Tuesday Tunes 17: Mask

This week’s theme was kindly given to me by our government, from this headline on the front page of last Saturday’s The Times:

That was the noon update of the paper: the original headline was, simply, ‘Wear a mask.’ I mention that as it is rather symbolic of the way the government has handled the pandemic as a whole: indecision, lack of clarity, and a sense that they are unsure about what they are doing. Sure, I get it: none of us has ever seen anything like this and I wouldn’t want to be the one who has to take these decisions. But then I’m not the one who became Prime Minister by letting his ambition triumph over his ability, am I? Sure enough, by Sunday morning the vague message had been watered down again. We went from ‘we think it might be a good idea to wear a mask, but probably only where there are other people, and we’re not completely sure so we’ll get back to you on it’ to hearing Michael Gove on TV telling us that wearing a mask is ‘good manners.’ So there you have it, our government’s new message: ‘wear a mask, it would be rude not to.’

Hold on, though. Johnson is now reported as having said again yesterday that we should wear masks in shops, and they’ll be telling us something about that ‘in the next few days.’ Do you think he’s told Gove this? What should we do? Confused? You will be.

Hold on again, though: I now read that there will be an announcement later today that masks will be compulsory in shops from 24 July – if only we could have avoided all the apparent dithering and incompetence along the way, in getting to where we should already have been. But why the wait?

I don’t think it is a coincidence that the three worst-performing countries on the pandemic – the US, UK and Brazil – are all led by right wing governments who have ignored and decried the science, even to the point where two of the three leaders have been diagnosed with COVID-19. Fingers crossed for the third one, anyone? If he gets it, no doubt it will be ‘the best coronavirus, no one has had this any better than me.’ A common factor in all three countries has been their reluctance to accept the likely benefits of wearing masks. Here, they have been compulsory on public transport since 15 June, but even the pronouncement that gave rise to The Times’ headline was couched in ‘we’ll tell you what to do soon’ terms. You could be forgiven, I think, for believing that they and the other two worst-performing governments view their people as disposable plebs, getting in the way of their mates making money. These are all individual lives, and every one of them that is lost leaves friends and families in mourning. Call me cynical, but I don’t think that thought counts for much with them. Never has the great word (I have the best words) ‘kakistocracy’ been so appropriate. In case you aren’t familiar with it, it means ‘government by the least qualified or most unprincipled citizens.’ This guy somehow typifies the behaviour that results from the ignorance promoted by that kind of leadership:

I rest my case!

Now to this week’s two tunes on the theme: Mask.

I could only think of two songs that bore the theme word in their title and, unsurprisingly, neither of them was written as a message for a pandemic. Having done some research I did come across a couple of ‘songs’ specifically written for our current times, but they fell a long way short of meeting my definition of ‘good music’ so I stayed with the two I first thought of. The first of these is one which has been recorded in several versions, of which this is my favourite, by a distance. This is a performance from the Prince’s Trust concert in June 1987 and Eric appears to have assembled a pretty good backing band! See what I mean:

The song has an interesting back story. It was originally an instrumental, written by Ryuichi Sakamoto for a Seiko advertisement in 1978. Lyrics were added to it and it was released as a single by Sakamoto’s band, the Yellow Magic Orchestra, in 1979. Michael Jackson got hold of it, added some more lyrics and recorded it for his Thriller album. But it was left off the final release, and his version didn’t see the light of day until the posthumous album Michael, in 2010. In the meantime, Eric Clapton’s version was released on his 1986 album August, and was subsequently a UK single, reaching #15 in early 1987. Quite a history just for one song!

My second Behind The Mask song is this one:

That was from Fleetwood Mac’s 1990 album of the same name. To the best of my knowledge it has only ever been an album track, but I don’t think that devalues it: I still think it a lovely song, and this lyric video with images is fantastic. Like a lot of the band’s best songs it was written by Christine McVie, who took lead vocal – as band members usually did with their own compositions. The album suffered in comparison to its hugely successful predecessor – Tango In The Night – but still sold a respectable million plus copies around the world, including 500,000 in the US and 300,000 here, where it reached #1 on the albums chart. Not bad for a relative ‘flop!’ Even the Fleetwood Mac fans among you may not be familiar with this song, which I think shows how many goodies there are to be found lurking in bands’ back catalogues.

And there we have it for this week. Hopefully by next Tuesday the UK government will finally have made its announcement, won’t have changed its mind and, for once, will have given some firm, unambiguous guidance. It would be a first, but we can but hope. It will also be good for them to be following the scientific advice, to which they have previously given lip service without appearing to be committed. If you are going out please wear a mask in confined spaces: it protects others as well as you.

I’m not claiming to be giving you scientific advice in saying that, just sharing what I believe to be common sense that our government finally appears to be accepting. From the horror stories in today’s news about the rapid escalation of cases in a number of US states it would appear that we can’t be too quick in relaxing the lockdown.

Until next time, as always I wish you well and do please keep safe. Take care.


Halloween In Song

On Tuesday, I posted my usual reminder about not using Halloween as a time to mock mental illness, even if it is unintended. To show that I’m not a fully fledged grouch – well, not yet – I thought I should show my ‘fun’ side and approach the ‘celebrations’ from the angle of my other main theme: music. There have been many songs which could be deemed to relate to the usual manifestations of this time of year, by which I mean monsters, ghosts, zombies, witches and general spookery. Most of these are tongue in cheek, and I’ve managed to avoid stretching the links too far: for example, I considered, but rejected, Time Of The Season by the Zombies. It’s a great song, but my limited abilities at quality control told me that just using the band’s name was pushing it a bit.

Instead, I chose as my starting point a song which is probably the most popular ever for this time of year. Scoring no points for originality I give you….

That is the shorter version, which just gives you the song. If you want the complete 13+ minute epic, which is the full cinematic treatment, it’s easily found on YouTube.

My second choice is one that was a hit in my childhood, way back in 1962. This is a homage to the song: watching this video brings back lots of happy memories for me, and it is great fun:

Another obvious choice next. It’s probably worth keeping in mind that you may need to rid yourself of ghosts at some point, so do you know who to call? Do you have their number? Are you afraid? I ain’t:

I went for another oldie next. Perhaps this isn’t obviously a Halloween-related song but, on the theme of monsters, who wouldn’t be frightened by a thing going around eating people? But it does only seem to have it in for purple people, though, so maybe we’re alright:

Another monster favourite of mine is next up. I know this one is stretching it a bit, but I like it and didn’t want to leave it out. And the video is fun, too:

Time to move on to witchcraft now, I think. This choice is very left-field, and is not really about Halloween at all. But it is very much of its time – late 1960s/early 70s, when prog rock was taking shape and there was a renewed interest in the occult. I had this on one of those sampler albums that some of the record companies issued: Bumpers was the album, from Island Records. It always intrigued me, and there is something about the insistent rhythm and chanted chorus that attracts me to it. I love this video that has been put together for the song – so many wonderful images!

Another ‘witch’ song now, from 1971. This was a classic one-hit wonder in the UK, and deserves to be included in my collection even if it doesn’t specifically mention Halloween, as it’s a very good depiction of how ‘witches’ can cast a spell over us: in this case with voodoo and black magic. And it’s still a Halloween favourite after all these years:

They say you should always leave the best till last, so that’s exactly what I’m doing. Another UK one-hit wonder (no.87 in 1987, on re-release), though his albums fared slightly better (two reached our top 200!). The writer of incredibly original songs – try Roland The Headless Thompson Gunner if you don’t know what I mean – and taken from us by cancer, far too soon. But his legacy lives on, and there have been countless covers of his songs. My no.1 for Halloween is the great Warren Zevon:

I was born and brought up in Kent and am happy to report that I never encountered that character! But, then again, I’m not called Jim so maybe I’d have been alright anyway?

I hope you managed to find something in this selection to enjoy. Have a great Halloween, however you spend it. I’ll be hunkered down in my flat, pretending I’m out if anyone comes trick or treating, but that’s just me showing my ‘fun’ side, isn’t it? 😉