Reunions, Raincoats and Rock & Pop Memorabilia

A couple of Saturdays ago I got up at the crack of dawn and caught the first train south to Edinburgh. An ex-flatmate from student days had recently been back in touch – inevitably via Facebook – and she was keen to have a bit of a reunion. As one of the other girls from the flat (we’ll always be girls however old we get) was coming up to Edinburgh for the Fringe Festival, a meet-up there seemed to make sense as the rest of us all still live in Scotland. As an aside, another thing that precipitated this reunion was that one of our number has recently been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s Disease, which came as a massive shock to all of us. It’s too easy to put off these kind of reunions as it can be tricky finding dates that work for everyone, but this news certainly galvanised us into action, for obvious reasons.

There certainly was a lot going on in Edinburgh the Saturday I arrived at Waverley Station. We knew however that much of our time would be spent just catching up, as we hadn’t actually met up with the instigator of this reunion for 37 years. She’d left a year earlier than the rest of us to coincide with her student boyfriend’s departure, as he was a year older. They got married within 12 months, and wait for it, are still together! I suppose I shouldn’t be so shocked, but it just didn’t work out that way for the rest of us, so full of admiration for anyone who has gone the distance so to speak.

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After the mid-morning coffee and the boozy lunch, it had been suggested we head along to the National Museum, as the much-publicised exhibition entitled Rip It Up, The Story of Scottish Pop was currently running. It certainly did chronicle the music we Scots have been responsible for inflicting on an unsuspecting nation (world?) over the last 60 years or so, taking us right back to Lonnie Donegan and ending up with the Chvrches by way of Lulu, The Rollers, Deacon Blue, the Soup Dragons and Franz Ferdinand to name but a few.

Only the previous week however I had finally caught up with all three episodes of the BBC 2 documentary series also called Rip It Up (link here), so I was already familiar with “the story” and had seen most of the audio-visual material used as part of the exhibition. Also, there was a strict no taking pictures policy in operation so that kind of ruined my chances of creating a blog post out of my visit (but I’m still going to try). What was great however was to see all that rock and pop memorabilia, donated both by fans and the pop sensations themselves, which had been pulled together for the exhibition.

My last blog post before this visit was as a result of having been set the challenge of writing about James Yorkston (link here) which is when I found out about Fence Records, set up by Kenny Anderson (aka King Creosote). One of the items on display was the actual fence used as inspiration for the artwork for Kenny’s album, still boldly displaying the words KC RULES OK.

There were of course an awful lot of guitars, records and sheet music filling up the glass cases but for me it was the clothes I enjoyed looking at most. Considering I was meandering around these displays with people I had shared a flat with in 1980/81, a few memories invariably came to mind. Both myself and the instigator of the reunion had been lucky enough to receive little black and white portable tellies from Santa that academic year, so from January 1981 onward we took turns in hosting the viewing of TOTP on Thursdays at 7.30pm. That was of course the era of New Romanticism and the charts were littered with acts who were very prone to dressing up in elaborate frills and falderals.

POP-COMP

A band who will always be remembered for producing a highly pretentious, airy fairy video at that time was Ultravox, headed up by Scottish singer Midge Ure. The song it accompanied was of course Vienna, which became infamous for losing out on the UK Singles Chart’s top spot (for weeks on end) to an Australian called Joe Dolce with his novelty song Shaddap You Face. Along with many other iconic outfits in the exhibition, there was the very raincoat Midge wore for the video.

Vienna by Ultravox:

Other panels of interest contained a display of some of the many albums made by Scottish acts over the years – I can only identify a few of the less obvious ones, but I’m sure a fair few of the blogging buddies could identify many more. Some interesting snippets of info up there too – Did you know that in 1975, the Average White Band was the first Scottish band to get to No. 1 in both the US Singles and Album Charts simultaneously? No, me neither, but I do now courtesy of the exhibition.

Last stop was of course the gift shop, and although I didn’t actually buy this Bay City Rollers badge (because I already have one!), it was worthy of a picture. Plenty of nice new T-shirts on offer as well for those of us whose originals have perhaps seen better days (or perhaps that’s the point).

I will leave you with a link to the playlists of songs inspired by the exhibition – From Scottish pop classics to the tracks that mean the most to the people involved in creating the exhibition. Also, one last image, this time of the iconic outfit worn by Annie Lennox during her Eurythmics partnership with Dave Stewart. Considering our little reunion was the result of having once-upon-a-time shared a student flat in Aberdeen, where Annie was born and brought up, it would be fitting to include something by her. I used to find it quite amusing that during my decade of living in Aberdeen, just about every female I encountered had either been to school with her or knew her – Looking back, if you were 5 years older or 5 years younger you probably did attend school at the same time, but highly unlikely you will still be in touch. Just sayin’.

Neil Hanna Photography www.neilhannaphotography.co.uk 07702 246823

Here Comes The Rain Again by the Eurythmics:

So, “What’s It All About?” – First and foremost, if the chance comes up to reconnect with old friends, don’t keep putting it off as to my cost I have found that some of my old friendship groups are now reduced in number. Not something you really want to think about, but now that people are starting to retire, it should mean get-togethers are logistically a bit easier to organise, but it also means we are all getting older. Enough said.

As for the Rip It Up exhibition, it is on until November, and well worth a visit if you have any interest at all in the history of Scottish Pop. If like me you have already watched the Rip It Up documentary, there is a big overlap, but still lots of memorabilia to bring on a dose of nostalgia. We are used to our museum artefacts from ancient cultures presented to us in the form of pottery, jewellery and crafts. In the future, the artefacts attributed to our time on the planet will be vinyl, trousers with tartan down the sides and button badges. What will they make of us as a culture I wonder, in the year 3000AD?

Until next time…. , Shang-a-Lang!

Vienna Lyrics
(Song by Warren Cann/Chris Cross/Billy Currie/Midge Ure)

Walked in the cold air
Freezing breath on a window pane
Lying and waiting
A man in the dark in a picture frame
So mystic and soulful
A voice reaching out in a piercing cry
It stays with you until

The feeling has gone only you and I
It means nothing to me
This means nothing to me
Oh, Vienna

The music is weaving
Haunting notes, pizzicato strings
The rhythm is calling
Alone in the night as the daylight brings
A cool empty silence
The warmth of your hand and a cold grey sky
It fades to the distance

The image has gone only you and I
It means nothing to me
This means nothing to me
Oh, Vienna

This means nothing to me
This means nothing to me
Oh, Vienna

Post 101, The Jackson 5 and and “Got To Be There”

Well this is embarrassing. After basking in the glory of having just reached the momentous target of publishing 100 posts; after being incredibly grateful to my band of blogging buddies for leaving such great comments and finally; after telling everyone I would carry on for another 100 posts – I now have writer’s (or should it be blogger’s) block!

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To be fair it’s not really blogger’s block, it’s just that the list of ideas for “songs and stories” I have jotted down over the months for future posts, now seem a bit dull and boring. I always thought that writing about songs would be easy as I could never, ever run out of material, so could it be that my best stories are behind me? I do hope not. Also as a self-confessed anorak when it comes to listings, cataloguing and alphabetisation, that magical number 100 against “No. of Posts Published” on my WordPress Summary page, is a really tidy one, and when I next press the “publish” tab, it will turn into a bit of an untidy number 101.

Lots of significance however to the number 101 – There is of course the torture room in the George Orwell novel Nineteen Eighty-Four which has in turn been the inspiration for the Radio then TV show Room 101 where celebrity guests are invited to discuss their pet hates and persuade the host to consign them to that fictional room. Works well and hosted by the affable Frank Skinner whom I am warming to more and more as both he and I get older. His Saturday morning show on Absolute Radio is one of my favourites.

Although there have been many albums inspired by the aforementioned novel, the only one I remember personally is The Eurythmics’ soundtrack album for the film Nineteen Eighty-Four which contains the song Sexcrime (Nineteen Eighty-Four), but not something I have in my collection nor would I want to (too intense for my liking). Having lived in Aberdeen for the best part of the ’80s I do feel disloyal to Annie Lennox for having said that, especially as about half the locals I worked with claimed they’d been to school with her (must have been a very big school), but not one of my favourites from that era. Nonetheless Ms Lennox always gave 110 percent as they tend to say on those reality/singing/karaoke shows (or should that be 101%) and also gave us some very striking and androgynous looks over the years.

But back to the number 101 – It does of course also look very much like a “binary number” and if I remember correctly (ok I cheated and looked it up), it equates in decimal to the number 5. There have indeed been many bands and songs with the number 5 in their name – The Jackson 5, Maroon 5, The Dave Clark 5, Five and of course those personable Pearsons from Reading, 5 Star! As for songs, I recently featured that upbeat ditty from McFly called 5 Colours in Her Hair (although not sure if my readership appreciated that one too much).

I have kind of avoided mentioning Michael Jackson too much in this blog so far, and haven’t really come to terms yet with what became of him. It saddens me so much that the gorgeous little boy who first stepped out on stage with his brothers (the place he obviously found to be the most comfortable on earth), morphed into someone totally different and died in such a nonsensical manner. If like me, you were a pre-teen back in the early ’70s, The Jackson 5 were omnipresent and even had their own cartoon series (The Jackson 5ive). It was a must-watch show after coming home from school and they recorded just so many great songs during that era, this one being I Want You Back from 1970.

Final thoughts on the number 101 – Since starting this blog I have found myself in the company of some serious music buffs whose knowledge way surpasses my own and the first time I joined in with The Chain Gang, the link was to a song by the 101ers whom I hadn’t heard of until that point. They were the band that a young Joe Strummer (whose name has cropped up on these pages) left to join The Clash. The band’s name apparently came from the number of the squat they lived in at 101 Walterton Road, Maida Vale. I saw it as a “palindrome number” so came up with the suggestion Pacific State, the 1989 electronic chill-out track by that other palindromic outfit 808 State. Looking back, this choice was probably met with raised eyebrows as not the kind of thing you often see appearing over on The Chain. It was a favourite of an ex-colleague of mine, or rather I kept thinking it was whereas the one he actually did like was called Pacific Highway by someone else. It has become a great source of mirth however that I always got the two mixed up but ended up getting to like the wrong one better anyway. Oh yes, we know how to keep ourselves amused up here in Scotland during the long, dark, winter nights. (And, I only mentioned that because he is one of my very few real-life friends who know about this place.)

So, “What’s It All About?” – I think it’s just about having a bit of a crisis of confidence when sometimes you feel it’s best to quit whilst you’re ahead, but don’t really want to. Having revisited my list of “song and story” ideas however, there are definitely still quite a few in the tank, so you’re stuck with me for a while yet. I will quickly therefore get this post out of the way, as once onto number 102 it won’t seem quite so daunting and will simply be back to business as usual.

But wait a minute, before I go this post is all wrong (in more ways than one you might say) – I haven’t included a music clip or the lyrics yet! Fear not, in light of the fact that I have inadvertently revisited the Jackson 5‘s back catalogue by associating the binary number 101 with the decimal number 5, I am going to think back to 1972 when I was aged just 11 and loved watching the very young Michael Jackson sing lyrically inappropriate ballads, just for me. Got To Be There is a beautiful Motown track and is still one of my favourites from those much more innocent times. RIP Michael.

Got To Be There by Michael Jackson:

Got To Be There Lyrics
(Song By Elliott Willensky)

Got to be there, got to be there in the morning
When she says hello to the world.
Got to be there, got to be there,
Bring her good times and show her that she’s my girl.
Oh, what a feeling there’ll be
The moment I know she loves me.
‘Cause when I look in her eyes.
I realize I need her sharing the world beside me.
So I’ve got to be there, got to be there in the morning,
And welcome her into my world,
And show her that she’s my girl.
When she says hello world!
Got to be there.
I need her sharing the world beside me.

That’s why I’ve got to be there, got to be there
Where love begins and that’s everywhere she goes,
I’ve got to be there so she knows
That when she’s with me she’s home, yeah

Got to be there, got to be there, got to be there.
Got to be there, got to be there, got to be there.