St David’s Day, the Stereophonics and Spring Is Here (Isn’t It?)

I have been watching the news coverage from around the country and am frankly amazed that the North of Scotland has got off so lightly in terms of snow. At the moment we seem to have avoided the full impact of what is being called “the Beast from the East”. (Why do weather fronts all need a name nowadays? Makes them much scarier somehow than they often need to be.) Anyway, although very cold here today I am just glad there have been more blue skies, but I’d better not get too smug as we may still bear the brunt of the “Beast” later on in the week.

As today however is meteorologically the first day of Spring, and as my friend’s moon shots seemed to go down quite well last time, here is what he shared on his Facebook page earlier on today. Yes, Spring might not have come to the rest of the country, but it has arrived in the North of Scotland.

Pictures courtesy of R.J.

But today of course is also Saint David’s Day when the people of Wales celebrate the life of their patron saint. It is common, apparently, to pin a daffodil or leek to clothing, but if the snow has been as bad as I suspect it has in Wales today there will have been no picking of daffodils going on. Also, last time I bought leeks in the supermarket they were monstrous things and with only three I managed to make a large pot of leek and potato soup – Doubt if they’re the kind of leeks that could be worn on the lapel of your jacket somehow, but possibly could adorn those giant black hats that make up part of Welsh national dress.

Alms house residents

I am probably going to be unpopular here but I’m really glad that our national dress involves the kilt, as despite being essentially a skirt, it somehow always manages to look macho, and smart – I love seeing Mr WIAA turn up at an event in his kilt outfit (despite being English by birth) whereas if he decided to turn up in one of those Morris Dancer outfits I think I would be less than impressed. Just sayin’.

But this is a music blog, so what comes to mind when I think of Wales? Well here is something from a band I have long admired and who are still going strong after 25 years in the business. Stereophonics are a Welsh rock band that formed in 1992 in the village of Cwmaman in the Cynon Valley, one of many former coal mining valleys within South Wales. The band’s lead singer Kelly Jones does sound really Welsh when he is interviewed, but somehow when he starts to sing it all disappears and he has been described as having “whiskey vocals”. Lots of songs to choose from by that band but as this has been a spur of the moment post inspired by the fine weather (apologies to those currently snowbound), the mobile device I am using only has Dakota saved within, so it’ll have to be it (but a fine choice as it turns out).

Dakota by Stereophonics:

Dakota reached the No. 1 spot in the UK Singles Chart in 2005 and was the first Stereophonics record to chart in the US. It was apparently first called Vermillion after the name of the US town in which it was written but after another band released a song with the same name, they decided to change the title to “Dakota” after the apartment building in New York City (and of course where John Lennon lived at the time of his death).

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Kelly Jones on Live 8 Day

The band have also been praised for their live performances which have landed them headlining slots at many of the UK and Ireland’s most high-profile music festivals. I think most of us of a certain vintage remember Live Aid day well (and I intend to write about my memories of the event at some point). Live 8 however was a benefit concert which took place on 2nd July 2005 to precede the G8 conference held at the Gleneagles Hotel here in Scotland. Unlike with Live Aid, when for one reason or another I missed out on large chunks of the day, I did watch all of Live 8 from beginning to end. On the Monday at work, I discussed the concert with a colleague (who had been present at the original Live Aid as a mere lad of 17) – When asked which act I had enjoyed the most, I decided it was Stereophonics. Considering who was on the bill that day, quite something. Kelly and the boys did well.

For those of you suffering the worst of the bad weather, hope things improve soon. For those of you in Wales, hope you’ve enjoyed your St. David’s Day – Time now to get those leeks off your lapels and make them into a large pot of warming soup!

Until next time….

Dakota Lyrics
(Song by Kelly Jones)

Thinking back, thinking of you
Summertime think it was June
Yeah think it was June
Laying back, head on the grass
Chewing gum having some laughs
Yeah having some laughs.

You made me feel like the one
Made me feel like the one
The one
You made me feel like the one
Made me feel like the one
The one

Drinking back, drinking for two
Drinking with you
When drinking was new
Sleeping in the back of my car
We never went far
Didn’t need to go far

You made me feel like the one
Made me feel like the one
The one
You made me feel like the one
Made me feel like the one
The one

I don’t know where we are going now
I don’t know where we are going now

Wake up call, coffee and juice
Remembering you
What happened to you?
I wonder if we’ll meet again
Talk about life since then
Talk about why did it end

You made me feel like the one
Made me feel like the one
The one
You made me feel like the one
Made me feel like the one
The one

I don’t know where we are going now
I don’t know where we are going now

So take a look at me now

Postscript:

If you follow my Full Moon series, it seems that on top of taking great scenery shots during the daytime, my friend was also busy at night-time on the 1st March and managed to capture the elusive Worm Moon which appeared in its full state just after midnight. Here it is viewed from our (almost) clear skies.

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The Worm Moon: Picture courtesy of R.J.

September, Jerry Orbach and “Try to Remember”

Well, here we are into the month of September already and there is definitely a feeling of “autumnal-ness” in the air today. There is always a slight sadness at this time of year if like me you live in the North of Scotland, as we pretty much know that summer is now behind us for another year and barring the odd exceptional day, the weather will just get that little bit colder and wetter every day now until the seasons turn again next year.

On the other hand, if like me you enjoy knitwear, coats and woollen accessories, or indeed if you manufacture and sell these items, I imagine you are quite happy that autumn is now upon us. I do have a large collection of polo neck jumpers and although I can wear some of the sleeveless and cottony ones during the summer months, my signature black polos have had to sit unworn for quite a few months now. Looking forward in a way to reacquainting myself with the rest of my wardrobe.

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Local girl Tilda Swinton – The new face of Pringle knitwear

A few years ago I set myself the challenge of taking an “interesting” photo of the natural world, every day, for a year – Unlike with this blogging malarkey that has taken up most of my free time this year, it was an excellent hobby for getting incidental exercise, as I had to do a sizeable walk every day in search of new scenes and subjects. I probably gained a bit of a reputation in the area as I didn’t have a dog to explain the walking, I tended to be on my own and at a moment’s notice I would suddenly jump down into a ditch and appear to get up close and personal with what might to others, look like a weed (good for a picture though sometimes).

Anyway, I did end up with a great set of 365 photographs that pretty much told the story of our seasons that year. Ironically it turned out to be the snowiest winter we’d had in years, so lots of brilliant snow-scenes. As we’ve meteorologically reached autumn today, I have looked back at my “365” photo for the 1st September and it turned out to be this one – My neighbour’s hydrangea shrub. I probably walked a few miles that day only to discover that the best picture came from a few yards away, in the garden next door! It looks as if I’ve “special-effectified” it as I was wont to do back then, but you can still see the signs of approaching autumn in the leaves. Sad for me too as this neighbour, who ended up being like a granny to our daughter, died later on that year so this would have been the last time she would have seen these giant flowers in the garden she so loved.

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But this is supposed to be a blog that features songs and of course all day I had that line in my head about September, from the song Try to Remember. Having just looked it up, I discovered that it was written for a long-running musical comedy called The Fantasticks which is one I had never heard of before. It was originally performed by the show’s lead actor Jerry Orbach in 1960 and again although I didn’t recognise that name, I certainly recognised him, as it was Baby’s dad from Dirty Dancing a good few years on.

This song famously makes use of rhyming to an extreme degree and looking at the lyrics, each verse specialises in a different type of rhyming word. If it wasn’t such a melancholy sounding song it would be quite comical but the sadness in it is apt for today I think, and although I’m not sure what we’re supposed to be “following”, I suspect it’s the memory.

Here is a clip of Jerry Orbach singing his version of the song in 1982, where he appears to have just been introduced by Richie Cunningham’s dad.

And here is a really schmaltzy version of The Way We Were by Gladys Knight (seemingly without her ever-present Pips) that got to No. 4 in the UK Singles Chart in 1975, where in the preamble, she makes great use of the first line from Try to Remember. I keep having to remind myself here that although I am enjoying this nostalgic revisitation of the songs of my youth and the memories they conjure up, I mustn’t get too melancholy about it all – But you know what, on this, the first day of autumn, I think I just might.

The Way We Were / Try to Remember by Gladys Knight & The Pips:

Try To Remember Lyrics
(Song by Harvey Schmidt/Tom Jones – the other one)

Try to remember the kind of September when life was slow and oh, so mellow
Try to remember the kind of September when grass was green and grain was yellow
Try to remember the kind of September when you were a tender and callow fellow
Try to remember and if you remember then follow

Try to remember when life was so tender that no one wept except the willow
Try to remember when life was so tender that dreams were kept beside your pillow
Try to remember when life was so tender that love was an ember about to billow
Try to remember and if you remember then follow

Deep in December it’s nice to remember although you know the snow will follow
Deep in December it’s nice to remember without the hurt the heart is hollow
Deep in December it’s nice to remember the fire of September that made us mellow
Deep in December our hearts should remember and follow

Richard Rodgers, Oscar Hammerstein and “June Is Bustin’ Out All Over”!

Sorry, but couldn’t resist posting this clip today as it’s the 1st of June and it marks the start of my favourite month of the year – Yes, it has to be June Is Bustin’ Out All Over from the Rodgers and Hammerstein musical Carousel. It looks dated granted, and we are not used to seeing men in such high-waisted trousers (troubling somehow), but it does sum up how I feel about today.

There are so many great things about the month of June if, like me, you live in Scotland (as there would have been in Maine, where Carousel was set) – The light nights, warm weather and (if you’re lucky) sunshine. The garden is starting to look interesting and it’s safe at last to plant out those tender young plants without having to worry about frost.

As the month goes by we’ll have tennis to watch, starting off with the French Open (Andy Murray won today) and towards the end of the month, Wimbledon. Mid-month The Royal Family will be on parade at Ascot, and some very smart ladies will be modelling those quirky hats. If you’re a football fan, a big tournament is about to take place and outdoor events, impossible during the long winter months and risky even in spring and autumn, suddenly fill the calendar. There will be Highland Games, Fetes and Music Festivals taking place every weekend – It may rain granted, but at least the rain will be warm.

In Scotland the school year lasts until the end of June but for some reason the really serious, life-changing exams always took place in May. This also happened when you moved on to College or University, so even now I still recall the relief that was felt in June, once those exams were over and you could finally relax after all the hard work. It was like that final scene in the film Grease when the Principal makes a short speech before the “commencement of commencement” – Happy memories indeed. June of course is also the month before everything becomes “weird” when a normal routine is disrupted with people disappearing off on holiday. When you were at school it meant that you no longer saw your best friends every day, and it still is a bit like that as dates for get-togethers with friends become nigh impossible to arrange. Thirty days therefore to pack in as much as possible.

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I have mentioned the film Carousel before, when writing about the song You’ll Never Walk Alone. It is not my favourite Rodgers and Hammerstein musical and the juvenile in me finds the song title “June Is Bustin’ Out All Over” a trifle amusing, but, included alongside Oklahoma!, South Pacific, The King and I and The Sound of Music, it completes an impressive body of work and one which was much appreciated by my dad and I on a wet Sunday afternoon when I was young. Nothing brightened the spirit more than to watch these all-singing, all-dancing spectaculars on television. Apparently my dad and his friends, in their youth, had gone into the city from our village every fortnight to watch their football team play in home games. They always finished the day off with a nice meal and a trip to the “pictures” to watch the big movies of the day. These invariably were musicals, featuring the likes of Fred Astaire and Gene Kelly which gave him a life-long love of the genre, and one which he passed on to me. Maybe I’m wrong, but I’m not convinced that your average football fan of today would appreciate the works of Rodgers and Hammerstein – Different times obviously, and different forms of entertainment today to whet a young man’s appetite, but I’m just glad that my dad was able to experience all these films, unabashed.

So, will I be able to fit in many posts this month when there is just so much to enjoy out there? We’ll see, but in the meantime I’ll leave you with the (exceptionally long therefore abbreviated) lyrics to this very seasonal song – Enjoy.

June Is Bustin’ Out All Over Lyrics
(Song by Richard Rodgers/Oscar Hammerstein ll)

June is bustin’ out all over!
All over the meadow and the hill!
Buds’re bustin’ outa bushes
And the rompin’ river pushes
Ev’ry little wheel that wheels beside the mill!

June is bustin’ out all over!
The feelin’ is gettin’ so intense
That the young Virginia creepers
Hev been huggin’ the bejeepers
Outa all the mornin’-glories on the fence.
Because it’s June!
June, June, June
Jest because it’s June, June, June!

June is bustin’ out all over!
The ocean is full of Jacks and Jills,
With her little tail a-swishin’
Ev’ry lady fish is wishin’
That a male would come
And grab her by the gills!

Because it’s June! June, June, June
Just because it’s June, June, June!