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Archive for January, 2016

At number 32 in Rolling Stone Magazine’s list of the 100 greatest Beatles songs is “Penny Lane”. This song was released in February 1967 on a double-A sided single along with “Strawberry Fields Forever”. “Penny Lane” is a Paul McCartney composition, with “Strawberry Fields Forever” being a John Lennon composition.

McCartney wrote it as a reaction to Lennon’s song, wanting to show that he too could write about their childhood in Liverpool, just as Lennon had done so wonderfully in “Strawberry Fields Forever”. This competitiveness against each other inspired each to greater heights throughout their time in the Beatles.

“Penny Lane” relates scenes from an actual street in Liverpool, a street which McCartney would walk or take a bus along on a regular basis. If you go on the Beatles tour in Liverpool the tour bus will take you along Penny Lane and you see the barber shop and the bank and other landmarks mentioned in the song.

At number 32 in Rolling Stone Magazine's list of the 100 greatest Beatles songs is "Penny Lane".

At number 32 in Rolling Stone Magazine’s list of the 100 greatest Beatles songs is “Penny Lane”.

Penny Lane there is a barber showing photographs
Of every head he’s had the pleasure to know.
And all the people that come and go
Stop and say “Hello”.

On the corner is a banker with a motorcar,
And little children laugh at him behind his back.
And the banker never wears a mac
In the pouring rain, very strange.

Penny Lane is in my ears and in my eyes.
There beneath the blue suburban skies
I sit, and meanwhile back
In Penny Lane there is a fireman with an hourglass,
And in his pocket is a portrait of the Queen.
He likes to keep his fire engine clean,
It’s a clean machine.

Penny Lane is in my ears and in my eyes.
A four of fish and finger pies
In summer. Meanwhile back
Behind the shelter in the middle of the roundabout
The pretty nurse is selling poppies from a tray.
And though she feels as if she’s in a play,
She is anyway.

In Penny Lane the barber shaves another customer,
We see the banker sitting waiting for a trim,
And then the fireman rushes in
From the pouring rain – very strange.

Penny Lane is in my ears and in my eyes.
There beneath the blue suburban skies
I sit, and meanwhile back.
Penny Lane is in my ears and in my eyes.
There beneath the blue suburban skies
Penny Lane!

“Penny Lane” is one of my favourite McCartney songs. Its lyrics create a wonderfully vivid image of some of the characters from McCartney’s childhood in Liverpool, and melodically it shows the increasing complexity in the Beatles’ songs.

Here is a video of one of this evocative song. Enjoy!

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Last week I blogged twice about the unexpected death of David Bowie on the 10th of January, at the age of 69 from stomach cancer. In part 1 of this blog (see here), I mentioned that I would be posting a second part but would have to wait until I got back to Cardiff. Well, I have managed to track down the video which I wanted to post in the second part; I thought I was going to have to rip the relevant part from my own DVD collection.

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David Bowie performing at Live Aid in July 1985

The clip comes from Bowie’s performance at Live Aid in July 1985. I was lucky enough to be at the Live Aid concert in Wembley Stadium, and Bowie had the same 4 or 5-song slot as the other major artists (see below). He was scheduled between Queen and The Who. Queen, with the charisma of Freddie Mercury, had whooped the crowd up into a high state of frenzy, and Bowie  continued this with a very dynamic set, ‘TVC 15’, then ‘Rebel Rebel’, ‘Modern Love’ and ‘Heroes’.

But, as he finished ‘Heroes’, with the crowd all enjoying themselves in the glorious weather, he decided to forsake his fifth song. Instead, he introduced this harrowing video to remind everyone why we were there – to raise money for people starving unnecessarily in Ethiopia. The footage had recently been taken by a film crew from the Canadian Broadcast Company (CBC).

David Bowie’s set list at Live Aid

To say that the mood of the 100,000 people at Wembley Stadium changed in a few seconds would be an understatement. I have never seen so many people weep simultaneously as the images played before us; images of a famine which had shocked the western world so much over the previous 6-7 months. As a stroke of genius, the images were shown to the eery and moving accompaniment of the Cars’ hit song ‘Drive’.

Bowie, not needing the publicity that a Live Aid performance was giving to many artists, decided we all needed to be reminded of why we were really there.

I cannot say “enjoy”, as this video is not enjoyable. But, it is very moving.


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I am currently in the United States, and today is Martin Luther King day, a Federal holiday. MLK day is always the third Monday in January, and is to celebrate the birthday and life of one of America’s most important public figures.  King was born on January 15, so the 3rd Monday in January is always near his birthday.

The holiday was made a Federal holiday by President Reagan in 1983, and it was celebrated for the first time as a Federal holiday in 1986 (although some states were already celebrating it). The signing by Reagan creating the MLK day was after many years of campaigning, and the song I have decided to include today by Stevie Wonder was part of that campaign.

Martin Luther King at the March on Washington in 1963, where he gave his famous "I have a dream" speech.

Martin Luther King at the March on Washington in 1963, where he gave his famous “I have a dream” speech.

You know it doesn’t make much sense
There ought to be a law against
Anyone who takes offense
At a day in your celebration
Cause we all know in our minds
That there ought to be a time
That we can set aside
To show just how much we love you
And I’m sure you would agree
It couldn’t fit more perfectly
Than to have a world party on the day you came to be

Happy birthday to you
Happy birthday to you
Happy birthday

Happy birthday to you
Happy birthday to you
Happy birthday

I just never understood
How a man who died for good
Could not have a day that would
Be set aside for his recognition
Because it should never be
Just because some cannot see
The dream as clear as he
that they should make it become an illusion
And we all know everything
That he stood for time will bring
For in peace our hearts will sing
Thanks to Martin Luther King

Happy birthday to you
Happy birthday to you
Happy birthday

Happy birthday to you
Happy birthday to you
Happy birthday

Why has there never been a holiday
Where peace is celebrated
all throughout the world

The time is overdue
For people like me and you
Who know the way to truth
Is love and unity to all God’s children
It should be a great event
And the whole day should be spent
In full remembrance
Of those who lived and died for the oneness of all people
So let us all begin
We know that love can win
Let it out don’t hold it in
Sing it loud as you can

Happy birthday to you
Happy birthday to you
Happy birthday
Happy birthday to you
Happy birthday to you
Happy birthday
Happy birthday to you
Happy birthday to you
Happy birthday
Happy birthday to you
Happy birthday to you
Happy birthday
Happy birthday
Happy birthday
Happy birthday
Ooh yeah
Happy birthday…

We know the key to unify all people
Is in the dream that you had so long ago
That lives in all of the hearts of people
That believe in unity
We’ll make the dream become a reality
I know we will
Because our hearts tell us so

Here is the video of this wonderful song. Enjoy!

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On Monday I blogged about the death of David Bowie, who died on Sunday (10th of January) of liver cancer at the age of 69. I wanted to put something up quickly, so that blog I wrote on Monday was written within 15-20 minutes of hearing the news of his death. I actually heard it breaking at 7am Greenwich Mean Time, I had been listening to the radio since about 6am.

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Now I have had a few days to collect my thoughts, I have decided I will do a more detailed and complete blogpost about his death. In fact, this will be a two-part blog, on the 26th I will do a part 2, as I need to get back home to Cardiff to access something about Bowie which I want to share in the second part.

When the news broke of his death I was overcome with a profound sadness, the most sad I have felt about the death of a singer or celebrity since the tragic killing of John Lennon in 1980. This reaction surprised me, but as they were playing Bowie’s songs on the radio throughout the morning I realised that Bowie’s music had been the soundtrack to my teenage years. I always preferred 60s music when I was growing up in the 1970s but, of all the music being produced in the 1970s,  it was Bowie and Queen’s music that I liked the most. As they played song after song of Bowie’s on Monday morning, I wept for the memory of my teenage years.

I also got emotional thinking about the strong connection that Bowie had with John Lennon, who was (and still remains) my music hero. When I read Yoko Ono’s tribute to Bowie I could not contain my tears. This is what she said (you can read it on her webpage here).

John and David respected each other. They were well matched in intellect and talent. As John and I had very few friends we felt David was as close as family.

After John died, David was always there for Sean and me. When Sean was at boarding school in Switzerland, David would pick him up and take him on trips to museums and let Sean hang out at his recording studio in Geneva.

For Sean this is losing another father figure. It will be hard for him, I  know. But we have some sweet memories which will stay with us forever.

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Another very moving tribute was tweeted by Iggy Pop

David’s friendship was the light of my life. I never met such a brilliant person. He was the best there is.

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Bowie was probably the artist of anyone I can think of who changed most frequently throughout his career. The chameleon of pop. He was, by his own admission, a very restless person (in fact he put it down to Attention Deficit Disorder). He would quickly get bored with one incarnation and changed to something different. I didn’t like all of his incarnations, particularly his heavy metal ‘Tin Men’ phase; but I liked many of his ever-changing styles.

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Here is a small gallery of some of his incarnations. From hippy to Major Tom, to Ziggy Stardust to Aladdin Sane to the Thin White Duke and his  ‘Let’s Dance’ period, he was the consummate restless artist. And, he will be sorely missed.

It would be wonderful to think that Bowie has reunited with his dear friend John Lennon and that they have been catching up, since last seeing each other the week before Lennon was murdered in December 1980.

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At number 33 in  Rolling Stone Magazine’s list of the 100 greatest Beatles songs is “I Am the Walrus”. This song was released as the B-side of the single “Hello Goodbye” in November 1967; that song was the 1967 Christmas  number 1 as I blogged about here. As I said in that blog, I much prefer “I Am the Walrus” to the more commercial “Hello Goodbye”, it is far more inventive and interesting to me.

The title comes from Lewis Carroll’s poem “The Walrus and the Carpenter”,  but is really just a series of nonsense imagery and word-play. And, of course, the insertion by producer George Martin of a random part of a radio play which was being broadcast at the time on the BBC.

At number 33 in Rolling Stone Magazine's list of the 100 greatest Beatles songs is "I Am the Walrus".

At number 33 in Rolling Stone Magazine’s list of the 100 greatest Beatles songs is “I Am the Walrus”.

I am he as you are he as you are me and we are all together.
See how they run like pigs from a gun, see how they fly.
I’m crying.

Sitting on a cornflake, waiting for the van to come.
Corporation tee-shirt, stupid bloody Tuesday.
Man, you been a naughty boy, you let your face grow long.
I am the egg man, they are the egg men.
I am the walrus, coo coo cachoo

Mister City Policeman sitting
Pretty little policemen in a row.
See how they fly like Lucy in the Sky, see how they run.
I’m crying, I’m crying.
I’m crying, I’m crying.

Yellow matter custard, dripping from a dead dog’s eye.
Crabalocker fishwife, pornographic priestess,
Boy, you been a naughty girl you let your knickers down.
I am the eggman, they are the eggmen.
I am the walrus, coo coo cachoo

Sitting in an English garden waiting for the sun.
If the sun don’t come, you get a tan
From standing in the English rain.
I am the egg man, they are the egg men.
I am the walrus, coo coo cachoo ca coo coo cachoo

Expert text pert choking smokers,
Don’t you think the joker laughs at you?
See how they smile like pigs in a sty,
See how they snide.
I’m crying.

Semolina pilchard, climbing up the Eiffel Tower.
Elementary penguin singing Hari Krishna.
Man, you should have seen them kicking Edgar Allan Poe.
I am the egg man, they are the egg men.
I am the walrus, coo coo cachoo ca coo coo cachoo. Coo coo cachou ca coo.

“I Am the Walrus” featured in the Beatles’ made-for-TV movie The Magical Mystery Tour, which was broadcast for the first time on Boxing Day 1967 (26 December). The movie was initially broadcast on BBC1 in black and white, even though colour played a vital part in the movie’s psychedelic feel. It was broadcast in colour a few days later on BBC2, but most people in the Disunited Kingdom at the time did not have colour TVs. Magical Mystery Tour was universally slated by both the public and professional critics, probably the first time a Beatles release had seen such a negative reception.

“I Am the Walrus” is one  of the highlights of the movie in my opinion, with a wonderfully bizarre video to match the song’s nonsense lyrics. Here is part of that psychedelic video for you. The full video does not seem to be available, presumably it has been removed from YouTube for copyright reasons.

Here is a video of the whole song, with just the lyrics.

 

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BICEP3 Cometh…

Generation 3 come the…….

In the Dark

Back in the office after the Christmas and New Year break, with a mountain of stuff to work through..

Anyway, I saw this paper on the arXiv yesterday and thoought I’d share it here. It’s from a paper by Wu et al. entitled Initial Performance of BICEP3: A Degree Angular Scale 95 GHz Band Polarimeter.  The abstract follows:

BICEP3 is a 550 mm aperture telescope with cold, on-axis, refractive optics designed to observe at the 95 GHz band from the South Pole. It is the newest member of the BICEP/Keck family of inflationary probes specifically designed to measure the polarization of the cosmic microwave background (CMB) at degree-angular scales. BICEP3 is designed to house 1280 dual-polarization pixels, which, when fully-populated, totals to 9× the number of pixels in a single Keck 95 GHz receiver, thus further advancing the BICEP/Keck program’s

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RIP David Bowie

I’ve just heard the sad news that David Bowie has died. The term ‘legend’ is overused, but Bowie was a true legend of music. One of the most influential and innovative artists of the last 60 years. 

 

I can’t think of a more appropriate one of his many wonderful songs to share than “Heroes” 

I, I will be king
And you, you will be queen
Though nothing will drive them away
We can beat them, just for one day

We can be Heroes, just for one day
And you, you can be mean

And I, I’ll drink all the time
‘Cause we’re lovers, and that is a fact
Yes we’re lovers, and that is that
Though nothing, will keep us together

We could steal time just for one day
We can be Heroes, for ever and ever

What d’you say?
I, I wish you could swim
Like the dolphins, like dolphins can swim
Though nothing,
nothing will keep us together

We can beat them, for ever and ever
Oh we can be Heroes,
just for one day

I, I will be king
And you, you will be queen
Though nothing will drive them away

We can be Heroes, just for one day
We can be us, just for one day
I, I can remember (I remember)

Standing, by the wall (by the wall)
And the guns shot above our heads
(over our heads)

And we kissed,
as though nothing could fall
(nothing could fall)
And the shame was on the other side
Oh we can beat them, for ever and ever

Then we could be Heroes,
just for one day
We can be Heroes
We can be Heroes
We can be Heroes
Just for one day

We can be Heroes
We’re nothing, and nothing will help us

Maybe we’re lying,
then you better not stay
But we could be safer,
just for one day
Oh-oh-oh-ohh, oh-oh-oh-ohh
just for one day



RIP David Bowie. And thank you for the music


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