Tuesday Tunes 21: Growing Up

When I was growing up, all those years ago, the age of majority in the UK was 21, and the occasion was usually marked by a special birthday party. Things began to change in 1969 when the voting age was lowered to 18, giving rise to much confusion: did we now reach majority at 18? Did all those years of tradition have to be thrown out of the window? In typical British style we somehow managed to compromise by counting both as the birthday at which we were suddenly supposed to become mature, and many lucky people had two big birthday celebrations. Me? I had neither! But that may be a story for another day. After going themeless for a couple of weeks I’m returning to the usual plan for this week, and am marking the 21st post in this series with the theme: Growing Up.

There are many songs which talk about what growing up means to us, how a milestone can be a time to both look back and ahead, how it can be a time of reflection and of hope. I had so many from which to choose that I had difficulty even getting the selection down to four songs, so that is what I’m going with.

Where to begin? You just can’t beat the Boss, can you? This song really says a lot about casting off the shackles and constraints that you feel in youth and becoming your own person, and is the ideal launchpad for this week:

As is fairly obvious from the images in the video, this was on Bruce’s debut album, Greetings From Asbury Park, NJ, which was released in January 1973. As debut albums go, it didn’t do badly, reaching #41 in the UK albums chart and #60 in the US. Probably helped by later sales, after his career took off in a big way, it has sold around 3m copies. As I said, not bad!

This week’s second tune is one that takes the concept of growing up rather differently – in this case, wishing that a youngster could always stay the way they are. I have previously written a post themed around Taylor Swift’s Never Grow Up (find it in the search box if you’d like to) and Rod Stewart covers similar ground, with a lovely video to match:

From its title you could be forgiven for thinking that this is a Bob Dylan song. It is, in part. Rod borrowed a lot from Bob’s song in writing his own, and asked Bob for permission to use his words. They agreed on a co-writing credit and a 50/50 share of the royalties from Rod’s song. That sounds like a good compromise to me – it avoided the long legal wrangles that other songwriters have found themselves in. The song is included on Rod’s 15th studio album, Out Of Order, released in 1988, which peaked at #11 in the UK and #20 in the US – though it did make #1 in Sweden! The track was the second single released from the album, reaching only #57 in the UK and #12 in the US: I think it deserved better.

The next song for this week takes the theme of looking back on life when major changes have impacted you. John Lennon was 25 when he wrote this reflection on how his life had altered, and how he had grown up, in just three years after the Beatles’ massive success began:

Apologies for the static image, but that is the official video for the 2009 remaster of the track, and offers a huge improvement in quality over previous versions, allowing the song’s simple beauty to really shine. As you probably know, it was on Rubber Soul, which was the Beatles’ sixth album, released in December 1965. Unsurprisingly, it peaked at #1 in both the UK and the US, and in a number of other countries too. Like the other songs on the album, it wasn’t released as a single – the Beatles mostly kept singles and albums apart in those days, though a couple of tracks were released as singles in the US in 1966, one of which – Nowhere Man – reached #1. Here in the UK, we just bought their LPs by the shed load!

Having given you songs from three of the best known acts of all time, this week’s final selection is from one of my favourite bands, who will probably be unknown to most of you. Oysterband were formed in my East Kent homeland, and have been a major feature of the English folk music scene for forty years or so. They are also very popular throughout Europe, but have, as far as I know, never achieved much in the US – you guys have really missed out! This is a song about growing up to the point where the life you’ve known no longer gives you all that you need. I think it bookends this week’s post rather neatly with the Boss. Again, this is solely an album track, but is none the less superb for that:

I never fail to be uplifted by that! I don’t think the Oysters have ever dented the charts, here or anywhere else, but their gigs are always sold out (when we’re allowed to go) and they are a brilliant live band: I know, I’ve seen them! The female singer on that one is Rowan Godel, who isn’t a band member but occasionally lends her powerful vocals to their songs, as well as having her own band. The counterbalance between the two voices really makes that one for me. A little side story: several of the then members of the band were also part of Fiddlers Dram, who had a novelty #3 hit in 1979 with The Day We Went To Bangor. Sadly for them there was no follow up success but, if you’ve heard that song, you’ll probably agree that the current version of the band is far better!

That’s about it for this week. I’m off to celebrate my coming of age with a cup of tea and maybe a Mars bar (other chocolate bars are available). Have a great week, and I’ll see you again next Tuesday. TTFN 👋

Tuesday Tunes 20: Lockdown Music – Part 2

Last week I went themeless in this series for the first time, by sharing some songs that had come out of lockdown, and I promised you some more. So here we go again: another selection of great tunes to amuse and entertain you and, in one case at least, to tug at your heart strings a little.

I began last week’s selection with Kate Rusby’s version of Manic Monday, by The Bangles. That was a track from her new album of covers – Hand Me Down – which will be released on 14 August. Several of you remarked how much you had liked it so I was planning to share the second video Kate has released from the album – well, I was, until Sunday. Throughout lockdown Kate has also been sharing a video from home each week in what she calls her ‘Singy Songy Sessions,’ SSS for short. On Sunday she gave us SSS#20, which was my favourite of all of her songs. This is Underneath The Stars, which is the title track from her 4th studio album (5th if you count her retrospective album, 10), and was released in 2004. I have no idea why, but when the horn section makes its entrance into the song I always shed a tear – I’ve even done it when seeing her play the song live in concert. I thought I’d at least manage to get through it alright this time, as she couldn’t fit the horn players into her home studio. What could possibly go wrong? See for yourself:

Yes, it happened again, but this time I wasn’t alone! That is such a beautiful song, and I hope you like it too: the effect it has on me is testament to the power of music to move us. And do you think, if I asked them nicely, that Kate and Damien would high five me for also reaching twenty posts: our schedules have been closely aligned!

This week’s second tune is one of those that entertains us. Until they disbanded four years ago, Bellowhead were the biggest folk band in the UK – and they were popular in many other countries too. They were big in size – all eleven of them – and had taken the UK folk scene by storm, winning a number of awards including several for ‘Best Live Act.’ They were the band I had seen most often, comprising multi-talented musicians with an enormous sense of fun, both in their live shows and their occasional videos. They have been much missed and not just by me. But, a few weeks ago, they popped up on Facebook with a video of a kind of reunion. Thanks to technology, they had created a new version of one of their best known songs, which became a regular part of their live shows after it featured on their third album, Hedonism, which was released in 2010. Be prepared for an invasion of fun in your life:

I love the running gag of trumpeter Andy Mellon’s daughter appearing gradually until the sheer glee on her face when she leaps into shot with her poster – in case you hadn’t picked up that word! And Rachael appears to have learned a few dance moves from Bellamy Clark (see last week’s post).

The next tune is another happy, jaunty one too. You may have heard of Colbie Caillat, who has sold millions of records over the past dozen years or so, but you may not know her latest project: a band called Gone West. They have been together for a couple of years, though they knew each other from the days when the others were part of her touring band, and were co-songwriters. Their debut album, Canyons, was released in June, and they celebrated with an outdoor album launch among some stunning scenery. Recently, they have released a lockdown split screen version of their ‘theme tune,’ which is the opening track on the album. I do like a bit of country music, so this was a natural choice for me:

In rather different vein are another band who are superb live performers. I’d hazard a bet, though I’m not a gambler, that few of you will know of the Ukulele Orchestra Of Great Britain (UOGB). Am I right? They have also been releasing a series of videos from their homes during lockdown, all skilfully edited together. As with Bellowhead, there is a large element of fun about the UOGB, as you can see from many of their older YouTube videos: their versions of Theme From Shaft and Wuthering Heights are among my favourites. I doubt you’ll have seen a Lady Gaga song performed like this before, though:

They have been going since 1985, with several band changes along the way. They haven’t, as far as I know, made even the slightest dent on the albums chart, though they have released a dozen or so studio albums, plus some live ones and DVDs of their shows. To be honest, I think they are best as a live act – you get the full force of their musical skills that way, plus their wonderful collective sense of humour. Any band which can perform at the annual Proms series, play Beethoven’s Ode To Joy on ukuleles, and get around 1,000 audience members to bring their instruments and play along with them must have something going for them! If this has piqued your interest do check them out on YouTube – you won’t be disappointed.

Having stretched this series from two to, on occasion, three songs, I shared four last week and have now done so this week too. I’m kind of assuming that I might not do another lockdown tunes post – unless musicians keep feeding me new material – and I’m feeling slightly guilty that I teased you with another Kate Rusby song earlier. In my world, there is no such concept as a surfeit of Kate Rusby, so I’m begging your forbearance one more time. As an extra special bonus fifth tune for this week, here is that second video for a song on Kate’s new album:

Utterly charming! How can anyone not like that? I’m really looking forward to the album, and hopefully there might be more videos to support it. At this rate, I’d have a post of nothing but Kate, but even I can see that might be overdoing things a little. By the way, if you type ‘shake it off’ into the search box at the top of the page you’ll find a previous post about this song, in which I shared the Taylor Swift original and a cover by Walk Off The Earth. Three different treatments of the song, and they’re all great!

I hope you’re keeping well and that your brain hasn’t exploded with the effort of understanding all the changes to the UK lockdown rules. I’m just staying indoors unless I really have to go out: much easier that way! Take care, be safe, and I’ll see you again next Tuesday.

July In Retrospect

Although I have written some annual reviews of my posts I’ve never previously produced a piece for the past month. Usually that would just highlight the fact that I don’t post very often, but over the past three months I’ve posted nine times (twice) and eight (once). So I’m giving it a try, in case there was anything you missed and might otherwise have been distraught not to have extricated from that veritable deluge of drivel.

A couple of months ago I edited and updated my About Me page. While I was at it I also amended the tagline in my blog’s header, to reflect the fact that I was posting more often about music. This was in part due to my Tuesday Tunes series, which began on 24 March – the day after the UK was consigned to lockdown, in case you needed a reminder! But, looking back at July, I noticed a couple of other music posts in there too. I may have to give some consideration to changing that header again, but I would never make this just about music: there is more in life about which I am prompted to write, particularly mental health. I won’t lose sight of the importance of that as a theme for me – after all, it is why I started this.

So, what might you have missed during July? Well, there having been four Tuesdays in the month, there were of course four Tuesday Tunes posts:

Tuesday Tunes 16: Joke

Tuesday Tunes 17: Mask

Tuesday Tunes 18: Confusion

and the snappily named

Tuesday Tunes 19: Lockdown Music – Part 1

I’m never at a loss for a succinct title!

There were also two other musically themed posts. I began the month with a piece to mark the USA’s Independence Day. Given that many of my readers come from there, it seemed a good idea to play to the crowd! This was that post:

#SaturdaySongs No.18: Independence Day

As it was a Saturday I thought it a good excuse to include that piece in my very occasional #SaturdaySongs series. In doing so, it made me realise that I have a list somewhere of other songs which I had considered for that series: I must dig it out some time. That series began on a weekly basis and has now become approximately an annual event. Whilst I’m doing the Tuesday Tunes series it might be overload to restart #SaturdaySongs, but who knows? I sure don’t!

The other musical post was a sad one for me. Ever since I was a teenager getting into music I’ve loved Fleetwood Mac, both in their better known incarnation but also going back to the early days, when they were known as Peter Green’s Fleetwood Mac – in all honesty, I think I prefer that previous, blues-based version of the band. Sadly, Peter Green died last week and, as I have done for some of my other musical heroes, I wrote a piece as a tribute to him:

RIP Peter Green

I’ll readily admit to finding that one hard to write, as has been the case with others. Sadly, as they and I get older, my musical heroes are succumbing to the passage and ravages of time, and I fear that will not be the last such piece that I write.

The first of my two non-music posts last month was Taking Stock, in which I reflected on life, mental health and COVID-19. I consider it one of my more serious posts, one of those that shows me to be capable of moderately coherent thought – which is always a good thing for me! If you haven’t seen it please do take a look: it is important ground for all of us, at present.

The other non-musical one was rather different. I have in the past written about the amusement to be derived from the contents of our spam folders, and I thought I’d give it another go. The upshot of this was Spam, Lovely Spam, which includes what I think might be my favourite spam comment ever. A fairly frivolous piece, but I enjoyed writing it!

Whilst looking back at last month I was also prompted to check my stats. I was hoping to be able to find my most read post of the month, but due to WordPress’ insistence on lumping most new posts into their ‘Home Page/Archives’ category this was impossible. This category comfortably headed the top ten most viewed posts last month, and the July eight – which will also, of course, have contributed towards the figure in the top category – made up eight of the top ten places. The intruder, as it has often been since I wrote it, was a piece from last November which came in at no.2 for the month: Under The Covers. I’ve no idea why that one keeps popping up – probably something to do with the way search engines operate – but I rather like its continuing popularity. It is also in the same position for the whole of 2020 to date, accounting for just under 10% of total views: go figure!

I hope this has been a helpful reminder for you of what you might have seen, or missed. I’m not sure if I’ll do this again – that rather depends on the response I get! But it is, I think, always worth trying out something new – well, new for me, anyway. On that note, I am also considering a couple of other possibilities for new themed series. They may not come to anything, but you’ll see them here if they do.

Have a great weekend, and don’t forget to wear your mask if you go out anywhere it is required: this pandemic is far from over! To re-emphasise that point for me, here again is the final song from this week’s Tuesday Tunes: