As next weekend sees Remembrance Sunday here in the UK my thoughts have of late been turning towards what is going on in our world, even more than usual. The war forced on Ukraine has now been going on for more than eight months, and shows little sign of ending any time soon. There are other conflicts around the world, and some of the supposed democracies are conflicted in political terms to a horrendous degree. I have two young granddaughters and even without climate change to worry us I do fear for what kind of world we are creating for them. Possibly sounding like all those beauty queens who say that what they want is ‘world peace,’ I’m echoing that thought this week by choosing peace as the theme for my tunes. And before you say it – there will be no John Lennon and Plastic Ono Band in this set: there are many others to play you instead!
Having decided not to play the most obvious choice I’m starting with what for someone of my generation is probably the second most obvious:
Cat Stevens/Yusuf has always been a big favourite of mine, going right back to his early days of pop hits and then into his singer-songwriter career with Mona Bone Jakon and all his brilliant albums. Peace Train was the closing track on his fifth album, Teaser And The Firecat, which was released in October 1971 and peaked at #2 in both the US and the UK. It was also released as a single, reaching #7 in the US but for some reason it didn’t make the UK chart. My memory isn’t good enough to recall if maybe it wasn’t a single here, which would be the obvious reason for that. Its lyrics are still as relevant as ever, and it is a good starter for this week’s theme.
This next one is another longstanding favourite of mine. Some didn’t like this band – I thought they were great:
Peace In Our Time was the title track of Big Country’s fourth album, which was released in September 1988, getting to #9 in the UK but only #160 in the US. It was at that point their worst-performing album, but I bought it and loved it. This song was released as a single in January 1989, making #39 in the UK. Stuart Adamson, the band’s lead singer, wrote the song and later said that he felt this was a little naive, rather like a Sixties protest song, but he went ahead with it anyway! The band had a string of hit albums and singles here in the mid to late Eighties, and I really liked them. Stuart later suffered alcohol problems, and committed suicide by hanging himself in December 2001, at the age of just 43, under the influence of very large quantities of booze. A sad end.
A really big name band for my next tune:
The lyrics of that are, I think, a little ambiguous. Was it intended as a protest song, or was it about relationships? I tend towards the former view, especially in the context of the dramatic final verse. Fleetwood Mac released Peacekeeper on their album Say You Will, in April 2003. This was their final studio album, and came out after Christine McVie had left the band, following which they had broken up and then reformed. It wasn’t their biggest seller, but it did reach #6 in the UK and #3 in the US. This track was released as a single at the same time: it didn’t chart in the UK but made #80 in the US. I’ve always felt this to be an underrated album and still play it occasionally nowadays, though I suspect that you may not have heard this one before.
I’m going with another big name next, but again I think this is one you may not know. It was an album track, so it’s an audio-only clip, I’m afraid:
As the video shows, CSN&Y released Soldiers Of Peace on their album American Dream, which came out in November 1988. Neil Young had promised David Crosby in 1983 that he would reunite with the band if Crosby could clean up his drug problems. Crosby did so, after five months in prison in 1986, and Young kept his word. The song was co-written by Graham Nash, who takes lead vocal, with two non-band members, Craig Doerge and Joe Vitale. Joe played on many of the album’s fourteen tracks, though. The album got to #16 in the US and #5 in Canada, but didn’t make the UK chart.
I have another audio-only one for you next, but this is a beauty. It is peace at a more personal level:
As the video shows, this is a song from the movie Wild Rose: the movie was first shown at the Toronto International Film Festival in September 2018 and then got a cinema release, along with its soundtrack album, in April 2019. In the movie Jessie Buckley plays the character of Rose-Lynn Harlan, an aspiring country singer from Glasgow, who has just been released from prison. It is one of those ‘star is born’ movies but don’t let that put you off: it is a lovely film that won eight awards and Jessie proved herself both a fine actor and singer. Peace In This House wasn’t one of the three tracks from it to be released as a single, but I think it is a beautiful song nevertheless. The album reached #76 in the main UK Albums chart, and #1 in the UK Country Albums listing. As a little bonus, here is a clip of Jessie singing this in the movie:
I’ve played this next band on several previous occasions, and this feels like a good time to do it again. Another album track, but it is so worth it:
“Whatever we’re fighting for, peace and love will win the war” is such great line, and it really needs to be heeded by so many, particularly those in positions of political power. Will they? I doubt it, but we can but hope. As the video shows, Peace And Love was a track on Merry Hell’s album BLINK…and you miss it, which came out in 2011. It was their first of what are now six albums in this incarnation, having reformed from the basic nucleus of members of the band Tansad. They are an English folk-rock band from Wigan, in the north-west, and travel to a wide range of places for their live shows. They are well known on our folk festival circuit, having performed at many, and are also regulars at many folk clubs. As I have said about them before, I think they are talented performers and songwriters, with a strong social conscience. I follow them on Facebook and they are an absolute joy: they never fail to interact with fan comments, usually with large doses of humour. As far as I know they have never enjoyed any chart success, in common with most folks acts in this country, but I think they deserve their place in this week’s collection of tunes.
Unless you remember them from my previous plays you probably wouldn’t have heard of Merry Hell before. I think you may well know this next guy, though:
Give Me Love (Give Me Peace on Earth) is the opening track on George Harrison’s fourth solo album, Living in the Material World, which was released in May 1973: it topped the charts in the US, Canada and Australia, and reached #2 in the UK. This track was released earlier that month as the lead single, and got to #7 in the UK. It did better in the US, though, where it became George’s second #1 single (yes, the first was THAT one!). In doing so it knocked Paul McCartney and Wings off the top, still the only time that two former Beatles have occupied the top two positions in the US charts. The whole album is full of lyrics reflecting George’s attempt to blend his growing spiritual interest with his rock star fame; I still see it as a classic album.
For today’s final tune I’m going way out on a limb. No doubt you will have heard of the band – Mungo Jerry – but unless you bought their first album, as I did, you probably won’t have heard this one before. Underneath the jug band style there lies one of the most powerful protest songs. If you listen to the lyrics you will understand why I’m playing it for my peace theme:
Peace in the Country was the closing track on side one of that album, which was just called Mungo Jerry and was released in July 1970. At that point In The Summertime was still #1 in the UK singles chart so the record company decided not to include it on the album. It did feature on their 1971 follow up Electronically Tested, though. The album peaked at #13 in the UK, and #64 in the US. As the closing piece for today’s music, with a jaunty little tune almost hiding a message about the apocalyptic after effects of a nuclear war, I think it makes my point. We need to focus on bringing peace to the world: we can’t afford to get dragged into nuclear conflict and all that it would bring, despite the wishes of Putin and some others.
We need to hear Cat Stevens’ message now, more than ever. See you again soon, hopefully 🤞