Archive

Posts Tagged ‘#December’

#SaturdaySongs No.9 – Boy With A Moon And Star On His Head

December 17, 2016 12 comments

For today’s #SaturdaySong I’ve chosen a track from one of those milestone moments we all have in our lives. The album which included this song was released in late September 1972, a week before I made the huge step of going to university. Apart from holidays and school trips this was to be the first time I had ever lived away from home, and the magnitude of that moment is still etched in my memory. The album in question is Catch Bull At Four, which was the fourth album by Cat Stevens in his singer/songwriter career (he had to take a year out after his earlier pop career, having been very ill with tuberculosis). As I already owned the previous three it was a nailed on certainty that I would buy this one too, and I was in the record shop the day it was released.

Cast your mind back to those days. We consumed our music mostly by the medium of vinyl. Cassettes were becoming more popular, but still had some way to go before they were a main medium – many albums were still released on vinyl only. Vinyl albums were heavy and bulky, and I was travelling to uni by train, so it was impossible to take my record player and albums with me. It was a further five weeks before I could get a lift home for a weekend and pick up my music, and knowing that this separation was about to take place I played the album almost every waking moment before I left for my step into the wild world. Today’s song is this:

That has always been my favourite song on that album and for me is inextricably linked with going to university and taking a big stride into my future life. I never saw Cat Stevens play live at that time, although I would have loved to, but I did finally see him much later. His records were released on the Island label, and to celebrate 50 years of the label they ran a series of concerts for a week in May 2009. I was lucky enough to win a ticket in a newspaper competition and spent one of the most magical evenings of my life reliving all of those years. By then he had converted to Islam and was known as Yusuf Islam, but he had retained the connection with his previous musical life – it still made him money for his foundation – and when he sang the first of his early songs, Where Do The Children Play from the Tea For The Tillerman album, it felt like the whole audience was singing along with him. I found a cosy place to watch the concert, and was joined by a group of people who worked for Island Records. They were as surprised as the rest of us at an unannounced appearance of U2, who performed a four song acoustic set, and I came within 10 minutes of being asked to the backstage party: unfortunately, the spare pass they had was claimed late in the evening by the record company owner’s son for his girlfriend, who had lost hers. It was still a wonderful evening though.

If you’ve been following my #SaturdaySongs you’ll know that I said I would be devoting this month to seasonal songs, and may be wondering why I’ve chosen this one. Listen to the story told in the song and you’ll understand why: if this isn’t a modern-day retelling of the nativity then I don’t know what is! Granted, it isn’t a virgin birth, but the gift of a son blessed with wisdom and magical powers is unmistakeably linked, and I make no apologies for including it in my December selections.

Videos of the song are very hard to come by, and the one above is the best sound quality that I could find. As a bonus, here is a much more recent version, taken from a concert less than three months ago. It is wonderful that Cat/Yusuf is still performing this song 44 years on, and the respectful, rapt silence of the audience adds to the gravitas, I think:

“I’ll tell you everything I’ve learned, and Love is All, he said.”

#SaturdaySongs No.7 – Every December Sky

December 3, 2016 27 comments

As we move into December I thought I’d devote my #SaturdaySongs this month to the month itself and to Christmas. I love this time of year, and always have done ever since I was a child. Call me naïve but I really believe that there is an added warmth to human spirit in this month, probably as a counter to the falling temperatures! I’ve often posted in previous years, showing videos of favourite Christmas songs and my own reviews of that year’s crop of Christmas TV ads. No ads this year though: I haven’t yet seen one that I like and I wouldn’t want to fill a post with expletives! But I may be posting a few more Christmas songs – possibly on days other than Saturdays too!

My first December choice is this one:

In this country Beth Nielsen Chapman is sadly underrated, but she has written some of the most beautiful songs of the past 20 years. This one was on her 2002 album Deeper Still. To my shame I’d not heard of her before but was introduced to her music, as with so many other artists, by the national treasure that is Bob Harris – Whispering Bob, as he has been known since his early 70s days on the Old Grey Whistle Test TV show. In the early 00s his weekly show on BBC Radio 2 ran from 10pm till 1am on a Saturday evening, and as I was often engaged in Dad’s Taxi duties at that time I managed to listen to quite a lot of them. So it was on a December evening in 2002 (21st December, to be precise) when I was sitting in my car, in the car park of the pub/restaurant where my older daughter had a Saturday job as a waitress. Bob played this and something about the beauty of the song, blended with a cold, clear, frosty night, entranced me from the outset. I bought the album, which remains a favourite to this day, along with many other of Beth’s releases. The male voice, by the way, is John Prine, whose music also deserves more attention than it receives.

img_1276Continuing the Bob Harris connection of this song for me, fast forward 9 years to 2011. I had been diagnosed with depression in October of that year, and was finding it difficult to do the basic daily stuff. I’m still not sure how I did it but I tweeted Bob a request that he play this song on his Saturday night programme. By then the BBC had shunted him back to a midnight-3am slot and, as luck would have it, in 2011 these were the first three hours of Christmas Day. Bob had put out a call on Twitter for suggestions for music for his programme, and took the trouble to reply to my slightly cheeky tweet – I promised I’d listen to the show if he played this – with the words ‘Deal! Beth’s in!’

We both kept our promise, as you can see from the screenshot from his amazing website. I listened and enjoyed three hours of magical music, and somehow the restorative powers of music helped me get through a difficult time. It is no coincidence that music is used as a therapy in mental health treatments: in addition to entertaining us it can do so much to help our mood. Like many of Beth’s songs, this one contains a real message of hope, and that is what I think I took from it, even on the first listen. I hope you like it as much as I do.

%d bloggers like this: