Archive for the ‘Music’ Category

My talented friends

Do you remember me telling you all a little while ago, about having talented friends? Well, I’m going to tell you again because my fabulous friend, Will, is about to take over the music world with his band, My Good Man William. I thought it’d be good for us to listen to some of his music so that when he’s doing gigs at the Queen’s house, we can all be like, “I was totally listening to him before he was famous.”

This one is my favourite a) because it’s brilliant and b) because they’re playing it on the District line on the London Underground.

Aren’t they great? Yeh, I knew you’d think so.

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Rain 2

It’s Wednesday again and time for my guest blogger to take over. Enjoy.

 

Last week’s subject got me thinking. As well as the weather aspect of rain it crops up in a lot of songs. I thought I’d look at just a few.

Remember the Travis song, Why Does It Always Rain On Me? (1999). Apparently, at the exact moment when they played the song, at Glastonbury in 1999, the weather duly obliged. There’s that other classic by B.J. Thomas, Raindrops keep falling on my head (1970). Rain is a mood-altering phenomenon: it can give us a down when we’re being soaked but give us a lift when we see those dark clouds disappearing and best of all when we see it stopping. Remember the Lighthouse Family and the lines from their song Lifted: “I wouldn’t say I’m mad about the rain, But we’ll get through it anyway.” One thing’s for sure as BJT sang, we’ll never stop the rain by complaining; so don’t – move on, it will stop (eventually)!

Garbage (the group) had a song called I’m only happy when it rains, in 1995, which seems to be a similar sentiment to Gene Kelly, (remember last week’s post).
Remember the opening bars of The Doors’ song, Riders on the Storm? Must be one of the most atmospheric sounds of rain & thunder on record. Only managed to reach No.22 in Britain even with two re-issues. (However, here’s a good one – If you watch this vid of the song: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lS-af9Q-zvQ on Youtube, at about 2m 46s, you will see Jim Morrison lighting a cigarette not far from the petrol pump in a garage where he’s stopped to get fuel. Those were the days, eh? Risk of explosion – who me? Where?)

I don’t know much about the weather in the USA apart from the stuff that makes the news over here. In 1972, when Rapid City (South Dakota) lost 238 inhabitants due to flooding lasting 2 days, Albert Hammond was singing about people saying, It never rains in Southern California but then says “Girl don’t they warn ya – it pours, man it pours”. Any readers from California tell me which is right?

As an aside, did you know that hurricanes don’t actually get named. Yes, I know, you can think of plenty but did you realise how they originate. A tropical storm is named when it reaches a sustained speed of 39mph; if that storm then reaches a sustained speed of 74mph it becomes a hurricane and keeps the name it was given as a storm. Also did you know that the names for Tropical Storms follow a prescribed pattern: the first storm of any year gets a name beginning with “A”, the second a name beginning with “B” and so on. (So in 2012 they went like this: Alberto, then Beryl, Chris, Debby etc). Q, U, X, Y and Z are not used.

Furthermore, if the year is an even number, men’s names are used for the 1st, 3rd, 5th, 7th etc storms; if the year is odd women’s names are used for the 1st, 3rd, 5th, 7th etc storms. The names are pre-determined so I can tell you that, if there are 21 storms in 2012 that reach hurricane force, no.21 will be called Hurricane William. I can also tell you that the second storm (poss hurricane) in 2016 will be called Bonnie and the 11th will be Karl. (The full table, which goes to 2017, can be found at http://geology.com/hurricanes/hurricane-names.shtml).

Ok, so back to the rain. Are you a bit like the Carpenters – you know, Rainy days and Mondays always get you down? If you’ve never listened to The Cascades’ song Rhythm of the Rain, watch (listen actually, as it’s it’s only a still pic) this one http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=endscreen&NR=1&v=l1PJ9mF2H2Q. (A brief count of the different uploads of just this one Cascades song by various sources comes to about 3.5 million views).

Of course you’re probably wondering about the wettest place on Earth: where & how much, obviously?

Here’s the wettest place in Britain: Dalness in Scotland
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Looks beautiful doesn’t it? It gets 130 ins (3.3 metres) of rain per year. That means an average of nearly 11 ins per month.

In second place is Seathwaite in the Lake District which is the wettest place in England and here it is.
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Seathwaite (in Borrowdale) gets 124 ins of rain per year.

Both of these pale into insignificance when we look at the wettest places in the world. The top two are in India and get 467 ins (11871mm) & 463 ins (11777mm) – that’s more than 1 in (25.4mm) per day! For the UK 124 ins & 130 ins are enough to be going on with. Definitely worth keeping an umbrella with you I’d say.

What a good job this lady took her umbrella with her!! Just think what might have happened if she’d forgotten it.
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And this chap too. I’d like to see him do a Gene Kelly (see last week’s post):

So please, if you think it might rain don’t forget that umbrella!

A novel written in 1830 by Edward Bulwer-Lytton (1803-1873) called Paul Clifford begins with these very famous lines:

“It was a dark and stormy night; the rain fell in torrents — except at occasional intervals, when it was checked by a violent gust of wind which swept up the streets (for it is in London that our scene lies), rattling along the housetops, and fiercely agitating the scanty flame of the lamps that struggled against the darkness.”

The novelist’s name has been immortalised in the annual Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest. The English Dept of San Jose University (California, you remember where Albert Hammond sang that it never rained) sponsor it and entrants have to compose the opening sentence to “the worst of all possible novels”.

This list has done the rounds a bit so you may have come across some of them before but here are the 10 entries starting at no.10 and working up to the winner (of 2010 possibly):

10. “As a scientist, Throckmorton knew that if he were ever to break wind in the echo chamber, he would never hear the end of it.”

9. “Just beyond the Narrows, the river widens.”

 

8. “With a curvaceous figure that Venus would have envied, a tanned, unblemished oval face framed with lustrous thick brown hair, deep azure-blue eyes fringed with long black lashes, perfect teeth that vied for competition, and a small straight nose, Marilee had a beauty that defied description.”

 

7. “Andre, a simple peasant, had only one thing on his mind as he crept along the East wall: ‘Andre creep.  Andre creep.  Andre creep.'”

 

6. “Stanislaus Smedley, a man always on the cutting edge of narcissism, was about to give his body and soul to a back alley sex-change surgeon to become the woman he loved.”

 

5. “Although Sarah had an abnormal fear of mice, it did not keep her from eeking out a living at a local pet store.”

 

4. “Stanley looked quite bored and somewhat detached, but then penguins often do.”

 

3. “Like an overripe beefsteak tomato rimmed with cottage cheese, the corpulent remains of Santa Claus lay dead on the hotel floor.”

 

2. “Mike Hardware was the kind of private eye who didn’t know the meaning of the word ‘fear’; a man who could laugh in the face of danger and spit in the eye of death– in short, a moron with suicidal tendencies.”

 

And the winner is. . .

 

1. “The sun oozed over the horizon, shoved aside darkness, crept along the greensward, and, with sickly fingers, pushed through the castle window, revealing the pillaged princess, hand at throat, crown asunder, gaping in frenzied horror at the sated, sodden amphibian lying beside her, disbelieving the magnitude of the frog’s deception, screaming madly, ‘You lied!'”

I like no.9 for its simplicity (and of course no.1) but see what you think.
I couldn’t finish without quoting Walter Sichel (1855-1933):

“The rain, it raineth on the just
And also on the unjust fella:
But chiefly on the just, because
The unjust steals the just’s umbrella.”

(He is of course putting his own comedic spin on the last part of the verse from the Gospel of Matthew Ch 5 verse 45 which has the words: “For He (God) makes His (God’s) sun rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust” (I’ve added words in brackets for explanation purposes).

And that’s it for our second look at rain.

Hope I’ve whet your appetite (see what I did there?) for some further research.

Five voices

It’s Wednesday and time for Rambler5319 to entertain us again…

Remember LLM’s piece on “Songs that remind me of stuff”. I have those as well but I also have artists that stand out in my musical memories. They stand out because they have endured, not necessarily in terms of long life as 2 died in their early thirties, but because I still love and listen to them today.
In 1999 Yes produced an album called The Ladder and track 11 was called “Nine Voices”. I’ve decided to do five of my favourite female voices. I won’t do the biographies, there’s enough on the internet if you want to look them up but a few facts will be included. They are voices, each unique in its own way, which remind me of particular things. Any musical choice will inevitably be personal and bound to divide opinion so I don’t say these are the best five voices in the world EVER. I simply say that these voices had a great effect on me. They have touched and continue to touch my heart today. They are not in order like a top of the charts list; they are more chronological in that this is the order in which they came into my life. Ok so here we go:

1. LESLEY DUNCAN
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Probably an artist few of you will know but one who was a big part of my growing up musical history. I heard a track on the radio and bought the first album. Then I got each new one as it came out. She sang backing vocals for a number of more well-known artists (Donovan, Ringo Starr, Dusty Springfield who also sang on Lesley’s singles, Walker Brothers). If you check out the track listing for Jesus Christ Superstar on Amazon you will see her as one of a number of singers on many of the tracks. She is credited on Pink Floyd’s (1973) Dark Side Of The Moon and here is a pic of the inside of the album cover with her name in the “Backing Vocals” section (with Lesley incorrectly spelt with an ‘ie’ ending rather than the ‘ey’ which she herself used):

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She appears on Elton John’s 3rd album (1970) Tumbleweed Connection. She plays acoustic guitar in a duet with him on her self-penned song, Love Song (Side 2, Track 2). It’s the only non Bernie Taupin/Elton song on the album. She appeared with him in 1974 at The Royal Festival Hall to perform it. According to the Guardian newspaper, it was covered by more than 150 artists (including Olivia Newton-John, David Bowie and Barry White)! It’s worth checking out the lyrics to Love Song. (Also on YouTube.) Elton played piano on Lesley’s first album Sing Children Sing in 1971. Unfortunately she made only the 5 albums you can see in the picture but her voice was very special for me. She died fairly recently, on the Isle of Mull, (her home since 1996), in March 2010 aged 66. The Guardian, in its obituary, said this:
“Her songs had an astonishing emotional depth and her voice a rare combination of warmth and clarity, bringing an intimacy to the experience of listening to her records. For those who discovered her music in the early 1970s, she stood out from all the other pop and rock of the era.” (March 23, 2010).

2. KAREN CARPENTER
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Interesting the group was called “Carpenters”: there is no “The” in the official name. Karen was initially a drummer in the duo with her brother Richard on piano. She was quite happy to play the drums and sing whilst doing it. She didn’t want to be “out front” but folks wanted more of her – her voice: a contralto voice that spanned 3 octaves. She was forced to reconsider. Eventually she played the drums less and less. I’ve got just the one album of Greatest Hits but what a voice. She was noted for her low range and Richard would adapt songs (& covers) to fit it. Just listen to the way she can hold the notes she sings. Out of the 5 here hers has to be the purest voice and who can fail to be moved by some of those famous songs: Yesterday Once More, Hurting Each Other, Close to You and the ubiquitous We’ve Only Just Begun played at so many weddings around the world. Died a month short of her 33rd birthday from anorexia. Very sad.

3. JONI MITCHELL
I suppose she is remembered, by most people, for her single Big Yellow Taxi (1970) and the rather silly laugh at the end of the song. However, over the last 44 years, she has produced many albums. My collection, of just some of them, is in the pic below:
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Hers is a voice that has sung in many different styles with a uniqueness that no-one has come close to imitating. Some of Kate Bush’s songs do give a feel of her style. Joni has ploughed her own furrow not allowing people to be able to pigeon-hole her and constantly changing. Once again a voice I heard and bought one album and then began to add to as the years went by. A very unusual voice and variety of singing styles and unusual cadences make her one of my top five voices.

4. SANDY DENNY
Lead singer of Fairport Convention for a short time and produced solo work as well. She formed the group Fotheringay (1970) and released one album (Fotheringay). Fotheringay Castle was where Richard III was born (1452) & where Mary Queen of Scots was tried and executed (1587). Sandy was given the accolade “Britain’s finest female singer/songwriter” by three publications at the time. She was voted “Britain’s No.1 Singer” for two consecutive years in the music paper Melody Maker’s readers’ poll.
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Amongst others, wrote the song Who Knows Where The Time Goes? (Have a listen on YouTube). And I suppose we all echo that as we look back. Time does pass incredibly quickly. Sadly for Sandy and her fans she died aged just 31 in 1978. One newspaper obituary referred to her as having been: “Equipped with an incredible voice and an immense songwriting talent….” For me, a great voice which stirs up the emotions.

5. MADDY PRIOR (INCL. STEELEYE SPAN & THE CARNIVAL BAND)
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A founding member (in 1969) and and lead singer of Steeleye Span. Who can forget those words: “All around my hat I will wear the green willow……..And if anyone should ask me the reason why I’m wearing it, It’s all for my true love who’s far, far away…”. It’s about a young man whose fiancée has been sentenced to 7 years transportation to Australia. He mourns his loss by wearing a green willow sprig in his hat. Excellent voice range, and a number of projects jointly with the Carnival Band have produced albums of folk versions of many of the old hymns, demonstrate how good it is. Still going strong today.
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There are of course many more (Stevie Nicks, Christine McVie, Kate Bush, Eva Cassidy, Dido, for example) I could have included but the list would never finish. You will have your own favourites and maybe mine might seem a bit old or not of interest but they’re mine and I love them! All I’d say is have a listen before you discard them. If JM & MP have survived for 40 years or more in a very fickle business they must have something special about them; likewise those whose lives were cut short but are still remembered & played today. Go on, give them a listen.