An Open Letter to DD – When Life Gets Tough, “What Would Buffy Do?”

My Dearest Darling Daughter (DD for short)

I know you don’t often drop by this place and I thank you for giving me the freedom to write freely without worrying about being viewed by people from the real world, but here is a short post just for you. Other regulars may drop by but they already know all about you, as all of your shenanigans, as well as those of your dad and granny, pop up within these pages from time to time.

We are now heading into our 10th week of lockdown here in Scotland, which means it’s nearly 11 weeks since you were “let go” from your workplace. What an awful euphemism – You and your colleagues were not flimsy pieces of rope loosely tethered to your desks, but were sparky, go-getting young people with so much to offer. Anyway, because of the pandemic it happened, and on behalf of my generation I apologise for how your generation have been treated over the last decade or so. 

We all know how tough it is for you to buy somewhere to live, as we bought everything up as “investment property”. We all know how tough it is for you to enter the job market, as we cling on to the quality jobs and now (have to) work ’til we drop. We gave you computers & phones which let you access social media 24/7, often damaging your mental health. Some of us call you “snowflakes” which is an insult of the highest order and could only come from those who haven’t seen how hard your generation have had to work to navigate the school system and beyond. And now… , the world has seen fit to give you a pandemic to deal with.

This is primarily a health crisis we are living through, and yes, it is our older people and those with underlying health conditions who have borne the brunt of it so far, however I would argue that it’s the 18 to 24-year-olds like yourself whose lives have been turned upside down by it most, and who will bear the brunt in the longer term. I feel desperately sorry for all of you who will miss sitting those life-changing exams; who will finish your degrees virtually; who will miss out on all those end of term revelries; who work in the arts & hospitality; whose new apprenticeships/jobs are now on hold, and; whose plans for next year are now in jeopardy. Many of you might be in a serious relationship yet are having to lockdown in different households. Your social life, which is of immense importance to your age group, is reduced to a Zoom quiz or a hour’s walk with your parents.     

Anyway, got to find some positives and I know you will do your absolute best to adapt to a post-pandemic world. It was obvious before all this that something had to change in terms of how we live, and this might just be the catalyst to make it happen. Over the last few months we have seen less pollution, more innovative ways of working and communities taking care of each other – All bodes well for the future, as long as we can get through this tricky next phase.

I know you’re starting to struggle a bit now and I would like nothing more than to give you a great big hug, but as you’re at the other end of the country, sadly not possible for some time yet. Your dad and I miss you desperately and are your biggest supporters – Whatever the future holds, you will be fabulous.

Mum xxx


Postscript:

I have written about DD often around here, so if anyone wants to drop by the comments boxes with a message of support I think it would give her a big lift. Cross fingers we can all reunite soon. Back in the day, we as a family once spent a whole calendar year watching all 144 episodes of Joss Whedon’s award-winning cult drama, Buffy The Vampire Slayer. When times get tough, the question still is, “What would Buffy do?” – She was one powerful young lady.

As we watched all the episodes, we must have also heard the theme music by Nerf Herder at least 144 times. I had never thought to look into this before, but Nerf Herder are apparently an American rock band from Santa Barbara, California. They describe themselves as a “geek rock” band, and are known for simplistic, modern, punk-style songs and pop-culture-referencing lyrics. Perfect for the Buffy Theme it seems, and as I often say around here, every day’s a school day.

Buffy The Vampire Slayer Theme by Nerf Herder:

Happy Families At The BRITs, Neneh Cherry and “7 Seconds” of Innocence

This week I watched the BRIT Awards. It’s a big night for those in the music industry as a large clutch of awards can really raise sales to stratospheric levels – But enough about “The Suits” from the record companies, it is also a big night for the artists who have worked hard on their craft and been allowed to shine over the last 12 months. For many, all their dreams have come true, but for others, they may crash and burn – Lets hope most will fall into the former camp.

The big winner at the Grammys this year was American Billie Eilish, who is only 18 years old. She was also a big winner at the BRITs and performed the new Bond theme song No Time To Die written by her brother, who simply goes by the name Finneas. Billie certainly doesn’t follow any of the normal rules associated with pop princesses, and eschews make-up, hair extensions and skimpy clothing. With her lime green hair, she is a breath of fresh air in an increasingly plasticised world. What upset me however was that when she received her award she became quite emotional, as she’d been feeling “hated” of late on social media, but the reception she got from the crowd on Tuesday night had made her feel “loved”. Regulars around here will know my last post was about the #BeKind movement, and for Billie’s sake, I hope those who hide behind their keyboards spouting hatred take heed, and start being kinder.

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Billie Eilish with brother Finneas

Another big winner on Tuesday night was Scotland’s own Lewis Capaldi who won both the award for Best New Artist and also for Song of the Year. Like Billie he is no conventional pop idol, which is great, and as is his way, his acceptance speech was peppered with the kind of language not allowed on pre-watershed telly, so we didn’t get to hear any of it. He is so typically Glaswegian however and has that knack of not taking himself too seriously which I love. His Italian surname is the same as that of fellow Glaswegian Peter Capaldi, and yes, it turns out they are related, sharing a great-grandfather. Peter even appeared in the video for Lewis’ song of the year, Someone You Loved.

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Lewis Capaldi with “cousin” Peter Capaldi aka Dr Who

Another family connection that surprised me when watching Tuesday night’s show, was that Mabel, winner of Best British Female Solo Artist, has a mum who herself is the proud owner of three BRIT awards. Who could this be I wondered and did a quick google search – Her mum turns out to be Neneh Cherry and frighteningly, her awards were all received on the show exactly 30 years ago to the day. I remember watching that show well and honest to goodness, it feels like only about 10 years ago! Mabel also put in a great performance of her big hit Don’t Call Me Up on the night which reminded me a lot of Dua Lipa’s New Rules from two year’s ago. More stories of strong women taking control – A regular theme for the 21st century it seems.

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Mabel with her mum Neneh Cherry

But here is a clip of the most powerful performance of the night. Dave, from Streatham in South London, won the award for British Album of the Year which is apparently “the big one”. As a woman of a certain age living in the Scottish Highlands, I could not be culturally more different from Dave and his “brothers”, but listening to his Brits’ version of Black which had an incredibly moving verse added at the end encompassing a tribute to London Bridge terror attack victim Jack Merritt, it does make me understand their world a little more. Two years ago Stormzy blew me away at the Brits, but this year it was Dave. I urge you to watch until the end, and also, to admire the very clever graphics on the piano.

But getting back to Neneh Cherry, in case anyone has forgotten just how good she was back in the day, here is one of my all-time favourite songs – 7 Seconds by Youssou N’Dour featuring Neneh Cherry. It was released in 1994 as a single, and reached the No. 1 spot in numerous countries. In France it stayed at No. 1 for a record 16 weeks and it also won the MTV Europe Music Award for Best Song of 1994. 7 Seconds is apparently about the first positive 7 seconds in the life of a newborn child, a child who does not know about the problems and violence in our world. Three different languages were used in the song: English, French and Wolof, which is a language spoken in Senegal, Gambia, and Mauritania. Also very apt I think for today’s post.

7 Seconds by Youssou N’Dour and Neneh Cherry:

Until next time….

7 Seconds Lyrics
(Song by Neneh Cherry/Youssou N’Dour/Cameron McVey/Jonathan Sharp)

Boul ma sene, boul ma guiss madi re nga fokni mane
Khamouma li neka thi sama souf ak thi guinaw
Beugouma kouma khol oaldine yaw li neka si yaw
mo ne si man, li ne si mane moye dilene diapale

Roughneck and rudeness,
We should be using
On the ones who practice wicked charms
For the sword and the stone
Bad to the bone
Battle is not over
Even when it’s won

And when a child is born
Into this world
It has no concept
Of the tone the skin is living in

It’s not a second
Seven seconds away
Just as long as I stay
I’ll be waiting
It’s not a second
Seven seconds away
Just as long as I stay
I’ll be waiting
I’ll be waiting
I’ll be waiting

J’assume les raisons qui nous poussent de changer tout,
J’aimerais qu’on oublie leur couleur pour qu’ils esperent
Beaucoup de sentiments de races qui font qu’ils desesperent
Je veux les deux mains ouvertes,
Des amis pour parler de leur peine, de leur joie
Pour qu’ils leur filent des infos qui ne divisent pas
Changer

Seven seconds away
Just as long as I stay
I’ll be waiting
It’s not a second
Seven seconds away
Just as long as I stay
I’ll be waiting
I’ll be waiting
I’ll be waiting

And when a child is born
Into this world
It has no concept
Of the tone the skin it’s living in

And there’s a million voices
And there’s a million voices
To tell you what you should be thinking
So you better sober up for just a second

We’re seven seconds away
Just as long as I stay
I’ll be waiting
It’s not a second
We’re seven seconds away
For just as long as I stay
I’ll be waiting
It’s not a second
Seven seconds away
Just as long as I stay
I’ll be waiting

A Memorial Bench, Another Sad Loss and “Try A Little Kindness”

Many regulars to this place will remember the series of posts I published at the end of last year following the tragic death of my friend’s daughter. She was only 18, but after a tough few months, on the 1st November she took her own life. Last week, her mum sent me a picture of the rainbow-coloured bench they have been allowed to place next to her grave. A tiny bit of comfort for those many friends and relatives who will visit her resting place.

Holly

At the time I suggested her death certificate should have stated Death by Social Media, as she had been the victim of the most awful cyber-bullying over the years. Hard for those of us of a certain age to comprehend I know, but something that is very real in today’s world. Her family therefore decided to have the words “Be Kind Always” inscribed on the bench, as a kind of long-lasting legacy.

Holly (2)

So, this was only last Friday. On Saturday afternoon, news broke that one of our best-loved television presenters had been found dead in her home, having taken her own life. Not everyone will have been familiar with Caroline Flack, but she seems to have been responsible for getting the younger generation back in love with terrestrial telly again, hosting shows that drew in large viewing figures. Sadly, her professional and personal life had hit a rocky patch of late, but rather than being left to nurse her wounds and rebuild her confidence in private, she became an absolute magnet for social media trolls, and was hounded relentlessly by the press. Her story was apparently of public interest, but was it really? She was obviously a very vulnerable young woman for whom this level of abuse was unsustainable.

Moving tributes have been pouring in from fellow celebrities, and even from our politicians. After losing her daughter at the end of last year, my friend wanted to do something to highlight the potentially tragic consequences of cyber-bullying. Tough however to get the message out to a wider audience. Now, with a high profile victim such as Caroline, the message really is starting to get out there, and change will have to come.

One politician, Lisa Nandy, has come out saying social media companies cannot be left to police themselves, suggesting the current situation is like the Wild West. “I worry about the approaches that say we allow the social media companies to regulate themselves,” she said. “In no other area of life would we allow private companies to self-police. We ought to make sure the state has a system of regulation and support around that.”

MP Kate Osamor, who appeared in the press herself for a threatening confrontation with journalists who went to her home after her son was convicted of drug offences, wrote: “The trolling & abuse she suffered at the hands of the media was relentless. Being kind is so underrated. RIP Caroline Flack.”

Since Saturday, the #BeKind hashtag has been appearing everywhere. Let’s hope there is a sea change in behaviour going forward, but you know what, I’m not holding my breath. I started to look for songs about being kind for this post, but not as easy as you would think. I did however find this oldie from 1969 recorded by Glen Campbell, who has often popped up around here. Try A Little Kindness was written by Curt Sapaugh & Bobby Austin and, I think, is just the kind of thing I want to listen to at the moment.

Try A Little Kindness by Glen Campbell:

So, “What’s It All About?” – I have been really lucky around here in that I’ve never had to suffer any unpleasantness. Of course the WordPress people do a pretty good job of filtering out spam, but my experience has been a really positive one. Sadly, if you are in the public eye, or indeed a teenager of today, this will not be the case. I really hope people start being kinder, but failing that, I hope regulation of some sort will be forced upon the social media companies. My friend won’t get her daughter back, nor will Caroline Flack’s parents, but hopefully their stories will be the catalyst for change.

Until next time….  RIP Holly, RIP Caroline Flack, #BeKind.

Try A Little Kindness Lyrics
(Song by Bobby Austin/Curt Sapaugh)

If you see your brother standing by the road
With a heavy load from the seeds he’s sowed
And if you see your sister falling by the way
Just stop and say, you’re going the wrong way

You got to try a little kindness
Yes show a little kindness
Just shine your light for everyone to see
And if you try a little kindness
Then you’ll overlook the blindness
Of narrow-minded people on the narrow-minded streets

Don’t walk around the down and out
Lend a helping hand instead of doubt
And the kindness that you show every day
Will help someone along their way

You got to try a little kindness
Yes show a little kindness
Just shine your light for everyone to see
And if you try a little kindness
Then you’ll overlook the blindness
Of narrow-minded people on the narrow-minded streets

Christmas In Latin, “Gaudete” and “In Dulci Jubilo”

We had a really long round trip yesterday clocking up over 200 miles, and all because it’s the time of year when you really need to touch base with family in other parts of the country. We were lucky in that the day we picked for our drive was a good one with clear skies and no rain. We passed lots of familiar landmarks and although you don’t actually pass through them any more, we skirted the edge of the village where I grew up, and the town where I went to secondary school. I was reminded of the happy times spent there (yes I was one of the lucky ones) and of the many friends made over the years.

Like most of us I had a favourite teacher and my one happened to teach Latin. She had finished her training the year we moved up to the academy, so was still only 22 when she was entrusted with filling our 12-year-old brains with the language of the Romans. Can’t say I ever used my Latin much and have forgotten most of it, but something I will never forget is the opening page of Ecce Romani Textbook 1. These books told stories of a family who lived in a fine villa with an atrium (a new word to us back then but a fairly commonplace feature now in hotels and office blocks). There was the father Gaius Cornelius, the mother Aurelia and their four children, but also living with them was the tutor Euclydes and not surprisingly, it being ancient Rome an’ all, Davus the slavus. If I remember correctly the opening chapter read as follows:

Ecce, in pictura est puella. Puella est Cornelia. Cornelia est puella parva, sed etium in pictura est puella magna. Puella magna est Flavia…. and so it went on teaching us the words for “look” (ecce), “girl” (puella), “small” (parva), “big” (magna), “but also” (sed etium), et cetera (not et cetera yet actually, but you know what I mean).

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But this of course is a music blog so how the heck do I get from the Ecce Romani Latin textbooks to a festive song pick. Well as luck would have it in 1973, our second year of being taught Latin by the lovely Miss Fraser (whose platform shoes, midi skirts and tank tops were the envy of all the girls in the class), the British folk rock group Steeleye Span had a chart hit with Gaudete, a sacred Christmas carol with lyrics in Latin. The Ecce Romani books were cast aside for a whole lesson whilst we grappled with the task of translating the song into English.

As I don’t have any Steeleye Span in my digital database, I am going to have to add another festive offering. Gaudete is one of only three top 50 British hits to be sung in Latin, but in 1975 Mike Oldfield had a top 10 hit with In Dulci Jubilo. This time the Latin song was performed purely as an instrumental and it licks along at a fair old pace making me feel quite Christmassy (at last).

I could have shared a boring old clip featuring pictures of Mike Oldfield, but no, as it’s Christmas I will add a clip showcasing the talents of Pans People, the Top Of The Pops in-house dance troupe, whose very literal routines delighted the viewing public every Thursday between 1970 and 1976. In this routine they are wearing diaphanous white garments as opposed to the skimpy bikinis they were often probably forced into wearing. A jaunty festive frolic this time with a blinking great Christmas tree getting in the way for much of it – Enjoy.

In Dulci Jubilo by Mike Oldfield:

Not sure if I’ll return with anything else before the big day so time to wish everyone a Merry Christmas from all of us here at WIAA. A bit thin on the ground this year what with DD having moved to the other end of the country and my little mum in the care home, but that’s just how life works, always change. Luckily for us DD is due to arrive home with her boyfriend on Christmas Eve so looking forward to that very much. With any luck some of their friends will turn up for a visit and it will be like old times again, old times I’ve missed very much of late.

Have a good one. Until next time….

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Gaudete Lyrics
(Medieval song of praise)

Gaudete, gaudete, Christus est natus
Ex Maria virgine, gaudete
Gaudete, gaudete, Christus est natus
Ex Maria virgine, gaudete

Tempus adest gratiae, hoc quod optabamus
Carmina laetitiae devote redamus

Gaudete, gaudete, Christus est natus
Ex Maria virgine, gaudete
Gaudete, gaudete, Christus est natus
Ex Maria virgine, gaudete

Deus homo factus est natura mirante
Mundus renovatus est a Christo regnante

Gaudete, gaudete, Christus est natus
Ex Maria virgine, gaudete
Gaudete, gaudete, Christus est natus
Ex Maria virgine, gaudete

Ezechielis porta clausa per transitur
Unde lux est orta salus invenitur

Gaudete, gaudete, Christus est natus
Ex Maria…

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

SAMCRO, Audra Mae and “Forever Young”

I imagine I’m not alone in finding that we’re living in a bit of a golden age for television drama – What with streaming and on-demand services, as well as the mainstream channels, the discerning viewer is rarely stuck for something great to watch. I am noticing however that cinema audiences are down (around here anyway), and both our local venues have recently slashed their prices. Good news for those of us who still like the excitement of watching our films on the big screen but probably not good for the art form long-term.

This last year alone we have watched Peaky Blinders, Carnival Row, The Boys, Catch-22, Keeping Faith, Summer of Rockets, Years and Years, Killing Eve, Black Mirror, Chernobyl, Gentleman Jack and Les Misérables to name but a few. Seems like all I do is watch telly, but no, our habit is to finish up whatever we’re doing by 9pm, after which we reconvene in the “living room” (the least-used room in the house nowadays, so no longer a very apt name) and settle down for our nightly fix of the goggle-box, as it used to be called.

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This week we seemed to be all caught up with everything that had been recorded and nothing new to tickle our fancy on Netflix or elsewhere, so we decided to revisit a series we have already watched, Sons of Anarchy, which follows the lives of a close-knit, outlaw motorcycle club (SAMCRO), operating in a fictional town in Northern California. I’ve written about it around here before, as I became really fond of the theme song This Life performed by Curtis Stigers and the Forest Rangers. As I said last time, probably like most fans, I live in law-abiding “nice-world” where the worst crime I ever commit is to park illegally, or perhaps accidentally speed in a built-up area. Our modern day lives are so controlled and safe that it is sometimes necessary to experience something a bit more edgy from the other side of the tracks, albeit from the comfort of our sofas.

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In the penultimate episode of Season 1, a particularly poignant scene was accompanied by a fine version of the song Forever Young written by Bob Dylan, and I was immediately smitten by it. The singer this time was American Audra Mae, who it seems is a great-niece of Judy Garland which might explain the fine pipes. Here is the non-acapella version of the song, but in the show the alternative version was used.

Forever Young by Audra Mae & The Forest Rangers:

Forever Young was originally recorded by Bob Dylan with The Band in November 1973 and first appeared on his album Planet Waves. Dylan had four children between 1966-1969, including his youngest Jakob, and the song was intended as an uplifting message from a parent to a child. The song has endured as one of Dylan’s classics.

As for the show Sons of Anarchy, it took me quite some time to realise that the lead character, played by Charlie Hunnam, was a graduate of British kids telly, first finding his feet on the BBC show Byker Grove along with fellow Geordies Ant & Dec! He next popped up on the award-winning Queer as Folk along with the now seemingly omnipresent Aiden Gillen. Perhaps to those across the pond his accent still has a tinge of Geordie, but he seems to have made the leap from Byker to biker very successfully. I am convinced, and as the anti-hero of the show I have become quite smitten with him, as well as the song featured above.

So, “What’s It All About?” – Having so much great telly around at the moment, means that whenever we want to side-step the real world for a time it’s right there at our fingertips, and with so many great soundtracks, always something for the discerning music-lover as well.

Until next time…

Forever Young Lyrics
(Song by Bob Dylan)

May God bless and keep you always
May your wishes all come true
May you always do for others
And let others do for you
May you build a ladder to the stars
And climb on every rung
May you stay forever young
Forever young, forever young
May you stay forever young.

May you grow up to be righteous
May you grow up to be true
May you always know the truth
And see the light surrounding you
May you always be courageous
Stand upright and be strong
May you stay forever young
Forever young, forever young
May you stay forever young.

May your hands always be busy
May your feet always be swift
May you have a strong foundation
When the winds of changes shift
May your heart always be joyful
And may your song always be sung
May you stay forever young
Forever young, forever young
May you stay forever young

Sleepless Nights, Summer of Rockets and The Music of 1958

Not sure what’s happened but experiencing a bit of blogger’s block at the moment. For me, it’s never about lack of inspiration as at the latest count I have 83 “posts pending” (yes really), a new series on the go, 3 series on hiatus and 4 “series pending”. I think it’s more that my senses are being over-stimulated at the moment, so can’t concentrate on one topic long enough to write about it without being distracted by something else.

My sore neck and shoulder continues to trouble me, so sleep is being disrupted, and when you can’t sleep your mind inevitably goes into overdrive. The darkest hour is just before dawn as we all know, but difficult to control what pops into the old noddle at that time. So, what does a person do when they want to clear their head a bit? – Why they have a notebook at hand at all times ready to capture ideas, thoughts and observations as they pop into the brain, freeing up a few of the terabytes left to fill up with other worries!

I’m making it sound a bit worse than it is as I don’t really have too many major worries compared to a lot of other folks, but being home-based as I am nowadays, I do watch an awful lot of news on telly, and there’s not a lot going on at the moment to give one much hope for the future. Combine that with watching the BBC drama Years and Years which portrays a worrying (but totally believable) picture of what life might be like in just 5 years time, and sleep patterns are inevitably disturbed.

Funnily enough, another drama we binge-watched last week on the BBC iPlayer was Summer of Rockets set in 1958, now over 60 years ago, which should have portrayed a picture of simpler times when we didn’t lie in bed worrying about the future. Not so however, as that was the year of the first hydrogen bomb test, the cold war was ramping up and issues arising from immigration brought out the worst in people. On the upside, I do love a period drama set in the 1950s, as I love the clothes the girls wore – All those wide skirts and petticoats. The omnipresent Keeley Hawes played one of the lead roles, but I was most impressed with another younger actress, called Lily Sacofsky, who played a reluctant debutante being prepared for “the season”. Britain however was on the cusp of major social change and her character Hannah plays a large part the denouement of the main plot. I won’t give too much away as some of the episodes have yet to air on real-time telly, but one to be recommended.

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Hannah the reluctant “deb”

But as I always say at around this point, this is supposed to be a music blog, so which song to include? I wasn’t yet born in 1958 when people were lying in bed worrying about the Bomb, and social change, so have no direct memory of the music of the time. We all know however that rock ‘n’ roll came to our shores in the late ’50s so a really exciting time for young people who were lucky enough to have invested in a record player for the corner of their bedrooms. Looking at the Official UK Singles Chart for this week in 1958 however, there isn’t much rock ‘n’ roll to be found, the top spot being taken by Connie Francis and the Top Ten containing an awful lot of ballads and show tunes.

One band on that list is The Mudlarks, a family group from Luton comprising Jeff, Fred and Mary Mudd who obviously sang like larks! In 1958, they attracted the attention of radio DJ David Jacobs, who got them an appearance on the Six-Five Special TV show, and a recording contract with EMI. They did a cover of the American novelty song Lollipop, but later in 1958 they released Book of Love, which is a song I am familiar with. At the end of the year The Mudlarks were voted top British vocal group by readers of the New Musical Express.

Here is an interesting snippet – Fred Mudd married Leila Williams, who co-hosted the children’s telly show Blue Peter from 1958 until 1962. Most of us of a certain age grew up watching Blue Peter, and remember well the making of the advent crown from tinsel and coat hangers, the annual Appeal, Freda the tortoise and that baby elephant called Lulu, who trod on John Noakes foot after running amok all over the studio. My era of Blue Peter featured presenters Valerie Singleton, Peter Purves and the aforementioned John (get down Shep) Noakes. I also think that was probably the last time I lay in bed and didn’t worry about “stuff”. Note to self: must do better.

Well, that clip never ceases to amuse, and made me laugh out loud. Lulu, I salute you.

Until next time….

Book of Love Lyrics
(Song by Charles Patrick/George Malone/Warren Davis)

I wonder, wonder who, who-oo-ooh, who
(Who wrote the Book Of Love)
Tell me, tell me, tell me
Oh, who wrote the Book Of Love
I’ve got to know the answer
Was it someone from above
(Oh, I wonder, wonder who, ummbadoo-ooh, who)
(Who wrote the Book Of Love)

I love you, Darlin’
Baby, you know I do
But I’ve got to see this Book of Love
Find out why it’s true
(Oh, I wonder, wonder who, ummbadoo-ooh, who)
(Who wrote the Book Of Love)

Chapter One says to love her
You love her with all your heart
Chapter Two you tell her you’re
Never, never, never, never, never gonna part
In Chapter Three remember the meaning of romance
In Chapter Four you break up
But you give her just one more chance
(Oh, I wonder, wonder who, ummbadoo-ooh, wWho)
(Who wrote the Book Of Love)

Baby, baby, baby
I love you, yes I do
Well it says so in this Book Of Love
Ours is the one that’s true
(Oh, I wonder, wonder who, ummbadoo-ooh, who)
(Who wrote the Book Of Love)

Another Serious Post: A Much-loved Cousin who was “Football Crazy”

I had a long and sad journey to make yesterday as my 56-year-old cousin, who was diagnosed with MND nearly four years ago, finally lost his battle with that horrible “locked-in” disease. Down to the excellent round-the-clock care given to him by his mum and sisters, he outlived most other victims post diagnosis, but everyone knew it was time for his suffering to end and his friends turned out in droves to his memorial service in Aberdeen. It was standing room only and I don’t think I’ve ever been to a service where quite so many middle-aged men found it impossible to control their emotions. The main reason for this outpouring of emotion – Football.

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My cousin didn’t have a glittering career or ever earn vast sums of money but he worked hard, raised a family and was a loving father, son and brother. From an early age however, his passion was football, and for nearly 35 yrs he played in the many Junior and Amateur leagues run within The Granite City. Apparently he was still playing at age 50, just two years before his diagnosis. Facebook is awash with tributes to him and of his many exploits on the pitch. He had played with, and captained, many teams over the years so knew the entire footballing fraternity and they had nothing but good things to say about him – A legend, a true gent, a prankster, a great friend, and so it went on.

There is a dearth of quality football songs out there, so I’m just going to go with the obvious choice, Football Crazy, a song written back in the days of yore but made popular by Robin Hall and Jimmie Macgregor when they regularly performed their version of it on the Tonight programme back in the early 1960s. I don’t remember watching this show back then (just too young), but I must have recognised the theme tune as I always knew when “Ciff” (that would be Cliff Michelmore) came on the telly, it was time for bed (we didn’t climb the stairs to Bedfordshire where I came from).

Strangely enough, last Saturday I went to our football stadium for the first time in nearly 20 years to watch the local team. DD’s boyfriend, who looks after the team’s physical (and often mental) welfare, got us tickets for the section where the player’s wives, kids and mums sit. They probably go to every home match and build up that familiarity and camaraderie from spending so much time together. I watched friends meet up for their weekly fix of football; old men turning up in their scarves who have probably been fans since they were lads; and the staff who kept everything running like clockwork – A massive footballing family. It was nice.

This week we have had the freaky scenario where two English teams who were not expected to come back with a win on aggregate, did just that – Even fans of other teams, usually fierce rivals, have come out and congratulated them on those fantastic wins. Just at the time we were supposed to have left the EU, both Liverpool and Tottenham Hotspur are on their way to Madrid and the Champion’s League Final. There’s going to be an English winner now whatever the outcome.

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This time last week I wasn’t really thinking much about football at all, but as with my cousin, if it has played a large part in your life you could be one of the lucky ones as you are part of one big family. Many of the middle-aged men at yesterday’s service had walked, ran and climbed improbable distances and heights to raise money for a vehicle for their old team-mate. They called it the Stephen-Hawking-mobile and there were many great outings in it. There have also been fund-raising dinners for MND and the many other charities who supported him and his family over the last few years. I don’t know for sure, but I doubt very much if my old work-mates would do the same for me.

On a personal level, one of the player’s mums sitting behind me at last weeks match turned out to be a carer at my mum’s nursing home. I had thought she looked familiar but out of context I couldn’t place her. Having now met with her this week at the home, I realise my mum will now potentially be even better looked after, as I am now (somewhat loosely) attached to her son’s team.

So, a sad week for my family, but as ever at these events it was great to meet up with people whom I have been out of touch with for a long time. Plans are now being made for me to keep in touch with everyone and contact details have been exchanged. It seems unfair that people who are the healthiest, fittest, kindest and most generous can be dealt such a cruel blow, but no-one ever said life was fair.

Until next time…

Football Crazy Original Lyrics
(Song by James Curran)

I have a favourite brother
And his Christian name is Paul.
He’s lately joined a football club
For he’s mad about football.
He’s got two black eyes already
And teeth lost from his gob,
Since Paul became a member of
That terrible football club.

For he’s football crazy,
He’s football mad,
The football it has taken away
The little bit o’ sense he had,
And it would take a dozen servants
To wash his clothes and scrub,
Since Paul became a member of
That terrible football club.

In the middle of the field, one afternoon,
The captain says, “Now Paul,
Would you kindly take this place-kick
Since you’re mad about football?”
So he took forty paces backwards,
Shot off from the mark.
The ball went sailing over the bar
And landed in New York.

His wife, she says she’ll leave him
If Paulie doesn’t keep
Away from football kicking
At night-time in his sleep.
He calls out ‘Pass, McGinty!”
And other things so droll
Last night he kicked her out of bed
And swore it was a goal!

Poetry Assignments, Steve Strange and “Fade to Grey”

Well, I have been largely absent from these pages this month and largely absent from the comments boxes of the blogs I follow, but on the home stretch now of a particulary busy time for me. Today I have decided to timetable my day into four sections in order to fit everything in, and these sections reflect the very diverse strands to how my life has turned out since giving up my sensible, secure job a year and a half ago.

The final assignment for my college course is due in on Wednesday, so I decided to tackle it first thing this morning. The course was meant to be my main focus this year but of course regular visitors will know all that changed when my elderly mum had a fall, and instead of becoming a full-time student last September, I became a full-time carer for a time. As it turns out, the shift to part-time was probably a wise one, and for some time I managed to kill two birds with one stone so to speak, as my Saturday blog post (when I was still sticking to that regime) often inspired the “homework” I endeavoured to complete for the course on a Sunday. I am still amused by the fact my tutor gave me most praise for a poem I dashed off after writing about the song Shades of Gray by the Monkees, following the  death of Peter Tork (link here).

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The Monkees

I didn’t have much time, and the song had formed a bit of an earworm over the course of the weekend, so a hybrid list/concrete poem developed after referring to a paint chart courtesy of either Mr Crown or Mr Dulux (can’t remember which now). There is much talk of plagiarism in academia nowadays as there is great scope for cutting and pasting from the work of others online. I made no pretence however of saying I’d come up with these shades of grey myself, I purely selected them and rearranged them, but my lecturer complimented me on them and I didn’t have the heart to tell her the truth. Oh well, not for a marked assignment this one, and it was my take on the Brexit shenanigans going on at the time, so no harm done.

Shades of Grey

But hey, there are plenty of other songs about the colour grey, and the first that comes to mind is Fade to Grey by Visage. I see this song is attributed to the genre new wave, but in my mind it can only be classed as New Romantic where Steve Strange, the man who almost single-handedly started that movement, performed lead vocals.

Fade to Grey by Visage:

The whole New Romanticism movement came along half way through my four years as a full-time student first time around, and I probably embraced it more than any other in terms of how I dressed at the time. It was a long time since I’d had to court the approval of my parents in such matters and I was still nowhere near entering the “real world”, where sensible suits rather than flamboyant frills and falderals would have to be adopted.

Many trips to both the local Oxfam and fabric/haberdashery shop were all that was needed to acquire the necessary apparel. Ribbons, tassels, hats and big coats were the order of the day, as were shirts with ruffles and simply made but colourful skirts. Two metres of fabric and a roll of flat sewing elastic was all that was needed. I still had my granny’s old Singer sewing machine in my student room but it needed an upgrade, so I asked for a new sewing machine for my 21st birthday later on that year. Back in those days clothes were still relatively expensive compared to income, especially a paltry student income, so my evenings were split between leaning over the books, and leaning over the sewing machine.

Also in my student room was my beloved black and white portable telly, which in those far less technologically saturated times, was the only one in our flat shared by six people. Come 7.30pm on a Thursday we of course all piled in to watch TOTP, and in 1980-81 this was the kind of music that pretty much filled each show. Fade to Grey was released in 1980, on the same day as the band’s debut album. It reached No. 8 in the UK Singles Chart and made the No. 1 spot in Germany and Switzerland. The song is sung in English and spoken in French. The music video became one of the first directed by Messers Godley and Creme after leaving the world of 10cc behind and becoming masters of that new medium.

Steve Strange formed Visage with Rusty Egan and Midge Ure from Rich Kids, Billy Currie from Ultravox, and Barry Adamson, John McGeoch and Dave Formula from Magazine, so a veritable supergroup. Steve had appeared in the video for David Bowie’s No. 1 hit Ashes to Ashes (first spotted at 0:30), a song which helped propel the burgeoning New Romantic fashion movement into the mainstream. Both he and Rusty Egan worked at Blitz, the influential New Romantic nightclub in London, from 1979 until 1981. They famously only allowed entry to the weird and the wonderful and apparently Mick Jagger was once refused admittance. Egan and Strange later opened up the Camden Palace nightclub, also in London, where they continued to spread and influence the development of electronica music in the UK.

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Sadly Steve died at the age of only 55 back in 2015. He had frequently appeared on those talking head shows in the years prior to that, and it didn’t seem as if the years had been kind to him. He certainly left his mark however in that he was responsible for a whole cultural phenomenon right there at the cusp of the ’70s/’80s. He was also responsible for the honing of my sewing skills, which I have to say have come in very handy over the years.

So, that’s the blog post written, which was the second item on today’s timetable. Now it’s time to get Mr WIAA’s latest batch of beautiful things dispatched to their new owners, and then, later on today, I welcome the next set of guests to my holiday hideaway. No time to write any stories about that new venture in this post, but they will definitely follow.

Until next time….

Fade To Grey Lyrics
(Song by Billy Currie/Chris Payne/Midge Ure)

Devenir gris
Devenir gris

One man on a lonely platform
One case sitting by his side
Two eyes staring cold and silent
Show fear as he turns to hide

We fade to grey (fade to grey)
We fade to grey (fade to grey)

Un homme dans une gare désolée
Une valise à ses cotés
Des yeux fixes et froids
Montrent de la peur lorsqu’il
Se tourne pour se cacher

We fade to grey (fade to grey)
We fade to grey (fade to grey)

Sens la pluie comme un été anglais
Entends les notes d’une chanson lointaine
Sortant de derrière un poster
Espérant que la vie ne fut aussi longue

We fade to grey (fade to grey)
We fade to grey (fade to grey)

Feel the rain like an English summer
Hear the notes from a distant song
Stepping out from a backdrop poster
Wishing life wouldn’t be so long

Devenir gris

We fade to grey (fade to grey)
We fade to grey (fade to grey)
We fade to grey (fade to grey)
Devenir gris

Postscript:

Ashes to Ashes was a fantasy police drama series set in the 1980s and the sequel to Life on Mars which has been written about around here before. Needless to say music from the era played a big part in the show, and what better song to include but Fade to Grey. Here is a clip from the show which features the man himself, Steve Strange.

Peter Tork, The Monkees and “Shades of Gray”

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.

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Peter Tork, RIP

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.

the monkeesUntil 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