Posts Tagged ‘Kate Bush’

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.

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Can I have a word? Part 4

Our regular guest blogger tackles the subject of ‘Portmanteau Words’ today.

It’s back to that subject of words and, in this case, some very special words. As you’re probably aware English is a kind of “made up” or mongrel type of language. The purity of whatever language the inhabitants of our island spoke has been watered down (improved?) over the centuries in a number of ways. It’s become a mixture of so many words that have come to us from other cultures and languages around the world. Since the Romans invaded brining their Latin words, more influences have come in from a number of other conquerors: Danes, Vikings, Angles, Saxons, Normans have all been responsible for changes in our language (and place names in particular) over hundreds of years. Immigration has provided more foreign flavours to the mix. Other words have come from the days of the British Empire and the countries it traded with. Some words we’ve taken in without modification (e.g. précis & fiancée from French, apartheid & trek from Afrikaans, ashram from Sanskrit and hundreds more); others have a kind of anglicised version but betray foreign roots. It’s estimated, for example, that 30% of English words have a French origin & 60% have a Latin origin; some duplication because of the Latin origin of some French words. A recent arrival into English (late 19th cent.) is the word safari which comes directly from Swahili where it means “long journey”; more recently Wiki (as in Wikipedia) from the Hawaiian “wiki wiki” meaning fast; Baboushka (also a 1980 song by Kate Bush) from the Russian for grandmother and Gulag which is actually an acronym in Russian for Glavnoye Upravleniye Ispravitelno-trudovykh Lagerey i koloniimoped from the Swedish and short for motor and pedal. And there are, of course, hundreds more.

One of the things you might not have realised is that a word like moped is actually called a “portmanteau” word because it is made up of two other words or shortened versions of them. In fact, if you think about it, the French word porte-manteau is itself made up from two other French words: “porter” (meaning to carry) and “manteau” (meaning cloak). Apparently it was first used, in the context of joined words, by Lewis Carroll in 1871 (Alice Through the Looking Glass). Remember Freedom Literature, when I quoted, from Jabberwocky, these words “Twas brillig, and the slithy toves, Did gyre and gimble in the wabe” – I wonder did you know that “slithy” means lithe & slimy? LC was also responsible for the following portmanteaux: chortled a combination of chuckled & snort; frabjous for fair, fabulous & joyous; mimsy for flimsy & miserable. In 1964, when the country of Tanganika joined with the islands of Zanzibar the new nation was called Tanzania, a portmanteau of the two original names; similarly when Europe and Asia are combined to describe the whole land mass they become the portmanteau Eurasia. If you look back to LLM’s blog, Z is for, you will see the word zonkey – a portmanteau of zebra & donkey; also there is a zorse, a zebra/horse crossbreed and her very own, but rather difficult to conceive (think about it), catterpony. LLM’s blog, Attempting ‘sporty‘, mentioned having started NaNoWriMo which looks very “portmanteau-ish” to me. There was the interesting quidnunc from the K is for knowledge blog: that’s actually a Latin portmanteau taken directly into English. There are, of course, many others along these lines. (Btw, the French though, in their own language, don’t use the word porte-manteau this ‘joined-up words’ way).

Older residents of the UK will remember ‘O level’ exams called G.C.E.s; later came the exams for those not as academically clever – they called them C.S.E.s. Then in the rush to get everyone “on a level playing field” both exams went in the dustbin and the first portmanteau exams arrived in 1988 – the G.C.S.E.s

Probably one of the most recent – anyone heard of a turducken? (Not me!) It apparently arrived into the English language officially in 2010. It’s made by inserting a chicken into a duck, and then into a turkey. (Why would you do that?).

One of the most useless portmanteaux has to be guesstimate – it simply doesn’t help. When would you use it instead of estimate or guess both of which do the job of saying something or some figure is not exact? If you can help me out – please do.
As an aside, I suppose you could call this whole process LLW – lazylanguagewords. Why? Because it means the language (i.e. me & you) doesn’t have to come up with an original new word as such. You need a new word? Just grab a few existing ones and with a bit of welding & a few twiddles – hey presto! (You want to drive and travel – you dravel or drivel.)

The more you look into our language the more examples you can see. It got me thinking about how economical these words are: as I mentioned before, instead of saying something “is a cross between a zebra and a donkey” you just say “it’s a zonkey” – neat eh? Now I think we could use some more of these to save space and time when either speaking or writing. What next? ………Yes, you’ve guessed, I’ve been working on a few.

I was thinking of transport and how easy it would be to describe your journey with some new portmanteau words. Take this sentence for example (when you arrive at a friend’s house and they ask how you did you get here?) – “I came by bus, train and taxi.” This can be “portmanteau-ed” (see how I made a noun/adjective into a verb there?) into “I came bybutratax”. Do you see what I did there? A triple portmanteau! But it’s also very adaptable because if the journey was by train, bus & taxi it becomes trabutax. Switch it round for any combo of the words. If you wanted to include the walk to the bus stop (so walk, bus, train, taxi) you could make wabutratax (a quad portmanteau). If you’re a cyclist and you ride then travel on the train and ride again you could make bitrabi and so on. If you’re going abroad you could add the flight by plane into the mix – so taxi, plane, taxi would be taxplatax.

Now you may want to say how each leg of the journey went: good, bad, rough or whatever. I’ve had some thoughts on this too. So, for example, “I came by trabutax and the journey was gobaro. Did you get it? The journey was good, bad & rough on each of the corresponding legs by train, bus & taxi. If all three legs were good or bad you’d getgogogo or bababa.

Suppose someone serves in a café (or deli) and a customer could ask for alatchesanchoca which is a latte, cheese sandwich & chocolate cake. (Imaginary scenario: Customer to LLM – Can I have a latchesanchoca without the sandwich? LLM grits teeth & thinks: “But then it’s not a latchesanchoca!”) When four friends, each wanting a different drink, come in they could ask for an escaplatam – you got it didn’t you? An espresso, a cappuccino, a latte & an Americano. (Eseseslat = three espressos and a latte and so on.) Easy eh? Imagine the questions you’d get if those were on the menu on the wall: what’s that? Why is an escaplatam so expensive? Are they all mixed together in one cup? Are they definitely all separate? We’re definitely in LLM nightmare territory here? Where was that café again? …..Oh yes, ELM St!

Now, strictly speaking of course, the grammar-savvy among you will know that these words of mine are actually neologisms (that is words that may be in the process of entering common use) rather than actual portmanteaux (plural as per French not portmanteaus as would be in English) because they haven’t actually entered the language yet. (Therefore, to be precise, you can say that I’m making some speculative forays into the world of neologisms rather than inventing actual portmanteaux.) However just as it’s a fine line between genius and madness so it’s also a fine line between neologism and portmanteau! A definitely blurred, but possible, final frontier between invention and reality.

I wonder if you’ve thought of portmanteaux as a kind of ‘final frontier’? Out there on the edge? Are you ready to boldly go where no blogger (linguist?) has gone before? Such an ‘enterprise’ would be quite a trek wouldn’t it? Lots of stuff to Chekov the list and some old stuff to Klingon to. Also you’d need to make sure with the doctor that your “bones” are the real McCoy. Still, no space to go into all that here. (See what I did there?) Remember, as Captain Jean-Luc Picard said to his daughter, “Seize the time, Meribor. Live now; makenow always the most precious time. Now will never come again” — (from the episode calledThe Inner Light). I’m just off to scan those transport suggestions again – “beam me up, Scotty!” (To the Starship Bloggerprise – of course).

But you can see how the language could develop? It’s exciting isn’t it? (Perhaps LLM could revisit her “Things to get excited about” mood before becoming too sporty? New items on menu in café perhaps?) And it’s happening right here! And you read it first here!

Now it’s over to you – perhaps you could have a think and post some of your suggestions in the comments. It would be great to see some readers’ inventions. I’m sure you can come up with some better efforts than mine. (I can speak to Messrs Chambers, Oxford, & Collins once we’ve collected our suggestions.) Let’s get on board the E.S.S. Bloggerpriseand take our language forward to that final frontier– together! (This entry – using the most recent calculation method – is from the Captain’s Log: Stardate 2012.178)