The O’Jays, The Three Degrees and a “Year Of Decision”

Well, this is odd. As regulars to this place know I left work last week after around 30 years with the same organisation – Not going to rush headlong into the next project yet, which could be all too easy, so until I start something new I find myself with plenty of spare time to sit down and partake in a little light blogging. Just as I do that however, it seems that inspiration has deserted me! Strange, as when I was a busy bee I had no shortage of inspiration and could often be seen bashing away on the laptop into the early hours of the morning.

But no, the problem this time is perhaps not a lack of inspiration but rather indecision as to what to write about next. I have a couple of series in progress and I have my trusty “blogging notebook” of ideas to refer to, but somehow neither of these routes work for me today so it’s time to search my digital database of tunes, to find something that relates to decision-making – Didn’t have to look far as immediately up popped Year Of Decision from 1974, by The Three Degrees. I haven’t featured anything from that stable of artists who went on to create the Philadelphia Sound before, so high time really. Also, my recent personal “big decision”, makes the lyrics very pertinent.

Year Of Decision by The Three Degrees:

Ok, so if you watched the clip, you had to endure that faux banter that used to happen as a prelude to introducing the acts on light entertainment shows such as this one (plus Cliff’s edge to edge embroidered tunic) but the three girls, Sheila Ferguson, Fayette Pinkney and Valerie Holiday certainly knew how to ply their trade back in the mid ’70s and those glamourous matching outfits, usually chiffon with strategically placed sequins, were their trademark.

Philadelphia International Records was founded in 1971 by the very talented writer-producer duo Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff, along with collaborator Thom Bell.  It very much showcased a new genre of music based on the gospel, doo-wop, and soul music of the time. Throughout the 1970s the label released a string of worldwide hits which featured lavish orchestral instrumentation, heavy bass, and driving percussion. Other than The Three Degrees some of their most popular and best selling acts included The O’Jays, Harold Melvin & the Blue Notes, Teddy Pendergrass, Billy Paul, Patti LaBelle and Lou Rawls. Between 1971 and the early 1980s, the label sold over 170 gold and platinum records.

Watching shows like ToTP in the mid ’70s, rarely a week went by without an appearance by one of the aforementioned acts. The Three Degrees even become known for having our future king as a fan and after reaching No.1 in the UK Singles Chart with When Will I See You Again, they were well and truly propelled into the mainstream.

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Charlie’s Darlings!

We’ve now seen a fine example of what the Philly Sound served up in the mid ’70s when it came to the ladies – What were the immaculately dressed men doing around that time? If you did watch the earlier clip, you will know that Gamble & Huff’s first big success was this 1972 song, Back Stabbers, performed by the O’Jays. A fine tune indeed and one I have always liked although apparently a warning to men that although their male friends might be all friendly to their faces, they secretly plan to steal their wives or girlfriends. A far fetched premise indeed although after watching the current hit television drama Dr Foster, where the reviewers are lauding it for being so realistic, I am starting to realise that I must live in an alternate universe where relationships are concerned.

Back Stabbers by The O’Jays:

So, “What’s It All About?” – The move to a new, more home-based life has obviously robbed me of my decision-making abilities. As hobbies go, blogging is a relatively inexpensive one (as long as the technology holds out) so having not done much else over the last 20 months except work and blog, I have bought myself a few months of time before I have to make any more big decisions. Just as well as even deciding on a subject for this post was hard enough.

When I started this blog, I used to link each post to the previous one in some way but it might be more fun if I am set a challenge. I have put out a request like this once before and it worked well for me, so again, which song would logically follow on from either Year Of Decision or Back Stabbers for you? You know where the comments boxes are but please try and make it something I might have heard of!

Until next time….

Year Of Decision Lyrics
(Song by Kenny Gamble/Leon Huff)

Yes
This is the year
To make your decision.
Yes
This is the year
To open up your mind.

If you’ve been holding back kind of slack

Now’s the time to get the things you need.
There ain’t no reason why you should be shy

People have died to set you free.
Oh we need ev’ry one to succeed

Everybody to succeed everybody
Soul isn’t enough hey come on and join us

Please (come on come on and join us please

Yes this is the year . . .

If you’re strong out on a Jones
Better make sure that you leave the bad stuff
What ever you want to do think it over good
Cause the change is up to you

The Bee Gees, Al Green and “How Can You Mend A Broken Heart”

Like many of us, I probably spend far too much time in a day visiting the various blogs I follow but today’s visit to a great series called The Songwriters by Chris over at Winding Road has got me all emotional. Any regulars to this place know that I’m a bit fragile at the moment anyway because of my impending “retirement” so it doesn’t take much to push me over the edge. The songwriters of choice today were The Bee Gees and although it took me quite some time to admit to being a fan of both them and their music around here, once I did I was flooded with affirmation that it was ok, so a bit of a relief really.

One of the featured songs in Chris’ post was How Can You Mend A Broken Heart, written by The Bee Gees but covered by Al Green in 1972. You probably reside in much calmer households, but with darling daughter back living with us, there seems to be no end of broken hearts around here nowadays and somehow we get caught up in it all. The simple relationships she and her friends had during their schooldays and beyond appear to be far behind them now, and never a weekend seems to go by without some drama or other. This weekend has been no exception so needless to say this song has suddenly become very pertinent.

Because of the subject matter, it pops up all the time on film soundtracks and I probably remember it best from the Richard Curtis film Notting Hill. Poor old Hugh Grant had very bravely but sensibly rejected Hollywood A-lister Julia Roberts’ advances, but it wasn’t an easy decision and he had to suffer the emotional fall-out as a result. Cue Al Green and his beautiful version of the song.

Barry and Robin Gibb wrote the song one afternoon in 1970 after getting back together after a period of estrangement. How Can You Mend A Broken Heart obviously was relevant to their situation but it also cries out to all those broken-hearted souls who have just seen a parting of the ways. Fortunately for us the Gibb brothers did mend their broken hearts otherwise everything they did after 1970 would have been lost to us. I don’t think this is a spoiler alert because just about everyone who would have wanted to watch Notting Hill will have done so by now, but Hugh’s broken heart also ends up being mended too!

I did spend a fair bit of time watching Glastonbury on telly this year, dipping in and out over the weekend of festivites. Sunday afternoon is reserved for the Legend Slot and this year the artist performing was none other than Barry Gibb himself. It was for me the highlight of the weekend (and there were many this year) but what can I say, this blog’s tagline is “A Nostalgic Journey Through the Tracks of My Years” and it doesn’t get much more nostalgic for me than hearing Barry sing all those great songs he recorded with his brothers over a 40-year period. The sadness came from the fact that he (ironically the eldest of the four brothers) is now the only one still alive, but they are always up there on stage with him he says, and at one point a large image of the missing Bee Gees came up on the screen behind him. Here is a clip of one of the last times they would have performed How Can You Mend A Broken Heart together on stage, pretty much just as it would have sounded back on that fateful afternoon in 1970.

How Can You Mend A Broken Heart by The Bee Gees:

So, “What’s it all about?” – From experience broken hearts do get mended, but usually all down to that old chestnut time. Try telling that to a 21-year-old who has just had their heart broken however – It doesn’t tend to go down very well.

Until next time….

How Can You Mend A Broken Heart Lyrics
(Song by Barry Gibb/Robin Gibb)

I can think of younger days
When living for my life
Was everything a man could want to do
I could never see tomorrow
But I was never told about the sorrow

How can you mend a broken heart?
How can you stop the rain from falling down?
How can you stop the sun from shining?
What makes the world go round?

How can you mend this broken man?
How can a loser ever win?
Please help me mend my broken heart
And let me live again

I can still feel the breeze
That rustles through the trees
And misty memories of days gone by
We could never see tomorrow
But no one said a word about the sorrow

How can you mend a broken heart?
How can you stop the rain from falling down
How can you stop the sun from shining
What makes the world go round

And how can you mend this broken man?
How can a loser ever win?
Please help me mend my broken heart
And let me live again

Alyson’s Archive #1 – Eddie and the Hot Rods, Radio Stars and Squeeze

Welcome to this occasional series where I will very embarrassingly, share the contents of my archive box of teenage memorabilia. I always knew these random bits and pieces would come in handy some day, but little did I think back in the 1970s that they would find their way onto such a thing as a “blog” thanks to Sir Tim Berners-Lee and his little invention, the world wide web! 

Back in 1978 I used to keep a journal. Here is the extract from Friday, March the 3rd, the day I’d gone in to Aberdeen with the school boyfriend (s bf) to watch Eddie and the Hot Rods at the Capitol Theatre. The Capitol was used as a cinema most of the time but between the mid ’70s and mid ’80s I went to see an awful lot of bands and artists perform there. Eddie and the Hot Rods were the only band on the bill that night who’d had much chart success to date, having got to No. 9 in the UK Singles Chart with Do Anything You Wanna Do in August, 1977. The two support acts were Radio Stars and an unheard of, fledgling band called Squeeze.

If you can read the extract below you will see that I was a very “proper” and not very “cool” teenager (who also didn’t have brilliant writing skills it seems) but hey, I was wearing my new-fangled straight-legged trousers and was still flushed with the success of having won the prize for “Best Pogoing” at our local Community Centre (documented here) so despite my misgivings about punk concerts, it turned out to be a good night. Interesting also to note that the ticket cost only £2.50 but looking back that was what I earned from my Saturday job, working a whole day in a shop – It’s all relative.

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The strange thing is that in later life we seem to develop a selective memory based on subsequent events and I had always thought that the standout act that night was Squeeze – Looking back at my journal entry, the verdict was that “they weren’t bad”. How bizarre as down the line they became one of my favourite bands and Up The Junction is still one of my all-time favourite songs.

Eddie and the Hot Rods were apparently “very good” and we had “no qualms about jumping up and down pogoing”, although it was “an exhausting occupation” (it’s all just so embarrassing). I don’t really think that in the annals of punk, Eddie and the Hot Rods will be remembered as one of that movement’s biggest movers and shakers – They were more of a pub rock band from Canvey Island but I suppose back in 1977, they did fit that whole “new wavey” mould quite well.

It seems that the band I most enjoyed that night were the Radio Stars and looking at the picture of them now, I still remember the showmanship of their lead singer, Andy Ellison. He had bleached blond hair and certainly knew how to work the crowd – I remember how he effortlessly meandered through the audience, niftily navigating his way across the back of the seats in the stalls. Their minor hit record Nervous Wreck also went down well that night and funny how my memories of that night are so at odds with how the respective careers of each of these bands evolved. I don’t know if it’s just me but looking at him now, does he have a hint of the Joe Brown about him?

But I can’t leave it there, for although it seems I didn’t think that much of Squeeze that particular night, they went on to become one of the UK’s best-loved bands. The vast majority of their songs were written by Chris Difford and Glenn Tilbrook, but of course the band Squeeze also spawned one Jools Holland, who seems to have become a bit of a National Treasure and whose annual New Year’s Eve Hootenanny is watched by millions. During the height of their popularity in the late ’70s/early ’80s they had hits with such classics as Cool for Cats, Slap and Tickle, Another Nail in My Heart, Pulling Mussels (from the Shell), Tempted, Labelled with Love, Black Coffee in Bed and Hourglass, as well as the aforementioned Up The Junction.

It was with great joy therefore, whilst watching live footage from Glastonbury this year, that I managed to catch Chris and Glenn pop up as guests in the outdoorsy green room area where Mark Radcliffe and (my other girl crush) Jo Whiley usually reside. They performed a very alternative version of Up The Junction complete with a band of kazoo players – This clip has appeared in my little corner of the blogosphere before but well worth another outing I feel.

Up The Junction (original version) by Squeeze:

So, “What’s It All About?” – Funny how we have a selective memory when it comes to reminiscing about the music of our youth. Just as Fred Astaire’s first audition went badly and notes were made to the effect, “Can’t act, can’t sing, slightly bald, can dance a little”, my diary entry from March ’78 was less than complimentary about Squeeze. Fortunately I soon saw the light and became a big fan down the line – I must have just been far too dazzled on the night by the energetic antics of Joe Brown lookalike Andy Ellison, to really concentrate on the talents of Messrs Difford and Tilbrook. That of course and all the pogoing – “An exhausting occupation”!

Up The Junction Lyrics
(Song by Chris Difford/Glenn Tilbrook)

I never thought it would happen
With me and the girl from Clapham
Out on the windy common
That night I ain’t forgotten
When she dealt out the rations
With some or other passions
I said “you are a lady”
“Perhaps” she said. “I may be”

We moved in to a basement
With thoughts of our engagement
We stayed in by the telly
Although the room was smelly
We spent our time just kissing
The Railway Arms we’re missing
But love had got us hooked up
And all our time it took up

I got a job with Stanley
He said I’d come in handy
And started me on Monday
So I had a bath on Sunday
I worked eleven hours
And bought the girl some flowers
She said she’d seen a doctor
And nothing now could stop her

I worked all through the winter
The weather brass and bitter
I put away a tenner
Each week to make her better
And when the time was ready
We had to sell the telly
Late evenings by the fire
With little kicks inside her

This morning at four fifty
I took her rather nifty
Down to an incubator
Where thirty minutes later
She gave birth to a daughter
Within a year a walker
She looked just like her mother
If there could be another

And now she’s two years older
Her mother’s with a soldier
She left me when my drinking
Became a proper stinging
The devil came and took me
From bar to street to bookie
No more nights by the telly
No more nights nappies smelling

Alone here in the kitchen
I feel there’s something missing
I’d beg for some forgiveness
But begging’s not my business
And she won’t write a letter
Although I always tell her
And so it’s my assumption
I’m really up the junction

Glen Campbell, Jimmy Webb and an American Trilogy

Like many others, I was saddened to hear last night’s news of the death of Glen Campbell. It was not one of those shock deaths we had got so used to hearing about last year as most of us who were fans knew he had been suffering from Alzheimer’s Disease for some time, but it still marked the end of an era. Here is the post I wrote last year when I was still relatively new to blogging and still called my appreciation of the music of Glen Campbell a “guilty pleasure”. I have since discovered that he was one of the most respected and accomplished artists of the 20th century, and the Jimmy Webb songs he recorded in the late 1960s are some of the finest pieces of popular music ever produced. RIP Glen – Despite your sad demise we will continue to hear you “singin’ in the wire” for a long time to come, for which I am very, very grateful.

What's It All About?

I hope I haven’t caused confusion – Yes Elvis Presley recorded the song An American Trilogy in 1972 and it became a bit of a showstopper for him when performed during the massive event that was “Elvis—Aloha from Hawaii” broadcast in 1973. Three 19th century folk songs had been melded together and given the full jumpsuited-Elvis treatment and even today, I can’t think of anyone better suited (no pun intended) for the song. His poverty-stricken southern roots, his close affinity with black music and his subsequent elevation to all-American global superstar.

But no, the songs I want to visit today are the three Jimmy Webb compositions recorded by Glen Campbell in the late ’60s. In the UK at that time London was “Swinging” and we were listening to Sandie Shaw, Cliff Richard and Lulu but in the USA, the average “Easy-Listening” aficionado would have been enjoying Glen Campbell. He was now in…

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Seals and Crofts, England Dan and “We May Never Pass This Way Again”

I am going to dip my toe in the water a little today to see how I get on – Since my somewhat enforced hiatus (I don’t know if it’s actually a thing, but I think I had the equivalent of a “blogging breakdown”), I have read a few comments from my fellow practitioners and had a bit of an epiphany. As John Medd of the eponymously named blog wrote:

“Speaking as someone who has maintained a modest two up two down blog since 2010 you seem, to me anyway, to be worrying needlessly. This is your space so just write what you want to write about, when you want to write about it. Your readership won’t suddenly unsubscribe from your site [if you have a break] and the sky won’t fall in. Believe me.”

Wise words indeed John and taking them on board I am now going to write about something that could perhaps cause the sky to fall in – Yes I’m going to cover the wonderful world of “soft rock”!

Early on in my days of blogging, long before I kind of lost the plot as to what it was all supposed to be about (that would be a nostalgic journey through the tracks of my years), I covered the soft rock classic I’d Really Love To See You Tonight by England Dan and John Ford Coley (link here). My last post before I had a break (or was it a breakdown?) for the summer, featured Summer Breeze by The Isley Brothers which has always been a favourite of mine, but, whilst doing a bit of research as to its provenance I made a wonderful discovery. The song was not indeed written by the Isley Brothers as I had always thought but by the writing duo Seals and Crofts, Jim Seals being the older brother of Dan Seals, or England Dan as he became known because of his great love for the Beatles. Although from Texas, that nickname was given to him by big brother Jim after he briefly affected an English (or was it Liverpudlian?) accent. And this is what my blog was always supposed to be about – Finding out the backstory to the songs and artists of my youth. There is so much more information out there now (ok some might be a bit dubious) but back in the day, all we had was Jackie magazine and a few more worthy publications – We lived in blissful ignorance, which was perhaps a good thing in light of a few revelations of late, but as you may have guessed I am a bit of a rock & pop “facts and figures” aficionado, so for me, this brave new digital world is just perfect.

So, what follows on from Summer Breeze? Well by good fortune I heard a song on the car radio the other day by none other than Seals and Crofts and was immediately smitten by it – Like little brother’s output, the music of Jim Seals and his singing partner Darrell “Dash” Crofts, fitted nicely into the soft rock camp which now seems to have become a bit of a derogatory term but when it comes to rock I have always preferred mine to be of the soft rather than the hard variety anyway (and my listening to be easy as opposed to difficult). These genres and labels we give music truly baffle me as at the end of the day there is music of great quality and music that really is a bit rubbish, but there is also music that just gives lots of pleasure, to lots of people, and this song does that for me. The Carpenters whom I featured recently (link here) also came from the soft rock camp and the passage of time, and Karen’s tragic death, seems to have erased any preconceptions many had about their output – When it comes to music of quality, it doesn’t get much better than The Carpenters.

We May Never Pass This Way (Again) by Seals and Crofts:

The song We May Never Pass This Way (Again), from 1973, didn’t ever enter the UK Singles Chart but it did reach No. 21 on the Billboard Hot 100. I can honestly say I don’t remember ever having listened to Seals and Crofts before (neither can Mr WIAA) but theirs was very much the kind of music that was all pervasive during my teenage years. Originating in southern California, soft rock was a style that largely featured acoustic guitars and slow-to-mid tempos – Simple, melodic songs with big, lush productions. I very much doubt if we called it soft rock back then but when listening to the radio from the early ’70s onward much of what we heard was by bands and artists such as Anne Murray, John Denver, Linda Ronstadt, Rod Stewart, Carole King, Cat Stevens, James Taylor, Toto, England Dan & John Ford Coley, the Eagles, Chicago, America and the reformed Fleetwood Mac whose “Rumours” was the best-selling album of the decade. In the late ’70s, prominent soft rock acts included Boz Scaggs, Michael McDonald, Christopher Cross and Captain & Tennille. A lot of albums were brought in to school and exchanged amongst friends for the very naughty practice of home-taping – Good to know such illicit activity doesn’t happen today!

Since we are featuring big brother Jim’s song in this post, I can’t leave little brother Dan out, so here is another soft rock delight, this time from the late ’70s. Love Is The Answer was written by Todd Rundgren and was a hit for England Dan and John Ford Coley in 1979. Although I loved this soundtrack to my teenage years, we weren’t really awash with visuals in those days and YouTube was still a few decades away – This sounds really shallow but I am quite glad now as somehow these lush love-songs sound better when you don’t think of the moustachioed pair who sang them. My bedroom walls at the time might have had an array of good-looking boys on them, but when it just came down to the lyrics, who wouldn’t want “a ticket to paradise“?

So, “What’s it all about?” – Lots of things actually.

First of all, I have missed blogging dreadfully so as long as I remember that it is indeed my space, to do with what I want, there should be no problem. Unlike with a paid job there are no deadlines, only the ones that are self-inflicted. Oh yes, and there are apparently “no guilty pleasures” in music (although we do have to remind ourselves of that one an awful lot, which leads me to suppose there actually are, but I’ll keep on peddling the myth).

Secondly, the lyrics to the featured song have really struck a cord with me. Ok, some of the lines make little sense and probably just sounded right for the melody, but the basic premise is that we only get one shot at life and at the moment I am definitely wearing too many hats, so in order to sort my life out, one will have to go. As it turns out, getting rid of the chapeau de bloggeur seems not to be an option, so it will have to be one of the others. Interesting times.

car share

Thirdly (odd word), just as Kayleigh Kitson realised in Peter Kay’s Car Share (link here), “we may never pass this way again”, so she came out and declared her love for John, which was a very brave thing to do but had she not she might have regretted it for the rest of her life. I would have done the same in her position and in my late twenties, a few “declarations” were made, just in case. Unfortunately, 30 years on, a couple of the recipients of such declarations have turned up in this new-fangled “smarter office” setup I have going on at work (for that read packing four times as many people into the same space). Fortunately we have all moved on and have families of our own now, but there is still perhaps a slight twinge of embarrassment as you bump into them whilst casually hydrating at the water cooler of a morning – I just hope that the passage of time, and loss of hair follicles (for them, not me), has blanked out the memory of it all!

Finally, I know I said that I wouldn’t return until August but I do seem to have (thanks to Mr Medd, Jez and a few others) a better perspective now on this pastime called blogging – If I don’t always have the time to visit the other blogs I follow, and leave a comment or two, it’s because I’m still wearing “all the hats”. Once I dispense with one (or two?), that rare commodity called “spare time” might reappear in my life. I look forward to that day with relish.

Until next time….

We May Never Pass This Way (Again) Lyrics
(Song by Jim Seals/Dash Crofts)

Life, so they say, is but a game and we let it slip away.
Love, like the Autumn sun, should be dyin’ but it’s only just begun.
Like the twilight in the road up ahead, they don’t see just where we’re goin’.
And all the secrets in the Universe, whisper in our ears

And all the years will come and go, take us up, always up.
We may never pass this way again. We may never pass this way again.
We may never pass this way again.
Dreams, so they say, are for the fools and they let ’em drift away.

Peace, like the silent dove, should be flyin’ but it’s only just begun.
Like Columbus in the olden days, we must gather all our courage.
Sail our ships out on the open sea. Cast away our fears
And all the years will come and go, and take us up, always up.

We may never pass this way again. We may never pass this way again.
We may never pass this way again.
So, I want to laugh while the laughin’ is easy. I want to cry if it makes it worthwhile.
We may never pass this way again, that’s why I want it with you.

‘Cause, you make me feel like I’m more than a friend.
Like I’m the journey and you’re the journey’s end.

We may never pass this way again, that’s why I want it with you, baby.
We may never pass this way again. We may never pass this way again.
We may never pass this way again. We may never pass this way again

An American Odyssey in Song: Connecticut – Ben Folds and “Kylie From Connecticut”

Welcome to this occasional series where I am attempting a virtual journey around the 50 States of America in song. For anyone new to this place, I have a continuous route map where I enter and leave each state only once. Suggestions for the next leg always welcome!

Last time we visited the State of Rhode Island which means this time we will be entering the southernmost state in the New England region, Connecticut (another tricky one to spell because of the silent “c”). I for one am quite glad we’ve reached this point, as when I decided to start this trip in Maine, New England I hadn’t really considered that there would be slim pickings when it came to songs associated with that region. I am starting to think that settlers to those states perhaps did not have such a rich musical heritage as those who took up residence in the Southern or Appalachian Mountain states, but we’ll find out a bit more about that when we get there.

connecticut

The whole of Connecticut’s shoreline faces Long Island so rather than looking out to the open Atlantic, the large “sound” created because of that particular geography, makes it an ideal strategic location for submarines. Long Island Sound is therefore the Submarine Capital of the World. Although fairly rural to the east of the state, the southern and western parts are very much part of the New York metropolitan area. The main industries are Finance and Insurance and the state has the highest per capita income and median household income in the country. To use UK counties as an analogy, it sounds like the Surrey of the USA.

Difficult to write anything quirky or interesting about Connecticut at all however, as it just sounds so damn affluent and respectable. Perhaps a look into figures from popular culture will inspire me. It was where spoilt little rich girl Rachel Green from the TV show Friends hailed from. It was also the setting for the satirical thriller The Stepford Wives, where a spunky young photographer mum, played by Katharine Ross, begins to suspect that the frighteningly submissive and beautiful housewives in her idyllic new Connecticut neighbourhood, may actually be robots created by their husbands (she was right). It also seems to be a state where many from the acting profession were born, or were residents, and maybe it’s just me but I can’t help thinking there is something similar about them all…….

Not much music so far and again I didn’t have any ideas of my own for this state. A thorough peruse through the various pages of the world wide web hasn’t really helped either, but fortunately last time a few suggestions came in from friends of this blog. The Swede from Unthought of, though, somehow seemed to remember that Judy Garland and Bing Crosby once recorded a song called Connecticut which turned out to be correct. Listening to the lyrics, it was apparently “the place to be”.

thCDLQWHOR

Bing seems to be making a bit of a regular appearance on this journey as he also featured last time in his guise as Dexter, the (middle-aged) beau of Grace Kelly in High Society. And, this song called Connecticut immediately reminded me of a film starring Bing that I must have watched decades ago, as a child, called A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court. The film was based on a book by Mark Twain who was himself a long term resident of Connecticut and at one point lived right next door to Harriet Beecher Stowe so not just a place for blonde-haired actors it seems, but also a place for authors of the “Great American Novel”. Here is a clip of the trailer for that film from 1949 – Yep, they just don’t make ’em like that any more.

When thinking about other possible musical associations with Connecticut, it was a bit of a no-brainer that I would feature something by The Carpenters who were also from this state. I featured them recently in another post (link here) but had been building up to doing so for some time, as although they became one of the best-selling acts of the 1970s producing cleverly harmonised, melodic pop of the Easy Listening persuasion, they could never have been described as “cool” or edgy, and however many times we say there should be no guilty pleasures in song, it still takes a brave man (or woman) to come out and say they are indeed fans of that genre.

images48NR3QLQ

This Masquerade by The Carpenters:

Older brother Richard was the creative force behind the duo and was a gifted composer and arranger, but of course it was Karen who had that wonderful deep voice that communicated the words of whatever she sang in such a melancholy way. It is only recently that I’ve been able to start listening to Carpenters albums again, as I still find it really upsetting that she died so young from the illness anorexia nervosa.  We knew so little about that particular illness back then but it just goes to show that however perfect things look on the outside, there can also be all sorts of inner turmoil – This Masquerade that can be life.

And so this leads me on to the final featured song. It has been quite some time since I’ve written an American Odyssey post and that was partly because I really struggled to find something to write about this state at all. I do hope that any residents of Connecticut who stumble upon this blog do not take offence, but the vibe I get from this state is that it may well be the most affluent place to live, and it may have a great university and great jobs in banking and finance BUT behind closed doors, is all well with the residents of Connecticut? Throughout our fairly lengthy marriage, Mr WIAA and I have actively tried to avoid living in an area (and every town has them) where it REALLY matters what car you drive, how often you renew your kitchen and the quality of your glass and china. These superficial trappings are really not important in the grand scheme of things and we are lucky to live beside some very like-minded souls, who have no illusions of grandeur and care not a hoot about such material trappings. Just like in this blog, where I often have to reign it in a bit as I do tend to over-share at times, we have no secrets from our friends and neighbours and seem to muddle along swimmingly. I cannot say the same for the parts of town we have actively avoided living in and I suspect large swathes of Connecticut would be out of bounds for the likes of us!

ben fold

A song suggested by both C and Rol in my last American Odyssey post was Kylie From Connecticut by Ben Folds. I have to admit, as is often the case, I wasn’t familiar with this song until having it pointed out but I am now a great fan of Mr Folds so thanks guys. Although this song is about a message left by someone from Connecticut, it reeks of all I have been writing about above. Here is a marriage where there are obviously secrets and the listener is left to interpret the Kylie mystery for themselves – Behind closed doors, all is not well. Since starting this blog, and following other music blogs, I have taken a far keener interest in the lyrics to songs than I ever did in my younger days and what a joy that has been. Ben Folds is an American singer-songwriter who was originally inspired by Elton John and Billy Joel but is someone I was really not that familiar with so will definitely have to investigate further. It also seems that Mr Folds has been married many times, so there may well have been a few messages from a “Connecticut Kylie” over the years which may have muddied the waters of domestic bliss. Just sayin’.

Kylie From Connecticut by Ben Folds:

Next time we will be heading into New York City and to be honest there are probably more songs about that city than about any other place on earth so goodness knows how I’m going to handle that one. Still would be interested to hear of any personal favourites however, so don’t hold back.

But finally, this has been a bit of a dull post in many ways, so what better way to end it than with a large slice of Mystic Pizza. This is just the kind of film I loved watching back in the late ’80s whilst sporting my big, permed hair and large dangly earrings – ‘Twas the times. Mystic itself is an old fishing port on Connecticut’s easternmost shoreline and was the setting for the film but is now more of a tourist centre for visitors, with many living history museums and the like. In case you’re a little peckish, the restaurant is still in business – Anyone up for a slice of heaven?

See you in New York!

Kylie From Connecticut Lyrics
(Song by Ben Folds)

It’s just a thought, but where did it come from
What does she do with it if it comes back
A note from his assistant is there by the telephone
She wonders again as she turns out the lights

Kylie is calling from Connecticut
She says you’ve got the number
It says Kylie is calling from Connecticut
It’s back on her mind as she closes her eyes

She believes there are things you shouldn’t know about
When you’ve been married for thirty-five years
And her heart belongs to a man that she hadn’t seen
Since a magical night when the children were small

Kylie is calling from Connecticut
It’s probably nothing, yeah nothing at all
Kylie is calling from Connecticut
It’s back on her mind as she’s reading old letters
That she left in the closet with the pictures she cherished
She never told a soul for the last thirty years
Now she closes her eyes

An American Odyssey in Song, The Route Map and Simon & Garfunkel

This blog, as anyone who visits here regularly will know, pretty much does what it says on the tin. It’s not so much a vehicle for sharing music as a web-log/web-diary with a featured song thrown in. Inspiration can come from anywhere, but it’s usually based on whwebdiary-blahat’s going on in my life at the time, and there’s usually a song that fits the bill.

So far I’ve not been able to commit to the discipline of a series but a bit of synchronicity has come about which has made me rethink. Last week over at Yeah, Another Blogger, Neil wrote about how he was going to get back into the discipline of reading books and I commented that in 2015, the year before I took up blogging, I had set myself the task of reading my way around the 50 US states. The state always had to be the main character, and it was great. First I read my way round the Southern States (e.g. Fried Green Tomatoes…. , Gone With The Wind, The Orchard Keeper) then for a change of scenery, I headed up to the Great Lakes and started to read my way round the states up there (e.g. Shotgun Lovesongs set in Wisconsin). I had a route map and everything but sadly when I discovered blogging at the start of 2016, due to time constraints, the journey ended.

img051 The wonderful post written by Rol last week over at My Top Ten about the song Wichita Lineman reminded me that when I myself wrote about that song (along with Galveston and By The Time I Get To Phoenix), I had mentioned that my plan was to do a series at some point, journeying round the 50 states in song, and here we are at last – My reading journey may have come to an end but my “50 State American Odyssey in Song” is about to begin!

As a bit of background to this obsession with travelling round the 50 states, whether in book form or in song, I think it’s because it had always been a dream of mine to actually make that journey at some point. I am however starting to think it might never happen. As a kid growing up in rural Scotland, I watched an awful lot of films and telly set in what we called, “America”. On wet Sunday afternoons when there were no outdoor chores to be done, my dad and I used to watch classic MGM Musicals, and Westerns starring John Wayne, set in every corner of that vast land. Also, the music I loved as a kid usually came from Americans such as Elvis, The Monkees (Davy Jones being the exception of course) and The Mamas & the Papas. Oh yes, as soon as I was old enough (maybe about ten), and had saved up enough pocket-money, I was going to buy one of those Greyhound bus tickets and be transported from one real life filmset to the next……

But then I grew up. The childhood dreams dissipated and Europe became my destination of choice (although sadly I’m not sure how welcome we’re going to be after all the “triggering” that’s been going on of late). Despite a few far flung trips over the years, none have been across the Atlantic, and (not wanting to offend any of my American blogging buddies), that 50 State Odyssey is no longer at the top of my real life bucket list. It will therefore have to be of the virtual nature, and in song.

Where to start then? As it turns out this is not going to be as easy as I thought. I wanted to complete the journey only entering and leaving the same state once, but the original route map I put together for my reading challenge started in Florida and ended in Maine – Having racked my brains and even done a fair bit of “Googling”, I can’t find any songs I’m familiar with that mention place names from either of those states. Likewise, when I find artists who were born in either state (e.g. Jim Morrison of The Doors was born in Florida), it turns out they moved around a lot, so can’t really be associated with any one place.

For this first post therefore, where I’m simply setting out the rules, I will just include a song that tells a tale of someone, who unlike my 10-year-old self, did actually take the plunge and bought a Greyhound bus ticket for a trip across America. In my digital music database the most common song title to pop up in different guises is in fact America, but this one by Simon & Garfunkel is my favourite. Although released as a single to promote a Greatest Hits album in 1972 it was written by Paul Simon much earlier, inspired by a 1964 road trip he took with his girlfriend – Perfect for this post, and I wonder, did he indeed “find America” on that trip?

America by Simon & Garfunkel:

So, “What’s It All About?” – I am excited about this challenge and I love researching the back story to the songs that have formed the “tracks of my years” but in this case I may need a little help. I think I’m ok with most of the 50 states but if I’m going to follow my continuous route map without cheating, I’m going to need some input from my blogging buddies. The starting point for the journey could be either Florida or Maine but at this rate, left to my own devices, it’s going to be something by Miami Sound Machine for Florida or something from the musical Carousel for Maine and I really don’t want to go down either of those routes. A song that refers to a place name is the way to go, just as Jimmy Webb used Wichita, Galveston and Phoenix in three of his very best songs – Oh Jimmy, where are you when I need you?

Any suggestions for songs (that I’m likely to be able to write about) associated with Florida or Maine would be gratefully received – You know where the comments boxes are. Once I get started it should be fun, it’s just that first step…….

America Lyrics

(Song by Paul Simon)

 

Let us be lovers,
We’ll marry our fortunes together.
I’ve got some real estate
Here in my bag.So we bought a pack of cigarettes,
And Mrs. Wagner’s pies,
And walked off
To look for America.
“Kathy”, I said,
As we boarded a Greyhound in Pittsburgh,
Michigan seems like a dream to me now.It took me four days
To hitch-hike from Saginaw.
“I’ve come to look for America.”Laughing on the bus,
Playing games with the faces,
She said the man in the gabardine suit
Was a spy.I said, “Be careful,
His bow tie is really a camera.”
“Toss me a cigarette,
I think there’s one in my raincoat.”
We smoked the last one
An hour ago.So I looked at the scenery,
She read her magazine;
And the moon rose over an open field.
“Kathy, I’m lost”, I said,
Though I knew she was sleeping.
“I’m empty and aching and
I don’t know why.”Counting the cars
On the New Jersey Turnpike
They’ve all come
To look for America,
All come to look for America,
All come to look for America.