An Unlikely Chart Topper: Lee Marvin and “Wand’rin’ Star”

I really enjoyed my return to the world of blogging last weekend after a month’s break. I was also pleasantly surprised that my featured song by Edison Lighthouse proved to be such a favourite with so many of you, as I hadn’t expected that at all. I have ended up returning to the UK Singles Chart of 1970 for these first two posts of the new decade, and both songs have been really enjoyable to research and write about. I thought it might be an idea for this calendar year to revisit that chart once a month (a kind of 50-year-retrospective) but you know what, I can’t wait another month to dip into the archives again because the March 1970 No. 1 single was Wand’rin’ Star by Lee Marvin.

I’ve often mentioned around here that the songs hitting the top spot are not always representative of what we were listening to at the time at all – Oh no, it’s often a song that became a hit because of its association with a prime time television show or blockbuster movie. All those people who would never normally go out and buy records suddenly do so, and it invariably skews the chart keeping what are now thought of as pop classics off the top spot.

Wand’rin’ Star by Lee Marvin:

But, I really do have a soft spot for this song. It was from the film Paint Your Wagon released in 1969 which was one of only two films I went to see at the cinema with my parents (the other being The Sound of Music). Living nearly 30 miles away from the nearest cinema it wasn’t something we ever did as a family, but I think we were on holiday at the time in the south of Scotland, and it being July it was probably wet, so the decision must have been made to hole up for the afternoon watching a film we were all familiar with because of Mr Marvin’s regular appearances on TOTP. I have featured a few really deep voices around here over the years (Barry White, Johnny Cash…. ) but surely Lee must have had the deepest voice of all. It was described, by co-star Jean Seberg, as “like rain gurgling down a rusty pipe” and has also been described as “the first 33⅓ recorded at 45” – Seems about right.

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Paint Your Wagon was a Western, but also a Musical, and it wasn’t really a box-office success, never recouping its cost of production and marketing. Just not the kind of thing people wanted to go and see in 1970 it seems. Musicals of this sort had gone out of fashion and as this Simpson’s clip shows, it had something of a split personality, neither working for rootin’, tootin’, shootin’ western lovers, or lovers of the more sedate musical.

I don’t think Lee ever released any more records but continued to work as an actor right up until his death in 1987. He starred in many classic movies such as The Dirty Dozen and Cat Ballou, winning the 1965 Best Actor Oscar for his role in that film.

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Lee Marvin, 1924-1987

I do remember my mum being a bit concerned, after leaving the cinema, that there had been things in Paint Your Wagon I wouldn’t understand. Yes, there was a fair bit of bodice-ripping and all the excitement of kidnapping “six French tarts” in order to provide the miners with female companionship (There’s a Coach Comin’ In), but even at age ten I wasn’t totally green, just mortified at having to sit beside my parents whilst watching such fodder. Funny, but looking back, the only two films watched in a cinema with my family were about a nun called Maria, and a wind called Maria (albeit pronounced differently) – Cue one last link to a song from the film!

Until next time….

Wand’rin’ Star Lyrics
(Song by Frederick Loewe/Alan Jay Lerner)

I was born under a wanderin’ star.
I was born under a wanderin’ star.

Wheels are made for rollin’, mules are made to pack.
I’ve never seen a site that didn’t look better lookin’ back.

I was born under a wanderin’ star.

Mud can make you prisoner and the plains can bake you dry.
Snow can burn your eyes but only people make you cry.
Home is made for comin’ from, for dreams of goin’ to.
Which with any luck will never come true.

I was born under a wanderin’ star.
I was born under a wanderin’ star.

Do I know where hell is, hell is in hell-o.
Heaven is good-bye forever it’s time for me to go.

I was born under a wanderin’ star, a wanderin’, wanderin’ star.

Mud can make you prisoner and the plains can bake you dry.
Snow can burn your eyes but only people make you cry.
Home is made for comin’ from, for dreams of goin’ to.
Which with any luck will never come true.

I was born under a wanderin’ star.
I was born under a wanderin’ star.

When I get to heaven tie me to a tree.
Or I’ll begin to roam and soon you’ll know where I will be.

I was born under a wanderin’ star.
A wanderin’, wanderin’ star.

Tony Burrows, “Love Grows (Where My Rosemary Goes)” and A Five Times One-Hit Wonder!

My last offering was over a month ago now and back then it was clear I was feeling a bit sad, and none too optimistic about what this new decade might bring. Since then however: the days have been getting longer (I celebrated Imbolc last weekend, the start of Spring according the pagan calendar); the St John’s Wort has kicked in (try it); the ongoing division over Brexit is in effect behind us, as Boris did eventually “get it done”; we now have a plan as to how we’re going to earn our living until the pensions kick in; and joy of joys, DD is at home for the weekend. She’s heading off shortly to meet friends for lunch so it gives me some time to bash away on the computer for a wee while.

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My Imbolc shrine – Yes that’s milk and yes it went off!

Also, since last time, I received one of these badges from the WordPress people as it was my blog’s 4th birthday. Because I pay an annual fee to keep this place going, and I don’t want to lose everything I’ve posted over the last few years, I’ve just paid my dues for another 12 months. My output seems to be reducing year on year but I’m not ready to call it a day yet.

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I’ve really enjoyed my digital detox over the last few weeks, but I live in the real world so it can’t continue for much longer. If you ever get the chance however, give it a whirl – I’ve read several books, knitted three (small) garments and not had to experience Facebook envy at all!

But what is it I usually say at this point? Ah yes, this is supposed to be a music blog so where is the song? About that. Heading into my fifth year of blogging I just want to remind everyone that I am by no means a muso and just enjoy revisiting the chart music of my youth, and being able to find out so much more about the song/singer than was available at the time. I used to pride myself on being a Pop Quiz Queen but have often never heard of the artists shared by many of the music bloggers on my sidebar. I thank them in return for adding me to their sidebars and can only apologise that my featured songs are perhaps not always of the “cool” persuasion.

So, which “uncool” song will be featured this time? Exactly 50 years ago this week, the song at the top of the UK Singles Chart was Love Grows (Where My Rosemary Goes) by Edison Lighthouse, a one-hit wonder put together from a group of session musicians. Tony Burrows was the lead singer and I have only just discovered that he has appeared in this blog before as one of The Flower Pot Men who recorded Let’s Go To San Francisco.

Love Grows (Where My Rosemary Goes) by Edison Lighthouse:

I have fond memories of this song as it would have been in the charts when I was aged around 10, and really into catchy pop tunes. Along with the Archies’ Sugar Sugar and Christie’s Yellow River (also one-hit wonders), this was one of the songs we sang on our way to school and in the back seat of the car when going on long journeys with my cousins. Oh how we loved to slide around the shiny leather seats of my grandad’s car way before anyone thought having seatbelts might be a good idea.

But getting back to Tony Burrows of Edison Lighthouse fame, he is the only artist to have appeared in four different episodes of TOTP twice, with different bands. Back in 1970, many, many bands were made up of session singers who changed personnel regularly. Just at the same time Love Grows was a massive hit, Tony sang on the White Plains’ song My Baby Loves Lovin’, The Brotherhood of Man’s United We Stand and The Pipkins’ novelty song Gimme Dat Ding (less said about that one the better). Later on he sang lead on The First Class hit Beach Baby. Tony is the only artist to have been a “one-hit wonder” 5 times. As I often say around here, every day’s a school day.

Well, that’s me broken the back of this, my fifth year of blogging. I seem to be getting less prolific year on year and can’t promise to visit all the other blogs as frequently as I used to as earning my living really has to take priority, but putting this effort together wasn’t too hard in the end. It certainly can be fun revisiting the “tracks of our years” and nothing wrong with a bit of pure pop to raise the spirits from time to time.

Until next time….

Love Grows (Where My Rosemary Goes) Lyrics
(Song by Tony Macaulay/Barry Mason/Sylvan Mason)

She ain’t got no money
Her clothes are kinda funny
Her hair is kinda wild and free
Oh, but Love grows where my Rosemary goes
And nobody knows like me

She talks kinda lazy
And people say she she’s crazy
And her life’s a mystery
Oh, but Love grows where my Rosemary goes
And nobody knows like me

There’s something about her hand holding mine
It’s a feeling that’s fine
And I just gotta say
She’s really got a magical spell
And it’s working so well
That I can’t get away

I’m a lucky fella
And I’ve just got to tell her
That I love her endlessly
Because Love grows where my Rosemary goes
And nobody knows like me

There’s something about her hand holding mine
It’s a feeling that’s fine
And I just gotta say
She’s really got a magical spell
And it’s working so well
That I can’t get away

I’m a lucky fella
And I’ve just got to tell her
That I love her endlessly
Because Love grows where my Rosemary goes
And nobody knows like me

Kenny Rogers, “Ruby” and A Tentative Peek Into 2020

I have been putting off writing this, my first post of the new calendar year, as somehow my foray into the world of blogging has coincided with the world going to hell in a handbasket. I know this has nothing to do with me and my little blog, but weird how things have worked out, both closer to home and in the world at large.

Can it really be that only four years ago we were still very much in the EU; Barrack Obama was at the helm in the US; David Bowie, George Michael and Prince were still with us; Mr WIAA and I both had jobs we enjoyed; my mum was well and living independently; my back, neck and shoulders didn’t ache all the time; and my daughter lived in a flat just round the corner? None of these things now apply. Also, we seem to be on the verge of war, and one of our continents is on fire.

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My blog’s timeline

Heading into a new decade, can I really still justify spending most of my free time researching, and writing about, the pop music of my youth? I admit to having lost much of my joie de vivre of late and I know this has been reflected in my blogging which was always meant to be light-hearted and fun. It’s just really tough trying to stay upbeat at the moment, but I suppose we must try.

Looking at my sidebar on the right, I have a long list of categories that seem to have built up over the years. The first ones on the list are the decades from which the songs I write about come. Looks as if there will have to be a new decade added soon, as although on a technicality it seems we are not actually in the 2020s yet, I think most of us would agree it makes sense for us to think of it as such. The decade I seem to have revisited more often than any other around here is the 1970s which is probably the decade I spent most time listening to, and obsessing over, chart music. Perhaps then, in order to get past this obstacle of publishing my first post of the year, I should look back at what we were listening to 50 years ago just as a new decade was dawning.

Well, well, maybe things haven’t changed that much after all – The song at the top of the UK Singles Chart on the 6th January 1970 was actually the very first single I ever bought with my own money, yet it is one (look it up here) I have never been able to admit to around here, as the artist involved spent a fair bit of time residing At Her Majesty’s Pleasure.

Time to move on then and joy of joys, the record at the No. 2 spot was one of the best story songs ever written, Ruby, Don’t Take Your Love To Town performed by the wonderful Kenny Rogers when he was still with The First Edition.

Ruby, Don’t Take Your Love To Town by Kenny Rogers and The First Edition:

Took me a while to recognise Kenny in that clip as many of us are more used to his silver fox appearance in the later stages of his career. His very distinctive, understated vocals are perfect for this song however, and I especially love the sound patterning in this line (even Kenny has a sly grin as he sings it):
And the wants and the needs of a woman your age, Ruby, I realize

The percussion accompanying this line is also just perfect and mimics the footsteps outside the door:
She’s leaving now ’cause I just heard the slamming of the door

Less said about this next line the better. Suffice to say not to be recommended:
And if I could move I’d get my gun and put her in the ground

And finally he almost whispers:
…. for God’s sakes turn around

Because of the timeline, it’s assumed the crazy Asian war they refer to in the song is the Vietnam War so yet again maybe things haven’t changed so much after all. Maybe it’s just that in 1970 my life was as yet unaffected by the kind of stuff we worry about as adults.

So, “What’s It All About?” – I wasn’t sure if I would be able to carry on blogging this year as it seems somehow frivolous to write about pop music when life just seems to be getting tougher year on year. Then again, as it’s often mentioned around here, it can be a real stress-buster and possibly I’ve just had one too many personal knocks of late which has coloured my view of the world. Also, as I’ve just discovered by revisiting the music charts of 1970, back then we had songs about wars happening on the other side of the world and songs by artists who were later found to be sexual predators of the worst kind. Maybe it’s time to concentrate on doing the best for our families, friends and community, and not worry too much about the stuff we can do little about. We have to hope that humanity wins out in the end.

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Until next time….  Happy New Year (I think).

Ruby, Don’t Take Your Love To Town Lyric
(Song by Mel Tillis)

You’ve painted up your lips and rolled and curled your tinted hair
Ruby, are you contemplating going out somewhere?
The shadow on the wall tells me the sun is going down

Oh, Ruby,
Don’t take your love to town

It wasn’t me that started that old crazy Asian war
But I was proud to go and do my patriotic chore
And yes, it’s true that I’m not the man I used to be

Oh, Ruby,
I still need some company

It’s hard to love a man whose legs are bent and paralyzed
And the wants and the needs of a woman your age, Ruby, I realize
But it won’t be long I’ve heard them say until I’m not around

Oh, Ruby,
Don’t take your love to town

She’s leaving now ’cause I just heard the slamming of the door
The way I know I’ve heard it slam one hundred times before
And if I could move I’d get my gun and put her in the ground 

Oh, Ruby,
Don’t take your love to town

Oh, Ruby,
for God’s sakes turn around

Postscript:

Interestingly an answer song to Ruby was also released in 1969 by an artist called Geraldine Stevens. Called Billy, I’ve Got To Go To Town the melody is just the same, but this time the lyrics confirm Ruby’s love for her paralysed husband and she pleads for him to have faith in her fidelity. Not a big hit this one, but fascinating how these larger-than-life characters in songs can then spawn new songs, continuing the story-telling. If anyone knows of any other similar answer songs please share, as I’m now kind of intrigued.