The Autumnal Equinox, Neil Young and “Harvest Moon”

Since discovering that all full moons have a name, given to them by the Native Americans who kept track of the months by the lunar calendar, I have written about each one as they appear in our skies. To accompany the post I always include one of the numerous songs that have been written about the moon and its many foibles.

Well, there could really only be one featured song for this month – Neil Young’s Harvest Moon. Having said that, the Harvest Moon can occur in either September or October, as it’s the name given to the full moon that lands closest to the autumnal equinox. This year we reached the equinox, that pivot point in the year after which we can expect more hours of darkness than light in our days, on Sunday the 23rd Sept. Had it not landed that way, it would have been called the Corn Moon, but no great songs as far as I am aware about corn (unless you know differently), so I’m mighty glad it’s worked out this way.

220px-Harvest_Moon_singleFor the Native Americans, this was the month when corn was supposed to be harvested. Also, due to a highly scientific quirk relating to orbital distances and other complex laws of physics, at the peak of the harvest farmers can work late into the night, as this moon rises at nearly the same time every evening giving them all that extra light. Fortunately I have no harvesting to be done, because for the second month in a row, there seems to be total cloud cover around the time of the full moon. I am still hoping for a miracle tomorrow night but not counting my chickens. (Wonder if the Native Americans also did that by the light of this brilliant Harvest Moon.)

But back to Neil’s wonderful song. I do have a couple of Neil Young anecdotes in my back pocket, but I don’t think this is the time or place to share them. Instead I just want to listen to the beautiful sound of his voice, those soft brush strokes, and the steel guitars.

Harvest Moon by Neil Young:

Something that surprised me when doing a modicum of research for this post was that the album “Harvest Moon” was released in 1992. I always associate Neil Young with a much earlier time, and although I recognised this song, I had never thought of it as being attached to the 1990s. That said, the year 1992 was an incredibly busy one for me, as in a five month period I got engaged, sold my flat, bought a house, organised a wedding and got myself betrothed…, so I probably wasn’t keeping up with any new album releases.

Listening to the song Harvest Moon, it is however perfect for a couple like us who have now been married for nearly 26 years. It was written as a tribute to Neil’s wife Pegi, and seems to celebrate longevity in relationships. Had we not lived in the North of Scotland, I think I might have suggested to Mr WIAA that we go dancin’ where the music’s playin’ tonight, but sadly it’s really cold out there, so a mug of cocoa and a boxset it’ll have to be instead. Easy to take each other forgranted once you’ve been together a long, long… time, but listening to this song reminds me that…, well, we really shouldn’t. Enough said.

…. there’s a full moon risin’
Let’s go dancin’ in the light
We know where the music’s playin’
Let’s go out and feel the night

Because I’m still in love with you
I want to see you dance again
Because I’m still in love with you
On this harvest moon

harvest-moon-plane2

The moon seems to be a big deal to Neil Young as it turns up in 28 of his songs. He uses it to guide him and is apparently more likely to take on a project if it coincides with a full moon. In a 2005 interview he explained: “Before there was organized religion, there was the moon. The Indians knew about the moon. Pagans followed the moon. I’ve followed it for as long as I can remember, and that’s just my religion. I’m not a practicing anything, I don’t have a book that I have to read. It can be dangerous working in a full moon atmosphere, because if there are things that are going to go wrong, they can really go wrong. But that’s great, especially for rock ‘n’ roll.”

I must admit, this moon series has been my favourite so far, and I would agree with a lot of what Neil says there. I really hope we do get to see the full moon on Tuesday night as I’m starting to get withdrawal symptoms, having missed out on last month’s lunar eclipse entirely and this month I seem to be dogged by cloud cover. If we do, I’m sure my friend with the all singing, all dancing camera will capture it perfectly, so a “Postscript” may well get tagged onto the bottom. Watch this space as they say.

Until next time….

Harvest Moon Lyrics
(Song by Neil Young)

Come a little bit closer
Hear what I have to say
Just like children sleepin’
We could dream this night away.

But there’s a full moon risin’
Let’s go dancin’ in the light
We know where the music’s playin’
Let’s go out and feel the night.

Because I’m still in love with you
I want to see you dance again
Because I’m still in love with you
On this harvest moon.

When we were strangers
I watched you from afar
When we were lovers
I loved you with all my heart.

But now it’s gettin’ late
And the moon is climbin’ high
I want to celebrate
See it shinin’ in your eye.

Because I’m still in love with you
I want to see you dance again
Because I’m still in love with you
On this harvest moon.

The Kingdom of Fife, James Yorkston and “Woozy With Cider”

A few weeks ago, right at the end of my Seven in Seven challenge, I threw down the gauntlet and asked followers to come up with ideas for future posts. Whenever I’ve done this in the past it’s been quite easy to come up with something reasonably entertaining, as a fairly mainstream song has been suggested. This time…., not quite so easy. This third reply post was always going to be tricky, as I hadn’t actually heard of the artist or song when it was first suggested by Mr Medd, whose Are We There Yet? blog is one I visit often. My proviso for this challenge was that I had to have heard of the artist, so by rights I could have wriggled out of it, but that would be a bit lame so here goes:

Woozy With Cider by James Yorkston:

Woozy With Cider was recorded by singer/songwriter James Yorkston in 2007. It’s a spoken word kind of affair and apparently falls into the electronic/folk rock camp. As I said above, both James and his “song” were new to me, so before hitting the keyboard I was going to have to do a bit of serious listening. Lots of imagery in this song but what comes across loud and clear is that Mr Yorkston is neither a fan of big cities nor city folk and their sometimes patronising attitude towards those of a more countrified nature. He kind of yearns to be back in the place he feels most comfortable, “a village the size of a teacup”. There has been a wedding though (oh no, another wedding post – I can’t get away from them), which is the reason for the trip to the big smoke, but it is now the day after where there is time for reflection, relaxation and just enough cider to cause a bit of “wooziness”.

I really liked this spoken word song right from the off, and I think I worked out why pretty early on. Once I’d done a bit of research into James Yorkston, I discovered he came from the Kingdom of Fife in Scotland, which is a peninsula situated between the Firth of Tay and Firth of Forth (and home to the ancient Pictish kings). He became part of something called the Fence Collective set up by Kenny Anderson (aka King Creosote) where a group of Fife-based musicians got together and released music on their own record label with little more than a CD burner and the use of a local bar’s unused “back room”.

Looking at a map of Fife it looks remarkably like the Black Isle peninsula where I reside. From experience, these are beautiful places to live – Great scenery (water on three sides), picturesque villages, clean air and not too many people or cars. Like James, I would find life in a big city nowadays nigh impossible and find the best mix for me is kind of what is implied in the first line of the lyrics, “I hear you softly sleep amongst the cars and saluting songbirds”. It is now evening and the sound of the traffic has died down so the birds can be heard in equal measure. That’s my ideal – To be near enough civilisation to hear the sound of cars in the distance, but also to be able to hear the sound of birds (as I type I am listening to a hooting owl). It’s not for me the cacophony of city life with only the odd squawking seagull – I know where I’m supposed to “be” and like James Yorkston, I very fortuitously found it when I was relatively young, in my late twenties.

fife

black isle

So, I only found out about James Yorkston when the suggestion for this post came in but since then I have been bombarded by references to Fife and Fence Records. There is a name for this phenomenon (more than just coincidence) which currently eludes me, but we all experience it from time to time – In our house, whenever it happens it’s always accompanied by a quick burst of the Twilight Zone music.

First of all, as per my previous post, we ended up having a spontaneous wee break last week in the city of Dundee, which is just on the other side of the Tay Bridge from Fife. It was a no brainer therefore that we would head across for a visit. By this time I knew all about the Fence Collective based in the East Neuk of Fife, so what better place to visit in order to get “woozy with cider”?

Secondly, a couple of night’s ago I caught the final episode of the BBC2 documentary series Rip It Up which was ostensibly about how Scots have had to overcome obstacles, and blaze a trail, in order to make the music they love. This episode featured those independent labels such as Fence Records who decided to follow a different path and not head to London, but to remain in Scotland and be inspired by their surroundings – They would make music primarily for the love of it and not just to make lots of money. We even had a lengthy interview with Mr Yorkston (whom I warmed to greatly) and I’ll no doubt look out for him now that I know the background to his, and the Collective’s, aims.

Before I go, here is something I found when trying to find out a bit more about the man. It was from an interview he gave after having written his second book (yes it seems he’s multi-talented, also being an author – not jealous honest, grrr…).

Interviewer: James, what’s your guiltiest music pleasure?

James: I think I’ve grown out of that stuff now. When I was a kid, I was very much involved in genre, so I’d only like punk rock or dub reggae, say. Fortunately, as I’ve aged, I’ve thrown off such daft shackles and I no longer feel guilty about anything I like. I feel guiltier disliking things, especially if it’s music by people who I like as people. Guilty Music Displeasure, perhaps.

A great place to end, as since starting this blog I have had massive crises of confidence after writing about songs from my collection that others may well class as “a guilty pleasure”. I know everyone is usually very kind about it, but when James Yorkston also comes out and admits to now feeling more guilty about disliking music, I think I’m ok.

Until next time…

Woozy with Cider Lyrics
(Song by James Yorkston)

I watch the park quieten from the hotel window, I hear you softly sleep amongst the cars and saluting songbirds,
For a city whose size had scared me for years right now it’s a feeble evening row, not un-similar to a beach evening ending.
On the table to my left there’s a magazine with a picture of dead money, making a mockery of what I’d call art
But what would I know about the scene in the city that has swallowed up friends lovers and family,
Just give me a village the size of a teacup

You’re happier here spread out with your eyes closed,
I feel I should order a drink in celebration to welcome the summer, whose first day is ending
Should you wake you’d catch me of course and ask me the wisdom of drinking once more
I cast my mind back to yesterdays wedding where we got drunk and fell over
I did my best to be polite to a family I’d never met, but on numerous occasions, I guess, I could have tried harder
Of course by the end of the night I was a best friend with everyone and every ones wife but right now I couldn’t remember their names no matter how hard I try

As the sun glares through the hotel window I wonder of our future and where it will lead to,
I wonder if you’ll be laying there 10 years 20 years 30 years down the line
I’ll still be staring out at the street confused about love and life,
It’ll be interesting to see if anyone every bought those songs of mine if anyone heard those words that I never got quite right,
I think I can be honest in presuming the world is not exactly going to be leaping out of its bed to make me rich using my songs in adverts selling oranges or lemons

Who knows I may end up owning the whole street, or more likely sleeping under tree in the park opposite
Would the runners keep me awake or would I keep them asleep
I’d hope I have the sense to move back home, as lovely as today is, I‘d imagine the winter would be rather cold

I’d been told for years that the devil had the best tunes and that the devil lived down here whereas us country folk weren’t worth the salt from the road
Ex pat magazine editors who choose to loose their temper on the easily persuaded northern town dwellers
And sure enough 99 percent of the people I meet have scant regard for entertaining me, it seems I’m too old too slow too quiet and just wrong
And I’m glad. In their cocaine fuelled electronic cabarets I’ll be the man at the bar drinking overpriced whiskey from a bar maid who’s too good to catch my eye
She only works here two nights a week, the rest of the time she’s a singer in a rock and roll band
I bet she’d change her tune if I told her my album had peaked at number 172 and that I also had friends who worked in bars and that didn’t define who they are
Though it certainly helps their capacity to drink.

But I’ve strayed off the subject
Now I’ll be leaning over and waking you up, and you’ll squint at me through the cracks between your eyelids, woozy with cider
As if you’re asking exactly where we are and exactly what I wanted.
And I’ll be happy because we won’t be taking anything too seriously.

An Awfully Serious Post, Boz Scaggs and “We’re All Alone”

Last week was Mental Health Awareness Week. Hosted by the Mental Health Foundation, this year’s focus was on stress. Research has shown that two thirds of us experience a mental health problem in our lifetimes, and stress is a key factor in this.

MHF

Here in the Highlands we have had an epidemic of young men taking their own lives – In one case two best friends committed suicide within days of each other, and in response one of their uncles set up a local helpline, hoping to reach out to other young men who may also be vulnerable. Darling daughter has many friends who have suffered from mental health problems over the years, and even today, because of chronic stress at her workplace, she is going to hand in a letter of resignation. Something has gone horribly wrong along the way. The government tell us that more people are in work than ever before, but these jobs do not offer the security and support that we used to associate with the world of employment.

So, last year I threw in the towel, and this year it is to be DD. Unlike me she does have a plan however so I am hopeful all will turn out well for her in the end. Until my ongoing parental care situation is resolved (after four months we are still on a waiting list to get the official diagnosis) I am in limbo, unable to commit to anything other than helping out with our online business and boring old domestic stuff. It’s a lonely life, especially as the other half isn’t around much any more, having had to pick up on the bread-winning side of things.

By my own admission I spend far too much time in a day sitting in front of a computer screen and too many hours can slip by, falling down that rabbit hole – The Web was essentially designed to function in this way because of how the hyperlinks work, but boy can it steal your time to no purposeful end. Facebook was something I had all but abandoned after discovering blogging, but of late I have taken to carrying out a daily browse, finding out what my friends and family are up to. The other week, the awful news came through that Scott Hutchison of the Scottish Indie band Frightened Rabbit, who had been missing for several days, had been found dead. He had taken his own life. Despite having helped so many others through dark times, telling them “they were not alone”, when it came down to it, he was indeed alone.

Many of my Facebook “Friends” offered condolences – They had been big fans of Scott’s music so were understandably saddened by this news. Many added the hashtag, #youarenotalone which I took to be the offer of a helping hand to those who might be in need. An opportunity to test the water I thought, so I put together a short post along these lines: “Like most of us, I am constantly in awe of the dazzling lives my Facebook friends seem to lead. I am also fully aware that life is not quite as dazzling as portrayed, all the time. As someone who is currently working from home/looking after a parent with dementia, I miss the buzz of meeting lots of people every day – If any of my FB friends are in a similar position please feel free to PM me as you might have a few ideas on how to both fit everything in, but still have “real life” people to connect with. A First World problem I know, and not complaining, but just thought I’d throw it out there!”

Needless to say, this post led to a tumbleweed moment. A few acquaintances “liked” it but I don’t think they had actually read the words, and were just liking the pretty picture of some cherry blossom I had added to take the edge off the sombreness of the post. I had suspected however that this would be the case, as at the end of the day, most of us don’t want to be “brought down” by other people’s troubles. I myself have been very wary over the years of DD getting too involved with kids who have mental health issues – It’s not contagious but it can impact on their lives, spectacularly so, like the two best friends mentioned in my opening paragraph. Sad but true.

Another water-testing moment came along last week when a family get-together was organised – Mr WIAA’s side of the family all lead the kind of dazzling lives I mentioned in my FB post, but when we get together, it inevitably crops up that our lives are perhaps not quite as dazzling at the moment – Somehow it always causes a bit of an argument because of what I perceive as being unhelpful advice being given on what we “should be doing”. But, difficult for those not in the same position, to really understand how it feels. This time I decided we would turn in the performance of a lifetime – We would be bubbly, joyful and interested in all their adventures. No mention would be made of parents with health issues, offspring with career dilemmas or money worries, and of course it worked a treat. There were no arguments for once and invitations flowed freely to spend time in their various holiday homes (which is impossible at the moment anyway). But of course it was all an act, and the next day I went back to being a bit sad and lonely….

Was Mental Health Awareness Week a success? I’m not sure, but I do know that my little experiments did confirm what I have long suspected – At times of crisis, those who have previously maintained they would always be there if we needed them, were suddenly found wanting. People are busy, and have their own troubles. Fortunately for me, my situation is a cause and effect one, and once things start happening in terms of getting professional help, life should get a bit less lonely.

But this is supposed to be a music blog, and so far not much music around here today. I had a lot I wanted to say however and sometimes our blogs provide the perfect forum, us being essentially anonymous after all. Not looking for comments here, but just glad I got my thoughts down – I wish it wasn’t the case, but at the end of the day I think We’re All Alone, (courtesy of Mr Boz Scaggs).

We’re All Alone by Boz Scaggs:

We’re All Alone Lyrics
(Song by Boz Scaggs)

Outside the rain begins
And it may never end
So cry no more
On the shore of dreams
Will take us out to sea
Forever more, forever more

Close your eyes and dream
And you can be with me
‘Neath the waves
Through the caves of hours
Long forgotten now
We’re all alone
We’re all alone

Close the window
Come alive
Honey, we’ll be alright
No need to bother now
Let it out
Let it all begin
Learn how to pretend

Once the story’s told
You can’t help but grow old
Roses do
Lovers too
So cast your seasons to the winds
And hold me dear
Oh, hold me dear

Close the window
Come alive
And it will be alright
No need to bother now
Let it out
Let it all begin
All’s forgotten now
We’re all alone
We’re all alone

Post 201, Billy Joel and “Movin’ Out (Anthony’s Song)”

Last time I pressed the publish button on this blog I got one of these from the WordPress people. It only took me 10 months to write my first 100 posts, but it’s taken another 17 months to mapost-milestone-200-2xke it to the 200 mark. I couldn’t really have kept up that pace long-term though and anyone who has followed this blog for a while now will know that there have been a few bumps on the road around here of late, but I plan to keep going, as I still love putting together these offerings that tenuously link to the Tracks of My Years. Also, the little blogging community I seem to have found myself part of has become really important to me, and if I’m not mistaken, it looks as if there might even be a real life meet-up down the line. Wouldn’t have expected that 27 months ago, no siree Bob.

But what to write about this time, for boring old Post 201 (I do hate veering away from a nice round number) – I remember suffering from blogger’s block when I reached Post 101, but then as if by magic, all sorts of ideas sprang forth. The number 101 led to thoughts of George Orwell’s Room 101 which in turn led to featured song choices. The binary number 101 converts to 5 in decimal, and no end of bands that incorporate that number into their name. Also, I decided that 101 is a palindromic number, which again inspired a song choice or two.

201 though….

Hmm….

2… 0… 1…

Much, much trickier, so time to resort to the vast resources of the world wide web. First up is this interesting snippet – It turns out that the North American Area Code for Hackensack, New Jersey, is the number 201. This is not the first time Hackensack has been mentioned in this blog, as one of the New Jersey suggestions for my AmericanthDZ2ELYSU Odyssey series was the song Movin’ Out (Anthony’s Song) by the Piano Man himself Billy Joel. There is much wordplay and a distinctive use of rhyme in this song, and that particular place, Hackensack, fitted the lyrics perfectly as Billy was also singing about heart attack ack ack ack acks and Cadillac ac ac ac acs. Personally I wouldn’t be that keen on living in a place with such an ugly sounding name (apologies to the residents of course), but as ever, it started life as something totally different. The Native American tribes who first inhabited the area called it Achinigeu-hach, or Ackingsah-sack, meaning stony ground, but along the way it became the more anglicised Hackensack.

For the record, my favourite place names in the UK are Westward Ho! (don’t forget that exclamation mark), Mousehole in Cornwall (just so cute) and Ashby-de-la-Zouche (all very post-Norman Conquest). It can’t be denied however, that there are some pretty unattractive place names here in Scotland, and up there with the best of them would be Auchtermuchty in Fife – I will give it a pass however as that is where those bespectacled singing twins The Proclaimers hail from, and without them and their songs this blog would have a much reduced number of visitors per month, so thanks guys for writing that love letter to Leith and for the Sunshine that falls upon it.

But back to the song, and in case anyone has absolutely no idea what I have been wittering on about above, here is an extract from the lyrics that make sense of it all:

Who needs a house out in Hackensack?
Is that what you get with your money?
It seems such a waste of time
If that’s what it’s all about
If that’s movin’ up then I’m movin’ out

Movin’ Out (Anthony’s Song):

Movin’ Out (Anthony’s Song) was one of the singles released from his 1977 album “The Stranger”, which is generally considered to be his magnum opus. For me it was one of the soundtracks of my student years, as yet again it was an album owned by the boyfriend-of-the-time’s older brother (who was also incidentally responsible for making me fall in love with the music of Leonard Cohen, Joni Mitchell and Carole King, but that’s been covered here before).

thYUT9VDV0Billy felt very strongly it seems, about the prevailing blue-collar immigrant work ethos, whereby it was important to work long hours at sometimes back-breaking work just to acquire the trappings that proved you had “made it in America” – The house out in the suburbs and the Cadillac on the drive. He made his character Anthony question it all, as he felt too many people were wasting their lives and talents because they felt pressured into taking a job to take care of the family.

Well, has anything changed in the intervening 40 years I wonder? Too many of us still seem to be pressured into taking jobs that waste our talents, because at the end of the day there are bills to be paid and mouths to feed. In fact I would even suggest that nowadays the vast majority aren’t even doing these kind of jobs to upgrade to a fancier car or a luxury house in the suburbs, but merely to keep afloat. But hey, let’s not end this post on doom and gloom, as the upside is that artificially intelligent robots will take over most of the jobs in the next few decades anyway, so a universal wage and life of leisure awaits us all. Or will it? Time will tell.

As ever, I’d love to hear from you and I always reply.

Movin’ Out (Anthony’s Song) Lyrics
(Song by Billy Joel)

Anthony works in the grocery store
Savin’ his pennies for some day
Mama Leone left a note on the door
She said
“Sonny, move out to the country”

Oh but workin’ too hard can give you a heart attack
You oughta know by now
Who needs a house out in Hackensack?
Is that all you get for your money?

And it seems such a waste of time
If that’s what it’s all about
Mama, if that’s movin’ up, then I’m movin’ out

Sergeant O’Leary is walkin’ the beat
At night he becomes a bartender
He works at Mister Cacciatore’s down on Sullivan Street
Across from the medical center

And he’s tradin’ in his Chevy for a Cadillac
You oughta know by now
And if he can’t drive
With a broken back
At least he can polish the fenders

And it seems such a waste of time
If that’s what it’s all about
Mama, if that’s movin’ up, then I’m movin’ out

You should never argue with a crazy mind
You oughta know by now
You can pay Uncle Sam with the overtime
Is that all you get for your money?

And if that’s what you have in mind
Yeah, if that’s what you’re all about
Good luck, moving up, ’cause I’m movin’ out

I’m movin’ out

Postscript:

It was inevitable that I would revisit other songs on “The Stranger” whilst writing this post and what a joy it’s been listening to this work of genius again. Scenes from an Italian Restaurant is effectively a mini opera with three distinct “acts” rolled into one. It begins with a gentle piano ballad, and sets the scene for two old classmates meeting up in an Italian restaurant. The next section is jazz-influenced and up-tempo, featuring a clarinet, trombone, tuba and saxophone solo. Here the two update each other on how their lives have turned out. It ends with a rock ‘n’ roll section telling the story of Brenda and Eddie, a couple of popular “jocks” from their schooldays whose life kind of peaked too early – We all know a Brenda and Eddie and even if we don’t come from Long Island like Billy Joel, most of us of a certain age can probably identify with this song. It was never released as a single but it’s still my favourite track on the album. Enjoy.

Scenes from an Italian Restaurant by Billy Joel:

Nick Drake, “Pink Moon” and Pink Floyd

Since discovering that all full moons have a name (given to them by the Native Americans who kept track of the months by the lunar calendar), I have written about each one as they appear in our skies. To accompany the post I always include one of the numerous songs that have been written about the moon and its many foibles.

It passes in a flash doesn’t it? Ever since following the full moon cycle for this blog, the lunar months seem to have rocketed by. This calendar month, on the 30th April, we are to have a Pink Moon appear in our skies. This time the name comes from one of the spring flowers the ancient Native Americans would have seen covering the ground around April’s full moon – The pink Moss Phlox.

Well I can’t say I have such a flower in my garden, but I can share a picture of what my cherry blossom tree should look like at this time of the year. Sadly, because of that really cold snap back at the beginning of March, it seems that Mother Nature’s work has been delayed, but here is what the blossom looked like at this time last year. Very pink, to coincide with the Pink Moon.

177 4th May Cherry blossom

When I started choosing songs for this series, I couldn’t help but notice there was a song called Pink Moon written and recorded by a man who seems to have become a bit of a cult figure in music circles. Nick Drake only made three albums, and died at the ridiculously young age of 26, but over the last couple of decades has sold hundreds of thousands of albums. Many of these sales came about as a result of the song Pink Moon being used for a car advert which sparked a resurgence of interest. Time to see what caused all the furore then, and for once we seem to have an example of an ad where the inclusion of music was well executed and aesthetically successful.

Pink Moon by Nick Drake:

It’s an incredibly short song, only one verse and a chorus, on repeat, but the spare delivery and acoustic guitar accompaniment just seemed to work. Drake was a troubled soul however and suffered from major depression, often reflected in his lyrics. After completing his 1972 “Pink Moon” album, he withdrew from both live performance and recording, retreating to his parents’ home in rural Warwickshire. On 25 November 1974, he died from an overdose of a prescribed antidepressant. His cause of death was determined to be suicide.

nick drake
Nick Drake

Drake’s music remained available through the mid-1970s, but the 1979 release of the retrospective album “Fruit Tree” allowed his back catalogue to be reassessed. By the mid-1980s Drake was being credited as an influence by such artists as Robert Smith and David Sylvian. In 1985, The Dream Academy reached the UK and US charts with Life in a Northern Town, a song written for and dedicated to Drake. By the early 1990s, he had come to represent a certain type of “doomed romantic” musician in the UK music press.

Interestingly, Life in a Northern Town was produced by Dave Gilmour of Pink Floyd. Although never a big fan of Pink Floyd (I was just a tad to young for them I think), I knew that at some point in this series I should include something from their album “Dark Side of the Moon”. I think this post, what with all the pink-ness, should be the one. I will leave you with The Great Gig in the Sky, the fifth track on the album. I was pretty much blown away by Pink Floyd when I watched them at Live 8 in 2005 (the first time they had performed together for 24 years), and subsequently took to listening to Mr WIAA’s collection of Floyd tracks. Whenever I heard Clare Torry’s “wail”, used in effect as a musical instrument on Great Gig, I got goose bumps.

The Great Gig in the Sky by Pink Floyd:

Until next time….

Pink Moon Lyrics
(Song by
Nick Drake)

I saw it written and I saw it say
Pink moon is on it’s way
And none of you stand so tall
Pink moon gonna get you all

It’s a pink moon
Hey, it’s a pink moon
It’s a pink, pink, pink, pink, pink moon.
It’s a pink, pink, pink, pink, pink moon.

I saw it written and I saw it say
Pink moon is on it’s way
And none of you stand so tall
Pink moon gonna get you all

It’s a pink moon
Yeah, it’s a pink moon

Postscript:

I was a tad early in posting this full moon alert, so just in case you missed it, here is a picture of Monday night’s Pink Moon taken by my photographer friend – Stunning as ever.

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Picture courtesy of R.J.

Kate Bush, The Motors and The Summer of 1978

Last time I shared a little film of my hometown, which highlighted just how blue the skies were on the first day of Spring. Since then, I have been feeling a bit nostalgic about the band ELO – That of course would be because the music I chose to accompany the film was Mr. Blue Sky, from their 1977 album “Out of the Blue”. The cover for that particular album was very memorable for me, because it was one of the pieces of artwork that graced the walls of the very basic cottage I shared with my best friend the summer after leaving school.

out of the blue

We had headed off to work in a very posh country house hotel and luckily for us accommodation came with the job. It was basic indeed, but we had our first taste of independence, with no parents hovering over us querying our movements – Needless to say that summer we worked hard (being a breakfast waitress plus hotel jack-of-all-trades is a tough gig) but also played hard – Living off the beaten track, we built up a good working relationship with Diamond Doug, our local taxi-driver who seemed to favour wearing a certain style of patterned jumper.

That summer, over the course of a weekend, it was not unusual to:

  • Work until 10pm.
  • Rush back to the cottage to change into our “going-out” clothes. (This being 1978 the previously under-used function suites of our local hotels had suddenly become kitted out with flashing dance floors and glitter balls as per the film Saturday Night Fever, but the clothes to match came later. That summer for us was still the summer of peasant skirts and broderie anglais tops as worn by Linda Ronstadt et al.)
  • Get picked up by Doug who would take us to our destination of choice by 11pm.
  • Bop until 1am (hoping that the last dance of the night, to the refrains of The Commodores mega-ballad Three Times A Lady, would be with one of our local T-Bird equivalents, that name taken from the summer’s other film phenomenon, Grease).
  • Have a bit of a smooch with the aforementioned T-Bird (who for one summer only had decided that girls of the Sandy persuasion were perhaps preferable to those of the Rizzo persuasion) whilst waiting for Doug to come and drive us home again, just in time to grab around 3 hours of sleep before getting up and doing it all over again!

The Summer of ’78 summed up for an 18-year-old girl!

Phew, I’m exhausted just writing about that so am amazed that my younger self managed to actually live life at that pace – The energy of youth. But back to the album cover for “Out of the Blue”, my friend Catriona definitely had that one up on her side of our bedroom wall, and I had some of my favourites over on mine. Looking at my album collection now, I can still tell which ones they were as they have those telltale blu tack, or even worse, sellotape marks on the covers. The vinyl itself must have been simply kept in the inner sleeve but was played constantly on the little mono record player I had brought from my parents’ house. It was the predecessor to the massive Toshiba Music Centre that had replaced it only 6 months previously, but I was never going to be allowed to take that with me, so the mono player it had to be.

Although our social life revolved around going dancing, we were both massive music fans and played anything and everything during our time off that summer. BBC Radio 1 woke us up and entertained us during the day but we also loved playing our records, and roped in friends and relatives to bring us new releases from record shops in the city when they came to visit. So, it was not only the soundtrack albums to Saturday Night Fever and Grease along with ELO and The Commodores we listened to that summer, oh no, it was also punk (Blondie, Sham 69), reggae (Bob Marley), pop and soft rock (Marshall Hain, Jackson Browne) and of course the obligatory novelty song (Father Abraham and the Smurfs!).

I still have one of the singles that Catriona’s sister bought on my behalf that summer – They didn’t really have many other hits and were short lived indeed but there was something about The Motors song Airport that I really liked and whenever I hear it now, I always think of that summer at the cottage with our mono record player.

Airport by The Motors:

As for my friend, the single she had requested, and which was duly delivered by her sister was this one by Kate Bush. Yes, The Man with the Child in His Eyes was also a hit that summer but I have just discovered that Kate actually first recorded it in 1975 and had written it three years earlier at the age of 13. To quote the title of another of her songs – Wow!

So, “What’s It All About?” – Funnily enough, when I sat down to write this post it was going to be all about ELO; about how it was actually the brainchild of Roy Wood; about how he soon moved on but left Jeff Lynne and the others to create something really quite amazing fusing modern rock and pop songs with classical instrumentation; about how Jeff’s partner for many years was the wonderful Rosie Vela whose song Magic Smile has been a bit of an earworm this week; but no, as is wont to happen, looking at the artwork for that ELO album cover just brought back so many memories of that wonderful summer.

The awful thing about reminiscing about the happenings of the summer of 1978 is that I can no longer talk about them with Catriona, as she died 16 years ago, leaving behind a husband and two young children. By then we were living on opposite sides of the Atlantic but if we ever got together, it was just like old times. I didn’t realise back then that I would never have such a close friendship with any other female, ever again. There have been many friends in the intervening years and some lovely friends are part of my life now, but how can you ever recreate what you had with the person you were closest to during those formative years, aged 16 to 21.

Before I go, here is a shot taken with my trusty Kodak Instamatic, of the little cottage Catriona and I shared that summer. Happy memories indeed of a very special person, who had her own magic smile. She made the world that little bit better for all of us who knew her and is sadly missed.

Our very basic cottage (garden needed a bit of tending!)

Until next time….

Airport Lyrics
(Song by Andrew McMaster)

So many destination faces going to so many places
Where the weather is much better
And the food is so much cheaper.
Well I help her with her baggage for her baggage is so heavy
I hear the plane is ready by the gateway to take my love away.
And I can’t believe that she really wants to leave me and it’s getting me so,
It’s getting me so.

Airport –
Airport, you’ve got a smiling face,
you took the one I love so far away
Fly her away – fly her away – airport.
Airport, you’ve got a smiling face
You took my lady to another place
Fly her away – fly her away.

The plane is on the move,
And the traces of the love we had in places
Are turning in my mind – how I wish I’d been much stronger
For the wheels are turning faster as I hear the winds are blowing
and I know that she is leaving
On the jet plane way down the runaway.
And I can’t believe that she really wants to leave me – and it’s
getting me so,
It’s getting me so.

Airport –
Airport, you’ve got a smiling face,…

Airport –
Airport, you’ve got a smiling face,…

Postscript:

As luck would have it I found another entry in my 1978 journal where I’ve jotted down a short and snappy review of the the two big movies Catriona and I went to see that summer, one at the beginning and one right at the end. Again, embarrassing to read my words from back then (and my penmanship seems to have deteriorated) but interesting all the same. Yet again I seem to have not been particularly impressed with either of these films at the time, yet they are now two of my favourites movies of all time – The nonchalance of youth!

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Womack & Womack, “Teardrops” and The Problem of Over-Sharing

It’s been a couple of weeks since I posted anything new – That would be because I’ve been having a bit of a crisis of confidence, questioning what the heck I’m doing around here. I have always been praised for “writing from the heart”, “writing with complete honesty” but I’ve come round to thinking that I have instead over-shared and some of my recent rants have involved family members (without their knowledge), so time to rein it in a bit I think.

over

Getting back to what this blog was always supposed to be about (that would be nostalgically revisiting the tracks of my years), today’s pick is this wonderful example, Teardrops by Womack & Womack. The song reached the No. 3 spot in the UK Singles Chart in August 1988, when I was in my late twenties. No problem with over-sharing this time as I have no particular personal memories attached to it at all, other than it was a great sounding song and was always included on the mix-tapes I was still putting together at that time.

Teardrops by Womack and Womack:

It is the kind of song however that really conjures up the memory of particular “feelings”, ones most of us will have experienced at some point in our lives:

And the music don’t feel like it did when I felt it with you (yes, we’ve all been there haven’t we?)

Whispers in the powder room, “She cries on every tune” (not called the powder room where I come from but yes, where teardrops are invariably shed).

As for Womack & Womack, I always knew they had a touch of rock and pop royalty about them but it was not until today that I found out exactly what the connections were. Linda Womack was the daughter of Sam Cooke, and her husband Cecil Womack was the younger brother of Bobby Womack. They all worked together, then after Sam’s death, Bobby married his widow. Cecil had first met Linda when he was thirteen and she was eight but after her father’s death he married singer Mary Wells, writing material for her and managing her career until they broke up in 1977. Shortly after the split, Cecil and Linda married. Phew, that was complicated.

In 1983, Cecil and Linda began performing and recording together as Womack & Womack, and released a successful album “Love Wars”, drawing from their own, convoluted, personal experiences. Cecil and Linda wrote most of the songs they recorded and it seems, as with Teardrops, they were experts at capturing the trials and tribulations of love.

Watching the music video for the song, all these years later the artists still look cool. Who wouldn’t look cool wearing a pair of shades indoors? – Well most of us actually, but that certainly didn’t happen in the case of those Womacks. It was shot in a film studio in Berlin apparently over a period of 3 days and although there was no plot, it has been described as a funky, disco-dance-energy-video. Sounds fair to me.

teardrops

So, “What’s It All About?” – I am going to try and return to the business of revisiting those songs that have made an impact on me over the course of my life a bit more. Like in the case of the Womacks, always some interesting titbits of rock and pop trivia to be discovered that just weren’t available back in the day. As for all the personal stuff I tend to include here, I will try to rein it in a bit from now on but as this blog’s USP is “music and memories”, nothing will change too much.

The edit function has been used a lot here over the last fortnight but the upshot is I am building up a fine music archive which is now being visited by many people daily. My most visited post is still the one featuring the song Sunshine On Leith by The Proclaimers. Most unexpectedly, the post that may well take over that crown soon is likely to be the one featuring the song Jessie by Joshua Kadison – Didn’t expect that when I dashed it off one Saturday afternoon last year, but just goes to show what a fascinating place the blogosphere can be!

Until next time….

Teardrops Lyrics
(Song by Cecil Womack/Linda Womack)

Whenever I hear goodbyes
Remind me baby of you
I break down and cry
Next time I’ll be true, yeah
Fever for lost romance
Remind me baby of you
I took a crazy chance
Next time I’ll be true
I’ll be true, I’ll be true

Footsteps on the dance floor
Remind me baby of you
Teardrops in my eyes
Next time I’ll be true, yeah
Whispers in the powder room
“She cries on every tune
Every tune, every tune”

When I’m dancin’ ’round
Remind me baby of you
I really let you down
Next time I’ll be true, yeah
I took a crazy chance
“She cries on every tune
Every tune, every tune”

Footsteps on the dance floor
Remind me baby of you
Teardrops in my eyes
Next time I’ll be true, yeah
Whispers in the powder room
“She cries on every tune
Every tune, every tune”

And the music don’t feel like it did when I felt it with you
Nothing that I do or feel ever feels like I felt it with you

Hurting deep inside
She cries on every tune
I break down and cry
“She cries on every tune
Every tune, every tune”

Footsteps on the dance floor
Remind me baby of you
Teardrops in my eyes
Next time I’ll be true, yeah
Whispers in the powder room
“She cries on every tune
Every tune, every tune”