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:

 

Tuesday Tunes 19: Lockdown Music – Part 1

Rather than finding a theme to throw songs at I thought I’d do something different for this week’s Tuesday Tunes. Musicians have been badly affected by the pandemic: many rely on the income they derive from touring and playing live, and this disappeared at a stroke when we went into lockdown (or quarantine, if that’s what you call it). I follow many musicians on Facebook and YouTube, and have been hugely entertained in the past four months by their efforts to replace that income.

Sometimes, these have been full shows from their homes, with a virtual ‘tip jar’ for us to give them something back. Others have been individual songs – either their own, or cover versions. And there have been many collaborations where bands get together via something like Zoom (other video link apps are available) and someone with some deft editing skills puts it all together. It seemed a good idea to share some of these with you, but when I sat down to make a list I realised there were so many that I couldn’t do them all in one post. So this will become its own little mini-series within my Tuesday Tunes ‘brand’ – at present I have two sets planned, but there could be more! I’m starting with four songs this week.

My first is from an English folk singer of whom I’ve been a fan for many years. I have all of her 16 albums and have seen her live in concert, and she never disappoints. Kate Rusby has been a solo artist for over 20 years but, as she is a folk musician, she doesn’t have much of an impact on the charts: her highest placing on the albums chart is #22 for her album 20, which was a reworking of 20 of her songs to mark her 20th anniversary. The impressive roll call of guest musicians on that album is testimony to how important she is in her field. She has a new album out on 14 August called Hand Me Down, which is a set of cover versions of other artists’ songs. The first track from the album which she released was The Bangles’ Manic Monday. Here is the video she and her family made for it in lockdown:

That is simply adorable. Daisy and Phoebe, her daughters, are utterly charming, and hubby Damien O’Kane isn’t bad either. That reached the iTunes top twenty singles, and was #1 in their singer-songwriter chart. But don’t just take the accolades from me – here is someone who really should know how good this is:

Another family group who have been among the stars of lockdown for me are the Clark family, from Tampa, Florida. The father, Colt, is a musician who I guess plays locally, but as a way of keeping their children occupied and learning they hit upon the idea of teaching them songs to play as a group. They uploaded one to YouTube for friends and family to see, and it took off in a huge way, so much that the family has been guests – from home, of course – on the Ellen show, and have been invited back after this is all over. They now have well over fifty of these songs. They don’t claim them to be professional by any stretch of the imagination, but they have been providing me with a much-needed dose of fun throughout the lockdown. This is the latest from Colt Clark and the Quarantine Kids, published yesterday. It has a little bit of added lunacy at the beginning, but stick with it:

As you might have guessed, I do have a favourite in the band: little Bellamy, who is 6, steals every show with her dancing. The ‘Egyptian’ is one of her signature moves, and I was wondering how long it would take them to get round to this one – I hope Susanna Hoffs sees this too!

Keeping the family theme going for just one more. You probably remember John Fogerty from his Creedence Clearwater Revival days or his subsequent solo career, assuming you’re old enough, of course! During lockdown he has been revisiting some of his back catalogue, plus a few covers, with his sons Shane and Tyler and daughter Kelsy. These have either been from his home studio or his ‘backyard,’ which has some stunning location views. They also did a version of Centerfield from the Dodgers Stadium, in honour of his 75th birthday. This is one of my favourites, complete with an introduction from the man himself, explaining where the song came from:

See what I mean about that view? And it’s great to see that John is still as good as he ever was. If you liked that, there are plenty more on YouTube – I think he’s covered most of his old favourites now.

As this is a ‘special edition’ version I said I was going to give you a fourth song this week. I’ve kept these posts to two or three until now, but this one cries out to be included. It is by one of my favourite bands – Old Crow Medicine Show – and shows the fun, quirky side of the band, even in the most trying of circumstances. Black humour at its best:

I hope you’ve enjoyed this version of Tuesday Tunes. If you are watching musicians perform live on Facebook, YouTube, or anywhere else please drop a little something in their tip jar. It will be very welcome and, to borrow a phrase, ‘every little helps.’ Their music has sustained me through the pandemic, as I suspect it has done for many others.

I’ll be back with Part 2 of this mini-series next week. Until then, stay safe and well, and don’t forget to wear a mask 😉

©️Evening Standard

Tuesday Tunes 16: Joke


 

 

(I forgot to put in a picture last week, so here’s an extra one to make up for that)

So, we’re now three days into our relaxed lockdown and if I’m honest, it has gone better than I expected. When I heard that pubs would be allowed to open from 6am last Saturday I feared the worst, but despite several reports of throngs of people ignoring social distancing rules and getting drunk things have been relatively quiet. The proof of the pudding will come in a couple of weeks, when we will know if there has been a spike in infections: already there are reports of three pubs having to close again having just reopened, due to customers testing positive for the virus – that doesn’t bode well, but hopefully they aren’t the start of a wider trend.

Reading the Sunday paper to get a glimpse of what had happened on the first day of relative freedom,  my eye was caught by a piece headed ‘The world is laughing, and Britain is the big joke.’ Well, it would, wouldn’t it? This was a less than scientific or comprehensive trawl through newspaper coverage in several countries, but it was good to get a view on how others see us: after all, the rabid right wing press here is much given to demonising citizens of other nations so it is only fair that they get their own back. It was enlightening: I learned that Germans call us ‘Inselaffen,’ which translates as ‘island apes,’ and refer to our Prime Minister as ‘Grossmaul’ – ‘bigmouth.’ Seems fair to me. And then there was Spain: they have long had a word ‘balconing’ to describe the habit of drunken British tourists of risking their lives by jumping from hotel balconies into the pool, but they have now added ‘coronaviring’ to their vocabulary, to describe our habit of risking our lives by flocking in huge numbers to crowded beaches ( I mentioned this mass suicide attempt last week). There were several  examples from other countries, but these should give you the gist. They also gave me this week’s theme for my tunes, taken from the headline: joke.

This week’s first tune is probably an obvious choice, given the theme, but as it reminds me of good times I was never going to leave it out:

That was released in 1973, and was part of the soundtrack to my uni days. It was the title track of the Steve Miller Band’s eighth studio album, and was a US #1 at the time, though not here in the UK. But, weirdly, it did top our charts in 1990 after being re-released to tie in with being featured in a Levi ad. Go figure!

My second tune also dates from the 70s, and goes back to the days when I thought this guy was good:

That was from Rod’s eighth album, Footloose And Fancy Free, and if I’m honest I think that was around the time that, to my eyes, he moved from being a rock musician into the pop mainstream, and his later releases haven’t been as much to my taste. His next album was Blondes Have More Fun, when he got caught up in the disco craze, and kind of invalidated himself for me! From the late 60s on he made a string of great albums, and then ‘showbiz’ got to him. FAFF reached #3 in the UK albums chart, after his five previous albums were all #1s – I rest my case!

As I have done a couple of times before, I wanted to include a bonus track for you this week, in addition to the ‘official’ two. This one is much more recent, and is by a singer-songwriter I really rate. This is beautiful, and incredibly powerful:

That is from Brandi Carlile’s 2018 album By The Way, I Forgive You. She isn’t the most prolific of artists, but has six very good solo albums to her name, as well as her recent collaboration with Amanda Shires, Natalie Hemsby and Maren Morris to form The Highwomen. If you need an introduction to them, I strongly recommend the YouTube video of their version of Fleetwood Mac’s The Chain on the Howard Stern show: it is stunningly good.

That’s about it for now. I’ve managed to badmouth drunks, the British press and Rod Stewart, so I think my work is done for another week. I’m hoping that things here will, in the main, continue to be restrained and that all the good we’ve done by being in lockdown isn’t undone by a minority of idiots – covidiots, as they’re known here. Stay safe, keep well, and take care. ‘Bye until next time 👋