- Hello Morley 538093?
- Dave, it’s me. Quick! Listen to this. I just brought it back from BDC records.
- Yeh yeh, but I’ve got to finish this Latin translation.
- No, hang on, I’m just stretching the phone wire across to the music centre.
- I know but can’t it wait til later.
- No, no I’m just lowering the needle now, it’s just fantastic, wait, I’ll turn up the volume, listen.
- OK, OK, what’s the name of the band?
- Talking Heads - Happy Day.
“Innocence is one of the most exciting things in the world.” Well it is, according to Eartha Kitt. See, straight off the bat it’s quite tough to avoid being tongue-in-cheek with this one. But the Tams seem to manage it I think. The way that the late Charles Pope phrases “be happy” is just about perfect. This was A-listed as soon as I saw it; The Tams – Be Young, Be Foolish, Be Happy
Next up, schooldays. Some terrific stories this week from readers AltraEgo, nosuchzone and Uncleben amongst many others – and often featuring innocent, or not, days at school. Seems almost like the next song was written specifically about you, [......], falling from afar, but long and hard, for [......] when you were at [......] school back in [....]. [Fill in your own details as appropriate]. The Saw Doctors – Red Cortina. The song’s built around a deliciously cinematic little scene in which “Your father used to drop you off / You'd step out of a red Cortina / You looked so pretty on those winter mornings”.
But it turns out summer is the season most often associated with innocence; Jonathan Richman – That Summer Feeling. A wonderfully evocative song, of summers long since past, “When you run for love not because you oughta / When you trust your friends with no reason notta”. Even the rhymes are innocent.
Loyle Carner - Florence [Ft. Kwes] was brand new to me this week, so I checked out Loyle with my teenagers. And the verdict was exactly as Magicman says … “lacking aggression, cynicism, bravado or ego and trading in sensitivity, philosophy and startlingly revealing flows”. A song about the sister he wished he'd had growing up is a really lovely idea.
In Jan Bradley’s Mama Didn't Lie, her Mama suggests it might be a good idea to hang on to that innocence for as long as possible: '"Girl, stay in your class / You got a whole lot of growin' and a'learnin' to do / Girl don't change so fast.” This was on the deck at home an hour or so before SweetHomeAlabama actually nommed it. The Chess Story, Volume 3 From R&B to Soul, first track. Two perfect minutes from 1962. I believe that was an unignorable sign that I had to pick it – am I naive?
And so to probably the centrepiece of the playlist, Stevie Wonder – I Believe. Naive optimism wins the day, said ParaMhor. It does indeed. I also think that one of the key aspects of this song – surely a masterpiece – is Stevie actually committing to innocence and choosing it above circumspection or scepticism. He’s no longer young - “Life began, then was done” – and you wonder, shouldn't he be a bit more risk averse? What if he's wrong and ends up looking silly? Well, this is the result of the choice he made. Judge for yourself.
Listening to John Martyn – Fairy Tale Lullaby, surely written for his own kids, reminded me of the notion that innocence is reborn in the parents of a new born child (as incidentally, did hearing the great news about Beltway Jnr). The poet Don Paterson says “.. it all began / the day we woke up face-to-face like lovers / and his four-day-old smile dawned on him again” in his poem Waking with Russell. He goes on: “See how the true gift never leaves the giver: / returned and redelivered, it rolled on / until the smile poured through us like a river. / How fine, I thought, this waking amongst men! / I kissed your mouth and pledged myself foreve.”
Gregory Isaacs - Storybook Children; how could I not select this one? The enduring appeal of storybook characters, if they’re well written like Just William, is surely that they capture all our innocent early lives “in a wonderland, where nothing's planned, for tomorrow”.
On to France Gall - Mes Premieres Vraies Vacances. Absolutely loved this one. The whole of life stretches out in front of her as she plans her first real holidays without her parents and steps out through the doors of summer. There’ll be a boy – and of course he will “danse comme un champion”. The narrative took me back to Barry Norman showing a clip of Isabelle Huppert's first film The Lacemaker (La Dentelliere) on his film review show in the seventies. There’s a more melancholy timbre to the film than the song, but it has the same premise of ‘the first holiday’. It was hotly discussed the next day at school I remember. Eartha Kitt was right.
As Beltway says of Pink Floyd’s Remember a Day, it’s “a beautiful soaring piece of psychedelic whimsy, encapsulating the British approach to the genre – at its heart lies a powerful desire to find a space in your mind to return to happier, more innocent, more childlike times”. Nothing more needed from me beyond that.
Severin's right I think, that it's hard to avoid The Seekers’ I'll Never Find Another You, in a topic about innocence. Their first British single rings out like a bell. “There's a new world somewhere / They call the promised land / And I'll be there someday / If you could hold my hand.”
And finally then to a gentle Lagavulin finish with The Innocent Railway by Jackie Leven. I fell in love with this song over the weekend so much so that I sort of regret that I've not been listening to it all my life. Quite how Tatanka knows that I’ve been taking the Innocent Railway cycle path to work in the centre of Edinburgh most days, for the last 15 years, I’m not sure … but maybe that’s last week’s topic.
The Altogether Innocent A-list Playlist:
1. Talking Heads - Happy Day
2. The Tams - Be Young, Be Foolish, Be Happy
3. The Saw Doctors - Red Cortina
4. Jonathan Richman - That Summer Feeling.
5. Loyle Carner - Florence [Ft. Kwes]
6. Jan Bradley - Mama Didn't Lie
7. Stevie Wonder - I Believe
8. John Martyn – Fairy Tale Lullaby
9. Gregory Isaacs - Storybook Children
10. France Gall - Mes Premieres Vraies Vacances
11. Pink Floyd - Remember a Day
12. The Seekers - I'll Never Find Another You
13. Jackie Leven - The Innocent Railway
Sweet and Pure B-list Playlist:
1. Peter Blegvad - Daughter
2. Morrissey - Used to be a Sweet Boy
3. Bobbie Gentry - Louisiana Man
4. Jane – It’s A Fine Day
5. Saint Etienne – Avenue
6. Cat Stevens - (Remember the Days of The) Old School Yard
7. The Kinks - Young and Innocent Days
8. The Incredible String Band - The Hedgehog's Song
9. Lightning Seeds – Pure
10. Junior Tucker - Some Guys Have All the Luck
11. Blue Mink – Banner Man
12. Karine Polwart - I'm Gonna Do It All
13. Culture - Innocent Blood
Guru’s Wildcard Pick:
AE Houseman’s Blue Remembered Hills were for him the “land of lost content / I see it shining plain / The happy highways where I went / And cannot come again”.
Bugger that though; whenever the joy of innocent days seems a long way off, you can take a ride there with Vernon Elliot anytime you like. Hope this surprisingly sophisticated little tune evokes them for you too.
Vernon Elliot - Cruising Theme (Ivor the Engine)
These playlists were inspired by readers' song nominations from last week's topic: Not merely playing it: songs about innocence. The next topic will launch on Thursday at 1pm UK time.
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