What Sarah Said

The American alternative rock band Death Cab for Cutie was formed in Bellingham, Washington, USA, in 1997.

The group took their name from a Neil Inness and Vivian Stanshall song, “Death Cab for Cutie,” featured in both the 1960s British TV show Do Not Adjust Your Set and the Beatles’ musical movie Magical Mystery Tour.

I only learned of Death Cab for Cutie’s music when they released their fifth studio album, Plans, in 2005, though I don’t remember where I first heard it. I don’t have their earlier releases (except for the title track from 2003’s Transatlanticism). Because I liked Plans so much, I bought Narrow Stairs when it came out in 2008 but didn’t care for it at all. Maybe I’ll have to give it another listen. I skipped a few releases, then Thank You for Today (2018) redeemed the band for me, though it doesn’t carry anywhere near the vibe, mood or magic of the songs on Plans, particularly the song, “What Sarah Said.”

Twenty years ago today, I stood with family in a hospital room as my dad took his last breaths, a little more than 24 hours after some of us siblings living far away were able to arrive to be at his side with our mum and sister.

“What Sarah Said” is a most vivid description of the helpless, hopeless feeling of pacing around a hospital, knowing the end is coming, but not knowing how long will be spent in that waiting time; all the while facing moments of denial, and anxious to hear something encouraging from overworked and caring doctors, nurses and staff. The song captures the emotions of holding space and each other, exhausted; eyes and heads sore from too-bright lights, too little sleep and nourishment, and unable to shut out the sights, sounds, and smells of a hospital (right down to the song-quoted disinfecting smell of Formula 409 cleaner).

And it came to me then
That every plan
Is a tiny prayer to father time
As I stared at my shoes
In the ICU
That reeked of piss and 409

And I rationed my breaths
As I said to myself
That I’d already taken too much today
As each descending peak
On the LCD
Took you a little farther away from me
Away from me

Amongst the vending machines
And year-old magazines
In a place where we only say goodbye
It stung like a violent wind
That our memories depend
On a faulty camera in our minds

And I knew that you were truth
I would rather lose
Than to have never lain beside at all
And I looked around
At all the eyes on the ground
As the TV entertained itself

‘Cause there’s no comfort in the waiting room
Just nervous pacers bracing for bad news
And then the nurse comes ‘round and everyone lifts their head
But I’m thinking of what Sarah said
That “Love is watching someone die”

So who’s gonna watch you die?
So who’s gonna watch you die?
So who’s gonna watch you die?

(“What Sarah Said,” by Ben Gibbard, Chris Walla, Jason McGerr, Nick Harmer)

Hearing the song brings back those memories, but it also evokes happier recollections of before and since Dad died. It’s a terrific piece of music, too. It starts with a repeating broken triad on the piano (thanks to Sweety for telling me what the piano part is called), which ushers in some of the band after a few bars, then brings in the rest of the instruments, and finally, Ben Gibbard’s unmistakable voice joins to tell the story.

There’s an urgency in the sound, until the end and the linkage between love and death. This part of the song reminds me of a 12th century poem quoted on page 25 of the Francis Weller book, The Wild Edge of Sorrow: Rituals of Renewal and the Sacred Work of Grief:

“For Those Who Have Died”

Eleh Ezkerah (These We Remember)

‘Tis a fearful thing
To love
What death can touch.
To love, to hope, to dream,
And oh, to lose.

A thing for fools, this,
Love,
But a holy thing,
To love what death can touch.

For your life has lived in me;
Your laugh once lifted me;
Your word was a gift to me.

To remember this brings painful joy.

‘Tis a human thing, love,
A holy thing,
To love
What death can touch.

(by Judah Halevi, or Emanuel of Rome)

While I was out on errands today, I stopped in at a liquor store and, serendipitously, stumbled upon a bottle of Lemon Hart brand Demerara rum, the exact kind my dad enjoyed a long time ago and which I bought him as a gift sometimes. I remember that it stopped being available for many years, and I wasn’t even looking for it today as I didn’t know it was made anymore. I bought a bottle. My sweety and I will toast to my dear dad tonight.

Now you know a little about why this is my song of the day for today.

Thank you for joining me here.

Here’s the audio for the song from Death Cab for Cutie’s official YouTube channel:

Things to Live For

Jackson Maloney is an American poet and singer-songwriter living and creating art in Colorado, USA.

I came to know him through a mutual friend and at online community gatherings held early in the 2020 lockdown, including early-morning poetry sharing sessions. He released his first collection of poems, Becoming, in 2018, and the ten-song album Things to Live For late in 2019.

In addition to being a talented artist, Maloney is a gentle, kind and generous human. Underneath the light drawl of his vocal, there is great wisdom, reflection and soul in his words. These attributes are evident in all his work, whether playfully exploring the joys of life or coming to terms with grief, fear and loss. He also brings much hope to the world through his storytelling in song.

Today, I’m featuring the title track from his album. Another favourite is the solemn, contemplative and masterful “I’m Ready for to Pray,” the character of which is reminiscent of a country-western ballad.

“Things to Live For” is a song of love and hope amid the joys and challenges of life: “I’ve had lovers who held me close / And I’ve had friends die young and haunt me with their ghosts… ” It’s beautiful writing, playing and singing.

At the end of the song, Maloney is joined by other voices who amplify and add their joyous exclamations to his optimistic chorus:

“And it’s all good
It’s all great
It’s strong until it’s gone
Before too late
And I am happy to be around
And when I’m down
I lay my burden like a boulder
On the ground”

(from “Things to Live For,” by Jackson Maloney)

Now you know a little about why this is my song of the day for today. Thanks for joining me here, and please enjoy. And if you like the music, please buy it to support the artist who made it.

Here’s the audio for the song from Jackson Maloney’s Bandcamp album page:

Rocket Man (I Think It’s Going to Be a Long, Long Time)

In 2017, Iranian filmmaker and refugee Majid Adin won a contest to produce, along with co-director Stephen McNally of London, England, a video for Elton John’s hit song, “Rocket Man (I Think It’s Going to Be a Long, Long Time).”

The competition, called The Cut, called on filmmakers to compete to produce videos for three of John’s best-known songs. YouTube was a supporter of the initiative, but I couldn’t find any other information; a link to a page on John’s website turns back a “page not found” message.

Adin’s animated video mimics the experience of leaving his home in Iran to take refuge in the United Kingdom. It depicts a man, dressed as an astronaut, making a long, solo journey away from his family and juxtaposes these scenes with the adventure of space flight and exploration. The commonalities throughout are isolation and loneliness, but also hope, wonder and love.

Today’s selection was the lead single from John’s 1972 album, Honky Château. Like most Elton John songs it is a product of his longtime collaboration with English lyricist Bernie Taupin. “Rocket Man” (Rocketman) is also the title of a 2019 biographical musical film that chronicles the English superstar’s life. My sweety and I haven’t watched the movie yet, but would very much like to watch it.

Now you know a little about why this is my song of the day for today. Thanks for joining me here, and please enjoy.

Here’s the official music video from Elton John’s YouTube channel:

Full, unofficial lyrics are available courtesy of AZLyrics.com.

Cinderella, Op. 87, Act I: No. 1, Introduction (Andante Dolce)

Many years ago, one of my brothers and I were together a lot to watch movies and listen to classical music long-play records (it was a long time ago, so we probably were watching VHS tapes!). He helped me learn who the composers were through their different styles and the periods in which they lived.

On one such evening, we listened to the music for the ballet Cinderella, composed by Sergei Prokofiev (1891-1953). Nikolai Volkov (dates unknown) wrote the libretto. The ballet, arranged in three acts and 50 parts, was scored for a large orchestra. Most of the pieces are less than three minutes in length, and several are under one minute. But they are filled with many sounds!

In particular, Act I, No. 18, “Clock Scene” (Allegro moderato) plays just under a minute and a half but goes through multiple tempo changes and visits several repeating melodies in that short time, all the while keeping an urgency about it. The full ballet score contains numerous themes and variations on them; some themes identify the characters, or activities, and these weave throughout the piece in a very compelling way.

Prokofiev’s music for Cinderella, written between 1940 and 1944, is rich, vibrant, and dramatic. I am not always partial to classical music from the 20th century, but Prokofiev is definitely someone I enjoy. He also wrote the symphonic fairy tale Peter and the Wolf — a recording of which features David Bowie (1947-2016) as the narrator, the ballet Romeo and Juliet, and the opera War and Peace, among many other works.

Today, I’m featuring the opening piece, Act I: No. 1, “Introduction” (Andante dolce), as it introduces the themes that repeat through the work. I remembered many other parts after listening to the recording yesterday and today:

Act I: No. 7, “The Dancing Lesson” (Allegretto)

Act II: No. 28, “Mazurka” (Allegro ma non troppo) 

Act II: No. 38, “Midnight” (Allegro moderato) 

Act III: No. 50, “Amoroso” (Andante dolcissimo)

While much of the music is up-tempo and complex, there are some slower, more contemplative pieces, such as Act II: No. 36, “The Prince and Cinderella”(Adagio). 

I think it would be truly marvellous to see the ballet Cinderella danced to Prokofiev’s score.

Now you know a little about why this is my song of the day for today. Thanks for joining me here, and please enjoy.

Here’s the audio for Act I: No. 1, “Introduction” (Andante dolce) from a 1983 recording of German-American pianist, conductor and composer André Previn directing the London Symphony Orchestra. The entire recording is on a playlist found on the André Previn YouTube topic channel… check it out, and listen to some of the pieces I highlighted above. And see if you can identify the characters from the musical themes that represent them!

Your Song (from the film, Moulin Rouge!)

In addition to directing the dazzling, colourful and audacious 2001 movie musical Moulin Rouge!, Australian Baz Luhrmann also produced the motion picture soundtrack.

Similarly, with his modern-day film adaptation of the Shakespeare tragedy Romeo + Juliet, he produced two CDs of music from the film.

“Your Song” is an Elton John/Bernie Taupin composition, which John included on his self-titled, second studio album in 1970. That same year, the American band Three Dog Night covered the song. In 1991, British rock star Rod Stewart made a rendition of it for the multi-artist album Two Rooms: Celebrating the Songs of Elton John & Bernie Taupin. I find both covers to be a little flat and uninspired, not nearly as lively as John’s original recording. The song has also been covered by Lady Gaga, Billy Paul, Ellie Goulding and others.

By far, my favourite version of the song is from the Moulin Rouge! soundtrack. In the movie, the would-be writer Christian (played by Scottish-American actor Ewan McGregor) romantically sings to Satine (Australian-American actor Nicole Kidman), declaring his love for the alluring cabaret performer and courtesan. McGregor’s quirky and at times uncontrolled voice is delightful and spirited, much like Luhrmann’s films. Tenors Placido Domingo, Alessandro Safina and Jamie Allen add an operatic touch to the piece, though there’s more of their voices in the CD version than in the film scene… the two versions are noticeably different. Either way, it’s quite marvellous.

After McGregor’s opening lines, “My gift is my song / And this one’s for you… ” the upright bass and cello parts add a brief, foreshadowing effect, but the remainder of the song is lively, romantic and fantastical.

In October 2011, on a side trip during a vacation to England, my sweety and I spent five days in Paris, France. We took a couple of Sandemans walking tours and did a lot of exploring on our own, and on one rainy afternoon ended up in front of the Moulin Rouge cabaret. We also walked by it at night, during a guided tour of Montmartre. We didn’t find the time to see a show there, but we loved our brief visit. I would love to travel there again someday and see more of the city.

The Moulin Rouge cabaret, Paris, France, in October 2011. Photo © Steve West.

Now you know a little about why this is my song of the day for today. Thanks for joining me here, and please enjoy.

Here’s the audio of the soundtrack recording from the Ewan McGregor YouTube topic channel:

And this is an unofficial clip of the song performed during the film:

Full lyrics for the McGregor version are available at Genius.com.


Bros

In my two previous posts on the London, England alternative-rock band Wolf Alice (“Turn to Dust” and “Don’t Delete the Kisses”), I’ve mentioned their single, “Bros.”

This morning I figured, it’s about time I posted about the tune. It makes a good “Friday song,” as I hope you’ll agree.

The official music video portrays many aspects celebrating young friendship, including play, joy, exploration, mischievousness (like playing Knock-knock Ginger), hanging out aimlessly, contemplation, and love (as depicted at 2:10 in the video, as well as on the video thumbnail) then, at the end, “jump(ing) that 43” bus home. The video also reminds me of past visits to London with my sweety, where the producers made the short film.

I also find the song a good reminder of close relationships from my youth and those of the present with friends and siblings.

Shake your hair, have some fun
Forget our mothers and past lovers, forget everyone
Oh, I’m so lucky, you are my best friend
Oh, there’s no one, there’s no one who knows me like you do

Are your lights on?
Are your lights still on?
I’ll keep you safe
You keep me strong

Remember when we cut our hair?
We both looked like boys but we didn’t care
Stick it out together like we always do
Oh, there’s no one, there’s no one quite like you

Are your lights on?
Are your lights still on?
I’ll keep you safe
You keep me strong

Ohhh
Jump that 43
Are you wild like me?
Raised by wolves and other beasts
I tell you all the time
I’m not mad
You tell me all the time
I got plans

Ohhh
Jump that 43
Are you wild like me?
Raised by wolves and other beasts
I tell you all the time
I’m not mad
You tell me all the time
I got plans

Me and you, me and you, me and you
We could do better, I’m quite sure
Me and you, me and you, me and you
We could do better, I’m quite sure
Me, me, me, me, me and you
Me, me, me, me, me and you

(“Bros,” by Ellen Rowsell, Joel Amey, Joff Oddie, Theo Ellis.
Lyrics courtesy of AZLyrics.com)

Wolf Alice released “Bros” as a demo in 2013. They reworked the song and included it on 2015’s My Love Is Cool. It was the second of four singles from the album.

Now you know a little about why this is my song of the day for today. Thanks for joining me here, and please enjoy.

Here’s the official music video from Wolf Alice’s YouTube channel:

Democracy

The artistry of the Canadian poet, songwriter, singer and novelist Leonard Cohen (1934-2016) has been, I think, among the most significant gifts to the world that have come from my country.

In 2008 in London, England, at age 73, Cohen was on a tour believed to have been necessary because his former manager bilked a massive amount of his life savings. He released a live album, and there are many YouTube videos of performances from that trip. A few years ago, I stumbled upon one of those videos, a live performance of “Democracy,” a song originally from his 1992 album The Future. It has stayed with me.

I never followed Cohen much in my youth and earlier adult life but as I have gained a greater appreciation for art and particularly poetry, I have grown to love the works of this man.

In some ways, the song “Democracy” may speak to some of the rancour that has recently affected America, as well as many other countries. Underlying that, I also feel the song is a kind of homage to the theory of democracy as an institution, an ideal, carried out through people exercising the right to vote. That is a right I take very seriously each time I have the right, privilege and responsibility to do it.

An inauguration, a conclusion to an election cycle, is undoubtedly a cause for jubilation for the election winners, as happened yesterday. But more importantly, it signals the continuation of that time-tested tradition of electing the country’s leadership and the commander-in-chief of the military; weighty responsibilities (and perhaps burdens) few might ever feel capable of carrying, but do, and mostly without thanks or respect.

The democratic process leads not only to celebration but also to renewal of hope and, ultimately, commitment and action to improve all people’s lives. All around this living world, we don’t do very well at that sacred task, no matter who takes power, or where.

But the role of helping folks is not just up to governments. It is up to each of us to give hope and a hand up to our neighbours and those with less than us; the sick, the poor, the lonely.

Now you know a little about why this is my song of the day for today. Thanks for joining me here, and please enjoy.

Here’s the video for the song (with full lyrics in the video post’s notes) from the official Leonard Cohen YouTube channel:

Woke Up This Morning (With My Mind Stayed on Freedom)

On my trip down an Internet rabbit hole yesterday, I randomly came across a few spiritual-type songs and other tunes.

Among these songs was a video of a performance of “Woke Up This Morning (With My Mind Stayed on Freedom)” by the Resistance Revival Chorus at TEDxAsburyPark in New Jersey, USA, in 2019. However, the sound quality of the video on the chorus’s official YouTube was not the greatest. But with a little searching, I managed to find their studio recording on the YouTube topic channel. It is a stirring, moving rendition.

The chorus formed in 2017 with more than 70 women and non-binary singers from all walks of life, “… who join together to breathe joy and song into the resistance, and to uplift and center women’s voices, especially the voices of black women and women of color.”

This morning I listened to The Morning Show with John Richards on KEXP Seattle. Coincidentally, Richards played the same freedom song (considered folk music), created in a jail cell in 1961 by Black American preacher and Freedom Rides participant Reverend Robert Wesby (c1927-1988), during the civil rights movement. The piece is based on the gospel song “I Woke Up This Morning (With My Mind Stayed on Jesus).”

In July 1988, the body of Rev. Wesby was discovered in his church, having been beaten to death.

In a time of transition in America and indeed globally, this song felt like an appropriate way to mark the day and what it represents for all world citizens seeking unity, equality and peace.

Now you know a little about why this is my song of the day for today. Thanks for joining me here, and please enjoy.

Here’s the audio for the song from the Resistance Revival Chorus YouTube topic channel:

Full, unofficial lyrics are available through a Wikipedia article.

Wake Up

It’s been a while since I posted something by the Canadian indie-rock band Arcade Fire. This afternoon, I went down an Internet rabbit hole, scouting out some songs I’d thought of or captured on the Shazam app recently. And as I surfed, my searches for other songs and artists and YouTube’s algorithms brought me to the video I’m sharing today.

If you’ve been following this blog for a while, you may remember my summer, one-week-and-a-day series on the album, The Suburbs (August 24 to 31, 2020). I liked the way it felt to stay with and savour a single album for that many days. And as with many posts, I’d like to go back sometime and expand upon ideas from my examination into the album. (I sometimes go back and make minor tweaks or correct mistakes I’ve found after posting or when I find new information that challenges what I originally wrote. Or just stuff I forgot and really wanted to include.)

As I mentioned in the series on The Suburbs, one of my sons and I went to the concert on the tour supporting the album. My sweety and I also saw Arcade Fire a few years later for their Reflektor tour show, at which many people dressed in formal wear/black tie.

I’m pretty sure the band played “Wake Up” at both shows I saw; it’s one of their staple songs, and it comes from their breakout album, Funeral. They also released a live EP with a recording of the song performed with David Bowie at the show Fashion Rocks 2005.

On the YouTube video for the studio version of the song, one commenter observed, “… Arcade Fire created a chorus without a single word. Yet, it still holds mountains (beyond mountains HAHA) of power and intensity. Fans across the world can sing this chorus and unite, without having to sing a single word. Arcade Fire holds a talent that is extremely unique and beautiful. Freakin (sic) powerful.” I love this comment and how obvious yet observant it is.

The song has been called an anthem and a call to action to young people to grow beyond past generations’ mistakes. Kind of like a computer restart for society, something we desperately need, in my opinion.

(Chorus)

Somethin’ filled up
my heart with nothin’.
Someone told me not to cry.

But now that I’m older,
my heart’s colder,
and I can see that it’s a lie.

(Chorus)

Children, wake up.
Hold your mistake up
before they turn the summer into dust.

If the children don’t grow up,
our bodies get bigger but our hearts get torn up.
We’re just a million little gods causin’ rain storms,
turnin’ every good thing to rust.

I guess we’ll just have to adjust.

(Chorus)

With my lightnin’ bolts a glowin’,
I can see where I am goin’ to be
when the reaper he reaches and touches my hand.

(Chorus)

With my lightnin’ bolts a glowin’,
I can see where I am goin’.
With my lightnin’ bolts a glowin’,
I can see where I am go — goin’!

You better look out below!

(“Wake Up,” by by Win Butler, Regine Chassagne, Will Butler, Tim Kingsbury, Richard Parry)

Some believe the world is entering a period of change to rival (and perhaps reverse) the adverse effects that accompanied periods of history like Colonization, the Industrial Revolution, the rise of capitalism, and the Internet age. These times have stoked progress over people, enslavement, greed, selfishness and, more recently, intense individualism at the expense of communal caring and civility.

But I see glimmers of hope in how people act towards each other in the pandemic as we navigate a global sense of loss of close contact with loved ones. There’s a greater sense of appreciation for things we often took for granted, which seems to affect how we view the world as a whole, our place in it, and what we want to be in it.

So, individually, as nations and as one human race, maybe we are waking up to the need to be kinder to our fellow citizens, our living world, and ourselves.

Let’s rise ‘n shine!

Now you know a little about why this is my song of the day for today. Thanks for joining me here, and please enjoy.

Here’s the video for the song from BBC Music’s official YouTube channel. It’s a live performance at the 2014 Glastonbury Music Festival in England (remember live music?!):

Colors

A week and a half ago, I was listening to The Morning Show with John Richards on KEXP Seattle. That morning, Richards played “Colors” by Black Pumas, a psychedelic soul band from Austin, Texas, USA. It is a song I don’t think I had ever heard before.

The duo of singer/songwriter Eric Burton and guitarist/producer Adrian Quesada has not been together long. Burton, a former church and musical theatre singer, made his way busking around the USA, settling in Texas in 2017. Quesada, a producer in Austin, was looking for someone new to collaborate with when a friend introduced them. The two musicians formed a duo in 2018 called Black Pumas and released their debut, self-titled album, the next year. In 2020, they received a GRAMMY nomination as Best New Artist.

Hearing “Colors” on KEXP, the song’s slow, ponderous opening immediately hooked me with its understated electric guitar riff, and Burton’s voice joining and ushering in the other instruments and singers of their backing band, who surround the duo with musical brilliance.

In a July 2019 piece on Black Pumas, a reviewer from the online magazine Pitchfork.com wrote, “Possessing a voice that can slide into the slipstream with ease, Burton lends an elegant elasticity to Quesada’s tightly layered productions. Occasionally the producer/guitarist performs this trick in reverse…”

The two musicians have obviously found a fit with each other. And for me, perhaps simplistically speaking, the image of a Black and a white man in a twosome could represent, in a more global sense, hope and potential for peace, harmony and equality in a time when those are absent in so many places. I interpret the song lyrics to be saying much the same, and here’s an excerpt:

“I woke up to the morning sky, first
Baby blue, just like we rehearsed
When I get up off this ground, I shake leaves back down
To the brown, brown, brown, brown
‘Til I’m clean

Then I walk where I’d be shaded by the trees
By a meadow of green
For about a mile
I’m headed to town, town, town
In style

With all my favorite colors, yes, sir
All my favorite colors, right on
My sisters and my brothers
See ‘em like no other
All my favorite colors”

(from “Colors,” by Eric Burton)

Now you know a little about why this is my song of the day for today. Thanks for joining me here, and please enjoy.

Here’s the official live session video from the Black Pumas’ YouTube channel:

Full, unofficial lyrics are available courtesy of AZLyrics.com.

UPDATE, January 20, 2020:

Of course I would have had no idea Black Pumas would be performing, and sharing this song, at the concert celebrating the inauguration of President Biden and Vice President Harris in the United States tonight.

Serendipity… she is magical. I’m kind of stunned by it, after having only heard this song on January 7 and having it revisit in these ways.

By This River

Today’s selection is the classical reimagining of a piece from Before and After Science, the fifth studio album by Brian Eno, released in 1977.

The album was Eno’s final foray into rock music before pioneering and diving headlong into the ambient music genre, a place where he still lives and works. However, he has returned to dabble in rock, for example, with his 23rd solo album, 2005’s Another Day on Earth.

Eno co-wrote the track “By This River” with European electronic music composers Hans-Joachim Roedelius and Dieter Moebius.

Scrolling through the suggested videos on the Deutsche Grammophon YouTube page today, I was excited to find a video for the song. The version in the video is a classical arrangement by DG’s director of new repertoire, Christian Badzura, for violin and orchestra. It comes from the 2019 album Mari, by Norwegian violinist Mari Samuelsen.

I love the piece’s arrangement and playing, and the delicateness added to the piano, particularly the last three chords on the repeating piano line. The music is lilting and magical; Eno’s lyrics and singing are beautifully substituted with Samuelsen’s violin and the orchestra’s flautist.

“By This River” is a dreamy piece that brings to mind a meditative practice, visualizing myself on the bank of a river or stream in the spring, summer or fall, taking in the visual beauty and the calming, soul-feeding sounds of flowing water.

Now you know a little about why this is my song of the day for today. Thanks for joining me here, and please enjoy.

Here’s the video of the piece played by Samuelsen and the Konzerthausorchester Berlin, conducted by Jonathan Stockhammer, from Deutsche Grammophon’s official YouTube channel:

For comparison, here is the original from Brian Eno’s official YouTube channel:

Unofficial lyrics for the original version are available courtesy of AZLyrics.com.

(What’s So Funny ‘Bout) Peace, Love and Understanding

The English singer-songwriter and actor Elvis Costello (born Declan Patrick McManus) began his musical career in the London pub early in the 1970s.

In 1977, he released his debut album, My Aim Is True, which lit a rocket taking him to stardom in the still-forming new wave music scene. Costello’s band, the Attractions, joined him soon after the album’s release and supported him on This Year’s Model (1978), Armed Forces (1979), and remained with him for almost ten years until they parted ways due to differences. Together, they released 11 studio recordings, plus live and compilation albums.

A versatile writer and performer, Costello was backed by Britain’s Brodsky Quartet in 1993 on his album of songs for classical string quartet and voice titled The Juliet Letters (imaginary letters by the Juliet Capulet character from Shakespeare’s tragedy Romeo and Juliet). Then, in 1996, Costello collaborated with orchestral/lounge pop composer and musician Burt Bacharach. This partnership produced recordings for the soundtracks of the films Grace of My Heart and Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me, plus the duo’s 1998 album Painted From Memory, which my sweety and I used to listen to a lot with dear friends we met later that year.

Even Costello’s early works show a variety of stylings from the slow, ode-like “Alison” (a song since covered by Linda Ronstadt and others) or the melancholy “Good Year for the Roses” to quicker, high-energy pieces like “Pump It Up” and today’s selection, “(What’s So Funny ‘Bout) Peace, Love and Understanding,” which comes from the American and Canadian versions of Armed Forces.

Browsing through my CD and digital music this week, the title jumped out at me. It was written and recorded in 1974 by English singer-songwriter Nick Lowe and his band, Brinsley Schwarz, though their release of the song did not achieve the same success as Costello and the Attractions’ cover.

The song’s title and sentiments seem appropriate for this time in history when divisive politics are infecting society with fear, mistrust, cynicism, anger and meanness, and the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic create isolation like many have never experienced before.

“As I walk through
This wicked world
Searchin’ for light in the darkness of insanity
I ask myself
Is all hope lost?
Is there only pain and hatred, and misery?

And each time I feel like this inside,
There’s one thing I wanna know:
What’s so funny ‘bout peace love and understanding?
Ohhhh
What’s so funny ‘bout peace love and understanding?”

(from “[What’s So Funny ‘Bout] Peace, Love and Understanding,” by Nick Lowe)

As we navigate these troubled times, may we all pause to be peace, love and understanding for all those we encounter, in person, at a distance, and online.

Now you know a little about why this is my song of the day for today. Thanks for joining me here, and please enjoy.

Here’s the official music video from Elvis Costello’s YouTube channel:

The full, unofficial lyrics are available courtesy of AZLyrics.com.

Alive and Kicking

It’s Friday!

(And, to begin, my apologies… I planned to post much earlier in the day, then an appointment, groceries and other obligations got in the way. But here we are now. Let’s settle in and enjoy, shall we?)

Back when I was working, Friday was a day that arrived with much celebration of planning not to go into the office for two days, and just be available 24/7 by mobile phone. (Which sure beat the old, pre-mobile phone days when on-call meant staying home or, later, when pagers came out, being somewhere where I could make a payphone call if not at home, to find out what calamity or simple musing of a politico might be calling for my urgent attention instead of, you know, being with my family.) I’m being a little facetious; Fridays always seemed to hold a promise of something good, and even as a retired person, I like to honour and uphold that tradition of joy and hope.

Anyway, on to the music!

A Glasglow, Scotland-based band, Simple Minds, has been a favourite of mine since the early 1980s. The post-punk/art-rock/new wave/synthpop group, which took its name from a David Bowie lyric from the song “Jean Genie,” has released many hit singles since they started recording music more than 40 years ago. They are probably best known for their version of “Don’t You (Forget About Me)” from the film, The Breakfast Club (1985). Please check out my posts on “Up on the Catwalk” and “New Gold Dream (81-82-83-84)” for more bits from my memories and research on the band.

As I mentioned in one of those previous posts, I didn’t follow Simple Minds much after their 1985 album Once Upon a Time, from which today’s selection comes. It was the last album of theirs I bought and is joined in my long-play record collection by four others: Real to Real Cacophony (1979), Empires and Dance (1980), New Gold Dream (81-82-83-84) (1982) and Sparkle in the Rain (1984, in vinyl and CD).

Reading the sleeve notes on Once Upon a Time, I saw that the band recruited extra back-up singers for the album, and they are surely present on today’s song. What I never noticed until today was that longtime David Bowie guitarist Carlos Alomar was among the added vocalists.

When I was reading up on Simple Minds’ repertoire this afternoon, I saw that there wasn’t a consistent producer among their albums. That, and the band’s development, seems to me to have contributed to a long history of their music crossing genres and styles and sounds, which has added to their appeal and kept my interest and attention. If alone in the car and a Simple Minds song comes on CarPlay, I can guarantee it gets played loudly (uh, “responsible” loud, because… you know, tinnitus).

Alive and Kicking.

A fellow cyclist in my country, whom I only know online as we’ve participated together in virtual rides in a Zwift group based in England’s time zone, was suddenly absent in the spring of 2020 until now. (And I know it all must sound weird if you don’t know of Internet-connected platforms for indoor bike trainers… it still feels strange talking about it and, further, it being a significant source of socialization!)

Anyway, in his absence I had no way to connect with him directly. I found it troubling, like so much in the current world, so much beyond our control, a bit of the monkey-mind thoughts that erupt at night sometimes. But this week while on the app simultaneously, though not riding “together,” I saw a notification from him, and we ended up chatting within the app for almost an hour while riding. It was great. I had often wondered what had happened to him, as he had been very active and a powerful cyclist whose skill and personality I admired (and he was usually way ahead of me in the virtual pack). I was so happy to know he was back, and working at getting his strength back.

This is just one little story of the complications of this time in which we’re living. Sweety and I are tracking other illnesses and injuries of loved ones, sending you all love tonight.

And now, getting back to my opening greeting; yes, it’s Friday. I heard today’s track on KEXP Seattle’s The Morning Show with John Richards (famous for its “Friday Song”), and immediately knew “Alive and Kicking” would be my song of the day.

And if you’re reading this, you’re “alive and kicking.” Keep living, and kicking! We need you!!!

Now you know a little about why this is my song of the day for today. Thanks for joining me here, and please enjoy.

Here’s the audio for the song from the Simple Minds official YouTube channel:

Unofficial lyrics are available at AZLyrics.com.

Life in Technicolor ii

In my September 28, 2020 post on a song from Sweety’s and my wedding CD, “Lovers in Japan,” I talked about the album it’s from, Viva la Vida or Death and All His Friends.

In my opinion, the British band Coldplay reached their peak with that album. They’d attracted a group of four musical production heavyweights to mould it, including the brilliant Brian Eno, whose influence was immediately apparent.

The album’s promotion was among the biggest the band has done, to my recollection anyway. The release of an extended-play CD of additional tracks from the recording sessions and an eventual second version of the entire album containing both compact discs was a bit annoying, though. I needed to buy both album editions to have all the song versions. As I was high on the band at the time, I fell for the marketing. I recently faced a similar conundrum with Brian and Roger Eno’s Mixing Colours and Mixing Colours (Expanded). I didn’t fall for it this time; I just bought the extra tracks.

Aside from the CD marketing, Coldplay also issued a whopping seven official music videos to promote the album: “Viva la Vida” (two versions), “Lovers in Japan,” Strawberry Swing,” Violet Hill,” “Lost! (Live),” and today’s selection, “Life in Technicolor ii.” And yeah, aside from the “Viva la Vida” videos and “Lost! (Live),” I bought them all, too. I only rarely bought videos since I didn’t usually sit and watch these when sitting and listening to audio copies of music I owned.

I have a vague recollection that I bought the video for “Life in Technicolor ii” to have it on my iPad, back when I used one, as I enjoyed showing the song to people. The video’s production is so elaborate, featuring a charming rural hall setting where a puppet show turns into a mini arena-rock show.

The official music video for “Strawberry Swing” is similarly impressive, produced with laborious stop-motion animation. It also features animations of multi-coloured butterflies, similar to paper ones that fell from the Bell MTS Place rafters during the Winnipeg show in June 2009.

“Life in Technicolor ii” is a fun video, and watching it today reminded me how much I used to like listening to Coldplay. I still listen to the band’s music occasionally, though nothing after Viva la Vida appeals to me much.

Now you know a little about why this is my song of the day for today. Thanks for joining me here, and please enjoy.

Here’s the official music video from Coldplay’s YouTube channel:

The unofficial lyrics are available courtesy of AZLyrics.com.

Capsule

Today is a fine day. A morning meditation shared with friends across the country; appointments made for car and house maintenance; a few text chats with various friends and family; then this afternoon, time outside with my sweety.

We walked along the river path in the sun with the temperature hovering around freezing. It was beautiful, peaceful and pleasant (well, except for a few times when we’d have to leap out of the way of groups coming our way who chose to occupy the whole path instead of socially-distanced sharing!).

I always feel a sense of amazement walking on the river’s frozen surface. Today, in the few places where there was no snow cover, I could see how deep the ice extends. We walked 6.2 kilometres (3.8 miles) and saw many delightful things: coloured ice sculptures, a gallery of painting and drawings displayed on trees, poetry frozen in blocks of ice with flowers and other plants; a toddler in a homemade sled pulled by her skating dad; a dog enthusiastically pulling its skate-shod human; and, many other people skating, skiing, walking, running or cycling and enjoying the mild weather.

Cruising on YouTube to find a calm instrumental piece as the daylight turned to dusklight, I found Brian Eno’s channel and, on it, “Capsule,” from the second disc in the extended version of Apollo: Atmospheres and Soundtracks. Originally released in 1983, it was the soundtrack for the documentary For All Mankind, about 1969’s Apollo 11 moon mission. Eno conceived, wrote, played and produced the album in collaboration with his brother Roger and Canadian musician and producer Daniel Lanois. The trio re-released the collection to coincide with last year’s 50th anniversary of the moon landing. The second disc, added in the 2019 version, contains 11 tracks that expand and “reimagine” the soundtrack.

While the album is mainly ambient, “Capsule” is more melodic though still heavily electronic, and includes a subtle flavour of the country-twangy guitar that gives “Deep Blue Day” (from disc 1) much of its character. (Please check out my post from January 6, 2019, for that track and a bit more of the story on the guitar part. And, if you want more examples of moon-themed music, check out my post on “Yellow Moon.”)

Perhaps “Capsule” is meant to represent the constancy of the orbiting command module, piloted by astronaut Michael Collins while commander Neil Armstrong (1930-2012) and astronaut Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin landed the lunar module and and walked upon the Moon.

The piece has a lovely, ambling quality that fits with the mood of today; time spent walking on the frozen Assiniboine River… or maybe imagining a walk on the surface of the Moon.

Now you know a little about why this is my song of the day for today. Thanks for joining me here, and please enjoy.

Here’s the video for the song from Brian Eno’s official YouTube channel:

Limelight

Formed in 1968, Rush has to be one of Canada’s most extraordinary rock acts.

And clearly, institutions agree. In 1996, band members Geddy Lee (vocals, bass, keyboards, composer), Alex Lifeson (guitars, composer) and Neil Peart (1952-2020; drums, percussion, lyricist), were named as Officers of the Order of Canada, the Canadian government’s highest distinction for a citizen. In 2012, they received the Governor General’s Performing Arts Award for Lifetime Artistic Achievement. And in 2013, Canada Post Corporation created a permanent postage stamp with the band’s “starman” logo. In addition to many other honours and awards, the band was given a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in Los Angeles, California, USA.

The longstanding Lee/Lifeson/Peart lineup dates back to 1974 when Lee and Lifeson hired Peart to replace the band’s original drummer, John Rutsey, who left due to health issues and apparent incompatibility with the band’s developing style.

I’ve long been a fan of Rush and their lush, energetic rock sound and the elaborate, fantastical medieval/futuristic themes and anthems, particularly on their earlier albums. I came to know their music in junior high school when a friend played songs from their second record, Fly by Night (1975), then I started following them seriously with the album 2112 (1976) and later bought their debut record, Rush (1974). I saw them once in concert, and while I’m not 100% sure, I believe it would have been the tour for A Farewell to Kings (album, 1977; tour, 1977-78… a long time ago!). That album solidified my love for their style.

As the 1980s arrived, their albums became a little less conceptual, and the songs a bit shorter and, therefore, more radio-friendly. Rush was a hard-working band, making new records almost every year then touring to support those albums. In 1980, they issued Permanent Waves, which produced two major hits, “The Spirit of Radio” and “Freewill.” The next year, the band released Moving Pictures, which produced three singles, “Tom Sawyer,” “Limelight,” and “Vital Signs.”

In all, I have six Rush records. I didn’t follow them as actively after 1981 as I soon met my next group of friends, “friends 2.0” and leaned toward the new wave, post-punk and new romantic genres. However, I still enjoy listening to their music as I was reminded last night when one of my lads shared a video by musician, producer and educator Rick Beato in his What Makes This Song Great? series, Episode 99, deconstructing The Cars’ first hit single, “Just What I Needed” (1978). Watching that video led me to Episode 63, which features “Limelight” (1981). Listening to the song took me back to my early twenties when the record came out.

A January 2021 Rolling Stone article tells about Peart’s life and career, the deaths of his daughter in a 1997 car accident and first wife from cancer less than a year later, then meeting his second wife with whom he had another daughter, followed by illness and retirement and, finally, his January 2020 death. In the article, Lee confirms the band will not continue:

“‘That’s finished, right? That’s over,’ Lee says. ‘I still am very proud of what we did. I don’t know what I will do again in music. And I’m sure Al doesn’t, whether it’s together, apart, or whatever. But the music of Rush is always part of us. And I would never hesitate to play one of those songs in the right context. But at the same time, you have to give respect to what the three of us with Neil did together.’”

Now you know a little about why this is my song of the day for today. Thanks for joining me here, and please enjoy.

Here’s the official music video for the song from Rush’s YouTube channel:

And the video of Episode 63 from Beato’s What Makes this Song Great?:

The full, unofficial lyrics are available courtesy of AZLyrics.com.

All the Young Dudes

Here’s my third and final instalment in observance of David Bowie’s birth and death.

Bowie was a longtime fan of the English rock band Mott the Hoople and encouraged them to stay together when there was talk of a break-up. He wrote “All the Young Dudes” for them and produced their 1972 album of the same name. Bowie’s lead guitarist Mick Ronson (1946-1993), from the Spiders from Mars band during Bowie’s Ziggy Stardust period, arranged strings and brass on one of the album’s songs.

“All the Young Dudes” was Mott the Hoople’s biggest hit single. Mott lead singer and frontman Ian Hunter went on to do solo works with Ronson for many years. (The session musician Ronson also worked with Bob Dylan and Van Morrison and many other acts, and was instrumental in arranging American singer-songwriter John Mellencamp’s hugely successful “Jack and Diane,” in 1982.)

Mott the Hoople was active from 1969 to 1980 and had a few reunions over the years. Then, in early 2019, the 1974 lineup of the band reformed for brief tours of the United Kingdom and the United States. Another tour planned for the autumn was cancelled due to a medical diagnosis of tinnitus for Hunter (by then, aged 80).

Among Hunter’s many solo projects was his 1979 album, You’re Never Alone with a Schizophrenic. I remember being drawn to that album since it too was co-produced and co-played with Ronson. It includes the hard-rock, anger anthem, “Bastard,” which features Ronson’s rocking guitar solos. At the time, it was a popular song among my friends as we gathered to “pre-game” before a night at The Norlander pub listening to local bands.

In 2016, Hunter released his 22nd album, Fingers Crossed, which includes the song “Dandy,” written in dedication to the late David Bowie.

Now you know a little about why this is my song of the day for today. Thanks for joining me here, and please enjoy.

Here’s the audio for the song from Mott the Hoople’s official YouTube/VEVO channel:

Symphony No. 1, I: Subterraneans

Two days ago, I posted a song by David Bowie (1947-2016) on the 74th anniversary of his birth. Today is the fifth anniversary of his death.

On Sundays since June 2020, I’ve been posting classical music pieces. Today, I’m sharing one that has a deep connection to Bowie’s music, written by American composer and pianist Philip Glass. 

Symphony No. 1, also known as the Low Symphony, is a three-movement work Glass composed in 1992, based on recordings Bowie made during the production of a 1977 collaboration with Brian Eno, Low. “Subterraneans,” the symphony’s opening movement, is Glass’s orchestral interpretation of the mostly instrumental closing track from Low.

As I’ve mentioned here before, in my post on a piece from his film soundtrack for The Hours (2002), Glass is a composer I first heard through his soundtrack for 1982’s Koyaanisqatsi: Life Out of Balance. The 1982 experimental film’s music was repetitive and staccato, a form the composer has become known for. While there are elements of those trademark “repetitive structures,” “Subterraneans” is also melodic in its representation of the synthesizer and sample-driven original from Bowie’s Low.

Now you know a little about why this is my song of the day for today. Thanks for joining me here, and please enjoy.

Here’s the audio from a 1993 recording of the Brooklyn Philharmonic Orchestra, directed by Dennis Russell Davies, posted on the Philip Glass YouTube topic channel:  

Handle With Care

The Traveling Wilburys were a British-American supergroup formed in early 1988 after joining together to record a song to accompany a single by ex-Beatle George Harrison (1943-2001).

“Handle With Care” was meant to be that song, but when it was complete, it was decided the track was far too good to be used as a B-side, and the group decided to record a whole album. Traveling Wilburys, Volume 1 was the result, released in October 1988. It was the most successful song by the project, and I know it well, but I couldn’t recall its title when going to look for it until today. I’ve enjoyed hearing the collection but never really looked deeply into it before now.

The band included Harrison, Bob Dylan, Jeff Lynne, Tom Petty (1950-2017) and Roy Orbison (1936-1988). (Incidentally, Petty, Lynne, Harrison’s son Dhani and others collaborated on a version of Harrison’s “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” for his posthumous induction to the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 2004. Please check out my post on that song.)

Volume 1 was a massive commercial success for the group, though Orbison’s sudden death two months after the album release overshadowed the achievement. The four remaining members made Traveling Wilburys, Volume 3, intentionally numbered incorrectly, releasing it in 1990.

Reading up on the supergroup project today, I learned that each member took on nicknames as Wilbury brothers on the albums:

Volume 1
“Nelson Wilbury” – George Harrison
“Otis Wilbury” – Jeff Lynne
“Lefty Wilbury” – Roy Orbison
“Charlie T. Wilbury, Jr.” – Tom Petty
“Lucky Wilbury” – Bob Dylan

Volume 3
“Spike Wilbury” – George Harrison
“Clayton Wilbury” – Jeff Lynne
“Muddy Wilbury” – Tom Petty
“Boo Wilbury” – Bob Dylan

Officially, the albums did not credit drummer Jim Keltner as a Wilbury, though he was dubbed “Buster Sidebury.”

One of my brothers has played Volume 1 often at family parties in his home, and I can remember my late mum bopping around to it with delight. It’s been a long time since we were all together, and I look forward to us listening to the recording the next time we’re able to meet up there.

Until then, I find “Handle With Care” to be a good reminder of how to be with and care for others while all of us feel different kinds of stress, isolation, and deal with unemployment, loneliness, illness or other losses in this pandemic.

“Been beat up and battered around
Been sent up, and I’ve been shot down
You’re the best thing that I’ve ever found
Handle me with care”

(from “Handle With Care,” by George Harrison, Bob Dylan, Jeff Lynne, Tom Petty, Roy Orbison)

Now you know a little about why this is my song of the day for today. Thanks for joining me here, and please enjoy.

Here’s the official music video for the song from the Traveling Wilburys YouTube channel:

Full, non-official lyrics available courtesy of Genius.com.

Stay

Seventy-four years ago today, English singer, songwriter, musical innovator and actor David Robert Jones was born. Professionally he became known as David Bowie, an artist who crossed and mixed many musical genres and performance styles in his long, influential career.

I’ve featured Bowie’s songs several times before on this blog: “A New Career in a New Town,” “Moonage Daydream,” “Lady Stardust,” “Space Oddity” (choral cover) and, less than a week ago, “Absolute Beginners.” In these posts, I have described the artist’s long presence in my life, from hearing his music in my childhood home to seeing him perform live in England and Canada in the 1970s and 80s and enjoying his collaborations with artists like Brian Eno, Adrian Belew and, more recently, Arcade Fire. His music has accompanied many of the milestones and transitions of my life.

The album Station to Station (1976) introduced another massive change in Bowie’s style, where he dove deeper into the rock and roll/blues/soul genres he’d been developing on Pin Ups, Diamond Dogs and Young Americans before embarking on his “Berlin Trilogy” (1977-1979 with Low, Heroes and Lodger). The latter three albums were a mix of experimental rock, electronica, ambient and post-disco electronic dance music.

“Stay” is the second-last song on Station to Station. It’s a soulful song of longing, with jazzy edges rendered with Carlos Alomar and Earl Slick’s guitar playing.

“This week dragged past me so slowly
The days fell on their knees
Maybe I’ll take something to help me
Hope someone takes after me
I guess there’s always some change in the weather
This time I know we could get it together
If I did casually mention tonight
That would be crazy tonight”

(from “Stay,” by David Bowie)

I haven’t listened to this track in a long time; it’s a terrific song, though. I only own the album on vinyl and don’t seem to spin my LPs that often. Maybe something to do more of in 2021…

Now you know a little about why this is my song of the day for today. Thanks for joining me here, and please enjoy.

Here’s the audio from David Bowie’s official YouTube channel:

Full lyrics are available courtesy of AZLyrics.com.

Maple Leaf Rag

Released on Christmas Day in 1973, the film The Sting starred American actors Paul Newman (1925-2008) and Robert Redford as a pair of grifters who join forces to pull a complicated con job on a mob boss played by British actor, playwright and novelist Robert Shaw (1927-1978). George Roy Hill was director for the film and no stranger to the duo: he also directed Newman and Redford in Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (1969).

The Sting was a huge hit, and I remember that it ignited tremendous public interest in ragtime music. The soundtrack featured piano tunes by Scott Joplin (c1868-1917), a Black American composer and pianist who earned fame for his “rags.” “The Entertainer” is one such piece that appeared on the film soundtrack and often played on popular AM radio stations, which at the time typically broadcast only contemporary music.

Several days ago, while I was listening to a YouTube video for a song post I was working on, the autoplay function cued up a medley of Joplin tunes. One in particular that I liked and put through the Shazam app was today’s selection, “Maple Leaf Rag.” It’s a joyous piece that makes one want to get up and “dance those troubles away.”

The piece became the first ragtime hit and is likely one of the most recognizable in the genre. It was apart of a short life’s work that earned Joplin the title, King of Ragtime.

Now you know a little about why this is my song of the day for today. Thanks for joining me here, and please enjoy.

Here’s the video of a performance by Italian artist Dario Ronchi posted on his YouTube channel. I appreciate the slightly slower tempo he employs in his interpretation of the piece:

You Make Loving Fun

In the midst of internal upheaval in Fleetwood Mac, the band released “You Make Loving Fun” as the fourth single from the historic 1977 album, Rumours. Christine McVie (formerly Christine Perfect) wrote and sang the song.

Early this morning, in the lifting of a few days burdened with anxiety and darkness, this great piece of music came into my mind. This was long before the incomprehensible events of insurrection that occurred this afternoon in the United States’ capitol.

The song is a lovely piece, and when one thinks of the turmoil happening in the band at the time, it’s kind of miraculous that such a song could spring forth. Many songs on the album speak to the unravelling that was occurring in the relationships between John and Christine, and Stevie Nicks and Lindsey Buckingham. It made for some incredible music, though at some cost to the members of the band, I’m sure.

I think this song has lived in my consciousness since I first used to put the long-play record on my parents’ stereo in St. Norbert, Manitoba, many years ago. Back then, I’d make playlists of a sort by spinning one song from an LP, then changing to another record and eventually having a pile of records after a playlist session. I think my friends wondered what I was up to. I was always trying to play a mix that would appeal to everyone, to make them feel welcome. I took requests. Still do.

I awoke a little late this morning after a long time falling asleep last night. I did all the things my landlord, Perry Como the cat required of me, ate, read emails, then did a short recovery ride on the bike trainer. I cleaned up, had lunch and went shopping for groceries. As I arrived home and was sorting and washing vegetables, I received a series of texts from a local friend about an armed takeover of the American capitol building. I then met with a friend (from the US, incidentally) and later was blessed to talk with one of our sons, all while learning more about today’s incomprehensible events.

Now, as the day’s crimes sink in, I’m struck by the vast difference between the good and the bad of my day and, by extension, of society.

Sitting here tonight, watching it all continue to unfold, and being with my sweety, I’m grateful to be living in a place where I feel safe. I hope all people on this continent and the world will feel that, and feel the sense that comes from the song “You Make Loving Fun.”

I’m also struck by the juxtaposition of the song title and the violent events of today. I’m trusting that the idea of making love fun is what we should all aspire to and, really, is the only way forward.

And with tears at what is occurring in civil society, as I think my dear Colorado friend would say, also through tears, “Blessed be,” yielding things to the universe once we do all we can, humanly.

Sweety and I fervently pray our American lovelies will stay safe in this terribly uncertain time.

Now you know a little about why this is my song of the day for today. Thanks for joining me here.

Here’s the video for the song from Fleetwood Mac’s official YouTube channel:

Full lyrics are available from AZLyrics.com.

Helpless

Ever feel helpless?

It doesn’t happen to me often, but it can be tough to get through when it does. Occasionally over the past ten months, I’ve felt low. Like you, I know the pandemic isn’t going to be forever, and I really hope that we’ll be able to be with family and friends and resume some of our activities this year. My sweety and I were talking about this yesterday during a sunny afternoon walk. We both wonder how long it will be until people start feeling safe at public gatherings like concerts once those return.

Neil Young wrote “Helpless” for the Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young’s 1970 album, Déjà Vu. Many artists have covered the song, including Nick Cave, Patti Smith, Cowboy Junkies, Buffy Sainte-Marie, Moby, and k.d. lang, who recorded the song on her 2004 album, Hymns of the 49th Parallel. It’s a beautiful cover that includes a string section. She also performed it on stage in 2017 for Young’s induction to the Canadian Songwriters Hall of Fame.

Young has been featured on this blog twice before, with his official music video for “Harvest Moon” and a cover of “After the Gold Rush” sung by Linda Ronstadt, Dolly Parton and Emmylou Harris.

The song seems to be about home, longing and living in life’s mystery. Some also believe it refers to the resource-based economy of northern Ontario, Canada, which can make for helplessness in the face of cyclical unemployment.

When I’m feeling helpless, I know I need to sit with it and breathe through it to help the feeling settle. Moving my body also works: a swift and strenuous session on the bike trainer does wonders, as does a sweety who massages my shoulders.

In the end, I usually get to a place of appreciating the many good things in my life and, while that may not solve everything, it adds perspective. It’s hard to feel genuinely helpless when there’s so much help around. I’m lucky in that way, though I know many are not.

Now you know a little about why this is my song of the day for today. Thanks for joining me here, and please enjoy.

Here’s the video of k.d. lang performing the song in 2017, from the CBC Music YouTube channel:

Lyrics are available courtesy of AZLyrics.com.

You’ll Never Walk Alone

Today’s selection is the 365th piece I’m posting to this blog. If you’ve followed since the start, or just for a while, or you occasionally drop in, thanks for joining me here to share in music and a few stories!

“You’ll Never Walk Alone” was the biggest hit released by Gerry and the Pacemakers. The singer and bandleader, Gerry Marsden, had heard the song, a Rogers and Hammerstein number from the movie musical, Carousel, in a Liverpool movie theatre and told his band he wanted to record it. They released their cover of it in 1963, and it was one of their first hit songs.

Like the Beatles, Gerry and the Pacemakers were from Liverpool, were managed by Brian Epstein (1934-1967), and recorded by George Martin (1926-2016).

Marsden died yesterday at age 78. My sweety suggested the song as a post for today.

Reading up on Gerry and the Pacemakers, I was reminded that Marsden wrote “Ferry Cross the Mersey,” which the band recorded and released in the United Kingdom in 1964. I remember hearing that song in my head as Sweety and I took the actual ferry across the Mersey in 2012 when on a visit with my relatives in Liverpool and Birkenhead.

A man and woman on a boat, with the Liverpool, England cityscape in the background.
Sweety and me on the ferry crossing the River Mersey in October 2012.

“You’ll Never Walk Alone” is also the anthem of Liverpool Football Club, a team that many of my relatives over there and a son here follow (with one notable exception — a cousin devoted to Everton FC). I can imagine a crowded Anfield Stadium with the fans all belting out the song at the start of the match. What a motivating experience that would be for the team and a stirring event to witness.

Tragically, due to ongoing COVID-19 restrictions, the stands will again be silent at Liverpool’s next game; fans will not be able to join in song and celebrate the singer whose rendition of “You’ll Never Walk Alone” came to represent the spirit of their beloved team.

“You’ll Never Walk Alone” is a song of showing perseverance and unity during adversity, so is perhaps a good song for our times, as well.

Now you know a little about why this is my song of the day for today. Thanks for joining me here, and please enjoy.

Here’s the video for the song from the Gerry and the Pacemakers official YouTube channel:

Les Contes d’Hoffmann: Belle nuit, ô nuit d’amour (Barcarolle)

Today, I was surfing around the web, looking for a classical music piece to share. I found a long operatic aria, but it was a bit too over the top for my taste.

I then want back to my old standby for classical music, Deutsche Grammophon. Their YouTube channel is so tidy and organized, and there is a fine selection there. Also, DG often features performance videos of their artists.

“Belle nuit, ô nuit d’amour” (also known as the “Barcarolle”) is from The Tales of Hoffmann, the last opera written by the German-born French composer Jacques Offenbach (1819-1880). The opera premiered in 1881, four months after his death.

The Barcarolle’s text, written by French poet Jules Barbier (1825-1901), speaks of the beauty of the night and of love and is sung as a duet between the main character’s love and his poetic muse.

The piece is one of the most famous operatic melodies written. Some may recognize it in the 1997 film Life Is Beautiful. It appears twice: once, in a scene where Guido sees his love, Dora, at the opera; later in the film, he plays it on a record player in the concentration camp, and she hears it in the distance. It’s a memorable moment of romantic love shining through a time of horrible hardship.

Now you know a little about why this is my song of the day for today. Thanks for joining me here, and please enjoy.

Here’s a video of Latvian mezzo-soprano Elīna Garanča (left) and Russian-Austrian soprano Anna Netrebko (right) performing the duet, accompanied by the Orchestra Prague Philharmonia, conducted by Emmanuel Villaume. The video appears on the Deutsche Grammophon official YouTube channel as a promotion for Netrebko’s 2008 album, Souvenirs.

Absolute Beginners

At the start of a year, we’re all beginners. We start fresh, with a new beginning, a clean slate… or so some of the clichés go.

My 2021 cycling statistics, before today’s rides.

In “Absolute Beginners,” David Bowie captured this notion, from the perspective of one telling his lover that, even though they’re absolute beginners, the two of them can do anything and get through anything, even fear, because of their love.

“I’ve nothing much to offer
There’s nothing much to take
I’m an absolute beginner
And I’m absolutely sane
As long as we’re together
The rest can go to hell
I absolutely love you
But we’re absolute beginners
With eyes completely open
But nervous all the same

If our love song
Could fly over mountains
Could laugh at the ocean
Just like the films
There’s no reason
To feel all the hard times
To lay down the hard lines
It’s absolutely true”

(from “Absolute Beginners,” by David Bowie)

I agree with Bowie’s words, and am fortunate to share love and life with my sweety. I’m also mindful of missing our kids and their partners and families, and our friends, though unlike so many people, I am very lucky not to have to navigate life, especially in the isolation of the pandemic, on my own.

After a slow, relaxing and reflective day yesterday, I got onto the bike trainer today and did a couple of routes on the indoor cycling platform Zwift. It felt good to begin another year of moving my body, and I’m looking forward to continuing to cycle indoors and, hopefully, not too many months from now, outside, savouring the blossoming of nature.

Now you know a little about why this is my song of the day for today. Thanks for joining me here, and please enjoy.

Here’s the official music video for the song from David Bowie’s YouTube channel:

New Year’s Day

Happy New Year, and welcome to 2021. This blog will be one year old in a few days, and I’m looking forward to sharing more music with you, each day this year.

It might be a corny choice for today to pick “New Year’s Day,” the lead single from Irish band U2’s 1983 album, War. But as I thought of the opening lyrics, I felt their relation to the present.

“All is quiet on New Year’s Day
A world in white gets underway
I want to be with you
Be with you night and day
Nothing changes on New Year’s Day
On New Year’s Day

I will be with you again
I will be with you again”

(from “New Year’s Day,” by Adam Clayton, David (the Edge) Evans, Paul (Bono) Hewson, Larry Mullen, Jr.)

The Solidarity movement of Poland in the 1980s influenced the piece, which was initially to be a love song by lead singer Bono to his wife. The bass line was reportedly worked out by Adam Clayton when he tried to mimic the rhythm from another 1980s song, “Fade to Grey,” by the new romantic band Visage (which included Ultravox’s lead singer, Midge Ure).

Producer Steve Lillywhite (who has worked with Simple Minds and many other bands) was in the production booth for War. There are similarities in his production to that of other U2 producers like Brian Eno and Daniel Lanois.

“All is quiet…” is like a theme line for our current time. As we cross the arbitrary marker from one year into the next, we are still in the grips of the risks and restrictions we have faced for almost ten months. Today itself is rather quiet: I’m taking a day off my bike trainer (excited and grateful to have surpassed my 2020 cycling goal of 5,050 kilometres (3,138 miles) by 201 km (125 mi); and Sweety and I took a walk together and sat on a bench at the riverbank for a while… it was quiet there, and the weather, mild. Even our home seems a little more quiet than usual as we recall the year past and continue pondering about the coming year. Part of that is setting healthy intentions, expectations and boundaries to guide our lives, and trying to fit these within the confines of pandemic life.

“I will be with you again…” for me vocalizes the heartache of having to be physically distant or even totally apart from people we love. Much hope exists that we will be able to gather in the coming months. If we had a specific date that we could count on, that would be something to plan toward and make this time easier to endure. We humans do not cope well with such rampant and long-lasting uncertainty.

Now you know a little about why this is my song of the day for today. Thanks for joining me here, and please enjoy.

Here’s the audio for the full, original track from U2’s official YouTube channel. There is also an official music video, but I’m not fond of edits like that version, cut by about a minute, or the radio edit which is almost two minutes shorter.

Full lyrics are available at AZLyrics.com.

Mary

On many days, I know in advance what song I might post here, but it is often the inspiration of a moment, a serendipitous co-mingling of music with life. That is maybe an uncertain way to go, but it has kept my days interesting while outside everywhere, the 2020 dumpster fire has smouldered.

On this last day of 2020, a horrible and wonderful year, I am thinking of a song I heard last night when surfing the web for a late-night bit of music. I found it courtesy of a friend who often posts, on Facebook, a piece of music that is part of the soundtrack to her evening. Often it is a piece I have not heard. Even more often, I connect with it.

And so it was, with “Mary,” by Big Thief from their second album, Capacity (released in 2017). I listened to it about four times in a row, if not six or more. The lyrics are pure poetry:

Burn up with the water
The floods are on the plains
The planets in a rose
Who knows what they contain?
And my brain is like an orchestra
Playing on, insane
Will you love me like you loved me in the January rain?

Mom and Dad and violins
Somber country silence
The needle stopped the kicking
The clothes pins on the floor
And my heart is playing hide and seek
Wait and count to four
Will you love me like you loved me and I’ll never ask for more

What did you tell me Mary
When you were there so sweet and very
Full of field and stars
You carried all of time
Oh and, heavens, when you looked at me
Your eyes were like machinery
Your hands were making artifacts in the corner of my mind

Monastery monochrome
Boom balloon machine and oh
Diamond rings and gutter bones
Marching up the mountain
With our aching planning
High and smiling
Cheap drink
Dark and violent
Full of butterflies
The violent tenderness
The sweet asylum
The clay you find is fortified
We felt unfocused fade the line
The sugar rush
The constant hush
The pushing of the water gush
The marching band
When April ran
May June bugs fly and
Push your gin Jacob
With the tired wiry brandy look
Here we go round Mary in your famous story book

We overcome the sirens
We look both left and right
And I can feel the numbness accompany my plight
And I know that someday soon I’ll see you
But now you’re out of sight
And you’ll kiss me like you used to in the January night

What did you tell me Mary
When you were there so sweet and very
Full of field and stars
You carried all of time
Oh and, heavens, when you looked at me
Your eyes were like machinery
Your hands were making artifacts in the corner of my mind

Monastery monochrome
Boom balloon machine and oh
Diamond rings and gutter bones
Marching up the mountain
With our aching planning
High and smiling
Cheap drink
Dark and violent
Full of butterflies
The violent tenderness
The sweet asylum
The clay you find is fortified
We felt unfocused fade the line
The sugar rush
The constant hush
The pushing of the water gush
The marching band
When April ran
May June bugs fly and
Push your gin Jacob
With the tired wiry brandy look
Here we go round Mary in your famous story book

(“Mary,” by Adrianne Lenker. Lyrics courtesy of AZLyrics.com)

The song includes themes like those 2020 has carried to axle-breaking capacity. If someone asked me to write the story of this year, what I’d concoct would be constructed of these chapters, which are the pillars of this song, too:

Memories
Disaster and Uncertainty
Love
Wonder
Fear and Dread
Perseverance
Hope

And, another thought: the song title intrigues me. I felt serendipity (like I so often do in life nowadays) at having learned of the song during the Christian celebration of the birth of Jesus. Less celebrated in religion, as in society, is the mother, Mary.

An aside: the majority of comments on the YouTube video post of the song relate to its being featured on The Umbrella Academy. I have to admit that, other than a neighbour whose child dressed up as a character from that series, I wasn’t aware of it and have to wonder what rock I was living under when Netflix released it.

Farewell, 2020. Thank you for what you gave us and are teaching us. And 2021, may we all move safely through you supported by memories of ancestors and guided by love, wonder, perseverance and hope.

See you in the new year, folks. My gratitude and best wishes to you all.

And every morning, may I pay good mind to this message by Winnipeg artist Kal Barteski, as I see it when walking out of the bedroom:

Script art by Kal Barteski.

Now you know a little about why this is my song of the day for today. Thanks for joining me here, and please enjoy.

Here’s the audio for the song from the Saddle Creek Records official YouTube channel:

Good Mother

Yesterday, I shared reminiscences of my record collection and one of my favourite artists, Brian Eno.

Ah, memories.

As each December ends, Sweety and I look at memories we’ve made together, and with family and friends, in the past year. We also look ahead to what we would like to do in the coming twelve months. With the pandemic, it isn’t easy to plan out the year in terms of the places we might travel to, but we can still look ahead to the people we want to become in the next year and set in motion the work to get there.

I’m at a stage where I focus less on regrets and more on gratitude. It feels much better to observe and appreciate our lives that way. I also look back on the loved ones we’ve lost during the past year and previous years. This year, I’m working on focusing on the positives and experiencing gratitude as a warm, embracing partner to grief. (And for more on that theme, please check out American psychotherapist, author and soul work leader Francis Weller’s book, The Wild Edge of Sorrow: Rituals of Renewal and the Sacred Work of Grief.)

Today, I read a Facebook post that the Canadian singer, songwriter and actor Jann Arden wrote a few days ago on the second anniversary of her mother’s death. I recalled seeing another post she shared at the time of the death, talking about witnessing and journeying with her mother’s advancing illness. A friend shared the recent post on his wall today, and I was thankful for serendipitously seeing it. Arden’s depth and openness about her grief inspired me to share it, along with one of her songs.

Facebook post by Jann Arden, December 29, 2020.

“Good Mother” comes from Arden’s second album, Living Under June, released in 1994 (an album filled with great songs, by the way). It made me think of my mum and dad and losing them, and how the passage of time has caused me to appreciate them more for the challenges they overcame in their lives and all they provided for my siblings and me. It also made me thankful for the parenting I’ve observed in my life by being with family, friends, and my sweety.

And, as I ponder the results of a chimney inspection today that revealed anywhere from $6,000 to 11,000 CAD in repairs and improvements needed to be able to use our 115-year-old fireplace safely, I’m happy about the Himalayan salt lamp that is temporarily filling that space with its warm glow.

The Himalayan salt lamp giving its warm glow, December 30, 2020. Photo © Steve West.

The glass is definitely (way more than) half full!

Here’s the official video for the song from Jann Arden’s YouTube channel. It opens and closes with the juxtaposition of her words of thankfulness against the reality that so many people face, living with homelessness and other problems exacerbated by the current global situation. What a powerful message for opening our hearts to others less fortunate than us.

I’ve owned the CD since around the time when Arden released it, but don’t recall ever seeing this video before. Sweety and I saw Arden perform with the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra in the fairly recent past. It was an incredible concert with lush, orchestral treatments of her hits as well as storytelling in her entertaining, humorous and humble style.

Now you know a little about why this is my song of the day for today. Thanks for joining me here, and please enjoy the music and any memories and gratitude that arise for you from hearing it.

Mother Whale Eyeless

When I listen to Brian Eno’s music and the recordings of bands he has produced in his long musical career, it is hard for me to grasp the idea that he has called himself a “non-musician.”

Eno studied painting and experimental music in the 1960s and joined the glam-rock band Roxy Music as its synthesizer player in 1971. The popular belief is, he and frontman Bryan Ferry didn’t get on well, and Eno embarked on a solo musical career in 1973. The next year, he released two albums, Here Come the Warm Jets and Taking Tiger Mountain by Strategy. His musical endeavours continue to today (he and brother Roger released Mixing Colours in 2020 with an ambitious campaign inviting video submissions for the album’s tracks). Today’s selection comes from Taking Tiger Mountain by Strategy (and is joined by another post on a song from that collection, the calming and evocative title track, “Taking Tiger Mountain” — check it out… and if you search “Brian Eno” on this site, you will receive a LOT of results… he’s definitely a favourite).

As I mentioned in my post on “Taking Tiger Mountain” (and I’m sure a few other times), one of my brothers urged me to buy the album as soon as I purchased my first stereo. That long-play record has been in my collection for 44 years and still looks quite new. It was and remains pivotal in the development of my music tastes.

Photo of the back cover art and notes for a long-play record.
Back album cover of Taking Tiger Mountain by Strategy.

Looking at the album, I was reminded by the cover notes that English musician Phil Collins, once a member of Genesis along with Peter Gabriel (whose music has appeared on this blog several times), played extra drums on this song; English actor, singer and former model Polly Eltes sings the bridge part (“In my town, there is a raincoat under a tree… ”); and longtime Eno collaborator and former bandmate in Roxy Music and 801, Phil Manzanera, provided his trademark guitar wizardry, as well as assisting with arrangement and production on the record. (Incidentally, a line from “The True Wheel,” another terrific song from this album, was the inspiration for the name of the short-lived, live band project called 801: “We are the 801 / We are the central shaft / And we are here to let you take advantage / Of our lack of craft / Certain streets have certain corners / Sooner or later we’ll turn yours… ”)

The instrumentation (Eno creates unique arrangements of instruments such that, on one album, I recall he credited someone as playing “lead piano”), along with the background effects and production, all belie the notion of a non-musician, and make it understandable why so many musical acts have sought to work with him to bring his “aural landscapes” onto their creations.

Aside from his ambient and electronic works, Eno’s glam-rock song topics were mysterious and off-beat. The lyrics are often nonsensical (at least on the surface, not accounting for irony and subtle statements on the mundane in modern civilization):

“I can think of nowhere I would rather be 
Reading morning papers, drinking morning tea: 
She clutches the tray 
And then we talk just like a kitchen sink play 
Nothing ventured, nothing gained. 
Living so close to danger, 
Even your friends are strangers 
Don’t count upon their company.

This is for the fingers, 
This is for the nails: 
Hidden in the kitchen, 
Right behind the scales. 
What do I care? 
I’m wasting fingers like I had them to spare, 
Plugging holes in the Zuider Zee. 
Punishing Paul for Peter, 
Don’t ever trust those meters 
What you believe is what you see.

In my town, there is a raincoat under a tree. 
In the sky, there is a cloud containing the sea. 
In the sea, there is a whale without any eyes. 
In the whale, there is a man without his raincoat.

In another country, with another name 
Maybe things are different, maybe they’re the same.

Back on the trail, 
The seven soldiers read the papers and mail 
But the news, it doesn’t change. 
Swinging about through creepers, 
Parachutes caught on steeples 
Heroes are born, but heroes die. 
Just a few days, a little practice and some holiday pay, 
We’re all sure you’ll make the grade.
Mother of God, if you care, 
We’re on a train to nowhere 
Please put a cross upon our eyes. 
Take me – I’m nearly ready, you can take me 
To the raincoat in the sky.
Take me – my little pastry mother take me 
There’s a pie shop in the sky”

(“Mother Whale Eyeless,” by Brian Eno. Lyrics courtesy of AZLyrics.com)

Now you know a little about why this is my song of the day for today. Thanks for joining me here, and please enjoy.

Here’s the audio from Brian Eno’s official YouTube channel:

Brag-able Ego

For a while, I have wanted to post another Ben Wytinck song.

In my post some months back about his beautiful song “‘Bel,” I introduced many of you to Wytinck and his music. If you haven’t seen that post or heard the song, please visit there next. It’s a gorgeous piece of music.

Today, I landed on “Brag-able Ego,” the second track from Wytinck’s self-titled 2009 album. The ballad has a touch of a ragtime twang to it, and showcases Wytinck’s slightly raspy, unmistakable and wonderfully endearing voice.

The whole album is full of skillful musicianship and clever storytelling that crosses and samples genres, including alternative folk, blues, ragtime and straight-on country. I highly recommend it as an example of the local talent and ingenuity in Winnipeg, Canada’s music scene.

In addition to being available on MySpace, CD Baby, Amazon (.ca and .com), the album is available from the iTunes Store.

As I mentioned in the earlier post, Wytinck and his family have a tradition of hosting a Christmas concert each year. Like almost all activities, events and shows, it did not happen this year, due to the pandemic. We will make a point of going to the next one for sure.

Now you know a little about why this is my song of the day for today. Thanks for joining me here, and please enjoy. And if you like the music, please buy it and support the artist who created it.

Here’s the video for the song from the Ben Wytinck YouTube topic channel:

Für Elise

Okay, just one more track from the Vince Guaraldi Trio’s A Charlie Brown Christmas. It really is a great album… I highly recommend it.

Today is Classical Sunday, so I’ve chosen a piano piece from the album, one composed by Ludwig Van Beethoven (1770-1827).

It’s another lazy afternoon, after a fair bit of exercise. My sweety and I just got back from a 3.7 kilometre (2.25 mile) walk in the light snowfall, and I did a 45 km (28 mi) ride on the bike trainer this morning. It was a Zwift virtual group ride, which was a lot of fun. I was riding at the back of the bunch, sweeping (slowing down to help pull riders back into the virtual “draft” or slipstream of the pack if they fall off the rear of the group).

“Für Elise” is a short piece at only 1:05. It is one that almost everybody will recognize from either Linus playing it on the piano on Charles Schulz’s Peanuts animated TV shows or, simply, as one of Beethoven’s more famous solo piano works.

Now you know a little about why this is my song of the day for today. Thanks for joining me here, and please enjoy.

Here’s the video from Vince Guaraldi’s official YouTube channel:

Linus and Lucy

Yesterday I posted one of the family favourites from the Vince Guaraldi Trio album, A Charlie Brown Christmas, and promised that today I would post my personal pick from the collection.

After a busy day of Different Christmas, I’m looking forward to a relaxing day of reading, listening to music, and riding my indoor bike trainer. And for lunch, a sandwich of leftover turkey.

But even on a lazy day, it’s a treat to hear the upbeat sounds of the trio playing “Linus and Lucy.” It’s hard not to get up and move to that tune!

Jazz musician and composer Vince Guaraldi (1928-1976) was well-known for the music that accompanied animated depictions of Charles Schulz’s (1922-2000) Peanuts characters. When I hear those unmistakable first piano chords on “Linus and Lucy,” I’m immediately reminded of watching A Charlie Brown Christmas TV specials in my childhood.

When I was a kid, another Christmas tradition in our home was receiving Life Savers Sweet Storybooks in our stockings. That’s a tradition I’ve continued with my kids, though I could not find them anywhere this year despite trying about ten different places. Some staff said their stores hadn’t had any at all, and others thought the makers might not have produced them this year.

The catchy “Linus and Lucy” is also the theme music for Amy Lamé’s Sunday program on BBC 6 Music.

Now you know a little about why this is my song of the day for today. Thanks for joining me here, and please enjoy.

Here’s the video from Vince Guaraldi’s official YouTube channel:

Christmas Time Is Here (Instrumental)

Merry Christmas, family, friends, followers!

One of the longstanding Christmas traditions in our home is to play the Vice Guaraldi Trio’s A Charlie Brown Christmas. We aren’t all together this year because of restrictions on gatherings, but we can still honour our traditions and adapt them to this “temporary normal.”

When Sweety and I and the boys moved into our house 18 years ago, the kids would wake up Christmas morning to see sled marks in the snow on the garage roof. I always figured Santa overshot the top of the house because it is high and steep, and he’d bounce on the garage on the way to another try.

Santa’s tracks on the garage roof.

I asked my lads last night for their favourites from the album. One didn’t have a particular choice, though the other immediately said, “Christmas Time Is Here (Instrumental).”

Tomorrow, I’ll share my favourite from the album.

Now you know a little about why this is my song of the day for today. Thanks for joining me here, and please enjoy.

Here’s the video from Vince Guaraldi’s official YouTube channel:

In the Bleak Midwinter

Many years ago, I saw the all-male choir Chanticleer when a friend-of-a-friend arranged a concert followed by a small reception in a very wealthy person’s home in Winnipeg, Canada, and I was lucky enough to be on the guest list. It was a magical evening, and the singing was divine. I met and talked with some of the singers at the reception. I couldn’t join others who continued the party with the choir later that evening, but heard burgers were made and savoured…

Chanticleer was established in San Fransisco, California, USA, in 1978. After the concert, I bought an album of theirs and later picked up their holiday season CD, Sing We Christmas, one of the discs that is always sure to be heard in Sweety’s and my home on Christmas Day (along with another you’ll hear something from tomorrow).

Every track on the album is beautiful; I think my favourite is “In the Bleak Midwinter,” which I came to know through the United Church of Canada’s hymn book. I belonged to that church many years ago after being born into a Roman Catholic family.

The piece is based on a poem by English poet Christina Rossetti (1830-1894), which English composer Gustav Holst (1874-1934) put to music in a setting that is well renowned in the Christian Christmas tradition.

At 1:40 in the recording, the choir rises into a robust and ethereal harmony as if calling out to the heavens; this part raises goosebumps on my arms and back of my neck and fills my spirit, no matter how many times I hear it.

Now you know a little about why this is my song of the day for today. Thanks for joining me here, and please enjoy. And check out Chanticleer… their music is incredibly beautiful.

Here’s the audio from the Chanticleer YouTube topic channel:

Up on the Downside

One of our lads introduced me to Ocean Colour Scene’s music many years ago when he lived with us and went to university. I’ve always enjoyed his eclectic taste and have posted several songs I’ve heard him play at home or in his car.

I always appreciate people turning me on to new music, and I enjoyed the album and found a copy of Mechanical Wonder (their seventh album, released in 2001) on eBay. I went through a phase about 15 years ago where I bought a fair bit of stuff on eBay and became something of an expert at last-seconds bidding to win auction items.

Anyway, I digress; but it’s all part of the story, so maybe not…

Ocean Colour Scene is a Britpop band formed in Birmingham, England in 1989. I enjoy hearing bands from the north of England, my ancestral home, as such music makes me feel closer to my roots and the relatives living there.

I think the song, at least the title anyway, relates to this time of year when nights are dark and long, and we may be searching for positivity, especially in 2020.

Now you know a little about why this is my song of the day for today. Thanks for joining me here, and please enjoy.

Here’s the video for the song from Ocean Colour Scene’s official YouTube channel:

Winter Song

The first time I heard the Canadian alternative-folk trio, Good Lovelies, was at the Stuart McLean (1948-2017) Vinyl Cafe Christmas tour show at Winnipeg, Canada’s Centennial Concert Hall. They were McLean’s musical guests and sang some beautiful pieces, including a cover of Sara Bareilles’ “Winter Song.”

The show was in November 2013. It became an annual holiday tradition for us to take our kids and their partners as part of their Christmas gifts. We were excitedly looking forward to the 2015 show when we heard that it was cancelled due to McLean’s melanoma diagnosis and treatment. That year we had a family dinner; one of my lads was working out of town at the time though we contacted him on FaceTime, and the other read from a McLean book, doing his best Stuart McLean imitation.

A little over a year later, McLean died from cancer. Our family tradition continued (well… at least until last year, and we’ll get back to it in 2021) with Christmas plays staged by the Royal Manitoba Theatre Centre. These have been special, including It’s a Wonderful Life: The Radio Play (in 2018, one of my favourite RMTC performances, ever), though the holiday seasons have just not been the same without our dear Stuart McLean’s show.

Hearing this song always reminds me of the version the Good Lovelies sang as part of that magical evening with McLean’s vibrant storytelling about Dave and the gang at the Vinyl Cafe (also the name of McLean’s radio show) record store. McLean was marvellous at his craft, which he shared through radio, books, CDs and his Christmas tours. Many people (including me) posted messages to the group, urging them to record the song. They released it as part of their Winter’s Calling EP in 2015.

And now that we’re firmly in winter here in the ‘Peg, with the winter solstice last night and a blizzard forecast for this evening, well, it seems about right.

“This is my winter song to you
The storm is coming soon
It rolls in from the sea

My voice, a beacon in the night
My words will be your light
To carry you to me

Is love alive?
Is love alive?
Is love”

Now you know a little about why this is my song of the day for today. Thanks for joining me here, and please enjoy.

Here’s the video for the song from Good Lovelies’ official YouTube channel:


Colorblind

Tonight, Sweety and I took part in an online marking of the winter solstice.

In part, it was like an inventory of the losses and heartaches the year has brought for many in attendance, and there have been many; some big, some small and yet, here we are. We are blessed in so many ways, yet it is also important to acknowledge the fires we have walked through together to get to the present.

The thing that I was left with was hope. Hope that next year, much of this current world state might be history; that by then we’ll have had many, many, long, weeping hugs with those we love but cannot hold right now; that we won’t lose any more loved ones; that those less fortunate will be protected and safe; that we’ll appreciate, even more, the things we can someday resume, like gatherings with friends and family… and that we won’t forget what we’ve gone through, that we’ll honour it, and appreciate the strengths of ourselves and others that got us through.

In the meantime, I found a song that seems to speak about this dark time, the in-between place our society has become stuck in as we and our systems and governments struggle with how to cope and continue; that time where there is, for want of better descriptions, a lack of colour.

I recently posted “Rain King” by Counting Crows and stumbled on their music again tonight in a search. “Colorblind” is a good fit, I think, to this time of the longest night, and looking ahead to that little bit of extra light each day… dreaming of those seemingly impossibly distant, long, hot summer evenings when (at least in my part of the world) it is bright by 6:00 am and still there is light at 10:00 pm; the streets aren’t silent until much later, as people take in as much of the lightness as they can.

There is a lot of black and white in the world right now: the cold, dullness of winter, exacerbated by the limitations we live with, in this time. May there be more colour soon… in our hearts at least, imagining those fields of wildflowers that seem to spring up from nothing and create magic and beauty in the light of the sun. May we all be part of that creating, holding and living that light.

Now you know a little about why this is my song of the day for today. Thanks for joining me here, and please enjoy.

Here’s the audio from Counting Crows’ YouTube topic channel:

Paul Meets Chani (from the film, Dune)

Today on “Classical Sunday,” I’m featuring a piece by the 1980’s pop-rock supergroup Toto.

Yes, that’s right, members of the band composed the original motion picture soundtrack for David Lynch’s 1984 epic science-fiction film, Dune. Brian Eno, who produced the album, also contributed a piece, “Prophecy Theme,” that he composed with brother Roger, and Daniel Lanois.

The band — except for lead singer Dennis “Fergie” Frederiksen (1951-2014) — collaborated on the recording with the Vienna Symphony Orchestra and Vienna Volksoper Choir under the direction of Marty Paich (1925-1995, father of the band’s principal songwriter and keyboard player, David Paich).

I probably knew about Toto’s involvement when Dune was released, but that was a long time ago. I had forgotten about it until the soundtrack came up in my suggested videos on YouTube.

The band burst upon the music scene in 1978 with their self-titled debut album. Initially made up of session musicians, they have released 14 studio albums.

Toto recently reformed for a tour that was to launch in November 2020 but pushed back to 2021 due to the global pandemic. Several original members have died over the years (Jeff Porcaro, Frederiksen, Mike Porcaro), and with other departures, the lineup has changed significantly. UK-based drummer Simon Phillips, who has played with The Who, 801, Nik Kershaw, Big Country, Jon Anderson, Judas Priest, Joe Satriani and several other acts, played with Toto after founding drummer Jeff Porcaro’s death, until 2014 (please see my post on “Tomorrow Never Knows” for a song played by the Brian Eno side-project, 801).

Now you know a little about why this is my song of the day for today. Thanks for joining me here, and please enjoy.

Here’s the audio from Toto’s official YouTube channel:  

Elevator to Heaven

Neither any of my siblings nor I have musical talent. It wasn’t something any of us learned as children, though we all share a deep love for music, and that certainly was something influenced by our parents, and later by friends and the bands we grew up listening to and sharing as a family; something we’ve done a lot in recent years at family gatherings… when those were happening, before COVID-19.

I wonder if that deep attraction to music rubbed off on our children, as most of us have had children who have played or are playing music. My two lads began playing violin at age four and continued until they were about 16. One has continued with numerous musical projects over the years, enjoying success and a strong local following. A nephew has played in a couple of bands here in Winnipeg, as has a cousin in Birkenhead, England.

And tonight, one of my brothers shared with me a 41-second video of one of his sons playing electric guitar to a backing blues track. It mesmerized me and made me want to hear more blues, while realizing I know so little about this spellbinding genre. According to the Shazam app, the backing music was “Sad Blues Backing Track in A Minor,” by Sebastien Zunino, a French guitarist-composer who creates tracks and lessons.

So, of course, I set out to find some blues this evening, and without resorting to some of the more obvious choices (or at least the ones I know), I serendipitously found tonight’s selection, by a Black American musician I’m not familiar with, Chris Bell. He and his band, 100% Blues, play a song, “Elevator to Heaven,” that reminds me a little of the clip I heard this evening on the family video. Official information on Bell is a bit sparse… no official website that I could find or Wikipedia pages from which to draw.

Bell was born in Washington, D.C. and raised in Massachusetts. That state has been on my mind all week, with the passing of a friend who lived there. At a gathering of friends on Zoom today, there was more talk of this man who remains very present in those whose lives he touched. I do not doubt that our dear friend is on an elevator to Heaven, though I am sure he would have ushered all the other passengers on first before getting on himself.

“Elevator to Heaven” is featured on a live album released this year by Chris Bell & 100% Blues, Year of the Blues. While I enjoy live performances, I don’t find the recording to be of particularly high quality, so I am opting for the studio version from Blues 2001, which appears to be out of print and not provided on the Chris Bell YouTube topic channel. A much shorter version of the song also appears on 2017’s Baptized by the Blues, which, along with the 2020 live album, is available in the iTunes Store.

Here’s the audio for the 9:02 version from Blues 2001, though it is posted with a still image of the album art for another collection, Real Bluesman (2005).

Appalachian Mountain Station

The Canadian band the Bicycles was active from 2000 to 2009, then regrouped in 2012.

I first heard their music on CBC Radio 3 when the Internet-based station played “Appalachian Mountain Station” from the group’s fourth and latest album, Stop Thinking So Much (2013).

The album title’s admonishment is perhaps a good thing to keep in mind on a Friday if you are heading into a weekend away from work or if the pressures of life are getting you down. Or if none of that applies, it’s just a great song. I’ve liked it since first hearing it, and bought the digital album in 2014.

The Bicycles have a light and refreshing sound, and I particularly enjoy Dana Snell’s vocals. Plus, bonus points to the group for naming themselves after a fantastic invention, one that I spend a lot of time on.

A bit of serendipity I hadn’t thought of when I decided to post this song: The northern section of the Appalachian Mountains in the United States encompasses the Berkshires, a place I don’t know, but have heard much about this week, after the death of a new friend I mentioned in a few posts. He lived in that area and hosted many gatherings there over the years.

“People talking like they do
Running their mouths
Blaming, shaming
Doesn’t matter what they call me
I’ve been forgiven
Appalachian Mountain Station
I’ve been forgiven”

(transcribed from “Appalachian Mountain Station,” by the Bicycles)

Now you know a little about why this is my song of the day for today. Thanks for joining me here, and please enjoy.

Happy Friday, happy weekend, stay safe and take care.

Here’s the audio from the Bicycles Bandcamp album page, where you can buy the album starting at 6.00 CAD… at that price, you can hardly afford not to buy it! The Bicycles also have a lot of music posted on their official YouTube channel, though this album doesn’t appear there.

I have not been able to find a site with lyrics to the song, but they are fairly easy to figure out when listening to the song.

The Birds

Maybe you’ve been a follower of this blog for a while. In that case, you’ll know I take a lot of inspiration and acquire much of my new music from the recommendations of Guy Garvey, the lead singer of Elbow during his weekly program, Guy Garvey’s Finest Hour on BBC 6 Music, on Sundays (2:00 pm GMT, 8:00 am CST).

In the past, I’ve featured songs from three of their albums: The Take off and Landing of Everything (“This Blue World“); The Seldom Seen Kid (“Mirrorball“); and Build a Rocket, Boys! (“Dear Friends“). My cousin from Wales introduced me to the band’s music on Sweety’s and my first visit together to Liverpool in 2008. (My first time there was in 1973, travelling with my parents… highlight of that trip: seeing David Bowie play live at the Liverpool Empire Theatre.)

Garvey’s program has become such a treasured part of my life that I no longer listen to it live. I always wait for the archive to appear in the BBC Sounds app to look over the track list and notes, savour what’s playing, and look forward to what’s coming, and repeat as needed. Since COVID-19 hit, Garvey has occasionally featured what he calls diary entries from his siblings. Many of these are deeply poignant, describing the situation most of us live in these days: not being able to be near our families and friends, and missing hugs and even a loving, reassuring touch on the arm. I’ve had a few tears as a result of these beautiful vignettes.

Right now, I’m most of the way through the December 6 instalment of the program (“Real Estate – Featured Artist”). Earlier today, I was somehow drawn into looking on YouTube for a series of live performances Elbow did in 2014 at the Eden Project in Cornwall, on the southeastern coast of England. The Eden Project (check out the Wikipedia page on it) reclaimed a former clay pit that was in use for more than 160 years. It was turned into a site with geodesic domes that house two main biomes, one simulating a rainforest environment and the other, a Mediterranean climate. Thousands of species of plants grow in the biomes. Reclamation and construction started in 1998.

Since 2002, the site has also hosted music festivals under a covered stage. It looks like a stunning site for an outdoor concert… I think I’d want to tour the whole place for a day in advance of the show… and I think all the plant life would attract my sweety for sure! It is a dream of ours to travel to Cornwall someday, and for me, attending a concert there would be “the bee’s knees,” as my late Mum would put it.

Anyway, after seeing the videos several years ago but not finding them again for a while, serendipitously I did locate them today on the Eden Sessions YouTube channel. There are 14 videos of Elbow performing songs there in 2014… check them out. The video for “The Birds” features some spectacular shots of the site from the hilltops surrounding the former pit mine.

The song is the opening track on Build a Rocket Boys! and the album closes with a reprise version, sung by John Turner, an elder piano tuner who worked on the album with the band. His voice reminds me a little of English actor and theatre director John Gielgud (1904-2000).

Now you know a little about why this is my song of the day for today. Thanks for joining me here, and please enjoy.

As Garvey would say, “watch the video; it’s a cracking one.”

And if you’re like my friend who likes to read the lyrics, they’re available on Lyrics.com.

Kiss an Angel Good Mornin’

As promised a few days ago, tonight, I’m sharing a Charley Pride (1934-2020) song, one that was his biggest hit. As most people know, the American country music legend died on December 12 from complications related to COVID-19.

I don’t know Pride’s music well, so I called upon my sweety for a suggestion, and her answer was “Kiss an Angel Good Mornin.'” (Oh, wait… was that a song suggestion, or…?) The song comes from his 12th studio album, Charley Pride Sings Heart Songs (1971).

Before his musical career, Pride played baseball in the minor leagues in the 1950s, then was drafted to military service in 1956. He began recording music in 1958.

Now I’m not one who takes a great interest in awards or music charts, but I do think it’s worth noting that from 1966 to 1987, his career peak period, Pride racked up 52 top-ten hits on the Billboard Hot Country Songs chart, including 30 songs that hit number one. He was also one of three Black American members of Nashville, Tennessee’s Grand Ole Opry.

The song lyrics are rather dated, especially the statement that the secret to happiness is a man and a woman in love; it would generate criticism for exclusionism if it were released nowadays, though it is a historical reflection of oppressive societal customs of the time.

Now you know a little about why this is my song of the day for today. Thanks for joining me here, and please enjoy.

Here’s an official video of Charley Pride and Jimmie Allen singing “Kiss an Angel Good Mornin'” at the 2020 Country Music Awards, a month before Pride’s death.

And, here is the studio version:

Plus, a link to the lyrics on Genius.com.

Belong

This morning, I listened to part of the archive of Friday’s episode of KEXP’s The Morning Show with John Richards, as I’d missed the start of the program that day.

In Richards’ opening set, he played “Belong,” an R.E.M. song covered by the Hobart, Australia band, Quivers. I Shazamed the piece, but the app couldn’t find it. No wonder; it was only released ten days ago or so, as part of Quivers covering the entirety of R.E.M.’s 1991 album, Out of Time.

The song captivated me, so I went to the Internet to find out about it and the band. They don’t have a website but have Bandcamp and Facebook pages. I eventually located their cover version of Out of Time, available on Bandcamp for purchase as a digital download or limited edition, long-play record. The Bandcamp page introduction says, “Quivers make cathartic guitar pop that jangles and shimmers somewhere between 1980s Australia and 1990s America.”

The vocal harmonies on the recording, particularly on “Belong,” are ethereal, wrapped up in beautiful instrumentation and production. There’s some really solid twang. It’s a delightful sounding collection. On another track, “Texarkana,” I found Bella Quinlan, one of the band’s two female singers, sounded a little like Lydia Loveless, whom I’ve featured here before.

After discovering the song today, my sweety and I had a couple of conversations with our friend in Colorado about the mutual friend who died yesterday. We were invited to a Zoom gathering this evening, with some of the people who’d known this man over the years, and a theme among the sharing was belonging. The man had a kind, gentle, loving presence, and he helped and guided many people during his lifetime. He made people feel they mattered, were loved, and belonged.

Today has been a little chaotic, with several other conversations going on through it. It’s good to have the chance to sit now and reflect upon it all, and get back to a place of calm, hopefulness and remembering, while savouring some sweet sounds.

Now you know a little about why this is my song of the day for today. Thanks for joining me here, and please enjoy.

And if you like the music, please buy it, to support the artists who created it.

Here’s the audio from Quivers’ Bandcamp album page:

Little Voices

In November 2014, American musician, composer, educator and producer Jimmy Greene released Beautiful Life, the first of two albums in tribute to his daughter Ana’s memory. She was murdered eight years ago today at the age of six. (The second album is Flowers – Beautiful Life, Volume 2, released in April 2017. Some months ago I posted another song, “When I Come Home,” from the first album.)

This morning I was getting started slowly, pondering the day’s memories and possibilities when a call came from a dear friend in Colorado telling me that this morning, the man I wrote about in my post on “Let It Be” also took his last breath today. While I’m sad for my friends and all those this girl and this man touched during their lives, I’m grateful to have met her in person, and him on a few occasions in online meetups.

Later, I had a conversation with another trusted friend and guide about the world’s state and changes and challenges in this time. It was an affirming conversation, leading me to think about what it takes to truly improve oneself and, in little ways, the world.

Today’s song talks about similar ideas and seems a good fit for the day. “Little Voices” features spoken word by American actor and singer Anika Noni Rose and singing by the Linden Christian School Early Years Choir (of Winnipeg, Canada) directed by Brenda Johnson.

“Now there’s just silence, where those little voices used to be
Now it’s up to you; it’s up to me
Will you make the choice to be a voice… “

(from “Little Voices,” by Jimmy Greene)

Greene isn’t alone in turning tragedy into good works. His wife Nelba created the The Ana Grace Project, which promotes “love, connection, and community for every child and family.” Her project has initiated and championed numerous programs and actions to strengthen supports for children and families, all in memory of Ana’s beautiful life.

“Remember me, remember me… “

Now you know a little about why this is my song of the day for today. Thanks for joining me here.

Here’s the audio from the Jimmy Greene YouTube topic channel:

Symphony No. 3, Op. 36, III: Lento – Cantabile Semplice

Today I ponder on the eve of the eighth anniversary of one of the pivotal days of my life: the day our dear friends’ daughter was killed along with 27 other children, educators, and the killer’s mother and himself in two incidents (at a home and a school).

Upon returning to my office from a Christmas lunch with my work’s management team, I heard about the shooting from my staff, who knew I had friends in the place where it happened. I began frantically monitoring social media all afternoon, waiting to see something from the mom to say their kids were safe. I remember she always posted on social media, every afternoon, for friends to see joyful stuff about her kids. There was no post that afternoon. Nothing. No matter how many times I “refreshed.”

Just after 4:00 pm, while on a personal phone call, a message popped up and confirmed my worst fear. I told the caller what I’d seen, then didn’t know quite how to end the call. It was shocking to us both.

I remember then I was thinking desperately, how could I drive through the clogged, Christmas-season-rush-hour-filled downtown to my sweety’s work to tell her in person; she was in an afternoon-long meeting and I couldn’t reach her. By the time I would have driven there, she might have left the office, and I couldn’t trust voicemail in case she didn’t check it before walking home. There were also people in her work that would need to know, and she might not be able to reach, given that it was a Friday afternoon.

Finally, I reached the administrative assistant, who interrupted the meeting so I could deliver the news. It was one of the most challenging messages I’ve ever had to pass along; a life-altering moment. I’ll never forget that call.

Many years before this, I was flipping channels late at night and caught the ending of the 1993 Peter Weir film, Fearless. Jeff Bridges plays a character who becomes lost in the aftermath of surviving an airliner crash. The final scene is scored with music from Symphony No. 3, Opus 36, also known as the Symphony of Sorrowful Songs, by Henryk Górecki (1933-2010). The first movement of the piece is what plays during the closing scene. Today I’ve chosen to share the third movement (Lento – Cantabile Semplice) as it includes what I interpret as moments of hopefulness.

Some critics regard the symphony as being Górecki’s lamentation about the Holocaust. While he was commissioned to write such a piece, he apparently denied the symphony was that work. The first and third movements are believed to be from the perspective of parents who have lost a child, and the second, from the viewpoint of a child separated from its parents.

Others have looked upon the symphony as a synopsis of Polish history from the 14th century to 1976 when Górecki composed it. Regardless of all the assumptions and beliefs, it’s a magnificent piece of work, intricately composed and played, filled with lamentation, and profoundly stirring to the soul.

I heard a clip from the symphony today, when listening to the BBC Sounds app archive of last weekend’s episode of Guy Garvey’s Finest Hour (December 6, 2020: “Real Estate – Featured Artist”) on BBC 6 Music. The strands of hope in the piece remind me of the incredible courage I’ve observed in these friends as their family navigated through such a public loss, and gathered pieces together to turn deepest grief and horror into the beauty they have created with their lives as a tribute.

Now you know a little about why this is my song of the day for today. Thanks for joining me here.

Here’s the audio of Dawn Upshaw, soprano, with David Zinman conducting the London Sinfonietta, performing the third movement. Theirs is the version of the symphony that was featured in the film soundtrack.

Aerial

After quite a long gathering on Zoom today with many family members, I went to my digital collection to find some music. Right now feels good to listen to some ambient music, to relax and rest in the relative quiet.

So much of life is lived online these days, and while I’m grateful for the opportunities to share and be together virtually, it’s also good to take a break and enjoy the silence.

I’m looking forward to making our usual Saturday night pizza with my sweety. We make such great pizza together, and each week we always say, “Well, that was the best one yet!” We usually watch something while eating our pizza and sharing some wine… maybe tonight it’ll be The NeverEnding Story after Sweety and I chatted about it when I posted the theme song from the movie. Or something else… we’ve got no shortage of things on our must-watch list.

“Aerial” comes from Hotel (2005), the seventh album by American singer-songwriter, producer and animal rights activist Moby (aka Robert Melville Hall). He has been a significant figure on the electronic dance music scene, though much of his recent activity is in the ambient genre.

(Just as I was finishing this post I learned from my sweety, who put the TV news on while the pizza bakes, that Charley Pride has died, from complications related to COVID-19. He’s a favourite of hers, so I will offer up a song of his soon…)

Now you know a little about why this is my song of the day for today. Thanks for joining me here, and please enjoy.

Here’s the audio from Moby’s SoundCloud account:

Raconte-moi Une Histoire

I woke up feeling optimistic this morning. Then, my consciousness was flooded by various conflicts or challenges and the general feeling of missing being free to be near all those I care about deeply. ‘Tis the season… or year.

Fortunately, John Richards was back at the helm this morning for KEXP Seattle’s The Morning Show with John Richards. He is a good soul. He played some outstanding songs this morning, so the Shazam app was quite busy.

Then it was online meditation. Our instructor is terrific, and that helped too, but some days it’s harder to chase away the negative feelings. Sometimes they just are there and will stay for a while.

Back to KEXP, one of Richards’ spins, in particular, caught my attention: “Raconte-moi Une Histoire” (Tell Me a Story) is by the electronic music project M83, which started in the southeast of France in 2001, but now is based in Los Angeles, California, USA.

It seemed like a good Friday song. And when I found the video for it, my spirits were lifted slightly by the clear message to go “be in nature.”

The girl’s spoken word part of the song is lovely… it’s like she’s come to confidently (re)teach the adults about what’s important… looking at the world and observing everything looking “like a giant cupcake.” And, her words about the power of laughter. But rather than tell you the whole story, why not watch the video/listen to the song, and see/hear her for yourself.

The song comes from M83’s sixth album, Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming (2011).

Now you know a little about why this is my song of the day for today. Thanks for joining me here, and please enjoy.

Here’s the video for the song from Archetype Films’ Vimeo page:

Let It Be

The day has flown by today.

I was up early and did the usual routines, playing with Perry Como the Cat and all that. And having had that one last opportunity to take my road bike out on Tuesday, I gave it a season’s-end scrubbing and buffing in the basement, then covered it up for the winter.

Then I was off to go for a socially-distant walk with a friend; we had an in-depth conversation about many things in our hearts while treading cautiously, sometimes shuffling on a vast coat of ice left overnight by freezing rain.

Back home, I did a strenuous ride on the bike trainer, ate, cleaned up, and then Sweety and I went to provide some childcare for grandbaby, respite for young parents as is allowed under pandemic restrictions. Then home to a long and lovely phone call from one of my lads and, finally, a Zoom gathering with a group of men. It was a beautiful meetup, though there was some sadness at learning of a newly-met friend’s impending transition from this life.

When I came down to start my blog post for the day, “Let It Be” came to mind.

“When I find myself in times of trouble
Mother Mary comes to me
Speaking words of wisdom
Let it be

And in my hour of darkness
She is standing right in front of me
Speaking words of wisdom
Let it be”

(from “Let it Be,” by John Lennon, Paul McCartney

I met this man only briefly, a few times, through a dear, soulful friend who has guided me in many ways since I met him 12 years ago. And these encounters were on Zoom, of course, because where else do we see people these days… And even though we met only on a computer screen with his image and words transmitted as ones and zeros over the Internet, I saw and heard a generous spirit, a kind man devoted to a life of service, and felt his immense love, “big love” for all people, and for me.

Though he’s only met Sweety and me briefly, he remembered our names and spoke them, as if anointing us.

I don’t know that I’ll ever see him again, but I will always remember his warm, kind soul. And I know many people feel crushing sadness right now, knowing their friend, their brother, may soon cross over. My thoughts are with them all tonight as they sit in vigil, most of them separated by great geographical distances, yet sitting in circle together, tending the fire to keep each other warm in the cloudy night.

“And when the night is cloudy
There is still a light that shines on me
Shine until tomorrow
Let it be

I wake up to the sound of music
Mother Mary comes to me
Speaking words of wisdom
Let it be”

Or, as my dear friend in Colorado says, “Blessed Be.”

Now you know a little about why this is my song of the day for today. Thanks for joining me here.

Here’s the audio from the Beatles’ official YouTube channel:  

The NeverEnding Story

A few days ago, I came upon a song that made me think of some studies I did back in the 1990s.

I’ve mentioned before here that from 1993 to 1996, I was at home full-time caring for my sons as that was the arrangement that best suited our family at the time. I supplemented my need for structure by becoming more involved in the council of the church I used to belong to, as well as by taking writing courses. I had become quite interested in the teachings of a local minister who began to offer creative writing courses through the Faculty of Theology at The University of Winnipeg. The classes were a lot of fun, and I met some writers with whom I shared bonds that extended into a writing group we held for many years.

In the very first class, the instructor played a portion of the 1984 fantasy film The NeverEnding Story, which no one in the class had seen before, then gave us an assignment to write about “The Nothing,” a presence which was introduced in the segment we watched. I think later on, as a class, we may have watched the whole film together.

The NeverEnding Story was also a movie that my sweety and I later watched occasionally with the boys on family pizza and movie nights. It’s a heartwarming, exciting and engaging film that holds some simple but relevant messages: stay true to your deepest beliefs, and your dreams.

I feel like it’s time to watch it again… it’s an amazing fantasy portrayal, as told through the perspective and imagination of Bastian, a young, lonely and bullied boy grieving the death of his mother and the absence of his workaholic father. Bastian reads the story from a mysterious book… and well, it goes on from there.

The film was the English language directorial debut by German filmmaker Wolfgang Petersen (who played the submarine commander in the 1981 film Das Boot and directed In the Line of Fire and several other films). Electronic music giant Giorgio Moroder, of Italy, often called the “father of disco,” composed the theme song, which was sung by English pop singer Limahl (aka Christopher Hamill).

Now you know a little about why this is my song of the day for today. Thanks for joining me here, and please enjoy.

Here’s the official music video from the Rhino Entertainment YouTube channel:

Also, here’s the song presented with an unofficial synopsis video of the film
(SPOILER ALERT! Do not watch if you haven’t seen the movie and want to, as it gives away essential parts of the story!)

I Just Want to Celebrate

“Three-and-a-half minutes of sheer, giddy positivity…”

That was how Guy Garvey’s sister Becky, aka “The Beckapedia,” described Rare Earth’s 1971 hit “I Just Want to Celebrate” in her segment during the November 22, 2020 instalment of Guy Garvey’s Finest Hour (“Happiness and Home”) on BBC 6 Music.

I was listening to the episode on the BBC Sounds app after today’s morning chores and routines. The Beckapedia talked about her need during the pandemic for music that serves as an “emergency reset button,” and her trademark ending was ever so slightly adjusted in light of the ongoing situation: “And why am I telling you this? Because you really need to know.” Indeed, we’ve all needed that reset button at times this year.

Rare Earth was the first big, hit-generating, all-white band to be signed by Motown Records. The band had several hits from 1970 to 1972, but not much after that. Over time, today’s song has found its way onto American advertisements for cars, telecommunications, and smoking cessation patches, plus some TV shows, like Six Feet Under.

I remember the song (but not necessarily the ads) from my youth, though I don’t know if I automatically identified it with positivity, though, of course, Becky is correct. It is full of positive, persevering attitude.

“I Just Want to Celebrate” comes from the Rare Earth’s fifth studio album, One World. Studying the lyrics today, I noticed that element of positivity contrasted with what could be a source of discouragement. The positive side grows with each successive verse and chorus, guiding the listener to move from sorrow and hate. By the end of the track, the positivity vibe is all-consuming.

Like Becky’s emergency reset, the song (and the emotions it stirs) gives me hope for my anxieties and yearnings and the easing of conflicts and unease, both in society in general and among people close to me.

“Don’t let it all get you down, no, no
Don’t let it turn you around and around and around and around and around
Well, I can’t be bothered with sorrow
And I can’t be bothered with hate, no, no
I’m using up the time but feeling fine, every day
That’s why I’m telling you I just want to celebrate
Oh, yeah
I just want to celebrate another day
Oh, I just want to celebrate another day of livin’
I just want to celebrate another day of life

Don’t let it all get you down, no, no
Don’t let it turn you around and around…
Don’t go round
I just want to celebrate
I just want to celebrate
Well, I just want to celebrate
Said I just want to celebrate (celebrate)
I just want to celebrate (I want to celebrate)
I just want to celebrate (I got to celebrate)
I just want to celebrate”

(from “I Just Want to Celebrate,” by Dino Fekaris, Nick Zesses)

Now you know a little about why this is my song of the day for today. Thanks for joining me here, and please enjoy.

Here’s the audio from the Rare Earth YouTube topic channel:

And, the full lyrics can be found on AZLyrics.com.

Thank You for Being a Friend

Most people will remember the song “Thank You for Being a Friend” as the theme for TV’s The Golden Girls, which ran from 1985 to 1992.

The show used a cover version recorded by Cynthia (Cindy) Fee. Singer, songwriter, multi-instrumentalist and producer Andrew Gold (1951-2011) wrote the song and recorded it in 1978, and it is one of his best-known hits. He also wrote the theme for the TV comedy Mad About You (1992-1999, and 2019). Aside from Gold’s success as a solo musician, he also played for many artists, including Linda Ronstadt.

“Thank You for Being a Friend” has a personal connection, too. It’s a song that was embraced by a group of men I meet up with periodically, which they used to listen to as a sort of opening for their gatherings, years before I met them. It is an excellent tribute to deep, abiding friendships; the kind of friends to whom you might say “I love you” when saying bye (or, as happens so often nowadays, when leaving a Zoom call).

“Thank you for being a friend
Traveled down the road and back again
Your heart is true
You’re a pal and a confidant

I’m not ashamed to say
I hope it always will stay this way
My hat is off
Won’t you stand up and take a bow

And if you threw a party
Invited everyone you knew
You would see
The biggest gift would be from me
And the card attached would say
“Thank you for being a friend.”

Thank you for being a friend
Thank you for being a friend
Thank you for being a friend

If it’s a car you lack
I’d surely buy you a Cadillac
Whatever you need
Anytime of the day or night

I’m not ashamed to say
I hope it always will stay this way
My hat is off
Won’t you stand up and take a bow

And when we both get older
With walking canes and hair of gray
Have no fear, even though it’s hard to hear
I will stand real close and say
Thank you for being a friend

(I want to thank you)
Thank you for being a friend (repeats x7)

And when we die and float away
Into the night, the Milky Way
You’ll hear me call, as we ascend
I’ll see you there, then once again
Thank you for being a friend

Thank you for being a friend
(I want to thank you)
Thank you for being a friend
(I want to thank you)
Thank you for being a friend
(I want to thank you)
Thank you for being a friend
Whoa, tell you about a friend
(Thank you right now, for being a friend)
Thank you for being a friend
(I wanna tell you right now, and tell you again)
Thank you for being a friend
(I wanna thank you, thank you, for being a friend)
Thank you for being a friend”

(“Thank You for Being a Friend,” by Andrew Gold)

I was thinking about friendship after a meeting today and some discussion about missing face-to-face contact with people. The feeling of physical isolation is real for most of us these days. At the same time, I am glad that we can meet in virtual spaces to keep those relationships thriving… and some of these connections are ones I know only virtually, with friends I’ve made in meetups since March. I’d never have imagined that online gatherings would become a primary way interacting with people outside our home, before this year.

I am indeed thankful for friends and family and all the connections in my life. And since you are reading this, you’re most likely one of them, so thank you for being a friend.

Now you know a little about why this is my song of the day for today. Thanks for joining me here, and please enjoy.

Here’s the official music video from the Rhino Entertainment YouTube channel:

Piano Concerto No. 23, K. 488, II: Adagio

It was a long day of online Christmas shopping yesterday. No hassles with crowds and parking, but many different websites, all with very different, sometimes confusing online experiences and slow responses from my computer, the Internet, and or websites; it was good to complete all that, hours later.

Then I relaxed, listening to an archived radio program on the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation site from October. Writers & Company host Eleanor Wachtel interviewed English author Martin Amis, an old favourite. It was a great way to end the evening.

Today, it was a long-ish Zwift virtual group ride on the bike trainer (45 kilometres or 28 miles). Then, after lunch, a couple of online orders were ready for curbside pickup, so my sweety and I took a drive out get them. Then as we arrived home, I noticed another store had prepared an order, but I hadn’t checked for new email while out… oh, well.

It was sunny and the temperature was mild when we were out, but it soon became dull, overcast and now, dark. Perfect for relaxing and writing a blog piece while listening to today’s selection.

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756-1791) completed the Piano Concerto No. 23 in March 1786. The second movement (Adagio) has been described as having an operatic tone and being an expression of deep longing. It’s a good piece to listen to after all the online experiences and while thinking about outdoor cycling weather (which there just might be a touch of on Tuesday… we’ll see; it might be too icy).

Now you know a little about why this is my song of the day for today. Thanks for joining me here, and please enjoy.

Here’s a video of French pianist Hélène Grimaud playing with the Chamber Orchestra of the Bavarian Radio, conducted by Radoslaw Szulc at the Prinzregententheater, Munich, Germany, from the Deutsche Grammophon YouTube channel:

Country Livin’ (The World I Know)

Here’s a song I’ve thought of posting a few times before.

Esthero’s “Country Living (The World I Know)” from the album Breath from Another (1998) is a song our oldest lad used to play on the stereo when he was living with us around the year 2000. I’ve always liked the vibe of it. Back then, I think he was still into a lot of grunge and industrial bands, but we had some common musical interests. (He was the one who introduced me to Arcade Fire, soon after they released their breakout album, Funeral. He bought the CD on a visit to Winnipeg, and the sound hooked me immediately. Another of our boys later bought me vinyl copies of Funeral and Neon Bible. But I digress…)

The name Esthero refers to both the singer-songwriter and the duo she once belonged to. It is also a portmanteau of “Esther the Hero,” referring to a character who, in the film made of Sylvia Plath’s novel The Bell Jar, says, “If I am to be the hero, then I cannot fly from darkness.”

That movie line reminds me of those who do the toughest work, under often unimaginable conditions. People like frontline health-care workers and emergency responders. These are folks who, like military and ex-military service women and men, are living and reliving trauma, daily. A dear friend in California dedicates much of his time to helping Veterans and first responders heal from their unseen wounds, and I have such deep admiration for him and his labours of love. And as I think of it, the title of today’s selection is serendipitous as this friend is livin’ in the country, on a ranch. I hope to travel there to visit, someday. Like so many hopes for visiting our many new friends in “life after COVID-19.”

Born in Canada as Jenny-Bea Englishman, Esthero now lives in Los Angeles, California. I don’t know much more about her and have never followed her musical career, but I like hearing this song from time to time.

Now you know a little about why this is my song of the day for today. Thanks for joining me here, and please enjoy.

Here’s the audio which, strangely, is the sole video on Esthero’s official YouTube channel:  

Downtown Lights

With another weekend here and us firmly in December, this would typically be when people would be filling the stores, doing their holiday season shopping. Well, not in my city, Winnipeg, Canada. Stores continue to be restricted to selling essential items only for in-person shopping; all other sales are by online/phone orders, with delivery or curbside pickup.

One thing that isn’t restricted is going outside for exercise, and we’re fortunate here that the weather has been sunny and mild, with the temperature hovering around 0°C (32°F). A friend contacted me today about meeting up for a walk. We agreed this would be a good way to spend some time together safely.

I haven’t been out walking at night for a while but thought of that when seeing today’s song’s title in my collection. I suppose all the usual Christmas light displays will be on, so it might be a thing to do with my sweety soon. (When we walk together, it is usually always in daylight, but maybe we’ll take a drive around to see the lights, too.)

Annie Lennox released “Downtown Lights” on her 1995 album, Medusa. It’s a cover of a song by Scottish band The Blue Nile, written by Paul Buchanan, and was the lead single for that band’s 1989 album Hats. Lennox adds her style to the song while retaining the trademark vibe of The Blue Nile.

“Sometimes I walk away
When all I really wanna do
Is love and hold you right
There is just one thing I can say
Nobody loves you this way
It’s all right, can’t you see
The downtown lights

In love we’re all the same
We’re walking down an empty street
And with nobody comin’ on me
Empty street, empty night
The downtown lights

How do I know you feel it
How do I know you feel it
How do I know you feel it
How do I know it’s true
Yea…
It’s alright

Tonight and every night
Let’s go walking down this empty street
Let’s walk in the cool evening night
Wrong or right, be at my side
The downtown lights…
It will be all right
It will be all right
The downtown lights

How do I know you feel it
How do I know you feel it
How do I know you feel it
How do I know it’s true
It’s alright
It’s alright
The downtown lights
Yea yea

Neons, every cigarettes
The rented rose and rented cars
The crowded streets, the empty bars
Chimneytops, the trumpets
The golden lights, the loving prayers
Colored shoes, the empty trains
I’m tired of crying on the stairs
The downtown lights”

(“Downtown Lights,” by Paul Buchanan)

Lennox’s music has appeared on this blog previously, with her original “Stay By Me” (from her album Diva) and a cover of “Summertime” (from Nostalgia). She’s one of my favourite singers, and Diva is one of my favourite albums. (And, another fantastic track from Diva was co-written by Lennox and The Blue Nile… coincidence?!)

Now you know a little about why this is my song of the day for today. Thanks for joining me here, and please enjoy. And whatever you get up to this weekend, stay safe and take care of yourself and those you love.

Here’s audio from the official Annie Lennox YouTube channel:

Harlem Blues

Soon after the release of Spike Lee’s 1990 film Mo’ Better Blues, I heard today’s selection, which comes from the soundtrack.

The movie stars younger versions of Denzel Washington, Wesley Snipes and Spike Lee, and features Cynda Williams, who sings “Harlem Blues,” a song written by blues legend W.C. Handy (1873-1958).

The soundtrack was performed by the Branford Marsalis Quartet (the leader of which is also the brother of several jazz musicians including Wynton, who was already a superstar by then) and Terence Blanchard. The musicians also wrote many of the songs on the soundtrack.

I have to admit not ever seeing the film, but I had always liked the sound of Williams’ voice on the song and bought the CD when it came out, because I liked the piece so much.

Now you know a little about why this is my song of the day for today. Thanks for joining me here, and please enjoy.

Here’s the audio from the Branford Marsalis Quartet YouTube topic channel:

Time Can Be Overcome

This evening, I’m sharing a song from one of my favourite compilations, Arts & Crafts: X.

I previously shared “Lonely Is as Lonely Does” from that album in a post from March 2020. And as I mentioned there, the record label made this collection in 2013 as part of its tenth-anniversary celebration. (I also own another Arts & Crafts celebratory compilation, Arts & Crafts 2003 – 2013, a 34-track marathon.)

Each song on Arts & Crafts: X is a pairing of two artists from the label’s roster in an innovative concept that produced a unique and varied aggregation. In the case of today’s song, it’s The Darcys (a Toronto, Canada art-rock duo) and Ra Ra Riot (an American indie rock band from Syracuse, New York, USA) performing the Canadian indie rock band Constantines’ “Time Can Be Overcome,” a track I mentioned in the March post.

As I was looking through my digital collection, I noticed the track title, and it made me think of a course on life transitions that I finished yesterday. The song is not correct, though: we cannot overcome time, so our work is to prepare for the future with intention, presence and commitment. I am working on those and have a few more tools, plus connections I made with the facilitator and classmates. I’m optimistic, blessed, healthy and generally content. That’s a good start, I’d say. So while I may not overcome time, perhaps I can continue to overcome the challenges time brings to me.

“Time Can Be Overcome” is wonderfully instrumented and sung, and the production and effects are terrific.

“Now, architect, now, archaeologist
Now a man whose hand’s in the past
Somebody’s made to face the changes
Somebody’s built to last

What do you know? Still living so young
Tomorrow’s no burden
Time can be overcome
Time can be overcome

No need yet to caution, no need for amen
Yesterday’ll break your heart, tomorrow’ll kill you dead
Hounding history, time can be overcome
All real and familiar things undone

Chisel and hammer
Raise the ruined architecture
I will love and understand her

What do you know? Still living so young
Tomorrow is no burden
Time can be overcome
Time can be overcome

Time can be overcome”

(“Time Can Be Overcome,” by Will Kidman, Steve Lambke, Doug MacGregor, Bry Webb, Dallas Wehrle)

A great song, and as I often find, the interpretation by The Darcys and Ra Ra Riot adds so much to the original piece.

Now you know a little about why this is my song of the day for today. Thanks for joining me here, and please enjoy.

Here’s the audio, from the Arts & Crafts SoundCloud album page:

And here is a video with the Constantines’ version of their song in what video producer Mario Scenna calls a “cross between a film and a music video.”

Oh, the Boss Is Coming!

Today, I was doing a moderately strenuous ride on my bike trainer; close to an hour of almost steady climbing during a ride that lasted 90 minutes in total (including cool down), with 687 metres (2,254 feet) elevation gain over 32.3 kilometres (20 miles) travelled. I rode a bit beyond the 30 km structured workout, to cool down.

A friend who has a lot of cycling experience and knows my abilities said the route might take me about 90 minutes (I completed that part in 83 minutes, and was quite happy with that).

I don’t usually listen to music when riding the trainer, but today I did. At kilometre 26, I was confident I’d be under 90 minutes total when, somewhat ironically, “Deadlines” by Arkells random-played on my iYiYi iPod dock… it’s a rocking number, just the motivation I needed to keep my legs working after the long, burning climb (mind you, I was mostly travelling downhill by then, so there was little resistance to the pedalling and it was just kind of fun).

After that song, I thought of “Oh, the Boss Is Coming!” which comes from Arkells’ debut album, Jackson Square (2008), the same collection as “Deadlines” (please see my February 3, 2020 post on that song).

Today’s track has the same high-energy, slightly bad-boy/passively anti-establishment vibe as “Deadlines.” Both are great songs, and while my work environment often led me to play “Deadlines” (as I said in my post on it), I didn’t ever feel a need to play today’s selection to ease my deadline-laden soul, as “the boss” would have almost always seen me busy! (I had numerous bosses in my careers, most of whom were excellent people I admired, though there were some exceptions, as many people experience, I am sure.)

“Ohhhhh, the boss is coming!
You better look busy
They’re not paying you for nothing

There’s no time for loving!
In the summer, in the city
There’s only room for the sweaty
There’s only room for the sweaty
Ho!

Oh oh oh?!
Oh oh oh!
Oh oh oh?

There’s no room for error
So beware, when your ass is on the line
I have yet to witness, much forgiveness
In this business

Oh, you better not be sitting!
I punch in early
But be prepared to stay real late

Oh, you know they’re not kidding!
When they’re talking the talk
Well they’re talking the talk
Well they’re talking the talk
It’s worse than yelling
Oh, it’s worse than yelling
Oh!

Oh oh oh?!
Oh oh oh!
Oh oh oh?

There’s no room for error
So beware, when your ass is on the line
I have yet to witness, much forgiveness
In this business

I’m punchin’ in
I’m punchin’ out
I’m punchin’ in
I’m punchin’ out

Punch’n in
Punch’n out
Punch’n in
I’m punch’n out!
I’m punch’n out!

There’s no room for error!
So beware, when your ass is on the line
I have yet to witness, much forgiveness
In this business”

(“Oh, the Boss Is Coming!” by Nick Dika, Tim Oxford, Max Kerman, Mike DeAngelis, Dan Griffin)

Now you know a little about why this is my song of the day for today. Thanks for joining me here, and please enjoy.

Here’s the official video for the song from the Dine Alone Music Vimeo site:

It’s My Life

Three years after forming in 1981, the English band Talk Talk released a song that was one of the biggest hits in their repertoire, “It’s My Life,” the title track of their second album.

Music videos had become a significant part of music marketing in the early 1980s. I remember this single being accompanied by a video that switched between scenes of animals free in nature and shots of lead singer Mark Hollis (1955-2019) in a zoo with animals in captivity. I remember a friend commenting at the time how beautiful the video was, though when I first saw it, I focused on the animals that weren’t free and didn’t see the beauty in that.

Cruising around YouTube today, I found a version of the song by the UK cover band Murdoch’s Crazy Eyes, performed in pandemic lockdown style, remotely from the musicians’ homes. It’s a pretty solid cover, though the lead vocalist doesn’t quite match the late Hollis’s unmistakable sound.

The song is one I listened to a lot during the 1980s and since. It has retained its standing as a powerful example of 80s synthpop by a band that later moved on to more experimental post-rock in the mid-80s.

The American band No Doubt also covered the song in 2003, in a spectacular wall-of-guitars version featuring then-lead singer Gwen Stefani.

Now you know a little about why this is my song of the day for today. Thanks for joining me here, and please enjoy.

Today, I’m posting the three versions of the song for you to sample. As well, below the videos, I’ve started including a link to lyrics.

Here’s the cover version I found today, by Murdoch’s Crazy Eyes:

Plus, the official music video of the song from the Talk Talk YouTube channel (if you look through the comments, you’ll see near the top that one person took time this year to list the names of all the species that appear, along with the respective time stamps in the video):

And finally, the No Doubt cover, from their YouTube channel:

If you click on the link, you’ll find an unofficial version of the lyrics.

Yumeji’s Theme (from the film, In the Mood for Love)

Today, on Classical Sunday, I’m featuring music by the bass player and leader of the Japanese new wave rock band, EX. Former bassist/leader, that is.

Shigeru Umebayashi began composing film scores in 1985 after the breakup of EX. As I opened up a previously-watched title (“Flight from the City” — and, if you haven’t checked out that post, please do… the video is breathtaking), one of Umebayashi’s pieces came up in the suggestions sidebar. I listened and was immediately entranced.

“Yumeji’s Theme” comes from the soundtrack for In the Mood for Love (2000) by Hong Kong film director Wong Kar-wai. The piece, originally scored for the 1991 independent film Yumeji, sounds to me as though it has a Slavic influence. The music is a melodic, beautiful composition for solo violin and orchestra, and I am grateful for serendipity leading me to it.

The piece is short — just two minutes, thirty seconds, but is delightful all the same. One of the non-official video versions loops it about five times.

A little research tells me that, on this recording, Virgil Boutellis-Taft plays violin, accompanied by Jac van Steen conducting the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra. Their version is available in the iTunes Store.

Now you know a little about why this is my song of the day for today. Thanks for joining me here, and please enjoy.

Here’s the audio from the Shigeru Umebayashi YouTube topic channel:


Rain King

In my mid-20s, I started taking university courses. I had gone straight from a high school experience I hated, into a couple of part-time jobs, then into a good, full-time job at the railway. But my superiors saw potential in me and encouraged the pursuit an accounting designation. I took one course. (In 1979, I started worked in a railway accounting and payroll office of 100 people, but by ten years later it was diminished by cutbacks and technology to a handful of positions, none of which belonged to me. And by 1999, there were just no jobs left to go to in the company.)

Due mostly to full-time work, life choices and priorities, my brief foray toward a university degree eventually became a management studies certificate in 1998.

One of the first university courses I took was an English literature class. I loved the course, just as I had loved high school English, that is, until the combination of late-onset adolescence, non-existent artistic class options, peer pressure, toxic friendships and general ennui led me to abandon almost all efforts.

But at The University of Winnipeg, English professor Dr. Marta Krüüner (1925-2009) was a spectacular educator. After World War II, she was a refugee of Soviet-occupied Estonia; she had a deeply affected way around her, which I attributed to the horrors she must have encountered in the war and its aftermath of occupation. She also had a passion I can still see, and her pedagogy ignited a love of poetry and the written word that has remained with me, and planted the roots of writing in my life. In jobs through the rest of my careers, written communication and objective analysis became the primary skills that propelled me forward and were compounded in each employment experience. Often, I could (and still do) communicate far better in writing than in conversation or oral presentation due to introversion that has sometimes felt crippling.

A novel Krüüner introduced to our class was Henderson the Rain King by Canadian-American writer Saul Bellow (1915-2005). I found the book to be so rich and magical; its pages came alive in my mind. I can’t say it turned me into a voracious reader of books, but its story of growth and redemption and the professor’s lectures on it were all captivating to me.

Seeing the title of the song “Rain King” by Counting Crows always reminds me of the Bellow novel and, it, of Dr. Krüüner and her gift of teaching. I only wish I’d appreciated it then as I do now, looking back.

I don’t know the band much more than today’s song, or “Mr. Jones,” “Round Here,” and “Sullivan Street.”

Now you know a little about why this is my song of the day for today. Thanks for joining me here, and please enjoy.

Here’s the audio for the song from the Counting Crows YouTube channel:

Click on the link, and you will find an unofficial version of the lyrics on AZLyrics.com.

Bluetonic

Well, hello there, Fri-Yay!

It’s time to bring up the tempo a little from yesterday’s ambient piece since it’s the weekend for many of you (and a long Thanksgiving weekend for those of you south of the Canada/USA border). So, let’s go!

This morning, I listened to Sean Keaveny’s early Friday afternoon (in the UK) program on BBC 6 Music. He played quite a few tracks I hadn’t heard before, and many that I liked and “Shazamed.”

One song in particular that caught my ear was The Bluetones playing “Bluetonic,” the title track from a 2017 live album. The song is originally from their 1996 debut studio album, Expecting to Fly, released three years after they formed in Hounslow (near Heathrow Airport), Greater London, England. I rather like the live version song as it sounds like the audience is singing along with lead vocalist Mark Morriss at the beginning. (By the way, if you are looking for the song in the iTunes Store, it correctly shows as being on the Bluetonic album, but the four-minute, two-second track is misidentified as “Bluetones.”)

The song is definitely high-energy and upbeat, a great way to start off a Friday evening.

Now you know a little about why this is my song of the day for today. Thanks for joining me here, and please enjoy… and have a great weekend!

Here’s the video for the song from The Bluetones’ YouTube topic channel:

And if you click on the link you can check out an unofficial version of the lyrics on Genius.com.

Cinnabar

This morning during a chat with a friend from Atlantic Canada, we both recalled fun times we’d had at beaches in our respective provinces this past summer. That has caused me to think about vacation travel.

Today, the stairs and sidewalks outside the house were all covered with slick ice. It would be a great time to be away somewhere warm and sunny… like the WhatsApp profile picture of Sweety and me in Hawai’i almost seven years ago; a photo that a friend in Colorado was admiring today when we connected on that platform.

Alas, we have to stay home, so travel isn’t an option anyway. But it’s good that we can get outside for fresh air and, like I did today, for groceries. Too slippery for “wandering aimlessly” like I did the other day though…

Today I’m sharing yet another track, “Cinnabar,” from the expanded version of Roger and Brian Eno’s 2020 album Mixing Colours.

The video is one of the originals Brian Eno and Peter Chilvers made for the album. In addition to their videos, they and the record label held a video competition, which I wrote about in my post on “Wintergreen.”

The video for today’s selection depicts one of my favourite things about the travels my sweety and I have done by train in England, Spain and France: the view from a train window. Pulling out of the station, passing through industrial areas, then suburbs and gathering speed through the outskirts of a city, and finally out into the open countryside.

Someday we will do that all again.

Now you know a little about why this is my song of the day for today. Thanks for joining me here, and please enjoy.

Here’s the official music video for “Cinnabar” from the Mixing Colours website (hosted on the Deutsche Grammophon YouTube channel):

To Deserve You

American singer, actor, comedian and author Bette Midler released her eighth studio album, Bette of Roses, in 1995.

The album came out a few years before my sweety, and I got together. She has always been a big fan of “The Divine Miss M” and later bought me the CD as a gift. We listened to it a lot over the years, though we haven’t for a while. I was thinking of the album yesterday when flipping through my collection.

The song “To Deserve You” is a particular favourite as its lyrics resonate with some of the early struggles we had in our relationship. Now I look back with a lot of gratitude for our blended family and the home we all created together.

Since the early years, our relationship has grown and matured, and I feel truly blessed to be with such a loving woman. And, my dear, I still want to deserve you.

Now you know a little about why this is my song of the day for today. Thanks for joining me here, and please enjoy.

Here’s the official music video for the song from the Rhino Entertainment YouTube channel:

Here’s an unofficial link to the lyrics.

I Wandered by a Brookside

I have been taking a course over Zoom on the topic of intentional life transitions. Tonight was the third of four classes, and it was an illuminating evening, as was the coursework in preparation.

Among the tasks we were to do between classes was to go and “wander aimlessly.” I had a lot of trouble figuring out just what that meant. Pondered it for a few days, to be honest. Today I discussed it with my sweety, with the interpretation that whatever I do — however planned or casual — there is always an “aim” to it. Go for a walk? That’s to get fresh air, stay fit, enjoy nature. See? She helped cut through all that and suggested I should just go for a walk, but alone, so I didn’t feel obliged to go anywhere in particular or be back at a certain time, or whatever. That made a lot of sense. So that’s what I did.

I set off and took some random turns, ending up down a back lane where I admired a mural I hadn’t paid too much attention to before, and meandered through some short streets and parking lots to stop near a riverside condominium where we used to live when the kids were much younger. Out walking, I felt like a blank canvas in some ways and, at other points, I wondered… when I had been down a certain alley before… or looked way up a building to figure out which apartment I had lived in years ago… or thought about that time we cleaned up the riverbank with my boys, and neighbours and their son. Digging up the memory bank to make space for some new seeds, the seeds of the future?

This evening, I wondered if a song in my collection might capture the essence of what was going on.

Serendipitously (and maybe also receiving a touch of a “Zen slap” as one of my Colorado friends calls those moments of sudden wisdom/realization), I found one sung by Eva Cassidy (1963-1996). (Please also check out these links where I’ve featured Cassidy on this blog three times before, with her covers of “Bridge Over Troubled Water,” “American Tune,” and a posthumous version of “Autumn Leaves.”)

Today’s selection, “I Wandered by a Brookside,” comes from Cassidy’s 2000 album, Time After Time. The lyrics immediately gripped me, as they seem to be telling the story of one seeking solace in nature and finding nothing at first. In the second half of the song, there’s companionship to ease the hurting heart.

In my “aimless wandering” today, maybe I was learning to quiet my mind and look at the world differently. And perhaps that will help me notice the things I don’t always see or sense, like when someone important to me needs help and I don’t immediately recognize it, or any number of areas in my life and world that might be improved with some intentional tending.

“I wandered by a brookside 
I wandered by a mill 
I could not hear the water 
The murmuring it was still 
Not a sound of any grasshopper 
Nor the chirp of any bird 
But the beating of my own heart 
Was the only sound I heard 

The beating of my own heart 
Was the only sound I heard 

Then silent tears fast flowing 
When someone stood beside 
A hand upon my shoulder 
I knew the touch was kind 
He drew me near and nearer 
We neither spoke one word 
But the beating of our own two hearts 
Was the only sound I heard 

The beating of our own two hearts 
Was the only sound I heard”

(“I Wandered by a Brookside,” by Barbara Berry)

May we all feel that hand upon a shoulder when life’s pressures mute the sound of the brook. A lot of people are hurting nowadays. There are very few people who haven’t been affected in some way by the pandemic, and some are alone in what they are experiencing. And may we all be that hand on the shoulder, so that they can hear the sound of the brook. (The song also reminds me of a brook I know, near the home of a friend in Eldora, Colorado which I visited in 2012 and can still hear the sound of, thanks to those who’ve laid their hands on my shoulder.)

Now you know a little about why this is my song of the day for today. Thanks for joining me here, and please enjoy.

Here’s the audio for the song from Eva Cassidy’s official YouTube channel

Bodacious

Today, it’s another nod to some local talent, and another reminder to #buylocal music.

Winnipeg’s Sweet Alibi released their third album, Walking in the Dark, in 2016. The first track on the album, “Keep Showing You,” was released as a single in October 2015.

The band’s music falls into adult contemporary, folk/roots and soul. It is a unique mix of these, fronted by a trio of singers including Jess Rae Ayre, Amber Nielsen and Michelle Anderson, with Ayre most often as lead vocalist. Alasdair Dunlop (bass) and Sandy Fernandez (drums) round out the quintet.

A fourth album has been in the works and was expected for release in the fall of 2019. So far, they’ve released two singles: “Confetti (2019) and “Really Great” (2020). I’ve listened to the latter track and look forward to hearing more of the album and the evolution of their sound. There’s no store on the band’s website, but both songs can be listened to there. Also, no Bandcamp page, but two albums and several singles are available for purchase in the iTunes Store. Please visit and purchase Sweet Alibi’s music to support the musicians who created it.

Now you know a little about why this is my song of the day for today. Thanks for joining me here, and please enjoy.

Here’s the audio for the song from Sweet Alibi’s official YouTube channel. In addition to numerous audio tracks there are some music videos to to check out.

Classical Gas

So, today it’s a short post as, if you were following along yesterday, you’ll know it’s my sweety’s birthday today!

I decided I’d make a birthday cake — for the first time in my life… yeah… and it turned out! Didn’t burn it, end up with a goopy mess, or drop it on the floor, and it actually resembles a cake, and tastes good! Wow! I made the lemon curd filling yesterday (8.5 out of 10… slightly runny) and then spent almost four hours prepping, baking, filling and frosting before a noon Zoom party with our kids, their partners and the grandkids where we blew out the candles and Sweety made her wish while making the first cut in it.

Sweety’s birthday cake: vanilla cake from scratch, lemon curd filling from scratch, vanilla icing (yes, also from scratch!).

Later in the afternoon we went for a walk, then had another Zoom gathering with neighbours; all the while during the call, I was mystified by how much longer the roasting chicken was taking to reach a safely cooked temperature!

Last night, we binge-watched The Queen’s Gambit on Netflix. It was the perfect pre-birthday date-night, pizza-and-Netflix night. Based on a friend’s recent Facebook post, I was waiting for the piece “Classical Gas” to drop in the program somewhere and accompany the rich, vivid and sprawling depiction of America in the nineteen-fifties to mid-nineteen-sixties, and it did not disappoint.

Check out the show… it’s very well made, and the scenes are so well created, it looks just like walking into that era.

Now you know very little about why this is my song of the day for today. Thanks for joining me here, and please enjoy. Just cleaned up after dinner, and now, it’s time for more of The Queen’s Gambit… with some birthday cake!

Here’s the audio for the song from the Mason Williams YouTube topic channel (I understand he was the first to play this song on guitar):  

The Very Thought of You

I haven’t yet listened to last weekend’s installment of Guy Garvey’s Finest Hour, “Nick Drake — Featured Artist,” but looked over the tracklist today, and it is inviting and engaging as usual. I look forward to spending some time with it soon, thanks to the BBC Sounds app.

One of the songs on Garvey’s list is a version of Al Bowlly (1898-1941) singing “Two Sleepy People,” which sounded vaguely familiar. Once I looked Bowlly up, I recognized he also sang the song “Midnight, the Stars and You.” It plays in the closing scene of Stanley Kubrick’s 1980 epic psychological horror film, The Shining, while the camera pans to historical photos on a wall in The Overlook Hotel, in the Colorado Rocky Mountains.

Bowlly, born in Portuguese Mozambique, was killed in April 1941, returning to his London home after giving a show in Buckinghamshire. A German Luftwaffe parachute mine exploded, and the force of the explosion caused a door to blow off its hinges and strike a fatal blow to his head, leaving him otherwise not disfigured by the blast.

Looking a little further into Bowlly, I noticed another of his popular songs was “The Very Thought of You.”

On the eve of my sweety’s birthday and, thinking of the blessings in our life and the struggles of the world, I’m mindful of the gift, fragility and beauty of this life.

“The mere idea of you
The longing here for you
You never know how slow the moments go
Till I’m near to you
I see your face in every flower
Your eyes in stars above
It’s just the thought of you
The very thought of you
My love”

(from “The Very Thought of You, by Ray Noble)

The greatest gift is that I get to share this life with her. We have had a tradition in our family of wishing each other a happy “pre-birthday.” So, Happy Pre-Birthday, my love!

Now you know a little about why this is my song of the day for today. Thanks for joining me here, and please enjoy.

Here’s the audio for the song from the Al Bowlly YouTube topic channel:

Here’s an unofficial link to the lyrics.

Hello You Who

This week through a friend in Colorado, I learned of a band, Elephant Revival, and I started looking for some music by them.

Unfortunately, they aren’t together anymore, but the band had a unique style from what I’ve seen so far, including the instruments played (cello, upright bass, violin, electric banjo, and washboard). According to a Wikipedia article, they referred to their music style as transcendental folk since it moves across several musical genres, including some Scottish/Celtic influence. They were based in Nederland, Colorado, a beautiful little town I visited in 2012, and want very much to go back to see numerous friends we have there.

In my search, I landed on today’s selection, “Hello You Who,” which appeared on their final studio album, Petals (2016).

The song’s video features a live performance by the band and the theatrical circus group Fractal Tribe, also from Colorado, performing acrobatic moves on stage at the Red Rocks Amphitheatre in Colorado in 2016. There are a couple more videos from that show; one is their creative cover of Jefferson Airplane’s “White Rabbit” and the other, “Have a Cigar” by Pink Floyd.

Elephant Revival is a band I’d like to look into further and hear more of their original music.

Now you know a little about why this is my song of the day for today. Thanks for joining me here, and please enjoy.

Here’s the video for the song from the Elephant Revival YouTube channel:

Vermillion

I awoke sometime in the middle of the night last night with the worst, most vivid and horrifying nightmare I’ve had. And it’s stuck with me all day.

To ease the memory of that, I’m sliding into an ambient track from, you guessed it, Brian and Roger Eno’s 2020 collaboration, Mixing Colours. Please also check out my latest post on a piece from this album (“Wintergreen“); there you’ll see an explanation about the international initiative and competition held to promote the album and invite the submission of videos to accompany the tracks.

The video for today’s selection, “Vermillion,” was voted the winner among the submissions for the track. The simple, short film accompaniment is a comforting and, I’d say, magical reminder of my sweety’s summer garden. Each year its rich display of foliage, flowers and colours changes each day with new growth. And it seems so long ago that I was wandering aimlessly around the yard and taking it in, knowing it would not stay that way, that we would bid it adieu in the autumn. It’s miracle when I think about it now, looking out on the lifeless stalks and leaves that lay frozen on the ground, though some of the faded leaves still invite a rabbit that, in the spring and summer, decided our yard is a good and tasty home.

Now you know a little about why this is my song of the day for today. Thanks for joining me here, and please enjoy.

Here’s the video competition winner for “Vermillion” by Fiona Finnegan of Belfast, Northern Ireland, from the Mixing Colour website (hosted on the Deutsche Grammophon YouTube channel):

Bright Horses

After some poking around through various rabbit holes today, I decided to post a song from Nick Cave and The Bad Seeds’ latest album, Ghosteen.

The double album, released in 2019, was the first new writing for the band after Cave’s son Arthur’s accidental death near Brighton, England, in 2015. While the album explores themes of loss, it also explores faith, optimism and empathy.

The horse imagery in the song caught my attention today as an American friend often talks about the value of equine-assisted therapy for people suffering various traumas and going through recovery work. On a Google Meet call today, he spoke about this work and some of the practitioners he knows and works with, one of whom is also a friend of my sweety and me.

Another friend used to own several horses here in Manitoba. When offered the chance to go up close I remember feeling reluctant at first, a bit daunted by the animals’ size. But on two occasions, one walking and the other brushing a horse, I could understand how people related to these remarkable beings’ gentleness. Looking at me with big brown eyes, they seemed to enjoy the peaceful walk and the touch of the brush.

The tremendous physical strength, beauty and healing energy of horses are central to the song. Co-writers Cave and Warren Ellis use both mythical and real images to paint a story that shows the horse as a powerful and fearsome figure, though it moves to a lasting impression of beauty and peacefulness. This imagery is similar to the cover art, a version of the painting The Breath of Life, from Tom DuBois’ Eden series.

It seems the writers are saying that in such beauty and peacefulness is where healing can take root. I imagine this may have something to do with the reason so many people embrace equine therapy. I suspect that in the “round pen” my friend talks about, there’s no agenda or motives. Only healing.

Now you know a little about why this is my song of the day for today. Thanks for joining me here, and please enjoy.

Here’s the audio from Nick Cave and The Bad Seeds’ official YouTube channel:

Here’s an unofficial link to the song lyrics.

Day by Day

Today, I dug into and — rare for me — listened to a whole episode of BBC 6 Music’s Guy Garvey’s Finest Hour in one sitting. It was the November 8, 2020 episode, “Hello Matt Berninger” (the frontperson of the band The National is interviewed by Garvey).

Garvey said how much he has always loved today’s track, “Day by Day,” from the album Hotel Juicy Parlour by the band Sizer Barker. The group formed in my ancestral home of Liverpool, England in 1998, was signed to Peter Gabriel’s Real World Records in 2003, and released the album around the same time. Other than a sparse Wikipedia page, there is not much information available on the Internet about the group, which appears to have stopped being active around 2007. Their website is also inactive.

The lack of much documentation on the band extends to lyrics. I transcribed a few memorable ones from today’s song, below. To me, there is an optimism about the piece. It infers some of the serious challenges of life but answers them with messages about what’s important to meet them: writing one’s story; believing everything will be okay (like the COVID-theme window paint in my local Safeway grocery store has said since March); and that there is beauty in the world like the voice of a beloved and it can be seen in a “fragile butterfly.”

“Day by day
I write my book of hours in the setting sun
Day by day
Someone else will tell me all you said’s okay
Day by day
Can I hear your voice coming back to earth like
The fragile butterfly”

(from “Day by Day,” by Carl Brown)

I think the songwriter has made the song from a reflective place, examining his life and holding gratitude about things in it that he may not have felt or seen at the time. At any rate, I really liked the song; the sound of it, the instruments and effects, and the words and overall tone. It’s too bad the band is not together anymore, but I’m glad I’ve heard them.

Most of the YouTube videos of their songs are posted by Maria Alan who, from the photos on her channel, looks very similar to the bass player in the band, listed on the Wikipedia page as Maria Hughes. My guess is it’s the same person.

Now you know a little about why this is my song of the day for today. Thanks for joining me here, and please enjoy.

Here’s the audio for the song from Maria Alan’s YouTube channel:

I also found a video of a live performance of it on the same YouTube channel:

Oh My Love

Monday in lockdown 2.0, and it’s time for another #buylocal post.

And today, did I ever buy local. I did a round of curbside pickups and a drop-off of pet food to the animal shelter after taking Perry Como the cat to the veterinarian. Our feline landlord doesn’t mind me sharing his personal health information with you: a crusty formation in the skin on his neck turned out to be a minor thing that the doctor said was healing and didn’t need intervention. What he did mind, though, was riding in the car. “Mr. Relaxation” was whining a bit for the first while but soon quieted down and later, at the animal hospital, quickly settled into flirting with the technician, who seemed quite taken with him too.

But I digress. On to the music.

The video for today’s selection, by chance, also features some animal lovers. “Oh My Love” is the first single from The Small Glories’ second album, Assiniboine & The Red.

My sweety and I saw The Small Glories at the first annual Winnipeg Crankie Festival in 2018. The twosome, formed in 2014 right here in Winnipeg by Cara Luft of Alberta and JD Edwards of Ontario, gave a phenomenal performance. Edwards also plays locally in the JD Edwards Band, which I’ve seen a few times.

In my email account, the Tickets folder holds five passes to see The Small Glories. We bought the tickets for us plus three friends to see the duo on April 25 at Winnipeg, Canada’s West End Cultural Centre. The show was postponed during the first lockdown and hasn’t been rescheduled yet.

I look forward to going to that show when we are at the other end of this pandemic, when it’s safe to gather again. Sometimes, that seems like it’s a far off hope.

Like many other performers, the Small Glories have adapted to pandemic public health restrictions by moving to online concerts. They had scheduled one for tomorrow, November 17, through Home Routes/Chemin Chez and the Calgary Folk Club; however, they have postponed it due to the requirement to reduce social contacts.

Why not show them some love anyway, by going to their website store and purchasing their albums, like you might have if you were seeing them at an in-person show. Or, if you have both CDs as we do, go to their website store anyway; there are options for sending financial support to help them through this time. (Take one look at their Shows page and see all those cancelled events… oh my.) You can also buy their albums on the iTunes store. But you can name your price on The Small Glories web store and know that all the cash you choose to pay will go to them.

Now you know a little about why this is my song of the day for today. Thanks for joining me here, and please enjoy.

Here’s the official music video for the song from The Small Glories website:

Cello Concerto in E Minor, Op.85, III: Adagio

English composer Edward Elgar (1857-1934) is probably most famous for his five Pomp and Circumstance Marches.

Historically, his music has been followed mostly by British listeners. For example, the Pomp and Circumstance Marches No. 1, is considered by many to be an unofficial British national anthem, and is played every year on the last night of the BBC Proms (Promenades) concerts. Its imperialistic tone appeals to enthusiastic Proms audiences and, thus, it has enduring popularity.

However, the first march is also very popular as an anthem at graduation ceremonies in North America. Being of British ancestry and still affected by those national traditions and customs, I remember being moved to tears when my older lad processed into the hall to the music during his high school graduation ceremony.

But today, I’m sharing an excerpt from one of my favourite symphonic works of Elgar’s, the third movement (Adagio) from the Cello Concerto in E Minor, Opus 85. He was well into his forties before he achieved much success, which came with the Enigma Variations. Elgar was 62 when he conducted the premiere of his cello concerto with the London Symphony Orchestra.

The concerto’s premiere was disastrous; the other conductor of the October 1919 opening night program exceeded his rehearsal time, overlapping into Elgar’s. The concerto wasn’t played again for over a year.

In the video I’ve chosen today, cellist Sheku Kanneh-Mason plays with the London Symphony Orchestra conducted by Simon Rattle. Kanneh-Mason became known in 2018 for playing at the wedding of the Duke and Duchess of Windsor in England. He also played this concerto on his third engagement with the BBC Proms, in 2019, with the City of Birmingham Symphony directed by Mirga Gražinyte-Tyla.

During England’s COVID-19 lockdown in the spring of 2020, Kanneh-Mason and his siblings played live-streamed concerts broadcast worldwide from their Nottingham family home.

Now you know a little about why this is my song of the day for today. Thanks for joining me here, and please enjoy.

Here’s the video of a rehearsal by the LSO and Simon Rattle, featuring Sheku Kanneh-Mason, from his official YouTube channel:

Who’s Zoomin’ Who?

In my February 18, 2020 post on Aretha Franklin’s 1971 cover of Ben E. King’s “Spanish Harlem,” I talked a little about Franklin’s 1985 album, Who’s Zoomin’ Who?

Today I was at an all-day gathering on the conferencing platform Zoom and, at some point, the song title came to mind. I enjoyed the day, and while it would have been much better to gather physically, the virtual meetup was enriching and immeasurably better than not being together. (Plus, it was based in Colorado, so I would have had a two-day drive back home.) Participants were fully engaged and made it memorable.

The song “Who’s Zooming’ Who?” was a big hit for Franklin (1942-2018), and as I mentioned in the February post, it exposed a younger generation to her music. It’s been many years since I played the record… I’ll have to revisit it soon.

I have to say though, after spending quite a few years writing and editing as part of my job, I can’t help thinking the song title should be “Who’s Zoomin’ Whom?”… but let’s not overthink it. Just enjoy the song.

And now you know a little about why it’s my song of the day.

Here’s the audio for the track from Aretha Franklin’s official YouTube channel:

Dreaming of You

Hey, it’s another Friday, folks!

Another challenging week here in Manitoba, learning of new record numbers of COVID-19 cases, a health-care system under strain, a lockdown 2.0, and deaths rising at a frightening rate.

One of the few politicians I genuinely respect, Calgary, Alberta mayor Naheed Nenshi, spoke today at a televised press conference carried on the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. He urged people not to wait for the government to tell them what to do, but rather to do the right thing, now. He said bluntly what other politicians often dance around for fear of offending voters: stay home, collapse your bubble, don’t have anyone in your home who doesn’t live there (except essential workers), and observe the fundamentals of hygiene, masks and distance. He stated it isn’t an either/or about health and the economy; there is no economy without health. I’ve been impressed with Mayor Nenshi since observing his inspirational and motivational public messaging during the flood that devastated parts of his city in 2013. I even met him once, in 2016, when he was in Winnipeg for the national conference of the Federation of Canadian Municipalities, where I was a volunteer.

But enough about that. Let’s get to some music. And since we’re talking municipalities and local government, let’s have another #buylocal look at some great talent.

Manitoba’s Carly Dow has been performing what she calls “witchcrafted folk” since 2013, and I’ve seen her play a few times. One of the most intimate performances we’ve witnessed was at our central library branch, downtown in the Millennium Library. The Winnipeg Folk Festival occasionally features three artists in each of an excellent series of workshops in a cozy, sun-kissed part of the building. My sweety and I have attended many of these, which have included some musical friends as well as our own Kieran West.

Of her latest work, Dow’s website says, “On 2018’s Comet, Carly demonstrates the steady growth of her craftsmanship with a full band behind her. The album features her characteristic clawhammer banjo and supports her melodies with electric guitars, strings, accordions and a driving rhythm section. They’re perfectly arranged to showcase the power of her voice. With songs for adventurers, lovers, and the worlds they inhabit Comet is proof again that Carly Dow is sketching the human condition in song and claiming her own place on the musical landscape in the process. Bring a compass, Carly will take you places.

I listened to the album on Dow’s Bandcamp page while reading up on her and agree! And she is the type of artist best experienced live, plus I would go further to say in a small venue setting, where she and her audience can interact more easily. But we can’t do that right now, and it’s been about nine months since live shows were really a thing. As I said in my post earlier this week on “Looking Out My Window” by Slow Leaves, it’s a tough time for many musicians. And not just financially. They chose to be musicians to share their craft with people and make the world a better place. Being restricted from gathering puts a serious damper on that spirit. But we as music lovers can help by sending notes to artists to show we care about them, and buying their music and merchandise to support them in this in-between time.

You might become weary of me echoing Elbow leader singer Guy Garvey’s exhortation on his weekly BBC 6 Music program, Guy Garvey’s Finest Hour, “… don’t stream it for a pittance… buy the recording so the musicians can make more!” but he’s absolutely right. We can make a difference for local musicians and other artists by buying their stuff.

So, please join me in a 100% safe, contact-free-from-the-comfort-of-your-own-home visit to either the store on the Carly Dow website, or her Bandcamp page (where you can up the price to send more cash to the artist). It’s easier than curbside pickup, and there are no markers on the aisles so you’ll always be heading the right way. Buy Comet today. You’ll be glad you did. And, hey, check out some of her earlier music, too.

After my first listening, a favourite tune on the album is “Dreaming of You.” It’s got the kind of beat and sweet twang complementing Dow’s lovely voice that will put it high up on my Car Tunes playlist.

Here’s the audio for the song from Carly Dow’s Bandcamp album page:

The Silence

After yesterday’s “2 Minute Silence,” today, we’re visiting another type of silence.

Late in the evening on November 10, while I was writing my just-before-midnight post on Johnny Cash’s cover of “Hurt,” today’s song came up on YouTube autoplay.

Just a month ago, on October 13, I posted “The Sunshine” from Manchester Orchestra’s 2017 album, Black Mile to the Surface. “The Silence,” another song from that album, is represented in a powerful piece of storytelling in video by American director Ted Roach. That other evening after it popped up, I watched the video again and again, mesmerized by it.

The Manchester Orchestra website contains this comment by the band’s singer-songwriter/guitarist/lead-singer Andy Hall regarding today’s song: “The last track is called ‘The Silence.’ This song is one of the songs I wrote – popped out of bed at one in the morning – it felt like I kinda had to get this thing down, and really, it’s a prayer to God. It’s God talking to me, God talking to my daughter, and then ultimately at the end, the finale is me praying over my daughter.

Some reviewers have commented that Hall’s writing on the album tells of historical family dysfunction and his reconciliation of that with his new fatherhood. I don’t know if that’s correct, but songs on Black Mile to the Surface like “The Silence” and “The Alien” indeed point that way. And as part of this sorting in today’s track, he acknowledges the limits of his biological role as a father, even so early on: “… Magnified in the science / Anatomically proved that you don’t need me…”

The producers, including John Congleton, the wizard behind the development of Sharon Van Etten’s “Seventeen” (for another powerful song, please see my post on it), capture the intense drama of the story. The video then takes it up and then right over the top. It’s all brilliant songwriting, musicianship and production.

The video for “The Silence” opens with the band doing a sound-check at a music venue, maybe one of those 2,000-seat Vaudeville-era theatres based on the decor you can see in bits. Then after the instrumental intro, the synthesizer and bass solemnly carry the song over into a recording session in a building with stained glass. Hall asks, “Are we good to go?” and when the producer says yes, the keyboard player, looking young, innocent and nervous, lays his hands on his notebook with the piano chords for the song, as if he’s blessing what’s to follow. The first verse begins with the steady drumming and a short, guttural, echoing guitar riff that seems to hint at an impending showdown on the American Old West. It revisits many times as if to remind us of the tension.

Like in the dramatic lead-in, there are several effects through the video, like at 4:03 where the drum kit track is temporarily detached and muffled, seemingly a symbol of disconnection and isolation, mirroring the lyrics.

At 5:21 in the video after the second chorus, the story cuts back to the musicians playing live in the venue. Then at 5:54, the band explodes into a three-minute outro. Maybe it was my anticipation on the eve of Remembrance Day (Veterans’ Day for friends in the USA), but I found the beginning of that section evoked a gut-wrenching feeling like witnessing a bloody battle or, at least, intense familial strife. After the final crescendo, the crowd goes wild but quickly reins it in as they see the band is still deeply attending to the song’s last breaths.

I’ve probably watched this video 15 times or more in the past three days, but the final verse still gets me every time. The narrator seems to change from Hall to his father and perhaps his baby daughter (who “sings” to him in “The Sunshine” — please see my post on that one, as well). The internal and external conflict has a happy ending as he looks into his daughter’s eyes, as if she saved his life. Maybe she did.

“Why do I deserve the silence
to feel better about you?
At a loss I lost my cool
I denied that I found you

I tried to be a basket case
I did not surprise you
I’m trying to find a signal fire
Let me know when I should move

But you, amplified in the silence
Justified in the way you make me bruise
Magnified in the science
Anatomically proved that you don’t need me

Why do I desire the space?
I was mourning after you
I was lost and lost my shape
There was nothing I could do

I don’t want to waste away
It was all I gave to you
Take me back and take my place
I will rise right up for you

But you, amplified in the silence
Justified in the way you make me bruise
Magnified in the science
Anatomically proved that you don’t need me

All the while you waste away, you’re asking
“Did I really need another one to take me down?”
Everybody knows it’s something that you had to live with darling
Nobody’s gonna tear you down now
There is nothing you keep, there is only your reflection

There was nothing but quiet retractions
And families pleading, “Don’t look in that cabinet, there’s far more bad than there’s good, I don’t know how it got there”
That was something your father had burned in me
Twenty hours out of Homestake eternity
You can go anywhere but you are where you came from

Little girl you are cursed by my ancestry
There is nothing but darkness and agony
I can not only see, but you stopped me from blinking
Let me watch you as close as a memory
Let me hold you above all the misery
Let me open my eyes and be glad that I got here”

(“The Silence,” by Andy Hull)

Now you know a little about why this is my song of the day for today. Thanks for joining me here, and please enjoy.

Here’s the official music video for the song from Manchester Orchestra’s YouTube channel:  

Here’s a link to the unofficial lyrics.

2 Minute Silence

In 2010, the Royal British Legion released the video, “2 Minute Silence,” to mark Remembrance Day.

At the time, it was a bold, innovative way to use YouTube and other social media to draw the public’s attention to the day devoted to honouring the sacrifices of those who have fought for our countries. The video and a single were (and still are) available for purchase on the iTunes Store.

The Royal British Legion released a similar video in 2015, and the British Army posted one with music last year, again reaching out to younger generations. To me, the original 2010 video is the most impactful in its pure and solemn silence.

The Canada Remembers Program of Veterans Affairs Canada also uses social media to engage and inform citizens on the history of military service in war, armed conflict and peace. Similar honours are made online in the United States and other countries.

I invite you to join me in watching the Royal British Legion video or observing the moment in a way that is meaningful to you, at the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month.

We Remember Them.

Hurt

Hurt. There’s a lot of that going around.

Many of us hurt because of what’s going on in the world. And we cannot hug our loved ones in the pandemic time. In Manitoba, we can’t even gather with anyone outside our home as of Thursday. Lockdown 2.0. I felt really stirred up today learning of that… believing as I do that the careless acts of some people have turned my province into the country’s current hotspot, amassing as many new COVID-19 cases almost every day as we did in the whole first wave.

I miss our kids and the grandkids. All our families, friends and other loved ones. Anyway, today, I felt defeated when seeing the news this morning and felt like this is really getting to be a drag.

I miss being able to go, help people when they need it, or just go visit them. Ironically, Sweety and I have more friends now, having met many people online with whom we’ve become close over the past nine months. Folks with whom we’ve connected at gatherings centred on poetry, meditation and spiritual community.

Sometimes the hurt comes from within, and I recognized that a few times today. As I contemplate entering this later part of life, I’m more aware of my mortality, as I inferred in my post on Yusuf / Cat Stevens’ “Father and Son.” I’m looking to become a good ancestor, or a living ancestor, as an American friend referred to it when hearing my intention. For me, that means reaching out and offering what I can to my family, really actively… not sitting in the background as has been my practice through a lot of life. It also means reconciling with the faults, failures and shoulds I carry and want to have laid all down to avoid “deathbed regrets.”

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not sick or imminently dying. When I turned 60 this year, it felt like a huge milestone, and I’m more aware of the “sand in the hourglass.” I’m loving life more than ever before — even with all these restrictions and missing theatre, music shows, movies, all that stuff we can’t do now — and wanting to honour the next generations, by doing my part as their ancestor.

And then, after the grumbling and self-pity, I passed by a photo of my dad, taken around 1940, while he was serving with the Grenadier Guards, the Queen’s Own Regiment of the British Army. He was one of very few of his company who returned. My mum was evacuated to another home, far away. They both lived through terror and hardship, wondering if they’d ever see their families again.

Tomorrow on Remembrance Day (Veterans’ Day to our U.S. friends and family), we remember their sacrifices along with those whose lives ended in the war, and those who continue to suffer its memory.

By contrast, we are asked to wear masks, wash our hands a lot, keep our distance, and stay home when sick. And it’s been nine months. For some, it has been horrific. For some, it’s threatened livelihoods. For many, it’s been an inconvenience. But it hasn’t been six years of hell.

We’ll get through. All you need is love. Speaking of which, today is one of my brothers’ birthdays. I reached him by phone, and we had a marvellous conversation — fun, informative, emotional, reflective, and honouring.

So, I’m working on not hurting. Not letting past hurts re-harm me. Strengthening myself and my relationships to prepare for a future where we will all one day leave this living world. And, working on not hurting myself. Honouring me for who I am, what I’ve done, what I’ll do instead of beating myself up for my failings. Feeling grateful. Plus, learning some new tools with some new and not entirely new friends!

Nine Inch Nails, an American industrial rock band, wrote and released “Hurt” on their 1994 album, Downward Spiral. Johnny Cash (1932-2003) covered the song on his 2002 collection, American IV: The Man Comes Around, and American filmmaker Mark Romanek produced a lavish video to accompany this rendition. The song was one of Cash’s final hits.

It is a powerful song. I don’t know if I have ever heard the Nine Inch Nails version; it’s not familiar in my memory anyway. (It’s getting late in the day, so I will seek it out another time… and may just find I know it well!) I have a hard time thinking of anyone making this piece more heart-rending and visceral than Cash.

Hurt. There’s a lot of that going around.

But, maybe we’re not on a downward spiral and needn’t embrace regrets like those depicted in the song.

Now you know a little about why this is my song of the day for today. Thanks for joining me here, and please enjoy.

Here’s the official music video from the Johnny Cash YouTube channel:

Looking Out My Window

It occurred to me today that it’s been a while since I featured musicians from my province, Manitoba. You may have seen my posts on songs by Scott Nolan, Kieran West and His Buffalo Band, and Lakes and Pines. After posting write-ups on more than 300 songs, it feels like I’m overdue to spread some more love a little closer to home.

Tonight I visited the website and Bandcamp page of Slow Leaves, the name Winnipeg singer-songwriter Grant Davidson performs under. I haven’t known of him that long but have seen Slow Leaves perform at least twice. I think once at a songwriters’ session at the city’s Millennium Library, and once with a full band at a music venue… it might have been the Times Change(d) High & Lonesome Club. My memory is one of a superb musician with a self-deprecating manner whose music draws in his audience. I also have a vague memory that he may have been the singer I once heard do a brilliant impersonation in homage to American singer-songwriter Roy Orbison (1936-1988). You will recognize a similar vibrato at times in Davidson’s voice.

About the music of Slow Leaves and his latest release, Shelf Life (2020), his website says, “The 10-track album leans into themes of romantic memory, domestic duty, artistic ambition, and dreams unfulfilled, underpinning the belief that there is indeed strength in vulnerability.” The site also describes Davidson as being known for “… his ability to breathe poetry into the ordinary… “

For today’s selection, I’m featuring the opening track of Shelf Life, “Looking Out My Window,” a beautifully sung and instrumented piece with pleasing melodies. I find it a reflective yet hopeful sound, and recommend checking out Slow Leaves if you don’t already know him or his music.

Now you know a little about why this is my song of the day for today. Thanks for joining me here, and please enjoy. And if you like the music, please buy it to support the artist who created it.

We all rely on the artistic community for the beauty we see, hear and feel and with venues closed, it must be challenging for many of them to stay ahead of the bill collector. Why not check out a local artist’s website, Bandcamp or iTunes Store page today. Buying their music and merchandise puts money in their pockets, more than streaming does. I’ve quoted Elbow’s Guy Garvey before: “… don’t stream it for a pittance… buy the recording so the musicians can make more!

There is a store on the Slow Leaves website where you can buy vinyl, CDs, and even leave a tip! You can also buy digital copies of his music on the Slow Leaves Bandcamp site. (While I love the traditional long-play record cover, liner notes and all that experience, I generally purchase my music digitally these days. Listening to Shelf Life while writing this, my next step will be to buy the album; it’s a beautiful collection.)

Here’s the audio for the song from the Slow Leaves Bandcamp album page.

Edit, November 14: Here’s a video posted to Facebook yesterday, by Winnipeg’s Village Idiots of a performance by Slow Leaves at the West End Cultural Centre in October…
https://www.facebook.com/WeAreTheVillageIdiots/posts/1612326418969791

Organ Sonata No.4, BWV 528, II: Andante [Adagio] (Transcription for Piano)

On Sundays, I often cruise around the Deutsche Grammophon YouTube channel. It’s a label I was reasonably familiar with when I was buying a lot of records and even CDs in the 1970s and 80s.

The channel has many superb pieces that I’ve posted about, like Rufus Wainwright’s “A Woman’s Face (Sonnet 20)” and some fantastic combinations of music and video, like “Flight from the City,” by Jóhann Jóhannsson (1969-2018, wrote the music) and Clare Langan (video artist).

Today, I found some pieces by a pianist I’d already featured, so I continued down whatever rabbit hole I had started with on the site, to find something new to me, and maybe, to you, too.

I landed upon a piano transcription of Organ Sonata No.4, movement II: Andante (Adagio) by Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750). Bach compiled a series of six organ sonatas nearly 300 years ago in the 1720s. I love the depth, volume and complexity of organ music and will find a great piece to share with you soon.

Bohemian pianist, teacher and arranger August Stradal (1860-1930) transcribed the sonata for solo piano. Icelandic pianist Víkingur Ólafsson plays it in the video linked in today’s post. His playing is incredible to watch, though the camera is only focused on him for portions of the video. It’s a beautiful, melodic piece that seems to call out to the villagers in the film. If I were living there in that village and heard those sounds, I’d sure head there in a hurry, too! Early in the video it appears they are searching for something or going out to meet something foreign to them. The mysteriousness of the scene and the cloudy, dark maritime location reminds me slightly of the mood of the film Arrival, the science-fiction film directed by Canadian Denis Villeneuve with music by Jóhann Jóhannsson (who I mentioned above). This kind of makes sense, I figure, as today’s piano piece is quite other-worldly. And worth the seeking, as the villagers listen and watch transfixed in the pianist’s room.

The sonata’s second movement, Andante (Adagio) is an excellent piece to accompany a contemplative space I’m in following the week’s events, good and not so good, and the lovely, unseasonably mild weather (17°C or 63°F this afternoon). It was so nice out today… I hesitated, but did end up cleaning up the summer porch, rolling up the rugs and putting them and the furniture stacked under tarps for the winter. Sweety and I sat in the back yard, later on, enjoying the last of the day’s light and warmth. I’m feeling gratitude for these days, in spite of some of the challenges they bring.

Now you know a little about why this is my song of the day for today. Thanks for joining me here, and please enjoy.

Here’s the music video, directed by Magnús Leifsson, from Deutsche Grammophon’s official YouTube channel:

All You Need Is Love

One of the most hard-fought, nail-biter elections in memory is now over, aside from recounts and other formal processes. The conclusion comes while the COVID-19 pandemic still rages around the world, economies are struggling, and divisiveness seems like it is at an all-time high.

We live in an era of increasing polarization, and it sometimes feels like it will only worsen. I spoke about this a few days ago in my post on “Love & Hate” when referring to Margaret Wheatley’s book, So Far From Home.

These challenges didn’t all happen overnight, and they will take time and much effort to resolve. But regardless of the election result, there always seems to be hope after the votes are counted and before a new government takes power.

Here’s a wish that President-elect Joe Biden, Vice President-elect Kamala Harris and their administration will find ways to bridge the vast divides between left and right for the greater good of America and the world.

It may sound simplistic, but I believe it really isn’t that hard to do.

In June 1967, Britain’s contribution to the Our World TV program was “All You Need Is Love.” Composed by the Beatles’ main writers John Lennon (1940-1980) and Paul McCartney, the non-album single featured simple lyrics intended to be understandable worldwide. The song became a global anthem for the 1960s counterculture “flower power” movement. (“All You Need Is Love” was also added to the United States version of the 1967 album The Magical Mystery Tour.)

It is a song that has aged well in its ability to inspire and sow love.

“Love, love, love
Love, love, love
Love, love, love

There’s nothing you can do that can’t be done
Nothing you can sing that can’t be sung
Nothing you can say but you can learn how to play the game
It’s easy

Nothing you can make that can’t be made
No one you can save that can’t be saved
Nothing you can do but you can learn how to be you in time
It’s easy

All you need is love
All you need is love
All you need is love, love
Love is all you need”

(from “All You Need Is Love,” By John Lennon, Paul McCartney

May the song keep up the magic now, and may we all show love to one another, regardless of our beliefs and politics. As Lennon and McCartney wrote, “It’s easy.”

Now you know a little about why this is my song of the day for today. Thanks for joining me here, and please enjoy.

Here’s the audio for the song from the Beatles’ official YouTube channel:  

The Waiting

Happy Friday!

What a week it has been!

The United States federal election continues to dominate the news, and the stress and tension are evident. I believe the ongoing pandemic adds to and complicates the anxiety of this time… we are facing numerous situations over which we have little or no control, but still we feel affected by them.

And the waiting continues…

“The waiting is the hardest part
Every day you see one more card
You take it on faith, you take it to the heart
The waiting is the hardest part”

(from “The Waiting,” by Tom Petty)

“The Waiting” was the lead single from the 1981 record, Hard Promises, by Tom Petty (1950-2017), and was a massive hit for him. It is a very popular song, and some high-profile artists including Linda Ronstadt and Natalie Imbruglia have covered it. And, cleverly, sports venues have used it during games when officials pause the game to review a goal or other play.

Tom Petty has appeared here on the blog before, with his song “Wildflowers” and his participation on a cover of George Harrison’s composition, “While My Guitar Gently Weeps.”

Now you know a little about why this is my song of the day for today. Thanks for joining me here, and please enjoy.

Here’s the official music video for the song from the Tom Petty VEVO/YouTube channel:

Anticipation

So, it’s another day of waiting for results in the federal election south of the Canada/USA border.

There are a few songs that could be fillers in this time of waiting. Today, it’s Carly Simon’s “Anticipation.”

In the video I chose from Simon’s YouTube channel, she and friends perform the song live on the cruise ship, the Queen Mary 2 in 2005. There are a few ironies in the video: we’re waiting on — in anticipation of — election results; we can’t gather in groups over five (in my area, anyway); bars and music venues are closed (here), and cruise ships were highlighted early in the pandemic as places where the virus quickly took hold and, as I remember, were among the first large spaces to see outbreaks and lockdowns. I doubt we will see people on these ships for a while yet…

Today’s song, from the 1971 album of the same name, is one of Simon’s greatest hits. In this this February post on “Touched by the Sun,” I recall a memory of hearing “Anticipation” in Heinz ketchup commercials portraying the slow flow of that deep red sauce.

“We can never know about the days to come
But we think about them anyway
And I wonder if I’m really with you now
Or just chasing after some finer day.

Anticipation, anticipation
Is making me late
Is keeping me waiting”

(from “Anticipation,” by Carly Simon)

There’s no use smacking the bottom of the ketchup bottle, folks; we all just have to wait. It will come.

Now you know a little about why this is my song of the day for today. Thanks for joining me here, and please enjoy.

Here’s the video for the song from Carly Simon’s official YouTube channel:

Love & Hate

Love & Hate.

Right & Wrong.

Us & Them.

Black & White (or any colour contrast…).

Today as I observe the ongoing coverage of the United States election, I try to wade through the biases of two extremes that have expanded to take up so much space in our consciousness. I just want to know what is going and what the result might be, not the skewed results produced from one “side” or the other.

The space and time we are in reminds me of reading the book So Far From Home by Margaret Wheatley, a book that, in short (in my opinion), attributes much of society’s ills to the rise of the Internet and its domination in our lives.

An information sheet for the book says, “We live in a time of increasing polarization and irrationality, like a Tower of Babel with no distinction between fact and opinion, where information no longer changes minds. In cyberspace, we are bombarded with constant distractions and narcissistic self-making activities. Instant judgment and blame have replaced rational thinking. Organizations are bloated by bureaucracy and meaningless measures. Those working for positive change become exhausted, ill, and heartsick as their good work is ignored, underfunded, or attacked.”

The sheet goes on to say, “But Wheatley has not written a book to increase our despair. Quite the contrary. Her intention is to inspire us to do our work with greater resolve and energy, using maps that won’t mislead us. So Far from Home offers maps of two kinds. Using the newest of the new sciences, Wheatley shows how different dynamics interacted to create this harsh new world. A second kind of map invites us to choose a new role for ourselves as warriors for the human spirit. We develop the skills we need most—insight, bravery, decency, compassion—as we look honestly at this complex, difficult world. Clarity gives us enduring strength to discover our right work and create meaningful lives in this dark time.”

“Love & Hate” is one of the songs I was referring to when saying to you yesterday that I had heard several inspiring songs on The Morning Show with John Richards on KEXP Seattle. To me, the song speaks to the absolute polarization that pervades our society, a phenomenon being played out in real-time as the extremes of opinion work to divide people further.

It is no longer safe in our society to hold a different view than what is prevailing or popular. That is the biggest reason I deactivated my Twitter account some years ago (and, I should say, one that at the time was the envy of a friend who was amazed by how many followers I had amassed…). I could not continue in that space as the divisiveness of the platform was rank and vile. I dipped my toes back in, a while ago, but mainly to track some useful information sources. I stay away from controversial discussions as those are not life-giving. It is easy to get drawn in and embroiled in an issue, lose focus, and join in an Internet “pile-on.” There are millions of those going on in micro-discussions on threads… argh… I would be hard-pressed to explain it all to my parents. Except for my late mum, who briefly tried out email, they were 99% obliviously unknowing of the good and evil powers of the Internet. Sometimes I, as their youngest child, have a hard time understanding it.

Humanity has come so far, yet we have so much further to go, to reconcile the differences we hold, or just think we hold. People gathering together should feel welcome and safe in the places where they meet up. That’s even more critical when those places are called and prepared as sacred spaces. That doesn’t always happen, though. I believe that’s part of the blurring of boundaries and appropriateness resulting from so many of us being “connected” online, often almost 24/7, chasing the prize of popularity on the World-Wide-Web.

I hope that our species can learn to reclaim the concepts and practices of respect, love, inclusiveness and peace-making. If it can happen in the smallest of gatherings, it can grow and climb like the vine that tenaciously, slowly and gently insists on climbing up the side of Sweety’s and my home, reaching for the bright, nurturing, non-judgmental, shining-for-all sun.

A verse in Michael Kiwanuka’s 2016 hit “Love & Hate” seems to sum it all up:

“Standing now
Calling all the people here to see the show
Calling all my demons now to let me go
I need something, give me something wonderful”

(from Love & Hate, by Danger Mouse [aka Brian Burton], Inflo [aka Dean Josiah Cover], Michael Kiwanuka)

And as the songwriters say, “No more pain and no more shame and misery.”

This post is dedicated to all those who are denied the safe places where they all deserve to be, and where they are needed.

Now you know a little about why this is my song of the day for today. Thanks for joining me here.

Here’s a live-session video of the song from Michael Kiwanuka’s official YouTube channel:

Space Oddity

During my morning routine from around 7:00 to 9:00 (Central time in Canada), I like to have a random, unknown music mix playing. But among the radio stations I listen to online, mainly KEXP Seattle and BBC 6 Music, there isn’t usually anything on that appeals to me for that time of day.

The Morning Show with John Richards, which I really enjoy, runs from 7:00 to 9:00, but two hours behind us in the Pacific time zone, so it’s past that quiet, reflective time of the morning for me here.

Just last week, I noticed that KEXP keeps a few archives handy on the show webpage and so this morning, after a particularly active session of Perry Como the cat attacking his Da Bird toy while I was waving it about, I tuned into yesterday’s episode of the show. Richards played many songs to soothe and calm the audience, knowing and feeling the impending national anxiety, looking ahead to today, election day in the United States. He also told a lovely story of a serendipitous chain of events that made for a special time on the bike with his son, on Hallowe’en.

Many of the songs he played were themed on America. I heard a few songs that inspired me to post them sometime. But then he ran a mix of some covers of David Bowie songs, and the one in particular that moved me deeply was a cover of “Space Oddity.” The song, inspired by the 1968 film 2001: A Space Odyssey, was the first of Bowie’s to make it to the hit charts in the United Kingdom after its release in July 1969, days before America’s launch of the historic Apollo 11 moon-landing mission.

I tried to Shazam this cover of “Space Oddity,” but the app came back with “no result.” No wonder; it isn’t a recording through a record label but rather through the YouTube channel of the Silverlake Conservatory of Music in Los Angeles, California, USA, whose Youth and Master Youth Chorale performed the song. The notes to the video posted in April 2020 say, “Members of the Silverlake Conservatory of Music’s Youth and Master Youth Chorale received the music on a Friday, and recorded it on their phones on the following Monday. This was quite a challenge for these kids who normally rely on listening to each other, breathing together, following their director, and feeling confident with all of the musical choices that choirs usually make together. Thank you Silverlake Conservatory students for continuing to sing through this difficult time, we are proud of you!

The choir’s performance is so beautiful. The young singers nail the line with Bowie’s original inflection, “This is Major Tom to Ground Control / I’m stepping through the door / And I’m floating / in a most-a-peculiar way…” On a day with anxiety and tension, thinking of the country where so many of our friends live, the music provided sweet tears of joy and hope. And the little bits of laughter interspersed in it are delightful.

If these young people can create such beauty together, while separate, in a world that’s so uncertain and foreign to them, surely we all can take inspiration and motivation to make a better future with and for them.

Today, my sweety and I will check in with many of our American friends, and if we don’t connect by phone, messaging, Zoom or social media, we will nonetheless be sending our best juju to our neighbours to the south.

Now you know a little about why this is my song of the day for today. Thanks for joining me here. Enjoy, and please be gentle with yourselves and each other, my American lovelies, and everyone. As John Richards says every day, “You Are Not Alone.” And as my dear friend in Colorado says, “Blessed Be.”

Here’s the video for the performance from the official YouTube channel of the Silverlake Conservatory of Music (and I encourage you to check out some of their other titles like “Come on Home Baby Now,” also done in isolation):

And, here’s the official 1972 video of Bowie miming to the 1969 recording:

Chewing Cotton Wool

Today, I’m delving into the archives of BBC 6 Music’s Guy Garvey’s Finest Hour again… there were many great songs on his BBC Slow Sunday episode (October 25, when the British Isles left daylight savings time, a day when the station’s show hosts all played “chill” music.

My selection for today played right after another song I posted last week, This Is the Kit’s “Coming to Get You Nowhere.”

While the playlist for the episode lists The Japanese House’s song, “You Are the Reason,” it was actually “Chewing Cotton Wool” that Garvey featured. I’d never heard of the band before but checked out a few of their songs after hearing them on the show. Of the few pieces I heard, nothing appealed to me and certainly not as much as “Chewing Cotton Wool.” Some of them were slightly boring, often overpowered by electronic percussion.

Oddly titled, today’s song was a recommendation to Garvey by his guest, actor Jodie Whitaker, the first woman to play the lead role in the British TV series, Dr. Who. (No stranger to BBC 6 Music, some years ago, Whitaker hosted an instalment of the BBC feature, Wise Women, which she opened with the song “Go!” by Public Service Broadcasting – a track I posted in January, soon after beginning this blog and hearing the episode archive on the BBC Sounds app.) 

Talking with Garvey on his program, Whitaker introduces “Chewing Cotton Wool” as a song about love ending. It has an ethereal, synthpop sound, nicely instrumented. It reminds me a little of Imogen Heap’s “Hide and Seek,” another similarly themed piece, but one I find has even more emotional weight to it.

If you’ve lost a love to a breakup or death, the singer’s words will probably resonate and evoke empathy and sadness about that empty space, though gratitude as well, for those things treasured in life. I don’t know the significance of the title; perhaps it’s a British expression or figure of speech, though I’ve never heard it from family.

Now you know a little about why this is my song of the day for today. Thanks for joining me here, and please enjoy.

Here’s the audio for the song from The Japanese House’s SoundCloud account

Symphony No. 7 in A Major, Opus 92, II: Allegretto

The second movement (Allegretto) of Symphony No. 7 by the German composer Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1827), is a favourite of mine.

The movement combines dramatic, sombre and calming melodies in a lyrical landscape of symphonic instruments. When listening to it, I prefer to hear it as a standalone piece as I find the calmness at the ending is abruptly shaken by the spritely start of the third movement (Allegro con brio).

When premiering the symphony, Beethoven is believed to have said it was one of his best works. The Allegretto was the most popular part of the symphony and was often performed separately from the entire work.

As a modern-day example of that, Sarah Brightman performs an adaptation of the movement, with lyrics written for it by Chiara Ferrau and Michael Soltau, on her album, La Luna. Brightman sang this piece, titled “Figlio Perduta,” at the St. Paul, Minnesota concert my sweety, friends and I attended in October 2000. As I explained in my post about that concert, it was an emotional evening, and the combination of the music, singing, and health news about my dad had me weeping.

The second movement is a powerful piece of music, composed late in Beethoven’s middle classical/romantic period, when he had begun to lose his sense of hearing.

Now you know a little about why this is my song of the day for today. Thanks for joining me here, and please enjoy.

Here’s the audio for a 1987 recording by the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra, conducted by Claudio Abbado (1933-2014). I like the slowness of his version, compared to, say, one by Herbert von Karajan, which is played a half-minute faster.

To me, the album cover art is mildly reminiscent of a painting by Gustav Klimt (1862-1918), Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer I, also called The Woman in Gold.

And, the audio for the adaptation, “Figlio Perduto,” from Sarah Brightman’s official YouTube channel:

The Eve of the War

I am not a fan of Hallowe’en music. There, I said it.

The day itself, I could take or leave, though I’ve had some fun over the years at a handful of costume parties, and enjoy seeing little ones in their cute costumes coming to the door for candy. 

Maybe some of my ambivalence is because of how Hallowe’en motifs recall childhood fear of the dark. But the feeling also could be something I gained from dear friends whose child died violently, and how themes mocking death and ghosts can be seen as making light of the very event that changed their lives forever.

On Hallowe’en in 1938, an adaptation of H.G. Wells’ 1898 novel The War of the Worlds was broadcast on radio, narrated by Orson Welles. Unconfirmed legend says that the radio broadcast incited panic among listeners who didn’t realize it was fictional.

In 1978, American-British composer Jeff Wayne released Jeff Wayne’s Musical Version of The War of the Worlds, a two-record set with a notebook of paintings on songs and themes from the musical. It included the hits “The Eve of the War” and the more famous “Forever Autumn,” which features former member of the Moody Blues Justin Hayward on the lead vocal. Richard Burton (1925-1984) narrated the album, which features some other huge names in rock, including David Essex (“Rock On”), Phil Lynott (1949-1986; lead singer of Thin Lizzy), Jo Partridge (who played guitar on Kiki Dee’s hit, “I’ve Got the Music in Me“), Chris Thompson (formerly of Manfred Mann’s Earth Band, and singer of “Blinded by the Light”), and actor/singer Julie Covington (who made a hit version of “Don’t Cry for Me, Argentina”). 

I bought the album and played it a fair bit, though my friends at the time were not very interested in it. I recently thought of it when sitting in the summer porch, talking with one of my brothers on the phone this summer. He spoke about Lynott and Thin Lizzy after seeing my post on “The Boys Are Back in Town.” Brother and I agreed it is a fabulous album, and today he recommended setting aside time to listen to the whole work at once.

Fast forward to today: it’s still a scary world, not just for what we see, but what we don’t see… like the infinitesimal virus that threatens the world, especially those of us aged 60 and over. In The War of the Worlds, the alien invaders are eventually killed off, not by humankind, but by earthly germs. Let’s not fall victim to the same fate.

Whatever you do today, be safe, not scary.

Now you know a little about why this is my song of the day for today. Thanks for joining me here, and please enjoy.

Here’s the audio for the song from The War of the Worlds VEVO/YouTube channel

Coming to Get You Nowhere

The British band This Is the Kit is one I’ve heard from quite a lot on my favourite radio stations, BBC 6 Music and KEXP Seattle.

Most of the BBC’s presenters have been playing their songs, and Guy Garvey is no exception: today’s selection aired on Guy Garvey’s Finest Hour this past weekend, as part of BBC’s Slow Sunday, a day of “chill music.”

I’d listened to some earlier singles, “Hotter Colder” and the more recent “This Is What You Did,” but the latest track I’ve heard is “Coming to Get You Nowhere,” from their fifth album, Off Off On, released in October 2020.

The band reminds me a little of the Swedish duo First Aid Kit, not because of the similarity in their names but, rather, the calm undertones both bands exude. (First Aid Kit was one of the first bands I featured on this blog, back in January with a post on “Cedar Lane.” They’re about due for a return engagement!)

While “Coming to Get You Nowhere” starts off slightly staccato, it moves into a warm melody with many layers and rich instrumentation, including some fabulous horns. I quite like the band’s unique sound.

It’s an excellent song for a Friday that is bleak from a weather standpoint in Winnipeg, Canada, and a situation that is bleaker with new cases of COVID-19 in the province of Manitoba hitting a new high of 480 for today, skyrocketing from a previous daily record of 193 earlier this week.

Bandleader Kate Stables says about the video, “Here is a video that we made out of footage of our friend’s car getting stuck when they came to visit us during our rehearsal time just before we went into the studio to make off off on. It felt like a car getting stuck and people having to work together and ask for help to get it unstuck was a fitting story to accompany this song, which is itself about getting stuck and the ways we can help or hinder ourselves when it comes to getting out of unhealthy patterns. Making this video has been really nice for me during this time of not being able to get together with the rest of the band. I miss them and the time we spent together making Off Off On so it’s been great to hang out with them in video form. Not as good as the real thing of course, but comforting none the less (sic).”

We in Manitoba and, in particular, Winnipeg, must also get out of some very unhealthy patterns, and get unstuck, fast. We have to flatten the curve so that our hospital intensive care beds aren’t all filled when very sick people need specialized care (68 of 71 ICU beds are in use as of today).

Stay safe, folks… keep up the hand hygiene, physical-distancing, mask-wearing, and of course, staying home as much as possible, and especially when ill. And, no Hallowe’en parties! That is too scary. Really.

Now you know a little about why this is my song of the day for today. Thanks for joining me here, and please enjoy.

Here’s the video for the song from This Is the Kit’s official YouTube channel:



Hold on When You Get Love and Let Go When You Give It

Back on March 26, around the start of this whole lockdown life we’ve been stumbling through all these months, and all the while with the faint hope that tomorrow everything will be okay, I heard today’s selection, by the Montréal, Canada band, Stars.

DJ John Richards played the track on The Morning Show with John Richards on KEXP Seattle that day. I’ve thought of posting it for a long time, and today feels like the right day to do that.

My older lad and I saw Stars in concert some years ago in the Walker Theatre (okay, it’s now called the Burton Cummings Theatre, but it’ll always be the Walker to me). They put on a fantastic show. Their two front-people, Torquil Campbell and Amy Millan, share lead vocal duties and sing some beautiful songs. Being at the show watching them felt like hanging out on a balcony with them, just taking in life and embracing it with friends. The experience of one song they sang, about being travelling musicians, remains with me to this day. But, thing is, I can’t remember the actual song, just the powerful sense of gratitude and contentment Campbell gave off with as he sat on the edge of the stage, looking out on the audience as he sang to us. Funny thing, memory. (By the way, I briefly mentioned Stars in my post on “Lonely Is as Lonely Does,” a great song by two other Canadian artists — and I recommend you listen to it.)

“There’s been a lot of talk of love
But that don’t amount to nothing
You can evoke the stars above
But that doesn’t make it something

And the only way to last
And the only way to live it
Is to hold on when you get love,
And let go when you give it… give it.”

(from “Hold on When You Get Love and Let Go When You Give It,” by Evan Cranley, Torquil Campbell, Patrick McGee, Amy Millan, Chris Seligman, Chris McCarron)

Today I’m thinking, yeah, there’s the pandemic, and yeah, it’s getting worse, with so many selfish people not following public health guidelines and endangering so many of us. But, there is also a lot of love in the world; old love, new love, maturing love, love leaving, and love just arriving… like in the innocent, trusting eyes of a newborn child. Love of others, love of self; it’s all needed.

Maybe that’s all I need to tell you for today… other than saying to look out there for love. It’s there. We all just need to learn what to hold, and what to let go, and when.

Now you know a little about why this is my song of the day for today. Thanks for joining me here, and please enjoy.

Here’s the audio for the song from the Stars official YouTube channel:

Ain’t No Mountain High Enough

Today I did another “thing” on the bike. Not a long distance outdoors, like the 100 kilometres (60 miles) I cycled on September 18, but inside, on the trainer. I rode one of the most challenging climbs on the smart trainer platform, Zwift, the Alpe du Zwift, a virtual course designed through GPS data to mimic the Alpe d’Huez, a regular stage of the Tour de France professional cycling race.

The whole ride took me two hours and five minutes to complete, and the Alpe portion of the ride was just over 100 minutes of climbing, at an average grade of 8%, with 1,036 metres (3,400 feet) elevation gain. It was so much climbing. I’m not a climber, but the friend who has given me advice on cycling suggested I try it.

Almost three-quarters of the way up the Alpe du Zwift course.

After the grinding, gruelling ride to the top, coasting down was a blast, travelling at a virtual speed of 69-78 kilometres per hour (43-49 mph). The course was so long, it took me ten minutes to descend at that high speed!

Coasting down the mountain after reaching the virtual summit.

Before doing the ride today, I watched a video produced by the Global Cycling Network in which one of their presenters rode the Alpe d’ Huez. He compared the real-life experience in France with the virtual course in terms of the effort required and found them virtually identical.

Watching the video inspired me to try for the summit. Funny thing; when I told my friend I’d done the course after watching the GCN video, he told me he had decided to do it after watching the same episode! (Later today, revisiting the video segments of the GCN presenter cycling in his studio near the end of the ride, I can relate to feeling as winded and depleted, though I may have been a bit happier!)

Valerie Simpson and Nickolas Ashford wrote “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough” in 1966. Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell made a hit with it in 1967. Former Supremes lead singer Diana Ross put it back on the charts when she recorded it in 1970; it was her first solo, number-one hit on the Billboard 100. While the Gaye/Terrell version’s mix of female and male voices makes it rich and multi-layered, I prefer Diana Ross’s confident, ethereal tone. As a youngster in the 1970s, I would have heard it a fair bit, but can’t say I have childhood memories attached to it. It’s a beautiful song.

Sometimes the mountain is high enough. Like today. But I’m happy I took it on, virtually, and am grateful, really, that my 60-year-old body could take me through the challenge. Isn’t it great when we know we can rely on something, someone, anything, to be there, when we need it, and we can just call?

Now you know a little about why this is my song of the day for today. Thanks for joining me here, and please enjoy.

Here’s the audio for the song from Diana Ross’s official YouTube channel:  

Wintergreen

Today there’s been light, off-and-on snowfall and some blustery winds. A good day to hang about indoors and maybe do a virtual bike ride on the trainer.

Instead, after the usual morning routines dictated by Perry Como the cat, then a Zoom meditation and a meeting, then lunch, I had a snooze while my sweety went for a walk.

As I lay there with the cat lying on top of me purring, I was starting to think about what song I’d post today. I was thinking of something ambient, fitting with the space I’m in today. My mind returned to the album Mixing Colours, released in March 2020 by Brian and Roger Eno, a collection that keeps popping up in YouTube suggestions. (In my post on “Celeste,” you’ll find it and two other tracks I’ve already featured from the album.)

As part of their promotion of Mixing Colours, the record label Deutsche Grammophon and the Eno brothers invited video contributions to accompany the musical pieces. They received over 1,700 short films, which were posted to a dedicated website. From October 23 to November 9, the record label Deutsche Grammophon will feature a video on that site (under the “winners” tab), chosen by contributors’ votes, to represent each track on the album.

Meanwhile, in July, the label issued an expanded version of the album. I find this annoying as, if I want the additional tracks, I either have to buy the expanded album, which means re-purchasing the original 18, or just the seven new ones, but then they won’t be part of a cohesive album as intended. It smacks a little of greed, though I want to resist jumping to that conclusion. Oh well, #firstworldproblems, as some say.

Today’s selection is “Wintergreen.” While it appears to show the aftermath of a significant snowfall accumulation, its light and mood are a good fit. There is a discussion in the comments on whether the video was taken on a road, or a river. The light and exposure make it look slightly hazy and nebulous, though it must be a road as there looks to be a car buried in the snow at the side (at 1:30), along with assorted bollards and signposts that appear during the ride.

Now you know a little about why this is my song of the day for today. Thanks for joining me here, and please enjoy.

Here’s the video made by Narita Itsuka, and the music by Roger and Brian Eno, from Deutsche Grammophon’s official YouTube channel:

Don’t Dream It’s Over

Don’t you dare dream it’s over. Because it’s not.

In Manitoba, we were once the envy of our country, and maybe even the world as we flattened — no, stomped — our curve to keep COVID-19 infections around 300 in total through the whole first wave of the pandemic. Maybe that told a lot of my fellow citizens that it was party time. It’s not.

Today, I find myself in the rare position of endorsing something said by our province’s premier, Brian Pallister. Today, he had a message for those who are careless in their pandemic practices: “Grow up. Stop going out there and giving people COVID.

An online article published by the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation quotes chief public health officer, Dr. Brent Roussin, and chief nursing officer, Lanette Siragusa, who today outlined many of the problems healthcare providers are seeing. Contact tracers have trouble doing their work as people either can’t remember all their contacts or aren’t being honest, with the result that, in one case, an entire surgical team had to be sent home to self-isolate for two weeks. Infected people have had gatherings in their homes, exposing more people to the virus. Another infected person visited a personal care home, causing an outbreak.

Now I get it; it’s tough being unable to freely go out to shows, movies, theatre, concerts and other close-contact social activities. My sweety and I miss doing all that stuff. More importantly, we miss seeing our families and friends. But we are keeping a tight bubble because that is the sensible thing to do. Like I said about Canadian Thanksgiving, just because we’re allowed a certain number of contacts does not mean we should have them.

In addition to each other, Sweety and I have three close contacts. That’s all. THREE! But many more people we miss and can only speak with outdoors at a distance, over the phone, on FaceTime, or through other non-in-person contact methods.

It’s not over, people. Not even close. Even if a vaccine is approved in 2021, it will probably take most of the year to distribute it. And it’s been said we will probably be wearing masks for quite some time to come.

So, no it’s not over. Don’t dream it’s over. Stay home. Limit your close contacts NOW. Everything you do today will have effects in two weeks… so will it be good effects, or harmful ones that will change yours and others’ lives forever?

Now you know a little about why this is my song of the day for today.

To celebrate the band’s 33rd anniversary of reaching the #2 spot on the US music charts, Crowded House did an at-home version of “Don’t Dream It’s Over” in April 2020 to support a benefit concert. In the notes on the YouTube post, bandleader and lead singer Neil Finn (check out this post on “Faster Thank Light” that’ll link you to three songs of Finn’s from his solo career and Split Enz days) says, “We recorded it over a few hours between continents day before yesterday. It was for the “Music From The Front Line” benefit concert in Australia / NZ. I really like the way it sounds and the process of flying tapes back and forth was fun… pure and simple… hope you enjoy too.” (Cool factoid: the current line-up of Crowded House includes Finn’s sons Elroy and Liam.)

Here’s the video from the Crowded House YouTube channel:

Flight from the City

In case you’re following here and wondering… no, today’s post isn’t a continuation of the holiday theme I mentioned yesterday.

Browsing the Deutsche Grammophon record label’s YouTube channel this morning, I came across a lovely piano and string ensemble piece. “Flight from the City” is the opening track from Orphée, the tenth and final solo album by the late Jóhann Jóhannsson (1969-2018).

I’ve posted one other piece by Jóhannsson, “A Model of the Universe,” from his soundtrack to the film The Theory of Everything.

The “Flight from the City” music is presented with a short film by Irish film and video artist and director Clare Langan. It’s a breathtakingly beautiful video presentation, so evocative in representing the relationship between mother and child. 

Mother and daughter float and dance in the water as if returned to safety within the mother’s womb. Or maybe they are in the deep oceans from which all life emerged millions of years ago, as a dear friend often says.

The film shows love, devotion, adoration, trust, nurturing, dependence, singularity, and circles back to reliance again. It seems the relationship develops and matures, perhaps with the child’s growth, landing in a comfortable place of togetherness after testing the waters of independence.

Interestingly, the record label doesn’t mention Langan as maker of the companion piece in the YouTube video notes, though it was not hard to find information through searching and finding her Vimeo account and website.

Now you know a little about why this is my song of the day for today. Thanks for joining me here, and please enjoy.

Here’s the video for the song from Deutsche Grammophon’s official YouTube channel:  

Edit, October 26, 2020:

Pondering today, the anniversary of the arrival of my firstborn son… I’ve been in the room twice to witness the miracle of birth, and that was incredible. And wow, watching this video makes me wonder with awe what it must be like to actually bring a life into this world.

With all my love to those who have given of themselves in that and whatever heart-and-soul way, to nurture, as is symbolized by this music and film combination of devotion and love in the water of life.

Edit: October 30, 2020

Thinking again today about the miracle of birth, I’m brought back to the above post/song, as well as another song, “Flume,” which Peter Gabriel has covered (see this post); it’s another one that has found its way into my mind whenever hearing about the creative love miracles of pregnancy and birth.

Holiday

Holiday, anyone?

“If we took a holiday
Took some time to celebrate
Come on, let’s celebrate
Just one day out of life
Holiday
It would be, it would be so nice

You can turn this world around
And bring back all of those happy days
Put your troubles down
It’s time to celebrate”

(from “Holiday,” by Lisa Stevens, Curtis Hudson)

If there was ever a time to take a holiday, it’s now, am I right?

The glorious summer we enjoyed seems long gone (though I haven’t put away the furniture from the summer porch yet). The weather is cold, and the forecast calls for more of that. I’ve moved to indoor cycling on the Zwift app with the turbo trainer, though I still hope to get some more outdoor riding in before the snow is really here to stay.

Then there’s the archaic practice of setting our clocks back one hour next weekend, ending daylight savings time. (Further complicating this, the clocks of our families in England and Wales fall back one hour this weekend, so until most of North America’s time changes next weekend, our usual six-hour difference from the UK will be… I don’t know… Five hours? Seven? Ugh. I’ll figure it out. Or not. It’s only a week.) The only perceptible benefit of the spring and fall time changes is that strange satisfaction I have for a while after re-setting all the clocks, knowing all they all click over to the next minute at the same second. I know; it’s strange, like I said.

And, of course, we’re looking at a long, cold winter with uncertainty about the restrictions we’ll be living with as the pandemic continues, while the world holds its collective breath in hope of the successful release and global distribution of a vaccine.

The recording artist Madonna, born in Michigan, USA, as Madonna Louise Ciccone, moved to New York in 1978 to become a modern dancer. She danced, played in bands and rocketed to stardom with her first, self-titled album in 1983. She later acted in several films, further solidifying her popularity.

I recall Madonna as having a special kind of power and appeal in the sassy confidence she had, and how she proudly celebrated her uniqueness and style. As her career and life went on, she became more controversial, but to me, she started off as a beacon of joy and hope for my generation.

In recent posts about other 1980s songs (check out the one on “Worlds Away” for a mention of some), I’ve reminisced about the music I heard in nightclubs, hanging out with friends, sometimes even getting up the courage to ask women to dance. When the higher-register synthesizer riff joined the first chords of electric piano and electronic drum in the dark club amid multicoloured lights, I remember people leaping from their seats and crowding the dance floor to “Holiday,” the synthetic, post-disco third single from Madonna. (“Lucky Star” and “Borderline” were other hits from the album.)

The song feels like a guilty pleasure, a blast from the past. It’s like a fond recollection of fun times for me as a 23-year-old who had made it through a rough break-up and was finally gaining confidence. I had a good-paying railway office job and was getting to be okay with and even enjoying being solo, though I also enjoyed times with new friends (aka friends 2.0) and was finding general contentment in life. That feeling is something that has grown as I age, have shed many responsibilities (e.g., working), am more accepting of myself, and have time to devote to the things that matter… even though some of that, like visiting with family and close friends, is limited because of COVID-19 (though enabled somewhat by online platforms). I would never want to return to life in my 20s, but I do have some good memories of that time in life.

I loved listening to the song and still do. I used to crank it up in my car back in those days: a 1980 Ford Mustang with a cassette player and a graphic equalizer/power booster. The latter added 25 watts to each of the left and right channels… it was loud, and along with the many live shows I attended before being mindful about hearing protection, probably contributed to a mild case of tinnitus.

Now you know a little about why this is my song of the day for today. Thanks for joining me here, and please enjoy. Crank it up, and maybe ask someone to dance…

Here’s the audio for the song from Madonna’s official YouTube channel:  

And here’s Madonna and her band performing an extended version of the song to an audience of over 89,000 in the John F. Kennedy Stadium, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA on July 13, 1985, the day a concert was occurring simultaneously at Wembley Stadium in London, England to a crowd of 72,000. The event was organized by Bob Geldolf (formerly of The Boomtown Rats) and Midge Ure (then of Ultravox), under the umbrella of Live Aid, an initiative to benefit the victims of Ethiopian famine. Similar concerts were held around the world, including in Canada.

I think it was that year that my parents, siblings/partners and I decided not to exchange Christmas gifts among the adults, with the idea of donating that money to the cause.

Friday

Happy Friday!

Do you remember Show and Tell at school? I was always looking for cool things to bring to school to share. Not sure I ever came up with that many, or at least really good ones.

Today’s selection takes that ritual to a new level.

“Friday” is a song by the New York band Goldspot, and I heard it for the first time today on KEXP Seattle. The band, founded by film/TV writer and singer-songwriter/producer Siddhartha Khosla, released the song in 2007.

I can always count on The Morning Show with John Richards to come up with great ways to celebrate the fifth traditional workday of the week. (Would have been a good station to listen to while I was still working!) This morning while Richards was broadcasting from his Seattle home, his young son came into his work area and announced “The Friday Song,” an upbeat, celebratory piece that Richards plays every week. It was sweet. (He also has a theme he plays occasionally, with children singing “John in the morning,” which is also pretty amazing.)

Richards, as I’ve mentioned before, is a kind and generous host and one who openly talks about his challenges with depression. I hope he enjoyed spinning this song today as much as I liked listening to it.

Here’s the official video for the song, from the Goldspot Official YouTube channel:

Worlds Away

Many have said that after the 1950s, 60s and 70s, the 1980s were a wasteland for music. I beg to differ.

The emergence of post-punk, new wave, new romantic, synthpop and other genres, combined with other major genres like folk, progressive rock, heavy metal, arena rock and others, led to many different sounds for modern music lovers. I’ve posted numerous songs from the decade and recently added a tag “1980s” to help capture them, though I still have to go back and add that tag to some past posts.

The Vancouver, British Columbia threesome Strange Advance fused progressive rock and new wave, with synthesizers and keyboards being their anchor instruments.

The band’s 1982 debut record, Worlds Away, produced two singles, “Kiss in the Dark” and “She Controls Me,” but I think the strongest song on the collection is the title track, today’s selection. It plays for seven minutes, seven seconds and, like the rest of the album, is played almost entirely on synthesizers and a drum machine supported by live cymbals and tom-toms, bass and electric guitar. To me, the song feels a bit like it could have been inspired by the movie Blade Runner though it doesn’t carry the darkness of the film; even the cover art is slightly evocative of the film. Drew Arnott and Darryl Kromm play most instruments on the album, joined by bass player Paul Iverson and session musician Robert Minden.

The band’s second record, 2WO (1985), still featured a lot of synthesizers but added full, live drums and featured many session musicians, including Andy Newmark (who played on David Bowie’s Young Americans album and has also played with Roxy Music and Bryan Ferry projects), Earl Slick (who played in David Bowie’s band in the studio and on tours from 1974 up to 2017), and Ken “Spider” Sinnaeve (the bassist and one of two original members of Streetheart still with the band). The album was recorded in several locations, including Toronto and Vancouver in Canada, and London, England. It produced two singles, “The Second That I Saw You,” and “We Run” which was quite popular in nightclubs and received considerable airplay.

Strange Advance represents the kind of music I enjoyed in the early to mid-1980s. Like Japan’s “Quiet Life,” Colourbox’s “Arena,” Cocteau Twins’ cover of “Song to the Siren,” and Simple Minds’ “New Gold Dream (81-82-83-84)” and so many others, it could be playing at a club or Manitoba social (please check out my post on that phenomenon), or on the record player at home. Music of the period often reminds me of friendships I developed and eventually moved on from in my early 20s, as I’ve discussed in some of the posts on the songs mentioned above.

In 2018, Arnott crowdfunded a reunion tour but in 2019 it experienced delays and, in the COVID-19 environment, has been pushed off to 2021. I might have my eye on that tour if it ever happens, and if it comes to Winnipeg.

Now you know a little about why this is my song of the day for today. Thanks for joining me here, and please enjoy.

Here’s the audio for the song from the Strange Advance YouTube topic channel:

Into the Mystic

Today I received an opt-in text notification that the flu vaccine had finally arrived at a nearby drug store.

Being the responsible folks we are, both over 60, wanting to protect any vulnerable folks we might come into contact with (as limited as it seems that will be for the foreseeable future due to COVID-19, but hey), Sweety and I registered online and then headed to the pharmacy to get our shots. Then we shared the vaccine availability with close people. 

After we had our jabs and hung around the obligatory 15 minutes to make sure we didn’t have adverse reactions, we hopped back into the car. On SiriusXM’s The Bridge, the Northern Irish musical icon Van Morrison began belting out “Into the Mystic.” I don’t know what the song is supposed to mean and have never taken the time to really analyze it, but it always gets me feeling really good and grateful whenever I hear the song. I read a little about it, and it’s said to be about a spiritual quest.

Morrison said this about the song: “‘Into the Mystic’ is another one like ‘Madame Joy’ and ‘Brown Eyed Girl.’ Originally I wrote it as ‘Into the Misty.’ But later I thought that it had something of an ethereal feeling to it so I called it ‘Into the Mystic.’ That song is kind of funny because when it came time to send the lyrics in WB Music, I couldn’t figure out what to send them. Because really the song has two sets of lyrics. For example, there’s ‘I was born before the wind’ and ‘I was borne before the wind,’ and also ‘Also younger than the sun, Ere the bonny boat was one’ and ‘All so younger than the son, Ere the bonny boat was won’ … I guess the song is just about being part of the universe.” (from Celtic Crossroads: The Art of Van Morrison, by Brian Hinton, Sanctuary, 1997

The explanation makes sense and fits for the way I receive the song, especially today, while I’m still fresh from my weekend retreat and a follow-up Google Meet call with two fellow participants with whom I genuinely enjoy spending time.

“Into the Mystic” is not a complicated piece; there are no multi-layered effects… just some good, heartfelt, down-to-earth soul music.

I think I’ll leave it at that and let the music speak for itself.

Here’s the “official vinyl version” from the album Moondance (1970), in a 1999 remastered version (it sure brings out the “foghorn”!) on the Rhino Entertainment YouTube channel:

No other cover I’ve heard comes close to the magic of Morrison’s passionate vocal, though a Canadian singer-songwriter and producer from Regina, Saskatchewan, Colin James, who got his big break opening for Stevie Ray Vaughan in 1984, plays a darned respectable cover in this version, recorded live by Toronto, Canada radio station Q107:

Keep on Running

Today I learned that Spencer Davis (born Spencer David Nelson Davies) died yesterday at age 81.

Davis formed the Spencer Davis Group in 1963 and at that time discovered the 14-year-old Steve Winwood, who left the band in 1967 to start the band Traffic. Davis was also instrumental in the career of Christine Perfect (who later became Cristine McVie when she married Fleetwood Mac bassist John McVie).

The Spencer Davis Group has numerous hits, including “Somebody Help Me,” “Gimme Some Lovin’,” “I’m a Man,” “Midnight Special,” and others, along with today’s selection.

“Keep on Running” is an up-tempo track with some wicked distortion on the guitar. It is a song I know, but didn’t immediately remember it like I did with “Gimme Some Lovin’.” Today’s track also reminds me of another song that I cannot place.

I don’t remember the group being part of my childhood home’s repertoire. But, I do remember catching up with former member Winwood later on, during his very successful solo career, especially in the 1970s and 80s. (Winwood has appeared in several posts on songs by him, or others that he’s covered or appeared on including “Can’t Find My Way Home,” “While My Guitar Gently Weeps,” “Higher Love,” and “The Ballad of Lucy Jordan.”

Today, the world is without yet another musical giant with Davis’s passing.

Now you know a little about why this is my song of the day for today. Thanks for joining me here, and please enjoy.

Here’s the audio for the song from’s the Spencer Davis Group YouTube topic channel: