Not too many days left in the current month, so I’d better crack on with the latest instalment of this series. We usually start off with the story behind the naming of the month so let’s see which Roman god May is named after. Well, blow me down, this time it’s not a Roman god but a Greek goddess, Maia. She was the mother of Hermes (the Greek god of parcel deliveries) and was associated with fertility for the Romans. Many people still get a holiday on the 1st of May as it was traditionally a time for festivals celebrating the start of summer. In England there would have been the setting up of a Maypole and the crowning of a May Queen whereas up here in Scotland, the festival was called Beltane which included the building of bonfires (written about here).
Fortunately May does not have as many songs that refer to it which is lucky for me as last month’s instalment nearly broke me with all the song suggestions. Not entirely true of course but a bit of a respite before we hit the month of June which I suspect will be very song heavy.
The first visitor to come up with suggestions for May, was Ernie Goggins. Here are his own words:
A couple of suggestions for May to get the ball rolling. My Girl The Month Of May by Dion. It is from the mid 1960s by which time he had given up rock ‘n roll and become a hippy folkie type. The other is The Watersons’ version of the Swinton May Song, one of the many traditional ‘May songs’ marking the peak of Spring and the imminent coming of Summer.
Thanks Ernie, and as I said in reply last month, I hadn’t known about Dion’s later change in direction until recently. He has had a long career and is still going strong it seems at age 83. As for The Watersons, all very Steeleye Span, but I like it.
The second set of song suggestions came from Rigid Digit and as ever he had lots of them:
Can I have Led Zeppelin’s Stairway To Heaven for the line “it’s just a spring clean for the May Queen”? No – how about Robert Plant’sMay Queen instead then.
Anything by Brian May ? And continuing to push it, the first of May is celebrated with a May Fair. So … The Quireboys debut single, Mayfair would fit. That’s 3 duff suggestions and one sensible one
Back to being sensible: The Bee Gees – First Of May
Thanks RD and I hope I’ve correctly identified the one sensible suggestion of the first four?
As for theBee Gees song it was always going to be one of my own suggestions as I am a bit of a fan. A lovely little film there of the brothers too. You forget how young the twins were when they started out with big brother Barry at the helm. It was this song that was their undoing for a time however as Robin had wanted the song he sang vocals on to be the A-side of this record, but Barry decided it should be on the B-side. This precipitated them parting company. Fortunately for us (if like me you are a fan) they got back together again a year later.
The next suggestion came in from three different visitors last month – C, John Medd and Khayem – and although not month-related I feel duty bound to include it as they have all enthused about it so much. Here is Kevin Ayers with his song May I. Here is what C said about it:
Regarding May – may I suggest May I?! I mean ‘May I’ by Kevin Ayers and The Whole World. There’s a lovely clip of them performing it on OGWT on youtube. I love Kevin’s rich voice and his quite subtle, arty eccentricity, in my mind anyway I see him in a similar way to Syd Barrett, Julian Cope, Robyn Hitchcock. I know it’s not about the month of May but I do like to bend the rules a little. The lyrics might be seen as either sweet or a bit stalkery nowadays – but I’ll go for sweet!
It is sweet C, and what a lovely deep voice he has. Quite sad that we have to continually question nowadays if something is “stalkery” or not, as I’m pretty sure it wasn’t meant to imply that when it was written.
The final month-of-May-related song suggestion came from Khayem. Here is what he said about it:
Just one suggestion from me this time, but it’s from one of my favourite subversive pop bands, Black Box Recorder. May Queen is from their second album, The Facts Of Life, released in 2000. With Luke Haines (The Auteurs) one of the trio, along with John Moore and Sarah Nixey, sublime music and unsettling lyrics and vocals are present and correct.
From the image in the clip I wasn’t expecting that sound at all – sublime music and vocals as you say Khayem. As for the lyrics, yes a tad unsettling perhaps.
I usually like to add a picture of someone whose name is that of the current month before I finish, but other than Brian May mentioned above, not thinking of many. Perhaps timely therefore to include someone born with the middle name Mae who sadly died this week. Yes, it’s the Queen of Rock ‘n’ Roll herself, Anna Mae Bullock, more commonly known as Tina Turner. For some unfathomable reason she has never appeared around here although some of my favourite songs from the ’80s were by her. I still own my vinyl copy of her wonderful album Private Dancer. She was in her mid 40s when her career relaunched in 1983 after the success of her cover of Al Green’sLet’s Stay Together. Back in the day we didn’t watch YouTube, we watched The Tube on telly after coming home from work on a Friday. I still remember being blown away by her singing this song as she was no longer the, dare I say it,”mumsy lady” I had seen interviewed a year or so before. Against all the odds she was back, and this time there was no stopping her.
Well, that’s it for this month. As ever song suggestions for next month, the month of June, will be gratefully received.
Until next time…
First Of May Lyrics (Song by Barry Gibb, Robin Gibb, Maurice Gibb)
When I was small and Christmas trees were tall We used to love while others used to play Don’t ask me why, but time has passed us by Some one else moved in from far away
Now we are tall and Christmas trees are small And you don’t ask the time of day But you and I, our love will never die But guess we’ll cry come first of May
The apple tree that grew for you and me I watched the apples falling, one by one And I recall the moment of them all The day I kissed your cheek and you were mine
Now we are tall and Christmas trees are small And you don’t ask the time of day But you and I, our love will never die But guess we’ll cry come first of May
When I was small and Christmas trees were tall Do-do-do-do-do, do-do-do-do Don’t ask me why, but time has passed us by Some one else moved in from far away
The other day I was heading back from visiting my mum at the care home, when I decided to swing by our local theatre to find out what was on. I still had a gift voucher which ironically was acquired when I had to return my mum’s outstanding theatre tickets last year after her admission to the home. It was due to expire soon, so I needed to convert it into readies, and if not readies, bona fide tickets at any rate. When I discovered that a show called Jive Talkin’, championing the music of the Bee Gees was taking place that very night, it was a no-brainer that I would ask about seats. As luck would have it there were only two left, in a second circle box, so I snapped them up.
It took me a long time to admit to being a Bee Gees fan around here, as I know they have been heavily parodied over the years and Barry’s late ’70s falsetto has been the subject of much mirth, but only Elvis, the Beatles, and Michael Jackson, have outsold them. They wrote all their own songs, performed perfect harmonies and continually reinvented themselves “for the times”. I’ve written about them a few times and I suspect a new category on my sidebar will have to be set up after I press the publish button.
But of course there is sadly now only one Bee Gee left, Barry, and I do feel for him if I ever catch him on telly, as he cuts a lonely figure without the rest of his brothers in tow. In view of the fact I will now never see them live, I had no difficulty in making the decision that it was ok to head along to our fantastic theatre, to watch this trio (plus backing band complete with string section) sing songs from the vast back catalogue at their disposal.
I wrote last year about a show called Fastlove, dedicated to the George Michael back catalogue. They took great pains to make sure that, we, the audience, realised this was not “A Tribute Act” but in fact “A Tribute” to George, so I was hoping this show would follow the same lines. As it turned out, there was a bit more of a pantomime quality to this one, but the voices were pitch perfect and from where I was seated in the second circle, they looked uncannily like the real Bee Gees.
I Started A Joke by the Bee Gees:
The first half was dedicated to their 1960s incarnation and they rattled through 16 classic hits such as Gotta Get A Message To You, To Love Somebody, Words, How Can You Mend A Broken Heart (written about here before) and my personal favourite I Started A Joke from the album “Idea” released in 1968. Apparently the melancholic melody of the song was inspired by the sounds on board an aeroplane. To quote Robin Gibb: “The melody to this one was heard aboard a British Airways Vickers Viscount about a hundred miles from Essen. It was one of those old four engine “prop” jobs, that seemed to drone the passenger into a sort of hypnotic trance, only with this it was different. The droning, after a while, appeared to take the form of a tune, which mysteriously sounded like a church choir. As soon as we landed and reached the hotel, we finished the lyrics.”
As for me, this era of the Bee Gees just reminds me of watching telly with my parents as a child. They were frequent visitors to the TOTP studio and there were always a few raised eyebrows in our house at Robin’s vibrato, as not many pop voices like that at the time. I only realised later that the twins, Robin and Maurice, were still teenagers – A massive amount of success for those so young, the pressure of which led to Robin leaving the band for a while.
So, we’ve had the first half where they were dressed in the classic late era Bee Gees’ uniform of black trousers, shirts and jackets, but what would the second half bring? As expected there had to be an element of pantomime, as the 1970s brought disco, and Barry’s falsetto rose to unnaturally new heights. There is nothing more unnerving than seeing a middle-aged man dressed in tight white trousers and a silver jacket revealing chest hair, but here we were. To be honest I don’t think many of the ladies in the audience cared however, we were all teenagers again, reminding ourselves of the time we heard these songs first time around – Night Fever, Stayin’ Alive, You Should Be Dancing and many more.
Up in my second circle box, no-one’s view would have been blocked if I stood up and danced along to the songs, so that was just what happened. Mr WIAA did not partake in the dancing, and was a bit bemused by the whole thing I think, but he was also aware I’ve been working really hard of late trying to support everyone, so if anyone needed to let their hair down, it was me (as he no longer has any).
Every now and again, when emotions are running high, it can only take a few bars of a familiar song, to make you feel quite overcome by it all. When the trio on stage sang More Than A Woman, I was right back in 1978, a year I’ve often mentioned in this blog as it was the summer I left school and went off to work in a country house hotel with my best friend Catriona, who sadly died at age 41. By day we were jack-of-all-trades, chambermaids, laundrymaids, barmaids (yes, still called that back then) but by night we were disco divas, trying out our routines in the local nightspots. At the start of the summer we were a novelty, new girls in town, but as the summer progressed there were a few romances that we knew would go nowhere, but still made the heart flutter. One of the songs that made the heart flutter was this one. The dancing looks tame now and frankly a bit comical, but funny how 40 years on, a warm glow came over me when listening to it – more than goose-bumps, but rather an overwhelming feeling of nostalgia for simpler times.
More Than A Woman by the Bee Gees:
I know tribute acts are the source of much derision, but sometimes an evening of honest to goodness nostalgia is just what is needed, and that’s what I experienced this week. Because of the ongoing situation regarding how to pay for my mum’s care, stress levels have been running high in our house of late, but funnily enough, my evening with the pretend Bee Gees has put paid to that. Mr WIAA will be really glad he (reluctantly) agreed to come along with me.
Until next time….
I Started A Joke Lyrics (Song by Barry Gibb/Maurice Gibb/Robin Gibb)
I started a joke, which started the whole world crying But I didn’t see that the joke was on me, oh no
I started to cry, which started the whole world laughing Oh, if I’d only seen that the joke was on me
I looked at the skies, running my hands over my eyes And I fell out of bed, hurting my head from things that I’d said
Till I finally died, which started the whole world living Oh, if I’d only seen that the joke was on me
I looked at the skies, running my hands over my eyes And I fell out of bed, hurting my head from things that I’d said
‘Till I finally died, which started the whole world living Oh, if I’d only seen that the joke was on me
Like many of us, I probably spend far too much time in a day visiting the various blogs I follow but today’s visit to a great series called The Songwriters by Chris over at Winding Road has got me all emotional. Any regulars to this place know that I’m a bit fragile at the moment anyway because of my impending “retirement” so it doesn’t take much to push me over the edge. The songwriters of choice today were The Bee Gees and although it took me quite some time to admit to being a fan of both them and their music around here, once I did I was flooded with affirmation that it was ok, so a bit of a relief really.
One of the featured songs in Chris’ post was How Can You Mend A Broken Heart, written by The Bee Gees but covered by Al Green in 1972. You probably reside in much calmer households, but with darling daughter back living with us, there seems to be no end of broken hearts around here nowadays and somehow we get caught up in it all. The simple relationships she and her friends had during their schooldays and beyond appear to be far behind them now, and never a weekend seems to go by without some drama or other. This weekend has been no exception so needless to say this song has suddenly become very pertinent.
Because of the subject matter, it pops up all the time on film soundtracks and I probably remember it best from the Richard Curtis film Notting Hill. Poor old Hugh Grant had very bravely but sensibly rejected Hollywood A-lister Julia Roberts’ advances, but it wasn’t an easy decision and he had to suffer the emotional fall-out as a result. Cue Al Green and his beautiful version of the song.
Barry and Robin Gibb wrote the song one afternoon in 1970 after getting back together after a period of estrangement. How Can You Mend A Broken Heart was obviously relevant to their situation but it also cries out to all those broken-hearted souls who have just seen a parting of the ways. Fortunately for us the Gibb brothers did mend their broken hearts otherwise everything they did after 1970 would have been lost to us. I don’t think this is a spoiler, because just about everyone who would have wanted to watch Notting Hill will have done so by now, but Hugh’s broken heart ends up being mended too!
I did spend a fair bit of time watching Glastonbury on telly this year, dipping in and out over the weekend of festivites. Sunday afternoon is reserved for the Legend Slot and this year the artist performing was none other than Barry Gibb himself. It was for me the highlight of the weekend (and there were many this year) but what can I say, this blog’s tagline is “A Nostalgic Journey Through the Tracks of My Years” and it doesn’t get much more nostalgic for me than hearing Barry sing all those great songs he recorded with his brothers over a 40-year period. The sadness came from the fact that he (ironically the eldest of the four brothers) is now the only one still alive, but they are always up there on stage with him he says, and at one point a large image of the missing Bee Gees came up on the screen behind him. Here is a clip of one of the last times they would have performed How Can You Mend A Broken Heart together on stage, pretty much just as it would have sounded back on that fateful afternoon in 1970.
How Can You Mend A Broken Heart by The Bee Gees:
So, “What’s it all about?” – From experience broken hearts do get mended, but usually all down to that old chestnut time. Try telling that to a 21-year-old who has just had their heart broken however – It doesn’t tend to go down very well.
Until next time….
How Can You Mend A Broken Heart Lyrics (Song by Barry Gibb/Robin Gibb)
I can think of younger days When living for my life Was everything a man could want to do I could never see tomorrow But I was never told about the sorrow
How can you mend a broken heart? How can you stop the rain from falling down? How can you stop the sun from shining? What makes the world go round?
How can you mend this broken man? How can a loser ever win? Please help me mend my broken heart And let me live again
I can still feel the breeze That rustles through the trees And misty memories of days gone by We could never see tomorrow But no one said a word about the sorrow
How can you mend a broken heart? How can you stop the rain from falling down How can you stop the sun from shining What makes the world go round
And how can you mend this broken man? How can a loser ever win? Please help me mend my broken heart And let me live again
Welcome to this occasional series where I am attempting a virtual journey around the 50 States of America in song. For anyone new to this place, I have a continuous route map where I enter and leave each state only once. Suggestions for the next leg always welcome!
It’s quite some time since I continued on my American Odyssey in Song and that would be because I developed a severe case of Odyssey block! After struggling somewhat to identify any songs at all for the New England states, once I hit New York there were just too many. I have started this post on numerous occasions but always gave up half way through. This time however I’m going to buckle down and get on with it.
No time for lengthy paragraphs about the state itself this time though as loads of songs to get through. Suffice to say it must be one of the most diverse states in the whole of the US as not only does it have Long Island, whose “Hamptons” are where rich New Yorkers go to spend their summers, but it also has the wilderness areas to the north where hunting and fishing are the pastimes of choice. The state borders Canada and two of the Great Lakes but at the foot of the triangle there is one of the most iconic and culturally rich cities in the world, New York.
Time to get this party started then and it’s not going to be pretty – Via “a stream of consciousness” is how I’m going to tackle this one. Everyone will have different songs that they associate with New York but these are the ones that have come to mind over the last few weeks. Ready, steady, go….
There can’t be many people who are not familiar with the sights of New York City but just in case, here’s a whistle stop tour courtesy of MGM and those three sailors who had a whirlwind 24-hour leave back in 1949. Ok, ok guys, we’ve got it – “The Bronx is up and the Battery’s down, the people ride in a hole in the ground”.
You can’t have failed to notice that Mr Francis Albert Sinatra plays one of the sailors in that clip and I’m sure it’s expected that his version of the song New York, New Yorkwill feature here, but that would just be too obvious, so unusually for me I’ll enter the 21st century and share Empire State of Mind by Mr Shawn Corey Carter (otherwise known as Jay-Z).
Empire State of Mind by Jay-Z featuring Alicia Keys:
Lord knows I’m not usually a fan of rap but I was truly blown away by this“song” (if that’s what it’s called) when it came out in 2009. Some fantastic lines in there referencing Sinatra’s New York, New York but also Afrika Bambaataa, the Bronx DJ who became known as the Godfather of hip-hop. The rap part on it’s own I probably wouldn’t have warmed to that much (although I don’t know), but with the inclusion of Alicia Keys vocals it became something really special. The pair are both from NYC and the song’s main writer, Angela Hunte, grew up in the same building as Jay-Z – 560 State Street, Brooklyn, an address mentioned in the song.
Something that comes across loud and clear from the lyrics of Empire State of Mind is that NYC is not just the island Manhattan as I had often thought as youngster. Oh no, NYC is made up of five boroughs – Brooklyn and Queens on the western end of Long Island, Staten Island which nestles up against New Jersey and The Bronx, north of Manhattan. Manhattan itself only becomes an island because of that tiny sliver of water linking up the East River with the Hudson.
New York City, despite being made up of these five boroughs is very much centred on Manhattan, so how is it all linked up? Why by ferries and bridges of course. I am reminded of the scene in Saturday Night Fever where John Travolta’s character tries to impress his potential love interest with his knowledge of the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge, that double-decked suspension bridge that connects Staten Island and Brooklyn.
Another iconic bridge is the one that featured in the opening sequence to one of my favourite TV shows from the early ’80s – Taxi starring Danny DeVito and Judd Hirsch. Whenever I hear this theme song I am right back in my student room, my little white portable telly perched precariously on the edge of my desk, just in the right place for the aerial (coat hanger?) to pick up a signal. It would have been mid-week and I was probably having a break from all those laborious hours spent writing everything out in longhand (no computers in those days). A flatmate might have popped in for a coffee whilst we watched the show. Sometimes those memories are the best, ones where nothing in particular was happening, just normal everyday life but hearing that theme reminds me of the scene. A beautiful piece of music called Angela by Bob James.
Angela (Theme from Taxi) by Bob James:
Of course I had to do some research after rewatching that clip to find out which bridge it actually was that came up every week in the titles – Joy, oh joy, it was none other than the Queensboro Bridge – So what I hear you ask? The alternative name for that bridge is The59th Street Bridge and considering this whole series was inspired by the Paul Simon song America, it is fitting that his song about the bridge be included in this post.
The 59th Street Bridge Song (Feelin’ Groovy) by Simon and Garfunkel:
Paul Simon said that he’d spent most of 1965 in England but after coming back to the US, and having success with The Sound of Silence, life became really hectic for a while and he found it difficult to adjust. One day, going home to Queens over the 59th Street Bridge, he kind of started to snap out of it as the day had been a really good one, a “groovy one” – Once home he started to write the song subtitled Feelin’ Groovy that went on to appear on the 1966 album “Parsley, Sage, Rosemary and Thyme” recorded with musical partner Art Garfunkel.
But enough about bridges, in the New York of 1977 the phenomenon that was disco had started to really make its mark. Manhattan had Studio 54 where Liza, Michael, Mick and Bianca were regulars but across the Brooklyn Bridge (oops, more bridges), they had a local disco called 2001 Odyssey and every Saturday night, aforementioned John Travolta (playing the character Tony Manero), temporarily left his monotonous life behind and became “king of the dance floor”. Watching him now, the dancing doesn’t look quite as impressive as it did when we first experienced Saturday Night “Fever” and the parodies have been ruthless, but I still have fond memories of going to see that movie when it first came out in the UK in 1978. As someone who has been known to “do a John” over the years and clear the dancefloor, it can be an exhilarating feeling (and not showy-off at all of course!).
You Should Be Dancing by the Bee Gees:
The Saturday Night Fever soundtrack album, featuring disco songs by the Bee Gees, is one of the best-selling soundtracks of all time. How Deep Is Your Love is the song that appears in the closing scenes of the movie as we watch a desolate Tony ride the New York subway late at night. It is one of my all-time favourite love songs (which is probably why it became the choice for my Valentine’s Day post).
So far we’ve checked out the geography of New York and talked about the bridges and the nightlife. What about the people? I read an article recently about the flamboyant octogenarian fashionistas, who cut a dash on 5th Avenue – Way to go ladies!
Of course New York has long been known for its flamboyant characters and Sting sang about one of them, eccentric gay icon Quentin Crisp, in his 1988 song Englishman In New York. Another “character” committed to song was when Rod Stewart wrote and recorded The Killing of Georgie (Part I and II) in 1976. This story song tells the tale of a young gay man who became successful and popular amongst Manhattan’s upper class – He was “the toast of the Great White Way”, which is the nickname given to the Theatre District of Midtown Manhattan. Georgie attends the opening night of a Broadway musical, but leaves “before the final curtain call” and heads across town. He is attacked near East 53rd Street by a gang of thieves and one inadvertently kills him. The song was apparently based on a true story about a friend of Rod’s old band The Faces.
I have waited a fair amount of time to feature Rod Stewart in this blog as it seems to be universally accepted that by the late ’70s he had sold out and his albums just weren’t up to the calibre of his earlier ones but hey, I was a mere 16-year-old schoolgirl at this time and was a big fan. This song especially, combining the melancholy and sombre Part II with the more popular Part I has long been a favourite of mine.
The Killing Of Georgie (Part I and II) by Rod Stewart:
We’ve spent an awful lot of time in New York City so far in this post but what about the rest of the state? Back in the early sixties before kids started heading off to Europe on holiday they used to go with their parents to resorts such as Kellermans in the Catskill Mountains. This is where “Baby” Houseman spent the summer of 1963, and fell for dashing dance instructor Johnny Castle. Dirty Dancing was a low-budget film that had no major stars but became a massive box office hit and was the first film to sell more than a million copies on home video. It has some great dance scenes and the soundtrack is full of classic songs from that early ’60s era such asBe My Baby, Big Girls Don’t Cry, Will You Love Me Tomorrow,Love Is Strangeand this one, Stay by Maurice Williams & The Zodiacs.
Stay by Maurice Williams & The Zodiacs:
There are some great scenes in the movie where the landscape of the Catskills is kind of the star. I must admit to having become a bit of a fan of this movie in my later years although didn’t really take much heed of it when it first came out – I think it’s down to the nostalgia element, the music choices and the sadness that comes from the realisation that my days of dalliances with a young Johnny Castle are well behind me. Whatever, I’ve ended up writing about songs from it three times now (Be My Baby, Doomed Romances and Summer’s End) and they take the prize for being my least viewed posts – Sacre bleu!
Another song that makes me think of Upstate New York is Woodstock, written by Joni Mitchell but made famous in 1970 by Matthews Southern Comfort. The irony of course is that Joni Mitchell hadn’t even made it to the infamous festival which took place on Max Yasgur’s dairy farm, but wrote about it after having watched it from her hotel room in New York. The lyrics tell the story of a spiritual journey and make prominent use of sacred imagery, comparing the festival site with the Garden of Eden. The saga commences with the narrator’s encounter of a fellow traveller, a “child of God”, and concludes at their ultimate destination where “we were half a million strong”.
Iain Matthews of Matthews Southern Comfort was actually from Scunthorpe in Lincolnshire but he had previously been with the band Fairport Convention who were at the time heavily influenced by American folk rock.
Well I don’t know about you but I’m exhausted – This post has been a long time coming and I’m sorry it’s so wordy, but I for one am now just pleased that it’s “in the can” so that the journey can continue. Next time we’ll be passing through the Lincoln Tunnel into New Jersey so as ever, suggestions for that state are more than welcome. Unlike with the New England states I have a feeling that it’s now going to get a whole lot easier.
A final clip before I go however – One of my favourite movies used to be Manhattan directed by Woody Allen (it now sadly troubles me). I was given the soundtrack album by the boyfriend of the day after going to see it, as I was just so bowled over by George Gershwin’s compositions. They were all performed by the New York Philharmonic Orchestra and somehow I now always think of Rhapsody In Blue when I see the New York skyline.
Rhapsody In Blue by George Gershwin:
The 59th Street Bridge Song (Feelin’ Groovy) Lyrics (Song by Paul Simon)
Slow down, you move too fast
You got to make the morning last Just kicking down the cobblestones Looking for fun and feelin’ groovy
Ba da da da da da da, feelin’ groovy
Hello, lamppost, what’cha knowin’? I’ve come to watch your flowers growin’ Ain’t’cha got no rhymes for me? Doot-in doo-doo, feelin’ groovy Ba da da da da da da, feelin’ groovy
I got no deeds to do No promises to keep I’m dappled and drowsy and ready to sleep Let the morning time drop all its petals on me Life, I love you All is groovy
Welcome to this occasional series where I am attempting a virtual journey around the 50 States of America in song – Suggestions for the next leg always welcome!
Well, I seem to have enjoyed my time in Vermont so much I stayed there for over a week! Time to move on again though and this time we’re heading down into Massachusetts (tricky to spell as was pointed out last time), named after its indigenous people.
The random fact element of this post will have to be brief this time as more songs to get through than has been the case to date. Suffice to say it was where the Pilgrim Fathers settled after arriving on The Mayflower in 1620. They formed the Plymouth Colony and after a tough first winter, with the help of the local Wampanoag people, learnt how survive by growing corn. They then held a three day Thanksgiving event to celebrate their first harvest and that celebration of course still goes on today.
The island of Nantucket, more famous now for its beaches and holiday cottages, was home to the whaling trade back in the 18th century and the tale of Moby-Dick was set there. That infamous Tea Party occurred in Boston, but being British I’ll gloss over that one. I am reminded however that our own Alex Harvey put that story to song in 1976 with his version of The Boston Tea Party.
The Kennedy compound was at Hyannis Port in Massachusetts, presided over by dad Joe and mother Rose. Education is big business in Massachusetts and the city of Cambridge is home to both Harvard and the research institute, MIT. In popular culture the film Jaws was set there, mostly filmed on Martha’s Vineyard.
But which song to feature this time? I know that everyone expects it to be this one and it would be remiss of me not to include it, but not one of my favourite Bee Gee songs, and at the time of writing it they had never even been to Massachusetts. It was 1967, the year of The Summer of Love, and the hippies were all heading west to San Francisco so it felt as if here on the East Coast it was time to switch the lights out, as everyone had left. I remember well watching them perform this song on TOTP as a child but didn’t realise until later that the twins Robin and Maurice were aged only 17 at the time. So young but already so prolific.
Massachusetts by The Bee Gees:
Thanks go out again to my blogging buddies who offered up suggestions for songs associated with Massachusetts (links to their blogs on my sidebar). Rol came up with Feelin’ Massachusetts by the Juliana Hatfield Three and Massachusetts Avenue by Amanda Palmer. Both he and Lynchie came up with the Steely Dan song The Boston Rag, although to be fair Lynchie decided that he was allowed to call them simply The Dan as he had been a fan right from the beginning.
Before I get down to the actual featured song for this state, how would you like to come for a quick drink with me in a great bar I know called Cheers? It’s right here in Boston and for the guys who go there, it’s like their “blogosphere” – Nice to be in a place Where Everybody Knows Your Name.
Making your way in the world today takes everything you’ve got. Taking a break from all your worries, sure would help a lot. Wouldn’t you like to get away? Sometimes you want to go Where everybody knows your name, and they’re always glad you came. You wanna be where you can see, our troubles are all the same You wanna be where everybody knows Your name.
So, lots of suggestions already, but for this post it could only really be the one that came in from both CC and C (no relation) – Roadrunner by Massachusetts natives Jonathan Richman and The Modern Lovers, first recorded in 1972 but a hit for them in 1977, when all of a sudden their proto-punk sound fitted the “times” perfectly. I don’t know what I was doing during my teenage years but it certainly doesn’t seem to have been listening to the lyrics of songs properly as until CC pointed out the whole Jonathan Richman/New England connection when I started this series, the Roadrunner I remembered best from those days was this one!
No matter, it has now clicked and the Massachusetts comedian John Hodgman came out saying that the song was, “Woven as deeply into the cultural landscape of Massachusetts as the Turnpike itself. It is the pulsing sound of the night and the future. It connects the midnight ride of Paul Revere with the dream of every Massachusetts teenager who has just gotten their license and is discovering the Freedom Trail that is Route 128 after the last movie lets out“.
Roadrunner by Jonathan Richman and The Modern Lovers:
This song came out the summer I turned 17 and after a few disastrous driving lessons with my dad (who in every other walk of life was patience personified), I gave up. The boys who were the same age however did not, and one by one they passed their driving tests and acquired “wheels”. We lived in the country and just like Jonathan Richman and his buddies, these local boys became weekend roadrunners. They had no particular place to go but the radio was on and they just wanted to hang out with friends and burn some rubber. Needless to say, every couple of years or so there was a tragic car crash and some of them didn’t make it. Fortunately all my close friends did get through that phase unscathed but the village cemetery is sadly littered with the graves of those who did not.
Next time we’ll travel into the smallest of the 50 states, Rhode Island. I do have a song idea for that one of my own but definitely “tenuous” so again I would be really grateful for any other suggestions connected in some way to that state (you know where the comments boxes are). We’re still in New England but are now getting ever closer to New York where I now realise there will have to be a Part 1 and a Part 2. Songs about Rhode Island – not so much. Songs about New York – where does it end?
Until next time….
Roadrunner Lyrics (Song by Jonathan Richman)
One-two-three-four-five-six! Roadrunner, roadrunner Going faster miles an hour Gonna drive past the Stop ‘n’ Shop With the radio on I’m in love with Massachusetts And the neon when it’s cold outside And the highway when it’s late at night Got the radio on I’m like the roadrunner
Alright I’m in love with modern moonlight 1:28 when it’s dark outside I’m in love with Massachusetts I’m in love with the radio on It helps me from being alone late at night Helps me from being lonely late at night I don’t feel so bad now in the car Don’t feel so alone, got the radio on Like the roadrunner That’s right
Said welcome to the spirit of 1956 Patient in the bushes next to ’57 The highway is your girlfriend as you go by quick Suburban trees, suburban speed And it smells like heaven, I say Roadrunner once Roadrunner twice I’m in love with rock & roll and I’ll be out all night Roadrunner That’s right
Well now Roadrunner, roadrunner Going faster miles an hour Gonna drive to the Stop ‘n’ Shop With the radio on at night And me in love with modern moonlight Me in love with modern rock & roll Modern girls and modern rock & roll Don’t feel so alone, got the radio on Like the roadrunner O.K. now you sing Modern Lovers
(Radio On!) I got the AM (Radio On!) Got the car, got the AM (Radio On!) Got the AM sound, got the (Radio On!) Got the rockin’ modern neon sound (Radio On!) I got the car from Massachusetts, got the (Radio On!) I got the power of Massachusetts when it’s late at night (Radio On!) I got the modern sounds of modern Massachusetts I’ve got the world, got the turnpike, got the I’ve got the, got the power of the AM Got the, late at night, hit ’em wide, rock & roll late at night The factories and the auto signs got the power of modern sounds Alright
Although my posts often follow on from each other and are somewhat related, the two I wrote last week (from my sickbed) were very different indeed with no obvious link at all. Yet again however a strange synchronicity has come about, and this is the post that links them.
WARNING: It’s all about to get very girly!
In my last post I featured the song Single Girlby The Primitives/Sandy Posey (take your pick). It was all about a girl feeling a bit sad and lonely in a “great big town”. One of the best-known groups of “Single Girls” were those Manhattan-based stars of Sex and the City, Carrie Bradshaw and her pals, also at times known to feel a bit sad and lonely in a great big town (although not that often to be fair).
This reminded me that one of my favourite scenes from a SATC episode was the one where Carrie realises that her failed relationship with Mr Big (the nickname her ex-boyfriend is given – he was supposed to be The Big One, the one she married) was down to the same reason that it didn’t work out for Robert Redford and Barbra Streisand in the 1973 film The Way We Were. The world is made up of “complicated girls” with wild curly hair (Carrie and Barbra) and “simple girls”, the ones with tame straight hair – Big and Redford chose the simple girls!
As mentioned above, the female star of TWWW was Barbra Streisand. Who then appeared on the cover of the magazine that pops through my letterbox on a Saturday? – Yes, it was Barbra Streisand. I don’t know what it is about Streisand but she has always just looked so beautiful and timeless to me – Gorgeous hair, skin and that kinky nose. She is one of a very small group of artists who have won Grammys, Emmys, Tonys and Oscars, such is the breadth of her talent – The Queen of the Divas indeed.
Got me thinking and joy of joys I discovered that TWWW resides on Netflix so (again from my sickbed) I decided to give it another viewing as I have shockingly never watched it all the way through from beginning to end in one sitting. Of course I had to have a little weep once we got to that scene at the end where Katie (Barbra) tells Hubbell (Robert) that “his girl is lovely” (although she is no doubt crying inside).
Barbra Streisanddoesn’t sing in that one but she did record the lovely theme song which contains the following lines:
Can it be that it was all so simple then Or has time rewritten every line If we had the chance to do it all again, tell me, would we, could we……?
Ironically, last year, after failing miserably to co-ordinate a date for a reunion weekend with my old “Single Girl” friends, I jokingly sent them an email quoting those very lines with the addendum – Well, apparently not! I thought it was quite funny….but they didn’t. We are all just about talking again now (perhaps that cultural reference was lost on them).
But back to Barbra, it has also of course been known for her to record great duets with some of the biggest artists of the day. Back in 1980 she recorded Guilty with Barry Gibb, on his own, without the rest of The Bee Gees. And this is where the reference to my second post of last week comes in – On St Valentine’s Day I featured a BeeGees‘ love song and wrote about how sad I felt watching Barry, the lone surviving brother, all on his own at this year’s Grammys, watching a tribute being performed for the 40th anniversary of the album Saturday Night Fever.
Guilty by Barbra Streisand and Barry Gibb:
I am quite frankly amazed that the song Guilty only made it to No. 34 in the UK Singles Chart but looking again at the video clip, Barry and Barbra (nice ring to it) did look oh so very white in it, and this was very much the era of new wave, post-punk and ska where the artists wore very little white indeed and were much, much edgier in terms of their output. Still a great duet however where each of them gets their own boy/girl lines and “nothing to be guilty of” in terms of liking it, as we don’t do that around here any more. The Bee Gees were great songwriters and as mentioned last week I am very proud to have come out and admitted to being a fan.
So, “What’s It All About?” – Who knew that the simple girls always get their man whereas the complicated girls don’t? Well, maybe they didn’t in TWWW, but thirty years later in SATC, Carrie Bradshaw did end up marrying Big. Yes, it turned out he’d made a massive mistake and he didwant a complicated girl after all!
As someone with very tame, straight hair but who is not necessarily always simple this is good to know. Sadly back in 1973 it just didn’t seem to be the case but perhaps relationships have evolved and even complicated girls now can have it all!
Until next time….
Guilty Lyrics (Song by Barry, Robin and Maurice Gibb)
Shadows falling baby, we stand alone Out on the street anybody you meet got a heartache of their own (It oughta be illegal) Make it a crime to be lonely or sad (It oughta be illegal) You got a reason for livin’ You battle on with the love you’re livin’ on You gotta be mine We take it away It’s gotta be night and day Just a matter of time And we got nothing to be guilty of Our love will climb any mountain near or far, we are And we never let it end We are devotion And we got nothing to be sorry for Our love is one in a million Eyes can see that we got a highway to the sky I don’t wanna hear your goodbye
Pulse’s racing, darling How grand we are Little by little we meet in the middle There’s danger in the dark (It oughta be illegal) Make it a crime to be out in the cold (It oughta be illegal) You got a reason for livin’ You battle on with the love you’re buildin’ on You gotta be mine We take it away It’s gotta be night and day Just a matter of time And we got nothing to be guilty of Our love will climb any mountain near or far, we are And we never let it end We are devotion And we got nothing to be sorry for Our love is one in a million Eyes can see that we got a highway to the sky
I don’t wanna hear your goodbye
Don’t wanna hear your goodbye
I don’t wanna hear your And we got nothing, and we got nothing to be guilty of Our love will climb any mountain near or far, we are And we never let it end We are devotion And we got nothing to be sorry for Our love is one in a million Eyes can see that we got a highway to the sky Don’t wanna hear your goodbye Don’t wanna hear your And we got nothing, and we got nothing to be guilty of Our love will climb any mountain near or far, we are
By rights I shouldn’t have time for blogging today as it is indeed St Valentine’s Day and I should be spending it being all loved up with Mr WIAA – After being together for 28 years however, it is a bit hard to muster up the enthusiasm for a day of romance but I have just popped in past our local M&S to pick up one of their very delicious special occasion “Dine In For Two” meal deals (no expense spared here at WIAA HQ). I’m sure if we didn’t both have stinky colds it would all taste lovely, but what with the two cards sitting on the mantelpiece and the planned dinner, at least we’re making a bit of an effort.
The main reason I wanted to post something today however is that I have been feeling a tad guilty of late for the following reason – Of the 120 original posts that I’ve published since starting the blog 13 months ago, the only one I’ve “trashed” permanently is the one I wrote this day last year, featuring a song by The Bee Gees. Yes, despite the fact that I’ve written about some ropey acts since starting this blog, once I’d accumulated a few followers, the only one I was really embarrassed about having covered was The Bee Gees. I blame the sheer number of comedy sketches that were made about them during their heyday (that would be Kenny Everett then), as how else can it be that a group who has sold 100 million-plus records; penned the world’s biggest-selling soundtrack album; had 10 UK No. 1s; wrote 4 consecutive US No. 1s and were the first group to have UK Top 20s in 5 decades, be embarrassing? No indeed, today is the day to come right out and say it – I’m a Bee Gees fan and am proud to admit it!
For the record, this was last year’s trashed post (fortunately still in a Word doc as I do worry about the day WordPress crashes and we lose all our stuff):
“No long-winded post today as it’s St Valentine’s Day and I’m going to spend it with my lovely husband. (It was a Sunday last year.)
Last time I wrote about the “break-up song” but How Deep Is Your Love by The Bee Gees is from the other end of the spectrum (I think – although retrospectively I’m starting to doubt some of my interpretations of the lyrics). It is still however, my all-time favourite love-song. It was from the soundtrack to the film Saturday Night Fever (starring a young John Travolta) which was released in the summer of 1978. That turned out to be the best summer of my young life to date – School had finished in the June, and the four month period before University was due to start was filled with happy memories that have stayed with me forever. To use the parlance of American teen movies, for my friends and I, that was our coming-of-age summer.
Unusually for me I’m going to leave it there for today – Enjoy that wonderful intro and Barry’s amazing falsetto. Happy Valentine’s day!”
How Deep Is Your Love by The Bee Gees:
But I did say that the main reason for wanting to post something today was to right the wrong of “trashing” a post about this much-loved group of brothers but the second reason is that last night darling daughter and I watched the highlights of the 59th Annual Grammy Awards. Last year I wrote a post about the 58th Grammys where our own Ed Sheerin came away with a couple of awards and I would probably have been writing a post again this year but they have coincided with St Valentine’s Day and anyway, the big awards, yet again, went to Adele. It was pretty much a re-run of our own Brit Awards last year and my thoughts about that ceremony still ring true (The Brits, The “Suits” and Adele), so no point in covering the same old ground.
What was of interest however was finding there had been a Bee Gees tribute on the big night performed by an array of contemporary acts. It is now 40 years since the making of the “Saturday Night Fever” album and 60 years since the brothers first formed a band singing harmonies together. It did make me sad however to see Barry, the only brother still alive, sitting on his own in the front row watching the performance intently, but sometimes also quizzically. Not the way they used to perform these songs back in the day but here is what the 59th Grammys served up.
How Deep Is Your Love Lyrics (Song by Barry Gibb/Robin Gibb/Maurice Gibb)
I know your eyes in the morning sun I feel you touch me in the pouring rain And the moment that you wander far from me I wanna feel you in my arms again And you come to me on a summer breeze Keep me warm in your love and then softly leave And it’s me you need to show How Deep Is Your Love How deep is your love, How deep is your love I really need to learn ‘Cause we’re living in a world of fools Breaking us down When they all should let us be We belong to you and me
I believe in you You know the door to my very soul You’re the light in my deepest darkest hour You’re my saviour when I fall And you may not think I care for you When you know down inside that I really do And it’s me you need to show How Deep Is Your Love