Sleepless Nights, “Please Mr. Postman” and Songs About Aretha

Tuesday, 21st August, 9.30am

Well, as I sit down to start blogging for the first time in a couple of weeks, I feel a little nauseous – No, not at the thought of blogging, but because half and hour ago I had to leap out of bed and get ready to face the day at breakneck speed. The reason for this haste? – I didn’t want to embarrass myself in front of the postman!

This sounds ridiculous I know, but since giving up work last year I’ve been able to have a more laissez-faire attitude to becoming suited and booted by 8am every morning. Problem is, once you log on for the day, the hours and minutes can whizz by and I sometimes find myself still in pyjamas when the doorbell rings, knowing full well it will be our smiling postman, with some parcel or other I have to sign for. I probably imagine it, but he makes me feel like a tardy teen who has been festering under the duvet, as opposed to a busy bee who has already put on a washing, tidied the kitchen, paid a few bills and checked the various email accounts. To compensate I end up gibbering, telling him about everything that is going on in my life, but a nice little exchange all the same. My friend the postman is the only person other than my family (and the blogging fraternity who very kindly take the time to read my posts) who knows of the journey I have been on over the last year, since deciding the world of the paperless office was not for me.

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As this blog always features a song or two, this would therefore seem like the perfect time to squeeze in something I have long wanted to include, Please Mr. Postman. Now this is a song I am very familiar with as one of my favourite duos, the Carpenters, got to No. 2 in the UK Singles Chart in 1975 with their version. It started out however as the debut single for the Marvelettes and in late 1961 became the first Motown song to reach the No. 1 spot on the Billboard Hot 100. The Beatles started performing it as part of their live set at the Cavern Club in 1962 and also included it on one of their first albums. Here is a great clip from those days, the boys dressed in their very smart suits complete with snake hips and mop top haircuts. They would have had no idea back then of what was yet to come.

Last time the Beatles cropped up around these parts was when I did a compare and contrast (link here) between their version of Ticket to Ride and the slower paced one, yet again, by the Carpenters. Seems like a good time to offer up both versions of Mr Postman then (although I won’t inflict the Carpenter’s official Disney-themed video clip on you). Which one do you prefer, or would it be the original by the Marvelettes that floats your boat?

Please Mr. Postman by the Carpenters:

But I digress and have yet to explain my morning nausea caused by leaping out of bed at such speed. I woke up last night at 3.30am, which is fairly normal for me, but I usually get back to sleep at some point and get a few extra hours in before the 7 o’clock alarm goes off. Last night however I didn’t, as I had committed the cardinal sin of surfing the net on my phone before going to sleep as I still hadn’t worked out the angle I was going to take when I eventually get round to writing my Aretha Franklin tribute. Not so long ago, after “experiencing” the song I Say A Little Prayer at great volume on the car radio, I wrote another compare and contrast post (link here). The Aretha version of course won hands down, but other than that I’m finding it difficult to find a personal connection to her music. I can see how she came along at just the right time, when America was going through a period of massive change, but having been born about 20 years later in rural Scotland, other than appreciating that great voice and the passion with which she sang, nothing much else for me to write about.

aretha
Aretha Franklin 1942- 2018

So, the last thing I did last night before switching off my phone was to visit some of the other blogs in my little circle to remind myself what they had written about Aretha. Last week, even before it was announced she had passed away, CC over at Charity Chic Music had posted something very fitting and then Rol dedicated the whole weekend on his My Top Ten blog to the lady and her music. Both of these dedicated daily bloggers chose to include the song Aretha by Rumer and that was the cause of last night’s sleeplessness – After listening to it twice before turning the lights out, it was the first thing to enter my head when I woke up at 3.30am and subsequently formed an earworm for the rest of the night however hard I tried to get back to sleep. As earworms go it’s a very pleasing one, and quite a soporific one you would have thought, Rumer having a voice not that dissimilar to the late great Karen Carpenter. But no, last night it just didn’t work out that way at all.

Aretha by Rumer:

Typically though, once Mr WIAA said goodbye and headed off to work, I slipped into a deep, deep earworm-free sleep, waking up far too late, thus the mad panic to get up and dressed before the postman’s inevitable ring of the doorbell. I made it, just, and so avoided that feeling of guilt at not being up and at it yet. Despite often talking gibberish of a morning, I decided that to recount the tale of the “Rumer earworm” was taking casual conversation a tad too far, so on this occasion resisted – Lucky chap!

As for the tribute song, I may not have had a personal connection to Aretha and her music, but the narrator in this song certainly does – All about a girl who goes to school listening to Aretha Franklin on her headphones. Like the fate of so many others, she’s having trouble there, and as her mother seems to be suffering from depression, she doesn’t have anyone to turn to. Fortunately Aretha comes to life in her imagination, encouraging her to stand up for herself and strike out on her own. The songwriter was asked why she chose Aretha Franklin: “She’s the Queen of Soul. If you’re going to write about somebody who embodies the spirit of music itself you go to the top of the list – and there she is. Her voice is probably the closest you get to God. There’s an incredible amount of passion and heartbreak in her voice as she’s lost a lot of family members. She’s just got something in her voice that puts her at the top of the tree and there’s no negotiation.” And on that note, I think I’ve just written my tribute post.

Until next time, RIP Aretha Franklin.

Aretha Lyrics
(Song by Steve Brown/Sarah Joyce)

I got Aretha in the morning
High on my headphones and walking to school
I got the blues in springtime ’cause I know that I’ll never have the right shoes

Mamma she’d notice but she’s always crying
I got no one to confide in, Aretha nobody but you
Momma she’d notice but she’s always fighting
Something in her mind and it sounds like breaking glass

I tell Aretha in the morning
High on my headphones and walking to school
I got the blues in springtime ’cause I know that I’ll never have the right shoes

You got the words, baby you got the words
You got the words, baby you got the words

“Oh Aretha
Aretha, I don’t want to go to school
‘Cause they just don’t understand me and I think the place is cruel”

“Child singer, raise your voice
Stand up on your own, go out there and strike out”

I tell Aretha in the morning
High on my headphones and walking to school
I got the blues in springtime ’cause I know that I’ll never have the right shoes
But I got the words

“Rollermania” and Me – A Tribute to Alan Longmuir RIP

A couple of months ago, I was finally coerced into writing about my teenage relationship with the Bay City Rollers, and had a fond couple of days revisiting some of the memorabilia (unbelievably) still in my possession. When looking back, it became apparent there would have been no BCRs had founder member Alan Longmuir, along with his brother Derek, not persevered and pestered until they found success. He was definitely the shyest of the bunch however, and at times found it tough being the oldest member of what we now would call a “boy band”. I was sad therefore to hear it announced today that Alan has died in hospital aged only 70 – The first of the Rollers to leave us.

They were ill-equipped in the early ’70s to cope with the kind of international success they achieved and it is well known they ended up with little of the vast riches that must have accrued from the tours and sale of albums. As for Alan, that didn’t seem to faze him, and humble until the end he used to tell friends and family – “I was just a plumber from Edinburgh who got lucky.” RIP Alan Longmuir.

What's It All About?

Welcome to this occasional series where I share the contents of my archive box of teenage memorabilia. I always knew these random bits and pieces would come in handy some day, but little did I think back in the 1970s that they would find their way onto such a thing as a “blog”, courtesy of that as yet unthought of invention, the world wide web!

I’ve been threatening to write this post for a while, and it seems the time is right, coming at the end of a trilogy of posts inspired by my recent trip to Edinburgh. On our last day there we met some friends in an area of the city called The Meadows, a large green space near the Old Town. Bordering the Meadows is a large building which I discovered was Edinburgh’s Royal Infirmary, however in days gone by it was called Simpson’s Hospital. And why…

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Seven in Seven #5: Eddy Amoo, The Real Thing and “You To Me Are Everything”

Day Five of my challenge to write seven posts in seven days….

I’m seriously starting to flag now and noticed that I’d pressed the publish button last night without changing the tags, or finishing the post title. All sorted now but it seems my kind of blogging is not short and snappy enough for a daily post, and however hard I try I can’t seem to make them any shorter.

There is a reason for this self-imposed madness however – I have applied for a course at our local college and have the interview next week. I am unsure whether I have enough spare time on my hands to take up the mantle of being the Highlands’ oldest undergraduate, so needed to test the water. Will no doubt keep you all informed on progress however, as I do love to “over-share”.

Inverness-College.jpgI mentioned earlier this week that I’d not written a single tribute this year for anyone from the world of music. I usually rely on Mark over at So It Goes… to keep me updated on who has indeed passed away, as he is usually first off the mark (pun intended). Today he has written about Eunice Gayson, the first Bond girl, who apparently died yesterday at the age of 90. Back in February, Mark announced the passing of Eddy Amoo from the group The Real Thing. I jotted this down in my “blogging notebook”, as they were definitely a group whose songs feature heavily in the tracks of my years.

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Eddie Amoo

If like me you turned 16 in 1976, you will remember that it was dubbed the Long Hot Summer, and for teenagers it was a great time to be alive. We had far more freedom in those days and I don’t think sunscreen had even been invented yet. We lived in blissful ignorance of the damage the sun could wreak on our future middle-aged skin, so just kept topping it up with cooking oil to ensure we turned a “healthy” golden brown. I spent a lot of time that summer with friends at the local youth club. This was the last year we were deemed age-appropriate to attend, as once you turned 17 you were cast out into the world of pubs and “discotheques” – All very grown up, and not at first as comforting as our old youth club, so we made the most of that last summer where it was our fellow school chums who chose and spun the discs.

But I digress – The reason I mention the legendary summer of ’76 is because one of the songs we loved to dance to at the aforementioned youth club was this one, You To Me Are Everything by The Real Thing. It reached the No. 1 spot in July and stayed there for three weeks. It still makes me smile, for in my subconscious it will always be linked to that long, hot summer, when being a teenager was a lot less stressful than it is today. Perhaps it was because of those trousers we used to wear – Who could get hot and bothered with all that fabric flapping about?

You To Me Are Everything by The Real Thing:

The Real Thing were from Liverpool and became the most successful black British group of the 1970s. Although they prided themselves on writing their own material, brothers Chris and Eddy Amoo decided they needed to be more commercial in order to get radio play. With this pop/soul classic, penned by Ken Gold and Michael Denne, they did just that, with bells on. Their follow up record, Can’t Get By Without You made it to the No. 2 spot later on that year.

What I hadn’t realised however was that Eddy Amoo had been in a group called The Chants back in the 1960s. They played the Cavern Club and once had the privilege of having the Beatles act as their backing band (much to the chagrin of Brian Epstein I should add).

chants
The Chants

After the commercial success of the mid ’70s started to wane, Eddy Amoo returned to the “message songs” he had always wanted to write. “I started to feel that I wanted to really project what had happened to me and the people that I’d grown up with in my songs,” he said. The Real Thing released “4 From 8”, an album exploring the four band members’ experiences of living in Liverpool 8, which covered the troubled Toxteth area. The album included Children of the Ghetto which has become a Liverpool favourite. Eventually it would be covered by Philip Bailey of Earth, Wind and Fire and Mary J Blige, making it a popular protest song.

RIP Eddy Amoo

You To Me Are Everything Lyrics
(Song by Ken Gold/Michael Denne)

I would take the stars out of the sky for you
Stop the rain from falling if you asked me to
I’d do anything for you your wish is my command
I could move a mountain when your hand is in my hand

Words cannot express how much you mean to me
There must be some other way to make you see
If it takes my heart and soul you know I’d pay the price
Everything that I possess I‘d gladly sacrifice

Oh you to me are everything
The sweetest song that I could sing
Oh baby, oh baby

To you I guess I’m just a clown
Who picks you up each time you’re down
Oh baby, oh baby

You give me just a taste of love to
Build my hopes upon
You know you got the power boy
To keep me holding on
So now you got the best of me
Come on and take the rest of me
Oh baby

Though you’re close to me we seem so far apart
Maybe given time you’ll have a change of heart
If it takes forever boy then I’m prepared to wait
The day you give your love to me won’t be a day too late

Postscript:

Don’t think it’s just me, but the set in that Real Thing clip looked very odd. Also, I felt there was something familiar about it. Back in my first year of blogging I wrote another Summer of ’76 post (link here) and one of the featured songs was this one, Get Up And Boogie by Silver Convention. I think they’ve been somewhat rearranged, but those “things” that litter the set are most definitely the same. Very odd indeed. Does anyone recognise the show these two 1976 acts might have appeared on?

Seven in Seven #1: A Gothenburg Great and A Truly Awful but Much-loved Football Song

As I had a birthday this week, and I am a full two and a half years older than I was when I first picked up this blogging mantle, I’m going to set myself the challenge of posting every day for a week. I know there are quite a few daily bloggers in my little circle, and I am full of admiration for what they do, but in my case it’ll just be a little experiment. Not expecting regular visitors to leave comments, and these are going to have to be much shorter posts than usual, but I have a bit of a backlog of ideas building up so here’s a chance to play catch up.

First of all, I am truly amazed that I have not yet written a tribute this year for anyone whom we’ve lost from the world of music. In January 2016, the month I first started blogging, I’d written three in my first 10 days. We’ve lost a few high profile comedians/all-round entertainers in 2018 and a few from the world of music who have meant a lot to others, but not necessarily to me. Last week however we lost someone from the world of sport who will not be known to many of you who visit this place, but who is partly responsible for one of the worst songs ever to find their way into my record collection. If this blog’s tagline is A Nostalgic Journey Through the Tracks of My Years, then this one has to be in there.

cup

Back in May 1983, Aberdeen FC won the European Cup Winners Cup and so began one of the best weeks of my life. My dad had been a life-long fan of the team, as was the boyfriend-of-the-time (the BOTT), so inevitably I got caught up in all the excitement that befalls your city when the local team is riding high. Sir Alex Ferguson worked his magic at Manchester United, as we all know, but I think some people forget he cut his teeth at Aberdeen.

One of the Gothenburg Greats, as they came to be known, was a young player called Neale Cooper and being a bit shallow at that age, we girls kind of all fell for his blonde hair and good looks. A couple of years down the line however I got to know his sister and she became part of our social circle – We in turn got to know Neale the man, as opposed to Neale the football player. He was a comedian and entertainer of the highest order and his impressions of Sir Alex were legendary. By a strange coincidence, not long after I left Aberdeen to move to the Highlands, Neale also moved north to take up football management so our paths crossed again. His kids, when they came along, were all around the same age as my daughter so their paths also crossed. It came as a massive shock last week to hear that he had died suddenly at the incredibly young age of 54. I know how close he was to his family, so know they will be bereft, but I really don’t think I’d realised just how well-loved he was by so many. The tributes have been flooding in from the world of football and from his many friends – The youngest of the Gothenburg Greats and sadly the first to leave us.

European_Cup_Winners_Cup_Final_1983But of course this is a music blog and the song that was very hastily put together for release ahead of the big final was this one – Simply called the European Song. Having just looked it up, it seems Neale wasn’t one of the players who turned singer for a day on the record, but the current Scotland manager Alex McLeish was, along with Willie Miller, Gordon Strachan, Eric Black, John Hewitt, Jim Leighton and Mark McGhee – All players who have gone on to great things in the world of football.

It truly is an awful song but as the lyrics said, “We’re gonna do it for you”, and they did, with bells on. There was gridlock on Union Street (the city’s main thoroughfare) that night, as everyone felt the need to come out and celebrate. In those pre-mobile phone days I lost track of the BOTT, but he emerged a day later on the cover of the Aberdeen Press and Journal, having scaled one of the city’s many statues, scarf in hand. When the team arrived back with the cup, we headed down to Pittodrie Stadium to greet them, and of course there was the obligatory tour of the city in an open top bus. A party was held in a local hostelry where we all had to wear red and white, and of course listen to the European Song, on repeat – Argh…, painful on the ears, but happy times indeed.

There was a reunion on the 11th May of all the Gothenburg Greats to celebrate the 35th anniversary of their big win. Neale had apparently been on good form that night but sadly, only two weeks later, there was one less Northern Light in Old Aberdeen.

Unknown

RIP Neale Cooper

European Song Lyrics
(Song by Harry Barry)

We are the Dons from Aberdeen
And we’re the finest that’s ever been
And we’re gonna do it for you
And we’re gonna do it for you

McLeish and Miller and Strachan too
They’ll lead us forward and take us through
And we’re gonna do it
We’re gonna do it
We’re gonna do it for you!

We’ve taken our team into Europe
Yes we have, Ooooh yes we have
All the way every night and day,
Singing a European song
Ooooh all the way every night and day,
Singing a European song

We can sing, and we can play
And Alex Ferguson, he knows the way
And we’re gonna do it
We’re gonna do it
We’re gonna do it for you!