The Bee Gees, Al Green and “How Can You Mend A Broken Heart”

Like many of us, I probably spend far too much time in a day visiting the various blogs I follow but today’s visit to a great series called The Songwriters by Chris over at Winding Road has got me all emotional. Any regulars to this place know that I’m a bit fragile at the moment anyway because of my impending “retirement” so it doesn’t take much to push me over the edge. The songwriters of choice today were The Bee Gees and although it took me quite some time to admit to being a fan of both them and their music around here, once I did I was flooded with affirmation that it was ok, so a bit of a relief really.

One of the featured songs in Chris’ post was How Can You Mend A Broken Heart, written by The Bee Gees but covered by Al Green in 1972. You probably reside in much calmer households, but with darling daughter back living with us, there seems to be no end of broken hearts around here nowadays and somehow we get caught up in it all. The simple relationships she and her friends had during their schooldays and beyond appear to be far behind them now, and never a weekend seems to go by without some drama or other. This weekend has been no exception so needless to say this song has suddenly become very pertinent.

Because of the subject matter, it pops up all the time on film soundtracks and I probably remember it best from the Richard Curtis film Notting Hill. Poor old Hugh Grant had very bravely but sensibly rejected Hollywood A-lister Julia Roberts’ advances, but it wasn’t an easy decision and he had to suffer the emotional fall-out as a result. Cue Al Green and his beautiful version of the song.

Barry and Robin Gibb wrote the song one afternoon in 1970 after getting back together after a period of estrangement. How Can You Mend A Broken Heart was obviously relevant to their situation but it also cries out to all those broken-hearted souls who have just seen a parting of the ways. Fortunately for us the Gibb brothers did mend their broken hearts otherwise everything they did after 1970 would have been lost to us. I don’t think this is a spoiler alert because just about everyone who would have wanted to watch Notting Hill will have done so by now, but Hugh’s broken heart also ends up being mended too!

I did spend a fair bit of time watching Glastonbury on telly this year, dipping in and out over the weekend of festivites. Sunday afternoon is reserved for the Legend Slot and this year the artist performing was none other than Barry Gibb himself. It was for me the highlight of the weekend (and there were many this year) but what can I say, this blog’s tagline is “A Nostalgic Journey Through the Tracks of My Years” and it doesn’t get much more nostalgic for me than hearing Barry sing all those great songs he recorded with his brothers over a 40-year period. The sadness came from the fact that he (ironically the eldest of the four brothers) is now the only one still alive, but they are always up there on stage with him he says, and at one point a large image of the missing Bee Gees came up on the screen behind him. Here is a clip of one of the last times they would have performed How Can You Mend A Broken Heart together on stage, pretty much just as it would have sounded back on that fateful afternoon in 1970.

How Can You Mend A Broken Heart by The Bee Gees:

So, “What’s it all about?” – From experience broken hearts do get mended, but usually all down to that old chestnut time. Try telling that to a 21-year-old who has just had their heart broken however – It doesn’t tend to go down very well.

Until next time….

How Can You Mend A Broken Heart Lyrics
(Song by Barry Gibb/Robin Gibb)

I can think of younger days
When living for my life
Was everything a man could want to do
I could never see tomorrow
But I was never told about the sorrow

How can you mend a broken heart?
How can you stop the rain from falling down?
How can you stop the sun from shining?
What makes the world go round?

How can you mend this broken man?
How can a loser ever win?
Please help me mend my broken heart
And let me live again

I can still feel the breeze
That rustles through the trees
And misty memories of days gone by
We could never see tomorrow
But no one said a word about the sorrow

How can you mend a broken heart?
How can you stop the rain from falling down
How can you stop the sun from shining
What makes the world go round

And how can you mend this broken man?
How can a loser ever win?
Please help me mend my broken heart
And let me live again

Music from Love Actually, Part 2 – Joni Mitchell and “Both Sides Now”

Well, what I hadn’t realised earlier this year when I decided to have a nostalgic revisitation of the “tracks of my years”, was that when we got to Christmas it would all get a bit emotional. Emotional partly because it has, I think we all agree, been one of those years; emotional because I am reminded of all the people who are no longer with us especially my darling dad who crops up on these pages often; emotional because this is the first year my daughter won’t be with us (I hadn’t considered that at some point we would have to share her with her boyfriend’s parents) and finally; emotional because of all the seasonal music my fellow-bloggers are posting.

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But this is only Tuesday so still time to pull myself together, once I get this effort done and dusted. The eagle-eyed amongst you will have noticed that last time, the title of my post was “Music from Love Actually, Part 1”. This then, is to be Part 2.

Since watching the film Love Actually last week I have since re-watched it (overkill maybe), just to remind myself of how significant a role today’s featured song plays in the storyline. Those of you who know the film well will also know that Emma Thompson‘s character, who is married to Harry (played by Alan Rickman RIP), has inadvertently found a beautiful gold necklace she fully expects to be given as a present for Christmas. Upon opening the square shaped box with expectant glee, she discovers that it is instead a Joni Mitchell CD, a great present as she is a big fan, but in that split second she realises that the gold necklace was for someone else, and she has to quickly extricate herself from the room. An emotional (that word again) scene then takes place where she has to pull herself together before re-emerging to join the family.

Throughout this scene in the bedroom, we hear the plaintive sounds of a more mature Joni Mitchell sing Both Sides Now from the album of the same name, released in the year 2000. Maybe it’s just because I’m a lady of a certain age, but it gets me every time. Like Emma’s character in the film, my life for many years was one of putting family first. I ran the school board, organised fund-raisers, took my daughter (and all the kids whose parents worked full-time) to after-school activities, completed courses with the OU and was chief cook and bottle-washer. If I had a pound for every time someone told me I was lucky that I “didn’t work” and was a lady of leisure, I would be a very rich woman! Anyway my point is that poor Emma found herself in the situation where Harry had made, she felt, a fool of her, and the life she had chosen. Fortunately for me, Mr WIAA is self-employed and I have been his (unpaid) secretary for years, so if anyone was going to get a gold necklace it was going to be me (but I didn’t, because I perhaps stupidly keep a tight control on the finances).

Both Sides Now by Joni Mitchell:

But of course most people will know the song Both Sides Now from the 1967 Judy Collins version (there it is again, my favourite year). Joni had written the song earlier that year inspired by a passage from a novel by Saul Bellow. A quote from her goes as follows:

“I was reading Saul Bellow’s “Henderson the Rain King” on a plane and early in the book Henderson the Rain King is also up in a plane. He’s on his way to Africa and he looks down and sees these clouds. I put down the book, looked out the window and saw clouds too, and I immediately started writing the song. I had no idea that the song would become as popular as it did.”

Judy Collins won a Grammy Award for Best Folk Performance in 1969 and it has become one of her signature songs. What I find remarkable is that I wrote very recently about how Judy Collins recorded Leonard Cohen’s song Suzanne in 1966 and that it was she who persuaded the reluctant poet Cohen, to get out on stage to perform his own songs. Here we are again with Judy being the catalyst who perhaps made a couple of Canadian songwriters, international artists of great renown in their own right.

Very few of my real-live friends know about this “place” but one who does told me that she liked it, because it wasn’t one of those depressing blogs – Oh dear, I think I may have just disappointed! Hopefully got it all out of my system now but oh my, listening to the mature Joni Mitchell again, really tugs at the heartstrings.

I have decided that on Christmas Day, as darling daughter will not be with us, we will have a festive lunch and then take food out for the homeless. Mr WIAA is not convinced we will find them, as they will probably already be well catered for, but I have my doubts – Even up here in The Highlands, last weekend we had girls my daughter’s age sleeping in doorways, and in 2016, that just can’t be right.

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Tomorrow is the winter solstice however, where the day is the shortest of the year and the night the longest – We are at the cusp of something astronomical, looking at both sides now, one side has been getting darker and one will be getting lighter. Very apt song therefore for this post.

I will return in a cheerier mood before the big day. Merry Christmas!

Both Sides Now Lyrics
(Song by Joni Mitchell)

Rows and flows of angel hair
And ice cream castles in the air
And feather canyons everywhere,
I’ve looked at clouds that way.

But now they only block the sun,
They rain and they snow on everyone
So many things I would have done,
But clouds got in my way.

I’ve looked at clouds from both sides now
From up and down and still somehow
It’s cloud illusions I recall
I really don’t know clouds at all

Moons and Junes and Ferris wheels,
The dizzy dancing way that you feel
As every fairy tale comes real,
I’ve looked at love that way.

But now it’s just another show,
You leave ’em laughing when you go
And if you care, don’t let them know,
Don’t give yourself away.

I’ve looked at love from both sides now
From give and take and still somehow
It’s love’s illusions I recall
I really don’t know love at all

Tears and fears and feeling proud,
To say “I love you” right out loud
Dreams and schemes and circus crowds,
I’ve looked at life that way.

Oh but now old friends they’re acting strange,
They shake their heads, they say I’ve changed
Well something’s lost, but something’s gained
In living every day.

I’ve looked at life from both sides now
From win and lose and still somehow
It’s life’s illusions I recall
I really don’t know life at all

I’ve looked at life from both sides now
From up and down, and still somehow
It’s life’s illusions I recall
I really don’t know life at all

It’s life’s illusions I recall
I really don’t know life
I really don’t know life at all

Music from Love Actually, Part 1 – The Beach Boys and “God Only Knows”

It’s been a game of two halves, or actually a game of three thirds, but my annual viewing of the very seasonal film Love Actually, is now complete. Spotted that it was on television this week so recorded it and dipped in whenever I had a free hour or so (it’s a very long film).

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Like just about everything this Christmas, it made me sad, but also gave me hope.

Sad, because the wonderful Alan Rickman was one of the main cast members and of course we lost him earlier this year. Realising that this film is now 13 years old, I have just worked out that he was my age when it was filmed. In terms of the conveyor belt of life, I am a fair way down the line now, and there is still so much I want to do and achieve – This shitty year of loss is taking its toll and making a lot of us really appreciate what we still have.

The hopeful part is because of Hugh Grant’s voice-over at the start of the film, which goes as follows:

“Whenever I get gloomy with the state of the world,
I think of the arrivals gate at Heathrow Airport.
General opinion is starting to make out that we live in a world of hatred and greed,
but I don’t see that.
It seems to me that love is everywhere.
Often it’s not particularly dignified or newsworthy,
but it’s always there – fathers and sons, mothers and daughters,
husbands and wives, boyfriends and girlfriends, old friends.
When the planes hit the Twin Towers, as far as I know, none of the phonecalls
from the people on board were messages of hate or revenge –
they were all messages of love.
If you look for it, I’ve got a sneaking suspicion…,
love actually is all around.”

Thirteen years on and many of us are indeed feeling very gloomy about the state of the world but having just rewatched Love Actually (yet again) it does remind me that at the end of the day, love usually wins out, and we even have the wonderful Bill Nighy (playing rock and roll legend Billy Mack) to remind us of that, through the medium of song. As he points out however, it is very hard to substitute a one syllable word like love with a two syllable word like Christmas but he makes a brave attempt and ends up making it to the coveted No. 1 spot in the process, with his version of the classic Troggs‘ hit, Love Is All Around. After briefly celebrating his victory at a party hosted by Sir Elton John, Billy decides that his long-suffering manager Joe is in need of affection and suggests that he and Joe simply celebrate Christmas by getting drunk and watching porn! A hilarious but very touching scene. Yes, new friends come and go, but never forget those who have been with you for the journey.

Bill Nighy is one of my favourite actors and I am constantly amazed at how he can play an aging rocker like Billy Mack one minute and perhaps a senior civil servant or downtrodden husband the next, using exactly the same mannerisms and quirks of speech. Please God let him grace our screens for many more years to come.

The song I want to feature for this post is the one used for the closing credits of the movie, God Only Knows by The Beach Boys. Now this is one of my favourite songs and was written by Brian Wilson and Tony Asher. It was released in May 1966 (very close to my favourite year for music 1967) as the eighth track on the wonderful Beach Boys’ album “Pet Sounds” and is of course from the baroque pop camp, of which I am so fond. The sentiments expressed in the lyrics were not specific to any God, and could be addressed to any “higher power”, being a song apparently about moving forward after loss. Well I don’t know about that because the lyrics seem to infer that moving forward would be nigh impossible. Whatever, it is still one of the most beautiful songs of the 20th century so thank you Brian and the boys for giving it to us.

God Only Knows by The Beach Boys:

So, “What’s It All About?” – I think it’s pretty obvious, don’t you?

God Only Knows Lyrics
(Song by Brian Wilson/Tony Asher)

I may not always love you
But long as there are stars above you
You never need to doubt it
I’ll make you so sure about it

God only knows what I’d be without you
If you should ever leave me
Though life would still go on believe me
The world could show nothing to me
So what good would living do me

God only knows what I’d be without you
God only knows what I’d be without you
If you should ever leave me
Well life would still go on believe me
The world could show nothing to me
So what good would living do me

God only knows what I’d be without you
God only knows what I’d be without you
God only knows

“Love Is All Around”, Four Weddings and Marti Pellow

I wrote yesterday about Bryan Adams’ monopolisation of the British music charts in 1991 with his movie song. 1994 was most definitely monopolised by another movie song – Wet Wet Wet with their version of The Troggs’ Love Is All Around. As it turns out it would have beaten Bryan Adams record of 16 weeks at No. 1 had the band themselves not taken the decision to delete it from sale after week 15. They were fully aware by this time that everyone was fed up hearing it and some radio stations had even taken to banning it from the airwaves.

Love Is All Around by Wet Wet Wet:

The song had been attached to the fantastically popular film Four Weddings and a Funeral and yet again, droves of fans of the film took to purchasing possibly their first single in many a year. It hit the number one spot at the end of May and stayed there until October!

I remember going to see it that summer with my husband and his family who were home from abroad for a visit. Seemed like a good idea for a night out and I must admit to loving the film so much, I went back the following week for a second viewing. Hugh Grant had been around in films for a while but when Richard Curtis cast him as the smart, funny, good-looking but slightly awkward Charles in Four Weddings, he struck gold. The whole cast of mainly British actors (we’ll not mention Ms MacDowell as I think she was included to appease the American market) were fabulous and although set in “Richard Curtis-world” where everyone lives in stately homes or Notting Hill townhouses with no discernable income stream to match, the film was a tremendous success. When Liz Hurley hit the red carpet on Hugh Grant’s arm in the safety pin dress, her career took a discernable turn for the better also, so lots of winners here.

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I expect the biggest winner of all was Reg Presley of The Troggs who had written the song in 1967 and had a top ten hit with it back then. Nearly 30 years on and here he was, the writer of the biggest-selling single of all time. Very nice for the pension pot.

Not too shabby either for Wet Wet Wet but sadly this was to be one of their last forays into the pop charts. They had started out in the ’80s as a Celtic Soul band but as happened with my earlier pop hero David Cassidy, the good looks (and incredibly smiley face) of lead singer Marti Pellow meant they quickly became teen idols. A long string of pop hits followed culminating with the truly massive Love Is All Around. As with many acts like Wet Wet Wet, they had great commercial success but really craved credibility – Hard to get both and when they went their separate ways, problems ensued.  As Kevin Bridges commented in his latest standup routine, Marti Pellow must have been the only person to leave Clydebank, and become a heroin addict (no slur on Clydebank intended). All that seems to be behind him now however and he has become a bit of a West End star turning up in many big productions.

Something I never got to the bottom of however – All through his Wet Wet Wet career which included numerous TOTP appearances, Marti sported the short, spikey haircut that boys from that era tended to have. All of a sudden he was belting out the now big production number that was Love Is All Around, sporting long, luscious locks. That was hair which would have taken years of growth and high-level maintenance. Still don’t know how he did it and probably never will!

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Love Is All Around Lyrics
(Song by Reg Presley)

I feel it in my fingers
I feel it in my toes
Love is all around me
And so the feeling grows

It’s written on the wind
It’s everywhere I go
So if you really love me
Come on and let it show

You know I love you, I always will
My mind’s made up by the way that I feel
There’s no beginning, there’ll be no end
‘Cause on my love you can depend

I see your face before me
As I lay on my bed
I kinda get to thinking
Of all the things you said

You gave your promise to me and I gave mine to you
I need someone beside me in everything I do

You know I love you, I always will
My mind’s made up by the way that I feel
There’s no beginning, there’ll be no end
‘Cause on my love you can depend