The 5th Dimension, “Wedding Bell Blues” and Embarrassing Dances

Always a lot of talk in my little corner of the blogosphere relating to what constitutes a guilty pleasure – In song terms of course. After a fair bit of discussion, the upshot always is that there really should be no guilty pleasure tag, as some songs were specifically written to be short-lived bursts of pure bubble-gum pop. Of course we do all get a bit fed up when there is such a plethora of these songs around that they distract and detract from all the other good stuff (e.g. the machine that was SAW in the late ‘80s) but it happens from time to time, always has, and always will.

I feel as if the song I am going to feature today should come under the guilty pleasure tag, but as we are no longer going to use that term I will instead just explain how it came to mind. First of all, we had a wedding to attend yesterday and much of the week was spent preparing for it. When the song Wedding Bell Blues by The 5th Dimension came on the radio one afternoon, I was therefore already tuned into all things “wedding-y”. Secondly, as explained in my last post, of late I seem to have found myself continually gravitating towards songs from the late ‘60s, which I find bizarre as from a time when I was still a little kid. Finally, just as my fellow bloggers felt a tad uneasy about their appreciation of Jason Donovan, I felt a little uneasy at my appreciation of The 5th Dimension but in no time at all I was dancing around the room and made a sneaky little purchase on iTunes.

Wedding Bell Blues by The 5th Dimension:

What I find fascinating about the ‘60s is that during that decade, in the wink of an eye, we moved from boy and girl bands, dressed very smartly in identical matching outfits and very rigid hairstyles to the wild abandon that constituted the hippy counterculture. The 5th Dimension were probably best-known for the song medley Aquarius/Let the Sun Shine In, from the stage musical Hair. Hard to believe now that full-scale nudity even came to Scotland in the form of a touring production of the show in 1969 – I clearly remember my parents discussing it, and unbelievably they didn’t even seem that shocked by the concept, but then again they had lived through a war (and not the Vietnam one so integral to the plotline of the show) so perhaps they could adapt to change in a fast-moving world more quickly than we perhaps do now?

hair
The cast of the musical Hair

But back to Wedding Bell Blues, it is a song that was written and originally recorded by Laura Nyro in 1966 but only really became a big hit when covered by The 5th Dimension in 1969. The song is written from the perspective of a woman whose boyfriend has not yet proposed to her, and she wonders, “Am I ever gonna see my wedding day?” The woman obviously adores her man but there is definitely a theme of frustration going on there as well.

As it happens, other than the word “wedding” being in the title, the theme of this song was not relevant to yesterday’s event at all as the couple getting married have been together for quite some time and were both equally as excited about tying the knot. For the second time in two months we were invited because we are friends of the parents – Yes we have now been to all our own friends’ weddings and there have been quite a few “second marriage” weddings. In these cases the couple in question are usually a bit more mature, so can spend a fair bit of money on their big day and it becomes quite a lavish and extravagant affair. Now we are seeing our friends’ children getting married and these are turning out to be the most enjoyable. There is something really pure and satisfying about seeing two local youngsters, you have known since they were kids, set out on that journey.

21412576207d2912089a185870eb1f8e
A Scottish wedding in Richard Curtis world – The cast of Four Weddings

I have mentioned before in this blog that part of the reason I seem to have omitted listening to song lyrics in my youth, was because my relationship with music was often more about how it made me feel, and if it made me want to dance I most definitely did. There is a bit of a problem with dancing however in that once you reach a certain age, the chances to indulge your passion are severely limited. No-one wants to be the oldest swinger in town so it is only at events like weddings that the dancing shoes get an airing.

As it turns out, because it was quite a simple, local wedding with a DJ playing songs requested by the guests, there was a definite joie de vivre in the air last night and unlike with some of the very grand weddings we have attended (think the Andie MacDowell one from Four Weddings) where you really need your wits about you in order to remember all the complex steps for certain obscure Scottish Country dances, last night was all about having fun. We had party dances, a few golden oldies and even a bit of Shang-a-Lang by The Bay City Rollers (always a crowd pleaser here in Scotland so not even a hint of the guilty pleasure tag there).

hqdefault
What we really dance to at weddings in Scotland!

Now as you may have guessed, hubby and I have been known to put on a bit of a show at such affairs, and last night was no exception. You can kind of read the crowd at certain points in the course of the evening and sometimes a record comes on where you can just “flick the switch” and turn in a bit of a performance – We are not talking Strictly Come Dancing level here but it does usually clear the floor and we are given the space to “do our thing”. Because we were a bit of an unknown entity to most of the guests who had not seen this happen before, it was not really seen as showboating at all, and they really did seem to enjoy it – And there was my downfall! One woman in particular (a Miranda Hart lookalike) raved about how great we were to such an extent I got a bit big-headed, and when the very unlikely choice of Bohemian Rhapsody came on I decided to embark on the full six minute “re-enactment of the lyrics” dance, with hubby in tow. Despite the fact I have had my longish hair cut quite short of late, and hubby is now on the number 2 hair clippers, we even did the head-banging scene as last seen in Garth’s car in Wayne’s World. Again the crowd were entertained but today I am suffering both a slight hangover and the worst sort of cringe moment, as I replay the horror in my head of my good self lying on the floor in my best wedding frock, right at the song’s denouement.

So, “What’s It All About?” – I think it’s about being true to yourself and not feeling guilty about enjoying certain types of music just in case your cool friends might disown you. It’s also about getting out there and doing your thing on the dancefloor for as long as physically possible – My knees may be suffering today but the adrenaline rush made it all worthwhile. Note to self however, the days of Bohemian Rhapsody showdances should probably be behind me now, although my daughter, who had to be escorted home in tears last time she witnessed us perform aforementioned showdance, is now a bit older and was actually quite proud of us when we recounted the tale – And in my book, that must stand for something.

As for me I’m off to tend to my aching, but hopefully soon to recover, limbs. Until next time – Keep on dancing!

Wedding Bell Blues Lyrics
(Song by Laura Nyro)

Bill I love you so
I always will
I look at you and see
the passion eyes of May
Oh but am I ever gonna see
my wedding day?
Oh I was on your side Bill
when you were losin’
I’d never scheme or lie Bill
There’s been no foolin’
but kisses and love won’t carry me
till you marry me Bill

Bill I love you so
I always will
and in your voice I hear
a choir of carousels
Oh but am I ever gonna hear
my wedding bells?
I was the one came runnin’
when you were lonely
I haven’t lived one day
not loving you only
but kisses and love won’t carry me
till you marry me Bill

Bill I love you so
I always will
and though devotion rules my heart
I take no bows
Oh but Bill you know
I wanna take my wedding vows
Come on Bill
Come on Bill
I got the wedding bell blues

Petula Clark, “Don’t Sleep In The Subway” and The Music of 1967

Yesterday’s foray into the musical output of Andy Williams, has reminded me of some of those other great songs from the 1960s. Turns out that many hits from that era were recorded by a whole host of other artists and Petula Clark often released songs previously recorded by Mr Williams.

1968-petula-downtown-3.jpg

A good few years ago after discovering iTunes, we went a bit mad revisiting the “tracks of our years” and probably down to the nostalgia element of remembering happy times as a child with my family, I ended up purchasing quite a few songs from 1967, which was probably the first year I really started to take heed of anything from the world of grown-up music. One of these songs was Don’t Sleep In The Subway by Petula Clark simply because it summed up the sound of my 1960s. The whole hippy thing was happening on the West Coast of America but flower power and psychedelia definitely didn’t come to my Scottish village so the kind of music listened to by families like mine, who watched mainstream television, came from people like Pet Clark, Cilla, Dusty, Lulu and The Seekers. The song was written by Tony Hatch (along with his wife Jackie Trent) and the relationship he had with Petula was likened to the one between Burt Bacharach and Dionne Warwick. They also worked together on Downtown, I Couldn’t Live Without Your Love and The Other Man’s Grass Is Always Greener.

Don’t Sleep In The Subway by Petula Clark:

Listening to this song again, it is about a couple having a “domestic” so not really the jaunty, upbeat number I had always considered it to be. There are a few lyrics in there that I find vaguely amusing and don’t quite fit the rhythm of the music (’cause it hurts when your ego is deflated, um-m-um-um-um-um) but I don’t profess to be an expert at this kind of thing and it did sell an awful lot of records so who am I to pick holes?

As a matter of interest, a couple of the other songs I purchased from that year were Georgy Girl by The Seekers and To Sir With Love by Lulu. Neither of the films that these songs came from were about particularly jaunty, upbeat topics either but they are still great songs, so well worth another listen.

Georgy Girl by The Seekers:

To Sir With Love by Lulu:

As it turns out my rose-coloured spectacles regarding the 1960s were severely tested this week as I watched the 1966 Ken Loach television play Cathy Come Home starring Carol White and Ray Brooks. It was a landmark piece of broadcasting at the time and told the harrowing story of an initially happy young couple with children, who due to unfortunate circumstances suffer the trauma of unemployment, poverty and homelessness. It was filmed in a doumentary-style which made it all the more poignant but for me the worst aspect was that fifty years on, many young couples with children still suffer the same problems today. It does sadden me that although we have made amazing advances in certain aspects of life (having the technology to amuse ourselves with all this malarkey), we still have people sleeping in subways, and that just can’t be right.

Getting too maudlin now so will leave it there for today but realising as I revisit the tracks of my years, that those seemingly happy, up-tempo songs often told a very different tale, and one which I am only now appreciating.

Don’t Sleep in the Subway Lyrics
(Song by Tony Hatch/Jackie Trent)

You wander around
on your own little cloud
when you don’t see the why
or the wherefore

Ooh, you walk out on me
when we both disagree
’cause to reason is not what you care for

I’ve heard it all a million times before
Take off your coat, my love, and close the door

Don’t sleep in the subway, darlin’
Don’t stand in the pouring rain
Don’t sleep in the subway, darlin’
The night is long
Forget your foolish pride
Nothing’s wrong,
now you’re beside me again

You try to be smart
then you take it apart
’cause it hurts when your ego is deflated
um-m-um-um-um-um
You don’t realise
that it’s all compromise
and the problems are so over-rated

Good-bye means nothing when it’s all for show
So why pretend you’ve somewhere else to go?

The Ronettes, Phil Spector and “Be My Baby”

Following on from my last post when I wrote about Amy Winehouse’s album “Back to Black”, her image at that time was very much taken from the American girl groups of the early ’60s. The most famous and recognisable of these was probably The Ronettes of Be My Baby fame.

Be My Baby by The Ronettes:

Now I would be lying if I said that I remembered this song from 1963 when it was first released, but it is one of those songs you will have heard throughout your entire life, popping up on the radio and on film soundtracks. Phil Spector, who produced the record, was an innovator and in the early 60s created his now infamous “wall of sound” as a backdrop to the sultry vocals of singers like Veronica (Ronnie) Bennett of The Ronettes and Darlene Love. This new approach to recording included using whole string and horn sections, as well as guitars and drums. The use of echo chambers and multiple tracking was also involved which basically meant that the sound was re-recorded over a demo of the previous recording many times, building up the cacophony of sound that became his trademark.

ronettes

Phil Spector is one of only a few producers who became more famous than many of the artists he worked with and because the “wall of sound” was so clearly associated with him, he was able to release successful albums of his label’s greatest hits under his own name. I bought these two albums in the mid ’80s when they were re-released – Phil Spector’s Greatest Hits & Phil Spector’s Christmas Album. They are still a joy to listen to today and with so few new Christmas songs being released nowadays, his seasonal album has become a staple in our house around that time of year.

In 1987, a low-budget film called Dirty Dancing was released starring Patrick Swayze and Jennifer Grey. Not ever expected to be a big hit, it has become one of the most well-loved films of all time and was the first movie to sell over a million copies on home video. As I have written elsewhere in the blog, adding the “music of the era” to a film soundtrack is a really effective tool and none more so than in the case of Dirty Dancing which was essentially a romantic drama, set in a 1963 holiday resort in the Catskill Mountains.

Be My Baby was used extensively as were other tracks from that year along with a whole load of new ones specially written for the movie. For some reason I didn’t see it when it first came out, but like most people my age, I have since bought the DVD and CD. I remember watching it with my daughter one Bank Holiday Monday and unlike when it came out in 1987, when I was in my late 20s, I felt real nostalgia for all those holiday experiences that Baby was going through. This has happened before when watching movies with my daughter – It seems that you have to be at least a generation removed to feel that emotion. At 27, I was neither young enough or old enough for that to happen. I would wager that the people who enjoyed that movie best when it came out, were either born circa 1970 (they could empathise) or 1950 (they could reflect nostalgically). Of course there are also all those people who would have enjoyed looking back at the music, fashions and social mores of that early sixties period but they would have been war babies and I don’t think that the film was aimed at that demographic when it came out.

dd
Patrick Swayze and Jennifer Grey partaking in some Dirty Dancing!

Wouldn’t be a blog post if I didn’t mention someone who had passed away and it is sad to think that the the vital, energetic, handsome Patrick Swayze (dancer Johnny Castle in the movie) is no longer with us. Jennifer Grey is still very much with us, however her appearance has changed so much since her days of playing Baby, that I now wouldn’t recognise her. Looking back, her nose was perhaps on the large side but after having it “done”, her film career was pretty much over. A case of perhaps best to have left well alone? Who knows but yet again I end with the familiar three letter acronym – RIP, Patrick.

Be My Baby Lyrics
(Song by Jeff Barry/Ellie Greenwich/Phil Spector)

The night we met I knew I needed you so
And if I had the chance I’d never let you go
So won’t you say you love me
I’ll make you so proud of me
We’ll make ’em turn their heads every place we go

So won’t you, please
(Be my, be my baby) Be my little baby
(My one and only baby) Say you’ll be my darlin’
(Be my, be my baby) Be my baby now
Wha-oh-oh-oh

I’ll make you happy, baby, just wait and see
For every kiss you give me, I’ll give you three
Oh, since the day I saw you
I have been waiting for you
You know I will adore you ’til eternity