Months of the Year in Song: November Nights (with a Nip in the Air)

Well, I had my doubts about this series but with all the great suggestions I got last month this post will practically write itself. As it’s the last day of the month however (also St Andrew’s Day here in Scotland) I’m going to have to be quick or I’ll miss my window of opportunity.

Yet again, as with September and October, the month of November is named after a Latin number, this time nine, or novem, all because the Roman calendar used to have 10 months with a gap for an “unorganised winter”. As we head into next year things will get a bit more interesting, promise.

Another picture by Veli Bariskan, who kindly let me use the banner image above

So far in this series we’ve had Sad September and Orange October. I had hoped there would be an obvious alliterative word to tag on to November, but all I can think of at the moment is Nights. Back in September there was a bit of debate about whether that month was really the tail end of summer rather than the start of autumn. At this point in November, as it’s very cold and dark much of the time, it feels more like winter than autumn. The clocks change back to GMT at the end of October and from then on it starts to get dark at around tea-time (if like me you live in the North of Scotland). If you’re busy at work for much of the day, any social activity will probably be done at night-time, and it will probably be very dark indeed. Great for Bonfire Night on the 5th of November (link here to a previous post) but also for other outdoor extravaganzas where darkness is required. We headed along to Brodie Castle the other week where the castle and grounds were illuminated with all sorts of relevant images and colours. Really pretty indeed and a nice warming hot chocolate to enjoy at the end.

Spot the wee windows on the castle (famous for its daffodils in Spring). We were also blessed with a full moon and a starry, starry night.


But this is supposed to be a music blog, so where are the songs?

Last month the first suggestion came in from Charity Chic, Mr. November by The National, although he did add a warning that it contains ‘sweary words’. If you’re likely to be offended, cover your ears. I was struggling to work out what the song is about, but here is a possible explanation. ‘He was a high school quarterback. November is playoff season for football. He was carried in the arms of cheerleaders. He was a hero. This character has peaked way too early. He’s had his big accomplishment already, so now he sleeps late.’ Makes sense.

The next suggestion came from C of Sun Dried Sparrows, Late November by Pavlov’s Dog. Here are her own words:

‘It comes from around 1975, I think. Sort of uncategorisable. David Surkamp’s vocals are… erm… not easy to describe in a complimentary way, you wouldn’t think they could work, and yet, and yet! – there is something incredibly charming about this – I just can’t put my finger on why. Probably not everyone’s cup of tea and I wouldn’t have thought it could ever be mine. But in this case, it is. Maybe it’s the song as a whole that just gets in there.’

Crikey, I see what you mean about those vocals C, but you are right, it does have a certain je ne sais quoi.

Next up we had a suggestion from Graeme, who remembered that Mike Oldfield had a song called Man in the Rain where the month of November is heavily featured in the chorus. Coming from the Orkney Islands Graeme is probably often a man who finds himself caught in the rain. Let’s have a listen.


Very nice indeed. The vocals on that one were apparently performed by Irish folk singer Cara Dillon.

Rol as ever was not found wanting when it came to suggestions, but one of them also overlapped with a second suggestion from C, so I’ll include it first. Here is what she said about it:

‘Another (different) Late November that comes to mind is the hauntingly beautiful, melancholy song by Sandy Denny. (There are a few versions floating around, some quite stripped back with just piano and vocals but the one I like most has more instrumentation on it.)’

Let’s hope I’ve found the one you were thinking of C.


But back to Rol, here is what he said about this next song, November Rain, the one I would probably have picked myself if thinking of one relating to this month.

‘November begins and ends with Guns n Roses for me. It was my late nephew’s favourite song too, and they played it at his funeral, so much as I enjoy Axl’s histrionics, it always comes with bittersweet memories.’

Hope you don’t mind that I shared your words Rol, and understandable that it would be a tough listen for you nowadays. From the era of the really big budget music video. They don’t make ’em like that any more.

November Rain by Guns N’ Roses:


For the record, Rol’s other suggestions were as follows:

Carter USM – Born On The 5th of November
Tom Waits – November
Harry Chapin – November Rains
Morrissey – November Spawned A Monster
Stornoway – November Song
The Waterboys – November Tale

Quite a range of styles there but an all-male line-up. Maybe we should shoehorn in some Julie London to redress the balance a bit. Here we have her singing November Twilight from her Calendar Girl album (always a good source of material for this series).


Last but definitely not least we have a suggestion from Khayem, who came up with this:

‘I was surprised to find I’ve relatively few ‘November’ songs in my collection. However, I will give a nod to November by Echo & The Bunnymen. The song was a B-side (if it can be classed as such) to their 2009 digital single I Think I Need It Too. I’m not going to pretend that this is anything close to imperial phase E&TB, but I love the opening bassline and musically, it’s far jauntier than I’d expect a song with that title to be.’


To be honest I hadn’t even realised that Echo & The Bunnymen are still active as a band as I don’t think I’ve listened to them since their ‘imperial phase’ as Khayem calls it. A nice reminder of how they used to sound back then, and still do today.

So, that’s your lot for this month, something for everyone I suspect. I’ve been shocked at how quickly winter has come upon us this year and despite all my good intentions about not turning up the thermostat, I have indeed succumbed, so it’s feeling pretty cosy at WIAA Towers with the curtains shut tight of an evening. If you do venture out, as well as fireworks and lightshows, you might have spotted a pretty spectacular crescent moon this week. Some of the planets have also been visible in the night sky.

Next month is December – how the heck did it come round so quickly, but then I say that every year. There will be plenty of song choices for that month I’m sure but feel free to add your tuppence worth to the comments boxes. Always grateful for any of your suggestions.

Until next time…

November Rain Lyrics
(Song by Axl Rose)

When I look into your eyes
I can see a love restrained
But, darlin’, when I hold you
Don’t you know I feel the same? Yeah

‘Cause nothing lasts forever
And we both know hearts can change
And it’s hard to hold a candle
In the cold November rain

We’ve been through this such a long, long time
Just tryna kill the pain, ooh yeah
But lovers always come and lovers always go
And no one’s really sure who’s lettin’ go today, walkin’ away
If we could take the time to lay it on the line
I could rest my head, just knowin’ that you were mine, all mine

So, if you want to love me
Then, darlin’, don’t refrain
Or I’ll just end up walkin’
In the cold November rain

Do you need some time on your own?
Do you need some time all alone?
Ooh, everybody needs some time on their own
Ooh, don’t you know you need some time all alone?

I know it’s hard to keep an open heart
When even friends seem out to harm you
But if you could heal a broken heart
Wouldn’t time be out to charm you, whoa-whoa

Sometimes, I need some time on my own
Sometimes, I need some time all alone
Ooh, everybody needs some time on their own
Ooh, don’t you know you need some time all alone?

And when your fears subside
And shadows still remain, ooh yeah
I know that you can love me
When there’s no one left to blame

So, never mind the darkness
We still can find a way
‘Cause nothin’ lasts forever
Even cold November rain

Don’t ya think that you need somebody?
Don’t ya think that you need someone?
Everybody needs somebody
You’re not the only one, you’re not the only one
Don’t ya think that you need somebody?
Don’t ya think that you need someone?
Everybody needs somebody

Christmas In Latin, “Gaudete” and “In Dulci Jubilo”

We had a really long round trip yesterday clocking up over 200 miles, and all because it’s the time of year when you really need to touch base with family in other parts of the country. We were lucky in that the day we picked for our drive was a good one with clear skies and no rain. We passed lots of familiar landmarks and although you don’t actually pass through them any more, we skirted the edge of the village where I grew up, and the town where I went to secondary school. I was reminded of the happy times spent there (yes I was one of the lucky ones) and of the many friends made over the years.

Like most of us I had a favourite teacher and my one happened to teach Latin. She had finished her training the year we moved up to the academy, so was still only 22 when she was entrusted with filling our 12-year-old brains with the language of the Romans. Can’t say I ever used my Latin much and have forgotten most of it, but something I will never forget is the opening page of Ecce Romani Textbook 1. These books told stories of a family who lived in a fine villa with an atrium (a new word to us back then but a fairly commonplace feature now in hotels and office blocks). There was the father Gaius Cornelius, the mother Aurelia and their four children, but also living with them was the tutor Euclydes and not surprisingly, it being ancient Rome an’ all, Davus the slavus. If I remember correctly the opening chapter read as follows:

Ecce, in pictura est puella. Puella est Cornelia. Cornelia est puella parva, sed etium in pictura est puella magna. Puella magna est Flavia…. and so it went on teaching us the words for “look” (ecce), “girl” (puella), “small” (parva), “big” (magna), “but also” (sed etium), et cetera (not et cetera yet actually, but you know what I mean).

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But this of course is a music blog so how the heck do I get from the Ecce Romani Latin textbooks to a festive song pick. Well as luck would have it in 1973, our second year of being taught Latin by the lovely Miss Fraser (whose platform shoes, midi skirts and tank tops were the envy of all the girls in the class), the British folk rock group Steeleye Span had a chart hit with Gaudete, a sacred Christmas carol with lyrics in Latin. The Ecce Romani books were cast aside for a whole lesson whilst we grappled with the task of translating the song into English.

As I don’t have any Steeleye Span in my digital database, I am going to have to add another festive offering. Gaudete is one of only three top 50 British hits to be sung in Latin, but in 1975 Mike Oldfield had a top 10 hit with In Dulci Jubilo. This time the Latin song was performed purely as an instrumental and it licks along at a fair old pace making me feel quite Christmassy (at last).

I could have shared a boring old clip featuring pictures of Mike Oldfield, but no, as it’s Christmas I will add a clip showcasing the talents of Pans People, the Top Of The Pops in-house dance troupe, whose very literal routines delighted the viewing public every Thursday between 1970 and 1976. In this routine they are wearing diaphanous white garments as opposed to the skimpy bikinis they were often probably forced into wearing. A jaunty festive frolic this time with a blinking great Christmas tree getting in the way for much of it – Enjoy.

In Dulci Jubilo by Mike Oldfield:

Not sure if I’ll return with anything else before the big day so time to wish everyone a Merry Christmas from all of us here at WIAA. A bit thin on the ground this year what with DD having moved to the other end of the country and my little mum in the care home, but that’s just how life works, always change. Luckily for us DD is due to arrive home with her boyfriend on Christmas Eve so looking forward to that very much. With any luck some of their friends will turn up for a visit and it will be like old times again, old times I’ve missed very much of late.

Have a good one. Until next time….

In_Dulci_Jubilo_(Mike_Oldfield).jpg

Gaudete Lyrics
(Medieval song of praise)

Gaudete, gaudete, Christus est natus
Ex Maria virgine, gaudete
Gaudete, gaudete, Christus est natus
Ex Maria virgine, gaudete

Tempus adest gratiae, hoc quod optabamus
Carmina laetitiae devote redamus

Gaudete, gaudete, Christus est natus
Ex Maria virgine, gaudete
Gaudete, gaudete, Christus est natus
Ex Maria virgine, gaudete

Deus homo factus est natura mirante
Mundus renovatus est a Christo regnante

Gaudete, gaudete, Christus est natus
Ex Maria virgine, gaudete
Gaudete, gaudete, Christus est natus
Ex Maria virgine, gaudete

Ezechielis porta clausa per transitur
Unde lux est orta salus invenitur

Gaudete, gaudete, Christus est natus
Ex Maria…

Lunar Eclipses, Mike Oldfield and “Moonlight Shadow”

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, this is a first for me, I’m writing a blog post whilst actually on holiday (more of that next week) but as a full moon is due to appear in our skies on Friday it can’t really wait until I get home. This month it’s called the Buck Moon, because it’s the time of year we all run around our gardens buck naked! No…., only joking…., although probably warm enough if you feel so inclined but it got that name because it’s when a buck’s antlers are in full “growth mode”. As someone who lives next to a forest full of deer who come down into our gardens at night and occasionally eat all the plants, I should be an expert, but here’s the thing – In the 20 years we’ve lived beside the forest I’ve never seen one, just the little hoof prints left as evidence in the flower beds the next morning. One of these days however I will be lucky enough to catch one in the act which really would be quite something, and well worth the sacrifice of a few plants.

Another reason for the early alert is because this next full moon will also be a blood moon. Yes, for the second time this year there is going to be a lunar eclipse and in certain parts of the world the moon will turn a red-orange colour for a full 1 hour 43 minutes (I am reliably informed). Yet again however, we here in the UK are unlikely to see it in totality, but if you look south-easterly from around 8.45pm (a bit later if like me you live in Scotland), there should be a definite reddish tinge to the moon.

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Mike Oldfield

But this is a music blog so which song should accompany this particular moon-related post? Last time we had a lunar eclipse I chose Moonshadow by Cat Stevens but as was pointed out at the time I could also have used Moonlight Shadow by Mike (Tubular Bells) Oldfield. I have always liked this 1983 song, not least because it gallops along at a fair old rate, rising and falling in exactly the places you expect it to, the vocals excellently performed by Maggie Reilly who frequently collaborated with Mike. The subject matter is not a happy one however, the song being about a woman whose lover is violently killed in the middle of the night. There was speculation at the time that Mike was referring to the shooting of John Lennon in the lyrics but he said no, although he had been in the vicinity at the time so it may well have entered his subconscious.

Moonlight Shadow by Mike Oldfield featuring Maggie Reilly:

All this talk of moonlight, shadows and deer however has reminded me of something. Like most parents, I read to DD every night at bedtime for many, many years and needless to say we had our favourite books. I suppose it makes sense, but quite a few of our favourites were set during the night-time. There was Owl Babies by Martin Waddell and Shadow the Deer by Theresa Radcliffe and John Butler. I can’t quite remember now if Shadow did indeed visit suburban gardens and eat all their plants (probably not), but I do remember that the illustrations were beautiful, full of forest locations basking in the moonlight.

Shadow

I am hopeful we in the UK will catch a glimpse of the lunar eclipse on Friday, the proviso always being that there is no cloud cover. And, as it is the buck moon, a bit of running around buck naked wouldn’t go amiss either, although if we did partake there might well be a few bemused deer looking on, from the safety of their forest high up on the hill!

Only three more moons in this series to go before we will have covered all twelve named by the Native Americans, eons ago. I’m pretty sure I know which “moon songs” I still want to include but if you have any favourites not yet mentioned, please let me know as I feel sure there will have to be a “mopping-up” post done right at the end. You know where the comments boxes are.

Until next time, enjoy that lunar eclipse.

Moonlight Shadow Lyrics
(Song by Mike Oldfield)

The last time ever she saw him
Carried away by a moonlight shadow
He passed on worried and warning
Carried away by a moonlight shadow.
Lost in a riddle that Saturday night
Far away on the other side.
He was caught in the middle of a desperate fight
And she couldn’t find how to push through

The trees that whisper in the evening
Carried away by a moonlight shadow
Sing a song of sorrow and grieving
Carried away by a moonlight shadow
All she saw was a silhouette of a gun
Far away on the other side.
He was shot six times by a man on the run
And she couldn’t find how to push through

I stay, I pray
See you in Heaven far away…
I stay, I pray
See you in Heaven one day.

Four A.M. in the morning
Carried away by a moonlight shadow
I watched your vision forming
Carried away by a moonlight shadow
A star was glowing in the silvery night
Far away on the other side
Will you come to talk to me this night
But she couldn’t find how to push through

I stay, I pray
See you in Heaven far away…
I stay, I pray
See you in Heaven one day.

Far away on the other side.
Caught in the middle of a hundred and five
The night was heavy and the air was alive
But she couldn’t find how to push through
Carried away by a moonlight shadow
Carried away by a moonlight shadow
Far away on the other side.

Postscript:

Well that was a bit of a damp squib wasn’t it. After weeks of sunshine and clear skies, here in the UK there was almost total cloud cover and a fair few thunderstorms on Friday night, so few, if any of us, got to see the lunar eclipse. Thankfully there were plenty of people out with their camera equipment taking shots of the moon globally, so at least we get a chance to see what it would have looked like if the rain gods hadn’t frowned upon us.

Around the world in pictures, courtesy of The Guardian.

Ironically the alternative name for this July full moon is the Thunder Moon as it tends to be the time of the year when thunderstorms are frequent. Didn’t let us down did it?

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