The Autumnal Equinox, Neil Young and “Harvest Moon”

Since discovering that all full moons have a name, given to them by the Native Americans who kept track of the months by the lunar calendar, I have written about each one as they appear in our skies. To accompany the post I always include one of the numerous songs that have been written about the moon and its many foibles.

Well, there could really only be one featured song for this month – Neil Young’s Harvest Moon. Having said that, the Harvest Moon can occur in either September or October, as it’s the name given to the full moon that lands closest to the autumnal equinox. This year we reached the equinox, that pivot point in the year after which we can expect more hours of darkness than light in our days, on Sunday the 23rd Sept. Had it not landed that way, it would have been called the Corn Moon, but no great songs as far as I am aware about corn (unless you know differently), so I’m mighty glad it’s worked out this way.

220px-Harvest_Moon_singleFor the Native Americans, this was the month when corn was supposed to be harvested. Also, due to a highly scientific quirk relating to orbital distances and other complex laws of physics, at the peak of the harvest farmers can work late into the night, as this moon rises at nearly the same time every evening giving them all that extra light. Fortunately I have no harvesting to be done, because for the second month in a row, there seems to be total cloud cover around the time of the full moon. I am still hoping for a miracle tomorrow night but not counting my chickens. (Wonder if the Native Americans also did that by the light of this brilliant Harvest Moon.)

But back to Neil’s wonderful song. I do have a couple of Neil Young anecdotes in my back pocket, but I don’t think this is the time or place to share them. Instead I just want to listen to the beautiful sound of his voice, those soft brush strokes, and the steel guitars.

Harvest Moon by Neil Young:

Something that surprised me when doing a modicum of research for this post was that the album “Harvest Moon” was released in 1992. I always associate Neil Young with a much earlier time, and although I recognised this song, I had never thought of it as being attached to the 1990s. That said, the year 1992 was an incredibly busy one for me, as in a five month period I got engaged, sold my flat, bought a house, organised a wedding and got myself betrothed…, so I probably wasn’t keeping up with any new album releases.

Listening to the song Harvest Moon, it is however perfect for a couple like us who have now been married for nearly 26 years. It was written as a tribute to Neil’s wife Pegi, and seems to celebrate longevity in relationships. Had we not lived in the North of Scotland, I think I might have suggested to Mr WIAA that we go dancin’ where the music’s playin’ tonight, but sadly it’s really cold out there, so a mug of cocoa and a boxset it’ll have to be instead. Easy to take each other forgranted once you’ve been together a long, long… time, but listening to this song reminds me that…, well, we really shouldn’t. Enough said.

…. there’s a full moon risin’
Let’s go dancin’ in the light
We know where the music’s playin’
Let’s go out and feel the night

Because I’m still in love with you
I want to see you dance again
Because I’m still in love with you
On this harvest moon

harvest-moon-plane2

The moon seems to be a big deal to Neil Young as it turns up in 28 of his songs. He uses it to guide him and is apparently more likely to take on a project if it coincides with a full moon. In a 2005 interview he explained: “Before there was organized religion, there was the moon. The Indians knew about the moon. Pagans followed the moon. I’ve followed it for as long as I can remember, and that’s just my religion. I’m not a practicing anything, I don’t have a book that I have to read. It can be dangerous working in a full moon atmosphere, because if there are things that are going to go wrong, they can really go wrong. But that’s great, especially for rock ‘n’ roll.”

I must admit, this moon series has been my favourite so far, and I would agree with a lot of what Neil says there. I really hope we do get to see the full moon on Tuesday night as I’m starting to get withdrawal symptoms, having missed out on last month’s lunar eclipse entirely and this month I seem to be dogged by cloud cover. If we do, I’m sure my friend with the all singing, all dancing camera will capture it perfectly, so a “Postscript” may well get tagged onto the bottom. Watch this space as they say.

Until next time….

Harvest Moon Lyrics
(Song by Neil Young)

Come a little bit closer
Hear what I have to say
Just like children sleepin’
We could dream this night away.

But there’s a full moon risin’
Let’s go dancin’ in the light
We know where the music’s playin’
Let’s go out and feel the night.

Because I’m still in love with you
I want to see you dance again
Because I’m still in love with you
On this harvest moon.

When we were strangers
I watched you from afar
When we were lovers
I loved you with all my heart.

But now it’s gettin’ late
And the moon is climbin’ high
I want to celebrate
See it shinin’ in your eye.

Because I’m still in love with you
I want to see you dance again
Because I’m still in love with you
On this harvest moon.

Earth, Wind & Fire, “September” and The Autumnal Equinox

A bit of an unusual post last time, so now for something a bit more conventional. What song would have come to mind in the course of today? Why September by Earth, Wind & Fire of course.

Do you remember the 21st night of September?
Love was changing the minds of pretenders
While chasing the clouds away…..

ewf

This song tends to make people happy and it certainly has that effect on me. It was actually a hit for them, not in September, but in the December of 1978 and although Maurice White (who sadly died earlier this year) denied that the date had any other significance than it “sang really well” and was “phonetically fantastic” (not a phrase you hear every day), I find that really hard to believe. He was however a man who put great emphasis into the groove and feel of a song so it could have been the case….. but now we’ll never know.

September by Earth, Wind and Fire:

Having read quite a bit about Maurice White after he died (he essentially was EWF as he wrote the songs, sang the songs and produced the songs), I learnt that the name of the band came from his star sign, Sagittarius, which has the elemental quality of Fire and the seasonal qualities of Earth and Air. Earth, Air & Fire quite rightly didn’t sound right, so Air became Wind (no schoolboy jokes please) and the rest as they say, is historyMaurice had a great interest in astrology and Egyptology and their costumes, and album cover designs, certainly bore that out.

Because of Mr White’s strong spiritual nature, it is entirely appropriate therefore that today’s song should relate to the autumnal equinox. I had a really interesting talk today with a woman at work, who every year celebrates these important dates in nature’s calendar with her sisters. This is the time of year when there is an equal amount of day and night and its Pagan name was Mabon – The harvests are now over and the crops have been stored for the coming winter so it is time to give thanks for the things we have, whether it be abundant crops or other blessings. Well I’m afraid I haven’t contributed to bringing in the crops personally but I am mighty glad that there are others out there who have. A lot of dark nights to look forward to now in Scotland, so traditionally a time to get together with friends and give thanks for the grains needed to conjure up a spot of the old “water of life” or “uisge beatha” (whisky to you and I).

pagan-wheel-of-the-year

But back to the song September, it turns out that Barack Obama is a fan of Earth, Wind & Fire and in 2009 the group became one of the first musical acts to play at the White House after he took office. Being probably the “coolest” president there has ever been, I can just imagine him and Michelle “getting down” on the dancefloor to the sounds of EWF after one of those Presidential Dinners. Tricky Dicky or Dubya he ain’t, and come the new year I’m going to really miss some of his cool Obamaisms.

barack-obama-dancing

Until next time – Happy Mabon!

September Lyrics
(Song by Maurice White/Alee Willis/Al McKay)

Do you remember the 21st night of September?
Love was changing the minds of pretenders
While chasing the clouds away

Our hearts were ringing
In the key that our souls were singing.
As we danced in the night,
Remember how the stars stole the night away

Ba de ya, say do you remember
Ba de ya, dancing in September
Ba de ya, never was a cloudy day

Ba de ya de ya de ya
Ba de ya de ya de ya
Ba de ya de ya de ya de ya

My thoughts are with you
Holding hands with your heart to see you
Only blue talk and love,
Remember how we knew love was here to stay

Now December found the love that we shared in September.
Only blue talk and love,
Remember the true love we share today

Ba de ya, say do you remember
Ba de ya, dancing in September
Ba de ya, never was a cloudy day

Ba de ya, say do you remember
Ba de ya, dancing in September
Ba de ya, golden dreams were shinny days

Love bells was ringing
Our souls were singing
Do you remember, never a cloudy day