Conventions, Constructions and Andrea True Connection!

I wrote yesterday about the year 1976 and how its music is used ruthlessly by advertisers to target people my age – Apparently if you hear an ad with music from when you were 16, you will mindlessly buy whatever is on offer.

Instead of writing about another of the big hits of that year however, I am going to return to the thread covered earlier in the week – How a weird synchronicity comes about at certain times in your life. All through April ’76 I was busy revising for my first important set of exams, and every time I had a break and switched on the radio, the record that was playing either had the word Connection, Convention or Construction attached to it – Drove me mad. With all the studying my brain was addled and I could never remember which one was which. They were all of a disco persuasion so there is the link, but all very confusing at the time.

This is a first for me, four clips included today, but I need them all just to show you what I was going through at the time. First of all we have American disco artist Andrea True Connection with More, More More.

More, More More by Andrea True Connection:

It turns out that “Andrea True” started out as a mainstream film actress but got drawn into the pornographic industry and made over 50 hardcore movies. During her heyday as a porn actress she was hired to appear in a commercial in Jamaica. A political crisis meant she couldn’t leave the island with her fee so being the resourceful girl that she was, she decided to use that cash to produce a dance track where she added the vocals – The result was More, More More which went on to be one of the top-selling dance tracks of all time. The clip for this song now makes a bit more sense in view of this new information but is still a bit troubling to watch (were they hotpants or just pants?).

Next up we have Silver Convention with their hit Get Up And Boogie. This time deeply troubling to watch and I’m not just talking about the outfits this time – Very odd stage set.

The third offering is Movin’ by Brass Contruction – More of a soul/funk hit but popular on the nation’s dance floors at the time. Unlike with the previous two clips, the kids are in the kind of outfits we wore out in ’76 – Wide flared trousers, tank tops, a lot of denim (Brutus jeans anyone?) and big collars. A few great dancers amongst this bunch.

And finally we have Isaac Hayes (he of “Theme from Shaft” fame) with his Disco Connection, another favourite on the dance floors of ’76 Britain before the temperature rose and we all got too hot and bothered to do much of anything.

As it turned out, those exams went very well but was it because of all these disco classics or in spite of them? Who knows but I probably won’t be revisiting any of these songs for a while as I feel my disco days are far behind me. Andrea True died in 2011 aged 68 and ended her days living off her royalities from More, More More and working as a psychic reader. She certainly sounds as if she led a colourful life and always said she wanted to be remembered as a person who “gave people pleasure” – then added the words – “with my music.”

RIP Andrea.

More, More More Lyrics
(Song by Sam Dees – Not too challenging for him as you will see)

Ooh, how do you like your love?
Ooh, how do you like your love?

But if you want to know how I really feel
Get the cameras rollin’, get the action goin’
Baby, you know, my love for you is real
Take me where you want to
Me and my heart you steal

More, more, more
How do you like it?
How do you like it?

Repeat x 42 times (yes really!)

Long Hot Summers, Advertising and The Music of 1976

Apparently a study has been carried out and the findings are that any company wishing to target a particular demographic with their advertising, should use music from the time that group was 16 – In my case that would be 1976. I can see how this would work. If like me you were lucky and had a stable family background: your material needs were all catered for; you had a tight regime to your day with school and probably a Saturday job; you saw your best friends every single day because you went to school with them, and finally; you probably had a reasonable level of independence, as helicopter parenting wouldn’t start for a few decades yet. Top that off with a few short romances that didn’t cause too much distress when they were over, no social media to mess with your head, and life was sweet.

We humans are essentially simple beings but as the years go by we accumulate baggage, make life complicated for ourselves and lose the people we love – These giant corporations know that, and home in on our weakness for a pop song that reminds us of simpler times. A really expensive car and some life assurance anyone? Yes by golly, I’ll have both!

1976 was indeed a memorable year and one which I have really fond memories of. It was of course the year of the ‘long hot summer’ when a whole new government department had to be created, The Ministry for Drought (which then became the Ministry for Floods when summer turned into autumn).

The UK won the Eurovision Song Contest that year with Brotherhood of Man’s Save Your Kisses For Me. Girl/boy bands like BofM were very popular in 1976 and Abba really solidified their postition as an international supergroup with hits like Mama Mia, FernandoDancing Queen and Money Money Money. Even home grown acts like Guys and Dolls had a modicum of success.

Despite the fact that punk emerged that year, with Malcolm MacLaren’s Sex Pistols out to shock, they or their movement didn’t really make much of an impact on the UK Singles Chart – That was pretty much filled with the usual suspects. We had Disco (Tina Charles, Donna Summer), Country (JJ Barrie, Pussycat and Billie Jo Spears), Novelty songs (The Wurzels), Soft rock (Chicago, Dr Hook), Pop classics (Elton John & Kiki Dee), Soul (The Stylistics, Barry White), Rock (Queen with their amazing Bohemian Rhapsody) and Rock ‘n’ Roll Revival acts (Showaddywaddy).

As for me, I was in my 4th Year of Secondary School which was the last year everyone of my age would have to legally attend. In the May of that year we sat our first important exams, ‘O Grades’ as they were called then (short for Ordinary, although didn’t feel very ordinary when you were having to revise for them). When you have big exams coming up you do spend a lot of your time in your room studying, but of course you also need a bit of down time and the radio is probably switched on a bit more often that should be. I think I am still familiar with just about every song that hit the charts in the spring of 1976 and could still tell you which position they reached in the charts. After the exams were finished, a time of merriement commenced (as per the film Grease) and the two songs I remember clearly from that time are You To Me Are Everything by Liverpool band The Real Thing and Young Hearts Run Free by Candi Staton – If any company used either of those songs in an advert I would be putty in their hands.

As it turned out the exams of 1976 went very well but later on that year a lot of our classmates left school for good as there were plenty of jobs waiting for 16-year-olds in those days. Those of us who went back to school enjoyed the big hit of the autumn, Chicago’s If You Leave Me Now, and then over Christmas we were treated to Johnny Mathis with his version of When A Child Is Born (one for the mums and dads).

As the academic year went by and we all started to turn 17, the serious business of Higher Grade exams loomed which determined whether or not you would go to University. Like our old classmates who had already entered the adult world of work, life had got just that little bit more stressful and not as carefree as for our 16-year-old selves. The advertisers therefore have got it right I reckon – It is not the same for everyone but if you have to pick music from a year that will really boost sales, make it the year your target group turned 16. Works for me and my new really expensive car, and life assurance policy.

I shall leave you with Candi Staton and her June 1976 hit Young Hearts Run Free but it seems bizarre now that this was the track of choice for our end of term merriment. As I’ve said before however I really don’t think we took too much heed of the lyrics at that age – I’d not had any big romances yet and all the mums and dads I knew seemed to be quite happy (or perhaps I was too young and naïve to think otherwise). I loved Candi’s voice though and the song had a great sound to it. Perfect for the school disco.

Young Hearts Run Free by Candi Staton:

Something that has just come to light in the last few years however – Whenever she was mentioned on the radio or on TOTP, she was always called Candi ‘Staton’ (made to sound like Staten Island) but it turns out it should have been pronounced ‘State-en’. Poor lady has had her name mispronounced in the UK for the last 40 years, but hopefully now put right. Tony Blackburn in the clip was obviously one of the main culprits but of course he was the DJ who badly mispronounced ‘Duran Duran’ during a chart rundown in the ’80s so not surprising really. As it turns out I only discovered after his death that I had always mispronounced ‘Bowie’ (as in David) so not always easy to get it right. Another tricky one is ‘Bono’ of U2 – He always ends up sounding like a well-known dog food.

Anyway, time for me to sign off for today. Enjoy the ‘long hot summer song’ of 1976

Young Hearts Run Free Lyrics
(Song by David Crawford)

What’s the sense in sharing this one and only life
Ending up just another lost and lonely wife
You count up the years and they will be filled with tears

Love only breaks up to start over again

You’ll get the babies but you won’t have your man
While he is busy loving every woman that he can  

Say I’m gonna leave a hundred times a day

It’s easier said than done
When you just can’t break away

Young hearts, run free
They’ll never be hung up, hung up like my man and me 
Young hearts, to yourself be true
Don’t be no fool when
Love really don’t love you 

It’s high time now just one crack at life
Who wants to live it in trouble and strife
My mind must be free to learn all I can about me

I’m gonna love me for the rest of my days

Encourage the babies every time they say
Self preservation is what’s really going on today

Say I’m gonna turn loose hundred times a day
How can I turn loose
When I just can’t break away

Better Call Saul, Prefab Sprout and “The King of Rock ‘n’ Roll”

Something very odd has been happening. After writing about Rupert Holmes (of Pina Colada Song fame) a couple of weeks ago I have been bombarded by Rupert Holmes references. I am pretty sure I hadn’t thought about him or his song for years, but lo and behold, one of the writers for my favourite magazine dedicated her entire column to him this week, reminiscing about their time together at a literary festival – It turns out he is now a successful novelist. (Hope he isn’t writing books about men being tired of their “old ladies” – grrr.)

Last night when we were watching Better Call Saul (the great Breaking Bad spin-off series), there was a scene where the main character is caught filming in a schoolyard – When challenged, his story is that he is making a documentary about Rupert Holmes (of Pina Colada Song fame – it always has to be qualified), who went to school there. Of course he didn’t, but of all the people in music to use, how bizarre that it had to be him.

saul

I was still reeling from this when I remembered that last week I wrote a post about the song “A Horse With No Name” which featured in Breaking Bad. Like Breaking Bad, Better Call Saul is set in Albuquerque which is right in the middle of the New Mexico desert. Funny they have never used the Prefab Sprout song The King of Rock’n’ Roll I thought, as Albuquerque is mentioned eight times as part of the chorus. Yes you’ve guessed it, it was the first song to be played on my radio alarm when it came on this morning. It turns out there is even a name for such coincidences – The Baader-Meinhof Phenomenon.

So, a bizarre introduction to the song The King of Rock ‘n’ Roll from 1988, but that is how it popped into my head today. The British band Prefab Sprout had a run of minor hits from the mid ’80s to early ’90s but this was the one that achieved their highest chart position of No.7. It was the second single to be taken from their album “From Langley Park to Memphis” (although from Durham they were obviously into all things American) and is apparently about a washed-up 1950s star who is only remembered for his one-hit novelty song. Don’t really think I would have worked that out for myself but the more I write about songs from “The Soundtrack to My Life”, the more I realise how little I have ever really thought about the lyrics – I either like the whole sound and rhythm of a song or I don’t. I am a sucker for a great intro and that is usually what reels me in.

langley

So, “What’s It All About?” – Personally I think we, the record-buying public, are being led a merry dance much of the time. I read the supposed meaning behind the lyrics and then I find out that the songwriter just needed a word that rhymed – Fans (short for fanatics remember) often read a bit too much into the lyrics I feel, but hey that’s just my opinion. In the meantime I’ll get back to looking out for more Baader-Meinhof Phenomenon coincidences, like being introduced to a new colleague called Rupert Holmes, or being told that someone has just booked a trip……. to Albuquerque!

The King of Rock ‘n’ Roll Lyrics
(Song by Paddy McAloon)

All my lazy teenage boasts are now high precision ghosts
And they’re coming round the track to haunt me
When she looks at me and laughs I remind her of the facts
I’m the king of rock ‘n’ roll completely

Up from, suede shoes, my baby blues
Hot dog, jumping frog, Albuquerque
Hot dog, jumping frog, Albuquerque

The dream helps you forget you ain’t never danced a step
You were never fleet of foot, hippy
All the pathos you can keep for the children in the street
For the vision I have had is sweeping

New broom, this room, sweep it clean baby (hot dog!)
Hot dog, jumping frog, Albuquerque
Hot dog, jumping frog, Albuquerque
Sing out boy…
High kickin’ dandy,
Fine figure fine cut a fine figure fine oh yeah
Long legged candy,
Fine figure fine cut a fine figure fine oh yeah yeah

Now my rhythm ain’t so hot, but it’s the only friend I’ve got
I’m the king of rock’n roll completely
All the pretty birds have flown now I’m dancing on my own
I’m the king of rock’n roll completely

Up from, suede shoes, my baby blues (hot dog!)
Hot dog, jumping frog, Albuquerque
Hot dog, jumping frog, Albuquerque
Are ya lonesome?
High kickin’ dandy,
Fine figure fine cut a fine figure fine oh yeah
Long legged candy,
Fine figure fine cut a fine figure fine oh yeah yeah

Hot dog, jumping frog, Albuquerque
Hot dog, jumping frog, Albuquerque
Sing out boy…
Hot dog, jumping frog, Albuquerque
(The king of rock ‘n’ roll)
Hot dog, jumping frog, Albuquerque, yeah!
Hot dog, jumping frog, Albuquerque
(The king of rock ‘n’ roll)
Hot dog, jumping frog
Albuquerque

Postscript:

As it turns out a comment left from Mark (Manchester) in the boxes below has thrown a bit of light as to the meaning behind these lyrics. To quote: “I have always been told that ‘hot dog, jumping frog and Albuquerque’, are all makes of jukebox.

As I often say around here, every day’s a school day!

Prince, Little Red Corvette and Creative Genius

I wonder if anyone has ever done a study on just how many individual songs the average person in the western world, aged around 55, would have had exposure to during their lifetime, and indeed be familiar with. It must run into tens of thousands – Looking at my iTunes library there are currently 4083 songs there, then there are all the CDs, the vinyl, the bakelite 78s and the cassette tapes in storage. That covers purchased material but what about all the other material that we didn’t buy but have heard over the years on the radio, television, in films, at concerts and within all the other media platforms we have access to nowadays. I’m starting to think that “tens of thousands” might be understatement!

The really scary thing is that in the morning, when the radio comes on and you are still half-asleep, it only takes a few seconds of intro for you to work out what the next song is going to be. This morning it was PrincesLittle Red Corvette which actually starts off a bit slowly and unremarkably – In a heartbeat, my husband and I both knew that it was this 1985 song despite the fact neither of us had ever been particular fans of Prince, or the song. Why, oh why does this not happen at work when you are asked a question about something really important you did just the previous day.

Apparently long-term memories like this are stored in the part of the brain called the hippocampus, so-called because it’s seahorse-shaped. I am totally in awe of how our brain retains all this information and especially of this little seahorse-shaped bit. When you think that early computers, holding and processing very little information, filled massive rooms and had to be treated with kid gloves in order to churn out a few figures – the old hippocampus is a seriously impressive body part. Granted we have come a long way and your average mobile phone will be more powerful than the computers that got men into space, but for a little bit of soft, squidgy, grey tissue to hold all our memories and have the sheer capacity to also remember these tens of thousands of songs – Well, words fail me.

hippo

At this point I usually add a clip of the song I am writing about but it seems Prince has managed to extricate himself from YouTube and all other forms of shared media [the above clip was added after his death – Alyson]. Yet another foible of this artist who in 1993 changed his name to the unpronounceable Love Symbol (can’t even insert it here as not easy to find on a keyboard). There is no denying however that the man from Minneapolis has talent and apparently played all 27 instruments on one of his albums, but again like others I have written about, the more the artist is imbued with creative genius, the slightly weirder they become. Don’t know if you’ve ever seen him on any awards shows but he is definitely “otherworldly”.

symbol

Before leaving the world of Prince entirely however, I did find a clip of his wonderful song Diamonds and Pearls which I think has one of the most beautiful intros ever. It came out in 1991 which was the last year I lived on my own before getting married – It was often played on the Radio 1 Breakfast Show and if you had to wake up alone, at least it made for a lovely start to the day.

prince

Diamonds and Pearls Lyrics
(Song by Prince)

This will be the day
That u will hear me say
That I will never run away

I am here for u
Love is meant for two
Now tell me what u’re gonna do

If I gave u diamonds and pearls
Would u be a happy boy or a girl
If I could I would give u the world
But all I can do is just offer u my love

Which one of us is right
If we always fight
Why can’t we just let love decide (Let love decide)

Am I the weaker man
Because I understand
That love must be the master plan (Love is the master plan)

If I gave u diamonds and pearls
Would u be a happy boy or a girl
If I could I would give u the world
But all I can do is just offer u my love

D to the I to the A to the M
O to the N to the D to the pearls of love
D to the I to the A to the M (To the M)
O to the N to the D to the pearls of love

There will come a time (There will come a time)
When love will blow your mind (Blow your mind)
And everything U’ll look 4 U’ll find (Take a look inside)

That will be the time (That will be the time)
That everything will shine (Forever)
So bright it makes u colorblind (U will be color blind)

If I gave u diamonds and pearls
Would u be a happy boy or a girl
If I could I would give u the world
All I can do is just offer u my love

If I gave u diamonds and pearls (Pearls)
Would u be a happy boy or a girl (Yeah yeah)
If I could I would give u the world (Give u the world)
All I can do is just offer u my love (All I can do)

If I gave u diamonds and pearls (Diamonds)
Would u be, would u, would u
(Would ya, would ya, would ya be happy little baby)
A happy boy or a girl
If I could I would give u the world

Postscript:

Can’t believe that only 11 days after posting this, Prince was found dead at his home in Minneapolis. I now realise that of all the artists I have covered since starting the blog, Prince was the most multi-talented of them all. I hadn’t really appreciated that until writing about him. He not only wrote all those amazing songs but also sang, danced, produced, choreographed, could act and played every musical instument on some of his albums. Don’t know what is going on this year but we are losing our most talented artists at an alarming rate. RIP Prince Rogers Nelson.

Breaking Bad, America and “A Horse With No Name”

I seem to have been languishing in the late ’70s for some time now, writing about songs that many think of as a bit “naff” (although I don’t) so time to move to a slightly different era perhaps, and to a different style of music.

Most people will have heard the song A Horse With No Name by America at some point in their lives. It was a hit in the UK for them in 1971 but it turns out they were actually from Ruislip outside London. Would seem a bit bizarre if not for the fact all three band members had US Airforce Officer fathers who were based over here, and that is how they met. There is no escaping the fact their music is very much in the style of Neil Young, and Crosby, Stills and Nash, but that was exactly what they intended so it worked well for them. I have written before about how kids like myself who came from rural Scotland, found this kind of music very exotic and otherworldly. We had no dark desert highways or tequila sunrises, we certainly didn’t have warm winds blowing the stars around and we wouldn’t have dreamt of crossing a desert on a horse with no name. Oh no, plenty of cows and sheep where I came from and lots of lush grass, but the whole desert imagery thing was something well beyond our ken.

A Horse With No Name by America:

The amusing thing for me about this “desert” song, is that it was actually recorded in the UK, at a studio in Puddletown, Dorset (you couldn’t make it up). It was released here first and it was not until the following year that it was a hit in the US. Yet another group of artists with a hybrid transatlantic upbringing which might have contributed to their success on both sides of the pond (don’t like that term for the massive ocean that is the Atlantic but seems to have become the term used to make us feel closer to each other than is really the case). Rupert Holmes, whom I wrote about last week, was born in Cheshire to an English mother as a result of his US Army Officer father being stationed there. There are many more stories like this and it might be an idea for a series some day.

desrt

But back to the song – For me, it will always be associated with my school days. In Primary School I always wore my long hair tied back in a ponytail so it was inevitable that the joker of the class would assign me an “equine” nickname. Too embarrassing to spill the beans here but suffice to say it was all done in jest and never caused upset. When we moved up to Secondary School I found myself in the same class for most subjects as the “joker” from my junior school days. The ponytail had long gone but of course the song A Horse With No Name had well and truly become a part of our musical memory bank, so for the next six years I often found myself sitting in class, concentrating on a tricky maths or physics problem, suddenly realising that this song was being quietly hummed in the background for my benefit. Sadly we have now lost touch, but I swear that if our middle-aged selves met up again today, I would get a big smile, would be greeted with my old nickname, and given a few bars of A Horse With No Name. Funny how some things stick.

Like most people on the planet last year, we got hooked on the television series Breaking Bad set in Albuquerque, New Mexico. The plot and the acting were all absolutely first class and we binge-watched it over a period of a few weeks. I was constantly amazed how these big cities could have evolved in the middle of a desert, but for various strategic and economic reasons they have, and they continue to prosper. Of course whenever the main characters left the city and drove across the desert, most of the audience must have thought of the song A Horse With No Name and it was only a matter of time before it made a cameo appearance on the show. In Season 3, Episode 2, Walter White is singing along to the song on the radio when he is pulled over by the police for having a broken windshield. That incident is part of a much bigger story arc that I thoroughly recommend you dip into.

I noticed this week that Elton John has come out saying, in his opinion, the best year for music was 1971 and this song came along right at the end of that year. Looking back at lists of what was No. 1 in the Singles Chart however never substantiates such claims as that was also the year that gave us Grandad by Clive Dunn, Ernie by Benny Hill and Chirpy Chirpy Cheep Cheep by Middle of the Road. It’s usually the songs that reached the lower reaches of the charts that best stand the test of time. America reached No. 3 with their desert song and Elton himself only reached No. 7 that year with his wonderful Your Song written with Bernie Taupin.

So, the young songwriters of today should not be deterred as it seems that we just do not know which of their songs will still be around in the future – It only takes the fortuitous selection of a minor hit from the past, for inclusion in a film soundtrack, television show or advert, to turn them into the biggest selling records of all time. We have seen it happen before and we will see it happen again. In the meantime, I’m off to have a wallow in the music of 1971 – If it’s ok for Elton, it’s ok for me!

A Horse With No Name Lyrics
(Song by Dewey Bunnell)

On the first part of the journey
I was looking at all the life
There were plants and birds and rocks and things
There was sand and hills and rings
The first thing I met was a fly with a buzz
And the sky with no clouds
The heat was hot and the ground was dry
But the air was full of sound

I’ve been through the desert on a horse with no name
It felt good to be out of the rain
In the desert you can remember your name
‘Cause there ain’t no one for to give you no pain
La, la …

After two days in the desert sun
My skin began to turn red
After three days in the desert fun
I was looking at a river bed
And the story it told of a river that flowed
Made me sad to think it was dead

You see I’ve been through the desert on a horse with no name
It felt good to be out of the rain
In the desert you can remember your name
‘Cause there ain’t no one for to give you no pain
La, la …

After nine days I let the horse run free
‘Cause the desert had turned to sea
There were plants and birds and rocks and things
there was sand and hills and rings
The ocean is a desert with it’s life underground
And a perfect disguise above
Under the cities lies a heart made of ground
But the humans will give no love

You see I’ve been through the desert on a horse with no name
It felt good to be out of the rain
In the desert you can remember your name
‘Cause there ain’t no one for to give you no pain
La, la …

Dean Friedman, Denise Marsa and “Lucky Stars”

Today I want to revisit the song Lucky Stars by Dean Friedman. Now this was a song that was very much a two-hander with Denise Marsa but for some reason she didn’t get credited on the record. Time to right that wrong – Lucky Stars by Dean Friedman and Denise Marsa.

Lucky Stars by Dean Friedman and Denise Marsa:

This does seem to be the kind of song you either love or hate but for me I have always loved it and it turned out that my husband, whom I met 12 years after it was released, also loved it so another reason why we seem to have rubbed along quite nicely all these years. A great little party piece if you are up for the challenge of remembering the lyrics and not afraid to “perform” in front of friends and family.

Again it is a story-song from the late ’70s but unlike with The Pina Colada Song which I wrote about last time, the lyrics here make total sense – A couple having a bit of a late night bicker about a meeting with an ex-girlfriend. Yes a bit of jealousy going on and a bit of defensive anger but thankfully all forgiven by the time they go to sleep.

I was a little cruel about Rupert Holmes last time saying that he looked somewhat uncool performing his song in 1979 and looking at these two now in the video clip, they do also look somewhat uncool but no, I was there, and let me assure you that in 1978 this was the look of choice. All through the ’70s girls had sported either long flowing locks with a centre parting or the layered look that, if your hair was long, required a high level of maintenance and the use of curling tongs. In 1978 however, the shaggy perm became fashionable for both girls and boys which was great – You just washed your hair and let it dry naturally, sometimes adding little flowers as decoration (if you were a girl).

dean

Some songs always remind you of a certain time in your life, and for me, this song is from the time I left home to go to University (not called Uni in those days). After years of living in a family home with all the comfort that affords, you now find yourself in a small room with a bed, a desk, a wardrobe and a little wash-hand basin. I did however have a radio and a cassette recorder, so music was always being played. In the autumn of 1978 this song was being given blanket airplay so my memories of that time – of making new friends, of finding my way around a new city and best of all, being independent – are kind of tied in with it. Bizarre how the memory works but I can still remember being in a clothes shop changing room with it playing on their sound system. I had settled into my new student room and was now trying to build up a new student wardrobe – I already had the shaggy perm, I had acquired a vintage fur coat (sorry, but different times) and now needed some bits and pieces to complete the look. Happy days….

uni

Going to listen to it one more time before I sign off, and enjoy that wonderful bit of saxophone playing. For some reason, although both singers were Americans from New Jersey, it was only a hit in the UK and not in the US. Thank you therefore Dean and Denise (has a nice ring to it) for those happy memories.

Lucky Stars
(Song by Dean Friedman)

What are you crazy? How in the hell can you say what you just said?
I was talking to myself. Shut the door and come to bed.
By the way, I forgot to say, your endearing mother called today.
Did you see Lisa?
Yes I saw Lisa.
Is that why you’re angry?
I wasn’t angry.
Maybe a little.
Not even maybe.
Must be the weather.
Now don’t be a baby.
We’ll how am I supposed to feel with all the things you don’t reveal and
You can thank your lucky stars that we’re not as smart as we’d like to think we are.

Would you like to talk about it?
There’s not much to say.
We had lunch this afternoon. Her life’s in disarray.
She still goes around as if she is always stumbling off a cliff.
Do you still want her?
What are you saying?
Do you still want her?
Baby stop playing.
Really, I mean it. Can you forget her?
Baby, now stop it. You should know better.
I know this is hard to do. but, there’s no one for me but you and
You can thank your lucky stars that we’re not as smart as we’d like to think we are.

Baby, I’m sorry, I was wrong, I have no alibis.
I was acting like a fool and I apologize.
Listen, hon’, I know you’re dumb, but that’s ok, you don’t have to look so glum.
Do you still love me?
Yes, I still love you.
You mean, you’re not just being nice.
No, I’m not just being nice.
Do you feel sleepy.
Aw, you’re so sincere. Yes, I feel sleepy.
Well, slide over here ’cause I may not be all that bright, but I know how to hold you tight and
You can thank your lucky stars that we’re not as smart as we’d like to think we are and

You can thank your lucky stars that we’re not as smart as we’d like to think we are and
We can thank our lucky stars that we’re not as smart as we’d like to think we are.

Rupert Holmes, Piña Coladas and Annoying Lyrics

Writing last time about the Jimmy Webb song MacArthur Park and its bizarre cake lyrics led me to think of another “food and drink” song from the late ’70s – Escape (The Piña Colada Song) by Rupert Holmes. (Excuse the double lyrics but the best version I could find).

Escape (The Piña Colada Song) by Rupert Holmes:

Until now I thought I had always liked this song as it has a jaunty upbeat chorus, but listening to it again has just made me very angry. Maybe it’s because I’ve now been married for nearly 25 years, but if “he was tired of his lady” maybe it was time for a frank discussion about what was going wrong and how to fix it, not resort to the personal ads. Their relationship was, according to the narrator, “like a worn-out recording, of a favourite song”. Now sadly with a story song like this, sung in the first person, you can’t help but think of the person doing the singing, and watching the video clip, Rupert (Steve Wright in the afternoon anyone?) looks as if he’s just come off the golf course. Combine that with his dad-dancing, smugness and overly literal actions and he looks about as uncool as humanly possible in 1979 – Looking a bit like a worn-out recording yourself Mr Holmes.

And then it gets worse – He replies to a personal ad placed by a goodtime girl who likes having sex outdoors (piña coladas and making love in the dunes), and doesn’t care about intelligence or fitness levels (have half a brain and not into yoga). What red-blooded male having problems with “his lady” wouldn’t reply?

pinacolada

So it is night time, but he has managed to read the personal ad, submit a response (which wasn’t half bad so he thought – grrr) and in the pre-internet era managed to be all set for a meeting in a bar (?) the following morning. By now I am highly dubious as to the character of the person he is likely to encounter but lo and behold it turns out to be his own “lovely” lady (what happened to the “old” lady he was tired of). Oh how they laughed – Really? You place a personal ad and the person who turns up is the person you are trying to escape from – Yes, what a jolly time they must have had mid-morning at O’Malley’s, chiding each other playfully about how little they knew each other. What had they been doing all the time they were together for goodness sake? Sleeping and reading newspapers by the sound of it.

So there we have it – Another food and drink song with ridiculous lyrics. Starting to see a pattern here. I also think that this was a song I’d only ever heard on the radio so I didn’t know what Rupert Holmes looked like. Not possibly someone you would, in the fantasy world of song lyrics, dream of having piña coladas and sex on the beach with, so it’s kind of spoilt it for me.

Before I sign out though I came across this “Sims” clip that re-enacts the song – I remember my daughter spending hours on her Sim families but she never thought of doing this one I’m sure. Made me smile and made me a little less angry with the silly lyrics.

Escape (The Piña Colada Song) Lyrics
(Song by Rupert Holmes)

I was tired of my lady, we’d been together too long
Like a worn-out recording, of a favorite song
So while she lay there sleeping, I read the paper in bed
And in the personals column, there was this letter I read

“If you like Pina Coladas, and getting caught in the rain
If you’re not into yoga, if you have half a brain
If you like making love at midnight, in the dunes of the cape
I’m the love that you’ve looked for, write to me, and escape”

I didn’t think about my lady, I know that sounds kind of mean
But me and my old lady, had fallen into the same old dull routine
So I wrote to the paper, took out a personal ad
And though I’m nobody’s poet, I thought it wasn’t half bad

“Yes, I like Pina Coladas, and getting caught in the rain
I’m not much into health food, I am into champagne
I’ve got to meet you by tomorrow noon, and cut through all this red tape
At a bar called O’Malley’s, where we’ll plan our escape”

So I waited with high hopes, then she walked in the place
I knew her smile in an instant, I knew the curve of her face
It was my own lovely lady, and she said, “Oh, it’s you”
And we laughed for a moment, and I said, “I never knew”

“That you liked Pina Coladas, and getting caught in the rain
And the feel of the ocean, and the taste of champagne
If you like making love at midnight, in the dunes of the cape
You’re the love that I’ve looked for, come with me, and escape”

“If you like Pina Coladas, and getting caught in the rain
If you’re not into yoga, if you have half a brain
If you like making love at midnight, in the dunes of the cape
I’m the love that you’ve looked for, come with me, and escape”

dunes

Postscript:

I’ve said before that I never intend to cause offence in this blog but here I am ridiculing a song that was actually a big hit for Mr Holmes so plenty of people must have enjoyed it back in the day. Also, he did spend most of the ’70s writing songs for other people so by 1979 it was high time he had some fun singing his own lyrics and who am I to say whether he looked cool or uncool (he looked uncool).

The story to the song does have a “twist”, which on a superficial level could have been quite funny, but even 37 years ago I doubt if any couple in the same situation would have really seen the humour. I am trying to be magnanimous here but I can see I am digging myself an even bigger hole. Definitely time to sign off and in the unlikely event that you ever read this Rupert Holmes, I am very sorry!

Easter, “MacArthur Park” and Donna Summer

Short post today as it’s Easter Weekend and I’m off to roll my egg!

Tried to think of a song to write about that relates to Easter but could only think of Easter Parade from the 1948 film of the same name which cannot really be considered a Track FromMy” Years (I’m not quite that old) and not really a pop song but one from the golden age of MGM musicals.

When you do think of other songs that have religious connotations (from Life of Brian, Jesus Christ Superstar) there is the capacity to cause offence and that’s not what this blog is about. So, back to letting the old brainbox come up with something randomly and that turned out to be MacArthur Park – Not entirely sure how that happened but I think it’s because there is a park involved and at this time of year, in Scotland anyway, the parks are all waking up from their winter sleep and are full of crocuses and daffodils. Easter is a time of rebirth and eggs are a symbol of fertility. Also, the bizarre line in MacArthur Park about the cake being left out in the rain probably made me think of Simnel cake, traditional at this time of the year.

easter

The song MacArthur Park, written and composed by Jimmy Webb, was first recorded by Richard Harris in 1968 but my favourite version was the one by Donna Summer from 1978. She was the undisputed Queen of Disco in the ’70s and 1978 was the year I reached the age of 18 and could legitimately go dancing in the licenced venues where I lived (although in those days this was not heavily policed and pretty much everyone over 16 was allowed in). This was rural Scotland however and we certainly didn’t have anything resembling Studio 54 but the local hoteliers manned up and kitted their function suites out with glitter balls, flashing lights and if you were very lucky, those flashing tiled floors as seen in Saturday Night Fever. The DJs were often local teenagers who’d had the foresight (or parents with foresight) to invest in the equipment and records needed to hire out their services – A nice little sideline before returning to school on the Monday.

MacArthur Park by Donna Summer:

I have always liked this song although its flowery lyrics are definitely not for everyone and it was not until looking into it a bit more for this post, that I came to understand that the whole “cake left out in the rain” line was a metaphor for lost love and the end of a relationship. Nearly 40 years on and it now makes sense although back in the day a most unusual song to have been given the full-blown disco treatment.

As for Donna Summer, it was when she happened to be in Germany performing in the musical “Hair” that she had a fortuitous meeting with the producer Giorgio Moroder. Yet again we have a chance encounter that went on to have great significance, this time for the future of electronic dance music or “Disco”. Listening to the record again, I love hearing that disco beat and if you were a keen dancer like me, not afraid to clear the floor with a few special moves (think Joan Travolta in footless tights and a shiney wrap dress) the late ’70s were a bit of a golden age! As for the lyrics of the song, although I now understand them a bit more, I do think the whole cake metaphor was taken just that little bit too far.

donna 2

Poor Donna died quite young at the age of 63 in 2012 but she has left a great legacy, as the defining female voice of the disco era, and also because of her influence on the dance music that was to follow by artists such as Madonna and Beyoncé. Thank you Donna for many happy memories on the dance-floor.

MacArthur Park Lyrics
(Song by Jimmy Webb)

Spring was never waiting for us dear
It ran one step ahead
As we followed in the dance

MacArthur’s Park is melting in the dark
All the sweet, green icing flowing down
Someone left the cake out in the rain
I don’t think that I can take it
’cause it took so long to bake it
And I’ll never have that recipe again
Oh, no

I recall the yellow cotton dress
Foaming like a wave
On the ground beneath your knees
The birds like tender babies in your hands
And the old men playing chinese checkers by the trees

Robbie Williams, Formula One and “Supreme”

I seem to have all but abandoned the idea of writing randomly as each song I write about seems to lead straight onto another one – Just the way the brain works I suppose. Inevitably therefore, after mentioning Robbie Williams last time, I would end up thinking about all those other great songs and videos he made at the end of the ’90s/early 2000s. For the video to accompany Millennium he played the role of James Bond but for the video to accompany the year 2000 song Supreme he played “Bob Williams”, a fictitious rival to Jackie Stewart at the height of his Formula One career. The video was edited using the split screen technique often seen in films from the ’60s and they cleverly wove together new footage of Bob Williams with the original 35mm celluloid footage of Jackie Stewart.

As I have said before, there was a real worry in the early ’80s that video would kill the aural-only music experience (as per the lyrics to Radio Ga Ga) but that never really came to pass. I must admit however that I did enjoy Robbie’s videos at this time immensely and they definitely added to the appeal of the songs. He seemed to be having the time of his life and who could blame him – Cocktails with Nicole Kidman and horse-riding with Daryl Hannah for goodness sake.

I am conscious of the fact that since starting this blog I have hardly written about any songs from the 2000s (only Tears Dry On Their Own) and this one just creeps into that decade and no more. When you are a working parent of a 5 to 15 year old as I was throughout that decade, you have very little time for yourself and the music I ended up consuming was my daughter’s choice of pure pop, Disney soundtracks, the songs from television shows (yes we were fans of Pop Idol and The X-Factor in the early days) and older stuff caught on the radio. If we ever visited friends who didn’t have children, the CDs lying around were all by Nora Jones and the sophisticated bands of the day whereas in our house it was S Club 7, Busted and Avril Lavigne. I might be exaggerating a little here but it is kind of true – The importance of what is No. 1 in the charts is not really an issue when you perhaps have a poorly child and a work deadline to meet. There are those lovely moments however when something comes on the car radio and your small child gives you a big smile and lets you know that your favourite song by “Robbie Michaels” has just come on!

052077F8FE50D9E19EF102B908A3708F.jpg

But back to Robbie and Supreme, I think I especially loved the video for that song because I have a fondness for all those old films about the world of motor-racing. As I said last time, I particularly love the Sean Connery Bond era (the garish colour, the glamorous locations, the beautiful clothes) and another ’60s film that covered all those bases was Grand Prix starring, amongst others, James Garner and Eva Marie Saint. Like with Robbie’s video, the use of footage from the real world of Formula One was incorporated and even our own Graham Hill had a cameo role as one of the drivers. It must be something about the long Scottish winters but when colour came to our television screens in the early ’70s and we were able to watch these films properly for the first time, we couldn’t get enough of them. I do blame my mother however for not pointing out until I was around ten, that Grand Prix was not pronounced phonetically (embarrassed myself a few times with that one I think).

As well as the film Grand Prix there was also the excellent film Le Mans starring Steve McQueen, and more recently Rush starring Chris Hemsworth which was about the ’70s rivalry between James Hunt and Niki Lauda. I remember that era well and used to love watching interviews with Hunt, a firm favourite on television chat shows. The film recreated it all really well.

Robbie Williams has continued to have an amazing career and even rejoined Take That for one album and a tour (didn’t ever expect that to happen but glad he and Gary made up in the end). Something that does bother me however is that he has had long bouts of depression over the years. He is the consummate entertainer and can sing, dance and play the fool on stage, but like so many before him the pressure of keeping us entertained has taken its toll. I have written before about the flamboyant artists who are incredibly shy in private and create a stage character or alter-ego. Robbie isn’t shy but he finds it hard to be serious, always resorting to the funny one-liner or comedy moment (even at the end of the video for Supreme). There have been numerous studies on the link between creativity and mental illness and sadly there does seem to be one – The phenomenon of the sad clown. I hope now that he has a family, he can rid himself of the black dog.

Before I finish I’d like to mention that Robbie’s career started with a stint playing the Artful Dodger in Oliver! (exclamation mark part of that musical’s title, not shock on my part). I have already written about Davy Jones of The Monkees who also shot to stardom after a similar stint on Broadway and it is part of pop folklore that Phil Collins also started out that way. There are no doubt many others out there I don’t know about but it makes me wonder – If your son is currently treading the boards in that role, it could be the first step on the ladder to global stardom. Just saying……

robbie.jpg

Supreme Lyrics
(Song by Robbie Williams/Guy Chambers)

Oh it seemed forever stopped today
All the lonely hearts in London
Caught a plane and flew away
And all the best women are married
All the handsome men are gay
You feel deprived

Yeah are you questioning your size?
Is there a tumour in your humour,
Are there bags under your eyes?
Do you leave dents where you sit,
Are you getting on a bit?
Will you survive
You must survive

When there’s no love in town
This new century keeps bringing you down
All the places you have been
Trying to find a love supreme
A love supreme

Oh what are you really looking for?
Another partner in your life to
abuse and to adore?
Is it lovey dovey stuff,
Do you need a bit of rough?
Get on your knees

Yeah turn down the love songs that you hear
‘Cause you can’t avoid the sentiment
That echoes in your ear
Saying love will stop the pain
Saying love will kill the fear
Do you believe
You must believe

I spy with my little eye
Something beginning with (ah)
Got my back up
And now she’s screaming
So I’ve got to turn the track up
Sit back and watch the royalties stack up
I know this girl she likes to switch teams
And I’m a fiend but I’m living for a love supreme

Come and live a love supreme
Don’t let it get you down
Everybody lives for love

Bond Themes, Nancy Sinatra and “You Only Live Twice”

Yesterday I wrote about Rise Like a Pheonix, the song that won the Eurovision Song Contest in 2014, and how it was very much in the style of a James Bond theme song. Led me to think about all those great (and some not so great) themes from over 50 years of Bond films and I have put together my own list, ranked by personal preference. There are many such lists out there and it seems there is mixed opinion on which is the best theme song ever but at the moment, for me, it is You Only Live Twice by Nancy Sinatra from the 1967 film of the same name.

You Only Live Twice by Nancy Sinatra:

The song has a really beautiful intro which Robbie Williams cleverly used for his recording of Millennium in 1998. In the video for Millennium, Robbie, dressed in a tuxedo parodies James Bond and references many of the early Sean Connery films. Turned out to be a great way to get back on top after his departure from Take That.

But back to my list – Nancy up there at the top at the moment but like any list it changes all the time, especially with oft-heard songs such as these. There seems to be a tipping point at which a song has just been listened to just once too often and it goes from being a joy, to something you have become a bit tired and weary of hearing. I hate when that happens and rush to turn off the radio if one of my all-time favourites comes on as I just don’t want to reach that point any sooner than need be.

nancy

All Bond Theme Songs – Personal Ranking (feel free to disagree)

1. You Only Live Twice – 1967 – Nancy Sinatra
2. Live and Let Die – 1973 – Paul McCartney & Wings
3. For Your Eyes Only – 1981 – Sheena Easton
4. The Spy Who Loved Me – 1977 – Carly Simon
5. The Living Daylights – 1987 – A-ha
6. The World Is Not Enough – 1999 – Garbage
7. From Russia with Love – 1963 – Matt Monro
8. Goldfinger – 1964 – Shirley Bassey
9. Skyfall – 2012 – Adele
10.We Have All the Time in the World – 1969 – Louis Armstrong
11.Diamonds Are Forever – 1971 – Shirley Bassey
12.All Time High – 1983 – Rita Coolidge
13.Licence to Kill – 1989 – Gladys Knight
14.A View to a Kill – 1985 – Duran Duran
15.Thunderball – 1965 – Tom Jones
16.GoldenEye – 1995 – Tina Turner
17.Tomorrow Never Dies – 1997 – Sheryl Crow
18.Writing’s on the Wall – 2015 – Sam Smith
19.Die Another Day – 2002 – Madonna
20.The Man with the Golden Gun – 1974 – Lulu
21.Another Way To Die – 2008 – Jack White & Alicia Keys
22.You Know My Name – 2006 – Chris Cornell
23.Moonraker – 1979 – Shirley Bassey

you

I still think the Golden Age of Bond movies was the Sean Connery era or perhaps it is just that I am reminded of watching them on television as a child. By the early ’70s they were a staple on high days and holidays and because the world was a much bigger place then, with foreign travel something very few of us experienced, it was worth watching them for the glamorous locations alone. Although the age of feminism and bra-burning had well and truly started by then, it really didn’t filter through to Bond movies until the Timothy Dalton era and for many of us, that was a low point in the franchise. To try and make Bond politically correct was a stretch but with the latest batch of movies starring Daniel Craig as Bond, they seem to have found the right balance.

And if you want to compare intros, here is a clip of Robbie playing Mr Bond – Don’t think he’ll ever get the main gig but it was great fun watching him in those videos from his album “I’ve Been Expecting You”. A wonderful homage to those glamorous films of the ’60s.

Millennium by Robbie Williams:

You Only Live Twice Lyrics
(Song by Leslie Bricusse/John Barry)

You only live twice or so it seems
One life for yourself and one for your dreams
You drift through the years and life seems tame
Till one dream appears and love is it’s name

And love is a stranger who’ll beckon you on
Don’t think of the danger or the stranger is gone

This dream is for you, so pay the price
Make one dream come true, you only live twice

Postscript:

Just in case anyone else has “anorak tendencies” like myself, yes there have been 24 Bond movies to date (and two by other production companies) but the first one, Dr No in 1962, did not have a title song. Monty Norman did however compose the now infamous James Bond theme for it which has been used in all the films since.

For the 1969 film On Her Majesty’s Secret Service starring one-time Bond George Lazenby, John Barry was the composer of the opening theme of the same name but Louis Armstrong’s song We Have All The Time In The World was a secondary theme, played at the end of the film. The only other exception to the rule was that Matt Monro’s vocal version of From Russia With Love was not played for the opening titles to that film but used for the closing credits.