After a brief pause for Uke Club, welcome back to this short journey through a few songs and issues of the moment. Here’s a sin that’s probably on all of our minds:
No.5: Breaking The Rules of Social Distancing – The point of social distancing is obvious to us all, but it can still be hard to remember to always do it, especially when you bump in to (not literally, of course) good friends out on the street, in a park or at the supermarket. It can bring on a ridiculous and slightly awkward dance of pretend hugging, air-kissing, and laughing apologies as we try to observe the rules, and not to behave as we normally would.
Since restrictions were slightly lifted, our village common has suddenly become a much noisier place, more groups are gathering from near and far, more games are being played, and it all feels even more like one, ridiculously long, bank holiday weekend. Most of the restrictions are still in place, of course, but it’s obvious from our early evening walks that not everyone has felt so constrained by them. There’s a small bench near us where a group of three lads have been getting together to squash up side by side, drinking cans of warm lager, their bicycles lying in the grass, laughing and joking but falling silent as we walk by, then bursting out into laughter again once we’ve passed (nothing is more guarnteed to make you feel old than this!). When Susie walked past this spot a couple of days ago, the bench had been removed. A few evenings ago we couldn’t help noticing the smell of weed wafting from the open window of a car parked in the late sun by the village common, the several adult occupants watching us silently in a fug of smoke from behind the windscreen, like naughty children, as if to say, “What? We’re just being rebels – what are you looking at?”
So it is a serious subject, but today we thought we’d rather go for a song that is really not serious at all. This is a number full of ‘if only…’s, for when we can all do – within reason – whatever the hell we like again: Getting Some Fun Out Of Life:
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This up-tempo arrangement we’ve made features the brand-new red Kala U-Bass – or ‘Bull Uke”, as the Jack Lemmon character in Some Like It Hot might have called it – that we’ve just taken delivery of. More on this excellent addition to the Incidents Of Travel household in a future post. Also, we used the ‘Acapella’ app once again, but this time we’ve gone full-on, with NINE squares instead of three! (We were inspired by the opening credits of the 1970s television show, The Brady Bunch – we’re truly standing on the shoulders of giants here):
Getting Some Fun Out OF Life was written for Billie Holiday by Joe Burke* and Edgar Leslie, and she recorded it in September 1937 in one of the countless studio sessions she did with Lester Young and his band. I’ve always loved Billie Holiday, so it was very predictable that one of her songs would find its way into this collection. Few found it as hard as Billie did to actually Get Some Fun Out of Life; her tendency to be attracted to bad guys led to a lot of hard knocks in her relationships, and her weakness for the drugs and booze that surrounded the jazz scene at that time meant that her stellar career was a short one. For what fun she did manage to get out of life, she paid a heavy price. She must be the only artist ever to have won 4 Grammy awards, but all of them posthumously. †
If you listen to her versions of songs, you’ll quickly notice that, quite apart from her amazing voice, there is something very special about her – if a lyric didn’t express exactly how she felt, she’d change it. In Billie’s version of ‘My Man’, a song whose story of physical and emotional abuse would break the hardest of hearts anyway, she makes the lyric hit even harder by changing the line, “He isn’t any good, he isn’t true, but I stick to him like glue, what can I do?”, to:
“He isn’t any good
He isn’t true,
He beats me too,
What can I do?”
Perhaps because it was written just for her, in her performance of Getting Some Fun Out Of Life Billie doesn’t change a single word. Madeleine Peyroux, who’s voice often bears a strong resemblance to Billie’s, also recorded a lovely, lazy swing version of the song for her 1996 album ‘Dreamland’.
See you back here soon for another edition of Incidents Of Travel, where we dream of the travel we will do just as soon as we can…
*Burke is probably best known as the composer of Tiptoe Through The Tulips, and was one of the songwriters of the Tin Pan Alley era of the 1920s and 30s in New York, before moving to Hollywood.
†The first Grammy Awards ceremony was held on May 4th, 1959, just two months before Billie Holiday’s death.
There is a (temporary) way out of lockdown – just click on the picture on the right to travel 4,500 miles from coast to coast across a continent, without leaving the comfort of your armchair!