Black and It’s A “Wonderful Life”, Isn’t It?

Well, look what just dropped into my inbox from the WordPress people. It’s the little badge to signify you’re celebrating an anniversary, and in this case, it’s my blog’s third birthday. Still little more than a toddler then with lots more time to grow, hopefully.

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I still remember the excitement of publishing my very first post, on what was the first back-to-work, non-festive Monday, of 2016. It was a no-brainer that I would write about David Bowie (link here), as we had just woken up to the shock news he had died the day before. For a short number of weeks I became a “daily blogger”, as I had kind of fallen in love with this new hobby where I could indulge in my love of rock and pop trivia, and record my memories of the times.

But that was then, what about today? Now that I have become a weekly, as opposed to a daily blogger, it can get tricky. If you post daily you can write topically, but if you leave it for few days, the moment has passed. Likewise, an earworm that may have formed at the start of the week will have been replaced by the end of it, so no longer relevant. Best to perhaps stick to the tried and tested notion of linking to the previous post.

Last week I featured the song You by Ten Sharp. I don’t know if it’s because the video for Wonderful Life by Black was similarly filmed in black and white, or because it’s a song performed in a similar style, from a similar era, by a male vocalist, but that’s what came to mind. Sadly, once I started to find out a bit more about the song, and the artist called Black, it turned out his life wasn’t quite so wonderful after all.

Wonderful Life by Black:

Although the Liverpudlian band Black started life as a trio, when vocalist/singer-songwriter Colin Vearncombe became the last man standing, he decided to retain the name. Back in 1985 things weren’t going too well for Colin. He’d been in a couple of car crashes, his mother was seriously ill, he’d been dropped by his record company, his first marriage was over and he was homeless. So, what do you do if you’re an artistic type? Why you write an ironic song about just how wonderful life can be. The song was originally released in 1986 but it wasn’t until Black got signed by A&M Records in 1987 that it was re-released and became a massive worldwide hit. He was pretty sure however that few people back then understood the meaning behind his lyrics.

As for the great black and white video, I initially thought it was shot in Mid-West America, but no, those clever cinematographer-type people shot it around Southport, Merseyside, as well as Wallasey near Colin’s hometown of Liverpool. Maybe it’s because of the clothes and haircuts, but we could be back in the 1950s. It also featured New Brighton Lighthouse, the Looping Star rollercoaster, the Galleon fairground ride, the shrimping boat and local shops. A fine video that won an award at the New York Film Festival in 1988.

black32But here’s is the tragic part – Although he happily carried on working in the music industry for the next 30 years, in early 2016 Colin was involved in a car accident near Cork in Southern Ireland. He sustained serious head injuries and died two weeks later aged only 53, leaving behind a wife and three children. He was born two years after me, but died just as this blog was starting to pick up steam, three years ago. Gave me a bit of a jolt when I found that out, despite the fact I hadn’t thought of him in years.

It was inevitable I would stumble upon Frank Capra’s classic fantasy-drama Its A Wonderful Life when trying to find out a little more about the featured song for this post. I’ve watched the film many, many times as it’s always shown around Christmastime, and I never fail to shed a tear. (Seems to be a lot of that going on at the moment in my little circle.)

Most of us will know the story well – George Bailey (played by Jimmy Stewart) is a small-town man whose life seems so desperate he contemplates suicide. He had always wanted to leave Bedford Falls to see the world, but circumstances have led him to stay. He sacrificed his education for his brother’s, kept the family business afloat against all the odds, and protected the town from greedy banker Mr Potter, so for him, it hasn’t been such a wonderful life. As he prepares to jump from a bridge, his guardian angel intercedes, showing him what life would have become for the residents of Bedford Falls had he never lived.

Yes it’s a classic alternate reality movie where we see glimpses of another world that could have been. Marty McFly much preferred the Hill Valley where his father had biffed Biff, and in the Buffyverse, Sunnydale was a much happier place because the slayer had come to town (as opposed to heading to Cleveland), but they are fictional realities. Real life is never quite as saccharine.

 

 

We all probably contemplate our own alternate realities from time to time, but best not to dwell on it too much as I have a sneaking suspicion life turns out pretty much how it’s meant to be because of the kind of people we are, and the decisions we make along the way. I read a great book recently called The Versions Of Us by Laura Barnett, where the characters inhabit three different storylines with chapters that run in parallel. I won’t give too much away, but yes, they pretty much end up where they are meant to be, despite the different routes taken to get there.

“It’s a great life if you don’t weaken”, is a phrase my family used to bandy about quite a lot. Something taken from a cartoon by the writer John Buchan I believe. It was always meant in jest, although incorporating an element of truth. Now and again, like George Bailey, we do weaken; now and again, like Colin Vearncombe, we have a run of bad luck; but invariably life has a wonderful way of turning itself around.

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Yesterday however, we heard of the death of a girl DD met at college a few years ago. Before Christmas I wrote about a local charity called Mikey’s Line which offers support to young people who suffer from depression and chronic loneliness. The high rate of suicide amongst young men in the Highlands means that many families have lost a son or brother in recent years, but it seems families are now losing their daughters too. I had a look at the girl’s Facebook page where the tributes were flooding in. She was absolutely beautiful, but in that unreal way, where the pictures had obviously been heavily “photoshopped”.

Is it that some of our young people can’t cope with real life nowadays? Is that that they prefer their unreal, online personas and those of their so-called online “Friends”? Yes, life can be wonderful, but it can also have its slumps when we have to dig deep and “not weaken”. I can’t say that last year was great for me at all, but I am entering 2019 in a better place. At the time I couldn’t see an end to what was going on, but of course a resolution did come about, and we now have a new reality.

As the mother of a young woman, I am constantly on the lookout for signs that all might not be well. I know this is something my own mother never even had to contemplate, but a sign of the times. Fortunately DD seems to be in a good place at the moment, but I will never, ever, let down my guard.

Millennials are called the Snowflake Generation which I find deeply offensive. Yes they have been raised in a totally different manner from the previous generation, which can lead to difficulties in facing some of life’s realities, but it has also furnished many of them with a self-esteem I wish I’d had back in the day. They are entering a world that will be much tougher to navigate than the one I’ve lived through. Let’s do more to support them and not criticise them. The young people I know are AMAZING.

Until next time…

Wonderful Life Lyrics
(Song by Colin Vearncombe)

Here I go out to sea again
The sunshine fills my hair
And dreams hang in the air
Gulls in the sky and in my blue eyes
You know it feels unfair
There’s magic everywhere

Look at me standing
Here on my own again
Up straight in the sunshine
No need to run and hide
It’s a wonderful wonderful life
No need to laugh and cry
It’s a wonderful wonderful life

The sun’s in your eyes
The heat is in your hair
They seem to hate you because you’re there
And I need a friend
Oh I need a friend to make me happy
Not stand here on my own

Look at me standing
Here on my own again
Up straight in the sunshine
No need to run and hide
It’s a wonderful wonderful life
No need to laugh and cry
It’s a wonderful wonderful life

I need a friend
Oh I need a friend
To make me happy
Not so alone