Posts Tagged ‘songs’

No, Michael, sometimes it’s not a beautiful day

I’ve got this thing about Michael Buble. I can’t cope with him. I can’t cope with his endlessly cheery face and his insistence that he’s totally in love with me, even if he hasn’t met me yet. I’m glad he knows that some day it will all work out and that he’s having a beautiful day and that he’s feeling good and that he has a Christmas album full of love and cheery things and smiles and….. bleeeeurh. 

 

Sorry, I just vomited. 

 

“I can’t stop myself from smiling…. Let me tell you all the reasons why I think you’re one of a kind… And I’m feeling good…” and on and on and on, he goes. About his fabulous happiness and about how much he loves everyone.

 

You know what I want? Every time I hear one of his songs, I listen out for a line that says something like, “I’m a filthy crackwhore and I hate everyone….” Not because I think he’d be much improved, but because he’d seem a bit more human. Maybe he doesn’t need to go that far. Maybe he could just say, “I felt like rubbish the other day so I ate 23 chocolate bars and got drunk by myself at home.” I mean, even that would just round of his edges a little. 

 

He’s too plastic cheerful, like bubblegum or a colourful child’s toy that they learn to hate when they grow up because of it’s stupid cheery tunes and bright colours and you can never find the off switch so you’re forced to listen to an endless stream of squeaky-tuned silly-voiced madness…. 

 

I don’t hate him or anything. I just want him to do something naughty, give someone a wedgie live on television or release an angst ridden song, full of self-doubt and edginess. Maybe he should cover Smells Like Teen Spirit? O, but you know what would happen? He’d get a big band in there, 15 trumpets minimum, he’d have a big smile on his face, he’d do a few Elvis-esque leg-shake moves and he’d bop around having made it, somehow, into a cheery song to make you smile on a winter’s day. 

 

Winter doesn’t bother him in fact. He just dons a fluffy coat, gets some ice skates on and bops around an ice rink, smiling, endlessly smiling, and talking about how great snow is and Christmas and how he loves Santa and wants to be Santa and spread cheer and happiness and he never falls over on the ice. O no! He skates perfectly. And you know what? Even if he were to fall over on the ice, you know what he’d do? Give us a winning smile, say something like, “It’s a beautiful day to fall over on the ice,” sing a little ditty then bounce straight up, inviting the small children to hold his hand and skate in a line, laughing and being jolly.

 

Now, it’s ok to be a generally positive person. That’s ok, I get that. But he’s been saying it for quite a while now and sometimes I just want to shake him and say, “Michael, shhhhh for once, sometimes it’s NOT a beautiful day, alright?!”

 

A final word on his surname, what’s going on there? It’s Bubble, right? Bubble, like bubblegum, like bright colours and bubbles being popped and happiness and children having fun and gaiety. Just like Micheal Buble himself. Ridiculous.

What Mariah taught me

Ooo, ohhh, yehhh. Ah ah heeey hey. Shoodah doo doo doo, yeyyyy yeh.

I couldn’t get enough of it! When she broke into the “shoodahdoo oh” intro, I was on fire. The finger clicking would start, my eyes would close slightly, I’d get my warbly voice on and find a wall to stand close to or lean on, a la the video for We Belong Together.

I loved Mariah. I was convinced I had a vocal range extremely similar to hers. Play me the first few notes of any Mariah song, I can probably tell you which song it is and sing quite a lot of it for you.

I had a Mariah moment on the way to work yesterday. I’m not ashamed to admit it. I was listening to all of her greatest hits. And the lines were all there in my head.

“Many nights, we’ve prayed…. I’m thinking of you, in my sleepless solitude tonight…. There’s a hero, if you look inside your heart…. Sorry, I never told you, all I wanted to say…”

And do you know what I thought? I thought Damn you Mariah. I needed that brain space last year in my exams. No wonder I couldn’t remember everything. 80% of my brain was filled with your song lyrics.

But she has taught me a lot of good life lessons. She’s taught me about how every situation can be made beautiful with a good song and a video full of close ups. Yes, you might be pining for a boy you go to school with or you may have fallen out with your best friend but this is perfect material for songs and music videos.

I was quite dramatic when I was younger. I wrote songs (three or four) about dramatic things that had happened to me and imagined myself being filmed for music videos. Given that I had a vocal range similar to Mariah’s, it was likely that I would be discovered soon and I wanted to be ready.

Her songs taught me a lot about how to handle real life situations actually. From Always Be My Baby, I learned that if you love someone enough, that fact alone will win the day, despite them dumping you and running off. From the video, I learned that it is possible to get to and lounge about on a tyre swing in the middle of a lake whilst remaining dry.

From Heartbreaker, I learned that even if someone keeps breaking your heart and you keep going back to them, it’s ok as long as you write a song about it and then go to the cinema with a pink crochet bikini top on and beat up a girl with a dog in a bag.

From Fantasy, I learned that if you’re going to have a secret crush on someone who ‘walks by every night’ (is he some sort of male prostitute?), at least go to the fairground and sing about it whilst skating. I did not roller skate around the fairground singing about my crush. I think that’s probably why I didn’t win him.

My All perfectly articulated (planted?) all the feelings I thought I had about this one boy in drama group who I was obsessed with. I’d listen to it in the evenings and stare out of my bedroom window all wistfully, thinking of earlier-mentioned boy and convincing myself that he could somehow tell I was thinking about him.

You see? Mariah helped me with loads of life situations.

As soon as I hear the beginning of any of her songs, I’m back. I’m 14 years old, I’m in my lilac bedroom with the wall mirrors, I’m doing a little bit of choreography, I’m warbling, I’m staring pensively into space.

And I’m genuinely wondering why I haven’t been discovered yet.
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(Me on the left as a 16 year old, to help you picture the scene)

Yes, I have some bananas

Hi all, it’s the guest blogger again today. Enjoy!

 

Just before getting into this week’s topic I thought I’d ask if, after last week’s post, any of you decided to do some three-word daily diary stuff. Here’s mine for the last few days:

 

Thu 31.1.13 Hospital blood test

Fri 1.2.13 Virus check done

Sat 2.2.13 Weekly shop done

Sun 3.2.13 Projector malfunction again

Mon 4.2.13 Projector fault found

Tue 5.2.13 Sun after snow

 

(A note from lazylauramaisey, mine for today is “loving new piano!”)

 

Ok so on to this week’s subject.

 

YES, I HAVE SOME BANANAS

I wonder if you know the derivation of the word BANANA? Etymologies differ and one suggests it is from a West African language spoken in Senegal & the Gambia and introduced by the Spanish & Portuguese who it’s believed first discovered the word; the other suggests an Arabic root from their word banan meaning finger. Both sound feasible; take your pick I suppose.

Banana facts: they are a good source of vitamin B6 (25% of our RDA), vitamin C (about 15% RDA for a non-smoker) & potassium (25% RDA). The fruit releases into the body dopanine and serotonin which are good for the brain. Bananas are picked green and start to ripen straight away. What actually happens to turn them from green to the yellow we’re familiar with when we eat them? After they are picked, the hormones in the fruit convert certain amino acids into ethylene gas. This gas then causes the production of enzymes that change the colour and also the texture and flavour of the banana. The reason they can arrive here still green is because they are carried in a temperature controlled environment with a certain amount of ethylene in it so that the ripening process is slowed down.

 

Check out the label here on the bananas I bought this week at my local supermarket.

 
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I wonder if you ever look at the labels on the food you buy. You may check a sell by date, best before date etc. How many of us look at the ingredients? Certainly those with allergies have no choice but anyone else is probably just rushing round as quickly as possible to get out of the supermarket or wherever the goods are on sale. I was intrigued last week to note the label on my bananas said they were a product of Ecuador; this week, as you can see in my picture, it was Cameroun. Ecuador apparently produces one third of all the bananas grown for export “in the world”. In 2004 there were 130 countries producing bananas; bear in mind the UN has 192 countries and the world has 195/6 depending on who is defining which land areas actually count as countries. That means basically two thirds of all the countries in the world produce bananas.

It got me thinking about the product. Where are the world’s bananas grown? How much? Here is a table showing production levels of the top 10 in the year 2011. However these figures are for both the main types of banana produced: plantains & dessert. Plantains are for cooking; dessert are the sweeter, and for eating raw out of the skin. You can see that Ecuador, supplier of last week’s bananas, is the 5th largest producer; Cameroon is 9th.

 

# 1 India: 29,700,000 metric tonnes

# 2 Uganda: 11,100,000 metric tonnes

# 3 China: 10,700,000 metric tonnes

# 4 Philippines: 9,200,000 metric tonnes

# 5 Ecuador: 8,000,000 metric tonnes

# 6 Brazil: 7,300,000 metric tonnes

# 7 Indonesia: 6,100,000 metric tonnes

# 8 Colombia: 5,100,000 metric tonnes

# 9 Cameroon: 850,000 metric tonnes

# 10 Tanzania: 3,900,000 metric tonnes

 

In terms of exports the order is 1.Ecuador 2.Costa Rica 3.Colombia 4.Philippines 5.Guatemala

However as we go about our weekly shopping do we think about how the supermarkets are able to bring us this fruit at such a cheap price. My bunch of 5 bananas weighed almost spot on 1kg so about 200g each; they cost me £0.79 ($1.25). They’re very good value. But how is this possible?

Think about this – the journey time by sea, on one of the largest shipping lines in the world, is about 28/29 days from the port of Douala (Cameroon) to Felixstowe (UK). Bananas require a temperature-controlled container for transport to keep them fresh (13.5-15⁰C). They then have to have an artificial ripening process, as they’re shipped very green, followed by delivery across the UK to warehouses and stores that need the supplies. There are a lot of links in the chain from producer to consumer.

 

Today’s world production of bananas is controlled by 4 companies nicknamed “The Wild Bunch”: Chiquita, Dole, Del Monte, Noboa

 

On the website freshplaza.com/news there is a headline “UK Supermarket blamed” & “Documentary exposes exploitation of banana workers in Cameroon”. You can read about a Scottish film maker, Jan Nimmo who got access to some of the plantations in Cameroon. She reported on the adverse conditions that employees are having to work in. Perhaps this is why my bananas are cheap. The difficulty is in knowing whether it is the supermarkets that drive down the price they’re willing to pay to their suppliers or whether it is unscrupulous bosses at the supply end who force workers to accept low wages to maximise their own profits; or maybe it’s a bit of both.

Perhaps next time I go I’ll look for the ones with the Fairtrade stickers on. I read that Sainsbury’s switched to getting their bananas from only Fairtrade producers over 5 years ago. The benefits to the local communities where these agreements are in place really do make a difference and in some cases mean that producers no longer have to take risks crossing borders to get better prices for their goods. Fairtrade purchases by the supermarket, in the Windward Islands (Dominica, St Lucia, Saint Vincent & The Grenadines, Grenada), have resulted in local communities being able to buy computers for schools, fund scholarships, sponsor a school bus and bus shelters as well as enabling local farmers to invest back into their own businesses. It is reckoned that about 10 million Fairtrade bananas, from the Windward Islands and South America were consumed at the London Olympics.

 

Anyone fancy some Banana Trivia?

Here we go then:

 

1- Canadians eat approximately 3 billion bananas a year.

2- Bananas do not grow on trees. They grow on the largest grass in the world.

3- 90% of the world’s bananas are NOT grown for export

4. 99% of bananas grown for export are of the Cavendish variety.

5. Four million 40lb boxes of bananas are imported into North America every year.

6. In 1998, the entire banana crop of Honduras was wiped out by Hurricane Mitch.

7. Bananas are the fourth most important staple food crop in the world.

8. Bananas were first imported to the UK in 1878 from the Canary Islands by Fyffe, Hudson & Co

 

What about bananas in songs?

 

If you fancy watching this check it out. It’s the video for the song Juanita Banana. If you don’t think you can make it through the whole 2.5 minutes just go to the point where the lady starts wailing. It’s worth it just for that bit!

 

 

The song tells the story of a Mexican banana farmer’s daughter who has operatic ambitions and with a chorus which is an adaptation of Caro Nome from Giuseppe Verdi’s opera Rigoletto. Just the sort of subject for a song you’d think of writing – right?

 

You’ve got to have a watch of this one as it gives you the deep meaning lyrics. It’s the Banana Boat Song. I’m sure you’ll recognise it as soon as you hear the opening lines:

 

 

You think this is a joke song? Just wait till you see who’s covered it: Shirley Bassey, Harry Belafonte, a group called A Bunch Of Coconuts & Stan Freberg. It’s even been used in the film Beetlejuice.(Check out that version on Youtube if you’re interested.)

Also remember that 1967 album by the Velvet Underground & Nico with this cover:

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And finally – how about banana art? Check this one out:

 

http://www.jungilpark.com/banana-art.html

 

Then ask yourself – how long will this stuff last once the skin starts to age. It’s clever but it’s not going to last. I guess that’s why he’s got the pictures.

 

And all that from a tiny oval sticker on my bunch of bananas. Food for thought anyway!

 

My favourite Namibia memories

Making pizzas on Friday nights with one of our student’s mums.

Stuffing our faces at the Nest Hotel because we were pretty poor and ate mostly rice at home.

The time Fiona and I took a road trip round the whole country and had no radio so had to sing to each other all day.

Our comedy dog, Diaz, barking at the kids at school or following us around or weeing on the floor.

The time we were stranded in the desert with no water, no money or bank card, no ID, no suncream and no keys to get back into our car.

The time Lucy and I were painting murals on the wall in the creche where we taught and the kids started singing Atomic Kitten to us.

When I used to jump in the freezing cold swimming pool every morning at the guest house where I lived and worked in Namibia.

The time we walked out to Diaz Point, which took hours and hours, and we had three apples between us.

The time I lost control of the car and went on a little spin off the road with Fiona yelling “Steer into the spin!” and clinging onto the dashboard.

Singing the Amarula song with the kitchen staff at Grootberg Lodge.

One of my students, Zara, saying “Thank you for teaching us,” after a class.

Bungee jumping, like a loony, over the Zambezi River during a stay in Livingston.

Sleeping through the most important day in the Namibian calendar, their independence day, then making a story up for the newspaper afterwards (we ran the local town newspaper and we had to make up the main story of the whole year. Shoddy).

Climbing into the big wardrobe in Lucy’s room with our friend, Andre, to look for Narnia. We were sober, by the way.

Packing a tent, some sleeping bags, a loaf of bread, a jar of peanut butter and a knife and walking to the campsite just out of town, Shark Island, and camping for the weekend to get away from it all.

Flinging ourselves in the pool to cool down after a hot sweaty bus journey back from Victoria Falls to Windhoek.

Taking a load of disadvantaged kids away for an activity week in the desert and, among other things, teaching them how to swim.

Drinking cups of rooibos tea and watching the sun set over the Atlantic ocean and the clouds and sky turning pink and purple and orange.

Fiona and I going to the coolest bar in town, Rumours, and graffitiing our names behind the bar.

Cutting my own hair because I had no money for hairdressers.

Going out to an old abandoned town in the desert with our friend, George, and him giving us Namibian names. Mine was Naufiku, which means ‘born in the evening.’

Fiona chucking a glass of triple shot Jaegermeister and coke on a car.

Going to badminton club on Tuesdays and being rubbish at it.

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.

Songs that remind me of stuff 2

Be Prepared from the Lion King soundtrack
My friend, Fiona, and I were travelling around Namibia in an old battered truck which was pretty low on gadgets. It didn’t have air con, a radio or even a tape deck. We’d get to our destination and peel ourselves off the seat, sweaty and disgusting and hope no-one noticed as we shuffled into the reception of wherever we’d stopped over. Due to the lack of music, we spent hours singing to each other. We returned to the Lion King soundtrack again and again. Be Prepared was a firm favourite and got an airing at least five times every day.

I Just Can’t Wait To Be King from the Lion King soundtrack
Lion King soundtrack again but a different situation. I’m in the last year of school and I’ve got a theatre studies class. We’re all sitting waiting for the teacher and somehow… A frenzy takes hold of us. A few girls start singing I Just Can’t Wait To Be King. A few more join in. Soon we’re all singing. Then we’re bordering on shouting. We’ve started bashing on the desks and our chairs in time to the tune. “O, I JUST CAAAAN’T WAIT!……”

The door opens. Our teacher is standing there. We stop, mid-desk-whack, and wonder if there’s any chance at all in the entire world, that she didn’t hear us…. “What on earth is going on? I could hear you all the way down the corridor!”

We had nothing to offer in our defence. We looked into our laps, 18 year old girls having been caught acting like 8 year olds. The lesson got underway but we were all pretty red faced for the entire time.

I popped in to see this teacher a few years ago when I was in Liverpool and we laughed about this day. I still felt kind of embarrassed though.

Jenny From The Block by Jennifer Lopez
Another secondary school story. I had a friend called Cilla who used to ‘perform’ this song every breaktime. She had slightly adjusted the words though. It was hilarious. J.Lo’s version goes:
“I used to have a little, now I have a lot.
No matter where I go, I know where I came from.
Don’t be fooled by the rocks that I got.
I’m still, I’m still Jenny from the block.”

Cilla’s version went:
“Used to have a little, now I still have a little.
No matter where I go, I’m still where I came from.
Don’t be fooled by the rocks I haven’t got.
I’m still. I’m still Cilla from the block.”

Mr Cellophane from the Chicago soundtrack
This reminds me of walking through a park in London, I think Hyde Park, but I didn’t know London at the time so I’m not sure. I had met all the people who were going with the same gap year organisation as me and we were all leaving for our adventures in about a month. We met in London for some fun before leaving and two of my favourite friends and I were walking together and singing this song. I hasn’t seen Chicago so I didn’t know it but I just kind of mumbled along with them while they sang. I thought they were best people I had ever known.

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.