“Wives and Lovers”, Mad Men and Julie London

Since giving up work a few weeks ago, my life has taken a serious turn for the better – Suddenly there is enough time for everything I need to do in my life and joy of joys there is also enough time for some things that I don’t really need to do, but am enjoying immensely. One of the frivolous things I don’t really need to do, has been to binge watch one of my favourite television shows, Mad Men, set in the 1960s at the fictional Sterling Cooper advertising agency on New York’s Madison Avenue. Season One begins in March 1960, just before I was born, and it’s almost worth watching for the clothes alone. Totally impractical but incredibly beautiful.

The show won many awards over the years and has been lauded for its historical accuracy. For fans of music, the song choices for each episode were spot on in terms of evoking the era and how they related to a particular scene or storyline. This song, Fly Me To The Moon by Julie London, featured in the first season of Mad Men. I have always loved her languid voice, especially when singing her signature song Cry Me A River, and Julie’s look and sound were totally appropriate for this glamorous show.

Towards the end of the first season, the upcoming presidential elections feature highly as the agency was to work with Nixon’s team to help him secure that win. They think it’s a foregone conclusion but of course we all now know it turned out very differently back in 1960 and Nixon ended up being pipped at the post by a young Jack Kennedy. After watching that episode I was reminded of something in my box of memorabilia – Richard Nixon may not have won the election in 1960 but in a very tragic roundabout way, he did win the election in 1968 and soon after he paid a visit to Britain to meet with our incumbent Prime Minister, Harold Wilson. I know this because I still have my 1969 school exercise book devoted to the pursuit of “joint-up writing”, something we were all just getting to grips with at the tender age of eight.

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Last time I shared something written by my own fair hand, CC from Charity Chic Music commented that my handwriting was much better than his at the same age – That would be down to the long hours spent perfecting it in Mrs Fraser’s Primary Four classroom. I think this February entry was one of my first perfect 10 scores, but from then on they just kept on coming. And this has been one of my downfalls in life – I am from the kind of family where if you got 99 out of a 100 in a test, there would be some praise but mainly the question would be, “What did you get wrong and why?”. This drive to get perfect scores in whatever I turned my hand to has led to much anguish over the years and of course when it comes to the world of work it is nigh impossible, especially nowadays when constant “firefighting” seems to be the order of the day. So, although I seem to be living the life of Riley at the moment, sometimes watching television during the day no less, a lot of it is down to the fact that yet again I had to walk away from a job I felt I could no longer do “perfectly” because of our new agile working set-up. Instead it is being done by someone who will do it “well enough”, certainly not perfectly, but everyone will be happy with that.

But I have become side-tracked by Richard Nixon – Time to get back to 1960 and what was happening on Madison Avenue. Mad Men depicts the American society and culture of the 1960s, highlighting cigarette smoking, drinking, sexism, adultery, homophobia, anti-semitism, and racism. It kind of reminds us that although we have a nostalgia for the past, we also sometimes have a selective memory.

A song I have in my digital database by Julie London is this one, but not easy to listen to nowadays. Despite the fact I love the songs of Burt Bacharach and Hal David, the lyrics to Wives and Lovers are just so at odds with how a 21st century woman would think, or more importantly how a man would expect her to think, that they become quite laughable. However if you watched only the first episode of Mad Men, set in 1960, they suddenly seem frighteningly accurate:

Hey! Little Girl
Comb your hair, fix your makeup
Soon he will open the door.
Don’t think because there’s a ring on your finger
You needn’t try anymore   (?!)

Day after day
There are girls at the office
And men will always be men.
Don’t send him off with your hair still in curlers
You may not see him again   (?!)

There is a lot of talk in the media at the moment about certain “unsolicited actions” and “inappropriate behaviour” having been carried out by people in power. Our blogging buddy Jez has written a very good piece about it this weekend (link here) which I would thoroughly recommend. As he says, time and time again we hear the defence that the accused is “a dinosaur”, that their behaviour was acceptable “back in the day” – No, it really wasn’t.

Wives and Lovers by Julie London:

Until next time….

Wives and Lovers Lyrics
(Song by Burt Bacharach/Hal David)

Hey! Little Girl
Comb your hair, fix your makeup
Soon he will open the door
Don’t think because there’s a ring on your finger
You needn’t try anymore

For wives should always be lovers too
Run to his arms the moment he comes home to you
I’m warning you…

Day after day
There are girls at the office
And men will always be men
Don’t send him off with your hair still in curlers
You may not see him again

For wives should always be lovers too
Run to his arms the moment he comes home to you
He’s almost here…

Hey! Little girl
Better wear something pretty
Something you’d wear to go to the city and
Dim all the lights, pour the wine, start the music
Time to get ready for love
Time to get ready
Time to get ready for love

Postscript:

Just in case anyone hadn’t heard of her before, Julie London was an American singer and actress, whose career spanned over forty years. She released 32 albums of pop and jazz standards during the 1950s and 1960s, her signature song being the classic Cry Me a River. Julie’s 35-year acting career began in 1944 and included roles co-starring with Rock Hudson, Gary Cooper and Robert Mitchum. She achieved continuing success in television in the 1970s, appearing in the show Emergency! with her husband, Bobby Troup.

Roberta Flack, Clint Eastwood and “The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face”

Well, today was the start of the first “normal” working week for a while after the confusing festive period. I am glad however as it is easy to get thrown out of kilter by the space-time continuum messiness that happens around this time of year – It certainly has thrown a certain Chain-Ganger, who shall remain nameless, but hopefully all will be back to normal this week!

Anyone who visits these pages will know that I am often earworm-afflicted, but thankfully most of these earworms are of the pleasurable variety. Last week it was The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face by Roberta Flack which had popped up on on the car radio on my way home from work. I hadn’t heard it in years and was struck by just how beautiful it was. Such a slow pace to it which contrasted markedly to everything else I had heard during the same journey. It was actually written back in 1957 by Ewan MacColl, the multi-talented British folk singer, songwriter, activist and more importantly, dad to Kirsty, but was subsequently covered by many other artists.

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The young Ewan MacColl – Is it me or is there a passing resemblance here to a certain Mr Shane MacGowan?

Ewan made no bones about the fact that he didn’t like these cover versions, but despite that, Roberta’s version from 1972 became a major international hit, winning a Grammy Award for Record of the Year. Her rendition, at over five minutes long was much slower than the original which ran to only two and a half minutes but the success of this more sensual version was no doubt because it was used by Clint Eastwood for his 1971 film Play Misty for Me, where he made his directorial debut. Yes, although the song was originally written as a love song for Ewan’s long-distance American lover Peggy Seeger, whom he subsequently married, the Roberta Flack version, once in the hands of Mr Eastwood became a song all about “makin’ love” – All very smooth in the make-believe world of the movie and not at all like in the real world where I’m sure there would have probably been nettle stings, ants and mussed-up hair.   

The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face by Roberta Flack:

Play Misty for Me is a really great psychological thriller and one which I do remember watching on television as a teenager, back in the ’70s. Of course in those days families generally only had one television set which resided in what we called The Living Room (although I am aware that depending on your class and geographical location it could have been called something else). We also had no central heating but a very fine looking 2 bar electric fire to keep us cosy during the long winter months. My point is that the whole family sat in the living room watching television together and whenever “scenes of a sexual nature” as they are called nowadays were transmitted, it was a cue for everyone to get very embarrassed. My dad would suddenly pick up his Aberdeen Press and Journal (Scotland’s oldest daily newspaper) to hide behind, and my mum would find something very important to do in the kitchen. I was left red-faced, willing the “scene of a sexual nature” to be over as soon as possible so that we could all get back to the business in hand, which was hoping that the dashing Carmel-by-the-Sea radio jockey Mr Eastwood, would manage to thwart the unwanted attentions of his stalker, Jessica Walter.

And here is where the law of freaky coincidences strikes again. After purchasing the song at the weekend I decided to write about it on Sunday night. I got side-tracked however by a spot of boxset binging – Mad Men, the final season. Anyone who has watched Mad Men will know that it is an American period drama set primarily in the 1960s at the fictional Sterling Cooper advertising agency on Madison Avenue. We were now right at the end of the final season however and had reached the early 1970s. At the end of each episode they chose a song from the era to accompany the closing credits and what did Sunday night’s turn out to be? Yes, The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face by Roberta Flack!

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The Cast of Mad Men – We’ve reached the 1970s!

But of course I can’t leave it there as this would just be too schmaltzy a post. No, instead I will leave you with Will from the Inbetweeners movie, who thought that a spot of Roberta Flack would help him capture the heart of Katie, a girl he had met on holiday – Needless to say it didn’t, and she led him a merry dance on the way to finding that out, but all very funny nonetheless. Until next time, I give you Will…..

The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face
(Song by Ewan MacColl)

The first time ever I saw your face
I thought the sun rose in your eyes
And the moon and the stars were the gifts you gave
To the dark and the endless skies my love
To the dark and the endless skies

The first time ever I kissed your mouth
I felt the earth move in my hand
Like the trembling heart of a captive bird
That was there at my command my love
That was there at my command my love

And the first time ever I lay with you
I felt your heart so close to mine
And I knew our joy would fill the earth
And last ’till the end of time my love
And it would last ’till the end of time

The first time ever I saw your face
Your face, your face