Africa, America, Countries, Culture, Music, South America, UK

Paul Simon, 80 years young today

I often think I was born out of my time… not ahead of it, more behind it, which is why when my peers were expressing their angst through Joy Division I was finding meaning through Paul Simon, 80 years young today.

As the youngest of three boys with a five and eight year gap between us my early influences were The Beatles, The Stones, Elvis Presley, Chuck Berry, Pink Floyd, Heavy Metal… and Simon & Garfunkel.

And as a gangly shy adolescent I find solace in the longing, introverted, wanderer music of Paul Simon… I still do.

The man: Paul Simon

Now there have been rockier, wilder concerts (The Killers, The Proclaimers), equally as iconic singers (David Bowie). and more celebrated venues (OneRepublic in Red Rocks, Colorado) but there have been no more rewarding gigs than Paul Simon on his farewell tour which touched down in Dublin.

So how does your favourite Travel blog mark the 80th birthday of the Poet Laureate of Pop?

Well, by shining a light on the places Rhymin’ Simon loved the most and whose musical influences burst out in his timeless songs.

Apple of his eye

Remember him: ‘The Donald’ in New York

New York: A proud son of Queen’s borough, Simon’s songs about New York are some of the most recognisable about the Big Apple.

The Boxer is a plaintive exploration of down on your luck New York life which includes a reference to the ‘whores on 7th Avenue’.

Simon told the story at a concert of a fan who told him she would sing the song to her child only she changed the words to ‘toy stores’.

There’s something quite playful too about the 59th Street Bridge Song and I referenced it too on my route to the RDS for that 2019 concert.

You’ll find, in truth. New York references in numerous Simon and Simon & Garfunkel songs, some with NY in the title as in The Only Living Boy In New York and the Statue of Liberty in my own favourite, American Tune.

Rainbow Simon

Cool for cats… in the Eastern Cape, South Africa

South Africa: Now, how many of us, hand on heart can say that they knew much South African music before Paul Simon introduced it to a Western audience with his seminal album Graceland.

And, before we get to that, let’s just reference the titular song Graceland, a tribute to Elvis, which Simon revealed was his favourite piece of song-writing (few arguments here).

Of course none of us outside of South Africa knew of Ladysmith Black Mombasa either… but once heard never forgotten.

Simon also opened up the joy of South Africa at a time when understandably we associated the country with injustice, bigotry and hopelessness.

But which lit a fire for many of us to go visit the Rainbow Nation. We give you Simon and the band’s Under African Skies.

Samba music

Get into the beat: In Brazil

Brazil: And once Simon had got on a roll (or a rock’n’roll if you like) he was off to South America.

Who can forget those huge drums on The Obvious Child. Nothing obvious though about the drummers’ talent or Simon’s songwriting.

And finally in an English train station

He was here: Widnes Railway Station plaque

Widnes, England: And, of course, unless you’re a Rugby League fan, you’ll never have been to Widnes in Merseyside.

Unless you’re a budding New York musician (Paul Simon) who was feeling homesick here and penned the classic Homeward Bound. There is a plaque there now.

Or if you’re another budding wordsmith, en route to Liverpool from Scotland (you have to wait here for the next connection) to take the next rung in his celebrated writing career.

But that’s another story.

Happy Birthday Paul Simon, 80 years young today.

 

Countries, Culture, Music, UK

A Magical Mystery Tour of Liverpool

Relax, Holly Johnson’s kid brother Jay has got this one… welcome to A Magical Mystery Tour of Liverpool For Ever

The Magical Mystery Tour is Liverpool’s oldest Beatles tour, dating from 1983, just three years after John Lennon died.

Jay, as you would expect, is full of the witty Mersey repartee for which John and Paul, George and Ringo are famous.

We head out from the Albert Dock on the coach to Toxteth listening to rare renditions of John singing Lonnie Donegan and Gene Vincent.

Bingo, it’s Ringo

In my Liverpool home: And the Liver Birds

Jay points out Ringo’s house and the pub which he used for the cover of his debut solo album Sentimental Journey.

And he explains that Ringo’s mum would play the song on the piano.

Jay reminds us that the city’s airport is named after John Lennon.

And then points out the chip shop named after Ringo.

By George

We pass by all the Beatles boys’ homes, although we aren’t able to stop off at George’s because of Covid.

A two-bedroom house up an alleyway, social distancing was never an option for the youngest Beatle, nor was it for us.

The house in which John spent most of his young years, Auntie Mimi’s, was, in truth, more middle-class.

And Jay reflects on that as Working Class Hero belts out.

Dear John

A born raconteur, our guide also retells how John’s mum Julia, who had reconnected with the family just before her death was run over in a car crash.

And that some kind of justice arrived for the off-duty policeman who was acquitted at the time, when he later became a postman.

And was given Paul McCartney’s route and so became weighed down with the sackfuls of mail for Macca.

Let it be Paul

Strawberry Field: For Ever

Paul’s house is our last stop… it was to be his mother Mary’s forever but she only got to stay there a year before dying of cancer.

Poignantly Let It Be which was inspired by a dream he had of his mum visiting him plays out to the coach and we all join in.

Penny Lane, Strawberry Field and the church hall in Woolton Village where John and Paul first met are the most popular spots.

Before they went out to Hamburg to hone their act.

Jay points out the landmarks in the lyrics…

The Barber who shaves another customer is still there, under new ownership.

Penny for your thoughts

In my ears: Penny Lane

While the shelter in the middle of the roundabout is still there.

And Jay fills in how the Penny Lane area played a huge role in the Beatles’ young lives.

For John, Strawberry Field held particularly fond memories.

It was here that he would climb a tree and ogle the girls from the orphanage.

And Auntie Mimi would warn that he would get hung for that.

All of which sparked him to use the line ‘Nothing to get hung about, Strawberry Fields Forever.’

Meanwhile in the Cavern

Club together: At the Cavern

Jay drops us back at the Cavern Club with the ticket providing free entry.

To listen to the tribute acts in the club where they and music’s finest have graced.

Looking back now, I say, well done Jay.

It really was A Magical Mystery Tour of Liverpool

America, Culture, Music

Aisle be in Vegas again

By rights I should be in Neon City just now but wedding anniversaries and reminders of past indiscretions means I’ve been confined to barracks… never mind Aisle be in Vegas again.

Yesterday was the 27th anniversary of me making Herself the happiest woman alive meant a sacrifice (another!).

And so a fancy meal here in North Berwick, east of Edinburgh.

And a lunchtime sandwich, if truth be told, but a la carte, if you don’t mind.

Fly the flag

What happens in Vegas: With Cami

And so to today when a rump of our Travel core set course for the American Travel Fair, IPW.

And they go with my best wishes.

I am still in contact and will bring you all the news of the US bounce back ahead of my own return.

Oh, that indiscretion… well, my dalliance with Cami from Utah at Harrah’s on the Strip.

Whip up a storm

Cashing in: They know me at the tables

Where the Whip-Its (the clue is in the name) had been setting the scene with their cabaret act of Seventies and Eighties hits.

You see anything goes in Vegas.

And anyone can get married in the Fun Capital.

And so two of our party did just that at the Graceland Wedding Chapel.

They were in good company as Jon Bon Jovi and Billy Ray Cyrus both tied the knot here… though not to each other!

Love me tender, Minister

The King and I: In Vegas

Irish-American Brendan Paul does the marrying in full Elvis gear, pelvic thrusts and Presley puns.

Such as ‘It’s now or never’ and ‘I promise to be your Hunk of Burning Love’.

All of which the delegates were reminded of and advised to discover more at the Las Vegas Pavillion.

Life is a rollercoaster

Minnie and me: In Orlando

Intriguing… and more ammunition for the Scary One for me not getting over to Vegas.

But hey ho, Aisle be in Vegas again.

And I’ll be sure to be in Orlando for the fair next year.

And what could possibly go wrong in Rollercoaster World?

Where Mickey, Donald and Harry are kings.

 

America, Countries, Music

RESPECT Aretha and me

RESPECT Aretha and me. And to mark the imminent release of the biopic of Aretha Franklin, a walk in her footsteps.

The Queen of Soul was born into music.

The daughter of a Memphis Baptist Minister, he was ‘the man with the million dollar voice’, CL Franklin.

Mum Barbara being a singer and pianist then there was only one thing Aretha was going to do with her life.

Musical legacy

Early days: Aretha

We, of course, associate Aretha most with Detroit, where the Frankins decamped to when she was two, via Buffalo, NY.

The route north was a well-trodden one for a more prosperous life. 

Either to the Eastern Seaboard or the Northern Cities of Detroit and Chicago.

All of which created musical magic with Motown and Chicago Blues.

But, of course, that sound was formed in the black churches of the Deep South.

And taking a tangent here to recommend The   Black Church: This is our story, this is our song.

Which is on the excellent PBS, the American Public Broadcasting Service.

Winner, winner, US diner

I’m looking at you: Aretha

Aretha, of course, was an actress as well as a singer.

And she gave an unforgettable cameo performance in the Blues Brothers.

As she gave a ball-breaking ultimatum to her husband and fellow cafe owner…

Trying to keep him from the clutches of Jake and Elwood getting the band back together… Think.

Aretha, of course, has transcended the cities where she put down her music.

And you’ll find her sung out across the land, across the world.

It’s the instinctive go-to singer in an American diner.

And ny jukebox pick

Off for a jig: Aretha

In my case DC when a regular, down on his luck, gave me his life story.

RESPECT Aretha and me. And Jennifer Hudson who is a stick-on guarantee in the part.

 

Countries, Europe, Music

Zorba the Greek (or Cretan)

And they’ll be kicking their legs up on Mount Olympus to greet the composer of Zorba the Greek (or Cretan) and doing a Syrtaki.

Mikis Theodarakis has joined the Gods after taking leave of this Earth at the grand old age of 96.

He leaves a lasting legacy and, of course, an enduring piece of Greek culture which has been played out to millions of tourists since the film was shown 57 years ago.

Magic wand: Mikis. http://www.bbc.co.uk

The first time I witnessed the Syrtaki was in romantic circumstances on honeymoon in Corfu.

And despite being an Ancient Greek scholar (no it wasn’t a State establishment!) I didn’t know its history.

Now I could dance around the subject and try and dupe you into believing I actually knew what I was talking about.

Or I could just point you in the direction of this Aussie website, Calopedos music.

Greek diaspora

Take a bow: Zorba the Greek

Now that Australia should be a reference point for all things Hellenic may be a surprise to some but the land Down Under became a magnet to Greeks.

And Melbourne is in fact the second most populous city in the world.

I have first-hand experience of the links from visiting the island of Kythera in Attica.

And the Aussie couple retracing their ancestors’ steps.

And I learned that half the island had headed to Australia.

Anyway back to Calopedos for the skinny on Syrtaki and Crete and Hellas.

And I quote..

Toga party: And now for the dance

The Zorba, is traditionally called the Syrtaki, and is danced to a style of song called the Hasapiko, or a faster version known as Hasaposerviko.

In Byzantine, and Ottoman-ruled Greece, the Hasapis was the butcher.

And if one was a member of the Butchers Guild, the dance would be performed to the tune of the Tamburas (the modern bouzouki’s grandfather).

The dance was originally performed by men.

They held onto each other with aprons, napkins, and one leader of the dance holding the Butcher’s knife.

The dance during became a war dance amongst partisans fighting Turkish oppression.

But eventually when Greece settled into Ottoman occupation the dance became somewhat of a cultural novelty across the empire.

Deal us in 

The Acropolis, Greece

Now, I’ve been perfecting my moves in the last year during lockdown.

While there has ben plenty of plate smashing from the Scary One.

I join in but only to cut down on the amount of dishes needing washing and putting away.

But I am ready to get back out to the wonderfully chaotic and enchanting Greece and its wonderful people.

And ready to enjoy its islands, each of which has a proud identity of its own.

With TUI offering holidays from £255pps. 

Live the music: And everyone can get involved

And a bit of advice here… they’re Cretans, and not Cretins.

Cretins, as an insult, has an involved history, and again I’m letting somebody else do the heavy lifting, my fellow blogger Masculine Christianity. 

While I sit back and give a passing reference to Mozart and Salzburg, no less, who brings it to our prominence. 

Do yourself a favour, rent out the film, leave yourself room for a dance.

And toast Mikos with an Ouzo and Zorba the Greek (or Cretan).

 

 

America, Countries, Culture, Music

The Deep South have a lot to sing and write about

‘Mockingbirds don’t do one thing but make music for us to enjoy… that’s why it’s a sin to kill a mockingbird.’ And doesn’t Harper Lee’s state Alabama and the Deep South have a lot to sing and write about.

That great novel, To Kill A Mockingbird was 60 years old last year.

And it is regularly listed as one of the public’s favourite books and Harper Lee is rightly celebrated in the Deep South state.

So much so that the good residents of her own Monroeville homestead live the story every year.

With the locals actually becoming part of the cast alongside Jem, Scout, Boo Ridley, Atticus Finch and Tom Robinson.

Part of the cast

Every April and May, a version of Mockingbird  is put on by people from the community.

And you’ll see the jury preside over Tom Robinson’s trial is selected from the audience before each performance.

While just a short drive away lies Montgomery where Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald lived from 1931-32 and where Scott worked on Tender is the Night.

You can visit the Jazz Age couple’s Felder Avenue home is now the site of the F. Scott & Zelda Fitzgerald Museum.

And a two-bedroom apartment that can be booked by literary lovers on Airbnb.

The Sound of the South

With Rosa Parks in Jackson, Mississippi

It is no coincidence that Hollywood mines the Deep South for epic movies.

William Faulkner, the Poet Laureate of the South says it better than ya’ll could.. certainly this scribbler.

Faulkner is the author of the classic The Sound and the Fury.

And he opined: ‘I discovered that my own little postage stamp of native soil was worth writing about and that I would never live long enough to exhaust it.’

And you can learn much more about Faulkner and other alumni from the Magnolia State including Richard Wright and Eurdora Welty on The Mississippi Writers Trail.

All of which is a good bookend to the Mississippi Blues Trail which of course is richly infused through the Civil Rights Struggle.

While Faulkner will forever be linked to the Deep South, that too is the case for Tennessee Williams. Well, how could it not as he carried it around the state in his name?

Good ole Southern Boys

Graceland: And a reason to believe

Like many famous Tennessee legends, like BB King and Elvis Presley he is in fact a Mississippian.

The Deep South includes AlabamaKentuckyLouisianaMississippi & Tennessee.

And to immerse yourself in the region is to step right into the pages of these great storytellers.

Yes, truly, the Deep South have a lot to sing and write about.

 

America, Caribbean, Countries, Europe, Music

30 years of saltwater welling in my eyes

We are on UN’s red code to Save the World and 30 years of saltwater welling in my eyes since I first heard Julian Lennon’s song,  Rainy Days and Songdays now hails those singers who’ve been addressing the crisis for years.

When will there be?

Sweet music: Isley Brothers

Harvest for the World (Isley Brothers): Gather every man, gather every woman, Celebrate your life, give thanks for your children, gather everyone, gather altogether, overlookin’ none, hopin’ life gets better for the world.

The sonorous tones of Cincinnati, Ohio’s finest, carry on them a wonderfully stripped-back message we can all take on board.

My own focus on Cincinnati has been honed since sending one of my writers there back in the day.

I’d plan out the travel pieces they came back with early in the week for the weekend publication and was relaxing in the Dylan Hotel, Amsterdam (as you do) having mapped out the early draft.

When said writer texted me in a panic saying I’d misspelt Cincinnati and that this was jeopardising his contacts with them.

Despite it, of course, being an early draft and me being back in the office two days later. Hey ho, between us we gave the Cincinnatians what they wanted a justifiable celebration of their city.

Don’t it always seem to go?

Big Yellow Taxi (Joni Mitchell): And the Canadian chanteuse always caught the zeitgeist with her uniquely on-point lyrics.

‘They took all the trees and put ’em in a tree museum and charged the people a dollar and a half just to see ’em’ refers to the Foster Botanical Garden in downtown Honolulu.

Encroaching tourism is as big, if not bigger, threat than when Joni and the other hippies were trailing a blaze. Go and see it before they ruin it.  

Welling in my eye

Saltwater (Julian Lennon): It’s 30 years since John’s boy released this song, a classic in its own right.

And when I hear about the hole in the sky saltwater wells in my eyes.

And alas it’s getting bigger Julian. 

The right Cash

Don’t Go Near The Water (Johnny Cash): The King of Country was a lifelong advocate for ecology and the American landscape. 

And you can learn more about his passion for Nature at his museum in Nashville.

Johnny. of course, was a man of the land, Arkansas in his case, and he would turn in his grave…

Bob’s the job

The Sun Is Shining (Bob Marley): Marley, of course, loved the land so much he tried to smoke it all.

But joking aside his Rasta songs were inspired by a union with Nature.

Chicago‘s The Rock and Roll Playhouse knew it and held an Earth Day celebration concert featuring tunes by the great master of reggae two years ago.

To the rescue… here I am.

If only… because 30 years of saltwater welling in my eyes something has to be done.

 

 

America, Australasia, Countries, Music, UK

Keep On Running

And as the Olympics really kicks in with track and field, the songs on my running machine… Rainy Days and Songdays Keep On Running.

Go ahead

Jump, Van Halen: And a random story to accompany this slice of Californian rock.

From my schooldays and a sadist PE teacher.

Hessy would take pleasure from spanking our arses with a sandshoe if we forgot our kit.

And in the long jump heats for sports’ day he swiped his foot when he was taking off for the pit.

Bar, bar, bar

Raise the Bar, Bonnie Anderson: You’ll know her better as Bea Nilsson from Neighbours.

But Bonnie (and she is) was marked out from stardom early when she won Australia’s Got Talent at 12.

There’s lots of good Aussie music that never comes to our shores.

Not sure this is it but she looks Bonnie.

Born To Run

Born To Run, Bruce Springsteen: Baby, we were born to run and I was too.

Although my specialised discipline Cross Country Running isn’t one of the sports included which is quire hard to do.

Not sure either if muddy public school grounds was what New Jersey‘s Bruce had in mind either.

Nae havering now

I’m Gonna Be (500 Miles) The Proclaimers: And I would walk 500 miles and I would walk 500 more for Fife‘s finest.

And there are some who do, the waddling Olympian penguin people.

Now having been a member of a running club as a kid walking was giving up.

Put it there

Big Shot, Billy Joel: The Wee Noo Yoiker might struggle to lift, never mind twirl that big iron ball.

Billy is more in his element tinkering ivories than the shot put.

But who knows, he could have nailed it because it’s still track’n’roll to him.

Keep on running.

America, Countries, Europe, Music, UK

Get Bach to The Beatles

There have been many candidates for the Fifth Beatle, George Martin, Eric Clapton, Billy Preston. But we want to Get Bach to The Beatles.

The book of Bach

Johann Sebastian Bach died on this day 171 years ago more than a hundred years before The Beatles formed in Liverpool.

Bach in Liverpool

A German composer, you say

But Paul McCartney credits the great Saxon (no, not the band but the state) for inspiring his work.

Merseysider Macca cites Bach in Blackbird while the trained ear will pick up a Bach piccolo trumpet on Penny Lane.

That Baroque sound is also unmistakable on the orchestral section in All You Need Is Love.

But it wasn’t just The Beatles who caught the Bach bug.

New York Bach

Simon and Bachfunkel

If it feels like Simon & Garfunkel’s Bridge Over Troubled Water and American Tune are timeless.

Then it is because it has its roots 100 years before as Rhymin’ Simon tells us on a US chat show.

In the Liepziger’s four-part chorale O Sacred Head Now Wounded.

A Whiter Shade Of Pale sounds like the title of something Bach would rattle it out.

Californian Bach

The Bach Boys

Because it pretty much is and repackaged as Procul Horum’s Sixties classic.

While The Beach Boys’ melodies from California also borrow from Saxony’s finest.

You’ll hear it in their reworking of his Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring for Lady Linda.

Of course, a good toon is a good toon and we’re sure if Bach has done words he’d have found a rap rhyme to Toccata and Fugue in D minor.

Modern-day Bach

Baaa, Baaa, Baaa, Bach

Detroit’s favourite rapper Eminem sampled the great German in Brainless.

Only to be followed up (upBached) by Bonkers from Yonkers Lady Gaga and her Bad Romance and its harpsichord intro.

So Get Bach to The Beatles and a host of music royalty.

So think on it the next time you’re going to write a classic… dig out Johann Sebastian Bach.

 

 

America, Asia, Countries, Europe, Music, South America, UK

Olympic anthems

It’s not always the official song, so as we all zone in on Tokyo, here’s Rainy Days and Songdays Olympic anthems.

You go, Subo

In the pink: SuBo

Wings to Fly (Tokyo): Were you surprised too to see Scottish nightingale Susan Boyle trilling out Wings to Fly to accompany the release of those doves in the Olympic Stadium in Tokyo?

Not bad for a wee lass from Bathgate, Scotland, where the birds disturb the peace by dropping their stuff on you.

Houston, we have an anthem

Smile and style: Whitney

One Moment in Time (Atlanta): Now there was no female singer in the world in the 1990s than Whitney Houston.

And the warbler was the obvious choice for the signature tune for the 1996 Olympics in Georgia. Alas, this had all the saccharine of the city’s most famous soft drink.

What Katy Did Next

And she’ll be in Vegas soon

Rise (Rio)Katy Perry too was stellar, and still is, at the last Olympics in 2016 but she didn’t rise to the occasion with this overproduced piece of schtick.

Too earnest, we’d have far preferred Fireworks. And there are plenty of them in Rio by the sea-o.

Dream Small

Small wonder: Heather

Proud (London): Big hair, big smile voice, Heather Small was Big in the late 80s with dance band M People.

And big again when Heather re-released her solo song Proud as the anthem of the London Olympics in 2012.

We see Heather more now on reality TV, Strictly, the Camino de Santiago pilgrimage but would rather hear That voice.

Barcelonaaaaaaa

Catalan cantatas

Barcelona, Freddie Mercury and Montserrat Caballé: And one we definitely see, overblown opera with Fandango Freddie and Spanish Soprano Montserrat.

All against the backdrop of brilliant Barcelona.

Your Olympic anthems

But what would be Freddie’s discipline? A lover of ballet, we’re thinking rhythmic gymnastics.

But what are your Rainy Days and Songdays Olympic anthems?