Today marks exactly a year since I first began this series, a year since our country was first placed into lockdown. It seemed right, therefore, to make this week’s theme for my tunes something befitting this occasion so, after last week’s celebration of Birthday this week it is the turn of Anniversary.
Most of the songs associated with anniversaries are romantic in nature, as you might expect. There are loads in that category, but not many actually have the word in their title, which by the ‘requirements’ I mostly apply to these posts tends to rule them out. You are no doubt familiar with the old standard by the name of Anniversary Waltz, of which there are so many versions, but it isn’t really my cup of tea. This one, however, which is masquerading under the same title, definitely is:
That was released as a non-album single in September 1990, under the title The Anniversary Waltz – Part One, and the anniversary highlighted in the banners on the video is for the approaching twenty fifth anniversary of Status Quo first getting together as a band, originally under the name of The Spectres. Thirty one years further on and they are just about still going! That was a #2 hit here but, as usual, did absolutely nothing in the US charts, though it did make the top twenty in eight countries across Europe. I’ve shared them before in this series, and commented on their lack of chart success in the States: I’d have thought their brand of unpretentious, feelgood rock music would have done better over there. I know I can always rely on them to get these posts off to a rousing start.
The rest of today’s posts have a strong feeling of ‘singer-songwriter’ about them. This isn’t deliberate, its just that these are the types of anniversary songs I wanted to share. And they aren’t all celebratory in nature, either, which I think is fitting in marking a year of Covid restrictions. The first one is by a longtime favourite of mine:
As Suzanne says on the intro to this video on YouTube, it was written for those affected by 9/11, a year after the event. This is a newly recorded lockdown version from last autumn, and in the context of the current tally of more than 2.7m deaths worldwide from Covid it remains both relevant and poignant. This was a track on Suzanne’s seventh album, Beauty & Crime, released in 1997. The album wasn’t a major chart success, reaching only #129 in the US and #127 here, though it did reach #9 in Estonia (answers on a postcard, please). Notwithstanding its lack of chart success the album did win a Grammy, for ‘Best Engineered Album – Non-classical.’ Good to know that the Grammys were just as relevant back then as they are now! Incidentally, the guitarist with Suzanne is Gerry Leonard, who played on the original album version, and has credits for playing with the likes of David Bowie to his name, too.
There seems to be a sub-theme forming here, of songs marking sad anniversaries, as this next one also fits into that category:
This was the final track on Al Stewart’s fifteenth album, A Beach Full Of Shells, which was released in June 2005. It is a song written to mark the departure a year previously of a woman: as that was the year in which his marriage ended I think I’m on pretty safe ground in assuming this was for his ex-wife. The closing verse sounds fairly definite:
This is your anniversary
I’ll light a candle in the window so you might see
This is the day you had to go
Good-bye then, this concludes your portion of the show
Apart from a brief period in the 70s, with Year Of The Cat and Time Passages, Al Stewart has never enjoyed much chart success. This album was no exception to that, not charting anywhere as far as I can tell. Nonetheless, his albums are full of carefully crafted songs and meaningful lyrics, and are well worth delving into. I once saw him play live in his early days before those two hit albums, in a small venue: it was a wonderful, spellbinding evening. [I’ve been advised that this link doesn’t work in the US – my apologies. The only other way I can find for sharing this track is this link https://youtu.be/JR-1SBv3_1E but I fear that may just be the same video again. Sorry!]
This next one is from someone with the saddest of stories. Eva Cassidy died from melanoma in relative obscurity, in November 1996, at the age of just 33. Her musical career and subsequent success was all posthumous, following from the compilation album Songbird reaching #1 here in the UK. This is beautiful, and very poignant when you listen to the lyrics:
The song is about someone remembering a lost love who is no longer with us. You’d have to have a very hard heart not to see and empathise with the parallel with her own brief life. The song was on the album Time After Time, released in 2000, four years after her death. The album reached #25 here, but only #161 in the US, a pattern reflected in most of her recordings, which have all performed better outside her home country. The song was written by a guy called Steven Dignam, who wrote several others that Eva recorded, as well as being a musician and journalist. He is also credited with the invention of ‘Glow in the Dark Luminescent Violin Rosin; manufactured and distributed by Dodson’s MFG.’ So if you’ve ever seen a fiddler with luminous strings on their bow, now you know who to blame!
So far, things have been in keeping with the fact that this is an anniversary that none of us welcome, that isn’t something to be enjoyed, and the choices have been a little bit downbeat. So I thought I’d turn to The Cowboy Junkies to perk things up – now that’s a sentence I never expected to write! But this is a lovely celebration of an anniversary that means love, and the little things that make it special. And keep an eye out for a couple of sly digs in the names that feature on screen:
This is a track from the band’s fifth album, Pale Sun, Crescent Moon, which was released in 1993. They have never set the charts alight, but have made some great records. This one peaked at #25 in their native Canada and at #114 in the US, but didn’t chart here. The song was a #10 hit single in Canada, and reached #28 on the US Modern Rock chart, which is based on airplay. Their trademark sound has been descried as ‘ethereal,’ largely based around the gorgeous vocals of Margo Timmins. Again, theirs is a back catalogue I can recommend.
That just leaves one more to make up this week’s set of six. I really did consider giving you Vera Lynn singing the Anniversary Waltz, but decided not to – I didn’t like it when my parents played and danced to it, so why break the habits of a lifetime? But you may have noticed the ‘Part One’ in the title of the Status Quo track that I began with. Was there a ‘Part two?’ Of course there was:
A band at the peak of their powers, bringing fun and joy in their music to so many. What’s not to like? That was released as a single in December 1990: it didn’t do as well as the first part, only reaching #16 here, but it probably had a lot of competition from the usual batch of Christmas dross and re-releases to contend with. The two medleys are a great way to bookend this week’s selections, though.
As always, I’m signing off by wishing you a good week. At present, we’re scheduled to see the start of the gradual release from lockdown next Monday, but with our Prime Minister warning yesterday that a third wave will ‘wash up on our shores’ I think that might be in doubt. The government’s record on U-turns isn’t great, so watch this space: he might need to replace his ‘roadmap’ with a satnav. Any suggestions for a suitable voice? With his world weariness, I’m going for Tony Hancock. Or maybe Terry-Thomas telling us that we’re ‘a shower, an absolute shower.’
Take care 👍🤞