Aretha, Clarence and Muscle Shoals: Another Special Place In Time

A new year and a renewed vigour to find out more about the music that’s accompanied me through life. In 2020, I finally got round to pinning down Laurel Canyon on the map. I’d known about it as a place for years, and of how it became a hotbed of creativity for those musicians who went to live there in the late 1960s, but I’d never taken the time to investigate the geography of it. The special place I’m going to pin down this time, is Muscle Shoals.

Strangely enough, although I’d often heard of Muscle Shoals as the place where musicians gravitated to whenever they wanted to create a bit of rhythm and blues magic, it hadn’t clicked that the spelling is not the one used for the shellfish. Anything linked to the word shoal must surely be fishy related and coastal I thought, but no, Muscle Shoals is a smallish town (called a city in the US) in the far north-west corner of Alabama. It does sit on the Tennessee River however and early settlers did find a shallow area where mussels and clams were gathered. Before the distinct spelling for the shellfish came about, they simply called the place Muscle Shoals.

The first film I went to see back at our local cinema after a pandemic-enforced break of 18 months, was Respect, the Aretha Franklin biopic. I learnt so much more about her from watching it, and now understand how she became the Queen of Soul. None of that might have happened however if she’d not made her way down to Muscle Shoals at a crucial juncture in her career.

Rick Hall, Producer/Engineer and his FAME Studios in Muscle Shoals

In the late 1950s, a very driven local lad called Rick Hall set up a recording studio in Muscle Shoals and recruited session musicians from nearby Sheffield and Florence. These musicians became known as the Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section, and despite being individually unremarkable, they soon became a tight unit and ended up creating a unique sound, fusing the blues, country and gospel. It came as a great shock to many black artists, such as Wilson Pickett, to find his backing band full of very ordinary looking ‘white dudes’.

The Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section later known as the Swampers

But back to Aretha Franklin. After years of trying to make it as a jazz singer, she was persuaded to start finding songs that ‘moved her’ rather than trying to come up with a polished image. After securing a deal with Jerry Wexler at Atlantic Records, they both headed down to Alabama where she paired up with Rick Hall and the Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section. Their modus operandi was not to work with an arranger, or with sheet music, but to instead jam their way to a hit record. Her first recording with them was, I Never Loved A Man (The Way I Love You). The hits then just kept on coming. Aretha had found her new ‘sound’.

I Never Loved A Man (The Way I Love You) by Aretha Franklin:

Many artists and bands recorded at Rick Hall’s studio over the years, the Rolling Stones, Percy Sledge, Candi Staton, Etta James, Clarence Carter and many more. As often happens however, in 1969 the Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section jumped ship and set up their own rival studio, also in Muscle Shoals. Rick wasn’t deterred and soon replaced them with new musicians who also knew how to create that very special crossover sound. Both studios did well and this small town, for a time, became the unlikely epicentre of the music business.

When trying to learn more about Muscle Shoals earlier on this week, I discovered a wonderful 2013 documentary on YouTube (link here). You may well have seen it already, but if not I would thoroughly recommend it. It explains how the Muscle Shoals sound could really only have happened in that geographical area. Those ‘white dudes’ had grown up absorbing black music so it was part of their DNA. There were no barriers when making music together and whether black or white, everyone had ‘soul’.


In 1974 the band Lynyrd Skynyrd had a big hit with the song Sweet Home Alabama. I’ve always liked it but only now understand the significance of the following lines of lyric:

Now Muscle Shoals has got the Swampers
And they’ve been known to pick a song or two

Lord, they get me off so much
They pick me up when I’m feelin’ blue
Now how about you?

The song is a bit of a controversial one, and was written in answer to two songs by Neil Young. That verse however was added to acknowledge the help given to the band by the Swampers in their early days, making demo reels with them at their Muscle Shoals studios. A nice tip of the hat. Lynyrd Skynyrd remain connected to Muscle Shoals, having since recorded a number of times there and making it a regular stop on their concert tours

Sweet Home Alabama by Lynyrd Skynyrd:


But this is the song that’s stayed with me more than any other since watching the Muscle Shoals documentary. In the interviews with an older Rick Hall, it came across loud and clear he had been brought up dirt poor and although he knew his dad had done his best, the desire to pull his family out of poverty was the driving force behind his phenomenal work ethic, without which there would have been no Muscle Shoals sound. Patches was a song written by the lead singer of Chairmen of the Board, but when Rick Hall heard it he felt it related to his own personal history, and he persuaded Clarence Carter to record it at his FAME Studios. In 1971 it won the Grammy for Best Rhythm and Blues Song.

Patches by Clarence Carter:


As happened with my Laurel Canyon post, I finally feel as if I understand what happened in Muscle Shoals back in the 1960s/70s and how it came about. I also now realise it’s not a place on the Alabama coast after all, but a small town on the Tennessee River. The geography of the place definitely had a lot to do with the magic that was created there but none of it would have happened without Rick Hall, or Patches as he was called as a boy, because his clothes were so ragged. Without him there would have been no studio, and no Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section. Without those musicians there would have been no special sound, and perhaps no Aretha. Most definitely a very special place in time.

Until next time…

Patches Lyrics
(Song by Ronald Dunbar/Norman Johnson)

I was born and raised down in Alabama
On a farm way back up in the woods
I was so ragged that folks used to call me Patches
Papa used to tease me about it
‘Cause deep down inside he was hurt
‘Cause he’d done all he could

My papa was a great old man
I can see him with a shovel in his hands, see
Education he never had
He did wonders when the times got bad
The little money from the crops he raised
Barely paid the bills we made

For, life had kick him down to the ground
When he tried to get up
Life would kick him back down
One day Papa called me to his dyin’ bed
Put his hands on my shoulders
And in his tears he said

He said, Patches
I’m dependin’ on you, son
To pull the family through
My son, it’s all left up to you

Two days later Papa passed away, and
I became a man that day
So I told Mama I was gonna quit school, but
She said that was Daddy’s strictest rule

So every mornin’ ‘fore I went to school
I fed the chickens and I chopped wood too
Sometimes I felt that I couldn’t go on
I wanted to leave, just run away from home
But I would remember what my daddy said
With tears in his eyes on his dyin’ bed

He said, Patches
I’m dependin’ on you, son
I tried to do my best
It’s up to you to do the rest

Then one day a strong rain came
And washed all the crops away
And at the age of 13 I thought
I was carryin’ the weight of the
Whole world on my shoulders
And you know, Mama knew
What I was goin’ through, ’cause

Every day I had to work the fields
‘Cause that’s the only way we got our meals
You see, I was the oldest of the family
And everybody else depended on me
Every night I heard my Mama pray
Lord, give him the strength to make another day

So years have passed and all the kids are grown
The angels took Mama to a brand new home
Lord knows, people, I shedded tears
But my daddy’s voice kept me through the years

Sing,
Patches, I’m dependin’ on you, son
To pull the family through
My son, it’s all left up to you

Oh, I can still hear Papa’s voice sayin’
Patches, I’m dependin’ on you, son
I’ve tried to do my best
It’s up to you to do the rest

I can still hear Papa, what he said
Patches, I’m dependin’ on you, son
To pull the family through
My son, it’s all left up to you

A Break From Rolling News, A Return To The Sixties and More Northern Soul: ‘What’ by Judy Street

Another Saturday and another blog post from me. I’ve suddenly become quite prolific after a bit of a fallow period. We’ve all had our ups and downs over the last couple of years but thankfully my downs seem to be temporary. I feel for those whose mental health has really been affected however, as there just doesn’t seem to be enough help out there for the increased demand. This week’s news headlines won’t have helped – Could Christmas be cancelled yet again?

Something Mr WIAA and I have actively tried to cut back on over the last fortnight, is rolling news. Being home-based, we never wanted to fall into the trap of watching daytime telly, so always kept the screen in the kitchen tuned to a news channel. Problem is, in 2021 the stories have been bleak indeed, and not just down to the pandemic. Best to simply catch the radio news first thing in the morning then stay well away from it all for the rest of the day – Turns out a bit of property porn, or touching base with the heir-hunters when having a break, is far less depressing.

Kay Burley from the world of rolling news

Forgive me this indulgence, but over the years, whenever something quite big happened in our family, we didn’t just rush home to tell each other. Oh no, we also burst into song, the first lines from this song to be specific. One of DD’s favourite films as a young child was Summer Holiday and it was watched many, many times. Near the end of the film, Don (Cliff Richard) puts the world’s press right, via the medium of song. Here he is singing Big News from 1963. (Starts at 0:33.)

Big News by Cliff Richard:

Sticking with a 1960s theme, my Saturday morning starts well nowadays. Not just because of Rol’s Saturday Snapshots, but also because of the radio show Sounds of the Sixties. The current presenter Tony Blackburn is now aged 78, but his enthusiasm for the songs he plays is infectious, and in a 15 minute period he can fit in around five classic songs, punctuated with his short and snappy, so bad they’re good, dad jokes.

Couldn’t get to sleep so went to buy a new mattress – Salesman said if you lie near the edge you’ll soon drop off.

Tony started out in pirate radio and of course was the first DJ to be heard on BBC Radio 1 when it launched in 1967. The first record he played was The Move’s Flowers in the Rain, a useful fact for pop quizzes. He’s had a long career and even provided the inspiration for many a comedy sketch about aging, ‘not-so-cool’ DJs. Think Tony has had the last laugh though, as here he is still doing a job he adores all these years later – How many of us can say that nowadays. His first love was soul music and he always includes a floor-filler from the days of Northern Soul on his show. This morning’s pick was this gem from 1968, What by Judy Street.

What by Judy Street:

I’ve become fascinated by Northern Soul over the last few years and have written a fair few posts about the phenomenon that hit the North of England in the mid 1970s. I love to watch those dancers in action and live in hope I’ll master their moves whilst still fit enough to do so. The music usually drives the dance style, but because I wasn’t there at the time, tricky to pick it up in later life it seems. Maybe I’ll have to get one of those big circular skirts and put some talc on my laminate floor.

The song What was originally recorded by Melinda Marx, daughter of Groucho, and released in 1965. Judy recorded it in 1968 as the B-side to her single You Turn Me On. After being exported to England, it was picked up by DJs at Wigan Casino and became a big hit on the Northern Soul circuit.

So, ‘What’s It All About?’ – I used to be shocked when people I worked with said they didn’t really watch the news, as I always like to be well-informed about what’s going on in the world. It does start to wear you down however, when everything is negative, worrying and doesn’t give you much hope for the future. I will no doubt return to my old ways in due course, but for the moment, nice to have a bit of a break from it all.

It was a real delight to listen to back to back songs from the 1960s earlier on this morning – In a short space of time we were treated to Oh, Happy Day, Waterloo Sunset, Ain’t Nothing Like The Real Thing, Do You Know The Way To San Jose and I Couldn’t Live Without Your Love, as well as the song written about above. As for Tony Blackburn, just like Kay Burley in the world of television news, he’s not for everyone, but when interviewed he’s like the cat that got the cream, as he still can’t quite believe he gets paid for playing all these songs he loves. He is apolitical and never offers up his opinions, so his show makes for a nice relaxed start to the weekend. His predecessor Brian Matthews was more a connoisseur of ’60s music I think, often playing lesser known tracks, but Tony is a people pleaser and sticks to the ones we all know and love.

Right, time to dust off my plimsoles and get working on my spins and shuffles. If you want to find out more about Northern Soul, this episode of The Culture Show does well in explaining it all.

Until next time…

What Lyrics
(Song by H.B. Barnum)

Do you want me to get down on my knees
Beg you baby please cry a million tears
Do you want me to call you on the phone
Beg you to come home think of all the years

When I once lived in paradise
When the love light showed in your eyes

Oh tell me what
What (what) can I do when I still love you

What (what) can I say when I still want you
What can I do what can I say
You’ll never know this way

Do you want me to follow you around everywhere in town do you want a clown
Why do you treat me mean and cruel breaking every rule can’t I be your fool
We could make this a happy home
So come back where you belong

Oh tell me what (what) can I do when I still love you
What (what) can I say when I still want you
What can I do what can I say
You’ll never know this way

Please forgive me come back and then
We can fall in love
Over and over and over and over again

Oh tell me what (what) can I do
What (what) can I say
Say you’ll come back don’t stay away
What (what) can I do now baby

Postscript:

After pressing the publish button I made a bit of an interesting discovery. At the start of last week, my first post back after a break of a few weeks featured a song by Soft Cell. I of course mentioned that their first big hit in 1981 was a cover of Tainted Love, a Northern Soul favourite originally recorded by Gloria Jones.

In 1982 they also recorded What, and it got to the No. 3 spot on the UK Singles Chart. For some bizarre reason I don’t remember it at all, so can only put that down to the fact my life as a student had just come to an end and the world of paid work had begun – Different priorities. Anyway, here are Soft Cell with a very different version of today’s featured song. They obviously had an affinity for Northern Soul.

Alyson’s Archive #8 – My Sporting Ineptitude and More Musical Memories from the Summer of ’76

Considering I go back to college in less than a month’s time, I really need to get back into the swing of putting pen to paper, or rather, typing words on a screen. It’s a very wordy course and this blog used to keep me limbered up so to speak. Going to hold my hands up and admit to being a bit off my game at the moment however, and although not for any one specific reason, a slew of minor anxieties all coming along at the same time can do that to a person. I’m sure I’ll get back on track soon, once we can re-emerge from WIAA Towers having avoided all contact with other humans for the last month in case we’re “pinged”. Both being self-employed it had to happen, but it does get a bit monotonous, especially as life returns to a semblance of normality for everyone else.

The Olympics did raise my spirits for a while but the live events often happened during the night due to the time difference and I’m coming round to the realisation (why has it taken so long?) that akin to football, where you end up on the medals table is down to how much money has been spent. As most of the funding comes via the National Lottery, I can’t help thinking some of it hasn’t given a great rate of return and could have been diverted to initiatives that help more of the people who buy those lottery tickets in the first place. Having said that, I am full of admiration for those who have worked hard in their chosen discipline and won medals, but by now we know it never turns us into a nation of superfit athletes. We’re great at sitting on our couches watching others swim, row, cycle, run and jump, but not so great at partaking ourselves.

A 100 years ago they trained by running along the beach. Mo performed in front of a home crowd in 2012 but this time, because of the pandemic, the stadiums were empty.

I’ve been reminiscing about the year 1976 a lot of late – First of all because of the Long Hot Summer mentioned around here last time, secondly because it was also an Olympic year (Montreal) but mainly because it was the last time I remember having absolutely no worries or anxieties. Sounds dramatic I know, and it doesn’t mean my life has been riddled with anguish since (I’ve had the odd year off!), but in 1976 when I was aged 16, life was indeed sweet.

Time for a family anecdote. My dad inevitably loved watching the 1976 Olympics as he had been quite an athlete in his youth and excelled at many different sports. I on the other hand was no athlete, and despite being encouraged by him to try lots of disciplines I could tell I was a bit of a disappointment when it came to my sporting prowess. Then he had an epiphany – Tennis. The village tennis courts where he had played as a youngster were in a state of disrepair and had long been out of use. He would rebuild the courts and perhaps, just perhaps, his daughter might become the next Wimbledon champion.

Not our courts, but similar

As was my dad’s way he simply went down to the courts every evening for a week sizing up the job to be done and taking measurements. People in the community gradually became interested and many of his friends started to join him. Materials were acquired to create a new clay court and the fences were repaired. The pavilion next to the courts was also refurbished and then painted, so the wives joined in too. For us teenagers it became a great place to hang out during that long hot summer. A coach was hired from the city to come and give us lessons, but yes, you guessed it, although I loved the social scene around the pavilion, tennis turned out not to be my thing either.

But what were we listening to in the summer of 1976? By good fortune I have just found my copy of Words magazine from the August of that year. This periodical has appeared around here before as I was a subscriber and as well as sharing song lyrics, the mag kept teens like myself up to date with all that was happening in the world of pop music. Here is the contents page from that issue along with the front and back covers. Lots of songs there that have really stood the test of time along with a surprising amount of reissues from the ’60s. Not sure if you can read from the picture, but how many of the artists would you identify from this list of songs without looking them up?

As for the cover star, it was Peter Frampton, who was becoming a bit of a big cheese in America around that time and had just released his Frampton Comes Alive! album. To be honest his previous role as frontman of the band Humble Pie had passed me by and I’m sure it was quite some time before I realised he was actually British, but there is no denying that 1976 was a good year for him.

The song Show Me the Way had reached No. 10 in the UK Singles Chart in the May of 1976 as the lead single from his new album. Peter was also one of the first artists to make extensive use of a talk box .

Show Me The Way by Peter Frampton:


But what else were we talking about whilst hanging out in our newly refurbed pavilion (rather than playing tennis). On the back page of the magazine was a picture of some of the characters from the new film Bugsy Malone. I have nothing but fond memories of this film – Great acting from its incredibly young cast, great songs and a lot of slapstick humour. I seem to remember I went to see it at our local cinema with a potential beau once the schools went back after the summer holidays. At the interval I dropped my ice-cream on the floor after falling over a single seat that had been left down in the row. Very much in tune with the slapstick nature of the film however, so thankfully the date was saved. Once DD came along she loved watching our video recording of the film on telly, but always called it Bugsy Alone (poor Bugsy).

Bugsy Malone – The final scene


So, a trip down memory lane for me and hopefully for some of you too. Out of interest here are some of the other bands that were written about in that particular edition of Words. Hard to imagine that some of them were just starting out, so the writers had no idea yet of what was to come.

The 16-year-old Angus Young
Ian Anderson who went on to become a successful fish farmer around these parts!

I’m going to end with another song featured in my magazine. Kiss and Say Goodbye was a massive worldwide hit in 1976 recorded by American R&B vocal group The Manhattans. I had another listen to it this week and it reminds me of so many other songs coming out of America at that time. It was written by Winfred Lovett, the bass singer, who also got the job of intoning the spoken work introduction. A love affair was coming to an end it seems for these reasons:

Because of my obligations, and the ties that you have

Well, if you both have obligations and ties that will happen, but at age 16 I always thought it was a very pragmatic and unlikely line to have included in such a beautiful but sad song – Shows what I knew about love triangles back then. I was still dropping my ice-cream on the cinema floor on my dates.

Kiss and Say Goodbye by The Manhattans:


I seem to have gone way over my usual wordcount which is good for me in terms of getting in some writing practice, but maybe not so good for you. Having said that I love revisiting these old magazines and reading the contemporary reviews, so hope you do too. Some turn out to be prophetic, but not all of them, as some music journalists got it horribly wrong.

As for me, I might look out my old tennis racquet – I’m going to have to spend more time on sport and less time sitting in front of a computer it seems if I’m to keep these old bones in tip top shape. I might have let my dad down back in 1976 by not becoming a Wimbledon champion, but to fair, I’m sure he always thought of it as a long shot. As it turned out, because of his efforts, the whole village had a thoroughly good summer down at our previously neglected tennis courts. Nice one Dad.

Until next time…

Kiss And Say Goodbye Lyrics
(Song by Winfred Lovett)

This has got to be the saddest day of my life
I called you here today for a bit of bad news
I won’t be able to see you anymore
Because of my obligations, and the ties that you have
We’ve been meeting here everyday
And since this is our last day together
I wanna hold you just one more time
When you turn and walk away, don’t look back
I wanna remember you just like this
Let’s just kiss and say goodbye

I had to meet you here today
There’s just so many things to say
Please don’t stop me ’till I’m through
This is something I hate to do
We’ve been meeting here so long
I guess what we done, oh was wrong
Please darling, don’t you cry
Let’s just kiss and say goodbye

Many months have passed us by
(I’m gonna miss you)
I’m gonna miss you, I can’t lie
(I’m gonna miss you)
I’ve got ties, and so do you
I just think this is the thing to do
It’s gonna hurt me, I can’t lie
Maybe you’ll meet, you’ll meet another guy
Understand me, won’t you try, try, try, try, try, try, try
Let’s just kiss and say goodbye

(I’m gonna miss you)
I’m gonna miss you, I can’t lie
(I’m gonna miss you)
Understand me, won’t you try
(I’m gonna miss you)
It’s gonna hurt me, I can’t lie
(I’m gonna miss you)
Take my handkerchief, wipe your eyes

(I’m gonna miss you)
Maybe you’ll find, you’ll find another guy
(I’m gonna miss you)
Let’s kiss and say goodbye, pretty baby

(I’m gonna miss you)
Please, don’t you cry
(I’m gonna miss you)
Understand me, won’t you try
(I’m gonna miss you)

Let’s just kiss
And say goodbye

Songs Written In Tribute #1 – ‘When Smokey Sings’ by ABC

As a great fan of alphabetisation, I have often wondered how I could create “a series” by working my way through the 26 letters of our alphabet, in song, but impossible of course, as how on earth could you ever pick only one artist to suitably represent each letter. Had this series ever become a reality, it would have been a no-brainer to kick the whole thing off with the band ABC who had great success in the early 1980s, their album Lexicon of Love spawning no less than four top twenty singles.

The band came from Sheffield, a city that has a rich history of producing successful musicians. I’ve written about this around here before, but it seems twice as many people in Sheffield (percentage-wise) are engaged in the creative industries compared to the national average. The city suffered the collapse of the steel and coal industries in the ’70s and ’80s and there does seem to be a correlation – When work is no longer plentiful, young people have the time and energy to exercise their creativity which no doubt led to a flurry of artists from that city having peppered the charts over the years – Human League, Heaven 17, Pulp, Babybird, Moloko and The Arctic Monkeys, as well as the aforementioned ABC.

After hearing a song by ABC on the radio last week, it occurred to me that another series could be derived from one of their best-loved hits. Over the years songwriters have often paid tribute to artists who have gone before, and in 1987 ABC released When Smokey Sings, a tribute to the great Smokey Robinson. It narrowly missed the UK Top 10 but the song did give the group their biggest hit in the US. Here’s a reminder of how it sounds.

When Smokey Sings by ABC:

Martin Fry, the vocalist and writer of the song is looking very dapper in this clip, as many bands of the blue-eyed soul persuasion did in those days. He was usually dressed in a smart suit with big shoulder pads, and his short blond hair was always neatly blow-dried into place. It was the mid-80s, so of course there had to be a saxophone in the mix, but it really works, and I don’t think this song has dated much at all.

But how does it compare to something by the man himself? Well the song I most associate with Smokey Robinson & the Miracles is this one, Tears of a Clown, written in 1967 but becoming a No. 1 hit in the UK in 1970. Smokey Robinson had arrived at Berry Gordy’s Motown studios in 1957 with a book containing over 100 songs he had written whilst still a schoolboy, so a bit of a “boy wonder”.

Pagliacci, the Sad Clown

Talking of wonder, it was Stevie Wonder who came up with the music for Tears of a Clown with Smokey adding the lyrics later. He decided it sounded like circus music, so came up with lyrics based on the Italian opera Pagliacci all about a clown who must make the audience laugh while he weeps behind his makeup because his wife betrayed him – The sad clown.

Tears of a Clown by Smokey Robinson & The Miracles:

Watching this clip, the set designers seem to have had a bit of a field day, as was often the case with light entertainment shows around that time. As someone said in the clip’s comments boxes, they probably went on to work on screen savers for Microsoft in later life. Like Martin Fry, Smokey and the boys are looking very dapper in their purple suits and bow ties, but this time, no big shoulder pads.

So, two songs written 20 years apart, one a tribute and one by the recipient of the tribute, but which artist do we now warm to most all these years later? On this occasion I’m going with Martin Fry and ABC, as their canon of work best fits my era. Controversial perhaps, but as our blogging friend Charity Chic always says, others may chose to disagree.

Until next time…

When Smokey Sings Lyrics
(Song by Martin Fry/Mark White)

Debonair lullabies
In melodies revealed
In deep despair on lonely nights
He knows just how you feel
The slyest rhymes, the sharpest suits
In miracles made real

Like a bird in flight on a hot sweet night
You know you’re right just to hold her tight
He soothes it right, makes it out of sight
And everything’s good in the world tonight

When Smokey sings, I hear violins
When Smokey sings, I forget everything
As she’s packing her things
As she’s spreading her wings
The front door might slam
But the back door it rings
And Smokey sings, he sings

Elegance in eloquence
For sale or rent or hire
Should I say yes and match his best
Then I would be a liar
Symphonies that soothe the rage
When lovers’ hearts catch fire

Like a bird in flight on a hot sweet night
You know you’re right just to hold her tight
He soothes it right, makes it out of sight
And everything’s good in the world tonight

When Smokey sings, I hear violins
When Smokey sings, I forget everything
As she’s packing her things
As she’s spreading her wings
Smashing the hell
With the heaven she brings
Then Smokey sings, he sings

When Smokey sings, I hear violins
When Smokey sings, I forget everything
As she’s packing her things
As she’s spreading her wings
She threw back the ring
When Smokey sings
Smokey sings
Smokey sings

Lovers Rock, Janet Kay and ‘Silly Games’

Well, you don’t experience an ‘earworm’ for weeks and then two come along at once. I wrote about the phenomenon last week in relation to another song, from an advert, but I defy anyone who has watched Steve McQueen’s Lovers Rock not to have Janet Kay’s Silly Games on repeat in their head afterwards. Lovers Rock is the second film in Steve’s anthology film series Small Axe which tells stories about the lives of West Indian immigrants in London during the 1960s and 1970s. The title references a proverb – ‘If you are the big tree, we are the small axe’ – that was popularised by Bob Marley in his song Small Axe.

I was drawn to the episode after watching an interview with Steve where they showed the trailer. I was intrigued, as it was only last month that I first heard the term Lovers Rock. When writing my tribute post to those we have lost from the world of music this year, I found a quote from Boy George who had been saddened by the death of Johnny Nash.

‘R.I.P to the reggae legend Johnny Nash. One of the artists who made me fall in love with lovers rock and reggae music in the early 70s. So many amazing tunes and a voice like silk. I have never really known a time without reggae music. He was one of the greatest.’ – Boy George

At the time I thought it was a typo. I didn’t think it made sense, but then when sharing my story about a break-up, I found a suitable featured song by Alton Ellis who himself was a proponent of Lovers Rock. This short film was the third time it had cropped up in as many weeks, so time to investigate.

It seems Lovers Rock is not a genre or subgenre as such but a style of reggae music noted for its romantic sound and content. It became really popular in South London in the mid-1970s and combined the smooth soul sounds of Chicago and Philadelphia with rocksteady and reggae bassline rhythms. The style had particular appeal amongst women and produced many female stars. Dennis Harris set up a new record label, Lover’s Rock, at his South East London Studio along with Dennis Bovell, which gave the new style a name. It was Bovell who wrote and produced Silly Games, which reached number 2 in the UK Singles Chart in 1979. He got the inspiration for it from an advert where Ella Fitzgerald sang a note and broke a glass – ‘I wanted a song with a note like that. Little girls always try to sing a high note, so when I wrote “Silly Games” and put that high note in there, it meant that every female in the dance would try and sing that note.

Silly Games by Janet Kay:


Back in 1979 I was a great fan of radio and chart music so I know this song well, but I had never heard of Lovers Rock back then so wouldn’t have known it was part of something much bigger, almost spiritual. After watching Steve’s film I now get it. The film is really quite mesmerising and follows the events taking place over a night and morning during a London house party in 1980. There is very little dialogue, but somehow it doesn’t matter and we feel as if we are there with them.

For second-generation West Indian immigrants, who were denied access to white clubs, these parties were a haven where they could dance, drink, smoke and be themselves. It was common in a big house to clear the furniture and carpets to make a dance floor, set up the sound system and have curried goat served up from the kitchen. The main character, Martha, sneaks out of her devout mother’s house after dark and she and her friend Patty take a bus ride to the party. Once there, they pay their 50p to the doorman, cross the threshold and look forward to what the night will bring.

In 1980 I lived at the opposite end of the country from Martha and her friends and come from a totally different cultural background but what struck me most about this film is that there is a commonality amongst young people to want to get together, listen to music and dance. It’s biological. As the night wears on the tempo changes and the music inspires slow sensuous dances but every couple is in their own little bubble, oblivious to those around them. Not that dissimilar to the house parties I went to as a teenager before we were old enough for clubs and pubs. Many of the romances kindled during those parties have survived the test of time, but of course like Martha, our parents knew nothing of them. A lot of sneaking around and the creating of alibis had to be done in the run up to the event.

If you haven’t yet watched the film, I would thoroughly recommend it. I haven’t watched the others in the series yet but I plan to. As for this style of music, first I discovered Alton Ellis, and now I understand the background to some of the chart hits I remember from the 1970s. I’ll finish with Ken Boothe and his 1974 hit Everything I Own. It now makes sense that Boy George also recorded a version.

Until next time…

Silly Games Lyrics
(Song by Dennis Bovell)

I’ve been wanting you
For so long, it’s a shame
Oh, baby
Every time I hear your name
Oh, the pain
Boy, how it hurts me inside

‘Cause every time we meet
We play hide and seek
I’m wondering what I should do
Should I, dear, come up to you
And say, How do you do?
Would you turn me away

You’re as much to blame
‘Cause I know you feel the same
I can see it in your eyes
But I’ve got no time to live this love
No, I’ve got no time to play your silly games
Silly games

Yet, in my mind I say
If he makes his move today
I’ll just pretend to be shocked
Oh, baby
It’s a tragedy
That you hurt me
We don’t even try

You’re as much to blame
‘Cause I know you feel the same
I can see it in your eyes
But I’ve got no time to live this love
No, I’ve got no time to play your silly games
Silly games

Silly games
Silly games (No, don’t wanna play)
Silly games (Your silly)

No, I’ve got no time to play your silly games

Elections, Maps and The Music of Pennsylvania

Well, I certainly made a brave attempt at becoming a daily blogger around here but it seems my style of blogging just isn’t suited to such regular delivery. My poor shoulder and neck is now aching, even after a night’s sleep, so I think I’m going to have to call time on this challenge for a wee while, in order to prioritise work, and my college course.

Most of us will have been keeping tabs on what’s going on across the pond right now, and dare I say, it’s almost nice to have something else going on in the news. Looking at all those red and blue maps of the 50 states (does anyone else find it confusing that red means right and blue means left in the US?), I was reminded of my American Odyssey in Song series. I’ve loved the ‘Full Moon’ and ‘Wheel Of The Year’ series (on my sidebar), but that journey around the states in song was definitely my favourite. Again, like this challenge, it was labour intensive, so by the time I got nine states under my belt I had run out of steam. A retirement project perhaps, although they keep changing the goalposts, so who knows when we will be able to retire in this brave new world.

Anyway, as the great state of Pennsylvania has become the focus of so much attention in this election, and because that’s where I am currently holed up on my American Odyssey ahead of journeying on to Delaware (which is not an easy state from which to find musical inspiration), I’m going to share that post again. A very diverse state, and one with a lot of history – Hope you enjoy it.

——–

An American Odyssey in Song: Pennsylvania

(First posted 1st February 2018)

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!

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.

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A 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 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 NiroChristopher 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 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 Phenomenon of Ghosting, Motown Girl Groups and ‘Nathan Jones’

I seem to have veered way off topic on this blog over the last few months and the nostalgic journey through the tracks of my years element (as per the tagline above) has all but been forgotten about. But hey, that’s what a global pandemic will do to you. I now realise however, I may have been a culprit of ‘doomsurfing/doomscrolling’ whereby I spend many hours a day scrolling through the various news streams on my phone, picking up on every new development as it happens. I am well informed, but maybe too well-informed, and I think it has led to some ghosting (‘the practice of ending a personal relationship with someone by suddenly and without explanation withdrawing from all communication’) by old friends.

I have been in touch with a fair few old friends since March and am now realising that one or two are no longer replying to my messages and certainly don’t instigate conversation. A side-effect of doomsurfing seems to be that I have become a doom and gloom merchant! But hey, yet again, that’s what a global pandemic will do to you. I’m not sure I can totally change my ways however, so just another downside to the crisis,

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So it seems it’s time for me to change my ways around here, or else I may lose the support of all you lovely followers too. Shit happens as they say, and what better way to drag ourselves out of the doom and gloom than by listening to some great tunes. Last week I shared something by Bananarama and discovered their first hit single, (He Was) Really Saying Something, was unbeknownst to me at the time a cover of an early sixties Velvelettes recording.

The Velvelettes were an American girl group, signed to Motown in the 1960s. Their biggest chart success occurred in 1964, when Norman Whitfield produced Needle in a Haystack which peaked at number 45 on the Billboard Chart. I’m not sure why some of these girl groups went on to great things and others kind of drifted away but it seems they needed to be both championed by those in charge (Berry Gordy) and have a hunger for success above all else. Cue the Supremes. Founded as The Primettes in 1959, the Supremes were the most commercially successful of Motown’s acts, with 12 No. 1 singles on the Billboard Chart. At their peak in the mid-1960s, the Supremes rivalled the Beatles in worldwide popularity and their success possibly made it easier for future African American R&B and soul musicians to find mainstream success.

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And here is where we return to Bananarama yet again, as another of their Top 20 hits, Nathan Jones, was a cover of a Supremes song. By 1971 Diana Ross had left the group and their lead voice was now that of Jean Terrell, but along with Mary Wilson and Cindy Birdsong they racked up a good few more hits during that era, Up The Ladder To The Roof, Stoned Love and Floy Joy to name but a few. Strangely enough both Bananarama versions of these Motown songs were hits 17 years after the original. Maybe that’s just the amount of time it takes for a song to become fresh again and for listeners not to confuse it with its first incarnation. I for one certainly didn’t know about these earlier versions when I was an avid fan of Bananarama in the 1980s.

Nathan Jones by the Supremes:

So, ‘What’s It All About?’ – Funny how things often turn full circle when you write an off-the-cuff blog post as I’m doing today. The song Nathan Jones is apparently about a woman’s former lover, a man named Nathan Jones who left her nearly a year ago ‘to ease his mind.’ Suffering through the long separation (‘winter’s passed, spring, and fall’) without any contact or communication between herself and Jones (ghosting?), the narrator is no longer in love with him, remarking that ‘Nathan Jones, you’ve been gone too long’. It’s a bit of a coward’s way out, but just goes to show, the practice of withdrawing from all communication is still alive and well today, possibly even more so with the advent of online dating apps and such like.

As for me, I plan to curb my ‘doomsurfing’ activities somewhat but going to be hard after all these weeks. Having really enjoyed this nostalgic journey through the tracks of my years, it would be a shame for me to lose all the goodwill I’ve built up by being the merchant of doom! Please feel free to let me know if I overstep the mark.

Until next time….

Nathan Jones Lyrics
(Song by Leonard Caston/Kathy Wakefield)

You packed your bags, as I recall
And you walked slowly down the hall
You said you had to get away to ease your mind
And all you needed was a just little of time

Oh, winter’s passed, spring and fall
You never wrote me, you never called
(Yeah) Nathan Jones, you’ve been gone too long
Gone too long (Gone too long)

If a woman could die of tears
Nathan Jones, I wouldn’t be here
The key that you’re holding won’t fit my door
And there’s no room in my heart for you no more

‘Cause winter’s passed, spring and fall
You never wrote me, you never called
(Oh-oh) Nathan Jones, you’ve been gone too long
Gone too long

Do-do-do

Nathan Jones
Nathan Jones
Mm-hmm
Nathan Jones, oh

Winter’s passed, spring and fall
You never wrote me, you never called
(Oh-oh) Nathan Jones, you’ve been gone too long
Mm-mm-mm, Gone too long (Gone too long)
Nathan Jones, you’ve been gone too long (Gone too long)
You’ve been gone too long (Gone too long)
Hey, Nathan Jones, you’ve been gone too long (Gone too long)
Hey, you know, you’ve been gone (Gone too long)
Nathan Jones, you’ve been gone too long (Gone too long)

Odyssey and ‘If You’re Looking For A Way Out’

No prizes for guessing how this song popped into my subconscious this week as it’s now all about how we’re going to get out of lockdown, but as an earworm it’s a pleasant one, and it’s made me want to look into the story of the singing group Odyssey a bit more. For a long time I used to confuse them with fellow Americans Rose Royce because their most successful years in the UK Singles Chart coincided, and both produced up-tempo disco numbers but also beautiful ballads.

Odyssey would have first entered my radar during my final year of senior school as their first big hit in the UK reached the No. 2 spot that Christmas. Native New Yorker was more successful over here than in their native US which became a pattern for the rest of their career and eventually led them to move to the UK permanently.

The song was originally written for Frankie Valli but when covered by Odyssey it became their first hit. The song is about a girl who is unlucky in love. The singer is telling her that as a native New Yorker, she should know by now that love is as fabricated as a Broadway show, and that you have to look out for yourself in the city. It’s a song about disillusionment that captures the downside of the self-reliant New York lifestyle.

Now we’re fast-forwarding to the summer of 1980 and it was one of their songs I just couldn’t miss, as it spent 12 weeks on the UK Singles Chart and 2 weeks at the top spot. Believe it or not this song title inavertedly pops up in our house just about every other day, as whenever we look in the fridge and spot something that needs used up, we always ask each other if we should, Use it up and wear it out?‘. It’s been hard-wired into our brains by Odyssey that you can’t say the first bit without adding the second!

By the end of the summer of 1980 they released a follow-up single, If You’re Lookin’ for a Way Out with Lillian Lopez again on lead vocals. It’s a bit of a tear-jerker and had I not been all loved-up that summer, but rather going through a painful break up, it would have made for tough listening. This single reached the No. 6 spot and spent 15 weeks on the UK Singles Chart. The common factor in all three featured songs is that they were either written or produced by Sandy Linzer who is a new name for me but seems to have been really prolific in the 60s/70s writing for Frankie Valli and The Four Seasons.

So if you’re looking for a way out
I won’t stand here in your way

Don’t look at the tears that I’m crying
They’ll only make you wanna stay
Don’t kiss me again ’cause I’m dying
To keep you from running away

To be fair, the person I was all loved-up with that summer did cause much heartache down the line, and looking at these lyrics I was not as magnanimous. You do feel like you’re dying inside and I did stand in his way, but ultimately to no avail. Does that make me a bad girlfriend? I don’t think so – Just a broken-hearted one.

If You’re Looking For A Way Out by Odyssey:

So, I now know a lot more about the group Odyssey and will no longer confuse them with Rose Royce. It’s also been nice to have a break from writing about all that’s going on in the world and just concentrate on the music (although this one definitely inspired by what’s going on). I have a few more drafts that would be good to get down in print as I’ve not yet written about any of the sad deaths we’ve had from the world of music this year, which is remiss of me. Easy to get distracted at the moment however.

Until next time….

If You’re Lookin’ For A Way Out Lyrics
(Song by Sandy Linzer, Ralph Kotkov)

Love is crazy baby, I can see it in your eyes
Your kisses taste the same
But it’s just a sweet disguise
Ain’t that just like you
To worry about me
But we promised to be honest
With each other for all eternity
So if you’re looking for a way out
I won’t stand here in your way
And if you’re looking for a way out

Don’t look at the tears that I’m crying
They’ll only make you wanna stay
Don’t kiss me again ’cause I’m dying
To keep you from running away
(Run away, run away, run away, run away, run away, run away)

Oh baby tell me I’m wrong
Just say I’m crazy
It’s with you that I belong
It’s never easy when lovers have to part
Oh come on stop pretending
Tell me what’s in you heart
And if you’re looking for a way out
I won’t stand here in your way
But if you’re looking for a way out

Don’t look at the tears that I’m crying
They’ll only make you wanna stay
Don’t kiss me again ’cause I’m dying
To keep you from running away

Don’t look at the tears that I’m crying
They’ll only make you wanna stay
Don’t love me again ’cause I’m tryin’
To keep you from running away
(Baby don’t run away, baby don’t run away)

Don’t you run away (ooh ooh)
(Ooh ooh)
Oh come on stop pretending
Tell me what’s in your heart

Northern Soul, Frank Wilson and “Do I Love You (Indeed I Do)”

One of the loveliest things about having a blog, is that you just never know when a particular post from your archive is going to go viral, but that’s just what’s happened around here over the last couple of days because of a particular drinks advert. If like us you’ve been trying to avoid all the political programming on telly (we already know who we’re going to vote for and just feel depressed whenever we see the runners and riders in action), you might have caught some of the popular prime time shows that still attract a fair few million viewers of an evening. They’re not for everyone I know, but with no guests in the holiday hideaway and no-one ordering Christmas gifts from Mr WIAA’s website, we seem to have more time on our hands than is realistically good for us, and they do offer a bit of light relief of an evening.

The other night, in between watching celebrity campmates do things no human should ever have to do (eating kangaroo anus for entertainment comes to mind) we were treated to multiple showings of one particular seasonal advert, and it leapt out of the screen at us because it featured the Frankie Valli and The Four Seasons song, The Night. A couple of years ago I had written a post about that very song after watching the film Northern Soul (link here) and it seems I was not alone in enjoying the ad, as later that evening my “viewing stats” for the post really started to ramp up and it looks as if it will continue that way for the duration of the campaign. I’m not sure if I’m supposed to share such things around here but if you haven’t yet caught it, here is that very stylish ad.

The Night by Frankie Valli and The Four Seasons:

Always pleased when I find myself at the top of a search engine results page after the YouTube clip and the wiki entry, as I often experience “blogger’s guilt”, feeling I should be spending my time working on something more lucrative. Finding your blog in amongst the big boys makes me realise, like many others around here, I have quietly and anonymously built up quite a database of “stories and songs”, way beyond anything achieved at college or in the world of work.

You will notice there are a fair few party-goers dancing “Northern Soul style” in the ad. Despite not charting first time around, The Night became one of the most popular tracks on the northern soul circuit, becoming a hit in the UK in 1975. As often happens around here, a strange coincidence has occurred, as even before the ad aired I had already been revisiting my original post to remind myself just how great some of these lesser known American soul records from the mid ’60s were, and all because of another popular Saturday night telly show.

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It’s apparently been running for 17 years and along with the various X-Factor formats and the crazy jungle show, I’ve kind of forgotten what people used to watch before they came along. It’s a show that really seems to draw in the viewers though and although we have never been fervent devotees of Strictly Come Dancing, if you have the telly on whilst you’re preparing Saturday night’s dinner, it’s inevitable you will catch some of the performances.

The other week I think the “celebrities” had to pick a song or style of dancing which was personal to them and Kelvin Fletcher (a soap star and fantastic dancer as it turns out) picked Northern Soul, as his dad had been a fervent devotee back in the day. Since becoming fascinated by the movement a couple of years ago, my ears pricked up, and the song they danced to, Do I Love You (Indeed I Do) by Frank Wilson formed an earworm for the following week.

Do I Love You (Indeed I Do) by Frank Wilson:

This song was new to me so of course I had to find out more. Although it became popular at Wigan Casino and the like in the mid 1970s, it was originally recorded in 1965 on the Motown subsidiary label Soul. But here is the really interesting bit, it was Frank Wilson’s only Motown single and is a prized item amongst collectors as all but 5 of the original 250 demo singles were destroyed. Berry Gordy had apparently given the vocals a lukewarm reception and Frank himself decided he would rather focus on production, which has led to the crazy scenario where some of these original copies are changing hands for over £25,000 each.

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Every time I hear about the phenomenon that was Northern Soul, I regret not having been in the right place at the right time, as the dancing would have been perfect for me. In the mid ’70s we only had our local youth club’s disco, but it was there I discovered my passion and was never, ever to be seen dancing round my handbag. Oh no, we had the space so I made full use of it and watching the genuine afionadas of Northern Soul (the dance above was more a stylised version for the show), I reckon I could have given them a run for their money. As a form of exercise, it looks as if it would be much more fun than a workout at the gym. Time to look out the talc, some very wide trousers and get practicing.

Until next time….

Do I Love You (Indeed I Do) Lyrics
(Song by Frank Wilson)

Here I am on bended knees
I lay my heart down at your feet
Now do I love you

All you have to do is ask
I’ll give until there’s nothing left
do I love you

As long as there is life in me
Your happiness is guaranteed
I’ll fill your heart with ecstasy, forever darling

Do I love you?
Do I love you?
Do I love you?
Indeed I do Indeed I do

The very thing that I want most
Is just to have and hold you close
Do I love you?

From early morning until late at night
You fill my heart with pure delight
Do I love you?

whenever I lay me down to sleep
I pray the Lord your soul to keep
And bring you home safe to me, for ever darling

Do I love you?
Do I love you?
Do I love you?

Indeed I do, sweet darling, indeed I do

Now whenever I lay me down to sleep
I pray the Lord your soul to keep
And bring you home safe to me
for ever darling

Do I love you?
Do I love you?
Do I love you?
Indeed I do, little darling, indeed I do

Diana Ross & The Supremes, The Temptations and “I’m Gonna Make You Love Me”

In my last post I mentioned that I now had 83 ideas backing up in my list of “posts pending” and needed some help in making inroads. C from Sun-Dried Sparrows stepped up to the plate and randomly picked no. 63. That turned out to be an idea added only last week (as this list is in spreadsheet form and is sorted by category then alphabetically). It was also potentially going to kick start a new series called Earworm of the Week.

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We all know what an earworm is – That catchy piece of music that continually repeats in your head long after you’ve heard it, and apparently a calque (a word or phrase borrowed from another language via a literal word-for-word translation) from the German Ohrwurm. Two weeks ago my Earworm of the Week was Tony Christie’s Avenues and Alleyways, but the moment passed for me to write about it, despite having done the research (the theme tune to the TV show The Protectors I discovered). This last week, the earworm was I’m Gonna Make You Love Me by Diana Ross & The Supremes and The Temptations.

Not sure if this part of the song is the “hook”, if fact I’m pretty sure it’s not, but the line that keeps going round and round in my head is this one:

“I’m gonna use every trick in the book”

Having studied such things as part of my course this last year, poets and lyric writers make great use of the sound patterning of words, and both trick and book end with the hard letter k, which means that line exhibits the sound pattern called consonance. Perhaps that’s why it has really taken hold this last week. Whatever, lets have a listen to the whole song, a wonderful example of what can happen when two of Motown’s top groups get together for a recording. The song was incidentally written not by Holland-Dozier-Holland in this case, but by that wonderful team Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff who went on to form Philadelphia International Records as a rival to Berry Gordy’s Motown.

I’m Gonna Make You Love Me by Diana Ross & The Supremes and The Temptations:

The song peaked at No. 2 on the Hot 100 in the United States and at No. 3 on the UK Singles Chart in January 1969. Putting those two groups together was a masterstroke, but long delayed, as they had known each other since their Detroit school days. The Supremes were originally called the The Primettes, the sister group to a singing group known as The Primes formed by Paul Williams and Eddie Kendricks who would go on to become The Temptations. As a Motown supergroup however, the name is a tad cumbersome what with the word “and” featuring twice. At least one is an ampersand, but still, a bit of a mouthful.

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Gamble and Huff

From experience, earworms don’t usually last longer than a week, which is fortunate as although this is a fairly pleasurable one, they can be really annoying. Around the time of the Eurovision Song Contest it’s important to avoid catching the 1981 winner Making Your Mind Up by Bucks Fizz on the radio, as once it’s in there, impossible to budge.

So, “What’s It All About?” – My long list of ideas is going to take a fair while to eat into, as it keeps being added to at a faster rate than I can keep up. I think I can knock two ideas off the list now though, as poor old Tony Christie doesn’t look as if he’s going to be written about now, although a shame, as I had no idea he’d had such a long and interesting career, continually reinventing himself. I had also assumed when I was young that he was American, as he always seemed to sing about places in the US such as Amarillo. Not so, he was a product of the Working Men’s Clubs of the North of England and lived most of his life in Sheffield.

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Tony Christie – Still going strong

Thanks C for the prompt. Happy to oblige if anyone else wants to throw me a few numbers between 1 and 81? You can take the number cruncher out of the workplace, but you can’t take the number crunching out of the girl!

Until next time….

I’m Gonna Make You Love Me Lyrics
(Song by Kenny Gamble/Leon Huff/Jerry Ross)

I’m gonna do all the things for you, a girl wants a man to do.
Oh, baby (Oh, baby)
I’ll sacrifice for you, I’ll even do wrong for you.
Oh, baby (Oh, baby)

Every minute, every hour.
I’m gonna shower you with love and affection.
Look out it’s coming in your direction.
And I’m… I’m gonna make you love me.
Oh, yes I will.
Yes I will.
I’m gonna make you love me.
Oh, yes I will.
Yes I will.

Look it here.
My love is strong, you see.
I know you’ll never get tired of me.
Oh, baby (She’ won’t) (Oh baby)
And I’m gonna use every trick in the book.
I’ll try my best to get you hooked.
Hey, baby (Take me I’m yours) (Hey, baby)

And every night, every day.
I’m gonna say.
I’m gonna get you, I’m gonna get you.
Look out boy, ’cause I’m gonna get you.

I’m gonna make you love me.
Ooo, yes I will.
Yes I will.
And I’m gonna make you love me.
Ooo, yes I will
You know I will.

Every breathe I take.
And each and every step I make.
Brings me closer, baby.
Closer to you.

And with each beat of my heart.
For every day we are apart.
I’ll hunger for every wasted hour.

And every night and every day.
I’m gonna get you, I’m gonna get you.
Look out ’cause I’m gonna get you.

And I’m gonna make…
I’m gonna make you love me.
Oh, oh. (Yes I will)
I’m gonna make you love me.
Ooo, yes I will. Yes I will.
I’m gonna make you love me.
Yes I will. (Yes I will)
Ooo, I’m gonna make you love me.
Yes I will.
Yes I will.