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

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

Talking-Pictures

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Until next time….

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wand’rin’ Star by Lee Marvin:

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

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

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

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Lee Marvin, 1924-1987

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

Until next time….

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

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

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

I was born under a wanderin’ star.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Cher and Dolly Get a Pass, and It’s Not One For the Bus!

I’ve been meaning to write this one for a while, so here goes.

At what age do we start to feel old nowadays? For me it happened last year, and nothing to do with my chronological age or any physical changes that have come over me, it’s just that a new epidemic, in a very stealthy fashion, has taken the country by storm.

Never a week passes by without some female actor, presenter or well-known musician suddenly appearing on our screens looking ten years younger. I sometimes have to do a double take, as I find it hard to delve behind the frozen expression to find the lady within, one whom I often used to warm to greatly because of their enthusiastic and energetic performance. Now the acting seems wooden, as facial expressions are restricted to the mouth and chin – Nothing else moves a muscle, literally, for they are frozen into place with all manner of toxic bacteria.

How have we got to this point in our evolution? There seems to be no turning the tide either, as even those whom I thought would never partake, seem to be coerced into such madness for fear of their careers being over without it. We all know which “celebrities” are roughly the same age as ourselves (that would be 58 in my case) – Jeremy Clarkson is allowed to get grey and crinkly, whilst Carol Vorderman now looks about 20 years younger, and sports that polyurethane type of skin best suited to a child’s baby doll.

“They look really great for their age”, is a remark I often hear bandied about – Well yes, of course they do, as they’ve spent thousands of pounds nipping, tucking and freezing everything into place! I can’t help thinking some of these poor souls are going to suffer greatly in the years to come, as those syringes full of chemicals and fat, start to take their toll. There can be difficulty speaking, and a breakdown of the skin. Whoever decided a fat top lip was a good look anyway? It is the natural order of things that our bottom lip should be the predominant one, no doubt having evolved that way to best support feeding ourselves, talking and breathing.

thI3DN6OZONothing to be done but just accept that as a gender, females in the public eye are no longer allowed to grow old, which makes the rest of us who are not in the public eye, and have no intention of transforming ourselves, feel a bit shit. Just as well I’m a blogger and not a vlogger, as my 58-year-old appearance would no doubt have you faithful readers running for the hills.

But of course there are a few exceptions to my ire, and they are ladies who have made no secret of changing their appearance over the years, and who exist in the firmament of stars because they are indeed masters of human transformation – One of these is Cher and the other Dolly Parton. I can’t believe neither of these ladies have put in an appearance around here before, as I am a big fan of both.

Cher is now aged 72 and had a cameo role in the second of the Mama Mia! franchise of jukebox musicals last summer. We went to see it when on holiday, and the most hilarious scene in the entire film was when flawless “grandmother” Cher looked across the courtyard, only to catch the eye of her beau of many years previously, Fernando. This was a convoluted turn to the plotline indeed, but an excuse of course to include the song of the same name. Whilst promoting Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again, Cher confirmed she was working on an album that would feature cover versions of songs by the band Abba, and Dancing Queen, was released in the September of 2018. It topped the Billboard Album Sales chart (the crowd-pleasing one), making it Cher’s first ever number-one album.

Another septuagenarian who popped up on our screens recently is Dolly Parton. She was across in the UK promoting the new West End extravaganza, 9 to 5: The Musical. Here is a clip from a few years ago when she appeared in the Legends slot at Glastonbury. I don’t know what Dolly’s undergarments are like, or if it’s all cosmetically augmented, but she certainly has a perky bottom for someone of her years.

Jolene by Dolly Parton:

There is of course so much I could write about these two ladies, but for another day probably. In the meantime, as if proof were needed (no not really), here is a photo-montage of two remarkable artists who have both been around since the 1960s, but like Peter Pan, don’t seem to have aged one iota. Both freely admit to having had “absolutely everything done” when it comes to holding the years at bay, but as neither of them seem to ever take themselves too seriously, I don’t begrudge them the squillions of dollars that must have taken one bit.

As for the song Jolene, even to this day Mr WIAA winces when he hears it. It came out at just the wrong time for him, before he’d had work done to remedy his slightly discoloured teeth, which had come about because of the tablets his mum had taken for morning sickness ahead of his birth. Oh yes, kids can be cruel, and because his teeth had a “greenish” hue, his classmates’ playground taunt was Joe Green, Joe Green, Joe Green, Joe Green…. , sung along to the melody of Dolly’s famous 1976 hit. Needless to say, his schooldays weren’t “the best years of his life” but it just goes to show, sometimes a bit of “work” is needed to make life as a teen just that little bit more tolerable.

Until next time….

Jolene Lyrics
(Song by Dolly Parton)

Jolene, Jolene, Jolene, Jolene
I’m begging of you please don’t take my man
Jolene, Jolene, Jolene, Jolene
Please don’t take him just because you can

Your beauty is beyond compare
With flaming locks of auburn hair
With ivory skin and eyes of emerald green

Your smile is like a breath of spring
Your voice is soft like summer rain
And I cannot compete with you, Jolene

He talks about you in his sleep
There’s nothing I can do to keep
From crying when he calls your name, Jolene

And I can easily understand
How you could easily take my man
But you don’t know what he means to me, Jolene

Jolene, Jolene, Jolene, Jolene
I’m begging of you please don’t take my man
Jolene, Jolene, Jolene, Jolene
Please don’t take him just because you can

You could have your choice of men
But I could never love again
He’s the only one for me, Jolene

I had to have this talk with you
My happiness depends on you
And whatever you decide to do, Jolene

Jolene, Jolene, Jolene, Jolene
I’m begging of you please don’t take my man
Jolene, Jolene, Jolene, Jolene
Please don’t take him even though you can

Jolene, Jolene

Doris Day, Calamity Jane and Another Hollywood Legend Gone

“You take the grey skies out of my way
You make the sun shine brighter than Doris Day”, sang George Michael back in 1984 and he wasn’t far wrong.

She certainly did shine brightly on the big screen but today she passed away, at the grand old age of 97. Despite her success, life threw her some lemons, but in typical Doris style, she made lemonade.

Back in March, I wrote my final “Moon Post” celebrating the appearance of the Sugar Moon in our skies. To round off the series I chose a couple of Doris Day songs as I had been reminded of her brilliance whilst spending a lovely afternoon watching Calamity Jane with my mum at the care home. She was a force of nature and I have just caught an old interview with her on telly tonight where she admits that the real Doris was Calamity Jane!

RIP to one of the most popular singers and actresses of the 20th century.

What's It All About?

Since discovering that all full moons have a name (given to them by the Native Americans who kept track of the months by the lunar calendar), I have written about each one as they appear in our skies. To accompany the post I always include one of the numerous songs that have been written about the moon and its many foibles.

To be honest I didn’t think I was going to write any more “moon posts” as I think I’ve  clocked up 17 now, and have had to start using the alternate name for the full moon. Also, most of my favourite moon-related songs have been written about now, so starting to scrape the bottom of the barrel a bit.

This week however, I had a really pleasurable afternoon with a number of ladies who suffer from dementia, and it reminded me there are a few more songs I had…

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The Sugar Moon, Doris Day and The Golden Age of Hollywood

Since discovering that all full moons have a name (given to them by the Native Americans who kept track of the months by the lunar calendar), I have written about each one as they appear in our skies. To accompany the post I always include one of the numerous songs that have been written about the moon and its many foibles.

To be honest I didn’t think I was going to write any more “moon posts” as I think I’ve  clocked up 17 now, and have had to start using the alternate name for the full moon. Also, most of my favourite moon-related songs have been written about now, so starting to scrape the bottom of the barrel a bit.

This week however, I had a really pleasurable afternoon with a number of ladies who suffer from dementia, and it reminded me there are a few more songs I had intended to include at some point but just not got round to yet, as definitely not from the “cool” camp at all. Appropriately, the March full moon which appeared so spectacularly in our skies last night, is also known as the Sugar Moon, because this is the time of year when the sugar maples of Nova Scotia are starting to produce sap. Appropriate because the songs that are going to be featured here, are sugary sweet indeed.

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The Sugar Moon

But back to my story. I arrived at my mum’s care home on Tuesday afternoon only to find her watching a film in the home’s very swish inhouse cinema. This room was no doubt set up with the best of intentions, but sadly most of the residents are either too physically infirm to make use of it, or in the case of the dementia sufferers, no longer have the concentration needed to sit through a long film. (We won’t mention the “comfort break” issue, but definitely also a problem.)

On Tuesday afternoon however, there were about five of them watching Calamity Jane starring Doris Day. When I say watching, they were definitely flagging when I arrived, and the carer who was with them was on the verge of abandoning the viewing. “No way”, I thought, this could be a lot more fun than our usual visits where the conversation is tricky to put it mildly. As a great fan of old movies, I knew a lot of the background to Calamity Jane (not least that the Hollywood-ised version was nothing like the life of the real Martha Jane Cannary), so we continued to watch it with me giving a running commentary about the actors, the state it was set in, the storyline and the songs. Of course when you’re in an honest to goodness cinema where actual cash changes hands for a ticket, this is impossible, or very rude at any rate, but in the care home it works well.

The songs from Calamity Jane are standards now, and most of us of a certain age know them well. One of the foibles of dementia is that you don’t remember what you had for breakfast but you remember all the words to old songs, and fortunately most of the ladies in the room were in that position. My mum still has a good singing voice so we all enjoyed singing along to The Deadwood Stage (Whip-Crack-Away!), Just Blew in from the Windy City, The Black Hills of Dakota and best of all, Secret Love. We had a rare old afternoon and I’ve offered to come in next time they plan to show a film – Fingers crossed it’s one I know just as well.

Doris Day (born Doris Mary Ann Kappelhoff) is still with us today, and is about to turn 97 in April (possibly due to her rewarding work as an animal welfare activist – good for body and soul). She recorded more than 650 songs from 1947 to 1967, which made her one of the most popular singers of the 20th century. Her film career began during the latter part of the Classical Hollywood Film Era and she starred in a series of successful films, including musicals, comedies, and dramas. Some of her most successful films were the “bedroom comedies” she made co-starring Rock Hudson and James Garner. Among her awards, Doris received a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award and was given the Cecil B. DeMille Award for lifetime achievement in motion pictures.

In 1951 Doris starred in the film On Moonlight Bay with Gordon MacRae. It was so successful, a sequel was made in 1953 called By The Light of the Silvery Moon. Of course there were songs of the same name to accompany the films, and to celebrate the sighting of the Sugar Moon, they are my featured songs for this post. They don’t make ’em like this any more.

Until next time….

On Moonlight Bay Lyrics
(Song by Percy Wenrich/Edward Madden)

We were sailing along on Moonlight Bay
We could hear the voices ringing
They seemed to say
“You have stolen her heart”
“Now don’t go ‘way”
As we sang love’s old sweet song on Moonlight Bay

We were sailing along on Moonlight Bay
We could hear the voices ringing
They seemed to say
“You have stolen her heart”
“Now don’t go ‘way”
As we sang love’s old sweet song on Moonlight Bay

We were sailing along on Moonlight Bay
We could hear the voices ringing
They seemed to say
“You have stolen her heart” (You have stolen her heart)
“Now don’t go ‘way”
As we sang love’s old sweet song on Moonlight Bay
(Sailing through the moonlight on Moonlight Bay)

Postscript:

I seem to be unusually productive this week in terms of my blogging output. That would be because I have an academic essay to hand in on Friday for my college course, and I seem to be doing everything I can to avoid completing it. Thought I would find it all a bit easier second time around but it turns out students will be students, whatever their age.

Before I buckle down to finishing my essay (that would be 80% of it), I think we should have another look at Doris playing Calamity Jane. She was a right wee bundle of energy and it certainly worked wonders this week in terms of raising my spirits. Hopefully it will raise yours too.

Christmas Ads, “Your Song” and Music from Moulin Rouge!

A couple of years ago I decided to write about the Randy Crawford song One Day I’ll Fly Away (link here) which featured in the 2016 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.

One of the film’s very memorable duets was Elephant Love Medley, 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 the song being performed first time around, but once home, and with the newly purchased CD in the player (it was 17 years ago now), it was easier to identify them. The final song used for the medley, later on performed in full by Mr McGregor, was Elton John’s Your Song. Lo and behold, it’s the song the John Lewis people have used for their newly released 2018 Christmas ad. Two songs from the film Moulin Rouge! in three years – I’m starting to suspect the agency that put these things together are fans!

As luck would have it, I also wrote about Your Song two years ago, as it followed on nicely because of the Moulin Rouge! connection. Long term visitors to this place might recognise what is to follow from back then, but worthy of another outing I feel:

Originally published November 2016

Your Song was originally released back in 1970, and although I know 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” having received 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. 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 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 his 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 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.

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

A Star is Born: Judy, Gaga or Barbra?

Last time I wrote a very serious post, so time for something a bit lighter I think. Regular followers will know my mum is currently in hospital. She is recovering well however and is quite enjoying being cared for I think, so a bit of respite for me. Having had a lot more time to myself over the last few weeks I’ve finally been able to catch up with friends who have been sadly neglected of late. Some of these friends have helped me make full use of the benefits attached to my new Student ID card, by joining me on a fair few trips to the local cinema.

Over the last few weeks I have been to see King of Thieves, the true story of the Hatton Garden jewellery heist, The Seagull based on the Anton Chekov play of the same name and The Escape about a stay-at-home mum who seemingly has it all, but is desperately unhappy. On top of that, DD has started working at our local theatre, so courtesy of the “comps” she gets as a perk of the job we also caught a play, a good old fashioned whodunnit in the form of The Case Of The Frightened Lady which seems to be touring the country at the moment. Our blogging buddy Chris over at Movies and Songs 365 would no doubt now write a pretty good review for each of the above but as that’s not really this blog’s raison d’être, I’ll just say that I enjoyed all four for different reasons: a) secret admiration for the Hatton Garden “Over The Hill Mob”; b) an insight into the complex lives of a rich family of writers and actors in pre-revolution Russia; c) sympathy for the woman (excellently played by Gemma Arterton) whose only means of survival was to escape the role she had found herself in, and finally; d) a bit of a throw-back to the entertainment of a bygone age (and none of us actually correctly identified whodunnit, so quite a good puzzler).

This week, the third remake of A Star Is Born starring Bradley Cooper and Lady Gaga was released in cinemas in the UK. The original film of the same name was made in 1937, one I am somewhat unfamiliar with. I am very familiar however with the 1954 remake starring Judy Garland and James Mason as films from this era used to be shown regularly on telly when I was growing up. I lapped them up and at age 12 could probably have appeared on Mastermind citing The Golden Age of Hollywood as my specialist subject. Much of that knowledge has since left me I’m afraid, replaced with music trivia and the essential but boring work-related stuff we accumulate along the way, but watching the newly released version this week, brought the story all back. Here is a clip showing Judy Garland perform The Man That Got Away, probably the most memorable song from the 1954 version.

This new version stuck to the original storyline pretty much like glue, simply updating each scene for the 21st century. There were stadiums, more guitars, the songs were of a rock persuasion, the bars had drag acts and the clothes were a bit grungier, but other than that it’s a timeless tale of “boy meets girl”, with the backdrop of one career on the way up and the other on the way down. I won’t offer up a spoiler by mentioning which is which, because ahead of the film starting to roll the other night, I inadvertently gave the plotline away to the woman sitting next to me, having assumed everyone already knew the story. I apologised and tried to excuse myself by saying the clue is in the title, A Star Is Born, but she still seemed a bit piqued.

Back in 1954, the star in the ascendance was played by Judy Garland. In 2018, that same role was played by Lady Gaga (oops, spoiled it anyway). I must admit, she was barely recognisable at the start of the film, appearing without her trademark heavy makeup and extrovert clothing. This was Stefani Joanne Angelina Germanotta in the raw without any of the trappings of the Haus of Gaga. Much has been made of the fact that first-time director Bradley Cooper wanted her to audition for the role make-up free, and ahead of her performance produced a few wipes for her to remove it, to ensure authenticity. The irony of course is that the real, or authentic Gaga, is the one with all the stage make-up and costume but hey, it was the unreal Gaga he wanted for the role.

I did enjoy the film despite pretty much knowing (unlike the woman beside me) how each scene would play out and both Bradley and Gaga put in stellar performances. I did expect there to be more standout songs however, as after leaving the cinema I didn’t have any earworms and couldn’t actually remember much of anything included. It seems the first song released as a single was Shallow which I thought was called Shiloh in the film (must have been their accents), but now it makes sense. An actor I did think quite a lot about after leaving the cinema was the lovely Sam Elliot who played lead character Jackson Maine’s long-suffering brother in the movie. If you ever decided to chuck it all in, and head off to live on a ranch in Wyoming, he always looks and sounds as if he would be your man. He would be mine anyway, so hands off!

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The lovely Sam Elliot

But all of this is of course building up to only one thing, delving into the archives to reminisce about the 1976 version of A Star Is Born starring Kris Kristofferson (be still my beating heart) and Barbra StreisandAnyone looking at the “category list” on my sidebar will see that when it comes to decades, I write about songs from the 1970s more than any other. Lots of reasons for that of course (time spent immersing yourself in the world of music as an angst-ridden teenager being one of them), and possibly an idea for a future post, but this clip of Love Theme from “A Star Is Born” (Evergreen) still gives me the collywobbles. The song appeared in the UK Singles Chart in April 1977 and came along just as I was in the midst of my first big (but ultimately highly unsuitable) romance.

Evergreen by Barbra Streisand:

Barbra Streisand has appeared on these pages before as I’m a big fan. Just like Judy and Gaga she is certainly not a conventional beauty, but a great beauty all the same so perfect for the female lead in A Star Is Born.

I often share material from some of the old magazines I still have in my possession dating back from the 1970s. Before I sign off here are a few pages from the April 1977 edition of Words magazine where every month the lyrics to the “top pop songs” of the day were listed. In this edition, A Star Is Born is featured both on the back page and on the Studio Scene and Heard page (hmm…) where current film releases were reviewed. The lyrics to Evergreen also appeared on page 2 along with Knowing Me, Knowing You by ABBA (not Alan Partridge) and Pearl’s A Singer by Elkie Brooks. If you want to have a try, without googling, how many of the other songs would you be able to identify, and attach to an artist? Many of them weren’t big hits, but some were, although scarily over 41 years ago.

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As for me, I’m not sure how many cinema visits I might be able to fit in for some time, as there is to be a meeting on Monday to discuss my mum’s discharge plan. We actually sold the idea to her last week that a care home might be the best idea, but having been to see a few over the last couple of days I have now backtracked. She needs company and stimulation more than anything, as well as being looked after, but despite the glossy brochures and the promises of fun, fun, fun…, we didn’t see much of that at all. Instead it was all empty dayrooms and very elderly people slumped in wheelchairs, mostly asleep. We kind of need a half-way house but if they do exist, they are elusive indeed. Back to being a carer for a while I think but maybe that would be the kindest thing to do. I will no doubt return with updates (but possibly no more film reviews for a wee while).

Until next time….

Evergreen Lyrics
(Song by Barbra Streisand/Paul Williams)

Love soft as an easy chair
Love fresh as the morning air
One love that is shared by two
I have found with you
Like a rose under the April snow
I was always certain love would grow
Love ageless and evergreen
Seldom seen by two
You and I will
make each night the first
Everyday a beginning
Spirits rise and their dance is unrehearsed
They warm and excite us
‘Cause we have the brightest love
Two lights that shine as one Morning glory and midnight sun
Time… we’ve learned to sail above
Time… won’t change the meaning of one love
Ageless and ever evergreen…