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Archive for December, 2015

In 1967 The Beatles had their fourth and last Xmas no. 1 with “Hello, Goodbye”. The B-side to this single was “I Am The Walrus”, which I personally prefer to the A-side. “Hello, Goodbye” was released on the 24th of November, perfect timing to try to get the Christmas number 1 slot. It is at number 100 in Rolling Stone Magazine’s list of the 100 greatest Beatles songs, but as I started at 50 in the countdown I am currently doing of this list, I have not yet blogged about it separately.

The cover of the Beatles single Hello,Goodbye which was the Christmas number 1 in 1967

The cover of the Beatles single “Hello,Goodbye” which was the Christmas number 1 in 1967

“Hello, Goodbye” spent 7 weeks at the top of the DUK singles charts. Here is a video of this song. Enjoy!

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In 1965, the Beatles had the UK Xmas number 1 with their double A-sided single “Day Tripper”/”We Can Work it Out”. I am a big fan of both of these songs, particularly “We Can Work it Out”. They were released on the 3rd of December, perfect timing to try to get the coveted no. 1 Christmas slot, which they succeeded in doing. I have blogged about “Day Tripper” here, as it is at number 39 in Rolling Stone Magazine’s list of the 100 greatest Beatles songs. “We Can Work it Out” is also in the list, but I am yet to blog about it in my countdown.

This double A-sided single was released on the 3rd of December 1965. It was number 1 for 5 weeks in total. Here is the cover of the UK release of the single.

The cover of the UK release of the double A-sided single Day Tripper/We Can Work it Out

The cover of the UK release of the double A-sided single Day Tripper/We Can Work it Out

Here is a video of “Day Tripper”. Enjoy!

Here is a video of “We Can Work it Out”. Enjoy!

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In 1964, the Beatles again had the number 1 single at Xmas in the UK. This time, it was “I Feel Fine”, which is one of my favourite Beatles songs from their early era. I have already blogged about this song here, as it is at number 42 in the Rolling Stone Magazine’s list of the 100 greatest Beatles songs.

The list of the Christmas number ones in the UK singles chart, during the period the Beatles were releasing singles

The list of the Christmas number ones in the UK singles chart, during the period the Beatles were releasing singles

“I Feel Fine” was released in the DUK on 27th of November 1964. It was at number 1 for a total of 5 weeks. I am not sure if the image below is the cover for the UK release of this single, but I really like it so thought I would use it, rather than all the other covers which I found when searching.

The Beatles had the 1964 Xmas number 1 in the UK with "I Feel Fine"

The Beatles had the 1964 Xmas number 1 in the UK with “I Feel Fine”

Baby’s good to me, you know
She’s happy as can be, you know
She said so
I’m in love with her and I feel fine

Baby says she’s mine, you know
She tells me all the time, you know
She said so
I’m in love with her and I feel fine

I’m so glad that she’s my little girl
She’s so glad, she’s telling all the world

That her baby buys her things, you know
He buys her diamond rings, you know
She said so
She’s in love with me and I feel fine, mmm

Baby says she’s mine, you know
She tells me all the time, you know
She said so
I’m in love with her and I feel fine

I’m so glad that she’s my little girl
She’s so glad, she’s telling all the world

That her baby buys her things, you know
He buys her diamond rings, you know
She said so
She’s in love with me and I feel fine
She’s in love with me and I feel fine, mmm, mmm

Here is a video of this great song. Enjoy!

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In the lead-up to Christmas, I thought I would do a series of blogposts about the 4 UK number ones the Beatles had at Christmas. More so than in the USA, the number 1 at Xmas is quite a big thing in the DUK, and the Beatles were keen to have that slot each year. They succeeded in 1963, 1964, 1965 and 1967. In 1966 they did not release a single after the August release of double A-sided “Yellow Submarine/Eleanor Rigby”, in 1968 their last single release of the year was “Hey Jude”, which was released in August, and in 1969 their last release of the year was the double A-sided “Come Together/Something”, which was released in late October. So, it would seem that in the years where they released a single for the Christmas number 1 slot, they succeeded.

The 1963 song they had at number 1 was “I Want to Hold Your Hand”, so that is the song I will include today. “I want to Hold Your Hand” was released in the DUK on 29th of November 1963. It was at number 1 for 5 weeks in total, and in fact took over the number 1 slot from “She Loves You”.

The list of the Christmas number ones in the UK singles chart, during the period the Beatles were releasing singles

The list of the Christmas number ones in the UK singles chart, during the period the Beatles were releasing singles

This is, I believe, the cover for the UK single release, but I may be mistaken. Does anyone know?

"I Want to Hold Your Hand" was the Beatles' first Christmas number 1 in the UK.

“I Want to Hold Your Hand” was the Beatles’ first Christmas number 1 in the UK.

I will be blogging about this song again in my countdown of the 100 greatest Beatles songs as listed by Rolling Stone Magazine, so I won’t include the details of the song or its lyrics here. But, here is a video!

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At number 19 in Rolling Stone Magazine’s list of the 100 greatest songwriters is Jeff Barry and Ellie Greenwich. Now, I have to admit, before putting this blog together I would not have been able to name any songs written by this pair, I was unfamiliar with their names. I am not sure why this is, as I had certainly heard of Leiber and Stoller, another songwriting pair who wrote many hit songs for various artists (and who are at number 20 in this list, see here). But, as soon as I looked up some of the songs which Barry and Greenwich had written I knew many of them, they are one of the most prolific songwriting teams of the early 1960s.

Their hits include “Be My Baby” and “Baby, I Love You” by The Ronettes, “Then He Kissed Me” and “Da Doo Ron Ron” by The Crystals, “River Deep – Mountain High” by Ike and Tina Turner, and “Do Wah Diddy Diddy” which was a number 1 hit for Manfred Mann on both sides of the Atlantic. Greenwich and Barry also wrote the Shangri-Las’ hit “Leader of the Pack”, amongst many others.

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At number 19 in Rolling Stone Magazine’s list of the 100 greatest songwriters of all time is Ellie Greenwich and Jeff Barry.

Barry and Greenwich met in late 1959. By this time Barry had recorded a few singles for the RCA label, and co-wrote the song “Tell Laura I Love Her” with lyricist Ben Raleigh (which was a hit for Ray Peterson in 1960). Barry and Greenwich shared a mutual passion for music, but their professional relationship eventually became a romantic one too, and they married in October 1962. Unlike Leiber and Stoller, it would seem that Barry and Greenwich’s songwriting partnership involved both writing both melodies and lyrics. Barry and Greenwich’s marriage ended in late 1965, but they continued to work together throughout much of 1966.

The song I have decided to include in this blogpost is the one which propelled Manfred Mann to stardom, “Do Wah Diddy Diddy”. This was released by Manfred Mann in July of 1964, although it was originally recorded by an American vocal group called The Exciters. Here are the lyrics to this great song.

There she was just walkin’ down the street
Singin’, “Do wah diddy, diddy, dum diddy do”
Snappin’ her fingers and shufflin’ her feet
Singin’, “Do wah diddy diddy, dum diddy do”

She looked good, she looked fine
(Looked good, looked fine)
She looked good, she looked fine
And I nearly lost my mind

Before I knew it she was walkin’ next to me
Singin’, “Do wah diddy diddy, dum diddy do”
Holdin’ my hand just as natural as can be
Singin’, “Do wah diddy diddy, dum diddy do”

We walked on to my door
(Walked on, my door)
We walked on to my door
Then we kissed a little more

Whoa, oh
I knew we was falling in love
Yes, I did and so I told her
All the things, I’d been dreamin’ of

Now we’re together nearly every single day
Singin’, “Do wah diddy diddy, dum diddy do”
We’re so happy and that’s how we’re gonna stay
Singin’, “Do wah diddy diddy, dum diddy do”

Well, I’m hers, she’s mine
(I’m hers, she’s mine)
I’m hers, she’s mine
Wedding bells are gonna chime

Whoa, oh
I knew we was falling in love
Yes, I did and so I told her
All the things, I’d been dreamin’ of

Now we’re together nearly every single day
Singin’, “Do wah diddy diddy, dum diddy do”
We’re so happy and that’s how we’re gonna stay,
Singin’, “Do wah diddy diddy, dum diddy do”

Well, I’m hers, she’s mine
(I’m hers, she’s mine)
I’m hers, she’s mine
Wedding bells are gonna chime

Whoa, oh, oh, oh, oh yeah
Do wah diddy diddy, dum diddy do, we’ll sing it
Do wah diddy diddy, dum diddy do
Do wah diddy diddy, dum diddy do

And, here is a video of Manfred Mann performing their first number 1 hit.

Which is your favourite song by this prolific songwriting pair?

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The European Space Agency’s JUICE mission to Jupiter moved a step closer recently with the signing of an important contract between ESA and Airbus. JUICE stands for JUpiter ICy moon Explorer, and is an ESA mission to send a probe to explore Jupiter and her moons, with a launch date of 2022 and an arrival at Jupiter in 2029. The contract signed with Airbus will see them lead the development and construction of this satellite. There will also be some involvement from NASA and the Japanese space agency JAXA.

Upon arrival at Jupiter, JUICE will manoeuvre to achieve close passes of its moons Callisto and Europa, before settling into orbit about its largest moon Ganymede. Ganymede, together with Europa and possibly Callisto, is believed to have a liquid ocean beneath an icy crust.

 

SafariScreenSnapz002

Airbus have recently signed a contract with the European Space Agency (ESA) to lead the construction of JUICE, a probe which will be sent in 2022 to study Jupiter’s moons.

The main focus of the JUICE mission will be to see how habitable Ganymede is for microbial life. With liquid water, and heating from the tides caused by Jupiter’s tides, Ganymede, Europa and Callisto are believed to be amongst the most likely places in our solar system for life to have developed. Longer term plans are to build a probe which will be able to burrow through the icy crust of one of these moons and actually look directly for life in their oceans.

 

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At number 35 in Rolling Stone Magazine’s list of the 100 greatest Beatles songs is “Paperback Writer”. This song was written mainly by Paul McCartney, with some contribution from John Lennon, but as usual is credited as Lennon-McCartney, as all their songs were during the Beatles period. It was recorded in April 1966, and released as a single in May (USA) and June (DUK) of the same year. It was the A-side of the single, with the B-side being Lennon’s “Rain”.

To be honest, this is not one of my favourite Beatles songs. In fact, I much prefer “Rain”, it is a far more inventive and interesting song in my opinion. Although “only” a B-side, “Rain” also features in the Rolling Stone Magazine’s list of the 100 greatest Beatles songs, at number 88.

At number 35 in Rolling Stone Magazine's list of the 100 greatest Beatles songs is "Paperback Writer".

At number 35 in Rolling Stone Magazine’s list of the 100 greatest Beatles songs is “Paperback Writer”.

If you read the caption to the song, George Martin (their producer) certainly praises the song highly. But, as I say, this is one of my least favourite songs of theirs from 1966, and I am a much bigger fan of the more psychedelic “Rain”, the B-side to this single.

 

Dear Sir or Madam, will you read my book?
It took me years to write, will you take a look?
It’s based on a novel by a man named Lear
And I need a job, so I want to be a paperback writer
Paperback writer

It’s the dirty story of a dirty man
And his clinging wife doesn’t understand
His son is working for the Daily Mail
It’s a steady job but he wants to be a paperback writer
Paperback writer

Paperback writer

It’s a thousand pages, give or take a few
I’ll be writing more in a week or two
I can make it longer if you like the style
I can change it round and I want to be a paperback writer
Paperback writer

If you really like it you can have the rights
It could make a million for you overnight
If you must return it, you can send it here
But I need a break and I want to be a paperback writer
Paperback writer

Paperback writer

Paperback writer, paperback writer
Paperback writer, paperback writer
Paperback writer, paperback writer
Paperback writer, paperback writer (fade out)

 

The first video I have included here is the entire song.

But, this second video is a colour video of the Beatles performing the song. They were one of the first bands to release videos, as they did not have time to make live appearances to promote their songs on TV shows. Unfortunately, this YouTube clip is not the entire video, just the first minute of the song.

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With winter (in the Northern Hemisphere) approaching, I thought it was about time I gave a summary of which planets are visible over the next few months. The longer nights, enabling easier viewing of the night-time sky, is one of the few pluses about this time of year as far as I am concerned. So, which planets are visible this winter (2015/16)?

The times I will give for various planets rising or setting are for Cardiff, where I live. So, if you are living elsewhere the times will almost certainly be different. Obviously, if you are living in the southern hemisphere you are about to move into summer not winter. But, although times may vary depending on your location; whether a planet is visible or not, and whether it is visible in the evening after sunset or in the morning before sunrise will not be different.

Of the 5 naked-eye planets, all but Saturn are visible this winter. Here is more detail about each.

Mercury

Mercury is currently in Sagittarius, rising before the Sun and thus setting after the Sun. So, it is currently an evening object. It reaches maximum elongation on the 29 December when it will be 25^{\circ} to the East of the Sun, and on this day it will set in Cardiff at 17:43. The Sun sets on this day at 16:11 in Cardiff, giving some 1.5 hours after sunset to see Mercury. Although these setting times will vary depending on your location, what will not vary is the time between sunset and Mercury setting, which will be about 1.5 hours no matter where you live.

1.5 hours between sunset and Mercury setting it very good. Mercury is rarely this far from the Sun; so for those of you who have never seen Mercury, this month of December provides a very good chance. Find a view to the western horizon which is uninterrupted and away from city lights, and use the chart below to find Mercury. It will be reasonably bright, at a magnitude of -0.5.

Mercury just after sunset as seen from Cardiff on 29 December 2015. This month is a good month to see Mercury, as its maximum eastern elongation (the maximum angle between it and the Sun) is nearly as large as it can ever be. There are no bright stars near Mercury at the end of December.

Mercury will reach inferior conjunction on 14 January, whereupon it will reappear as a morning object later in January and February.

Venus

Venus is currently in Libra. It is a morning object, very bright before sunrise. At a magnitude of -4.1 you cannot fail to see it. It will reach maximum western elongation on 12 January. You can see it in the diagram below of the sky before sunrise, which also shows where to find Mars and Jupiter. Venus will be visible as a morning object throughout this winter and into the spring.

Mars

Mars is currently in Virgo. It is rising at the end of December just after 2am, so is a morning object. In fact, it can be seen in the morning sky along with Venus and Jupiter throughout much of the winter, as the diagram below shows. At the end of December it has a magnitude of +1.3, fainter than nearby Spica, which is at +1.05. Mars will reach opposition on 22 May, by which time it will have brightened to -2.1, so some 23 times brighter; making April, May and June by far the best time to see this planet.

The morning sky at the end of December as seen from Cardiff. Venus, Mars and Jupiter are all visible in the morning sky this winter. Jupiter and Venus are easy to find as they are so bright. Mars is a little trickier, but will brighten as it approaches opposition in the spring

Jupiter

Jupiter is in Leo, and is also currently a morning object. At the end of December it rises just before 11pm. It will be at opposition in early March (8 March), and so in late winter and spring it will be an evening object, but for most of this winter it is better seen in the morning before sunrise.

I like it when one can see Jupiter and Venus at the same time, as it allows one to see how much brighter Venus is than Jupiter. Normally Jupiter is the brightest point-like object in the sky, but when Venus is visible it outshines Jupiter by a factor of 6 or so.

Saturn

Saturn is currently in Ophiuchus, and this winter is not the time to see Saturn. It will reach opposition in early June (3 June), so spring and summer are the best times to see Saturn in 2016 and over the next few years. It will not become a winter object again for another 14 years or so.

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At number 20 in Rolling Stone Magazine’s list of the 100 greatest songwriters is Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller. This songwriting pair have written some of the best known songs in rock ‘n’ roll, including “Hound Dog”, “Jailhouse Rock”, “Yakety Yak”, and “Stand By Me” (which they co-wrote with Ben E. King).

Unlike the songwriting partnership of Lennon and McCartney, where both wrote melodies and lyrics, Leiber and Stoller’s partnership was more traditional, in that Leiber wrote the lyrics and Stoller the melodies (this was also the case for e.g. “Gilbert and Sullivan” and “Rodgers and Hammerstein”). Leiber and Stoller met in Los Angeles in 1950, and found that they shared a love of blues and rhythm and blues music. They began collaborating in the same year, and continued to work together for the best part of 50 years.

At number 20 in Rolling Stone Magazine's list of the 100 greatest songwriters of all time is Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller.

At number 20 in Rolling Stone Magazine’s list of the 100 greatest songwriters of all time is Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller.

The song of theirs that I have decided to share in this blogpost is “Jailhouse Rock”, which they specifically wrote in 1957 as the title song for Elvis Presley’s third movie. The song became a massive hit for Presley, reaching number 1 in the US singles charts. It has sold over 2 million copies world-wide, and is at number 67 in Rolling Stone Magazine’s list of the 500 greatest songs of all time.

 

The warden threw a party in the county jail.
The prison band was there and they began to wail.
The band was jumpin’ and the joint began to swing.
You should’ve heard those knocked out jailbirds sing.
Let’s rock, everybody, let’s rock.
Everybody in the whole cell block
was dancin’ to the Jailhouse Rock.

Spider Murphy played the tenor saxophone,
Little Joe was blowin’ on the slide trombone.
The drummer boy from Illinois went crash, boom, bang,
the whole rhythm section was the Purple Gang.
Let’s rock, everybody, let’s rock.
Everybody in the whole cell block
was dancin’ to the Jailhouse Rock.

Number forty-seven said to number three:
“You’re the cutest jailbird I ever did see.
I sure would be delighted with your company,
come on and do the Jailhouse Rock with me.”
Let’s rock, everybody, let’s rock.
Everybody in the whole cell block
was dancin’ to the Jailhouse Rock.

The sad sack was a sittin’ on a block of stone
way over in the corner weepin’ all alone.
The warden said, “Hey, buddy, don’t you be no square.
If you can’t find a partner use a wooden chair.”
Let’s rock, everybody, let’s rock.
Everybody in the whole cell block
was dancin’ to the Jailhouse Rock.

Shifty Henry said to Bugs, “For Heaven’s sake,
no one’s lookin’, now’s our chance to make a break.”
Bugsy turned to Shifty and he said, “Nix nix,
I wanna stick around a while and get my kicks.”
Let’s rock, everybody, let’s rock.
Everybody in the whole cell block
was dancin’ to the Jailhouse Rock.

 

Here is Elvis Presley’s memorable “Jailhouse Rock” video. Enjoy!

Which is your favourite Leiber and Stoller song?

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NASA has recently released some new images taken by its New Horizons probe which flew past Pluto in mid-July. These new images show unprecedented detail of the varying terrain on this distant world.  At its closest, New Horizons flew within about 12,500 km of the surface of Pluto, giving us our first ever close-up view of this dwarf planet. But, in order to save power, the transmitter on board sends the data back quite slowly, so data will be coming in well into 2016. Below are some of the latest images.

 

NASA’s New Horizons probe shows unprecedented details on Pluto’s surface, including mountains and planes

  

NASA’s New Horizons probe shows craters on the surface of Pluto


 

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