Eight days and no gambling and I’m not just thrilled about that but looking forward to seeing nephew turn 13 this week. Life is good.
I hope whoever owns the image above doesn’t mind me using it but it shows one of the most beautiful and talented British singers of all time. Annie Lennox whose beauty and voice I was captivated by in the mid-80s. Somehow, she maintains this beauty still and quite rightly has been recognised for her philanthropic and musical achievements, and I hope also her continued political activism.
It’s June 1985 and a great year for me and also my memories of the music released in this year, none more than ‘There Must Be an Angel (Playing With My Heart) by the Eurythmics which surprisingly was the only UK chart topping single by the Eurythmics, but hit number 22 on the Billboard Hot 100 in the US. In 2013 the song was voted by NME readers as the third best number one single of all time. Annie went on to get eight Brit Awards as Best Female Artist (a record) and named “Brits Champion of Brits.” Well deserved but I wasn’t to know the great achievements that lay in store for Annie at the time of the release. All I remember was that at the time I had a date with a girl who was studying Fashion at Newcastle Polytechnic, she lived in Osbourne Road and the venue we had chosen for the date was The Lizard Lounge, which was a kind of trendy small room at the side of Tiffany’s night club on New Bridge Street in Newcastle. Tiffany’s was a popular nightclub with, if I remember rightly, Friday night set aside as ‘heavy night’ where the heavy metal fans good head bang the night away with Saturday night as the ‘disco night’ where young people danced to mainstream chart music. The Lizard Lounge was set on its own for people into less mainstream music and perhaps, as I saw then trendier. It had a style of its own and I had for many years kept the poster from the club with the image of the brooding Marlon Brando as the brooding Stanley Kowalski in ‘A Streetcar Named Desire’, I his sweat soaked T shirt and mean look with one hand above a bottle of beer. I still remember when I saw the photo and film that the only anachronistic thing in all of it seemed his wrist watch, which seemed from a different era of the setting of the play and film.
I guess the conversation during the date dwelt on Tennessee Williams, Marlon Brando who we both had a love of, both having seen the stage play (without Marlon.)
Videos were just making an impact on the music scene, so in some places you could not only listen to the music but also watch the video. And so it was that for a moment on the TV screen the image of Dave Stewart (who had by chance attended the non-Catholic equivalent of my school, St. Aidan’s boys RC Grammar School in Sunderland) appeared dressed as the Sun King, King Louise XiV of France who after motioning to two cherubs on the stage and asking his cortege for silence watched as his singer for the evening, Annie dressed in a beautiful Romanesque dress, hands to the side, initially head turned to the side, long flowing golden-red hair with the face and beuty of an angel as she begins ‘La na do danan na….” and you’re hooked. Captivated. Annie is why we have video. After the intro she turns straight to the camera with a face beaming and the words..
“No-one on earth could feel like this
I’m thrown and overblown with bliss
There must be an angel
Playing with my heart.”
I sometimes wonder if this is reason why the date wasn’t followed by a second date as all I could do after that was look in awe at the screen at the sheer beauty and joy that came from Annie, the song and the lyrics. A shock to the system as no other song I had heard had such an immediate grasp on my heart. In the words of the song I was absolutely ‘thrown and overblown with bliss’ and mesmerised. I guess my partner may have taken umbridge that all I could talk about after was how beautiful Annie Lennox was, at times a fantastically erotic androgynous sensation, Bowie style and feast not only for the eyes but also an incredible talent with her voice.
It’s interesting also that all I can remember now about that date in this song. I genuinely can’t recall why we never had a second date. Maybe I did just sit there with my senses dislocating, a strange deception by celestial intervention, while my date wandered off leaving me in my private bliss. Oh my, how happy I am that I was there was this was first aired on TV.
I would have mentioned of course how fantastic it was that Stevie Wonder was playing harmonica as backing. This was class and I knew then would be momentous. So again, I go back to times I regret not seeing David Bowie as Ziggy Stardust, I can say at least I saw Annie Lennox and the Eurythmics.
Looking back, I know now of course Annie was born in Aberdeen and Dave of course my hometown Sunderland. I wonder if Dave has the same ambivalence toward Sunderland and how it has been abused by the Tyne and Wear council since it’s conception to become the shit-hole that it is, but still for some reason I take pride in my shit-hole and curse those who turned it into one. Bede School was actually a better school than St Aidan’s, on the bank of the Durham Road leading out of Sunderland, multi-sex with the blue blazers and a bigger and lovelier design than my school. St Aidan’s had black blazers and was all boys, which in retrospect I didn’t mind at the time as I was painfully shy at school with my violin case and being no good at sport, but great at music. I wonder if Dave went through the same.
It’s lovely to know Annie was born in Aberdeen and I wonder if like all Aberdonians I have known she still has a soft spot for the Dons (football or soccer, depending upon where you are reading this.) As a person growing up in Sunderland, you were born in Sunderland and by definition were a Sunderland Association Football Club supporter, male or female. The football team was supported by all, through thick and thin. I guess this season it may look bleak as we are being demoted down another division, but as a Sunderland supporter you are ever and optimist that we’ll rise again.
I love the fact that Annie was born in Aberdeen, Scotland as well, another beautiful piece in her fabric. It probably means she can swear like a trooper when she wants to and also knows what someone means when they say “A ken a ken im, but a da ken far a ken im fae.” There’s nothing like the Aberdonian accent, not even in Scotland, and it’s developed into a way of speaking that sometimes some things you only can understand if you were born and bred there.
I lived by chance for 12 years in Scotland and got to love the language, the people and the comedy and a girl as it happens as I ended up marrying her and being married for five years. Married on yon bonny banks of Loch Lomond in the same church Noel Edmonds had been married in with my reception at the beautiful Cameron House Hotel, the wedding suite having only a week before been vacated by Pavarotti who had completed a concert at the SSC.
If you read this and have never been to Scotland the journey from Glasgow to Edinburgh, then past Perth, through Dundee and up the road between with speed cameras at every bend is a joy. Then you come to Aberdeen ‘The Granite City’ once the off-shore oil capital of Europe is a splendour in some of its building such as Marischal College, its beach and harbour where mem were still fishing last time I was there, and the offshore workers get the helicopter ride to the rigs out at sea.
Go further North and you are in God’s country on the road to Inverness and then round Loch Ness on the way to Fort William, the Kyle of Lochalsh and Skye (there was no road bridge when I first went, just the ferry.)
Now I’m sounding the a tourist information book, but it is true that if you go you’ll drive along a road and meet a sight which will just make your heart go boom! Such is the beauty, so quite appropriate that Annie was born in such an amazing place.
It’s a bit embarrassing that Sunderland has applied to be City of Culture when I can’t think of any except the tribalism that exists between Sunderland and Newcastle. The year I arrived in Glasgow it had just been made City of Culture and deservedly so. From the tip of John o’Groats down to the highlands, islands and glens with the castles and spectacular views all the way to Carlisle in the West and Berwick-on-Tees in the East, all you have is culture and the Scottish rightly proud of it with Bonny Prince Charlie and the history of the Jacobite revolutions.
Why bother to fly to some other country when you can rent a croft for two weeks near Glencoe with spectacular views and walks on the corries and munros, with its own warm microclimate caused by the gulf stream from the atlantic.
Jimmy Saville apparently swore by it….errmmm……moving on…
These are wonderful memories. Sweet dreams are made of this.
My first closest friend in Scotland was an ex-Miss Scotland, put forward for the competition by her family but completely oblivious to her beauty but because of this I guess was always destined to always be a platonic friend and she blew me away with her heart. Completely out of my league but she could swear like Billy Connolly and recite his sketches verbatim and I spent many an evening in stitches listening to her and being taught the subtleties of Scottish comedy, from the football sketches ‘It’s Only an Excuse’ on the radio to Rab C. Nesbitt’ and ‘Chewin’ the Fat’. Just the clever use of colloquialisms and language has you in awe, but then the comedy, often in the face of such diversity or poverty can transcend any other type of comedy in a way that is unique. It’s Scottish.
I love all of Irvine Welsh’s writing so was surprised when reading it in Scotland and actually understanding the local language that I heard it was also being read around the world and Trainspotting became a worldwide success. I wonder if it was only the disco scene with the girls asking the guys ‘What’re you twos talking about?’……Football’ that required subtitles in the US.
It’s all minted and all very clever.
In saying that I was warned before I arrived that some may make me unwelcome in Scotland when I first arrived and so it was to be. However, in many ways I kind of get that, and understand it. As it happens they accepted me as I was from the North of England. I think it would have been far worse had I been from the South. The rivalry between Newcastle and Sunderland can’t really be used as an equivalent analogy, but in some small way can, with all the investment in the North going to Newcastle with Sunderland left as an afterthought for any investment. Scotland at one time produced our oil and gas, yes for England, Wales and the rest of the world so I believe that some recognition has to me made of this, more than giving a grant to build a Motorola factory at Bathgate or small ‘Silicon Valley’ at Livingston on short term grants, until the tenants decided to shift lock stock and barrel out of the country leaving the workforce unemployed again.
I remember my twelve years in Scotland fondly.
I remember the impact Annie Lennox had on me as if it were yesterday.
I’ve travelled the world and the seven seas, but I guess I’ll always hae a soft sport in my wee hert for bonny Scotland and Annie.
© Michael Gamble 2018
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