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Ursula Le Guin

I’ve just looked at the Locus website and discovered to my deep sadness that Ursula Le Guin has died.

She was one of the greats of Science Fiction and Fantasy and will be sorely missed.

Probably most famous for her “Earthsea” series of books she first came to my attention in the 1960s. I cannot now remember which book of hers I read first but I think it must have been the acclaimed The Left Hand of Darkness. I went on to scour bookshops for her work. I confess I wasn’t as impressed (in my relative youth) by the even more critically praised The Dispossessed – I probably hadn’t enough life experience then to appreciate it fully – but since those days her fiction has always been the background to my SF reading life, my anticipation of each new book never disappointed by its content.

Most recently I always enjoyed her book reviews for The Guardian, which showed a mind as sharp and incisive as ever.

Tonight the world – the universe – feels like a much smaller place.

Ursula Kroeber Le Guin: 21/10/1929 – 22/1/2018. So it goes.

Friday on my Mind 163: Poupée de Cire, Poupée de Son/Les Sucettes. RIP France Gall

France Gall who has died recently won the Eurovision Song Contest for Luxembourg in 1965. She was French as was the song’s composer Serge Gainsbourg. I blieve this video is of her performance on the night.

France Gall: Poupée de Cire Poupée de Son

Gall was apparently the subject of a particularly cruel trick by Gainsbourg when he persuaded her to record the song Les Sucettes (Lollipops) about whose double meaning Gall claims she was unaware. (Though the Guardian obituary linked to above says that when requested to lick one for a TV performance, she declined.) The film below makes the lyric’s inference obvious.

France Gall: Les Sucettes

This video outlines the story, along with Gall’s viewpoint.

Isabelle Geneviève Marie Anne “France” Gall: 9/10/1947 – 7/1/2018. So it goes.

Not Friday on my Mind 49: Legend of a Mind. RIP Ray Thomas

Ray Thomas, who died this week was a multi-instrumentalist not very well-served by most of the time on stage with The Moody Blues merely flourishing a tambourine or otherwise not seeming to do very much. That perception would be to undervalue him greatly.

It was his contribution as a flautist where he really counted, a contribution that only added to the already distinctive sound of the band. As a flautist in a rock band he was for a while unique. (Ian Anderson of Jethro Tull came along later as did Peter Gabriel with Genesis.) That flute embellished mightily the power of Nights in White Satin, the song which became emblematic of the revamped Moody Blues.

A founder member of the band in its first (bluesy) incarnation – Go Now etc – his solid bass voice enhanced the vocal harmonies which were so much a part of the re-incarnated band’s sound.

For some odd reason there seemed to be a regular order of song-writers in those early albums by the “new” Moodies with Thomas always having song three* on side one as one of his spots.

Among his songs were Another Morning*, Twilight Time, Dr Livingstone, I Presume?*, Dear Diary*, Lazy Day, Floating*, Eternity Road, with his collaborations with Justin Hayward, Visions of Paradise and Are You Sitting Comfortably? being especially memorable.

It was song five, side one on In Search of the Lost Chord, though, that was his apotheosis. That song was Legend of a Mind with a lyric about Timothy Leary and supposed mind expansion, “Timothy’ Leary’s dead, No, no, no, no, he’s outside looking in.” Apparently Leary once told Thomas the song made him more famous than anything he had ever done for himself.

But who needed drugs when music itself could be this transportive?

Here’s a promotional film for Legend of a Mind made around the time of its first release. Thomas’s flute solo here is sublime.

The Moody Blues: Legend of a Mind

Ray Thomas: 29/12/1941 – 4/1/2018. So it goes. Thanks for the trips round the bay.

Friday on my Mind 162: The Rain, the Park and Other Things

I mentioned the Cowsills a few weeks ago. They never had a hit in Britain but had more success in the US of which this song was the breakthrough single.

The group was apparently the inspiration for The Partridge Family.

The Cowsills: The Rain, The Park and Other Things

Here’s a rather impressive live version recorded in 2013.

The Cowsills: The Rain, The Park and Other Things

Not Friday on my Mind 48: I Am a Rock

“A winter’s day/In a deep and dark December.”

Today is just about as deep and dark as December gets.

So here’s a song about darkness in the soul.

Simon and Garfunkel: I Am a Rock

Friday on my Mind 161: Retiens La Nuit: Que Je T’aime – RIP Johnny Hallyday

Johnny Hallyday is perhaps the biggest rock and roll star you’ll never have heard of. Huge in the Francophone world and beyond, but not in the Anglophone sphere. He died this week.

His first hits were in the early 1960s – two French no. 1s with a cover of Chubby Checker’s Let’s Twist Again under the French title Viens Danser Le Twist and Retiens La Nuit. They sound like early 1960 songs. The less said about Viens Danser Le Twist perhaps the better but here’s Retiens La Nuit.

Johnny Hallyday: Retiens La Nuit

A more typically French sound is Que Je T’aime from 1969 but it still has late 1960s hallmarks with Eurovision overtones.

Johnny Hallyday: Que Je T’aime

Hallyday’s career was long but he had to wait till the 2000s for his next no 1s, two in 2002, one each in 2005, 2006 and 2007.

This is a montage of various live performances of Gabrielle showing he could rock it up with the best of them.

Johnny Hallyday: Gabrielle

Johnny Hallyday (Jean-Philippe Léo Smet): 15/6/1943 – 6/12/2017. So it goes.

Rodney Bewes

So farewell, then, Rodney Bewes.

He was most famous as one of The Likely Lads in the 1960s TV series of the same name. Of the twenty episodes braodcast only eight survive of which the following is one.

It was fondly remembered and a sequel series Whatever Happened to the Likely Lads? was broadcast in the 1970s. (I featured its theme tune here.)

In between these two series I remember Bewes appearing with Basil Brush as “Mr Rodney”.

Unlike his co-star as a Likely Lad, James Bolam, Bewes never quite managed to escape the shadow of his character, Bob Ferris, in the public consciousness, though he worked extensively on stage.

Rodney Bewes: 27/11/1937 – 21/11/2017. So it goes.

Friday on my Mind 160: Happy Together

The Turtles were one of those male vocal groups the US seemed to produce so easily in the mid-60s. The Association and The Cowsills also spring to mind along with The Happenings. The Beach Boys, however, were always a cut above the rest.

Their name had an unfortunate resonance with the US label they signed for, White Whale, and they feared they might be thought of as a novelty group as a result. There were no such problems in the UK on London American.

The single of Happy Together seemed to hang about the lower reaches of the British charts for weeks before finally climbing into the top twenty, during which time I bought it, but it’s one of those which has had an extensive after-life, unlike its successors She’d Rather Be With Me and Elenore – both bigger hits in the UK (or at least higher chart placings.)

The Turtles: Happy Together

Not Friday on my Mind 47: Heaven and Hell. RIP George Young

Glasgow born George Young, member and songwriter (with Harry Vanda) of The Easybeats, after whose biggest hit this strand on my blog is named, has died.

His contribution to the Easybeats would alone have been enough to secure his standing in the history of rock music – especially Australian rock – but he subsequently was songwriter and producer for others, including AC/DC.

The Easybeats: Heaven and Hell

George Redburn Young: 6/11/1946 – 22/10/2017. So it goes.

Friday on my Mind 159: William Chalker’s Time Machine

The Idle Race wasn’t the only Birmingham group to like (Here We Go Round) the Lemon Tree. The band that recorded the song here liked that earlier one so much they took their name from (part of) its title.

The somewhat psychedelic – not to say SF tinged – William Chalker’s Time Machine was written by Ace Kefford, who had just left The Move, and produced by Andy Fairweather-Low (of Amen Corner and solo fame) and Trevor Burton of …. The Move.

It didn’t bother the charts.

The Lemon Tree: William Chalker’s Time Machine

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