Elvis, “If I Can Dream” and the ’68 Comeback Special

Since writing about Elvis Presley last time, and how it came about that the first album I ever bought was one of his, I have done a lot more reading about “The King” and how he re-emerged in 1968 as one of the world’s most electrifying live performers – Hard to believe that prior to the ’68 Comeback Special he had not performed live since 1961.

The thing with Elvis however, and I absolutely understand that he is not for everyone, is that when you watched him perform, you could really tell that he “felt the music” like no other. The reason he got into such bother in the 1950s with his pelvic rotations and thrusts, was simply because couldn’t stop himself! The music he developed with his band was a hybrid, particular to him and his Mississippi roots, of hillbilly, gospel, country and rhythm & blues.

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So, when he performed live over ten years later, in the intimate setting of the the Comeback Special studio at Burbank, you could really tell he was not just singing these songs he was “feeling them” with ever fibre of his being. In some of the Las Vegas shows, there are close-up shots where you can see the small muscles in his face move in time to the nuances of the music. None more so than during the sweet Bahamian lullaby segment within An American Trilogy – This song wasn’t actually written specifically for him but I cannot think of any artist for whom it could have had more significance, thus his obvious empathy with the music, lyrics and drama of the piece. I love watching him sing that one and I’m not even American so goodness how you guys across the pond must feel.

But the song I did want to write about was actually If I Can Dream from the ’68 Comeback Special. For some reason it was not until I re-visited the DVD last year after a friend and I at work had been discussing our love for old Elvis movies, that I really sat up and took notice of this song. It was the very last one of the show and he was dressed all in white, very much the southern gentleman. Now this is not one of those really popular songs that everyone will have heard of, and it wasn’t a big hit when it came out in the UK in 1969, but I was totally blown away by the lyrics and the passion with which he sang it. It had apparently been written just two months after the assassination of Martin Luther King who is directly quoted in the song. There was a definite gospel quality to his performance and whatever your beliefs, this was a powerful message coming from the man in the white suit.

After watching the clip numerous times, I was so blown away with the song that I decided to share it with my Facebook friends. As I said above however he is not to everyone’s taste and when I got no feedback, I took the post down. Imagine my delight therefore when before Christmas last year, a new album was released called “If I Can Dream” featuring vocal recordings of Elvis accompanied by orchestral arrangements from our very own Royal Philharmonic Orchestra. My new favourite Elvis song was the title track. Must have been one of those serendipitous things where I stumbled across something earlier in the year that would become the big hit of last Christmas. Over 47 years had elapsed since the song was written but (sadly) it was now as relevent as ever, if not more so. Probably why it resonated with the buying public so much.

I don’t know which version is best (perhaps Harry Hill could help with that one) but personally I still like the original as it is more purely Elvis. Great idea for an album however and meant that he is now back on top, being the artist with the most No. 1 albums ever in UK chart history. Not bad for someone who passed away 39 years ago.

If I Can Dream Lyrics
(Song by Walter Earl Brown)

There must be lights burning brighter somewhere
Got to be birds flying higher in a sky more blue
If I can dream of a better land
Where all my brothers walk hand in hand
Tell me why, oh why, oh why can’t my dream come true

There must be peace and understanding sometime
Strong winds of promise that will blow away
All the doubt and fear
If I can dream of a warmer sun
Where hope keeps shining on everyone
Tell me why, oh why, oh why won’t that sun appear

We’re lost in a cloud
With too much rain
We’re trapped in a world
That’s troubled with pain
But as long as a man
Has the strength to dream
He can redeem his soul and fly

Deep in my heart there’s a trembling question
Still I am sure that the answer gonna come somehow
Out there in the dark, there’s a beckoning candle
And while I can think, while I can walk
While I can stand, while I can talk
While I can dream, please let my dream
Come true, right now
Let it come true right now

Sadie Hawkins Dances, The Flamingos and “I Only Have Eyes For You”

This random means of choosing songs is turning out to be anything but random as the radio station I usually tune into caters in the main for people of my generation, so a lot of ’70s/’80s material. Also these songs are likely to be the mainstream, highly commercial chart hits of the day so unlikely to come across something quirky or unusual.

Time therefore to return to the thread linking the previous posts (before I decided it had reached a natural conclusion) – Was proving to be a fine way of progressing despite the fact that a new thread often had to start on the days we found out that yet another of our rock legends had died. Crossing fingers that won’t happen for a while so back to Buffy the Vampire Slayer the television show and another song that came, this time, from a Season 2 episode. I have already talked about the show, its cult status and importance to our family in my last post won’t go there again but will encourage you to watch it, all the way through from the begining, to the final scene where Sunnydale disappears into the collapsed Hellmouth. I know – it all sounds fantastical – and it is, which is why you must watch it. A life-enhancing experience (in my opinion).

The song that featured heavily in the Buffy episode “I Only Have Eyes For You” was the song of the same name by The Flamingos. We’ll ignore the fact that the episode was set in 1955 whereas this recording was made in 1959 – Didn’t make any difference as it was a wonderful, romantic, “doo-wop” song that really captured the mood of the decade. The lyrics were also highly relevant to the storyline and the key characters in it. I Only Have Eyes For You was actually written much earlier in 1934 for a film starring a young Ruby Keeler but has been covered many times, the most familiar to me being the beautiful 1975 version by Art Garfunkel (during his clown-hair period).

I Only Have Eyes For You by The Flamingos:

This episode featured an event I had never heard of before, the forthcoming “Sadie Hawkins Dance” and how a tragic happening from that same dance in 1955 rears its ghostly head again for Buffy and her friends in 1998.

Having done a little research it seems that Sadie Hawkins Day is a folk event particular to America – An annual “holiday” that originated in Al Capp’s classic hillbilly comic strip, Li’l Abner. When the character Sadie reached the age of 35 and was still a spinster, her father called together all the unmarried men from the town and declared it “Sadie Hawkins Day”. A race was decreed, with Sadie in hot pursuit of the town’s eligible bachelors. With matrimony as the consequence of losing the race, the men of the town were running for their freedom! This inspired real-world Sadie Hawkins dances, where girls asked boys out – Simple gender role-reversal.

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Anyway, back to Buffy and the “ghostly” episode. The doomed romance between a female teacher and male student in 1955 had led to a sorry end for both of them (he shot her and then committed suicide). The ghost of the student, in an effort to gain forgiveness, keeps returning to possess the bodies of various 1998 characters but every time the ending is the same. When Buffy and Angelus are possessed however, the story of their doomed romance cleverly mirrors that of the teacher and student and with the roles this time reversed, Angelus the vampire is unable to be killed and a happy conclusion is reached for the ghost of the poor student. All of this drama of course is played out to the strains of I Only Have Eyes For You.

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The whole theme of this episode was role-reversal but even now the idea of my younger self asking a boy out, or even to dance, fills me with horror. I am full of admiration for the girls of America who probably still have Sadie Hawkins Dances. Looking back, I don’t think I really appreciated how nerve wracking it must have been for the teenage boys of my youth to pluck up the courage to ask girls out, yet that was just how it all worked. I know on occasion I came up with pretty lame excuses for not accepting a date and sometimes it marked the end of a friendship as once the line has been crossed between friendship and potential romance, it is hard to go back.

I had always thought it was a pretty good system, as at any one point in time you had your eye on a few boys you liked, and just had to hope that one of them would ask you out. I’m sure there must a name for it – The Law of Teenage Mutual Selection or something. Looking back, it worked for the girls as they didn’t have to suffer the humiliation and rejection of being turned down but they did I suppose have to suffer the heartache of not perhaps being asked out, by the one boy they really wanted.

Roll on to your twenties, thirties and beyond and things get a whole lot more complicated but perhaps Sadie Hawkins had the answer. Dismiss dating websites, pubs, clubs and friends trying to set you up at dinner parties. Just arrange an annual race for all the single ladies who want a partner – All those eligible bachelors who want to be caught will be the tortoises and those who don’t will be the hares. Possibly as good a system as any!

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 I Only Have Eyes For You Lyrics (had to leave in the Sha bop sha bops!)
(Song by Harry Warren/Al Dubin)

My love must be a kind of blind love
I can’t see anyone but you
Sha bop sha bop
Sha bop sha bop
Sha bop sha bop
Sha bop sha bop
Sha bop sha bop

Are the stars out tonight
I don’t know if it’s cloudy or bright
I only have eyes for you dear
Sha bop sha bop

The moon may be high
Sha bop sha bop
But I can’t see a thing in the sky
I only have eyes for you

I don’t know if we’re in a garden
Or on a crowded avenue
Sha bop sha bop

You are here
Sha bop sha bop
And so am I
Sha bop sha bop

Maybe millions of people go by
But they all disappear from view
And I only have eyes for you

Sha bop sha bop
Sha bop sha bop
Sha bop sha bop
Sha bop sha bop
Sha bop sha bop

Buffy’s Prom, The Sundays and “Wild Horses”

Short post today as just drawing a bottom line to the thread that seems to have developed relating to “last dance” songs. Started reminiscing about this when listening to Crazy For You by Madonna and ended up thinking about the 1950s ballroom-dancing era.

Fast forward to 1992 and The Sundays recorded Wild Horses, a song written by Mick Jagger & Keith Richards. This was always a beautiful song but Harriet Wheeler’s vocals and the simple guitar backing somehow made it even more poignant.

Wild Horses by The Sundays:

It was used in the 1999 Buffy the Vampire Slayer episode called The Prom which I actually watched for the first time in 2004. In our family that was “Buffy Year” – We bought the Season One boxset in January just after the 7 year run of the show had finished airing so that we could start from the beginning again and really enjoy the whole story arc and development of the characters. (We finished Season 7 with a 3 episode Buffyfest on the 31st December of that year.) If you haven’t watched it properly like this, or indeed if you haven’t watched it at all (you must), it is impossible to explain how it draws you in – The quality of the writing, the acting and creation of the whole alternate Buffyverse made it one of the top-rated shows of all time and it frequently comes top in polls of Best Cult Show Ever. Joss Whedon, the creator, always planned for it to become a cult and boy did he succeed. 13 years on and it’s still as popular as ever with a whole new legion of young fans who will hopefully learn how to negotiate their way through life using the metaphors (or was it all real?) cleverly woven in by the excellent team of writers.

Anyway, back to Wild Horses by The Sundays – That was the song featured at the end of Buffy’s “prom” episode. We had been right there by her side for three years now, and here she was finishing high school. Her long-term relationship with Angel (the Vampire with a soul) had come to an end (for probably obvious reasons, even if you haven’t watched the show) but right at the end he appears back, for one night only, to dance with her at her prom. One of the most romantic moments in television history. I was in tears and a very large part of it down to The Sundays and their amazing version of this song.

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The lyrics of the song were just perfect for this moment and although there doesn’t seem to be consensus on the true meaning, it is most definitely a song about not wanting to tear yourself apart from someone, but knowing that you have to.

So, “last dance” songs that span 50 years! Time to move on now to another thread….

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Wild Horses Lyrics
(Mick Jagger/Keith Richards)

Childhood living is easy to do
The things that you wanted, I bought them for you
Graceless lady, you know who I am
You know I can’t let you slide through my hands

Wild horses couldn’t drag me away
Wild horses couldn’t drag me away…

I watched you suffer a dull, aching pain
And now you’ve decided to show me the same
No sweeping exits or offstage lines
Could make me feel bitter or treat you unkind

Wild horses couldn’t drag me away
Wild, wild horses couldn’t drag me away…

Faith has been broken and tears must be cried
Let’s do some living after we die

Wild horses couldn’t drag me away
Wild, wild horses couldn’t drag me away…

Wild, wild horses, we’ll ride them someday
Wild, wild horses, we’ll ride them someday

Kids Telly, “White Horses” and Jackie Lee

I’ve come to realise that although I had a plan for how I would select songs to write about, they end up choosing themselves. The death of David Bowie last week led me to spend a lot of time thinking about him and then with the death of Alan Rickman, that led me to thinking about songs from movies. Somehow we ended up with Careless Whisper by George Michael which was the first randomly chosen song of last week as it turned out but followed on very nicely from the post about other early ’80s post-New Romantic pop acts.

So, the soundtrack of our lives can come from a variety of sources and in my case it is as much from television shows and films as from the music charts – This afternoon when I switched on the radio, a French song was playing and it took me right back to the kid’s TV show from the 1960s, Belle and Sebastian. There were still only two channels available at that time on our television set in rural Scotland, so very few programmes to choose from. Belle was a Pyrenean mountain dog and every week from late 1967 to early 1968, Belle and Sebastian enchanted us all, in black and white, with their adventures. It was a French show set in the Alps, and dubbed into English by the BBC. The most memorable thing about it for me however was the deeply moving opening song performed by the boy who played Sebastian – L’Oiseau.  Listening to it again just now, I can still picture that scene right at the beginning where you see young Sebastian scrambling up the snowy mountain-side with his big white dog, Belle.

The TV schedules at that time had many other European children’s dramas such as Tales from Europe (set in the most amazing Medieval locations) and the very best of them all – White Horses. This one was made by a Yugoslavian television company and followed the adventures of Julia and the beautiful Lipizanner horses raised on her Uncle Dimitri’s stud farm outside Belgrade. Again it was in black and white and again dubbed into English. First broadcast on British TV in 1968 it became a firm favourite especially with horse-loving little girls. The best bit of the show however was the theme song White Horses sung by Jackie Lee or, by the time it was released as a single in the April of that year, just Jacky. Some pieces of music just can’t help but make you feel good and this is most definitely one of them, often coming at the top of polls of the best TV theme song ever.

White Horses by Jacky:

What I do remember vividly however from this time of White Horses in the late ’60s, was that I was a very happy child. We were a family of three – My mum, dad and me, with my granny and grandad living next door. We had a big garden with vegetables, soft fruit, flowers and plenty of areas of grass to play on. There were neighbour’s children to play with and my cousins came to stay every school holiday. I realise now how lucky I was – Very different for many city-dwelling children back in those days, and different for nearly all children nowadays. All we would have needed to make it perfect was a big white Lipizanner stallion and Jacky singing White Horses in the background. Ok I’ve gone too far now – I’ll sign out for today before it gets any more schmaltzy!

White Horses Lyrics
(Song by Michael Carr/Ben Nisbet)

On white horses let me ride away
To my world of dreams so far away
Let me run
To the sun.

To a world my heart can understand
It’s a gentle warm and wonderland
Far away
Stars away

Where the clouds are made of candy floss
As the day is born.
When the stars are gone
We’ll race to meet the dawn

So when I can only see the grey
Of a sad and very lonely day
That’s when I softly sigh
On white horses
Snowy white horses
Let me ride away

The Partridge Family, David Cassidy and “Could It Be Forever?”

Thinking yesterday about my first crush (Davy Jones) inevitably led me to think of my second big crush, David Cassidy. Thankfully this David is still alive and well although now 65 which would have made him around 21 when he first came into my life in the early ’70s. He starred in The Partridge Family which was shown midweek in the kid’s TV slot just before the early evening news.

Unknown

It was inevitable because of his amazing good looks and great singing voice that he would become a teen idol. There had been chart hits already with The Partridge Family but in April 1972 David had his first solo hit as himself, and not as Keith Partridge. Could It Be Forever was the perfect vehicle to cement David’s place as one of the two biggest “pop stars” of the day (the other being Donny Osmond but we’ll leave him for another time).

Looking back at the dates now, I realise that this song must have been around during the last few weeks spent at my Scottish primary school. It is also the first song that made me cry – I still remember those tears welling up as I listened to it being played on the radio. Young girls are highly emotional beings and at around 12, just when the hormones are kicking in, we have to leave the familiar surroundings and friendships of our junior school and enter the serious, scary world of secondary school. We end up losing our sanity a bit when it comes to our pop idols and behave in a totally irrational and frenzied manner. We buy all the magazines that have their pictures and create scrapbooks and fanzines. We cover our bedroom walls with their posters. We even iron picture transfers onto our pillowcases. (Yes guilty of all the above.) Of course we dream of them being our fantasy boyfriends, without really understanding what having a real boyfriend would mean.

The really frenzied behaviour however happens if we are ever lucky enough to see them in concert, or in the flesh, and whenever David came to Britain there were hordes of girls at the airport to greet him. It always amazes me when we see old footage of these scenes, that young girls simply headed off to Heathrow en masse unsupervised. We have become a nation who heavily supervises its young people until they are practically at the stage of leaving home – Wasn’t so in the early ’70s obviously. Also, the girls are practically on the tarmac and hanging off every balcony/rooftop vantage point. Compare that to the massive security operation nowadays of getting people shoeless, belt-less and scissor-less through to their plane of choice.

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As with most teen idols, David’s time in the sun didn’t last and it was practically all over by 1974. He had become disillusioned with it all by then anyway and who could blame him. It can be a curse to be that good-looking as you are going to have a stratospheric rise to fame but then lose all control of your life in the process. Unless you are incredibly grounded, realistic and well-managed you will find it very hard to cope with life when it’s over. He also suffered the double-whammy of having a fan die in the crush at one of his concerts which he never quite got over. He did attempt a bit of a comeback in the ’80s but it was short-lived. Young girls are very fickle and grow up fast – Once they’ve moved on to “real boys” the career is over.

As for me I will enjoy listening once more to the first song that really made me weep. His second solo single How Can I Be Sure didn’t just make me weep but sob. Yes the hormones and move to “big school” were really kicking in by then. Thank goodness for DC Thomson of Dundee who could be relied upon weekly, to provide plenty of reasonably priced centrefold posters of our idol in Jackie magazine. Hope this David lives a long and healthy life.

Could It Be Forever Lyrics
(Song by Wes Farrell/Danny Janssen)

Could it be forever or is my mind just rambling on
Well I touched you once and I kissed you once
And I feel like you’re mine
Well I feel like you’re mine and I see in your face
I’m not wrong to have these feelings
Well I feel like you’re mine and I’ve never known a time before
That’s had so many meanings

Could it be forever or is my mind just wasting time
Well I don’t think so because you let me know
You make me feel like you’re mine
Well I feel like you’re mine and I can’t remember
When the feelings have been stronger
And all I know is I can’t let go of you
Or be with you just a little while longer

All my feelings come together
All of me is here
Never known when I felt better
Cause I know this won’t disappear

But could it be forever
Or is my mind just rambling on
Maybe it is, if it is
Then I’ll be moving on

Well, I feel like you’re mine
And I see in your face
I’m not wrong to have these feelings
Well, I feel like you’re mine
I’ve never known a time before
That’s had so many meanings

Davy Jones, The Monkees and “Daydream Believer”

Day two after news broke of the death of David Bowie (Jones) and the media still awash with trubutes and commentaries about the icon.

Got me to thinking about that other David Jones who also died prematurely in his sixties – Davy Jones of The Monkees. My first big crush. Their television show (also called The Monkees) ran from 1966-68 and I was an avid viewer. Bright clothes, great pop songs, psychedelic sets and anarchic, slapstick behaviour – What not to like for a seven-year-old. Their scheduled slot was teatime on a Saturday night so perfect for family viewing.

davy jones

They very cunningly managed to highjack Neil Diamond’s best songs from that era and made them their own, no doubt contributing handsomely to Mr Diamond’s royalty cheques. My favourite was this one however from November 1967 and not a Neil Diamond song as it turns out – Daydream Believer. You only have to hear the first few notes on the piano to recognise what is about to come and boy are you in for a treat (starts at 0:20).

Daydream Believer by The Monkees:

Again, it makes me sad to think of those days nearly 50 years ago watching the impossibly cute Davy Jones leading the rest of the boys with his tamborine in hand. His diminutive size meant that he never really seemed to grow old and was a very handsome man right up until his death. After a spell of acting as a youth (Ena Sharples’ nephew in early Coronation Street) he became an apprentice jockey, but after taking up the role of the Artful Dodger in the West End, his show business path was set. He contined to have a lifelong love of horses however, and died aged just 66 after being out riding.

The Monkees never really did reunite properly although there were a few mini reunions over the years, the last being in 2011 to celebrate their 45th anniversary. The main reason was that they could never get Mike Nesmith on-board. His mother had invented and patented correction fluid, “Tippex”, so he inadvertently became a Tippex millionaire who didn’t really need the money and preferred to concentrate on his own projects – Very Rock ‘n’ Roll!

So from one David Jones (a Londoner turned Berliner turned New Yorker) to another David Jones (a Mancunian turned Angeleno turned Floridian) in two blogs. And both dead by the age of 70 – Far, far too young.

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Daydream Believer Lyrics
(Song by John Stewart)

Oh, I could hide ‘neath the wings
Of the bluebird as she sings
The six o’clock alarm would never ring
But it rings and I rise
Wipe the sleep out of my eyes
The shavin’ razor’s cold and it stings

Cheer up, sleepy Jean
Oh, what can it mean
To a daydream believer
And a homecoming queen

You once thought of me
As a white knight on a steed
Now you know how happy I can be
Oh, and our good times start and end
Without dollar one to spend
But how much, baby, do we really need