I have another blog which is really a fan site for my favourite local author, Jane Duncan, who died back in 1976 but still has a loyal following. Last Saturday the weather was glorious, so we headed across the Kessock Bridge to the Black Isle (it’s not black and it’s not an island, more a peninsula, but these old names take hold), which features in all her stories. The plan was to visit the cemetery where she is buried, and then head towards the village of Jemimaville where she lived for many years, in the house she built by the shore.
We had just wandered down one of Jemimaville’s many side lanes to visit Jane’s old house, when we spotted some people doing a spot of gardening, no doubt ‘the big tidy-up’ ahead of winter. Conscious of the fact travel restrictions are in place around the country at the moment, I wanted to reassure them we were local, so stopped for a wee chat. It turned out it was Neil, Jane’s nephew, who became immortalised in her books as one of ‘The Hungry Generation’. He and his lovely wife now live in the village, and were happy for me to take a picture.
For someone who has a whole blog dedicated to Jane Duncan and her books, this was quite something, and an encounter I hadn’t expected when we headed off that fine day. Once home I revisited My Friends the Hungry Generation and remembered it had been signed by Neil and his siblings at the 2010 event, marking the centenary of Jane’s birth. Here is that book with its beautiful cover by Virginia Smith.
But this is a music blog, so what better song to feature than Bookends by Simon & Garfunkel from their 1968 album of the same name. It appears twice on the track listing, as the first and last song on side one. The song is a brief acoustic piece that ‘evokes a time of innocence’. Apt when writing about a book set in 1956, which recounts the adventures of a lively bunch of Scottish children.
As you may have noticed I have abandoned my attempt at becoming a daily blogger for a month, as I seem to have picked up an injury. You probably don’t consider blogging a dangerous pastime, but rather than suffering from writer’s block, I’m currently afflicted with writer’s neck (too much time sitting in front of the computer). I’ll carry on posting in short bursts, but it’s still not going to be easy. Hat’s off to those who manage it.
Until next time….
Bookends Theme (Song by Paul Simon)
Time it was And what a time it was, it was A time of innocence A time of confidences
Long ago it must be I have a photograph Preserve your memories They’re all that’s left you
The first time I mentioned the “C Word” around here was on the 14th of March as that was the week when it suddenly became real for us here in the UK and it wasn’t just something happening elsewhere. Since then I’ve vacillated between trying to remain upbeat (sharing old photos & recipes) and getting down and dirty, having a bit of a rant about certain behaviours.
It’s Saturday morning, which is my usual time for a weekly blogging session, but I’m not really in the mood for upbeat today. I mentioned a couple of weeks ago that I’ve had to back-pedal a fair few times of late, apologising to some friends and neighbours for having been a bit too honest regarding my predictions for the near future. I was apparently spoiling things, as it seems my neck of the woods is loving lockdown life. The weather is fine, the garden beckons and come Thursday evening there is a carnival atmosphere in my street as we Clap for Carers, complete with the dreaded vuvuzela, the scourge of the 2010 South Africa World Cup.
Having watched footage on telly, it seems the NHS frontline staff do appreciate the support of the nation and in the absence of us being able to come in and help intubate critically ill patients, not much more many of us can do. We are all patting ourselves on the back for staying at home, protecting the NHS and saving lives but it just doesn’t sit well with me at all. At some point the narrative will have to change, and we will have to leave home, but by then everyone will have become so acclimatised to the risks that could bring, they won’t want to.
It has always horrified me how much as a nation we spend on defence and nuclear weaponry, and all because we apparently need a place at some Top Table or other. Not in my name. I really don’t want a place anywhere near that table, and as it’s turned out, we’ve been spending money on the wrong kind of defence. The enemy in this war is an invisible virus and no amount of nuclear missiles could defeat it. Our frontline warriors are doctors, nurses, care workers, cleaners and porters who never signed up for this and whose places of work have been criminally underfunded for years. How much PPE could that new aircraft carrier have bought. Here is a quote from the Defence pages of the Government’s website.
The future flagships for the UK are the 2 new Queen Elizabeth Class aircraft carriers and are the largest British warships ever built.
They, along with the F35B Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter and Merlin Mk2 helicopters will help keep the UK armed forces modern, flexible and powerful.
The combination of the carrier, its aircraft and personnel will enable the UK to protect the nation.
As I said, we’ve been spending the money from our coffers on the wrong kind of defence. I sincerely hope all the frontline workers dealing with this pandemic get the support they are going to need when we move onto the second phase of the “new normal”. It’s an obvious quote to choose I know, but Churchill’s, “Never was so much owed by so many to so few” springs to mind.
One of the upsides of the lockdown is that many of us are making full use of our one hour of daily exercise. Mr WIAA and I have covered most of the routes radiating from base camp over the last five weeks and taken a fair amount of pictures. Another upside of course is that we are heading into summer and not winter which would have been awful (but of course only for those of us in the Northern Hemisphere). Here are a few of those pictures:
At the start of this year I had decided to revisit the UK Singles Chart of 1970. It contained music from 50 years ago and reflected simpler and happier times I thought (how prescient). I only got as far as Lee Marvin’s Wandrin’ Star (link here) when things started to go horribly wrong and my blog posts changed tack. Picking up where I left off, the record that made it to the No. 1 spot after Lee’s song from the film Paint Your Wagon, was this one by Simon & Garfunkel.
Bridge Over Troubled Water by Simon & Garfunkel:
Somehow this is the 5th time I’ll have featured a song by Simon & Garfunkel around here and they even have their very own category on my sidebar. I don’t think I would have envisioned that happening when I started the blog. They’ve made their way into my adult hippocampus by stealth and are now firmly going to remain there.
I remember Bridge Over Troubled Water well from 1970 as it stayed at the top spot in the charts for many weeks. I also remember that it was one of those situations when the artists never appeared on telly and a very basic little film was shown on TOTP to accompany the song instead. I would be lying if I said it was a favourite of mine from their vast back catalogue having now become a bit over-familiar, but as well as tying in with my revisitation of the Singles Chart of 1970, it is also apt for the times and fits in with one of my pictures above. We are lucky to live within walking distance of the Caledonian Canal, the River Ness and the Beauly Firth, so there are many bridges around here. Hopefully the waters won’t be troubled for too much longer.
I will end with a funny story I remember from one of the many film star biographies I read when I was young. I mentioned the “C Word” in my opening line, but of course that is usually a euphemism for another upsetting ailment, and one used by John Wayne when he called his sons together to break the bad news. They were quite young at the time, but still old enough to misinterpret what he meant. Eldest son quickly replied with the words, “Jeez Dad, you’ve got the clap”.
I seem to have gone full circle in this one from one kind of clap to another, and also from one kind of bridge to another, but often just the way it turns out.
Until next time….
Bridge Over Troubled Water Lyrics (Song by Paul Simon)
When you’re weary, feeling small, When tears are in your eyes I will dry them all I’m on your side Oh when times get rough And friends just can’t be found
Like a bridge over troubled water I will lay me down Like a bridge over troubled water I will lay me down
When you’re down and out When you’re on the street When evening falls so hard I will comfort you I’ll take your part Oh when darkness comes And pain is all around
Like a bridge over troubled water I will lay me down Like a bridge over troubled water I will lay me down
Sail on, silver girl Sail on by Your time has come to shine All your dreams are on their way See how they shine Oh if you need a friend I’m sailing right behind
Like a bridge over troubled water I will ease your mind Like a bridge over troubled water I will ease your mind
My last post was a bit of a rant as a result of having imbibed a few Friday night wines. Time to move on, quickly, as all a bit embarrassing now. Last week we had to submit the final assignment for my college course, and the week before, we had our very last lecture of the academic year. It coincided with that really warm spell of weather which rather nicely landed upon Easter weekend. Although most of us VC in from home (as we are scattered across the vast college catchment area), I did go in for that lecture, and although we were all sweltering in the heat, it was nice to have a last meet up before the long summer break.
Sadly, I will now lose touch with most of my classmates as I am a part-time student and will be covering the remaining modules not taken this year, next year. Fortunately for me, the girl whose work I definitely warm to most is the other part-time student, so our paths will continue to cross. She was one of the few of us to complete the 30 day NaPoWriMo challenge written about recently, and here is another set of her amazing poems – Same subject matter, same title but two entirely different approaches. She says they are just rough drafts, but they look pretty finished to me. I am in awe.
Adrenaline-soaked Gauze and Silver Nitrate #1
An ancient trade; a coiled spring in sinew The blood of men that failed to make their mark A stage all ringed about with ropes and snarling (Once you’re) In, just you and him, a roaring dark
The cutman’s in the corner gaging damage The only middle-ground in all this noise An alchemy of bone and glove, blood-thunder The bruises start to blossom round your eyes
The oldest game that only ever yielded When you saw the Devil’s face and knew your worth Or was it God’s – his vital disappointment (You’re) laughing bloody, carved in iron and in wrath
Adrenaline-soaked Gauze and Silver Nitrate #2
Begin the age-old fight, again, unbloodied
The bullet’s spark with caution is a cunning scalpel Older eyes keep watch, as scattered scars break forth This broad shoulder, molten heavy, built for battle Reach and stagger as he falls towards the earth Rage withheld until the fight is almost over Face it all son, keep the rein in good and tight Grinning bloody through the carnage thunder ‘Let the blood flow till he’s back in front.’ A break, tuck the edge, and enswell stiffly A hand-clasp to his feet – he trusts your poise A nod; you’ll see him at the end, come swiftly Let him go, steady now into the noise
Back into the ring, my son, unburied
For me, there can only be one song to include in this post – The Boxer by Simon & Garfunkel.
The Boxer by Simon & Garfunkel:
I think I’m going to have to set up a new category on my sidebar as I realise this must be at least the fifth song featured around here by that talented duo from Queens, NYC. I really don’t think I remember the song from when it would have appeared in the UK Singles Chart in 1969, but when a friend gave me a home-recorded cassette tape (naughty) with their greatest hits a few years later, it was one of the stand out songs for me and often listened to. It apparently took 100 hours to record in two different studios in two cities, and in a church with a tiled dome which had great acoustics. The legendary record executive Clive Davis was told a standard 8-track recorder wasn’t going to be enough for all their material, so he stumped up for a 16-track, and it shows.
I hadn’t heard of the term placeholder before but it’s what they call the part of a song where they just haven’t come up with the lyrics yet. The temporary bit where any old words or sounds can slot in. When Paul Simon couldn’t find the words to replace the lie la lie chorus, it was left as was, unintentionally giving the song international appeal.
So, “What’s It All About?” – I have been a very part-time student over the last eight months, and each semester’s work is packed into an intense ten-week period so not been too onerous at all. Just got the results of my last assignment back though and pleased to report that all these years later I’m still a straight A’s student (fairly normal nowadays but it used to mean you were a swot). Sadly at this rate I’ll be drawing my state pension before I finish the full degree I embarked on last year, so I suspect that won’t be happening. I think I have another year left in me however of juggling the various commitments I seem to have taken on of late as well as doing the course. No more poetry next year, but glad my talented fellow student will still be by my side, as I can’t wait to see what wonderful material is still in her arsenal. I suspect it will be epic.
Until next time….
The Boxer Lyrics (Song by Paul Simon)
I am just a poor boy Though my story’s seldom told I have squandered my resistance For a pocket full of mumbles, such are promises All lies and jests Still a man hears what he wants to hear And disregards the rest
When I left my home and my family I was no more than a boy In the company of strangers In the quiet of the railway station Running scared, Laying low, seeking out the poorer quarters Where the ragged people go Looking for the places Only they would know
Lie la lie, lie la la la lie lie Lie la lie, lie la la la la lie la la lie
Asking only workman’s wages I come looking for a job But I get no offers Just a come-on from the whores On Seventh Avenue I do declare There were times when I was so lonesome I took some comfort there, le le le le le le le
Lie la lie, lie la la la lie lie Lie la lie, lie la la la la lie la la lie
Then I’m laying out my winter clothes And wishing I was gone Going home Where the New York City winters Aren’t bleeding me Leading me Going home
In the clearing stands a boxer And a fighter by his trade And he carries the reminders Of ev’ry glove that laid him down Or cut him till he cried out In his anger and his shame “I am leaving, I am leaving” But the fighter still remains, mmm mmm
Lie la lie, lie la la la lie lie Lie la lie, lie la la la la lie la la lie Lie la lie, lie la la la lie lie Lie la lie, lie la la la la lie la la lie Lie la lie, lie la la la lie lie…… Lie la lie, lie la la la la lie la la lie
Welcome to this occasional series where I am attempting a virtual journey around the 50 States of America in song. For anyone new to this place, I have a continuous route map where I enter and leave each state only once. Suggestions for the next leg always welcome!
It’s quite some time since I continued on my American Odyssey in Song and that would be because I developed a severe case of Odyssey block! After struggling somewhat to identify any songs at all for the New England states, once I hit New York there were just too many. I have started this post on numerous occasions but always gave up half way through. This time however I’m going to buckle down and get on with it.
No time for lengthy paragraphs about the state itself this time though as loads of songs to get through. Suffice to say it must be one of the most diverse states in the whole of the US as not only does it have Long Island, whose “Hamptons” are where rich New Yorkers go to spend their summers, but it also has the wilderness areas to the north where hunting and fishing are the pastimes of choice. The state borders Canada and two of the Great Lakes but at the foot of the triangle there is one of the most iconic and culturally rich cities in the world, New York.
Time to get this party started then and it’s not going to be pretty – Via “a stream of consciousness” is how I’m going to tackle this one. Everyone will have different songs that they associate with New York but these are the ones that have come to mind over the last few weeks. Ready, steady, go….
There can’t be many people who are not familiar with the sights of New York City but just in case, here’s a whistle stop tour courtesy of MGM and those three sailors who had a whirlwind 24-hour leave back in 1949. Ok, ok guys, we’ve got it – “The Bronx is up and the Battery’s down, the people ride in a hole in the ground”.
You can’t have failed to notice that Mr Francis Albert Sinatra plays one of the sailors in that clip and I’m sure it’s expected that his version of the song New York, New Yorkwill feature here, but that would just be too obvious, so unusually for me I’ll enter the 21st century and share Empire State of Mind by Mr Shawn Corey Carter (otherwise known as Jay-Z).
Empire State of Mind by Jay-Z featuring Alicia Keys:
Lord knows I’m not usually a fan of rap but I was truly blown away by this“song” (if that’s what it’s called) when it came out in 2009. Some fantastic lines in there referencing Sinatra’s New York, New York but also Afrika Bambaataa, the Bronx DJ who became known as the Godfather of hip-hop. The rap part on it’s own I probably wouldn’t have warmed to that much (although I don’t know), but with the inclusion of Alicia Keys vocals it became something really special. The pair are both from NYC and the song’s main writer, Angela Hunte, grew up in the same building as Jay-Z – 560 State Street, Brooklyn, an address mentioned in the song.
Something that comes across loud and clear from the lyrics of Empire State of Mind is that NYC is not just the island Manhattan as I had often thought as youngster. Oh no, NYC is made up of five boroughs – Brooklyn and Queens on the western end of Long Island, Staten Island which nestles up against New Jersey and The Bronx, north of Manhattan. Manhattan itself only becomes an island because of that tiny sliver of water linking up the East River with the Hudson.
New York City, despite being made up of these five boroughs is very much centred on Manhattan, so how is it all linked up? Why by ferries and bridges of course. I am reminded of the scene in Saturday Night Fever where John Travolta’s character tries to impress his potential love interest with his knowledge of the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge, that double-decked suspension bridge that connects Staten Island and Brooklyn.
Another iconic bridge is the one that featured in the opening sequence to one of my favourite TV shows from the early ’80s – Taxi starring Danny DeVito and Judd Hirsch. Whenever I hear this theme song I am right back in my student room, my little white portable telly perched precariously on the edge of my desk, just in the right place for the aerial (coat hanger?) to pick up a signal. It would have been mid-week and I was probably having a break from all those laborious hours spent writing everything out in longhand (no computers in those days). A flatmate might have popped in for a coffee whilst we watched the show. Sometimes those memories are the best, ones where nothing in particular was happening, just normal everyday life but hearing that theme reminds me of the scene. A beautiful piece of music called Angela by Bob James.
Angela (Theme from Taxi) by Bob James:
Of course I had to do some research after rewatching that clip to find out which bridge it actually was that came up every week in the titles – Joy, oh joy, it was none other than the Queensboro Bridge – So what I hear you ask? The alternative name for that bridge is The59th Street Bridge and considering this whole series was inspired by the Paul Simon song America, it is fitting that his song about the bridge be included in this post.
The 59th Street Bridge Song (Feelin’ Groovy) by Simon and Garfunkel:
Paul Simon said that he’d spent most of 1965 in England but after coming back to the US, and having success with The Sound of Silence, life became really hectic for a while and he found it difficult to adjust. One day, going home to Queens over the 59th Street Bridge, he kind of started to snap out of it as the day had been a really good one, a “groovy one” – Once home he started to write the song subtitled Feelin’ Groovy that went on to appear on the 1966 album “Parsley, Sage, Rosemary and Thyme” recorded with musical partner Art Garfunkel.
But enough about bridges, in the New York of 1977 the phenomenon that was disco had started to really make its mark. Manhattan had Studio 54 where Liza, Michael, Mick and Bianca were regulars but across the Brooklyn Bridge (oops, more bridges), they had a local disco called 2001 Odyssey and every Saturday night, aforementioned John Travolta (playing the character Tony Manero), temporarily left his monotonous life behind and became “king of the dance floor”. Watching him now, the dancing doesn’t look quite as impressive as it did when we first experienced Saturday Night “Fever” and the parodies have been ruthless, but I still have fond memories of going to see that movie when it first came out in the UK in 1978. As someone who has been known to “do a John” over the years and clear the dancefloor, it can be an exhilarating feeling (and not showy-off at all of course!).
You Should Be Dancing by the Bee Gees:
The Saturday Night Fever soundtrack album, featuring disco songs by the Bee Gees, is one of the best-selling soundtracks of all time. How Deep Is Your Love is the song that appears in the closing scenes of the movie as we watch a desolate Tony ride the New York subway late at night. It is one of my all-time favourite love songs (which is probably why it became the choice for my Valentine’s Day post).
So far we’ve checked out the geography of New York and talked about the bridges and the nightlife. What about the people? I read an article recently about the flamboyant octogenarian fashionistas, who cut a dash on 5th Avenue – Way to go ladies!
Of course New York has long been known for its flamboyant characters and Sting sang about one of them, eccentric gay icon Quentin Crisp, in his 1988 song Englishman In New York. Another “character” committed to song was when Rod Stewart wrote and recorded The Killing of Georgie (Part I and II) in 1976. This story song tells the tale of a young gay man who became successful and popular amongst Manhattan’s upper class – He was “the toast of the Great White Way”, which is the nickname given to the Theatre District of Midtown Manhattan. Georgie attends the opening night of a Broadway musical, but leaves “before the final curtain call” and heads across town. He is attacked near East 53rd Street by a gang of thieves and one inadvertently kills him. The song was apparently based on a true story about a friend of Rod’s old band The Faces.
I have waited a fair amount of time to feature Rod Stewart in this blog as it seems to be universally accepted that by the late ’70s he had sold out and his albums just weren’t up to the calibre of his earlier ones but hey, I was a mere 16-year-old schoolgirl at this time and was a big fan. This song especially, combining the melancholy and sombre Part II with the more popular Part I has long been a favourite of mine.
The Killing Of Georgie (Part I and II) by Rod Stewart:
We’ve spent an awful lot of time in New York City so far in this post but what about the rest of the state? Back in the early sixties before kids started heading off to Europe on holiday they used to go with their parents to resorts such as Kellermans in the Catskill Mountains. This is where “Baby” Houseman spent the summer of 1963, and fell for dashing dance instructor Johnny Castle. Dirty Dancing was a low-budget film that had no major stars but became a massive box office hit and was the first film to sell more than a million copies on home video. It has some great dance scenes and the soundtrack is full of classic songs from that early ’60s era such asBe My Baby, Big Girls Don’t Cry, Will You Love Me Tomorrow,Love Is Strangeand this one, Stay by Maurice Williams & The Zodiacs.
Stay by Maurice Williams & The Zodiacs:
There are some great scenes in the movie where the landscape of the Catskills is kind of the star. I must admit to having become a bit of a fan of this movie in my later years although didn’t really take much heed of it when it first came out – I think it’s down to the nostalgia element, the music choices and the sadness that comes from the realisation that my days of dalliances with a young Johnny Castle are well behind me. Whatever, I’ve ended up writing about songs from it three times now (Be My Baby, Doomed Romances and Summer’s End) and they take the prize for being my least viewed posts – Sacre bleu!
Another song that makes me think of Upstate New York is Woodstock, written by Joni Mitchell but made famous in 1970 by Matthews Southern Comfort. The irony of course is that Joni Mitchell hadn’t even made it to the infamous festival which took place on Max Yasgur’s dairy farm, but wrote about it after having watched it from her hotel room in New York. The lyrics tell the story of a spiritual journey and make prominent use of sacred imagery, comparing the festival site with the Garden of Eden. The saga commences with the narrator’s encounter of a fellow traveller, a “child of God”, and concludes at their ultimate destination where “we were half a million strong”.
Iain Matthews of Matthews Southern Comfort was actually from Scunthorpe in Lincolnshire but he had previously been with the band Fairport Convention who were at the time heavily influenced by American folk rock.
Well I don’t know about you but I’m exhausted – This post has been a long time coming and I’m sorry it’s so wordy, but I for one am now just pleased that it’s “in the can” so that the journey can continue. Next time we’ll be passing through the Lincoln Tunnel into New Jersey so as ever, suggestions for that state are more than welcome. Unlike with the New England states I have a feeling that it’s now going to get a whole lot easier.
A final clip before I go however – One of my favourite movies used to be Manhattan directed by Woody Allen (it now sadly troubles me). I was given the soundtrack album by the boyfriend of the day after going to see it, as I was just so bowled over by George Gershwin’s compositions. They were all performed by the New York Philharmonic Orchestra and somehow I now always think of Rhapsody In Blue when I see the New York skyline.
Rhapsody In Blue by George Gershwin:
The 59th Street Bridge Song (Feelin’ Groovy) Lyrics (Song by Paul Simon)
Slow down, you move too fast
You got to make the morning last Just kicking down the cobblestones Looking for fun and feelin’ groovy
Ba da da da da da da, feelin’ groovy
Hello, lamppost, what’cha knowin’? I’ve come to watch your flowers growin’ Ain’t’cha got no rhymes for me? Doot-in doo-doo, feelin’ groovy Ba da da da da da da, feelin’ groovy
I got no deeds to do No promises to keep I’m dappled and drowsy and ready to sleep Let the morning time drop all its petals on me Life, I love you All is groovy
Well, so far I’ve not been able to commit to the discipline of a series within the pages this blog but a bit of synchronicity has come about which has made me rethink. Last week over at Yeah, Another Blogger, Neil wrote about how he was going to get back into the discipline of reading books and I commented that in 2015, the year before I took up blogging, I had set myself the task of reading my way around the 50 US states. The state always had to be the main character, and it was great. First I read my way round the Southern States (e.g.Fried Green Tomatoes…. , Gone With The Wind, The Orchard Keeper) then for a change of scenery, I headed up to the Great Lakes and started to read my way round the states up there (e.g.Shotgun Lovesongs set in Wisconsin). I had a route map and everything but sadly when I discovered blogging at the start of 2016, due to time constraints, the journey ended.
The wonderful post written by Rol last week over at My Top Ten about the song Wichita Lineman reminded me that when I myself wrote about that song (along with Galveston and By The Time I Get To Phoenix), I had mentioned that my plan was to do a series at some point, journeying round the 50 states in song, and here we are at last – My reading journey may have come to an end but my “50 State American Odyssey in Song” is about to begin!
As a bit of background to this obsession with travelling round the 50 states, whether in book form or in song, I think it’s because it had always been a dream of mine to actually make that journey at some point. I am however starting to think it might never happen. As a kid growing up in rural Scotland, I watched an awful lot of films and telly set in what we called, “America”. On wet Sunday afternoons when there were no outdoor chores to be done, my dad and I used to watch classic MGM Musicals, and Westerns starring John Wayne, set in every corner of that vast land. Also, the music I loved as a kid usually came from Americans such as Elvis, The Monkees (Davy Jones being the exception of course) and The Mamas & the Papas. Oh yes, as soon as I was old enough (maybe about ten), and had saved up enough pocket-money, I was going to buy one of those Greyhound bus tickets and be transported from one real life filmset to the next……
But then I grew up. The childhood dreams dissipated and Europe became my destination of choice (although sadly I’m not sure how welcome we’re going to be after all the “triggering” that’s been going on of late). Despite a few far flung trips over the years, none have been across the Atlantic, and (not wanting to offend any of my American blogging buddies), that 50 State Odyssey is no longer at the top of my real life bucket list. It will therefore have to be of the virtual nature, and in song.
Where to start then? As it turns out this is not going to be as easy as I thought. I wanted to complete the journey only entering and leaving the same state once, but the original route map I put together for my reading challenge started in Florida and ended in Maine – Having racked my brains and even done a fair bit of “Googling”, I can’t find any songs I’m familiar with that mention place names from either of those states. Likewise, when I find artists who were born in either state (e.g. Jim Morrison of The Doors was born in Florida), it turns out they moved around a lot, so can’t really be associated with any one place.
For this first post therefore, where I’m simply setting out the rules, I will just include a song that tells a tale of someone, who unlike my 10-year-old self, did actually take the plunge and bought a Greyhound bus ticket for a trip across America. In my digital music database the most common song title to pop up in different guises is in fact America, but this one by Simon & Garfunkel is my favourite. Although released as a single to promote a Greatest Hits album in 1972 it was written by Paul Simon much earlier, inspired by a 1964 road trip he took with his girlfriend – Perfect for this post, and I wonder, did he indeed “find America” on that trip?
America by Simon & Garfunkel:
So, “What’s It All About?” – I am excited about this challenge and I love researching the back story to the songs that have formed the “tracks of my years” but in this case I may need a little help. I think I’m ok with most of the 50 states but if I’m going to follow my continuous route map without cheating, I’m going to need some input from my blogging buddies. The starting point for the journey could be either Florida or Maine but at this rate, left to my own devices, it’s going to be something by Miami Sound Machine for Florida or something from the musical Carousel for Maine and I really don’t want to go down either of those routes. A song that refers to a place name is the way to go, just as Jimmy Webb used Wichita, Galveston and Phoenix in three of his very best songs – Oh Jimmy, where are you when I need you?
Any suggestions for songs (that I’m likely to be able to write about) associated with Florida or Maine would be gratefully received – You know where the comments boxes are. Once I get started it should be fun, it’s just that first step…….
America Lyrics (Song by Paul Simon)
Let us be lovers, We’ll marry our fortunes together. I’ve got some real estate Here in my bag. So we bought a pack of cigarettes, And Mrs. Wagner’s pies, And walked off To look for America.
“Kathy”, I said, As we boarded a Greyhound in Pittsburgh, Michigan seems like a dream to me now.
It took me four days To hitch-hike from Saginaw. “I’ve come to look for America.”
Laughing on the bus, Playing games with the faces, She said the man in the gabardine suit Was a spy.
I said, “Be careful, His bow tie is really a camera.” “Toss me a cigarette, I think there’s one in my raincoat.” We smoked the last one An hour ago.
So I looked at the scenery, She read her magazine; And the moon rose over an open field.
“Kathy, I’m lost”, I said, Though I knew she was sleeping. “I’m empty and aching and I don’t know why.”
Counting the cars On the New Jersey Turnpike They’ve all come To look for America, All come to look for America, All come to look for America.
Writing yesterday about the wonderful song I Only Have Eyes For You, got me thinking about Art Garfunkel who also had a big hit with that song in the 1970s. His most successful period however was the 1960s, when he and high school friend Paul Simon formed a duo. They first started recording music as teenagers but got back together in their early twenties to record their first album which featured a simple, pared-down, folk version of The Sound of Silence. Sadly the album was not a great success and the pair went their separate ways. Fortunately for us however, the song’s producer revisited it in the wake of increased airplay, remixed it and transformed it into the kind of folk rock record that was being produced by the Byrds and Bob Dylan at the time. By 1966 The Sound of Silencehad become an international hit and needless to say Art Garfunkel headed back from college, and Paul Simon from working in England, in order to capitalise on the renewed interest in their music.
The Sound of Silence by Simon & Garfunkel:
I don’t think I really would have remembered them from that era as I was too young but in 1967 the film The Graduate was released and rather than use a specially written soundtrack, the director chose to use Simon & Garfunkel songs such as “The Sound of Silence”,” Mrs Robinson” and “Scarborough Fair”. The film was a massive success and unlike other film songs I have written about, these are carefully woven into the storyline to great effect, adding another dimension to an already compelling screenplay. Benjamin Braddock has returned home to Pasadena, California after graduating from college. Unsure of what he wants to do with his life, he spends his days lounging in the swimming pool of his parents’ very luxurious home. Enter Mrs Robinson, the wife of one of his father’s colleagues who is similarly bored and and disillusioned with life. Of course the inevitable happens and the affair she draws the inexperienced and clumsy Benjamin into, leads to moments of great two-handed dialogue.
Benjamin: For god’s sake, Mrs. Robinson. Here we are. You got me into your house. You give me a drink. You… put on music. Now you start opening up your personal life to me and tell me your husband won’t be home for hours. Mrs. Robinson: So? Benjamin: Mrs. Robinson, you’re trying to seduce me. Mrs. Robinson: [laughs] Huh? Benjamin: Aren’t you?
I really only appreciated the music of Simon & Garfunkel properly after watching the film in the ’70s when it first appeared on television. (Was I too young for it I now wonder? – Doubt it as adult themes but never anything too disturbing.) I don’t think any other film made such good use of its soundtrack, until Saturday Night Fever came along in 1978 featuring the music of The Bee Gees.
So, ‘What’s It All About’ – Yet again I am writing about music from film or television. The soundtrack to my life has most definitely been heavily influenced by what I used to watch on screen. As a teenager I had a Saturday job in our village newsagents. In my lunch hour I used to go to our local electrical retailer (otherwise known as ‘The TV Shop’) which had a small rack of vinyl albums up near the back. Nothing there had been anywhere near a chart but there were lots of Greatest Hits (Simon & Garfunkel), Easy Listening (Burt Bacharach) and Film Soundtrack albums (The Graduate, West Side Story etc). All my welfare needs were already catered for by my parents, so the Saturday job wages were used to buy vinyl from this shop.
Walking back to the newsagents one Saturday ahead of the afternoon shift with a carrier bag obviously containing an album (they were a very distinctive shape), I bumped into a friend. She immediately asked what I had just bought – ‘G-Gary Glitter’ I quickly replied, embarrassed to admit it was actually a Glenn Miller album as I’d fallen in love with his music watching The Glenn Miller Story with my dad the previous Sunday. Funny how the passage of time has rendered that answer wrong on so many levels – I am proud however to say that I was never, ever again embarrassed to admit that I loved Mr Miller and his unique ‘sound’.
The Sound of Silence Lyrics (Song by Paul Simon)
Hello darkness, my old friend, I’ve come to talk with you again, Because a vision softly creeping, Left its seeds while I was sleeping, And the vision that was planted in my brain Still remains Within the sound of silence.
In restless dreams I walked alone Narrow streets of cobblestone, ‘Neath the halo of a street lamp, I turned my collar to the cold and damp When my eyes were stabbed by the flash of a neon light That split the night And touched the sound of silence.
And in the naked light I saw Ten thousand people, maybe more. People talking without speaking, People hearing without listening, People writing songs that voices never share And no one dared Disturb the sound of silence.
“Fools,” said I, “You do not know. Silence like a cancer grows. Hear my words that I might teach you. Take my arms that I might reach you.” But my words like silent raindrops fell And echoed in the wells of silence
And the people bowed and prayed To the neon god they made. And the sign flashed out its warning In the words that it was forming. And the sign said, “The words of the prophets are written on the subway walls And tenement halls And whispered in the sounds of silence.”
I feel I can’t finish today’s post without mentioning the sad passing of Sir Terry Wogan – I can’t remember a time when he hasn’t been part of our television and radio lives, bringing joy to so many people. It’s akin to losing a favourite uncle (or great-uncle depending on your age). It is appropriate to therefore note, that the guest who caused him most difficulty during his long run of early evening chat shows, was indeed ‘Mrs Robinson’ herself, Anne Bancroft – She apparently sat in a catatonic trance and refused to answer any of his questions.