Daily Gratitude Challenge Day 14: Songs and Music

In an effort to inject some positivity into my daily mindset and the online world I have created a Daily Gratitude Challenge and I am inviting everyone to participate. If you have missed my introductory post that explains the challenge and maps out the daily post schedule, visit here.

Daily Gratitude Challenge What music are you most grateful for

Day 14 of the Daily Gratitude Challenge focuses on songs and pieces of music that you are grateful for. A universal language, music is the one thing that we all have in common. Whether it is a song that makes you smile, reminds you of an amazing moment, celebration or a favourite memory, this is an opportunity to think about the songs and pieces of music that you are grateful for. Continue reading

Eurovision 2015 Semi-Final 1: Boggie, Ming the Merciless and Tit-Tape

imageEvery year, there are three things that I desperately look forward to. The end of the academic year (ie. the start of the summer holidays), Christmas Eve and, of course, Eurovision.

To those on the outside looking in, The Eurovision Song Contest must look like a large group of aliens have landed, taken lots of LSD and decided to create a performance out of the results. The premise is simple – countries from Europe (or Europe-ish, or Australasia in this year’s case) are represented by a song, and the other countries vote for them using a point system, interspersed with poorly crafted jokes from presenters in often ill-conceived dresses. The winning country gets to host the contest the following year. In recent times, there have been two televised semi-finals on the week of the event, with the top ten from each participating in the final on the Saturday night. They are joined by the ‘Big Five’ – United Kingdom, France, Spain, Germany and Italy (we all pay to go straight to the final) and this year they will be joined by the hosts, Austria, and Australia (that well-known European country) who have been invited to participate as part of the 60th anniversary of the event.

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Every year The Bloke and I have our own private Eurovision party – we stock up on snacky treats, create a mini-buffet for ourselves and we enjoy the utter madness that unfolds before our eyes on the television. Over recent years we’ve witnessed a number of weird and wonderful performances – a man in a hamster wheel, Russian grannies, pirates, Dustin the Turkey, a beautiful bearded man in a dress, and of course, Jedward (twice) and we laugh at the blatant biased voting and political allegiances. It’s a brilliant way to spend an evening. However, it isn’t all gimmick and silliness – it’s a showcase of some of the most spectacular voices and talented singers around the continent, and every so often I will fall in love with one of the songs and listen to it repeatedly. Even now, one of my most popular songs on my all-time playlist is Marco Mengoni’s ‘L’essenziale,’ Italy’s entry from the 2013 contest. Admittedly, I haven’t a clue what he is singing about (he could be declaring his love for macaroni cheese or a ham sandwich for all I know), but it’s a truly beautiful song, delivered by an equally beautiful voice.

Last night was the first of the semi-finals and I already had an idea of some of the songs available, mainly due to the fact that one of my favourite bloggers, Steve from Talk About Pop Music hasn’t actually stopped talking about it since the 2014 contest ended, but I was looking forward to admiring the staging (which gets more spectacular every year) and the presentation of each song.

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There were some really interesting performances – I particularly liked the Russian entry ‘A Million Voices’ sung by Polina Gagarina (who looked absolutely stunning and must have been tit-taped to within an inch of her life in her very low-cut white dress, and my favourite of the evening was Serbia’s entry ‘Beauty Never Lies,’ that was sung by Bojana Stamenov and composed by the same person who had written last year’s winning song. Hungary’s entry, ‘Wars For Nothing,’ sung by Boggie also had a beautiful message (despite her unfortunate name) and I warmed to Romania’s entry, Voltaj, after I got past the fact that the lead singer reminded me of Ming The Merciless from Flash Gordon. There were Geordie impersonators from The Netherlands (wayyyaaayyaa man!), the shortest ever song from Finland, who were represented by Pertti Kurikan Nimipäivät, where all of the members have learning difficulties (brave move and nice to see, but I think that the Eurovision community were very much divided about it), and ‘Anti Social Media,’ a band from Denmark who had clearly spent their time listening to early McFly tracks.

Oh, and this… from Moldova. Well, that’s just showing off (although I’m sure I could do that after a pint or ten)…

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However, I also had the chance to hear Australia’s entry, and I already have my new song crush…

Roll on the second semi-final!

What about you guys? Did you watch the semi-finals? Have you got a favourite?

You can also find me on Twitter and Tumblr @suzie81blog. Don’t forget to check out my facebook page http://www.facebook.com/suzie81speaks and now you can also find my new Pinterest page http://www.pinterest.com/suzie81speaks

 

10 Things I Love About My Country #1: Music

I’ve teamed up with the lovely Steve from Steve Says to compile a comparison set of lists about why we love our country. He’s Scottish, I’m English, and even though we are currently both part of the United Kingdom we thought it might be fun to see the differences between the two…

Our first topic in the series is Music.

I’m proud to be English, and I’m proud that England has produced some of the greatest musicians and songwriters of all time. Steve’s list was very patriotic, but I couldn’t stomach listing things like ‘Pomp and Circumstance,’ and ‘Jerusalem’ – they’re brilliant pieces of music and I’m always uplifted when I hear them, but I wanted to branch out a little. My list (that isn’t in any particular order) represents songs that I feel are quintessentially part of English culture and performed by English artists.

1. Bohemian Rhapsody: Queen

This frequently tops music polls as being one of the greatest songs ever written, performed by one of England’s greatest bands, selling 7.5 millions copies worldwide. (Yes, I know that Freddie Mercury was born in Tanzania before anyone points this out…).

2. London Calling: The Clash

Written by Joe Strummer and Mick Jones, this song alludes to the the BBC World Service’s station identification: “This is London calling …”, which was used during World War II, often in broadcasts to occupied countries. The song, written during a time of upheaval and unrest throughout English society is a classic.

3. Life On Mars: David Bowie

Ah, Bowie. I love this song. My friends love this song. My family loves this song. Everybody loves this song. Why? Because it’s a great song. I went to the Bowie exhibition at the Victoria and Albert museum last year and saw the suit that he wears in the video, which was surpisingly tiny.

4. Paranoid: Black Sabbath

I love the fact that I live in the city where Black Sabbath were formed. Ozzy Osbourne’s house is a tourist attraction, to the point where the front door of the house keeps being stolen by fans. I’ve no idea how it’s possible to steal a door, but the story always makes me smile.

5. Hey Jude: The Beatles

It wouldn’t be a list without The Beatles. No English music list should ever be without The Beatles. My problem was with which song, and for this I had to ask those around me. Hey Jude topped the list of nearly 100 songs that were suggested, possibly because this is the song that Paul McCartney performs during every major event that they drag him out for.

6. You’ll Never Walk Alone: Rodgers and Hammerstein (Gerry and the Pacemakers version)

I’m taking liberties with this one. Yes, it was written by two Americans for the musical ‘Carousel,’ but this song is so intrinsically linked with English culture that I couldn’t leave it out, so I’ve taken the Gerry and the Pacemakers version. It is the main football (yes, football, not all this ‘soccer’ rubbish I’ve had to read about over the last few months) anthem for Liverpool Football Club and is consequently sang in every match by the fans and has been done so since the 1960’s. The song’s title adorns the top of the Shankly Gates, which were unveiled on 2 August 1982 in memory of former manager Bill Shankly.

7. Never Gonna Give You Up: Rick Astley

Lots of you may associate this with the popular internet meme ‘Rik Rolling.’ However, for me, Rick Astley was one of my favourite pop stars in my childhood and early teens. To this day, I can guarantee that during any party and in an English nightclub the DJ will play this song at some point throughout the night. For me, it represents the ‘Stock, Aitkin and Waterman’ era of English pop ie. the time just before shell suits. I had a shell suit.

8. White Cliffs of Dover: Dame Vera Lynn (Robson and Jerome version)

This is a popular Second World War song made famous by Vera Lynn with her 1942 version – one of her best-known recordings. Written in 1941 by Walter Kent with words by Nat Burton and was designed to lift the spirits of the Allies at a time when the Germans had conquered much of Europe and were bombing Britain. It was created about a year after British and German aircraft had been fighting over the cliffs of Dover in the Battle of Britain. And for you non-Brits out there, here’s a bit of trivia. You may recognise the blonde singer, Jerome Flynn, in Game of Thrones. He plays the character Bronn. Yes, my friends, Bronn was a pop star. A pop star.

9. Wannabe: The Spice Girls

I met The Spice Girls, just before they released ‘Wannabe.’ They were performing at ‘Party in the Park’ in Preston, and I went over afterwards to say hello as they were signing autographs. I didn’t have a pen or anything for them to sign, so I didn’t bother staying around for long and walked away, remarking to my friend that they would be ‘one hit wonders.’ I walked away from The Spice Girls without getting their autographs. When there were five of them. Before they became the biggest girl band of all time. Sh*t.

10. Back For Good: Take That

Before One Direction, there was (and still is) Take That. These down-to-earth English working-class men swept the UK charts in the 1990’s and late 2000’s, turning myself and millions of teenagers into screaming mush. They’re still the biggest selling boy band of all time, they’re still touring to sold out stadiums and they are the perfect representation of how a boy band SHOULD be done. I still can’t get over the fact that there are people out there who haven’t heard of them – they’re as famous as Brad Pitt, Tom Cruise, Jonny Depp, Robert Downey Jr and George Clooney over here (ooh, now there’s a boy band I’d like to see)…

11: Baggy Trousers: Madness

Like Paul McCartney, Madness are dragged out and shoved on stage during every major event. It’s a great song, and is guaranteed make grown English men start dancing like the chimney sweeps from Mary Poppins every time it is played.

12. Back To Black: Amy Winehouse

I was obsessed with the Black To Black album. What a talent, what a voice, what a loss.

13. Anarchy in the UK: The Sex Pistols

I couldn’t leave out the Sex Pistols. They were crude, rude and basic musicians, but they were brilliant performers and continue to be hugely influential on modern day musicians thirty years later.

14. The National Anthem (performed by Brian May on the top of Buckingham Palace).

During the Queen’s Golden Jubilee in 2002 one of England’s greatest guitarists of all time stood on the roof of it’s most famous palace to play the National Anthem. I still get goosebumps even now. The only thing that would have made it more English would be if Brian was wearing the flag, eating fish and chips and drinking a pint of beer…

I’ve made some almost musically blastphemous emissions from the list – The Who, Def Leppard, Iron Maiden, Led Zepplin, Oasis, Blur, Radiohead, UB40, Muse, Adele… so please avoid shouting at me… I’d love to hear your thoughts – what songs should be included?

Do you want to join in? Simply link to mine and Steve’s posts and tell us what songs represent your country and nationality!

Stay tuned for the next installment!

You can also find me on Twitter and Tumblr @suzie81blog

 

 

The Songs Of My Life

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Music has been my life for as long as I can remember. What I love about it is that it is the only universal language and as yet I haven’t heard of a culture that doesn’t have music as a part of their community. 
 
Music has given me the life I currently have. As a violinist I’ve had the opportunity to travel a little, and during my teenage years I toured Europe with the International Youth Orchestra and European Vacation Chamber Orchestra. I’ve played in orchestras where myself and my desk partner haven’t spoken a word of the same language, and yet we’ve been able to play exactly the same notes. It’s given me a job as a music teacher and I’ve made lots of friends through it.
 
What I find most interesting about it is that there is always a piece or a song that will remind us of a particular place, event or emotion. When couples marry it is common for them to have their first dance to ‘their song’. I still have friends that will ring me up at 3am o scream down the phone “they’re playing your song!” (which is lovely, but I now put my phone on silent at night). 
 
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So what is my song? The truth is, I have hundreds. However, there are certain ones that will stay with me for the rest of my life. I’ve included ten in my list, but i’m sure I could add so many more.
 
1. You’ll Never Walk Alone – Rogers and Hammerstein. While most people associate this song with a sporting match, I’ll always remember the ‘Carousel’ original version being played at my Granddads funeral. This often proves awkward as it makes me cry, and so when my friends are drunkenly singing it at the end of a night I can be found hiding in the toilets.
 
2. I Won’t Send Roses from the musical ‘Mack and Mabel’. Another one I associate with my grandad-he played it whenever we went to his flat. My favourite is Robert Preston’s version.
 
3. Don’t Stop Believing -Journey. This is truly my song. It was released the year I was born (1981), but it seems to have followed me my whole life, and is always played wherever I seem to be. I love both the original and the newer version with their lead singer, Arnaud Pineda.
Note: GLEE destroyed this song. This is why I have never watched it.
 
4. Somewhere Over The Rainbow – Eva Cassidy. One of the highlights if my life so far has been lying on a sun lounger in Malia at the age of 19, bottle of Blue WKD in one hand, cigarette in the other (I was a classy teenager) in scorching heat whilst listening to this. I’ve never been that relaxed since…
 
5. Glory Days – Bruce Springsteen. My dad used to pick me up from school in a red Fiesta 1.1 with a registration that I can still remember and we’d crank this song up and sing it all the way home. 
 
6. Seasons of Love from the musical ‘RENT’. At sixth form college we sang this as a choir. Some of the best times of my life were there.
 
7. Come Go With Me – The Del-Vikings
I watched a fantastic a capella group, which i’ve since discovered are called ‘Select Blendz’ perform this in Washington Square in New York a few years ago and it instantly created a sense of sheer fun. Ever since, whenever I hear the song I am transported back there. Here’s a video of this group in action:
 
 
Video credit: tatum piano 
 
8. A Thousand Years, Part 2 – Christina Perri
I hate Twilight, but this song has stuck in my head ever since I first heard it. It’s one of my ‘go to’ songs when I’m feeling stressed or need to relax. 
 
9. Always – Bon Jovi
This song always evokes images of me and my friend AS practically screaming this song whenever we go to watch Bon Jovi in concert. I adore it – every time it is played I get an instant buzz and sense of elation. It’s a beautiful song.
 
10. Witchita Lineman – Glen Campbell
Glen Campbell is one of my mother’s favourite singers, and this particular song was played many times when we were growing up. She’s seen him in concert since she was a teenager, and I took her to see his farewell concert a few years ago (he’s been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s). When he played this song I instantly had an overwhelming sense of familiarity. 
 
Now it’s your turn – what are your favourite songs? What do they mean to you? 
 
Image 1 credit: digitallife.com
Image 2 credit: favim.com