film of the same name, the eighth in the Bond series, this time starring Roger Moore. Paul McCartney, along with wife Linda, wrote the song and on this occasion George Martin wrote the film score, as John Barry was unavailable. Performed by their group Wings, it was the first ‘rock and roll’ song used to open a Bond film, and became a major success, reaching No. 9 on the UK Singles Chart and No. 2 in the US. It was nominated for an Academy Award, but lost out that year to The Way We Were.

Stay safe, as we keep saying nowadays, but tonight I mean beware of stray fireworks. No doubt we’ll still see a fair few light up our skies.

Until next time….

Live And Let Die Lyrics
(Song by Paul McCartney/Linda McCartney)

When you were young and your heart was an open book
You used to say live and let live
(you know you did, you know you did you know you did)
But if this ever changing world in which we’re living
Makes you give in and cry

Say live and let die
Live and let die
Live and let die
Live and let die

What does it matter to ya
When you got a job to do
You gotta do it well
You gotta give the other fellow hell

When you were young and your heart was an open book
You used to say live and let live
(you know you did, you know you did you know you did)
But if this ever changing world in which we’re living
Makes you give in and cry

Say live and let die
Live and let die
Live and let die
Live and let die

The Sad Loss of Sean Connery and Bond Themes, Which Is Your Favourite?

Television news is very much focused on one topic at the moment, but last Saturday we found out that Sean Connery had passed away in his sleep, and it was a big story. Sean was born in Fountainbridge, Edinburgh in 1930, and despite coming from humble origins he often found himself voted ‘The Greatest Living Scot’ or ‘Scotland’s Greatest Living National Treasure’. Quite something for someone who started life as a milkman.

The joke of course is that Sean Connery always did an excellent job of playing Sean Connery, in every film role, but we didn’t care. Whether he was a Spaniard in Highlander, an Irishman in The Untouchables or indeed the debonair James Bond, he always had the same Scottish accent, but somehow it just worked.

RIP Sean Connery

Back in the early days of this blog I once spent an entire Sunday afternoon visiting all the theme songs from over 50 years of Bond films, and put together my own list, ranked by personal preference. Now seems to be the right time to revisit that list. As I said back then, there is mixed opinion on which is the best theme song ever, but at the time my winner was You Only Live Twice by Nancy Sinatra from the 1967 film of the same name. Over the years Nancy has often appeared on these pages, and she’s my girl crush, so I’m certainly not going to depose her now.

You Only Live Twice by Nancy Sinatra:


The song has a really beautiful intro which Robbie Williams cleverly used for his recording of Millennium in 1998. In the video for Millennium, Robbie, dressed in a tuxedo, parodies James Bond and references many of the early Sean Connery films. Turned out to be a great way to get back on top after his departure from Take That.

But back to my list, Nancy was up there at the top, with Paul McCartney & Wings coming a close second. The theme from Moonraker was down at the very bottom for me at the time (also one of the worst films in the franchise). The rest of the list goes as follows:

All Bond Theme Songs – Personal Ranking (feel free to disagree)

1. You Only Live Twice – 1967 – Nancy Sinatra
2. Live and Let Die – 1973 – Paul McCartney & Wings
3. For Your Eyes Only – 1981 – Sheena Easton
4. The Spy Who Loved Me – 1977 – Carly Simon
5. The Living Daylights – 1987 – A-ha
6. The World Is Not Enough – 1999 – Garbage
7. From Russia with Love – 1963 – Matt Monro
8. Goldfinger – 1964 – Shirley Bassey
9. Skyfall – 2012 – Adele
10.We Have All the Time in the World – 1969 – Louis Armstrong
11.Diamonds Are Forever – 1971 – Shirley Bassey
12.All Time High – 1983 – Rita Coolidge
13.Licence to Kill – 1989 – Gladys Knight
14.A View to a Kill – 1985 – Duran Duran
15.Thunderball – 1965 – Tom Jones
16.GoldenEye – 1995 – Tina Turner
17.Tomorrow Never Dies – 1997 – Sheryl Crow
18.Writing’s on the Wall – 2015 – Sam Smith
19.Die Another Day – 2002 – Madonna
20.The Man with the Golden Gun – 1974 – Lulu
21.Another Way To Die – 2008 – Jack White & Alicia Keys
22.You Know My Name – 2006 – Chris Cornell
23.Moonraker – 1979 – Shirley Bassey

I still think the I still think the Golden Age of Bond films was the Sean Connery era or perhaps it’s just that I am reminded of watching them on television as a child. By the early ’70s they were a staple on high days and holidays and because the world was a much bigger place then, with foreign travel something very few of us experienced, it was worth watching them for the glamorous locations alone. Had another actor played the role of James Bond in those early films, they may well not have been as successful, so a franchise still going strong today, all started with the milkman from Edinburgh.

Now that I’ve done all the hard work, what’s your favourite Bond theme? I’d love to hear from you, and as you know by now, I always reply.

Until next time…, RIP Sean Connery.

You Only Live Twice Lyrics
(Song by Leslie Bricusse/John Barry)

You only live twice or so it seems
One life for yourself and one for your dreams
You drift through the years and life seems tame
Till one dream appears and love is it’s name

And love is a stranger who’ll beckon you on
Don’t think of the danger or the stranger is gone

This dream is for you, so pay the price
Make one dream come true, you only live twice