Months of the Year in Song: December Departed

Yet again I’m up against a deadline, sneaking the latest edition of this series into the tail end of the month, and what a month it’s been. I had fully expected this edition to be a really festive one, full of jollity and Christmas songs, but for me, December 2022 has been memorable for the sheer number of deaths there have been both in the world of celebrity and closer to home.

The latest tally ‘closer to home’ is now seven deaths since the start of the month. None of them family or really close friends, but people I knew through their offspring, through work, or from my neighbourhood. Out there in the wider world the obituaries just keep on coming. Last night we heard of the death of Vivienne Westwood (would punk have happened in quite the same way without her?), and yesterday we also lost Pele, whose playing style probably gave football the moniker, ‘the beautiful game’. On Christmas Eve we lost Maxi Jazz, lead vocalist of British electronic band Faithless. To be honest, until reading a comment about him on another blog just before his death, I wouldn’t have known his name, but there can’t be many of us who weren’t aware of him. Such a striking man whose struggle with Insomnia gave us the dance track that even those of us who missed the Ibiza boat knew well. I’ve already written tributes for Christine McVie and Terry Hall this month, but we’ve also lost Jet Black of the Stranglers, and many others from the world of music and entertainment.

In clockwise direction: Vivienne Westwood and pals, Christine McVie, Terry Hall, Maxi Jazz, Jet Black

Insomnia by Faithless:


But this is supposed to be a post full of December songs and appropriately I’m going to kick things off with George Michael, who himself died on Christmas Day, 2016. That year had been incredibly cruel for losses but his death was the one that hit me hardest as his music had accompanied me throughout my entire adult life up until that point. I’ve shared his December Song (I Dreamed of Christmas) around here before, but no reason not to share it again.

December Song (I Dreamed of Christmas) by George Michael:


It always seems a bit odd listening to Christmas songs after the 25th so apologies for the timing of this post. Hope everyone who visits this place had a good time over the peak festive period, but I am also aware it can be a tough time for many. For the second year in a row we went out for Christmas lunch as it seemed high time that DD and the new fiancé gave it a bash. I can report back that everything went really well and I think she got a lot less stressed than I usually do when juggling so many dishes at the same time. When we got back home in the evening though it was just the two of us, so very different from the years when we had our own parents, Mr WIAA’s siblings and DD to entertain. Just the place we’ve reached on the conveyor belt of life I suppose.

DD’s Christmas table complete with fancy napkins!

Before I get on with the song suggestions, here is the bit of trivia I found really interesting back in September, but now find a bit boring and repetitive. Yes, yet again the month of December is named after a Latin number, this time ten, or decem, all because the Roman calendar used to have 10 months with a gap for an ‘unorganised winter’. Phew, think we’re done with all that now, so it should get a bit more interesting once we head into a new calendar year.

The first suggestion last time came in from Rick who thought the line, ‘I wanted to assassinate Christmas’, in the Teenage Fanclub song, December, was a really good one. First time this Scottish band has put in an appearance around here, so thanks Rick, and yes, a sentiment many of us probably agree with.


Our next pick came from Ernie Goggins who suggested Merle Haggard’s song, If We Make It Through December. Listening to the lyrics I can’t help thinking there must be many, many families out there thinking exactly the same thing this year. Sadly, the way things are going, I don’t think there will be much respite in January, or February, and the current incumbent at No. 10 is not going to offer up any easy fixes. But thanks Ernie, a new song for me, and I do like Merle’s voice despite the sad lyrics.

Got laid off down at the factory
And their timing’s not the greatest in the world
Heaven knows I been workin’ hard
Wanted Christmas to be right for daddy’s girl

I don’t mean to hate December
It’s meant to be the happy time of year
And my little girl don’t understand
Why daddy can’t afford no Christmas here


Next up we have a suggestion from Khayem who for the second time in this series came up with something from the band The The (I think he must be a big fan). Here are his own words:

‘Unsurprisingly, lots and lots of December songs out there, so I’m just going to stick with one, although it’s been re-recorded and covered several times over. It’s DecemberSunlight (no spacing) by The The. The original version appeared on the 2000 album NakedSelf.’

Thanks Khayem, and anyone who wants to investigate some of the many covers can find them in last month’s comments boxes (link here).


Rol promised to be kind this time, with fewer suggestions to drown me with. As it turns out, a couple of the songs he mentioned, I would have included myself anyway. First of all, I can’t write a December themed post without including this song from the Four Seasons. I always used to think it was simply called, Oh What a Night, but the official title is December, 1963 (Oh, What a Night). This time the lead vocals came from drummer Gerry Polci, with Frankie Valli just singing the bridge sections and backing vocals. Whenever I hear this song I am transported back to 1975 when our newly minted community centre was the focal point for teenage social life (no iPhones in those days). Most of our year at school headed along every Saturday night for the ‘disco’, where the decks were manned by some of our enterprising classmates. Fun times played out to songs like this one, and as I’ve said around here before, I think the Four Seasons provided the backdrop to my first kiss!

December, 1963 (Oh, What A Night) by the Four Seasons:


Another of Rol’s suggestions was this one, December, by Count Basie & the Mills Brothers. The Mills Brothers, originally known as the Four Kings of Harmony, were an American jazz and traditional pop vocal quartet who made more than 2,000 recordings that sold more than 50 million copies. They were active from 1928 to 1980 and were the first African-American artists to have their own show on national network radio in the US.

December by The Mills Brothers:


I am reminded of a Christmas several years ago when our blogging buddy Jez used to ask for suggestions for his very entertaining feature, The Chain. I’m not sure how it came about but I remember offering up this Mills Brothers song back then as I had it in my library, and no suggestions were ever rejected. As it turns out Jez isn’t very well at the moment, so if he reads this, we’re all wishing you well and hope you can get back to the important business of blogging soon. No pressure though, health comes first an’ all that.

A suggestion now from C of Sun Dried Sparrows fame. Here are her own words:

‘The first song that springs to mind for me is My<Dsmbr by Linkin’ Park featuring Kelli Ali – I know, you’d have thought they could have spelt it correctly, will it be disqualified on the grounds of having no vowels? I’m no Linkin’ Park fan usually, but I like Kelli Ali for her time with Sneaker Pimps and creator of some great solo material and there’s just something about this song that seems to fit the mood of the month.’

No, won’t be disqualified C, so lets give it a listen. Yes, I do hear what you say about it fitting the mood of the month. Thanks for this one.


This next song was alluded to by Rol, but it was left to Rigid Digit to come out and suggest it properly. December Will Be Magic Again, by Kate Bush from 1980. Kate, who now lives quietly in an English village, became the artist de jour this last summer after her 1985 song Running Up That Hill was used for an important scene in the hit television drama Stranger Things. After 37 years it finally made it to the top spot on the UK Singles Chart, Kate’s first No. 1 since Wuthering Heights in 1978. For some reason her Christmas song is not one of the staples you hear on the radio much nowadays, which is a great shame, as classic Kate Bush.


The final song for this post comes from our blogging pal The Swede, who has been conspicuous by his absence this festive period. I suspect he might be too jiggered for blogging after long shifts keeping the nation fed, but hopefully all is well with him. Here are his own words:

‘My suggestion for the next instalment in this series is Fred Neil’s cover of December’s Dream, a song that unfathomably remained unreleased in his lifetime. Fred’s voice can reduce me to a blubbering wreck at the best of times, but here he just about finishes me off. The original version of the song by John Braheny is also excellent.’

Crikey TS, I see what you mean about that song, it’s got me reduced to a blubbering wreck too. A new artist and song for me, but what a beautiful and pure voice he has. Thank you for that suggestion.


Right, that’s definitely your lot for this month, and for the 2022 segment of this series. The next edition will come out before the end of January so yet again I would be most grateful for any of your song suggestions for that month (but please be sparing as these posts take a lot out of a person – I was warned!).

It’s going to be a quiet Hogmanay for us this year as there has been a radical change in our neighbourhood over the last few years meaning that the people we used to party with have either moved away, suffered illness or sadly passed away. On a positive note, I went to visit my mum in her care home earlier today and despite many of them having come down with flu, she was in good spirits and sporting a hat made out of balloons in the shape of a reindeer. (They’d had a magician in to entertain.) The mum I used to know would never have contemplated wearing a balloon hat, but the mum I now have is much more fun-loving and up for anything, so a bit of a blessing really.

Whatever you do for Hogmanay, whether it be watching a firework display, heading off to a party, or cosying up in front of the telly, I hope you have a good one.

Until next time…

December, 1963 (Oh, What A Night) Lyrics
(Song by Bob Gaudio/Judy Parker)

Oh, what a night
Late December, back in ’63
What a very special time for me
As I remember, what a night

Oh, what a night
You know, I didn’t even know her name
But I was never gonna be the same
What a lady, what a night

Oh, I, I got a funny feeling
When she walked in the room
And my, as I recall
It ended much too soon

(Oh, what a night)
Hypnotizing, mesmerisin’ me
She was everything I dreamed she’d be
Sweet surrender, what a night

And I felt a rush
Like a rolling bolt of thunder
Spinning my head around
And takin’ my body under
(Oh, what a night)

Oh, I got a funny feeling
When she walked in the room
And my, as I recall
It ended much too soon

(Oh, what a night)
Why’d it take so long to see the light?
Seemed so wrong, but now it seems so right
What a lady, what a night

Oh, I felt a rush
Like a rolling bolt of thunder
Spinning my head around
And takin’ my body under

(Oh, what a night)
Do do do, do do, do do do do
(Oh, what a night)
Do do do, do do, do do do do
(Oh, what a night)
Do do do, do do, do do do do
(Oh, what a night)
Do do do, do do, do do do do.
..

He Was Special, He Was Fun: RIP Terry Hall

WIAA: Alyson, oh Alyson… ?

ALYSON: I know, WIAA, it looks as if I’ve gone AWOL the week before Christmas but year on year I get more and more nostalgic about days gone by and for all those Christmases spent with family and friends who are no longer with us.

WIAA: I suspected that might have been the case – I suppose it doesn’t help that this is a retrospective music blog where you revisit those festive songs enjoyed throughout your life, especially those from your youth.

ALYSON: Indeed. I will no doubt snap out of it before the big day but in the last few weeks: three of my close friends have lost a parent; last night I found out that an old work colleague had died suddenly at the age of 62; and today, I woke up to the awful news that Terry Hall has also died. He was only 63.

WIAA: Terry Hall?

ALYSON: You might not remember, WIAA, but he has appeared on these pages before, in the context of being attached to one of the most exciting new labels in the history of British music – 2 Tone Records. In fact the band he was in, The Specials, got the whole 2 tone movement started, something intrinsically linked to my time as a student, whilst I was still in my late teens. Such a great time to be alive.


You know what, WIAA, I think you’ve just snapped me out of my fug. The festive post can wait for now as instead I really want to pay tribute to Terry Hall, someone whose death is eliciting great sadness today in fans of a certain age.

My last post was about the death of Christine McVie, and I mentioned that the Fleetwood Mac album Rumours had found its way into my Christmas stocking in 1977. What I hadn’t said then was that it had been a gift from the school boyfriend. In 1979 the self-titled album The Specials also found its way into my Christmas stocking, and it was from the same boy, except this time he was the student boyfriend. We had parted company for quite some time after school but at the tail end of the ’70s we had found each other again and immediately reconnected, spending most of our free time together, listening to albums by artists like The Specials and Elvis Costello. I will always associate The Specials with that time in my life. Although it was really Jerry Dammers’ band, Terry Hall was the very stolid, ‘unjumpy’ lead vocalist, so much of the focus was always on him. Here they are with Too Much Too Young, a song from that first 1979 album.

Too Much Too Young by The Specials:


The music we were listening to was no longer the slick, soft rock made in studios on the West Coast of America, which suited the comfortable lives we had led in our parents’ warm homes whilst at school. Things had changed, we were now poor students dressed in charity shop finds, living in pretty grotty cold tenement flats and becoming aware of the social injustices documented in songs by bands like The Specials. Their music came on the back of punk but was combined with ska and rocksteady which also made it very danceable. It was right for the times.

The Specials were short-lived as a band but before they split they released this non-album single, Ghost Town, a song that spent three weeks at the No. 1 spot on the UK Singles Chart in 1981. Again it felt right for the times and evoked themes of urban decay, unemployment and violence in our inner cities, something that came to a head in the summer of 1981. The song was hailed as a major piece of popular social commentary, and all three of the major UK music magazines awarded Ghost Town the accolade of Single of the Year.

Ghost Town by The Specials:


After his time with The Specials, Terry Hall, along with Neville Staple and Lynval Golding formed the Fun Boy Three. This time the songs were less frenetic, less political and more… fun. They teamed up with Banarama for a couple of single releases and even recorded a beautiful cover of the standard, Summertime. Here is the song Terry wrote with Jane Wiedlen of the Go-Go’s during their short-lived romance, My Lips Are Sealed. Both bands released the song as a single but of course on their respective sides of the pond. Needless to say the Fun Boy Three version did best on the UK Singles Chart reaching the No. 2 spot in 1983. (Terry’s hair definitely looking a bit different from when he was with The Specials – ’twas the times.)

Our Lips Are Sealed by Fun Boy Three:


But Terry never stood still for long (no pun intended) and by 1984 he had formed another band The Colourfield. Their first album was full of really beautiful songs like this one, Thinking Of You. He was still just in his mid-20s but was now a very different artist to the one who signed up with The Specials only seven years earlier. I too was a very different person in my mid-20s to the one who had first discovered The Specials in 1979. The world of work had beckoned and the flats had got nicer. The city I lived in, Aberdeen, was experiencing a bit of an oil boom, so the lyrics to those earlier songs didn’t really resonate with me or my friends any more. The school/student boyfriend and I didn’t last the distance, and we eventually parted company just as Terry’s time as a chart artist was also coming to an end. Terry would never be as commercially successful again in terms of record sales, but I’m glad he carried on making new music, collaborating with other artists right up until his untimely and premature death.

RIP Terry Hall

So, ‘What’s It All About?’ – I’m sorry I’ve not managed anything festive yet this year, but still time hopefully. I’ve been having one of those intense spells of contacting bereaved friends, and organising flowers & sympathy cards. Just as you hope there’s going to be a bit of a respite something like this comes along, an artist you haven’t really been following for a long time dies suddenly, and all the memories from a certain period in your life come flooding back. I’ve been trying to remember what other albums I got as a gift from the same boyfriend, as that’s two now that have featured in back to back tribute posts – I won’t say, as I don’t want to tempt fate, but as we music bloggers of a certain age always say, it’s kind of inevitable that we’re going to be writing tribute posts on a more regular basis as time goes by.

My condolences to Terry’s family and friends who along with his many fans will be grieving today.

Until next time… RIP Terry Hall.


Our Lips Are Sealed Lyrics
(Song by Terry Hall/Jane Wiedlin)

Can you hear them talking ’bout us
Telling lies? Is that a surprise?
Can you see them, see right through them?
They have a shield, nothing must be revealed
It doesn’t matter what they say
No one listens anyway
Our lips are sealed

There’s a weapon that we can use
In our defense, silence
Well, just look at them, look right through them

That’s when they disappear, that’s when we lose the fear
It doesn’t matter what they say
In the jealous games people play
Our lips are sealed
It doesn’t matter what they say
No one’s listening anyway
Our lips are sealed

Hush, my darling, don’t you cry
Guardian angel, forget their lies

Can you hear them talking ’bout us
Telling lies? Well, that’s no surprise
Can you see them, see right through them?
They have a shield, nothing must be revealed
It doesn’t matter what they say
In the jealous games people play
Our lips are sealed
Pay no mind to what they say
It doesn’t matter anyway
Our lips are sealed
Our lips are sealed
Our lips are sealed

She Came From Cumbria and Was Perfect: RIP Christine McVie

I was saddened to hear of the death of Fleetwood Mac’s Christine McVie last week. I’m a bit late with this tribute now, but as I’ve mentioned around here before, if I drew a graph of all the songs I’ve revisited by year of release, the peak would land at 1977, as that seems to have been the year when most purchases were made, and the most listening was done. Put it down to the fact I was still at school so other than the annual diet of exams to sit I had few other distractions to get in the way of hanging out with friends, and listening to music. It was inevitable therefore I would have a copy of Rumours, Fleetwood Mac’s multi-platinum selling album from 1977, which held the top spot on the US charts for a staggering 31 weeks.

It wasn’t a given that I would ever have owned that album, as they were not a band I followed, but its status meant it would find its way into my metaphorical Christmas stocking (vinyl not a good fit for such receptacles). At the time, I didn’t know much about the background to the making of the album – the breakdown of the romantic relationships within the band – as we just didn’t have access to such intimate knowledge back then. Looking at the track listing now however, I realise that the band member with the most songwriting credits on Rumours was Christine McVie. She mined a rich seam of inspiration when writing about her split with founding band member John McVie. Christine was probably also the best singer in the band, and an accomplished keyboard player, but back then I didn’t really attribute specific songs to individual band members so am stupidly only realising this now.

Here she is singing You Make Loving Fun from Rumours, a song about her new boyfriend apparently, the band’s lighting engineer (although his tenure in that post was understandably short-lived).

You Make Loving Fun by Fleetwood Mac:


When reading of her death I was surprised to learn she was aged 79. Somehow I always think of that generation of musician to have been a contemporary of the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, and others of that ilk who first found fame in the early 1960s. But of course Christine wasn’t always attached to Fleetwood Mac. Before her marriage to John McVie she was Christine Perfect (what a great name) and had been a member of several bands on the mid-1960s British Blues scene, notably Chicken Shack.

After helping them out as a session player for a couple of years, Christine formally joined Fleetwood Mac in 1970. A big change in personnel came about in 1974 when Lindsey Buckingham and Stevie Nicks joined the band – this seems to have been the spark that propelled them to stratospheric success. It must have been tough for the older Christine to have another woman join the band, especially the young and striking Stevie, but from all accounts it caused no issues at all, which says a lot about her professionalism and dedication to the band’s success.

Here is another of her songs from Rumours, Songbird. It was a bit of an obvious and lazy choice for inclusion, when journalists wrote about her death last week, but having listened to it again several times it really is a beautiful song that showcases her talent as both a songwriter and singer, so I have no qualms about sharing it here too.

Songbird by Fleetwood Mac:


Before I go I just want to share an interesting phenomenon. I was having a late night text message exchange with DD recently, and the subject of favourite bands came up. I told her mine and she told me the three she currently liked listening to best. The first two were contemporary and expected, but the third surprised me as it was Fleetwood Mac! The younger generation have become exposed to the music of Fleetwood Mac via Stevie Nicks who has appeared as herself on one of the really successful Netflix dramas, American Horror Story. I was also up in the loft yesterday and found a box containing all sorts of ephemera DD has left behind, which will need sorting out at some point, but what surprised me was that there was a canvas where she had made a picture using the Rumours album cover. It just goes to show, with streaming services like Spotify now being the vehicle used for listening to music, albums from 45 years ago can become contemporary favourites again with the young. Didn’t see that coming when I first listened to it back in 1977. Also good to know that the beautiful singing voice of Christine McVie, will live on for subsequent generations.


Until next time… RIP Christine McVie.

Songbird Lyrics
(Song by Christine McVie)

For you, there’ll be no more crying
For you, the sun will be shining
And I feel that when I’m with you
It’s alright, I know it’s right

To you, I’ll give the world
To you, I’ll never be cold
‘Cause I feel that when I’m with you
It’s alright, I know it’s right

And the songbirds are singing
Like they know the score
And I love you, I love you, I love you
Like never before

And I wish you all the love in the world
But most of all, I wish it from myself

And the songbirds keep singing
Like they know the score
And I love you, I love you, I love you
Like never before
Like never before
Like never before

Thoughts of the Week, The Dark Island and Highland Cathedral

I have been music blogging long enough by now to know which subject matters are best avoided – generally football, weddings and the Royal Family. I can’t however ignore the momentous news that our monarch of 70 years died last Thursday at her beloved home in Aberdeenshire, a place very close to my own heart. It came as a bit of a shock in the end, as only two days earlier she had carried out a very important piece of constitutional business, inviting the new leader of the Conservative Party to form a government. That has almost been forgotten about now.

Balmoral Castle in Aberdeenshire

Whatever your thoughts on the place of the monarchy in our national life, someone who was probably the most famous and recognised person in the world has left us, and news channels around the world are covering every step of what happens in the aftermath of such an event.

I seem to be alone in my little corner of the blogosphere, but I have been deeply affected by this massive change in the status quo. Prime Ministers come and go, recessions come and go, wars come and go, but throughout my lifetime the Queen has always been there, on the stamps, the money, giving Christmas broadcasts… . It’s a lot to take in that she is gone for good.

As someone who is a bit of a ‘quitter’ when the going gets tough, who found it hard to juggle work and motherhood, and who has not always kept her own counsel when it would have been wise to do so, I have always admired the many qualities the Queen had in spades. To have suddenly found herself thrust into the ‘big job’ at the tender age of 25 must have been frightening, especially as she was a mother to two young children at the time, but few can question her dedication and work ethic over the 70 years of her reign. There will never be another like her and I suspect things will change quite significantly, both at home and around the Commonwealth, now that she has gone.

The Queen’s coffin leaves Balmoral

Another reason why Mr WIAA and myself have been quite deeply affected by the Queen’s passing, is because we both also lost a parent quite suddenly, and have been reliving the raw emotion that came with it. My mother-in-law was abroad on holiday when she died, and my own dad went into hospital for a routine operation but didn’t ever wake up. They were both 25 years younger than the Queen was when they died – far too young. As for my own mum who now lives in a local care home, but who no longer recognises me, she is of the same generation as the Queen and all through the decades looked just like her. Because of the fashions of the day many of us probably say that about our mothers, but no, my mum always looked just like her. Not many of that wartime generation left now.

Because we have been reliving sad moments over the last few days, I am going to share the two pieces of music used at our own parents’ funerals. The first is called The Dark Island and it was the theme tune to a 1962 television series of the same name set in the Outer Hebrides. Mr WIAA’s parents were from different corners of England but they met whilst on holiday on the Isle of Skye in the 1950s and after watching this TV drama, once married with children, they decided to move to the Highlands of Scotland permanently. The second piece of music is called Highland Cathedral and is often heard at Scottish cultural events. We used it for my dad’s funeral but I hadn’t reckoned on choking up every time I now hear it, which is often.

The Dark Island by Leigh Garden:

Highland Cathedral:


So, ‘What’s It All About?’ – I don’t quite know why everyone has chosen to make no mention of the fact the Queen has died, and I might be committing ‘sidebar suicide’ by doing so, but this place is also my web-diary so it would be weird for me not to.

My place of birth has been showcased in all its glory over the last few days, and I hope others will appreciate why the Aberdeenshire countryside held such a special place in the Queen’s affections. Likewise, Scotland’s capital city, where we had a wonderful Blogger’s Summit earlier in the year, has never looked better. After today the focus will turn to London and all that that entails, but if it was her time, I think the Queen would have been content that she ended her days quietly in Scotland, the only Queen Elizabeth we ever had.


Until next time…


The Dark Island Lyrics
(Song by David Silver/Iain McLachlan)

Away to the westward, I’m longing to be
Where the beauties of heaven unfold by the sea
Where the sweet purple heather blooms fragrant and free
On a hill-top, high above the Dark Island


Oh Isle of my childhood I’m dreaming of thee
As the steamer leaves Oban, and passes Tiree
Soon I’ll capture the magic, that lingers for me
When I’m back, once more upon, the Dark Island

So gentle the sea breeze that ripples the bay
Where the stream joins the ocean, and young children play
On a strand of pure silver, I’ll welcome each day
And I’ll roam forever more, the Dark Island

True gem of the Hebrides, bathed in the light
Like a midsummer dawning, that follows the night
How I long for the cry, of the seagulls in flight
As they circle high above the Dark Island

From Xanadu to Singin’ In The Rain, in Two Steps (of a Roller Skate)

When someone from the world of music leaves us, as Olivia Newton-John did a couple of weeks ago, many of us revisit their back catalogue and also end up watching footage of them we might not have viewed in decades, indeed, if ever.

Last weekend I decided it was high time I watched the film Xanadu, as it’s been mentioned many times since her death, yet it’s something I’ve never seen. The soundtrack album, packed full of songs by both Oliva and the band ELO, was a massive success all over the world (pun intended) and of course I know many of them well. The film however was still a mystery to me. It didn’t do well when it came out in 1980 which is why I probably didn’t see it back then, but having just watched it twice over the last two days (for research purposes of course), I’ve found it a total delight.


I can see why it was a bit of a flop when it came out as it didn’t neatly fit into any particular genre, and audiences going to see Olivia reprise her role as Sandy in the film Grease would have been sorely disappointed. But if you’re fairly open-minded when it comes to your film entertainment, and can wave reality goodbye as you start to watch, Xanadu has a bit of everything. In fact it’s totally bonkers in places, but all the better for it. Animated scenes, a bit of Old Hollywood glamour, lots of roller-skating, girls dressed as Disney princesses, dancers straight out of Studio 54, Mary Poppins-inspired rooftop scenes, big bands, rock bands, country and western bands, leg warmers, tuxedos, circus performers, Greek mythology, the Ready Brek special effect and girls turning into shooting stars. I could go on but you probably get the gist. The love story was the least believable aspect of the whole film, as the male lead was a bit angry and petulant most of the time whereas Olivia’s character Kira was sweetness personified, but hey, this was a film best suited to children under 12 I think, so we couldn’t have had too much raunchiness.

The songs were what it was all about though, and the whole film built up to this final musical scene when Olivia Newton-John breaks free from her ‘daughter of Zeus’ character, and sings the title song, Xanadu. As I said last time in my tribute post to her, she truly was the golden girl at that time and never more so than in this scene – literally everything about her is golden, her skin, her hair and her clothes. The song was written by Jeff Lynne of ELO and it reached the No. 1 spot on the UK Singles Chart in 1980, when the film came out.

And, Xanadu by ELO:


But for me, the most thrilling aspect of the whole film was that Gene Kelly had a main role. He played Danny McGuire, a former big band orchestra leader turned construction mogul, who together with Kira’s love interest Sonny Malone, builds a new night club in a beautiful old art deco building where aforementioned barminess takes place. There’s a big band but also a rock band, the colours are neon bright, and in the opening few seconds of the Xanadu scene, Gene leads out the dancers on roller-skates.

Gene on his roller-skates

Growing up, I was a massive fan of Gene Kelly, and I loved watching all those great 1940s and 50s musicals he starred in. Even at age 68 – which he would have been at the time of filming – he still cut a dash, and still had that dazzling smile and twinkle in his eye that catches your breath. I was yet again smitten, as I used to be as a teenager watching him in films like An American in Paris and Singin’ in the Rain. Gene was very nifty on his roller-skates in Xanadu, but of course he should have been, as he was probably the first person to choreograph an entire tap dance routine whilst wearing them. Here is a clip from the film It’s Always Fair Weather from 25 years earlier (the really impressive bit starts at 2:08), but there is no doubt Gene ‘still had it’ in 1980.


Of course I know the film Xanadu won’t be for everyone, but I think I now get why all those male music bloggers around a decade younger than myself have been so upset by the death of Olivia Newton-John. I think they were probably just the right demographic for her at the peak of her popularity.

Personally, it’s yet another mortality reality check. Although Olivia was around a decade older than me when she died, she always played someone (very successfully) around my own age. When I was 18, she played the 18-year-old Sandy Olsson in Grease, and I’m sure Kira in Xanadu would have been aged around 20 in 1980, which I also would have been. Since starting this blog, we’ve lost an awful lot of the artists of my youth – it’s a bit of a sobering thought.

But I don’t want to end on a morose note. Gene Kelly lived a long life and has gone down in history as having been one of Hollywood’s greatest stars. An actor, dancer, singer, filmmaker, and choreographer – he could do it all, with bells on. I will end with that most famous of scenes from one of the best musicals ever made. I don’t have an audio clip of Singin’ in the Rain sung by Gene but I do have one by someone else. Full marks if anyone can tell me who it is?

Singin’ in the Rain by Matt Monro:


Until next time… RIP Olivia, RIP Gene.

Singin’ In The Rain Lyrics
(Song by Arthur Freed/Nacio Herb Brown)

I’m singing in the rain
Just singing in the rain
What a glorious feeling
I’m happy again
I’m laughing the clouds
So dark up above
The sun’s in my heart
And I’m ready for love

Let the stormy clouds chase
Everyone from the place
Come on with the rain
I have a smile on my face
I walk down the lane
With a happy refrain
And I’m singing
Just singing in the rain

I’m singing in the rain
Just singing in the rain
What a glorious feeling
I’m so happy again
I’m laughing the clouds
So dark up above
The sun’s in my heart
And I’m ready for love

Let the stormy clouds chase
Everyone from the place
Come on with the rain
I have a smile on my face
I walk down the lane
With a happy refrain
And I’m singing
Just singing in the rain

The Golden Girl with Great Hair and a Fine Voice: Farewell Olivia Newton-John

I was away from home last week, meeting up with old friends of the same age. When we heard the news that Olivia Newton-John had died, we all felt a great sadness, not particularly because we were big fans but because she was part of our teenage years and not really that much older than us. Poor Olivia had been treated for the illness that finally took her life several times over the last 30 years, so in some ways she got more time than many others with the same diagnosis. She certainly put that time to good use becoming both an advocate for breast cancer research, and an activist for environmental and animal rights causes.

There weren’t many pinups of female music artists in the magazines I bought as a young teenager – they were all full of Donny Osmond, David Cassidy and the Bay City Rollers – but amazingly I found this one of Olivia in my box of teenage memorabilia, a box that’s provided a lot of material for this blog. I can’t be quite sure when that picture was taken but I’m guessing it’s from 1972/73 before she changed her hair to the long layered style that suited her so well. She was a regular throughout all four series of Cliff Richard’s prime time television show and families like mine would always tune in on a Saturday night. It wasn’t edgy entertainment and no boundaries were pushed, but for households who had probably only recently acquired colour sets, it was must-watch telly.

A pinup from FAN magazine

She was the golden girl with wholesome good looks, great hair and a fine voice. In the early ’70s she had hits in the UK with If Not For You, Banks of the Ohio and Take Me Home Country Roads. She was also chosen to represent the UK in the Eurovision Song Contest in 1974 with this very lacklustre song, Long Live Love, which even she herself admitted to not liking. She still came fourth however as back then we tended to do pretty well every year. Changed days (until this year of course). She looks as if she’s wearing her nightie and seems to be overcompensating for the poor song with her enthusiastic arm movements. A perfect example of how the contest was at that time though and nothing like the extravaganza it has now become. (And, as a fan of Eurovision it’s inevitable I would have had this song in my music library!)

Long Live Love by Olivia Newton-John:


Perhaps it was the ignominy of coming fourth in the contest that led to her wholeheartedly try her luck in the US and with the support of fellow Australian Helen Reddy ( who herself died only two years ago) she was soon the golden girl over there too, scoring several No. 1 hits on the Adult Contemporary Chart, one of them being I Honestly Love You. Again nothing edgy there and no boundaries pushed but Olivia was a ‘nice’ girl, who was never going to do anything to shock, ever. Or was she?

There can’t be many of us who have never heard of the 1978 film musical Grease, as it has become a bit of a cultural phenomenon. Set in late 1950s California, it follows the lives of 10 students as they navigate their final year of high school. It took a bit of persuasion, and a screen test, to convince her she could play a teenager, but eventually Olivia was cast as Sandy Olsson, the ‘nice girl’ who fell for ‘bad boy’ Danny Zuko, played by John Travolta. What is it with Olivia and nighties but here she is again dressed in one, singing Hopelessly Devoted to You from the film, a song that earned an Oscar nomination.

Hopelessly Devoted to You by Olivia Newton-John:


Ok, so Olivia is still the nice girl we are used to seeing on screen, dressed in her nightie, singing pleasant songs suited to the Adult Contemporary chart. What we didn’t expect was this, the scene that wrapped up the movie, after which she flies off into the sunset in a car called Greased Lightnin’ with aforementioned bad boy Danny Zuko. The nightie has gone, to be replaced by black skin-tight trousers (that she had to be sewn into every day of shooting), a black leather jacket, teased hair and red lipstick. This was not the Olivia we were used to seeing and she certainly set a lot of teenage boys’ pulses racing. It has been pointed out many times this last week that the plotline perhaps doesn’t stand the test of time and that it couldn’t be made the same way nowadays. They are right of course, but in 1978 I had just turned 18, and for me and my friends it was just a light-hearted movie full of great songs and dance routines that we didn’t take too seriously. For Olivia, You’re the one That I Want, made her a bit of a superstar.

You’re the One That I Want by John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John:


After the film Grease, Olivia adopted a slightly raunchier persona, even getting Physical, but just like with her ‘transformation’ in the film, I think we all knew that deep down she was still the same girl who used to appear on Saturday night telly with Cliff Richard. In 1980 they even recorded a duet together, Suddenly, for the film Xanadu. It has ridiculous lyrics (motions and oceans) but it’s a love song and I have always liked it, so a good clip to end with. Olivia was no longer the guest star in Cliff’s universe, the tables had turned and he was now a guest in hers.

Suddenly by Olivia Newton-John and Cliff Richard:


So, yet another of the artists I grew up with has left us. Farewell Olivia, the golden girl who sounds as if she truly was a beautiful person inside and out. She will be missed by all who knew her.


Until next time…

Suddenly Lyrics
(Song by John Farrar)

She walks in and I’m suddenly a hero
I’m taken in my hopes begin to rise
Look at me can’t you tell I’d be so
Thrilled to see the message in your eyes
You make it seem I’m so close to my dream
And then suddenly it’s all there

Suddenly the wheels are in motion
And I, I’m ready to sail any ocean
Suddenly I don’t need the answers
Cos I, I’m ready to take all my chances with you

How can I feel you’re all that matters
I’d rely on anything you say
I’ll take care that no illusions shatter
If you dare to say what you should say
You make it seem I’m so close to my dream
And then suddenly it’s all there

Suddenly the wheels are in motion
And I, I’m ready to sail any ocean
Suddenly I don’t need the answers
Cos I, I’m ready to take all my chances with you

Why do I feel so alive when you’re near
There’s no way any hurt can get thru
Longing to spend every moment of the day with you

Suddenly the wheels are in motion
And I, I’m ready to sail any ocean
Suddenly I don’t need the answers
Cos I, I’m ready to take all my chances with you

‘We May Never Pass This Way Again’ – RIP Jim Seals

It’s become a bit of a thing in our house that rarely an hour, heck 10 minutes goes by, without me saying, ‘I’ve written about that song’. Yes, the songs I revisit around here are generally well-known classics that regularly pop up on mainstream radio, and on the soundtracks to television dramas. Every now and again a lesser known song I’ve written about pops up however, and that happened the other day when I heard We May Never Pass This Way Again by Seals & Crofts on the radio, a song that was new to me around five years ago and one I immediately fell in love with. It wasn’t until the folowing day that I realised it had been played because one half of the duo, Jim Seals, had died, or passed as we euphemistically like to call it.

Regulars around here will know that I’m a bit of a fan of 1970s soft rock and Seals and Crofts fitted that genre nicely. It wasn’t until I delved into them a bit more that I discovered all sorts of connections to other songs written about earlier on in this blog. It was a fun post to write so I’m going to share it again. Jim was 80 when he died, so not one of those tragic departures like we’ve had of late, but of course for his family, friends and fans he will be sadly missed. RIP Jim Seals.

Seals and Crofts, England Dan and ‘We May Never Pass This Way Again

First published 25th July 2017

Early on in my days of blogging, long before I kind of lost the plot as to what it was all supposed to be about (that would be a nostalgic journey through the tracks of my years), I covered the soft rock classic I’d Really Love To See You Tonight by England Dan and John Ford Coley (link here). My previous post before I had a break for the summer featured Summer Breeze by The Isley Brothers which has always been a favourite of mine, but, whilst doing a bit of research as to its provenance I made a wonderful discovery. The song was not indeed written by the Isley Brothers as I had always thought but by the writing duo Seals and Crofts, Jim Seals being the older brother of Dan Seals, or England Dan as he became known because of his great love for the Beatles.

Although from Texas, that nickname was given to him by big brother Jim after he briefly affected an English (or was it Liverpudlian?) accent. And this is what my blog was always supposed to be about – finding out the backstory to the songs and artists of my youth. There is so much more information out there now (ok some might be a bit dubious) but back in the day, all we had was Jackie magazine and a few more worthy publications – we lived in blissful ignorance, which was perhaps a good thing in light of a few revelations of late, but as you may have guessed I am a bit of a rock & pop ‘facts and figures’ aficionado, so for me, this brave new digital world is just perfect.

So, what follows on from Summer Breeze? Well by good fortune I heard a song on the car radio the other day by none other than Seals and Crofts and was immediately smitten by it – Like little brother’s output, the music of Jim Seals and his singing partner Darrell ‘Dash’ Crofts, fitted nicely into the soft rock camp which now seems to have become a bit of a derogatory term but when it comes to rock I have always preferred mine to be of the soft rather than the hard variety anyway (and my listening to be easy as opposed to difficult). These genres and labels we give music truly baffle me as at the end of the day there is music of great quality and music that really is a bit rubbish, but there is also music that just gives lots of pleasure, to lots of people, and this song does that for me. The Carpenters whom I featured recently (link here) also came from the soft rock camp and the passage of time, and Karen’s tragic death, seems to have erased any preconceptions many had about their output. When it comes to music of quality, it doesn’t get much better than The Carpenters.

We May Never Pass This Way Again by Seals and Crofts:

The song We May Never Pass This Way (Again), from 1973, didn’t ever enter the UK Singles Chart but it did reach No. 21 on the Billboard Hot 100. I can honestly say I don’t remember ever having listened to Seals and Crofts before (neither can Mr WIAA) but theirs was very much the kind of music that was all pervasive during my teenage years. Originating in southern California, soft rock was a style that largely featured acoustic guitars and slow-to-mid tempos – simple, melodic songs with big, lush productions. I very much doubt if we called it soft rock back then but when listening to the radio from the early ’70s onward much of what we heard was by bands and artists such as Anne Murray, John Denver, Linda Ronstadt, Rod Stewart, Carole King, Cat Stevens, James Taylor, Toto, England Dan & John Ford Coley, the Eagles, Chicago, America and the reformed Fleetwood Mac whose ‘Rumours’ was the best-selling album of the decade. In the late ’70s, prominent soft rock acts included Boz Scaggs, Michael McDonald, Christopher Cross and Captain & Tennille. A lot of albums were brought in to school and exchanged amongst friends for the very naughty practice of home-taping. Good to know such illicit activity doesn’t happen today!

Since we are featuring big brother Jim’s song in this post, I can’t leave little brother Dan out, so here is another soft rock delight, this time from the late ’70s. Love Is The Answer was written by Todd Rundgren and was a hit for England Dan and John Ford Coley in 1979. Although I loved this soundtrack to my teenage years, we weren’t really awash with visuals in those days and YouTube was still a few decades away. This sounds really shallow but I am quite glad now as somehow these lush love-songs sound better when you don’t think of the moustachioed pair who sang them. My bedroom walls at the time may have had an array of good-looking boys on them, but when it just came down to the lyrics, who wouldn’t want ‘a ticket to paradise’?


Until next time….

We May Never Pass This Way (Again) Lyrics
(Song by Jim Seals/Dash Crofts)

Life, so they say, is but a game and we let it slip away.
Love, like the Autumn sun, should be dyin’ but it’s only just begun.
Like the twilight in the road up ahead, they don’t see just where we’re goin’.
And all the secrets in the Universe, whisper in our ears

And all the years will come and go, take us up, always up.
We may never pass this way again. We may never pass this way again.
We may never pass this way again.
Dreams, so they say, are for the fools and they let ’em drift away.

Peace, like the silent dove, should be flyin’ but it’s only just begun.
Like Columbus in the olden days, we must gather all our courage.
Sail our ships out on the open sea. Cast away our fears
And all the years will come and go, and take us up, always up.

We may never pass this way again. We may never pass this way again.
We may never pass this way again.
So, I want to laugh while the laughin’ is easy. I want to cry if it makes it worthwhile.
We may never pass this way again, that’s why I want it with you.

‘Cause, you make me feel like I’m more than a friend.
Like I’m the journey and you’re the journey’s end.

We may never pass this way again, that’s why I want it with you, baby.
We may never pass this way again. We may never pass this way again.
We may never pass this way again. We may never pass this way again

Big Voice, Big Performances, Big Personality: RIP Meat Loaf

Well, after writing a couple of themed posts, I fully intended to use this week’s effort to pay tribute to some of the people from the world of film and music we’ve already lost this year. First there was Sidney Poitier, then Ronnie Spector, and last week R. Dean Taylor, all of whom have appeared around here over the years in some guise. But I’m a music blogger of a certain vintage and the artists I grew up listening to are inevitably now of an even older vintage and we are losing them at an alarming rate. Few of us yesterday could have failed to notice who else has just been added to the growing list of ‘those we have lost in 2022’.

RIP Meat Loaf 1947-2022

He hailed from a big state, and was a big man with a big voice who gave big performances. Marvin Lee Aday is not a name many of us would have been familiar with but when you mention the name Meat Loaf, all that changes. The amount of time dedicated to him on mainstream news channels yesterday proved that. The last tribute I wrote was about another man from Texas, Mike Nesmith. He was primarily a singer who became an actor. Meat Loaf was primarily an actor who became a singer, and it showed. Like long-term collaborator Jim Steinman (who sadly died last year) he had a background in musical theatre, so when they came to making their first album together, Bat Out of Hell, it was very much in that vein – a tough sell to record companies in the mid-1970s.

Bat Out of Hell by Meat Loaf:


Considering it was such a tough sell, it’s remarkable to think that it’s now clocked up over 500 weeks on the UK Albums Chart and sold over 43 million copies worldwide. (I have a feeling those numbers will now rise for a time as always happens after the sudden death of a much-loved artist).

We often go in circles around here and it wasn’t lost on me that my original plan to write about Ronnie Spector today could possibly have led to Bat Out of Hell anyway. Working in the opposite direction, The Meat Loaf album is often compared to the music of Bruce Springsteen, and in particular his album Born to Run. Bruce’s album is often noted for it’s Phil Spector-like ‘Wall of Sound’ arrangements and production, used so effectively when recording Ronnie’s albums with the Ronettes. Others may choose to disagree, but I’m buying that connection.

Two Out of Three Ain’t Bad by Meat Loaf:


The album cover for Bat Out of Hell is a very familiar one to most of us of a certain age as even if we didn’t own it ourselves (I never did), we had friends who would have done. Here is where the ‘memory’ part of this post comes in. Back in 1978 when the album was unleashed on an unsuspecting nation, I had just finished school and moved into the city to start life as a student. The familiar routines had all gone, the school boyfriend and I had parted company for a time, and many of my friends had moved elsewhere in the country. Some thrive on such new beginnings, but I’m not ashamed to admit that I didn’t, and was a bit of a lost soul that first term.

By good fortune, my across-the-corridor neighbour in our halls of residence came from a village only about 10 miles from where I grew up. By a quirk of geography she had gone to a different secondary school but it turned out she knew a lot of people from my village and we soon became friends, always heading to the dining hall together for meals (very scary to enter that cavernous hall on your own – some risked starvation as they avoided it completely). When we weren’t studying we often visited each other’s rooms and although I had brought my cassette player from home, she had her record player and the album Bat Out of Hell. We listened to it often and I seem to remember the combination of Meat Loaf, a bit too much Leibfraumilch, and falling down the steps to our corridor one evening, led to a trip to A&E for me the following morning. It turned out to be just a sprain, but I felt bad, as although my exams had already finished, my new friend (who came with me) had one that afternoon. I think she did ok however as she spent much of her time in the hospital waiting area revising.

Paradise by the Dashboard Light by Meat Loaf with Karla DeVito:


Music wise, I’ve barely scratched the surface here but despite not making any money from that first album (a common theme it seems for 1970s artists), Meat Loaf continued to make new albums for decades to come, so made up for it later in life. There were fallings out with Jim Steinman who understandably felt as the creative force behind the albums he was being overlooked, but fortunately they made up down the line. The pair of them will possibly be up there right now, contemplating Bat Out of Hell IV. (A bit of a contradiction in terms!)

Meat Loaf and Jim Steinman

As for me, the loss of Meat Loaf will not affect me greatly, but as ever you feel for their family and friends who will miss them immensely. Is it because we are all getting older ourselves that we start to wonder when we will be at that age when never a week goes by without losing someone from our personal lives. It’s getting closer all the time and things I had never contemplated when I started this blog only six years ago (wills and pensions) have started to rear their heads.

When we lose someone from the world of music however, we can’t help but remember what we were doing when they released their seminal album, and I have enjoyed revisiting that time when my new friend and I were 18-year-old freshers, and a bit wet behind the ears. The album was played at many a party that year (when we plucked up courage to go) but I will remember it most from those evenings spent in her student room – Haven’t seen her for nearly 40 years so perhaps time to visit ‘the socials’ and see what she’s up to.

Until next time… RIP Meat Loaf.

Bat Out Of Hell Lyrics
(Song by Jim Steinman)

The sirens are screaming and the fires are howling
Way down in the valley tonight.
There’s a man in the shadows with a gun in his eye
And a blade shining, oh, so bright.
There’s evil in the air and there’s thunder in sky,
And a killer’s on the bloodshot streets.
Oh, and down in the tunnel where the deadly are rising,
Oh, I swear I saw a young boy down in the gutter,
He was starting to foam in the heat.

Oh, baby, you’re the only thing in this whole world,
That’s pure and good and right.
And wherever you are and wherever you go,

There’s always gonna be some light.
But I gotta get out,
I gotta break it out now,
Before the final crack of dawn.
So we gotta make the most of our one night together.
When it’s over you know,
We’ll both be so alone.

Like a bat out of hell
I’ll be gone when the morning comes.
When the night is over
Like a bat out of hell
I’ll be gone-gone-gone.
Like a bat out of hell
I’ll be gone when the morning comes.
But when the day is done, and the sun goes down,
And the moonlight’s shining through,
Then like a sinner before the gates of heaven,
I’ll come crawling on back to you.

I’m gonna hit the highway like a battering ram
On a silver black phantom bike.
When the metal is hot and the engine is hungry,
And we’re all about to see the light.
Nothing ever grows in this rotting old hole.
And everything is stunted and lost.
And nothing really rocks
And nothing really rolls
And nothing’s ever worth the cost.

And I know that I’m damned if I never get out,
And maybe I’m damned if I do,
But with every other beat I’ve got left in my heart,
You know I’d rather be damned with you.

Well, if I gotta be damned you know I wanna be damned
Dancing through the night with you.
Well, if I gotta be damned you know I wanna be damned—
Gotta be damned, you know I wanna be damned—
Gotta be damned, you know I wanna be damned
Dancing through the night—
Dancing through the night—
Dancing through the night with you.

Oh, baby, you’re the only thing in this whole world,
That’s pure and good and right.
And wherever you are and wherever you go,
There’s always gonna be some light.
But I gotta get out,
I gotta break it out now,
Before the final crack of dawn.
So we gotta make the most of our one night together.
When it’s over you know
We’ll both be so alone.

Like a bat out of hell
I’ll be gone when the morning comes.
When the night is over
Like a bat out of hell
I’ll be gone gone gone.
Like a bat out of hell
I’ll be gone when the morning comes.
But when the day is done and the sun goes down,
And the moonlight’s shining through,
Then like a sinner before the gates of heaven,
I’ll come crawling on back to you.
Then like a sinner before the gates of heaven,
I’ll come crawling on back to you.

I can see myself tearing up the road
Faster than any other boy has ever gone.
And my skin is raw but my soul is ripe.
No one’s gonna stop me now,
I’m gonna make my escape.
But I can’t stop thinking of you,
And I never see the sudden curve until it’s way too late.

And I never see the sudden curve ’til it’s way too late.

Then I’m dying at the bottom of a pit in the blazing sun.
Torn and twisted at the foot of a burning bike.
And I think somebody somewhere must be tolling a bell.
And the last thing I see is my heart
Still beating,
Breaking out of my body and flying away,
Like a bat out of hell.

Then I’m dying at the bottom of a pit in the blazing sun.
Torn and twisted at the foot of a burning bike.
And I think somebody somewhere must be tolling a bell.
And the last thing I see is my heart
Still beating, still beating,
Breaking out of my body and flying away,
Like a bat out of hell.
Like a bat out of hell.
Like a bat out of hell.
Oh, like a bat out of hell!
Like a bat out of hell!
Like a bat out of hell!