Tuesday Tunes 13: Shopping

We are now in week 13 of lockdown, and things are slowly returning to something that bears a passing resemblance to what we might think of as normal. There are still quite a few restrictions on movement but, judging by the numbers attending demonstrations in the past fortnight, it seems that many are ignoring them, or are too stupid to understand them – but to be fair, you probably do need to be a rocket scientist to get them all. Yesterday saw the second phase in the relaxation of restrictions on shops opening, though the 2 metre rule still applies and many precautions are being taken by retailers, particularly where goods might be touched or tried on before a possible purchase. Personally, I’ve never felt comfortable trying on shoes that might have been on other feet anyway! The Prime Minister told us on Friday that we should all go out and shop, turning it (or trying to) into some weird form of civic duty. This was the coverage in the i newspaper which, as you will see, cites the fact that only 36% of us feel safe about venturing out. A fair concern, I think, given the reports of second waves of infection in other countries. But the herd on which Johnson has been depending didn’t disappoint him – this was the queue yesterday outside a branch of Primark:

©️ Evening Standard

So you’ve been stuck indoors for three months and the first thing you want to do is stand in a long queue for a clothes store? The phrase ‘get a life’ comes to mind, but it’s a free country. So far.

However, this seemed as good a theme as any for my tunes this week: shopping. You might be surprised how often shops have featured in songs, as it isn’t to me an obvious source of inspiration, even for a metaphor or two. Being British and oldish I’ve avoided anything to do with a ‘mall,’ though they are invading us here too. What’s wrong with the words ‘shopping centre?’ Still, that’s progress, I guess. Bah, humbug!

This week’s first song is one to which I claim an extremely tenuous link, as I went to school with the band’s original drummer, who is playing on this:

It is very much one of their softer songs, and featured on their third album (and still my favourite of theirs) London Calling. It is about someone struggling to come to terms with the commercial world and growing consumerism and is, I think as relevant today as it was in 1979 when it was released. It is all the more poignant when you know that Joe Strummer wrote it about Mick Jones, who sings lead vocal. I wouldn’t often use the word ‘lovely’ to describe a Clash song, but I think this one merits the accolade.

My second tune for this week is in a very different vein, and stretches the link to ‘shopping’ a fair bit. OK, a lot. But Desmond and Mollie do have a barrow in the marketplace so that’s good enough for me:

As I’m sure you know, that was on the album titled simply The Beatles, although it is known to us all as the White Album. That was the band’s ninth studio album, and accounts of the recording sessions suggest it wasn’t a happy time: John Lennon and George Harrison apparently hated this song, and arguments over its recording led to the resignation of Geoff Emerick, their sound engineer (though he did return to work on the Abbey Road album and several of Paul McCartney’s albums after the Beatles broke up). But after all the struggles the song made the album release and has become very popular and recognisable. It was released as a single in many countries, reaching #1 in quite a few, but wasn’t released in the UK and US at the time, although it had a subsequent single release in the US. Given its catchy nature it was ripe for cover versions, and its commercial viability was proved by the pop band Marmalade, who had a #1 UK hit with it. I still prefer the original, though – by a distance!

This is the point at which I should be winding up the post, but last week I gave you an extra bonus song in addition to the usual two, and this week’s theme seems as good a reason as any to do that again: what’s not to like about a ‘buy two get one free’ offer? This is another slightly tenuous link, but is a song that reminds me so much of my childhood, when it was often featured on the Saturday breakfast show Children’s Favourites on the old BBC Light Programme, with our host Uncle Mac – in hindsight, that sounds a bit dubious now, but in those days we were innocent! This was a novelty song even in those days, but it is full of memories for me so I hope you’ll indulge me:

That was originally recorded by Patti Page, who had a #1 US hit with it, but the version I grew up with is the Lita Roza one, which was a #1 hit here in the UK. Not that I knew of it at the time, though, as it was a hit five months before I was born, but clearly was still being played on the radio to entertain us kiddies several years later. Apparently she hated the song so much that she never performed it live – I guess her audiences didn’t contain many children! It’s a little piece of my childhood that will never be forgotten, though, and I rather like the video that has been made for it.

That bonus offering rounds off this week’s set of tunes. I hope you are managing to contain your excitement at the gradual release from lockdown, and don’t take it to extremes. The scientists continue to tell us that not enough is known about the virus for us to even begin to think we’re over it, so please take care, stay safe and well, and I’ll be back with more tunes next Tuesday. Have a good week 🙂

 

It’s Black Friday – Again!

After yesterday’s post for Thanksgiving Day it seemed only natural to give you a companion piece for today, as I have done in previous years. Whilst we here in the UK have mostly resisted celebrating Thanksgiving – we don’t have a public holiday for it – the ever-burgeoning commercial juggernaut of Black Friday has been gleefully leapt upon by all manner of companies seeking to separate us from our money. The internet makes it all too easy to give in to temptation (Oscar Wilde was right!) but there will still be many braving – if that’s the correct word – real shops for bargains on things they never knew they needed.

Being the day after Thanksgiving, this is a public holiday in about half of US states, and many private employers give their staff the day off too. It marks the unofficial start of the Christmas shopping season, and has been part of US tradition for nearly 60 years: the name was first given to it by the police in Philadelphia (Philly PD, as they’re known in Body Of Proof) some time around 1960, to describe the pedestrian and traffic chaos that it caused. Judging from some of the scenes we’ve seen on the news in recent years it is an apt name, more for what goes on inside stores than on the roads! Like this

Or this

It must be a TV thing!

I had pondered whether to illustrate this piece with a music video, as I’ve loved the Steely Dan song Black Friday since it was released on their 4th album, Katy Lied. But when I checked the lyrics – always a good idea, to be on the safe side – they didn’t really seem to fit, somehow. I did find several other Black Friday songs, including those by Faith No More (not sure what it was about, to be honest), Megadeth (the usual portentous sounding, overblown heavy metal bollocks about killing – come on guys, it’s not that bad!), and finally by Lil Kim (a foul-mouthed rant, seemingly aimed at Nicki Minge). You’ll be glad to know that at that point I would have given up on the idea, but then I found this:

It isn’t exactly full of artistic merit, nor does Rusty Cage have a good (or even acceptable) singing voice, but he does sum the day up rather well, I think.

Amazon is credited, if that is the right word, with introducing Black Friday here in the UK a few years ago. Since then, their own promotion has grown enormously and it was only a matter of time before other major retailers followed suit – Walmart owns ASDA, so they were an obvious candidate for this, although they decided back in 2015 not to take any further part here in the UK. Officially, this was because they wanted to spread their offers across the whole pre-Christmas buying season, to give their customers the best possible value. Or, back in the real world, what they really meant was that they had decided that the previous year’s news reports of customers apparently attempting to murder each other in ASDA stores to get the best bargains weren’t good for business! Judging by their website, they have kind of watered down that decision in the years since then, as they have a set of offers both instore and online under the banner heading of ‘RollBlack.’ Who do think they are kidding? Or maybe their customers really are that dim.

My inbox for the past week or several has been bombarded by Black Friday offers from just about any company I’ve ever bought from. It stands to reason, really. They are in business to make money – our money. They may even be making these offers at a loss, but hope to convert us into buying more from them that has less or no discount. Or perhaps they are attempting to offload the crap that they over-ordered for previous promotions, in order to make room in their stores and warehouses for…..yes, you guessed it, more crap to throw at us. That’s capitalism for you!

It may be hard for you to believe but I like to think of myself as intelligent and, being the proud owner of an MBA in Marketing (from 1981, back in the days of pre-history), I would hope to be able to see through the rampant commercialism. But I do like buying goodies. And I need to get some presents for Christmas. It would be silly to turn down today’s offers and pay more for the same things another day, wouldn’t it? Maybe I could just take another quick look? You never know what you might find that you didn’t know you needed, or that you hadn’t thought of as a gift. There must be someone I know who needs a bicycle repair kit, or some radiator cleansing fluid. But it kind of makes sense to try it just in case, right? Then again, there have been surveys here which report that many of the supposed bargains aren’t exactly what they seem, and better prices are often available from the same retailers at different times. Broken promises by retailers? Surely not? They must have been taking lessons from politicians!

So, if you are shopping today, and however you are doing it, good luck! I hope to see you surviving to be able to read my next post 😂

When Black Friday Comes

After yesterday’s piece on Thanksgiving Day it seemed natural to follow with a companion article on another US tradition which has made its way to these shores: Black Friday. Being the day after Thanksgiving, this is a public holiday in about half of US states and many private employers give their staff the day off too. It marks the unofficial start to the Christmas shopping season, and has been part of US tradition for well over 50 years: the name was first given to it by the police in Philadelphia (Philly PD, as they’re known in Body Of Proof!) some time around 1960, to describe the pedestrian and traffic chaos that it caused. Judging from some of the scenes we’ve seen on the news in recent years it is an apt name, more for what goes on inside stores than on the roads! Scenes like those described here, for example:

UK news channels carried similar reports, although to be fair they haven’t come up with any stories of mass hysteria so far this year, as far as I can tell. Nevertheless, I’ll stick with doing my shopping online, thanks!

I had pondered whether to illustrate this piece with a music video, as I’ve loved the Steely Dan song Black Friday since it was released on their 4th album, Katy Lied. But when I googled the lyrics – as you do – they didn’t really seem to fit, somehow. I also found three other Black Friday songs, by Faith No More (not sure what it was about, to be honest), Megadeth (the usual portentous sounding, overblown heavy metal bollocks about killing – come on guys, it’s not that bad!), and finally by Lil Kim (a foul-mouthed rant, seemingly aimed at Nicki Minge). You’ll be glad to know that at that point I gave up the idea.

Amazon is credited, if that is the right word, with introducing Black Friday here in the UK a few years ago. Since then, their own promotion has grown enormously and I’ll admit to having bought from their offers already – just a book and a couple of DVD box sets that aren’t available on Amazon Prime Video, all very restrained! It was only a matter of time before other major retailers followed suit – Walmart owns ASDA, so they were an obvious candidate for this, although they have decided not to take part in this year’s event here in the UK. Officially, this is because they want to spread their offers across the whole pre-Christmas buying season, to give their customers the best possible value. Or, back in the real world, what they really mean is that they have decided that last year’s news reports of customers apparently attempting to murder each other in ASDA stores to get the best bargains weren’t good for business!

My inbox for the past week has been full of Black Friday offers from just about any company I’ve ever bought from, both instore and online. It stands to reason, really. They are in business to make money – our money. They may even be selling their offers at a loss but hope to convert us into buying more from them that has less or no discount. Or they are attempting to offload the crap that they over-ordered to make room in their stores and warehouses for…..yes, you guessed, more crap to throw at us. That’s capitalism for you!

It may be hard for you to believe but I like to think of myself as intelligent and, being the proud owner of an MBA in Marketing (1981!), would hope to be able to see through the rampant commercialism. But I do like buying goodies. And I need to get some presents for Christmas. It would be silly to turn down today’s offers and pay more for the same things another day, wouldn’t it? Maybe I could just take another quick look? You never know what you might find that you didn’t know you needed, or that you hadn’t thought of as a gift. There must be someone I know who needs a bicycle repair kit, or some radiator cleansing fluid. But it kind of makes sense to try it just in case, right?

It’s decided then! I’m off to launch myself into the frenzy, from the safety of my armchair, of course. Happy shopping, and I hope to see you tomorrow, if you haven’t been trampled in the rush!