Category Archives: Music

The bank manager was back

I hope his nose grows. It was either that, or a different pair of glasses, as the man himself said, halfway through the concert. That’s Andy Fairweather Low, and one of my first thoughts during his live online gig tonight was that he needed to see his optician.

He’s very self-deprecating, isn’t he? I ask because I’m still almost a complete novice, but I really enjoyed this. Short, at just over an hour, but they had worked hard at deciding which half of their most popular repertoire they’d play. Some was new, some I knew.

And I do hope that they could hear us applauding all across the globe? That’s what goes missing when the only people in the room are themselves and – by the sound of it – friends and family? Or just crew, maybe.

I was struck by the enormity of it all; the reason a group like this needs to play live via YouTube, and the fact that they can, that it is possible to organise a concert and that anyone, anywhere can buy a ticket and tune in. My own armchair is more comfortable, even with the laptop balancing on a swivelling office chair, and the queue for the toilet was non-existent. But it’s not the same as live, as in the same room.

It will have to do, though. Seems the band had not seen each other for a long time, and their next date is April 2021.

Jaja ding dong

It’s when you discover that the other two watching the film Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga with you are elf deniers, that you realise you didn’t know them. And whatever they say after to rectify their status is just too late.

Clearly the elves were not only real, but their presence in the film meant they had something to add to the plot other than for people to scoff. How could Iceland win Eurovision without them? (Maybe even with them would be too impossible, but you never know.)

Anyway. As so many have said online, it was a nice film. Really funny, true to the spirit of Eurovision, offering good Icelandic scenery and using the handful of actors who appear in everything made in or for Iceland. Lots of Eurovisiony songs, mostly enjoyable, and none too awful (unlike in real life).

It is the story of the once young Lars Erickssong and his possibly sister, possibly not, Sigrit Ericksdottir, who have always wanted to sing for Iceland [and win]. While it was a bit painful to hear the younger father of Lars, played by Pierce Brosnan, speak Icelandic, it got a lot better once they all spoke in accented English, as though most of the actors weren’t already native English speakers.

A bit gruesome at one point, it is mostly very funny. Lars and Sigrit obviously make it to Eurovision in Edinburgh, mostly filmed in Glasgow, except for the improbable car race near Edinburgh Castle. Because it’s how we drive here.

Dan Stevens is excellent as the rich Russian, and the cameos of ‘real’ Eurovision singers such as Conchita Wurst and Netta Barzilai and Alexander Rybak make for a fun moment.

And I have always known Mikael Persbrandt to be a bad one.

I’d quite like an album of the songs, but if I can only have one, it would have to be Jaja ding dong, which is the favourite of the locals in their home pub. Very more-ish that is. You can play it over and over again.

A Euro-evening with Mr Norton

We should have more of this. It was actually both fun and enjoyable. Unless that’s the same thing?

Last night’s replacement for Eurovision was far better than the real deal. I’d thought it would be, but it was good to be proven right. There was no avoiding Graham Norton, or Mr Norton, as he was addressed by the polite ladies in Rotterdam.

He behaved much better, most of the time. (But there is still room for improvement.) First we had the reminiscing of the past, playing an odd and partly predictable selection of oldies and occasionally goldies from the last 60+ years of Eurovision. It was nice to see [some of] them again. I remembered what my problem with ABBA in 1974 had been. Embarrassingly large group, embarrassing clothes, and the surprise of them suddenly singing in English. Plus the winning, except that wasn’t bad so much as a surprise. Katie Boyle looked like Mrs Thatcher’s prettier sister.

And then they won again, in Saturday’s ‘contest’. Daughter was torn between ABBA and Måns Zelmerlöw but luckily she was allowed to vote for more than one.

Then came the more ‘real’ Eurovision, with two hours of this year’s hopefuls, directed by three nice people in Rotterdam. It was lovely! I feel I got to know them so much better than through the ‘postcards’ they usually have. We saw many of them in their homes, and we enjoyed counting the pieces of IKEA furniture, or noting who seemed to have none.

We fell in love a couple of times; the lovely young Italian man and the charming cheeky chap in Austria among them. We’d not have seen any of this without the worldwide calamity that caused the change of programme.

Björn Ulvaeus appeared and spoke wise words as Eurovision’s grand old man. We discovered a UK winner from 1997 that neither of us remembers ever having heard or seen. It was good. And wow, hearing it sung by all the 2020 singers at the end..! Discovered a UK non-winner wearing an interesting dress, or vest, as I would call it. Again, a good song.

To finish a great evening, we had an hour of Eurovision A to Z presented by someone who looked like a Russian millionaire, with good teeth. That was fun, too. More memories to be revisited, and new ones made.

Four and a half hours later we rose from our armchairs, with some difficulty. Even the Resident IT Consultant had remained, and looked like he enjoyed it too. That’s never happened before.

Did you know Marie?

Marie Fredriksson on Instagram

A week ago as the first news about Marie Fredriksson having died filtered through my social media, I turned to the Resident IT Consultant and said ‘If I say Marie Fredriksson has died, would you know who I meant?’

Not surprisingly the answer was ‘no.’ Then I suppose it was my fault, for trying to explain that she had – for a time – lived in the house that Mother-of-witch really wanted to live in, that she was one half of Roxette, singing with Per Gessle from Gyllene Tider. None of this hinted at greatness.

Marie Fredriksson in the Guardian

Later the same day he said with surprise that she’d been mentioned on the radio (=Radio 4). And the next day her photo was on the front page of the Guardian, with another inside and a half page article.

Marie Fredriksson in the Guardian

By the weekend the Guardian also published an obituary, quoting among the people who would miss Marie, the King (of Sweden; not Elvis).

Marie Fredriksson in the Guardian

I reckon the Resident IT Consultant was a little bemused. And I realised I should have said that Marie was one half of Roxette, second in fame and success only to ABBA. (He’s heard of them.)

The thing is, to me – who didn’t follow popular music in the 1980s or 1990s – she was the ‘local’ singer who’d done really well. Where she came from came first, not so much where she went to. And as I mentioned over on Bookwitch, I was in Sweden when her illness had just been diagnosed 17 years ago, reading the sensationalist headlines in the tabloid press. And what upset me was the thought of her small children. Because the mothers at the local playgroup considered her nice and friendly; someone who always said hello, and was not stuck-up like many other people nearby.

It was nice knowing your music, Marie, even if I came to it late. And I’m relieved your children had time to grow a little older, even if longer still would have been preferable.

Poor Elvis

I struggled to think of something to watch on television the other night. I was alone, and could do what I wanted, but suddenly I could think of nothing. Dug out an episode of NCIS from last year, to see whether it was as bad as I remembered.

Then, as it ended, and the television turned onto BBC Four again, I discovered a sad old man playing the piano and singing. He looked a little like Elvis.

It was Elvis.

It looked like the programme was just starting, so I remained where I was, deciding I could watch this. It was really sad. Enlightening, too, but mostly sad.

I’m an age where Elvis always existed, and while I liked his singing, I had despised the way he kept embarrassing himself towards the end. That’s the folly of youth, for you.

Now I know what happened to him, and how this handsome man went downhill so fast in the end. I vaguely knew that the ‘colonel’ was not good for him, but had not really grasped quite how not good he was. Seems like Elvis was a slave, and like all slaves he clearly had a breaking point.

Having ignored most of the ghastly films, I was unaware of the effect these had had on Elvis. I mostly remember the music after, for a few years, before the poor man was made to perform like a monkey, day in and day out.

It’d be wrong to say it was an enjoyable programme, but it was good. Now I know better. And I was happy to ‘meet’ Roy Hamilton, Elvis’s singing hero. Perhaps I ought to find more accidental programmes.

Roger Whittaker is 83!

       Happy 83rd Birthday, Roger!

Roger Whittaker in Hanover 2007

The photo is from Hannover 2007. It’s hard to believe that’s twelve years ago.

I was trying to have my hair cut, when

the fans phoned. I’ve never forgotten the constant ringing of the bloody phone, but assumed it was ‘normal,’ somehow. And here I discover in this morning’s television interview with Gyllene Tider’s Per Gessle and Micke Andersson, that it’s not been commonly known… According to Micke his mother was furious. No, more like annoyed, I’d guess. Siv’s too nice to do furious. She had to hire someone just to answer the phone, because it seems the fans didn’t want to book themselves in for haircuts.

Sorry about the interview, by the way. It’s in Swedish. But you can still enjoy it. Per looks a little wrinkly, but Micke has his parents’ good looks. (I know, because he posted a photo of them on facebook last week, and they haven’t aged at all.)

I was too cool back then to have much interest in Gyllene Tider. And it’s weird to think they are now breaking up for the last time (?) and will set out on their 40th anniversary tour this summer. I suspect I will miss it, just as I have all the others. I don’t do crowds well, nor standing for hours.

I – almost – share their accent, and I believe them when they say that they were always a ‘good’ band. It’s what happens when you have cows outside your house.

Gyllene Tider

Farewell to Ray Sawyer

I was sorry to hear that Ray Sawyer died today. He was 81, which seems almost impossible when you think back to his image in earlier days.

Having been a great fan of Dr Hook & the Medicine Show decades ago, I liked both Dennis Locorriere and Ray. Both had gorgeous voices. Very different voices, but which made Dr Hook what they were.

I have always loved the solo album Ray recorded back then, even if in later years I was concerned about his view of women. But I decided you can like someone’s singing, and the song [the music] but still disagree with how women were portrayed in those songs.

I particularly like The One I’m Holding Now, while it illustrates what I say above.

Strauss at the Musikverein

A week ago the Austrians celebrated their National Day. Daughter and I very accidentally happened to be in Vienna just then and – less accidentally – wanted to have a closer look at the Musikverein than you get from our sofa in front of the television on New Year’s Day. We discovered there was a Strauss concert on that very morning, so booked tickets to go.

It was all we had hoped. The concert hall really is that golden, and they really do cram in as many chairs as they can, wherever they can. We had good chairs on the side, quite close to the stage.

Musikverein

The Musikverein is housed in one of many elegant buildings in Vienna, and it was pretty much as I’d expected. The ushers speak English, and were most helpful. There are wardrobes for coats and larger bags, and there I learned – from the woman on my right (who, incidentally arrived long after me) – that you can say ‘bitte’ and be very very rude. She certainly wasn’t going to wait for anyone else to deposit their stuff, thank you very much! It pleased me no end to discover her halfway down a rather long queue for the ladies’ toilets later on. There are not enough toilets, but this is understandable in an older building.

Plenty of bars, however, and the audience indulged in eating and drinking. I’ve always wondered how they get the audience in and out on time when we see them on television. I’m still wondering that.

We enjoyed the concert. The Wiener Johann Strauss Orchester is no Wiener Philharmoniker, but that was fine. Likewise, conductor Johannes Wildner was no Karajan, but a chatty, bubbly chap who told jokes between numbers. At least I think he did. People laughed. My Austrian German wasn’t up to such detail.

We began with the Overture to Die Fledermaus, through lots of Strauss tunes, ending with Auf der Jagd and An der schönen blauen Donau. Much stomping and clapping rewarded us with another polka and the Radetzky March, enabling us to leave on a high. Daughter hadn’t quite dared hope for the latter, so was very happy.

They offer tours of the Musikverein, but I’d say go to a concert instead if you can. It doesn’t have to be the New Year’s Day one. After all, I don’t expect people can leave on January 1st and proceed to have coffee outside in the sunshine.

Or maybe they can. It’s Vienna, after all.

Runrig farewell concert

When I read in the local paper last autumn that Runrig were going to play their farewell concert in Stirling, I thought nothing of it. Because I’d never heard of them.

It’s not as if stuff mentioned in the Stirling Observer tends to be world news, exactly. I simply saw that some unknown group were going to play here. Within days the concert sold out, which was surprising, but then maybe not. I could see that a few hundred or even a thousand people might be interested. Music is nice, after all.

Runrig, last concert

And now it seems that with a second concert added, we are doubling the town’s population for the weekend. 45 000 people are invading, some of them from Australia.

Once this fact had sunk in, I asked the Resident IT Consultant, who is not known for being cool, if he had heard of Runrig. Before all this broke lose, I mean. He had. Daughter had. And Son. So that just left me. It was suggested that living so long in England might be the reason, as the English aren’t fond of culture from north of the border.

I spent last night trying to ascertain who I should compare Runrig to, just to get a reliable measure of how famous they are. Not so much who else plays that kind of music, but simply the level of fame. I’m not sure we managed an answer to that, except a lot more famous than I’d thought.

Then asked what kind of music they play… So Daughter treated us to an impromptu Spotify concert on her phone.

Not bad, I suppose.

And we might not be one of the 45 000, but it appears we will be able to hear the concert if we open the windows. More, if we go for a short walk, but that would probably mean in the company of the rest of Stirling; the ones who don’t have tickets.