Doris Day, Calamity Jane and Another Hollywood Legend Gone

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

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

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

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

What's It All About?

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

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

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

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Another Serious Post: A Much-loved Cousin who was “Football Crazy”

I had a long and sad journey to make yesterday as my 56-year-old cousin, who was diagnosed with MND nearly four years ago, finally lost his battle with that horrible “locked-in” disease. Down to the excellent round-the-clock care given to him by his mum and sisters, he outlived most other victims post diagnosis, but everyone knew it was time for his suffering to end and his friends turned out in droves to his memorial service in Aberdeen. It was standing room only and I don’t think I’ve ever been to a service where quite so many middle-aged men found it impossible to control their emotions. The main reason for this outpouring of emotion – Football.

My cousin didn’t have a glittering career or ever earn vast sums of money but he worked hard, raised a family and was a loving father, son and brother. From an early age however, his passion was football, and for nearly 35 yrs he played in the many Junior and Amateur leagues run within The Granite City. Apparently he was still playing at age 50, just two years before his diagnosis. Facebook is awash with tributes to him and of his many exploits on the pitch. He had played with, and captained, many teams over the years so knew the entire footballing fraternity and they had nothing but good things to say about him – A legend, a true gent, a prankster, a great friend, and so it went on.

There is a dearth of quality football songs out there, so I’m just going to go with the obvious choice, Football Crazy, a song written back in the days of yore but made popular by Robin Hall and Jimmie Macgregor when they regularly performed their version of it on the Tonight programme back in the early 1960s. I don’t remember watching this show back then (just too young), but I must have recognised the theme tune as I always knew when “Ciff” (that would be Cliff Michelmore) came on the telly, it was time for bed (we didn’t climb the stairs to Bedfordshire where I came from).

Strangely enough, last Saturday I went to our football stadium for the first time in nearly 20 years to watch the local team. DD’s boyfriend, who looks after the team’s physical (and often mental) welfare, got us tickets for the section where the player’s wives, kids and mums sit. They probably go to every home match and build up that familiarity and camaraderie from spending so much time together. I watched friends meet up for their weekly fix of football; old men turning up in their scarves who have probably been fans since they were lads; and the staff who kept everything running like clockwork – A massive footballing family. It was nice.

This week we have had the freaky scenario where two English teams who were not expected to come back with a win on aggregate, did just that – Even fans of other teams, usually fierce rivals, have come out and congratulated them on those fantastic wins. Just at the time we were supposed to have left the EU, both Liverpool and Tottenham Hotspur are on their way to Madrid and the Champion’s League Final. There’s going to be an English winner now whatever the outcome.

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This time last week I wasn’t really thinking much about football at all, but as with my cousin, if it has played a large part in your life you could be one of the lucky ones as you are part of one big family. Many of the middle-aged men at yesterday’s service had walked, ran and climbed improbable distances and heights to raise money for a vehicle for their old team-mate. They called it the Stephen-Hawking-mobile and there were many great outings in it. There have also been fund-raising dinners for MND and the many other charities who supported him and his family over the last few years. I don’t know for sure, but I doubt very much if my old work-mates would do the same for me.

On a personal level, one of the player’s mums sitting behind me at last weeks match turned out to be a carer at my mum’s nursing home. I had thought she looked familiar but out of context I couldn’t place her. Having now met with her this week at the home, I realise my mum will now potentially be even better looked after, as I am now (somewhat loosely) attached to her son’s team.

So, a sad week for my family, but as ever at these events it was great to meet up with people whom I have been out of touch with for a long time. Plans are now being made for me to keep in touch with everyone and contact details have been exchanged. It seems unfair that people who are the healthiest, fittest, kindest and most generous can be dealt such a cruel blow, but no-one ever said life was fair.

Until next time…

Football Crazy Original Lyrics
(Song by James Curran)

I have a favourite brother
And his Christian name is Paul.
He’s lately joined a football club
For he’s mad about football.
He’s got two black eyes already
And teeth lost from his gob,
Since Paul became a member of
That terrible football club.

For he’s football crazy,
He’s football mad,
The football it has taken away
The little bit o’ sense he had,
And it would take a dozen servants
To wash his clothes and scrub,
Since Paul became a member of
That terrible football club.

In the middle of the field, one afternoon,
The captain says, “Now Paul,
Would you kindly take this place-kick
Since you’re mad about football?”
So he took forty paces backwards,
Shot off from the mark.
The ball went sailing over the bar
And landed in New York.

His wife, she says she’ll leave him
If Paulie doesn’t keep
Away from football kicking
At night-time in his sleep.
He calls out ‘Pass, McGinty!”
And other things so droll
Last night he kicked her out of bed
And swore it was a goal!

Peter Tork, The Monkees and “Shades of Gray”

Saddened to hear the news that Peter Tork of the Monkees has died. Since starting this project, where I journey back in time reminiscing about the music of my youth, it has become apparent that it all started for me at around the age of six, which in my case was 1966. Coincidentally that was when the Monkees first made an appearance on our black and white television screens, and although I was aware of other artists who popped up on the prime time slots watched by my mum and dad, the Monkees belonged to me.

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Peter Tork, RIP

I am sorry Peter, but the Monkee I was most infatuated with at age six, was Davy Jones, and one of the first posts I published on this blog was about him (link here). But you Peter, were the Howard Donald of the Monkees. You weren’t the cutest or the zaniest; you had a bowl haircut, didn’t wear a hat and were the oldest of the group; but like Howard of Take That fame, in time you became my favourite Monkee.

Despite being an accomplished Greenwich Village folk musician when you got the role in the sitcom that would change your life, at the start you weren’t even allowed to play your own instruments. That would change with time however, and you became the man in charge of keyboards and bass. You didn’t get the role of star vocalist very often, but here is a lovely song where you did share lead vocals with Davy Jones. Shades of Gray (American spelling of grey) is also very apt for this post, as it starts off with the lines:

When the world and I were young
Just yesterday
Life was such a simple game
A child could play, (yes, that would have been 1966 for me)

and ends with the verse:

But today there is no day or night
Today there is no dark or light
Today there is no black or white
Only shades of gray, (oh yes, as our politicians can testify, how complicated life has become in 2019)

Shades of Gray was another of those great ’60s songs written by Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil. It was recorded by The Monkees for their 1967 album “Headquarters” and was the first song on which the group played all their own instruments.

But here is another great song from that era, the clip this time in colour, where the boys are wearing those iconic dark red shirts with the silver buttons. Of course back in 1966 we wouldn’t have known their shirts were red, would we, because we watched telly in black and white? But here is where I beg to differ. Our local football team, Aberdeen FC played in red, and whenever their matches were aired on television, the grey of their shirts matched the grey of the Monkees shirts. At age six I was obviously pretty good at working out what the colours should be, based on the shades of grey of the various team shirts. Living in a football loving household meant you developed all sorts of useful skills of a televisual nature.

Last Train To Clarksville by the Monkees:

Tommy Boyce and Bobby Hart wrote Last Train To Clarksville as a protest to the Vietnam War but had to keep that quiet in order to get it recorded. It is about a guy who gets drafted, and the train is taking him to the army base. He knows he may die in Vietnam, and at the end of the song he states, “I don’t know if I’m ever coming home.”

Peter Tork was one of the many artists of my youth to have been born in 1942, right in the middle of a World War, but yet a vintage year for the birth of future musical legends (what was that all about?). Unlike in 2016, when I started this blog, I haven’t actually written any tributes so far this year. Cross fingers there won’t be too many more, but considering the span of time I write about here, I suspect there will be. A great chance to revisit the music though, and I have a feeling that a lot of people who had all but forgotten about the Monkees, might have had a sneaky peek at an old clip of Daydream Believer yesterday – I know I did.

the monkeesUntil next time…

Shades of Gray Lyrics
(Song by Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil)

When the world and I were young
Just yesterday
Life was such a simple game
A child could play
It was easy then to tell right from wrong
Easy then to tell weak from strong
When a man should stand and fight
Or just go along

But today there is no day or night
Today there is no dark or light
Today there is no black or white
Only shades of gray

I remember when the answers seemed so clear
We had never lived with doubt or tasted fear
It was easy then to tell truth from lies
Selling out from compromise
Who to love and who to hate
The foolish from the wise

But today there is no day or night
Today there is no dark or light
Today there is no black or white
Only shades of gray

It was easy then to know what was fair
When to keep and when to share
How much to protect your heart
And how much to care

But today there is no day or night
Today there is no dark or light
Today there is no black or white
Only shades of gray
Only shades of gray