Sunday, 6 March 2016

Mr Blue Sky

As much as I hate my alarm going off at 6am and contemplating the daily hell that is getting everyone out the door for school each morning with the right bags, kit, charitable donations and permission slips, there is one thing I certainly do look forward to - The Chris Moyles Show at 6.30 on Radio X.

I know not everyone is a fan and he’s been criticized for being a loud mouthed, opinionated, self-obsessed, homophobic yob (I can only assume by those who’ve either never listened to his show or just caught a snippet and got an out of context wrong end of the stick) but he brightens my mornings! Each to their own.

Anyway, this week Radio X launched “Best Of British” where listeners are invited to vote for the “Best British Song Ever”. Whilst discussing this feature, various names were mentioned - classics like Queen, The Rolling Stones, The Beatles and David Bowie, but also others from the 1990s Britpop era such as Blur, The Verve, Oasis and Supergrass. Hearing those latter names, I was immediately transported back to a time when life was fabulous. I was younger, oh so much slimmer, my career was going well, my social life rocked and I met my now soon to be ex-husband.

This sudden jolt back to the past was incredibly powerful. I could hear the music, smell the gin and tonic, see the laughing faces and feel the love I had for life, and particularly for the man I had chosen to be with. Then, just as swiftly, the happiness was replaced by a melancholy feeling, grieving for the loss of all that I had looked forward to in those days. I dreamt of it, achieved it, and then lost it (see Single Plus Baggage).

Music has always been big in my life. Each era seems to be strongly linked to melodic memories. My childhood was dominated by ABBA, Simon & Garfunkel and The Carpenters, followed later by Paul Young, Spandau Ballet, Wham and who could forget Come On Eileen by Dexys Midnight Runners? The turbulent college years brought Simply Red and Beverley Craven. I fell in love to the sounds of Katie Melua and Norah Jones, got married on The Bright Side Of The Road with Van Morrison, danced and laughed along with Robbie Williams and Eliza Doolittle, and suffered loss supported by Mumford & Sons.

And the stage shows! Chess, Phantom, Starlight Express, Miss Saigon, Chicago… I lived each one as I watched it, and relived every second when devouring the soundtrack later.

I sang each song, each lyric, in my bedroom or in my car, with all the passion the storyline deserved, if not exactly the right tune. But as Eric Morecambe once said to Andre Preview/Previn after a memorably bad stint on the piano, “I’m playing all the right notes, but not necessarily in the right order!”

Music was my best friend and I loved the passion it stirred within me.

But then, it became a darker force.

When my husband left, a well-meaning acquaintance warned me not to listen to any music. Odd, I thought. Surely this was the time that I should be finding solace in music, belting out the tracks to release the pain.

But she was right. Suddenly, every song doubled in meaning. Everything related to my situation. I thought I was finding comfort with singers who knew what I was going through. Instead of comfort I found anger and sadness. My emotions became deeper and more entrenched. I think I probably sang Jar Of Hearts more times than Christina Perri! I was drawn to the darker songs and they dragged me further down.

In an attempt to pull myself back up, I sang my way through Gloria Gaynor’s I Will Survive, Katy Perry’s Roar and, I’m ashamed to say, even Miley Cyrus’ The Climb! Granted, they were empowering, positive songs about getting through a crisis and being stronger for it but the focus was still on the disaster. It was still about coping with something bad that had happened. In short, it kept me in my place as someone whose husband had left her. I was stuck in my miserable little bubble.

My 8 year old son recently, insightfully and eloquently, commented on the passing of a relative who’d been ill for a number of years, bed bound, laying flat and being fed by nurses. He said, “That’s not living, that’s surviving.” Out of the mouths of babes…

I want more than just to survive and get through each day, falling into bed feeling emotionally drained. I want to live each day and enjoy the wonderful world I’m lucky to have in the palm of my hand.

Enter ELO - Electric Light Orchestra.

Back to Radio X and the Best British Song Ever. Chris Moyles came up with a list of 5 astounding tracks that could be contenders and among them was Mr Blue Sky by ELO. I knew and liked the track but suddenly it took on new meaning for me.

Apparently Jeff Lynne had been sitting in a Swiss chalet in the Alps trying to write songs. After days of dark, murky weather he was feeling completely uninspired and had written nothing. Then one day, he looked out of the window and saw the most beautiful blue sky over the Alps and was moved to write Mr Blue Sky, swiftly followed by a number of other tracks having got his creative juices flowing.

It is beyond BRILLIANT. At 7.50 in the morning I turned the car radio up to full volume and sang my heart out, much to my daughter’s delight and my son’s dismay.

It made me happy for the whole day. I couldn’t help but grin every time it popped back into my head.

This was a novel experience of late.

I realized that in recent times my musical choices, whilst reflecting my mood, were doing nothing to lift it. I’d been wallowing at the bottom of a lyrical pit feeling sorry for myself for far too long.

I was trapped in an inward, downward, backward spiral when all I had to do was, quite literally, change the record. I should have been looking outward, upward and forward, choosing positive music to highlight the happiness in my life, of which there is so much.

So, I decided to compile a playlist of tracks I find uplifting. Songs that, despite my best miserable efforts, never fail to put a smile on my face. It’s a work in progress (any suggestions would be gratefully received) but this is what I have so far…

1. Mr Blue Sky by ELO
2. Don’t Stop Me Now by Queen
3. Best Day Of My Life by American Authors
4. Dancing In The Moonlight by Toploader
5. Star Girl by McFly

I know the last one might sound a bit random but it’s a throwback to the old Chris Moyles’ Radio 1 show where every Friday was McFly-day and he played Star Girl getting everyone in the mood for the weekend. The kids and I used to sing along and play our air instruments in the car on the way to school each week. We still call Fridays McFly-day now, almost 4 years later!

I’m planning to put the playlist on my phone so that anytime I need a boost I can plug myself in and get a fix. There are far worse ways to get high!

So, Mr Blue Sky was inspired by a magnificent upturn in the weather. But we don’t have to wait for our environment to change in order to rediscover our mojo. We don’t need to rely on our situation getting better to feel happier. We don’t have to assume that, because it’s rained in our world for the past however long, it’ll rain again today.

We can find our own Mr Blue Sky.

Good luck to ELO in Radio Xs Best British Song Ever. I love different songs for different reasons on different days but today, Mr Blue Sky definitely gets my vote. Give it a listen…all the way to the very end. The last line makes me giggle every time.

Happy singing everyone!



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