New Cars, Mama Cass and “It’s Getting Better”

As visitors to this place know, I am often earworm afflicted and that usually comes about from having listened to something on the radio on the way home from work. Recently Mr WIAA’s car died on us and re-joined his friends from the conveyor belt, in that giant scrapyard in the sky. It had served us well for 15 years however, first as a family car and then as a means of transporting his large, messy, work-related items and sporting apparel.flat,550x550,075,f The replacement car, being a lot newer, has come with a much more cutting edge sound system and after a bit of “discussion” about how this car would have to be kept immaculately clean at all times, we made a swap. He now dots around town in a little red city car whereas I have now taken custody of the new family car with the cutting edge digital radio and sound system. Bonus.

This week, despite the political shenanigans going on all around us, there have been a lot of beautiful sunny days and the drive home from work has been a joy. I usually choose to skirt around the edge of town, rather than drive through the centre, which means you get to see the Firth, the Ben and the Bridge.

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The journey is quite a short one so there is usually only time to listen to about five songs on the radio, tops. Earlier this week the 1969 song It’s Getting Better by Mama Cass Elliot came on and it being an uplifting, joyful one I decided to test the volume control and am pleased to say it passed muster, although not wise to drive with the sound that loud for long periods probably. The song, needless to say, did become an earworm (a calque from the German ohrwurm I discovered last year) for the next few days as often happens when I hear something sung by that big lady, with the big voice.

It’s Getting Better by Cass Elliot:

I have written about Cass Elliot (as she preferred to be called) on these pages before (here and here) so no point going over old ground but she is the only artist I think other than George Michael, to have cropped up three times now. Considering her time in the sun was when I was still under the age of ten, she, and her sunshine pop style of music, obviously made a big impact on me and I still feel real joy whenever I hear her songs today.

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So, “What’s It All About?” – This song is obviously about a down-to-earth but very satisfactory relationship rather than one that is extravagantly romantic. I was nearly 30 when I met Mr WIAA and after a bit of a slow start precipitated by my carefully planned turning of the correct corner (documented recently), it has indeed just kept getting better the longer we’ve been together. Who needs fireworks when you have someone who will quite happily swap cars with you, squeeze himself into a quite frankly very girly mode of transport, just so that you can enjoy the new sound system!

Until next time…….

It’s Getting Better Lyrics
(Song by Barry Mann/Cynthia Weil)

Once I believed that when love came to me
It would come with rockets, bells and poetry
But with me and you it just started quietly and grew
And believe it or not
Now there’s something groovy and good
Bout whatever we got

And it’s getting better
Growing stronger warm and wilder
Getting better everyday, better everyday

I don’t feel all turned on and starry eyed
I just feel a sweet contentment deep inside
Holding you at night just seems kind of natural and right
And it’s not hard to see
That it isn’t half of what it’s going to turn out to be

Cause it’s getting better
Growing stronger, warm and wilder
Getting better everyday, better everyday

And just like a flower that takes time to bloom
This love of ours is taking time to grow
Ba da da da da da da da da da da da
And I don’t mind waitin’, don’t mind waitin’
Cause no matter how long it takes
The two of us know

That it’s getting better
Growing stronger, warm and wilder
Getting better everyday, better everyday

Autumn, “California Dreaming” and The Mamas & the Papas

Having totally accepted now that autumn is well and truly with us, it’s possible to start enjoying all the things it brings. It was interesting this week to discover that the Pagan name for the autumnal equinox is actually “Mabon”, and that it really is a celebration of the fact the harvests are in and we can count our proverbial blessings for another year. Not that I’ve suddenly gone all new-age or anything but I decided to head out for a walk on Thursday (the day of the equinox) to gather some of nature’s riches in a basket. Hubby decided to humour me and tagged along. Living right on the edge of a forest we didn’t have to go far to find all sorts of interesting bits and pieces. The basket idea was ditched however in favour of a bag (too Little Red Riding Hood-like otherwise) but when I asked hubby to retrieve the bag from his pocket it turned out he’d taken a giant plastic one from a well-known sporting goods store. This was not the rustic, rural idyll I was trying to recreate so he very kindly headed back for something in cloth or hessian.

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Celebrating Mabon!

It was a beautiful afternoon and the walk in itself would have been enough but I was really pleased to be able to gather so many interesting berries, leaves and seedpods. Once back home, my items were placed in a bowl on the hearth but when darling daughter arrived home and questioned why there was indeed a bowl of “stuff” in the living room, I explained we were celebrating the start of autumn and the fact the harvests were in for another year. “But we go to the supermarket” she said, seemingly nonplussed – Missing the point there I think!

Anyway, having done my bit of new-age celebrating (with a candle no less) it occurred to me that one of my favourite autumnal songs is California Dreamin’ by The Mamas & the Papas. Now this is a really great song (not least because of the harmonies) but can cause real seasonal confusion. It shouldn’t really as the lyrics are quite straightforward – The narrator is basically longing for the warmth of his home in LA during a cold winter’s day in New York. But what with the reference to the autumn leaves, the winter’s day, and the sunshine of California, it kind of encapsulates three seasons in one song.

All the leaves are brown and the sky is grey.
I’ve been for a walk on a winter’s day.
I’d be safe and warm if I was in L.A.,
California dreamin’ on such a winter’s day.

California Dreamin’ by The Mamas & the Papas:

This autumn/winter song was written by John and Michelle Phillips of The Mamas & the Papas. Because it is so closely associated with The Mamas & the Papas however, it confusingly comes under the sub-genre sunshine pop. They, along with other mid-sixties artists such as The Beach Boys and Jan & Dean, were part of a musical aesthetic called The California Sound. To be a teenager in southern California in the late 1950s and early 1960s, it must have felt as if you’d died and gone to heaven, and the songs identified with that culture were full of wide-eyed, sunny optimism. They were all about surfin’, riding around in hotrods and partying at the beach. The California Sound however gradually evolved to reflect a more mature world view, becoming less to do with surfing and cars and more about social consciousness and political awareness. Between 1964 and 1969, it inspired artists to tackle meatier themes such as sexual freedom, black pride, drugs, politics and war.

But for now I will just enjoy the song, whatever musical sub-genre it belongs to. I was too young to enjoy The California Sound first time around but it is a sound we are all familiar with. The offspring of Beach Boy Brian Wilson, and Mama and Papa John and Michelle Phillips, went on to form the late ’80s band Wilson Phillips so one of those second generation things going on there – Sadly I was a bit too old for their kind of sunshine pop by this time so yet again missed the boat. I will however leave you with their biggest hit, Hold On from 1990 (which incidentally had a bit of a starring role in the very funny Kristen Wiig film, Bridesmaids). Enjoy.

California Dreamin’ Lyrics
(Song by John Phillips/Michelle Phillips)

All the leaves are brown and the sky is grey.
I’ve been for a walk on a winter’s day.
I’d be safe and warm if I was in L.A.;
California dreamin’ on such a winter’s day.

Stopped in to a church I passed along the way.
Well I got down on my knees and I pretend to pray.
You know the preacher liked the cold;
He knows I’m gonna stay.
California dreamin’ on such a winter’s day.

All the leaves are brown and the sky is gray.
I’ve been for a walk on a winter’s day.
If I didn’t tell her I could leave today;
California dreamin’ on such a winter’s day.
California dreamin’ on such a winter’s day.
California dreamin’ on such a winter’s day.