A Star is Born: Judy, Gaga or Barbra?

Last time I wrote a very serious post, so time for something a bit lighter I think. Regular followers will know my mum is currently in hospital. She is recovering well however and is quite enjoying being cared for I think, so a bit of respite for me. Having had a lot more time to myself over the last few weeks I’ve finally been able to catch up with friends who have been sadly neglected of late. Some of these friends have helped me make full use of the benefits attached to my new Student ID card, by joining me on a fair few trips to the local cinema.

Over the last few weeks I have been to see King of Thieves, the true story of the Hatton Garden jewellery heist, The Seagull based on the Anton Chekov play of the same name and The Escape about a stay-at-home mum who seemingly has it all, but is desperately unhappy. On top of that, DD has started working at our local theatre, so courtesy of the “comps” she gets as a perk of the job we also caught a play, a good old fashioned whodunnit in the form of The Case Of The Frightened Lady which seems to be touring the country at the moment. Our blogging buddy Chris over at Movies and Songs 365 would no doubt now write a pretty good review for each of the above but as that’s not really this blog’s raison d’être, I’ll just say that I enjoyed all four for different reasons: a) secret admiration for the Hatton Garden “Over The Hill Mob”; b) an insight into the complex lives of a rich family of writers and actors in pre-revolution Russia; c) sympathy for the woman (excellently played by Gemma Arterton) whose only means of survival was to escape the role she had found herself in, and finally; d) a bit of a throw-back to the entertainment of a bygone age (and none of us actually correctly identified whodunnit, so quite a good puzzler).

This week, the third remake of A Star Is Born starring Bradley Cooper and Lady Gaga was released in cinemas in the UK. The original film of the same name was made in 1937, one I am somewhat unfamiliar with. I am very familiar however with the 1954 remake starring Judy Garland and James Mason as films from this era used to be shown regularly on telly when I was growing up. I lapped them up and at age 12 could probably have appeared on Mastermind citing The Golden Age of Hollywood as my specialist subject. Much of that knowledge has since left me I’m afraid, replaced with music trivia and the essential but boring work-related stuff we accumulate along the way, but watching the newly released version this week, brought the story all back. Here is a clip showing Judy Garland perform The Man That Got Away, probably the most memorable song from the 1954 version.

This new version stuck to the original storyline pretty much like glue, simply updating each scene for the 21st century. There were stadiums, more guitars, the songs were of a rock persuasion, the bars had drag acts and the clothes were a bit grungier, but other than that it’s a timeless tale of “boy meets girl”, with the backdrop of one career on the way up and the other on the way down. I won’t offer up a spoiler by mentioning which is which, because ahead of the film starting to roll the other night, I inadvertently gave the plotline away to the woman sitting next to me, having assumed everyone already knew the story. I apologised and tried to excuse myself by saying the clue is in the title, A Star Is Born, but she still seemed a bit piqued.

Back in 1954, the star in the ascendance was played by Judy Garland. In 2018, that same role was played by Lady Gaga (oops, spoiled it anyway). I must admit, she was barely recognisable at the start of the film, appearing without her trademark heavy makeup and extrovert clothing. This was Stefani Joanne Angelina Germanotta in the raw without any of the trappings of the Haus of Gaga. Much has been made of the fact that first-time director Bradley Cooper wanted her to audition for the role make-up free, and ahead of her performance produced a few wipes for her to remove it, to ensure authenticity. The irony of course is that the real, or authentic Gaga, is the one with all the stage make-up and costume but hey, it was the unreal Gaga he wanted for the role.

I did enjoy the film despite pretty much knowing (unlike the woman beside me) how each scene would play out and both Bradley and Gaga put in stellar performances. I did expect there to be more standout songs however, as after leaving the cinema I didn’t have any earworms and couldn’t actually remember much of anything included. It seems the first song released as a single was Shallow which I thought was called Shiloh in the film (must have been their accents), but now it makes sense. An actor I did think quite a lot about after leaving the cinema was the lovely Sam Elliot who played lead character Jackson Maine’s long-suffering brother in the movie. If you ever decided to chuck it all in, and head off to live on a ranch in Wyoming, he always looks and sounds as if he would be your man. He would be mine anyway, so hands off!

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The lovely Sam Elliot

But all of this is of course building up to only one thing, delving into the archives to reminisce about the 1976 version of A Star Is Born starring Kris Kristofferson (be still my beating heart) and Barbra StreisandAnyone looking at the “category list” on my sidebar will see that when it comes to decades, I write about songs from the 1970s more than any other. Lots of reasons for that of course (time spent immersing yourself in the world of music as an angst-ridden teenager being one of them), and possibly an idea for a future post, but this clip of Love Theme from “A Star Is Born” (Evergreen) still gives me the collywobbles. The song appeared in the UK Singles Chart in April 1977 and came along just as I was in the midst of my first big (but ultimately highly unsuitable) romance.

Evergreen by Barbra Streisand:

Barbra Streisand has appeared on these pages before as I’m a big fan. Just like Judy and Gaga she is certainly not a conventional beauty, but a great beauty all the same so perfect for the female lead in A Star Is Born.

I often share material from some of the old magazines I still have in my possession dating back from the 1970s. Before I sign off here are a few pages from the April 1977 edition of Words magazine where every month the lyrics to the “top pop songs” of the day were listed. In this edition, A Star Is Born is featured both on the back page and on the Studio Scene and Heard page (hmm…) where current film releases were reviewed. The lyrics to Evergreen also appeared on page 2 along with Knowing Me, Knowing You by ABBA (not Alan Partridge) and Pearl’s A Singer by Elkie Brooks. If you want to have a try, without googling, how many of the other songs would you be able to identify, and attach to an artist? Many of them weren’t big hits, but some were, although scarily over 41 years ago.

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As for me, I’m not sure how many cinema visits I might be able to fit in for some time, as there is to be a meeting on Monday to discuss my mum’s discharge plan. We actually sold the idea to her last week that a care home might be the best idea, but having been to see a few over the last couple of days I have now backtracked. She needs company and stimulation more than anything, as well as being looked after, but despite the glossy brochures and the promises of fun, fun, fun…, we didn’t see much of that at all. Instead it was all empty dayrooms and very elderly people slumped in wheelchairs, mostly asleep. We kind of need a half-way house but if they do exist, they are elusive indeed. Back to being a carer for a while I think but maybe that would be the kindest thing to do. I will no doubt return with updates (but possibly no more film reviews for a wee while).

Until next time….

Evergreen Lyrics
(Song by Barbra Streisand/Paul Williams)

Love soft as an easy chair
Love fresh as the morning air
One love that is shared by two
I have found with you
Like a rose under the April snow
I was always certain love would grow
Love ageless and evergreen
Seldom seen by two
You and I will
make each night the first
Everyday a beginning
Spirits rise and their dance is unrehearsed
They warm and excite us
‘Cause we have the brightest love
Two lights that shine as one Morning glory and midnight sun
Time… we’ve learned to sail above
Time… won’t change the meaning of one love
Ageless and ever evergreen…

Barbra, Ariana and Carly – A Week of Highs and Lows

Well, emotional times indeed.

First of all it’s Chelsea Flower Show week and back at the beginning of this week I had fully intended to perhaps write a heart-warming story about my dad, who in my opinion, had one of the nicest gardens in our village – It was small but perfectly formed and just about all the plants were grown from seed in his greenhouse. I thought I’d include a few pictures and find an appropriate florally-inclined song to accompany the post. Having already shared Barbra Streisand’s duets with both Kris Kristofferson and Barry Gibb, it was perhaps time to revisit the duet she recorded with Neil Diamond.

You Don’t Bring Me Flowers by Barbra and Neil:

You Don’t Bring Me Flowers (Any More) was actually a song about a couple who have drifted apart but somehow, taken literally, that song title really struck a cord with me this week. My dad died back in 2003 but prior to that he always used to arrive on this, the last week of May, with scores of bedding plants for my garden as he always produced way more than were needed. His green fingers meant that I too ended up with a colourful summer garden but of course since 2003 there have been no trays of bedding plants which is what made me think of that song. (Pictures from Dad’s garden below.)

Secondly, on Monday night before going to bed, I spotted a Facebook update from one of darling daughter’s best friends (so close she features on his FB profile photo). He was in Manchester at the Ariana Grande concert and it was obvious there was much excitement in the air. I knew very little about Ariana Grande before this week but now of course we have all heard of her and not for the reasons she would have ever wanted. It appears she started off in musical theatre which led on to a role in a very popular Nickelodeon television show and from there to life as a recording artist. She is very, very pretty (in a Cheryl Tweedy/Cole/Fernandez-Versini kind of way) which always helps, and although much has been made of her fan base being teenage girls, I know from personal experience that she is also much loved by some young men. Fortunately, the young man we know who went to the concert came to no harm on Monday night but of course the same cannot be said for those in the foyer area who found themselves at the mercy of a happening I find very hard to comprehend.

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The people of Manchester have shown themselves to be predictably strong, caring and full of community spirit, with many stories of random acts of kindness unfolding in the course of the week. From taxi drivers to homeless people to nurses to schoolchildren, everyone rallied round. Life must go on as before and that great city has certainly shown that they will be doing just that (some even grudgingly applauding the fact that Man U won their match on Wednesday night). The electioneering all had to grind to a halt for a while for which I was grateful – Coming from Scotland we have now had five trips to the ballot box in just over two and a half years and for once I will not be staying up all night to watch the results come in. Maybe it’s just me, but I’m all electioned-out.

Ariana Grande herself has announced she is to return for a benefit concert in aid of the bereaved families and I’ve just had a quick delve into the music database to see if we have anything of hers stored there – It appears that we do, from back in 2013, before darling daughter went down different music purchasing avenues. Having just listened to it and watched the video, I don’t feel I can include it however, as just a bit too raunchy for this place but in the meantime here is Ariana on the Jimmy Fallon show doing some of her great musical impressions. I do think this young lady is going to have a hard time dealing with what happened on Monday night so I really hope she gets the support she will no doubt need.

Finally, this week we heard of the death of Roger Moore. He was 89 so not one of those shock deaths we had got so used to hearing about last year, but still the end of an era for those of us who remembered him well as The Saint, Lord Brett Sinclair and of course as the most light-hearted, comedic James Bond of them all. Last year I wrote a post about Bond themes (Bond Themes and Nancy Sinatra) and ranked them by personal preference. Although You Only Live Twice came at the top, it is interesting to note that the next three were from the Roger Moore era so perhaps a bit of a golden age, if not for the franchise, for the theme song. (We’ll not mention Moonraker however which came at the bottom of my list!)

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Not in the mood at the moment for the big production number that is Live and Let Die nor for Sheena Easton so instead I’ll end this meandering post with the theme song to the 1977 film The Spy Who Loved Me, which was Roger’s third outing as Bond. Nobody Does It Better was composed by Marvin Hamlisch, the lyrics were by Carole Bayer Sager and it was performed by Carly Simon. It was the first theme song with a title that was different from the name of the film and for many, nobody did Bond better than Roger.

Nobody Does It Better by Carly Simon:

So, “What’s It All About?” – Despite the fact that this week has turned out to be one of great sadness, it has also provided a fair few highs as well. Because our back garden is now a much more open space with fewer bedding plants, it is perfect as a gathering place for the young people, who held an impromptu get-together to welcome the return of their friend from Manchester, unscathed. The weather has also been absolutely glorious over the last few days so tonight there is to be a party in another garden to celebrate a neighbour’s 90th birthday. Poor Roger didn’t make it to 90 but Albert has, and although he didn’t ever drive a Lotus Esprit or meet Barbara Bach, he did once serve Princess Margaret breakfast in bed. Yes, you don’t get to be an nonagenarian without having a fair few tales to tell and that one is perhaps again, for another day!

Until next time….

Nobody Does It Better Lyrics
(Song by Marvin Hamlisch/Carole Bayer Sager)

Nobody does it better
Makes me feel sad for the rest
Nobody does it half as good as you
Baby, you’re the best

I wasn’t looking
But somehow you found me
It tried to hide from your love light
But like Heaven above me
The spy who loved me
Is keeping all my secrets safe tonight

And nobody does it better

Though sometimes I wish someone could
Nobody does it quite the way you do
Why’d you have to be so good?

The way that you hold me
Whenever you hold me
There’s some kind of magic inside you
That keeps me from running
But just keep it coming
How’d you learn to do the things you do?

And nobody does it better
Makes me feel sad for the rest
Nobody does it half as good as you
Baby, baby, darlin’, you’re the best

Baby, you’re the best
Darlin’, you’re the best

Carrie Bradshaw, Barbra Streisand and “Guilty”

Although my posts often follow on from each other and are somewhat related, the two I wrote last week (from my sickbed) were very different indeed with no obvious link at all. Yet again however a strange synchronicity has come about, and this is the post that links them.

WARNING: It’s all about to get very girly!

In my last post I featured the song Single Girl by The Primitives/Sandy Posey (take your pick). It was all about a girl feeling a bit sad and lonely in a “great big town”. One of the most infamous groups of “Single Girls” were those Manhattan-based stars of Sex and the City, Carrie Bradshaw and her pals, also at times known to feel a bit sad and lonely in a great big town (although not that often to be fair).

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This reminded me that one of my favourite scenes from a SATC episode was the one where Carrie realises that her failed relationship with Mr Big (the nickname her ex-boyfriend is given – he was supposed to be The Big One, the one she married) was down to the same reason that it didn’t work out for Robert Redford and Barbra Streisand in the 1973 film The Way We Were. The world is made up of “complicated girls” with wild curly hair (Carrie and Barbra) and “simple girls”, the ones with tame straight hair – Big and Redford chose the simple girls!

As mentioned above, the female star of TWWW was Barbra Streisand. Who then appeared on the cover of the magazine that pops through my letterbox on a Saturday? – Yes, it was Barbra Streisand. I don’t know what it is about Streisand but she has always just looked so beautiful and timeless to me – Gorgeous hair, skin and that kinky nose. She is one of a very small group of artists who have won Grammys, Emmys, Tonys and Oscars, such is the breadth of her talent – The Queen of the Divas indeed.

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Got me thinking and joy of joys I discovered that TWWW resides on Netflix so (again from my sickbed) I decided to give it another viewing as I have shockingly never watched it all the way through from beginning to end in one sitting. Of course I had to have a little weep once we got to that scene at the end where Katie (Barbra) tells Hubbell (Robert) that “his girl is lovely” (although she is no doubt crying inside).

Barbra Streisand doesn’t sing in that one but she did record the lovely theme song which contains the following lines:

Can it be that it was all so simple then
Or has time rewritten every line
If we had the chance to do it all again, tell me, would we, could we……?

Ironically, last year, after failing miserably to co-ordinate a date for a reunion weekend with my old “Single Girl” friends, I jokingly sent them an email quoting those very lines with the addendum – Well, apparently not! I thought it was quite funny….but they didn’t. We are all just about talking again now (perhaps that cultural reference was lost on them).

But back to Barbra, it has also of course been known for her to record great duets with some of the biggest artists of the day. Back in 1980 she recorded Guilty with Barry Gibb, on his own, without the rest of The Bee Gees. And this is where the reference to my second post of last week comes in – On St Valentine’s Day I featured a Bee Gees‘ love song and wrote about how sad I felt watching Barry, the lone surviving brother, all on his own at this year’s Grammys, watching a tribute being performed for the 40th anniversary of the album Saturday Night Fever.

Guilty by Barbra Streisand and Barry Gibb:

I am quite frankly amazed that the song Guilty only made it to No. 34 in the UK Singles Chart but looking again at the video clip, Barry and Barbra (nice ring to it) did look oh so very white in it, and this was very much the era of new wave, post-punk and ska where the artists wore very little white indeed and were much, much edgier in terms of their output. Still a great duet however where each of them gets their own boy/girl lines and “nothing to be guilty of” in terms of liking it, as we don’t do that around here any more. The Bee Gees were great songwriters and as mentioned last week I am very proud to have come out and admitted to being a fan.

So, “What’s It All About?” – Who knew that the simple girls always get their man whereas the complicated girls don’t? Well, maybe they didn’t in TWWW, but thirty years later in SATC, Carrie Bradshaw did end up marrying Big. Yes, it turned out he’d made a massive mistake and he did want a complicated girl after all!

As someone with very tame, straight hair but who is not necessarily always simple this is good to know. Sadly back in 1973 it just didn’t seem to be the case but perhaps relationships have evolved and even complicated girls now can have it all!

Until next time….

Guilty Lyrics
(Song by Barry, Robin and Maurice Gibb)

Shadows falling baby, we stand alone
Out on the street anybody you meet got a heartache of their own
(It oughta be illegal)
Make it a crime to be lonely or sad
(It oughta be illegal)
You got a reason for livin’
You battle on with the love you’re livin’ on
You gotta be mine
We take it away
It’s gotta be night and day
Just a matter of time
And we got nothing to be guilty of
Our love will climb any mountain near or far, we are
And we never let it end
We are devotion
And we got nothing to be sorry for
Our love is one in a million
Eyes can see that we got a highway to the sky
I don’t wanna hear your goodbye

Pulse’s racing, darling
How grand we are
Little by little we meet in the middle
There’s danger in the dark
(It oughta be illegal)
Make it a crime to be out in the cold
(It oughta be illegal)
You got a reason for livin’
You battle on with the love you’re buildin’ on
You gotta be mine
We take it away
It’s gotta be night and day
Just a matter of time
And we got nothing to be guilty of
Our love will climb any mountain near or far, we are
And we never let it end
We are devotion
And we got nothing to be sorry for
Our love is one in a million
Eyes can see that we got a highway to the sky

I don’t wanna hear your goodbye

Don’t wanna hear your goodbye

I don’t wanna hear your
And we got nothing, and we got nothing to be guilty of
Our love will climb any mountain near or far, we are
And we never let it end
We are devotion
And we got nothing to be sorry for
Our love is one in a million
Eyes can see that we got a highway to the sky
Don’t wanna hear your goodbye
Don’t wanna hear your
And we got nothing, and we got nothing to be guilty of
Our love will climb any mountain near or far, we are

Kris Kristofferson, Johnny Cash and “Sunday Morning Coming Down”

Last time I wrote about the song Fog on the Tyne which was actually a suggestion from one of my blogging buddies as it followed on nicely, in meteorological terms anyway, from my previous post which was about the song Misty by Ray Stevens. Lo and behold, just when I needed some inspiration, down from the “cloud” (I am restoring all my files onto a new computer) came a series of old pictures of my late father-in-law who was a Geordie by birth and who had worked as a young man, right in the centre of Newcastle, in an office overlooking the River Tyne.

The other suggestion I had received as to what song could follow on nicely from Misty was from Lynchie, a regular visitor to this place, who informed me that Ray Stevens had been the first person to record the Kris Kristofferson-penned song Sunday Morning Coming Down in 1969. I was a bit nervous about stepping on toes however as our Chain host over at Dubious Towers produces an excellent weekly country music thread with that same title – An homage to the song and its writer. As he just seems to have just found his blogging mojo again however after a surprisingly common bout of January blues, I rather hoped he’ll let me off. Lo and behold, what suddenly descended from the “cloud” yesterday afternoon but an mp3 of the Johnny Cash version of Sunday Morning Coming Down that I didn’t even remember I had – This post was meant to be!

Mr Kristofferson is someone I have long admired – Back in the ’70s he appeared in many films (Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid, Convoy, Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore, A Star Is Born) and for some reason he was one of the actors I took a real shine to. I have always had a penchant for a man with a beard (although not necessarily today’s hipster style), and he did sport a very rugged look back then. What I have now discovered is that not only did he write some of the most iconic songs from that era but he was probably one of those guys who would have succeeded in whichever path in life he chose. A top scholar, an accomplished athlete, a US Army captain, a helicopter pilot, a novelist, an actor and a singer/song-writer.

Having just checked, I find it incredible that he never once appeared in the British music charts in his own right, despite the fact that so many of his songs did make an appearance when sung by other people – For the Good Times by Perry Como and Help Me Make It Through the Night by Gladys Knight and the Pips amongst others. He definitely did make an appearance for several weeks in a row however on 1977’s TOTP as he was Barbra Streisand‘s love interest in the film A Star Is Born – Much smooching was done during the filmed recording of the song Evergreen which was a massive hit for her that year. (Yes, my 16-year-old self was definitely smitten with Mr K in that one.)

But this was supposed to be a post about the song Sunday Morning Coming Down and as we have now ascertained Kris Kristofferson wrote it and Ray Stevens was the first person to record it, but when Johnny Cash did a version in 1970 it reached No. 1 on the country chart and won the Country Music Association Award for Song of the Year. The story is that Kris, who was working as a janitor at the time for Columbia Records in Nashville mainly to get a foothold in the industry, flew his National Guard helicopter right onto Johnny’s front lawn in order to deliver the demo tape in person. That was the turning point for him however as once Johnny took the song on, and made it his own, Kris was quoted as saying that he never again “had to work for a living”.

As for how I came to have a copy of the song in my digital library – That would be because a few years ago I had not so much a mid-life crisis but all of a sudden I became besotted with country music. It started off with acquiring Glen Campbell CDs but I then progressed to compilations of Greatest Country Hits and just about anything else I could laythkq77euh3 my hands on, which of course included a Johnny Cash CD containing the song Sunday Morning Coming Down. Before then I had mainly known Johnny from his more light-hearted songs such as One Piece at a Time and A Boy Named Sue but also from the film I Walk The Line and the documentaries about his concerts held in the various state penitentiaries across America. Perhaps you have to be of a certain age to truly appreciate country music, and likewise, in order to really emote the lyrics in the songs you need to have a modicum of life experience, which by the time I came to appreciate Johnny he truly would have had.

The clip here is a great one as not only do we have Johnny but also Kris singing the song, making it a duet. The preamble is something they used to do quite a lot of on these sort of shows, and can be a bit cringifying, but it does lead in to an excellent performance.

Sunday Morning Coming Down by Johnny Cash:

So, “What’s It All About?” – It seems you should never be dismissive of any genre of music as one day you might just suddenly “get it” and you have a great new world to explore. As for Mr Cash’s voice, it was a deep calm bass-baritone which you just don’t often hear in music nowadays. I find it ironic that I always knew him best for his humorous songs, considering he built a whole persona around being “The Man in Black” – Sombre, serious and frankly quite scary.

As for Kris, unlike Johnny he is still with us, and rumours are afoot that he may even appear at Glastonbury this year which would be truly amazing. I am partly amazed by this because I know he is exactly the same age as my little mum and somehow I just can’t imagine her gracing the stage at Glastonbury. What she can do however is read this blog and it has become a feature of our Friday evenings together, when I go to visit. I really don’t think she quite understands the whole concept of “blogging” and why should she?Sharing your innermost thoughts, with complete strangers, across every corner of the globe is indeed a bizarre concept but one that can bring great enjoyment, so I for one intend to keep going!

Until next time….

Sunday Morning Coming Down Lyrics
(Song by Kris Kristofferson)

Well, I woke up Sunday morning
With no way to hold my head that didn’t hurt.
And the beer I had for breakfast wasn’t bad,
So I had one more for dessert.
Then I fumbled in my closet through my clothes
And found my cleanest dirty shirt.
Then I washed my face and combed my hair
And stumbled down the stairs to meet the day.

I’d smoked my mind the night before
With cigarettes and songs I’d been picking.
But I lit my first and watched a small kid
Playing with a can that he was kicking.
Then I walked across the street
And caught the Sunday smell of someone frying chicken.
And Lord, it took me back to something that I’d lost
Somewhere, somehow along the way.

On a Sunday morning sidewalk,
I’m wishing, Lord, that I was stoned.
‘Cause there’s something in a Sunday
That makes a body feel alone.
And there’s nothing short a’ dying
That’s half as lonesome as the sound
Of the sleeping city sidewalk
And Sunday morning coming down.

In the park I saw a daddy
With a laughing little girl that he was swinging.
And I stopped beside a Sunday school
And listened to the songs they were singing.
Then I headed down the street,
And somewhere far away a lonely bell was ringing,
And it echoed through the canyon
Like the disappearing dreams of yesterday.