Sometimes the news seems to wrap me in darkness, and at these times I think it's good to reflect, among other things, on those parts of popular culture that point towards another place - upstairs, as it were. I'd like to share with you - with apologies to Pam H - ten songs that remind me there's still hope.
10 - Beautiful Sunday
I always smile when this comes on the radio (not often enough), as it carries memories of how a song, a smile and a skip can vanquish hard times under iron skies. In Scotland, this feel-good song was so popular that a dance was created specially for it called the slosh. You can see it here, but at a Scottish wedding or other sort of celebration, when the opening bars of Beautiful Sunday come on the men clear off and let the women get on with it - facing columns of women moving with military precision, we know our place. Actually it's quite fun to see your Great Aunt Aggie co-ordinating with all the rest in this simple dance:
1 - Take three steps to the left and kick right foot over to the left
2 - Take three steps to the right and kick left foot over to the right
3 - Take three steps to the left and kick right foot over to the left
4 - Take three steps back to the right, lift your left foot behind your right leg and touch your left foot with your right hand.
5 - Raise right leg and slap your thigh with your right hand.
6 - Raise left leg and clap both hands together under the raised left leg.
Turn and repeat.
A male friend and I were once persuaded (dragged) onto the dance-floor to do the slosh to Beautiful Sunday. We were hardly fit for any more dancing for the rest of the night. But enjoy the song.
9 - Shine Silently
I love this song by Nils Lofgren - it always used to be on Terry Wogan's breakfast show, but you don't hear it so often these days. It just captures the way sometimes all you need from the one you love is for them to be there.
8 - Through the Barricades
Spandau Ballet's 1986 song about two people from opposed communities falling in love could apply to many situations, but Northern Ireland was on the band's minds as extremist leaders from both sides struggled desperately too keep alive the hatred that was key to their survival. There are still problems, but broadly hate lost.
7 - Love comes to everyone
George Harrison's cotemporaries once christened him "the Preacher" because he tended to bend their ear about the "Krishna consciousness" variant of Hinduism he was devoted to. Like the religion itself, Harrison could be somewhat syncretic, which did not always produce a jarring effect: in this song, "got to go through that door" in the first verse links with "knock and it will open wide" in the last, indicating that he's not talking solely about romantic love.
6 - Hallelujah
This song is one of the best in the history of Eurovision, I reckon, possibly second only to I treni di Tozeur. I've posted the version sung by Gali Atari and Milk & Honey on the night, because it has an English translation of the Hebrew that gets closer to what the writers were saying in that beautifully expressive language.
5 - Hymn
It's ironic that at a time when many hymnwriters were concentrating on the horizontal to the virtual exclusion of the vertical, Barclay James Harvest brought out a single called Hymn which did exactly what it said on the tin, with a story of the birth, life, death and resurrection of Jesus. Hymn came from the 1977 album Gone to Earth - this clip's from the 1980 Concert for the People performed next to the Berlin Wall.
4 - The Cutter
This Runrig song is the true story of a lorry-driver called Johnny Morrison who, at a time when people who moved from the north of Scotland to the south were still seen as emigrants, went to live in Canada. He made his fortune there but, at the time the song was written in 1987, still came home every year to cut peat on his mother's land. Even though I'm quite happily exiled in England, for me this song describes in literal form the link that ties us to the very land of our origin.
3 - Superbird
I love this song - performed by Tommy Steele on Terry Wogan's TV show - about the sort of God-given innocent childhood imagination that risks being "educated" to perdition. With the Superbird go green cheese on the moon and, a big target for many secularists right now, Santa Claus. As the song says, "there's time enough to wreck your dreams".
2 - Deliver us from evil
I love the setting for A night on Bald Mountain (sometimes referred to as A Night on the Bare Mountain) by Modest Mussorgsky, orchestrated for Walt Disney's 1940 film Fantasia by Leopold Stokowski. The manifold versions and stories behind this piece easily rival any Beatles minutiae. What strikes me is that the animation could have sprung from the imagination of Clive Barker, although the film was given a U (Universal) certificate in the UK. Some say the original tone poem was about a witches' sabbat, others that it represented disturbing images dreamt by St John the Evangelist on Patmos prior to the visions he recounted in the Book of Revelation - the composition's history is so tortuous we'll probably never know. Whatever, this powerful mix of sound and vision calms down when the Stokowski's simple toll of the Angelus bell gives way to a segment of Bach's Ave Maria. Whether you prefer the translation of Mt 6:13 and Lk 11:4 as "deliver us from evil" or the lesser-used "deliver us from the evil one", this fits the bill.
1 - Sweetest Feeling
I was exceptionally down some time ago when I heard Jackie Wilson's celebration of life and love for the first time in a while. It reminded me of what was best in my life, and things started to turn round. Every time I hear it since then I send a "thank you" upstairs.
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