Seven in Seven #6: George Michael, Fastlove and Songs that Start with the Letter F!

Day Six of my challenge to write seven posts in seven days.

On the home straight now, so looks as if I’m going to achieve my goal of writing “seven in seven”. Today’s post should almost write itself, so here goes….

Last night I went to our local theatre. As a birthday surprise, a kind friend had bought me a ticket for the stage show Fastlove, which has the tagline A Tribute To George Michael. At first I was a tad worried – Although the friend knows I write a blog that is (tenuously at times) linked to the world of music, they have respected my wishes not to share it with them. Writing for complete strangers (who in many cases have become virtual friends I have to say) seems to be a lot easier than writing for people you know. The upshot is that she wouldn’t have known just how upset I was when I heard of George’s death on Christmas Day 2016, and she wouldn’t have known just how many Open Letters I have written to him since – I now have a whole George Michael category on my sidebar (link here) and there seems to be no sign of me ever running out of material for new posts. This one is a case in point.

Fastlove

But back to the show – I shouldn’t have worried. Although I had thought I would never want to hear anyone perform George’s songs except George, to my great surprise I really enjoyed it. It was a highly professional production having started off in London’s West End. They took great pains to make sure, we the audience, realised this was not “A Tribute Act”, but in fact “A Tribute” – to George. The word tribute was never actually mentioned, but instead it was called an opportunity for us all to honour George’s memory, and I think we pretty much achieved that.

george-michael-2016-580x475The chap who played George was excellent, and dare I say it, as good a singer as George himself. We sometimes forget that for every excellent singer out there, only a tiny proportion ever make it big and become recording stars. Here was someone who was a gifted singer but had gone down a different path. Also it is easy to look like solo artist George, as post-Faith (the album), his uniform was usually black trousers, black T-shirt and a smart jacket. Add to that a pair of dark glasses, the distinctive haircut, a neatly trimmed beard and you’re pretty much there.

As for the songs, all the usual suspects were performed (accompanied by a fine band I might add which included a female sax player – her solo at the start of Careless Whisper was a definite crowd-pleaser). We were only a few songs in however when something occurred to me – An awful lot of George’s songs start with the letter F, and if they don’t start with the letter F, they start with the letter A. Obviously the show had kicked off with Fastlove but then we were treated to Father Figure, Faith, Freedom! ’90, Flawless and (Too) Funky. In the second half we had the Wham! hit Freedom but then the A songs started to made their presence felt and we had A Different Corner, As and Amazing. When I got home I decided that if George had written his song lyrics using a qwerty keyboard he must have been left-handed, as when your fingers rest on the home keys, the easiest ones to press are F (forefinger) and A (pinky). One letter and inspiration struck – He was off. (But then again maybe I’ve worked in offices for too long and am overthinking it!)

thDBE1SZ1LSo, what should the featured song for this post be? Since many mentioned above have appeared in previous posts, and are already listed on my Featured Songs page, it should be one of the other F’s – Freedom! ’90 was one of the more up-tempo songs of the evening, so that one it shall be. I see that back in 1990 it was originally released as Freedom! but that probably caused confusion with the Wham! hit Freedom (argh so many exclamation marks!!), so it now seems to have had the year added as a suffix.

Freedom! ’90 by George Michael:

I was surprised at how much I enjoyed last night’s show and had it not been for the ticket bought for me as a gift, I probably wouldn’t have risked it, but a good night was definitely had by all 800 ladies “of a certain age” in the audience. A few of them were up on their feet early on, and I was sorely tempted myself, but always feel bad for the people sitting behind who will then get a rubbish view – By the end of the night however we were all up on our feet, and although sadly it wasn’t George himself, someone who looked awfully like him closed the show, by taking us all to The Edge Of Heaven!

Until next time….

Freedom ’90 Lyrics
(Song by George Michael)

I won’t let you down
I will not give you up
Gotta have some faith in the sound
It’s the one good thing that I’ve got
I won’t let you down
So please don’t give me up
‘Cause I would really, really love to stick around, oh yeah

Heaven knows I was just a young boy
Didn’t know what I wanted to be
I was every little hungry schoolgirl’s pride and joy
And I guess it was enough for me
To win the race? A prettier face!
Brand new clothes and a big fat place
On your rock and roll TV
But today the way I play the game is not the same
No way
Think I’m gonna get myself happy

I think there’s something you should know
I think it’s time I told you so
There’s something deep inside of me
There’s someone else I’ve got to be
Take back your picture in a frame
Take back your singing in the rain
I just hope you understand
Sometimes the clothes do not make the man

All we have to do now
Is take these lies and make them true somehow
All we have to see
Is that I don’t belong to you
And you don’t belong to me yea yea
Freedom
Freedom
Freedom
You’ve gotta give for what you take
Freedom
Freedom
Freedom
You’ve gotta give for what you take

Heaven knows we sure had some fun boy
What a kick just a buddy and me
We had every big shot good-time band on the run boy
We were living in a fantasy
We won the race
Got out of the place
I went back home got a brand new face
For the boys on MTV
But today the way I play the game has got to change
Oh yeah
Now I’m gonna get myself happy

I think there’s something you should know
I think it’s time I stopped the show
There’s something deep inside of me
There’s someone I forgot to be
Take back your picture in a frame
Don’t think that I’ll be back again
I just hope you understand
Sometimes the clothes do not make the man

All we have to do now
Is take these lies and make them true somehow
All we have to see
Is that I don’t belong to you
And you don’t belong to me, yea yea
Freedom
Freedom
Freedom
You’ve gotta give for what you take
Freedom
Freedom
Freedom
You’ve gotta give for what you take

Well it looks like the road to heaven
But it feels like the road to hell
When I knew which side my bread was buttered
I took the knife as well
Posing for another picture
Everybody’s got to sell
But when you shake your ass
They notice fast
And some mistakes were built to last

That’s what you get
That’s what you get
That’s what you get
I say that’s what you get
That’s what you get for changing your mind
That’s what you get for changing your mind

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

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

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

New York.jpg

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

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

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

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

JAYZ
Jay-Z, Rapper and Businessman

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

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

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

5 boroughs

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

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

Angela (Theme from Taxi) by Bob James:

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

feelin groovy

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

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

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

You Should Be Dancing by the Bee Gees:

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

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

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

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

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

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

kell
Kellermans in the Catskills, the setting for Dirty Dancing

Stay by Maurice Williams & The Zodiacs:

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

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

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

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

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

manhattan

Rhapsody In Blue by George Gershwin:

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

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

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

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

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.

thOW7E3LITAs 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.

mr2
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.

elton
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 travelling show” than to be a sculptor although I beg to differ!

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.

tilda swinton pringle fw10
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.

295 31st PICT3738.JPG

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 aficionado 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