Thursday, 2 February 2017

Farrah Fawcett at 70

Further to my previous posting on this blog entitled Charlie’s Angels at 40, today would have been the 70th birthday of the TV series star, Farrah Fawcett.

Born on 2nd February 1947, Texan, Farrah Leni Fawcett, was born of Irish, French, English and Choctaw Native American ancestry, into a Roman Catholic family with one older sister. Her father was an oil field contractor while her mother was a homemaker.

Iconic poster image
She initially rose to international fame early in 1976 when posing in a red swimsuit, which became the best-selling pin-up poster in history selling over 20 million copies.

Best remembered for her stunning smile, blonde flowing locks and pin-up model beauty, she was cast as Jill Monroe in the original TV series of Charlie’s Angels in 1976. At that time she was styled as Farrah Fawcett-Majors due to her 9-year marriage to Lee Majors (star of The Six Million Dollar Man).

From 1979 until 1997 and then 2001 to 2009 (her death) she was romantically involved with actor Ryan O’Neal, producing a son, Redmond James Fawcett-O'Neal.

Also to star in such movies as Logan's Run, Saturn 3, The Cannonball Run, The Apostle, Dr. T and the Women and The Burning Bed, she was diagnosed with anal cancer in 2006. An NBC documentary outlining her battle with the disease (Farrah’s Story) won her a posthumous Emmy award for her work as a producer.

After enduring chemotherapy and surgery, it was reported on her 60th birthday that she was "cancer free". However 3 moths later she experienced a recurrence and was diagnosed with stage IV cancer that had metastasised to her liver.

With subsequent unsuccessful holistic treatments in Germany, she finally passed away in June 2009, at the age of 62.

RIP Farrah.

Friday, 30 December 2016


This year I bought myself a small Christmas present. 

When recently looking through one of the upstairs cupboards in my house, I noticed my extensive collection of vinyl records. With vinyl making something of a resurgence and having nothing to play them on, I decided to invest in a turntable that converts the music into MP3s. The turntable arrived yesterday and I have now started what will be, a very long task of conversion.

Forgetting quite how many 33s, 45s and 12 inch singles I had collected over the years before CDs and downloads took over, it was fascinating to start going through them all, while bringing back memories of people and old friends associated with those memories, many of which I have long lost contact with.

The first pile brought me records by such diverse artists as Lionel Richie, Rufus and Chaka Khan, Bill Withers, Chicago and the Little River Band, but the 12 inch single that brought back most memories was an early 80s remix of “Buttercup” by Carl Anderson.

To Top-40 fans, Carl Anderson is not a name that particularly rolls off the tongue, but for those interested in musical theatre he is fondly remembered for playing Judas Iscariot in the Broadway and film productions of Jesus Christ Superstar.

Written by Stevie Wonder, “Buttercup” was originally recorded by the Jackson Five but never actually released by them until their 2009 compilation I Want You Back!  Unreleased Masters came into being.

In my opinion, the song certainly lends itself to Anderson’s vocal versatility to transform between R&B and jazz and however much of a fan I am of the Jacksons, their slightly slower version although very pleasant, didn’t really do it for me.

Carl Anderson passed away in 2004 at the age of 58 after a battle with leukaemia. 

Sunday, 27 November 2016

Musical Irish Englishness?

Ireland is a very gifted nation musically, but all may not be quite as it seems when it comes to a certain three of its music stars.

The Boys are Back in Town

Phil Lynott, the late lead singer and bassist of rock outfit “Thin Lizzy” did not emanate from the “Emerald Isle”. He was actually born in August 1949 at Hallam Hospital (now known as Sandwell General Hospital) in West Bromwich, England, to an Irish mother and Guyanan father.

Christened at St Edward’s church in Selly Oak, Birmingham, he spent some of his early life in and around the city, and subsequently in Manchester when his mother moved there.

At the age of 4 he went to live with his Irish grandmother in Dublin while his mother remained in the UK. Although remaining in contact with his mother, he stayed in Ireland throughout what was said to be a happy childhood.

With his later years taken up with a dependency on drugs and alcohol, Lynott died at the age of 36, of pneumonia and heart failure, due to septicaemia, in January 1986.

In 2005 a life sized bronze statue of the singer was unveiled close to Grafton Street in Dublin (see image above). Since that time it has once been knocked off its pedestal by vandals in 2013 and more recently run into by a van snapping its base. Thankfully it has now been fully restored and it can be considered that “The Boy is Back in Town!”

All Kinds of Everything

In 1970 a fresh faced, pretty Irish girl became an overnight sensation winning the Eurovision Song Contest in Amsterdam with “All Kinds of Everything”

At the tender age of 18 Dana, born Rosemary Brown, became the first of Ireland’s record seven victories in the contest. But Irish Dana was actually born and grew up in the London suburb of Islington.

At the age of five, Dana’s parents decided to return to live in their native Derry in Northern Ireland. London was still a smog ridden city and because of the harmful effects it was having on some of her siblings, the family were convinced they would be better off, for health reasons, returning back over the sea.

In more recent times Dana Rosemary Scallon (as she is now referred to) served as a member of the European Parliament and has twice unsuccessfully run for the Irish Presidency. 

Often controversial with modernist views, it was revealed during her 2nd attempt at the Presidency that she was now a dual US and Irish citizen. She denied hiding this fact from the public, but it did not help her in the vote winning quest where she came 6th to Michael D Higgins.

Dana has four children and lives with her husband in County Galway, Ireland.

The Irish Rover

Shane MacGowan, best known as lead singer and songwriter of the Celtic punk band “The Pogues”, was born on Christmas Day in 1957 at Pembury, Kent, England to Irish parents.

“The Irish Rover” spent his early life in County Tipperary, but returned to the UK at the age of 6, living in many parts of the south-east of England during his youth including London and Brighton.

As a boy he won a literature scholarship into London's Westminster School, but was expelled in his second year at the historic seat of learning when caught in possession of drugs.

Pertinent to his “rock’n’roll” lifestyle, MacGowan has suffered from binge drinking for many years, becoming notorious for performing when under the influence of alcohol. In the summer of 2015 he fractured his pelvis when leaving a Dublin recording studio from which he still continues to experience mobility issues. He lives in Dublin with his long-term girlfriend.

All three artists are/were fiercely proud of their Irish nationality and in turn are proudly celebrated by their nation. 

But even though their heritage and background is obviously Irish, surely we British can also claim a part of them as our own?

Wednesday, 16 November 2016

Leaving on a Jet Plane

Flicking through TV channels this afternoon I came across Vintage TV with a show based on music of the 60s.

After a few tracks by such eminent artists as The Four Tops, the Rolling Stones, Tom Jones and James Brown, they came to playing the wonderful “Leaving on a Jet Plane” by Peter, Paul and Mary.

The John Denver penned song became the trios biggest hit reaching no.1 in many countries in the world (though only getting to no.2 here in the UK).

Peter Yarrow, Noel Paul Stookey and Mary Travers were created as an entity in 1961 by manager Albert Grossman who auditioned many singers based in the New York folk scene.

Leaving on a Jet Plane (performed by the trio in 1986)

They went on to have hits with such memorable tunes as Puff the Magic Dragon, If I Had a Hammer, The Times They are A-Changin’ and Bog Dylan’s Blowin’ in the Wind to name but a few.

Yarrow and Stookey continue to this day as solo artists, however Mary Travers passed away in 2009 from complications after a marrow transplant related to leukaemia.

Monday, 17 October 2016

Today's the Day - 18th October

Herman Melville
On this day in 1851, The Whale by Herman Melville was published in Britain in 3 volumes. Later to become the story of Moby-Dick, it was published in just a single volume in the USA approx. 3 weeks later.

The novel was a commercial failure and out of print at the time of the author's death in 1891, but during the 20th century, its reputation as a “Great American Novel” was established.

The English edition had an initial print of only 500 copies – significantly fewer than his other books while only 3,200 copies of the novel were sold during Melville’s lifetime.

Birthdays and anniversaries on this day:

Erin (or is it Joanie?)
Legendary American singer-songwriter and guitarist Chuck Berry was born in 1926.

Lee Harvey Oswald, who assassinated of US President John F Kennedy, was born in 1939.

Erin Moran, who played the part of Joanie Cunningham in the 1970’s TV smash hit Happy Days, celebrates her 56th birthday today.

Sunday, 16 October 2016

Today's the Day - 17th October

On this day 60 years ago, Britain’s first nuclear power station, Calder Hall in Cumbria, was officially opened.
A clock at Calder Hall registering power
transferred to the National Grid
Opened by the Queen, it actually began operating in August of the same year, becoming the first nuclear power station in the world to generate power on an industrial scale.

The first nuclear power station in the world began operations on an experimental basis 2 years previously in the Soviet Union, but the output generated was significantly lower than that at Calder Hall.

The town of Workington, situated 15 miles up the coast from Calder Hall, became the first town in the world to receive heat, light and power from nuclear energy, and within 4 hours nuclear-powered electricity had reached London.

Birthdays and anniversaries today include:

Rita Hayworth
US actor and dancer Rita Hayworth was born on this day in 1918. She died in 1987 aged 68 with Alzheimer's disease being a contributing factor.

Actor Guy Henry, better known as Henrik Hanssen in BBC’s Holby City is 56 today.

South African golfer Ernie Els, nicknamed “The Big Easy” celebrates his 47th.

Today's the Day - 16th October

100 years ago today, Margaret Higgins Sanger and colleagues opened the first American birth control clinic in New York City. It resulted in their immediate arrest and jailing for the distribution of “obscene material”, although the convictions were later overturned.

Sanger believed that women deserved an equal footing in society and that to lead healthier lives, should be able to determine themselves when to bear children. She also wanted to put an end to back-alley abortions which, even though they were illegal at the time, were commonplace.

She didn’t totally disagree with abortions per se, but considered that contraception was the most practical way to avoid them.

Davina, 49 today
In 1921 Margaret Sanger founded the American Birth Control League, which later became the Planned Parenthood Federation of America.

Happy birthday today goes to:
Dan Biggar (27)

English TV presenter Davina McCall (49)

South-African cricketer Jacques Kallis (41)

Welsh Rugby Union outside-half Dan Biggar (27)