Leaving Work for the Last Time – Queen and “These Are The Days Of Our Lives”

Forgive me WordPress for I have sinned – Much of the last seven days has been spent over on Facebook as it was my last week at work and I wanted to share pictures of the various colleagues who were to become my best friends over a 30 year period. As anyone who visits here knows I am a bit of a hoarder, and there was no shortage of material to work with as I’ve always been the custodian of our memories, wherever I’ve worked. The exercise was a resounding success and the surprised comments from friends have been rolling in thick and fast, with promises that we’ll keep in touch, have a reunion etc. That remains to be seen but it has been a very sociable week indeed, culminating in a dinner and drinks “leaving do” last night.

The departure from the world of secure employment came about because of this – I think I’m a bit of a dinosaur in the world of offices as I like my pin boards, folders and stationery. Sadly all the tools of my trade had to go earlier this year as we adopted what is commonly known as agile working i.e. no fixed desk, no paper, no clutter and no talking! I decided that the sterile world of the modern day office was not for me. Goodness knows how we kept the ship on course all those years with just so much paper to hinder us, when instead we could have had terabytes of data at our fingertips with no idea of how to turn it into meaningful information.

office

Anyway, a new life awaits me but I cannot help but feel very sad that the old one is now behind me – The world of the ’80s office was a much less pressurised one and, dare I say it, a lot more fun than it is now and I miss that. On the way home from work for the last time the song These Are The Days Of Our Lives came on the radio and it summed up how I was feeling:

When we were kids, when we were young (I was in my twenties)

The days were endless, we were crazy (lots of work nights out!)

Sometimes it seems like lately – I just don’t know (the world of agile working?)

Those were the days of our lives (of my working life definitely)

Those days are all gone now but one thing is true – When I look and I find I still love you (the happy memories will never leave me)

These Are The Days Of Our Lives by Queen:

This song by the band Queen was released as a double A-side in the UK in December 1991, after the death of Freddie Mercury. It entered the UK Singles Chart at No. 1 and remained there for five weeks. It also received a Brit Award for Best Single in 1992.

The accompanying video was the last to feature Freddie and was released in black and white to hide the full extent of his illness. With a knowing farewell look straight at the camera, Freddie whispers “I still love you” as the song ends, which were his last ever words on camera.

RIP Freddie, RIP the 1980s Office.

These Are The Days Of Our Lives Lyrics
(Song by Roger Taylor)

Sometimes I get to feelin’
I was back in the old days – long ago
When we were kids, when we were young
Things seemed so perfect – you know?
The days were endless, we were crazy – we were young
The sun was always shinin’ – we just lived for fun
Sometimes it seems like lately – I just don’t know
The rest of my life’s been – just a show.
Those were the days of our lives
The bad things in life were so few
Those days are all gone now but one thing is true –
When I look and I find I still love you.
You can’t turn back the clock, you can’t turn back the tide
Ain’t that a shame?
I’d like to go back one time on a roller coaster ride
When life was just a game
No use sitting and thinkin’ on what you did
When you can lay back and enjoy it through your kids
Sometimes it seems like lately I just don’t know
Better sit back and go – with the flow
Cos these are the days of our lives
They’ve flown in the swiftness of time
These days are all gone now but some things remain
When I look and I find – no change
Those were the days of our lives yeah
The bad things in life were so few
Those days are all gone now but one thing’s still true
When I look and I find, I still love you,
I still love you.

An Open Letter to George Michael RIP, Part 2 – The Solo Years

Dear George

Well old friend, it’s been a very sad but oddly uplifting few days. I wrote my first letter to you back on Tuesday when the news of your death was still raw. Since then I have pulled together all the old vinyl and CDs (from both the Wham! and solo years) and had a good wallow through your back catalogue. There is much there to give joy but also material there that now breaks my heart – I don’t know about the Cowboys but I hope you are now with the Angels. A cringey thing to say I know, but I had to include that song somewhere as although not a massive commercial success in its own right, it is still my favourite from your album “Listen Without Prejudice Vol 1” (there never was a Vol 2 but that of course is another story).

Cowboys and Angels by George Michael:

When I say it has also been an oddly uplifting few days, that is because we have now heard about some of your (hitherto anonymous) amazing acts of generosity. You were always at the forefront whenever a charity concert or single was in being put together but most of us had no idea just how many random acts of kindness you were responsible for over the years. You helped out at homeless shelters and always stood up for the downtrodden – A prince among men.

But I have jumped ahead. In my last letter to you I did a fair bit of reminiscing about all that went on in both of our lives during the Wham! years of the early ’80s but what happened after that? – I think we both kind of grew up. You carved out a successful career as a very credible solo artist and I stopped being a flibbertigibbet, moved to a new town and took up a responsible job. Ok, so I still was a bit of a flibbertigibbet, but I now lived on my own and had to travel long distances to meet up with my old friends – When I did, it was just like old times.

In 1987 you released your first solo album “Faith” and during one of our reunion weekends that year it was played constantly – The girls were mightily taken with your new “look” and we found it quite amusing that so many young men were trying to recreate that look, what with the designer stubble, the leather jacket, the shades and even the glove – Looked great on you but on anyone else it just kind of looked silly. One of my friends had actually been given a video of the single I Want Your Sex by her boyfriend, as a present for her birthday – A few raised eyebrows about that one as how could one ever compete with “Gorgeous George” in the bedroom department!

faithe 2.jpg
George Michael – Faith

But you were exhausted after all the hoopla that came with the promotion of “Faith” George, and to be honest so was I – Living in The Highlands of Scotland but spending every weekend travelling around the country was also exhausting and I started to make friends locally and even got myself a boyfriend who was to become Mr WIAA – Hurrah I hear you say (after getting bored with my stories of the on-off nature of my relationship with boyfriend no. 1 during the Wham! years).

In 1990 you released a much more contemplative album called “Listen Without Prejudice Vol 1” and the first single from it Praying for Time had lyrics that concerned social ills and injustice – We were starting to realise what kind of man you really were. This album was a very different affair and it alluded to your struggle with your artistic identity. Vol 2 never did appear and shortly after, you ended your record contract with Sony.

One good thing that came out of your dispute with the record company is that you had a fair bit of “gardening leave” and threw yourself into appearing at benefit concerts and such like. The one that has gone down in history, is when you took part in the Freddie Mercury Tribute Concert in 1992 along with Queen, Lisa Stansfield, Seal, David Bowie and many others. For some reason I can’t remember watching this concert live on telly at the time (put it down to getting engaged, married and buying and selling a property in a four month period) but it was obviously repeated in 1993 ahead of the Five Live EP where five tracks from the concert were released on a single EP, with all proceeds going to the Mercury Trust. This time we did see it, and my goodness it gave me goosebumps. You know when you witness something truly exceptional and your version of Somebody To Love with the other members of Queen really was exceptional (check out that note at 1:16).

Somebody To Love by George Michael and Queen:

Around this time I always had a blank tape in the VCR (remember those) and if something special came on telly I would quickly press “record”. This performance of Somebody To Love was revisited many times over the next few months – To see you, giving it your all George, in your gorgeous coral-coloured jacket (a great choice by the way) and blousy gold earring, was joy personified.

And here is where you feature in a really important moment in my life, and that of my daughter’s as it turns out. A couple of years later I found myself “with child” (blame the I Want Your Sex video) and it was suggested that we take a few cassette tapes with us to the labour suite come the hour. It all gets a bit frantic when everything starts to happen so we quickly grabbed the bag and two tapes to take with us – One was by Dina Carroll (not thought of her in ages) and the other was the Five Live EP. Despite the rush to get there things did not end up happening very quickly at all and we spent all evening, all night and then part of the next morning awaiting darling daughter’s arrival – All to the sounds of you George, plus those of Lisa Stansfield, Queen and occasionally Dina Carroll. Very apt really, and excuse the schmaltz, but she truly has been “somebody to love”.

I will admit that once you have a family, music has to take a back seat, especially if you are the mum I think, and I am sorry George but my attention to you was a tad neglected over the next few years but I did appreciate your “Older” album when it came out in 1996 and of course I had to buy “The Best of Wham!” in 1997, and then “Ladies and Gentlemen” in 1998. Funnily enough, by this time darling daughter was becoming a little character in her own right and one of our favourite things to do of an afternoon was to dance to your songs. One of the best for this was Club Tropicana where we re-enacted the long pre-amble with the sound of the car pulling up, the footsteps, the cicadas and then the opening of the doors to “Club Tropicana” – Fun times and needless to say she did become a bit of an aficionado of musical theatre and at one point we thought that a life on stage might be for her.

Oh George, here I am running out of words again and I’ve only got to 1998 but of course that was also the year that you kind of let yourself down a bit. None of us who were fans cared whether you were gay or not but you did “out” yourself in a very public way by getting arrested in LA – You say it was a subconsciously deliberate act, which it probably was, and it did give us the very entertaining Outside later on that year. Didn’t endear yourself to the LAPD with that one though, did you?

I can see, as fellow Chain-Ganger George (coincidental name) suggested last time, that this will have to be a game of three thirds as opposed to two halves, so until next time, thank you again Georgios Kyriacos for all the great music I have had the privilege to revisit this week due to your very untimely demise. I would much rather it had been under very different circumstances, but there we are.

Until next time, RIP to the Cowboy and the Angel who tried very hard to find “somebody to love”.

Cowboys and Angels Lyrics
(Song by George Michael)

When your heart’s in someone else’s hands
Monkey see and monkey do 
Their wish is your command
Not to blame
Everyone’s the same

All you do is love and love is all you do
I should know by now the way I fought for you
You’re not to blame, everyone’s the same

I know you think that you’re safe
Mister
Harmless deception
That keeps love at bay
It’s the ones who resist that we most want to kiss
Wouldn’t you say?

Cowboys and angels
They all have the time for you
Why should I imagine that I’d be a find for you
Why should I imagine
That I’d have something to say

But that scar on your face
That beautiful face of yours
In your heart there’s a trace
Of someone before

When your heart’s in someone else’s plans
Things you say and things you do
That they don’t understand
You’re not to blame
Always ends the same

You can call it love but I don’t think it’s true
You should know by now
I’m not the boy for you
You’re not to blame
Always ends the same

I know you think that you’re safe
Sister
Harmless affection that keeps things this way
It’s the ones who persist for the sake of a kiss
Who will pay and pay
Cowboys and angels
They all have the time for you
Why should I imagine that I was designed for you
Why should I believe
That you would stay

But that scar on your face
That beautiful face of yours
Don’t you think that I’d know
They’ve hurt you, before

Take this man to your place
Maybe his hands can help you forget
Please be stronger than your past
The future may still give you a chance
The future, the future, not the past

That scar on your face
That beautiful face of yours
Don’t you think that I know
They hurt you before

Live Aid, Freddie Mercury and Radio Ga Ga

I wrote yesterday about the Celtic rock band Runrig and how their rousing live performances induce mass participation, especially when at home in Scotland.

The performance that most people my age will remember as being one of the finest ever to take place however, was when Queen arrived on the stage for their segment of the Live Aid Concert, held on July the 13th, 1985. I still remember that day well and who knew before the concert began that this would be a seminal performance. To see and hear all 72,000 people in Wembley Stadium sing along with Freddie Mercury to Radio Ga Ga was a landmark moment in pop history. His a cappella section at the end of the song, featuring his amazing vocal range and ability to work the crowd, came to be known as “The Note Heard Round the World”.

Radio Ga Ga by Queen:

There had been quite a build up to Live Aid day but mostly what we had been hearing about was the sheer logistical nightmare of having so many artists performing on one stage on one day. On top of that there was to be a parallel concert in the U.S. in Philadelphia with Phil Collins jetting between the two venues. Harvey Goldsmith, the promoter behind the staging of the Wembley show, was a man under pressure to deliver. Bob Geldof, who with Midge Ure had first come up with the idea of raising money for the Ethiopian famine crisis by making a charity single (Do They Know It’s Christmas?), was now the main driving force behind the event. A man renowned for his dishevelled appearance, Bob was now looking even more so than ever, but there could be no denying that his passion for the cause was immense and who could forget his impatience with the presenters when they just weren’t taking the business of pledging money seriously enough –  “F**k the address, let’s get the number”, “Don’t go to the pub tonight, stay in and give us the money”, “There are people dying NOW so give me the money” and so it went on……

live aid

But back to Radio Ga Ga – It was actually written by Queen’s drummer Roger Taylor and the silly sounding song title belies the fact it has some very serious lyrics about the state of the music industry in 1984. The emergence of MTV and the pop video in the early ’80s led a lot of artists to think that visuals were going to take over from radio and the aural-only music experience. Ironic really as Queen had been one of the first bands to make a film to accompany their 1975 masterpiece, the triumph that was Bohemian Rhapsody. They needn’t have worried however as all these years later people are still making records and although the visuals can be really impressive, they have never taken over, yet.

It has become a cliché, too often used by talent show judges, but it is fair to say that Freddie “owned the stage” that hot summer’s day in 1985. He was in control, and had the crowd in the palm of his hand. I think the band did have the advantage over a lot of the younger artists that day in that they had experience on their side, both in terms of age  (Freddie was nearly 40 – hard to believe looking at the footage now and also hard to believe that he was dead six years later) and in playing in front of these large crowds. I think they knew the impact the concert would have on the careers of those taking part that day, so they had hired a large theatre to practice in during the build up to the concert.

freddie

Having written about a few extrovert artists now who have this ability to create such magic on stage, there is a common personality trait amongst them all – They are generally very shy people. Surprising to those of us who are not that way inclined but I think that is where the balance lies – If you are a shy person you need to create an alter-ego as an outlet. David Bowie in the ’70s was very shy thus his Ziggy Stardust creation. Elvis Presley and Michael Jackson were both very shy and Freddie notoriously gave few interviews due to his shyness. All I can say is thank goodness we were given the privilege of watching them perform and although sadly all of the above have now passed away, we are lucky to still have amazing footage of them in action. In Radio Ga Ga Roger Taylor was worried about the visuals taking over but I say thank goodness for them, as now we can share them with the generations to come.

RIP Freddie.

Radio Ga Ga Lyrics
(Song by Roger Taylor)

I’d sit alone and watch your light
My only friend through teenage nights
And everything I had to know
I heard it on my radio

You gave them all those old time stars
Through wars of worlds invaded by Mars
You made ’em laugh, you made ’em cry
You made us feel like we could fly.
Radio.

So don’t become some background noise
A backdrop for the girls and boys
Who just don’t know or just don’t care
And just complain when you’re not there

You had your time, you had the power
You’ve yet to have your finest hour
Radio, Radio.

All we hear is Radio ga ga
Radio goo goo
Radio ga ga
All we hear is Radio ga ga
Radio blah blah
Radio, what’s new?
Radio, someone still loves you!

We watch the shows, we watch the stars
On videos for hours and hours
We hardly need to use our ears
How music changes through the years.

Let’s hope you never leave old friend
Like all good things on you we depend
So stick around ’cause we might miss you
When we grow tired of all this visual

Postscript:

Just in case you’ve never seen Bob in full flow on Live Aid Day, a record was made sampling his now infamous lines. Just shows what you can do nowadays with a clever bit of technology – Love it.