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Barry Manilow’s “Copacabana” is a fine example of a songwriting style I really like…telling a complete story in just three minutes.

“Copacabana” is a fine example of many other things too…it’s certainly high-kitsch, has a fabulous brass section, lush backing singers, and it’s produced to within an inch of its life.

But they’re all bonuses. “Copacabana” is really all about the story. We all know what we’re in for when we hear…

Her name was Lola, she was a showgirl

And, like a great book we’re read dozens of times before, even though we already know the ending, we stick…


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“Goodbye Yellow Brick Road” was the first song I learned to play half-competently on the piano. I don’t mean tunes like “Chopsticks”, which I had mastered more than competently by then.

But it was the first tune I’d heard on the radio and managed to find the sheet music for.

It took a few weeks, but eventually I could make a sound that was recognisably the tune of “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road”…slightly halting in places — I still remember a couple of places where it was really easy to find all your fingers were in the wrong places on the…


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Being completely on your own, cut off from the world, used to be seen as a terrible fate. As the world gets more selfish and more cantankerous, I suspect a growing number of people might think that wasn’t such a bad way to live nowadays.

It was different in 1979, when The Police released “Message In A Bottle” as the lead single from their second album “Regatta de Blanc”. Back then, we didn’t long for a life of isolation and solitude, we longed for a life of companionship and togetherness…

Just a castaway, an island lost at sea, oh
Another lonely…


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There’s a French expression, which I won’t butcher here, which roughly translates as “the more things change, the more they stay the same”.

I was thinking about that the other day while reading an article which suggested that, despite all of our modern technology, the same human emotions which have always driven our behaviours continue to have the upper hand today. Technology was not a “new era”, it was an “old era”, conducted through different means.

When it comes to human behaviour, there is nothing more fundamental than love. We all want to be loved. We all want to find…


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Mix together one-third hippy vibe, one-third British Blues and one-third hard rock and what do you get? “Wishing Well” by Free.

Although Free had disbanded by the time I discovered they even existed, they were the first band I took a serious interest in beyond the chart acts of my youth. I had heard “All Right Now” on the radio, of course, which if I’m honest, I find a little dull although it seems remarkably popular among the people who select music tracks for TV commercials.

But I moved to London in the 1980s and a DJ on Capital Radio…


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In the last 50 years, life has got both a lot more random and a lot less random at the same time.

Now, with a few clicks of a mouse you can be chatting with someone on the other side of the world. Because technology means we are no longer restricted by geography, the world is…literally…our oyster.

But technology has been “optimised” and algorithmed to within an inch of its life which means it delivers more of exactly what you say you’re looking for, but at the same time it delivers a lot less of the random happenstance that can…


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Whenever I need to steel myself a bit to take on what life’s about to throw at me, I hum Jim Croce’s “I Got A Name” to myself under my breath. This tale of quiet determination…to keep on going no matter what…always gives me a shot of motivation when I need it.

Jim Croce was a master songwriter with a gift for sweet and tender songs. On the surface, they appeared to be very simple songs. They could all be performed with just two vocals and two guitars.

But they carried an emotional punch which far outweighed their apparent simplicity…


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What’s that you say? A fusion of progressive rock and folk music would never reach Number 10 in the UK Singles Chart? Well, I call as my first witness “Northern Lights” by Renaissance, which did exactly that in 1978.

I know that blend of musical styles sounds like an odd mix, but trust me this works beautifully…at least on this record — the fact that it’s the only hit single I can think of off-hand which successfully fuses those two very different styles probably doesn’t auger well for the genre as a whole.

In many ways, the mid to late-1970s…


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When you hear “Build Me Up Buttercup” by The Foundations do you think of “There’s Something About Mary”…yes, the movie with Cameron Diaz and the “hair gel”…?

“There’s Something About Mary” was released in 1998 and, although I haven’t seen it for many years, as always, there’s something very powerful about the way hearing a particular song can connect you across the decades in an instant and make it seem like only yesterday.

However our story goes back much further than 1998…all the way back to 1968, in fact.

For their time, The Foundations were an interesting band. They were…


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Several years ago I took someone I loved dearly on a musical tour of London. We started at Abbey Road and visited about a dozen other sites with some sort of musical connection in the city.

She, like me, is a big music fan. So at each stop I asked her to guess the musical connection. Admittedly I started with an easy one at Abbey Road. And of course I took a picture on her phone of her crossing the famous zebra crossing there.

When we reached Waterloo Station at the end of our journey she guessed the musical connection…

No Words, No Song

Without words, it’s just a nice tune. Add words — now you’ve got a song. And songs can change your world. I write about some that changed mine.

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