Hey there, Mr Blue Sky

ELO - Out of the Blue“Sun is shinin’ in the sky
There ain’t a cloud in sight, it’s stopped rainin’
Everybody’s in their play and don’t you know
It’s a beautiful new day, hey hey hey.”

I’m going to tell you a tale about a thread of my own musical history.  It’s a tale of how music from my childhood influenced parts of my life and inspired me to write. I’ll begin with what sparked my interest to revisit the musical landscape shaped from my primary school days.

Barclay Card recently ran a TV ad where an office worker in a high-rise block waves goodbye to his colleagues and, dressed only in swimming shorts,  hops into a water slide built into the office wall. For fans of water slides this is the ultimate example of aquatic joy, the zenith of water park pleasure – a super fun happy slide! The office chap swooshes along the slide as it spans the city, zipping across parks, between buildings and through a supermarket and finally arriving at home.

Barclay Card water slide advertThe advert itself is visually wonderful, however, it was the backing music that caught my attention; Let Your Love Flow by The Bellamy Brothers, a laid back Country & Western tune that captured the imagery of the advert perfectly. It snagged a branch in my memory and I followed a reflective train of through to the last leaf on that branch until I recalled the music of ELO – Electric Light Orchestra. I opened up Spotify, an excellent free music player, on my PC and searched for ELO. The colourful world of my childhood revitalised my musical memory tree, faded leaves of forgotten songs perked up and waved in a breeze of nostalgia.

I’ve read a fair few books on memory and how what we remember isn’t always a true record of events so I know I can’t recall specifics but I do remember the artwork on the ELO albums my Dad owned. I was between 9 and 12 years old, we had a record player in the living room set in a dark wood cabinet, low to the floor. A cupboard stored LP’s (yes, those things called “records” means I remember a time before CD’s!) and I would listen to albums on giant headphones with a thick curly cable. Well, they felt giant on my 10-year-old head. I recall a photo taken of me with headphones, reading something whilst listening to Jeff Wayne’s War of the Worlds musical epic.

It was the artwork on the ELO covers I found fascinating and as I listened to the tracks on Spotify I remembered more. Back then Sunday lunch/afternoon was a time of sensory delights; the aroma of a roast dinner cooking in the oven mingled with the smell of the wood from the record player cabinet. I can still remember the smell of the deep purple wallpaper! My Dad would play ELO as Sunday lunch cooked away, and even though I was not hugely interested in the music I do remember the mood it seemed to capture and embed itself in my memory.

The other day I was listening to ELO and searching through the albums on Spotify and I came across a track called All Over The World and another branch of my memory was illuminated. My sister and I watched the film Xanadu many times when we were young, which ELO wrote some of the music. So last night I watched Xanadu, and whilst I found it a bit dated I didn’t move my eyes from the screen once. I even remembered some of the lines, one in particular I waited patiently to hear. It was a line spoken by Olivia Newton-John’s character, Kira, to Gene Kelly’s character, Danny McGuire. For film buffs it is worth noting that Xanadu was Gene Kelly’s last movie. Back when I was young I didn’t understand what the words below meant or why they would send shivers down my spine, and last night after 20 years they still managed to produce the same response.

Kira: “In Xanadu, did Kubla Khan a stately pleasure dome decree…”
Danny McGuire:
“Where Alph, the sacred river, ran through caverns measureless to man, down to a sunless sea.” Yes, Xanadu.

Xanadu MovieSuch beautiful words, and whilst not worthy of high praise world-class poets receive, I love the way they conjure up very vivid imagery. Part of the interest my sister and I found with Xanadu was the roller skating. At that time we both loved our roller boots, not the inline skates kids love these days but proper 4 wheel boots. We went everywhere on them and spent many days with the kids in our neighbourhood zooming around the primary school grounds and across the beautifully smooth playground!

Xanadu and ELO encapsulate a very happy time in my childhood. It was the possible element of magic and mystery that I loved and even now when I listen to ELO I find myself just sitting there and listening to the melody and the subtle bits of pieces of the tracks that really are quite amazing. In today’s world of digital media, hip-hop and grime (yuk) it is a joy to really listen to something special that brings back those memories with such clarity and wonder. There is a sense of epicness to that music, where musicians have crafted sounds like how Michelangelo chipped away at a block of marble to reveal the statue underneath. This is music created not conjured up by a computer.

I have a bunch of libraries on Spotify to match a range of moods. Whilst writing I listen to a range of tracks from current chart stuff to Prodigy, U2, Guns n Roses, Rage Against The Machine and to ELO, The Beatles and Simon & Garfunkle. Right now it is ELO who help ease me into the zone, so much so that I’ll listen to an entire album only to realise it ended half an hour ago and I’m still humming to myself.

And there you have it, a small snippet of my past recalled and relived with a smile on my face. There’s a not very funny joke/pun that goes like this: Nostalgia isn’t what it used to be. Yes it is. It’s still there. You just need that one tiny spark to send you scampering through the branches on your memory tree to forage for that one leaf you had forgotten about. I adore those moments and cherish them when they capture my attention.

So the next time you hear/smell/see/touch/taste/sense that connects you to a long forgotten memory make sure you don’t gloss over it. Take some time to embrace the rush of memories because they can bring a smile to your face, give you a boost if you’re feeling down and inspire you to keep moving along and not giving up. Take Hold On Tight as a perfect example of an uplifting song.

Hold on tight to your dream
Hold on tight to your dream
When you see your ship go sailing
When you feel your heart is breaking
Hold on tight to your dream.

It’s a long time to be gone
Time just rolls on and on
When you need a shoulder to cry on
When you get so sick of trying
Just hold tight to your dream

CHORUS:
When you get so down that you can’t get up
And you want so much but you’re all out of luck
When you’re so downhearted and misunderstood
Just over and over and over you could

Accroches-toi à ton rêve
Accroches-toi à ton rêve
Quand tu vois ton bateau partir
Quand tu sens ton coeur se briser
Accroches-toi à ton rêve.


REPEAT CHORUS:

Hold on tight to your dream
Hold on tight to your dream
When you see the shadows falling
When you hear that cold wind calling
Hold on tight to your dream.

Oh, yeah
Hold on tight to your dream
Yeah, hold on tight…
To your dream.

Click here to listen to Hold On Tight on Spotify. And if you haven’t heard Mr Blue Sky click here, you really should give it a try.

A million lights are dancing and there you are, a shooting star
An everlasting world and you’re here with me, eternally.

– Xanadu –

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