Halloween, K’s Choice and “Virgin State of Mind”

Couldn’t really let tonight pass without mentioning that it’s Halloween and we’re just back from a bit of a “do” at our neighbour’s house. The local kids who dropped by for some trick or treating were rewarded with a bit of old-fashioned “bobbing for apples”, which pretty much no-one does any more, so it was great fun for them. Of course when I was a youngster here in Scotland it was called guising and there were certainly no pumpkins in those days – Oh no, it was a case of hollowing out turnips, which if you weren’t careful resulted in the loss of a digit.

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My dad once helped me create a pretty spectacular one for a Brownie Halloween party, but unfortunately on the way there, it got dropped (in those days we walked everywhere unaccompanied, even at night). Being a root vegetable it pretty much fell to pieces, so when it came to the prize for the best “neep lantern” it was in a bit of a sorry state and did not fare well against other, initially lesser neeps! When I got back, I of course told the parents it had befallen an accident on the way home from the party, so as not to have made the making of the lantern a waste of time – One of the rare lies of my childhood and I felt bad about it for years. Funny how those things stick.

But of course Halloween is now big business and pop-up shops appear on our high streets during the build up to the 31st selling nothing but OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAghoulish dressing-up outfits, scary masks and very realistic, gory make-up. Our daughter had two events at the weekend and needed a different outfit for each one. In fact the town was so busy with Halloween revellers on Saturday night that the ATMs ran out of money in the early hours of the morning. With no access to cash for taxis home, there were many SOS calls to parents, us included.

Most of this commercialisation of Halloween has come from across the pond but there is no point in trying to fight it anymore, so I did indeed buy myself a pumpkin this year. Unlike with the “neeps” of my youth however, faster than you can say Jack Robinson he became the fine Jack-o’-Lantern you see above.

So, what song comes to mind when I think of Halloween? – Far too many to mention actually so instead I am going to pick something, yet again, from one of our favourite television shows – Buffy the Vampire Slayer. This song, Virgin State of Mind by Belgian band K’s Choice, featured in the 1999 episode “Doppelgängland” where the vampire alternate of Willow Rosenberg arrives in Sunnydale. The Bronze nightclub was the meeting place of choice for Buffy and her pals, and it was usual to have bands playing there. If you watched all seven seasons, as we did, you were treated to some excellent music and this song by K’s Choice is the one I enjoyed most.

Virgin State of Mind by K’s Choice:

K’s Choice have been around since the early ’90s and their music can be described as guitar-based, singer-songwriter rock or folk-rock. Sarah Bettens’ husky voice is the band’s most distinctive characteristic. Sarah and her brother Gert write all the songs for the band and although most of the lyrics are easily understood, some are strange and incomprehensible. This led Gert to comment on this song, Virgin State of Mind – “Listening to the lyrics for the first time, you may find it hard to understand their meaning. When you listen to them a second time however, you may sense a basic truth in those cryptic words. If you do, please let me know.” – Will do Gert.

As it turns out, by the time I finish this post and publish it, Halloween will be over and we will have moved into All Hallows’ Day. Time to blow out the candle in my Jack-o’-Lantern then, but before I go I will share a clip featuring the the scariest group of characters from aforementioned seven seasons of Buffy – “The Gentlemen from Hush”.

“Hush” was the tenth episode in the fourth season where creator Joss Whedon set out to write a silent episode, almost completely devoid of speech. Only about 17 minutes of dialogue is presented in the entire 44 minutes. In “Hush”, a group of fairytale ghouls named “The Gentlemen” come to town and steal everyone’s voices, leaving them unable to scream when they cut out their hearts. The episode was highly praised when it aired and was the only episode from that season to be nominated for an Emmy Award. Prepare to be afraid.

Virgin State of Mind Lyrics
(Song by Sarah Bettens/Gert Bettens)

There’s a chair in my head on which I used to sit
Took a pencil and I wrote the following on it

Now there’s a key where my wonderful mouth used to be
Dig it up, throw it at me
Dig it up, throw it at me

Where can I run to, where can I hide
Who will I turn to now I’m in a virgin state of mind

Got a knife to disengage the voids that I can’t bear
To cut out words I’ve got written on my chair

Like do you think I’m sexy
Do you think I really care

Can I burn the mazes I grow
Can I, I don’t think so

Can I burn the mazes I grow
Can I, I don’t think so

Where can I run to, where can I hide
Who will I turn to now I’m in a virgin state of mind
Virgin state of mind
Virgin state of mind
Virgin state of mind

Sadie Hawkins Dances, The Flamingos and “I Only Have Eyes For You”

Had a few days off organising the rest of my life but ready to get back to the blog. This random means of choosing songs is turning out to be anything but random however as the radio station I usually tune into caters in the main for people of my generation, so a lot of ’70s/’80s material. Also these songs are likely to be the mainstream, highly commerical, chart hits of the day so unlikely to come across something quirky or unusual.

Time therefore to return to the thread linking the previous posts (before I decided it had reached a natural conclusion) – Was proving to be a fine way of progressing despite the fact that a new thread often had to start on the days we found out that yet another of our rock legends had died. Crossing fingers that won’t happen for a while so back to Buffy the Vampire Slayer the television show and another song that came, this time, from a Season 2 episode. I have already talked about the show, its cult status and importance to our family in my last post won’t go there again but will encourage you to watch it, all the way through from the begining, to the final scene where Sunnydale disappears into the collapsed Hellmouth. I know – it all sounds fantastical – and it is, which is why you must watch it. A life-enhancing experience (in my opinion).

The song that featured heavily in the Buffy episode “I Only Have Eyes For You” was the song of the same name by The Flamingos. We’ll ignore the fact that the episode was set in 1955 whereas this recording was made in 1959 – Didn’t make any difference as it was a wonderful, romantic, “doo-wop” song that really captured the mood of the decade. The lyrics were also highly relevant to the storyline and the key characters in it. I Only Have Eyes For You was actually written much earlier in 1934 for a film starring a young Ruby Keeler but has been covered many times, the most familiar to me being the beautiful 1975 version by Art Garfunkel (during his clown-hair period).

I Only Have Eyes For You by The Flamingos:

This episode featured an event I had never heard of before, the forthcoming “Sadie Hawkins Dance” and how a tragic happening from that same dance in 1955 rears its ghostly head again for Buffy and her friends in 1998.

Having done a little research it seems that Sadie Hawkins Day is a folk event particular to America – An annual “holiday” that originated in Al Capp’s classic hillbilly comic strip, Li’l Abner. When the character Sadie reached the age of 35 and was still a spinster, her father called together all the unmarried men from the town and declared it “Sadie Hawkins Day”. A race was decreed, with Sadie in hot pursuit of the town’s eligible bachelors. With matrimony as the consequence of losing the race, the men of the town were running for their freedom! This inspired real-world Sadie Hawkins dances, where girls asked boys out – Simple gender role-reversal.

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Anyway, back to Buffy and the “ghostly” episode. The doomed romance between a female teacher and male student in 1955 had led to a sorry end for both of them (he shot her and then committed suicide). The ghost of the student, in an effort to gain forgiveness, keeps returning to possess the bodies of various 1998 characters but every time the ending is the same. When Buffy and Angelus are possessed however, the story of their doomed romance cleverly mirrors that of the teacher and student and with the roles this time reversed, Angelus the vampire is unable to be killed and a happy conclusion is reached for the ghost of the poor student. All of this drama of course is played out to the strains of I Only Have Eyes For You.

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The whole theme of this episode was role-reversal but even now the idea of my younger self asking a boy out, or even to dance, fills me with horror. I am full of admiration for the girls of America who probably still have Sadie Hawkins Dances. Looking back, I don’t think I really appreciated how nerve-wracking it must have been for the teenage boys of my youth to pluck up the courage to ask girls out, yet that was just how it all worked. I know on occasion I came up with pretty lame excuses for not accepting a date and sometimes it marked the end of a friendship as once the line has been crossed between friendship and potential romance, it is hard to go back.

I had always thought it was a pretty good system, as at any one point in time you had your eye on a few boys you liked, and just had to hope that one of them would ask you out. I’m sure there must a name for that kind of law – The Law of Teenage Mutual Selection or something. Looking back, it worked for the girls as they didn’t have to suffer the humiliation and rejection of being turned down but they did I suppose have to suffer the heartache of not perhaps being asked out, by the one boy they really wanted.

Roll on to your twenties, thirties and beyond and things get a whole lot more complicated but perhaps Sadie Hawkins had the answer. Dismiss dating websites, pubs, clubs and friends trying to set you up at dinner parties. Just arrange an annual race for all the single ladies who want a partner – All those eligible bachelors who want to be caught will be the tortoises and those who don’t will be the hares. Possibly as good a system as any!

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 I Only Have Eyes For You Lyrics (had to leave in the Sha bop sha bops!)
(Song by Harry Warren/Al Dubin)

My love must be a kind of blind love
I can’t see anyone but you
Sha bop sha bop
Sha bop sha bop
Sha bop sha bop
Sha bop sha bop
Sha bop sha bop

Are the stars out tonight
I don’t know if it’s cloudy or bright
I only have eyes for you dear
Sha bop sha bop

The moon may be high
Sha bop sha bop
But I can’t see a thing in the sky
I only have eyes for you

I don’t know if we’re in a garden
Or on a crowded avenue
Sha bop sha bop

You are here
Sha bop sha bop
And so am I
Sha bop sha bop

Maybe millions of people go by
But they all disappear from view
And I only have eyes for you

Sha bop sha bop
Sha bop sha bop
Sha bop sha bop
Sha bop sha bop
Sha bop sha bop

Buffy’s Prom, “Wild Horses” and Harriet Wheeler

Short post today as just drawing a bottom line to the thread that seems to have developed relating to “last dance” songs. Started reminiscing about this when listening to Crazy For You by Madonna and ended up thinking about the 1950s ballroom-dancing era.

Fast forward to 1992 and The Sundays recorded Wild Horses, a song written by Mick Jagger & Keith Richards. This was always a beautiful song but Harriet Wheeler’s vocals and the simple guitar backing somehow made it even more poignant.

Wild Horses by The Sundays:

It was used in the 1999 Buffy the Vampire Slayer episode called The Prom which I actually watched for the first time in 2004. In our family that was “Buffy Year” – We bought the Season One boxset in January just after the 7 year run of the show had finished airing so that we could start from the beginning again and really enjoy the whole story arc and development of the characters. (We finished Season 7 with a 3 episode Buffyfest on the 31st December of that year.) If you haven’t watched it properly like this, or indeed if you haven’t watched it at all (you must), it is impossible to explain how it draws you in – The quality of the writing, the acting and creation of the whole alternate Buffyverse made it one of the top-rated shows of all time and it frequently comes top in polls of Best Cult Show Ever. Joss Whedon, the creator, always planned for it to become a cult and boy did he succeed. 13 years on and it’s still as popular as ever with a whole new legion of young fans who will hopefully learn how to negotiate their way through life using the metaphors (or was it all real?) cleverly woven in by the excellent team of writers.

Anyway, back to Wild Horses by The Sundays – That was the song featured at the end of Buffy’s “prom” episode. We had been right there by her side for three years now, and here she was finishing high school. Her long-term relationship with Angel (the Vampire with a soul) had come to an end (for probably obvious reasons, even if you haven’t watched the show) but right at the end he appears back, for one night only, to dance with her at her prom. One of the most romantic moments in television history. I was in tears and a very large part of it down to The Sundays and their amazing version of this song.

buffy

The lyrics of the song were just perfect for this moment and although there doesn’t seem to be consensus on the true meaning, it is most definitely a song about not wanting to tear yourself apart from someone, but knowing that you have to.

So, “last dance” songs that span 50 years! Time to move on now to another thread….

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Wild Horses Lyrics
(Mick Jagger/Keith Richards)

Childhood living is easy to do
The things that you wanted, I bought them for you
Graceless lady, you know who I am
You know I can’t let you slide through my hands

Wild horses couldn’t drag me away
Wild horses couldn’t drag me away…

I watched you suffer a dull, aching pain
And now you’ve decided to show me the same
No sweeping exits or offstage lines
Could make me feel bitter or treat you unkind

Wild horses couldn’t drag me away
Wild, wild horses couldn’t drag me away…

Faith has been broken and tears must be cried
Let’s do some living after we die

Wild horses couldn’t drag me away
Wild, wild horses couldn’t drag me away…

Wild, wild horses, we’ll ride them someday
Wild, wild horses, we’ll ride them someday