Bonfire Night Boogie

As has become my habit, I’m posting a few tunes in celebration of Bonfire Night. I’ve always thought this to be a particularly British celebration, but I know that it is also marked in South Africa, Newfoundland and Labrador, and in some other commonwealth countries. I’ve shared the history before, so please skip this next bit if you don’t need to read it. For newcomers, or the masochistic, this is what we are celebrating.

Last weekend we ‘celebrated’ Hallowe’en, which is largely imported to these shores from the US in its current form, although parts of the British Isles do have a tradition going back many hundreds of years. Our real celebration for this time of year comes today, when we mark what is known as Guy Fawkes Night, or Bonfire Night if you prefer. This is still a big night in the UK – understanding of it is perhaps declining, but it marks a momentous event in British history. Bonfires are lit all over the country, and thousands attend to watch them and the accompanying firework displays. Last year those of us in England had just gone back into a national lockdown, which must have tempted a few to think about blowing up Parliament. But it means that big public bonfires were off last year, so I provided a musical compensation for you to enjoy. This year things are returning to a new normal, and I anticipate that there will be many bonfires lit around the country – I’m not sure what they will do for our air quality, though! The eco conscious version is still, I think, to stay in and enjoy the music!

As the majority of readers here are based outside the UK it would be presumptuous of me to assume that you would know why we have our Bonfire Night. Briefly, on 5th November 1605 a man called Guy Fawkes was discovered in the vaults of the House of Lords guarding 36 barrels of gunpowder. He was there to blow the place up during the State Opening of the English Parliament, as part of a plot by Catholics to murder the King, James I of England and VI of Scotland – a Protestant – and install his 9 year old daughter, Princess Elizabeth, as a Catholic monarch. The details of this are well documented so I won’t bore you with them here, but if you want to know more there is a good article in Wikipedia which draws on a number of authoritative sources to give a full description of the plot and its aftermath, which resulted in trials for those who had not been killed as they tried to make their escape, and subsequent executions by the barbaric method of hanging, drawing and quartering. Perhaps ironically, Guy Fawkes managed to escape this end – weakened by having been tortured during the investigation into the plot he jumped from the gallows and broke his neck.

In the following years the foiling of this plot was celebrated on its anniversary by the ringing of church bells, special sermons and the lighting of bonfires, and it became a part of traditional British culture as a result. This tradition included the burning of an effigy of Guy Fawkes on top of the bonfire, although in recent times there have been occasions when masks of modern political figures have been put on the guy – we may love our democracy but it doesn’t stop us hating the politicians!

When I was growing up it was commonplace to see groups of children (including me) on the streets transporting their guys in their dads’ wheelbarrow, asking for a ‘Penny for the guy, mister’ but this is seen much less nowadays. In our current Health and Safety conscious era I guess they are most likely to be arrested for begging, even without the requirements for social distancing which interfered with things last year and, to a lesser degree, this year.

To round off my little history lesson there is one video which I’ve shared in previous years and I’m doing so again, as it gives a far better explanation than I could ever provide:

‘Gutted.’ ’You will be.’ Indeed!


Two years ago I gave you a selection of seven ‘fire’ songs and last year, I decided to go for a completely different set, which saw a further six songs. This has left me a problem for this year, though: there are still a lot of ‘fire’ songs out there, so should I go for another new set or mix in some new ones with some previously chosen ones? After all, I may have already shared the best ones, perhaps? I’ve decided on the latter approach, with apologies to anyone who feels I’ve left out one of their favourites: there really are so many to choose from – Bruce Springsteen alone has five that I can think of, one of which I’ve included before. This set comprises four previously shared and four first timers. I hope you enjoy them.

I’m beginning with one which is new to my selections. I like a rousing start, and this is certainly that:

This was the lead single from Pat Benatar’s third album, Precious Time, released in July 1981. The album was a US #1, and reached #30 in the UK. As a single, this track got to #17 in the US but didn’t chart in the UK. Looking back over her career she hasn’t ever done that well in our charts, which I’ve always found surprising: there’s just no accounting for taste, is there?

This next one is one that I shared two years ago. I was 14 when this was released, in January 1968:

This is a typical 60s English pop song, from a band which eventually morphed into two parts – Jeff Lynne (who joined after this song) turned his bit into the ELO, and Roy Wood turned into Wizzard. This is nutty but I love it still – and bought the single when first released. This has absolutely no influence from Guy Fawkes, but it’s still a great song though. In case you were wondering, the clip is from the UK’s Top Of The Pops programme, and the presenter was Dave Cash. This was one of a string of hits The Move had here in the UK, reaching #3, but it didn’t chart in the US. In fact, they only ever broke into the US chart once, with their final single before the band broke up in 1972: this was California Man, which got to the dizzy height of #93!

My next song is one that I also shared last year:

I’ve loved that ever since I first heard it, probably some fifty plus years ago – I was nearly 10 when it was released. Nothing says ‘fire’ quite like a quasi-mariachi band, does it? And the song is nothing to do with curry either, in case you were wondering. This was released in April 1963, and made #1 in the US Country chart and #17 on the main Billboard listing. It wasn’t a hit here, though – he hasn’t had much chart success with UK singles, though his albums have fared better.

My next ‘fire’ song for this year is only a couple of years younger, and is another that I also shared last year:

That is a fairly recent video for the song, which actually dates back to early 1965. It was the B-side of The Last Time single (UK #1, US #9), and was also included on the US version of their album from later in 1965, Out Of Our Heads, though not on the UK version – we were expected to buy the single too! It subsequently appeared on several compilation albums in the US, but we had to wait until 1971 before we got an album version here.

Time for a new one now, I think. A singer who has broken all kinds of records with the pre-release of her forthcoming new album, but this is an earlier one of hers:

I really don’t know why I haven’t included that one before, as I absolutely love it, and that live performance is simply incredible. This was a track on Adele’s second album, 21, released in January 2011, which was #1 in both the UK and the US, and just about anywhere else you care to look – in more than thirty countries, in fact. It was a massive success, and has sold more than 10m copies. It spent 23 weeks at the top of the UK chart, and 24 at the top in the US. As a single this was also a US #1, and got to #11 in the UK. Her new album, 30, is released in two weeks’ time: prepare for more sales records to be annihilated! The lead single from it came out last month and has already been #1 in the UK, the US, and a further 23 countries. I suspect that this will be her best seller yet, which is saying something!

I mentioned earlier that Bruce Springsteen has at least five songs with Fire in their title, and I shared one of them, I’m On Fire, a couple of years ago. With so many to choose from I thought I’d give you another. Possibly not the most obvious choice, but I like it so here goes:

That is a fairly recent live performance of a song which has been around for a long time, and I think it’s fantastic the way Bruce interacts with the audience and then brings Steve van Zandt in for the final verse. I first came across Bruce’s version of this on the triple cassette album Live/1975-85, and already knew it, as you probably do, from the 1978 hit single cover version by The Pointer Sisters, which reached #1 in several countries, #2 in the US, but only #34 in the UK. You can’t beat an original, though, can you? It has since appeared – at last – on one of his own albums – The Promise – in 2010. That is a double album of previously unreleased tracks from 1977/8, and it reached #16 in the US and #7 in the UK.

This next one is another that I haven’t featured before. It is a 2019 live performance of a song released in 2003, and it is possibly even more relevant today than on release, as Sarah McLachlan explains in her introduction:

That is a stunningly beautiful song, with such an important message. The album it comes from is Afterglow, released in November 2003, reaching #1 in her native Canada, #2 in the US and #33 in the UK. This song was released as a single the following year. it got to #72 in the UK, and reached #14 in the US Adult Pop Songs chart, based on radio airplay. Rather bizarrely, to my mind, it also made #2 on the US Hot Dance Club Play chart – their night clubs must have been pretty sedate, thoughtful places that year! I bought the album at the time, and can recommend it – it is full of equally lovely, intelligent songs like this one.

One final Fire song for you today. I shared this one two years ago, but I think this piece of musical lunacy deserves another airing:

Fire, by the Crazy World Of Arthur Brown, was released in June 1968 in the UK, and in September in the US. It reached #1 in the UK and Canada, and #2 in the US. The band’s self-titled debut album got to #2 in the UK and #7 in the US, largely on the strength of this song’s performance as a single. I would say that this is the archetypal one-hit wonder, were it not for the fact that the follow up single made it all the way to #56 in the UK chart. I guess there really was no chance of really following up something as utterly bonkers as this, though. Arthur Brown wore that flaming headdress on stage for live performances, and somehow the BBC let him get away with it for this Top Of The Pops appearance. I think Health and Safety might have a few words to say about it nowadays, but it is a good way to close my selection of songs about Fire, complete with a little bit of the real thing!

If you are out celebrating tonight please take care and be safe. And remember that carbon footprint – I hate to think what all those bonfires will be doing to our air quality, especially at a time when the Cop26 gathering is being held here. And fingers crossed that no one attempts a ‘Guy Fawkes’ on the conference.

Have fun, and I’ll see you again soon.

©️ Modern Toss

44 thoughts on “Bonfire Night Boogie

  1. Pingback: November | Take It Easy

  2. Hi Clive
    Great theme and the absolute top two takeaways for me are Bruce and Sarah M

    Both have aged so well and still can sing –

    The Bruce song was one I know from radio play and when you mentioned pointer sisters I really could remember their version
    And not sure if you ever watched the Love Boat show
    But the Pointer Sisters sang He’s so Shy with the bartender on an episode

    And for Sarah to sing live like that shows she does not need help with her voice!
    I flashbacksd to a sweet colleague of mine in early 1990s who went to a Sarah concert and was a super fan!

    Liked by 1 person

    • It’s a big celebration for us, much bigger than Halloween is here, so I always mark it.

      Glad you liked those two, they were both superb. I think I’ve vaguely heard of Love Boat but never watched it – I’m not sure if it was shown here. Doesn’t sound like my kind of thing anyway!

      Your friend was very lucky to see Sarah in concert 😊

      Liked by 2 people

      • I have not thought of that girl (lady) in so long and she just loved Sarah’s music so much
        Well so many of us did
        And not sure if you knew this but I lived in Colorado at the times of the columbine shootings
        Thankfully the teens we knew that we at the school did not get harmed
        Anyhow – not too long after the incident they made a video – some kind of training video with some pretty heavy stuff in it
        Not sure why the public had access to it
        But Clive – they synced the footage to Sarah’s “I will remember you” song and I guess she asked them to remove it
        I am not sure if they did

        And the Love Boat was super cheesy but I remember it from childhood (nice show to watch lol)
        And can still see the bartender Isaac dancing with the “he’s so shy” song
        Right after the move boat – was a show called fantasy island –

        Liked by 1 person

      • She had good taste!

        I’ve just searched YouTube and there is still a clip there from a news programme at the time using the song. Comments are pretty angry, justifiably so I think.

        Definitely never saw Love Boat but I remember Fantasy Island. My then wife used to watch it. Heap of crap!

        Liked by 1 person

      • Heap of crap

        And it reminds me of the days when we only had three channels – I was never a TV person until around 2005 and later (and there is some good stuff to be found)
        But I do recall some TV stuff – like reruns of gilligan’s island too

        And not sure if yoi knew I watched a lot of Columbo last winter and spring – well I enjoyed it so much
        It was fun seeing so many actors on those early episodes of Columbo – and one was Ricardo Montalban – and then I read a little bit about how he had a hard time getting roles at times because he had a militant stance
        – and while taking about fantasy island – I guess they have done a reboot of the show ??
        Wonder what a modern day twist will look like but I know one of the charms of the show from 70s to early 80s was Montalban’s stately and formal presence –

        Liked by 1 person

      • We only had two channels when we first had a tv, and they only broadcast at lunchtime and in the evenings, except at weekends when daytime was allowed too. Times have changed!

        Not a huge fan of Columbo but I do that with older tv shows – the IMDb is kept close by! Often the remakes don’t really live up to the originals, do they. I wonder why they bother sometimes. Hawaii 5-0 being a case in point, but there are plenty of others.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. Pingback: CarolCooks2 weekly roundup…31st October-6th November 2021…Culinary A-Z, Fig and Sweetmincemeat Recipes, Music and Fire Ants……… | Retired? No one told me!

  4. Pingback: Saturday Snippets 6th November 2021…Fire! | Retired? No one told me!

  5. Oh gosh, don’t get me started on Pat Benatar’s continued snubs to get into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. She is one of my all-time favorite performers. Spyder can still make that guitar sing. I saw them perform a decade ago, and she could still hit the high notes then. My other favorite is Adele. This tune is one of her best.

    Liked by 2 people

    • The Hall of Fame is badly named – some of those who get in are jokes while other more deserving artists are continually overlooked, PB being a case in point. I like a lot of her songs and it’s good to know she can still do it. As for Adele, I think she has an amazing voice – so powerful!

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Certainly a varied selection here and some lovely songs. I also love the horrible histories video. My younger son and daughter-in-law are fireworks experts, that’s how they met. They do big events and unlike Guy Fawkes there is not a match in sight!

    Liked by 2 people

  7. Happy Bonfire Day. A concept not familiar to most Canadians but any excuse for a party and a chance to listen to good music. Thanks for including Sarah McLachlan, a beautiful person inside and out. Arthur Brown was quite a performer.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thank you, Darlene. It seems to be something for the further flung parts of Canada, from what I’ve read. Sarah McLachlan is indeed a wonderful person: there is another video for this song, just her and her guitar, with a series of messages and images showing how her charitable foundation has put to good uses the money it would have cost to make a ‘proper’ video. It’s very moving. Arthur Brown is still going strong, at the age of 79, and his most recent album came out two years ago. He is remarkable, and has lost tufts of hair to fire over the years!

      Liked by 1 person

  8. I know all about Guy Fawkes night, Clive, and you are right that a section of the South African population does celebrate this night. Guy Fawkes night was a big part of my mother’s childhood and she had very fond memories of it. Great song choices too.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thanks Robbie, it’s good to know I chose the right source for my information! This night was a huge part of my childhood too: there was usually a big communal event in our village on the Saturday nearest to the actual date, and we all got involved in building the bonfire. Then on the actual night my parents had a smaller fire in our garden, with a much smaller firework display. It was a lot of fun! I’m glad you liked the songs 😊

      Liked by 1 person

  9. Firework Night was always great fun although we were never allowed to go out with our guy and ask for “A Penny for the Guy” …but we always had a lovely time with fireworks, chestnuts cooked in the embers of the bonfire, hot dogs and jacket potatoes also done in the ashes of the fire …great song choice as always Clive 🙂 xx

    Liked by 2 people

  10. Clive, great title. Picking one song, I have to go with Mr. Cash. “Ring of Fire” has a unique sound with Cash’s voice. If I remember correctly, June Carter Cash wrote or co-wrote this song. Keith

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks, Keith. I’ve always loved that song, and this version is so much better than the Eric Burdon cover. Yes, June co-wrote it with Merle Kilgore: all Johnny did was sing it 😊


    • Thanks, Stevie. Not many here have heard of Sarah McLachlan – she has gone very much under the radar. I’m a sucker for a good female singer-songwriter with a great voice! Yes, I remember Julie Driscoll: it was in last year’s piece but wasn’t one I repeated. Next year, maybe…

      Liked by 2 people

  11. Pat Benatar has such a great voice – nice one to start with.

    fun video with The Move…

    love that Johnny Cash song…

    and that is one of my favorite Stones songs, as well as the Bruce song.

    despite how big a hit that Adele song was, I was not familiar with it, but what a great voice she has…

    love the intro from Sarah, followed by a wonderful song…

    and the last song was a fun one, perfect to celebrate Bonfire Day with.

    Happy Guy Fawkes Day!

    Liked by 1 person

Please leave a reply, I'd like to know what you think

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.