I was given the germ of an idea for this week’s theme by a post from the excellent blogger Jill in which she shared the first song I’m giving you today. As well as being a favourite of mine, it is one of those songs that uses an element of nature as part of its lyrics, and this got me thinking. I posted last week for Mental Health Awareness Week which finished on Sunday, and took nature as its theme. It therefore seemed that Jill was prompting me into this, so for this week’s tunes I give you: nature. As always, I could find many songs which included an element of nature in their title but which didn’t feel right: many were environmental protest songs, and whilst that is a perfectly good theme in itself it wasn’t where I wanted to go this week. Maybe soon, though…
I begin this week with the song that Jill shared:
Such a great song! The imagery in Bob Seger’s lyrics, of running against the wind of life and what it throws at us, is some of the best I’ve ever heard. The line ‘wish I didn’t know now what I didn’t know then” has often been cited as people’s favourite song lyric, and it’s easy to see why. If you watch this one on YouTube take a scroll down the comments, and you’ll see how much it means to so many. This was the title track from the album Bob released in February 1980, which was #1 in the US and reached #26 here. It was also a #5 single in the US but didn’t chart here: he has had moderate success here, with several placings in the lower reaches of both albums and singles charts, but has never really taken off in the UK. A pity.
For this week’s second tune I’m going for an album track from the best band ever (my opinion, you’re free to differ!). As it is (a) solely an album track and (b) by a band whose YouTube content is very closely monitored, I’m afraid we’re having to make do with the official audio version, but it is still a beautiful song, and fits the theme well:
That is one of the best expressions that I know in song of the joy that can be found in nature and how it can make us feel. The images McCartney’s words create are simple, but so very beautiful. As the video picture shows, that was a track on the double album called, simply, The Beatles, known to most as ‘the White Album.’ The song was inspired by a lecture given by the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi while the Beatles were in India: the lecture also inspired John Lennon to write his song Child Of Nature, the tune for which he later reused for Jealous Guy. Child Of Nature was recorded during the sessions for this album but wasn’t included on it – if you’re interested, it is disc 3, track 22 in the 50th anniversary Super Deluxe re-release of the album! I don’t really need to tell you how this one did, do I? Just in case, it was #1 in the US and the UK, as well as in countless other countries, and has sold approaching 20m copies, over 12m of which have been in the US alone.
One of the elements of nature is its animals and birds, and I didn’t want to leave them out. This is rather lovely:
That official video was only released thirteen months ago and is already approaching 21m YouTube views. You can’t keep a good song down, and the video is absolutely charming: such a good accompaniment to a simple, but very uplifting, little song. It was originally released on Bob Marley’s 1977 album Exodus, which reached #8 here, #20 in the US, and was #1 in his Jamaican homeland. It was also a single here in the UK, released in September 1980, and peaked at #17.
My next choice for nature is another song which shares the benefits that its various elements can bring us:
Folk music meets prog rock, in the shape of the eccentric genius that is Ian Anderson. That live performance is incredible: so full of energy, a great band at its peak, and some nice harmonies. It was the title track from Jethro Tull’s album Songs From The Wood, which was released in February 1977, and reached #8 in the US and #13 here. The song was also released as a single but didn’t reach the charts anywhere, as far as I can tell.
I normally aim to include six songs in these posts, but for this week I’m slipping in an extra one. This is something of an experiment for me: I don’t know for sure what the words are about, as the song is being sung in the band’s native language, which just happens to be…Russian. I couldn’t find a translation of the lyrics anywhere but the subtitles option on YouTube does sometimes work, so I hope you’re in luck. By way of some background, I found this on a site called Plant Lore:
In the nineteenth century hemp (Cannabis sativa) seed was widely used by girls in love divination, in southern England and in the Channel Islands. In Guernsey in the 1880s:
‘A vision of your future husband can be obtained by the sowing of hemp-seed. The young maiden must scatter on the ground some hemp-seed, saying:
Hemp-seed I sow, hemp-seed grow, For my true love to come and mow.
Having done this she must immediately run into the house to prevent her legs being cut off by the reaper’s sickle, and looking back she will see the longed-for lover mowing the hemp, which has grown so rapidly, and so mysteriously.’
Keep that in mind as you watch Maidens Have Sown The Flax and I think all will become clear. Trust me, it’s worth it:
Isn’t that the most captivating, beautiful piece of music, and the video is stunning. The subtitles, if you can get to them, confirm that this is a variant of the 19thC English hemp-scattering tradition, and the song shows how much our cultures are interlinked no matter how hard the politicians try to divide us. I first came across the band – Otava Yo in their name’s Anglicised version – a couple of years ago from a YouTube recommendation. I followed it up and have watched many of their videos since then – I absolutely love them. Their musicianship is fantastic, their live shows are fabulous, and their sense of humour shines through in all they do: look up their video for their song Street Cleaner, or their version of I’ll Tell My Ma, to see what I mean. They have over 312k YouTube followers, and this video has over 470k views in just over a year. Not numbers that Justin Blubber would like to get, but they are still pretty impressive to me. The band has been together since 2003: though they have undergone a few changes since then their core members – the two guys singing here, plus two others – have been with them from the outset. They have played in many countries around the world, including the UK, across Europe, Japan and the US: proof that there is a common bond to be found through music. You don’t need to understand the lyrics, you can feel their meaning. As a song for nature I just couldn’t leave this video out.
Back on territory where the lyrics are in my own language for this next one. I’ve featured this band before, but as they are of the folk-rock genre they are under most people’s radar. This is another song which relates nature to our feelings, and to music:
Diamonds on The Water was an album released by Oysterband in 2014, and this was its title track. There was an official video released for it, showing the band performing the song in the studio, but this new official version was released a couple of weeks ago. I find it quite therapeutic and relaxing to watch, in keeping with both my theme and that for Mental Health Awareness Week, and like everything they do I love the song. The album is fantastic too. They aren’t a big selling chart band: their strength is in live performance. I can vouch for that, having seen them twice, and they put on a fantastic show. Whilst they have never had any chart success of their own, two of the original members who started the band in 1976 were also with Fiddlers Dram, who had the surprise novelty chart hit The Day We Went To Bangor (a UK #3 in 1980.) The two bands were running in parallel at the time, and shared several core members, three of whom are still with the Oysters to this day. I’ve been a fan for many years!
Given my musical tastes for folk and rock music, today’s final choice may come us a surprise. But with the theme being nature I simply had to include this one:
This was released as a single in 1967 and was a #1 here in the UK, though it flopped in the US as the record company boss didn’t like it and refused to promote it. It was re-released there in 1988, having been featured in the Good Morning Vietnam movie, and reached the heady heights of #32. A version by Katie Melua, singing along with the track to Eva Cassidy’s cover version, was released in December 2007 as a charity single here in the UK, to raise funds for the British Red Cross – we clearly like the song, as this was also a #1. As the closing point for this week’s tunes that video, which was released last August, is perfect.
I’ll be back next Tuesday with another set of tunes, and hope to see you then. In the meantime, those of you in England, Wales and parts of Scotland please don’t overdo things after the latest lockdown relaxation. The Government has announced that the newly-identified Indian Covid variant is spreading rapidly and is now known to be present in 86 council areas, so we are all going to be offered a Pun-jab. Sadly, this has come too late for some: a friend of mine caught it and has been in a korma for a week, and neighbours are having to care for his naan.
On that note, I’ll get my coat. Take care 😊