Posts Tagged With: Barry Manilow

September is the cruellest month…

You made a first class fool out of me...

You made a first class fool out of me…

It’s late September and I really should be back in school. I know I keep you amused, by I feel I’m being used…all together now: “Oh Maggie, I wish I’d never seen your face!”. I have just realised I know all the words to Maggie May, but then we used to sing it en masse in the middle of the dance floor at Bradford University students’ union bar in 1973. In the song, Rod Stewart is a young man in love with an older woman. The summer has run its sweet course and he needs to get back to his studies. He needs to break free; the days of romance have lost their shine and reality has hit him like a bag of cement.

September is a sad month – unless you like misty mornings and burning leaves at the bottom of the garden. Or unless you live in Brazil, where it’s the beginning of spring. Come to think of it, how can it be spring and autumn at the same time, with some people getting out the blankets and others gearing up for bikini parties? How can the world be in two places at the same time, creating two completely different moods? How can I be in Bradford and Brazil? Well, I am, sometimes…

The street near the park where I had my first flat in Bradford

The street near the park – my first Bradford flat

It’s September 1976 and I’m in Manningham, by the park, near the famous Lister’s Mill chimney. I have fallen in love with Judith, an older woman (she’s 23!) and we are about to have a romantic holiday in the Scottish Highlands. The summer has been spent cuddling and giggling in my Victorian conversion flat. I have been pretending I know how to cook and driving without a licence, but then I am young and foolish. It feels divine.

In the Highlands we curl up inside a little orange tent, I try and cook breakfast like a man, we drink whisky in cosy pubs; then we move to a caravan and lie flat on the solid bed, listening to the rain pattering on the roof, feeling warm inside like glow worms. I stare at Loch Ness for hours, captivated by the deep silence, and we take pictures of ourselves pulling faces, revelling in the fizz and froth of youth. We are so in love that we listen to Barry Manilow cassettes and think it’s normal.

"I want to be clever like T.S. Eliot" - me and my books in 1982

“I want to be clever like T.S. Eliot” – me and my books in 1982

September is always a turning point, a time for reminiscing. T.S. Eliot wrote a riddle about time, suggesting that “time future” was “contained in time past”. I think he means to go forward we need to revisit and make sense of the past. My grandma used to long to be 21 again, but only if she could go back with her older, mature mind. I would also love to travel back “knowing what I know now”, but I would be 26. Yes, I would sail back to 1982, the year I tried to reinvent myself as a scholar. Gone were the purple loon pants, patchouli oil and unkempt hair, and in came the second-hand suits, kipper ties and cardboard briefcase. I looked like a down-at-heel insurance man but fancied myself as Rupert Brooke.

Doomed youth - English poet Rupert Brooke

Doomed youth – English poet Rupert Brooke

Being Rupert, my favourite haunts are reading rooms in the grand old libraries of Yorkshire where I sit for hours with a pile of books – John Ruskin, Jonathan Swift, Ernest Dowson – pretending I am at Oxford or Cambridge. When the library closes I drift over to the pub with a Penguin classic in my pocket, sip ale and recite passages from Ulysses. The locals call me ‘Gandalf’, the daft idiot in the corner who talks to himself. But I care not. I want to be educated, a gentleman. The life of a flat-capped, pigeon-fancying, whippet-keeping northern working man is not for me.

As the year comes to a close, a disc-jockey mate of mine invites me to join him at a Christmas disco. Why not? So I boldly waltz into the place with a grin as wide as a flat cake, acting and speaking like Bradford’s answer to Oscar Wilde. And there in front of me is my old flame Judith. She is now married with kids, but we beam at each other and both realise instantly that the thrill hasn’t gone. She is tiddly and asks me if I still have a hairy chest. I say it’s hairier and she moves closer. We end up clutching, hiding in the middle of the dance floor. Suddenly there is a loud shouting voice and her husband appears. He grabs her arm and yanks her away.

Gandalf marches away from the flat caps and whippets of Bradford...

Gandalf marches away from the flat caps and whippets of Bradford…

So ends another chapter of my life. Judith – my Maggie May – symbolizes my old Bradford youth. I loved her when I was a simpleton. But Gandalf had other ambitions; he wanted to learn the Latin tongue and experience the exotic charms of Spain and South America. Nevertheless, love is a powerful force, and every September I think of that orange tent in the middle of a damp and misty field somewhere in the Highlands of Scotland. Only I don’t hear Rod Stewart singing, I hear Barry Manilow inviting me to join him “at the Copa, Copacabana”. You see, Gandalf had to come to Brazil and find his Lola.

We love you, Barry, only don't tell anyone!

We love you, Barry, only don’t tell anyone!

Categories: Blighty, Musings, Travel | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 8 Comments

Music is my mistress

This vinyl junkie just can't stop himself...

This vinyl junkie just can’t stop himself…

William Shakespeare said never trust a person who is not moved by music. It’s not enough to tap your foot or sing along to the muzac on the radio: you have to need music like you need love. A song can make you glow inside, jump up and shout with joy or sit and cry your eyes out on the sofa. Most people I talk to believe that music is important in their lives. But I am suspicious of people who say they like all kinds of music: it usually means “nothing in particular”. In other words, music is not an obsession, an addiction, a drug.

You know you have an obsession when you realise that you really do like “all kinds” of music. I mean everything. When people claim to have wide taste it usually means “within the sphere of rock and pop”. My problem is I like the good, the bad, the beautiful and the ugly. And all of it looks down on me every day from my record shelves.

OK - this isn't me, but I know how he feels...

Come up and see my LPs! Go on, you know you want to.

So here’s a little test. I am appealing to everybody on the blogosphere to examine their musical predilections and try and match this for “wide-ranging taste”. My record collection covers: country and western, English and American folk, every kind of jazz (from Dixieland and Duke Ellington to avant garde scary stuff), rock and roll, deep soul, disco, reggae, samba, heavy rock, soft rock, prog-rock, punk, bossa nova, every kind of classical music (from Bach to Bartok and Benjamin Britten), blues, brass bands and Welsh male voice choirs. I even have recordings of steam trains.

The worst thing about having an unstoppable fascination with everything recorded is the embarrassing cheesy stuff you have to come clean about. Over the years I have had soft spots for Barry Manilow, David Cassidy, Helen Reddy, Mantovani and his Orchestra, Cliff Richard, Julio Iglesias, Shirley Bassey and Boy George. And I’m not gay.

Let's hear it for Barry Manilow!

Let’s hear it for Barry Manilow!

The problem with having musical “taste” (and the inflated pride that goes with it) is that so much music has to be dismissed as trash. You can only like the good stuff and look upon the rest with derision. You become a self-appointed critic panning everything that hasn’t got…well, whatever it is you think it needs. But the real secret of having musical taste is liking everything. Yes, everything (apart from gangsta rap and André Rieu, of course).

My favourite music magazine is Record Collector (published in the UK). You never know who might be on the cover: Frank Sinatra, Iggy Pop, Donny Osmond, Adele or some weird prog-rock band from the early 70s. The ethos

The weird and wonderful world of...Mike Gibbs

The weird and wonderful world of…Mike Gibbs

of the magazine is that they don’t discriminate. Of course, some readers only buy the magazine to look for their favourite artists and skip the rest. But the happiest reader, the music lover, finds excitement on every page – like a schoolboy with a comic.

So the next time somebody says they like all kinds of music, ask them if that includes Bix Beiderbecke, Dolly Parton, Jethro Tull, Throbbing Gristle, The Only Chrome Waterfall Orchestra and the Nolan Sisters.

The majestic, tragic Bix Beiderbecke with his wonderful Wolverines, 1924

The majestic, tragic Bix Beiderbecke with his wonderful Wolverines, 1924

Categories: Music, Vinyl | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

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