Let’s Get Lyrical! #1

If you haven’t visited the website yet, you must.  So many stories waiting to be shared.  And check out the great events too.

The beauty of the Let’s Get Lyrical concept is its simplicity and inclusivity: everyone, everywhere has at least one song whose lyrics move them.  And then there are those whose lives are one long soundtrack….  Like me. 

Fortunately, I am one of many and I invited a few chums to share the lyrics that move them for the blog.  The mighty Sean McP was first off the marks and what a wonderful post he has given us.  So many gems, and a richly woven tapestry of memories and moments too.  Enjoy.

Billy Connolly claims my generation never heard the lyrics on early pop singles, we just copied the noises we heard from our tinny transistor radios, having no idea of the words. As the first lyric I remember hearing was the chorus of skiffle hit ‘Last Train to San Fernando’ (‘Eeny beeny bom bowm to San Fernando) you’ll understand how I’m still working out words in songs I’ve been listening to, and singing, for a lifetime.

Two songs project a complete film in my mind: Paul Simon’s ‘America’ (And the moon rose over an open field) and the excellent Up the Junction’, by Squeeze (And then it kicks inside her). Mostly, though, we’re talking about snatches of lines, phrases, or verses, that roll around our minds like flashbacks from important events – which, in effect, they are.

Simon’s ‘Sounds of Silence’ still moves me to tears (And the sign said, “The words of the prophets are written on the subway walls And tenement halls“). James Taylor looms large, especially ‘Sweet Baby James’ (Now the first of December was covered with snow And so was the turnpike from Stockbridge to Boston.)

Kirsty MacColl had a rare way with words, but the standout line for me is from ‘Caroline’ (Well my head said go, but my heart, my heart said stay) Embarrassingly, my teenage summer dancehall days in the west of Ireland have firmly fixed a line from Herman’s Hermits ‘My Sentimental Friend’ (And there all alone in the corner, is the girl I once knew, who broke me in two) For constantly engaging me, Mary Chapin Carpenter’s ‘This Shirt’ is the winner (This shirt was lost for three whole days In a town near Buffalo ‘Till I found the locker key In a downtown Trailways bus depot)

The Beatles have to be there, of course, and from many possibilities, I’ll choose I’ll be back (You know, if you break my heart I’ll go, but I’ll be back again). Caroline by the Fortunes, theme tune to Radio Caroline North, echoes out over the sea for me (She’s on my mind forever it seems), as does that station’s favourite David McWilliams’ song – ‘The Days of Pearly Spencer’ (You walked too far along the street Where only rats can run)

‘Groovin’ by the Young Rascals will forever be a Sunday afternoon studying for Geography O Grade (Life would be ecstasy, You and me endlessly, Groovin). Much loved holiday memories also give me, from Billy Joel’s The Downeaster Alexa’ (We took on diesel back in Montauk yesterday And left this morning from the bell in Gardiner’s Bay) and I always loved Carly Simon’s phrase: Clouds in my coffee from You’re so vain.

There are millions of possibilities, and I could probably write a totally different list next time I try, but that’s part of the joy. Folk is something else, but I include Christy Moore’s emigrant ballad ‘Missing you’ (Oh I’m missing you, I’d give all for the price of the flight) and Runrig’s ‘Going Home’ (In the distance day was dawning Comes to me the early morning Something tells me that I’m going home.)

Finally, and right off the wall, some words from a Roger McGough poem, Buttons of your Mind, set to backing music, on the B side of Scaffold’s Thank u very much.

 “But the buttons of your mind were difficult to find – and my fingers far too clumsy.”  Says it all really!

Says it all really!


A 70th birthday tribute to John Lennon

A blog, if nothing else, is a vanity project.  So indulge me.  This post’s for me and the family/friends who are kind enough to read and encourage my witterings. 

I’ve always been a Beatles fan.  It went with the territory of having cool parents who had great taste in music (though I do also recall being subjected to some pretty dodgy prog rock.)  Sharing the Beatles with us, though, was one of their better moves.

There were long car journeys when we would play “name the Beatles tune”, each taking it in turns to name and sing bits of songs we could remember.  And I still have a mixtape somewhere that holds all my favourite tracks.  I might even dig it out today and introduce a new generation to one of THE greatest ever pop bands.  I am also very lucky to have a couple of original LPs and best of all, an EP of I wanna hold your hand, inherited from the parents’ record collections (they are of course welcome to borrow them back).  Apparently, the EP is worth a pound or two these days. 

Hearing the news of John Lennon’s tragic, early death is one of those seminal “where were you?” moments.  I still recall it vividly and the tears openly shed in our house that evening.  There was never any doubt in our family:  John was the cool and the edgy Beatle.  He was, still is, our favourite.

So, three Beatles tracks to honour the great man on what would have been his 70th birthday.

First up, my all time favourite Beatle song.  There is something so very haunting and poignant about this song and it still brings tears to my eyes every time I hear it.  Bring up the video clip, then minimise it – it’s only a record turning after all – but play it.  Then play it again.  Because it really is that good.  Yes, it is.

The next one’s for the parents.  Apparently this track  – I saw her standing there – was playing the night they met.  And guess what?  They were just seventeen.  I’m not sure if that is just dodgy memory syndrome but I’m sure they’ll be tickled to hear it again.  But don’t do the dancing thing: the last time you tried it you were my age. 

And finally, another of my faves.  I love the story behind the recording of this one.  They just couldn’t get it right,  and take after take, John was getting hoarser and hoarser.  Just when his voice was about to give up completely, that’s when he nailed it.  Fortunately for us, his throat recovered.  Twist and Shout – one of the sexiest, shimmiest dance numbers you’ll ever hear.  (The video clip takes about 10 seconds to kick in but it’s worth the wait).

If you’ve got a favourite Beatles or Lennon track, feel free to share it….