Alyson’s Archive #5 – David Bowie, “Heroes” and Seasonal Duets

Think back forty years ago, to this week in December 1977. I’m pretty sure I would have been busy at school sitting mock exams ahead of the Christmas break (luckily we got them out of the way beforehand so had the luxury of no holiday revision). But what else would I have been doing? Oh yes, that’s right, I would have been picking up my monthly copy of Words magazine, of which a couple of issues have already been shared in this series.

On the cover was none other than Mr David Bowie, as 1977 was a pretty good year for him having released two successful albums, “Low” at the start of the year and “Heroes” right at the end. Hard to believe that he left us nearly two years ago now. I started this blog on the day we heard of his death and despite never having really been a Bowie fanatic, he has appeared on these pages many times now. He obviously infiltrated the “tracks of my years” in a stealthy fashion without me having realised, and the song Heroes from that second album is one of my all-time favourites.

Heroes by David Bowie:

I’ve visited the soundtrack to the film Moulin Rouge! twice before in this blog (here and here) but as it’s coming up to Christmas (and the sumptuous red dress and glittering lights in this clip remind me of the festive period), I can’t help but share the Heroes portion of the medley performed by the two main actors, Ewan McGregor and Nicole Kidman. A total of 13 songs were melded together to create a cornucopia of love-songs, but for me, Bowie’s Heroes worked the best.

But as usual I’ve become side-tracked – Getting back to the magazine, the music journalist who wrote the column on December’s “Cover Star” seemed to get it just right. To quote from the piece, “Of all our current top rock stars, David Bowie is the one most likely to remain a major musical force decades hence… .” And they continue, “Listening to this [Heroes], you realise that Bowie’s strength and durability lies in the fact he refuses to fit neatly into any specific category. He will constantly surprise even his most dedicated followers, while maintaining an unvarying high quality of performance.” As I’ve discovered from this series, we didn’t always get it right back in the day and the slightly disparaging remarks in my 1978 journal about artists who went on to great things, proves this – Sorry Squeeze! Likewise the music journalists often got it wrong themselves and many of the stories printed in these vintage mags were about people who are now residing at Her Majesty’s pleasure. Makes for a somewhat excruciating read.

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You can’t have failed to notice that Bing Crosby also appears in the picture above – As I’ve already mentioned the “C” word in this post there is no point in holding back any longer. My first festive offering for this year is therefore going to be that very unusual foray into the 1982 UK Singles Chart by David Bowie. As explained in the column above, it came about as a result of this guest appearance on Bing Crosby’s 1977 Christmas Show. Poor Bing died a month later, before it was aired on television, but if you can get past the highly scripted, faux exchange at the start, it is a remarkable piece of archive material, especially as both “boys in blue” have now passed on. It is unlikely that Bing even knew who David Bowie was before recording the show but once the Peace On Earth counterpoint was written for the duet, Bowie got on board. It was apparently available as a bootleg for several years before the record company decided to release it as a bona fide single, complete with dialogue. Bowie was unhappy with this move however and it probably led to him leaving RCA soon after.

Peace On Earth/Little Drummer Boy by David Bowie and Bing Crosby:

So, “What’s It All About?” – As of this last weekend the festive madness has begun, but it seems to be impossible to opt out. I’ve also just discovered that the online retail store named after a vast South American river is almost out of everything that darling daughter requested on her Santa list (yes he still visits 22-year-olds apparently), so a trip to the shops seems to be on the cards. Looks as if Mr WIAA and I will have to be “Heroes”, just for one day.

Oh and one more thing, the reason this particular cover jumped out at me is possibly because there is currently a 10 foot tall picture of David Bowie residing at the entrance to our local shopping centre – Forty years on, and two years after his death, his images still exude “cool” which has obviously made him the perfect candidate for a certain watch-maker to use as inspiration for their latest timepiece.

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Until next time….

Heroes Lyrics
(Song by David Bowie/Brian Eno)

I, I will be king
And you, you will be queen
Though nothing, will drive them away
We can beat them, just for one day
We can be heroes, just for one day

And you, you can be mean
And I, I’ll drink all the time
‘Cause we’re lovers, and that is a fact
Yes, we’re lovers, and that is that

Though nothing, will keep us together
We could steal time, just for one day
We can be heroes, forever and ever
What’d you say?

I, I wish you could swim
Like the dolphins, like dolphins can swim
Though nothing, nothing will keep us together
We can beat them, forever and ever
Oh, we can be heroes, just for one day

I, I will be king
And you, you will be queen
Though nothing will drive them away
We can be heroes, just for one day
We can be us, just for one day

I, I can remember (I remember)
Standing, by the wall (by the wall)
And the guns, shot above our heads (over our heads)
And we kissed, as though nothing could fall (nothing could fall)
And the shame, was on the other side

Oh, we can beat them, forever and ever
Then we could be heroes, just for one day
We can be heroes
We can be heroes
We can be heroes
Just for one day

We can be heroes
We’re nothing, and nothing will help us
Maybe we’re lying, then you better not stay
But we could be safer, just for one day
Oh-oh-oh-oh, oh-oh-oh-oh

Postscript:

Just in case you’re curious as to what else we were listening to in December ’77 (other than David Bowie) here is a copy of the Words contents page which also includes two sets of lyrics. How many of these (without Googling) would you remember?

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The Name Of The Game by Abba:

Eurovision Memories, Riverdance and Måns Zelmerlöw

Following on from my last post when I wrote about the sad passing of Sir Terry Wogan, I feel I can’t end that thread until I have mentioned The Eurovision Song Contest. Love it or loathe it, the contest is a big fixture in television’s annual calendar and is watched by, wait for it…… up to 600 million people worldwide!

Terry presided over the television commentary of the contest from 1980 until 2008 after which he hung up his headphones, making way for another witty Irishman, Graham Norton. During his years at the helm, Terry’s commentary was far more of a draw for viewers than the contest, or nonsense as he called it. Who can forget all the “eejit” on-stage hosts we had to endure, and his observation that the Danish pair in 2001 looked like “Doctor Death and the Tooth Fairy”.

My first memories of Eurovision were from 1967 when a barefoot Sandie Shaw won for the UK with Puppet On A String. I have mentioned my “anorak” tendencies before in this blog and The Eurovision Song Contest is a dream for people like me – Endless possibilities when it comes to stats, lists and databases. Who won in which year; where the contest was held; which artist represented each country and so it goes on…

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Anyway, in 1967 when I was still only 6 years old I remember using a little blue Silvine notebook to record my family’s verdict on the songs which had made the shortlist as potential contenders for our entry to that year’s contest. I can’t remember if as a family we did pick Puppet On A String but I do remember that we all had to give each song points out of 10 and I was savvy enough to realise that if I started with a lowish score of 5 out of 10 there would be room for manoeuvre. I also can’t remember if we actually sent in our verdict on a postcard (or if you couldn’t afford one of those a stuck down envelope), but for me, it was the start of a long love affair with all things Eurovision. As the years went by I became an even bigger fan of the contest and when colour came to our television screens things just got better and better.

Sadly when my teens and twenties came along, and I found myself a social life, Eurovision lost out as I tended to be out on a Saturday night but it would have been impossible to miss the fact that we won again in 1976 with Brotherhood of Man’s Save Your Kisses for Me, and soon after in 1981, with Bucks Fizz and Making Your Mind Up.

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The contest at this time was entering a fallow period and it was definitely not cool to admit to being a fan. Terry’s commentary continued to amuse but we didn’t really put up any worthwhile candidates and didn’t win again for another 16 years. During the ’90s however the Celtic Tiger was rearing its head and Ireland won the contest four times in five years. It seemed they could do no wrong and when Bill Whelan’s Riverdance was performed as the interval “filler” during the 1994 contest, a new and very lucrative art form was born. Gone were the days of folksy, green velvet-jacketed Irish dancing and in breezed Michael Flatley and a cast of thousands with their toe and heel-tapping spectaculars. Johnny Logan who won the contest himself for Ireland in 1980 and 1987 also wrote the winning song for Linda Martin in 1992, making him the most successful entrant ever. Wonder if any of this success was down to Terry and his Irish charm?

The times they were a-changing however and when the wall came down, Eastern Europe suddenly wanted to be a part of this music-fest, not realising that here in the UK it was still seen as a bit of light-hearted nonsense. In the rest of Europe, the contest has become a juggernaut of a show with each country putting up their most talented artists and in the build up to the live final, practically bankrupting their country with the promotion of their song. It all got a bit too much for Terry however, and his astute observation that there may well have been some political voting (never!) led to his eventual departure from the commentary box.

Since my daughter has been old enough to enjoy Eurovision with us, it has become one of my favourite nights of the year. We print off the scoresheets, invite friends round, serve the food and drink of the host nation and wave our little flags when the UK entrant appears on stage. Since the debacle of 2003 when Jemini had the distinction of receiving the first ever score of “nil points”, we have generally languished around the bottom of the scoreboard and it is hard to see how things are ever likely to change. We don’t really take it seriously, we are part of the “Big 5” who pay for the thing so go straight through to the final (no-one likes someone to get an unfair advantage) and yes, political voting is absolutely part of the contest and pretty much nobody wants to pal up with us in the world of Eurovision.

You are probably wondering if I am ever going to get round to the song in this post well here we go. Last year after watching the contest for nearly 50 years on television, I went to watch it LIVE in Vienna! We went with our best friends dressed as Bucks Fizz and had the best time ever. As usual the UK came about last but we made loads of new friends and were “papped” constantly in our outfits. The winner was a young Marti Pellow-lookalike called Måns Zelmerlöw from Sweden with his fantastic song Heroes. Sweden are now knocking on the door of Ireland’s record of seven wins in the contest with a very impressive six, their first being the song Waterloo by the most successful Eurovision act of all time, Abba.

Heroes by Måns Zelmerlöw:

There are a lot of problems in the world today and even in Europe we are facing big political decisions in the very near future. I just wish we could gather together some of our leaders for the next Eurovision Song Contest in Stockholm. The whole concept behind the contest in the 1950s was to help a war-torn Europe rebuild itself. The European Broadcasting Union set up a committee to search for ways of bringing countries together, via a “light entertainment programme”. From our first hand experience of Vienna, it certainly works and if Angela Merkel and David Cameron want to join us we have a couple of very fetching Bucks Fizz outfits going spare?

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Heroes Lyrics
(Song by Linnea Deb/Joy Deb/Anton Hård af Segerstad)

Don’t tell the gods I left a mess
I can’t undo what has been done
Let’s run for cover
What if I’m the only hero left
You better fire off your gun
Once and forever
He said go dry your eyes
And live your life like there is no tomorrow son
And tell the others

To go sing it like a hummingbird
The greatest anthem ever heard:

We are the heroes of our time
But we’re dancing with the demons in our minds
We are the heroes of our time
Hero-uh-o-o-oes
O-uh-o-o-oh
We’re dancing with the demons in our minds
Hero-uh-o-o-oes O-uh-o-o-oh

The crickets sing a song for you
Don’t say a word, don’t make a sound
It’s life’s creation
I make worms turn into butterflies
Wake up and turn this world around
In appreciation
He said I never left your side
When you were lost I followed right behind
Was your foundation