#SaturdaySongs No.16 – 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.15 – #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.

#SaturdaySongs No.14 – Great Lake Swimmers

When I reblogged my #SaturdaySongs post of songs for Bonfire Night last weekend, I had a slight pang of guilt, as I have posted so few of those recently. The idea for this post came about when, earlier in the week, I was having one of my late evening sessions watching YouTube videos. I was in the middle of a run of several by one of my favourite bands, the Canadian group Great Lake Swimmers, and was scrolling through the comments when I came across someone saying they were looking forward to seeing the band play in London. This struck a chord, as I went to that show, and I then had one of those D’oh lightbulb moments: the comment was by me! Here it is, in all its glory, second one down:

As this was six years ago I guess I can be forgiven for not recalling this, and in any event I rarely post comments on YouTube so wasn’t really expecting to see myself there! This brought back some lovely memories of the gig, which actually has a very special meaning for me, and it reminded me that I had written a post about it. After digging back into the darkest recesses of my library of posts, I found the piece. It was originally written on 23 April 2013 in response to that day’s WordPress Daily Prompt. I used to write a lot of those, until they spoiled it all by moving to single word prompts that did nothing for my limited imagination. These prompts have now stopped: it seems I may not have been the only one who didn’t like the change! I was going to do this as one of my reblogs but I thought the occasion deserved a fuller post, so I’m going to share the full text of what I originally wrote and will then round things up at the end. Here’s me in April 2013:

Daily Prompt: Earworm

“The question posed in today’s prompt is “What song is stuck in your head (or on permanent rotation in your CD  or MP3 player) these days? Why does it speak to you?”

The song which I have played most since the album it’s on came out last summer is unlikely to be known by many. It is ‘Easy Come, Easy Go’ by the Canadian band The Great Lake Swimmers. Here’s the official video:

“Easy come and easy go

That’s what they say when they’re about to go broke

So try not to choke

And put your arms around me and don’t ever let go”

Have you even heard of them, let alone know their music? They have been together in various incarnations since 2003 and the album this song is on – ‘New Wild Everywhere’ – is their fifth. If you’d like to find out more about them they are at www.greatlakeswimmers.com

Apart from the fact that I love this band’s music, and this song in particular, there are two answers to the question about why it speaks to me. Firstly, the message is a simple one: “everything can be collapsing around you, but I’m here to look after you” – I know it’s more complex than that, but that’s what I take as the underlying message of the song. It’s a message I like and which I think we all want to have from a special someone if life reaches the point of being dismantled around us, as in the video, or should we be going through a difficult time. As you’ll know if you’ve read any of my previous offerings, I am in recovery from depression and started this blog to encourage others that things can and do get better. But I don’t just sail blithely through life, and I still have my black dog days. I had a spell of these last week and didn’t really start feeling better until yesterday morning. This was the first song I played – it is hard not to get carried along by the tune, and the words seemed comforting after a very rough few days. That’s what the song does for me.

The second level is that this band will always be special to me for a very personal reason. Before I was ill I used to love going to live gigs, usually at least once a month. I went through a period of nearly two years when I just didn’t feel like going to one – Great Lake Swimmers at Bush Hall in London, 26th November 2012, was my first after all that time. Being able to overcome my apprehension at going, on a horrible wet Monday night, to be part of a crowd and to enjoy losing myself in the music again is something that will stay with me forever. And just to prove I was there, a very quick snippet of ‘Ballad of a Fisherman’s Wife’ :

Just to finish that evening off, a final part of the story: on the tube home I tweeted the band and thanked them for a great show. Most bands don’t reply to fan tweets like that, but GLS did – I had a very nice tweet back from Miranda, the rather lovely red headed one, saying how much they appreciated that. The perfect end to my first show after the long break!

I hope you have a special song, piece of music, poem, painting or whatever that says something for you when you need a comforting ‘voice.’ Why not share yours via the comments box, it would be interesting to see what helps, comforts and encourages you.”

Back in the here and now: as a little bonus I thought I’d also give you the song on which I made my comment. It is the title track from what was then the band’s new album, referenced in the 2013 post, and the video is nice, too:

I still play that a lot nowadays. As I said: special band for me, with special memories.