Today is a special day for me: it is my elder daughter’s birthday. I won’t embarrass her by giving her age away – not that she’s likely to see this anyway – but I recall spending some of the day watching football on tv in the hospital lounge area. That was a rarity in those days, as it was before the days of the Premier League and wall to wall coverage. But it does give me a good theme for this week’s tunes: Birthday.
There are many songs about birthdays, so I didn’t have much difficulty in finding a selection for you, though I eliminated many on the basis that I don’t like them! As usual, let’s get off to a rousing start:
As that was just an album track I haven’t been able to find a version with images, but it’s still a great song. As the video image showed, it was on the album The Beatles, known by most as The White Album. This was the band’s ninth studio album, released in November 1968, conveniently for me as it went on my Christmas present list, and I wasn’t disappointed. It is a double album, with a huge variety of styles across its thirty tracks. This was the one that opened side three (vinyl albums only in those days), and was co-written by Paul and John – something which was becoming a bit unusual for them, as they had tended to write on their own for some time, despite their songs always being credited as ‘Lennon/McCartney’ compositions. The album topped the charts in many countries, including both the UK and the US, and is still a favourite of mine to this day. It was also the album which brought to a head the simmering differences between the band members, and Ringo even left the band during recording, though he was brought back into the fold after a fortnight. As history shows, those tensions finally broke up The Beatles in 1970.
My second tune this week is one that you might not expect from me, as it is very much a simple pop song. I loved it when it first came out, though, and still enjoy watching this video:
The fact that Clare Grogan is drop dead gorgeous has nothing to do with that enjoyment, of course! Altered Images were a bunch of friends from their schooldays, and were only around from 1981 to 1983. This was the title track of their first album, from 1981, which reached #26 in the UK. The song was released as a single, getting to #2 here and #3 in Ireland. As far as I can tell they had absolutely no impact on the US charts in their brief lifespan, which I think was a pity – this deserved to be successful over there.
In slightly different vein now, but with the same title:
That was on Stevie Wonder’s September 1980 album, Hotter Than July, which I bought at the time. The song was written in an attempt to get a day named in honour of the late Martin Luther King Jr, and succeeded in its aim when President Reagan created Martin Luther King Day in 1986. Those of you who may have seen the start of my new series of National Days, which I began on Sunday, can rest assured that this is a day I will never poke fun at: amidst the plethora of weird and wonderful days the US (in particular) celebrates, this one stands out for its importance. The album reached #3 in the US and #2 here in the UK, and was #1 on the US R&B chart. This was also a #2 single here, but didn’t make the main US chart – that seems strange. I can only guess that it wasn’t released as a single there, as it would surely have been a big hit if it had.
I’m changing tack slightly with the next tune. It doesn’t have ‘birthday’ in its title, but I wanted to include it because it shows that celebrations don’t always go according to plan, and we should remember that:
The line ‘oh what a birthday surprise’ does make it clear that this is a birthday party, so I rest my case! This was Lesley Gore’s debut single, in 1963, from her debut album I’ll Cry If I Want To. The album reached #26 in the US, but this track was a massive hit, getting to #1 there and #9 here. A later version by Dave Stewart and Barbara Gaskin was a UK #1 in 1981. There is also a version by Amy Winehouse, recorded for a 2010 tribute album to Quincy Jones, who produced the Lesley Gore version – his first hit as a producer. If you want to seek it out, the album is called Q: Soul Bossa Nostra. I never got the fascination with Winehouse, though: to me her voice was a nasal whine (Amy Whinehouse?) and I didn’t like the way she sang. Each to their own…
I wanted to include a version of the standard song Happy Birthday To You in this set somewhere, but there are so many! It had to be this one, though, as the word ‘iconic’ was made for it:
The announcer’s comment about Marilyn Monroe’s trademark tardiness in appearing – ‘the late Marilyn Monroe’ – takes on a poignant new meaning when you consider that this clip dates from 19 May 1962, and that within three months Marilyn was dead. And as everyone knows, JFK was assassinated eighteen months later – two American icons lost far too early. Much has been made of the allegations that she was his mistress at the time of this recording, but there is plenty of evidence to dispute this. I’ll go with that, but the aura of mystery remains.
This week’s final song is another from the early 60s, and another that counts as a pop classic:
This was a single from November 1961, that reached #6 in the US and #3 in the UK. It wasn’t on an album at the time, but subsequently appeared on the compilation album Neil Sedaka Sings His Greatest Hits, which was released in 1963 but doesn’t appear to have dented the charts. It’s still a great reminder, though, of the days when guys could get away with singing songs like this that were ostensibly about their little sister!
That’s a wrap for this week. I hope you’ve enjoyed joining in with my family celebration, and will visit again next week, as I have another special edition lined up. Take care and stay safe.
Happy Birthday, Katy ❤️