Tuesday Tunes 9: Friendship


I’m not sure if it is just a UK thing but this week is Mental Health Awareness Week (MHAW) here. I would have matched this week’s tunes to the MHAW theme but this year they have gone for ‘kindness,’ and I beat them to that, having done it for Tuesday Tunes 5. I might be posting separately for MHAW, but in the meantime I thought I’d choose something closely related as this week’s theme: so I’ve gone for ‘friendship.’

Acts of kindness aren’t restricted to things we do for friends but they are undoubtedly an essential part of a strong, long lasting friendship, so I hope you agree that my choice is appropriately sympathetic. In the current circumstances, friendships are perhaps even more important than ever: they can help us cope with being required to stay at home whenever possible, and technology has really come into its own in helping us stay in touch. Who would have thought, eight weeks ago, that the very thing which often took the blame for destroying social interaction would now be an essential for so many, and a potential lifesaver? And that is just one of the many things we have learned from lockdown. With the recent celebrations here to mark the 75th anniversary of VE Day much has been said about how our predecessors coped with the deprivations of war: think about a time without the internet, television, mobile phones, computers and tablets, and consider how you would have coped – no 24 hour instant news coverage in those days to keep us informed! So friendships were quite possibly even more important back then to help people get by.

My first tune this week is from Free, a band who have long been a favourite of mine, and one which I was lucky enough to see play live in their early days. They were only together for around five years, which makes all the more remarkable the quality and number of albums they produced in such a short time: six albums released in just under four years. This is from what I think is their best album – Fire And Water – which, along with the single All Right Now, was the one that helped them really hit the big time. This may ‘just’ be an album track, but that doesn’t in any way diminish it – it is superb:

My second song for this week is my all time favourite song about friendship. It was written by Carole King in 1971 and featured on her hugely successful album, Tapestry. Simultaneously, James Taylor was recording his Mud Slide Slim And The Blue Horizon album, and recorded a version of the song. Joni Mitchell sang backing vocals on both versions. Carole credits James with the initial inspiration for the song, which she says was a response to a line in his Fire And Rain song: “I’ve seen lonely times when I could not find a friend.’ The song was released as a single by James and was massive hit: no.1 in the US, no.2 in Canada, no.3 in Ireland and no.4 in the UK. Faced with choosing between their versions, I chickened out, so here is a live performance by them as a duo, from 2007:

As James says in the introduction to the song, he feels it was an amazing act of generosity on Carole’s part to let him release his version first. That, to me, is the heart of friendship, and you only have to watch the video to understand what it means for them both.

A personal note on that song: it was one of my Mum’s favourites, and last Friday was the twelfth anniversary of her passing. Whilst we do it in March, many countries mark Mother’s Day in May, so even though I don’t need the prompt I am always reminded of her by the barrage of coverage it receives. That makes this a particularly poignant choice of song for me, at this time of year, and emphasises for me what (and who) is really important in our lives.

I hope that you have friends, as well as family, to support you through these pandemic days. Gradually, restrictions are beginning to be lifted, and there have been a number of signs of growing frustrations on the part of some at being required not to go out and socialise (or to get their hair cut or their nails done.) The problem is that not enough is known about the virus to give us any sense of when and how the restrictions can safely be removed: there is a large element of trial and error in play. I just hope that governments can be sensible and grown up about taking the important decisions. I also hope that the impatient ones don’t allow their selfishness and stupidity to override everyone’s safety – but at least the demonstrations here last weekend weren’t full of people carrying assault rifles. Stupid comes in degrees!

Friends are important at any time. Enjoy yours now, even if that has to be at a social distance. Take care, be safe.

Bonfire Night In Song

For the past couple of years I’ve shared a few songs loosely related to the theme of Bonfire Night. I thought it worth doing again, but with an updated and expanded choice of songs. There are so many with the word ‘fire’ in their title that I’m really spoilt for choice!

Last week we ‘celebrated’ Hallowe’en. As I said then, this is largely imported to these shores from the US, in its current form, although parts of the British Isles do have a tradition going back many hundreds of years – the whole thing derives from the pagan festival of Samhain, if you want to follow it up. Our real celebration for this time of year comes today, when we mark what is known as Guy Fawkes Night, or Bonfire Night, if you prefer. This is still a big night in the UK – understanding of it is perhaps declining, but it marks a momentous event in British history. Bonfires will be lit all over the country, and thousands will attend to watch them and the accompanying firework displays. Why?

As the majority of readers here are based outside the UK it would be presumptuous of me to assume that you would know why we do this. Briefly, on 5th November 1605 a man called Guy Fawkes was discovered in the vaults of the House of Lords guarding 36 barrels of gunpowder. He was there to blow the place up during the State Opening of the English Parliament, as part of a plot by Catholics to murder the King – James I of England and VI of Scotland – and install his 9 year old daughter, Princess Elizabeth, as a Catholic monarch. The details of this are well documented so I won’t bore you with them here, but if you want to know more there is a good article in Wikipedia which draws on a number of authoritative sources to give a full description of the plot and its aftermath, which resulted in trials for those who had not been killed as they tried to make their escape, and subsequent executions by the barbaric method of hanging, drawing and quartering. Perhaps ironically, Guy Fawkes managed to escape this end – weakened by having been tortured during the investigation into the plot he jumped from the gallows and broke his neck. This all sounds very gory to me!

In the following years the foiling of this plot was celebrated on its anniversary by the ringing of church bells, special sermons and the lighting of bonfires, and it became a part of traditional British culture as a result. This tradition included the burning of an effigy of Guy Fawkes on top of the bonfire, although in recent times there have been occasions when masks of modern political figures have been put on the guy – we may love our democracy but it doesn’t stop us hating the politicians! When I was growing up it was commonplace to see groups of children on the streets with their guys, quite often being transported in their dads’ wheelbarrow, asking for a ‘Penny for the guy, mister’ but this is seen much less nowadays. In our current Health and Safety conscious era I guess they are most likely to be arrested for begging!

To round off my little history lesson here’s a better explanation than I could ever give:

As I said, I’m marking the event with a few songs, none of which has anything to do with Guy Fawkes but all of which have the word ‘fire’ in their title. I’ve really thought this through, haven’t I! A couple of these were included when I first posted for Bonfire Night, but I’ve added in several new ones for your delectation and listening pleasure.

First up is a typical 60s (January 1968) English pop song, from a band which eventually morphed into two parts – Jeff Lynne (who joined after this song) turned his bit into the ELO, and Roy Wood turned into Wizzard. This is nutty but I love it still – and bought the single when first released:

See what I mean about there being no influence from Guy Fawkes? It’s still a great song though. In case you were wondering, the clip is from the UK’s Top Of The Pops programme, and the presenter was Dave Cash.

The events we are remembering today took place 414 years ago. But there are, sadly, echoes in modern day life: religion as the basis for differences and even violence; a threat to democracy from those who want another form of government and are prepared to go to illegal and destructive ends to attain it. Sound familiar? We don’t learn as much from history as we would like to think, do we? For a potted history lesson, we could all do a lot worse than listen to my second choice for today:

And when I say ‘all’ I’m thinking in particular of a certain orange president who seems determined to ignore any lessons he might have learned from history, assuming he has ever read about it. Sadly, he is far from alone in that, and we now have his Mini Me allegedly running our country, although hopefully for not much longer.

Of similar vintage, how about this one?

That was the title track of Free’s third album. They were only together for a short time but made a series of great records, and I was lucky enough to see them play live once – at an age when I probably shouldn’t have been allowed into the club!

That last one was from 1970, and so is my next ‘fire’ song. This is from James Taylor’s second album, Sweet Baby James. This intimate ‘in concert’ performance is beautiful, and made all the more poignant when you know that the song was written to help him work through his thoughts and feelings after the suicide of a friend:

I couldn’t do this selection of ‘fire’ songs without this one. From the Boss’ superb album Born In The USA, released in 1984 – so it’s much more recent than some of these! One of seven singles released from the album:

Next up is Bob Seger. He never really enjoyed commercial success here in the UK, which I think is criminal! He has written some of the best rock song lyrics ever, as typified in this song, which was the title track of his fourteenth studio album, The Fire Inside, released in 1991:

My final ‘fire’ song just has to be this. Utterly bonkers, the archetypal one hit wonder, from 1968:

They don’t really make them like that anymore, do they? Somehow, though, The Crazy World Of Arthur Brown best fits the theme for today: he’s a kind of walking bonfire, really.

I’m sorry if I haven’t included your favourite fire song, but I didn’t want to overburden you (and as it’s my blog I can choose what I want 😂). Two other obvious candidates are Great Balls of Fire and Ring of Fire (nothing to do with curries). No doubt you can think of many more, all of which will share one common denominator: they are not about Guy Fawkes. There are a number of traditional folk songs and ballads going right back to the early 17th century but sadly, for some reason, none of these appears to have found their way onto YouTube – what were they thinking! There are also a few modern day efforts which mostly share the characteristics of being loud, tuneless and not good enough to meet the high quality standards I apply to this blog (ahem). 

If you’re out tonight stay warm, stay safe, and enjoy yourself. And please remember that pets (and ageing bloggers) need to be looked after during the fireworks and explosions.

#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.