The human condition explained in three-minute bursts
The world is full of sad songs, because sadness is an emotion that makes people want to write, to pour it all out. And as listeners, consumers, we have an insatiable appetite for hearing about it.
But what makes a great sad song stand out is the raw, painful, avert-your-eyes reaction it evokes in us. When Neil Diamond said something to the effect that his best songs were embarrassing for him to listen to because they were so real, he was talking about You Don’t Bring me Flowers, his duet with Barbra Streisand, which deals with taking a partner for granted.
A real heartbreak song takes it one step further as the writer and singer reveal insecurities, fears, inadequacies and all the rotten infrastructure of our character that we would rather people didn’t see.
Amy Winehouse’s problems were public knowledge long before she died, her susceptibility to alcohol and drugs compounded by her relationship with an equally vulnerable man, a classic bad influence who not only caused her emotional distress and encouraged her substance abuse but accompanied her down the dark roads to which that led.
Back to Black is a typical piece of Winehouse bravado, making light of situations before revealing the damage they did her.
Unlike many people, I don’t claim she had the greatest soul voice, but she did have a way of wearing her heart on her sleeve that leaves us smeared in the blood it sheds.
In the early 1960s Roy Orbison produced some very affecting, very real material, his rich timbre and mountainous range taking us over the edge of melodrama and into the real stuff.
It’s Over and Crying both hit us like a policeman’s early morning knock at the door which can only mean bad news.
While these seem completely genuine, there is also room here for products of the songwriter’s and singer’s craft, and the dream team of writer Stevie Wonder and Aretha Franklin, to whom he entrusted the song, make Until You Come Back To Me a chillingly beautiful experience. Aretha seems almost unfairly gifted with her voice; she hasn’t suffered more than everyone else, it just sounds like that. Her sublime talent is as an interpreter of songs, and when Stevie Wonder called her one night and said he had a song for her, she said “I’ll take it,” without even hearing it. When the author of My Cherie Amour offers you a peach, you have no doubt that it’s going to be sweet.
Compare and contrast Elvis Presley’s Heartbreak Hotel, in which, whatever the title might suggest, he plainly isn’t that bothered. Irish songstress Mary Coughlan (see pic at top), whom fame has passed by, took the song, slowed it down and injected some emotion, but it still really just talks the talk rather than walking the walk.
Rickie Lee Jones is an interesting character, her early tomboy front masking a fragility that exists for real in her character as well as her work. Company is an achingly intimate account of the loneliness she knows is about to envelop her as this man leaves her for good. She’s not suicidal, but she is looking forward to seeing him again on the other side.
Prince and Sinead O’Connor might have seemed an unlikely pairing until she took on Nothing Compares 2 U, but his ability to write direct from the tatters of his heart combined perfectly with her willingness to wash her dirty laundry in public to produce a timeless piece of heartache. Seven hours and fifteen days has now grown to more than 27 years, but it still feels like a kick in the guts from someone you’ve given your heart to.
Our fictitious reviewer Siobhan (KayCee) didn't have much of an education but she's passionate about films
You could say this is a chick flick if you like but I reckon it stands up pretty well in any company? just because it’s a mainly female cast with lots of pretty young things don’t mean it ain’t got a brain just like the girls themselves.
It stars Julia Roberts as Katherine Watson an art lecturer at a posh all girl college in Massachusetts she’s from California which makes her a bit of a rebel they think and this is her first lecturing job and she ain’t the type to conform so she’s out of place at this stuffy erstablishme… whatever. Plus she’s 30 and not married and this is the 1950s so there all wearing dresses and long skirts and blouses quite a nice look I always think although I don’t go in for skirts much myself who does these days.
It’s a bitchy class she finds herself teaching there all dead keen and know everything on the syllabus which is like a list of what their going to study so she has to get onto things their not expecting to wipe the smug smiles off there faces. The worst of all is the Kirsten Dunst character I won’t bother with the film names cos its too confusing Kirsten is a real spoilt upper class cow and the funny thing is there all at this college but there also trying to get married its like a competition almost and Kirsten is with this real posh dickhead whose going to be rich and he already is because of his family but he’s a pipe smoking serious type old before his time.
Kirsten actually takes time off college to get married have a honeymoon and expects that will just be okay but Katherine’s not impressed. And of course dickhead isn’t as good as he makes out always disappearing to New York “on business” ha ha were not stupid are we girls.
The school nurse gets sacked for giving out contraceptives and that tells you a lot about the place. And theres a male lecturer Dominic West who has affairs with his students you’ll know him if you watched The Affair on Netflix he’s English but gets a lot of work in the States. He is currantly bonking Maggie Gyllenhaal’s character she’s a bit of a tart but he fancies Katherine too but she’s having none of it and then her long-term on-off boyfriend shows up from California and thinks he can breeze in and marry her but she’s a modern girl and sends him packing.
There are other bits of the story with other girls and its too complicated to tell you you don’t need to know anyway but my favourite is Ginnifer Goodwin yes that’s how she spells it and she’s not quite as gorgeous as the rest still pretty good looking but a bit round faced and could get fat later in life and she’s a nice character too.
You know what films about uni and college are like when the lecturer turns out to be a real nice guy (or gal) and they all end up liking each other in the end well I suppose this one is like that but its wrong to lump it in with crap films that have the same theme this one is real class and Julia Roberts is good so is Maggie so is Kirsten there all great really and its not soppy at all.
Mangoes all over the ground as I walk the roads near our house. But the tree in our garden? Finished. Harvest has been and gone at Chateau Morvan. The trouble with mango trees is you get all you’re going to get all at once. So one day you’ve got buckets of them under water to try to keep them until you fancy one again and the next day the tree is bare. We had so many that when the guy came to fix the phone line and asked if he could have one for his daughter I gave him a shopping bag full.
The issue now, though, is avocados. Or rather one avocado. The only one left on the tree. It’s half a mile in the air and so well camouflaged that every time I look it takes a minute to locate it. But today is the day and I have plans for it: plans involving Worcestershire sauce and a knife and fork. Cut it in half, mash it up and splash some of the spicy brown nectar on it. It’s the easiest starter in the world, but the kind of thing that impresses people if they’ve never come across it before.
They’re funny things, avocados. Rock hard for most of their life, perfect for about two days and then garbage. Of course I could go to the shop and get one, but when you’ve got a tree right outside the house, spending money that way seems wrong.
So there it hangs, dark green and seductive (and there aren’t many things you can say that about). In the house we had when we first arrived in Tobago there was a pool in the back yard. An added bonus about that was that swimming pools tend to come with a long-handled net for sweeping leaves out. And if you angle them up instead of down, you’ve got a perfect avocado grabber. Wave the swaying pole in the right direction until it pops under the fruit, give a sharp tug and you’ve got half a meal right there.
The house with the pool is way in the past, though, and therefore avocado retrieving devices have to be improvised. What we have here is a long aluminium strip with an l-shapedprofile, as if it were for protecting the edge of an interior wall. Maybe that is what it was made for, but in its retirement it has languished, unloved, in our back yard, covered with dirty sand. Now, though, in its twilight years it has been given a chance to be useful again. With a wire coathanger attached to one end like a noose, it is a humble masterpiece of homemade avocado-picking technology.
The trouble is, the object of my hunger is a long way up and even my flimsy metal friend can’t reach it.
Where is my 13-year-old tree-climbing son when I need him? Now 22 and living in Barcelona, as a matter of fact. Which leaves his old man to perch precariously on a bar stool and fish in the sky, more in hope than expectation. My wife, the reviver of a plan which I had already considered and rejected, has the vital job of holding the stool while I risk my neck. Aren’t women supposed to be the cautious ones?
It has to be done. You can’t live in such a bountiful place and be deterred by such a piddling obstacle as height.
Madam seems to think it will be a doddle: thrust the device skywards at an angle of perhaps 70 degrees and it will garotte its target like an 18th century brigand who’s just swum ashore with a dagger between his teeth. My superior grasp of the situation includes the words “no” and “chance”, which doesn’t go down well.
So, while she abandons her stabilizing role in favour of getting a good look from a distance and offering left-right-up-down advice, I poke the tool with as much accuracy as randomness will allow and the coathanger snags a branch. My adviser is excited and urges me to shake it.
I shake. Leaves flutter and suddenly a pear-shaped heavy object loses its grip on the branch and plummets to the ground.
It’s undamaged and hard, but nothing a couple of days wrapped in newspaper won’t cure. Or buried in flour, or whatever old wives’ tale you favour.
This is the life. Free food, and nobody was hurt during the capture. Maybe I should borrow somebody’s pool-cleaning net and sit on a rock at Bacolet, dipping it into the sea and returning with some magnificent, nutritious and free fish for the main course.
There’s a worldwide boom in avocado prices and a gang in California was recently busted for a $300,000 avocado heist, but hey, we’ve got a tree that produces them for nothing. Pity it seems to be closed for the season, that’s all.
The most popular name for girl babies in Trinidad and Tobago is, apparently, Cherelle. That’s a sort of Frenchified version of the British name Cheryl, which was itself an anglicised version of the French Cherie. Confused? It gets worse.
I recently came across an American actress called Aunjanue Ellis, and it took a few seconds of brain contortions to work out that this was a misspelling (or the parents might call it an alternative spelling) of the French word Ingenue, meaning an innocent or naive girl.
Like those tattoos in Arabic that no one else knows the meaning of, there is an air of mystery about this lady’s name, even though I bet she’s sick to death of having to spell it for people.
The giving of wacky names is one of the irresponsible (as opposed to dangerous) abuses of parental power. Any parent knows that thinking of a good name for a baby is often very difficult: you can think of a thousand you don’t want, but not a single one that you really like.
Perhaps that is why, after a few beers, people think it would be acceptable, or even a good idea, to call the poor unborn mite something ridiculous.
Clearly in California, where Aunjanue was born (and it also seems to be the case in the Caribbean) you can name a baby what you like. In other parts of the world, though, the registrars would have put their foot down.
For instance, there’s a British TV miniseries called Doctor Foster (which is brilliant, by the way; only about six episodes but well worth a look), the star of which is Suranne Jones. She’s not Suranne on her birth certificate, though, because the registrar was of the opinion that it wasn’t a real name, so her parents were persuaded to make it officially Sarah Anne, and if they wanted to call her Suranne as soon as they left his office, that was okay with him.
Well, we all have our foibles, and this guy obviously took his job quite seriously. He’d have had a fit, though, if he’d worked in the West Indies, where making names up is not unusual. Mum has three friends called Camille, Cordelia and Esther? We’ll use bits of each: we’ll call the kid Camcorder.
The friends are Dilys, Sandra and Margery? Why, Disandry, of course. A name isn’t going to kill you, even if the disease might. And anyway, it’s not common in this part of the world and no one knows how to spell it, so where’s the harm?
How different the world would be if royal families were not inherently conservative. Imagine if Prince William and Kate had exercised their right to use names they heard in St Lucia on holiday, rather traditional ones like George and Charlotte. They’d have been locked up in the Tower of London at the first mention of Prince Jayden and Princess Jordan.
You might think Bob Marley would have gone down the silly-name route, particularly as he had so many to christen – at least 15 “acknowledged” offspring, plus, we are led to believe, a number of unacknowledged ones. But no, the Marley tribe includes a Karen, a Stephanie and a Julian, while even eldest son Ziggy was actually christened David, but called himself after the David Bowie alter ego Ziggy Stardust, and everyone else went along with it.
My digital encounter with Aunjanue Ellis came at the same time as George Clooney and his wife Amal introduced their newborns, Ella and Alexander, to a quiet round of applause by traditionalists the world over.
What, no Moony Junie Clooney? No Goliath Hairy Greek-looking Smoothguy?
After all, even if the registrar objected, they’re a rich and famous couple – and she’s a lawyer – so they could have found a more understanding official.
But how are poor little Ella and Alex going to feel when they meet other celebrity kids such as Gwyneth Paltrow’s daughter Apple, let alone North and Saint, children of Kanye West and Kim Kardashian?
You can hear the Clooney twins whining when they get home: “Moooom! How could you? I sound so boring!”
The world title holders of the parent-imposed name are the children of Live Aid organiser and professional agitator Bob Geldof and his late wife Paula Yates, who gave us Peaches, Pixie and Fifi Trixiebelle, and when Yates went off with singer Michael Hutchence, she quickly produced Heavenly Hirani Tiger Lily.
Interestingly, it didn’t take David Bowie’s son Zowie long to ditch that millstone, plus his Dad’s self-chosen surname, and become plain old Duncan Jones.
Perhaps when this generation of hilariously-labelled children are running the world they will introduce new naming regulations whereby aggrieved youngsters are entitled, at the age of 18, to rename their parents.
Were that to happen, there could well be a split between the complimentary and the insulting. There might also be a 10-year cooling-off period to allow for age-induced understanding and mellowing, because names given in the heat of the moment could be regretted later. For every King, Hero and Legend Smith there would be a Grumpy, Tyrant and Knowall, while the mothers would be split between Angel, Bestfriend or Precious and Jailer, Prude and Thatissounfair.
It’s the ugliest of emotions and completely fruitless. It makes us as bad as the person we’re getting back at. It leads to ongoing conflict. Revenge isn’t sweet, it’s sour. It just feels sweet briefly. And it makes for great little pop songs sometimes.
Connie Francis had a hit in 1958 with Who’s Sorry Now, which had first been published (in the old sheet music days) in the 1920s. She’s glad that her ex is sorry, so she’s got her own back in a tame way. We don’t learn what has happened to the man who broke her heart, but he’s not happy, and that makes her feel better, even if you get the feeling she’ll be round at his door within the hour with a tin of tomato soup and some ice cream to cheer him up.
The Ronettes got slightly more vitriolic with How Does It Feel, written by Vini Poncia and Peter Andreoli and produced by Phil Spector in a rare example of an uptempo wall of sound recording. Some girl has broken her ex’s heart and she’s as pleased as punch, but unlike Connie Francis, she openly admits she’d take him back because he still loves him. Silly girl; he’ll only do it again, you mark my words.
The Angels were in a very different situation in 1963 with My Boyfriend’s Back. He’s been away, you see, and in his absence a boy who fancies her, having failed with his advances, is spreading rumours about her. But now the boyfriend has returned and is about to give the young pretender a bunch of fives.
The Angels were unusual for a Sixties girl group in that they were white – not that colour has any bearing on what they were like as a musical unit. But it was the song, not the singers, and they are one-hit wonders – and there’s nothing wrong with that. A nifty little three minutes of pop and very singable: Hey la hey la, my boyfriend’s back.
All of these revenge songs seem to be from the early 60s, and we’ll continue with The Shirelles and Foolish Little Girl. It’s not openly about revenge, but a girl talking to another girl who wants her guy back, having dumped him earlier. Now he’s about to get married and she’s a jealous as hell. The singer is berating her for this, which leads me to read between the lines and surmise that there is history between these two and the singer is glad her rival has been hurt.
Whatever, this is a classic lineup of four black women. The lead singer has a good, strong voice and the backing vocals sound like they’re done by a bunch of random girls dragged off the street as they walked past the studio and told to do their best and do it loudly. And I mean that in the nicest possible way – it’s part of the record’s charm.
Incidentally, if you’re going to download this from YouTube or wherever, make sure you get the original version. There’s a rerecorded one out there, and I wish they wouldn’t do that. Sure, singers may improve as they get older and recording techniques are constantly evolving, but the artistes never recapture the magic, and if they’re eradicating some blemish that’s been bugging them for years, they should realize that we, the fans, know and love it just as it is.
John Lennon, for all his peace-and-love stuff, had a nasty jealous streak and wasn’t averse to venting it in song. Take You Can’t Do That, from A Hard Day’s Night. He’s not taking revenge – yet – but he’s telling the girl in no uncertain terms that he’s going to dump her if she persists in talking to a particular boy.
The live recording I’m putting here is pretty faithful to the studio version but there’s one irritating thing: they don’t show us who played the solo. It doesn’t appear to be George, which means it must be John, but we don’t know for sure.
And that’s where I’m going to leave it. There are plenty of others and you could probably name a few off the top of your head. Cry Me A River, yes, and products of spiky personalities like Alanis Morrisette and Lily Allen, but the early Sixties was the goldmine.
Our fictitious reviewer Siobhan (KayCee) didn't have much of an education but she's passionate about films
This one from 1985 wasn’t a big hit but it’s good fun and features young Alfred Molina and Peter Firth who both went on to great things as they say became famous and respected that means. It’s set in Liverpool and at that time the whole UK was in a bad way and the north west was no different. So there was enough doom and gloom around and a little romantic comedy was just what we needed I guess that’s why it stayed with me cos it cheered me up a bit yes even happy go lucky me needs a pick me up sometimes if you no what I mean.
The girls in this certainly did they worked in a chicken processing factory stuffing the giblet bags into cavorties and stuff which can’t be much fun at the best of times. So you get two factory girls Teresa and Elaine (Margi Clarke and Alexandra Pigg) who both didn’t go on to greater things I never seen them in anything else but they do the job here.
Teresa is a tall mouthy blonde and Elaine is small and quiet. Anyway a Russian ship comes in (Liverpool is like a port) and our girls meet two sailors Sergei and Peter (that’s Alfred and Peter) in a nightclub and one thing leads to another very quickly and they end up in a hotel room. Teresa just wants sex because I guess she’s had every bloke in the city but Elaine is romantic they only got a few hours before the boys sail again so Teresa and Sergei get stuck in (litrely) but the other two just talk and fall in love which can happen that fast your just not sure until later that its real.
With all the doinking that goes on you’d think Teresa would be the sex symbol but my mate Chris reckons the most exciting part is seeing the hair in Alexandra Pigg’s armpit you no girls you wouldn’t be seen dead like that but theres blokes who like it it takes all salts.
And then the boys are gone and the girls come down to earth with a bump well Elaine does it meant something to her and she and Peter write to each other and she wants to go to Russia and marry him so she writes to President Brezhnev the podgy guy with thick eyebrows you know the one.
The British Foreign Office gets involved because Elaine is so determined and at the time Russia was a country it was hard to get into and when you were there they wouldn’t let you out something like that anyway I think its like North Korea is now real dodgy. And they tell her that Peter’s married but she don’t believe it. Nor does Teresa she says “I’ve had the knickers dragged off me by enough married men that I know one when I see one and Peter ain’t married.”
I mean imagine falling for someone in that situation its complicated enough when it’s the guy round the corner without politics and stuff getting in the way.
There’s a lot of bad language but its all in Liverpool accents so it don’t sound so bad they say fooken but they say the k like the ch in Loch Ness I didn’t think of that myself like but I heard someone say it and its true.
Its quite funny and theres romantic bits and very sad bits and some very 80s music Hit That Perfect Beat and stuff to remind you when its set. I don’t know if Alfred and Peter think of it fondly as a stepping stone it ain’t exactly Shakespeare I guess though I never seen any of his films so I can’t really say.
This blog is not about adding a new recipe to your already impressive repertoire. It’s for people who don’t really have a repertoire.
It’s all about being flexible, creative – and having a go. Recipes are useful, obviously, but just a guideline if you’re too much of a cowboy to slavishly follow them. And anyway, you don’t have the ingredients at your disposal that real chefs seem to assume everyone does.
The aim of this blog is to teach the unskilled and inexperienced to make something out of what they’ve got in the house – or just fly into the supermarket and pick a few things up. You don’t want to be in the kitchen for hours and nor do I. Grab a few ingredients, mix them together and be eating in half an hour or so – that’s what I’m talking about. Radio on in the background, glass of wine on the go, and a decent result at the end of it.
Venezuelan black beans
In Venezuela they eat black beans with arepas, the corn flatbread they eat all the time. But they go just as well with ordinary homemade flatbread or plain old toast – just make sure it’s decent bread. The fluffy, slightly sweet stuff that sells by the truckload in many parts of the world is an insult to the tastebuds and even if you’re used to it, just get unused to it. Find something with a bit of body to it, a bit of earthy oomph, a bit of natural wheaty flavor.
Presumably many people like that bland, mass-produced stuff, but you don’t have to follow the crowd.
Now, savoury black beans – and this could hardly be simpler. In fact the most difficult thing might be finding them, depending on what country you’re in and if you’re in an area without a decent supermarket or healthfood store. But they might be there, hidden among the cans of baked, kidney, brown, haricots and all the rest, but you’ve never noticed because you’ve never wanted them before.
You may also find them in their dried form, which will mean soaking and boiling them before you start. But a can of black beans is just as good.
Like so many tasty dishes, this is cheap and dead easy. It’s food for getting the job done, the job being to get some nourishment into yourself and your family with minimal fuss and expense.
INGREDIENTS (for two people)
Can of black beans
A medium onion, halved and sliced.
Cilantro (coriander leaves), half a handful, roughly chopped or torn. Some people tell me they don’t like cilantro, which is up to them, even if I find it hard to believe. If you are one of those people, or you just can’t find any of the fresh plant (dried is not the same at all), use flat leaf parsley.
In some countries, notably the Caribbean, they have culantro, which is different by one vowel and similarly close in flavor. In Trinidad and Tobago they call it Shadow Benny (officially chadon beni). It has long narrow leaves and when you chop it and use it in a cooked recipe, it’s hard to tell the difference (it’s not so good raw, though).
Make your arepas, flatbreads (see my recipes on this site) or toast.
While they’re cooking, heat a frying pan and add a little oil.
Fry the onion until it is just turning brown.
Add the beans and stir.
Mix in the cilantro, plus a little salt and black pepper, plus a touch of general seasoning (which is mainly salt plus a touch of herb and spice). A sprinkle of cayenne can help, if you like a bit of zip.
Having your heart broken is an unwanted part of life’s rich pageant, but there is another side to the coin: when we do the hurting. I’m not sure anyone has ever deliberately broken someone’s heart through stopping loving them. It’s just one of those things, although don’t try telling that to the person on the receiving end.
Breaking up with someone doesn’t make us a monster; it shows that we’re human, and what were we supposed to do: not fall in love in the first place? The more you look at it the more complicated it gets.
Prince gets straight to the heart of the matter in Purple Rain. “I never meant to cause you any sorrow…”
Cher, on the other hand, in If I Could Turn Back Time, has lost the guy through her own stupidity, so what she is regretting is the things she said and did.
John Lennon’s Jealous Guy hasn’t quite blown it altogether, but he’s singing to himself as much as his lover, regretting what he said and did and knowing that if there’s a next time it could be terminal.
At a glance you might think Bryan Adams’s Please Forgive Me is about a similar scenario, but closer inspection shows it’s not. In this case he’s apologizing for loving her so much, perhaps because she thinks his adoration is over the top and is stifling her. Sometimes you just can’t win.
John B. Sebastian of the Lovin’ Spoonful evidently found himself in a regrettable position in 1966 when he wrote I Didn’t Want to Have to Do It. However, he’s not blaming himself entirely. He had to do it because one of them had to and, good hearted guy that he is, he elected to carry the can.
“Was a time when I thought our love could fly
And never never fall
Why should I suppose we were never really meant
To be close to each other at all.”
We’re not told the girl’s reaction, but he does tell us he knew she would end up crying, so presumably that’s what happened.
Smokey Robinson and the Miracles, on a song written of course by Smokey himself, are also not accepting unmitigated blame. Ooh Baby Baby wasn’t a hit in the UK and may have never even been released as a single there, but it just goes to show the charts don’t paint a comprehensive picture of the brilliant stuff that exists in other people’s record collections. I only discovered the song three or four years ago and I couldn’t believe it had eluded me for so long.
“Mistakes,” he says, “I know I made a few. But I’m only human: you’ve made mistakes too.”
Quite right too. We don’t know the ins and outs of it, but nobody’s perfect. Whether or not this is an admirable trait he’s displaying, I’m not sure, but he’s clearly crazy about the girl. About three months ago Ooh Baby Baby got stuck on repeat in my head and was with me for days. I was on the net for hours, searching for a slightly different version I seemed to remember, but there isn’t one. It must have been just my imagination, if you’ll forgive the Smokey-inspired reference.
And then there’s the kind of regret to which there is no answer, no other way of doing it. It had to be done and that’s life. Sometimes the end of a relationship is like that.
Cue an absolute killer from one of this column’s favourites, Brazilian singer Astrud Gilberto, via the composer Antonio Carlos Jobim and lyricist Normal Gimbel. How Insensitive sees the singer wishing she hadn’t broken the boy’s heart, but “what can one say when a love affair is over?” He must hate her; he must think she’s a heartless bitch, but really she had no option. The poor man’s loss is our gain, however (or perhaps girl, since Gimbel is a man). It doesn’t have to be autobiographical to strike a chilling chord in the listener’s heart.
Regret of a different but equally painful kind can be found in Cat’s In The Cradle, a 1974 hit for Harry Chapin. This is about a man who fails to find enough time for his young son and then, when he’s old and the boy is the one with a busy life, finds the tables are turned.
Chapin was something of a genius with lyrics, and regret was one of his themes. W.O.L.D., his other huge success, is the sad tale of a DJ who walked out on his family to follow his broadcasting career wherever the offers came from. Now he’s getting past it and he’s thinking he’d like to get back with his wife, but she has moved on.
It’s hard to see either of these songs as truly autobiographical, although they might have been visions of what he worried might happen, given the musician’s inevitable absences from home while touring. Sadly, he never had time to find out, because he died at the age of 39 in a car crash, possibly having had a heart attack that caused him to lose control.
As it happens, anyway, the lyrics were written by Chapin’s wife about her ex-husband’s relationship with his father. And if you didn’t want to know that because it spoils your personal memory of the song, well I’m sorry.
Our fictitious reviewer Siobhan (KayCee) didn't have much of an education but she's passionate about films
Ive talked about Clint Eastwood here before, a couple of times in fact and its not that I’m obsessed with him or nothing but he has made a lot of movies ain’t he and in different styles. So now I’m looking at my favourite non-cowboy one Coogan’s Bluff. I could of gone for Play Misty For Me cos that’s good too but Coogan’s is the one I always go back to.
Its about a law man in Arizona who takes time off from tracking villains in the desert to go to New York City to bring back this guy Jimmy Ringerman whose on the run. Clint plays Coogan who wears the old cowboy stuff pointy toed boots and hat maybe a Stetson I don’t know. And people keep calling him Tex because he looks like he’s from Texas.
He gets ripped off by a taxi driver who takes him all round the houses to get where he’s going and Coogan spots that they pass Bloomingdales twice (big department store). And the guy charges him extra for luggage because he’s got this little briefcase with him.
Nice lines here: the guy on hotel reception charges him extra because he hasn’t got luggage and Coogan goes “there’s a taxi driver in this town that’d give you and argument”.
Coogan has no patience with the slower NY way of justice and just wants to get Ringerman without waiting for the court to authorise it so he pees off the detective he’s dealing with (Lee J. Cobb nice performance). And he meets a probation officer Julie played by Susan Clark who never really made it but must have been only inches away cos she’s good and really pretty. She just couldn’t get past actresses like Katharine Ross I guess still she done a few things.
And Ringerman’s girlfriend is this tiny little thing Linny Raven (Tisha Sterling) and she fancies Coogan and it’s like his duty in those days to doink her just because she’s there and he does and she tells Julie all about it.
This was 1968 and there was cycle delick music around then and the scenes in clubs and parties are full of weird music and stoned people.
There’s a motorbike chase which might a peel to some people blokes I guess but what I like about the film is its quite funny and Clint’s so cool.
I guess its just personal preference I know there’s nothing here that makes the film a mantelpiece but it’s a nice way to spend an hour and a half and that’s the name of the game as they say what game I don’t know the game of life maybe the game of what am I going to do tonight when I ain’t going out.
The idea of singing to a real person – or perhaps inventing a person and singing to them – but not in a boy-girl-I-love-you way can be effective. Anything that brings realism to art tends to give it credibility. In the case of pop music it can add a touch of originality by shifting the listener’s perspective.
Take, for example, Outkast’s Ms Jackson. He’s sorry, the singer is, for hurting Ms Jackson’s daughter, and I have always had this mental picture of him in Ms Jackson’s kitchen, having gone round there to apologise. The popular video actually shows her driving round to have it out with him, curlers in her hair and all. That’s one reason I would rather just listen to a song, rather than watch the video, because the visuals are just someone else’s interpretation.
I’m not putting that video up because I would like you to use your imagination.
The music borrows from Richard Wagner’s Lohengrin, the section known as The Bridal Chorus (and colloquially as Here Comes The Bride), which imparts a certain romantic air, and the song has a catchy hook; in fact you could say it consists largely of the hook, even if he does wander off down a lane of incomprehensible soulbrutha chuntering (and when I first read the lyrics I had less sympathy for the guy because he’s whingeing – although some people might think he has a point. For me, finally watching the video was like wandering innocently into the wrong part of town and being confronted by gangsters).
Having set up in my own mind the image of being in the woman’s house, there is also the possibility that Ms Jackson is an attractive woman in her own right and that our penitent hero has noticed this. It wouldn’t be the first time a boy has fancied his girlfriend’s mother.
Again, the video takes a different view, casting Ms Jackson as the kind of old dragon no cool rapper would be interested in. So, sadly, the more I look into this song, the less it seems to be what I originally imagined, and would still like to imagine. Quite a moving little pop experience, though, if you keep other people’s images out of your head.
A similar kettle of fish (sorry, what a vile expression) exists in the very different Mrs Brown You’ve Got A Lovely Daughter, as sung in 1965 by Herman’s Hermits. Either despite or because of its self-consciously Manchester accent, this was a big hit in the USA, but it wasn’t originally released as a single in the UK. They loved our regional accents in the States, lapping up the Beatles’ pronunciation (thur instead of there and so on), and Davy Jones flew the Mancunian flag in The Monkees. Even now Americans talk of how they love a “British” accent, whatever that is.
The original version of Mrs Brown had been recorded a couple of years earlier by the actor Tom Courtenay for a TV play.
And even that isn’t the most interesting thing about the song, because you’ll never guess who wrote it. And I mean never, because without some monstrous clues and guidance, surely no one would get anywhere near it.
Who? Not the stuttering villager in The Vicar of Dibley?
And, as Barry Norman used to say, why not? Young people desperate to get into the entertainment field will try anything, and clearly Trevor had all-round talent.
Despite the accent giving it a slightly comic feel, the song is a poignant little thing. Again, the singer is addressing the mother, but in this case it’s the girl who has dumped him and he’s saying “tell her that I’m well and feeling fine” while secretly hoping Mrs Brown will shake her daughter by the shoulders and tell her not to be so stupid because he’s a nice boy and he’s crazy about her.
In the mid 70s Billy Paul brought us Me And Mrs Jones, about an extramarital affair which he wants to keep secret but has no intention of ending. It’s the sort of love song that requires us to either ignore or forgive the circumstances and just concentrate on the genuine love that’s going on there.
Brazenly borrowing the title, Amy Winehouse gave us a very different story on a track from her miraculously good album Back to Black. It’s hard to work out what she is really trying to tell us, but she and Mr Jones are apparently getting it on. Listeners of a sensitive disposition should prepare themselves at the start of every verse for the invented word “f***ery”, which can be translated as mischief, stupidity, treachery and probably many other things. She’s having a go at her man for making her miss the Slick Rick gig and thinking that she didn’t love him when she did. And she’s not going to put him on the guest list for her own gig because he has had a lot of other women.
But is Mr Jones the object of her affections as well as her tirade? As is so often the case, we can’t be sure, because it’s just a pop song, with words being thrown at a vague subject and the main requirement being to fit the lines and rhyme where necessary rather than to make a cohesive story.
Jones is a popular name in songs, even cropping up in the Bee Gees’ highly unusual New York Mining Disaster 1941. “Have you seen my wife, Mr Jones?” one trapped miner says to another, presumably showing him a little black and white photograph. The song is nothing short of a triumph of craft over subject matter and shows the inventive side the Gibb brothers exercised before discovering that smartly tailored disco music and gimmicky falsetto singing could make them a thousand times more money.
Paul Simon hit a seam of pure gold when fashioning a song out of the 1967 film The Graduate. Anne Bancroft’s simmering older woman, Mrs Robinson, inspired Simon to one of his most enduring successes and to his credit he did it without resorting to sexual fantasizing, delving into her mind rather than her underwear to explore what made her as she was. Many years later George Michael would use Mrs. R’s “Would you like me to seduce you?” line in Too Funky.
For me, though, even that brilliant musical psychoanalysis is eclipsed by Simon’s song about an architect. So Long Frank Lloyd Wright is a beautiful piece of wistfulness reflecting on a friendship between two men. And it’s not even based on fact. Legend has it that Art Garfunkel challenged Simon to write a song and gave him the most unlikely subject matter, which the master turned into a hypnotic three minutes that makes the listener feel sad about something that not only they didn’t experience, but never happened.
So, with all due respect to the millions of songs that take liberties with our willingness to believe, once in a while somebody creates a song that is the equal of any poem by any celebrated man of words of any era.
It’s not just the song, of course: that is just the framework on which the layers of sound are added through spellbinding production, and if you or I had a go at this one open-mic night there would be precious little magic in the air. But the recording as issued on the album Bridge Over Troubled Water is one that I would be very tempted to put in a time capsule for future generations or people from another planet to marvel at.