Beach Boys, Phil Collins and “There’s a Ghost in My House”

Well, it’s been a bit of a week, with no time for heavily researched blog posts. When that happens I usually resort to a web-diary type affair and a few songs have come to mind. First of all, after reading a post written by Jez over at Dubious Towers last weekend, where he recommended watching the film Love & Mercy about the life of Beach Boy Brian Wilson, I did just that. In doing so I fell in love with the album “Pet Sounds” all over again. I think I knew a bit about the troubled life that Brian had post Beach Boys, but this film really highlighted the nightmare he went through in the 1980s under the supervision of highly controlling psychotherapist Dr Eugene Landy – Fortunately the love of a good woman saved him and joy of joys they are still married today, so a happy ending to a sorry tale.

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What was great about this film however was that we got to witness the creative genius that went into producing “Pet Sounds” back in 1966. The sounds on this album were just that, Brian’s favourite, or pet sounds, and the infamous Wrecking Crew that worked with him on that album acknowledged his genius above all others they collaborated with. Brian at this point was still aged only 24. I have featured the wonderful song God Only Knows before in this blog (link here) so here is another from that album, Wouldn’t It Be Nice. Something interesting that came out of this biopic was that contrary to popular belief, The Beach Boys didn’t actually surf!

Wouldn’t It Be Nice by The Beach Boys:

So, what else has been happening this week? – Turns out that giving up the job you were very generously slotted into post re-structuring and leaving the organisation you’ve been part of for 30 years isn’t easy. I made the terrible mistake of wanting to leave in a good way, leave in a way that caused the least disruption, but it’s making me miserable. Having discussed it with friends who have retired recently, leaving work is a kind of bereavement and there are “stages” you go through. If I’d given the standard four weeks notice, after taking annual leave I would have been gone two weeks ago and all would have been well. Instead, I have hit the wobble zone that comes about a month after resigning when you start to question the rash decision-making that led you to forego your livelihood for a life of speculative self-employment. Fortunately for those who choose to retire there are many courses you can go on to pave the way, but of course I am not retiring, so I’ll just have to wobble on for another three weeks.

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Over at Rich Kamerman’s excellent blog, where in his Forty Year Friday series he reviews  the albums of 1977, the band Genesis were featured last week. This in turn made me look into the whole Phil Collins negativity issue a bit more. Personally I quite liked his albums from the 1980s but somehow down to his sheer omnipresence and success during that decade, and perhaps his not-so-great actions and opinions, he became quite unpopular. Whatever, I did mention in Rich’s comments boxes that when a good wallow is called for this is one of the songs I turn to – Somehow it seems very apt for someone who has all of a sudden decided that the paperless office is not quite so bad after all (there is still a lot of paper) and that having everyone you’ve ever worked with over a thirty year period in the same building is now a good thing. Oh well, I give you If Leaving Me Is Easy which was one of the singles released from Phil Collins’ 1981 album “Face Value”. The answer by the way is…. No Phil, it’s blinking not.

If Leaving Me Is Easy by Phil Collins:

The final song that comes to mind this week is There’s a Ghost in My House by R. Dean Taylor. Why would that be I hear you ask? Well, whilst at our local art-house cinema with my girlfriends last night (two of whom are the aforementioned 55-year-old retirees), we somehow managed to display the most ridiculous display of giggling fits ever to have taken place in a non-comedy venue. The film we choose to watch is purely down to whatever is showing on the last Thursday of the month – Some we win, some we lose but it’s easy to organise and a great excuse for a get-together.

Last night’s film was called A Ghost Story and despite expecting it to be all scary and full of the supernatural, it turned out to be (inadvertently) the best comedy we have ever witnessed. The main character was a ghost draped in a sheet and all we could think of whenever he appeared was this character from John Carpenter’s Halloween, a film we had also seen recently and again had a slight fit of the giggles.

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Michael Myers in Halloween

I am very sorry that our fellow cinema-goers had to suffer our childish guffaws but once a giggling fit starts it’s hard to stop and we all fed off each other. At one point I had to rush out of the cinema into the little foyer area for fear that holding my nose and breath for so long would induce a fainting fit. Needless to say I was joined by one of my buddies very soon after and we all threw in the towel after an hour and retired to the bar for a large glass of calming red wine. Just to be clear, this was a very “inventive and artful film about love and loss” but what can I say, even at the combined age of 220, once the giggles start, we four ladies just couldn’t control them!

And so as an homage to our embarrassment here is that song from 1967, There’s A Ghost in My House by R. Dean Taylor. This was a Holland-Dozier-Holland composition from the Motown stable that was not a hit when originally released but then became so in 1974 after finding favour on the Northern Soul circuit. That’s when I remembered it from but only really came to understand the whole Northern Soul phenomenon when I wrote a post about it a few months ago (link here).

So, “What’s it all about?” – Sometimes it’s all about control. Brian Wilson was totally in control of the recording studio in 1966 but by 1986 had lost control of his life to Dr Landy.

Sometimes, our plans go awry because we let a stupid piece of paperwork control them – Had the notice period not been unusually long I wouldn’t be having to endure the current wobble. Had I not lost control of my emotions a month ago, it wouldn’t even be an issue (although I’m sticking to my guns that it’s still the right decision).

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But best of all, although everyone else around us was in control, sometimes a fit of the giggles just can’t be controlled – The rest of the audience might not have approved but it’s been the best therapy I’ve had in years and the plethora of ghost emojis on our phones today, and the visit to my friend’s back garden draped in a sheet goes to prove it!

Until next time….

Wouldn’t It Be Nice Lyrics
(Song by Brian Wilson/Michael Love/Tony Asher)

Wouldn’t it be nice if we were older?
Then we wouldn’t have to wait so long
And wouldn’t it be nice to live together
In the kind of world where we belong

You know it’s gonna make it that much better
When we can say goodnight and stay together

Wouldn’t it be nice if we could wake up
In the morning when the day is new?
And after having spent the day together
Hold each other close the whole night through

Happy times together we’ve been spending
I wish that every kiss was never ending
Wouldn’t it be nice?

Maybe if we think, and wish, and hope, and pray, it might come true
Baby, then there wouldn’t be a single thing we couldn’t do
We could be married
And then we’d be happy

Wouldn’t it be nice?
You know it seems the more we talk about it
It only makes it worse to live without it
But let’s talk about it
Wouldn’t it be nice?

Postscript:

Having just delved into the background to A Ghost Story a little more, I found this quote from the film’s creator David Lowery. He had apparently wanted to make a film for quite some time featuring a man in a simple rudimentary ghost costume – “I just loved that image. I love taking something that is understood to be funny or charming or sweet or naive and instilling it with some degree of gravity“. Oh dear David, I’m afraid we just found it funny!

Music from Love Actually, Part 1 – The Beach Boys and “God Only Knows”

It’s been a game of two halves, or actually a game of three thirds, but my annual viewing of the very seasonal film Love Actually, is now complete. Spotted that it was on television this week so recorded it and dipped in whenever I had a free hour or so (it’s a very long film).

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Like just about everything this Christmas, it made me sad, but also gave me hope.

Sad, because the wonderful Alan Rickman was one of the main cast members and of course we lost him earlier this year. Realising that this film is now 13 years old, I have just worked out that he was my age when it was filmed. In terms of the conveyor belt of life, I am a fair way down the line now, and there is still so much I want to do and achieve – This shitty year of loss is taking its toll and making a lot of us really appreciate what we still have.

The hopeful part is because of Hugh Grant’s voice-over at the start of the film, which goes as follows:

“Whenever I get gloomy with the state of the world,
I think of the arrivals gate at Heathrow Airport.
General opinion is starting to make out that we live in a world of hatred and greed,
but I don’t see that.
It seems to me that love is everywhere.
Often it’s not particularly dignified or newsworthy,
but it’s always there – fathers and sons, mothers and daughters,
husbands and wives, boyfriends and girlfriends, old friends.
When the planes hit the Twin Towers, as far as I know, none of the phonecalls
from the people on board were messages of hate or revenge –
they were all messages of love.
If you look for it, I’ve got a sneaking suspicion…,
love actually is all around.”

Thirteen years on and many of us are indeed feeling very gloomy about the state of the world but having just rewatched Love Actually (yet again) it does remind me that at the end of the day, love usually wins out, and we even have the wonderful Bill Nighy (playing rock and roll legend Billy Mack) to remind us of that, through the medium of song. As he points out however, it is very hard to substitute a one syllable word like love with a two syllable word like Christmas but he makes a brave attempt and ends up making it to the coveted No. 1 spot in the process, with his version of the classic Troggs‘ hit, Love Is All Around. After briefly celebrating his victory at a party hosted by Sir Elton John, Billy decides that his long-suffering manager Joe is in need of affection and suggests that he and Joe simply celebrate Christmas by getting drunk and watching porn! A hilarious but very touching scene. Yes, new friends come and go, but never forget those who have been with you for the journey.

Bill Nighy is one of my favourite actors and I am constantly amazed by how he can play an aging rocker like Billy Mack one minute, and perhaps a senior civil servant or downtrodden husband the next, using exactly the same mannerisms and quirks of speech. Please God let him grace our screens for many more years to come.

The song I want to feature for this post is the one used for the closing credits of the movie, God Only Knows by The Beach Boys. Now this is one of my favourite songs and was written by Brian Wilson and Tony Asher. It was released in May 1966 (very close to my favourite year for music 1967) as the eighth track on the wonderful Beach Boys’ album “Pet Sounds” and is of course from the baroque pop camp, of which I am so fond. The sentiments expressed in the lyrics were not specific to any God, and could be addressed to any “higher power”, being a song apparently about moving forward after loss. Well I don’t know about that because the lyrics seem to infer that moving forward would be nigh impossible. Whatever, it is still one of the most beautiful songs of the 20th century so thank you Brian and the boys for giving it to us.

God Only Knows by The Beach Boys:

So, “What’s It All About?” – I think it’s pretty obvious, don’t you?

God Only Knows Lyrics
(Song by Brian Wilson/Tony Asher)

I may not always love you
But long as there are stars above you
You never need to doubt it
I’ll make you so sure about it

God only knows what I’d be without you
If you should ever leave me
Though life would still go on believe me
The world could show nothing to me
So what good would living do me

God only knows what I’d be without you
God only knows what I’d be without you
If you should ever leave me
Well life would still go on believe me
The world could show nothing to me
So what good would living do me

God only knows what I’d be without you
God only knows what I’d be without you
God only knows

My 100th Post, Linda Ronstadt and “Different Drum”

Well, didn’t think I’d reach this landmark so soon but after only 10 months of blogging I’ve made it to 100 posts – Averages out at…, well you can do the maths, but probably why I’ve not had much time for other hobbies this year (or seen as much of my friends, or got that promotion, or kept on top of the garden) but hey, I think I’m about to get one of those virtual blue “congratulations” badges from the WordPress people, so all worthwhile!

So, why did I start blogging? For all sorts of reasons probably but I realised that something had to be done last year on New Year’s Eve, when holed up in bed with a nasty cold. Due to miss the Hogmanay celebrations we are so fond of here in Scotland, and with not much to do except feel sorry for myself, I picked up my iPhone to do a bit of stalking, I mean Facebooking. Anyone who uses Facebook will know that there is a little box at the top with the prompt, “Whats on your mind?” – I took them literally. A thousand words later I was done (but not recommended as if you’ve ever done a 1000 word post on your iPhone you’ll know that after 500 words it starts to really slow down, only letting you key in one letter every 5 seconds). Most of my friends either ignored it or put it down to the delirium caused by my malady but one kind soul did submit the comment, “I see you’ve been busy sharing your thoughts. All the best for 2016”. Hmm… what would be the best for 2016 I wondered – Not sharing my thoughts on Facebook that’s for sure!

And so I discovered WordPress – Ideal, I could write away to my heart’s content without bothering any of my friends. A couple of decades ago I would have probably gone down the Carrie Bradshaw route (a bit of an idol of mine despite her expensive taste in shoes) but I no longer live in a city and I don’t think any of my middle-aged friends would appreciate having their sex lives strewn across the world wide web. No, it had to be something else and for some time I had thought it would be a good idea to write about those memories conjured up by a song or piece of music. After a few false starts and changes in format, WIAA? came about, and it has been quite a journey (as they say on those televised, reality-cum-singing shows).

First of all I had expected at least a few of my friends and family to read what I was posting but it turns out they don’t, so that is quite liberating and allows me to regale all sorts of tales from the past without fear of redress. Secondly, I hadn’t expected to make “blogging buddies” which I kind of think I have. Thanks to everyone who has left comments over the months, especially the hard-core music bloggers (their sites on my sidebar) as I know the song choices here at WIAA? are not always to their taste, but I’ve had to stay true to my remit of writing about what is relevant to me at the time, and if it happens to be the worst song in the history of mankind, then sobeit. (Hopefully not gone there yet but when National Treasure Sir Terry Wogan passed away I did include The Floral Dance although no-one would begrudge me that one I’m sure).

An unexpected bonus of writing about songs is that you have to do a fair bit of research beforehand and it has been a joy finding out so much more about the artists and songs than would ever have been possible first time around – It has been an education indeed, especially as I was always more of a “geek” about music, recording chart rundowns, alphabetising record collections and memorising books of hit singles.

What on earth to include in this historic post then? As it turns out that’s an easy call. Over the months it has become apparent that the year I keep coming back to is 1967 which is very bizarre because I was just a little kid then. I have put it down to the fact that songs from back then have not yet become over-familiar; no unpleasant memories are attached; spiritually I think I would have been a flower-child; the radio stations I listen to often play songs from that year and finally the sub-genre (I had no idea there were so many) I find myself warming to most of all, is orchestral/baroque pop.

A few months ago, over at A History of Dubious Taste, Jez featured the song Different Drum by Linda Ronstadt as part of his “Sunday Morning Coming Down” series. (To be fair the song is actually attributed to The Stone Poneys but she was the voice of the aforementioned Poneys.) I was smitten, and immediately had to make a purchase which wasn’t easy as it was one of those “buy the whole album or nothing” deals. It was of course from 1967, and was of the baroque pop/rock persuasion.

Different Drum by The Stone Poneys featuring Linda Ronstadt:

The song was actually written back in 1965 by Mike Nesmith of The Monkees, before he joined the band, and is penned very much from a male perspective but was tweaked a little for a female songstress. The song tells of a pair of young lovers, one of whom wants to settle down, while the other wants to retain a sense of freedom and independence. The narrator wants to remain free, telling the other that they’ll “both live a lot longer” if they part ways now. I can see a pattern forming here as the 1964 song We’ll Sing In The Sunshine by Gale Garnett (featured last time) told a similar tale but I’ll put it all down to “the times” as not something I could ever have done myself, being an all or nothing kind of girl.

Before discovering this song, my only memories of Linda Ronstadt were from the late ’70s and of her big hit Blue Bayou. She was cute as a button back in 1967 and even in 1977 she was the girl we all wanted to look like. I have written recently about how this was a really confusing time for young people in Britain – Out of the big cities, we still dressed like Amercian kids in wide flared jeans and oufits like the ones Linda Ronstadt wore (I had hair like this in 1977 although my mum made me take the flower out for school), but our boyfriends had adopted the clothes of their punk-rock idols. A right bunch of odd couples we must have looked – The song my new boyfriend (he’s been mentioned before and his ears will be burning wherever he is) and I adopted as “our song” in 1977, was indeed Blue Bayou. What I hadn’t realised then was that Linda had previously been with The Stone Poneys and unbelievably, once she set out on a solo career, her original backing band was The Eagles.

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Lnd Ronstadt circa 1977

In all, Linda produced more than 30 Studio Albums and has won 11 Grammy Awards. It is with great sadness that I have now discovered she has Parkinson’s disease, and “can no longer sing a note”. This nostalgic revisitation of the “tracks of my years” can be somewhat harrowing at times – Where have the years gone?

The orchestral pop genre that emerged in the late ’60s and which I seem to be so fond of, incorporated symphonic strings and horns played by groups of properly arranged studio musicians. Many pop arrangers and producers worked orchestral pop into their artists’ releases, including George Martin with the Beatles, and John Barry for his scores to the James Bond films. Burt Bacharach (who has featured here a lot) and the Beach BoysBrian Wilson were also seen as “gods” of orchestral pop.

As for baroque pop/rock, by early 1966, various groups had began using baroque and classical instrumentation. The Zombies‘ single She’s Not There marked the starting point and would inspire New York musician Michael Brown to form the Left Banke, whose song Walk Away Renée was possibly the first baroque pop single. Other examples include Spanky and Our Gang‘s Sunday Will Never Be the Same, and of course The Stone PoneysDifferent Drum, all of which used harpsichord and strings.

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An extremely long post this so thanks for bearing with me if indeed you have. I wasn’t sure if I would keep going after 100 posts, as blogging does tend to impinge of the rest of your life, but I’ve enjoyed it all so much I think I will, until it no longer works for me.

Again thanks to those followers who have jumped in with comments – Chris, Marie, CC, Jez, Rol, C, The Swede, Rick, Lynchie, Ovidiu and anyone else I might have missed. It is much appreciated and I have in turn learnt so much from your blogs. Thanks also for allowing me to be part of The Chain Gang, despite my lame choices, and finally thanks to Denise Marsa for finding my post about her Lucky Stars duet with Dean Friedman and whom I cannot believe that I have as a follower.

Last but not least there is of course Mr WIAA to consider, who has had to spend long evenings watching television on his own this year whilst I have been beavering away on the computer. Couldn’t have done it without him though and despite the odd raised eyebrow when I am yet again caught blogging when supposed to be doing something else more worthy, on the whole he has been my biggest supporter. Not so much travelling to the beat of a different drum this year therefore, more a case of the same drum being in different rooms of the house. Post a hundred and one, here I come….

Different Drum Lyrics

(Song by Mike Nesmith)

You and I travel to the beat of a diff’rent drum.

Oh, can’t you tell by the way I run

Ev’ry time you make eyes at me. Wo oh.

You cry and you moan and say it will work out.

But honey child I’ve got my doubts.

You can’t see the forest for the trees.

Oh, don’t get me wrong. It’s not that I’m knockin’.

It’s just that I’m not in the market

For a boy who wants to love only me.

Yes, and I ain’t sayin’ you ain’t pretty.

All I’m sayin’s I’m not ready for any person,

Place or thing to try and pull the reins in on me.

So Goodbye, I’ll be leavin’.

I see no sense in the cryin’ and grievin’.

We’ll both live a lot longer if you live without me.

Oh, don’t get me wrong. It’s not that I’m knockin’.

It’s just that I’m not in the market

For a boy who wants to love only me.

Yes, and I ain’t sayin’ you ain’t pretty.

All I’m sayin’s I’m not ready for any person,

Place or thing to try and pull the reins in on me.

So Goodbye, I’ll be leavin’.

I see no sense in the cryin’ and grievin’.

We’ll both live a lot longer if you live without me.

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.