The Eclectic Mix of Abba, S’Express and Fred Astaire

Well, things seem to be cautiously opening up again around here, as I imagine they are where you are. A lot of empty units in our local shopping centre though, what with Debenhams, Top Shop and a few other high street stalwarts having shut their doors for good, but still a reasonable vibe about the place. I was chuffed to see that our local HMV is still open for business, as I do love a good browse up and down their aisles. It seems half the store is now given way to vinyl, either classic albums reissued in those beautiful original sleeves, or new stuff by artists who were probably born a good decade after vinyl ceased being the primary vehicle for music consumption.

The inspiration for this post was a clear-out. Yes, Mr WIAA and I have restarted our efforts into clearing some space in our loft and cupboards, but it’s tough, as I get sentimental about keeping things. This morning when tidying out a drawer I found something that reminded me of 7-inch singles, or 45s as they were called. For music lovers this image will probably cause apoplexy, but a few years ago, after a visit to a craft fair, DD presented me with a gift. Someone had set up a stall selling plant pots and little dishes made from old vinyl records. I think we’ve all probably melted some of our vinyl by accident (for me it involved a cold 1970s night in rural Scotland and the close proximity to our stylish 2-bar electric fire), but now it feels like sacrilege to deliberately render a 45 unplayable. Of course I thanked DD very much for her gift at the time, which looked remarkably like an impractical ashtray (not that I’ve ever had need of one).

Take A Chance On Me by Abba:

The little dish/ashtray was made from an Abba single. The song on the A-side was Take A Chance On Me from 1978, one of their many top 10 hits. It occurred to me to check out the B-side and found it was a song called I’m A Marionette, not one I’d ever heard of so time to find out more.

Hmm…, not sure about that one but it seems it was a song from a mini-musical called The Girl With the Golden Hair performed as part of their 1977 concert tour along with Thank You for the Music and The Name of the Game. Now it makes sense.

I don’t have many 45s still in my possession, but the little dish/ashtray made me want to seek them out. What a mixed bag. Really old stuff belonging to my mum and dad, some soppy songs by my teen idols, a few singles given as presents (probably had deep meaning attached at the time), purchases from bargain bins and a few from the dying days of ‘the 45’ as a music format.

Somehow my copy of Queen’s Somebody To Love got accidentally “ironed” (see nick out of top left) when sitting on a table in our student flat, so the first minute was lost to us!

I’m sure many of you will recognise some of the names there, as pretty mainstream stuff, but each piece of vinyl has a story behind it and some of the songs have already put in an appearance around here. Something I had forgotten all about was the single in the middle of the picture called The Brits 1990 (Dance Medley). The medley went down really well on the night of the awards show that year and was released as a 7 inch single straight after. It made it to the No. 2 spot in the UK Singles Chart. I was a bit long in the tooth for such fodder by 1990, but as an avid dancer, who often invited everyone ‘back to mine’ after a night out, it was good to have it for the turntable. Bit of S’Express anyone? Yes please, along with some Double Trouble and the Rebel MC, A Guy Called Gerald, The Beatmasters, Jeff Wayne, 808 State, D Mob and The Cookie Crew. Hard to believe it’s from over 30 years ago now as the video clip (although a bit cringifying in places) doesn’t look as dated as something from 1960 would have looked in 1990. A very different kind of 30 years in terms of the evolution of music and dance (and of course in colour).

Theme From S’Express by S’Express:

All this talk of dancing has reminded me of another clip I have been meaning to share for a while but not got round to yet, going back much, much further in time. The video clip has been doing the rounds for some time but it has been excellently edited and really showcases the talents of some of Hollywood’s greatest dancers. Bruno Mars was just a toddler when Fred Astaire died at age 87, but somehow his 2014 rendition of Uptown Funk (a Mark Ronson song with Bruno on vocals) lends itself well to a medley of some of the best-choreographed dance sequences in film history, many of which inevitably involve Fred.

I think Fred Astaire was my first crush, as I spent so much time watching him in old black and white movies when I was a child. Yes he was balding, yes he wasn’t that strong a singer, but boy could he dance and he had a certain boyish charm. In the 1930s his films were adored by audiences who craved escapism. Maybe why I went on to have such a love for dance, and why I was always the one who took over the dancefloor should the occasion arise (much to the chagrin of my friends who always said I put boys off asking us to dance). But hey, it was my thing, and fortunately I found a willing partner in Mr WIAA when he came into my life.

A Fine Romance by Fred Astaire:

The thrill of dance has always stayed with me, until now of course. Pre-pandemic there were few opportunities left for us ladies of a certain age to exercise their love of dance, but the odd wedding or party sufficed. In the last 15 months there has been no dancing at all for me and as I still seem to be recovering from the broken ankle I suffered a few months ago, I fear George Michael’s lyrics may become a reality – I’m never gonna dance again… the way I danced with you. Let’s hope not, as I don’t think I’m quite ready to hang up my pumps yet.

So, ‘What’s It All About?’ – A bit of a strange ramble this one, so apologies for that, but I’m trying to be more disciplined about my blogging and Thursday seems to be my new regular day. This week the stream of consciousness flowed from old 45s, to dance medleys, to Fred Astaire. You just never know where it’s going to go, which is part of the fun of it.

Until next time…

A Fine Romance Lyrics
(Song by Dorothy Fields/Jerome Kern)

A fine romance, with no kisses
A fine romance, my friend this is
We should be like a couple of hot tomatoes
But you’re as cold as yesterday’s mashed potatoes
A fine romance, you won’t nestle
A fine romance, you won’t wrestle
I might as well play bridge
With my old maid aunt
I haven’t got a chance
This is a fine romance

A fine romance, my good fellow
You take romance, I’ll take jello
You’re calmer than the seals
In the Arctic Ocean
At least they flap their fins
To express emotion
A fine romance with no quarrels
With no insults and all morals
I’ve never mussed the crease
In your blue serge pants
I never get the chance

This is a fine romance

A fine romance, with no kisses
A fine romance, my friend this is
We two should be like clams in a dish of chowder
But we just fizz like parts of a Seidlitz powder
A fine romance, with no clinches
A fine romance, with no pinches
You’re just as hard to land as the Ile de France!
I haven’t got a chance, this is a fine romance

Flying Down To Rio, Ipanema and The Copacabana

Well, many apologies to anyone new to this blog as this post is not representative, but I just couldn’t let the massive event that is the Games of the XXXI Olympiad, commonly known as Rio 2016, pass by without a musical mention. So in one fell swoop I’m going to get all those songs out of my system and into the blog so that I can move on to other, more worthy contenders.

rio 2.png

The Opening Ceremony last Friday night was impressive indeed but of course nothing could have ever surpassed the joy I felt watching Danny Boyle’s “Isles of Wonder” Opening Ceremony at London 2012. But hey that was our Olympics, where we showed the world what we were all about and what with Mr Bean, James Bond, parachuting monarchs, Mary Poppins, Dancing NHS nurses and 50 years of music, I think we did that with bells on.

In terms of mood, Athens was apparently Classical, Beijing Grandiose, London Smart but Rio was going to be Cool. Well I don’t know about cool but it was definitely very green, in every sense of the word and also very sensual. We watched supermodel Giselle sashay (to walk in a slow and confident way that makes people notice you – tick) across the arena to the strains of Girl From Ipanema – Yes very sensual indeed. This song was about the only one I would have associated with Brazil, as the whole of South America, being non-English speaking, is still pretty much a mystery to me in terms of its music and film. The Girl From Ipanema was recorded by Astrud Gilberto and Stan Getz in 1964 and immediately became an international hit. It is a song I have always loved but it was not until last week that I came to understand that it was of a “bossa nova” persuasion. Brazil in the early ’60s developed a genre called “new wave” (bossa nova) but unlike in ’70s Britain, their genre didn’t involve safety pins, Johnny Rotten or agitated guitar playing, oh no, they combined samba with jazz to create a whole new sultry sound, the sound of Brazil.

Girl From Ipanema:

And so we come to my musical montage, and just to warn you this is not going to be pretty! The whole point of revisiting the “tracks of our years” is that they shouldn’t be carefully thought out so as to weed out all the slightly embarrassing stuff, it should just flow, and as some of my fellow bloggers know, some very dubious tracks can come out of the woodwork.

To kick things off I have a couple of very obvious contenders – Rio by Duran Duran and Gold by Spandau Ballet. Had I been a young teenager in 1983 I would have probably joined in the rivalry between their groups of fans, called Duranies and Fan-daus respectively, but I was too old for all that malarkey by then and was far too busy perming my bleached hair, visiting the sunbed and laundering my all-white clothing anyway. Yes Tony, those were my salad days!

Ok enough of all that but as Simon Le Bon sang, “Her name is Rio”, Dolores del Rio to be precise and if not for her, the magical pairing between Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers might never have happened. If anyone asked me what my favourite three films were, I would have to include as one choice, the complete set of 1930s RKO musicals starring aforementioned Fred and Ginger. They first paired up in the 1933 film Flying Down to Rio and although Dolores del Rio was the main star along with Gene Raymond, it was Fred and Ginger who sparkled in that one and in no time at all they were the ones getting top billing.

dolores del rio.jpg

But enough of all that because also Flying down to Rio, this time in the 1970s, was that erstwhile Monkee Mike Nesmith who had by this time set up his own music video company (which explains a lot).

Of course having reached Rio you may want to head to the beach and what is the name of the beach again? Why it’s the Copacabana, and although Barry Manilow in 1978 wasn’t singing about the beach (he was singing about the New York nightclub), it is a story song with a very Latin vibe.


Just to be a bit different I won’t include Barry Manilow’s version but one from the television show Glee, which we used to watch with my daughter who was a bit of an afionado of musical theatre herself. The kids are having a bit of a meeting here and it could be called ELA (Easy-Listening Anonymous) where one by one they actually admit to loving the work of Barry Manilow. Anyone reading this blog will know that I myself would be a frequent attender of ELA if it existed, so glad to see that these cool kids are similarly afflicted.

And there we have it except that I want to include just two more clips, one simply as a reminder of just how differently we did things in London, and the other just because it feels right.

We don’t really do sultry samba combined with jazz in Britain, but we are very good at the old rock and pop, and the stand out performance for me was when The Arctic Monkeys got on stage at London 2012 to perform The Beatles’ Come Together. Loved those guys on bicycles, and what a great sound from Alex Turner and the boys. Summed the whole thing up for me really.

Although I just pointed out that we don’t really do sultry jazz in Britain, of course we very much did when the late Amy Winehouse was still with us and this is a great version of the “song of the moment” from her. Enjoy.

Back to business as usual for next time but phew, glad I’ve got it all out of my system. I will now just concentrate on the sport (albeit all happening during the night in the main) and I hear from hubby that Chris Froome has just won a medal, so well done him.

Girl From Ipanema Lyrics
(Song by Antônio Carlos Jobim/Vinicius de Moraes/Norman Gimbel)

Tall and tan and young and lovely,
The girl from Ipanema goes walking
And when she passes, each one she passes goes, “Aaah…”
When she walks, she’s like a samba
That swings so cool and sways so gently
That when she passes, each one she passes goes, “Aaah…”
Oh, but he watches so sadly –
How can he tell her he loves her?
Yes, he would give his heart gladly,
But each day when she walks to the sea,
She looks straight ahead – not at he…
Tall and tan and young and lovely,
The girl from Ipanema goes walking
And when she passes, he smiles, but she doesn’t see…

Oh, but he sees her so sadly –
How can he tell her he loves her?
Yes, he would give his heart gladly,
But each day when she walks to the sea,
She looks straight ahead – not at he…
Tall and tan and young and lovely,
The girl from Ipanema goes walking
And when she passes, he smiles, but she doesn’t see…
She just doesn’t see…
No, she doesn’t see…
But she doesn’t see…
She doesn’t see…
No, she doesn’t see…