Glastonbury For Geriatrics

Those of you who know how much I love music may be surprised to know that I once wrote a piece which wasn’t all that complimentary. Three years ago today I shared my ‘joy’ with that year’s Glastonbury Festival, which was belatedly saved for me by one of the bands playing there. This year’s version would have been taking place this weekend and, in its absence, the BBC has being going overboard in sharing again some of the highlights from previous years. I challenge you to read the piece and guess how many of these I have watched!

This is the post in question. Answers on a postcard, please:

WHEN THE WHEELS TOUCH GROUND
It is an obvious truth that none of us has ever been older than we are today. But do we always feel our age? Over recent months I’ve been ill a fair bit, and have been feeling way short of my best, but that had never made me feel old. But, last Friday, I did. The reason for that is shown in this post from my Instagram that evening:

For anyone who doesn’t know of it, Glastonbury is the biggest music festival in the UK. It began in 1970, when it was more of a hippy trip than a fully blown extravaganza, but has grown to the point where it sells out 200,000 tickets at around £200 each, within hours, and without having announced any of the acts who will be playing. I guess the punters want to be there so much that they’re happy to take the risk that over six stages and four days there will be something to make the financial investment worthwhile, not to mention the privations of living in a tent in what are usually fields of mud – though not this year, as the weather gods smiled.

In all honesty, I’ve never really been a fan of music in the open air. Call me a boring old traditionalist, but there is something about an indoor venue with good acoustics which I find unbeatable – for me, it isn’t the same when the music just wafts away into the air. The nearest I’ve ever got to a festival was the Isle of Wight in 1970 – the UK’s answer to Woodstock from the previous year. A group of us had planned to ride our motor scooters to the festival but in the end it didn’t happen. I think it was something to do with our mums finding out! In the mid 70s the local council in Harlow, where I lived at the time, ran several free concerts in the Town Park. I remember seeing Thin Lizzy there in 1975, Fairport Convention and (ahem) Mud in 1976 – we only went to see Mud as the DJ between acts was the guy who we’d had at our wedding the previous year, honest! After that, memory is a little hazier, though I think we saw the Glitter Band (without the disgraced one) and the Real Thing, amongst others – my ex-wife’s musical taste was a lot more pop-oriented than mine! There were also rumours that an up and coming band called AC/DC were going to play, but that may be apocryphal and they didn’t show up anyway. It may have been the acts we saw, but for most of the shows I found myself people watching, and as the music was far from memorable my view of open air concerts had been set in stone in the canyons of my mind (bonus points if you get that reference!)

But I digress. Back to Glastonbury last weekend. Although I’ve long felt that the festival has moved miles from its roots and is now no more than a giant moneymaker, paying the bands far less than they would get elsewhere because they know it looks good on their CV, the television coverage by the BBC has expanded too, and I usually enjoy some of what they offer. So, as usual, I tuned in last Friday. My first thought was that the presenters were awful. Firstly, there was Jo Whiley, who was wearing a dress made out of those silver wraps they give marathon runners after a race, set off by a pair of off-white baseball boots and black ankle socks. She’s only 51 after all, so maybe she hasn’t fully developed dress sense yet. And I found her giggly school kid act too much to bear. With her was a guy who looked like the love child of Julianne Moore and Mick Hucknall – to my eyes he was a bearded hipster twat. I couldn’t find a sick bag, but was relieved when they actually stopped gushing and telling us how ‘awesome’ everyone was (how I hate that word!) and played some music. Firstly, Kris Kristoffersen, whose songs I’ve enjoyed for many years. Sadly, he was showing every one of his 81 years, and looked and sounded awful. I tried their other channel, which was showing the band Elbow. To be fair, I’ve never understood their popularity, and this performance did nothing to change that: feeble vocals, over tuneless dirges which all sounded the same and dragged interminably. But Jo and the Bearded Twat told me that Elbow were, you guessed it, awesome – so I began thinking that maybe it was me. It was at that point that I took to Instagram. Maybe you can see how I felt, and there were still two days of potential disappointment to come!

I know, I can hear you saying it was my choice to watch and I could have switched over, but the event promised so much and there is that feeling of not wanting to miss out on the good bits. So, like a hapless victim, I tuned in again on Saturday. I saw some of the sets by the Kaiser Chiefs – always fun – and Katy Perry – one of those pop acts that I think shouldn’t be there. Not really my cup of tea, and not a patch on Lady Gaga when she played there some years ago – she really does know how to put on a show wearing silly clothes! For me, the main attraction was always going to be the Saturday headliners: the Foo Fighters. They aren’t to everyone’s taste, and you need to switch off the swearometer when Dave Grohl speaks, but boy do they put on a show! Two hours twenty minutes flew by in a flash, and suddenly all was right in my Glastonbury world again. Sunday was a bit of a let down, though – Barry Gibb was passable, the Killers a little off par, and as for the headline act – Ed Sheeran – sorry, but I just found him incredibly tedious.

I’ve looked at the BBC’s website to catch up on acts I missed, but there was nothing that really took my fancy. So, that looks like that for another year – well, two actually, as 2018 is one of their ‘fallow’ years when they give the Worthy Farm cows a chance to recover from their deafness. But at least I have the memories of Saturday night. They even played this one, which they don’t always do, and as it is my favourite of theirs that was a real bonus:

As the man says, ‘when the wheels touch ground’ you’re ready for another round in life. And as I’ve often said that music possesses restorative powers, I’m happy to confirm that I’m not feeling quite so old any more 😊

#NewYearSongOfTheDay 2020

Last year, following hot on the heels of my Christmas songs, I began posting a #NewYearSongOfTheDay on my blog’s Facebook page and on Twitter. It seemed to be well-received, so I thought I’d do the same again this year. And, as last year, it also felt like a good idea to do a post including all the songs I’d shared, for those who haven’t been keeping up – where have you been?!

I began these songs on Boxing Day and continued until today. Including a bonus second song today, that makes eight in total and, as with my #ChristmasSongOfTheDay I’ve tried to vary these, and not rely on obvious selections of previous chart hits. Only three of the eight featured last year, so if you saw last year’s post you will, I hope, be pleased to see the new choices and won’t be too bored! In addition, keeping to my intention to steer clear of the charts, only two of these have been top 40 singles in either the US or the UK (one in each) though they and one other have graced the lower reaches of the charts.

The first selection, on Boxing Day (Dec 26 for those countries who don’t celebrate it), was one of the three also included last year. My view is that the New Year is a time both to reflect on what has been and to look ahead to what is coming. This is one of my favourite ‘reflective’ songs, and has an accompanying video which fits that feeling perfectly. Counting Crows have long been a favourite band of mine too, since their first album way back in 1992. This song is from their second album, Recovering The Satellites: it peaked at no.6 on the US singles chart and no.62 in the UK. It includes what is probably Courtney Cox’s best acting performance ever (even better than when she danced with Bruce Springsteen 😉):

Another long-time favourite band of mine are the Foo Fighters. I ran out of days to include this one last year, so I made up for it this time, on Friday 27th. This is very much a stylised ‘looking ahead’ song, and I love its video. They may be one of the loudest rock bands on the planet but when they go into softer mode I think they really excel. This one reached no.17 in the US Alternative chart (whatever that is!) and crept up to no.42 in the UK: criminally underrated, in my view. If you never thought you’d see a rock band on the Moon, here’s your chance:

I’ve long felt that Gretchen Peters is one of the best singer-songwriters around. She has made some wonderful albums of her own, and is a great live performer, but if her name is known to you it is probably as the writer of songs which have been single hits or album tracks for others: for example, there is Independence Day, a no.1 for both Martina McBride and Carrie Underwood, or songs for the likes of Shania Twain (Dance With The One That Brought You), Trisha Yearwood (On A Bus To St Cloud), Neil Diamond (Talking Optimist Blues) and Faith Hill (The Secret Of Life). She has also written and performed quite a few with Bryan Adams. My song on Saturday 28th was another of hers which is better known as a cover, in this case by the country band Alabama, and it has also been recorded by the country singer, Barbara Mandrell. Gretchen sang harmony vocals on Alabama’s version, which was only ever a B-side and an album track and, as far as I know, she has never recorded the song – New Year’s Eve 1999 – herself. I was going to include the Alabama version when, quite by chance, I came across another one, by a band who were totally unknown to me: Prescott-Brown. Apparently they were a Canadian country band who released two albums, in 1992 and 1994. Their version of the song is on the second of those albums, which made no.10 in the Canadian country albums chart. I much prefer it to the Alabama effort, as Tracey Brown has an amazingly warm voice. I got a ‘like’ on Twitter from Gretchen when I posted this, so I guess she enjoyed it too! I’m rather glad that I found it:

On Sunday 29th I posted a song by a band which holds a very special place in my heart: Great Lake Swimmers, coincidentally another Canadian band. If you want to know why, I’ve posted about them twice before: the second post, which featured in my (now very occasional) series of #SaturdaySongs can be found as no.14. I got a ‘like’ AND a ‘retweet’ from both the band and their record company on Twitter for this one! This isn’t specifically a New Year song, but it is very much in keeping with the spirit of determination and hope which we attach to this time of year, so I thought it fair to include it. To my knowledge – and I have all of their albums – this has only ever appeared on a re-released version of their 2006 EP Hands In Dirty Ground, having not been on the original release. That probably explains why there isn’t a dedicated video for it, but I love the song nonetheless:

Another band of which you probably haven’t heard, but to which I feel a connection, is The Rescues, a US rock band. I was part of the crowdfunding effort which became their 2013 album Blah Blah Love And War, and both the band and band member Kyler England still follow me on Twitter (probably due to inertia more than anything else!). They provided my song for Monday 30th: this is another of those ‘hoping for better’ songs, and the video is hilarious:

Yesterday was, of course, New Year’s Eve, and was one of the days where I shared a song I also included last year. The song which I imagine most people associate with New Year’s Eve is Auld Lang Syne. There are countless versions of this, but none are quite as lovely as the one by Mindy Smith. If you’ve been keeping up with my seasonal music posts you’ll know that I featured Mindy on Christmas Eve – you can find her song here if you missed it. For the video to accompany her version of Auld Lang Syne she asked fans to send her photos of those they loved or had lost, or maybe both. The resulting collage is absolutely wonderful, and is made even better if you watch it on YouTube and see the heartfelt comments from people whose photos were featured. This really does capture the end of year reflective mood so very well:

Mindy sent me a ‘thank you’ tweet for that, which was kind of her.

Today’s first post was one I didn’t feature last year: it is the second of my selections which was a top 40 chart hit, reaching no.10 in the UK and no.53 in the US, though it did get as high as no.2 in the band’s native land. Originally written as a love song to Bono’s wife, this changed into being about the Solidarity movement in Poland: Lech Walesa and all that.  Last year I gave you ABBA, this year it was U2, from the time before Bono became a prat:

As I also did last year, I posted a bonus song for today: the same one, i.e. the third which featured last year too. This is another selection from the incomparable Mary Chapin Carpenter, who also featured in my Christmas songs collection, on Christmas Day itself: you can find her by following the link in the paragraph above about Mindy Smith. There is a video of MCC performing this song live, in which she explains the background to the song: it is based on a dream about a meeting with a friend, which she noted down and turned into the most beautiful song. I’m giving you the ‘official’ video from her record company, which has slightly clearer audio than the live version. As she says,

‘We dwell on possibility on New Year’s Day’

Another bonus that I shared here last year, but not on Facebook or Twitter, was a reminder of my childhood. One of my earliest childhood memories of New Year’s Day was the televised concert of Strauss family music from Vienna, which my late Mum loved and we watched with her, along with the ski jumping from Garmisch-Partenkirchen which followed it. These were both rare treats in the late 1950s/early 1960s, before wall to wall TV took over. The closing delight of the concert was always the final encore, the Radetzky March, during which the conductor would turn to the audience and conduct their hand-clapping. This has always seemed to me to be the epitome of the joy and hopefulness that the start of a new year can bring, and I think it is suitable way to bring this compilation of New Year music to a close. There are many versions of this on YouTube but I think it is most fitting to share this one from 2016, conducted by Mariss Jansons who, sadly, passed away a month ago, on 1st December. It is a lovely reminder of the spirit which he brought to the music he conducted, and the clear rapport he enjoyed with both the musicians and the audience:

If that isn’t a joyous way to begin a new year, I don’t know what is! As I’m posting this the Vienna concert is playing on my tv, so I’m in my element – I hope your day is equally good!

Happy New Year to you all!

 

When The Wheels Touch Ground

It is an obvious truth that none of us has ever been older than we are today. But do we always feel our age? Over recent months I’ve been ill a fair bit, and have been feeling way short of my best, but that had never made me feel old. But, last Friday, I did. The reason for that is shown in this post from my Instagram that evening:

For anyone who doesn’t know of it, Glastonbury is the biggest music festival in the UK. It began in 1970, when it was more of a hippy trip than a fully blown extravaganza, but has grown to the point where it sells out 200,000 tickets at around £200 each, within hours, and without having announced any of the acts who will be playing. I guess the punters want to be there so much that they’re happy to take the risk that over six stages and four days there will be something to make the financial investment worthwhile, not to mention the privations of living in a tent in what are usually fields of mud – though not this year, as the weather gods smiled.

In all honesty, I’ve never really been a fan of music in the open air. Call me a boring old traditionalist, but there is something about an indoor venue with good acoustics which I find unbeatable – for me, it isn’t the same when the music just wafts away into the air. The nearest I’ve ever got to a festival was the Isle of Wight in 1970 – the UK’s answer to Woodstock from the previous year. A group of us had planned to ride our motor scooters to the festival but in the end it didn’t happen. I think it was something to do with our mums finding out! In the mid 70s the local council in Harlow, where I lived at the time, ran several free concerts in the Town Park. I remember seeing Thin Lizzy there in 1975, Fairport Convention and (ahem) Mud in 1976 – we only went to see Mud as the DJ between acts was the guy who we’d had at our wedding the previous year, honest! After that, memory is a little hazier, though I think we saw the Glitter Band (without the disgraced one) and the Real Thing, amongst others – my ex-wife’s musical taste was a lot more pop-oriented than mine! There were also rumours that an up and coming band called AC/DC were going to play, but that may be apocryphal and they didn’t show up anyway. It may have been the acts we saw, but for most of the shows I found myself people watching, and as the music was far from memorable my view of open air concerts had been set in stone in the canyons of my mind (bonus points if you get that reference!)

But I digress. Back to Glastonbury last weekend. Although I’ve long felt that the festival has moved miles from its roots and is now no more than a giant moneymaker, paying the bands far less than they would get elsewhere because they know it looks good on their CV, the television coverage by the BBC has expanded too, and I usually enjoy some of what they offer. So, as usual, I tuned in last Friday. My first thought was that the presenters were awful. Firstly, there was Jo Whiley, who was wearing a dress made out of those silver wraps they give marathon runners after a race, set off by a pair of off-white baseball boots and black ankle socks. She’s only 51 after all, so maybe she hasn’t fully developed dress sense yet. And I found her giggly school kid act too much to bear. With her was a guy who looked like the love child of Julianne Moore and Mick Hucknall – to my eyes he was a bearded hipster twat. I couldn’t find a sick bag, but was relieved when they actually stopped gushing and telling us how ‘awesome’ everyone was (how I hate that word!) and played some music. Firstly, Kris Kristoffersen, whose songs I’ve enjoyed for many years. Sadly, he was showing every one of his 81 years, and looked and sounded awful. I tried their other channel, which was showing the band Elbow. To be fair, I’ve never understood their popularity, and this performance did nothing to change that: feeble vocals, over tuneless dirges which all sounded the same and dragged interminably. But Jo and the Bearded Twat told me that Elbow were, you guessed it, awesome – so I began thinking that maybe it was me. It was at that point that I took to Instagram. Maybe you can see how I felt, and there were still two days of potential disappointment to come!

I know, I can hear you saying it was my choice to watch and I could have switched over, but the event promised so much and there is that feeling of not wanting to miss out on the good bits. So, like a hapless victim, I tuned in again on Saturday. I saw some of the sets by the Kaiser Chiefs – always fun – and Katy Perry – one of those pop acts that I think shouldn’t be there. Not really my cup of tea, and not a patch on Lady Gaga when she played there some years ago – she really does know how to put on a show wearing silly clothes! For me, the main attraction was always going to be the Saturday headliners: the Foo Fighters. They aren’t to everyone’s taste, and you need to switch off the swearometer when Dave Grohl speaks, but boy do they put on a show! Two hours twenty minutes flew by in a flash, and suddenly all was right in my Glastonbury world again. Sunday was a bit of a let down, though – Barry Gibb was passable, the Killers a little off par, and as for the headline act – Ed Sheeran – sorry, but I just found him incredibly tedious.

I’ve looked at the BBC’s website to catch up on acts I missed, but there was nothing that really took my fancy. So, that looks like that for another year – well, two actually, as 2018 is one of their ‘fallow’ years when they give the Worthy Farm cows a chance to recover from their deafness. But at least I have the memories of Saturday night. They even played this one, which they don’t always do, and as it is my favourite of theirs that was a real bonus:

As the man says, ‘when the wheels touch ground’ you’re ready for another round in life. And as I’ve often said that music possesses restorative powers, I’m happy to confirm that I’m not feeling quite so old any more 😊