Prince, Sinead O’Connor and “Nothing Compares 2 U”

I was struggling for inspiration this week as my last post left me with nowhere to go (it ended up featuring a porn star turned disco diva!), but as has often happened this year, events of the week take over. On Wednesday we heard the sad news that Victoria Wood had died aged only 62, again from cancer. This was devastating news as she has been performing stand-up, singing her wonderfully observant comic songs and writing great sketches and sit-coms for as long as I can remember – Another premature death in 2016 from the world of entertainment. It was Her Majesty the Queen’s 90th birthday this week and celebrations have taken place all round the country but Victoria Wood was a different kind of Queen, a Queen of British Comedy. She was honoured in 2008 with a CBE and had she lived, I’m sure it would only have been a matter of time before she became a Dame.

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The great thing about Victoria’s comedy was that it centred around very down to earth, ordinary people and the mundane, but often deeply amusing, aspects of their lives. She was a great observer of the human condition, which shone through in her writing. Julie Walters, her long-term friend and “double-act” partner must feel as if she has lost a limb.

I was still reeling from the loss of Victoria when the news came through on Thursday evening that Prince had been found dead at his Paisley Park mansion.

This is turning out to be a terrible year for losing our heroes. David Bowie died the day I started the blog and since then there has been a steady stream of deaths from the world of entertainment. The loss of Prince will mean more to the people of the US than it will to most of us here in the UK but since researching him for a post I wrote just the other week (link here), I now realise that he was the ultimate artist – Dare I say it, even surpassing Bowie with his breadth of talent. He wrote some of the most amazing songs that will be with us for ever, he sang, played every musical instrument on his albums, produced, could act, danced, choreographed and micro-managed every aspect of his life and the creation of his art. Looking back now, considering he worked 24-hour-days and hardly slept, I am amazed he managed to live as long as he did.

I have now accepted that the number of obituaries coming through from the world of entertainment will increase as the sheer number of artists we have been exposed to through music and television has increased exponentially during my lifetime. Many of these artists are now reaching their senior years, so age-related deaths will inevitably become more commonplace. The demon cancer can strike at any time however and sadly, like with poor Victoria, we are losing people too soon when they still have much more to give. And of course, like with Prince, those who seem to live highly artistic, abnormal lives, seem to be more prone to premature, abnormal deaths.

A very sad week for the world of entertainment and when I started the blog in January this year, I had not anticipated that every other post would be about the death of one my heroes. Nothing light about any of this tragedy but I do think that Miss Wood, if looking down at us now, would find it amusing that the timing of her demise means she is now bizarrely connected to His Royal Purpleness – I’m sure she, Terry Wogan and Ronnie Corbett will take him under their wing and regale tales of Acorn Antiques, the TOGs and Four Candles. In return they may well be rewarded with songs from one of the most exceptional artists of the last 40 years.

I will leave you with Sinéad O’Connor and her moving rendition of the Prince-penned song Nothing Compares 2 U from 1990. Thankfully I had just started “going out” with my new boyfriend (now husband) the month before it reached No. 1 in the charts and because we were all loved-up, a song about a painful breakup didn’t cause me any distress at all. Someone at the other end of the relationship spectrum would definitely have suffered however, as it received blanket coverage in the January of that year. Watching the clip again does remind me how jealous we all were of how good Sinéad looked with a shaved head as we were all slaves to our hairdressing appointments at that time – It was the era of spiral perms and highlights (think Glenn Close in Fatal Attraction) so very high maintenance by comparison.

I don’t think I realised back in 1990 that this song was written by Prince but fitting as it turns out for today’s post. Surely no more premature deaths for some time. RIP Victoria, RIP Prince.

Nothing Compares 2 U
(Song by Prince)

It’s been seven hours and fifteen days
Since u took your love away
I go out every night and sleep all day
Since u took your love away

Since u been gone I can do whatever I want
I can see whomever I choose
I can eat my dinner in a fancy restaurant
But nothing
I said nothing can take away these blues

`Cause nothing compares
Nothing compares 2 u

It’s been so lonely without u here
Like a bird without a song
Nothing can stop these lonely tears from falling
Tell me baby where did I go wrong

I could put my arms around every boy I see
But they’d only remind me of you
I went to the doctor and guess what he told me
Guess what he told me
He said, “Girl, you better try to have fun no matter what you do.”
But he’s a fool

`Cause nothing compares
Nothing compares 2 u

All the flowers that u planted, mama
In the back yard
All died when u went away
I know that living with u baby was sometimes hard
But I’m willing to give it another try

Nothing compares
Nothing compares 2 u
Nothing compares
Nothing compares 2 u
Nothing compares
Nothing compares 2 u

George Martin, The Beatles and “Alfie”

I did say recently that I didn’t want the blog to become an obituary column which seemed to what was happening throughout January and February but I don’t want to omit mentioning the passing this week of one of the music world’s most well-known and influential record producers – George Martin, the 5th Beatle.

Looking back now at photos of George working with The Beatles, he could be their dad, always dressed in his shirt and tie, his brylcreemed hair immaculately combed back. As it turns out he could have been an older brother in age terms but it goes to show how that small age difference in the ’60s meant that you were either part of that pre-war generation who had suffered the hardships and direct involvement, or you were the new post-war “never had it so good” generation who were bringing such innovation to music, film, fashion and ideas.

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George however, although he may not have looked like his protégés, certainly had the ideas that contributed to their incredible success. In fact during their short career (considering their impact on the music world even to this day), they spent half of it in the recording studio with George, choosing that medium for their musical output rather than returning to live shows in front of screaming fans, who wouldn’t have been able to hear the songs anyway. There can’t be many people who haven’t heard of, or listened to, “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” which truly was a landmark album in the history of pop music. It won four Grammy Awards in 1968 and often tops polls of “The Greatest Album Ever Made”. None of this would have come about without George.

Again, I am probably going to horrify people by admitting that I was never a great fan of Sgt. Pepper and preferred The Beatles earlier pure pop output. It is simply that I was too young in 1967 to appreciate its sophistication. As a child, the films A Hard Day’s Night and Help! appealed to me much more and were shown regularly on television. As happened with David Bowie, I was just born too late to appreciate them at their creative height, but have kind of come round since.

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George Martin’s relationship with The Beatles came about because of his link to Brian Epstein, the band’s manager. During the early ’60s, Brian Epstein and George Martin between them, were pretty much responsible for creating the Mersey Sound or Merseybeat as it came to be called. Brian had tried all the major labels to sign his Liverpudlian stable of artists, but it was not until an initially reluctant George Martin at Parlophone saw something there he could work with, that the magic began. As well as The Beatles, other artists such as Cilla Black, Gerry & the Pacemakers and Billy J. Kramer and the Dakotas all made the regular trip south to visit George and the team at Parlophone. Cilla Black may have referred to the orchestra he used as “a bunch of auld fellas” but they certainly all contributed to making those artists the massive recording stars of the day.

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There are just so many songs I could have picked to write about in relation to George Martin but the most obvious for me is of course Alfie, the song I used as inspiration for the title to the blog. Cilla Black was initially reluctant to take on this Bacharach and David classic but after Burt came across to London from the US to play and conduct on this oddly titled song, she could hardly refuse, despite her reservations that it was the name you would give a dog! George Martin was at the mixing desk performing his magic and after many takes of the song, they produced something truly remarkable.

Alfie by Cilla Black:

It’s now over 50 years since Cilla was asked to record Alfie in order to promote the Michael Caine film of the same name. Right at the end, our eponymous hero poses the question, “What’s it all about?” and I have come to realise that after 50 years of listening to popular music and now writing about the memories it inevitably conjures up, the answer is very much love, just as the song lyrics say. It is the love for our family as children, the love for our best friends as teenagers, for the various boyfriends/girlfriends on the way to finding that special someone, and now for me, the love I feel for my husband, daughter and special friends. Since starting this blog, I have never once reminisced about that important work deadline, that crucial exam result or the completion of that lengthy report, it is always about the people along the way. There is the old adage that you never go to your deathbed wishing you had spent more time at the office and after writing this, my 30th post, I am more convinced than ever that this is the case. As The Beatles sang – “All You Need Is Love”!

RIP George Martin.

Alfie Lyrics
(Song By Burt Bacharach/Hal David)

What’s it all about Alfie
Is it just for the moment we live
What’s it all about
When you sort it out, Alfie
Are we meant to take more than we give
Or are we meant to be kind?
And if, if only fools are kind, Alfie
Then I guess it is wise to be cruel
And if life belongs only to the strong, Alfie
What will you lend on an old golden rule?
As sure as I believe there’s a heaven above
Alfie, I know there’s something much more
Something even non-believers can believe in
I believe in love, Alfie
Without true love we just exist, Alfie
Until you find the love you’ve missed
You’re nothing, Alfie
When you walk let your heart lead the way
And you’ll find love any day Alfie, oh Alfie.

Maurice White, “Boogie Wonderland” and The Last Days of Disco

As anticipated, the blog is in danger of turning into an obituary column. Yesterday we heard the news that Maurice White of Earth, Wind and Fire had passed away. Again he had been ill for some time and died of an age-related condition and again, I am very sorry for his friends and family. My husband did remark however that the news story is now more about the sheer number of artists who have passed away in the last month, and is not so much about the individual any more so we have to be careful not to dwell on it too much. It is going to be a perfectly natural occurrence that will happen on a much more regular basis. Also the radio station I mainly listen to is aimed at an older audience so what is news to a 50-something would not be news to my daughter or her friends.

It has however, been a bit of a wake-up call for all of us of a certain age as we consider our own mortality perhaps a little bit more than usual in view of the events of the last month. We now may be considering moving retirement plans forward a little and that can’t be a bad thing.

As usual this latest death has brought back great memories of the music. Maurice White was the founder member of Earth, Wind and Fire. He wrote the songs, sang the songs and produced them so he was essentially Mr EWF. If you haven’t seen them perform on stage, it was like witnessing a riotous fancy dress party with vast numbers of musicians, singers and dancers filling ever corner of the stage. They were essentially an R&B act but in the late ’70s Disco was King and their music did fit neatly into that genre making their songs a must-play on the dancefloors of the nation. In 1979 they realeased Boogie Wonderland with The Emotions (even more people on stage in wildly flamboyant costumes).

Listening to this song again, Mr White appears to have had a cold when recording it as there is a definite nasal quality to his voice but that didn’t stop it getting to the top of the charts and it was great fun dancing along to it on a night out. Looking at the outfits I can’t believe now that so much was made of Bowie’s look and style only five years earlier – He was positively tame compared with these guys! Maurice is definitely the ringleader here though and he is obviously enjoying himself immensely. (A receding hairline for a black man sporting an afro must have been troublesome for him but so much else going on we didn’t notice.)

On a personal note, being a fan of Earth, Wind and Fire was a bit of a problem for me in 1979 – I was a 1st Year student going through that transition period where a big change in lifestyle has taken place. I still had my best friend from school but we hadn’t quite morphed into full-blown students yet (although that followed). Disco fever was still rife and if you loved dancing and getting dressed up there were plenty of places to go. I remember buying some yellow and black shiny material that I made into a skirt with a side split in the Student’s Union sewing room (yes there was one). Worn with footless tights and a black top that I’d cut diagonally across the front leaving one arm free and one covered, I was all set to boogie. If you were a student, it wasn’t cool to like disco music, dress in shiny clothing or go out dancing but we were clinging onto a bit of our old lives for a while yet. By the following year I had found myself a boyfriend and instead of dancing, we sat up late listening to Leonard Cohen and Bob Dylan. The shiny clothes went and we started buying our “student uniforms” in charity shops and workwear outlets. But during that last disco-frequenting summer of 1979, we made the most of the sounds of Mr White and his high energy brand of music. RIP Maurice.

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Boogie Wonderland Lyrics (a song for dancing to, so bear that in mind!)
(Song by Jon Lind/Allee Willis)

Dance, boogie wonderland
Ha, ha, dance
Boogie wonderland
Midnight creeps so slowly into hearts of men who need more than they get
Daylight deals a bad hand to a woman who has laid too many bets
The mirror stares you in the face and says,”Baby, uh, uh, it don’t work”
You say your prayers though you don’t care; you dance and shake the hurt

Dance, boogie wonderland
Ha, ha, dance
Boogie wonderland
Sounds fly through the night; I chase my vinyl dreams to Boogie Wonderland
I find romance when I start to dance in Boogie Wonderland
I find romance when I start to dance in Boogie Wonderland
All the love in the world can’t be gone
All the need to be loved can’t be wrong
All the records are playing and my heart keeps saying
“Boogie wonderland, wonderland”

Postscript:

The striking Earth, Wind and Fire album covers were by Japanese artist Shusei Nagaoka and usually featured an Egyptian theme – Maurice White had conceived the name of the band from his star sign Sagittarius which has the elemental quality of Fire and seasonal qualities of Earth and Air. This all contributed to the band’s colourful and mystical style. As I’ve said before, I miss album cover art – It was most definitely a very special art form.

Sir Terry Wogan, A Sad Pudsey and “The Floral Dance”

Didn’t anticipate when I started the blog last month that it would become an obituary column for so many stars from the world of entertainment. Since Christmas we have lost Lemmy from Motorhead, Natalie Cole, David Bowie, Alan Rickman, Glenn Frey and as of last weekend, “National Treasure” Sir Terry Wogan. I can only hope they are all having a wonderful celestial time with Sir Terry acting as the host of BBC Heaven’s newest and best ever chat show.

I used to finish each post with the comment that I hoped it would be a long time until I had to write about the passing of another legend but I am starting to realise that this will certainly not be the case. Until 1952 there were no music charts to speak of and it was not until the 1960s that television became universal in homes. Since then there has been an explosion of easily accessible visual entertainment and the multitude of stars we have grown up with are as familiar to us as our family – We look upon them as our friends. Until recently, most of the really high profile deaths in the music world were down to tragic circumstances but now the deaths are much more age-related. Yes, the baby boomers are getting older and sadly we will have to start saying goodbye on a much more regular basis. Won’t dwell any longer on this sad fact but am now prepared for this kind of news when I switch on the radio in the morning.

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Sir Terry Wogan

Cannot end this short post, which should really reflect the soundtrack to my life, without mentioning that Terry Wogan himself actually entered the charts in 1978 and even appeared on Top of the Pops with a song called The Floral Dance which was written way back in 1911. (Apparently it had been one of his father’s favourites and he used to sing it whilst in the bath.)

The Brighouse and Rastrick Brass Band had been successful with an arrangement of the same song the previous year so now Terry was having some fun with it making it all the way to No. 21 in the UK Singles Chart. It was most definitely a comedic version and was mainly for the amusement of his millions of “Wake Up To Wogan” listeners. Although hated by serious music fans, there is part of me that is still glad that songs like this made it onto TOTP. There aren’t many vehicles for the novelty song nowadays, yet something so very British about it all – An eccentricity sadly missed.

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Floral Dance Lyrics
(Song by Kate Moss – the other one!)

I thought I could hear the curious tone
Of the cornet, clarinet and big trombone
Fiddle, ‘cello, big bass drum
Bassoon, flute and euphonium
Far away, as in a trance
I heard the sound of the Floral Dance

As I walked home on a Summer night
When stars in Heav’n were shining bright
Far away from the footlight’s glare
Into the sweet and scented air
Of a quaint old Cornish town

Borne from afar on the gentle breeze
Joining the murmur of the summer seas
Distant tones of an old world dance
Played by the village band perchance
On the calm air came floating down

I thought I could hear the curious tone
Of the cornet, clarinet and big trombone
Fiddle, ‘cello, big bass drum
Bassoon, flute and euphonium
Far away, as in a trance
I heard the sound of the Floral Dance
I heard the sound of the Floral Dance

And soon I heard such a bustling and prancing
And then I saw the whole village was dancing
In and out of the houses they came
Old folk, young folk, all the same
In that quaint old Cornish town

Every boy took a girl ’round the waist
And hurried her off in tremendous haste
Whether they knew one another I care not
Whether they cared at all, I know not
But they kissed as they danced along

And there was the band with that curious tone
Of the cornet, clarinet and big trombone
Fiddle, ‘cello, big bass drum
Bassoon, flute and euphonium
Each one making the most of his chance
All together in the Floral Dance
All together in the Floral Dance

Dancing here, prancing there
Jigging, jogging ev’rywhere
Up and down, and round the town
Hurrah! For the Cornish Floral Dance

Glenn Frey, The Eagles and “Lyin’ Eyes”

After last week’s shock news of the death of David Bowie, I had hoped it would be some time before the blog would end up being about the death of another ’70s rock legend but here we are again. Woke up this morning to the news that Glenn Frey from The Eagles had died yesterday aged 67.

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Got me thinking that we are maybe at the tipping point, where our post-war baby boomers who entered the music industry in the ’60s and ’70s and by their own admission lived a hedonistic drug-fuelled lifestyle, are now maybe running out of luck. I don’t know the details of his death and don’t really want to delve into all that, but a pattern is definitely emerging here. Again, as with Bowie, I am really sorry for his family and friends who will no longer be able to spend time with him but for the rest of us, we will always have those fantastic songs.

I have decided therefore to make today’s featured song Lyin’ Eyes from 1975 as it was one of The Eagles’ early ones where Frey performed lead vocals. If this blog is supposed to reflect the soundtrack to my life, Lyin’ Eyes definitely played a large part in forming the soundtrack to the mid ’70s. I was still at school and not really old enough for pubs and clubs, but local bands were regularly booked to play the town and village halls in our area. Their music of choice tended to be cover versions of songs by soft rock bands such as The Eagles, and Lyin’ Eyes (all 6 minutes of it) was most definitely a favourite. If a boy you weren’t too keen on asked you to dance, but you were far too polite to refuse, it was a very long song.

Lyin’ Eyes by The Eagles:

By the time we got to 6th year at school, everyone owned their Greatest Hits 1971-1975 album and many an evening was spent hanging out with friends listening to it. I have just double-checked but already knew that Lyin’ Eyes was track number 3 on side 1. I miss that nowadays with digital downloads – We knew exactly where, on every piece of vinyl, our favourite tracks lay. The technology of the day didn’t involve touchscreens or keyboards, you simply had to pick up the arm of the record-player and place it gently on the record – If you had good control and eyesight you could seamlessly jump straight to the song of choice and in my case it was often Lyin’ Eyes.  RIP Glenn.

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Lyin’ Eyes Lyrics
(Song by Don Henley/Glenn Frey)

City girls just seem to find out early
How to open doors with just a smile
A rich old man
And she won’t have to worry
She’ll dress up all in lace and go in style

Late at night a big old house gets lonely
I guess every form of refuge has its price
And it breaks her heart to think her love is
Only given to a man with hands as cold as ice

So she tells him she must go out for the evening
To comfort an old friend who’s feelin’ down
But he knows where she’s goin’ as she’s leavin’
She is headed for the cheatin’ side of town

You can’t hide your lyin’ eyes
And your smile is a thin disguise
I thought by now you’d realize
There ain’t no way to hide your lyin eyes

On the other side of town a boy is waiting
with fiery eyes and dreams no one could steal
She drives on through the night anticipating
‘Cause he makes her feel the way she used to feel

She rushes to his arms,
They fall together
She whispers that it’s only for awhile
She swears that soon she’ll be comin’ back forever
She pulls away and leaves him with a smile

You can’t hide your lyin’ eyes
And your smile is a thin disguise
I thought by now you’d realize
There ain’t no way to hide you lyin’ eyes

She gets up and pours herself a strong one
And stares out at the stars up in the sky
Another night, it’s gonna be a long one
She draws the shade and hangs her head to cry

She wonders how it ever got this crazy
She thinks about a boy she knew in school
Did she get tired or did she just get lazy?
She’s so far gone she feels just like a fool

My, oh my, you sure know how to arrange things
You set it up so well, so carefully
Ain’t it funny how your new life didn’t change things
You’re still the same old girl you used to be

You can’t hide your lyin eyes
And your smile is a thin disguise
I thought by now you’d realize
There ain’t no way to hide your lyin’ eyes
There ain’t no way to hide your lyin’ eyes
Honey, you can’t hide your lyin’ eyes

Alan Rickman, The Sheriff of Nottingham and Bryan Adams

I am in disbelief – only four days into this blog and another of my heroes has died. Again at 69 and again of cancer. Didn’t know he had been ill.

Thought I’d first really noticed Alan Rickman in Truly, Madly, Deeply – A lovely little film with Julia Stevenson but it turns out that Die Hard came out first where he brilliantly played the villain Hans Gruber. He was familiar to me then, so he must have appeared on TV shows and films prior to that. He seems to have been the kind of actor who never played the leading man but kept popping up in supporting roles and stole the show. In Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves, he definitely stole the show playing the villainous Sheriff of Nottingham. Kevin Costner was at the peak of his career around this time and although the film was a great success, I thought he was a bit underwhelming in it (give me Errol Flynn’s Robin Hood any day). Alan Rickman on the other hand turned in an amazing dramatic and comedic performance totally outshining his fellow actors. He has of course appeared in many, many films and theatre productions since, but most of us will remember him best as The Sheriff of Nottingham, Severus Snape in the Harry Potter movies and as Emma Thompson’s foolish husband in Love Actually.

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Alan Rickman playing The Sheriff of Nottingham

Thinking back to 1991, I remember going to see Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves with my boyfriend (now husband) after returning from an early summer holiday in Greece. It was June, the start of summer, and we were already sporting glorious suntans. Little did I think that the title track from the movie (Everything I Do) I Do It For You, would still be at the top of the UK Singles Chart in October, long after the suntans had faded. Poor old Bryan Adams – He still holds the record for the most weeks at No. 1 in the UK and although it wouldn’t have done his bank balance any harm, for those of us who used to get quite excited about what topped the charts (sad I know), it ruined most of 1991. We ended up getting quite cross with Mr Adams through no fault of his own. All those people who didn’t usually buy records, rushed out to acquire it after enjoying the film. The same phenomenon happened three years later when Four Weddings and a Funeral was released. All those fans of the film went mad for Wet Wet Wet’s version of Love Is All Around and we had yet another summer long monopolisation of the No. 1 spot.

(Everything I Do) I Do It For You by Bryan Adams

Anyway, I have now forgiven Bryan Adams for commandeering the 1991 chart and listening to the song again I have to concede that it is quite pleasing to the ear. And, a piano intro again, which seems to be forming a pattern here. I will now, as well as enjoying David Bowie’s back catalogue this weekend, look out for some Alan Rickman films to watch. Two heroes gone in four days, and both only 69 – Enough now. RIP Alan.

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(Everything I Do) I Do It For You Lyrics
(Song by Bryan Adams)

Look into my eyes – you will see
What you mean to me.
Search your heart, search your soul
And when you find me there you’ll search no more.

Don’t tell me it’s not worth tryin’ for.
You can’t tell me it’s not worth dyin’ for.
You know it’s true:
Everything I do, I do it for you.

Look into your heart – you will find
There’s nothin’ there to hide.
Take me as I am, take my life.
I would give it all, I would sacrifice.

There’s no love like your love
And no other could give more love.
There’s nowhere unless you’re there
All the time, all the way, yeah.

Look into your heart, baby…

Oh, you can’t tell me it’s not worth tryin’ for.
I can’t help it, there’s nothin’ I want more.

Yeah, I would fight for you, I’d lie for you,
Walk the wire for you, yeah, I’d die for you

David Bowie, “Life on Mars?” and The Mortality Reality Check

Ironically I had already chosen this day, 11th January 2016, to start a blog. The idea behind it was to jot down those memories conjured up by a random piece of music heard in the course of the day. And what a day it turned out to be. News broke this morning, as we were all waking up, that David Bowie had died after an 18 month struggle with cancer. I had noticed a few days earlier that he’d just released a new album to coincide with his 69th  birthday (suddenly prolific in his later years after a long gap with little output), but like most of us I was unaware that he was so ill. A video clip showed him with stylish short cropped hair, smartly dressed, but looking old I thought which made me sad. Sad perhaps because of my own mortality. If our musical heroes were getting old then so must we. This morning’s news confirmed that “The Man Who Fell To Earth” was indeed not immortal.

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Only three times in my life can I remember this much media attention having been paid to the death of a person from the world of music, and they were:

Elvis Presley, who died the day I went back to school after the long summer holidays in 1977. I was only 17 and had been a big Elvis fan mainly because of the movies we had watched on television and then the massive events that were the ’68 Comeback Special and the ’73 Aloha from Hawaii concert broadcast live around the world. In a career stretching back to the mid 1950s it’s sad that so many only remember Elvis in the later jumpsuited, Vegas years when until the early 1970s he truly was still the King of Rock and Roll.

John Lennon, shot down by Mark Chapman at the end of 1980. I was a 20-year-old student at the time and stayed in bed most of the morning listening to BBC Radio 1 which played the music of both The Beatles and Lennon himself. Andy Peebles, a DJ of the day had recently recorded an interview with Lennon, so he found himself suddenly the man of the moment in terms of contributing to the day’s output.

Michael Jacksonthe King of Pop. It was June 2009 and we had just come back from my daughter’s school’s version of Britain’s Got Talent.  She was one of eight performers that night (one of three solo singers) and was by far the youngest entrant at 13. After tremendous praise from our local panel of celebrity judges who forecast her being “snapped up by Simon Cowell”, she ended up not being placed so was upset. A tremendous rush of adrenaline following weeks of preparation which led to disappointment and the low that comes with it. It was when we got home that we heard of the death of Michael Jackson and as we watched footage of him as a very young boy totally outshining his brothers with his singing and dancing, it did make me glad that my 13-year-old daughter had perhaps had her wings clipped as I can think of very few child stars who have gone on to have a long and happy life.

And now we have Mr Bowie. At 69 he has actually had a long life compared to the others listed above who died at 42, 40 and 50 respectively. It is sad that his family and friends will no longer be able to talk with him, work with him and spend time with him but I am not sure if it is true that it is “sad” for the rest of us who did not know him other than through his work. It is more a massive shock that someone who has been around for such a long time as part of the fabric of Britain’s music culture, is suddenly no longer with us. Back to the mortality, reality check. It is sad that his body of work is now complete but what a body of work to leave – It will be added to, new material will be found and it will be reworked for as long as people have the appetite to do so. With a creative force such as Bowie whose work never did fit neatly into a particular genre or period, it will keep on appealing to new fans.

So back to the original premise to this blog – The random piece of music heard in the course of the day. I’m going to pick Life On Mars?

Life On Mars? by David Bowie:

I have watched many video clips of Ziggy Stardust today and heard much analysis of how Bowie pushed boundaries with his androgyny, but here’s the thing, when Life on Mars? hit the charts in June 1973, I was just a 13-year-old girl who loved Top of the Pops and Radio 1’s chart show. I sat poised with my cassette recorder and microphone on a Thursday night at 7.30pm desperately trying to capture my favourite songs with no annoying applause or voice-overs. I liked Life on Mars? a lot, because it’s a great sounding song, but at 13 I really wouldn’t have understood what androgyny meant and having taken in lots of telly from the mid ’60s onward, he was just another flamboyantly dressed pop star (we’d had the hippy era already and glam rock was well and truly underway by this time). Looking now at the lyrics, they are fairly bizarre and my 13-year-old self wouldn’t have given them much thought. The weirdest thing about Life on Mars? foray into the charts is that it coincided with The Laughing Gnome’s second release after failing miserably to make an impact first time around in 1967. Not part of his grand plan to have both songs around at the same time I imagine but the economics of the recording industry being as they are, his former record company weren’t going to miss out on an income stream from a now popular artist.

My older self now sees what a massive a creative talent David Bowie was and I look forward to revisiting his back catalogue as we all do when something like this happens. When I said earlier that he was just another flamboyantly dressed pop star I will concede that he was indeed the most flamboyant of them all. The striped, sleeveless swimsuit affair and the one-legged jumpsuit ensembles are still deeply troubling to look at today! I will try to make sense of it all although I am not entirely sure we were ever meant to. He was unusual in that he was primarily an actor and artist whose biggest success came in the music industry. Only an actor could reinvent himself, so often, so successfully, into so many great characters.

But when all’s said and done I would just like to know, once and for all, how to pronounce his name – Is is Bow-ie or Bo-wie?  Still working that one out but maybe that’s how it should be for the master of reinvention.  RIP David.

Life On Mars? Lyrics
(Song by David Bowie)

It’s a god-awful small affair
To the girl with the mousy hair
But her mummy is yelling “No”
And her daddy has told her to go
But her friend is nowhere to be seen
Now she walks
through her sunken dream
To the seat with the clearest view
And she’s hooked to the silver screen
But the film is a saddening bore
For she’s lived it
ten times or more
She could spit in the eyes of fools
As they ask her to focus on

Sailors fighting in the dance hall

Oh man!
Look at those cavemen go
It’s the freakiest show
Take a look at the Lawman
Beating up the wrong guy
Oh man! Wonder if he’ll ever know
He’s in the best selling show
Is there life on Mars?

It’s on America’s tortured brow
That Mickey Mouse has grown up a cow
Now the workers have struck for fame
‘Cause Lennon’s on sale again
See the mice in their million hordes
From Ibiza to the Norfolk Broads
Rule Britannia is out of bounds
To my mother, my dog, and clowns

But the film is a saddening bore
‘Cause I wrote it ten times or more
It’s about to be writ again
As I ask you to focus on…

Postscript:

A brilliant television series, first shown in 2006 was also called Life On Mars. The main character Sam Tyler went back in time to join the 1973 Manchester Police Force. It had a really clever fantasy-esque plotline and a great soundtrack of ’70s songs which made it a must-watch show, especially for me. It was inevitable that Life On Mars? the song, would be heavily used throughout the whole series and probably contributed to it becoming my favourite Bowie song.