Tuesday Tunes 20: Lockdown Music – Part 2

Last week I went themeless in this series for the first time, by sharing some songs that had come out of lockdown, and I promised you some more. So here we go again: another selection of great tunes to amuse and entertain you and, in one case at least, to tug at your heart strings a little.

I began last week’s selection with Kate Rusby’s version of Manic Monday, by The Bangles. That was a track from her new album of covers – Hand Me Down – which will be released on 14 August. Several of you remarked how much you had liked it so I was planning to share the second video Kate has released from the album – well, I was, until Sunday. Throughout lockdown Kate has also been sharing a video from home each week in what she calls her ‘Singy Songy Sessions,’ SSS for short. On Sunday she gave us SSS#20, which was my favourite of all of her songs. This is Underneath The Stars, which is the title track from her 4th studio album (5th if you count her retrospective album, 10), and was released in 2004. I have no idea why, but when the horn section makes its entrance into the song I always shed a tear – I’ve even done it when seeing her play the song live in concert. I thought I’d at least manage to get through it alright this time, as she couldn’t fit the horn players into her home studio. What could possibly go wrong? See for yourself:

Yes, it happened again, but this time I wasn’t alone! That is such a beautiful song, and I hope you like it too: the effect it has on me is testament to the power of music to move us. And do you think, if I asked them nicely, that Kate and Damien would high five me for also reaching twenty posts: our schedules have been closely aligned!

This week’s second tune is one of those that entertains us. Until they disbanded four years ago, Bellowhead were the biggest folk band in the UK – and they were popular in many other countries too. They were big in size – all eleven of them – and had taken the UK folk scene by storm, winning a number of awards including several for ‘Best Live Act.’ They were the band I had seen most often, comprising multi-talented musicians with an enormous sense of fun, both in their live shows and their occasional videos. They have been much missed and not just by me. But, a few weeks ago, they popped up on Facebook with a video of a kind of reunion. Thanks to technology, they had created a new version of one of their best known songs, which became a regular part of their live shows after it featured on their third album, Hedonism, which was released in 2010. Be prepared for an invasion of fun in your life:

I love the running gag of trumpeter Andy Mellon’s daughter appearing gradually until the sheer glee on her face when she leaps into shot with her poster – in case you hadn’t picked up that word! And Rachael appears to have learned a few dance moves from Bellamy Clark (see last week’s post).

The next tune is another happy, jaunty one too. You may have heard of Colbie Caillat, who has sold millions of records over the past dozen years or so, but you may not know her latest project: a band called Gone West. They have been together for a couple of years, though they knew each other from the days when the others were part of her touring band, and were co-songwriters. Their debut album, Canyons, was released in June, and they celebrated with an outdoor album launch among some stunning scenery. Recently, they have released a lockdown split screen version of their ‘theme tune,’ which is the opening track on the album. I do like a bit of country music, so this was a natural choice for me:

In rather different vein are another band who are superb live performers. I’d hazard a bet, though I’m not a gambler, that few of you will know of the Ukulele Orchestra Of Great Britain (UOGB). Am I right? They have also been releasing a series of videos from their homes during lockdown, all skilfully edited together. As with Bellowhead, there is a large element of fun about the UOGB, as you can see from many of their older YouTube videos: their versions of Theme From Shaft and Wuthering Heights are among my favourites. I doubt you’ll have seen a Lady Gaga song performed like this before, though:

They have been going since 1985, with several band changes along the way. They haven’t, as far as I know, made even the slightest dent on the albums chart, though they have released a dozen or so studio albums, plus some live ones and DVDs of their shows. To be honest, I think they are best as a live act – you get the full force of their musical skills that way, plus their wonderful collective sense of humour. Any band which can perform at the annual Proms series, play Beethoven’s Ode To Joy on ukuleles, and get around 1,000 audience members to bring their instruments and play along with them must have something going for them! If this has piqued your interest do check them out on YouTube – you won’t be disappointed.

Having stretched this series from two to, on occasion, three songs, I shared four last week and have now done so this week too. I’m kind of assuming that I might not do another lockdown tunes post – unless musicians keep feeding me new material – and I’m feeling slightly guilty that I teased you with another Kate Rusby song earlier. In my world, there is no such concept as a surfeit of Kate Rusby, so I’m begging your forbearance one more time. As an extra special bonus fifth tune for this week, here is that second video for a song on Kate’s new album:

Utterly charming! How can anyone not like that? I’m really looking forward to the album, and hopefully there might be more videos to support it. At this rate, I’d have a post of nothing but Kate, but even I can see that might be overdoing things a little. By the way, if you type ‘shake it off’ into the search box at the top of the page you’ll find a previous post about this song, in which I shared the Taylor Swift original and a cover by Walk Off The Earth. Three different treatments of the song, and they’re all great!

I hope you’re keeping well and that your brain hasn’t exploded with the effort of understanding all the changes to the UK lockdown rules. I’m just staying indoors unless I really have to go out: much easier that way! Take care, be safe, and I’ll see you again next Tuesday.

Never Grow Up

Watching and reading the news yesterday about the suicide bomber who had killed 22 (mostly) young people in Manchester, I was struck by how incredibly sad it all was. The images of those who had been killed or were missing included so many who were children and teenagers. The youngest victim so far identified publicly was only 8 years old, and seeing pictures of her adorable face was heartbreaking.

It brought back for me the memories of the first pop concert my daughters went to. It was 29 March 1998, when Katy had just turned 12 and Ruth was 6. They went with their Mum to see the boyband 911 at Wembley Arena and, as in those days I worked near to the Wembley complex, I drove them up there and we had a pre-show picnic in my office. I have two abiding memories of the day: Ruth taking great delight from the open plan offices in a square building and running laps around the desks, and the way both girls were so vibrant, buzzing with delight when I picked them up after the show. The date is an easy one to check, as it was the day Chelsea played Middlesbrough in the League Cup Final at Wembley Stadium, adjacent to the Arena. I hadn’t realised that on big match days the short road linking our office to the Stadium became one way only, away from the Stadium, to help clear 80,000 supporters as quickly as possible. So, what was meant to be a two minute journey became an absolute nightmare with three very impatient passengers getting ever more nervous as we inched forward in heavy traffic going the long way round and the concert start time approached. In the end they had to do the last two hundred yards on foot, as it was far quicker, but at least they didn’t miss anything. I took Katy to a couple of other concerts there, but we didn’t have anything like the drama of that first one. Given the ages of those we know about from Monday, I suspect that for some of them it would have been their first pop concert, and they will have been going through all the anticipation and excitement that our two enjoyed leading up to their first show. But their parents won’t have been able to share in the after-show excitement, like I did, even though I didn’t actually go to it myself. My memories of that are stored away in my treasure chest of happy moments, and the victims’ parents have been robbed of that.

Somehow, as the memories came back, this song came into my head, and I couldn’t shift it:

As you can see from the lyrics, the song is about how we have moments when we wish that youngsters could be preserved exactly as they are, in their innocence and beauty. Sadly, many went to a pop concert – a joyful event – and a cruel murderer decided that their lives would go no further. Taylor Swift may not be to everyone’s taste and she often gets a bad press, but the simple beauty of that song is, I think, a fitting tribute to those whose lives were torn away from them in such a horrible manner. They will never grow up, and all that their parents, families and friends will have are memories of moments like those in the song. That can never be enough to make up for the terrible hurt they must be feeling now, and which will stay with them forever, but I hope it will help them. Time passes, and memories fade, but I’m sure they can hold onto as many as possible and will treasure them. That is the least they deserve, to try to fill the huge void in their lives. None of us who has children can begin to understand how those poor families are feeling, and it would be wrong of me to guess – it’s not something any parent should ever have to deal with. I just hope they have happy memories of those ‘never grow up’ moments.

Shake It Off

As it’s the weekend I’m taking it easy (see what I did there?!) and will be spending the day with the paper, music and football. I can only really share one of those with you, so here goes…..

One of the great delights in music for me is when someone covers a song and adds something to it. Many covers are just inferior copies or, in some cases, total massacres of great songs. I’m thinking Madonna’s destruction of the iconic American Pie, or perhaps Cher’s annihilation of Marc Cohn’s lovely Walking In Memphis (Walking in Memfuss, anyone?). Now that I’m about to tell you this, I guess this isn’t a guilty pleasure any more, but I love Taylor Swift’s music. I know, I know! I’m about 50 years older than most of her fans, and the wrong gender, but hey, each to their own! The first single off her most recent album was this one:

Catchy, fun, funny, what’s not to like? Unless it becomes today’s earworm after you’ve heard it. Sorry. (Not really!)

Some of the best covers I know are made by The Canadian band Walk Off The Earth. They have made a specialty out of incredibly inventive videos, both for their own songs and for covers. Their version of Gotye’s Somebody That I Used To Know is amazing and has over 168 million views on YouTube. Here’s what they did with Shake It Off:

Now THAT’s how to do a cover! Keep the song, but make it your own too.

Have a great weekend 🙂