Canvey Island, Brit Funk and the “Southern Freeez”

Considering we in the UK are experiencing a bit of a heatwave at the moment, this post title sounds a bit ironic but all will soon make sense, so please bear with me. Living up here in the North of Scotland, there are lot of places “down south” that I’ve heard of, but don’t necessarily know much about. One such place is Canvey Island and since starting this blog, it keeps coming up in the research as having spawned an awful lot of bands. But where is Canvey Island, and is it indeed an island? Well technically it does seem to be, but like a few other similar landmasses, it’s separated from the mainland of Essex by a mere sliver of water.

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Canvey Island off the coast of Essex

The first time Canvey Island came up in the research was when I wrote about Eddie and the Hot Rods (link here) as they came from the place, as it seems did The Kursaal Flyers and the band who came to be known as “Canvey Island’s finest”, Dr. Feelgood. The whole pub rock musical genre flourished there in the 1970s and that part of Essex became the destination of choice for artists such as Graham Parker, Nick Lowe and Elvis Costello.

But it’s not pub rock I’m going to write about here, it’s another phenomenon that found its roots on Canvey Island – A genre of music that came to be known as Brit funk. Again, living in the North of Scotland I would have had no idea such places existed, but in the early ’70s an old coastal Country Club was turned into a nightclub called the Goldmine. The DJ in residence was Chris Hill and the club came to specialise in “soul nights” where only serious and devoted fans came to get their fix. By 1978 however coach loads of soul fans were arriving from all over the country to experience a piece of the funk action and this unprepossessing building on Canvey Island was firmly on the map as the soul, jazz & funk mecca of the UK – Strange but true.

Acts that came to be associated with Brit funk were Light of the World, Level 42, Beggar and Co, Linx and Freeez. These bands enjoyed chart success in the early ’80s making regular appearances on TOTP, but today’s featured song is the one I remember best from that era, and have fond memories of – Southern Freeez by the band Freeez. It reached No. 8 in the UK Singles Chart in February 1981 with the very “cool” Ingrid Mansfield Allman providing the vocals.

Southern Freeez by Freeez:

The reason I have fond memories of this particular song, despite not really knowing anything about the whole Brit funk scene at the time, is because it came about the year I turned 21. I was a student back then and just about every week an invitation to a fellow student’s birthday bash popped through the mailbox. Mid-week venues were plentiful as many a landlord was happy to throw open the doors to their unused function suites, and provide DJs of varying abilities in return for lucrative bar takings. Being a dance record, and having been a hit early on in the year, Southern Freeez regularly made it onto the playlist and the lyrics always made me smile. I don’t think it happens so much nowadays, but back then an awful lot of romances started life on the dancefloor and all down to whether you “liked their style”, “saw it in their eyes” or were driven to distraction watching them “on the floor doing the Southern Freeez” (which it turns out was a dance move – the band dropped out for a bar and everyone froze).

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As someone who (until recently) always had a closer relationship with the whole sound and feel of a song as apposed to the lyrics, I kind of liked how you could tell so much about a person by how they danced. Mr WIAA and I were always the dancers in our social group and because of that we always gravitated towards each other, being “soul” mates of sorts. It seems that nowadays, where relationships invariably start life on Tinder or via some other virtual medium, attraction is down to looks alone and with a quick “swipe” you are out of the picture for good. Such pressure on everyone to look a certain way, and sometimes all very false and unreal. If I could bottle it I would, but when you really immerse yourself in the music on the dance floor, you are showing your true colours – Nothing false or unreal there. (Fervent non-dancers however, will probably choose to disagree?)

Getting back to Brit funk, it seems that many 1980s pop groups such as Haircut 100, Wham! and notably Spandau Ballet tapped into the style and sound to help launch their careers. This scene reduced racial boundaries in the clubs and raised the profile of black and white musicians working together – All down to a converted Country Club on Canvey Island!

Until next time enjoy the sunshine, but if it all gets a bit too much, you could always drop out and freeze.

Southern Freeez Lyrics
(Song by Andy Stennett, John Rocca, Peter Maas)

Love saw it in your eyes
Sensed it in your smile
Boy I like your style
Oh yeah

When I saw you on the floor doing the southern freeez
Then I knew you were the one the only one for me

Love feel it in your touch
In the way you move
I like it very much yes I do

Time time is moving on
Guess it’s getting late
Soon you’ll take me home

People everywhere doing the southern freeez
Laughing all the time this is the life for me

Heartbeat whisper in my ears
Now it won’t be long no
Just you and me my dear yeah
Sweet darling making love so slow
Your so beautiful yes you are
You got me all a glow

When I saw you on the floor doing the southern freeez
Then I knew you were the one, the only one for me

Seven in Seven #5: Eddy Amoo, The Real Thing and “You To Me Are Everything”

Day Five of my challenge to write seven posts in seven days….

I’m seriously starting to flag now and noticed that I’d pressed the publish button last night without changing the tags, or finishing the post title. All sorted now but it seems my kind of blogging is not short and snappy enough for a daily post, and however hard I try I can’t seem to make them any shorter.

There is a reason for this self-imposed madness however – I have applied for a course at our local college and have the interview next week. I am unsure whether I have enough spare time on my hands to take up the mantle of being the Highlands’ oldest undergraduate, so needed to test the water. Will no doubt keep you all informed on progress however, as I do love to “over-share”.

Inverness-College.jpgI mentioned earlier this week that I’d not written a single tribute this year for anyone from the world of music. I usually rely on Mark over at So It Goes… to keep me updated on who has indeed passed away, as he is usually first off the mark (pun intended). Today he has written about Eunice Gayson, the first Bond girl, who apparently died yesterday at the age of 90. Back in February, Mark announced the passing of Eddy Amoo from the group The Real Thing. I jotted this down in my “blogging notebook”, as they were definitely a group whose songs feature heavily in the tracks of my years.

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Eddie Amoo

If like me you turned 16 in 1976, you will remember that it was dubbed the Long Hot Summer, and for teenagers it was a great time to be alive. We had far more freedom in those days and I don’t think sunscreen had even been invented yet. We lived in blissful ignorance of the damage the sun could wreak on our future middle-aged skin, so just kept topping it up with cooking oil to ensure we turned a “healthy” golden brown. I spent a lot of time that summer with friends at the local youth club. This was the last year we were deemed age-appropriate to attend, as once you turned 17 you were cast out into the world of pubs and “discotheques” – All very grown up, and not at first as comforting as our old youth club, so we made the most of that last summer where it was our fellow school chums who chose and spun the discs.

But I digress – The reason I mention the legendary summer of ’76 is because one of the songs we loved to dance to at the aforementioned youth club was this one, You To Me Are Everything by The Real Thing. It reached the No. 1 spot in July and stayed there for three weeks. It still makes me smile, for in my subconscious it will always be linked to that long, hot summer, when being a teenager was a lot less stressful than it is today. Perhaps it was because of those trousers we used to wear – Who could get hot and bothered with all that fabric flapping about?

You To Me Are Everything by The Real Thing:

The Real Thing were from Liverpool and became the most successful black British group of the 1970s. Although they prided themselves on writing their own material, brothers Chris and Eddy Amoo decided they needed to be more commercial in order to get radio play. With this pop/soul classic, penned by Ken Gold and Michael Denne, they did just that, with bells on. Their follow up record, Can’t Get By Without You made it to the No. 2 spot later on that year.

What I hadn’t realised however was that Eddy Amoo had been in a group called The Chants back in the 1960s. They played the Cavern Club and once had the privilege of having the Beatles act as their backing band (much to the chagrin of Brian Epstein I should add).

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The Chants

After the commercial success of the mid ’70s started to wane, Eddy Amoo returned to the “message songs” he had always wanted to write. “I started to feel that I wanted to really project what had happened to me and the people that I’d grown up with in my songs,” he said. The Real Thing released “4 From 8”, an album exploring the four band members’ experiences of living in Liverpool 8, which covered the troubled Toxteth area. The album included Children of the Ghetto which has become a Liverpool favourite. Eventually it would be covered by Philip Bailey of Earth, Wind and Fire and Mary J Blige, making it a popular protest song.

RIP Eddy Amoo

You To Me Are Everything Lyrics
(Song by Ken Gold/Michael Denne)

I would take the stars out of the sky for you
Stop the rain from falling if you asked me to
I’d do anything for you your wish is my command
I could move a mountain when your hand is in my hand

Words cannot express how much you mean to me
There must be some other way to make you see
If it takes my heart and soul you know I’d pay the price
Everything that I possess I‘d gladly sacrifice

Oh you to me are everything
The sweetest song that I could sing
Oh baby, oh baby

To you I guess I’m just a clown
Who picks you up each time you’re down
Oh baby, oh baby

You give me just a taste of love to
Build my hopes upon
You know you got the power boy
To keep me holding on
So now you got the best of me
Come on and take the rest of me
Oh baby

Though you’re close to me we seem so far apart
Maybe given time you’ll have a change of heart
If it takes forever boy then I’m prepared to wait
The day you give your love to me won’t be a day too late

Postscript:

Don’t think it’s just me, but the set in that Real Thing clip looked very odd. Also, I felt there was something familiar about it. Back in my first year of blogging I wrote another Summer of ’76 post (link here) and one of the featured songs was this one, Get Up And Boogie by Silver Convention. I think they’ve been somewhat rearranged, but those “things” that litter the set are most definitely the same. Very odd indeed. Does anyone recognise the show these two 1976 acts might have appeared on?

A Right Royal Affair, Barry White and “Just The Way You Are”

Well, it was a bit busy around here yesterday as we had to get our outfits organised for heading to a wedding…. down south…. near Windsor!! No, sadly it wasn’t that wedding but a bit of a coincidence that our young friends are to tie the knot amongst those very iconic surroundings so soon after the Right Royal Affair. No big crowds for them though, and no long carriage rides (I don’t think anyway) but looking forward to it all very much. I’ve mentioned here before that we live in a very sociable street, and as the bride-to-be is one of our own, having been brought up in the house next-door to us, all the neighbours are going. Even Albert, who celebrated his 90th birthday last year with a party in one of our gardens, is going to make the long trip south in his capacity as honorary granddad.

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But I do also love a Royal Wedding and I will admit to having spent much of yesterday watching the build-up to it all and then the actual service itself. I know these events are not for everyone, and the family in question does come in for much criticism at times, but not from me. Luck was on Harry and Meghan’s side though, and the deep blue skies shining above Windsor Castle yesterday made that little corner of England look absolutely stunning – So much history, and just so scenic. Considering there was to be an estimated 2 billion people watching the event on television, I would guess that tourist numbers are going to be well up for the foreseeable future. In view of all the “exiting” that’s been going on around here of late, a bit of a relief that at least one aspect of the economy might have been given a fortuitous boost.

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The actual wedding itself was certainly like no other royal wedding any of us have watched before, and despite the bride having had to contend with family difficulties in the build up to her big day, her mother, Doria Ragland, presented a highly dignified figure as the sole representative on the Markle side. A million miles away from her comfort zone no doubt, but how cool that for once, the mother of the bride sported dreadlocks and a nose stud. But of course for most of us who watched it, the unexpected star was the Reverend Michael Curry who treated the congregation to an evangelical-style sermon which to be fair did go on a bit, and caused several members of the royal family to exude nervous giggles (Camilla?), but even for non-believers this was rousing stuff. We had the usual musical offerings from the St George’s Chapel choristers, but lo and behold we also had Stand By Me from The Kingdom Choir. Who would have thought a generation ago, that the works of Ben E. King would feature so prominently at such an event.

Stand By Me by Ben E. King:

But the featured song today is going to be something else. I used to like the flow of it all when I linked each post in this blog to the one before – Last time I wrote about Billy Joel and his album “The Stranger”, so what better song to include here than another one written for it, Just The Way You Are. This time it won’t be Billy doing the honours however, but a man who recorded the song in 1978 and reached No. 12 in the UK Singles Chart, Mr Barry White – I do love a bass-baritone voice, and I also love the languid and sensual delivery he gave to all his songs, but also a very appropriate song for this post. Turns out that had he still been alive, he could have made the perfect contribution to yesterday’s very romantic royal wedding.

Just The Way You Are by Barry White:

“So, What’s It All About?” – Harry, unlike so many royal princes that have gone before him, has been allowed to choose his own bride and in Miss Markle he seems to have found the perfect match. If there was ever an actual form, complete with tick boxes, of the traits a potential royal bride should possess (and I suspect there will have been), Meghan would have failed spectacularly, but that form seems to have been quite rightly now torn to shreds. From a first date to the wedding day itself has been quite a speedy process, so they also seem to still exhibit the touchy-feeliness that comes with that first flush of romance. As a slightly more mature bride, Meghan has not been railroaded into having to adapt and change to fit in with the very unique family that are “The Windsors”. At some point Harry must have said to her, “Don’t go changing, to try and please me,” before adding, “I love you just the way you are”!

Until next time….

Just The Way You Are Lyrics
(Song by Billy Joel)

I never take anything for granted
Only a fool maybe takes things for granted
Just because it’s here today
It can be gone tomorrow
And that’s one thing that you
Never in your life ever have to worry about me
If I’ll ever change towards you because
Baby I love you
Yeah I love you
Just the way… You are…

Don’t go changing, trying to please me
You never let me down before
I don’t imagine you’re too familiar
And I don’t see you anymore
I would not leave you in times of trouble
We never could have come this far
I took the good times, I’ll take the bad times
I’ll take you just the way you are

Don’t go trying some new fashion
Don’t change the color of your hair
You always have my unspoken passion
Although I might not seem to care

I don’t want clever conversation
I don’t want to work that hard
I just want some someone to talk to
I want you just the way you are

I need to know that you will always be
The same old someone that I knew
What will it take till you believe in me
The way that I believe in you.

I said I love you and that’s forever
And this I promise from my heart
I could not love you any better
I love you just the way you are

Dionne, Aretha and “I Say A Little Prayer”

Now that I no longer have to commute to work every day, I seem to be missing out on those wonderful moments when a great song comes on the car radio, and you just have to turn up the volume to full blast.

I did however experience such a thing earlier this week on my way to the supermarket and needless to say it stuck with me for a good few days. The song was this one, I Say a Little Prayer, written by my favourite songwriting team of Burt Bacharach and Hal David. Inevitably the first person to record it back in 1967 was Dionne Warwick, as she was very much Burt’s “go-to” girl when he needed a chanteuse for his great material. What I hadn’t realised until now was that Hal David’s lyrics were meant to convey a woman’s concern for her man, who was serving in the Vietnam War (makes total sense now considering the timing). I have always loved those first few lines where the words wake up and makeup are used to such great effect. The rhyme just works so perfectly and for us girls, anything that happens before the morning ritual of putting on the makeup is early indeed, so doubly emphasizes the urgency of the prayer.

The moment I wake up
Before I put on my makeup
I say a little prayer for you

Although Burt’s recordings with Dionne usually took no more than three takes, I Say a Little Prayer took ten takes and he still disliked the completed track, feeling it rushed. He was nothing if not a perfectionist that Burt Bacharach.

But the version I heard in the car the other day wasn’t by Dionne but instead by the person who had a big hit with it in the UK. Aretha Franklin was in the process of recording her 1968 album entitled “Aretha Now” when her backing vocalists, The Sweet Inspirations, started singing the song just for fun. It suddenly became apparent that I Say a Little Prayer could be a worthy inclusion on the new album which is exactly what happened. The song ended up being released in July 1968 as the B-side to the single The House that Jack Built, but after accruing its own airplay reached No. 10 on the Billboard Chart and No. 4 on the UK Singles Chart.

And here is where the music producers seem to get it horribly wrong at times – It had taken much persuasion for Burt to release the original recording by Dionne Warwick, but with Theme from Valley of the Dolls on the B-side, it became one of the most successful double-sided releases of all time. Aretha’s version was never expected to make any sort of mark in its own right, but in subsequent decades it has been ranked right at the top of lists relating to the “Greatest 150 Singles of All Time”. How bizarre and makes you wonder what other delights have slipped through the net and never been given the air time they indubitably deserved. Then again, is that not the case for every art form? How many great writers and artists (and I include Mr WIAA and some of my blogging buddies in those categories) slip through the net, not seeming to catch that lucky break needed to get to the important next level, where actual money changes hands for exceptional work done.

But before I go, it should also be mentioned that I Say a Little Prayer is one of several Bacharach and David songs to feature prominently in the 1997 rom-com/chick-flick My Best Friend’s Wedding. There was a reggae-style cover by Diana King and a version sung by the film’s cast. Diana’s cover was released as a single which brought the song back to the Top 40 almost thirty years after Dionne Warwick’s original.

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I Say A Little Prayer by Diana King:

So, “What’s It All About?” – Having included all three very different versions in this post, they are ripe for a compare and contrast. Dionne’s does indeed sound a bit too rushed and not typical of Burt Bacharach’s usual orchestral pop style. Diana’s reggae version certainly creates a very different sound where the lyrics are sung Jamaican-style (before mi put on mi makeup). Aretha however, being the Queen of Soul an’ all that, nails it for me and it’s probably why the car radio had to be turned up to such a volume earlier in the week. Some songs, despite having a very low key start in life, end up becoming the most memorable and that’s why I live in hope that some of my wonderful artsy friends also eventually catch that lucky break which leads to their work being reclassified from being ordinary, to being extra-ordinary.

Until next time….

I Say A Little Prayer Lyrics

(Song by Burt Bacharach/Hal David)

The moment I wake up
Before I put on my makeup
I say a little prayer for you
While combing my hair, now
And wondering what dress to wear, now
I say a little prayer for you

Forever, forever, you’ll stay in my heart
And I will love you
Forever, and ever we never will part
Oh, how I’ll love you
Together, together, that’s how it must be
To live without you
Would only be heartbreak for me

I run for the bus, dear
While riding I think of us, dear
I say a little prayer for you
At work I just take time
And all through my coffee break-time
I say a little prayer for you

Forever, forever, you’ll stay in my heart
And I will love you
Forever, and ever we never will part
Oh, how I’ll love you
Together, together, that’s how it must be
To live without you
Would only mean heartbreak for me

I say a little prayer for you
I say a little prayer for you

Forever, forever, you’ll stay in my heart
And I will love you
Forever, and ever we never will part
Oh, how I’ll love you
Together, together, that’s how it must be
To live without you
Would only mean heartbreak for me

My darling, believe me
For me there is no one, but you
Please love me, too
I’m in love with you
Answer my prayer
Say you love me, too
Why don’t you answer my prayer?
You know, every day I say a little prayer
I said, I say, I say a little prayer

An American Odyssey in Song: Pennsylvania – The Delfonics and “Didn’t I (Blow Your Mind This Time)”

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!

Looking back at the “history” for this post (we get that here at WordPress), I started writing it back in November! I really need to pick up the pace with this series otherwise it looks as if I’m going to be in my dotage before I make it all the way round to my final destination, Florida. Anyway, as it’s now been over three months since I entered New Jersey (must have lost track of time in those vast gambling emporiums in Atlantic City), the great state of Pennsylvania now beckons. Yet again however we are entering a state that cannot be neatly summed up as having a single character. Pennsylvania has wide stretches of farmland, forests and mountains but it also has Philadelphia, the sixth largest city in the US.

pennsylvaniaA few random facts about Pennsylvania. It was one of the 13 original founding states and came into being as a result of a royal land grant given to William Penn, an English Quaker and son of the state’s namesake. Philadelphia played an important role in the American Revolution as a meeting place for the Founding Fathers of the United States – The Declaration of Independence was signed there on the 4th of July, 1776. It is also home to the cracked Liberty Bell, an iconic symbol of American independence.

During the American Civil War, the Battle of Gettysburg was fought in the south central region of the state and is the place where Abraham Lincoln delivered his landmark address. The Pennsylvania Dutch (who were actually German/Deutsch) settled in the south-east of the state and there are still Christian groups living there today who separate themselves from the world favouring simple living and plain dressing.

But what do I associate with Pennsylvania when it comes to music. Last time a few suggestions were offered up for which I am always grateful. Rol over at My Top Ten suspected I might choose Pennsylvania 6-5000 by The Glenn Miller Orchestra which was most definitely going to be a contender until I discovered it was actually the telephone number for the Hotel Pennsylvania in New York City! C, from Sun Dried Sparrows suggested I’m in Pittsburgh (and It’s Raining) by the Outcasts, a sort of “sub-Stones US ’60s garage classic” she tells us. Last but not least Lynchie, a frequent and very knowledgeable visitor to the music blogosphere, came up with two songs by Loudon Wainwright III. “I don’t think you’ll find the first one on YouTube” he said, and he was right, but fortunately he gave us some of the lyrics for Have You Ever Been To Pittsburgh.

Have you ever been to Pittsburgh
Do you think you’d wanna go?
Have you ever been to Pittsburgh
(It’s in Pennsylvania)
Do you think you’d wanna go?
Well – if you wanna go to Pittsburgh
Get on the bus and go!

“Loudon however”, he added, “also wrote the more affectionate Ode To Pittsburgh” and this time it could be found YouTube. A nice little film to accompany the song that gives us a bit of a flavour of what it might be like to live there. Not heard it myself before, but I find myself strangely smitten.

But as ever, music and film go hand in hand for me, and three movies immediately came to mind for this Pennsylvania post. The tunes from them are by no means all favourites, but they do for me, sum up the state. As tends to happen at award ceremonies, I will announce the results in reverse order:

First of all, when I saw that the next state we would be entering was Pennsylvania, I was immediately reminded of the film The Deer Hunter as the main characters in that epic Vietnam war drama were steelworkers from Clairton, Pennsylvania, a small working class town south of Pittsburgh. The images of that grim steel town have obviously stayed with me but also the scenes in the mountains where that trio of friends, played by Robert De Niro, Christopher Walken and John Savage, spend much of their time deer hunting. I didn’t see the film when it first came out in 1979, but I do remember that the piece of music called Cavatina (popularly known as “Theme from The Deer Hunter”) received much radio airplay at the time and reached No. 13 in the UK Singles Chart. It was performed by classical guitarist John Williams whom I have just discovered is not the same John Williams responsible for writing the film scores for ET and Jurassic Park. Obvious now, but the same name and from a long time ago.

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Cavatina by John Williams:

The second film I was reminded of was of course Rocky where the main character, played by new kid on the block Sylvester Stallone, is to be seen pounding the streets of Philadelphia in his grey sweats, whilst carrying out his gruelling training regime. These scenes were of course very memorably played out to the sounds of Gonna Fly Now (popularly known as the “Theme from Rocky”) which was composed by Bill Conti. The lyrics (all 30 words of them), were performed by DeEtta Little and Nelson Pigford. Released in February 1977, the song has become part of American popular culture after Rocky Balboa runs up the 72 stone steps leading to the Philadelphia Museum of Art and then raises his arms in a victory pose.

Whenever I watch 1970s footage of American cities (like in this clip), I think of “the three B’s”, boxes, braziers and back alleys, as just about everything I watched on telly back then seemed to feature these three elements. Maybe it was just because there was a plethora of gritty cop shows and crime dramas, but also our inner cities were in real need of gentrification. I am sure however that the Philadelphia of today looks quite different, and I’m also sure that Neil from Yeah, Another Blogger, who is a resident, will keep us right on that score?

Gonna Fly Now by DeEtta Little and Nelson Pigford:

But of course I can’t write a post about PA, without mentioning all the great music that came to be known as the Philadelphia Sound, or Philly Soul. Any regular visitors to this place might remember that I wrote about how it all came to pass recently (The O’Jays, The Three Degrees and a “Year Of Decision”). It does seem that there were three pivotal players without whom it might never have happened – Philadelphia International Records was founded in 1971 by the very talented writer-producer duo Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff, along with collaborator Thom Bell. It very much showcased a new genre of music based on the gospel, doo-wop and soul music of the time. Throughout the 1970s the label released a string of worldwide hits which featured lavish orchestral instrumentation, heavy bass and driving percussion. Some of their most popular and best selling acts included The O’Jays, The Three Degrees, Harold Melvin & the Blue Notes, Teddy Pendergrass, Billy Paul, Patti LaBelle and Lou Rawls.

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But I have written about some of those artists before so this time I’m going to go a little further back in time to 1969 when Didn’t I (Blow Your Mind This Time) was written by producer Thom Bell and William Hart, lead singer of the Philadelphia R&B/Soul vocal group The Delfonics. It was released by the group on the Philly Groove record label and is regarded as a classic, winning a Grammy Award for Best R&B Performance by a Duo or Group.

And this is where my third film choice comes in, as for many of us, it is simply that great song from the Tarantino film Jackie Brown. It very much plays a pivotal role in the film as it underscores the relationship between main characters Jackie, and Max Cherry. Like many others I was probably a bit too young for a song like this when it first came along in 1969 but after re-discovering it in 1997, when the film came out, I found a new appreciation for Philadelphia based groups like The Delfonics.

Didn’t I (Blow Your Mind This Time) by The Delfonics:

So that’s your lot as far as Pennsylvania goes. When I started this series it was with a view to featuring one song per state but of course once you start to do the research it becomes impossible to limit it to just that. Next time however we will be entering Delaware, a very small state indeed which at the moment is not offering up any inspiration (bar the obvious candidate). If you have any suggestions feel free to leave them in the comments boxes, as left to my own devices it’s going to be a very short post.

It has just occurred to me, as I returned to the top of the page to insert a title, that I may have inadvertently been a tad insensitive having included both the Theme from The Deer Hunter and Didn’t I (Blow Your Mind This Time) in the same post – To anyone who has “experienced” the film The Deer Hunter, they will probably know what I mean. Enough said.

See you in Delaware….

Didn’t I (Blow Your Mind This Time) Lyrics
(Song by Thom Bell/William Hart)

I gave my heart and soul to you, girl
Now didn’t I do it, baby didn’t I do it baby
Gave you the love you never knew, girl, oh
Didn’t I do it, baby didn’t I do it baby

I’ve cried so many times and that’s no lie
It seems to make you laugh each time I cry

Didn’t I blow your mind this time, didn’t I
Didn’t I blow your mind this time, didn’t I
Yes sir

I thought that heart of yours was true, girl
Now, didn’t I think it baby didn’t I think it baby
But this time I’m really leavin’ you girl oh
Hope you know it baby hope you know it baby

Ten times or more, yes, I’ve walked out that door
Get this into your head, there’ll be no more

Didn’t I blow your mind this time, didn’t I
Didn’t I blow your mind this time, didn’t I
Yes sir

(Didn’t I do it baby didn’t I do it baby)
(Didn’t I do it baby didn’t I do it baby)

Ten times or more, yes, I’ve walked out that door
Get this into your head, there’ll be no more

Didn’t I blow your mind this time, didn’t I (oh)
Didn’t I blow your mind this time, didn’t I (Hoo
Didn’t I blow your mind this time, didn’t I (Did I blow your mind, baby)
Didn’t I blow your mind this time, didn’t I (Can’t you see)
Didn’t I blow your mind this time, didn’t I (Did I blow your mind)
Didn’t I blow your mind this time, didn’t I (Ooh baby, ooh)

Girl, can we talk for a second
I know it’s been a long time
Since some someone’s blown your mind, like I did
There’ll be other times, for me and you
And I can see the tears fallin’ from your eyes

Tell me girl, did I blow your mind

Didn’t I blow your mind this time, didn’t I (Did I blow your mind baby)
Didn’t I blow your mind this time, didn’t I (Ooh, ooh, ooh, ooh, ooh, ooh, ooh)

The O’Jays, The Three Degrees and a “Year Of Decision”

Well, this is odd. As regulars to this place know I left work last week after around 30 years with the same organisation – Not going to rush headlong into the next project yet, which could be all too easy, so until I start something new I find myself with plenty of spare time to sit down and partake in a little light blogging. Just as I do that however, it seems that inspiration has deserted me! Strange, as when I was a busy bee I had no shortage of inspiration and could often be seen bashing away on the laptop into the early hours of the morning.

But no, the problem this time is perhaps not a lack of inspiration but rather indecision as to what to write about next. I have a couple of series in progress and I have my trusty “blogging notebook” of ideas to refer to, but somehow neither of these routes work for me today so it’s time to search my digital database of tunes, to find something that relates to decision-making – Didn’t have to look far as immediately up popped Year Of Decision from 1974, by The Three Degrees. I haven’t featured anything from that stable of artists who went on to create the Philadelphia Sound before, so high time really. Also, my recent personal “big decision”, makes the lyrics very pertinent.

Year Of Decision by The Three Degrees:

Ok, so if you watched the clip, you had to endure that faux banter that used to happen as a prelude to introducing the acts on light entertainment shows such as this one (plus Cliff’s edge to edge embroidered tunic) but the three girls, Sheila Ferguson, Fayette Pinkney and Valerie Holiday certainly knew how to ply their trade back in the mid ’70s and those glamourous matching outfits, usually chiffon with strategically placed sequins, were their trademark.

Philadelphia International Records was founded in 1971 by the very talented writer-producer duo Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff, along with collaborator Thom Bell.  It very much showcased a new genre of music based on the gospel, doo-wop, and soul music of the time. Throughout the 1970s the label released a string of worldwide hits which featured lavish orchestral instrumentation, heavy bass, and driving percussion. Other than The Three Degrees some of their most popular and best selling acts included The O’Jays, Harold Melvin & the Blue Notes, Teddy Pendergrass, Billy Paul, Patti LaBelle and Lou Rawls. Between 1971 and the early 1980s, the label sold over 170 gold and platinum records.

Watching shows like TOTP in the mid ’70s, rarely a week went by without an appearance by one of the aforementioned acts. The Three Degrees even become known for having our future king as a fan and after reaching No.1 in the UK Singles Chart with When Will I See You Again, they were well and truly propelled into the mainstream.

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Charlie’s Darlings!

We’ve now seen a fine example of what the Philly Sound served up in the mid ’70s when it came to the ladies – What were the immaculately dressed men doing around that time? If you did watch the earlier clip, you will know that Gamble & Huff’s first big success was this 1972 song, Back Stabbers, performed by the O’Jays. A fine tune indeed and one I have always liked although apparently a warning to men that although their male friends might be all friendly to their faces, they secretly plan to steal their wives or girlfriends. A far fetched premise indeed (?) although after watching the current hit television drama Dr Foster, where the reviewers are lauding it for being so realistic, I am starting to realise that I must live in an alternate universe where relationships are concerned.

Back Stabbers by The O’Jays:

So, “What’s It All About?” – The move to a new, more home-based life has obviously robbed me of my decision-making abilities. As hobbies go, blogging is a relatively inexpensive one (as long as the technology holds out) so having not done much else over the last 20 months except work and blog, I have bought myself a few months of time before I have to make any more big decisions. Just as well as even deciding on a subject for this post was hard enough.

When I started this blog, I used to link each post to the previous one in some way but it might be more fun if I am set a challenge. I have put out a request like this once before and it worked well for me, so again, which song would logically follow on from either Year Of Decision or Back Stabbers for you? You know where the comments boxes are but please try and make it something I might have heard of!

Until next time….

Year Of Decision Lyrics
(Song by Kenny Gamble/Leon Huff)

Yes
This is the year
To make your decision.
Yes
This is the year
To open up your mind.

If you’ve been holding back kind of slack

Now’s the time to get the things you need.
There ain’t no reason why you should be shy

People have died to set you free.
Oh we need ev’ry one to succeed

Everybody to succeed everybody
Soul isn’t enough hey come on and join us

Please (come on come on and join us please

Yes this is the year . . .

If you’re strong out on a Jones
Better make sure that you leave the bad stuff
What ever you want to do think it over good
Cause the change is up to you

Imbolc, Love Unlimited and “It May Be Winter Outside (But in My Heart It’s Spring)”

Well, all winter I’ve been trying to work out how to fit this song into the blog as although there are loads (and loads) of Christmassy songs, there aren’t that many about winter per se. But today seems to be the day as it’s the 1st of February and on nature’s “wheel of the year”, it is Imbolc. Ever since last year’s autumnal equinox, or Mabon as it is also called on the pagan calendar, I have been taking a key interest in these landmark dates, creating a little display, and hopefully finding an appropriate song to post that day.

imbolc

Imbolc was one of the cornerstones of the Celtic calendar as for them, the success of the new farming season was of great importance. As winter stores of food were getting low, rituals were performed to ensure a steady supply of food until the harvest six months later. As darling daughter pointed out last September however, we don’t really have to perform such rituals nowadays as we go to the supermarket where you can acquire raspberries in December and Brussels sprouts in June, but I would like to at least acknowledge the old ways before we get just too out of touch with nature in our busy 21st century lives.

So today is the day that we celebrate the passing of Winter, and make way for Spring. The featured song may not really be about the world of nature but I have always loved Barry White and his Love Unlimited Orchestra and so far in the blog, no Barry. As it turns out still no Barry, but this song It May Be Winter Outside (But in My Heart It’s Spring) was written by him and then released in the UK in 1975 by the group Love Unlimited who provided backing vocals for him on his albums and concert tours but who then went on to find success in their own right. (Takes around a full minute to get going, but bear with it.)

It May Be Winter Outside by Love Unlimited:

The symbol of Imbolc is the snowdrop but having had a good recce of the area at the weekend, so far no snowdrops. In the garden today however I was pleasantly surprised to see a little clump popping through in the rockery but just a bit too early for us here in the North of Scotland it seems. I looked back at my folder of pictures taken in 2010 when I manfully tried to take a shot of the natural world every day for a year – Back then this snowdrop shot was taken on the 11th of February so in about 10 days they will no doubt be plentiful.

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The first snowdrops of the year

Coincidentally last weekend I wrote about Johnny Cash and how his deep bass baritone voice was something you don’t often hear in music nowadays. Of course another person who had a very deep bass baritone voice was aforementioned, three-time Grammy Award winner Barry White, also known for his romantic image (but I’ll not mention his nickname here as not very becoming). Barry’s music was of a soul/funk/disco/R&B persuasion and his greatest success came in the ’70s both as a solo singer and with his Love Unlimited Orchestra. Looking at his discography, he was barely out of the UK Singles Chart between 1973 and 1979, his biggest hit being You’re The First, The Last, My Everything.

I am constantly amazed when blogging how everything suddenly comes together by the end of the post and when I started to write about today’s special date in the Celtic calendar I didn’t think I would end up with Barry White, but the symbolism around Imbolc is all of the colour white – snowdrops, ewe’s milk (oi-melc) and St Bride – so very apt in an odd kind of way. Perhaps my subconscious was being cleverer than I was.

Just the Way You Are by Barry White:

I will finish with Barry’s version of the Billy Joel song Just the Way You Are. Again there is a bit of a preamble so bear with it but if anyone knows of a performer with a deeper voice, I’d like to know who? Poor Barry died in 2003 after a few years of health problems but again he has left a massive body of work, much of which is in my music library and I have sadly not been brave enough to admit to that yet. Perhaps appropriate then, on this the first day of Spring (in certain calendars), to come clean – As for me I’m off to light my white candle set amidst the little pot of white crocuses I had to buy as a substitute for snowdrops, and listen to a bit more Barry White!

It May Be Winter Outside (But in My Heart It’s Spring) Lyrics
(Song by Barry White/Paul Politi)

When the temperature dips
I miss my baby’s arms
His tender finger tips
Knows just how to keep me warm

It may be zero degrees
With the snow falling down
But I’ve got warm and tender love
Just as long as he’s around

It may be winter outside
But in my heart it’s spring
How much joy and pleasure, baby
Can one guy bring me

Winter nights can be awful cold
Without someone to hold
But when I have him next to me
Baby, I’m in ecstasy

Throughout my life
I’ve had my share of guys
But he’s been the only one
Who can make my temperature rise

Things are just not the same
When he’s not by my side
But yet, I shouldn’t complain
But be waiting with my arms open wide