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 🙂


Tuesday Tunes 10: Mystery

As we step tentatively into week 10 of the U.K. lockdown there are some potentially positive signs. Our esteemed Prime Minister – or more accurately, his main advisor – has decided that it may be possible to open up some retail outlets from 1 June, and quite a few more from 15 June. No joy for the hotel, catering and tourism lot yet, though. This is, of course, all predicated on there not be a worsening of the situation before then. What could possibly go wrong?

Well, we had one of our rather few Bank Holidays yesterday and, judging by the reports of hordes descending on beaches and one of these invasions turning into a mass brawl, the end may not yet be in sight. It appears that the plebs are beginning to tire of the lockdown and are deciding that it doesn’t apply to them. That may be the result of last week’s statement by the PM, which confused more than it clarified. No change there, then. More likely it was because of the story splurged all across our news media that the aforementioned main advisor, Dominic Cummings, had been caught travelling to Durham from his London home either twice or thrice, depending on which source you believe. This was despite the rules that he wrote for Johnson to announce. I could say much more on this, but you can easily find coverage of it if you’d like to know more. I am enjoying watching the hypocrites squirming, though, and thinking up ever more implausible justifications. But the petition for Cummings to be sacked now has more than 500k signatures – watch a news space near you!

The underlying takeaway from this, for me, is that we are embroiled in an unknown situation, we have some clues as to what may happen, but don’t know how it will end. Rather like a mystery, in fact, which seemed a suitable theme for this week’s two tunes (spot the seamless segue!).

This week’s first song goes way back to my teenage years and is, I think, very appropriate for what we are currently experiencing. If many shops do reopen next month, it will very much be a Magical Mystery Tour into an unknown future. Roll up, roll up:

The original version of that was released as two 7 inch EP discs, presented in a lovely book format with loads of colour photos of the making of the film, which was first shown on the newly colourised BBC2 channel on Boxing Day 1967. I remember it well, though we were only watching in black and white: neither of my parents was willing to sell a limb to be able to afford a colour tv at that point. It received an audience of 15m, but was savaged by the critics: a good reason, if you needed one, to ignore those idiots! While visiting YouTube for this video I also found a short ‘making of’ piece about the film, which I thought was also worth sharing, both for its historic content and for the snippets of all six tracks on the EP:

My second tune for this week is a little piece of wisdom from the lovely Iris DeMent. Pondering on the meaning of life and the possible hereafter, she comes to the conclusion that the best course is to ‘jest’ Let The Mystery Be:

As someone says at the end of that clip, that one is for keeping. It was recorded in 1995 for the first series of a programme called Transatlantic Sessions, which brought together folk, country and Americana musicians from both sides of the pond. There have to date been six series of this, and they are highly recommended. In recent years there has also been a set of live gigs around the UK, which I was lucky enough to see back in 2014 – also highly recommended!

If you scroll down the comments far enough you will see one from me (I’m CliveChip – don’t ask!) which mentions the version of this song by 10,000 Maniacs, with a guest appearance by David Byrne, of Talking Heads. For what I imagine are contract reasons around Byrne, that didn’t appear on the Unplugged album for which it was recorded. However, there are videos of it and in a fit of unparalleled generosity I thought I’d share one with you – unlike some, I’m still keeping to my ‘rule’ of two songs per week, after all:

I think that is also a lovely version, or perhaps it’s just because I love the song. If it has piqued your interest in Iris DeMent I can also recommend watching her perform with the late John Prine on his song In Spite Of Ourselves – it’s a little gem.

That’s your lot for this week’s bumper edition, in which I have somehow managed to get four videos out of two tunes. Not bad, eh? As always, I wish you well. Be safe, and hopefully the end of this nightmare is in sight.

Tuesday Tunes 4

As you can see from my handy free counter (in the title) we in the UK are now going into week 4 of lockdown. I think I’ve escaped most of the problems so far, the only real change to my lifestyle was having to stay up until midnight to try and book a Tesco delivery slot as soon as they made another day available. It was 10th time lucky, so until the goodies arrive I’ll just have to make do with a full freezer and more tinned and packet meals than I’ve ever seen in my life before. Then, I’ll have to do it all over again to get another delivery slot to replenish the fresh foods, unless a miracle happens and shopping becomes easy again. Who knew it would come to this? But of course I can reassure you that I haven’t been panic buying: I’m just taking sensible precautions in case my home should ever come under siege. It’s at times like this that I could almost yield to the blandishments of all those helpful people on Farcebook, Twitter and in blogs who are encouraging us to use the time we have on our hands creatively, by taking up something new. At my most honest, I would admit that I and ‘creative’ rarely, if ever, appear in the same sentence but I guess I could always think about changing the habits of a lifetime?

Maybe tomorrow…

But this did get me thinking about a possible theme for this week’s two Tuesday Tunes. So, instead of trying something new myself, I’ve chosen a couple of songs that tell the stories of those who aspire to creative greatness. Either that, or the untold riches that success would bring. The first is from 1966, from a little band you might have heard of before:

A ‘dirty story’ of a ‘dirty man,’ whose ‘clinging wife doesn’t understand’ – I think there have been a few of those over the years! But rest assured, dear reader, I won’t be joining those ranks any time soon. It’s all I can do to string a thousand words together, let alone a thousand pages!

My second song for this week is another story of aspiration, which is even further from my abilities than the first. As one who struggles to produce the most simple landscape picture my artistic talents could be deemed to be ‘limited.’ Little wonder, then, that I studied the History of Art for my degree, rather than actually doing it myself! But in my youth I had my dreams, rather like this:

As it says on the video, that is a Bob Dylan song. He and The Band have had a long association and this was far from being the first of his songs that they recorded. It appears on Cahoots, their fourth studio album, and was released in 1971. I prefer their version: I think the late Levon Helm’s plaintive vocals really suit it. If you aren’t familiar with them, The Band made several great albums in what would today be termed Americana-style, and Levon himself also had a successful acting career, in addition to being a solo musician and leading his own band (small ‘b’). And a little piece of additional trivia for you: he was the inspiration for the song Listening To Levon, which is on Marc Cohn’s Join The Parade album. I recommend you check that out: it’s a lovely song of love and reminiscence, on a great album (like everything Marc Cohn does!).

So, that’s a wrap for this week. I hope that, however you are spending the time – maybe working from home or, like me, lounging around doing nothing, as usual – you are taking sensible precautions to avoid the horror that is Covid-19. I see from today’s paper that our esteemed government is suggesting that they will be continuing the lockdown for at least another three weeks and will be announcing their decision on Thursday. We all know that’s coming, so why the suspense? JFDI! But it does mean that there will be at least another three weeks of Tuesday Tunes posts, after which I will, like the government, review whether I can release you from lockdown. I just hope I make a better job of managing that than the clowns in charge here – at least, unlike Dominic Raab, I do know my derrière from my elbow.

Take care, be safe, stay well.