Tuesday Tunes 53: Crowds


I’d been thinking about a theme like this, and was prompted to do it by a post from Hugh at the weekend, in which he shared one of the songs I’m including today. The theme is a response to some of the scenes we’ve seen in the news since the lockdown in England had another gradual relaxation last Monday. Despite the exhortations of our esteemed Prime Minister for people not to go mad and congregate without taking the recommended precautions, that is exactly what the usual moronic suspects did, celebrating the fact that they could go out and have a beer. The theme that came to mind from this was: crowds. The song that Hugh shared had a lot of ‘audience’ (or ‘crowd’) participation, and I said to him in the comments that it put me in mind of another video. After a little bit of thought, I came up with another four which also have a good deal of involvement by people other than the band, so that is this week’s six. Here goes.

Following Hugh’s lead I’m starting with the song he shared:

In keeping with my other choices for this week that video is full of joy, which is a kind of  sub-theme for this set. The song comes from Coldplay’s 2014 album Ghost Stories, which like most of their albums was #1 in the UK and the US, and in loads of other countries too. This one was released as a single, reaching #9 in the UK and #10 in the US, though it did make #1 in Italy. A little snippet for you about the video: if, like me, you puzzle about these things, you may have wondered where the video was recorded. The road signs didn’t look to be in the style of ours, the cafe prices were in dollars, but the traffic was driving on the right side of the road. I wondered if it could be Australia, and a quick trip to Google confirmed that it was made in Sydney. So now you know!

This week’s second song is by a singer-songwriter who is, I think, under most people’s radar despite his successes in the UK albums chart. I have featured him in this series before, but not with a song as raucous and ultimately uplifting as this one:

No one sleeps while Frank’s on! This is a rather different song from the one of his I shared earlier in this series, all the way back in episode 5. I have actually included this one in a post before, but as that was back in November 2014 I’m not expecting that anyone will remember that (I didn’t – I had to look it up!). The song is actually quite a bleak one, about a guy whose relationship has broken down and is turning to chemical solutions for the pain. But the underlying message is one of hope that things can – and will – get better, and the sight of all of those people having a great time dancing like their lives depended on it always cheers me up. The song was on Frank’s fifth album, Tape Deck Heart, released in 2013. It reached #52 in the US but was a big hit here, getting to #2 (his three subsequent albums have reached #2, #3 and #3 here). The song was a single, too, peaking at #75 here but not charting in the US, though it did make #16 on the Billboard Alternative Airplay chart, which is based on radio plays.

This week’s third song is another which includes a lot of people dancing, plus a few extras:

I had a CD of the best of Blink-182, and when I first put it on in the car, while taking my daughter back to uni, the look on her face was priceless – it was the kind of music she and her friends enjoyed, and supposedly wasn’t for dads. Who cares? I’ve always loved this song and video, and it never fails to make me laugh and cheer me up. It comes from their third album, the wonderfully titled Enema Of The State, which was released in 1999 and peaked at #9 in the US and #15 here. As a single, it was #6 in the US and #2 here – still their best chart positions for a single by a distance, though their 2016 album California reached #1 on both sides of the pond.

Another bunch of people having a good time are to be found in this next one, too:

That was the second song to be released as a single from the Kaiser Chiefs’ debut album, Employment, which came out in March 2005 and got to #2 here and #86 in the US. As a single it reached #9 here but, like all of their US releases, didn’t chart over there, though it did make #34 on the Billboard Alternative chart. The song is based on band members’ experiences growing up in Leeds, suggesting that their younger years were quite lively! ‘Smeaton’ is a reference to John Smeaton, an 18thC engineer who designed canals, harbours and lighthouses and who, like Ricky Wilson, the band’s lead singer, went to Leeds Grammar School (the ‘Leodensian’ link). And in case you were wondering, the band ‘borrowed’ their name from the Kaizer Chiefs football team in South Africa, the former club of the Leeds United player Lucas Radebe. Some enlightenment to go with the entertainment is always good, I think!

NB: I’ve been advised that this video doesn’t play in the US. However, the band’s record company obligingly put out a newer video, which does work there. You’ll find it here: https://youtu.be/84qWb8i_Q_A

This next one takes a slightly different approach to its crowds, assembling groups together for scenes in the video. But it comes together to make a joyous collection:

If you watch that on YouTube you’ll see that the comments are full of people sharing their experiences of being involved in making it. This just adds to the enjoyment for me. The song comes from Big Country’s third album, The Seer, released in 1986; the album reached #2 here and #59 in the US. As a single, this song reached #19 in the UK but didn’t chart in the US. It was used in the 1980s by the Tennent’s Lager brand in its advertising, and was played at the launch in 2012 of the official campaign for a ‘Yes’ vote in the Scottish independence referendum – the band are Scottish, if you didn’t already know that, hence the choice of their music.

Hopefully you haven’t already overdosed on joy from these crowd videos, as I have one last song for you. This also appeared in the same 2014 post as the Frank Turner one, and is the song I mentioned to Hugh. As an example of music’s power to create happiness I think it takes some beating:

I just love the way that a simple song builds, layer by layer, until the confetti crescendo. The song has been covered many times, including by Foxes and Fossils (who featured covering another song in Back Under The Covers), and is a great way to end this week’s tunes. This was from The Lumineers, the band’s eponymous debut album, released in 2012. The album reached #2 in the US and #8 here. This was the lead single, and peaked at #3 in the US and #8 here – their only top 100 UK single to date, though their three albums have all been top ten here, including a #1 for Cleopatra, their second record.

I’m very aware that I haven’t given you the usual balance of upbeat and reflective tunes this week: these are unremittingly happy songs, but I think we all deserve a little bit of joy in our lives, especially now. No doubt I’ll return to normal next week, so there may be some misery on offer then if you’re missing it 😉

As always, I wish you a good week and hope that you stay safe and well. I’m off to continue my celebrations over my football team finally seeing sense and relieving old misery guts of his job. Ho hey!

A #SaturdaySong Reprise

Do you use Facebook? If so, do you follow your favourite musicians on there? Unsurprisingly, for someone who posts a lot of music, I can answer ‘yes’ to both of those questions, and in some cases I am a member of that artist’s Facebook fan group page as well. If you haven’t tried this, they are pages where people share their love of the music: they are warm, welcoming places, and we can all use those, especially nowadays.

One of the groups to which I belong is the one for Mary Chapin Carpenter, which probably won’t come as a shock to anyone familiar with my posts, and the other evening someone shared a video for one of my favourites of hers. Watching it again I was transported back many years, as the song has always had a special meaning for me, and this reminded me that I had featured it in my earlier series of #SaturdaySongs. When I looked back, I was slightly taken aback to see that this was well over four years ago, and it struck me that many current readers won’t have seen this post or the series. I’ve never shared this one again, either, despite extensive trawling through my back catalogue, so I thought I’d do it now, as the story is important to me.

The post was originally published on 5 November 2016. Here it is, and I’ll return at the end to round things up:

#SaturdaySongs No.3 – Halley Came To Jackson

Week 3 of #SaturdaySongs and I’ve managed to keep it going this far! Having gone back to the 1970s and 1960s for my first two choices today’s song is much more modern. Well, the 1990s anyway. It is song with a very special, personal meaning for me, although it had not actually been released at the time it always makes me think of. Does that sound weird? Let me explain.

Today’s song is Halley Came To Jackson, by Mary Chapin Carpenter. This song is featured on MCC’s third album, Shooting Straight In The Dark, which was released in October 1990.  She is one of those artists who, during a career which has been thriving since her first album (Hometown Girl) in 1987, has been a conundrum for those who like to pigeonhole their music. Early associations with Nashville meant that she was seen as a country musician, and her albums have enjoyed much more success in the country charts than the mainstream ones, but if you look at Apple Music they seem to put her in a different category every time she releases a new album! To me, she is the writer of classy, intelligent lyrics, which are woven into beautifully crafted songs, all sung with her lovely warm voice. I had the great pleasure of seeing her play live several years ago, and the whole evening was an absolute delight: not only was the music fantastic, but her words between the songs were charming and witty. I’d have expected nothing less of her, to be honest. This is today’s song:

As you can tell from the lyrics, the song relates to the appearance of Halley’s Comet in 1910, and was inspired by the writings of a lady called Eudora Welty, who told a story like this about her own childhood in Jackson, Mississippi. MCC also turned the song into a book for children, and several of the pictures in the video are taken from that. Halley’s Comet is only visible from Earth every 75 or 76 years, so the next appearance was in 1986 – as indeed the song tells us. Realising that I would have to live to 108 to see its next scheduled appearance in 2061, I didn’t want to miss my chance in 1986, even though it was only going to be possible to see it at some unholy hour.

The due date was 9 February 1986, which was five weeks before my first daughter was born. Not wanting to wake my pregnant wife – who needed her sleep! – I stayed downstairs until the time we had been told was most likely for viewing, then crept upstairs into the second bedroom, hoping to see the Comet. This was the bedroom that we had prepared as the nursery, for when our baby came, and was already decorated as such, complete with cot and other baby stuff. Standing in the darkness by the window, I could look round at the room, once my eyes had adjusted, and I felt an enormous sense of excitement and nervous anticipation about the imminent change in our lives, as we brought a new little person into the world.

I stayed there for quite some time, enjoying the tranquillity and silence of the early hours, waiting patiently for the Comet to appear. Several times I saw something vaguely bright in the sky – were these going to be my moment? Sadly, no! These were, apparently, the worst conditions in 2,000 years for viewing Halley from Earth, as they were on opposite sides of the Sun, a mere 39 million miles apart. In those days we lived quite near Stansted Airport, so it was much more likely that what I could see were distant planes. Oh well, it was a nice try, and I did feel a sense of something spiritual taking place, a kind of pre-bonding with my unborn child.

Then, four years later, along came this song. It tells a beautiful little story, and I could relate to the father holding his baby to see the Comet, as that is what I would have been doing if birth date and viewing conditions had allowed. From that moment on, every time I hear this I’m instantly transported back to 9th February 1986 and to what for me was a magical night, even if the two stars (Halley and Katy) hadn’t made an appearance. This is one of my favourite MCC songs, and one of the best narrative songs I know, so I’ve listened to it a great many times. I relive that moment, and feel that special bond again, every time.

That unborn baby of mine is now 30, and had her first book published yesterday. How times change! I hope that by 2061 she will be a mother and there will be a grandchild of mine sharing the next viewing with her. Maybe I’ll be there too, who can tell? 🙂

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And this is me back again today. I’ve often thought that music is an essential part of our memories, and this song certainly holds that place in my heart. The original post prompted one of my favourite comments fields, too – the post and those comments can be found here if you’d like to see them. Life has, of course, moved on since then. In the intervening four and a half years, my daughter Katy has had three further publications (co-editor and contributor status) and has risen to the ranks of a Senior Lecturer at one of the better known UK universities. Prior to the pandemic she was a regular presenter at conferences, though that has all stopped for now: she has been working from home and providing all of her tuition via Zoom! Sometimes, however, she has been distracted by my granddaughter, who has joined the family since I wrote the post, and who will be three in June. By my reckoning, that will make her around 43 the next time Halley (hopefully) makes an appearance, so maybe she and her Mum will be sharing a moment like mine with a child or children of her own, as I pondered?

This song will be around seventy years old by then: I wonder if people will still be listening to it? I hope they will, as it is a perfect distillation into three minutes of the important things that make our lives so fulfilling: love, children and family. These will, I hope, remain important for us forever. For myself, I am happy to have a song that reminds me of this whenever I listen to it.