After last week’s potentially downbeat theme I was looking to counterbalance it this time round. I’ve recently been thinking a lot about what music means for me and why, and one of the things that kept popping into my brain was that music has the power to make us happy. What better theme could there be? So, ‘Happy’ it is, for this week.
I’ve chosen three songs for you which feature the word ‘happy’ in their title, and a bonus video which shows the effect music can have in creating happiness and pleasure. My first video is one which oozes happiness:
I really should have saved last week’s opening picture till now, shouldn’t I! But don’t worry, a Julie Andrews song won’t be appearing here any time soon. Shiny Happy People appeared on R.E.M.’s seventh album, Out Of Time, released in 1991. It was the only one of their singles to reach the top ten in both the UK and the US: #6 here and #10 across the pond. Apparently the band hated the song: they have only ever played it live once – on Saturday Night Live – and refused to allow it to appear on their first ‘greatest hits’ album, though it did feature on the second such collection. Maybe they were miffed that it was considered for the title music for the tv series Friends, but was passed over in favour of the Rembrandts? Despite their disapproval I‘ve always rather liked it, and it is a good starting point for this week’s theme: anything with the delightful Kate Pierson (of the B52s) happily bouncing around with a beaming smile has got to be worth watching, right? And over 48m viewers of the video can’t be wrong!
For this week’s second tune I’m going way back to my teenage years. This was one of those songs that got me interested in American music: we had the Beatles, the Stones, and seemingly the entire population of Liverpool, whilst the US was giving us Dylan and the Byrds, and a selection of hit records by other bands. This was one such:
That song was the title track of the Turtles’ third album, released in 1967, and was the only time they made it to the top of the US singles chart. It also got a lot of airplay here and reached #12. I didn’t have the album, but the song featured on a ‘best of’ album, which I did have, along with the grandly titled follow up The Turtles Present The Battle Of The Bands, which included their subsequent hit singles Elenore and You Showed Me. I think it demonstrates a certain amount of chutzpah to release a greatest hits album after just three previous records, but they had some style and confidence!
This week’s third song is one that was ubiquitous in 2014. This was a #1 for Pharrell Williams in both the UK and the US. In fact, it reached the top spot on three separate occasions here in the UK, and is our eighth highest selling single of all time. I’m sorry if this disappoints anyone who is a fan of the original, but I’m sharing a cover version:
If you haven’t come across them before, I can’t recommend Walk Off The Earth (WOTE) highly enough. They first stormed to YouTube fame with their unique take on Gotye’s Somebody That I Used To Know (currently at over 188m views) and have made a large number of very creative videos since then. They make their own music, which is great, but their many cover versions of other people’s songs are also well worth your time: as well as the aforementioned, I suggest their take on Taylor Swift’s Shake It Off to get you going. For the sake of clarity, WOTE are those in the front row of the video apart from the guy on the left, plus the inimitable (much loved and missed) Mike Taylor, aka Beard Guy, in the sleeping rack. I’ve featured them several times before in posts, and you’ll find these by putting ‘WOTE’ or ‘Walk Off The Earth’ into the search box, if you want to see more. As I said, I make no apology for sharing this version: it embodies so well the spirit of the song and music’s capacity to make us happy and have fun. I defy anyone to watch that without smiling!
I promised you a bonus song. This one doesn’t include the word ‘happy’ in its title, but this performance demonstrates how much fun music can bring to so many:
The song was written by Steve Earle and featured on his 2000 album Transcendental Blues. Mundy had a huge hit with it in Ireland in 2008. Personally, I think his version isn’t even in the same league as the original but when he’s being drowned out by a crowd of more than 15,000 other performers I can just about take him! I saw the Sharon Shannon band live (with guests) some years ago and they played this as an encore. As the only male guest artist was Shane MacGowan, who had been barely capable of standing up and singing his own songs, they wisely didn’t ask him to sing this: it was performed by one of the roadies, whose version was at least the equal of Mundy’s. But no matter how much I knock him, it is undeniable that his version of the song has brought pleasure to many in Ireland, and this was a wonderfully happy occasion, at the heart of which was a simple song. Music = happiness: just look at all those smiling faces! You’ll see a few more if you stay till after the credits, as there are some more shots taken during the performance which didn’t reach the main video.
Who would have thought that I would still be running this series five months on, when it began as just a germ (pun intended) of an idea to lighten things up as the pandemic took hold? There were some worrying predictions in yesterday’s paper about what might happen in the next few months: not only do we have Covid to contend with, but we could be facing the ‘perfect storm’ of a second wave coupled with the effects of a no deal Brexit. More than ever, I think there will be a need for music to brighten our lives, so I don’t think this series will have run its course for a while yet! I know statistics aren’t always reliable, but mine aren’t ‘created’ by the government so I think I can trust them: judging by the increasing number of views and ‘likes’ these posts are receiving there is an audience out there, and I’m grateful to each and every one of you who visits, likes, comments on and shares these posts. I’m still having fun with them, and I hope you are, too.
I’ll be back next week with another theme and some tunes. I have several thoughts as to what the theme will be, so watch this space. Be safe, wear your mask when required, and keep your distance. Take care 🙂