Bicycles, Sgt. Pepper and “The One on the Right is on the Left”!

I don’t quite know what happened this week but my blogging mojo left me. First of all I had intended to write a few age-related posts ahead of my birthday next week but that old chestnut time, or the lack of it, got the better of me. I then spent a couple of hours last night looking at the screen, unable to string a coherent sentence together. My long list of “posts pending” and my American Odyssey series both require a fair bit of research and to be honest, at the moment, I’m just not in the mood. I blame the fact that this week has been especially spreadsheet-heavy at work, where the numbers side of my brain has obviously encroached on the space usually left for words. In situations like this, for the second week in a row, it will have to be a web-diary type of post.

On Wednesday evening we went along to the local college where Mr WIAA “works” in the art department (although it all sounds a bit of a lark to me). There was a year-end exhibition of the student’s work and it usually makes for an interesting evening where we also get the chance to buy some pieces at very reasonable prices – Who knows, maybe one day these young artists will become famous and their “works” will be worth something. For one group of students, yarn bombing was something that had featured heavily this year, and I did like this bicycle.

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A bicycle of the knitted variety

This week has also of course been politics-heavy ahead of next week’s “snap” election and although most bloggers steer away from such topics, I cannot deny that the issues at stake have infiltrated my thoughts a lot over the last seven days. The television debates (or non-debates actually) have not been particularly effective and as usual I end up warming most to the Green Party leaders and candidates, but they are never going to be able to form a government (can you imagine them having a special relationship with Mr Trump after his withdrawal from the Accord de Paris this week), so the best alternative it will have to be. Like the Greens, Jeremy Corbyn is against nuclear weapons of any kind but of course he is continually hectored and harangued about whether he would ever actually “press the button” if the need arose. I’m with the young lady from the Question Time studio audience who shook her head in dismay at how so many in the room seemed bent on, in effect, killing millions of people. If things get that bad, it’s curtains for us all anyway.

In the meantime, my employers, as well as creating a new paper-less environment have also created a car park-less environment. This has led to the initiation of a cycle-to-work scheme, where eco-bikes are now at our disposal – The Greens would be proud of them although it’s not always easy being of that persuasion and Andy Hallett sang all about it back in 2001!

It’s Not Easy Being Green by Andy Hallett:

Still thinking fondly of the knitted bicycle from earlier in the week, Mr WIAA and I went to a local café today where they also show you how to fix and repair your bike. It is right next to the college so a frequent pit stop for staff and students alike. Called Velocity Café, it is run by enterprising youngsters who have created a great little hub for like-minded souls right in the centre of town. We sat at one of the long tables where you can have a chat with fellow diners or catch up with the newspapers. And this is where I had a bit of an emotional moment over my butternut squash and red lentil soup. In today’s Review section of The Guardian there was an excellent piece by the author Ian McEwan (link here) which really got to me. Right at that moment in time, I wanted nothing more than to live in a land full of Velocity Cafés, and not one where people who are reluctant to launch nuclear weapons are lampooned.

Fortunately I pulled myself together and we even had one of their award winning granola slices for which Mr WIAA managed to get the secret recipe last year. He has attempted to make them a few times now but they never turn out quite like in the café – Methinks they perhaps left out some of the key ingredients, as a secret recipe would no longer be secret, if given out willy-nilly to customers.

Not a lot of music so far included in this post and funnily enough, when it comes, it’s not going to be bicycle related although that does seem to have become the theme for this post. Whilst having lunch, BBC 6 Music was playing on the radio and it was a programme about the Beatles album “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” which was released 50 years ago this week. I am not remotely qualified to write knowledgably about this ground-breaking album, so I’ll stick to the facts. It was their 8th album release and spent 27 weeks at the top of the UK charts. It was “lauded by critics for its innovative approach to music production, songwriting and graphic design and was probably the first album to bridge the divide between popular music and legitimate art“. Peter Blake’s album sleeve is arguably the most famous of all time, consisting of a collage of 88 figures which included the Beatles themselves. Copyright was a major problem as Brian Epstein had to locate each person in order to get permission to use their image out of context. Looking closely at some of those figures, this can’t have been easy. Today sitting in the café I think I found a renewed affection for this album as it is one of those that has perhaps become a bit over-familiar to my ears. Time maybe for a proper re-visitation over the coming week to mark its landmark birthday.

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Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band by the Beatles:

So, “What’s It All About?” – We’re heading to our polling stations again next week and although I have been very good at predicting the results of the last few elections and referendums, I have tended myself to always back the losing side. I often visit Jez’s site over at A History of Dubious Taste and he has put together some very good posts on the political goings on (read shenanigans) over the past few weeks – Informative but funny too, so I would thoroughly recommend a visit. This also reminds me of a song he featured a couple of weeks ago which is perfect for tonight’s post. I’d never heard it before but it has become a guilty pleasure over the last fortnight. I will leave you with Johnny Cash and The One On The Right Is On The Left and will return next week once we all know the outcome – Politically charged times indeed!

The One On The Right Is On The Left Lyrics
(Song by Jack Clement)

There once was a musical troupe
A pickin’ singin’ folk group
They sang the mountain ballads
And the folk songs of our land
They were long on musical ability
Folks thought they would go far
But political incompatibility led to their downfall

Well, the one on the right was on the left
And the one in the middle was on the right
And the one on the left was in the middle
And the guy in the rear was a Methodist

This musical aggregation toured the entire nation
Singing the traditional ballads
And the folk songs of our land
They performed with great virtuosity
And soon they were the rage
But political animosity prevailed upon the stage

Well, the one on the right was on the left
And the one in the middle was on the right
And the one on the left was in the middle
And the guy in the rear burned his driver’s license

Well the curtain had ascended
A hush fell on the crowd
As thousands there were gathered to hear the folk songs of our land
But they took their politics seriously
And that night at the concert hall
As the audience watched deliriously
They had a free-for-all

Well, the one on the right was on the bottom
And the one in the middle was on the top
And the one on the left got a broken arm
And the guy on his rear, said, “Oh dear”

Now this should be a lesson if you plan to start a folk group
Don’t go mixin’ politics with the folk songs of our land
Just work on harmony and diction
Play your banjo well
And if you have political convictions keep them to yourself
Now, the one on the left works in a bank
And the one in the middle drives a truck
The one on the right’s an all-night deejay
And the guy in the rear got drafted

Postscript:

As this was a very bicycle-heavy post it does seems wrong to leave without sharing anything musically related to bikes. Here is a clip that I revisit often as from that impressive London 2012 Olympic Opening Ceremony. The song Come Together was very appropriately for this post a Beatles one, but in this case was performed by the Arctic Monkeys. I loved those guys on the bicycles and from what I have just heard this morning on the news, the sentiment of the song is more relevant than ever.

The (Very) Eclectic Mix of Honor Blackman, Andy Stewart and Eric Idle

Reminiscing in my last post about those shiny white boots worn by Nancy Sinatra, reminded me that in December 1990, the novelty song Kinky Boots by those intrepid Avengers Patrick Macnee and Honor Blackman had made it to the top of the UK Singles Chart. Nancy had recorded the theme song to the Bond movie You Only Live Twice and Honor of course played infamous Bond girl Pussy Galore (wouldn’t get away with that name nowadays thankfully), so both ladies had a bit more in common than just a habit of wearing, and singing about, boots!

The reason that I know it was a hit in Dec 1990 is because I still have a copy of the 7-inch single in my collection! At that time BBC Radio 1 was aimed at a more mainstream audience and the Breakfast Show DJ was Simon Mayo. Every year prior to Christmas he championed an old ’60s novelty song and gave it copious amounts of airplay. Needless to say it always sold well and made it to the higher reaches of the singles chart, No. 5 in this case. I’m pretty sure my boyfriend of the time (now husband) bought it for my “hypothetical” Christmas stocking (trying to fit a record of any kind into a real stocking tended to be a physical impossibility).

Kinky Boots had been commissioned to accompany a short film about these fashionable items of footwear for the very popular early ’60s satirical TV Programme, That Was The Week That Was. The most obvious candidates to sing the song were the stars of the new spy-fi drama that was entertaining Britain at that time – The main characters in The Avengers were Steed with his bowler hat and umbrella, and Cathy Gale in her long thigh-length boots. This was a very new kind of role for a woman in television and Honor Blackman played her perfectly. The role must have led to her becoming the leader of the all-female Flying Circus in Goldfinger but there followed in her wake a string of other “Avenging” women namely Emma Peel, Tara King and in the ’70s, the iconic Purdey, who inspired a generation of girls to have their beautiful long hair cut into a bowl shape!

But back to Simon Mayo’s Breakfast Show on the radio – Unbelievably, the previous year the song he had championed was actually by our very own local hero, Andy Stewart. Andy had been a bit of an institution in Scotland in the world of light entertainment and presided over the excruciatingly embarrassing White Heather Club which ran for 10 years between 1958 and 1968. It portrayed a very tartanised version of Scotland, what with the kilts, the dancing, the accordions and all the other stereotypical falderals and although very popular with television audiences, if you were a kid like me, lapping up all the great music that was emerging from America and “Swinging London”, it was seen as very uncool.

But in his wisdom Simon Mayo must have discovered Andy’s novelty song Donald Where’s Your Troosers from 1960 and helped it reach No.4 in the December 1989 singles chart. This could be a difficult listen I grant you, but bear with it, as Andy was a great impressionist as well as a singer/comedian and his impression of Elvis (at 1:45) is still a really funny one.

Out of interest, the third of Simon’s attempts to influence the outcome of who might top the Christmas singles chart, was when he championed Always Look on the Bright Side of Life sung and written by Eric Idle. It had first appeared in the Monty Python film The Life of Brian and here it was back in the charts in December 1991, this time reaching the No. 3 spot. This song still resonates with us today and it has popped up quite frequently in the various blogs I follow of late – ‘Tis the times we obviously live in.

Always Look on the Bright Side of Life by Monty Python:

So, “What’s It All About?” – I really miss that sense of community we used to get from all watching or listening to the same thing at the same time. If like me, you worked in an office back in the ’80s and ’90s, the topic of conversation first thing in the morning was whatever had been on television the night before (very memorable Wogan interviewees for example, and I think we all know who I’m talking about) and what the breakfast DJ had been playing as we got ready for work. Now all you get is, “Don’t tell me what happened, I’ve recorded it” or “I only watch Netflix and boxsets” or “I don’t listen to that radio station”.

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In an era with so much choice and so many ways to consume visual and aural entertainment we have lost what it was that used to bring us all together. The days of getting together for a sing-song around the piano have long-gone and now it seems we hardly ever watch or listen to the same things, at the same time. Maybe, just maybe, that is why I am enjoying the blogosphere so much – Once you are part of a little group, you end up all reading (watching and listening to) the same post at the same time and have a wee chat about it. It’s not the community of my parents generation and not even the community of 20 years ago, but perhaps it’s a new kind of community that works for the modern day world. I may not know much about any of you, but it’s nice that you take the time to drop by and leave some feedback – Whether I’m likely to get much feedback on a post featuring Andy Stewart remains to be seen, but here’s hoping!

Until next time….

Always Look on the Bright Side of Life Lyrics
(Song by Eric Idle)

Cheer up, Brian. You know what they say.
Some things in life are bad,
They can really make you mad.
Other things just make you swear and curse.
When you’re chewing on life’s gristle,
Don’t grumble, give a whistle!
And this’ll help things turn out for the best
And

Always look on the bright side of life!

Always look on the bright side of life
If life seems jolly rotten,
There’s something you’ve forgotten!
And that’s to laugh and smile and dance and sing,

When you’re feeling in the dumps,
Don’t be silly chumps,
Just purse your lips and whistle — that’s the thing!
And always look on the bright side of life

Come on!

Always look on the bright side of life

For life is quite absurd,
And death’s the final word.
You must always face the curtain with a bow!
Forget about your sin — give the audience a grin,
Enjoy it, it’s the last chance anyhow!

So always look on the bright side of death!
Just before you draw your terminal breath.
Life’s a piece of shit,
When you look at it.

Life’s a laugh and death’s a joke, it’s true,
You’ll see it’s all a show,
Keep ’em laughing as you go.
Just remember that the last laugh is on you!

And always look on the bright side of life

Always look on the bright side of life

Come on guys, cheer up

Always look on the bright side of life

Always look on the bright side of life

Worse things happen at sea you know

Always look on the bright side of life

I mean, what have you got to lose?
you know, you come from nothing
you’re going back to nothing
what have you lost? Nothing!

Always look on the bright side of life