Having given the Eighties a thorough going over for the past five weeks I think it’s time to move on. No, I’m not going into the Nineties, that is just a step too far. But it does feel right to go back to themed selections, and with the drop in temperature plus the winds, storms and lots of rain that we’ve been having recently, Mother Nature has reminded me that seasons change, so this seems like the right time for this week’s theme: autumn.
I know that many of you call this season ‘fall,’, but that just sounds too prosaic to me and anyway, I speak proper English, so for me this has always been autumn, the ‘season of mists and mellow fruitfulness,’ to quote a far better writer than I: a certain John Keats, if you weren’t aware. But he never got to write a blog, did he, so there!
I’ve chosen seven pieces for you today, only one of which is from the US, which probably reflects their use of a different name for the season, though they do seem to use it when it suits them. The rest are mostly British, though a couple of outliers have crept in, from Italy and Canada. This first one is quintessentially British:
That brings back so many memories for me! I was 14 when Autumn Almanac was released, in October 1967, probably at the peak time for my interest in the pop charts. This performance is marked as being from TOTP which, for the uninitiated, means Top Of The Pops, the weekly pop music show from the BBC: essential viewing! Apart from compilations, this song has never been on an album: though The Kinks released quite a few they are usually recognised as more of a singles band. This one peaked at #3 in the UK charts, and also got to #5 in Germany as well as several other countries’ top twenties. It wasn’t a hit in the US, probably due to the unofficial ban placed on the band by radio stations over there after an onstage fight between two of them – they were deemed a bad influence on susceptible American youth. What a bunch of wusses. Somehow, though, I don’t think it would have done all that well there anyway, as so much of it is relatable to the lifestyle we had here at that time but might not have travelled well. As a little snapshot of popular British culture and history it is perfect, though.
This next one is the American choice for this selection. Without using either ‘fall’ or ‘autumn’ it takes the theme of autumn as a metaphor for a relationship, and is from another master songwriter:
I was 13 years when I heard this song, I’m 68 now but I won’t be for long. Sorry, it’s an old line but I couldn’t resist it. In those early days, Simon and Garfunkel brought us so many magical little pieces like this one. This was on their Sounds of Silence album, released in January 1966, which reached #21 in the US and #13 here in the UK. The song was the B-side to the single of Homeward Bound, also released in January 1966, which got to #5 in the US and #9 in the UK. The harmony of their voices is beautiful, and they never made a bad record. They also possessed the ability to appeal to a wide audience: I loved them (still do) and my parents both enjoyed their music, which was an unusual occurrence with my musical tastes!
Back to the UK for the next couple. Not that I plan these, or anything, but this one also takes its theme of autumn as a metaphor for a relationship:
Forever Autumn is often mistakenly credited to the Moody Blues. It is an easy mistake to make: when Jeff Wayne wrote his Musical Version Of The War Of The Worlds he specified that he wanted the singer of Nights in White Satin to perform this song. That was, of course, Justin Hayward, lead singer of the Moodies. I’ve always thought this a beautiful song, and Justin’s voice is instantly recognisable to those, like me, who are longstanding Moody Blues fans. It was released as a single and made #5 in the UK in August 1978, also getting to #47 in the US. Jeff Wayne’s album also reached #5 in the UK, although it got to #1 in Australia and The Netherlands. It squeaked into the US top hundred albums at #98. As concept albums go it wasn’t bad but did feel a bit stretched over its two discs, and the seven CD boxed version is definitely a case of overload for me. Nice spoken parts by Richard Burton, though.
In Tuesday Tunes 71 I included Mike Oldfield’s Moonlight Shadow, which features the great voice of Maggie Reilly. She has an autumn themed song amongst her solo catalogue and, as the previous one was well received I thought I’d share this too:
There must be something about this season that brings out the melancholy amongst songwriters, mustn’t there? The twist in this one is that the relationship is brought to an end by a separation caused by war, rather than failing on its own, and Maggie’s lovely voice is really suited to her own song. As I remarked previously, her solo career has been underwhelming in terms of record sales, though she has had more luck in Europe than in the UK. This album, Heaven Sent, was released in 2013 and as far as I can tell from Wikipedia didn’t chart anywhere. A shame, as she deserves to be heard. She is still making records: her latest was released in January, and is a reworking of some of her collaborations and some of her own songs, as a kind of retrospective. Happy to say, her voice is as good as ever.
I’m being extremely self-indulgent with this next one. It may come as a surprise to you to learn that I like a fair bit of classical music too. I’ve kept that well hidden, though, and I think I’ve only ever mentioned it briefly before, with just one previous piece that I can recall. Time this was rectified:
I count Vivaldi, along with Mozart, Bach, Beethoven and Haydn as my favourite composers, and perhaps I should share more of their music with you – maybe I will, now that the thought has occurred. Vivaldi was born in Venice in 1678, and died in Vienna in 1741. In addition to being a composer he was a virtuoso violinist, teacher, impresario (he staged operas) and a Roman Catholic priest – he was known as the Red Priest, on account of the colour of his hair – and is recognised as being influential in Bach’s development as a composer. Classical pieces tend to be longer than rock songs, and this is no exception to that. Vivaldi’s Four Seasons is one of the most famous classical works, and in its entirety is about forty minutes long. Autumn, the third suite, occupies eleven minutes of that, and I’m giving you just the last part of that as a taster. It is a lovely piece of music, which was brought to a much wider audience when Nigel Kennedy released his recording of it in 1989: to date, this has sold more than two million copies. Each of the movements of the piece is accompanied by a sonnet believed to have been written by Vivaldi, which sheds light on what the movement evokes. In translation, the one for this part goes thus:
The hunters emerge at the new dawn,
And with horns and dogs and guns depart upon their hunting
The beast flees and they follow its trail;
Terrified and tired of the great noise
Of guns and dogs, the beast, wounded, threatens
Languidly to flee, but harried, dies.
So now you know! The music is more cheerful than the poem, I think.
As the Autumn Equinox occurs in September I feel justified in featuring this song – my blog, my rules! I wasn’t planning on including it, but when I shared the official video for it as the music for my recent monthly review post September Fields it got such a good reception that I decided to add it in as a bonus. Rather than just repeat the same video – you can follow the link above if you want to see it – here’s a rather good live version:
There are other live performances of that on YouTube but they are mostly acoustic: I like this one, as it has it the horn section accompaniment as per the recorded version, rather than the acoustic bonus track version that is on the Indian Ocean album. As I said previously, Frazey has a special voice, and I absolutely love her music.
Despite how much I like that last one, I think I’ve definitely saved the best till last for you this week. This is absolutely beautiful, both in its words and music:
The Autumn Stone was a compilation double album of the Small Faces’ hits, plus some additional unreleased and live tracks, which came out in November 1969 – six months after the band had broken up. I asked for it as a Christmas present that year and Santa duly delivered. It was one of my most played records, as I was big fan of the band. This was one of the previously unreleased tracks: it had been recorded in September 1968 as a potential single, but was never released. I have always found it stunning: the lyrics are superb, Steve Marriott’s voice had never been better, and the musicianship is excellent, especially that lovely (uncredited) flute solo. It was a definite move forward for a band who had previously been seen as a bunch of lads having a good time, not taking things too seriously. The album didn’t chart, which I always found a surprise: the band had been very popular here and the inclusion of a wealth of other music as well as their singles should, I thought, have been much more successful. But as I’ve opined before, record buyers can be a fickle bunch.
That’s it for my look at autumn. I awoke this morning to a little sunshine, but that has gone now and the dullness has returned. And it is cold: hopefully I can stay warm until the heating boiler is fixed next week – those blankets and throws are coming in handy just now! Have a good week, have fun, and take good care of yourself and those who are important to you 😊