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.

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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”

Dionne, Aretha and “I Say A Little Prayer”

Now that I no longer have to commute to work every day, I seem to be missing out on those wonderful moments when a great song comes on the car radio, and you just have to turn up the volume to full blast.

I did however experience such a thing earlier this week on my way to the supermarket and needless to say it stuck with me for a good few days. The song was this one, I Say a Little Prayer, written by my favourite songwriting team of Burt Bacharach and Hal David. Inevitably the first person to record it back in 1967 was Dionne Warwick, as she was very much Burt’s “go-to” girl when he needed a chanteuse for his great material. What I hadn’t realised until now was that Hal David’s lyrics were meant to convey a woman’s concern for her man, who was serving in the Vietnam War (makes total sense now considering the timing). I have always loved those first few lines where the words wake up and makeup are used to such great effect. The rhyme just works so perfectly and for us girls, anything that happens before the morning ritual of putting on the makeup is early indeed, so doubly emphasizes the urgency of the prayer.

The moment I wake up
Before I put on my makeup
I say a little prayer for you

Although Burt’s recordings with Dionne usually took no more than three takes, I Say a Little Prayer took ten takes and he still disliked the completed track, feeling it rushed. He was nothing if not a perfectionist that Burt Bacharach.

But the version I heard in the car the other day wasn’t by Dionne but instead by the person who had a big hit with it in the UK. Aretha Franklin was in the process of recording her 1968 album entitled “Aretha Now” when her backing vocalists, The Sweet Inspirations, started singing the song just for fun. It suddenly became apparent that I Say a Little Prayer could be a worthy inclusion on the new album which is exactly what happened. The song ended up being released in July 1968 as the B-side to the single The House that Jack Built, but after accruing its own airplay reached No. 10 on the Billboard Chart and No. 4 on the UK Singles Chart.

And here is where the music producers seem to get it horribly wrong at times – It had taken much persuasion for Burt to release the original recording by Dionne Warwick, but with Theme from Valley of the Dolls on the B-side, it became one of the most successful double-sided releases of all time. Aretha’s version was never expected to make any sort of mark in its own right, but in subsequent decades it has been ranked right at the top of lists relating to the “Greatest 150 Singles of All Time”. How bizarre and makes you wonder what other delights have slipped through the net and never been given the air time they indubitably deserved. Then again, is that not the case for every art form? How many great writers and artists (and I include Mr WIAA and some of my blogging buddies in those categories) slip through the net, not seeming to catch that lucky break needed to get to the important next level, where actual money changes hands for exceptional work done.

But before I go, it should also be mentioned that I Say a Little Prayer is one of several Bacharach and David songs to feature prominently in the 1997 rom-com/chick-flick My Best Friend’s Wedding. There was a reggae-style cover by Diana King and a version sung by the film’s cast. Diana’s cover was released as a single which brought the song back to the Top 40 almost thirty years after Dionne Warwick’s original.

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I Say A Little Prayer by Diana King:

So, “What’s It All About?” – Having included all three very different versions in this post, they are ripe for a compare and contrast. Dionne’s does indeed sound a bit too rushed and not typical of Burt Bacharach’s usual orchestral pop style. Diana’s reggae version certainly creates a very different sound where the lyrics are sung Jamaican-style (before mi put on mi makeup). Aretha however, being the Queen of Soul an’ all that, nails it for me and it’s probably why the car radio had to be turned up to such a volume earlier in the week. Some songs, despite having a very low key start in life, end up becoming the most memorable and that’s why I live in hope that some of my wonderful artsy friends also eventually catch that lucky break which leads to their work being reclassified from being ordinary, to being extra-ordinary.

Until next time….

I Say A Little Prayer Lyrics

(Song by Burt Bacharach/Hal David)

The moment I wake up
Before I put on my makeup
I say a little prayer for you
While combing my hair, now
And wondering what dress to wear, now
I say a little prayer for you

Forever, forever, you’ll stay in my heart
And I will love you
Forever, and ever we never will part
Oh, how I’ll love you
Together, together, that’s how it must be
To live without you
Would only be heartbreak for me

I run for the bus, dear
While riding I think of us, dear
I say a little prayer for you
At work I just take time
And all through my coffee break-time
I say a little prayer for you

Forever, forever, you’ll stay in my heart
And I will love you
Forever, and ever we never will part
Oh, how I’ll love you
Together, together, that’s how it must be
To live without you
Would only mean heartbreak for me

I say a little prayer for you
I say a little prayer for you

Forever, forever, you’ll stay in my heart
And I will love you
Forever, and ever we never will part
Oh, how I’ll love you
Together, together, that’s how it must be
To live without you
Would only mean heartbreak for me

My darling, believe me
For me there is no one, but you
Please love me, too
I’m in love with you
Answer my prayer
Say you love me, too
Why don’t you answer my prayer?
You know, every day I say a little prayer
I said, I say, I say a little prayer

Cat Stevens, “Moonshadow” and Freaky Lunar Phenomena

I seem to have become interested in the full moon cycle at a pretty unique time, celestially speaking. Since first noticing that amazing supermoon at the start of November there have already been two more supermoons and this month, because of how the first full moon fell, we are to have another one 29 and a half days later right at the end of the month. Unlike the rest it won’t have a name given to it by the Native Americans because it will be a “blue moon” – Something that doesn’t happen very often. Just to complicate things further it won’t actually look blue but red (called a “blood moon”) as the earth will line up with the sun creating a lunar eclipse. Last but not least, it will again be a supermoon where it comes as close to the earth as is possible making it look 14% bigger and 30% brighter (although perhaps the lunar eclipse will override the brightness somewhat this time). Whatever, definitely something to look out for on Wednesday the 31st January, this Super, Blue, Blood, Moon.

lunar-eclipse
The Blood Moon

I have already worked out which songs about moons I am planning to use for this series, and of course it was a no-brainer that Rodgers and Hart’s Blue Moon would feature whenever that phenomenon appeared in our skies. Now that I’ve discovered this next full moon is going to be shadowed by the earth however, there are definitely more appropriate picks. The one I’m going to choose is Moonshadow by Cat Stevens.

Moonshadow by Cat Stevens:

Ok, so technically Wednesday night’s phenomenon is a case of the earth shadowing the moon as opposed to the other way round, but a great excuse to feature something by Mr Stevens. Most people know that Cat Stevens changed his name to Yusuf Islam in the late ’70s and gave up music altogether for a while. Fortunately for us he returned to it in 2006 and now simply goes by the stage name Yusuf. This song, Moonshadow, was a hit for him in 1971 when he was at the height of his popularity. Of all his old songs, he considers it his favourite.

I hadn’t realised until recently that Cat/Yusuf was actually from London, and more precisely the West End as his parents were the owners of a restaurant in the theatre district. Possibly because he had a Greek father and Swedish mother, and also because of his global success then conversion to Islam, I have always just thought of him as a citizen of the world and find it hard to conjure up images of the young Steven Demetre Georgiou waiting tables in the Shaftsbury Avenue of the “Swinging Sixties”.

The lyrics of the song were once explained by Yusuf in an interview – He had been on holiday in Spain and when standing at the edge of the water on a beautiful night with the moon glowing, he looked down and saw his shadow. As a kid from the West End of London, what with the bright lights and streetlamps, he had never seen the moon on its own in the dark before. He thought that was so cool and it inspired him to write about finding hope in any situation – To be present and joyful, to see life as it is right now, and not to compare it to others’ lives, or to other times in your life. If we are always wrapped up in whirlpools of worry and concern about what could be, or what has been, we are missing the richness of life as it is.

So, “What’s It All About?” – As someone who is prone to getting caught up in a whirlpool of worry and concern about the future, it seems I need to take heed of these lyrics and try to be much more “present and joyful”. Apologies for my rant last time (that post now heavily edited) as no doubt everything will sort itself out in due course – Just sometimes therapeutic to use our blogs as a place to vent. In the meantime, lets hope there will be no cloud cover on the 31st January so that we can all witness the phenomenon that will be, the Super, Blue, Blood, Moon!

Until next time….

Moonshadow Lyrics
(Song by Cat Stevens)

Oh, I’m bein’ followed by a moonshadow, moonshadow, moonshadow,
Leapin and hoppin’ on a moonshadow, moonshadow, moonshadow.

And if I ever lose my hands, lose my plough, lose my land,
Oh if I ever lose my hands, Oh if I won’t have to work no more.

And if I ever lose my eyes, if my colours all run dry,
Yes if I ever lose my eyes, Oh if I won’t have to cry no more.

Oh, I’m bein’ followed by a moonshadow, moonshadow, moonshadow,
Leapin and hoppin’ on a moonshadow, moonshadow, moonshadow.

And if I ever lose my legs, I won’t moan, and I won’t beg,
Yes if I ever lose my legs, Oh if I won’t have to walk no more.

And if I ever lose my mouth, all my teeth, north and south,
Yes if I ever lose my mouth, Oh if I won’t have to talk…

Did it take long to find me? I asked the faithful light.
Did it take long to find me? And are you gonna stay the night?

Moonshadow, moonshadow, moonshadow, moonshadow.

Elvis Costello, Ian Dury and “Reasons to be Cheerful, Part 3”

I have returned to this post to do a bit of drastic editing – It had ended up being the vehicle for a bit of a rant but it did get a tad too personal, so time to right that wrong. My rant was basically about how, for reasons outwith my control, my life has changed so much since this time last year when my blog was celebrating its first birthday – It has now just celebrated its second birthday, and has become a labour of love, but it does seem to have become one of the few constants in my life at the moment which is a bit worrying.

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A Birthday Badge from the WordPress people

Any regulars to this place know that last year, after a drastic reorganisation at my workplace, I decided to leave for pastures new. That has turned out to be a bit more challenging than anticipated as I now also have an elderly parent to look after and certain age-related illnesses are fraught with logistical and financial challenges. It prompted me to search for songs about such situations and it turns out there are several – Here is a beautiful one with really touching lyrics written by Elvis Costello about his grandmother, Veronica.

After pontificating about all sorts of other issues which covered the muddled state of Social Care for older people, the soulless environment of the modern day office, student debt, the housing crisis and a dearth of youngsters taking up trades, it occurred to me that I should instead think of things to be cheerful and upbeat about. Life could be so much worse, it’s just that I’m feeling a bit aggrieved at how things have changed so much since this time last year – All part of life’s rich tapestry I suppose. One 1979 song that is chock-full of reasons to be cheerful is, obviously, Reasons to be Cheerful, Part 3 by Ian Dury and The Blockheads.

Reasons to be Cheerful, Part 3 by Ian Dury and The Blockheads:

Some great lines in this song and listening to it again just now, they have all come flooding back. Here are a few that I think scan the best.

Health service glasses, gigolos and brasses.

Elvis and Scotty, the days when I ain’t spotty.

Take your mum to Paris, lighting up a chalice,
Wee Willie Harris….

I have always had a soft spot for the cartoonish character that was Ian Dury. He had a tough start in life having contracted polio at the age of seven but his wonderful lyrics combining lyrical poetry, word play, observation of everyday life and character sketches have produced some quintessentially British songs. The Blockheads‘ sound came from its members’ diverse musical influences, which included jazz, rock ‘n’ roll, funk, reggae, and Ian Dury’s love of music hall. I remember well being blown away by Hit Me With Your Rhythm Stick when it came along just before Christmas 1978, during my first year at University. Back in school, it was only the boys who knew about Ian Dury, now there was no escaping him. Sadly Ian died when he was only 57, but he has left us with a colourful back catalogue of songs and his many film roles mean that you just never know when he might pop up on telly next.

So, “What’s It All About?” – Life can be a bit sh*t sometimes but we just have to weather the storm and make plans for when things get better. My favourite pastime at the moment is to go to the cinema as for a couple of hours you are offered up a slice of escapism, with no phone to disturb you. My second favourite thing is my blog, another place to escape, and a labour of love. I read a lot of the comments left yesterday on Rol’s site by JC, The Vinyl Villain – In one of them he mentioned that blogging is a vocation and I get that now. There is no money in it but I couldn’t stop now if I wanted to. I had thought I should go on hiatus for a while but I see now that blogging is indeed therapy and I need that right now. Time to conjure up a few more of those reasons to be cheerful perhaps – Any suggestions for Part 4?

Reasons to be Cheerful, Part 3 Lyrics
(Song by Ian Dury/Charles Jankel/David Payne)

Why don’t you get back into bed?
Why don’t you get back into bed?
Why don’t you get back into bed?
Why don’t you get back into bed?
Why don’t you get back into bed?
Why don’t you get back into bed?

Reasons to be cheerful, part three
1, 2, 3

Summer, Buddy Holly, the working folly
Good golly, Miss Molly and boats

Hammersmith Palais, the Bolshoi Ballet
Jump back in the alley and nanny goats

Eighteen wheeler Scammells, Dominica camels
All other mammals plus equal votes

Seeing Piccadilly, Fanny Smith and Willie
Being rather silly and porridge oats

A bit of grin and bear it, a bit of come and share it
You’re welcome we can spare it, yellow socks

Too short to be haughty, too nutty to be naughty
Going on forty no electric shocks

The juice of a carrot, the smile of a parrot
A little drop of claret, anything that rocks

Elvis and Scotty, the days when I ain’t spotty
Sitting on a potty, curing smallpox

Reasons to be cheerful, part three
Reasons to be cheerful, part three
Reasons to be cheerful, part three
Reasons to be cheerful, one, two, three
Reasons to be cheerful, part three

Health service glasses, gigolos and brasses
Round or skinny bottoms

Take your mum to Paris, lighting up a chalice
Wee Willie Harris

Bantu Steven Biko, listening to Rico
Harpo Groucho Chico

Cheddar cheese and pickle, a Vincent motorsickle
Slap and tickle

Woody Allen, Dali, Dmitri and Pascale
Balla, balla, balla and Volare

Something nice to study, phoning up a buddy
Being in my nuddy

Saying okey-dokey, sing-a-long a Smokie
Coming out of chokie

John Coltrane’s soprano, Adie Celentano
Bonar Colleano

Reasons to be cheerful, part three
Reasons to be cheerful, part three
Reasons to be cheerful, part three
Reasons to be cheerful, one, two, three

Yes, yes, dear, dear
Perhaps next year
Or maybe even never
In which case

Woody Allan, Dali, Domitrie and Pascale
Balla, balla, balla and Volare

Something nice to study, phoning up a buddy
Being in my nuddy

Saying okey-dokey, sing-a-long a Smokie
Coming out a chokie

John Coltrane’s soprano, Adie Celentano
Bonar Colleano

Reasons to be cheerful, part three
Reasons to be cheerful, part three
Reasons to be cheerful, part three
Reasons to be cheerful, one, two, three

I don’t mind
I don’t mind, don’t mind, don’t mind, don’t mind

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