July In Retrospect

Although I have written some annual reviews of my posts I’ve never previously produced a piece for the past month. Usually that would just highlight the fact that I don’t post very often, but over the past three months I’ve posted nine times (twice) and eight (once). So I’m giving it a try, in case there was anything you missed and might otherwise have been distraught not to have extricated from that veritable deluge of drivel.

A couple of months ago I edited and updated my About Me page. While I was at it I also amended the tagline in my blog’s header, to reflect the fact that I was posting more often about music. This was in part due to my Tuesday Tunes series, which began on 24 March – the day after the UK was consigned to lockdown, in case you needed a reminder! But, looking back at July, I noticed a couple of other music posts in there too. I may have to give some consideration to changing that header again, but I would never make this just about music: there is more in life about which I am prompted to write, particularly mental health. I won’t lose sight of the importance of that as a theme for me – after all, it is why I started this.

So, what might you have missed during July? Well, there having been four Tuesdays in the month, there were of course four Tuesday Tunes posts:

Tuesday Tunes 16: Joke

Tuesday Tunes 17: Mask

Tuesday Tunes 18: Confusion

and the snappily named

Tuesday Tunes 19: Lockdown Music – Part 1

I’m never at a loss for a succinct title!

There were also two other musically themed posts. I began the month with a piece to mark the USA’s Independence Day. Given that many of my readers come from there, it seemed a good idea to play to the crowd! This was that post:

#SaturdaySongs No.18: Independence Day

As it was a Saturday I thought it a good excuse to include that piece in my very occasional #SaturdaySongs series. In doing so, it made me realise that I have a list somewhere of other songs which I had considered for that series: I must dig it out some time. That series began on a weekly basis and has now become approximately an annual event. Whilst I’m doing the Tuesday Tunes series it might be overload to restart #SaturdaySongs, but who knows? I sure don’t!

The other musical post was a sad one for me. Ever since I was a teenager getting into music I’ve loved Fleetwood Mac, both in their better known incarnation but also going back to the early days, when they were known as Peter Green’s Fleetwood Mac – in all honesty, I think I prefer that previous, blues-based version of the band. Sadly, Peter Green died last week and, as I have done for some of my other musical heroes, I wrote a piece as a tribute to him:

RIP Peter Green

I’ll readily admit to finding that one hard to write, as has been the case with others. Sadly, as they and I get older, my musical heroes are succumbing to the passage and ravages of time, and I fear that will not be the last such piece that I write.

The first of my two non-music posts last month was Taking Stock, in which I reflected on life, mental health and COVID-19. I consider it one of my more serious posts, one of those that shows me to be capable of moderately coherent thought – which is always a good thing for me! If you haven’t seen it please do take a look: it is important ground for all of us, at present.

The other non-musical one was rather different. I have in the past written about the amusement to be derived from the contents of our spam folders, and I thought I’d give it another go. The upshot of this was Spam, Lovely Spam, which includes what I think might be my favourite spam comment ever. A fairly frivolous piece, but I enjoyed writing it!

Whilst looking back at last month I was also prompted to check my stats. I was hoping to be able to find my most read post of the month, but due to WordPress’ insistence on lumping most new posts into their ‘Home Page/Archives’ category this was impossible. This category comfortably headed the top ten most viewed posts last month, and the July eight – which will also, of course, have contributed towards the figure in the top category – made up eight of the top ten places. The intruder, as it has often been since I wrote it, was a piece from last November which came in at no.2 for the month: Under The Covers. I’ve no idea why that one keeps popping up – probably something to do with the way search engines operate – but I rather like its continuing popularity. It is also in the same position for the whole of 2020 to date, accounting for just under 10% of total views: go figure!

I hope this has been a helpful reminder for you of what you might have seen, or missed. I’m not sure if I’ll do this again – that rather depends on the response I get! But it is, I think, always worth trying out something new – well, new for me, anyway. On that note, I am also considering a couple of other possibilities for new themed series. They may not come to anything, but you’ll see them here if they do.

Have a great weekend, and don’t forget to wear your mask if you go out anywhere it is required: this pandemic is far from over! To re-emphasise that point for me, here again is the final song from this week’s Tuesday Tunes:

 

#SaturdaySongs No.18 – Independence Day

[As it is Saturday, and this post contains songs, it seemed a good opportunity to badge it as part of my now very occasional #SaturdaySongs series. In doing so, I realised that somehow my numbering system for this series had gone a bit haywire, so bear with me if the menu still looks odd at the time you read this!]

Today is 4th July which, as any American will tell you, is celebrated there as Independence Day. This dates back to the signing of the Declaration of Independence on 4th July 1776, by the 13 Colonies which were later to join together as the United States of America. I won’t detain you with the full history lesson, as there are many places in which you can read about it, but suffice it to say that this was the upshot of their treatment at the hands of King George III – to their minds, this amounted to tyranny. He later descended into mental illness – now believed to be the result of suffering from porphyria, a genetic disease – and the history books haven’t been kind to him. He is, however, one of the British monarchs whose story has been the subject of a movie, as QEII has found, and there are some others, such as Queen Victoria. In case you missed it, the George III movie was called The Madness Of King George, and you can get a taste of it from this trailer:

The Declaration came some three years after a now well known event, which was probably a major catalyst for the subsequent American Revolutionary War, which ran from 1775 to 1783, until peace was agreed and the UK formally recognised the new USA. The American Colonies had been outraged by the way they were taxed, in particular over tea, and in 1773, tea ships moored in Boston Harbour were boarded by colonists and the tea was thrown overboard, an event that became known as the Boston Tea Party. This is the excuse for my first song today. I’m guessing that this will be unfamiliar to many, but I thought you’d like to see a song by a Scottish rock band written from their perception of the American viewpoint. I’ve always felt this song to have a feel of menace about it – I’d be interested to know if you agree after you’ve heard this:

That’s it for my pseudo-history lesson: you’ll no doubt be pleased to know that the remaining ‘Independence Day’ songs share that title and, in a couple of cases, reference the date, but they are actually dealing with a different kind of independence. The first one is relatively recent – the album it is on came out in March this year – and is by one of the leading ‘UK country’ bands. Yes, that is a ‘thing!’ I’ve followed them since they started, and this is fairly typical of them; the metaphor of 4th July as being the day of independence from a failed relationship is the starting point for an uplifting piece that looks to the future:

To date, The Shires have yet to dent the US charts, though they have toured with the likes of Shania Twain and Carrie Underwood. All four of their albums have topped the UK Country Chart though, and have reached the top 10 in the overall albums chart. I hope they reach that wider audience – I think they deserve it.

Having begun with two British acts I’m now turning to the US: it seems right that I do! One of the biggest songs to carry this title is by Martina McBride:

As I know that song so well I was surprised to find that it only reached no.12 in the US Country Chart in 1994, and didn’t make the top 100 pop chart at all. Nevertheless it has sold over 500,000 copies so it hasn’t done badly! One thing that isn’t, I think, widely known about the song is that it was written by Gretchen Peters, who just happens to be one of my favourite singer-songwriters. Gretchen has also recorded it, and it features often in her live performances, as here:

If you listen to the lyrics you’ll hear that the song is about an abused woman who ‘celebrated’ Independence Day in very dramatic fashion. The song is very powerful: I’ve heard Gretchen play it live and it really is one of those ‘hairs on the neck’ moments. It won her the CMA award for best song in 1995 and was also nominated for a Grammy that year, though it didn’t win. If you want to find it, it was on Gretchen’s first album The Secret Of Life, released in 1996, and has been on compilations too.

My final selection for today is a pretty obvious choice: you’ve probably been wondering when I’d get around to it. Fear not, I’m nothing if not predictable! This one is by one of my all-time favourite artists. You may have heard of the Boss:

That song was on Bruce Springsteen’s fifth studio album, The River, released in 1980. It is up there with his best, I think, and has so many great tracks on it. It has sold upwards of 7m copies – not bad for a double album! Springsteen fans will know that I had another possible choice from him: 4th of July, Asbury Park (Sandy) from his album The Wild, The Innocent & The E Street Shuffle but I prefer this one, sorry!

To me, it is interesting to see how three songwriters have taken the theme of independence as their starting point but have gone in different directions: firstly, the failed relationship, secondly the drastic action to spare a woman and her daughter from abuse, and finally the son who realises that for the sake of both himself and his father, he needs to move away to preserve any chance they may have of a relationship. But none of them are political – it took a Scotsman to do that!

As it is your day, America, I think it fitting that, after my musical trawl through various kinds of independence, I should let your Founding Fathers have the final words:

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

Happy Independence Day!