Upbeat Songs for Downbeat Times

I thought it might be fun to write about five upbeat songs that have kept me going this crazy year. Some old, some new and some unexpected surprises in here!

Let’s start with unexpected. I’ve really been enjoying watching the 1989 episodes of the weekly British music pop show Top of the Pops on BBC 4. I guess 1989 was one of those years for me where emotions were out of control – my parents’ divorce followed by the best summer of my childhood having fun in a 5 star swanky hotel in Florida, then my brother starting to lose his mind and finally just finding salvation and hope in pop music. So the music that year on the show seemed to reflect that (the cure “lovesick”, Debbie Gibson “we could be together”, Bros “too much”). In 1989 I kept a diary where every week I would write down the top 10 singles. Anyway this Top of the Pops performance of a Kirsty Maccoll song I haven’t heard probably since 1989. I found myself singing it to get my daughter to sleep at night, and have a chance to reflect and appreciate things lost. Perfect for lockdown

 

Another surprise was this jaw-dropping new Bob Dylan record which appeared suddenly a couple of months ago. I read the 5 star reviews, and finally picked it up in a department store while I was over in Germany. I’ve been playing this most nights, it fits perfectly with a slow burning candle and a glass or two of wine. Good old Bob, still poetic and edgy at 79.

 

I have been looking forward to new music from the Dixie Chicks (now just called the Chicks) since it was announced earlier this year, but I had no idea it was going to be this good. I’ve only heard the two singles so far, and both just knock me out. The protest anger of March March sets the tone perfectly for standing up for truth and freedom in this mad world, but I like “Gaslighter” slightly more maybe because it’s all about a divorce!

 

Another band who finally have a new album out is none other than Bright Eyes. I’ve been obsessed by Conor Obest since I first picked up a 7 inch record in the now sadly-missed Virgin Megastore in Norwich, UK. I don’t think anything he’s done has topped 2016’s “breakdown” album Ruminations, but I’m excited to hear the new Bright Eyes stuff when it’s released later this year. I really like this hpynotic video for this song “Mariana Trench”

 

Finally…hard to choose – but I’m going for Tom Petty, and “You Don’t Know How it
Feels” taken from his best album (wildflowers). It’s just sets the tone for the day. I tend to stick it on first thing when I’m folding laundry. Every morning more laundry. Once done I can escape with the kids for adventures outdoors. That’s how we roll with three crazy wild forest children all under five years old addicted to fun and Tom tells it how it is.

lockdown love

Well, last time I wrote this in January I said it’s been the strangest year I’d ever known, so seems likely this one will easily top that! Before all this craziness I was about to start a new blog about my little life here looking after three wild kids under five, and my trips to Germany to see my other two slightly bigger but just as wild kids. So that kind of got scrapped, because nobody – and I mean nobody – wants to read a weekly blog with some jaded guy going on about missing his kids in Germany, and listening to a scratch Larry Norman “I wish we’d all been ready” every day crying into his burnt porridge….

So instead, I’ll just stick with wordsandguitars , but yes it’s absolutely heart-breaking to lose hopping on the train (boo to nasty airplane pollution!) pretty much every month to spend a glorious few days with my kids across the channel. Every day when I wake up it’s the very first thought in my mind. I can’t even write a throw-away poem about feeling sad because I just don’t have the focus. So…with that in mind :-

I cherish the simplicity of life here now. Having nowhere to go. No plans. No work. We are lucky to live in an extraordinary secluded little spot, surrounded by countryside on our doorstep. Writing this looking out from the bedroom window at the rolling hills, it calms me and thrills me. Spending all day with three little children is intense but I’ve never seen them so happy.

Here are my highlights, in no order

Tblog1he cool quranatine – this is a ridiculously long radio show put together by the always-entertaining Henry Rollins. It’s pretty much 4 hours of stories and rare gems and music by little punk bands I’ve never heard of. You can dip in and out of it whenever you feel like, I tend to put it on when I’m baking yet another batch of peanut cookies!

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newspapers – I no longer bother to really listen to the news, like I use to in the “old days”. I’d go crazy if every hour I was reading the latest updates. I tend to listen to a bit of the one o clock radio news but that’s about it . However 3 days a week we get a a delivery of either The Guardian or The Times. The newspaper girl drops it off into our letter box as the morning birds start singing, and what could be better than starting your day with a cup of coffee and flicking through the paper. Of course I don’t get to actually read it properly until the kids are asleep…

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Letters – sure sure, I use skype and facetime and all that to chat away to friends and the kids in Germany, I also love using the landline telephone but nothing quite beats a written letter. Most of the time I use the typewriter, and the post being a bit slower these days somehow just makes the whole experience that much enjoyable. Somebody says “hey, I wrote you a letter and posted it today” and then for the next week or so you’re checking the post to see if it’s arrived. Simple pleasures.

Reading – so many great books around, at the moment I’m reading the swirling “around the world in 80 trains” by the awesome Monisha Rajesh, Anne Tyler’s latest “redhead by the side of the road”, peanuts comics, and Carrie Brownstein’s (sleater kinney) “hunger makes me a modern girl” All well worth checking out this spring.

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Baking/Cooking – In the good old days, just weeks ago, I tended to do a bit of baking ever so often with my little 3 year old who always loves baking but these days it’s become pretty much part of the daily routine. I guess we go to the supermarket so infrequently we don’t really have biscuits and cakes in the house anymore from the shop, so we are just baking them. Making our way through the be-ro cook book. We get a lot of vegetables too from a nearby farm, so always cooking something healthy too.

blog5Games – when the kids are tucked away, and dreaming of little bear or star wars it’s time for scrabble and music quizes with a candle flicking away by the board, and a record spinning in the background and if you’re lucky a cup of filter coffee and some organic chocolate.

Stay safe and do the right thing.

Peace xoxo