Runrig, “Hearthammer” and A Bit Of Shameless Marketing

Well, another week on and another Saturday morning blogging session. As I sit down to type I am as yet undecided on today’s subject matter/featured song, so it’s going to be interesting. I occasionally take to “tipsy blogging” (just the one glass of red, so not too tipsy) when I’m lost for inspiration, but not really the done thing before elevenses so a mug of tea it’ll have to be instead.

But of course I’m not lost for inspiration today, it’s just that I had a bit of a rant last week so feel I’m going to have to reel it in a bit this week. I had been a bit upset by the lack of empathy for those going through tough times. I shouldn’t have been surprised however as we are most definitely not all in the same boat during these early days of the crisis. Socio-economic factors have created a massive divide in terms of the lockdown experience and for many, their lives haven’t changed much at all. The economic/social crisis now developing from the health crisis is going to impact the young most, and also those who cannot work from home. In time, a new fairer balance will be found, but how many years will that take? I hope I’m still around to see it happen.

View across the Beauly Firth to Ben Wyvis

I included this picture in last week’s post so shouldn’t really share it again but it’s a bobby dazzler isn’t it and taken from a place just 15 minutes walk from the holiday hideaway which has now been put into mothballs. Regulars around here will remember my foray into the world of tourism last year and how it didn’t quite turn out the way I had hoped. Alyson’s Highland Adventures (AHA) soon became Highland Adventures (HA) as it became apparent people generally just want a lockbox, good Wi-Fi and for me to bugger off!

This week was spent cancelling the remainder of my bookings for the calendar year as we have no idea when we will be able to safely operate such businesses again. Being positive however, I think by next year people will start to have holidays again, and the Staycation will be a popular choice. Some shameless self-promotion here but my Orcadian blogging buddy Graeme from Imperfect and Tense came to stay with his family just before it all started to go horribly wrong, and shared some great pictures over at his place. I was nervous, as he lives in such a beautiful spot himself, but over the course of the week he found all sorts of interesting outdoors-y places that were even new to me. The bonus of course of having a self-contained holiday house on the edge of town, is that your guests have the duel benefits of access to great scenery but also an M&S Foodhall for holiday treats. (Don’t want to sound scary, but has to be said, also useful to have a large acute NHS hospital nearby too.)

Not sure as yet when I shall reopen for business but as I said last year, if any regular visitors want to give me a whirl when the time is right, feel free to get in touch via the Contact Me link at the top of the page. I’m pretty sure Graeme would be more than happy to provide a reference.

As the focus of this post seems to have been on local scenery, it would seem sensible to include a very local piece of music too. There are loads of small venues around here where bands perform in the summer months but of course not going to be easy for them to operate for some time, which is sad. As for the local festivals and gatherings which pepper the annual calendar, again, not going to happen this year. Thank goodness for aforementioned good Wi-Fi as at least many musicians have been able to take to online platforms, but must be said, not the same at all and of course won’t pay the bills.

A band who were able to stream their 2018 Farewell Concert the other week on social media was Runrig. They have featured around here before when I wrote about their version of the traditional song Loch Lomond. Despite looking a bit dated now, in the absence of coming up with a better alternative I’m going to revisit that video clip again (really gets lively after 3:00), as it’s a great reminder of how only weeks ago it would not have seemed unusual to attend such mass gatherings. When will we see their like again? Not for some time I suspect.

Loch Lomond was on the B-side of an EP released in 1991 and of course I bought it, along with the rest of the population of the Highlands. The main song on the EP was Hearthammer which made it into the UK Singles Chart and even got them a slot on TOTP. Looking at the lyrics properly now for the first time, they most definitely come from the memories of people who were youngsters in the 1960s, and I have found out about a famous Argentinian footballer called Di Stefano who was previously unknown to me. Sounds as if he was a remarkable player.

Hearthammer by Runrig:

Runrig’s lead singer Donnie Munro was Mr WIAA’s art teacher at school in the 1970s but by the late 1980s he was very much a full-time musician. When he’d told the class he was involved with a band, and that they played a kind of Gaelic/Celtic rock, the class were highly sceptical (this was the decade of glam rock, punk and disco after all) but he certainly proved them all wrong. In the period 1987-1997 they were signed to Chrysalis and released five very successful studio albums.

So, “What’s It All About?” – Wasn’t sure where this one would go but it seems I’ve ended up shamelessly plugging my temporarily mothballed holiday house. I would hope that by next year we will start to see visitors return to the Highlands of Scotland but with widespread foreign travel probably a thing of the past, and with Airlines going out of business, they are more likely to be of the home-grown variety rather than the myriad of nationalities I welcomed last year.  I’m sure local businesses will adapt and the smaller intimate (but not too intimate) venues will probably be the first to showcase live music again, but as we all keep saying, strange times indeed.

Until next time….

Hearthammer Lyrics
(Song by Calum Macdonald/Rory Macdonald)

With the eyes of a child
The wonder of it all
I used to search the stars at night
And I felt so safe and small
Sweet sounds from a Mersey town
And my nursery god
And I wanted to ride with Yuri Gagarin
As he circled all around my world

Hearthammer
And I lose control
Hearthammer

Lying under the covers
With the radio on
Settle down with Caroline
As she sailed all summer long
Sweetheart of the rodeo
Mining hearts of gold
I think it was somewhere pre stand-up time
Somewhere post Rubber Soul

Hearthammer
And I lose control
Hearthammer

There was the first caress
There were the Labour years
There was the man who walked the moon
Something you never really believed
The Di Stefano twists
The Charlton goals
Now I’m still here with the eyes of a child
The wonder never grows old

Hearthammer
And I lose control
Hearthammer

Celtic Rock, Runrig and “Loch Lomond”

Last time I wrote about George Martin and of his legacy in assisting The Beatles and all those other great Liverpudlian bands and artists achieve great things in the 1960s.  Before that however, the thread I had been following was concerned with artists who are very much identified with their “place” in the world.

Anyone who has read my posts will have worked out by now that I come from the North of Scotland and although my childhood was rural, I have since lived in both of the big(ish) cities up here. You would have thought that the tracks of my years might have been very different to those of someone who has lived all their life in, say, Norfolk or Manchester but no, we pretty much all listen to the same radio stations, watch the same television shows/films and now have access to everything that the world wide web can throw at us.

It was not until I arrived in the Highlands however that I really started to appreciate some of the great Celtic rock bands that hail from this neck of the woods. In 1987, the band always guaranteed to sell out any concert was Runrig, orginally from the Isle of Skye. Their lead singer Donnie Munro had taught my husband art at school in the ’70s, but by the late ’80s he was very much a full-time musician. When he’d told the class he was involved with a band, and that they played a kind of Gaelic/Celtic rock, the class were highly sceptical (this was the decade of glam rock, punk and disco after all) but he certainly proved them all wrong. In the period 1987-1997 they were signed to Chrysalis and released five very successful studio albums. I remember buying “The Cutter And The Clan” in 1987 not long after arriving in the Highlands and I saw them perform three times in a short space of time at various venues, including a large marquee during a memorable homecoming trip to Skye.

runrig

I really don’t know how familiar they would have been to audiences in the rest of the country but they did enter the charts several times during that period so did achieve mainstream success despite the fact they were very much of their “place”, the Gaelic-speaking Isle of Skye.

In 1991, they released an EP which of course I bought, along with the rest of the population of the Highlands. The main song on the EP was Hearthammer but on the B-side was Loch Lomond (really gets going after 3:00), a traditional song given the full-blown Celtic rock treatment.

Although Loch Lomond itself is north of Glasgow and not really closely connected to Runrig’s place in the world, it is a rousing song and I am sure it must go down really well in Canada, New Zealand, the US, Australia and all the other places with a large Scottish diaspora. Suffice to say, if you are at an event in Scotland, it is a definite crowd-pleaser and is often the last song to be played at the end of the night. Lends itself well to the forming a circle and letting the mayhem commence.

cutter

The band has changed its lineup many times since forming in 1973 but the two songwriters Rory Macdonald and Calum Macdonald have been there right since the beginning. Donnie Munro left in 1997 to pursue a career in politics but was replaced by Bruce Guthro, a Canadian from Nova Scotia, who seems to have been just the right fit.

I visited Skye last summer and met up with a native who has been a friend for years. She took us to one of the many fine-dining restaurants on Skye (two have Michelin stars) and pointed out that if we looked closely when the door to the kitchen swung open, we would see Donnie Munro loading the dishwasher! Turns out his son is now a successful chef and his dad is only too happy to help out behind the scenes, even supplying the tablet that we thoroughly enjoyed with our coffee. How things change over the years…..

Loch Lomond Lyrics
(Song by Unknown – Traditional)

By yon bonnie banks and by yon bonnie braes,
Where the sun shines on Loch Lomond.
Where me and my true love spent many days
On the banks of Loch Lomond.

Too sad we parted in yon shady glen,
On the steep sides of Ben Lomond.
Where the broken heart knows no second spring,
Resigned we must be while we’re parting.

You’ll take the high road and I’ll take the low road,
And I’ll be in Scotland before you.
Where me and my true love will never meet again,
On the bonnie, bonnie banks of Loch Lomond.

Ho, ho mo leannan
Ho mo leannan bhoidheach

You’ll take the high road and I’ll take the low road,
And I’ll be in Scotland before you.
Where me and my true love will never meet again,
On the bonnie, bonnie banks of Loch Lomond.