Over the years I’ve taken to posting some songs to mark the New Year, and wanted to do this again. But when I looked back over previous posts it seems that I had covered most of my choices already, so what should I do? Plan A would have been just repeating last year’s piece and hope that you didn’t notice. Or for Plan B I could choose an entirely new set and leave out a lot of songs I really like. Neither seemed a good solution to my little dilemma, nor did Plan C – post the lot and give you far too much to take in. So I’m going with Plan D, which is to make a two day event of this: I’m going to share again most of the tunes from last year, but mix in with them some I have shared in previous years or haven’t shared before. So today will be Part One, and Part Two will be here tomorrow, on New Year’s Day itself. If nothing else, they will show that there are a lot of good “New Year” songs around.
At the end of a year, should we be looking back or ahead? I think for most of us the past two years have been ones we would want to forget, and we will be feeling their effects for a long time to come. But I’m not going down that road: marking the New Year with some music to brighten things up seems a much better idea. There will be songs which look in both directions – that feels right, as it gives us both reflection and hope.
I first included this one a few years ago, but it didn’t return until last year. If you know just one of these songs, I’m guessing it will be this one. It is well-known and an obvious choice: it isn’t that imagination has deserted me, just that I happen to like it! To begin with, then, here are ABBA:
That was released on the album Super Trouper in November 1980, just in time for me to buy it for my now ex-wife at Christmas. I wouldn’t have claimed to be an ABBA fan – that was her job – but I have to admit that they made some fine records. The album reached #1 in the UK, Sweden, and three other countries, and made the top ten in another seven. It got as high as #17 in the US where, for some reason, the band were never as successful as elsewhere, though chart placings like that still meant massive sales. It was eventually released as a single, but not until 1999 as a trailer for a compilation album, and only reached #34 in their native Sweden.
My next choice is another that I included last year – most years, come to that, as it is a real favourite of mine: a song that supports the view 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, since their first album way back in 1993. This song is from their second album, Recovering The Satellites. The album was a US #1 and made #4 here in the UK. As a single, this one peaked at #6 on the US chart and #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 😉):
I think those opening lyrics speak for us all, now more than ever:
A long December and there’s reason to believe
Maybe this year will be better than the last
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 #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. This is 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 a year or two ago 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 #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 one a couple of years ago, so I guess she enjoyed it too! I’m rather glad that I found it:
It’s an upbeat, looking ahead tune next. Semisonic were one of those bands who never got the success I felt they deserved. Their 1998 album Feeling Strangely Fine was a little gem, and produced three hit singles in the UK, of which this wasn’t one (!):
In chart terms the album did better here than in the US: #16 as against #43. But given the relative sizes of the countries the sales figures are a little different: they are certified at over 350,000 here, but over 1m in the US!
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, who you may remember from my Advent Calendar on Christmas Eve. For the video to accompany her version of the song 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:
In the time when I was posting these each day on Twitter, Mindy sent me a ‘thank you’ tweet for sharing this, which was kind of her.
I’ve not shared this next one before, and I think the use of Auld Lang Syne in its title is a perfect fit to describe all those thoughts and emotions we can go through at this time of year. It is a beautiful song that deserves to be heard:
Dan Fogelberg is one of those artists who was very successful in his US homeland but did nothing in our charts in the UK – one early single reached #59 here but that was it. I really think we missed out on a major songwriting talent, though. This was released as a single in November 1980 and reached #9 in the US chart. It also made #25 in Ireland, but seems to have run out of steam before getting to us. It was also a track on his 1981 double album, The Innocent Age, which peaked at #6 in the US.
Another reflective song now, with a little history lesson built into the video:
This is from Kate Rusby’s first (of five) albums of Christmas and seasonal songs, Sweet Bells, but is not an original of hers. There are several attributions, but the generally accepted version is that the song was written in 1891 by Will Godwin and Leo Dryden. Dryden sang it in music hall performances and recorded it in 1898. It was also recorded by Peter Dawson (‘Australia’s first man of song’ in case you didn’t know – so not Rolf Harris, then). Dawson’s version is taken a little faster, which I find totally unsuited to what is actually a heart-breaking song from the perspective of a young man looking back at year end, and dreaming of home and family. I think Kate does it far more justice – this is beautiful.
That song last featured in my New Year collection for 2019, and I’m wondering how I’ve left it out since then – you will by now know that I’m a huge Kate Rusby fan. This one also made an appearance that year, and I think it brings Part One of this year’s tunes to a suitably upbeat close:
A Great Big World are singer-songwriters Ian Axel and Chad King, who met at New York University when they were studying music business. This song was their first single, but wasn’t a hit, though a cover by the cast of Glee made the US Top Forty. The song then featured on the duo’s debut album, Is There Anybody Out There? which was a big hit, peaking at #3 in the US and #16 in the UK, propelled by their hit single collaboration with Christina Aguilera on their song Say Something, which reached #4 in both the US and the UK. Amongst other strings to their bow, they have opened shows for Ingrid Michaelson (you may recall her from Tuesday) and have appeared on one of her albums. This video is full of joy, and reminds me a lot of the one for Frank Turner’s song Recovery – they have the same feel.
That now makes eight songs for today, which I think is probably enough! I’ll be back tomorrow with Part Two to bring you some more New Year music. See you then 😊