My 100th Post, Linda Ronstadt and “Different Drum”

Well, didn’t think I’d reach this landmark so soon but after only 10 months of blogging I’ve made it to 100 posts – Averages out at…, well you can do the maths, but probably why I’ve not had much time for other hobbies this year (or seen as much of my friends, or got that promotion, or kept on top of the garden) but hey, I think I’m about to get one of those virtual blue “congratulations” badges from the WordPress people, so all worthwhile!

So, why did I start blogging? For all sorts of reasons probably but I realised that something had to be done last year on New Year’s Eve, when holed up in bed with a nasty cold. Due to miss the Hogmanay celebrations we are so fond of here in Scotland, and with not much to do except feel sorry for myself, I picked up my iPhone to do a bit of stalking, I mean Facebooking. Anyone who uses Facebook will know that there is a little box at the top with the prompt, “Whats on your mind?” – I took them literally. A thousand words later I was done (but not recommended as if you’ve ever done a 1000 word post on your iPhone you’ll know that after 500 words it starts to really slow down, only letting you key in one letter every 5 seconds). Most of my friends either ignored it or put it down to the delirium caused by my malady but one kind soul did submit the comment, “I see you’ve been busy sharing your thoughts. All the best for 2016”. Hmm… what would be the best for 2016 I wondered – Not sharing my thoughts on Facebook that’s for sure!

And so I discovered WordPress – Ideal, I could write away to my heart’s content without bothering any of my friends. A couple of decades ago I would have probably gone down the Carrie Bradshaw route (a bit of an idol of mine despite her expensive taste in shoes) but I no longer live in a city and I don’t think any of my middle-aged friends would appreciate having their sex lives strewn across the world wide web. No, it had to be something else and for some time I had thought it would be a good idea to write about those memories conjured up by a song or piece of music. After a few false starts and changes in format, WIAA? came about, and it has been quite a journey (as they say on those televised, reality-cum-singing shows).

First of all I had expected at least a few of my friends and family to read what I was posting but it turns out they don’t, so that is quite liberating and allows me to regale all sorts of tales from the past without fear of redress. Secondly, I hadn’t expected to make “blogging buddies” which I kind of think I have. Thanks to everyone who has left comments over the months, especially the hard-core music bloggers (their sites on my sidebar) as I know the song choices here at WIAA? are not always to their taste, but I’ve had to stay true to my remit of writing about what is relevant to me at the time, and if it happens to be the worst song in the history of mankind, then sobeit. (Hopefully not gone there yet but when National Treasure Sir Terry Wogan passed away I did include The Floral Dance although no-one would begrudge me that one I’m sure).

An unexpected bonus of writing about songs is that you have to do a fair bit of research beforehand and it has been a joy finding out so much more about the artists and songs than would ever have been possible first time around – It has been an education indeed, especially as I was always more of a “geek” about music, recording chart rundowns, alphabetising record collections and memorising books of hit singles.

What on earth to include in this historic post then? As it turns out that’s an easy call. Over the months it has become apparent that the year I keep coming back to is 1967 which is very bizarre because I was just a little kid then. I have put it down to the fact that songs from back then have not yet become over-familiar; no unpleasant memories are attached; spiritually I think I would have been a flower-child; the radio stations I listen to often play songs from that year and finally the sub-genre (I had no idea there were so many) I find myself warming to most of all, is orchestral/baroque pop.

A few months ago, over at A History of Dubious Taste, Jez featured the song Different Drum by Linda Ronstadt as part of his “Sunday Morning Coming Down” series. (To be fair the song is actually attributed to The Stone Poneys but she was the voice of the aforementioned Poneys.) I was smitten, and immediately had to make a purchase which wasn’t easy as it was one of those “buy the whole album or nothing” deals. It was of course from 1967, and was of the baroque pop/rock persuasion.

Different Drum by The Stone Poneys featuring Linda Ronstadt:

The song was actually written back in 1965 by Mike Nesmith of The Monkees, before he joined the band, and is penned very much from a male perspective but was tweaked a little for a female songstress. The song tells of a pair of young lovers, one of whom wants to settle down, while the other wants to retain a sense of freedom and independence. The narrator wants to remain free, telling the other that they’ll “both live a lot longer” if they part ways now. I can see a pattern forming here as the 1964 song We’ll Sing In The Sunshine by Gale Garnett (featured last time) told a similar tale but I’ll put it all down to “the times” as not something I could ever have done myself, being an all or nothing kind of girl.

Before discovering this song, my only memories of Linda Ronstadt were from the late ’70s and of her big hit Blue Bayou. She was cute as a button back in 1967 and even in 1977 she was the girl we all wanted to look like. I have written recently about how this was a really confusing time for young people in Britain – Out of the big cities, we still dressed like Amercian kids in wide flared jeans and oufits like the ones Linda Ronstadt wore (I had hair like this in 1977 although my mum made me take the flower out for school), but our boyfriends had adopted the clothes of their punk-rock idols. A right bunch of odd couples we must have looked – The song my new boyfriend (he’s been mentioned before and his ears will be burning wherever he is) and I adopted as “our song” in 1977, was indeed Blue Bayou. What I hadn’t realised then was that Linda had previously been with The Stone Poneys and unbelievably, once she set out on a solo career, her original backing band was The Eagles.

heart-like-a-wheel-outtake_0_1
Lnd Ronstadt circa 1977

In all, Linda produced more than 30 Studio Albums and has won 11 Grammy Awards. It is with great sadness that I have now discovered she has Parkinson’s disease, and “can no longer sing a note”. This nostalgic revisitation of the “tracks of my years” can be somewhat harrowing at times – Where have the years gone?

The orchestral pop genre that emerged in the late ’60s and which I seem to be so fond of, incorporated symphonic strings and horns played by groups of properly arranged studio musicians. Many pop arrangers and producers worked orchestral pop into their artists’ releases, including George Martin with the Beatles, and John Barry for his scores to the James Bond films. Burt Bacharach (who has featured here a lot) and the Beach BoysBrian Wilson were also seen as “gods” of orchestral pop.

As for baroque pop/rock, by early 1966, various groups had began using baroque and classical instrumentation. The Zombies‘ single She’s Not There marked the starting point and would inspire New York musician Michael Brown to form the Left Banke, whose song Walk Away Renée was possibly the first baroque pop single. Other examples include Spanky and Our Gang‘s Sunday Will Never Be the Same, and of course The Stone PoneysDifferent Drum, all of which used harpsichord and strings.

stone

An extremely long post this so thanks for bearing with me if indeed you have. I wasn’t sure if I would keep going after 100 posts, as blogging does tend to impinge of the rest of your life, but I’ve enjoyed it all so much I think I will, until it no longer works for me.

Again thanks to those followers who have jumped in with comments – Chris, Marie, CC, Jez, Rol, C, The Swede, Rick, Lynchie, Ovidiu and anyone else I might have missed. It is much appreciated and I have in turn learnt so much from your blogs. Thanks also for allowing me to be part of The Chain Gang, despite my lame choices, and finally thanks to Denise Marsa for finding my post about her Lucky Stars duet with Dean Friedman and whom I cannot believe that I have as a follower.

Last but not least there is of course Mr WIAA to consider, who has had to spend long evenings watching television on his own this year whilst I have been beavering away on the computer. Couldn’t have done it without him though and despite the odd raised eyebrow when I am yet again caught blogging when supposed to be doing something else more worthy, on the whole he has been my biggest supporter. Not so much travelling to the beat of a different drum this year therefore, more a case of the same drum being in different rooms of the house. Post a hundred and one, here I come….

Different Drum Lyrics

(Song by Mike Nesmith)

You and I travel to the beat of a diff’rent drum.

Oh, can’t you tell by the way I run

Ev’ry time you make eyes at me. Wo oh.

You cry and you moan and say it will work out.

But honey child I’ve got my doubts.

You can’t see the forest for the trees.

Oh, don’t get me wrong. It’s not that I’m knockin’.

It’s just that I’m not in the market

For a boy who wants to love only me.

Yes, and I ain’t sayin’ you ain’t pretty.

All I’m sayin’s I’m not ready for any person,

Place or thing to try and pull the reins in on me.

So Goodbye, I’ll be leavin’.

I see no sense in the cryin’ and grievin’.

We’ll both live a lot longer if you live without me.

Oh, don’t get me wrong. It’s not that I’m knockin’.

It’s just that I’m not in the market

For a boy who wants to love only me.

Yes, and I ain’t sayin’ you ain’t pretty.

All I’m sayin’s I’m not ready for any person,

Place or thing to try and pull the reins in on me.

So Goodbye, I’ll be leavin’.

I see no sense in the cryin’ and grievin’.

We’ll both live a lot longer if you live without me.

George Martin, The Beatles and “Alfie”

I did say recently that I didn’t want the blog to become an obituary column which seemed to what was happening throughout January and February but I don’t want to omit mentioning the passing this week of one of the music world’s most well-known and influential record producers – George Martin, the 5th Beatle.

Looking back now at photos of George working with The Beatles, he could be their dad, always dressed in his shirt and tie, his brylcreemed hair immaculately combed back. As it turns out he could have been an older brother in age terms but it goes to show how that small age difference in the ’60s meant that you were either part of that pre-war generation who had suffered the hardships and direct involvement, or you were the new post-war “never had it so good” generation who were bringing such innovation to music, film, fashion and ideas.

george martin

George however, although he may not have looked like his protégés, certainly had the ideas that contributed to their incredible success. In fact during their short career (considering their impact on the music world even to this day), they spent half of it in the recording studio with George, choosing that medium for their musical output rather than returning to live shows in front of screaming fans, who wouldn’t have been able to hear the songs anyway. There can’t be many people who haven’t heard of, or listened to, “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” which truly was a landmark album in the history of pop music. It won four Grammy Awards in 1968 and often tops polls of “The Greatest Album Ever Made”. None of this would have come about without George.

Again, I am probably going to horrify people by admitting that I was never a great fan of Sgt. Pepper and preferred The Beatles earlier pure pop output. It is simply that I was too young in 1967 to appreciate its sophistication. As a child, the films A Hard Day’s Night and Help! appealed to me much more and were shown regularly on television. As happened with David Bowie, I was just born too late to appreciate them at their creative height, but have kind of come round since.

Sgt._Pepper's_Lonely_Hearts_Club_Band

George Martin’s relationship with The Beatles came about because of his link to Brian Epstein, the band’s manager. During the early ’60s, Brian Epstein and George Martin between them, were pretty much responsible for creating the Mersey Sound or Merseybeat as it came to be called. Brian had tried all the major labels to sign his Liverpudlian stable of artists, but it was not until an initially reluctant George Martin at Parlophone saw something there he could work with, that the magic began. As well as The Beatles, other artists such as Cilla Black, Gerry & the Pacemakers and Billy J. Kramer and the Dakotas all made the regular trip south to visit George and the team at Parlophone. Cilla Black may have referred to the orchestra he used as “a bunch of auld fellas” but they certainly all contributed to making those artists the massive recording stars of the day.

cilla

There are just so many songs I could have picked to write about in relation to George Martin but the most obvious for me is of course Alfie, the song I used as inspiration for the title to the blog. Cilla Black was initially reluctant to take on this Bacharach and David classic but after Burt came across to London from the US to play and conduct on this oddly titled song, she could hardly refuse, despite her reservations that it was the name you would give a dog! George Martin was at the mixing desk performing his magic and after many takes of the song, they produced something truly remarkable.

Alfie by Cilla Black:

It’s now over 50 years since Cilla was asked to record Alfie in order to promote the Michael Caine film of the same name. Right at the end, our eponymous hero poses the question, “What’s it all about?” and I have come to realise that after 50 years of listening to popular music and now writing about the memories it inevitably conjures up, the answer is very much love, just as the song lyrics say. It is the love for our family as children, the love for our best friends as teenagers, for the various boyfriends/girlfriends on the way to finding that special someone, and now for me, the love I feel for my husband, daughter and special friends. Since starting this blog, I have never once reminisced about that important work deadline, that crucial exam result or the completion of that lengthy report, it is always about the people along the way. There is the old adage that you never go to your deathbed wishing you had spent more time at the office and after writing this, my 30th post, I am more convinced than ever that this is the case. As The Beatles sang – “All You Need Is Love”!

RIP George Martin.

Alfie Lyrics
(Song By Burt Bacharach/Hal David)

What’s it all about Alfie
Is it just for the moment we live
What’s it all about
When you sort it out, Alfie
Are we meant to take more than we give
Or are we meant to be kind?
And if, if only fools are kind, Alfie
Then I guess it is wise to be cruel
And if life belongs only to the strong, Alfie
What will you lend on an old golden rule?
As sure as I believe there’s a heaven above
Alfie, I know there’s something much more
Something even non-believers can believe in
I believe in love, Alfie
Without true love we just exist, Alfie
Until you find the love you’ve missed
You’re nothing, Alfie
When you walk let your heart lead the way
And you’ll find love any day Alfie, oh Alfie.