A Flock of Seagulls, Adam and the Ants, and the Yin and Yang of Life

Back in the early days of the pandemic I often wrote a web diary kind of post, as things were changing by the day and I wanted to record my thoughts for posterity, if I made it (we really were thinking that way back then). Everyone was looking forward to the pandemic being over and ‘things getting back to normal’. I was sceptical whenever anyone said that however – the changes to our way of life were just so far-reaching. Whenever the equilibrium is disturbed, there is a knock-on effect elsewhere, and with Brexit and a war in Eastern Europe further disturbing that equilibrium, life is certainly a lot more challenging than it was back in 2019. Oh, and we also don’t have a fully functioning government at the moment. Yes, the Tories are in the throes of choosing their third new leader in six years, after Boris’s antics finally got too much to bear (although he still thinks he did nothing wrong – it was all down to a ‘herd mentality’).

And then there were two…

But most of us are not heavily invested in every twist and turn within the Westminster Bubble, most of us just want to get through the week, stay solvent (a challenge at the moment with prices rising so sharply) and have a few pleasurable moments along the way. I’ve had a few days this week when I changed my routine totally and it’s been really nice. We were lucky enough to avoid the scorching temperatures up here in the North of Scotland so it was lovely to join the many tourists visiting our town and go for an evening walk along the river. A stop off at our favourite ice-cream shop was a must, and my flavour of choice, Cherry Garcia, was slipping down nicely when suddenly something jumped on my back and my waffle cone was whipped out of my hand. First time in my life it’s happened, but I was attacked by…

Wishing (If I Had a Photograph of You) by A Flock of Seagulls:


What a great excuse though to share a clip of my favourite A Flock of Seagulls song, Wishing (If I Had a Photograph of You) from 1982. Of course most of us now mainly remember the band because of lead singer Mike Score’s quite spectacular early ’80s hairstyle. Looking at a current picture of him, the former hairdresser is now bald as a coot, but so often the case with our most hirsute of rock and pop idols from the past – Dave Gilmour, Michael Stipe, Phil Oakey. (I’m sure you could come up with many more?) That song still a great example of synthpop from one of the many new wave bands hailing from Liverpool at that time.

Mike Score today

Another change to my weekly routine was that I spent an entire day redesigning my garden. It’s a great frustration that come this time of year, gardens can go from being tidy to looking a tad overgrown in the space of a fortnight. A lot of quite boring maintenance is required but this week I was a bit more creative, replanting some pots, rearranging the garden furniture and doing some quite radical cutting back. I was really happy with the final result until I came in at the end of a hard day, only to discover that some creepy crawlies had fallen inside my T-shirt. By evening, I was covered in bites, all courtesy of…

Antmusic by Adam and the Ants


… well, the ants anyway. Again I’m travelling back to the early ’80s, when Adam and the Ants got to No. 2 in the UK Singles Chart with Antmusic. Another new wave band, but this time not relying on synthesisers but on heavy drumming and heavy use of the dressing up box. Adam’s style (real name Stuart Goddard) suited MTV, and his videos were camp and theatrical. Funnily enough Adam is another artist who maybe overdid the hairstyling back in the day and is also now bald as a coot. He hides it well however by doing a pretty good impression of Captain Jack Sparrow.

Adam Ant today

So, ‘What’s It All About?’ – Amidst all the political upheaval and difficulties the country is facing right now, in our own domestic bubbles there are still things that can give us joy. Take some time out from your regular routine (if you can) and become a tourist in your own town, or spend a day in the garden. The equilibrium, or yin and yang, of life however also means such indulgences can have a downside, like being attacked by a flock of seagulls, or getting ants in your proverbial pants (other insects are available), but as Boris stated in his resignation speech, ‘them’s the breaks’ (usually used when something unfair or unpleasant happens and you have no choice but to accept it). Well, we all have our views on whether him having to go was unfair or not, but in my case, I did think it was very unfair that those seagulls made off with my Cherry Garcia – what a great name for a flavour.

Inspiration for an ice-cream flavour – Jerry Garcia of the Grateful Dead, never bald as a coot

Until next time…

Wishing (If I Had A Photograph Of You) Lyrics
(Song by Mike Score/Ali Score/Frank Maudsley/Paul Reynolds)

It’s not the way you look
It’s not the way that you smile
Although there’s something to them
It’s not the way you have your hair
It’s not that certain style
It could be that perfume

If I had a photograph of you
Or something to remind me
I wouldn’t spend my life just wishing

It’s not the make-up
And it’s not the way that you dance
It’s not the evening sky
It’s more the way your eyes
Are laughing as they glance
Across the great divide

If I had a photograph of you
Or something to remind me
I wouldn’t spend my life just wishing

It’s not the things you say
It’s not the things you do
But it must be something more
And if I feel this way for so long
Tell me is it all for nothing
You’ll still walk out the door

If I had a photograph of you
Or something to remind me
I wouldn’t spend my life just wishing

Postscript:

I was curious, so just wanted to pass this snippet on. A coot is a water bird which has a marking on its head that gives it an appearance of being bald. It does have feathers on his head, but it’s the way it looks from a distance that gives us the idiom. Every day’s a school day!

The Flat-Sharing Years, The Specials and Everything But The Girl

I was away from home last week which explains my blogging absence. We’ve been lying low this summer so as not to jeopardise any of our business ventures by having to self-isolate, but it was time to emerge from WIAA Towers to visit one of my oldest friends who has moved from London to ‘God’s Own Country’, Yorkshire. She has been mentioned around here often, whenever I’ve written about my flat-sharing years in Aberdeen. Between 1979 and 1987 we lived in a total of five different abodes (with up to four others depending on the size of the flat) before finally parting company and heading off in totally different directions, both figuratively and geographically.

Another very famous set of flatmates

We didn’t know each other very well when we moved into that first student flat in 1979 and we were studying very different subjects. As the years go by however, your flatmates become your ‘urban family’ and you form a very special bond that can only come from living in the same shared space for so long. (Oh yes, there were many, many dramas over exams, jobs and boyfriends.) It was lovely to be able to spend time with her last week, sampling the delights of the North Yorkshire Dales, nearly 42 years on from that first flat-sharing experience.

But this is a music blog so what song to share? Back in 1979 we didn’t have laptops, Netflix or Amazon Prime but we did have a black and white telly that sat on an alcove shelf to the right of the bulky gas fire (never serviced of course but thankfully we lived to tell the tale and didn’t die of carbon monoxide poisoning). My musical memories always lead me back to the show that aired on a Thursday night at 7.30pm, and despite the lack of colour, it was great living somewhere again with a telly. The year before we had been in halls, with no access to telly at all, so for a music lover like myself this was a step up in the world indeed.

As it turned out, only being able to view our favourite music show in black and white was not a problem in the autumn of 1979, as that was just when the 2 Tone phenomenon started to grip the nation – Pork pie hats were even spotted on the heads of Aberdonians. Suddenly ska and rocksteady, a genre we had been too young to appreciate first time around, really started to resonate with a new generation of young people. A tour was put together and in November 1979 I went along to a local nightspot with another music-loving friend to witness the stars of 2 Tone in action – Link to post about that night here. The Specials topped the bill and by then we knew all the songs from their eponymously named debut album. Too Much Too Young rattles along at a fair old speed, giving this late ’70s version of ska a whole new punk sensibility.

Too Much Too Young by the Specials:


But this post was supposed to be about the reunion with my old friend and I don’t remember her being a particular fan of ska in 1979. By the time we parted company in 1987 our musical allegiances were much more aligned and one of the albums I bought that year really did resonate with her. We gladly shared any new acquisition and took advantage of the flat ‘music centre’ to (very illegally) record a copy on cassette tape. Here is a song from the album Baby, the Stars Shine Bright by Everything But The Girl, one that apparently always brought a tear to her to eye whilst driving around the North of Scotland in the new company car she had just been given (which unbeknownst to her bosses became the Flatmobile). We had started flat life with steady boyfriends, but by 1987 they had long gone, and we were singletons again ready to start the next chapter.

Come On Home by Everything But The Girl:


So, ‘What’s It All About?’ – I seem to have mislaid a lot of local friends of late so was feeling a bit lonely. This pandemic has put paid to many of my regular routines and several of the friends I used to do things with are now finding themselves either busy with grandchildren, or are retiring, and moving away from the area. Thank goodness for old friends of 42 years standing. I had a lovely time last week and our 2021 ‘digs’, unlike our old flat, were most definitely 5 Star.

Until next time…

Come On Home Lyrics
(Song by Tracey Thorne/Ben Watt)

Baby come home, I miss the sound of the door
Your step on the stair’s not there to wake me no more

And every day’s like Christmas Day without you
It’s cold and there’s nothing to do

And it’s mighty quiet here now that you’re gone
I’ve been behaving myself for too long
‘Cause I don’t like sleeping
Or watching TV on my own
So please come on home

Baby, what’s keeping you all this time
You’re wasting your days out there in the sunshine
And who can I turn to if you believe still
That England don’t love you and she never will

For it’s mighty quiet here now that you’re gone
And I’ve been behaving myself for too long
I don’t like drinking
or painting the town on my own
So please come on home

Baby come on home Please

For it’s mighty quiet here now that you’re gone
And I’ve been behaving myself for too long
‘Cause I don’t like sleeping
Or watching TV on my own
So please come on home

One Year On, Ian Dury and ‘Hit Me With Your Rhythm Stick’

I shared my first pandemic-related post (called Blindsided) this same weekend last year and since then there have been many, many more. I’m glad I have documented all the ups and downs (mainly downs to be fair) of the past 12 months as I no longer keep a paper diary, so in the future it will be interesting to look back at this time and remind myself of how it all played out. Doesn’t really fit the remit of this blog however, which was always supposed to be a nostalgic journey through the tracks of my years.

Does this happen to other music bloggers I wonder – Do you run out of songs to write about and find that your blog has inadvertently veered into new territories? Of course we could never run out of songs per se as we are exposed to tens of thousands of them (more?) in the course of our lifetimes, but only so many really resonate with us and have an entertaining, personal story attached. That’s when the idea of creating ‘a series’ becomes appealing, as you have a theme to anchor you, and I’ve loved the ones I have shared so far. None of my recent ideas have worked out though, for various reasons. The Solar System in Song was supposed to take over from the Full Moon in Song, but once you get past Mars and Venus there is little left to work with (songs about Uranus anyone?).

So, I have done a bit of tidying up around here this week and got rid of all the draft (daft?) ideas that didn’t turn into anything. I have a clean slate to work on, which is quite appealing. I am aware my regular Saturday blog post has turned into a bit of a web-diary affair with an appropriate song thrown in, which I’m still fine with, but I think I really need to get back to revisiting the tracks of my years in some shape or form. Watch this space as they say.

Talking of web-diaries, nothing much to report this week other than that my poorly ankle continues to improve, after the tumble caused by a pesky pothole. I even went to the supermarket yesterday with Mr WIAA which was the first time I’ve ventured out since it happened. I’m never quite sure how fastidious most shoppers are about social distancing, but with my foot in a boot, I certainly got lots of distance as I navigated the aisles. It seems a physical manifestation of benign ill-health is easier to deal with, when it comes to social distancing, than a potentially lethal invisible virus, and there lies the problem I suppose.

But this is a music blog and I have actually been experiencing a bit of an earworm this week, caused by something heard on the radio. I had just finished reading the David Hepworth book Uncommon People: The Rise and Fall of the Rock Stars and particularly enjoyed the chapter on Ian Dury. He first formed a band in 1971 and although he didn’t actually sing, but rather spoke his lyrics, by 1978 he was one of the most successful acts in the country. Omnipresent around the Christmas of that year was Hit Me With Your Rhythm Stick. When it came on the radio this week I was reminded just how great it still sounds, with no less than two saxophone solos (one of them on two different saxophones!). Ian wrote the lyrics in his usual rhyming style, and Chaz Jankel was responsible for the music, which features an impressive bassline.

Hit Me With Your Rhythm Stick by Ian Dury and the Blockheads:


Watching this footage of Ian Dury and the Blockheads, I am also reminded of just what a great performer he was. Despite contracting polio at the age of seven, which resulted in the paralysis and withering of his left leg, shoulder and arm, he didn’t let it get in the way and adopted a distinctive pose at the mike stand. It is no surprise he also became an actor, appearing in many films throughout the ’80s and ’90s. He sadly died at the age of 57 in 2000, but his legacy lives on through his son Baxter Dury.

So, ‘What’s It All About?’ – I realise I have just tagged on a song by someone who had a disability after describing my temporary disability. This is pure coincidence I can assure you. There is no doubt however that Ian’s journey through life was informed by his experiences, his lyrics often exploring the place of disabled people in what he called ‘normal land’ (Spasticus Autisticus).

As for me, if I am to carry on with this blogging malarkey for a while yet, I will have to up my game I think and try to get back to what it was all supposed to be about. I may have got rid of all the daft drafts, but I still have my ‘spreadsheet of ideas’ tucked away in the recesses of my computer. Time to look it out again perhaps.

Until next time…

Hit Me With Your Rhythm Stick Lyrics
(Song by Ian Dury/Chaz Jankel)

In the deserts of Sudan
And the gardens of Japan
From Milan to Yucatán
Every woman, every man

Hit me with your rhythm stick
Hit me! Hit me!
Je t’adore, ich liebe dich
Hit me! Hit me! Hit me!
Hit me with your rhythm stick
Hit me slowly, hit me quick
Hit me! Hit me! Hit me!

In the wilds of Borneo
And the vineyards of Bordeaux
Eskimo, Arapaho
Move their body to and fro

Hit me with your rhythm stick
Hit me! Hit me!
Das ist gut, c’est fantastique
Hit me! Hit me! Hit me!
Hit me with your rhythm stick
It’s nice to be a lunatic
Hit me! Hit me! Hit me!

Hit me! Hit me! Hit!

In the dock of Tiger Bay
On the road to Mandalay
From Bombay to Santa Fé
Over the hills far away

Hit me with your rhythm stick
Hit me! Hit me!
C’est si bon, ist es nicht
Hit me! Hit me! Hit me!
Hit me with your rhythm stick
Two fat persons, click, click, click
Hit me! Hit me! Hit me
!

Hit me! Hit me! Hit me!
Hit me!
Hit me!
Hit me!

Hit me!
Hit me!
Hit me! Hit me!

Hit me!
Hit me!
Hit me!
Hit me!
Hit me!
Hit me!
Hit me! Hit me! Hit me!

A Pesky Pothole, A Trip to A&E and X-Ray Spex

Well it was probably only a matter of time what with all this additional daily walking (for exercise), but in the end it was a pesky gravel-filled pothole that was my (literal) downfall and my left foot is now ensconced inside a muckle great boot. I’m getting used to it all now but it sounds as if I’m going to be out of action for around 4-6 weeks which isn’t great – A lockdown on top of a lockdown. As I’ve never broken a bone before, I’m going to write about my experience here, if nothing else just to remind myself to be more careful in the future (although in reality more likely down to bad luck).

My foot for the next few weeks!

It was a lovely sunny afternoon so we thought we’d fit in the daily walk (for exercise) just after lunch, as Mr WIAA had a really important job to get finished and in the post later on that afternoon. We are lucky enough to have a river flowing through our town with large islands in the middle linked to the banks by a network of ornate bridges. We had parked up at the entrance to the first bridge, traversed the islands, joined the road on the other side and were just on our way back round to the starting point when all of a sudden I found myself sprawled out on the road and in great pain. It being the road along the river, I immediately had visions of cars speeding towards me unable to stop, but thankfully it was a quiet afternoon. I was not dignified at all in my fall from grace, and to Mr WIAA’s great embarrassment I made loud yelping noises, which caused a couple of teenagers who had been standing nearby to quickly scarper.

Eventually we got my battered little body off the road and towards a low wall where I could take the weight off my obviously distressed ankle. A nice lady stopped to ask after me and said she would stay by my side whilst hubby went to get the car. The blood was by this time seeping through my right trouser leg and my left ankle was really swelling up. She thought we should go to A&E but I suspected Mr WIAA (who hurts himself all the time and just brushes it off) would think I was being a big baby…, and I was right. When he eventually got back with the car all he could think of was the job he had to get in the post, so we thanked the kind lady (who was a carer by profession – makes sense) and headed home.

Getting inside the house was a real effort as the drive is narrow and getting out of the car was difficult. The steps up to the front door were a bit of a hindrance too but once on the sofa with an ice pack on my ankle and a dressing on my knee (which refused to stop bleeding), I started to feel a bit better. The priority was “the job” however which I understood – As anyone who is self-employed will know, fulfilling deadlines is of paramount importance and a happy customer will return. Once back from the post office, hubby had another look at the ankle and decided it was probably a sprain although by this time DD had been messaged and was keen for us to visit A&E, just in case.

By 6pm the ankle was still very swollen, and although I’d managed to change into a pair of clean trousers the knee was still spurting blood, so I somehow managed to get into the back of the car with the aid of one of my mum’s old walking sticks and we headed up to our local hospital. During these covid times it’s all a bit different, and difficult. The injured person is the only one allowed in, so I had to mask up, use the hand sanitiser whilst balancing on one leg, and then manfully make my way to the reception area. I told the girl what had happened and she in turn told me to “take a seat”. Easy for you to say I thought.

Fortunately it was really quiet, but maybe it’s quiet all the time now, what with everyone working from home and people scared to go anywhere near a hospital. I got called over to a side room where we naturally had to go through all the covid screening questions re coughs, temperatures etc. Once finished there, I was again told to “take a seat”. Easy for you to say I thought.

In no time at all a wheelchair appeared (hallelujah) and I was taken along a labyrinth of newly built, covid-safe, chipboard corridors linking the waiting room to an area in the main hospital, where I got the once-over. An X-ray was required which was a relief as we would at least find out what had really happened. As I’d suspected my ankle had been fractured and a bone had been chipped, so off I went to get fitted with a support boot and have my knee seen to. It all happened in record time and so fast I forgot to ask all the pertinent questions, but it seems they want you in and out at the speed of light at the moment which is understandable, and high praise indeed to our wonderfully efficient NHS.

Back in the waiting room sitting in my wheelchair I phoned Mr WIAA, who had naturally just arrived home, thinking I might be some time. He turned and came straight back and was allowed in to wheel me out to the car. I would be lying if I said I wasn’t wearing one of those, “I told you so,” looks on my face but I said nothing. Getting into the house was easier this time, what with the boot, but not being able to bend my right knee was proving troublesome as it has remained for the rest of the week. I can sit at my computer for short bursts (which is why this has been written in record time) but a lot of reclining on the sofa will be required over the next few weeks it seems. All these months of staying fit and healthy, going on daily walks, and now my wings have been well and truly clipped – Sod’s law. At least I won’t have guests arriving at the holiday hideaway anytime soon.

But this is a music blog so what song to add to this particular story? I’ve never needed an X-ray before, so how about something from one of our favourite early punk rock bands, X-Ray Spex, headed up by the inimitable Poly Styrene.

Germ Free Adolescents by X-Ray Specs:


Poly Styrene (real name Marion Joan Elliott-Said) became the band’s public face, and remains one of punk’s most memorable front-women. She wore thick braces on her teeth and once said, “I wasn’t a sex symbol and if anybody tried to make me one I’d shave my head tomorrow”. Poly Styrene was inspired to form a band after seeing the Sex Pistols, and through their live performances, she and X-Ray Spex became one of the most talked about acts on the burgeoning punk rock scene. Their 1978 album Germfree Adolescents is widely regarded as a classic of the punk rock genre and spawned five singles, including the title track. Sadly Poly died of cancer in 2011 at the very young age of 53.

So, “What’s It All About?” – Don’t be like me, look where you’re going, or else a pesky pothole might trip you up and keep you out of action for weeks on end. Of course it could be a lot worse in that we are still severely limited in what we can do anyway, but if I get the call to come in for my vaccination, I’ll make damned sure I get myself and my boot down the local health centre pronto.

It’s a big birthday for Mr WIAA next week, and we had originally planned to have a joint celebration to make up for the damp squib that was my big birthday last year – That won’t be happening now and who would have thought back then that nine months on we’d still be in lockdown. Oh well, the big celebration will have to wait for another time now, but I must remember to get off the sofa for long enough to wrap his presents (fortunately all bought online).

Right, that’s long enough sitting at my desk, so I’ll shuffle off to treat my knee with some antiseptic. Although I’ve not been an adolescent for an awful long while, I most definitely want to stay germ-free!

Until next time…

Germ Free Adolescents Lyrics
(Song by Poly Styrene)

I know your antiseptic
Your deodorant smells nice
I’d like to get to know you
You’re deep frozen like the ice


She’s a germ free adolescent
Cleanliness is her obsession
Cleans her teeth ten times a day
Scrub away scrub away scrub away
The S.R. way….

You may get to touch her
If your gloves are sterilised
Rinse your mouth with listerine
Blow disinfectant in her eyes

Her phobia is infection
She needs one to survive
It’s her built-in protection
Without fear she’d give up and die

She’s a germ free adolescent
Cleanliness is her obsession
Cleans her teeth ten times a day
Scrub away scrub away scrub away
The S.R. way….

Postscript:

By sheer coincidence, a new film about the life of Poly Styrene, made by her daughter Celeste Bell, was released this week. It is called I Am A Cliché and here is an excerpt from the film’s website: “She introduced the world to a new sound of rebellion, using her unconventional voice to sing about identity, consumerism, postmodernism, and everything she saw unfolding in late 1970s Britain, with a rare prescience. As the frontwoman of X-Ray Spex, the Anglo-Somali punk musician was also a key inspiration for the riot grrrl and Afropunk movements.”

Sounds as if it would be worth a watch.

The Beat, ‘Mirror In The Bathroom’ and Another Shower Room Update

Regulars around here might remember that many months ago I shared a picture of our little shower room which was about to be upgraded and transformed by my plumber friend. Ironically, on the 23rd March, just as the old plumbing was fully stripped out, we were plunged into lockdown. Nothing else for it we thought except to tidy everything up and wait the three weeks or so until we could get the job finished.

All through lockdown

Except the three weeks became twelve weeks, and even then it wasn’t easy what with social distancing and mask-wearing. I really wasn’t even supposed to offer the plumber tea or coffee, but I’m afraid I broke that rule, and we’ve lived to tell the tale. Anyway, after a bit of dithering about what floor covering to put down and which accessories to go for, we have finally got the job finished, only five months after we started. The louvery doors (as Del-Boy Trotter used to call them) will have to go at some point but in the meantime we’re just glad it’s now fully funtional.

Post-lockdown

The final piece in the jigsaw was the mirror, and in the end I had to go for a boring old rectangular one, as the one that matched the set was out of stock – Having waited all that time, I just couldn’t wait any longer. When shopping for bathroom mirrors, this song naturally came to mind.

Mirror in the Bathroom by the Beat:


Mirror in the Bathroom by the Beat reached the No. 4 spot in the UK Singles Chart in 1980, just as the ska revival was really taking hold. Although signed to 2 Tone Records my memories of the band are a little sketchy and they were not part of the tour (written about here) which took place that year. They were however one of the most prolific ska bands of the time and between 1979 and 1983 had five Top Ten hits, two of which were successful covers, Tears of a Clown and Can’t Get Used to Losing You.

As for Mirror in the Bathroom, it apparently came about when Dave Wakeling, the songwriter, was in the bathroom one morning shaving. He started to talk to himself whilst looking in the mirror, and it got him to thinking about how self-involvement turns into narcissism, narcissism turns into isolation, and then isolation turns into self-involvement again forming a vicious circle (he was a deep-thinking chap). To quote: “So then I just started thinking about different situations where people would ostensibly look like they were doing something, but in fact they were checking their own reflection out. And you’d see it perhaps on Saturday afternoon with people window shopping, half the time they’re actually just looking at their own reflection. Then this restaurant opened, and it was a big deal at the time because it had glass tables, and I was like, oh, you can watch yourself.”

As for me, any opportunity not to catch my own reflection in a shop window is a bonus nowadays. In our heads we think we are still 21, so a pleasant shopping trip can be ruined when the harsh reality hits home, no matter how good we thought we looked when we left the house.

I was saddened to hear that band member Ranking Roger had passed away last year aged only 56. Roger officially joined the Beat as a teenager in the late ’70s after having appeared on stage with them many times, toasting and singing. His energetic style and Jamaican-influenced vocals, paired with Dave Wakeling, were crucial in distinguishing the Beat from other ska bands.

RIP Ranking Roger

So, “What’s It All About?” – I seem to have been particularly productive around here this week but all because we have a new editor around here at WordPress and I wanted to get to grips with it. The verdict is…. , so far so good. I’d been putting off moving across for some time, but as I now have no other option it was time to bite the bullet, and not as scary as I had suspected. This blog will live to fight another day.

Until next time….

Mirror In The Bathroom Lyrics
(Song by Dave Wakeling)

Mirror in the bathroom
Please talk free
The door is locked
Just you and me.

Can I take you to a restaurant
That’s got glass tables
You can watch yourself
While you are eating.

Mirror in the bathroom
I just can’t stop it,
Every Saturday you see me
Window shopping.

Find no interest
In the racks and shelves
Just ten thousand reflections
Of my own sweet self, self, self…

Mirror in the bathroom
You’re my mirror in the bathroom
You’re my mirror in the bathroom
You’re my mirror in the bathroom…

Mirror in the bathroom
Recompense
For all my crimes
Of self defense.

Cures you whisper
Make no sense
Drift gently into
Mental illness.

Rock & Pop Family Trees, The Easybeats and “Friday On My Mind”

When I was young, and worked in offices, I couldn’t wait for the weekend to come. From this end of the telescope I really want time to slow down a bit more, as the weekend comes round just too quickly (although always a treat to have another edition of Rol’s Saturday Snapshots). Last year I dashed off a quick poem about this phenomenon for my writing class and it made reference to three songs. As I was the most mature (chronologically) of all the students in my group, no-one recognised the songs, but I’m pretty sure regular visitors to this place will pick them out easily.

I Don’t Like Fridays

Always used to have Friday on my mind
Start of the weekend
The promise (often unfulfilled)
of exciting times ahead

Now it comes round too quickly
Another hundred and sixty eight hours gone
Whoa time, slow down,
you move too fast

Boomtown Bob didn’t like Mondays
Now I want Mondays to last forever
So much left to do
So little time…

Friday On My Mind by the Easybeats:

Back then I realised I knew very little about Australian group the Easybeats who had a big hit in 1966 with Friday On My Mind, so I did a little research, and as often happens around here, I discovered a fascinating rock and pop family tree.

This winter has been quite mild here in Scotland but back in 1962-63 we had what was called The Big Freeze, the worst winter on record with snow lying eight feet deep. A TV advert at the time offered assisted travel to families who fancied a new life in Australia, and 15 members of the Young family from Glasgow moved there in June 1963. One of their sons was George Young who went on to form the Easybeats. His younger brothers Malcolm and Angus went on to form AC/DC a decade later. The Easybeats disbanded in 1969 but then in 1976 George got together with his old bandmate Harry Vanda to form new wave group Flash and the Pan.

Had the winter of 1962-63 been a mild one none of these bands might ever have existed. The family initially stayed at Villawood Immigration Detention Centre on the outskirts of Sydney which was where George Young met and became friends with another migrant, Dutchman Harry Vanda, and together they formed the Easybeats. Malcolm and Angus Young then developed the idea for their band. The name came about after their sister Margaret saw the initials “AC/DC” on her sewing machine. The brothers felt this name symbolised the raw energy and power-driven performances of their music. It was she who also came up with the very memorable schoolboy outfit for Angus Young.

I can’t pretend to be a fan of AC/DC but of course I know of their musical output, although probably attributed more to having watched the film School of Rock several times. I can’t pretend to be a fan of Jack Black either, as he always comes across as just a bit too manic for my liking, but that kind of characterisation was just what was needed for this film. (Fast forward to 2:30 for the best bit in this clip.)

The song Waiting For A Train by Flash and the Pan (George and Harry’s new wave band) was the one that did best in the UK Singles Chart. It reached the No. 7 spot in 1983.

So, “What’s It All About? – I know there are lots of you who still long for the weekend but trust me, once you get to my age, you do want the week to slow down a bit more.

As for the song Friday On My Mind, Harry Vanda described it as reminiscent of the days when the band members lived in hostels in Sydney as “new Australians”. They longed for the end of the week because that’s when the fun began. The song has quite a build-up and after the opening cymbal crash, its just a staccato guitar for the next 20 seconds where the lead vocalist runs through the days of the week, explaining why Monday to Thursday doesn’t excite him. The bass finally comes in as he gets closer to the weekend. 30 seconds into the song we hit Friday, and the drums come in to play.

Well, that’s Saturday Snapshots played and my Saturday blogpost written. Better head off now and achieve meaningful things, as before we know it, it’ll be Friday again. Argh.

Until next time….

Friday On My Mind Lyrics
(Song by George Young/Harry Vanda)

Monday mornin’ feels so bad
Ev’rybody seems to nag me
Comin’ Tuesday I feel better
Even my old man looks good
Wed’sday just don’t go
Thursday goes too slow
I’ve got Friday on my mind

Gonna have fun in the city
Be with my girl, she’s so pretty
She looks fine tonight
She is out of sight to me
Tonight I’ll spend my bread, tonight
I’ll lose my head, tonight
I’ve got to get to night
Monday I’ll have Friday on my mind

Do the five day grind once more
I know of nothin’ else that bugs me
More than workin’ for the rich man
Hey! I’ll change that scene one day
Today I might be mad, tomorrow I’ll be glad
‘Cause I’ll have Friday on my mind

Madness, “Night Boat To Cairo” and The Nutty Boys, Forty Years On

Three years ago, back in the early days of this blog, I wrote a light-hearted post about the band Madness and the whole 2 Tone movement (link here). It coincided with Glastonbury (where they had just performed), and was supposed to form a bit of respite ahead of all the political upheaval about to come our way after the divisive disaster that was the EU Referendum result. I don’t even think the word Brexit had even been coined yet, and there is nothing I hate more than a stupid-sounding new word created from two other words. In linguistics it’s called a portmanteau, which ironically has a French etymology. Oh how the French must be loving us now!

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But here we are a full three years and more on from that post, and the political upheaval is still with us and has ramped up to a whole new level. Talking of new words, I have just discovered one that has apparently been around forever, but for good reason has never before entered our personal vernacular – Prorogation. Yep, that’s the latest trick up the government’s sleeve, so The Madness continues. Getting back to Madness the band, last Friday they came to our town, and down to a bit of luck I managed to see them.

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Madness – Promotional pic for the 2019 tour

I’ve now hosted 25 sets of guests since acquiring the holiday hideaway so it’s been a busy old summer, and the downside is I haven’t really been able to commit to much, as I’m either greeting people or getting ready for the next set of people. We did have a free evening last Friday however so I persuaded Mr WIAA to head into town with me for a bite to eat. On the way home we swung by our very central Highland Games stadium (yes, we have one), as I knew Madness were going to be playing there that very night. As luck would have it, there were tickets left, so it was a no-brainer we would join all the other locals of a certain age who fancied a trip down memory lane.

Night Boat To Cairo by Madness:

What a great night we had – It was dark, but warm and dry, and Suggs and the boys were in tip-top form, closing the show with a very rousing performance of Night Boat To Cairo (complete with tea towel). If you owned the album “One Step Beyond” back in the day, and played it on repeat as I did, you will always remember Night Boat as being the third track on Side One after the Title Track and My Girl. We just don’t consume our music in that way nowadays so Sides and Track Numbers are largely irrelevant. Bit of trivia, the term Night Boat has passed into cockney rhyming slang as a term for a giro, or unemployment benefit cheque but you’d have to be British to get that one I imagine.

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Last week I wrote nostalgically about the year 1978, but this week it’s all about 1979, as that was the year I discovered Madness. The thing I enjoyed most about the concert however was the comforting thought that despite the political upheaval, and all the changes to how we live over the last 40 years, one constant has been those Nutty Boys from Camden Town. They look older close up, but the songs are the same, the band members are the same (although they are now missing Chas Smash), the clothes are the same, and the saxophone solos are the same. Suggs, aka Graham McPherson, still has that very unique, staccato-style way of speaking, … and moving. Yes, somehow all very comforting, and at the moment I think I would rather have the Nutty Boys run the country than BoJo (another portmanteau?) and Walter from The Dandy.

Until next time….

Night Boat To Cairo Lyrics
(Song by Mike Barson/Graham McPherson)

It’s just gone noon
Half past monsoon
On the banks of the river Nile
Here comes the boat
Only half-afloat
Oarsman grins a toothless smile
Only just one more
To this desolate shore
Last boat along the river Nile
Doesn’t seem to care
No more wind in his hair
As he reaches his last half mile
The oar snaps in his hand
Before he reaches dry land
But the sound doesn’t deafen his smile
Just pokes at wet sand
With an oar in his hand
Floats off down the river Nile
Floats off down the river Nile

(All aboard, night boat to Cairo!)

(Night boat to Cairo!)

Poetry Assignments, Steve Strange and “Fade to Grey”

Well, I have been largely absent from these pages this month and largely absent from the comments boxes of the blogs I follow, but on the home stretch now of a particulary busy time for me. Today I have decided to timetable my day into four sections in order to fit everything in, and these sections reflect the very diverse strands to how my life has turned out since giving up my sensible, secure job a year and a half ago.

The final assignment for my college course is due in on Wednesday, so I decided to tackle it first thing this morning. The course was meant to be my main focus this year but of course regular visitors will know all that changed when my elderly mum had a fall, and instead of becoming a full-time student last September, I became a full-time carer for a time. As it turns out, the shift to part-time was probably a wise one, and for some time I managed to kill two birds with one stone so to speak, as my Saturday blog post (when I was still sticking to that regime) often inspired the “homework” I endeavoured to complete for the course on a Sunday. I am still amused by the fact my tutor gave me most praise for a poem I dashed off after writing about the song Shades of Gray by the Monkees, following the  death of Peter Tork (link here).

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The Monkees

The song had formed a bit of an earworm over the course of the weekend, so a hybrid list/concrete poem developed after referring to a paint chart courtesy of either Mr Crown or Mr Dulux (can’t remember which now) and it was my take on the Brexit shenanigans going on at the time.

Shades of Grey

But hey, there are plenty of other songs about the colour grey, and the first that comes to mind is Fade to Grey by Visage. I see this song is attributed to the genre new wave, but in my mind it can only be classed as New Romantic where Steve Strange, the man who almost single-handedly started that movement, performed lead vocals.

Fade to Grey by Visage:

The whole New Romanticism movement came along half way through my four years as a full-time student first time around, and I probably embraced it more than any other in terms of how I dressed at the time. It was a long time since I’d had to court the approval of my parents in such matters and I was still nowhere near entering the “real world”, where sensible suits rather than flamboyant frills and falderals would have to be adopted.

Many trips to both the local Oxfam and fabric/haberdashery shop were all that was needed to acquire the necessary apparel. Ribbons, tassels, hats and big coats were the order of the day, as were shirts with ruffles and simply made but colourful skirts. Two metres of fabric and a roll of flat sewing elastic was all that was needed. I still had my granny’s old Singer sewing machine in my student room but it needed an upgrade, so I asked for a new sewing machine for my 21st birthday later on that year. Back in those days clothes were still relatively expensive compared to income, especially a paltry student income, so my evenings were split between leaning over the books, and leaning over the sewing machine.

Also in my student room was my beloved black and white portable telly, which in those far less technologically saturated times, was the only one in our flat shared by six people. Come 7.30pm on a Thursday we of course all piled in to watch TOTP, and in 1980-81 this was the kind of music that pretty much filled each show. Fade to Grey was released in 1980, on the same day as the band’s debut album. It reached No. 8 in the UK Singles Chart and made the No. 1 spot in Germany and Switzerland. The song is sung in English and spoken in French. The music video became one of the first directed by Messers Godley and Creme after leaving the world of 10cc behind and becoming masters of that new medium.

Steve Strange formed Visage with Rusty Egan and Midge Ure from Rich Kids, Billy Currie from Ultravox, and Barry Adamson, John McGeoch and Dave Formula from Magazine, so a veritable supergroup. Steve had appeared in the video for David Bowie’s No. 1 hit Ashes to Ashes (first spotted at 0:30), a song which helped propel the burgeoning New Romantic fashion movement into the mainstream. Both he and Rusty Egan worked at Blitz, the influential New Romantic nightclub in London, from 1979 until 1981. They famously only allowed entry to the weird and the wonderful and apparently Mick Jagger was once refused admittance. Egan and Strange later opened up the Camden Palace nightclub, also in London, where they continued to spread and influence the development of electronica music in the UK.

Blitz Club 1980s.png

Sadly Steve died at the age of only 55 back in 2015. He had frequently appeared on those talking head shows in the years prior to that, and it didn’t seem as if the years had been kind to him. He certainly left his mark however in that he was responsible for a whole cultural phenomenon right there at the cusp of the ’70s/’80s. He was also responsible for the honing of my sewing skills, which I have to say have come in very handy over the years.

So, that’s the blog post written, which was the second item on today’s timetable. Now it’s time to get Mr WIAA’s latest batch of beautiful things dispatched to their new owners, and then, later on today, I welcome the next set of guests to my holiday hideaway. No time to write any stories about that new venture in this post, but they will definitely follow.

Until next time….

Fade To Grey Lyrics
(Song by Billy Currie/Chris Payne/Midge Ure)

Devenir gris
Devenir gris

One man on a lonely platform
One case sitting by his side
Two eyes staring cold and silent
Show fear as he turns to hide

We fade to grey (fade to grey)
We fade to grey (fade to grey)

Un homme dans une gare désolée
Une valise à ses cotés
Des yeux fixes et froids
Montrent de la peur lorsqu’il
Se tourne pour se cacher

We fade to grey (fade to grey)
We fade to grey (fade to grey)

Sens la pluie comme un été anglais
Entends les notes d’une chanson lointaine
Sortant de derrière un poster
Espérant que la vie ne fut aussi longue

We fade to grey (fade to grey)
We fade to grey (fade to grey)

Feel the rain like an English summer
Hear the notes from a distant song
Stepping out from a backdrop poster
Wishing life wouldn’t be so long

Devenir gris

We fade to grey (fade to grey)
We fade to grey (fade to grey)
We fade to grey (fade to grey)
Devenir gris

Postscript:

Ashes to Ashes was a fantasy police drama series set in the 1980s and the sequel to Life on Mars which has been written about around here before. Needless to say music from the era played a big part in the show, and what better song to include but Fade to Grey. Here is a clip from the show which features the man himself, Steve Strange.

“Jilted John”, Gordon and 21st Century Student Life

Well, a totally different routine for me this weekend, as for only the second time since I started my college course last September, I am meeting up with my classmates in a non-virtual fashion. Turns out courses like ours are mainly done online nowadays, with lectures being given via Video Conference. ‘Tis the times, but I had hoped, like last time around, I would make lifelong buddies. A slight flaw there in that most of them are just starting out in life, whereas being realistic, I am already over two thirds of the way through my life. Also, the only communication between students nowadays seems to be via social media/group chat and the like. Although I seem to have mastered blogging, that world is still pretty much alien to me (and being older than most of their parents, I think I am possibly out of the loop anyway).

But hey ho, I rolled up to the village of Cromarty yesterday at 4pm on the dot, as that was the time our weekend programme of activities was supposed to begin. The centre where we are staying is an old brewery, so what better name for this quite fabulous centre for the arts than, The Old Brewery. I am local-ish, so know the village well, and Mr WIAA’s very first job was at the local pottery (it is a very artsy place), but for people who have never visited before, it really is quite something – Almost a time capsule from the 18th century when Cromarty was one of the most prosperous places in Scotland because of trade with Northern Europe, and because of the vast shoals of silver darlings (herring to you and I) that were caught off its shores.

I did say it was almost an 18th century time capsule however, and that would be because if you look west along the firth, the view is something like this. I went out for a walk last night amongst the quaint streets of the old fishertown, but when I joined the shore road, I was quite mesmerised by the scale of the lit-up structures attached to the oil fabrication yard on the north side of the firth.

Drilling rigs are parked up in the Cromarty Firth near Invergordon, Scotland
The Oil Fabrication Yards at Nigg

But this morning, I woke up to this – What a weird mix of old and new, but strangely alluring too, as it brings a modern-day sharpness to the quaint and slightly twee village.

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The quaint village of Cromarty

But what of our programme of activities? Well despite there being a timetable with carefully allocated slots, it seems that artsy kinda people don’t hold with sticking to timetables, so I’ve been a bit thrown, as I like to have a clear structure to my day. The other thing that has thrown me is that the students of today eat very healthily. Forty years ago, when I was a student first time around, our very educational Field Trips were an excuse to do little else than go to the pub and get very, very drunk. Last night I suggested we head out for some food but nearly everyone had brought little microwaveable pots of grains, vegetables and unidentifiable gluten/dairy-free substances. No alcohol allowed on the premises either so not much else to do but have an early night.

On the upside, I’ve had a really busy and stressful time of late, so for a couple of days I’ve hopped off the hamster wheel and can just relax. The clocks change tonight, so an hour less in my little student bed than I had hoped for, but if I’m in it by 10pm (as seems highly likely), I’ll still rack up more hours of sleep than usual.

What song to include though? Back in 1978, when I was a student first time around, this song, Jilted John by Jilted John was in the charts, and whenever Gordon X, the President of the Student’s Representative Council was called upon to speak at an official ceremony in one of the ancient university’s impressive auditoriums, he had to suffer the ignominy of having it sung to him by the mass student body.

I think I now miss those days.

Jilted John (Gordon is a Moron) by Jilted John:

Until next time….

Jilted John Lyrics
(Song by Jilted John)

I’d been going out with a girl,
and her name is “Julie”.
But last night she said to me,
when we were watching telly…
This is what she said;

She said; “Listen John, I love you,
but there’s this bloke I fancy.
I don’t want to two-time you,
so it’s the end for you and me!”

“Who’s this bloke?” I asked her.
“Gordon” She replied.
“Not that puff!” I said dismayed.
“Yes, but he’s no puff” She cried.
“He’s more of a man than you’ll ever be!”

Here we go. Two Three Four.

I was so upset that,
I cried all the way to the chip shop
When I came out, there was Gordon
Standing at the bus stop.

And guess who was with him?
Yeah, Julie!
And they were both laughing at me!

Oh she’s cruel and heartless
To pack me for Gordon!
Just ’cause he’s better looking than me
Just ’cause he’s cool and trendy.

But I know he’s a moron!
Gordon is a moron!
Gordon is a moron!
Gordon is a moron!

Here we go. Two Three Four.

She’s a slag! He’s a creep!
She’s a tart who’s very cheap!
She is a slut, and 50 tough.
She is a bitch, and he’s a puff!
Yeah, yeah! It’s not fair!
Yeah, yeah! It’s not fair!

I’m so upset.

I’m so upset! I’m so upset!
Yeah yeah!

I’m gonna smash his face in!
Yeah, but he’s bigger than me In’t he?
I know! I’l get my mate Barry to hit him!
He’d flatten ‘im!

Postscript:

Jilted John was a character played by comedy actor and musician Graham David Fellows. He was a drama student at Manchester Poly when he first came to prominence as the eponymous singer of the novelty record Jilted John, a first-person narrative of an embittered teenager whose girlfriend Julie had left him for another man called Gordon, just because “he was better looking” and “cause he was cool and trendy“. The song became known for the refrain “Gordon is a moron” repeated many, many times.

Jilted John was first played on national radio by BBC Radio One’s John Peel who commented that if the single was promoted by a major record label he could see it becoming a huge hit. This proved to be the case. The song was introduced on TOTP as “one of the most bizarre singles of the decade”, and reached No. 4 in the UK Singles Chart.

The lyrics are most definitely questionable and wouldn’t be included in a mainstream pop hit today but ’twas the times, so I left them in as they were written 41 years ago.

The Clash, Big Decisions and Girlfriend Trouble

We are now over a 1000 days on from this post and it seems as relevant as ever. In my original opening paragraph, I said that with only a day to go, many of us were still none the wiser as to which way to vote. That worked out well, didn’t it?

What's It All About?

Short post, but with only a day to go, there should be no-one in the UK who doesn’t understand the significance of today’s clip. If the EU was our girlfriend this is how it would be playing out right now but despite the 24/7 debate and news coverage from both sides (all very balanced so as not to show any bias of course) many of us are still none the wiser as to which way to vote.

Should I Stay Or Should I Go by The Clash:

Not entirely sure why Angela Merkel and Co. haven’t been getting involved in the debate but it seems that they don’t want to affect the outcome one way or another, so are leaving it to the people of the UK themselves.

So, no tearful last minute pleadings – “It’s not you, it’s me”, “I think we just need a break” and “You’re too good for me”…

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