The Winter Solstice, “Fly Me To The Moon” and A Very Merry Christmas

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, it’s all coming together at just the same time! Today is Yule, the day of the winter solstice, that pivot point in the year after which the days will start to get longer again. Tomorrow is the day of the December full moon, very appropriately called both the Cold Moon, and the Long Nights Moon. Last but not least, we are also right in the middle of Christmastime, that annual festival commemorating the birth of Jesus Christ, which seems to have become a cultural phenomenon celebrated around the world by billions of Christians and non-Christians alike.

But this is my Moon Series, so what song to feature this time? Unbelievably, I have yet to share a Frank Sinatra song in this series, which is bizarre, as the Chairman of the Board was known to record a fair few songs with the word moon in the title over the course of his career. I shared a version of Fly Me To The Moon by Julie London just before I started this series, but now that we’re into its second calendar year, time to revisit the song I think, and time for a bit of Francis Albert at Christmastime.

Fly Me To The Moon by Frank Sinatra:

Fly Me To The Moon was written in 1954 by Bart Howard, but originally had the title “In Other Words”. Kaye Ballard recorded it first, but since then it has become a jazz standard, often featured in popular culture. Frank Sinatra’s 1964 version was closely associated with the first Apollo missions to the moon.

A few great moon shots have again been captured by my friend with the all singing, all dancing camera over the last week. Here are a few of the best.

I’ve mentioned this often since starting the blog, but the year I seem to warm to most when revisiting the tracks of my years, is 1967. Lots of reasons for that, but the main one seems to be that it’s the year I was just starting to take an interest in the music I heard on the radio and on television – I was a kid, I was happy, loved and nothing bad had yet happened in my young life. For this reason I took to retuning one of the car’s digital radio stations recently to Absolute60s. I figured that whenever I tuned in, there would be a one in ten chance something from my favourite year would be playing, which would in turn take me to my “happy place” (if I was having a bit of a stressful day).

As luck would have it, the first song played on this new retuned station was Somethin’ Stupid by Frank & Nancy Sinatra from, yes you’ve guessed it, 1967. This of course reminded me that in 2001, Robbie Williams & Nicole Kidman recorded a great cover version of the song which became the Christmas No. 1 hit that year. Both artists were at the top of their game in terms of their respective careers, and the video for the song, although obviously staged, still makes me feel all Christmassy. If I had to choose one year other than 1967 to take me to my happy place, it would be 2001, a time when DD herself was just a kid and starting to take an interest in music. She was old enough to enjoy all the wonderment of this time of year without yet being taken in by the commercialisation of it all.

Somethin’ Stupid by Frank & Nancy Sinatra:

So, “What’s It All About?” – I suspect I won’t return with anything new now before the big day, so to everyone who visits here, have a wonderful Christmas. Remember to look out for the full moon that should appear in our skies on Saturday night, and look forward to the fact the days are now lengthening again.

Just one more thing. Last night, Mr WIAA and myself headed into town to take part in an awareness raising event for a local charity. The high rate of suicide amongst young men in the Highlands means that many families have lost a son or brother in recent years. Mikeysline has been set up to offer support to people who suffer from depression and chronic loneliness. Yes, it may well be “the most wonderful time of the year” for some, but keep a close eye on those who could well be feeling even lonelier than usual.

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We lit up the bridges for Mikeysline

An added bonus to last night, was that we managed to take a few pictures whilst walking through the town centre, and of course, our almost full moon made it’s way into the shot.

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The moon peeping over the top of our Townhouse

Merry Christmas from all of us at WIAA. Hope you have a good one.

Fly Me To The Moon Lyrics
(Song by Bart Howard)

Fly me to the moon
Let me play among the stars
Let me see what spring is like
On a-Jupiter and Mars

In other words: hold my hand
In other words: baby, kiss me

Fill my heart with song
And let me sing for ever more
You are all I long for
All I worship and adore

In other words: please, be true
In other words: I love you

Fill my heart with song
Let me sing for ever more
You are all I long for
All I worship and adore

In other words: please, be true
In other words, in other words: I love you

Robbie Williams, Formula One and “Supreme”

I seem to have all but abandoned the idea of writing randomly as each song I write about seems to lead straight onto another one – Just the way the brain works I suppose. Inevitably therefore, after mentioning Robbie Williams last time, I would end up thinking about all those other great songs and videos he made at the end of the ’90s/early 2000s. For the video to accompany Millennium he played the role of James Bond but for the video to accompany the year 2000 song Supreme he played “Bob Williams”, a fictitious rival to Jackie Stewart at the height of his Formula One career. The video was edited using the split screen technique often seen in films from the ’60s and they cleverly wove together new footage of Bob Williams with the original 35mm celluloid footage of Jackie Stewart.

As I have said before, there was a real worry in the early ’80s that video would kill the aural-only music experience (as per the lyrics to Radio Ga Ga) but that never really came to pass. I must admit however that I did enjoy Robbie’s videos at this time immensely and they definitely added to the appeal of the songs. He seemed to be having the time of his life and who could blame him – Cocktails with Nicole Kidman and horse-riding with Daryl Hannah for goodness sake.

I am conscious of the fact that since starting this blog I have hardly written about any songs from the 2000s (only Tears Dry On Their Own) and this one just creeps into that decade and no more. When you are a working parent of a 5 to 15 year old as I was throughout that decade, you have very little time for yourself and the music I ended up consuming was my daughter’s choice of pure pop, Disney soundtracks, the songs from television shows (yes we were fans of Pop Idol and The X-Factor in the early days) and older stuff caught on the radio. If we ever visited friends who didn’t have children, the CDs lying around were all by Nora Jones and the sophisticated bands of the day whereas in our house it was S Club 7, Busted and Avril Lavigne. I might be exaggerating a little here but it is kind of true – The importance of what is No. 1 in the charts is not really an issue when you perhaps have a poorly child and a work deadline to meet. There are those lovely moments however when something comes on the car radio and your small child gives you a big smile and lets you know that your favourite song by “Robbie Michaels” has just come on!

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But back to Robbie and Supreme, I think I especially loved the video for that song because I have a fondness for all those old films about the world of motor-racing. As I said last time, I particularly love the Sean Connery Bond era (the garish colour, the glamorous locations, the beautiful clothes) and another ’60s film that covered all those bases was Grand Prix starring, amongst others, James Garner and Eva Marie Saint. Like with Robbie’s video, the use of footage from the real world of Formula One was incorporated and even our own Graham Hill had a cameo role as one of the drivers. It must be something about the long Scottish winters but when colour came to our television screens in the early ’70s and we were able to watch these films properly for the first time, we couldn’t get enough of them. I do blame my mother however for not pointing out until I was around ten, that Grand Prix was not pronounced phonetically (embarrassed myself a few times with that one I think).

As well as the film Grand Prix there was also the excellent film Le Mans starring Steve McQueen, and more recently Rush starring Chris Hemsworth which was about the ’70s rivalry between James Hunt and Niki Lauda. I remember that era well and used to love watching interviews with Hunt, a firm favourite on television chat shows. The film recreated it all really well.

Robbie Williams has continued to have an amazing career and even rejoined Take That for one album and a tour (didn’t ever expect that to happen but glad he and Gary made up in the end). Something that does bother me however is that he has had long bouts of depression over the years. He is the consummate entertainer and can sing, dance and play the fool on stage, but like so many before him the pressure of keeping us entertained has taken its toll. I have written before about the flamboyant artists who are incredibly shy in private and create a stage character or alter-ego. Robbie isn’t shy but he finds it hard to be serious, always resorting to the funny one-liner or comedy moment (even at the end of the video for Supreme). There have been numerous studies on the link between creativity and mental illness and sadly there does seem to be one – The phenomenon of the sad clown. I hope now that he has a family, he can rid himself of the black dog.

Before I finish I’d like to mention that Robbie’s career started with a stint playing the Artful Dodger in Oliver! (exclamation mark part of that musical’s title, not shock on my part). I have already written about Davy Jones of The Monkees who also shot to stardom after a similar stint on Broadway and it is part of pop folklore that Phil Collins also started out that way. There are no doubt many others out there I don’t know about but it makes me wonder – If your son is currently treading the boards in that role, it could be the first step on the ladder to global stardom. Just saying……

robbie.jpgSupreme Lyrics
(Song by Robbie Williams/Guy Chambers)

Oh it seemed forever stopped today
All the lonely hearts in London
Caught a plane and flew away
And all the best women are married
All the handsome men are gay
You feel deprived

Yeah are you questioning your size?
Is there a tumour in your humour,
Are there bags under your eyes?
Do you leave dents where you sit,
Are you getting on a bit?
Will you survive
You must survive

When there’s no love in town
This new century keeps bringing you down
All the places you have been
Trying to find a love supreme
A love supreme

Oh what are you really looking for?
Another partner in your life to
abuse and to adore?
Is it lovey dovey stuff,
Do you need a bit of rough?
Get on your knees

Yeah turn down the love songs that you hear
‘Cause you can’t avoid the sentiment
That echoes in your ear
Saying love will stop the pain
Saying love will kill the fear
Do you believe
You must believe

I spy with my little eye
Something beginning with (ah)
Got my back up
And now she’s screaming
So I’ve got to turn the track up
Sit back and watch the royalties stack up
I know this girl she likes to switch teams
And I’m a fiend but I’m living for a love supreme

Come and live a love supreme
Don’t let it get you down
Everybody lives for love

Bond Themes, Nancy Sinatra and “You Only Live Twice”

Yesterday I wrote about Rise Like a Pheonix, the song that won the Eurovision Song Contest in 2014, and how it was very much in the style of a James Bond theme song. Led me to think about all those great (and some not so great) themes from over 50 years of Bond films and I have put together my own list, ranked by personal preference. There are many such lists out there and it seems there is mixed opinion on which is the best theme song ever but at the moment, for me, it is You Only Live Twice by Nancy Sinatra from the 1967 film of the same name.

You Only Live Twice by Nancy Sinatra:

The song has a really beautiful intro which Robbie Williams cleverly used for his recording of Millennium in 1998. In the video for Millennium, Robbie, dressed in a tuxedo parodies James Bond and references many of the early Sean Connery films. Turned out to be a great way to get back on top after his departure from Take That.

But back to my list – Nancy up there at the top at the moment but like any list it changes all the time, especially with oft-heard songs such as these. There seems to be a tipping point at which a song has just been listened to just once too often and it goes from being a joy, to something you have become a bit tired and weary of hearing. I hate when that happens and rush to turn off the radio if one of my all-time favourites comes on as I just don’t want to reach that point any sooner than need be.

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All Bond Theme Songs – Personal Ranking (feel free to disagree)

1. You Only Live Twice – 1967 – Nancy Sinatra
2. Live and Let Die – 1973 – Paul McCartney & Wings
3. For Your Eyes Only – 1981 – Sheena Easton
4. The Spy Who Loved Me – 1977 – Carly Simon
5. The Living Daylights – 1987 – A-ha
6. The World Is Not Enough – 1999 – Garbage
7. From Russia with Love – 1963 – Matt Monro
8. Goldfinger – 1964 – Shirley Bassey
9. Skyfall – 2012 – Adele
10.We Have All the Time in the World – 1969 – Louis Armstrong
11.Diamonds Are Forever – 1971 – Shirley Bassey
12.All Time High – 1983 – Rita Coolidge
13.Licence to Kill – 1989 – Gladys Knight
14.A View to a Kill – 1985 – Duran Duran
15.Thunderball – 1965 – Tom Jones
16.GoldenEye – 1995 – Tina Turner
17.Tomorrow Never Dies – 1997 – Sheryl Crow
18.Writing’s on the Wall – 2015 – Sam Smith
19.Die Another Day – 2002 – Madonna
20.The Man with the Golden Gun – 1974 – Lulu
21.Another Way To Die – 2008 – Jack White & Alicia Keys
22.You Know My Name – 2006 – Chris Cornell
23.Moonraker – 1979 – Shirley Bassey

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I still think the Golden Age of Bond movies was the Sean Connery era or perhaps it is just that I am reminded of watching them on television as a child. By the early ’70s they were a staple on high days and holidays and because the world was a much bigger place then, with foreign travel something very few of us experienced, it was worth watching them for the glamorous locations alone. Although the age of feminism and bra-burning had well and truly started by then, it really didn’t filter through to Bond movies until the Timothy Dalton era and for many of us, that was a low point in the franchise. To try and make Bond politically correct was a stretch but with the latest batch of movies starring Daniel Craig as Bond, they seem to have found the right balance.

And if you want to compare intros, here is a clip of Robbie playing Mr Bond – Don’t think he’ll ever get the main gig but it was great fun watching him in those videos from his album “I’ve Been Expecting You”. A wonderful homage to those glamorous films of the ’60s.

Millennium by Robbie Williams:

You Only Live Twice Lyrics
(Song by Leslie Bricusse/John Barry)

You only live twice or so it seems
One life for yourself and one for your dreams
You drift through the years and life seems tame
Till one dream appears and love is it’s name

And love is a stranger who’ll beckon you on
Don’t think of the danger or the stranger is gone

This dream is for you, so pay the price
Make one dream come true, you only live twice

Postscript:

Just in case anyone else has “anorak tendencies” like myself, yes there have been 24 Bond movies to date (and two by other production companies) but the first one, Dr No in 1962, did not have a title song. Monty Norman did however compose the now infamous James Bond theme for it which has been used in all the films since.

For the 1969 film On Her Majesty’s Secret Service starring one-time Bond George Lazenby, John Barry was the composer of the opening theme of the same name but Louis Armstrong’s song We Have All The Time In The World was a secondary theme, played at the end of the film. The only other exception to the rule was that Matt Monro’s vocal version of From Russia With Love was not played for the opening titles to that film but used for the closing credits.