Significant Songs (133)

Cry Me Out

Regular readers will know that I have a fondness for British female solo singers, and can be unusually affected by otherwise trite little pop songs. This has been evidenced by my inclusion of Duffy, Emma Bunton, Geri Halliwell, and Sam Brown, among others.

Pixie Lott is a 26 year-old British singer, as well as a some-time actress, TV presenter, and general celebrity. She has apparent boundless enthusiasm, and pops up all over the place, most recently as a judge on the talent show, ‘The Voice’. Her southern accent and crinkly hair make her stand out from the crowd of more stylish performers, and her appeal to young record buyers is undeniable.

Considering her age, she has been around for a long time, signing her first record deal at the age of fifteen, whilst attending a stage school. She has also written songs for other artists, and now runs her own version of that same stage school, in Essex. So what is a record from this pretty young lady doing on this old man’s blog? (I hear you ask)

In 2009, I was driving along in my car, and heard a record on the radio. Stuck in heavy traffic in London, I turned up the volume, and sat and enjoyed this old fashioned song, with its ‘heartbroken ballad’ style. I surmised it was something from the back catalogue of someone I didn’t know, and eagerly awaited the announcement of the singer’s name when the record ended. I was amazed to discover that it was a new release, from someone apparently very popular, who I had never heard of. But I thought it was a great song.

And I still do.

A Musical A-Z: E

Up to ‘E’ already, and it is surprising how many possibilities there are for this letter.
Don’t forget to play along with your choices. Any song, album, or named artist, as long as the name begins with ‘E’.

It couldn’t be ‘E’ without The Eagles now, could it? So much a part of the musical establishment, it it often easy to forget just how good they are. I suppose that ‘Desperado’ is the obvious choice, especially as I missed it (deliberately) off of ‘D’. But I will go with the first Eagles single I ever bought.
Take It Easy

Previous experience on this blog has shown me that not as many people love the music of the Electric Light Orchestra (ELO) as much as I do. But as it’s my blog, they are going to feature, you can be sure of that. I like so many of their songs, I might have them popping up all over the place. But here’s one to start with.
Telephone Line

I have never been secretive about my love for Madonna. I will agree that she has gone on rather too long, and is in danger of one day appearing live from an old people’s home. However, her early career showed promise, and she became a pop powerhouse that will live on for as long as people ever play records. Without Madonna, there would never have been a Lady Gaga. The great styles and looks, the lovely face, wonderful figure, and above all, the innovative videos used to promote her work. If you didn’t like the song, it didn’t matter. Just watch her. She more or less had it all. Acting, (sort-of) sex appeal (definitely) great songs (no question) and a terrific dancer too. Here’s one for ‘E’
Express Yourself

Ever been attracted to a band because of the name? I have. I also liked this song from them, but only this one. I have the single in a box somewhere, so make do with listening to it on You Tube these days. It takes me back, and creates fond memories in my mind. And I have no idea why. But whatever you think of it, you have to agree that Martha and The Muffins is a great name.
Echo Beach

At the time, Hazel O’Connor was a rather abrasive young British woman who had a (just) decent voice, and also acted in a few films. I was quite taken with her style though, and chose to ignore the hype of her ‘wild child’ past. She’s still around, now aged 62. But this was her heyday, in 1980.
Eighth Day

I am well known for my love of soulful sounds and funky stuff, as well as liking a lot of female vocalists and girl groups too. I also confess to a weakness for big ballads and torch songs. This song from En Vogue manages to wrap all of that up in one (for me) very appealing package. Play it very loud.
Don’t Let Go

Following on from that theme, another big ballad and classic soul song. This time from a boy band, Boyz to Men. Whether you like this kind of music or not, you will find yourself relating to the song, if you have ever lost in love.
End of The Road

My top pick today is a song from as long ago as 1944, written by the wonderful talent that was Cole Porter. Perhaps most associated with the divine voice of Ella Fitzgerald these days, it has been covered by almost everyone you can think of, including a very good version in modern times, by Simply Red. It is an example of how a truly great song can endure, and will no doubt live on. I dearly wanted to feature the version by Jimmy Scott, as I had the privilege to watch him perform it live, in Ronnie Scott’s club in London. Sadly, the clips of that are not allowed to be accessed from the UK. So here is Simply Red’s version, with a suitably nostalgic video.
Every Time We Say Goodbye

A Musical A-Z: D

Continuing the series, don’t forget you can use any artist, song, or album beginning with ‘D’. Feel free to add your choices, and to play along.

British band Liquid Gold were pretty much a one hit wonder, in 1980. Their simple and rather bad pop song ‘Dance Yourself Dizzy’ was a popular hit, selling over a quarter of a million, and reaching number two in the charts. Unpretentious, and unashamedly lacking in style, it nonetheless caught the imagination of many record buyers, including me. Lead vocalist Ellie Hope was perhaps aware of her shortcomings, but gave herself 100% to the performance. For me, it is just unbridled nostalgia. Happy times.
Dance Yourself Dizzy

Desmond Dekker was a Jamaican-born Ska and Reggae artist who enjoyed a lot of success in the UK. He made the charts with ‘007’, ‘It Mek’, and ‘You Can Get It If You Really Want’. But for me, this 1968 release remains a real anthem of my teenage years, and almost fifty years later, my toes are still tapping to it. Don’t worry if you don’t understand the lyrics, nobody does…

In 1964, Martha and The Vandellas released their version of a song that has been covered many times since. When Motown was riding high with its distinctive sound, they brought us the marvellous ‘Dancing In The Street’, co-written by Marvin Gaye, and one of many hits from this girl group over the years. For me, it sums up a time in my life, and a sound that I still adore. Ignore the later cover versions, and relish this one instead.
Dancing In The Street

Irish band Thin Lizzy enjoyed great popularity in the UK, until the early death of their lead singer and guitarist, Phil Lynott, in 1986. Perhaps best known for their massive hit, ‘The Boys Are back In Town’, this track also featured highly in their record sales, and became associated with them forever, despite being a cover version of the King Harvest original.
Dancing In The Moonlight

I didn’t feature the Beach Boys under ‘B’. That was because I knew I would be adding songs they had recorded to this list. The enduring genius of Brian Wilson and the rest of the band never fails to amaze. It is arguable that no vocal group has ever harmonised so well, nor adapted their style across time periods and genres with such success. Here is their lamentably short song, Darlin’.

And just to add to the magic, here they are again, with the plaintive, Don’t Worry, Baby.
Don’t Worry, Baby

Perhaps best known from the Mamas and Papas version, this wonderful crescendo of sound from The Shirelles, (though previously recorded by the 5 Royales) is yet another anthem of my youth. Originally released by the girl group in 1959, it was re-released in 1961, when I was only nine years old. Despite my age at the time, I loved it immediately, and still do. The version that became a huge hit for The Mamas and Papas was not released until 1967, but by then I had long owned the Shirelles superior recording.
Dedicated To The One I Love

Steely Dan make my top pick again, and no apologies. I have no doubt they will feature many times before this A-Z concludes. Another masterful tune from the greatest band of that era. Wallow in the quality…
Deacon Blues

That has just scratched the surface of ‘D’. So, I have left you so much to add. Off you go!

Blogging: Tidying up the blog.

I currently follow 86 other sites. Most of these are on WordPress, with a few .com sites that are accessible via the WP platform. On most days, it takes at least 2 hours to catch up on all the posts published by my followed sites, as well as making comments, and dealing with the email notifications too. Not a problem for me. I have time on my hands, and blogging is my hobby.

It recently occurred to me that some of those sites have not published anything in a long time. Many of them do not follow my own blog anyway, so not receiving any feedback is normal. I decided to have a trawl through those dormant sites, to see if there was still any point following them. I looked first at the sites that had not published anything for over a year, then down to six months. If you haven’t published anything for that long, chances are you are no longer blogging, as I see it. I last did this exercise in February, so you may recall a similar post from then.

I sent a few comments to some bloggers, asking politely if they were OK, and still active as bloggers. I received replies from some, but not others. After going through the list of all 86 bloggers very carefully, and checking out each site for activity, I arrived at this result.

1 site is permanently deleted by the blogger.
1 site has posted nothing for seven months.
2 sites have posted nothing for over a year.
1 site replied that they had been busy, but will be posting again in the future.
2 sites made no reply to my comment, and have nothing on their blogs since late 2016.

So, I un-followed six sites this morning, by clicking the check box on WP.
I now follow 80 sites, all of which are satisfyingly active. I think that is about the most I can manage, to be honest. Any more than that, and I would never have time to engage with them all, especially as some of them post up to seven times a day, most days of the week.

Something for all those new bloggers to think about, before you follow umpteen sites, in the excitement of the early days of blogging. If you are to be a real follower, and intend to be a part of a blogging community, you have to choose carefully.

(And A, if you are reading this, where have YOU gone? x)

Gilbert and the grizzly

This is a work of fiction, a short story of 1319 words.

Gilbert St.John-Henderson was a proud hunter. His trophies adorned the walls of the large country house that had been his family home for generations. Framed photographs of him standing triumphantly over his kills were arranged neatly on the grand piano in the music room, all carefully dusted daily by the skittish Mary, one of the housemaids.

His father, Gilbert senior, had taken him hunting almost as soon as he could hold a rifle. Stags in Scotland, Wild Boar in Germany, Alpine Ibex in Switzerland. When the older Gilbert died relatively young, he left his son well provided for financially, along with a collection of weapons that had been the envy of hunters all over the world. Gilbert was unconcerned about the businesses, and left managers to worry about them, as he took ship to India. He was also unconcerned about continuing the family line, as he really couldn’t be bothered with the silly young debutantes that sought his fortune. With his mother, Maude, safely locked away in an asylum since he was a child, he had no concerns in his homeland. So, he was off to lay waste to the fauna in far-away lands.

After tigers and elephants in India, he took the voyage back to Africa, arranging for the stuffed heads of his victims to be prepared, and sent back to the manor house to await his return. Africa was just the place for a type like Gilbert. If it could move, he shot it. Lion, leopard, cheetah, hippo, bull elephant, and even a crocodile. Filling in between the larger beasts, he whiled away the time with assorted antelope and gazelle, as well as warthog, wildebeest, water buffalo, and even a large baboon.

After more than a year on safari, Gilbert was running out of new things to kill. The trophies were arriving at his house, packed in crates filled with straw, and he sent written instruction to Fitzroy, the butler, as to how they should be displayed. He had decided to winter in Mombasa that year, and avoid the cold and snow of his home county. But a chance meeting with an American hunter caused him to change his plans unexpectedly.

He met Abraham W. Pike over drinks in a Nairobi hotel. Gilbert generally avoided the brash and uncouth Americans, but good manners would not permit him to decline a seat in the bar to the tall American. He guessed Pike to be close to sixty. His weathered face and unusually long white hair gave him the look of the outdoors. But a well-tailored suit, and a gentlemanly manner suggested wealth too.
“I hear tell you’re a hunting man, mind if I sit down?”. Pike was not pushy, and waited patiently for a reply. Gilbert pointed at the chair. “By all means”. They were soon chatting amicably. It transpired that Pike had arrived in Africa very recently, determined to hunt for an elephant, the biggest his guide could find for him.

Gilbert was all too ready to boast of his own kills, reeling off the list of slaughtered animals like his cook ordering meat from the local butcher. Pike nodded appreciatively, occasionally asking about which calibre of bullet was used, or what kind of rifle was preferred for each animal. The American seemed pleased with the information, going so far as to take notes on a small pad, using a tiny pencil wrapped in a silver case. Gilbert caught the eye of a passing waiter, and waving his hand over their empty glasses, indicated that a refill was required.

When the fresh drinks arrived, Abraham leaned forward in his chair. “Tell me Gilbert, have you ever hunted bear?” The Englishman scoffed. “Hunted bear? Why I have hunted black bear in many countries, and brown bear in even more. One day, I intend to travel onto the ice, and get myself a polar bear”. Abraham rubbed his chin, before replying. “But have you ever taken a grizzly?” Gilbert was a little put out. He had to admit that so far, he had never travelled to Canada or America, so was unlikely to have had the chance. The American finished his drink in one swallow, before suddenly standing, extending a hand. “I will say goodnight, and thanks for the conversation. Believe me young fella, you haven’t lived, ’til you’ve hunted for grizzly”.

Gilbert abandoned the idea of wintering in Mombasa. Instead, he arranged to take a ship back to England, to return home and make plans for a trip to America. After checking on the placement of his trophies, and arranging his photographs, he sat down to study the habitat and behaviour of the grizzly bear. He would have to wait until the spring, before making the long journey by ship and train to Montana, where he was assured he would find a good specimen. He travelled to his gunsmith in London, and ordered a .50-calibre rifle, the one most favoured by the hunters he had read about. Then he wrote to a man mentioned in a book he had read, someone who might know a guide to employ, when he arrived. The winter was long and dull, and the staff in the house learned to avoid their bad-tempered master.

The sea voyage to America was pleasant enough. Gilbert treated himself to a first-class cabin, and the company was tolerable. Even the long train trip was enjoyable, and he found the rich Americans he met to be jolly company, most interested in his travels and exploits. The journey by horseback into the mountainous region was less appealing, mainly due to the company of his guide. The sullen man had a skin resembling tanned leather, and he seemed to Gilbert to be far too old for such an occupation. After introducing himself as Trapper Hicks, he offered no real forename for familiarity. He called Gilbert Mister, and asked for his payment in advance. Even during an overnight camp, he hardly spoke, except to reply to questions, and the so-called food he served tasted of grease and slime, as far as Gilbert could tell.

Early the next morning, they tied up the horses, and walked down into a vast woodland area. Hicks had said that they needed to find the bear’s lair, as it would soon be leaving hibernation. “You wait in front, it will be an easy shot”. That’s hardly a hunt, thought Gilbert, but he complied, as he was in unfamiliar territory. After walking for an hour, Hicks touched Gilbert’s shoulder, then put a finger to his lips, indicating silence. On the other side of a small clearing, a pile of earth indicated the winter dwelling of a bear. Hicks leaned in close, whispering. “You set down here, I will go around, and cover the left”. Unwrapping the .50 calibre, Gilbert quickly loaded one of the huge bullets into the breech. He sat down on the firm ground, bracing himself by crossing one leg behind the other, looking down the long barrel until the sight was level with the entrance to the mound. Glancing to his left, he couldn’t see Hicks at all.

He could smell it before he saw it, a strong odour on the breeze from his right. Turning slowly, he watched in fascination as the huge bear bore down on him. It was moving so fast. Did bears really run that fast? Even as he swung the rifle, he knew it was too late.

The bear sat next to what was left of Gilbert. Still ravenous after that kill. Not enough fat, when you have been starving all winter. But it would give him the energy to move on that morning, hopefully find something other than sour berries, far from ripe. He licked a huge bloodied paw, and wiped the side of his head. A head that would never grace a wall in Gilbert’s manor house.

Magazine Photoshoot: Part Two

As promised, the second part of the photoshoot of my copies of Longshot Island magazine.
It was time to get the copies off of the bookshelf, and give them some much-needed fresh air and exercise. The local children’s playground seemed to me to be the ideal spot.
(All photos can be enlarged for detail)

Unfortunately, these two copies were just not heavy enough for the see-saw!

All very well getting in the swings, but who’s going to push you?

The slide proved to be very popular.

Although the copies at the front had trouble with the log chain, those at the back did well on the rope ladder.

After all that exercise, time to chill out on the netting swing.

Just to let you all know, the recent non-fiction article published on the Longshot Island website has made it into print! It has been chosen for inclusion in the the next issue, out soon!