Saddened to hear the news that Peter Tork of the Monkees has died. Since starting this project, where I journey back in time reminiscing about the music of my youth, it has become apparent that it all started for me at around the age of six, which in my case was 1966. Coincidentally that was when the Monkees first made an appearance on our black and white television screens, and although I was aware of other artists who popped up on the prime time slots watched by my mum and dad, the Monkees belonged to me.
I am sorry Peter, but the Monkee I was most infatuated with at age six, was Davy Jones, and one of the first posts I published on this blog was about him (link here). But you Peter, were the Howard Donald of the Monkees. You weren’t the cutest or the zaniest; you had a bowl haircut, didn’t wear a hat and were the oldest of the group; but like Howard of Take That fame, in time you became my favourite Monkee.
Despite being an accomplished Greenwich Village folk musician when you got the role in the sitcom that would change your life, at the start you weren’t even allowed to play your own instruments. That would change with time however, and you became the man in charge of keyboards and bass. You didn’t get the role of star vocalist very often, but here is a lovely song where you did share lead vocals with Davy Jones. Shades of Gray (American spelling of grey) is also very apt for this post, as it starts off with the lines:
When the world and I were young Just yesterday Life was such a simple game A child could play, (yes, that would have been 1966 for me)
and ends with the verse:
But today there is no day or night Today there is no dark or light Today there is no black or white Only shades of gray, (oh yes, as our politicians can testify, how complicated life has become in 2019)
Shades of Gray was another of those great ’60s songs written by Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil. It was recorded by The Monkees for their 1967 album “Headquarters” and was the first song on which the group played all their own instruments.
But here is another great song from that era, the clip this time in colour, where the boys are wearing those iconic dark red shirts with the silver buttons. Of course back in 1966 we wouldn’t have known their shirts were red, would we, because we watched telly in black and white? But here is where I beg to differ. Our local football team, Aberdeen FC played in red, and whenever their matches were aired on television, the grey of their shirts matched the grey of the Monkees shirts. At age six I was obviously pretty good at working out what the colours should be, based on the shades of grey of the various team shirts. Living in a football loving household meant you developed all sorts of useful skills of a televisual nature.
Last Train To Clarksville by the Monkees:
Tommy Boyce and Bobby Hart wrote Last Train To Clarksville as a protest to the Vietnam War but had to keep that quiet in order to get it recorded. It is about a guy who gets drafted, and the train is taking him to the army base. He knows he may die in Vietnam, and at the end of the song he states, “I don’t know if I’m ever coming home.”
Peter Tork was one of the many artists of my youth to have been born in 1942, right in the middle of a World War, but yet a vintage year for the birth of future musical legends (what was that all about?). Unlike in 2016, when I started this blog, I haven’t actually written any tributes so far this year. Cross fingers there won’t be too many more, but considering the span of time I write about here, I suspect there will be. A great chance to revisit the music though, and I have a feeling that a lot of people who had all but forgotten about the Monkees, might have had a sneaky peek at an old clip of Daydream Believer yesterday – I know I did.
Until next time…
Shades of Gray Lyrics (Song by Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil)
When the world and I were young Just yesterday Life was such a simple game A child could play It was easy then to tell right from wrong Easy then to tell weak from strong When a man should stand and fight Or just go along
But today there is no day or night Today there is no dark or light Today there is no black or white Only shades of gray
I remember when the answers seemed so clear We had never lived with doubt or tasted fear It was easy then to tell truth from lies Selling out from compromise Who to love and who to hate The foolish from the wise
But today there is no day or night Today there is no dark or light Today there is no black or white Only shades of gray
It was easy then to know what was fair When to keep and when to share How much to protect your heart And how much to care
But today there is no day or night Today there is no dark or light Today there is no black or white Only shades of gray Only shades of gray
For the benefit of any new visitors to the blog, this post is not representative, but a few weeks ago I issued a challenge, asking followers to come up with ideas for future posts. One of these was from Deidra, who after reading my tribute to David Cassidy (link here), suggested I should write some fan fiction in fairytale form involving the man and his music. Anyway, this is a bit tongue-in-cheek, and probably not what Deidra was expecting at all, but always fun to take on a new challenge and run with it. You probably need to be of a certain age to “get” a lot of what is to follow, but if you do, hope you enjoy it.
The Princess and the Pea’r
Princess Deidra looked down from the castle window. The boy from the village had just arrived with baskets of pears from his family’s orchard, and was heading towards the entrance to the large kitchen where he would no doubt laugh and joke with the kitchen maids. Deidra felt sad, and jealous that she could no longer join in their fun, but her mother had deemed it no longer appropriate for her to spend time with Maryberry the cook, Baldrick the kitchen boy and the feisty but fun, Daphne and Celeste.
Maryberry the cook
The kitchen boy Baldrick
The boy was called Davyd and his family supplied the castle with much produce in the course of a year. They reared partridges at the back of their humble dwelling so inevitably came to be known as, The Partridge Family. He had a sister called Susan and a brother called Daniel, who also visited the castle from time to time with their mother, a pretty, petite woman, with light coloured hair. The four of them were accomplished musicians and came to entertain guests in the great hall whenever a banquet was being held. The mother and Susan both played the harpsichord whereas Daniel played that strange stringed instrument which looked a bit like a lute. As for Davyd, he was the singer within the group, and as far as Deidra was concerned, had the voice of an angel.
The reason for his arrival today, was because festivities were being planned in honour of a visiting prince. She knew this prince was being thought of as a possible suitor, but fortunately her mother and father, the King and Queen, were kind and loving parents who would never force her into an arranged marriage. The prince, she had learnt, was called Donald and he came from a far away land that had a great salt lake. She’d also heard he had many brothers who wore tabards of different colours so that their parents could tell them apart. Donald always wore purple, and although they denied it, his parents considered him the handsomest of them all, as he had a beautiful smile and dazzling white teeth. Even when his younger brother James arrived, despite his long hair and loving ways, Donald was still their favourite son and they hoped he would find a deserving princess, perhaps in Deidra.
Prince Donald and his brothers in their coloured tabards
Prince Donald from the land of the great salt lake
Not for the first time however, Deidra wished she had been lowly born and could simply marry the boy from the village who was now leaving the castle grounds, his baskets empty. He would return home to his family, checking the partridges on the way, no doubt perched on the many pear trees in the orchard. Prince Donald may well be someone she could fall in love with, but right now, all she could think of was Davyd, and the songs she imagined he sang just for her. “Yes, I think I love you too”, she thought to herself, remembering the words of the last song he had performed in the great hall, at the same time knowing full well nothing could come of it.
The Partridge Family Minstrels
I Think I Love You:
But the day was warm, and it was time for an afternoon nap ahead of the evening’s banquet and entertainment. She removed her headdress and lay down on her counterpane, but before she could drift off to sleep Daphne appeared, having run up the stairs from the kitchen. The pair had been friends since they were young but of late Deidra had been unable to spend much time with her at all, her mother insisting that she fill her days with needlework, scripture and music lessons.
“Excuse me Princess, but I just had to let you know that Prince Donald is on his way.”
“I know Daphne, but what will he be like I wonder. Will he be as handsome as Davyd from the village? I see he has just been to the kitchen. Did you speak with him?”
“Why of course Princess. He was asking after you but that Celeste had to push in and act all brazen in front of him as usual. Ooh, that girl has no shame but we all knows he only has eyes for you so stick you Celeste. He also told us he has some turtle doves for the princess. Real beauties they are.”
“Oh, how kind”, said Deidra feeling wistful that she would not be allowed to accept them in person. “Is he coming up to the castle with his family tonight, to sing and play for us?”
“He is”, replied Daphne excitedly, “and they have a new song he wants to sing just for you. He knows about Prince Donald and told me to let you know, it’s a magical song that can transport you through time. Time and… relative dimension in… sound, he called it. Means nothing to me but he said you would understand”.
Daphne then headed off, to return to her duties in the kitchen but Deidra was left feeling confused. As a young princess she had been allowed to spend time with the village children, and when playing their games had often told Davyd she believed we would one day travel through time. Had he remembered those conversations she wondered, and had he found a way of really making it happen? It was all very baffling, but time for a quick nap now as Trinny and Susannah, her ladies maids, would soon be along to help her choose the perfect costume for tonight’s banquet, and the inevitable introduction to Prince Donald.
By the time the sun went down, Deidra was ready for the evening of festivities. Trinny and Susannah had picked out the perfect gown and headdress for her and after much pushing, prodding and pulling had secured the bodice into place. They had also brought with them an undergarment called majicnikkers which although made of a very strange fabric that was new to her, had the effect of making her waist appear very small indeed. This was going to be quite an evening, and although she was curious about the meeting with Prince Donald, it was the idea of Davyd’s magical song that truly excited her.
At the banquet Deidra was seated next to Prince Donald. He was indeed very handsome, his dark hair framing his smiling face. His party’s journey to the castle had been an eventful one however, as something had caused their horses to start acting crazily. Something in the air perhaps, an air very different to what they were used to by the great salt lake, over there on the morning side of the mountain. But Deidra could already tell that this was not her prince. He was too young, and for him it would just be a puppy love.
At the end of the table was a cage with the turtle doves that Davyd had sent up to the castle earlier in the day as a gift. He had also presented the cook, Maryberry, with three hens which had curiously been given the names Jacques, Jules and Henri. All we need now she thought to herself, would be some birds that could sing, and we would have quite the menagerie. Just at that moment, The Partridge Family appeared on the minstrel gallery, ready to play for them. Davyd gave her a knowing look, and once his brother tightened the strings on the lute-shaped instrument, the song began. “Could it be forever, or is my mind just rambling on…… .”
Suddenly Deidra’s head started to spin and she had to look down to gather her composure. The words in Davyd’s song were ringing in her ears. “Could it be forever?”, she thought regretfully. “No, not in my world, where princesses just don’t marry commoners.”
The spinning stopped and Deidra looked up. It took a few moments for her to work out where she was. It was still Windsmoor Castle but everything looked different. Her family and Prince Donald still sat next to her but they were all dressed in strange clothes and her flaming red hair was no longer covered by a headdress. The plate, and glassware, was finely crafted and large drapes covered the table. The Partridge Family were no longer up in the minstrel gallery but stood on a low, nearby platform surrounded by large boxes from which the sound seemed to come. Soon the song ended, and instead of retreating to the chambers behind the banquet hall as was usual, the family descended from the stage and came to converse with the guests. Just then, she remembered that Davyd had not just said it was to be a magical song, but that it was perhaps made up of sounds that could transport them through time. “What was it again?”, she frantically tried to remember. “Time and relative dimension in sound. TARDIS for short.”
She was still reeling from this revelation when Davyd came to speak to her. He had done it, he really had. Found a way of traversing through time until they came to an age when red-haired princesses could marry dark-haired, common born entertainers. Without further ado, Davyd got down on one knee and presented Deidra with a pear, from the orchard behind the castle of olden days. When she looked at it quizzically, he just said, “bite into it and see what you find.” Inside was a gold ring, which to everyone’s delight found its way onto her finger. “I started off with five pears and five gold rings”, he said, “but only this final one made it through the sound vortex. It wasn’t until then I knew the time was right to sing my magical song.”
And that my friends, is where the story ends. Davyd and Princess Deidra married in the chapel at Windsmoor Castle a few weeks later and many of their friends came to join in the celebrations. Sir Idris of Elba, Sir George of Clooney and of course Lady Victoria of Beckingham. Prince Donald returned to the land of the great salt lake, married, and had many, many children. Will they all live happily ever after though? Why of course they will, because as we all know, breaking up is hard to do!
Could It Be Forever Lyrics (Song by Wes Farrell/Danny Janssen)
Could it be forever or is my mind just rambling on [No, it can be forever Davyd, thanks to TARDIS – Time and relative dimension in sound!] Well I touched you once and I kissed you once And I feel like you’re mine Well I feel like you’re mine and I see in your face I’m not wrong to have these feelings Well I feel like you’re mine and I’ve never known a time before That’s had so many meanings
Could it be forever or is my mind just wasting time Well I don’t think so because you let me know You make me feel like you’re mine Well I feel like you’re mine and I can’t remember When the feelings have been stronger And all I know is I can’t let go of you Or be with you just a little while longer
All my feelings come together All of me is here Never known when I felt better Cause I know this won’t disappear
But could it be forever Or is my mind just rambling on Maybe it is, if it is Then I’ll be moving on Well, I feel like you’re mine And I see in your face I’m not wrong to have these feelings Well, I feel like you’re mine I’ve never known a time before That’s had so many meanings
Day Three of my annual challenge to write seven posts in seven days. No pressure on regular visitors to leave comments though, and these are going to have to be shorter posts than usual, but I have a bit of a backlog of blog ideas building up so here’s a chance to play catch up. Fell at the first hurdle last year so lets hope I fare better this year.
Yesterday I had to issue a warning that you might not want to read any further if you were a vegetarian, as the post involved a butcher’s shop (complete with images). Today I should point out that if you haven’t yet watched the supposedly final ever episode of Peter Kay’sCar Share, I might be about to spoil things for you. Having aired a good couple of weeks ago now, I will assume however that everyone who wanted to watch it will have done so by now.
Back in May last year, I wrote about the final episode of Series 2 (link here). There was that wonderful scene where Billy Ocean’sRed Light Spells Danger came on the radio, and as ever, our supermarket colleagues who had that whole “unspoken thing” going on, burst into song – One of the real high points of the whole series but it also led to the end of the unspoken thing, as it finally became a “spoken about thing”, so could only go one of two ways. Kayleigh was accused of living in a fairy-tale world and the cautious John, who came from a background and part of the country where such things were most definitely not spoken about, did not come up with the correct responses. Kayleigh stormed out of the car and – we were led to believe – out of his life for good.
But of course life is never that simple and the viewing public were not happy. Another final…, final episode was required. At the time however I was fully in support of Kayleigh’s actions – She was a lady of a certain age and had “no time to waste”. She chose to invoke what I used to call the three-month rule. Fun and laughter can be had with the most unlikely of partners for a few months, but then the rose-coloured spectacles come off, and things about them can really start to grate. If however all is still going well, it is wise to find out where things are “going”, as before you know it the years have rolled by and you find yourself with someone who is unwilling to commit (not that I know of anyone who has had that happen to them of course).
Not everyone wanted a sugar-coated ending to Car Share as realistically life just doesn’t always work out that way, but with these two characters they had come too far to throw it all away, and John was at last forced into taking action. As with his botched attempt at telling Kayleigh how he felt at the end of Series 2, he again went about it via the medium of song. He pulled an all-nighter (despite having work the next day) and dropped off the fruits of his labours at Kayleigh’s house in the early hours of the morning. She was not to be trusted with a digital copy of his self-penned love song, so a Walkman and cassette tape it had to be. I give you Come Back My Car Share Buddy by John Redmond (aka Peter Kay). It is no secret that Peter Kay is a massive Take That fan, so it was perfect that they made him an honorary member of the band for this potentially life-changing three-minute declaration. (Sadly the clip of the Back For Good spoof with Take That has disappeared from YouTube but I’m sure you will remember it.)
By storming off, out of his life, Kayleigh in effect threw down the gauntlet and this time John came up with the correct response. Whether the course of true love runs smoothly for our couple is another story altogether, but they had come too far for it all to end on a busy motorway at rush hour. There are rumours that the door might have been left open for a Christmas Special, but if this truly was the final ever episode, I think I can live with that.
Come Back My Care Share Buddy Lyrics (Song by Peter Kay – With a little help from Gary Barlow?)
Hiding from the past and locked up inside I thought my heart was safe and then you arrived I never knew I needed someone like you To lift the grey away and turn my skies blue You changed my world to colour Turned off the black and white You changed my life You opened up my eyes so…
Come back my car share buddy I don’t think life is fair Come back my car share buddy I’m lost now you’re not there The road is oh so lonely It feels like someone’s died I’m so lost you’re not with me Please won’t you let me be your ride
I didn’t understand that love could be true But then you told me how much I mean to you And never thinking that we’d end up apart I sat andwatched you walk away with my heart Now I don’t wanna lose you But I just need some time to do what’s right To figure out my life so…
Come back my car share buddy I’m empty now you’re gone Come back my car share buddy The journey seems so long I find it hard to say it But I’m feeling it inside I’m so lost you’re not with me Please won’t you let me be your ride
I don’t know about the rest of you, but I think the bit of visual humour (at 0:45) in this clip is the funniest thing I’ve seen on telly all year. Wasn’t expecting it at all, so real laugh-out-loud stuff.
Also, it’s been quite a while since I’d watched the original Back For Good video made by Take That in 1995, but it’s still a great wee pop song, apparently dashed off by Gary Barlow in only 15 minutes. It was their 6th UK No. 1 and reached No. 7 on the US Billboard chart. It was also the last video to include Robbie Williams, whom I must admit does look a bit disgruntled in this one – He’d had enough of boy bands by this time and was soon off to try out solo ventures, which he did with aplomb. A fortuitous partnership was formed with songwriter Guy Chambers and the rest, as they say, is history. But getting back to the video – I bet it took ages for their coats to dry out!
Another Edinburgh post, as I came home from last week’s trip armed with lots of great pictures that are ripe for sharing. This time we stayed in an apartment right at the top of the Grassmarket, which centuries ago was the site of one of Edinburgh’s main markets. The name apparently came from the grazing livestock, held in pens beyond its western edge.
Daniel Defoe, who visited Edinburgh in the 1720s, described the West Bow at the north-east corner of the Grassmarket (where our apartment was situated) as follows – “This street, which is called the Bow, is generally full of traders and dealers”, and you know what, it still is today, although nowadays the colourful shops are aimed primarily at the many tourists who pass through every year.
Looking out across the Grassmarket
Our apartment on West Bow
Shops on West Bow
The White Hart Inn – Est. 1516
Because it was originally a gathering place for market traders and cattle drovers, the Grassmarket was always a place full of taverns, hostelries and temporary lodgings – Again nothing much has changed, bar the prices, and the fact the traders and drovers have been replaced by tourists. In 1803 William Wordsworth took rooms at the White Hart Inn, where the poet Robert Burns had stayed during his visit to Edinburgh in 1791. It was described by him as being “not noisy, and tolerably cheap”. In the film version of Greyfriars Bobby, they chose a lodging in the Grassmarket as the place where the Skye terrier’s owner dies. Yes indeed, lots of history thereabouts.
1766 or 2018 – hard to tell!
For C – Old keys in an Antique Shop window
Having lived in the midst of such history for days, imagine my delight when we got home, to find that the next episode in the box-set we are currently watching on telly, was now set in the Old Town of Edinburgh circa 1766. The show Outlander is based on the historical time travel series of novels by Diana Gabaldon and is a firm favourite with most of us who live in the Highlands, as much of the drama is set here. It stars Caitriona Balfe as Claire Randall, a married World War II nurse who in 1945 finds herself transported back to the Scotland of 1743, where she meets the dashing Highland warrior Jamie Fraser (played by Sam Heughan) and becomes embroiled in the Jacobite risings. It does all sound a bit implausible, and is another of those wibbly wobbly timey wimey kind of things, but possibly because it covers all the bases for a cult drama, has kind of become one.
The handsome Jamie Fraser
The Old Town as seen in Outlander
I will include a clip here of the opening title sequence, which definitely gives a flavour of what the show is all about. Also, it makes use of the music to the Skye Boat Song, which most of us in Scotland are very familiar with – Unlike the very twee versions I was used to hearing in my youth, performed on highly uncool shows like The White Heather Club, this version has been given a 21st century makeover by Bear McCreary. The lyrics, taken from the Robert Louis Stevenson poem Sing Me a Song of a Lad That Is Gone, were adapted to fit the storyline and are performed by Raya Yarbrough,
So here we were this week, still thinking about our trip to an Edinburgh that has changed little since the 1700s, watching a show that was set in that very place and time. It isn’t often that contemporary music is used for the show’s soundtrack, but in one of the episodes we watched this week, a particularly poignant scene was played out to Bob Dylan’s song A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall. All about a blue-eyed son, so very apt really and thankfully (for me) not performed by Bob but by the Canadian band Walk Off the Earth. In case anyone watching the show hasn’t reached season three yet, I won’t give the game away and include a clip of that particular heart-wrenching scene, but suffice to say the song was just perfect for it, and has most definitely formed an earworm this week.
A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall by Walk Off the Earth:
Walk Off the Earth had performed the song just once, for kicks, and then pretty much forgot about it until someone from Outlander contacted them about using it for the episode. Band founder Ryan Marshall said they were surprised, as it was an acoustic cover without any bells and whistles – Just one of those tearjerker songs. When the writers decided they wanted to use the song, because Bob had just won the Nobel Prize an’ all, they knew they would never get his version, but after hearing the cover they kind of fell in love with it, as have I.
So, “What’s It All About?” – Last time I wrote a post about the film Trainspotting, and here I am now writing about the cult television drama Outlander. Yes, I do like my film and telly, and having emotionally invested in some of the storylines watched on both big and small screens, it can be quite something to find yourself in the very spot where they were filmed. It seems I am not alone however, as only this week I read a story in the local paper about how the Clan Fraser marker stone on Culloden Battlefield has had to be cordoned off, and the road around it relaid due the sheer volume of Outlander fans coming to visit it. Even poor old Greyfriar’s Bobby has had all the paint rubbed off his nose (see picture above) due to the sheer number of visitors to the faithful dog’s statue on Candlemaker Row.
One more Edinburgh post before I move on to new themes, but this next one won’t be about music from film or television. No, it seems the time has come to admit to which band was the first one I ever saw perform live!
Until next time….
A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall Lyrics (Song by Bob Dylan)
Oh, where have you been, my blue-eyed son? And where have you been, my darling young one? I’ve stumbled on the side of twelve misty mountains I’ve walked and I’ve crawled on six crooked highways I’ve stepped in the middle of seven sad forests I’ve been out in front of a dozen dead oceans I’ve been ten thousand miles in the mouth of a graveyard And it’s a hard, it’s a hard, it’s a hard, and it’s a hard It’s a hard rain’s a-gonna fall
Oh, what did you see, my blue-eyed son? And what did you see, my darling young one? I saw a newborn baby with wild wolves all around it I saw a highway of diamonds with nobody on it I saw a black branch with blood that kept drippin’ I saw a room full of men with their hammers a-bleedin’ I saw a white ladder all covered with water I saw ten thousand talkers whose tongues were all broken I saw guns and sharp swords in the hands of young children And it’s a hard, it’s a hard, it’s a hard, and it’s a hard It’s a hard rain’s a-gonna fall
And what did you hear, my blue-eyed son? And what did you hear, my darling young one? I heard the sound of a thunder, that roared out a warnin’ I heard the roar of a wave that could drown the whole world I heard one hundred drummers whose hands were a-blazin’ I heard ten thousand whisperin’ and nobody listenin’ I heard one person starve, I heard many people laughin’ Heard the song of a poet who died in the gutter Heard the sound of a clown who cried in the alley And it’s a hard, it’s a hard, it’s a hard, it’s a hard It’s a hard rain’s a-gonna fall
Oh, what did you meet, my blue-eyed son? Who did you meet, my darling young one? I met a young child beside a dead pony I met a white man who walked a black dog I met a young woman whose body was burning I met a young girl, she gave me a rainbow I met one man who was wounded in love I met another man who was wounded in hatred And it’s a hard, it’s a hard, it’s a hard, it’s a hard It’s a hard rain’s a-gonna fall
And what’ll you do now, my blue-eyed son? And what’ll you do now, my darling young one? I’m a-goin’ back out ‘fore the rain starts a-fallin’ I’ll walk to the depths of the deepest dark forest Where the people are many and their hands are all empty Where the pellets of poison are flooding their waters Where the home in the valley meets the damp dirty prison And the executioner’s face is always well hidden Where hunger is ugly, where souls are forgotten Where black is the color, where none is the number And I’ll tell and speak it and think it and breathe it And reflect from the mountain so all souls can see it And I’ll stand on the ocean until I start sinkin’ But I’ll know my song well before I start singin’ And it’s a hard, it’s a hard, it’s a hard, and it’s a hard It’s a hard rain’s a-gonna fall
Lately, I seem to have somewhat lost track of the original premise behind this blog. The eagle-eyed amongst you might have spotted that the domain name for this site contains the words Jukebox Time Machine but it wasn’t long before I decided to veer away from simply journeying back in time to select a random “track from my years”. Oh no, the featured song instead became inspired by what was going on in the news, by the seasons, or indeed what was happening in my own life. Once you delve into the backstory to a song, you find out so much more than was ever available back in the day, so it became appropriate to change the name of the blog to “What’s It All About?” (a nod to the opening lyric from the song Alfie, written by my favourite songwriting team Burt Bacharach and Hal David).
But just for a bit of a change, I am going to resurrect the idea of having an honest to goodness “time machine” that could randomly whisk me back through the years to find out what we were listening to, in terms of the music of the day. There are a fair few time machines in popular culture, but the one I’m going to use this time, is the contraption conjured up by H.G. Wells (very steampunk) and put together by some clever prop designers for the 1960 film The Time Machine starring Rod Taylor.
So, now we have a vehicle to take us back in time, but how will we randomly generate the date to which we will be taken? Fortunately there are lots of devices at our disposal and I’m going to use an online random number generator. The year will be generated from between 1964 and 2006, when the popular UK chart music show Top of the Pops aired on the BBC. I can at a push, remember watching that show with my parents right from the beginning (yes I’m that old), and I stuck with it through the good and bad years, until they pulled the plug on it in the mid-noughties. Since then I have kind of lost the plot as far as non-mainstream new music goes, so will stick to those more familiar years. The month and date can also be randomly generated after which all we have to do is refer to the Official UK Top 40 Archive. All sounds very complicated but trust me, it’s not.
Time to climb aboard then and generate the first date. Here goes:
Year – 1973
Month – 2, i.e. February
Date – 14 (cute, it’s Valentine’s Day!)
Anyone who visits here regularly will know that this year could not be better for me in terms of conjuring up memories, as it was not only the year I became a teenager, but it was also the year I became obsessed with pop music and chart rundowns (already written about here). Referring to the Official Top 40 Chart from the 14th Feb 1973, the act at the No. 1 spot was this one, Scottish glam-rock band The Sweet with their only chart-topper, Blockbuster.
Blockbuster by Sweet:
I’m not going to dilly-dally too long writing about that one however as it has been showcased very recently over at Charity Chic Music (link here) where quite a few of us chimed in with our schoolday memories of the song. It amazes me, watching this footage of the band perform, how they still somehow managed to look “macho” whilst wearing just so much glitter, gold lamé and make-up. ‘Twas the times obviously. Lead singer Brian Connolly was a particularly good-looking man back then, and I was very envious of his long blonde hair (although oddly, in this song he refers to someone with long black hair). I think I actually sported a not too dissimilar hairstyle myself for much of the noughties, but hadn’t realised until now that the inspiration for it must have been Brian from The Sweet.
But what else was in the 1973 St Valentine’s Day chart? Well as luck would have it, a song I have already featured in the blog – The Jean Genie by David Bowie (link here). It was pointed out back then by The Swede, that the opening riff of Jean Genie bore a striking similarity to that of The Sweet’s Blockbuster which was recorded for the same record label, at around the same time, and released just a couple of months later (go on, do a quick compare and contrast). But it was The Sweet who made it to the top spot on this occasion as Bowie’s offering only made it to No. 2. Having done a little digging, the date we’re travelling back to in time to was very relevant to Mr Bowie as it seems that it was on the 14th of February 1973 that he collapsed from exhaustion after a performance at New York’s Madison Square Garden. He had been touring and giving press conferences as his alter-ego Ziggy Stardust for some time, but soon after this collapse, he abruptly retired the character live on stage at London’s Hammersmith Odeon.
The Jean Genie by David Bowie:
So far we’ve revisited two songs that sound very similar to each other but what else in that chart sounded very similar? Although I can’t say I was a big fan back then, in the fullness of time I have come to appreciate all the falderals involved in the making of a Focus record (a bit of yodeling anyone?) and February 1973 was their time in the sun as far as chart success went. Their instrumental Sylvia was a climber at No.5 and Hocus Pocuswas also climbing up the chart at No. 22.
I may well have forgotten all about these Dutch prog rockers had it not been that the album I got for Christmas that year was “Arcade’s 20 Fantastic Hits by the Original Artists”, the emphasis on the word original, as up until then most of these compilations were very much by the unoriginal artists. If you look closely you will see that Blockbuster, The Jean Genie and Hocus Pocus (Track 7 on Side 2) all featured, so this February chart certainly seems to have spawned a fair few of the year’s most memorable hits. (Interesting to note there is a picture of the artist who is apparently Python Lee Jackson which caused lots of confusion at the time. Turned out PLJ was the name of an Aussie band and Rod Stewart had been a guest vocalist.)
Hocus Pocus by Focus:
Although we have travelled back in time 45 years, so many of these songs are now part of popular culture and I can’t imagine them ever being forgotten, whereas can we really say that about much of what is in the charts today? Maybe I’m wrong but could we envisage a time in the future when there will be another television cop show, this time inspired by the music of 2018? Not sure, but it certainly happened around 10 years ago when Life On Mars was made for our own BBC. The lead character Sam Tyler goes back in time to 1973 and finds himself working under the highly misogynistic, homophobic, borderline alcoholic Detective Chief Inspector Gene Hunt – The Gene Genie. For those of us who remember those days, there were many, many amusing musical exchanges between Sam and Gene. These were only made possible because Sam knew the legacy left behind by some of the artists they listened to, on the Ford Granada car radio, or during a nightclub raid. For Gene all this music was as yet unknown, and anyway, he and his wife preferred listening to Roger Whittaker!
Ok, so Life On Mars aired a fair few years ago now but I think it is generally agreed that one of last year’s best films, for music fans at any rate, was this one, Edgar Wright’s Baby Driver. I’m not usually a fan of films that feature multiple car chases, but this one was a very different animal, and the best car chase of all was played out to the sounds of Focus with what has turned out to be their most memorable recording (was it because the words rhymed so well I wonder?). Watching this excellent clip again, the lead character Baby, could definitely give Lewis Hamilton a run for his money.
So, “What’s It All About?” – I hope you’ve enjoyed joining me on my Jukebox Time Machine journey back to February 1973. All you need is a random number generator it seems and we’re good to go, although I may change the mode of transport for next time as H.G. Wells’ time machine was a tad uncomfortable at times – Doc Brown’s DeLorean might make for a smoother ride.
As to whether the music of 2018 will feature in the movies and telly of the future, having thought about it all a bit more, it probably will. As the music-obsessed youngsters of today become the movers and shakers of tomorrow, they will use the “tracks of their years” when making directorial debuts, peppering their films with the works of Kendrick Lamar and Childish Gambino (yes I watched the Grammys this week so am “down with the kids”). Problem is, by the time you make it in that world and are entrusted with the big budgets you are a generation older than the majority of your audience. Great for parents taking their kids to the cinema though as there is something for everyone, the action for the youngsters and the music for the mums and dads (Guardians of the Galaxy springs to mind) – All in all, a bit of a win-win situation.
Until next time….
Blockbuster Lyrics (Song by Mike Chapman/Nicky Chinn)
Ahhh, Ahh Ahhh You better beware, you better take care You better watch out if you’ve got long black hair He’ll come from behind, you’ll go out of your mind You better not go, you never know what you’ll find Ahh Ahh, Ahh Ahhh
Can’t look into his eyes, you’ll be surprised If don’t know what going on behind his disguse Nobody knows where Buster goes He’ll steal your woman out from under your nose
Does anyone know the way, did we hear someone say (We just haven’t got a clue what to do) Does anyone know the way, there’s got to be a way To Blockbuster
The cops are out, they’re running about Don’t know if they’ll ever be able to blockbuster out He’s gotta be caught, he’s gotta be taught ‘Cause he is more evil then anyone here ever thought
Does anybody know the way, did we hear someone say (We just haven’t got a aho) Does anybody know the way, there’s got to be a way To Blockbuster
Does anybody know the way, did we hear someone say (We just haven’t got a clue what to do) Does anybody know the way, there’s got to be a way To Blockbuster
It occurred to me that although the journey back in time was primarily to find out what we were listening to in February 1973, perhaps it might be interesting to remind myself what I was doing at school. As luck would have it (that trusty archive box came up trumps once again), I still have a self-penned “magazine” which we all had to produce in English (the subject not the language) that year.
All very embarrassing as ever, but I was only 12 remember, and one of the “stories” was essentially an exchange between my mum and myself as to the merits of acquiring one of those new-fangled cassette recorders that had just come on the market. Ignore the fact I seem to have missed the letter “t” in the title (should be tempted) and please ignore the fact that it seems my family were a bit tight with the cash, as in reality I did get a MURPHY cassette recorder later that year. It was my absolute pride and joy and was heavily used for the rest of my teenage years. I give you an extract from the Reader’s Realm February ’73 edition (adverts were included).
Well, I hope everyone who celebrates it has enjoyed their Christmas Day. We were just four for lunch this year which is a really easy number to cater for so not too stressful at all. I don’t even feel as if I’ve eaten too much as instead of the usual breakfast, lunch and dinner with a few snacks thrown in, on Christmas Day you just have breakfast, a whopping big festive lunch and then not much else, so it all evens itself out nicely. I realise not everyone is quite so restrained, but it works for me. As for the presents, lots of lovely things as ever and my daughter, who knows me just too well it seems, came up with this very appropriate gift. It is sitting beside me as I type so lets hope I will be inspired by the contents which sadly aren’t of the alcoholic variety as I am on driving duty, but I don’t mind, which is just as well.
It has become my routine of late to post on a Monday so didn’t want to veer away from that pattern just because it’s Christmas Day. Also, the great thing is that we no longer have to share anything Christmassy as a song choice – I don’t know about you but if I ever hear Andy Williams singing It’s The Most Wonderful Time Of The Year again whilst shopping, I will start a petition to have it banned. Unless your life really is on the up, and absolutely nothing bad has happened in the course of the year, it’s tough being constantly bombarded with Mr Williams’ chirpy lyrics. I always feel for those who may indeed not be having the MOST wonderful time. At one point I thought we ourselves might be having a bit of a Blue Christmas (Elvis version) this year as darling daughter is a bit lost spending it without her special someone, my mum is a bit lost without her memories and as regulars to this place know, I myself seem to have temporarily lost my “purpose”. As it turns out however it has been a really lovely day with no “blue-ness” making an appearance at all, for which I am really grateful.
Andy Williams – Arghh….
Elvis at Christmas
But here I am linking to festive songs whereas the song that has formed an earworm over the last week is something quite different. I have mentioned recently that over the last few weeks I’ve been working my way through all seven series of the television show Mad Men on Netflix. Well here’s a bit of irony – The final season hasn’t fully made it on to Netflix yet so I had to buy back the same DVD I donated to a charity shop earlier in the year after embarking on a bit of decluttering. No matter, all for a good cause, but didn’t realise I would get quite so into it second time around. First time around I hadn’t starting blogging yet whereas this time the carefully chosen songs that feature in each episode are doubly interesting for me as the late 1960s seems to have become my favourite era to revisit. [Spoiler alert: If you haven’t yet reached it, Season 6 is about to be mentioned!]
By the end of season 6, the main character’s wife had moved west to LA in order to further pursue her acting career. Megan Draper, the French Canadian secretary turned copy-writer turned actress, had always been captivating on screen ever since first appearing in season 4 but having set up home amongst the musicians and acting fraternity of Laurel Canyon, she seemed to have found her spiritual home. Her New York based, “Ad-Man” husband Don was suddenly an anachronism and it made for uncomfortable viewing watching the end of a marriage being played out on screen. Right at the end of episode 6 Megan hosts a party at her house in the hills – One of the songs played at the party was this one and although I had heard of the band Blood, Sweat & Tears and even seen pictures of them, they’ve never featured amongst the tracks of my years so I hadn’t realised they were responsible for this gem of a song – You’ve Made Me So Very Happy.
You’ve Made Me So Very Happy by Blood Sweat and Tears:
This beautiful song was written by Brenda Holloway amongst others and was first recorded by her in 1967 on the Tamla label. The song later became a huge hit for jazz-rock band Blood, Sweat & Tears in 1969, reaching No. 2 on the Billboard Hot 100 and No. 35 in the UK Singles Chart. But the musical surprises didn’t end there in this particular episode as to husband Don’s discomfort, Megan proceeds to entertain her guests with an impromptu dance to Petite Fleur, a jazz instrumental played by some of her musician friends. This piece of music was originally written and recorded by Sidney Bechet in 1952 but became an international hit in 1959 for Chris Barber’s Jazz Band. It was this version with the clarinet solo that provided the inspiration for Megan’s “performance” – Very apt for the petite fleur that was French-speaking Megan Draper (née Calvet).
Petite Fleur by Chris Barber’s Jazz Band:
So, “What’s It All About” – Sometimes we don’t even realise how much time and effort has gone into choosing just the right music for a television show as it just feels incidental, but once you start to take note, as I have done re-watching this award winning drama, it adds a whole new dimension to the experience. The Blood, Sweat & Tears song was the perfect choice for this party in the Hollywood Hills of 1969 but also bittersweet as that evening perhaps marked the beginning of the end for the two main protagonists. Megan had made Don “so very happy” and vice versa, but those days were soon to be in the past. The petite fleur would soon be out of his life for good.
But here I am blogging with my new mug by my side at nearly 10pm on Christmas Day – DD has invited some friends round and by the sound of the laughter from the other room, they seem to be making her “so very happy”. Time to seek out Mr WIAA, as it’s probably time to make him “so very ….. ” – No that all sounds a bit wrong. Time to sign off for today before I get myself into trouble!
Merry Christmas from all of us here at WIAA – Hope you’ve had a good one.
Until next time….
You’ve Made Me So Very Happy Lyrics (Song by Berry Gordy Jr/Brenda Holloway/Frank Wilson/Patrice Holloway)
I lost at love before Got mad and closed the door But you said try just once more I chose you for the one Now I’m having so much fun You treated me so kind, I’m about to lose my mind You made me so very happy I’m so glad you came into my life
The others were untrue, But when it came to lovin’ you I’d spend my whole life with you ‘Cause you came and you took control You touched my very soul You always showed me that Loving you was where it’s at You made me so very happy I’m so glad you came into my life
Thank you baby, yeah yeah
I love you so much, it seems That you’re even in my dreams I can hear Baby, I hear you calling me I’m so in love with you All I ever want to do is Thank you, baby Thank you, baby
You made me so very happy I’m so glad you came into my life You made me so very happy You made me so, so very happy baby I’m so glad you Came into my life Mmmm, I want to thank you, girl Every day of my life I wanna thank you You made me so very happy Oh, I wanna spend my life thanking you (Thank you baby, thank you baby)
Last month I wrote a post (link here) about that amazing full moon we in the UK were all witness to. Having discovered that all full moons have a name, generally having come from the Native Americans who very much used the moon’s cycle as their calendar, I decided to embark on a series of “moon posts” to coincide with whenever a new one appears in our skies. Last night, despite the fact there had been solid cloud cover all day, I managed to witness the Cold Moon, so-called because it occurs at that time of the year when the cold grip of winter really starts to take hold. I tried very hard to get a good shot of it both with my phone and camera, but not easy, so here is the best I could come up with – My Cold Moon as seen in the Highlands of Scotland.
The next full moon will occur in January, so as this is my last lunar offering of 2017 I am going to feature a song by an artist who sadly left us earlier this year and whom I have been remiss in not mentioning until now. I am talking about Al Jarreau who despite having had an incredibly long career as a jazz performer will, for me, always be remembered as the guy who sang the “Moonlighting” Theme. Al started out in 1968 and during his lengthy career received a total of seven Grammy Awards and was nominated for over a dozen more. He is perhaps best known for his 1981 album “Breakin’ Away” but passed away back in February this year at the age of 76, just two days after announcing his retirement.
“Moonlighting” Theme by Al Jarreau:
Moonlighting was the American comedy-drama television series, set in the offices of a private detective agency, that ran for four years in the late 1980s. It was must watch telly in the flat I shared with my best friends and even when we all started to move out and go our separate ways, it was always a great excuse for a get-together back at the mothership!
The show made a star out of Bruce Willis and re-launched the career of Cybill Shepherd. The relationship between their characters, David and Maddie, was of course one of those “will they, won’t they” ones but naturally once they did, the magic ended. Still included in most lists of the best TV couples of all time however.
Bruce and Cybill aka David and Maddie
Next month’s full moon will be called the Wolf Moon so I shall return at the start of January with another lunar song title. A bit of a quirk next month however in that we will also have a Blue Moon. Doesn’t happen often (thus the name) but as all full moons occur every 29.5 days we will have one on the 2nd and the 31st (just snuck in there at the end of the month). Plenty of song choices for blue moons but will have to have a think about which song would be most suitable for a wolf moon. Bob Seger and his Silver Bullet Band immediately comes to mind but we’ll see!
Until next time…. RIP Al Jarreau
Moonlighting Lyrics (Song by Al Jarreau/Lee Holdridge)
Some walk by night Some fly by day Nothing could change you Set and sure of the way Charming and bright Laughing and gay I’m just a stranger Love the Blues and the Braves There is the sun and moon Facing their old, sweet tune Watch them when dawn is due Sharing one space
Some walk by night Some fly by day Something is sweeter When you meet ‘long the way There is the sun and moon Facing their old, sweet tune Watch them when dawn is due Sharing one space
So come walk the night Come fly by day Something is sweeter ‘Cause we met ‘long the way We’ll walk the night We’ll fly by day Moonlighting strangers Who just met on the way Who just met on the way