From Xanadu to Singin’ In The Rain, in Two Steps (of a Roller Skate)

When someone from the world of music leaves us, as Olivia Newton-John did a couple of weeks ago, many of us revisit their back catalogue and also end up watching footage of them we might not have viewed in decades, indeed, if ever.

Last weekend I decided it was high time I watched the film Xanadu, as it’s been mentioned many times since her death, yet it’s something I’ve never seen. The soundtrack album, packed full of songs by both Oliva and the band ELO, was a massive success all over the world (pun intended) and of course I know many of them well. The film however was still a mystery to me. It didn’t do well when it came out in 1980 which is why I probably didn’t see it back then, but having just watched it twice over the last two days (for research purposes of course), I’ve found it a total delight.


I can see why it was a bit of a flop when it came out as it didn’t neatly fit into any particular genre, and audiences going to see Olivia reprise her role as Sandy in the film Grease would have been sorely disappointed. But if you’re fairly open-minded when it comes to your film entertainment, and can wave reality goodbye as you start to watch, Xanadu has a bit of everything. In fact it’s totally bonkers in places, but all the better for it. Animated scenes, a bit of Old Hollywood glamour, lots of roller-skating, girls dressed as Disney princesses, dancers straight out of Studio 54, Mary Poppins-inspired rooftop scenes, big bands, rock bands, country and western bands, leg warmers, tuxedos, circus performers, Greek mythology, the Ready Brek special effect and girls turning into shooting stars. I could go on but you probably get the gist. The love story was the least believable aspect of the whole film, as the male lead was a bit angry and petulant most of the time whereas Olivia’s character Kira was sweetness personified, but hey, this was a film best suited to children under 12 I think, so we couldn’t have had too much raunchiness.

The songs were what it was all about though, and the whole film built up to this final musical scene when Olivia Newton-John breaks free from her ‘daughter of Zeus’ character, and sings the title song, Xanadu. As I said last time in my tribute post to her, she truly was the golden girl at that time and never more so than in this scene – literally everything about her is golden, her skin, her hair and her clothes. The song was written by Jeff Lynne of ELO and it reached the No. 1 spot on the UK Singles Chart in 1980, when the film came out.

And, Xanadu by ELO:


But for me, the most thrilling aspect of the whole film was that Gene Kelly had a main role. He played Danny McGuire, a former big band orchestra leader turned construction mogul, who together with Kira’s love interest Sonny Malone, builds a new night club in a beautiful old art deco building where aforementioned barminess takes place. There’s a big band but also a rock band, the colours are neon bright, and in the opening few seconds of the Xanadu scene, Gene leads out the dancers on roller-skates.

Gene on his roller-skates

Growing up, I was a massive fan of Gene Kelly, and I loved watching all those great 1940s and 50s musicals he starred in. Even at age 68 – which he would have been at the time of filming – he still cut a dash, and still had that dazzling smile and twinkle in his eye that catches your breath. I was yet again smitten, as I used to be as a teenager watching him in films like An American in Paris and Singin’ in the Rain. Gene was very nifty on his roller-skates in Xanadu, but of course he should have been, as he was probably the first person to choreograph an entire tap dance routine whilst wearing them. Here is a clip from the film It’s Always Fair Weather from 25 years earlier (the really impressive bit starts at 2:08), but there is no doubt Gene ‘still had it’ in 1980.


Of course I know the film Xanadu won’t be for everyone, but I think I now get why all those male music bloggers around a decade younger than myself have been so upset by the death of Olivia Newton-John. I think they were probably just the right demographic for her at the peak of her popularity.

Personally, it’s yet another mortality reality check. Although Olivia was around a decade older than me when she died, she always played someone (very successfully) around my own age. When I was 18, she played the 18-year-old Sandy Olsson in Grease, and I’m sure Kira in Xanadu would have been aged around 20 in 1980, which I also would have been. Since starting this blog, we’ve lost an awful lot of the artists of my youth – it’s a bit of a sobering thought.

But I don’t want to end on a morose note. Gene Kelly lived a long life and has gone down in history as having been one of Hollywood’s greatest stars. An actor, dancer, singer, filmmaker, and choreographer – he could do it all, with bells on. I will end with that most famous of scenes from one of the best musicals ever made. I don’t have an audio clip of Singin’ in the Rain sung by Gene but I do have one by someone else. Full marks if anyone can tell me who it is?

Singin’ in the Rain by Matt Monro:


Until next time… RIP Olivia, RIP Gene.

Singin’ In The Rain Lyrics
(Song by Arthur Freed/Nacio Herb Brown)

I’m singing in the rain
Just singing in the rain
What a glorious feeling
I’m happy again
I’m laughing the clouds
So dark up above
The sun’s in my heart
And I’m ready for love

Let the stormy clouds chase
Everyone from the place
Come on with the rain
I have a smile on my face
I walk down the lane
With a happy refrain
And I’m singing
Just singing in the rain

I’m singing in the rain
Just singing in the rain
What a glorious feeling
I’m so happy again
I’m laughing the clouds
So dark up above
The sun’s in my heart
And I’m ready for love

Let the stormy clouds chase
Everyone from the place
Come on with the rain
I have a smile on my face
I walk down the lane
With a happy refrain
And I’m singing
Just singing in the rain

Alyson’s Archive #10 – Farewell Olivia Newton-John

I was away from home last week, meeting up with old friends of the same age. When we heard the news that Olivia Newton-John had died, we all felt a great sadness, not particularly because we were big fans but because she was part of our teenage years and not really that much older than us. Poor Olivia had been treated for the illness that finally took her life several times over the last 30 years, so in some ways she got more time than many others with the same diagnosis. She certainly put that time to good use becoming both an advocate for breast cancer research, and an activist for environmental and animal rights causes.

There weren’t many pinups of female music artists in the magazines I bought as a young teenager – they were all full of Donny Osmond, David Cassidy and the Bay City Rollers – but amazingly I found this one of Olivia in my box of teenage memorabilia, a box that’s provided a lot of material for this blog. I can’t be quite sure when that picture was taken but I’m guessing it’s from 1972/73 before she changed her hair to the long layered style that suited her so well. She was a regular throughout all four series of Cliff Richard’s prime time television show and families like mine would always tune in on a Saturday night. It wasn’t edgy entertainment and no boundaries were pushed, but for households who had probably only recently acquired colour sets, it was must-watch telly.

A pinup from FAN magazine

She was the golden girl with wholesome good looks, great hair and a fine voice. In the early ’70s she had hits in the UK with If Not For You, Banks of the Ohio and Take Me Home Country Roads. She was also chosen to represent the UK in the Eurovision Song Contest in 1974 with this very lacklustre song, Long Live Love, which even she herself admitted to not liking. She still came fourth however as back then we tended to do pretty well every year. Changed days (until this year of course). She looks as if she’s wearing her nightie and seems to be overcompensating for the poor song with her enthusiastic arm movements. A perfect example of how the contest was at that time though and nothing like the extravaganza it has now become. (And, as a fan of Eurovision it’s inevitable I would have had this song in my music library!)

Long Live Love by Olivia Newton-John:


Perhaps it was the ignominy of coming fourth in the contest that led to her wholeheartedly try her luck in the US and with the support of fellow Australian Helen Reddy ( who herself died only two years ago) she was soon the golden girl over there too, scoring several No. 1 hits on the Adult Contemporary Chart, one of them being I Honestly Love You. Again nothing edgy there and no boundaries pushed but Olivia was a ‘nice’ girl, who was never going to do anything to shock, ever. Or was she?

There can’t be many of us who have never heard of the 1978 film musical Grease, as it has become a bit of a cultural phenomenon. Set in late 1950s California, it follows the lives of 10 students as they navigate their final year of high school. It took a bit of persuasion, and a screen test, to convince her she could play a teenager, but eventually Olivia was cast as Sandy Olsson, the ‘nice girl’ who fell for ‘bad boy’ Danny Zuko, played by John Travolta. What is it with Olivia and nighties but here she is again dressed in one, singing Hopelessly Devoted to You from the film, a song that earned an Oscar nomination.

Hopelessly Devoted to You by Olivia Newton-John:


Ok, so Olivia is still the nice girl we are used to seeing on screen, dressed in her nightie, singing pleasant songs suited to the Adult Contemporary chart. What we didn’t expect was this, the scene that wrapped up the movie, after which she flies off into the sunset in a car called Greased Lightnin’ with aforementioned bad boy Danny Zuko. The nightie has gone, to be replaced by black skin-tight trousers (that she had to be sewn into every day of shooting), a black leather jacket, teased hair and red lipstick. This was not the Olivia we were used to seeing and she certainly set a lot of teenage boys’ pulses racing. It has been pointed out many times this last week that the plotline perhaps doesn’t stand the test of time and that it couldn’t be made the same way nowadays. They are right of course, but in 1978 I had just turned 18, and for me and my friends it was just a light-hearted movie full of great songs and dance routines that we didn’t take too seriously. For Olivia, You’re the one That I Want, made her a bit of a superstar.

You’re the One That I Want by John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John:


After the film Grease, Olivia adopted a slightly raunchier persona, even getting Physical, but just like with her ‘transformation’ in the film, I think we all knew that deep down she was still the same girl who used to appear on Saturday night telly with Cliff Richard. In 1980 they even recorded a duet together, Suddenly, for the film Xanadu. It has ridiculous lyrics (motions and oceans) but it’s a love song and I have always liked it, so a good clip to end with. Olivia was no longer the guest star in Cliff’s universe, the tables had turned and he was now a guest in hers.

Suddenly by Olivia Newton-John and Cliff Richard:


So, yet another of the artists I grew up with has left us. Farewell Olivia, the golden girl who sounds as if she truly was a beautiful person inside and out. She will be missed by all who knew her.


Until next time…

Suddenly Lyrics
(Song by John Farrar)

She walks in and I’m suddenly a hero
I’m taken in my hopes begin to rise
Look at me can’t you tell I’d be so
Thrilled to see the message in your eyes
You make it seem I’m so close to my dream
And then suddenly it’s all there

Suddenly the wheels are in motion
And I, I’m ready to sail any ocean
Suddenly I don’t need the answers
Cos I, I’m ready to take all my chances with you

How can I feel you’re all that matters
I’d rely on anything you say
I’ll take care that no illusions shatter
If you dare to say what you should say
You make it seem I’m so close to my dream
And then suddenly it’s all there

Suddenly the wheels are in motion
And I, I’m ready to sail any ocean
Suddenly I don’t need the answers
Cos I, I’m ready to take all my chances with you

Why do I feel so alive when you’re near
There’s no way any hurt can get thru
Longing to spend every moment of the day with you

Suddenly the wheels are in motion
And I, I’m ready to sail any ocean
Suddenly I don’t need the answers
Cos I, I’m ready to take all my chances with you

Reading Lists, Sammy Davis Jr. (Jr.) and ‘Mr. Bojangles’

I’m going to dip my toe back into the world of blogging, just to reassure those of you who are kind enough to follow these pages that I’m still around. My college course has been taking up most of my spare time of late as we analyse and discuss a different novel every week. By the time I’ve finished reading whatever the current ‘novel of the week’ is, and taken notes, there’s just enough time left for me to prepare for our Monday morning discussion. Then we start all over again for the following week, with a new novel. Yesterday we discussed Flann O’Brien’s At Swim-Two-Birds and it was definitely the most challenging read so far, as it’s an epic work of metafiction. Some of us loved it and some of us, well, didn’t love it, but that’s ok as there are no right or wrong answers on my course.

For the record, the other novels we’ve studied this term are:
The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy
The House on Half Moon Street by Alex Reeve
The Wasp Factory by Iain Banks
and finally,
Everything Is Illuminated by Jonathan Safran Foer

This reading list has been in place for a few years but we reached Everything Is Illuminated, which is set in Ukraine, just at the time of the Russian invasion. As well as reading the novel, I discovered the story had also been made into a film starring Elijah Wood, so I watched that too. What a beautiful country. The most fertile farmland in Eastern Europe punctuated by some of the world’s most beautiful cities, which are now being razed to the ground – So, so sad.

Elijah’s foil in the film is the very likeable character Alex played by Ukrainian actor/musician Eugene Hütz. Alex was Elijah’s tour guide for the duration of his visit to Ukraine and he regales our hero with stories about his life, and his passion for American pop culture. He has a unique command of the English language and although we always understand what he means, the words he uses are often very literal which leads to some very amusing exchanges between the characters, which lightened the otherwise heavy subject matter pertaining to another very hard time in Ukraine’s history. Alex’s grandfather is their driver, and he brings along with him his slightly deranged dog, Sammy Davis Jr. Jr. named in honour of his favourite Rat Packer. What could possibly go wrong?

Sammy Davis Jr. Jr. hogging the boot

But this is a music blog so where’s the song? Well, I imagine you can guess where I’m going with this one. It occurred to me after watching the film that Sammy Davis Jr. has never appeared on these pages despite the fact I often return to the 1960s around here, a period during which he was very successful. Sammy Davis Sr., his father, was also in ‘the business’ and Sammy first joined the family trio on stage at the very young age of three. He certainly was multi-talented becoming a singer, dancer, actor, comedian, author, film producer and television director. His journey through the decades wasn’t always easy, although his popularity did help break down the race barrier in the American entertainment industry.

My memories of Sammy Davis Jr. are mainly from seeing him pop up on mainstream light entertainment television shows of the ’60s and ’70s but of course he also appeared in film musicals, one of which being 1969’s Sweet Charity, which I have always loved. The Rhythm of Life sequence, where Charity and Oscar find themselves in an alternative church presided over by a preacher called Big Daddy (played by Sammy), is one of the best in the movie. A good few years ago now DD was part of a local musical theatre group and at their annual show they performed The Rhythm of Life for the finale. I had helped her rehearse at home and of course we both ended up learning the very fast-paced lyrics. On the night, when they all sang in harmony, it gave the audience goose-bumps. Possibly explains how I thought of it today.

Sadly my digital library has let me down as I don’t seem to have a copy of Sammy’s version of The Rhythm of Life from Sweet Charity, and not easy to find amongst all the other versions available to purchase online either. What I do have however is a copy of Mr. Bojangles, which became a bit of a signature song for Sammy. Ironically the song was written about a homeless, tap-dancing white man who had found himself in a prison cell, and who called himself Mr Bojangles, that name taken from Bill “Bojangles” Robinson the highest paid African-American entertainer in the United States during the first half of the 20th century. A song that really tugs at the heartstrings.

Mr. Bojangles by Sammy Davis Jr.


I often sit down not knowing how a blog post is going to turn out and this one is a case in point. My college reading list led me to a film, which in turn led me to one of the Rat Pack. Didn’t see that coming when I got up this morning but I’ve enjoyed rewatching that scene from Sweet Charity as well as Sammy’s performance of Mr. Bojangles.

Has anyone read any, or all, of the books on my reading list? If you have, I’d be interested to hear your thoughts. I have an essay to write on one of them and I’m still not sure which I’m going to choose (although I know it won’t be Flann O’Brien’s book as just far too complex for my feeble mind).

As for the beautiful cities of Ukraine, we have all seen images on the news which are heart-breaking. Eugene Hütz who plays Alex in the EIL film is part of an American punk rock band called Gogol Bordello formed in 1999 by musicians from all over the world. Following the Russian invasion, Hutz released a video on social media condemning what had happened. The band have organised a benefit concert and are currently planning a benefit tour.

Until next time…

Mr. Bojangles Lyrics
(Song by Jerry Jeff Walker)

I knew a man
Bojangles
And he’d dance for you
In worn out shoes
With silver hair
A ragged shirt
And baggy pants
He would do the old soft shoe
He could jump so high
Jump so high
And then he’d lightly touch down

I met him in a cell
In New Orleans, I was
Down and out
He looked to me to be the very eyes of age
As the smoke ran out
Talked of life, lord that man talked of life
Laughed, clicked his heels and stepped

He said his name was “Bojangles”
And he danced a lick
Right across the cell
He grabbed his pants
Took a bitter stance
Jumped up high
That’s when he
Clicked his heels
Then he let go a laugh
Lord, he’d let go a laugh
Shook back his clothes all around

Mr. Bojangles
Mr. Bojangles

Mr. Bojangles
Dance

He told me of the times
He worked with minstrel shows
Throughout the south
He spoke with tears
Of fifteen years
How his dog and he
They travel all about
The dog up and died
Dog up and died
And after twenty years he still grieved

He said “I dance
Now and every chance a
Honkey-tonk
For drinks and tips
But most of the time
I spend behind these country bars
You see son, I drinks a bit”
He shook his head
As he shook his head
I heard someone
Say please, please, please

A-Mr. Bojangles
Mr. Bojangles

Mr. Bojangles
Dance

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 Christmas 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

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

The Eclectic Mix of Abba, S’Express and Fred Astaire

Well, things seem to be cautiously opening up again around here, as I imagine they are where you are. A lot of empty units in our local shopping centre though, what with Debenhams, Top Shop and a few other high street stalwarts having shut their doors for good, but still a reasonable vibe about the place. I was chuffed to see that our local HMV is still open for business, as I do love a good browse up and down their aisles. It seems half the store is now given way to vinyl, either classic albums reissued in those beautiful original sleeves, or new stuff by artists who were probably born a good decade after vinyl ceased being the primary vehicle for music consumption.

The inspiration for this post was a clear-out. Yes, Mr WIAA and I have restarted our efforts into clearing some space in our loft and cupboards, but it’s tough, as I get sentimental about keeping things. This morning when tidying out a drawer I found something that reminded me of 7-inch singles, or 45s as they were called. For music lovers this image will probably cause apoplexy, but a few years ago, after a visit to a craft fair, DD presented me with a gift. Someone had set up a stall selling plant pots and little dishes made from old vinyl records. I think we’ve all probably melted some of our vinyl by accident (for me it involved a cold 1970s night in rural Scotland and the close proximity to our stylish 2-bar electric fire), but now it feels like sacrilege to deliberately render a 45 unplayable. Of course I thanked DD very much for her gift at the time, which looked remarkably like an impractical ashtray (not that I’ve ever had need of one).

Take A Chance On Me by Abba:

The little dish/ashtray was made from an Abba single. The song on the A-side was Take A Chance On Me from 1978, one of their many top 10 hits. It occurred to me to check out the B-side and found it was a song called I’m A Marionette, not one I’d ever heard of so time to find out more.

Hmm…, not sure about that one but it seems it was a song from a mini-musical called The Girl With the Golden Hair performed as part of their 1977 concert tour along with Thank You for the Music and The Name of the Game. Now it makes sense.

I don’t have many 45s still in my possession, but the little dish/ashtray made me want to seek them out. What a mixed bag. Really old stuff belonging to my mum and dad, some soppy songs by my teen idols, a few singles given as presents (probably had deep meaning attached at the time), purchases from bargain bins and a few from the dying days of ‘the 45’ as a music format.

Somehow my copy of Queen’s Somebody To Love got accidentally “ironed” (see nick out of top left) when sitting on a table in our student flat, so the first minute was lost to us!

I’m sure many of you will recognise some of the names there, as pretty mainstream stuff, but each piece of vinyl has a story behind it and some of the songs have already put in an appearance around here. Something I had forgotten all about was the single in the middle of the picture called The Brits 1990 (Dance Medley). The medley went down really well on the night of the awards show that year and was released as a 7 inch single straight after. It made it to the No. 2 spot in the UK Singles Chart. I was a bit long in the tooth for such fodder by 1990, but as an avid dancer, who often invited everyone ‘back to mine’ after a night out, it was good to have it for the turntable. Bit of S’Express anyone? Yes please, along with some Double Trouble and the Rebel MC, A Guy Called Gerald, The Beatmasters, Jeff Wayne, 808 State, D Mob and The Cookie Crew. Hard to believe it’s from over 30 years ago now as the video clip (although a bit cringifying in places) doesn’t look as dated as something from 1960 would have looked in 1990. A very different kind of 30 years in terms of the evolution of music and dance (and of course in colour).

Theme From S’Express by S’Express:

All this talk of dancing has reminded me of another clip I have been meaning to share for a while but not got round to yet, going back much, much further in time. The video clip has been doing the rounds for some time but it has been excellently edited and really showcases the talents of some of Hollywood’s greatest dancers. Bruno Mars was just a toddler when Fred Astaire died at age 87, but somehow his 2014 rendition of Uptown Funk (a Mark Ronson song with Bruno on vocals) lends itself well to a medley of some of the best-choreographed dance sequences in film history, many of which inevitably involve Fred.

I think Fred Astaire was my first crush, as I spent so much time watching him in old black and white movies when I was a child. Yes he was balding, yes he wasn’t that strong a singer, but boy could he dance and he had a certain boyish charm. In the 1930s his films were adored by audiences who craved escapism. Maybe why I went on to have such a love for dance, and why I was always the one who took over the dancefloor should the occasion arise (much to the chagrin of my friends who always said I put boys off asking us to dance). But hey, it was my thing, and fortunately I found a willing partner in Mr WIAA when he came into my life.

A Fine Romance by Fred Astaire:

The thrill of dance has always stayed with me, until now of course. Pre-pandemic there were few opportunities left for us ladies of a certain age to exercise their love of dance, but the odd wedding or party sufficed. In the last 15 months there has been no dancing at all for me and as I still seem to be recovering from the broken ankle I suffered a few months ago, I fear George Michael’s lyrics may become a reality – I’m never gonna dance again… the way I danced with you. Let’s hope not, as I don’t think I’m quite ready to hang up my pumps yet.

So, ‘What’s It All About?’ – A bit of a strange ramble this one, so apologies for that, but I’m trying to be more disciplined about my blogging and Thursday seems to be my new regular day. This week the stream of consciousness flowed from old 45s, to dance medleys, to Fred Astaire. You just never know where it’s going to go, which is part of the fun of it.

Until next time…

A Fine Romance Lyrics
(Song by Dorothy Fields/Jerome Kern)

A fine romance, with no kisses
A fine romance, my friend this is
We should be like a couple of hot tomatoes
But you’re as cold as yesterday’s mashed potatoes
A fine romance, you won’t nestle
A fine romance, you won’t wrestle
I might as well play bridge
With my old maid aunt
I haven’t got a chance
This is a fine romance

A fine romance, my good fellow
You take romance, I’ll take jello
You’re calmer than the seals
In the Arctic Ocean
At least they flap their fins
To express emotion
A fine romance with no quarrels
With no insults and all morals
I’ve never mussed the crease
In your blue serge pants
I never get the chance

This is a fine romance

A fine romance, with no kisses
A fine romance, my friend this is
We two should be like clams in a dish of chowder
But we just fizz like parts of a Seidlitz powder
A fine romance, with no clinches
A fine romance, with no pinches
You’re just as hard to land as the Ile de France!
I haven’t got a chance, this is a fine romance

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 and stayed there 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.

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.

taxis-outside-cotton-club

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.

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.

thSX71AS0Y

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.

Lee_marvin_1971
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.