#SaturdaySongs No.18 – Independence Day

[As it is Saturday, and this post contains songs, it seemed a good opportunity to badge it as part of my now very occasional #SaturdaySongs series. In doing so, I realised that somehow my numbering system for this series had gone a bit haywire, so bear with me if the menu still looks odd at the time you read this!]

Today is 4th July which, as any American will tell you, is celebrated there as Independence Day. This dates back to the signing of the Declaration of Independence on 4th July 1776, by the 13 Colonies which were later to join together as the United States of America. I won’t detain you with the full history lesson, as there are many places in which you can read about it, but suffice it to say that this was the upshot of their treatment at the hands of King George III – to their minds, this amounted to tyranny. He later descended into mental illness – now believed to be the result of suffering from porphyria, a genetic disease – and the history books haven’t been kind to him. He is, however, one of the British monarchs whose story has been the subject of a movie, as QEII has found, and there are some others, such as Queen Victoria. In case you missed it, the George III movie was called The Madness Of King George, and you can get a taste of it from this trailer:

The Declaration came some three years after a now well known event, which was probably a major catalyst for the subsequent American Revolutionary War, which ran from 1775 to 1783, until peace was agreed and the UK formally recognised the new USA. The American Colonies had been outraged by the way they were taxed, in particular over tea, and in 1773, tea ships moored in Boston Harbour were boarded by colonists and the tea was thrown overboard, an event that became known as the Boston Tea Party. This is the excuse for my first song today. I’m guessing that this will be unfamiliar to many, but I thought you’d like to see a song by a Scottish rock band written from their perception of the American viewpoint. I’ve always felt this song to have a feel of menace about it – I’d be interested to know if you agree after you’ve heard this:

That’s it for my pseudo-history lesson: you’ll no doubt be pleased to know that the remaining ‘Independence Day’ songs share that title and, in a couple of cases, reference the date, but they are actually dealing with a different kind of independence. The first one is relatively recent – the album it is on came out in March this year – and is by one of the leading ‘UK country’ bands. Yes, that is a ‘thing!’ I’ve followed them since they started, and this is fairly typical of them; the metaphor of 4th July as being the day of independence from a failed relationship is the starting point for an uplifting piece that looks to the future:

To date, The Shires have yet to dent the US charts, though they have toured with the likes of Shania Twain and Carrie Underwood. All four of their albums have topped the UK Country Chart though, and have reached the top 10 in the overall albums chart. I hope they reach that wider audience – I think they deserve it.

Having begun with two British acts I’m now turning to the US: it seems right that I do! One of the biggest songs to carry this title is by Martina McBride:

As I know that song so well I was surprised to find that it only reached no.12 in the US Country Chart in 1994, and didn’t make the top 100 pop chart at all. Nevertheless it has sold over 500,000 copies so it hasn’t done badly! One thing that isn’t, I think, widely known about the song is that it was written by Gretchen Peters, who just happens to be one of my favourite singer-songwriters. Gretchen has also recorded it, and it features often in her live performances, as here:

If you listen to the lyrics you’ll hear that the song is about an abused woman who ‘celebrated’ Independence Day in very dramatic fashion. The song is very powerful: I’ve heard Gretchen play it live and it really is one of those ‘hairs on the neck’ moments. It won her the CMA award for best song in 1995 and was also nominated for a Grammy that year, though it didn’t win. If you want to find it, it was on Gretchen’s first album The Secret Of Life, released in 1996, and has been on compilations too.

My final selection for today is a pretty obvious choice: you’ve probably been wondering when I’d get around to it. Fear not, I’m nothing if not predictable! This one is by one of my all-time favourite artists. You may have heard of the Boss:

That song was on Bruce Springsteen’s fifth studio album, The River, released in 1980. It is up there with his best, I think, and has so many great tracks on it. It has sold upwards of 7m copies – not bad for a double album! Springsteen fans will know that I had another possible choice from him: 4th of July, Asbury Park (Sandy) from his album The Wild, The Innocent & The E Street Shuffle but I prefer this one, sorry!

To me, it is interesting to see how three songwriters have taken the theme of independence as their starting point but have gone in different directions: firstly, the failed relationship, secondly the drastic action to spare a woman and her daughter from abuse, and finally the son who realises that for the sake of both himself and his father, he needs to move away to preserve any chance they may have of a relationship. But none of them are political – it took a Scotsman to do that!

As it is your day, America, I think it fitting that, after my musical trawl through various kinds of independence, I should let your Founding Fathers have the final words:

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

Happy Independence Day!

#SaturdaySongs No.17 – RIP Peter Fonda

A few days shy of three years ago I posted a piece I called Born To Be Wild(ish). This took its theme from the Steppenwolf song that featured in the Easy Rider movie, and was about our teenage years and our hopes and dreams. It struck a chord with quite a few. I’ve reposted it before but it seems appropriate to share it again for newer readers as a tribute to Peter Fonda, as I awoke this morning to news of his death.

RIP the original Easy Rider 😢

 

BORN TO BE WILD(ISH)

Do you ever find yourself looking back at earlier versions of yourself, and wondering about how different life was? As we get older, we have a lot more to look back on and while some might contend that we should always look ahead, and never look back, I think we can learn from our past. As I said in my post Summer of ’69 that was a momentous year for me. It was also the year that the movie Easy Rider first graced the screen – in June in the US, a little later in the UK – and it opened up the eyes of impressionable teenagers around the world to a way of life that was very different from our normal, humdrum existences.

If you haven’t seen the movie I’ll try to avoid spoilers, suffice it to say that it doesn’t end well! But for most of us at the time, that wasn’t the point. What we saw in the film was a lifestyle based on doing what you want to do, free from the constraints of regular life. Sure, it was fuelled by an illegal drug deal at the very beginning, but did we care? I know I didn’t! The concept of road movies hadn’t really been explored much until then, and the idea of watching 95 minutes of two guys riding motorbikes around was very strange to my parents: “what’s it about?” “that sounds boring” and “you aren’t old enough to see it” being just some of what they said. It was rated ‘X’ in the UK, which meant that you had to be 18 to be allowed into the cinema, but I somehow managed to raise my short, just-turned-16 frame enough to get past the prison cinema guards. Or maybe they were just glad to take anyone’s cash that they could!

I have the movie on DVD and occasionally dust it off for a viewing. Mostly, it now looks incredibly dated, a real period piece. But there is still much to enjoy in it, especially the scene accompanied by the Byrds’ song I Wasn’t Born To Follow, which is such a joyous expression of youthful freedom.

At 16, we all have dreams of what we want our lives to become, and a release from a late 1960s Britain, with economic troubles putting a real dampener on all the Swinging 60s stuff that had gone before, was incredibly appealing. We all wanted to do it! If you have read my Summer of ’69 you’ll know that I spent that school holiday working to earn the cash to buy my first motorised transport. This was where one of life’s major lessons first hit home: I was never going to be able to earn enough to buy a bike like Peter Fonda’s! So, with reality dawning rapidly, I adjusted my ambitions – another early life lesson – and bought myself a secondhand scooter, a Lambretta Ld to be precise. It wasn’t even the most recent model made by Lambretta, but it was mine! In case you’ve never heard of it – and you can be forgiven for that – this is what it looked like:

The same colour as mine!
The same colour as mine!

Suddenly, a whole new world opened up for me. I could go anywhere I wanted, without the need to consult copious bus timetables, and I really took advantage of this new freedom. I joined the local scooter club, called the ‘Saints’ for reasons no one actually knew, and as well as club nights we went on group outings. We often went to a place called Camber Sands, which was pretty desolate, although it did afford a lovely view of the nuclear power plant under construction at nearby Dungeness. But that didn’t matter to us – we enjoyed the camaraderie of the ride, the wind (and rain, lots of rain) in our hair, and as long as someone had remembered to bring a ball we had a game of football on the sands when we got there. I have been thinking about this post for some time, and it feels very poignant to be looking back at my own youth, and happy times, when the sea has just claimed the lives of five young men who had gone to the very same place to have a good day out. As I said, we can learn from our past: that could have been us. There was never any sign of a lifeguard there, and apparently there still isn’t, 47 years on. It always takes a tragedy for something necessary to be enacted, sadly. In our innocent youth, we don’t really think about potential dangers, do we? Life is for living, we’re young and it is all stretching out in front of us. Why worry?

The ultimate fashion item, c.1969!
The ultimate fashion item, c.1969!

Going back to buying the scooter and becoming part of the local ‘scene’, where the cool kids hung out – as if, in my dreams, etc. – it amuses me that despite the fact that what we thought we were looking for was a freedom from normality, we rapidly adopted a style that became our new normal. If you had a scooter but didn’t wear one of these (look left), you were nobody!

I didn’t quite manage to copy Peter Fonda’s crash helmet either. Although it wasn’t at that time illegal to ride a bike without wearing one, we prided ourselves on being a responsible scooter club, so I bought myself another fashion accessory, just like this one:

Stylish, or what!
Stylish, or what!

But we were happy, that was the most important thing to us. We may not have been like Wyatt and Billy in the movie, but we had a sense of freedom, and I felt that every single time I got on the scooter, even if I was only using it to go shopping or to go to school. In those moments, the world was all mine, and I felt a kind of invincibility. Admittedly, I didn’t feel quite the same way the day I came off it and embedded a stone in my arm, but that was just another life lesson: don’t be a prat! Looking back, through what are probably very rose-tinted spectacles, I do feel a sense of loss, the loss of the innocence of youth. I hope my 16 year old self would have approved of the way my life has developed: I may not be riding the breeze on the open road, but I’ve learnt to recognise how to find the best in life, and to enjoy it.

And finally, for anyone feeling short changed by the edited version of the song in the opening video, I leave you with a full version of what is still the best driving song I know:

 

#SaturdaySongs No.16 – #SongOfTheDay Catch Up

As some of you may be aware, I started a Facebook page last year to share my posts, and also a few other bits and pieces which I hope will interest, amuse and entertain. One of the main features in this is my #SongOfTheDay, in which I share – yes, you guessed it – a song I like. These are a mixture of rock, folk, Americana and even occasionally some pop, reflecting my musical tastes. Some are classics, some are very new, but they all have one thing in common: I like them and hope others will too.

On looking back, I was a little surprised to see that it is nine months since I last did a #SaturdaySongs post, and it struck me that it would be a good idea to combine my two musical hashtags. So, here is the first weekly catch up of my #SongOfTheDay, with all of this week’s posts.

On Sunday, I shared a song by a French band of whom most won’t have heard, Cats On Trees. This is what I said:

I’ve been a little erratic since I restarted my #SongOfTheDay – sorry! To make sure I don’t forget today I’m doing this much earlier than I usually do, and it’s something a little different for you. Most of us this side of the channel would be hard pressed to name many French musicians. Here is a reason that we should take more notice: these two are seriously good 😊

On Monday I was a man of few words. It’s a classic – what else should I have said?:

For #SongOfTheDay here’s a classic.

Tuesday also saw me going down the classic rock route:

Another classic #SongOfTheDay – with one of the most recognisable guitar riffs of all time 😊

On Wednesday I got ever so slightly political – but it’s still a great song:

A #SongOfTheDay to welcome the UK’s new Prime Minister

Thursday saw something new. The band is a long time favourite of mine and, whilst their latest album has been out a couple of months, this video was only released on Tuesday:

Something brand new for today’s #SongOfTheDay. The Waterboys have a newish album – always a good day for me when that happens – and this is a track from it. Great video, and I recognise quite a few of the locations from my NHS days 😊

My choice for Friday was from a band who will have gone under most people’s radar, which I think is criminal! This is what I said:

As it’s almost dark outside and has been persisting down heavily, something made me think of this as my #SongOfTheDay. This band should be huge! Very much a Free/Bad Company feel to this, and Keith sounds so like the best rock vocalist this country has ever produced – Paul Rodgers. I can think of no higher praise.

And finally, for this week, my Saturday (i.e. today) post was this:

In yesterday’s #SongOfTheDay I referenced Paul Rodgers. I had to follow up on that today, didn’t I!

That was this week, then. I hope there were some songs in there that you enjoyed – though I accept that my musical tastes may not be the same as everyone else’s. It would be a boring world if we all liked the same music, though. If this generates enough interest I will make it a regular feature, so please add a comment and let me know what you think – and what you did or didn’t like! And if you don’t already follow my Facebook page, you can find it by clicking the link to the right: that way, you won’t have to wait for the catch up to find out what I’m inflicting on your ears each day! Have a great weekend, and do drop in again for some more good music.