Snow Scenes, the Beatles and “Ticket to Ride”

Well, this post has come about because of the plethora of snow images that seem to have come my way this week. It’s been a really cold one and although we’ve avoided snowfall in our neck of the woods, I know that many other parts of the country have had a fair bit – Beautiful if falling in remote scenic places but a bit of a pain if you have to dig your car out for the commute to work.

Yesterday morning we had the Opening Ceremony for the 2018 Winter Olympics which are taking place this time in South Korea. A spectacle of a show as expected with technology playing a large part in the proceedings. I can hardly believe however that there is to be a joint Team Korea at these games. Athletes from the North and South walked into the stadium together, dressed in identical “cosy” outfits behind a unifying blue and white flag. Considering the childish badinage that has taken place between some of our world leaders of late (who really should know better), this was a wonderful sight – The power of sport in bringing people together toward a common goal.

winter olympics

But here are the pictures that have inspired today’s song choice. Our “across the road neighbours” got back from their skiing holiday this week and sent me a few of the shots they had taken there. Turns out they had visited Obertauern in Austria, which is where they filmed those very snowy segments for the Beatles film Help!. Over 50 years later and it seems that it’s still the resort’s main claim to fame, as the pictures below show.

Obertauern

Obertauern
Obertauern in Austria where the Beatles filmed Help!

I always loved the snow scenes in that film and of course that was also when the song Ticket to Ride was included, to accompany their “madcap” antics. The Beatles were dressed in those iconic outfits, black against the white snow, complete with top hats, cape-like jackets and “bunnets”.

To quote Paul:
“It was good to make Help! and it’s a nice film. It’s funny. It’s a period film now. We just took it all very lightly, we had a laugh, and in the snow. All the snow scenes were cos the lads wanted a holiday, they were fed up working.”

Ticket to Ride by the Beatles:

I am not going to insult anyone’s intelligence by explaining who the Beatles were so we’ll stick to the song. Released as a single in April 1965, it became the Beatles’ seventh consecutive No. 1 hit in the UK and their third consecutive No. 1 in the US. It similarly topped the charts in many other parts of the world. The song was recorded in London for the album “Help!” and it marked a progression in their work relative to previous releases. The Beatles it seems were growing up!

But of course being a great fan of the Carpenters, I will have to include their version which was originally recorded in 1969 but then re-recorded for their first Greatest Hits album in 1973. Arranged by Richard Carpenter, the song has a very different sound – The long piano intro means it doesn’t even really kick in until 0:35, and in the capable hands of Karen Carpenter, the line “I think I’m gonna be sad” sounds truly convincing.

No snow here today fortunately, and blue skies, so we’re going to head out shortly to enjoy the day. Hopefully these Winter Olympics in South Korea will provide a fair bit of entertainment over the next couple of weeks as unlike in years gone by, Team GB actually win a fair amount of medals nowadays, on the ice and on the snow. There are also usually a few locals in the Curling Team which always adds to the excitement and has made us all experts. It looks comical, but it’s always impressive how they can sweep the ice to make the stone curl, or go faster. I will leave you with a picture of the view I wake up to from my bedroom window if there’s been a fall of snow overnight – Lucky me, but sadly no Carpenters lurking amongst the trees in my forest!

45 22nd Dec Craig Phadrig hill covered in snow

Until next time….

Ticket to Ride Lyrics
(Song by John Lennon/Paul McCartney)

I think I’m gonna be sad
I think it’s today, yeah
The girl that’s driving me mad
Is going away

She’s got a ticket to ride
She’s got a ticket to ride
She’s got a ticket to ride
But she don’t care

She said that living with me
Is bringing her down, yeah
For she would never be free
When I was around

She’s got a ticket to ride
She’s got a ticket to ride
She’s got a ticket to ride
But she don’t care

I don’t know why she’s riding so high
She ought to think twice
She ought to do right by me
Before she gets to saying goodbye
She ought to think twice
She ought to do right by me

I think I’m gonna be sad
I think it’s today, yeah
The girl that’s driving me mad
Is going away, yeah

Oh, she’s got a ticket to ride
She’s got a ticket to ride
She’s got a ticket to ride
But she don’t care

I don’t know why she’s riding so high
She ought to think twice
She ought to do right by me
Before she gets to saying goodbye
She ought to think twice
She ought to do right by me

She said that living with me
Is bringing her down, yeah
For she would never be free
When I was around

Ah, she’s got a ticket to ride
She’s got a ticket to ride
She’s got a ticket to ride
But she don’t care

My baby don’t care, my baby don’t care
My baby don’t care, my baby don’t care
My baby don’t care, my baby don’t care….

Bicycles, Sgt. Pepper and “The One on the Right is on the Left”!

I don’t quite know what happened this week but my blogging mojo left me. First of all I had intended to write a few age-related posts ahead of my birthday next week but that old chestnut time, or the lack of it, got the better of me. I then spent a couple of hours last night looking at the screen, unable to string a coherent sentence together. My long list of “posts pending” and my American Odyssey series both require a fair bit of research and to be honest, at the moment, I’m just not in the mood. I blame the fact that this week has been especially spreadsheet-heavy at work, where the numbers side of my brain has obviously encroached on the space usually left for words. In situations like this, for the second week in a row, it will have to be a web-diary type of post.

On Wednesday evening we went along to the local college where Mr WIAA “works” in the art department (although it all sounds a bit of a lark to me). There was a year-end exhibition of the student’s work and it usually makes for an interesting evening where we also get the chance to buy some pieces at very reasonable prices – Who knows, maybe one day these young artists will become famous and their pieces will be worth something. For one group of students, yarn bombing was something that had featured heavily this year, and I did like this bicycle.

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A bicycle of the knitted variety

This week has also of course been politics-heavy ahead of next week’s “snap” election and although most bloggers steer away from such topics, I cannot deny that the issues at stake have infiltrated my thoughts a lot over the last seven days. The television debates (or non-debates actually) have not been particularly effective and as usual I end up warming most to the Green Party leaders and candidates, but they are never going to be able to form a government (can you imagine them having a special relationship with Mr Trump after his withdrawal from the Accord de Paris this week), so the best alternative it will have to be. Like the Greens, Jeremy Corbyn is against nuclear weapons of any kind but of course he is continually hectored and harangued about whether he would ever actually “press the button” if the need arose. I’m with the young lady from the Question Time studio audience who shook her head in dismay at how so many in the room seemed bent on, in effect, killing millions of people. If things get that bad, it’s curtains for us all anyway.

In the meantime, my employers, as well as creating a new paper-less environment have also created a car park-less environment. This has led to the initiation of a cycle-to-work scheme, where eco-bikes are now at our disposal – The Greens would be proud of them although it’s not always easy being of that persuasion and Andy Hallett sang all about it back in 2001!

It’s Not Easy Being Green by Andy Hallett:

Still thinking fondly of the knitted bicycle from earlier in the week, Mr WIAA and I went to a local café today where they also show you how to fix and repair your bike. It is right next to the college so a frequent pit stop for staff and students alike. Called Velocity Café, it is run by enterprising youngsters who have created a great little hub for like-minded souls right in the centre of town. We sat at one of the long tables where you can have a chat with fellow diners or catch up with the newspapers. And this is where I had a bit of an emotional moment over my butternut squash and red lentil soup. In today’s Review section of The Guardian there was an excellent piece by the author Ian McEwan (link here) which really got to me. Right at that moment in time, I wanted nothing more than to live in a land full of Velocity Cafés, and not one where people who are reluctant to launch nuclear weapons are lampooned.

Fortunately I pulled myself together and we even had one of their award winning granola slices for which Mr WIAA managed to get the secret recipe last year. He has attempted to make them a few times now but they never turn out quite like in the café – Methinks they perhaps left out some of the key ingredients, as a secret recipe would no longer be secret, if given out willy-nilly to customers.

Not a lot of music so far included in this post and funnily enough, when it comes, it’s not going to be bicycle related although that does seem to have become the theme for this post. Whilst having lunch, BBC 6 Music was playing on the radio and it was a programme about the Beatles album “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” which was released 50 years ago this week. I am not remotely qualified to write knowledgably about this ground-breaking album, so I’ll stick to the facts. It was their 8th album release and spent 27 weeks at the top of the UK charts. It was “lauded by critics for its innovative approach to music production, songwriting and graphic design and was probably the first album to bridge the divide between popular music and legitimate art“. Peter Blake’s album sleeve is arguably the most famous of all time, consisting of a collage of 88 figures which included the Beatles themselves. Copyright was a major problem as Brian Epstein had to locate each person in order to get permission to use their image out of context. Looking closely at some of those figures, this can’t have been easy. Today sitting in the café I think I found a renewed affection for this album as it is one of those that has perhaps become a bit over-familiar to my ears. Time maybe for a proper re-visitation over the coming week to mark its landmark birthday.

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Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band by the Beatles:

So, “What’s It All About?” – We’re heading to our polling stations again next week and although I have been very good at predicting the results of the last few elections and referendums, I have tended myself to always back the losing side. I often visit Jez’s site over at A History of Dubious Taste and he has put together some very good posts on the political goings on (read shenanigans) over the past few weeks – Informative but funny too, so I would thoroughly recommend a visit. This also reminds me of a song he featured a couple of weeks ago which is perfect for tonight’s post. I’d never heard it before but it has become a guilty pleasure over the last fortnight. I will leave you with Johnny Cash and The One On The Right Is On The Left and will return next week once we all know the outcome – Politically charged times indeed!

The One On The Right Is On The Left Lyrics
(Song by Jack Clement)

There once was a musical troupe
A pickin’ singin’ folk group
They sang the mountain ballads
And the folk songs of our land
They were long on musical ability
Folks thought they would go far
But political incompatibility led to their downfall

Well, the one on the right was on the left
And the one in the middle was on the right
And the one on the left was in the middle
And the guy in the rear was a Methodist

This musical aggregation toured the entire nation
Singing the traditional ballads
And the folk songs of our land
They performed with great virtuosity
And soon they were the rage
But political animosity prevailed upon the stage

Well, the one on the right was on the left
And the one in the middle was on the right
And the one on the left was in the middle
And the guy in the rear burned his driver’s license

Well the curtain had ascended
A hush fell on the crowd
As thousands there were gathered to hear the folk songs of our land
But they took their politics seriously
And that night at the concert hall
As the audience watched deliriously
They had a free-for-all

Well, the one on the right was on the bottom
And the one in the middle was on the top
And the one on the left got a broken arm
And the guy on his rear, said, “Oh dear”

Now this should be a lesson if you plan to start a folk group
Don’t go mixin’ politics with the folk songs of our land
Just work on harmony and diction
Play your banjo well
And if you have political convictions keep them to yourself
Now, the one on the left works in a bank
And the one in the middle drives a truck
The one on the right’s an all-night deejay
And the guy in the rear got drafted

Postscript:

As this was a very bicycle-heavy post it does seems wrong to leave without sharing anything musically related to bikes. Here is a clip that I revisit often as from that impressive London 2012 Olympic Opening Ceremony. The song Come Together was very appropriately for this post a Beatles one, but in this case was performed by the Arctic Monkeys. I loved those guys on the bicycles and from what I have just heard this morning on the news, the sentiment of the song is more relevant than ever.

The Beatles, “She’s Leaving Home” and She’s Coming Back!

A short interlude to my themed week of writing about songs by those Scottish bands who were just so prolific in the late ’80s.

I had been meaning to write about the song She’s Leaving Home by The Beatles at some point anyway, but today seems to be the appropriate day. All through my daughter’s teenage years, I couldn’t bear to listen to it as I knew that the day would come when she would fly the nest and I just didn’t want to contemplate the concept yet. Would I be able to cope or would I crumble?

She’s Leaving Home by The Beatles:

As it turned out she didn’t fly the nest at the appointed hour, as many of her friends did, but entered into that period of limbo called the “gap year”. The gap year can be a bit vague but it does involve suddenly having no routine to your day, taking your benevolent parents for granted and becoming the source of much door-banging. When the time came for her to eventually leave home, it was a source of great jubilation all round as we had all pretty much had enough of each other. The song that I thought would cause so much distress come the hour, caused absolutely none!

The song She’s Leaving Home was of course from The Beatles “Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” album, which often tops polls of Best Albums Ever Made. There is absolutely nothing I can add to all that has already been written about Sgt Pepper other than I was just a bit too young for it when it came out, so only really got to know the various songs when I was a bit older. Even then, I preferred the red greatest hits album to the blue one when they came out in 1973, mainly because those earlier very simple pop songs suited someone still not a teenager. Also I had become familiar with their films A Hard Days Night and Help! which were shown regularly on television.

But back to the song mentioned above, as is wont to happen nowadays our adult children tend to return home to live quite frequently, and that is what happened to us this weekend. The modus of her earlier departure was not quite as per the song (we ended up paying her rent) but there was a note involved, so all a bit traumatic at the time. Anyway a couple of years down the line and we have a very mature young woman back to live with us who has very quickly learnt the lessons that many of her peer group still have to learn – a) It takes a heck of a lot of money just to tick over nowadays so best to buckle down and gain the qualifications, skills and experience needed to earn a decent salary and b) It may seem that your parents “nag” rather a lot in your teenage years but they truly do have your best interests at heart.

Sadly the days of leaving school or University, getting a decent job and buying a house are now beyond the realms of possibility for most young people. The reasons for that of course would lead me down a totally different thread and one I just don’t want to get into, so for now, I am going to enjoy having my adult daughter around a lot more. I also have a feeling she will try to educate me on “what the young people are listening to nowadays”, so interesting times for the blog. Welcome back darling daughter (but please keep your room tidy and let us know if you’re going to be back late!).

shes leaving home.jpg

She’s Leaving Home Lyrics
(Song by John Lennon/Paul McCartney)

Wednesday morning at five o’clock as the day begins
Silently closing her bedroom door
Leaving the note that she hope would say more
She goes downstairs to the kitchen clutching her handkerchief
Quietly turning the backdoor key
Stepping outside she is free

She (We gave her most of our lives)
Is leaving (Sacrificed most of our lives)
Home (We gave her everything money could buy)
She’s leaving home after living alone for so many years. Bye, bye

Father snores as his wife gets into the dressing gown
Picks up the letter that’s lying there
Standing alone at the top of the stairs
She breaks down and cries to her husband
Daddy, our baby’s gone
Why would she treat us so thoughtlessly
How could she do this to me

She (We never thought of ourselves)
Is leaving (Never a thought for ourselves)
Home (We gave her everything money could buy)
She’s leaving home after living alone for so many years. Bye, bye

Friday morning at nine o’clock she is far away
Waiting to keep the appointment she made
Meeting a man from a motor trade

She (What did we do that was wrong)
Is having (We didn’t know it was wrong)
Fun (Fun is the one thing that money can’t buy)

Something inside that was always denied for so many years
She’s leaving home, bye, bye.

George Martin, The Beatles and “Alfie”

I did say recently that I didn’t want the blog to become an obituary column which seemed to what was happening throughout January and February but I don’t want to omit mentioning the passing this week of one of the music world’s most well-known and influential record producers – George Martin, the 5th Beatle.

Looking back now at photos of George working with The Beatles, he could be their dad, always dressed in his shirt and tie, his brylcreemed hair immaculately combed back. As it turns out he could have been an older brother in age terms but it goes to show how that small age difference in the ’60s meant that you were either part of that pre-war generation who had suffered the hardships and direct involvement, or you were the new post-war “never had it so good” generation who were bringing such innovation to music, film, fashion and ideas.

george martin

George however, although he may not have looked like his protégés, certainly had the ideas that contributed to their incredible success. In fact during their short career (considering their impact on the music world even to this day), they spent half of it in the recording studio with George, choosing that medium for their musical output rather than returning to live shows in front of screaming fans, who wouldn’t have been able to hear the songs anyway. There can’t be many people who haven’t heard of, or listened to, “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” which truly was a landmark album in the history of pop music. It won four Grammy Awards in 1968 and often tops polls of “The Greatest Album Ever Made”. None of this would have come about without George.

Again, I am probably going to horrify people by admitting that I was never a great fan of Sgt. Pepper and preferred The Beatles earlier pure pop output. It is simply that I was too young in 1967 to appreciate its sophistication. As a child, the films A Hard Day’s Night and Help! appealed to me much more and were shown regularly on television. As happened with David Bowie, I was just born too late to appreciate them at their creative height, but have kind of come round since.

Sgt._Pepper's_Lonely_Hearts_Club_Band

George Martin’s relationship with The Beatles came about because of his link to Brian Epstein, the band’s manager. During the early ’60s, Brian Epstein and George Martin between them, were pretty much responsible for creating the Mersey Sound or Merseybeat as it came to be called. Brian had tried all the major labels to sign his Liverpudlian stable of artists, but it was not until an initially reluctant George Martin at Parlophone saw something there he could work with, that the magic began. As well as The Beatles, other artists such as Cilla Black, Gerry & the Pacemakers and Billy J. Kramer and the Dakotas all made the regular trip south to visit George and the team at Parlophone. Cilla Black may have referred to the orchestra he used as “a bunch of auld fellas” but they certainly all contributed to making those artists the massive recording stars of the day.

cilla

There are just so many songs I could have picked to write about in relation to George Martin but the most obvious for me is of course Alfie, the song I used as inspiration for the title to the blog. Cilla Black was initially reluctant to take on this Bacharach and David classic but after Burt came across to London from the US to play and conduct on this oddly titled song, she could hardly refuse, despite her reservations that it was the name you would give a dog! George Martin was at the mixing desk performing his magic and after many takes of the song, they produced something truly remarkable.

Alfie by Cilla Black:

It’s now over 50 years since Cilla was asked to record Alfie in order to promote the Michael Caine film of the same name. Right at the end, our eponymous hero poses the question, “What’s it all about?” and I have come to realise that after 50 years of listening to popular music and now writing about the memories it inevitably conjures up, the answer is very much love, just as the song lyrics say. It is the love for our family as children, the love for our best friends as teenagers, for the various boyfriends/girlfriends on the way to finding that special someone, and now for me, the love I feel for my husband, daughter and special friends. Since starting this blog, I have never once reminisced about that important work deadline, that crucial exam result or the completion of that lengthy report, it is always about the people along the way. There is the old adage that you never go to your deathbed wishing you had spent more time at the office and after writing this, my 30th post, I am more convinced than ever that this is the case. As The Beatles sang – “All You Need Is Love”!

RIP George Martin.

Alfie Lyrics
(Song By Burt Bacharach/Hal David)

What’s it all about Alfie
Is it just for the moment we live
What’s it all about
When you sort it out, Alfie
Are we meant to take more than we give
Or are we meant to be kind?
And if, if only fools are kind, Alfie
Then I guess it is wise to be cruel
And if life belongs only to the strong, Alfie
What will you lend on an old golden rule?
As sure as I believe there’s a heaven above
Alfie, I know there’s something much more
Something even non-believers can believe in
I believe in love, Alfie
Without true love we just exist, Alfie
Until you find the love you’ve missed
You’re nothing, Alfie
When you walk let your heart lead the way
And you’ll find love any day Alfie, oh Alfie.