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:
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 🙂