Halloween, K’s Choice and “Virgin State of Mind”

Couldn’t really let tonight pass without mentioning that it’s Halloween and we’re just back from a bit of a “do” at our neighbour’s house. The local kids who dropped by for some trick or treating were rewarded with a bit of old-fashioned “bobbing for apples”, which pretty much no-one does any more, so it was great fun for them. Of course when I was a youngster here in Scotland it was called guising and there were certainly no pumpkins in those days – Oh no, it was a case of hollowing out turnips, which if you weren’t careful resulted in the loss of a digit.

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My dad once helped me create a pretty spectacular one for a Brownie Halloween party, but unfortunately on the way there, it got dropped (in those days we walked everywhere unaccompanied, even at night). Being a root vegetable it pretty much fell to pieces, so when it came to the prize for the best “neep lantern” it was in a bit of a sorry state and did not fare well against other, initially lesser neeps! When I got back, I of course told the parents it had befallen an accident on the way home from the party, so as not to have made the making of the lantern a waste of time – One of the rare lies of my childhood and I felt bad about it for years. Funny how those things stick.

But of course Halloween is now big business and pop-up shops appear on our high streets during the build up to the 31st selling nothing but OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAghoulish dressing-up outfits, scary masks and very realistic, gory make-up. Our daughter had two events at the weekend and needed a different outfit for each one. In fact the town was so busy with Halloween revellers on Saturday night that the ATMs ran out of money in the early hours of the morning. With no access to cash for taxis home, there were many SOS calls to parents, us included.

Most of this commercialisation of Halloween has come from across the pond but there is no point in trying to fight it anymore, so I did indeed buy myself a pumpkin this year. Unlike with the “neeps” of my youth however, faster than you can say Jack Robinson he became the fine Jack-o’-Lantern you see above.

So, what song comes to mind when I think of Halloween? – Far too many to mention actually so instead I am going to pick something, yet again, from one of our favourite television shows – Buffy the Vampire Slayer. This song, Virgin State of Mind by Belgian band K’s Choice, featured in the 1999 episode “Doppelgängland” where the vampire alternate of Willow Rosenberg arrives in Sunnydale. The Bronze nightclub was the meeting place of choice for Buffy and her pals, and it was usual to have bands playing there. If you watched all seven seasons, as we did, you were treated to some excellent music and this song by K’s Choice is the one I enjoyed most.

Virgin State of Mind by K’s Choice:

K’s Choice have been around since the early ’90s and their music can be described as guitar-based, singer-songwriter rock or folk-rock. Sarah Bettens’ husky voice is the band’s most distinctive characteristic. Sarah and her brother Gert write all the songs for the band and although most of the lyrics are easily understood, some are strange and incomprehensible. This led Gert to comment on this song, Virgin State of Mind – “Listening to the lyrics for the first time, you may find it hard to understand their meaning. When you listen to them a second time however, you may sense a basic truth in those cryptic words. If you do, please let me know.” – Will do Gert.

As it turns out, by the time I finish this post and publish it, Halloween will be over and we will have moved into All Hallows’ Day. Time to blow out the candle in my Jack-o’-Lantern then, but before I go I will share a clip featuring the the scariest group of characters from aforementioned seven seasons of Buffy – “The Gentlemen from Hush”.

“Hush” was the tenth episode in the fourth season where creator Joss Whedon set out to write a silent episode, almost completely devoid of speech. Only about 17 minutes of dialogue is presented in the entire 44 minutes. In “Hush”, a group of fairytale ghouls named “The Gentlemen” come to town and steal everyone’s voices, leaving them unable to scream when they cut out their hearts. The episode was highly praised when it aired and was the only episode from that season to be nominated for an Emmy Award. Prepare to be afraid.

Virgin State of Mind Lyrics
(Song by Sarah Bettens/Gert Bettens)

There’s a chair in my head on which I used to sit
Took a pencil and I wrote the following on it

Now there’s a key where my wonderful mouth used to be
Dig it up, throw it at me
Dig it up, throw it at me

Where can I run to, where can I hide
Who will I turn to now I’m in a virgin state of mind

Got a knife to disengage the voids that I can’t bear
To cut out words I’ve got written on my chair

Like do you think I’m sexy
Do you think I really care

Can I burn the mazes I grow
Can I, I don’t think so

Can I burn the mazes I grow
Can I, I don’t think so

Where can I run to, where can I hide
Who will I turn to now I’m in a virgin state of mind
Virgin state of mind
Virgin state of mind
Virgin state of mind

Lorne, Geekdom and “It’s Not Easy Being Green”

On Saturday night at around 11pm I decided to alphabetise my CD collection – Odd timing you may think, but not really for me. After having failed big time on trying to use file-sharing sites I have taken to adding the audio file directly to my posts. All very well but not all the songs I think of writing about are stored digitally on my computer and I end up having to buy tracks I know perfectly well are already on a CD, somewhere in the house…….., if only I could find them…….., but where?

Now I know that all you serious music bloggers out there will have carefully catalogued, alphabetised collections but here at “What’s It All About?” the song is usually just the inspiration to go on and write about other things, so not quite as organised. As hubby had just headed off to bed, I had the living room floor to myself so I raided the cupboards, shelves and drawers where all those flat, square-shaped boxes were sneakily hiding, and duly laid them out on the carpet. Not having had an actual workaday CD player for some time now, having moved onto docking stations and bluetooth speakers, there were some interesting and long-forgotten finds.

cdcollection

The first dilemma however was whether to amalgamate everything I found, which included my daughters childhood CDs (Disney, Pop Party 1 to 7, The Jonas Brothers etc), the CDs my 81-year-old mother disposed of when I got her an iPod (although she hasn’t quite cracked how to use it yet so I tend to just leave it on shuffle for her), hubby’s very “cool” collection (what the heck is he doing being married to me) and the three large crates full of classical music CDs left to us by my late father-in-law (if anyone has any practical suggestion on what we could do with them please feel free to let me know).

A dilemma indeed but in the end I went with amalgamating everything except the classical CDs, the freebies that used to come regularly with the Sunday newspapers, and the karaoke CDs. I’m sure anyone who has ever worked in a record shop would know exactly what to do with the compilations (Jack Black in High Fidelity?) but not I job I’ve ever done, so just had to go with what I thought would work for me. And so, I ended up at 1.30am in the morning with a fully alphabetised collection snaking across the room. Sadly, whilst very quietly carrying them back to their disparate homes in sections, I accidentally turned some of the piles upside down and will have to go back and correct the fact that David Gray now comes right before Shawn Mullins and the aforementioned Jonas Brothers come right after Chick Flicks (The Ultimate Soundtrack).

high-fidelity

Whilst happily occupying myself with all of this when most people my age were getting their beauty sleep, it occurred to me that it’s great fun being a geek! You can never, ever be bored as there is always something to catalogue, list or plan. We may walk the earth incognito, as reliable employees and pillars of the local community, but behind that respectable exterior there is a secret life of Eurovision, Buffy Conventions, Pop Quizzes, “Blogging and Cataloguing” (has a nice ring to it). It doesn’t even have to be restricted to music and film, as earlier in the day we specifically had lunch at a restaurant starting with the letter M, all because I decided that it would be fun this year to work our way alphabetically through the restaurants in town – At the moment we know we’re going to get stuck at Q and X but you just never know, something new may open up!

But anyway, whilst working my way through the CDs, I found the Soundtrack to the television show Angel – If like us you became somewhat drawn into the wonderful alternate reality of the Buffyverse, this was the excellent spinoff show starring David Boreanaz. (Anyone who pokes fun at the show, or its premise, obviously hasn’t given it enough attention as it’s creator Joss Whedon received numerous awards and it was lauded for its influential themes and impact on popular culture – Just saying.)

One of my favourite characters from that show was Lorne (played by Andy Hallett), the proprietor of an underground LA karaoke bar. He was a music-loving soul and had arrived from another dimension, specifically Pylea where music didn’t exist, in order to indulge his passion (wouldn’t we all). His name was really Krevlornswath of the Deathwok Clan and the in-joke of course was that because his “clan” had green-coloured skin, he was Lorne Greene (but you have to be of a certain age to get that one I suspect). One of the songs he sang on the show was very appropriately It’s Not Easy Being Green made famous by that very personable frog puppet, Kermit.

It’s Not Easy Being Green by Andy Hallett
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So, “What’s It All About?” – It may not be that easy being green but although initially lamenting his green colouration, by the end of the song, Lorne remembers all the positive associations with the colour, and ends up accepting and embracing his greenness. Likewise, it may not always be easy being a geek but tonight I have decided to embrace my “geekness” – It is turning out to be a fine life and one which I hope will continue for some time!

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The lovely Patrick Harvie – It’s not always easy!

It’s Not Easy Being Green Lyrics
(Song by Joe Raposo)

It’s not that easy being green,
Having to spend each day the color of the leaves.
When I think it could be nicer being red, or yellow or gold-
or something much more colorful like that.

It’s not easy being green.
It seems you blend in with so many other ordinary things.
And people tend to pass you over ’cause you’re not standing out
like flashy sparkles in the water-or stars in the sky.

But green’s the color of Spring.
And green can be cool and friendly-like.
And green can be big like the ocean, or important like a mountain, or tall like a tree.
When green is all there is to be

It could make you wonder why,
but why wonder?
Why Wonder, I am green and it’ll do fine, it’s beautiful!
And I think it’s what I want to be.

Postscript:

And in case anyone has forgotten it, here is the original performed by Jim Henson as Kermit the Frog. Unbelievably it was covered by Frank Sinatra the following year, 1971. Strange times and a strange post I now realise, so back to business as usual for next time I think!

Warm Winds, Burt Bacharach and “A House Is Not A Home”

Ahead of the onset of autumn, my plan for the weekend was, (perhaps foolishly, this being the north of Scotland) to organise an outdoors get-together for some good friends. Ever since writing about the England Dan & John Ford Coley song I’d Really Love To See You Tonight earlier in the year, I’ve been a tad obsessed with trying to recreate the ambiance it conjures up (there’s a warm wind blowing the stars around). This being Scotland it was never going to be easy as to see the stars it has to be dark, and earlier in the summer it barely gets dark at all. So, it really had to be right at the end of the season which meant there would be no warm winds, but if a fire was present at least there would be warmth. Other than a short shower of rain, when we conveniently decanted inside to eat, we were able to sit outside until midnight and although not many stars visible last night there was a lovely half-moon, so really pleased with my efforts.

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Late summer in Scotland – waiting for the guests to arrive!

Another real treat was that I took my new portable turntable outside which meant rifling through the old vinyl from back in the day. Rediscovered a lot of records I had forgotten about that have not been replaced in digital format, so a real added bonus to the evening. After writing about Raindrops Keep Fallin’ On My Head recently, and how the scene where it appears in Butch Cassidy and The Sundance Kid contains most of the ingredients I consider important for creating “the perfect day”, last night’s get-together contained most of the ingredients for the “perfect evening”.

You would think that would have been enough for one evening but no, after the guests left and some tidying up had been done, we discovered a wonderful show on BBC4 called Burt Bacharach, A Life In Song. Anyone familiar with this blog will know that I’m a great fan of Burt’s music and especially the songs he wrote with Hal David. This show had been filmed three years ago when Burt was 85 and although it was sad to see him looking so frail and aged, he still rose to the challenge of leading his orchestra and guest singers in a celebration of his music.

It was one of those shows where between the songs, Burt was interviewed by Michael Grade, who quizzed him on all aspects of his very lengthy career. What I found really interesting was that near the end, Michael asked Burt what his favourite song was and it turned out to be Alfie – This was obviously a pleasant surprise. Sadly, because I think I’ve listened to the song once too often this year, I have now become a bit tired of it but it was interesting to note that Burt chose it because he considered Hal’s lyrics to be “important”. A few months back I came to this conclusion also. There are earlier important lyrics in the song but near the end there are the lines:

I believe in love, Alfie
Without true love we just exist, Alfie
Until you find the love you’ve missed
You’re nothing, Alfie

Early on in this process of looking back nostalgically via song, it became apparent that “What’s it all about?” was indeed love – First for our family as children, then for our best friends as teenagers and finally for the people we form relationships with on the way to finding that special person. If you are lucky enough to have children, that is perhaps the greatest love of all and one from which you have no escape, although your patience may be tested at times. There is the old adage that nobody on their deathbed has ever said “I wish I’d spent more time at the office”- It is all about the people you meet on the way. In music and song, the subject of love is never far away, and what a wonderful thing to have in the world (I’m in tears here).

Of course there are many versions of the song Alfie (and it ended up being the Cher version used for the film) but when pressed, Burt very carefully sidestepped the issue of which one he preferred. He did however refer to the now infamous footage of Cilla Black being harangued into recording 41 versions, which suggests it wasn’t her one!

Alfie by Cilla Black:

But back to the show – When Burt was then asked what his second favourite song was, it turned out to be A House Is Not A Home. This show just kept getting better and better because earlier that evening, when getting ready for the party, I had thanked my lucky stars that due to circumstance we very much reside in a lived-in home as opposed to a show-house. I know that is not really the point of the song, but it had come to mind. By the time you reach your “middle-years” a lot of friends have invested heavily in their expensive, possibly cream-coloured furniture, fittings and floor coverings (the three Fs). All very nice but they are then terrified of ever hosting a social event in case anything gets spoilt or damaged. Having given up a good job when our daughter was born to be a stay-at-home mum, we’ve not had the luxury of constantly upgrading every few years – The upside of this however is that your house becomes a home, where the people in it are the most important thing and not the expensive furnishings. Our daughter’s friends were always welcome, pets were encouraged and social gatherings are a regular occurrence. I feel sorry in a way for those people trapped in the cycle of working so hard to buy all those lovely things that then can’t be enjoyed and shared, but hey, maybe that’s just me.

Yet again I have run out of words but I will end with a version of A House Is Not A Home from my collection which comes from the television show Glee, where it was sung very sweetly by the actor/singer Chris Colfer. I hadn’t really taken too much heed of the song until that point (previously recorded by Dionne Warwick, Brook Benton and many others) but it perfectly fitted the storyline and led me straight to iTunes after the show ended.

A House Is Not A Home by Chris Colfer:

So yet again I’m up far too late, just as happened last night when I was drawn to watching a late night show featuring Burt Bacharach. And of course this has been a very serious post, so apologies for that – I promise that a much more light-hearted one is to follow and it involves trousers. Watch this space.

A House Is Not A Home Lyrics
(Song by Burt Bacharach/Hal David)

A chair is still a chair
Even when there’s no one sitting there
But a chair is not a house
And a house is not a home
When there’s no one there to hold you tight,
And no one there you can kiss good night.

A room is still a room
Even when there’s nothing there but gloom;
But a room is not a house,
And a house is not a home
When the two of us are far apart
And one of us has a broken heart.

Now and then I call your name
And suddenly your face appears
But it’s just a crazy game
When it ends it ends in tears.

Darling, have a heart,
Don’t let one mistake keep us apart.
I’m not meant to live alone. turn this house into a home.
When I climb the stair and turn the key,
Oh, please be there still in love with me.

Upbeat Records, Mama Cass and “Make Your Own Kind of Music”

Short post for me but just wanted to end the weekend on an upbeat note. All this autumnal melancholy is getting me down. Had a look through the digital music library and remembered that a few years ago, this happy, upbeat song turned up in the television series Lost, that bizarre show set on a deserted tropical island. Was it sci-fi or was it just plain weird? Not sure, and after a while we abandoned it as it was obvious the writers were just trying to spin it out for another few seasons, with more and more unlikely twists and turns.

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Anyway, at one point the people lost on the island found an old abandoned bunker and inside was Desmond who had been there on his own for some time, with only a record player for company. The track he played every morning after waking up was this one – Make Your Own Kind of Music by Mama Cass Elliot from way back in 1969.

Make Your Own Kind of Music by Cass Elliot:

I definitely had Mamas and Papas albums in my collection, but had forgotten all about this particular track until listening to it on that show. I decided to take it into work to gee up the troops if anyone was flagging. Worked for me but not sure if the rest of the team or the “big boss” quite got it (sadly), so it had to go.

I must have been an odd ’70s teenager in that I collected a lot of this kind of music which was probably seen as a bit old hat by my peers. I blame life as an only child and a rural upbringing – Meant I probably watched way too many old movies on television and I loved ones from the ’60s as they showed a totally different kind of world to the one I had experienced in my small Scottish village. Flower Power and the hippy era passed us by I’m afraid, but then so did glam rock, punk and everything else in-between.

Poor Cass Elliot died in her hotel room in London aged only 32, as a result of heart failure. She was instantly recognisable and the physical contrast with fellow Mama, the elfin Michelle Phillips, was striking. But what a voice and glad that I thought of it tonight as now heading off to bed (far too late again) ahead of a new working week in a happy frame of mind.

Make Your Own Kind of Music Lyrics
(Song by Barry Mann/Cynthia Weil)

Nobody can tell ya
There’s only one song worth singin’
They may try and sell ya
‘Cause it hangs them up to see someone like you

But you’ve gotta make your own music
Sing your own special song
Make your own kind of music even if nobody else sings along

You’re gonna be knowing
The loneliest kind of lonely
It may be rough goin’
Just to do your thing’s the hardest thing to do

But you’ve gotta make your own music
Sing your own special song
Make your own kind of music even if nobody else sings along

So if you cannot take my hand
And if you must be goin’
I will understand

But you’ve gotta make your own music
Sing your own special song
Make your own kind of music even if nobody else sings along

The Double Deckers, Aswad and “Don’t Turn Around”

Last time I wrote about the film Summer Holiday but of course there was another Double Decker London bus that is etched on the memory of most people my age – The one used by that eclectic bunch of youngsters called, not surprisingly, “The Double Deckers”. The kids television sitcom, Here Come the Double Deckers, ran for 17 episodes between 1970-71 and was must watch telly for pre-teens of my generation.

double deckers

It all makes sense now in that it appears to have been made jointly by American 20th Century Fox and a British independent film company, obviously to appeal to both markets. It had a very different look to it at the time from most of our home-grown shows made by the BBC, Granada or Thames Television. Most of the child actors in it were however British and they included gang leader Scooper (sorry but even in those days I’m sure the writers should have been able to come up with a cooler name than that), Spring, Billie, Brains, Doughnut (you can imagine the furore nowadays over that one), Sticks (the token American) and little Tiger. All stereotypes were covered but of course in reality it is highly unlikely that such a bunch would have ended up hanging out together at all, as right through life we do tend to gravitate towards people most like ourselves but no matter, you didn’t really think about things like that at age 10, you just really enjoyed the show.

Something that has surprised me, it turns out that Scooper and Spring (whom I will write about more in a minute) were both aged around 17/18 when this was aired so like Ant and Dec, who got too old to hang around the youth club at Byker Grove, this pair were well past the age of playing in an old disused junk yard in 1971 – Wouldn’t have done for the little ‘uns  to see Scooper and Spring head off for a “swift half” however in the midst of building a gun that shoots chocolate candy so all good, wholesome, family fun.

Anyway back to our two heroes, the ones who obviously got a taste for life in the entertainment industry at a young age and kept going. Peter Firth, who played Scooper, has gone on to have a lengthy career in film, theatre and television and is currently masquerading as “Head Spook” Sir Harry Pearce in the long-running BBC drama set in the offices of MI5.

Looking back at the young Peter, he is a good-looking lad with a fine head of hair but I remember as a student watching him play the time-traveller Dominick Hide and although only in his 20s he definitely had thinning hair and a receding hairline – Nothing wrong with that at all but probably led him down a different path from that of becoming leading man material, and one which has served him well.

So now we come to Spring, the lovely Brinsley Forde who quite soon after his days as a Double Decker formed the reggae band Aswad. I don’t remember there being many home-grown reggae bands in the UK in the late ’70s and early ’80s but Aswad, although they never appeared on mainstream shows like Top Of The Pops, seemed to continually tour the Student Union circuit so were pretty well known for a long time before making the leap to chart success, reaching No. 1 in 1988 with Don’t Turn Around. Hadn’t realised that this break-up song had been recorded by so many people before Aswad gave it the full-blown reggae treatment, but it certainly worked well for them. Also hadn’t realised it was a Diane Warren composition, that lady lyricist, who along with Bernie Taupin could walk down a street unrecognised but must be one of the highest paid individuals, ever, in the music industry.

So, “What’s It All About?” – Being a child star seems to have mixed blessings as many haven’t had a smooth ride to adulthood at all. It seems however that once you find your particular niche, best to just keep your head down and work hard at it. Like Diane Warren, better to have a fairly anonymous life and enjoy what you do than experience the stress, strain and fleeting success of teen idolatry. Looking forward to seeing much more from Peter Firth and Brinsley Forde MBE in the future but for those of us who watched kids telly in the early ’70s, they will always be, Double Deckers!

Don’t Turn Around Lyrics
(Song by Albert Hammond/Diane Warren)

If you wanna leave, baby
I won’t beg you to stay
And if you wanna go, darlin’
Maybe it’s better that way

I’m gonna be strong, I’m gonna be fine
Don’t worry about this heart of mine
Walk out the door, see if I care?
Go on and go now but

Don’t turn around
‘Cause you’re gonna see my heart breakin’
Don’t turn around
I don’t want you seein’ me cryin’
Just walk away
It’s tearin’ me apart that you’re leavin’
I’m lettin’ you go and I won’t let you know
Baby, I won’t let you know

I won’t miss your arms around me
Holdin’ me tight
And if you ever think about me
Just know that I’m gonna be alright

I’m gonna be strong, I’m gonna be fine
Don’t worry about this heart of mine
I know I’ll survive it, I’ll make it through
And I’ll learn to live without you but

Don’t turn around
‘Cause you’re gonna see my heart breakin’
Don’t turn around
I don’t want you seein’ me cryin’
Just walk away
It’s tearin’ me apart that you’re leavin’
I’m lettin’ you go and I won’t let you know

I wish, I could scream out loud
That I love you
I wish, I could say to you
Don’t go, don’t go, don’t go

Don’t turn around
Don’t turn around
I don’t want you seein’ me crying
Just walk away
It’s tearin’ me apart that you’re leavin’
I’m lettin’ you go

Katie Melua, Mike Batt and “Nine Million Bicycles”

Last time I wrote about the great punk-rock beauty Debbie Harry. Roll forward to the mid noughties and another rare beauty came along in the form of Katie Melua. Although born in Georgia (the former Soviet Republic one) she had moved to Northern Ireland with her family as a child, before heading across to London to attend the BRIT school in her late teens. She has been one of its most successful attendees along with the late Amy Winehouse and of course Adele.

Unlike Debbie Harry however, Katie did not give us punk attitude, instead she gave us…… Really annoying lyrics! I have written before about songs that I had hitherto quite enjoyed because I had never really listened to the lyrics properly (Rupert Holmes’ Pina Colada song – grrr) but it didn’t take long at all for some of Katie’s songs to really grate.

Exhibit A – Nine Million Bicycles which charted in September 2005. I know I am probably being pedantic here but every time I heard her sing about “the fact”, “the thing we just couldn’t deny” (those nine million bicycles traversing the streets of Beijing), I kind of had to say to myself – Really? Could it not possibly be nine and a half million, or perhaps a bit less than nine million now that car ownership has risen? But no, Katie was emphatic in her song that nine million was the exact number.

Nine Million Bicycles by Katie Melua:

Of course we then get on to the next verse and now she tells us that “we are twelve billion light years from the edge” but that “it was a guess and no-one could ever say if that was true”. As it turns out they could, and no, it wasn’t true. Cosmologist Simon Singh took to writing an article for the Guardian pointing out that scientists had pretty much worked out after much research and careful measurement that the universe was actually 13.7 billion years old. A playful spat ensued with Katie re-recording the song with this new information contained within – Needless to say it wasn’t a howling success and both parties had a bit of a laugh about it and agreed that a modicum of poetic license was needed for the song to work, but just shows how hot under the collar we can get when faced with incorrect facts.

I put it all down to the “fact” that the song was written by Mike Batt who despite massive success in many different strands of the music industry will, for me, always be “Head Womble”. There can be no-one of my age who will not have occasionally dipped into an episode of The Wombles on television after coming home from school in the afternoon. They were way ahead of their time with all their recycling, now part of our modern day lives, but back in the 1970s a bit of a novelty and a cue for entertainment.

When Mike Batt got the job of writing the theme song for the animated show, rather than accept a flat fee he chose to acquire the character rights for The Wombles and formed a pop group, releasing a string of top-selling singles and albums between 1973 and 1975. Must have been very hot work “Wombling Free” around BBC Television Centre but quite liberating, as the costumes could be worn by whoever was available on the day. It turns out this was often members of Steeleye Span or the guitarist Chris Spedding (he of Motor Bikin’ fame) whom Mike worked with frequently.

So when Mike discovered Katie in the mid noughties, I think he was so thrown by her amazing beauty that his old Wombling song-writing skills momentarily left him and he put together odd lyrics juxtaposing “facts about love” with erroneous “scientific facts”.

Just one more bone of contention however about a line from the song before I move on – Katie sang about how she would “never tire of the love she would be given every night”. Written by a man indeed as I don’t know of any of my female friends, however happy with their other halves, who would not tire of being given love every night! Sometimes a mug of cocoa and a good book is all that is required – Just sayin’…..

Nine Million Bicycles Lyrics
(Song by Mike Batt)

There are nine million bicycles in Beijing
That’s a fact,
It’s a thing we can’t deny
Like the fact that I will love you till I die.

We are twelve billion light years from the edge,
That’s a guess,
No-one can ever say it’s true
But I know that I will always be with you.

I’m warmed by the fire of your love everyday
So don’t call me a liar,
Just believe everything that I say

There are six billion people in the world
More or less
and it makes me feel quite small
But you’re the one I love the most of all

We’re high on the wire
With the world in our sight
And I’ll never tire,
Of the love that you give me every night

Postscipt:

And in case anyone can’t remember how much fun it was to be a Womble in 1974, here is a clip from Top Of The Pops to remind you (just try to avert your eyes from Noel Edmonds’ revealing shirt and medallion during the introduction). All members present and correct I think – Orinoco, Madame Cholet, Great Uncle Bulgaria, Wellington and Tobermory. Didn’t even have to look it up, such is the power of a childhood memory.

Adam Faith, “Someone Else’s Baby” and The Music of 1960

I had a birthday this week and it got me thinking about those birthday cards and “gift ideas” that feature the song that was at the top of the charts on the day you were born. It turns out, that for me, it would have been the Everly Brothers’ “Cathy’s Clown” which I do know but have no emotional attachment to at all. Although it is quite interesting to have a newspaper from the year of your birth (gives a good snapshot of what life was like back then), a record is a bit pointless. Although you will have heard it on the radio over the years, it won’t be one of the “tracks of your years” as you were just far too busy being a baby, all your energy going into crying for most of the night and putting on a few pounds a week. As for your parents, it probably won’t even be one of the tracks of their years as suddenly all their time, money and energy is going into the welfare of aforementioned baby – you!

Looking back at the charts of 1960 therefore is a bit of a historical exercise as apposed to a trip down memory lane but one which I have put a bit of effort into this week. I have written about this before, but it turns out that women, on the whole, were not very well represented in terms of record sales until much later. In the sample charts I looked at, we just had Connie Francis, Brenda Lee and Shirley Bassey (only British female in there so well done her). As for male solo artists there were loads of them, namely – Elvis Presley, Eddie Cochrane, Cliff Richard, Billy Fury, Adam Faith, Jim Reeves, Roy Orbison, Johnny Preston, Rolf Harris, Max Bygraves, Anthony Newley, Lonnie Donegan and many more. As for groups, the era of The Beatles hadn’t really got started yet so we only had duos such as The Everly Brothers and backing groups turned frontmen (performing mainly instrumentals) such as The Shadows.

I have deliberately included the pictures above in black and white because that is how most of these artists would have been viewed if watched on television at the time. It always seems such a shame, that when looking back to those days, the world (or certainly the UK which didn’t have Hollywood) seemed a much greyer place. Of course it wasn’t, it’s simply that most of it was recorded in black and white, but difficult for those of us not born until later to see how exciting life must have been. The 1950s had started with rationing and the continued deprivations of the war years but by 1960 things were a whole lot better. There was pretty much full-employment and the consumer society had begun in earnest with young people buying clothes, records and hanging out in Coffee Bars.

The artist I’m going to write about started out playing in the The 2i’s Coffee Bar. Liverpool had The Cavern Club but London’s Soho had the 2i’s. Many artists from that rock’n’roll/skifle/rockabilly era started out there, including Cliff Richard and Tommy Steele but the one I’m going to feature is Adam Faith as he continued to pop up in other guises throughout my life.

In 1960 Adam Faith reached No. 1 in the charts with Someone Else’s Baby. He was the first artist to have his first seven singles reach the Top 5 and had I been born in the late ’40s he would certainly have been my teenage crush. He didn’t have the strongest singing voice and he had the malnourished look of someone born during the era of rationing but those short snappy songs, inspired by the pizzicato arrangements (no, I hadn’t heard of that term before either) made popular by Buddy Holly, made him one of Britain’s first “pop stars”. He was known for his hiccupping glottal stops and his pronunciation of the word ‘baby’ as ‘bay-beh’. My dad’s boss at the time (a bit of a father figure to many of the young lads in his employ) blamed him single-handedly for the sloppy way of speaking they had started to adopt in those days. He used Adam as an example of everything that was wrong with society – Harsh really, but my dad always reminisced about these rants when he appeared on television over the years.

Adam himself had actually started out as an actor and during the early 60s appeared in several films. In the long school summer holidays of the early 70s, these old black and white movies starring the “pop stars” of the day were often shown. I clearly remember watching the comedy What a Whopper with my cousins one rainy summer morning, when going outside to play was not an option. As well as Adam, the cast included all the usual stalwarts of British comedy – Wilfrid Brambell, Sid James, Charles Hawtrey and Terry Scott. I must have enjoyed it as I went on to watch the rest of the films in the season starring Billy Fury, Cliff Richard and others.

what a whopper.jpg

At around this time, in 1971, Adam himself had left the music industry behind and was starring as the eponymous hero in the ITV drama Budgie. I would be lying if I said I remember watching this show at the time as for some reason our television set was permanently tuned to the BBC but it was also on quite late so I was probably deemed too young to watch it anyway. It definitely was a popular show however and I have since watched reruns showcasing the hairbrained schemes Budgie got into with his boss Charlie Endall.

Later on the 70s, when I was having a full-blown teenage crush on the all-round star of stage, screen and pop music that was David Essex, I went into the big city with my friends to watch the film Stardust. It starred David Essex as Jim MacLaine who with the help of his manager Mike (played by Adam Faith), soon becomes a massive star. The film documents the detrimental effects of success on MacLaine and how his relationship with manager Mike becomes soured by money and success. Adam was actually nominated for a BAFTA for his performance in the film although I was probably too preoccupied with watching David Essex at the time to notice how well he executed his craft.

Somewhat bizarrely, in the 1980s Adam became a bit of a financial guru and had a column in the national press. This was the era of the yuppy and tales of obscene money-making (and spending) by London’s young stockbrokers, but all good things come to an end, and Adam ended up being declared bankrupt in later life so I’m glad now I didn’t take too much heed of his money advice back then.

His last foray into the world of popular television entertainment was when he starred with Zoë Wanamaker in the BBC comedy-drama, Love Hurts. It came about in 1992 just after I’d got married and had moved into a new house. With hefty mortgage repayments a new reality, Fridays nights were no longer spent out on the town, so instead, we settled down to watch the sparring between Frank and Tessa in Love Hurts – Our favourite show of the week. Adam was now 52 but still a very good-looking man so although I had been too young to appreciate him at the height of pop-idol success in the early ’60s, I clearly remember appreciating him as one of the most attractive actors around in the early ’90s.

love hurts.jpg

Sadly Adam died young of a heart attack in 2003 aged only 62 but what a career he’d had. I will leave you with another song of his from 1960 – An era that forms a gap in the annals of my musical memories but worth revisiting every now and again just to remind ourselves what our parents were missing when they were busy “bringing up baby”.


Someone Else’s Baby Lyrics
(Song by Perry Ford/Les Vandyke)

Someone else’s baby
Someone else’s eyes are blue
Someone else’s baby
Someone else’s five-foot-two

Oh, who’s got a hold up
Nine carat gold love
I wonder who’s in the loveseat
Who’s got a heartbeat, like thunder

If I acted bad
I could steal his fairy queen
I know he’ll be mad
But I can’t resist the thought of being kissed

By someone else’s baby
Someone else’s special date
Someone else’s baby
Someone else is kinda late

He’d better mind out
She’s gonna find out I love her
This little fellah is gonna tell her
That someone else is me

Postscript:

I was in two minds about sharing this clip as much of it seems shockingly sexist to our 21st century sensibilities but it shows the scene with the title track to the film What a Whopper sung by Adam Faith. Glad these films are still available however as no better way of looking back at the social history of a nation, than by going through their movie archives. Enjoy.