29/07/2012

Rainbow Valley




A previous column (Voyage to Atlantis) mentioned some songs about places  that exist only in fantasy, like The Land of Grey and Pink or the Land of Ooo-Bla-Dee. Generally, the listener doesn’t expect to actually come across such a place in reality, though I suppose someone coming out of, say, Images Night Club in Hemel Hempstead on a Saturday night might think they were in Lipps Inc’s Funky Town. There are, however, some places that exist only in the mind in song but which the listener can sometimes  translate into reality.

The song in this column is such an example, Rainbow Valley by the Love Affair from 1968. There are, no doubt, real places somewhere called Rainbow Valley but this song was about an Over the Rainbow sort of place, first released by American soul singer Robert Knight. It was the follow up record to the Love Affair’s Number One, Everlasting Love and, like that hit, the track consisted of session players – driven by the drumming of Clem Cattini and the thundering bass lines of Russ Stableford – with the distinctive vocals of Love Affair’s Steve Ellis, a singer in the Steve Marriot mould. This wasn’t an unusual practice but  for some reason the Love Affair were given a particularly hard time by the press over not playing on their records and their career suffered. After a few more smaller  hits Ellis, their main asset, left and that was that – though a version of the Love Affair may well be playing in your area next week. The song itself, with its rainbows and cotton candy sky, could have been a bit of schmaltzy pop fluff but somehow is a rather touching yearning for a personal  Shangri-La over  the next horizon. (There was also a later reggae version by the Heptones). The video accompanying the song at the end of the column, however, is one of those that makes you wonder what on earth was happening in the director’s mind. Even if you assume a kind of wacky surrealism a la Monkees was the aim, it makes no sense whatsoever.

However, the track did have another feature that distinguishes a small number of songs -  when the uncredited backing vocals move from being an unnoticed background to being  an integral part of the overall effect, in this case the ‘meet me where the rainbow ends’ bit (which I have seen attributed to both members of the Sue and Sunny backing duo and to Carol Brett). An earlier example was the 1961 Number One Joe Meek produced hit, Johnny Remember Me for actor/singer John Leyton, with ghostly background vocals from a session singer (Lissa Gray) adding to the atmospheric effect. John Leyton might now be best recognised for his part in the Great Escape film that appears on TV with monotonous regularity but he had an interesting little run of hits in the early 60’s, mainly written by a rather quirky songwriter Geoff Goddard who shared Joe Meek’s interest in séances and spiritualism ,adding an eerie quality to many of his songs (Another Goddard-penned hit for John Leyton, the grammatically correct Son This Is She, had the narrator's dead dad giving advice from The Beyond on his choice of partner. "A voice from above said, 'Son, this is she.'" ). Johnny Remember Me, too, has some pleasing links with previous columns:

1)It was recorded at Joe Meek’s studios on Holloway Road, mentioned in the Holloway Road column
2) One of the musicians on the track was Chas Hodges of Chas 'n Dave, who has drifted in and out of columns in this meander down  the by-ways of British pop history
3) About the same time as I had my memorable conversation with Christine McVie as Fleetwood Mac tried to find their way to Reading University (Wild West End column), Geoff Goddard was working in the University coffee bar and catering department. It is perhaps not too fanciful to imagine he might have served Fleetwood Mac tea and a plate of chips when they got to their destination. Indeed the twists and turns of time.

Another example was the winceable 1975 Paul Anka hit, You’re Having My Baby, in which the nameless female singer (actually Odia Coates) assures him that, yes indeed, she is having his baby. Still, it did win  him two awards: the ‘Keep Her In Her Place’ award and the ‘Male Chauvinist Pig of the Year’ award. Or there is this  1966 Billy Stewart version of Ol’ Man River, a perfect example of lead and background vocals merging into a whole greater than the parts. In the then uncredited backing were not only soul outfit the Dells but also, providing a backdrop, the soaring and  incomparable voice of a young Minnie Riperton.

Why Rainbow Valley features in a blog on real places  is because of a recent trip to the Forest of Dean and the Wye Valley, on the Gloucestershire/Herefordshire borders.  There have been songs actually about this area. Spirogyra, a progressive folk outfit  from the early 70’s did a song The Forest of Dean:” In The Valley of Wye ,looking up at Symond’s Yat, we first noticed the sky , wondering, in the Valley of Wye” .There was also  another prog folk group from the same era, Decameron, whose main man, Johnny Coppin, went on to record  a number of songs about the area, including this track This Night The Stars, a poem by Forest of Dean poet Leonard Clark put to music.

Yet neither of these came to mind on the trip .It had been raining and the view from the top of Symonds Yat was initially shrouded in thick mist. Then for a brief time it cleared and the view that was  spread out below like a tapestry appeared piece by piece like a  photo developing in a darkroom. The rainbow that appeared as the mist dispersed wasn’t captured in the picture above but as it arked over the Wye Valley, with the river cutting its way through the woods and patchwork of fields, a song from years ago came to mind; Rainbow Valley. And for those few moments, before the mist crept back and shrouded the view once again, it seemed a perfect fit.

41 comments:

  1. I once saw the band Dolly Mixture do a brilliant version of this song (Rainbow Valley) - sometime in the early 1980s.... it's a great song!

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  2. I remember Love Affair doing Rainbow Valley on Top of The Pops and the backing tape got out of synch with Steve Ellis’s singing..... There was some suggestion that there had been jiggery pokery behind the scenes as the folk at the Beeb were supposedly upset because Everlasting Love had only Ellis from the band on the actual recording: all the instruments were played by session musicians....

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    1. wow I remember that too, the orchestra was a few bars out of synch!

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  3. Ha ha yes, that video makes NO SENSE!!!

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  4. Fantastic song ... from a fantastic era .. and as for the video - imagine health and safety, and terrorism laws allowing machine guns on stage nowadays ...

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  5. Geoff, I believe the video is from a performance they did on the Dutch tv-program "Moef Gaga" so perhaps the surreal nature is more to do with how the TV program was set up?

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  6. Geoff, do you happen to know which session bass guitar player played those fantastic bass riffs on this and Everlasting Love? Was it Herbie Flowers?

    Wonderful column!

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  7. I love Steve Ellis. My favourite of his songs is Rag And Bone, but no one else seems to remember it!!

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  8. I loved this song (Rainbow Vallery) so much when it first came out that I nicked it off the local jukebox!! This was wrong I know, but I have repented for my sin!

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  9. This has always been one of my favourite sixties tracks. When Sue Gover sings "meet me where the rainbow ends" I still get a goose pimple shiver of delight!

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  10. As another great Love Affair song, here is Bringing on Back the Good Times! - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Mg_WrOy11Zs - another great song from one of the greatest British underrated bands ever.... i used to iron my clothes and dance to this before hitting the town.....

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  11. I like it when your columns all intersect Geoff (e.g., you and Geoff Goddard working at the university when Fleetwood Mac tried to find their way to Reading University, or Johnny Remember Me being recorded at a site you mentioned in the Holloway Road column)..... At moments like this I realize that I am witnessing the writing of a book in progress. You really should turn this blog into a book - it can still be a "meander down the by-ways of British pop history" but just in book form!! I would definitely buy it! And several other copies for friends! So would many other people!

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  12. Geoff - any idea who else ever won the ‘Male Chauvinist Pig of the Year’ award? Couldn't find a centralised listing of this award online.....

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  13. Wow, Geoff, I hadn't heard about that You're Having My Baby song!! And presumably the ‘Keep Her In Her Place’ award is an ironic award - meant critically rather than in a celebratory way?

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  14. Geoff, thanks for telling us about Minne Riperton being the backing on Ol’ Man River, didn't know that!

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  15. I love the area you describe here, Geoff - the Forest of Dean and the Wye Valley, on the Gloucestershire/Herefordshire borders. It really does often feel like a fantasy place, some kind of movie set for Lord of the Rings! All that mist and the valley.....

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  16. ha ha - yes!! - "someone coming out of, say, Images Night Club in Hemel Hempstead on a Saturday night might think they were in Lipps Inc’s Funky Town"

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  17. Geoff - love the photo you posted! Did you take that? I think this is what the Olympics opening ceremony was going for in its beginning part - the British pastoral, the green and pleasant land.....

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  18. Here is that terrible Paul Anka song, You’re Having My Baby, for anyone curious!

    I remember being angry about this even at the time it was released.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8QN6p66AtDc

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  19. I wish I had the ability you have, Geoff, to see a scene and have songs come to mind. I know that even if I had stood looking down into the valley while the mist cleared, like you describe at the end of the column, I still wouldn't have remembered a song, however hard I tried. I do remember paintings. Maybe it's how different people's brains work - aural vs visual. But I think I'd rather remember songs than paintings, it would be nice to have a constant soundtrack accompanying me everywhere I went!

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  20. Paul Anka was a sexist song machine, cranking out “(You’re) Having My Baby” and “Dance On Little Girl" and perhaps the worst - “She’s a Lady" which Tom Jones sang. This really is Anka at his most syrupy and sexist, a song that treats women not as fellow humans, but as some sort of combination of children and trophies. Here are the lyrics!:

    Well she’s all you’d ever want,
    She’s the kind they’d like to flaunt and take to dinner.
    Well she always knows her place.
    She’s got style, she’s got grace, She’s a winner.
    She’s a Lady. Whoa whoa whoa, She’s a Lady.
    Talkin’ about that little lady, and the lady is mine.
    Well she’s never in the way
    Always something nice to say, Oh what a blessing.
    I can leave her on her own
    Knowing she’s okay alone, and there’s no messing.
    She’s a lady. Whoa, whoa, whoa. She’s a lady.
    Talkin’ about that little lady, and the lady is mine.
    Well she never asks for very much and I don’t refuse her.
    Always treat her with respect, I never would abuse her.
    What she’s got is hard to find, and I don’t want to lose her
    Help me build a mountain from my little pile of clay. Hey, hey, hey.
    Well she knows what I’m about,
    She can take what I dish out, and that’s not easy,
    Well she knows me through and through,
    She knows just what to do, and how to please me.
    She’s a lady. Whoa, whoa, whoa. She’s a lady.
    Talkin’ about that little lady and the lady is mine.

    Right out of the gate, we’ve got objectification. The woman in question is the “kind you’d like to flaunt.” Not, you know, talk to or nothin’. You want to take her to dinner, show her off to the guys, because what matters most in a woman is that you can show her off to the important people — other men. But don’t worry — she won’t cheat with those guys! You can actually leave her on her own! Awesome!

    And of course, she always has something nice to say. Wouldn’t want a woman to criticize you. That’s a bummer. She doesn’t ask for much, either — which is, of course, why one wouldn’t refuse her. (If she did ask for much, of course, that might be different.) And most important, she can “take what I dish out,” which isn’t easy, but isn’t abusive, I guess, or so I say.

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  21. Let me begin by saying Paul Anka has 5 daughters. And he’s from Canada, a country that produces some of the most cordial and polite people in the world. He had a big career as a teenager in the late 50s/early 60s, but his career waned as the 60s. Then after another label change to United Artists he wrote a song which was an ode to his wife and four (at the time) daughters. The song seemed perfect for Anka to sing. But it was suggested that he might want to sing it as a duet and Paul happened to know a lady named Odia Coates who he thought had a wonderfully voice. I wouldn’t say their 2 voices blended well, but it was interesting hearing them together. Nevertheless Paul & Odia were the first interracial duet ever to hit number one. And even in 1974, that was still a progressive thing. So Paul is finally back at number 1, 15 years after his last one. He should have been enjoying it, but many folks including the National Organization of Women decried the song, saying it was misogynistic and Paul was a chauvinist. So let’s break down the lyrics and see if Paul made some bad word choices:

    You’re having my baby,
    What a lovely way of saying how much you love me,
    You’re having my baby,
    What a lovely way of saying what you’re thinking of me

    Gripe #1 with NOW was the use of my in having my baby part. Is our more inclusive? Absolutely. But it doesn’t work. I understand the sensitivity was high back then. Nowadays I’m sure there our many pregnant women would love for the guy to say that’s MY baby. (I’m looking at you, John Edwards.) The part about saying ho much you love & are thinking of me is dorky, but not offensive. In fact I think (and hope for most people’s sake) it’s love that started the child’s life out to begin with. And if you have not had a child, you may not fully get that one til it happens.

    I can see it, your face is glowing,
    I can see it in your eyes. I’m happy you know it

    Here Paul unselfishly recognizes the beauty in his pregnant wife.

    You’re having my baby,
    Your the woman I love & I love what it’s doing to you,
    You’re having my baby,
    You’re a woman in love and I love what’s going through you.

    Again, not offensive and it shows the wonderment of life through the father’s eyes. Maybe it’s a little too much and should be shared in private, but Paul doesn’t care about showing his feelings Alda-style.

    The need inside you, I see it showing,
    Oh the seed inside you,
    Baby do you feel it growing,
    Are you happy you know it.

    OK, maybe this made people squirm a bit, but guess what? That’s how we all got here, as a seed with needs. Is Paul treating her like a second class citizen? Where is he saying, ‘I know you’re pregnant.but I have company coming over, so start sweeping and bake us a cake’? And now he turns it over to the woman who admits she’s in love, loves what it doing to her and what’s going through her. Did NOW think that Paul was shortchanging the experience and that he should have assumed that women hate being pregnant and it feels awful? He’s still at this point glorifying it.

    Didn’t have to keep it, wouldn’t put you through it,
    You could have swept it from your life,
    but you wouldn’t do it, no you wouldn’t do it.

    So hear is where Paul left himself open to scorn. NOW and others said that he was advocating aborting the child. I agree that it could be interpreted that way. I look at it like this. Paul is saying she had the choice to keep or not keep it and that he wouldn’t get in her way whichever she chose. And with the Roe V. Wade decision only a year old, the freedom to choose was big right given to women. Paul is acknowledging this. Plus he knows that his wife even with the choice, would still choose to have the child. I fail to see where Paul at any time condemns pregnancy, women, abortion or anyone or anything.

    You can say whatever you want about the music: too schmaltzy, too Vegas-y (Paul was a frequent performer there. Oh and so was Elvis). But for God’s sake, cut Paul some slack!

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  22. Paul Anka's song is the most chauvinistic, inane, cheesy, misogynist song ever written. 'You're the cutest little incubator a man could ever wish for...' I always think of this song's title as 'You're Gestating my Zygote....'

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  23. Anka still performs that song live. It's always the low point of the concert, where people stop clapping. It's weird - why doesn't he stop playing it? He probably wrote it as a celebration of his wife's pregnancy, but to too many women the song smacks of condescension and misogyny.

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  24. Here's Spirogyra, The Forest of Dean - great song!

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VU_AClXnE9c

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  25. If you have never heard it, She's Having My Baby is Anka singing how having his baby is “a wonderful way of saying how much you love me”. Sadly, this isn’t even the low point of the song, as he later sings about how his sperm is making her glow and than crows into a pro life diatribe how she didn’t have to keep it and made the “right” decision. I guess I like to think that wen Anka penned this he was just writing about the joys of becoming a dad and was completely oblivious to the sexist and selfish jargon he spouted.

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  26. Anka's response to charges of sexism was a cop out too: "I can't hand out a pamphlet every time I write a song."

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  27. Thank you for mentioning me in your blog. I don't expect it is anywhere online, but if you ever have a chance, you might enjoy the programme I did for the BBC, "Song of Gloucestershire". I am always looking for extra concert dates - perhaps you know of a venue or village hall or would like to put on a house concert, Geoff!?

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  28. Thanks for also talking about "Johnny Remember Me." It's such an urgent Gothic romance, with a vocal clutching at your sleeve, desperate to tell a story of loss and madness. Meek turns the drums into phantom horsemen and fills the record's dark spaces with melodrama – a keening female voice on the chorus rounds the effect off. Pure corn, perhaps, but sold with a dread conviction, which makes this the weirdest and most gripping British record to hit the top yet, I think!

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  29. Here's John Leyton,Son This Is She, which Geoff mentioned:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CqtS1K-jlmQ

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  30. I always found Geoff Goddard's story really sad - he was so talented, then seemed to have an argument with Joe Meek, lost a court case against him for copyright issues, then just vanished from the music scene and worked in the catering department at Reading uni, then died quite young at 62. It all seems really tragic. Did you ever meet him Geoff, if you were there at Reading at the same time? Did he seem like a sad person?

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  31. Goddard's story isn't as tragic as Joe Meek's though! Although as soon as he could, Meek fled rural England for London, in the late Fifties, despite his reputation as one of the best sound engineers in the capital, he remained haunted by the fact that his emotional and sexual orientation was illegal. This laid him open, as it did generations of gay men, to ridicule, arrest, imprisonment, violent attacks and - perhaps worst of all - blackmail. In November 1963, Meek was arrested for cottaging, importuning in a public toilet: the news of his conviction made the front page. Then by mid-1966, Meek's mental state was worsening as his heyday receded into the past. Jekyll overtook Hyde, as his money troubles and declining fame caused him to up his pill intake and to dabble further in the occult. He was beaten up and his prized Ford Zodiac trashed. He was also threatened by gangsters who wanted to take over the Tornados' management. His paranoia was justified; his loneliness became all-consuming. Meek's own productions - the few that were actually released - had already reached new levels of pill-saturated oddity: the bizarre helter-skelter rhythm of Jason Eddy and the Centremen's 'Singing the Blues', the nuclear-winter visions of Glenda Collins's late protest, 'It's Hard to Believe It'.

    Then in January 1967, Meek's game was up. While his last ever single, the Riot Squad's 'Gotta Be a First Time', was dismissed as 'a corny bit of beat', he was implicated by association with a gruesome gay crime dubbed 'the Suitcase Murder'. Although the hapless producer had nothing to do with the young victim's dismemberment, the police interest tipped him over the edge. On 2 February, he burst into a friend's house all dressed in black, claiming he was possessed. The next morning, the 18th anniversary of Buddy Holly's death, he blasted his landlady with his shotgun before eating the barrel himself.

    Joe Meek's was an extreme pathology, to be sure, with its incredible highs - just listen to the aerated hysteria of John Leyton's 'Wild Wind' - and annihilating lows, but what remains shocking is just how much his suicidal impulse was shared by many gay men of his generation.

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  32. Wonderful column, Geoff! Just got back from a holiday, threw my suitcase on the bed, made a coffee and settled in to read your latest!

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  33. That's a nice comment, Tiffany!
    Thanks for the comment and reference to the Song of Gloucestershire programme, Johnny -I'll see if I can find it.

    Re the comment above to the first inter-racial duet, the first 'inter-racial touch' on American TV was apparently this duet between Petula Clark (again)and Harry Belafonte in 1968
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gQXVjY1oqRo

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  34. I love the idea there is a "yearning for a personal Shangri-La over the next horizon" - I definitely have this yearning. But wasn't the physical inspiration for Hilton's Shangri-La in the 1933 novel Lost Horizon the Hunza Valley in northern Pakistan, close to the Chinese border, which Hilton visited a few years before Lost Horizon was published? It is apparently an isolated green valley surrounded by mountains, enclosed on the western end of the Himalayas, and it closely matches the physical description in the novel.... so maybe there IS a Shangri-La out there somewhere, which is a nice thought!!

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  35. Here's the Robert Knight version of Rainbow Valley that Geoff mentioned:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n2KXvIei-PQ

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  36. Hi there, a friend forwarded me your blog, thanks very much. I currently perform with The New Amen Corner in case you ever want to come and hear us. And I am trying to find a record deal for my new album. It features lots of different people, like Iain Dunnet, the keyboard player from Climax Blues Band. An Irish fella, Sam Smith, has written two tracks with me and played acoustic on them. Also I have Danny from my band on bass, Steve Fairhead on guitar and slide guitar, Rory Cameron playing some blues harp, Nigel Glockler from Saxon on drums and drum programming and Roger Daltrey guesting. Also included is a bonus track (Everlasting Love Live) from Fairfield Hall, Croydon with Paul Weller and Steve Cradock. Just loads of talented mates really, all pitching in to help. The album is now finally completed and a suitable record deal is currently being sought. Perhaps you might have contacts Geoff??

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  37. Geoff, any idea where the Land of Ooo-Bla-Dee was possibly supposed to be - its vague inspiration? Is it Arabian?

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  38. I always thought the backing on the song was definitely members of the Sue and Sunny backing duo - where do you come down on that Geoff; do you think it is Carol Brett?

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  39. Hi Geoff! Just wanted to make sure you're ok! I missed your blog this week:) Maybe you're on holiday though.

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  40. Me too - I miss you Geoff! Not sure what to think about and be fascinated and inspired by this week in my life.

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