May Day, Ella Fitzgerald and Summertime

Well, it’s May Day and I don’t know about you but up here in Scotland it’s been a wonderful sunny day. As ever I am celebrating this landmark date in the calendar with a few of the old customs. First of all I managed to do a symbolic washing of my face with morning dew – With any luck I may wake up tomorrow morning looking like a young maiden, but I’m not holding out much hope.

Next on the agenda was to gather some spring flowers for the little shrine I’ve got used to putting together on such days – Cherry blossom, narcissi and a few pink flowers I don’t know the name of. Along with a candle, some ribbon and some symbolic dew, it all looks very nice.

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Holy wells are popular places to visit on May Day or Beltane as it used to be called here in Scotland. As luck would have it we have a clootie well a short drive away and as Mr WIAA and I were both on holiday, that seemed like a good plan. This ancient spring is dedicated to Saint Curetán where the rags, dipped in the water from the well, are hung on the surrounding bushes and trees. It was once thought to have had the power to cure sick children. The spring runs into a kind of basin and just as we got there a young maiden was indeed washing her face – Just as well we knew the significance of the day or it would have all been a bit weird.

Beltane marked the beginning of summer for the ancient Celts and that was when their cattle were driven out to the higher pastures and rituals were performed to protect cattle, crops and people. Bonfires were kindled, their flames, smoke and ashes deemed to have protective powers.

Most of us are no longer pastoral people with cattle, but suburban people with garden furniture and fire pits so instead of driving my cattle to high pastures today, I have just got the rest of the accoutrements of summer out of the shed and lit a symbolic fire to celebrate Beltane. A wee spot of Drambuie also slipped down nicely and was my toast to the coming of summer.

Whenever a fire is lit the young people all seem to want to congregate round it – Darling daughter did a bit of texting and we now have a garden-full. Perhaps a bit of a novelty that drags them away from their electronic devices – Whatever, we have now left them to it, so time for a quick post to celebrate this special day.

The song I’ve chosen could not be less Scottish if it tried, but one I have always loved. Summertime was composed in 1934 by George Gershwin for the opera Porgy and Bess. The one I have in my music library is by Ella Fitzgerald who would have last week reached the age of 100. For over half a century Ella was the jazz singer who commanded the largest popular following and her musical collaborations with Louis Armstrong were amongst her most notable. No long wordy post from me today then, just this lovely version of one of Gershwin’s finest compositions.

Summertime by Ella Fitzgerald & Louis Armstrong:

Summertime Lyrics
(Song by George Gershwin/Dubose Heyward)

Summertime, and the livin’ is easy
Fish are jumpin’ and the cotton is high
Oh, your daddy’s rich and your ma is good-lookin’
So hush little baby, Don’t you cry

One of these mornings you’re gonna rise up singing
And you’ll spread your wings and you’ll take to the sky
But ’til that morning, there ain’t nothin’ can harm you
With Daddy and Mammy standin’ by

Summertime, and the livin’ is easy
Fish are jumpin’ and the cotton is high
Oh, your daddy’s rich and your ma is good-lookin’
So hush little baby, Don’t you cry

One of these mornings you’re gonna rise up singing
And you’ll spread your wings and you’ll take to the sky
But ’til that morning, there ain’t nothin can harm you
With Daddy and Mammy standin’ by

Postscript:

It’s not an Oscar winner and I’m still learning how to do this, but here is my little film of our day out – It all ends rather abruptly I’m afraid but I will improve!

Darling Daughter, Defying Gravity and The Day We “Cut A Record”

I mentioned last time that I now have a backlog of “posts pending” – I seem to continually add new post ideas to my blogging notebook but then write about other things instead. In order to start making inroads into this long list of ideas I have now put them on a spreadsheet, sorted them alphabetically, given each one a number and then, to make it a bit more interesting, used a random number generator to select the next “post idea”. (You can probably tell I work in finance and am by nature a very spreadsheety kind of person.)

Well, number 37 popped up and what did that correspond to on the long list of ideas? – “Musical Theatre and Wicked”. Before you start panicking that I’m about to share a whole load of show tunes with you, let me explain this little bit of self-indulgence. A couple of our good friends have been very successful on the career front (didn’t rub off on us sadly), but have not had any children. There is probably a correlation there but the upside is, when it comes to birthday presents, darling daughter is bestowed with some very nice ones. Just before her 16th birthday a rectangular padded envelope arrived and much speculation went on as to what could be inside. It turned out to be one of those Experience packages where she was given the chance to visit a recording studio and lay down some tracks. Being a keen singer, and having been in a few theatre shows up to that point, there was much excitement, and in due course the experience was booked for a Sunday in August.

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As the good friends live in London and we live in the Scottish Highlands, we chose the recording studio in Edinburgh, which was listed as an option, and planned a meetup. The timing coincided with the Edinburgh Festival Fringe and if you’ve never been to our capital city in August I would thoroughly recommend it (although accommodation is hard to come by, granted). I’m pretty sure the locals who just want to go about their daily business during the month of August get pretty hacked off with it all but it certainly brings a colourful, carnival atmosphere to the city and many a stand-up comedian has cut his or her teeth in one of the many venues.

Darling daughter was given the choice of which show she wanted to see on the Saturday night and she chose one starring those very nifty street dancers, Flawless. I was sceptical that they would  be able to hold our attention for a whole hour and a half but you know what, they did. The audience were also all given fluorescent gloves and after a short lesson on “the moves” we had to make, we were projected on a big screen behind the dancers, so all very interactive.

And so it came to the Sunday, and we made our way to the recording studio which turned out to be in an Industrial Estate in Leith. Sadly there was no sunshine on Leith that day and Abbey Road it was most definitely not, but once we arrived, the “producers” were all really friendly and welcoming – I’m pretty sure they would have preferred to spend their afternoon laying down some tracks with a cool new rock band as opposed to a 16-year-old from the Highlands and her extended family, but if they did, they didn’t show it.

The song of choice that day was Defying Gravity from the musical Wicked, based on the alternative telling of L. Frank Baum’s classic story The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. Around that time the television show Glee, about an American High School glee club/show choir, was a firm favourite with darling daughter and her friends, and one of the characters in the show had performed the song in a recent episode. Of course now her musical tastes are very different and I know she would be very embarrassed about me sharing this but hey, I’m a proud mum, she never reads my blog and it’s the most anonymous place on the internet, so here is what she came up with on that day. It was a fascinating process, how you record many versions of the same song, do a bit of tweaking and then cut and paste sections together to create the best version possible. She starts off a bit tentatively but after 1:00 the confidence shines through.

Defying Gravity by “Darling Daughter”:

As I said earlier, this was always going to be a very self-indulgent post but this 2003 song by Stephen Schwartz is, for the reasons above, now very much one of the “tracks of my years” and that is exactly what this blog is all about. The lyrics of the song are about living without limits and going against the rules that others have set for you. For darling daughter’s generation I think that can-do attitude is going to be very important as they try to negotiate this brave new world we seem to find ourselves in.

Until next time….

Defying Gravity Lyrics
(Song by Stephen Schwartz)

Something has changed within me
Something is not the same
I’m through with playing by the rules of someone else’s game
Too late for second-guessing
Too late to go back to sleep
It’s time to trust my instincts, close my eyes and leap!

It’s time to try
Defying gravity
I think I’ll try
Defying gravity
Kiss me goodbye
I’m defying gravity
And you won’t bring me down

I’m through accepting limits ’cause someone says they’re so
Some things I cannot change but ’til I try, I’ll never know!
Too long I’ve been afraid of losing love I guess I’ve lost
Well, if that’s love, it comes at much too high a cost!

I’d sooner buy
Defying gravity
Kiss me goodbye
I’m defying gravity
I think I’ll try
Defying gravity
And you won’t bring me down

Ewan McGregor, Elton John and “Your Song”

Before I got side-tracked by other things, like writing my landmark 100th post (still basking in the afterglow of having reached that momentous number), I had revisited the Randy Crawford song One Day I’ll Fly Away which is featured in this year’s John Lewis Christmas ad. It led me to share the version performed by Nicole Kidman in Baz Luhrmann’s lavish movie Moulin Rouge!. Her male co-star and love interest in that movie was Ewan McGregor, my favourite Scottish actor, in fact no, my favourite actor full stop. I am currently eagerly awaiting the sequel to the 1996 film Trainspotting which is due to come out early next year where he very memorably played the character Renton, a young man caught up in a world of addiction and squalor in, ironically, “culturally rich” Edinburgh – Harrowing scenes but also scenes of great humour and on some lists, it is ranked Best Scottish Film of all time.

His role in Moulin Rouge! could not have been more different as in this one he plays a writer/poet who has come to live amongst the Bohemians of Montmartre during the period of La Belle Époque. It is not long before he falls in love with Satine, the star courtesan of the Moulin Rouge nightclub played by Nicole Kidman and for me, the whole film was an absolute spectacle, with fantastic music throughout.

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Ewan and Nicole sing their Love Medley

I hadn’t realised until going to see that film in 2001 that both Nicole and Ewan were such great singers, but they were, and one of their very memorable duets, Elephant Love Medley, was compiled from 13 different Love Songs – If you are around my age, you will recognise all of them. They came just too thick and fast when I watched this song being performed first time around but once home, and with the newly purchased CD in the player (it was 15 years ago now), it was easier to identify and remember all of them. Here is the clip followed by the list, in the correct running order, of all 13 songs from which snippets were plucked. Very aptly for this year, I think my favourite segment is when they sang a few lines from the David Bowie song Heroes.

Elephant Love Medley by Ewan MacGregor and Nicole Kidman:

Medley compiled from:
Love Is Like Oxygen – Sweet
Love is a Many-Splendored Thing – The Four Aces
Up Where We Belong – Joe Cocker and Jennifer Warnes
All You Need Is Love – The Beatles
Lover’s Game – Chris Isaak
I Was Made For Lovin’ You – Kiss
One More Night – Phil Collins
Pride (In The Name Of Love) – U2
Don’t Leave Me This Way – Harold Melvin & the Blue Notes
Silly Love Songs – Paul McCartney and Wings
(Repeated) Up Where We Belong – Joe Cocker and Jennifer Warnes
Heroes – David Bowie
I Will Always Love You – Dolly Parton
Your Song – Elton John

The final song used for the medley was Your Song by Elton John. It was originally released back in 1970 and although I knew it well, I had been too young back then to really appreciate those great lyrics by Elton’s long-time collaborator, Bernie Taupin. By the time I was a teenager in 1973, Elton John was one of the biggest singer/composer/musicians on the planet, his albums “Don’t Shoot Me I’m Only The Piano Player” and “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road” receiving massive critical acclaim. But, at that time my focus was very much on my oh so good-looking teen idols, the Donnys and the Davids. Elton by this time had embraced the full glam-rock persona with ever more outrageous outfits, glasses and footwear, but not someone I saw as a potential teen idol.

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One of Elton’s outrageous outfits!

This is a roundabout way of saying that it was not until going to see Moulin Rouge! in 2001 that I truly appreciated the sentiment of Your Song, and actually dug out a really old cassette tape from the loft that, amongst others, contained my new favourite song. Again maybe it’s the old romantic in me, but what a wonderful thing I thought, to have a song written specially for you which includes the line: How wonderful life is, while you’re in the world”. Unlike Pattie Boyd, who seems to have had oh so many songs written about how wonderful it was to have her in the world, I am pretty sure no-one has ever written a song for me. At best there may have been a limerick or rhyme (of the non-smutty nature) in a Valentine card at some point, but still perhaps time if Mr WIAA decides to take up the art of song-writing in later life. The really ironic thing is that hubby’s real-life profession is actually mentioned in the song, but in a bit of a derogatory fashion. Yes it is a great source of mirth in our house that one of the lines from Your Song goes as follows: “If I were a sculptor (bit of aside laughter at the ridiculousness of the suggestion), but then again, no”. It turns out that Bernie Taupin decided that it would be preferable being “a man who makes potions in a traveling show” than to be a sculptor. I beg to differ as although I haven’t yet had a song written for me, I have had a few really nice pieces of jewellery, as the sculpture around here is of the miniature, rather than of the monumental variety.

Your Song by Elton John:

So, “What’s It All About?” – It’s good in later life to revisit songs you may not have truly appreciated first time around because you were just far too busy swooning over your latest teen idol, who happened to have great hair, teeth, waistcoats and headwear. (That would be Donny Osmond in his trademark purple cap then!) I sadly did not appreciate Your Song first time around so was glad to rediscover it properly after watching Baz Luhrmann’s lavish film. Yet again, the subject matter for both the above songs is that old chestnut love but as I have mentioned here before (just a few times), that is indeed what it’s all about. We seem to be living in a bit of a troubled world at the moment but I will remain positive and hope that love will win out in the end.

Until next time here is the Moulin Rouge! version of the song, Baz Luhrmann style. Both have their merits but it’s the simple pared down version by Elton for me now – Unlike Pattie Boyd I may never have any songs written for me, or about me, but in the meantime a nice piece of sculptural jewellery will do nicely. The man who makes potions in a travelling show is not the one for me!

Your Song Lyrics
(Song by Elton John/Bernie Taupin)

It’s a little bit funny this feeling inside
I’m not one of those who can easily hide
I don’t have much money but boy if I did
I’d buy a big house where we both could live

If I was a sculptor, but then again, no
Or a man who makes potions in a traveling show
I know it’s not much but it’s the best I can do
My gift is my song and this one’s for you

And you can tell everybody this is your song
It may be quite simple but now that it’s done
I hope you don’t mind
I hope you don’t mind that I put down in words
How wonderful life is while you’re in the world

I sat on the roof and kicked off the moss
Well a few of the verses well they’ve got me quite cross
But the sun’s been quite kind while I wrote this song
It’s for people like you that keep it turned on

So excuse me forgetting but these things I do
You see I’ve forgotten if they’re green or they’re blue
Anyway the thing is what I really mean
Yours are the sweetest eyes I’ve ever seen

And you can tell everybody this is your song
It may be quite simple but now that it’s done
I hope you don’t mind
I hope you don’t mind that I put down in words
How wonderful life is while you’re in the world

Christmas Adverts, Randy Crawford and One Day I’ll Fly Away

You know that the festive season is just around the corner when John Lewis comes up with another of their “heart-warming” Christmas adverts. I first watched it properly a few nights ago and much to my chagrin, this year they are using one of my all-time favourite songs, One Day I’ll Fly Away. The version for the ad is by South London band Vaults (no The apparently) but the version I fell in love with many years ago was by Randy Crawford. Incredibly, despite being from Georgia, she didn’t ever crack the Billboard Hot 100 in the US but achieved great success in Europe and the UK making it to No. 2 in our Singles Chart in 1980 with that song.

One Day I’ll Fly Away by Randy Crawford:

My chagrin comes from the fact that a song I have always loved will by the end of the festive period have lost all its charm due to having been listened to just once too often. One upside of blogging however is that it does leave very little time for television, so what I do watch nowadays tends to be very carefully cherry-picked from recordings or on-demand services (that would be Netflix then) – With any luck I might be spared the over-exposure. To be fair however, the ad, featuring a very excited Buster the Boxer joyously jumping up and down on the trampoline from Santa, is a great one and not the sadvert they were accused of putting out last year. I do wonder whether it actually does lead to a hike in sales nowadays, when so many of us do our Christmas shopping online, but they have kind of set the bar for this new art form and as yet have seen off the competition. A lot of course is down to the song choice, and I certainly can’t fault Vaults performance in this one (One Day I’ll Fly Away – John Lewis style).

But back to the song itself – In 1979 Randy Crawford sang with The Crusaders, providing vocals for their excellent hit Street Life. Joe Sample and Will Jennings from The Crusaders then wrote One Day I’ll Fly Away specifically for Randy. The song is apparently about emotional bondage and the longing to be free of it. Coincidentally it came to mind the other Sunday (the same day I took to “tipsy blogging”) on my drive to the supermarket when I felt I had just too much to do that day. How wonderful I thought it would be to get off the hamster wheel and just keep on driving, flying away to a new less busy life. (Just to be clear no emotional bondage to be free of, as Mr WIAA is a great other half, just wouldn’t mind there being a bit less “to-do-list” bondage in an average week.) Needless to say I didn’t fly away that afternoon but did the shopping and then went home to cook the Sunday dinner as per usual!

But the video clip I’m going to share today is actually from the sumptuous 2001 Baz Luhrmann musical Moulin Rouge! where Nicole Kidman turned in a great performance playing Star Courtesan Satine. Who knew she could sing so well (I didn’t anyway) and the scene in the amazing “Red Room Elephant” where she sings One Day I’ll Fly Away was my favourite of the whole movie. Satine is not particularly yearning to be free of emotional bondage or even to-do-list bondage, but she longs to leave the life she is living at The Moulin Rouge, and become a “real” actress.

One Day I’ll Fly Away by Nicole Kidman:

This was a typical Baz Luhrmann, over-the-top production with many great songs but with a very simple boy-meets-girl storyline. Enter poet/writer Christian, played by my favourite Scottish actor Ewan McGregor, who falls in love with Satine. Who knew he could sing so well either, but the pair of them performed many memorable duets in that movie some of which I will leave for another day.

No great light-bulb revelation with this post other than a pleasant revisitation of a song I have enjoyed over the years, albeit prompted by a Christmas ad. It is my abiding hope that it doesn’t get ruined for me over the festive period through over-exposure. One mini revelation however was finding out that the main hook in the song (its title) was based on the opening sequence from Tchaikovsky’s Waltz of the Flowers – Every day’s a school day!

One Day I’ll Fly Away Lyrics
(Song by Will Jennings/Joe Sample)

I follow the night
Can’t stand the light

When will I begin?
To live again?

One day I’ll fly away
Leave all this to yesterday
What more could your love do for me
When will love be through with me
Why live life from dream to dream
And dread the day when dreaming ends

One day I’ll fly away!
Leave all this to yesterday!
Why live life from dream to dream!?
And dreamt the day when dreaming end

September, Jerry Orbach and Try to Remember

Well, here we are into the month of September already and there is definitely a feeling of “autumnal-ness” in the air today. There is always a slight sadness at this time of year if like me you live in the North of Scotland, as we pretty much know that summer is now behind us for another year and barring the odd exceptional day, the weather will just get that little bit colder and wetter every day now until the seasons turn again next year.

On the other hand, if like me you enjoy knitwear, coats and woollen accessories, or indeed if you manufacture and sell these items, I imagine you are quite happy that autumn is now upon us. I do have a large collection of polo neck jumpers and although I can wear some of the sleeveless and cottony ones during the summer months, my signature black polos have had to sit unworn for quite a few months now. Looking forward in a way to reacquainting myself with the rest of my wardrobe.

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Local girl Tilda Swinton – The new face of Pringle knitwear

A few years ago I set myself the challenge of taking an “interesting” photo of the natural world, every day, for a year – Unlike with this blogging malarkey that has taken up most of my free time this year, it was an excellent hobby for getting incidental exercise, as I had to do a sizeable walk every day in search of new scenes and subjects. I probably gained a bit of a reputation in the area as I didn’t have a dog to explain the walking, I tended to be on my own and at a moment’s notice I would suddenly jump down into a ditch and appear to get up close and personal with what might to others, look like a weed (good for a picture though sometimes).

Anyway, I did end up with a great set of 365 photographs that pretty much told the story of our seasons that year. Ironically it turned out to be the snowiest winter we’d had in years, so lots of brilliant snow-scenes. As we’ve meteorologically reached autumn today, I have looked back at my “365” photo for the 1st September and it turned out to be this one – My neighbour’s hydrangea shrub. I probably walked a few miles that day only to discover that the best picture came from a few yards away, in the garden next door! It looks as if I’ve “special-effectified” it as I was wont to do back then, but you can still see the signs of approaching autumn in the leaves. Sad for me too as this neighbour, who ended up being like a granny to our daughter, died later on that year so this would have been the last time she would have seen these giant flowers in the garden she so loved.

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But this is supposed to be a blog that features songs and of course all day I had that line in my head about September, from the song Try to Remember. Having just looked it up, I discovered that it was written for a long-running musical comedy called The Fantasticks which is one I had never heard of before. It was originally performed by the show’s lead actor Jerry Orbach in 1960 and again although I didn’t recognise that name, I certainly recognised him, as it was Baby’s dad from Dirty Dancing a good few years on.

This song famously makes use of rhyming to an extreme degree and looking at the lyrics, each verse specialises in a different type of rhyming word. If it wasn’t such a melancholy sounding song it would be quite comical but the sadness in it is apt for today I think, and although I’m not sure what we’re supposed to be “following”, I suspect it’s the memory.

Here is a clip of Jerry Orbach singing his version of the song in 1982, where he appears to have just been introduced by Richie Cunningham’s dad.

And here is a really schmaltzy version of The Way We Were by Gladys Knight (seemingly without her ever-present Pips) that got to No. 4 in the UK Singles Chart in 1975, where in the preamble, she makes great use of the first line from Try to Remember. I keep having to remind myself here that although I am enjoying this nostalgic revisitation of the songs of my youth and the memories they conjure up, I mustn’t get too melancholy about it all – But you know what, on this, the first day of autumn, I think I just might.

The Way We Were / Try to Remember by Gladys Knight & The Pips:

Try To Remember Lyrics
(Song by Harvey Schmidt/Tom Jones – the other one)

Try to remember the kind of September when life was slow and oh, so mellow
Try to remember the kind of September when grass was green and grain was yellow
Try to remember the kind of September when you were a tender and callow fellow
Try to remember and if you remember then follow

Try to remember when life was so tender that no one wept except the willow
Try to remember when life was so tender that dreams were kept beside your pillow
Try to remember when life was so tender that love was an ember about to billow
Try to remember and if you remember then follow

Deep in December it’s nice to remember although you know the snow will follow
Deep in December it’s nice to remember without the hurt the heart is hollow
Deep in December it’s nice to remember the fire of September that made us mellow
Deep in December our hearts should remember and follow

An Eclectic Mix of Anthony Newley, Nile Rodgers and Noel Coward!

Well it seems ages since I’ve written what I would call a conventional post – One intro, one song, one back story, one memory and one, “Wow, didn’t realise that back in the day” moment. Blame those very compelling Olympics, the fact that summer eventually came to Scotland and a lot of blog admin to be done (who knew that as time goes by there could be so much, but in for a penny in for a pound and all that).

I’m sure all bloggers are the same but even if I haven’t been posting much of late I’ve had plenty of ideas and I find myself scribbling these down on scraps of paper in the course of the day (surreptitiously of course when I’m at work and supposed to be thinking of very serious statistical analysis type stuff). I have now found these scraps of paper and the topics, if I can read them, are as follows:

  1. Random pick from music app – Visions by Cliff Richard
  2. Concerts at Capitol Theatre, Aberdeen
  3. Anthony Newley, Fiddle liddle I doh
  4. Songs from every Olympics since 1968
  5. Duets where girl is forgotten about – Cherrelle, Denise Marsa, Marilyn Martin
  6. Chic – “Don’t live in the past but it’s a nice place to visit” song 
  7. Songs from daughter’s time in musical theatre
  8. Inter-Oil Company Pop Quiz 1985

So lots to choose from there but the random picks of the day are turning out to be quite embarrassing and if from your iTunes library it means you’ve actually parted with hard-earned cash to own them. I can only confess to purchasing Visions because I sometimes struggle with sleep and discovered that Cliff‘s voice and the sentiment of the song are both quite soporific and lullaby-like (that’s my story and I’m sticking to it).

Strawberry Fair by Anthony Newley:

Lots of stories to relate about the excellent concerts I witnessed in a small Art Deco theatre in Aberdeen in the ’70s and ’80s but will keep that one for another day. Anthony Newley‘s Strawberry Fair is our favourite novelty song as a family and if there is a chance to get the phrase “fiddle liddle I doh” into a conversation in the course of the day, we will. (Yes I know the actual phrase is “ri-fol ri-fol tol-de-riddle-li-do, but we never heard it that way.)

As for the Olympics, they have been great but as they end this weekend, anything related to all things Olympian will no longer be topical. I have already written about those very memorable duets, like Lucky Stars, where the girl is kind of forgotten about and wasn’t credited (Denise Marsa) then did it myself last week when I wrote about Saturday Love by Alexander O’Neal. As it turns out the song was actually a Cherrelle one and it was Alexander who was asked to duet with her later – My bad.

cherrelle

Chic, a band that epitomised the whole disco scene of the late ’70s, came back last year with I’ll Be There which was heavily played on the radio at the time. Not that their creator Nile Rodgers has ever been away, as he is the genius behind some of the best-selling albums of all-time which I often hadn’t realised until doing research for this blog. The track popped up this week on the radio and I do like that line, “Don’t live in the past but it’s a nice place to visit” especially when spending time on a project like this – Lovely to look back nostalgically but there is a whole world out there still to be discovered and experienced. Got to remind ourselves sometimes that the relationship we have with our laptops is never going to be as important as real-life relationships (and not being smutty here).

I’ll Be There by Chic:

I’ve mentioned before that my daughter was an aficionad0 of musical theatre and at some point I’m going to post one of her great recordings but to save embarrassment I will probably have to wait until she goes travelling, to a zone with no Wi-Fi. As an aside, anyone who wants to make a lot of money very easily – Set up a Musical Theatre school for little girls! Don’t put your daughter on the stage Mrs Worthington was told, but you know what, that’s exactly what lots of mums are intent on doing nowadays and from what I can see it’s money for old rope. You hire a church hall for a Saturday, get some music teachers to give up a few hours of their weekend, set yourself up with some fancy branding and logos and you’re away. Fees for the “term”, fees to appear in a show, fees for the costumes, fees for the tickets to go and watch the show and all the petrol for the running around. The “teachers” then get very generous Christmas gifts from some parents (which I always cynically thought was a bribe to get star-billing for their offspring – quite rightly it never worked though) and lo and behold come the teenage years they announce they don’t want to do it any more. Hallelujah.

You can tell quite early on however whether your progeny is going to be the next Barbra Streisand or whether they are more likely to make up the chorus. I remember well paying a fortune for tickets so that all the family could see our daughter appear in the local musical theatre school’s extravaganza. There are usually a few favourites that get the starring roles in any show but the vast majority of the other 200 or so make a very brief appearance and this time aforementioned daughter was in the chorus of Cats so no-one even spotted her or knew which “cat” she was! A lot of frustrated impresarios run these schools I feel and their students are not always given age-appropriate material – Fourteen-year-olds performing the Cell Block Tango from Chicago anyone? No I didn’t think so either. Anyway rant over but I still love my daughter’s singing voice and now she sings just for pleasure. Best way to go I think.

So, finally got to the last topic and I think I have used up too many words already so definitely one for next time – Yes the Inter-Oil Company Pop Quiz of 1985. A few funny stories about that one, a bit of of name-dropping and a few good tunes as well so will work on it over the next few days. In the meantime I will leave you with the sage and very witty words of Mr Noel Coward and his Don’t Put Your Daughter on the Stage, Mrs Worthington.

Don’t Put Your Daughter on the Stage, Mrs Worthington Lyrics
(Song by Noel Coward)

Don’t put your daughter on the stage, Mrs. Worthington
Don’t put your daughter on the stage
The profession is overcrowded
The struggle’s pretty tough
And admitting the fact she’s burning to act
That isn’t quite enough
She’s a nice girl and though her teeth are fairly good
She’s not the type I ever would be eager to engage
I repeat, Mrs. Worthington, sweet Mrs. Worthington
Don’t put your daughter on the stage

Regarding yours, dear Mrs. Worthington
Of Wednesday, the 23rd.
Although your baby may be keen on a stage career
How can I make it clear that this is not a good idea
For her to hope and appear, Mrs. Worthington
Is on the face of it absurd
Her personality is not in reality quite big enough, inviting enough
For this particular sphere

Don’t put your daughter on the stage, Mrs. Worthington
Don’t put your daughter on the stage
She’s a bit of an ugly duckling, you must honestly confess
And the width of her seat would surely defeat
Her chances of her success
It’s – it’s a loud voice, and though it’s not exactly flat
She’ll need a little more than that to earn a living wage
On my knees, Mrs. Worthington, please Mrs. Worthington
Don’t put your daughter on the stage

Don’t put your daughter on the stage, Mrs. Worthington
Don’t put your daughter on the stage
Though they said at the school of acting
She was lovely as Peer Gynt
I’m afraid, on the whole, an ingénue role might emphasize her squint
She has nice hands, to give the wretched girl her due
But don’t you think her bust is too developed for her age
No more buts, Mrs. Worthington, nuts! Mrs. Worthington
Don’t put your daughter on the stage

Jackie Magazine, Jackie The Musical and Sad Sweet Dreamer

If like me you became a teenager in 1973, when I mention Jackie magazine you will know exactly where I am coming from. Between 1972 and 1974 the magazine was selling in excess of 1.1 million copies per week and was a must-buy for “go-ahead” teens – its target market. I don’t know if my friends and I were indeed all that go-ahead, but Thursday was one of the best days of the week as it was not only Top Of The Pops night, but it was also the day when we picked up our copy of Jackie. With centrefold posters of the pop idols of the day, titbits of gossip about their likes and dislikes, great fashion spreads and the Cathy & Claire page (where all those problems we couldn’t possibly discuss with our mums were aired and very sensibly answered), it truly was the bible for girls trying to find their way in the world.

As we all know, they will make a musical about practically anything nowadays, but last week I went to see “Jackie The Musical” (excellent by the way) and if this blog is all about looking back nostalgically, by revisiting the Tracks of My Years, this was the stage musical equivalent. The main character was 54-year-old Jackie, a woman with an adult son still living at home, going through the trauma of divorce, and experimenting with online dating. Whilst packing up the contents of her house she finds her old teen magazines and of course starts to reminisce about her hopes and dreams back then. Her younger self even makes an appearance dressed in very authentic early ‘70s-style clothing (flares/big collars/platform shoes) to great comedic effect, often quoting verbatim what Cathy & Claire would have advised.

But of course the raison d’être behind any musical is the performance of the songs and this Jukebox Musical did not disappoint – Interwoven into the storyline were a host of very nostalgia-provoking songs such as Could It Be Forever (by David Cassidy), I Love To Love (by Tina Charles), Crazy Horses (by The Osmonds), The Things We Do For Love (by 10cc), Hold Me Close (by David Essex), Tiger Feet (by Mud), Puppy Love (by Donny Osmond) and many, many, more.

It was no coincidence of course that the vast majority of the audience were ladies of a certain age with very few men, quite sensibly, choosing to partake in this very girly extravaganza. By chance I met lots of people I knew, which was really nice, but of course it is also no coincidence that the main character was a stereotypical 54-year-old of today, and sad to say the chances of being separated or divorced are indeed quite high. Sad also to reflect that Cathy & Claire would not have anticipated that being the outcome for the Jackie Class of 1972-74 and although this is not the place to conjecture what has gone wrong, from a purely observational point of view, it seems that No – We can’t have it all. I have my own theories on that one, but perhaps for another time.

As a Scot, I am really proud that DC Thomson of Dundee, that city famed for Jam, Jute and Journalism was the publisher responsible for a magazine that both entertained and helped so many of my generation negotiate their way through those tricky teenage years. I probably still have my pillowcase somewhere with the Donny Osmond iron-on transfer (in purple – his favourite colour) and my heart-broken/heart-mended badge, both free gifts from that golden era.

badge.png

So many songs from the show that I could feature here but as I have already written about a few of the most obvious contenders, I think I will pick one of the lesser known songs that may have been forgotten about in the intervening years. Before the days of Pop Idol and The X-Factor we had much less lavish mid-week talent shows such as New Faces. One of the acts that did really well on that show were an 8-piece soul group from Manchester, called Sweet Sensation. Once signed to Pye Records, under the guidance of one of the judges Tony Hatch they started to release records and although their first didn’t make it to the charts, their second, Sad Sweet Dreamer, made it all the way to the No. 1 spot in October 1974. (Again – just so much purple.)

The readers of Jackie magazine were often sad (mainly due to boyfriend trouble – the lack of one), they were young so generally still quite sweet, and, they were all overwhelmingly “dreamers”. There couldn’t have been a similar magazine for boys at that time and practically none of the songs in the show would ever have appealed to them anyway – The Davids and the Donnys belonged to us, and boy did we dream!

Sad Sweet Dreamer Lyrics
(Song by David Parton)

Sad sweet dreamer
It’s just one of those things you put down to experience
Sad sweet dreamer
It’s just one of those things you put down to experience

Been another blue day without you girl
Been another sad summer song
I’ve been thinking about you girl
All night long

Been another sad tear on my pillow
Been another memory to tell me you’re the one, girl
I kept thinking about you girl
All night long

Sad sweet dreamer
It’s just one of those things you put down to experience
Sad sweet dreamer
It’s just one of those things you put down to experience

Been another long night and I’ve missed you girl
Been another story from those endless magazines
Can’t help thinking about you girl
All night long

Was so happy when I found you
But how was I to know
That you would leave me walking down that road

Been another hard luck story
Been another man who thought that he was oh so strong
Been thinking about you girl
All night long

Postscript:

I often feel we go in circles here as since starting the blog so many hitherto unknown connections have come to light. It turns out that the bass player with Sweet Sensation, Barry Johnson, later joined reggae band Aswad whom I wrote about only last week. Different style of music but definitely more in tune with his roots as like many of his fellow bandmates from Sweet Sensation, he was born in Kingston, Jamaica.