Simon & Garfunkel, ‘The Sound of Silence’ and Mrs Robinson

Writing yesterday about the wonderful song I Only Have Eyes For You, got me thinking about Art Garfunkel who also had a big hit with that song in the 1970s. His most successful period however was the 1960s, when he and high school friend Paul Simon formed a duo. They first started recording music as teenagers but got back together in their early twenties to record their first album which featured a simple, pared-down, folk version of The Sound of Silence. Sadly the album was not a great success and the pair went their separate ways. Fortunately for us however, the song’s producer revisited it in the wake of increased airplay, remixed it and transformed it into the kind of folk rock record that was being produced by the Byrds and Bob Dylan at the time. By 1966 The Sound of Silence had become an international hit and needless to say Art Garfunkel headed back from college, and Paul Simon from working in England, in order to capitalise on the renewed interest in their music.

The Sound of Silence by Simon & Garfunkel:

I don’t think I really would have remembered them from that era as I was too young but in 1967 the film The Graduate was released and rather than use a specially written soundtrack, the director chose to use Simon & Garfunkel songs such as “The Sound of Silence”,” Mrs Robinson” and “Scarborough Fair”. The film was a massive success and unlike other film songs I have written about, these are carefully woven into the storyline to great effect, adding another dimension to an already compelling screenplay. Benjamin Braddock has returned home to Pasadena, California after graduating from college. Unsure of what he wants to do with his life, he spends his days lounging in the swimming pool of his parents’ very luxurious home. Enter Mrs Robinson, the wife of one of his father’s colleagues who is similarly bored and and disillusioned with life. Of course the inevitable happens and the affair she draws the inexperienced and clumsy Benjamin into, leads to moments of great two-handed dialogue.

Benjamin: For god’s sake, Mrs. Robinson. Here we are. You got me into your house. You give me a drink. You… put on music. Now you start opening up your personal life to me and tell me your husband won’t be home for hours.
Mrs. Robinson: So?
Benjamin: Mrs. Robinson, you’re trying to seduce me.
Mrs. Robinson: [laughs] Huh?
Benjamin: Aren’t you?

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I really only appreciated the music of Simon & Garfunkel properly after watching the film in the ’70s when it first appeared on television. (Was I too young for it I now wonder? – Doubt it as adult themes but never anything too disturbing.) I don’t think any other film made such good use of its soundtrack, until Saturday Night Fever came along in 1978 featuring the music of The Bee Gees.

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So, ‘What’s It All About’ – Yet again I am writing about music from film or television. The soundtrack to my life has most definitely been heavily influenced by what I used to watch on screen. As a teenager I had a Saturday job in our village newsagents. In my lunch hour I used to go to our local electrical retailer (otherwise known as ‘The TV Shop’) which had a small rack of vinyl albums up near the back. Nothing there had been anywhere near a chart but there were lots of Greatest Hits (Simon & Garfunkel), Easy Listening (Burt Bacharach) and Film Soundtrack albums (The Graduate, West Side Story etc). All my welfare needs were already catered for by my parents, so the Saturday job wages were used to buy vinyl from this shop.

Walking back to the newsagents one Saturday ahead of the afternoon shift with a carrier bag obviously containing an album (they were a very distinctive shape), I bumped into a friend. She immediately asked what I had just bought – ‘G-Gary Glitter’ I quickly replied, embarrassed to admit it was actually a Glenn Miller album as I’d fallen in love with his music watching The Glenn Miller Story with my dad the previous Sunday. Funny how the passage of time has rendered that answer wrong on so many levels – I am proud however to say that I was never, ever again embarrassed to admit that I loved Mr Miller and his unique ‘sound’.

The Sound of Silence Lyrics
(Song by Paul Simon)

Hello darkness, my old friend,
I’ve come to talk with you again,
Because a vision softly creeping,
Left its seeds while I was sleeping,
And the vision that was planted in my brain
Still remains
Within the sound of silence.

In restless dreams I walked alone
Narrow streets of cobblestone,
‘Neath the halo of a street lamp,
I turned my collar to the cold and damp
When my eyes were stabbed by the flash of a neon light
That split the night
And touched the sound of silence.

And in the naked light I saw
Ten thousand people, maybe more.
People talking without speaking,
People hearing without listening,
People writing songs that voices never share
And no one dared
Disturb the sound of silence.

“Fools,” said I, “You do not know.
Silence like a cancer grows.
Hear my words that I might teach you.
Take my arms that I might reach you.”
But my words like silent raindrops fell
And echoed in the wells of silence

And the people bowed and prayed
To the neon god they made.
And the sign flashed out its warning
In the words that it was forming.
And the sign said, “The words of the prophets are written on the subway walls
And tenement halls
And whispered in the sounds of silence.”

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Postscript:

I feel I can’t finish today’s post without mentioning the sad passing of Sir Terry Wogan – I can’t remember a time when he hasn’t been part of our television and radio lives, bringing joy to so many people. It’s akin to losing a favourite uncle (or great-uncle depending on your age). It is appropriate to therefore note, that the guest who caused him most difficulty during his long run of early evening chat shows, was indeed ‘Mrs Robinson’ herself, Anne Bancroft – She apparently sat in a catatonic trance and refused to answer any of his questions.

RIP Sir Terry.

Sadie Hawkins Dances, The Flamingos and “I Only Have Eyes For You”

This random means of choosing songs is turning out to be anything but random as the radio station I usually tune into caters in the main for people of my generation, so a lot of ’70s/’80s material. Also these songs are likely to be the mainstream, highly commercial chart hits of the day so unlikely to come across something quirky or unusual.

Time therefore to return to the thread linking the previous posts (before I decided it had reached a natural conclusion) – Was proving to be a fine way of progressing despite the fact that a new thread often had to start on the days we found out that yet another of our rock legends had died. Crossing fingers that won’t happen for a while so back to Buffy the Vampire Slayer the television show and another song that came, this time, from a Season 2 episode. I have already talked about the show, its cult status and importance to our family in my last post won’t go there again but will encourage you to watch it, all the way through from the begining, to the final scene where Sunnydale disappears into the collapsed Hellmouth. I know – it all sounds fantastical – and it is, which is why you must watch it. A life-enhancing experience (in my opinion).

The song that featured heavily in the Buffy episode “I Only Have Eyes For You” was the song of the same name by The Flamingos. We’ll ignore the fact that the episode was set in 1955 whereas this recording was made in 1959 – Didn’t make any difference as it was a wonderful, romantic, “doo-wop” song that really captured the mood of the decade. The lyrics were also highly relevant to the storyline and the key characters in it. I Only Have Eyes For You was actually written much earlier in 1934 for a film starring a young Ruby Keeler but has been covered many times, the most familiar to me being the beautiful 1975 version by Art Garfunkel (during his clown-hair period).

I Only Have Eyes For You by The Flamingos:

This episode featured an event I had never heard of before, the forthcoming “Sadie Hawkins Dance” and how a tragic happening from that same dance in 1955 rears its ghostly head again for Buffy and her friends in 1998.

Having done a little research it seems that Sadie Hawkins Day is a folk event particular to America – An annual “holiday” that originated in Al Capp’s classic hillbilly comic strip, Li’l Abner. When the character Sadie reached the age of 35 and was still a spinster, her father called together all the unmarried men from the town and declared it “Sadie Hawkins Day”. A race was decreed, with Sadie in hot pursuit of the town’s eligible bachelors. With matrimony as the consequence of losing the race, the men of the town were running for their freedom! This inspired real-world Sadie Hawkins dances, where girls asked boys out – Simple gender role-reversal.

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Anyway, back to Buffy and the “ghostly” episode. The doomed romance between a female teacher and male student in 1955 had led to a sorry end for both of them (he shot her and then committed suicide). The ghost of the student, in an effort to gain forgiveness, keeps returning to possess the bodies of various 1998 characters but every time the ending is the same. When Buffy and Angelus are possessed however, the story of their doomed romance cleverly mirrors that of the teacher and student and with the roles this time reversed, Angelus the vampire is unable to be killed and a happy conclusion is reached for the ghost of the poor student. All of this drama of course is played out to the strains of I Only Have Eyes For You.

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The whole theme of this episode was role-reversal but even now the idea of my younger self asking a boy out, or even to dance, fills me with horror. I am full of admiration for the girls of America who probably still have Sadie Hawkins Dances. Looking back, I don’t think I really appreciated how nerve wracking it must have been for the teenage boys of my youth to pluck up the courage to ask girls out, yet that was just how it all worked. I know on occasion I came up with pretty lame excuses for not accepting a date and sometimes it marked the end of a friendship as once the line has been crossed between friendship and potential romance, it is hard to go back.

I had always thought it was a pretty good system, as at any one point in time you had your eye on a few boys you liked, and just had to hope that one of them would ask you out. I’m sure there must a name for it – The Law of Teenage Mutual Selection or something. Looking back, it worked for the girls as they didn’t have to suffer the humiliation and rejection of being turned down but they did I suppose have to suffer the heartache of not perhaps being asked out, by the one boy they really wanted.

Roll on to your twenties, thirties and beyond and things get a whole lot more complicated but perhaps Sadie Hawkins had the answer. Dismiss dating websites, pubs, clubs and friends trying to set you up at dinner parties. Just arrange an annual race for all the single ladies who want a partner – All those eligible bachelors who want to be caught will be the tortoises and those who don’t will be the hares. Possibly as good a system as any!

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 I Only Have Eyes For You Lyrics (had to leave in the Sha bop sha bops!)
(Song by Harry Warren/Al Dubin)

My love must be a kind of blind love
I can’t see anyone but you
Sha bop sha bop
Sha bop sha bop
Sha bop sha bop
Sha bop sha bop
Sha bop sha bop

Are the stars out tonight
I don’t know if it’s cloudy or bright
I only have eyes for you dear
Sha bop sha bop

The moon may be high
Sha bop sha bop
But I can’t see a thing in the sky
I only have eyes for you

I don’t know if we’re in a garden
Or on a crowded avenue
Sha bop sha bop

You are here
Sha bop sha bop
And so am I
Sha bop sha bop

Maybe millions of people go by
But they all disappear from view
And I only have eyes for you

Sha bop sha bop
Sha bop sha bop
Sha bop sha bop
Sha bop sha bop
Sha bop sha bop

Buffy’s Prom, The Sundays and “Wild Horses”

Short post today as just drawing a bottom line to the thread that seems to have developed relating to “last dance” songs. Started reminiscing about this when listening to Crazy For You by Madonna and ended up thinking about the 1950s ballroom-dancing era.

Fast forward to 1992 and The Sundays recorded Wild Horses, a song written by Mick Jagger & Keith Richards. This was always a beautiful song but Harriet Wheeler’s vocals and the simple guitar backing somehow made it even more poignant.

Wild Horses by The Sundays:

It was used in the 1999 Buffy the Vampire Slayer episode called The Prom which I actually watched for the first time in 2004. In our family that was “Buffy Year” – We bought the Season One boxset in January just after the 7 year run of the show had finished airing so that we could start from the beginning again and really enjoy the whole story arc and development of the characters. (We finished Season 7 with a 3 episode Buffyfest on the 31st December of that year.) If you haven’t watched it properly like this, or indeed if you haven’t watched it at all (you must), it is impossible to explain how it draws you in – The quality of the writing, the acting and creation of the whole alternate Buffyverse made it one of the top-rated shows of all time and it frequently comes top in polls of Best Cult Show Ever. Joss Whedon, the creator, always planned for it to become a cult and boy did he succeed. 13 years on and it’s still as popular as ever with a whole new legion of young fans who will hopefully learn how to negotiate their way through life using the metaphors (or was it all real?) cleverly woven in by the excellent team of writers.

Anyway, back to Wild Horses by The Sundays – That was the song featured at the end of Buffy’s “prom” episode. We had been right there by her side for three years now, and here she was finishing high school. Her long-term relationship with Angel (the Vampire with a soul) had come to an end (for probably obvious reasons, even if you haven’t watched the show) but right at the end he appears back, for one night only, to dance with her at her prom. One of the most romantic moments in television history. I was in tears and a very large part of it down to The Sundays and their amazing version of this song.

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The lyrics of the song were just perfect for this moment and although there doesn’t seem to be consensus on the true meaning, it is most definitely a song about not wanting to tear yourself apart from someone, but knowing that you have to.

So, “last dance” songs that span 50 years! Time to move on now to another thread….

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Wild Horses Lyrics
(Mick Jagger/Keith Richards)

Childhood living is easy to do
The things that you wanted, I bought them for you
Graceless lady, you know who I am
You know I can’t let you slide through my hands

Wild horses couldn’t drag me away
Wild horses couldn’t drag me away…

I watched you suffer a dull, aching pain
And now you’ve decided to show me the same
No sweeping exits or offstage lines
Could make me feel bitter or treat you unkind

Wild horses couldn’t drag me away
Wild, wild horses couldn’t drag me away…

Faith has been broken and tears must be cried
Let’s do some living after we die

Wild horses couldn’t drag me away
Wild, wild horses couldn’t drag me away…

Wild, wild horses, we’ll ride them someday
Wild, wild horses, we’ll ride them someday

Patti Page, “Changing Partners” and Old Bakelite 78s

Well, I’ve just bought myself a turntable, but a bizarre thing has happened. After first trying out my old vinyl on the new turntable, I ended up going on to enjoy the sound of the old shellac resin 78s the most. Possibly reminded me of my very first musical experiences when at around six or seven-years-old I was deemed old enough to play my mum and dad’s records on their little mono record player. One of my favourites back then was Changing Partners by Patti Page so that was the first one I listened to. This song was recorded by at least three artists in 1954 (the others I know of being Kay Starr and Bing Crosby) but this is a beautiful, slow and gentle version.

Patti Page was a big American recording artist who hailed from Tulsa, Oklahoma and had her roots in country music. She’d already had a really big hit with Tennessee Waltz and Changing Partners had definitely borrowed heavily from that earlier song (very heavily). She was also the artist responsible for How Much Is That Doggie In The Window which had appeared in the fledgling UK charts in 1953 but I’ll forgive her for that one it was after all, the decade of the novelty song.

In my last post I wrote about Crazy For You by Madonna which had really conjured up memories of my late teens and the ritual of the “last dance” of the evening. This song was from 25 years prior to that and from my parents’ ballroom-dancing days. Every generation has its “last dance” ritual and this song reflected their one, although unlike us they were dressed in beautiful gowns, evening suits and had immaculately coiffed hair. So many of my generation owe our very existence to those ballrooms – It was where many of our parents would have met, fell in love and started on the journey that would have become the rest of their lives. Simpler times in lots of ways but very, very important to choose your dance partner well I imagine – Not the time to be bowled over by good looks, a sharp suit and a brilliantined pate as many who married in haste, later “repented at leisure”.

There were so many great American lady singers during that era – Dinah Shore, Doris Day, Peggy Lee, Rosemary Clooney, Patsy Cline, Dinah Washington, Sarah Vaughan, the list goes on and on. Their songs can seem old-fashioned and overly sentimental today but they were of their time and these ladies were the big stars of the day.

Something else however that they had in their favour – Not a lot of colour photography in those days and boy did they look great in pictures. Flawless skin and alluring décolletage.

Note to self – Close-up photos now to be taken in black and white. Much more forgiving!

Changing Partners Lyrics
(Song by Larry Coleman/Joe Darion)

We were waltzing together to a dreamy melody
When they called out “Change partners”
And you waltzed away from me
Now my arms feel so empty as I gaze around the floor
And I’ll keep on changing partners
Till I hold you once more

Though we danced for one moment and too soon we had to part
In that wonderful moment something happened to my heart
So I’ll keep changing partners till you’re in my arms and then
Oh, my darling I will never change partners again

Madonna, Desperately Seeking Susan and “Crazy For You”

Realised after ten days of randomly (or not so randomly as it turned out) choosing songs to write about, that none (other than Jacky’s “White Horses” theme song) were by women. How could this have happened I wondered? I then looked back at lists of No. 1 hits over the decades and in 1968, only 2 out of a total of 21 featured women (Mary Hopkin, and Esther Ofarim of Cinderella Rockefella fame) but by 1998, 17 out of a total of 29 featured women (mainly girl bands like The Spice Girls, Aqua, All Saints and B*Witched) – How things had changed.

Right in the middle of that 30 year period, a young lady from Michigan really started to make her mark, and it got me wondering how much of it was down to her? Probably lots of factors contributed, but the incredibly driven and self-confident Madonna Louise Ciccone burst onto the scene in 1984 and immediately had a string of great dance-floor hit records. Nile Rodgers again got on board (his name keeps popping up) and produced her first album – The rest is history. She is the most successful female chart act of all time. Like Bowie she continually reinvents herself so hard to work out who the real Madonna is. We will probably never know but I tend to think that the real Madonna was probably not unlike her streetwise character in the 1985 film Desperately Seeking Susan. Breezing through Manhattan’s East Village (pre-gentrification), pulling off that quirky look, getting into scrapes! Great film and because she essentially played herself, the only one where she received critical acclaim (sorry Madge).

Anyway, she released some great songs that year and my favourite is Crazy For You. It was actually from another film, which I have never seen and didn’t stand the test of time, but there is something about that song that gives me goosebumps. Not from hearing it in 1985 but after watching the film 13 Going On 30 with my daughter much, much later (key song on the soundtrack). The lyrics and “feel” of the song took me back to that coming-of-age time in your life when the most important thing in the world, at the end of a night out, was to find yourself in the arms of the boy you adored from afar, hoping he adored you back. The ’70s dance halls where we converged were very smokey and very dark so really conjured up those memories. All too often we went home full of despair having witnessed the boy of our dreams in the arms of another girl. We would however always return the following week, in the hope he would again be there, and that this time it would end differently….

Crazy For You by Madonna:

Crazy For You Lyrics
(Song by John Bettis/Jon Lind)

Swaying room as the music starts
Strangers making the most of the dark
Two by two their bodies become one

I see you through the smokey air
Can’t you feel the weight of my stare
You’re so close but still a world away
What I’m dying to say, is that

I’m crazy for you
Touch me once and you’ll know it’s true
I never wanted anyone like this
It’s all brand new, you’ll feel it in my kiss
I’m crazy for you, crazy for you

Trying hard to control my heart
I walk over to where you are
Eye to eye we need no words at all

Slowly now we begin to move
Every breath I’m deeper into you
Soon we two are standing still in time
If you read my mind, you’ll see

It’s all brand new, I’m crazy for you
And you know it’s true
I’m crazy, crazy for you

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England Dan & John Ford Coley, Warm Winds and “I’d Really Love To See You Tonight”

Listening to Lyin’ Eyes yesterday and reminiscing about The Eagles’ great music got me thinking about all the other ’70s American artists we loved to listen to. There were a group of them living in Laurel Canyon, Los Angeles who collaborated to create amazing American country rock – Linda Ronstadt, Jackson Browne and Bob Seger.

For teenagers in rural Scotland, the lyrics in their songs conjured up something totally other-worldly – “Dark desert highways”, “Blue bayous” and “Tequila sunrises”. Also until then I hadn’t really listened to the lyrics of songs properly, it was always about the melody or the artist (typical teenage girl) but these guys were telling a whole story in a song. Yesterday’s Lyin’ Eyes tells an incredibly sad story and makes me realise how lucky I am to have married my best friend and not had to resort to “the cheatin’ side of town”. (One of the best lines ever in a song.)

Anyway, by chance when I was in the car today, this song came on the radio and although more from the soft rock/easy listening camp, it totally reminded me of those great American songs from that mid ’70s era. I’d Really Love To See You Tonight was in the UK Singles Chart in September 1976 and told the sweet story of a guy who just wanted to “hang out” with (probably) an old girlfriend, no strings attached. It was recorded by England Dan and John Ford Coley and was their biggest hit in the UK.

I’d Really Love To See You Tonight by England Dan & John Ford Coley:

They definitely weren’t teen idols (see picture below) but there is something about this song that I’ve always loved – What not to love about the line “there’s a warm wind blowing the stars around, and I’d really love to see you tonight”. Where we lived there was never, ever a warm wind blowing and the stars were usually hidden by cloud, so something really exotic and romantic-sounding.

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I am partial to a “story song” and re-reading these lines, know that I’ve been there. Sometimes it’s just really nice to meet up with an old boyfriend, post-breakup, knowing you are never going to get back together but just to reminisce about good times. All very lovely until you bump into them with their new girlfriend, in which case the pain comes right back, but tolerable if you’ve put on a great outfit that day and perfected the hair and makeup. My 16-year-old self didn’t know about any of that as not really had any great romances yet, but boy did I enjoy listening to that line about the warm wind blowing the stars around.

I’d Really Love to See You Tonight Lyrics
(Song by Parker McGee)

Hello, yeah, it’s been a while
Not much, how ’bout you?
I’m not sure why I called
I guess I really just wanted to talk to you
And I was thinking maybe later on
We could get together for a while
It’s been such a long time
And I really do miss your smile

I’m not talking ’bout moving in
And I don’t want to change your life
But there’s a warm wind blowing the stars around
And I’d really love to see you tonight

We could go walking through a windy park
Or take a drive along the beach
Or stay at home and watch tv
You see, it really doesn’t matter much to me

I’m not talking ’bout moving in
And I don’t want to change your life
But there’s a warm wind blowing the stars around
And I’d really love to see you tonight

I won’t ask for promises
So you don’t have to lie
We’ve both played that game before
Say I love you, then say goodbye

Glenn Frey, The Eagles and “Lyin’ Eyes”

After last week’s shock news of the death of David Bowie, I had hoped it would be some time before the blog would end up being about the death of another ’70s rock legend but here we are again. Woke up this morning to the news that Glenn Frey from The Eagles had died yesterday aged 67.

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Got me thinking that we are maybe at the tipping point, where our post-war baby boomers who entered the music industry in the ’60s and ’70s and by their own admission lived a hedonistic drug-fuelled lifestyle, are now maybe running out of luck. I don’t know the details of his death and don’t really want to delve into all that, but a pattern is definitely emerging here. Again, as with Bowie, I am really sorry for his family and friends who will no longer be able to spend time with him but for the rest of us, we will always have those fantastic songs.

I have decided therefore to make today’s featured song Lyin’ Eyes from 1975 as it was one of The Eagles’ early ones where Frey performed lead vocals. If this blog is supposed to reflect the soundtrack to my life, Lyin’ Eyes definitely played a large part in forming the soundtrack to the mid ’70s. I was still at school and not really old enough for pubs and clubs, but local bands were regularly booked to play the town and village halls in our area. Their music of choice tended to be cover versions of songs by soft rock bands such as The Eagles, and Lyin’ Eyes (all 6 minutes of it) was most definitely a favourite. If a boy you weren’t too keen on asked you to dance, but you were far too polite to refuse, it was a very long song.

Lyin’ Eyes by The Eagles:

By the time we got to 6th year at school, everyone owned their Greatest Hits 1971-1975 album and many an evening was spent hanging out with friends listening to it. I have just double-checked but already knew that Lyin’ Eyes was track number 3 on side 1. I miss that nowadays with digital downloads – We knew exactly where, on every piece of vinyl, our favourite tracks lay. The technology of the day didn’t involve touchscreens or keyboards, you simply had to pick up the arm of the record-player and place it gently on the record – If you had good control and eyesight you could seamlessly jump straight to the song of choice and in my case it was often Lyin’ Eyes.  RIP Glenn.

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Lyin’ Eyes Lyrics
(Song by Don Henley/Glenn Frey)

City girls just seem to find out early
How to open doors with just a smile
A rich old man
And she won’t have to worry
She’ll dress up all in lace and go in style

Late at night a big old house gets lonely
I guess every form of refuge has its price
And it breaks her heart to think her love is
Only given to a man with hands as cold as ice

So she tells him she must go out for the evening
To comfort an old friend who’s feelin’ down
But he knows where she’s goin’ as she’s leavin’
She is headed for the cheatin’ side of town

You can’t hide your lyin’ eyes
And your smile is a thin disguise
I thought by now you’d realize
There ain’t no way to hide your lyin eyes

On the other side of town a boy is waiting
with fiery eyes and dreams no one could steal
She drives on through the night anticipating
‘Cause he makes her feel the way she used to feel

She rushes to his arms,
They fall together
She whispers that it’s only for awhile
She swears that soon she’ll be comin’ back forever
She pulls away and leaves him with a smile

You can’t hide your lyin’ eyes
And your smile is a thin disguise
I thought by now you’d realize
There ain’t no way to hide you lyin’ eyes

She gets up and pours herself a strong one
And stares out at the stars up in the sky
Another night, it’s gonna be a long one
She draws the shade and hangs her head to cry

She wonders how it ever got this crazy
She thinks about a boy she knew in school
Did she get tired or did she just get lazy?
She’s so far gone she feels just like a fool

My, oh my, you sure know how to arrange things
You set it up so well, so carefully
Ain’t it funny how your new life didn’t change things
You’re still the same old girl you used to be

You can’t hide your lyin eyes
And your smile is a thin disguise
I thought by now you’d realize
There ain’t no way to hide your lyin’ eyes
There ain’t no way to hide your lyin’ eyes
Honey, you can’t hide your lyin’ eyes

Kids Telly, “White Horses” and Jackie Lee

I’ve come to realise that although I had a plan for how I would select songs to write about, they end up choosing themselves. The death of David Bowie last week led me to spend a lot of time thinking about him and then with the death of Alan Rickman, that led me to thinking about songs from movies. Somehow we ended up with Careless Whisper by George Michael which was the first randomly chosen song of last week as it turned out but followed on very nicely from the post about other early ’80s post-New Romantic pop acts.

So, the soundtrack of our lives can come from a variety of sources and in my case it is as much from television shows and films as from the music charts – This afternoon when I switched on the radio, a French song was playing and it took me right back to the kid’s TV show from the 1960s, Belle and Sebastian. There were still only two channels available at that time on our television set in rural Scotland, so very few programmes to choose from. Belle was a Pyrenean mountain dog and every week from late 1967 to early 1968, Belle and Sebastian enchanted us all, in black and white, with their adventures. It was a French show set in the Alps, and dubbed into English by the BBC. The most memorable thing about it for me however was the deeply moving opening song performed by the boy who played Sebastian – L’Oiseau.  Listening to it again just now, I can still picture that scene right at the beginning where you see young Sebastian scrambling up the snowy mountain-side with his big white dog, Belle.

The TV schedules at that time had many other European children’s dramas such as Tales from Europe (set in the most amazing Medieval locations) and the very best of them all – White Horses. This one was made by a Yugoslavian television company and followed the adventures of Julia and the beautiful Lipizanner horses raised on her Uncle Dimitri’s stud farm outside Belgrade. Again it was in black and white and again dubbed into English. First broadcast on British TV in 1968 it became a firm favourite especially with horse-loving little girls. The best bit of the show however was the theme song White Horses sung by Jackie Lee or, by the time it was released as a single in the April of that year, just Jacky. Some pieces of music just can’t help but make you feel good and this is most definitely one of them, often coming at the top of polls of the best TV theme song ever.

White Horses by Jacky:

What I do remember vividly however from this time of White Horses in the late ’60s, was that I was a very happy child. We were a family of three – My mum, dad and me, with my granny and grandad living next door. We had a big garden with vegetables, soft fruit, flowers and plenty of areas of grass to play on. There were neighbour’s children to play with and my cousins came to stay every school holiday. I realise now how lucky I was – Very different for many city-dwelling children back in those days, and different for nearly all children nowadays. All we would have needed to make it perfect was a white Lipizanner stallion and Jacky singing White Horses in the background. Ok I’ve gone too far now – I’ll sign out for today before it gets any more schmaltzy!

White Horses Lyrics
(Song by Michael Carr/Ben Nisbet)

On white horses let me ride away
To my world of dreams so far away
Let me run
To the sun.

To a world my heart can understand
It’s a gentle warm and wonderland
Far away
Stars away

Where the clouds are made of candy floss
As the day is born.
When the stars are gone
We’ll race to meet the dawn

So when I can only see the grey
Of a sad and very lonely day
That’s when I softly sigh
On white horses
Snowy white horses
Let me ride away

George Michael, “Careless Whisper” and the Summer of 1984

The original premise of this blog was to write about a random piece of music heard on the radio, and in my case that is usually BBC Radio 2 nowadays. So many musical memories by the time you get to your mid-fifties that just about everything played on that station conjures up something, so it made sense. The Soundtrack of My Life would end up becoming The Story of My Life.

What appears to have happened is that this has been an exceptional week – David Bowie and Alan Rickman both died.  This kind of threw me and instead of writing randomly, a lot of the week was spent looking back at songs associated with both of those people. Occurred to me that this is highly likely to become a feature of this blog as the music I remember from the 1960s onwards, would have been made by people if not a generation older than myself, certainly a good few years and sadly they will be approaching an advanced age by now. Enough of this maudlin talk however – Hoping there will be no more shock news this coming week or indeed for quite some time. Too much to take in.

So today I did try to stick to my original premise and when I turned on the radio this morning it was Steve Wright with his Sunday Love Songs. Not a fan but decided to stick with it. The first song was Love is All Around by The Troggs but ironically I have already written about that one this week so passed on it. The next was Careless Whisper by George Michael. Perfect, as this is one of my all-time favourite songs. It was released in the summer of 1984 and was George’s first solo effort, his work to date always having been with his best friend Andew Ridgeley, the other half of Wham!. Although they had started out as a duo it had become apparent that Ridgeley was mainly there for moral support as he didn’t sing, play an instrument or write the songs. To be fair, George has always said that he wouldn’t have had the confidence to start out in music if Andrew hadn’t been by his side so just as well it happened that way, but by 1984, it seems he needed a few solo projects.

Careless Whisper by George Michael:

It was summertime and George had yet again come up with an amazing-sounding song. The video was shot in Miami which added the necessary glamour, and the saxophone-playing gave it a sultry, jazzy sound. Sad lyrics but George was looking good and his teen-idol status went through the roof. Yes, lots of girls with his picture on their walls that summer!

As for me, I was still in the midst of my big hair, tanned skin, and pastel-coloured clothes and lipstick period – Unusual not to have been in the mid ’80s. I was living in a really nice flat with my best friends and had, for the first time in eight years, no exams to sit that summer. I know there was a lot of unemployment and social unrest at the time but if you were 24 and in work, life was not too shabby. In London, the term “yuppie” had been coined and although we weren’t earning “loadsamoney” (like the Harry Enfield character of the time) we were definitely young, urban and professional. A lot of partying was done that year and not a lot of saving for the future. The music in the background was a mixture of all that was popular at the time and it most definitely included George Michael with his big ballad – A slow dance number if ever there was one.

ge
A slight downside to the year of partying in 1984 was that we all split up with our long-term University boyfriends. Still not sure if that would have happened if we hadn’t been having such a great social life but as careers took off, more time was being spent with new colleagues and that ended up being the result. Or, could it have been that 1984 was the year we all decided to knit them a jumper? Months of hard work (fortunately I opted for a fairly simple pattern) and at the end of the year, no boyfriend. I for one even ended up at the doctors with a worryingly mysterious ailment – Turned out it was muscle strain from all the knitting (these were big, sporty lads and by the time you reached row 300 there was a lot of wool to support). Who knows, but at least in the midst of all the trauma and health scares, we had George Michael and Careless Whisper for solace.

Careless Whisper Lyrics
(Song by George Michael)

I feel so unsure
As I take your hand
And lead you to the dance floor
As the music dies
Something in your eyes
Calls to mind a silver screen
And all it’s sad goodbyes

I’m never gonna dance again
Guilty feet have got no rhythm
Though it’s easy to pretend
I know you’re not a fool
I should have known better than to cheat a friend
And waste a chance that I’ve been given
So I’m never gonna dance again
The way I danced with you

Time can never mend
The careless whisper of a good friend
To the heart and mind
Ignorance is kind
There’s no comfort in the truth
Pain is all you’ll find

Tonight the music seems so loud
I wish that we could lose this crowd
Maybe it’s better this way
We’d hurt each other with the things we want to say
We could have been so good together
We could have lived this dance forever
But now who’s gonna dance with me
Please stay

Eighties Bowie, David Sylvian and “Forbidden Colours”

Inevitably I got to thinking a lot about David Bowie this week and like many of us, have ended up spending a fair bit of time online looking back at his many guises. One that has thrown me a bit is the early ’80s “Let’s Dance” phase. Early ’70s David Bowie hid behind bizarre “spaceman” characters but by 1983 he had gone seriously mainstream – Or was he playing another character? I heard him say in an interview that he felt far more confident on stage playing a character such as Ziggy but by 36, as he would have been by this time, it looks as if he was confident enough to be himself. Amazingly, after looking pale, thin, malnourished and let’s be honest, a tad weird a decade earlier, he had turned into one of the best-looking guys in the industry (we’ll ignore the teeth). This was the post-New Romantic period and he was very much adopting the sharp, elegant look that bands such as Duran Duran, ABC and Japan favoured.

b2

I am still unsure who copied who, but in 1983 there were a series of events that seemed to tie in and feed off each other. He released the “Let’s Dance” album that year and a string of hits came from it starting off with the title track in March. He had approached Nile Rodgers to act as producer on it, and his brief was to “give him hit singles“, which is exactly what he did. A massive world tour followed and I remember my flatmate of the time heading downtown with her sleeping bag in order to queue all night for tickets (no computers or Ticketmaster in those days, we were old school).

We knew that Bowie had a film coming out later that summer, Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence, and leading the advance party were David Sylvian (ex of the band Japan) and Ryuichi Sakamoto (also an actor in the film), who had produced the soundtrack album. The beautiful song Forbidden Colours was released in July 1983 and looking at a picture of David Sylvian now, there is more than a passing resemblance to Bowie at that time although not as suntanned (as he hadn’t been on location in a tropical rainforest).

d syl

The lyrics again are a bit bizarre but the theme is a forbidden love, which is also reflected in the storyline of the film. I do remember going to see it when it came out the following month and Bowie turned in a really good performance. A male colleague from that era had also been to see it and when I asked his opinion he decided that there had been something lacking, in that there were no women in it. That would of course have been because it was set in a male prisoner of war camp!

Forbidden Colours by David Sylvian and Ryuichi Sakamoto:

So, unlike with his earlier creations, David Bowie in 1983 was very much part of the zeitgeist making highly commercial pop music and looking and dressing very much like his younger counterparts. He was back acting, and feeding off the people he worked with. Happy memories of those days – The real start of big ’80s hair (perms and bleaching were de rigueur), bold bright earrings, tanned skin, and lots of white shoes and clothing. Those of us who got on board with the whole look have probably ruined our hair and skin in the process but boy did we feel good when stepping out for a “night on the town”.

Forbidden Colours Lyrics
(Song by David Sylvian/Ryuichi Sakamoto)

The wounds on your hands never seem to heal
I thought all I needed was to believe
Here am I, a lifetime away from you
The blood of Christ, or the beat of my heart
My love wears forbidden colours
My life believes

Senseless years thunder by
Millions are willing to give their lives for you
Does nothing live on?

Learning to cope with feelings aroused in me
My hands in the soil, buried inside of myself
My love wears forbidden colours
My life believes in you once again

I`ll go walking in circles
While doubting the very ground beneath me
Trying to show unquestioning faith in everything
Here am I, a lifetime away from you
The blood of Christ, or a change of heart

My love wears forbidden colours
My life believes
My love wears forbidden colours
My life believes in you once again