Significant Songs (206)

Midnight, The Stars, and You.

I was still in my teens when I became a fan of Al Bowlly. The 1930s crooner really hit the spot for me, and still does. I have featured his songs before on this blog, and make no excuses for another one. In my mind, this was my era, and my music. In the middle of the flower-power generation, this is what I was listening to. And a lifetime later, I am still listening to it.

This lesser-known song of his was always a big favourite of mine, and it was recently revived, in an unexpected fashion.

As long ago as 1934, Al recorded this version with the Ray Noble Orchestra. The popular singer was killed in London during the Blitz, in 1941. So his stellar career was short-lived, but no less valuable, as far as I am concerned. You either get him, or you don’t. And if you don’t, dear reader, then I think that is your loss.

I was recently amazed to be sent this song by special online friend. We had connected over similar tastes in music and films, and were exchanging favourite tracks. Imagine my delight when she sent me this, considering it to also be one of her best-loved songs. That made it doubly significant for me.

Lyrically Evocative (22)

There are times when a song becomes associated with a certain singer. It gets so that anyone hearing the title will imagine that one person singing it, often being totally unaware of the original recording. In many cases, though not always, that original is far superior. It may not be sung better, and the arrangement might not be the same as the one everyone knows and loves. But it will have heart, and the true spirit of the song, fresh and new.

The Very Thought Of You is a simple, very evocative love song that I have adored since before I was a teenager. I knew it from my dad’s record collection, as he had the version recorded by Nat King Cole, who had a big hit with it in Britain, in the late 1950s. It became associated with Nat, and later with Frank Sinatra too. Most of the people who bought the record at the time might have heard it on the radio without realising that it was written and recorded as long ago as 1934.

Written by British band-leader Ray Noble, and performed by his orchestra, it was sung and later recorded by his resident vocalist, Al Bowlly, in April 1934. I wasn’t aware of that at the time, and it wasn’t until I was 16 years old that I heard the first version. I loved it immediately, and despite Bowlly’s signature ‘crooning’ style, (or perhaps because of that very thing) I much preferred it to the numerous other versions that arrived later. The song is short, but anyone can identify with the sentiments of the excitements of a new attraction, one that might be developing into true love.

This song has remained important to me for over 50 years. I played it again today, and it moved me as much as the first time I ever heard it.

Here are the lyrics, by Ray Noble.

The very thought of you and I forget to do
The little ordinary things that everyone ought to do
I’m living in a kind of daydream, I’m happy as a king
And foolish though it may seem to me that’s everything
The mere idea of you, the longing here for you
You’ll 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
The mere idea of you, the longing here for you
You’ll 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

Songwriters: Ray Noble
The Very Thought of You lyrics © Carlin America Inc

And here is Al Bowlly singing the song. Eighty-five years ago.

Significant Songs (204/205)

Good Luck, Good Luck.

I know I can come across like a grumpy old man, most of the time. I moan about the weather, complain about getting old, and generally like nothing better than to be grumbling about something or other.

But I have another side, and that’s my musical one. I have loved all kinds of music for as long as I can remember, and even now I am that age that I complain about, music brings out the youth still lurking in my soul.

In 2004, I was 52 years old. But I didn’t let that number affect my taste for funky music. Give me a good beat, some powerful vocals, add a catchy chorus, and I was on board.

Basement Jaxx was a British duo, and their forte was electronic music, sampling, and creating a very British version of Dance Music. Not the sort of band your average fifty-plus man was listening to at the time, I grant you. They wisely chose not to sing themselves, instead recruiting some of the most talented vocalists around at the time, and using many of them to front their lively record releases. One of those was Lisa Kekaula, an American singer with a retro sound, and huge voice.

They came together on this standout track, ‘Good Luck, Good Luck’, and I was on it as soon as I heard it played on the radio.

Fifteen years later, it still makes my feet go, and my body move.
Though perhaps a little more slowly…

And writing this reminded me of another one of their songs.
Great Bollywood/Dance Music fusion! And classy video too. 🙂

Significant Songs (203)

C’est La Vie

In 1987, I heard a really funky song on the car radio. It had a catchy chorus, great vocals, and was incredibly well produced. In a few short minutes, it delivered that ‘wall of sound’ feeling that got right inside me. The radio DJ announced that it was a single released from the new album by Robbie Nevil, an American I had never heard of. I went into my local record shop, and asked about it. I was told that it was only available as a single at the time, and was already in the Top 40. I bought a copy immediately.

Once home, I played it over and over, as it seemed to get better every time I heard it. This was very much my kind of music, and I was looking forward to see it climbing the charts, and appearing on TV music shows. When it got into the Top 20, (eventually reaching number two in the UK) I saw Robbie performing it on television. I was suitably surprised. Instead of a smooth, sharp-looking young black man, here was a skinny white guy, with long hair like a rock performer, and a totally different image to the one I had stereotyped.

I was very impressed.

Robbie continued to record for a while, and had a couple of lesser hits. But he never repeated the success of this great pop song.

And I never did get around to buying his album.

Significant Songs (202)

Many Rivers To Cross

I was 17 in 1969, and I heard a new song by the Jamaican Reggae artist, Jimmy Cliff. He wasn’t much older than me at the time, yet it seemed to me to not only contain a timeless message, but also have its roots in Gospel, and early Soul music. Over the decades since, it has been covered by so many other singers, I started to lose track. But I do recall excellent versions from the likes of Joe Cocker, Cher, and Percy Sledge. As with most cases of covers though, nothing quite hit that feeling of hearing the original, by the person who had written it.

These days, the song is still popular, and often showcased by aspiring young singers on TV talent shows. It has also been featured on film soundtracks, including the 1972 film ‘The Harder They Come’, a film that Jimmy starred in. He is still working and performing today, and still singing this wonderful song.

The Somerville Effect

Two and a half years ago,, I wrote a post about the Scottish singer, Jimmy Somerville. It was one of the ‘Whatever happened to?’ posts, and attracted some views, as well as a few comments remembering Jimmy, and the groups he sung with, including The Communards.

That was that, and the post went into the archives, occasionally showing up as being viewed, but never receiving any further likes or comments.

Then for some reason, in the space of a few days, it began to be viewed again, a lot of times. By last Sunday, it had overtaken everything else, becoming the most-viewed post on my blog in one week, with close to 200 views, and still going. I have no idea why this interest in Jimmy suddenly resurfaced, and could not find anything in the news to suggest a comeback, or new recording.

But I would like to thank all of those searching about him. You have boosted my blog figures nicely, and revitalised a dormant post.
Please feel free to keep it up.

Great Albums: It’s All About The Stragglers

This choice may surprise most of you. Despite being in a musical genre known as ‘2-Step Garage’, (no, I don’t know what that means either) this is one of my most played albums over the last eighteen years, and one of the favourites I return to time and time again. I apologise in advance to readers from outside the UK, who will probably never have heard of the performers, the genre, or anything involved with that very British sound back then.

When I heard a track played on the radio, I went into a branch of a big record shop chain in London, and asked about the CD. I was 48 at the time, in the year 2000. I am sure that the young man serving me must have thought I was buying it for a teenage child, but he was suitably respectful when I told him it was for me. Artful Dodger was not a group or band, in the usual sense. It was a duo made up of two white guys, DJ/Producers who developed a sound, then recruited session singers, backing vocalists, or unknown artists to sing the songs they wrote. This led to some of those singers, like the smooth and handsome Craig David, becoming household names in the UK.

The CD had fifteen tracks, but as is usual with modern albums, quite a few of those were extended remixes of the same songs. I preferred the ‘radio edits’ in most cases, and I was caught up in the CD from track one, playing the whole thing again immediately.
Think About Me.

The second track was the Craig David vocal that I had heard on the radio.

This really captured the mood of the club scene back then. Something I knew nothing about aged 48 of course. 🙂

By track three, my feet were tapping uncontrollably.

Track four was an irresistible smooth groove. I love this one!
Please Don’t Turn Me On.

By track five, I was introduced to Nicole singing this nice funky pop song.

Romina Johnson took the vocals for track seven. Just when I thought it couldn’t get any better, this came along.
Movin’ Too Fast.

By track ten, I was already looking forward to hearing it all again, and Craig David was joined by Robbie Craig for this one. I was on my feet by now!
This was so infectious, I replayed it straight after.
Woman Trouble.

OK, you get the idea. A timeless album that still gets me in the groove at the age of 66. One of the first things I would take to a desert island, or rescue from a house fire. Eighteen years later, it keeps getting better for me, and though I appreciate that this sound is not for everyone, please give some of the tracks a chance.

And if you feel your feet moving, I told you so.