Advent Calendar Day 2

Time to open the number 2 window on my Advent Calendar. Still no chocolates, but the music makes up for that. Today’s song is a favourite of mine, though I haven’t featured it for a couple of years:

Nothing says ‘Christmas’ quite like cowboys and spacemen, does it! That one goes back to 2011, in the midst of a period when The Killers used to release a Christmas single each year, all the proceeds being donated to charity. They haven’t done it recently, as far as I can tell, but their collection is quite varied, and they always had fun making the videos, as you can see!

I’m giving you a second video today. For a difference, this one is a Christmas advert:

Hafod Hardware is a shop in Rhayader, a small town in mid-Wales. They first released a Christmas advert in 2017, and things really took off for them last year when they generated a huge amount of coverage in the national media here. This one was released early today, and I have to admit that I was waiting for it: as before, they have used a very limited budget – most of which is spent on acquiring the rights to use the music – and have, I think, succeeded again in getting right to the heart of what Christmas should be about. And they do it far better than the big retailers and their advertising agencies! The star of the video is little Arthur, who is, I think, now 3, though he has been in all four of their videos: a budding child star in the making, right from the time he crawled across the floor in the 2017 version! The music for all four of their Christmas ads has been provided by Andrea Von Kampen, and the beautiful simplicity of her songs is a perfect fit. This song is actually a real oldie, which has become a traditional folk song in the US. It was written by Stephen Foster (the ‘father of American music’) in 1854, and its message of asking the fortunate to consider those less lucky than themselves is just as true today as ever. I may well be sharing again their three previous ads during Advent: they are all as lovely as this one, so have the hankies ready.

Signing off with today’s picture, which was kindly provided by my friend Gill:

See you again tomorrow.

Tuesday Tunes 15: Bye Bye Lockdown?

In many countries the lockdown is beginning to be relaxed with, it has to be said, rather mixed results. In the US, which to my eyes bears the dubious distinction of being the only country to have handled the pandemic more ineptly than us, many states have done the Numpty’s bidding and opened up again rapidly, with some dramatic resulting increases in new cases. But hey, what are a few plebs’ lives when there’s money to be made? I know that these are incredibly difficult decisions to take, and I wouldn’t want to be the one balancing the saving of lives against the need to restart the economy, and what that means for employment and general wellbeing. But as so little is still known about this virus I would have hoped that caution might have been exercised, both on the part of governments and their populations. Sadly, that doesn’t seem to be the case, and I suspect that we may not be over it yet, hence this week’s theme: Bye Bye Lockdown? Note that question mark, it is important.

Here in the UK you could be forgiven for thinking that our lockdown is already over, judging by the news coverage of rallies, protests, and huge numbers flocking to the beaches during the recent good weather – but with lavatories not being allowed to be open I hate to think what the state of the seawater was like. So, our lockdown is not yet over, but you could be forgiven for not noticing.  Shops and public places have been gradually reopening over the past couple of weeks, but the real changes for most of us don’t even come into effect until this weekend. This will see a significant relaxation in the rules about meeting people outside and inside your home, and will also permit the reopening of pubs, restaurants, cinemas and theatres. In keeping with the whole process so far, the rules are complicated and, in some cases, downright stupid: theatres can reopen, but are not allowed to hold live performances in case anyone gets spat on. Likewise for live music, as it is of course a well known fact that musicians take great delight in spitting on their audiences to share their germs: the Sex Pistols have a lot to answer for!

So, having chosen my theme for this week, how could I find a couple of tunes to illustrate it? On the one hand, there is the aspect of our new freedom, while on the other there is the continuing need to exercise caution to help prevent a second wave of the virus. In true British compromise spirit I decided on one tune for each. It’s probably a good thing that I’m not running the country with decision making abilities like that, but I’m not, so you can all breathe a huge sigh of relief – into your mask, of course. This week’s first tune is the one that goes down the ‘let’s all have a good time’ route, and is from one of my favourite bands: The Darkness. They get a mixed press, and are often deemed not to be ‘cool,’ but I think they make some of the best rock music in this country. They also make superb videos, not taking themselves too seriously, as this one demonstrates. It has a bit of an intro but stick with it – you’ll laugh, I promise:

That track was released as a single, ahead of its inclusion on the band’s third album, Hot Cakes. Surprisingly to me it was their first single not to chart, but I think that may have had more to do with the band having been on a five year hiatus than anything else. Justin Hawkins, the band leader, said this about it at the time: “We wanted to write the world’s simplest, dumbest rock song. It’s harder than you might imagine. Songwriting is like catching butterflies. If a big dumb butterfly isn’t flying past when you’re sitting there with your net, you aren’t going to catch one.” I think it’s rather better than that!

This week’s second tune takes the other route: the need for caution. You have probably gathered from what I have already said, in this post and others, that I am very wary of things being done too quickly. As well as in the US, lockdown relaxations in other countries, such as Germany, Singapore and China, have caused a spike in new cases, and here we have the city of Leicester being put back into quarantine just as the rest of the country is released. I’ll be honest: I’m scared of what may happen, and will be venturing out even less than normal till I’m confident. I’m still some way from needing to cut my own hair, and online shopping does just about everything else I need! So when I saw that another of my favourite bands had recently released a song called Caution it seemed a no-brainer for today:

Whilst the lyrics talk about ‘throwing caution’ there is, I think, an underlying sense that he is trying to get out from what has been holding him back, even though caution may be the better option. The song is going to be on The Killers’ new album, Imploding The Mirage, which is now due (after some delays) for release in December, I think. I for one can’t wait! Like The Darkness, The Killers have also had periods of hiatus in their 20 years together, but it’s good to see them both back with new music. This will be The Killers’ sixth album, which by a neat piece of symmetry (coincidence?) matches The Darkness, whose sixth album Easter Is Cancelled was released last November.

That’s it for this week (back to the regular two tunes!). I hope that by next week events will have enabled me to feel more confident about coming out of lockdown, and I hope that, wherever you are, the same will be true for you. Take care, stay safe, keep well.