This week’s video post…. Who doesn’t love Kate bush?
My wife’s favourite Kate Bush tune is Cloudbusting, but below is mine:
Last week I went away for a few days on holiday. We rented a cottage in Cornwall, and had a great time apart from my wife getting sick on the last day (She’s OK now). It’s always nice to get away for a bit and I love to be in the fresh air and by the sea. However whenever I go away, there is always a part of me that misses my piano. I tend to play him every day when I am home, and I get slightly itchy fingers if I don’t. The piano for me is the most versatile of all instruments, allowing you to play almost any music, but unfortunately it doesn’t travel well.
Whilst we were down in Cornwall we took a walk along Gylly beach near Falmouth. Our own visit coincided with the end of the college day and there were at least 2 different students wandering on the beach with guitars: One with his strapped to his back, the other was actually walking around playing, clearly trying to impress the girl he was with. You can’t really do this with a piano; you have to go to it. Last year we stopped at a B&B near Dartmouth that actually had a piano in the dining room. My eyes lit up when I saw it; unfortunately it was so out of tune as to be completely unplayable. What a disappointment! Perhaps there’s a website out there that lists holiday destinations that have working pianos at them?
I am also always slightly anxious when I go away that the piano will be OK when I get back home. I realize that their lack of portability makes them difficult to steal, and that burglars are usually looking for electronic goods or jewellery. But they are also quite valuable; my own, which isn’t a posh name like a Steinway, still needs to be separately listed on our insurance policy. If I did come back home from a holiday to find that the house had been broken into, the first thing I would do would be to make sure that the piano was a) not missing or b) had not been vandalized, before checking anything else.
So it was with a little relief to come home last weekend to find that all was well with the house, and therefore with Humphry. And it was nice to feel him back under the fingers again.
As you might have noticed if you saw my last post, I have a bit of a soft spot for love songs. I always have done. The first track I fell for was I want to know what love is by Foreigner. I know it’s cheesy, but I love it. I remember that as a thirteen year old I got the double album The Best of the Greatest Love.
Not the usual album for someone just hitting their teens. It had some absolute classics on it such as Me and Mrs Jones by Billy Paul and Don Mclean’s Vincent. I got given the tapes with my first Sony Walkman and remember playing them to death throughout my teen years. I even made my own tape of some of my favourites; Such as I Just Died in your Arms Tonight by Cutting Crew, Missing You by John Waite and Whitesnake’s Is this Love?. One of my friends referred to this tape as my ‘Erection Selection’.
An all time classic of the genre as far as I’m concerned is Stay with me till Dawn by Judie Tzuke. It was her second single, and I’m surprised to read that it only reached 16 in the UK charts when it was released in 1979. It has since been voted as in the top 50 UK songs, but it is probably in my top 10 list. I could listen to it all day. It’s not possible to write a list of criteria for the perfect love song, but if one did exist this would surely tick all the boxes. I heard her being interviewed a year ago with her daughter who is also a singer. They were touring together at the time. I didn’t get to see her, but I’m pleased to see she is still in the business. Below is a recording of her singing the original back in 1979.
Another love song that I have rediscovered is the tune I can’t make you love me by Bonnie Raitt. Recently covered by Adele on her 19 album, it has been covered by loads of people from George Michael to Kenny Rogers.
I have downloaded the sheet music for it so would like to give it a go.
I will post about my progress in a while, but for now enjoy the heartbreaking version by Bonnie Raitt. You should also look up the Adele live version.
In my last post I linked to Gabrielle Aplin, who produced a stunning cover of Frankie Goes to Hollywood’s The Power of Love. I loved the simple, almost melancholic, piano accompaniment. This style really floats my boat. Back in November Dermot O’leary on BBC radio 2 had bands send in their rendition of Chas and Dave’s Aint no Pleasing You. This is not a song that I particularly like however there was a fantastic version of it by The Gentlemen who completely stripped it down to a few notes on the piano. It is definitely worth clicking on the link.
I am in awe of people who can take a song and make it their own. I struggle to play tunes without having the sheet music in front of me. I’ve sat down a few times to try to work out the notes of particular songs, but never get very far. I’m not sure how to develop these skills. My piano teacher tells me to pick a very simple tune that I know well, but I really struggle to do it. I don’t think that I have very good relative pitch (the ability to identify the gap between 2 different notes). If I did I’m sure it would be easier for me. I do try to practice my scales and arpeggios although not as frequently as I should. I’m sure that this is the key to being able to learning a tune without the music.
A few years ago whilst searching on Youtube I found the channel of Evangeline Hall. She is a British piano and harp player who plays her own arrangements of popular tunes. My current favourite of hers is a cover of the Eurythmics’ Here Comes the Rain Again. Unfortunately for me she doesn’t post up the sheet music, which means if I want to be able to play her version I will have to work it out myself.
My teacher has quite a few compilation books that don’t have the full sheet music in them, just single notes for the melody with the chords listed above. The idea being that this is enough info for you to be able to play a version of the song by filling in the rest yourself. There are even apps that you can get for your smartphone/tablet that display music this way, allowing you to have hundreds of tunes wherever you are. The problem is that for someone like me they might as well be written in Greek. I still haven’t learnt all the nomenclature for all the chords, and even the ones that I do know, do not fall quickly under my fingers.
At my last lesson my teacher flicked to the song I am currently learning I wish I Knew How it Would Feel to be Free. The whole song only took up 4 lines, but she was able to play a passable rendition of it. Certainly it would have been a perfect accompaniment to someone singing the song. I asked her how she filled in the blanks, and she said that whenever she played these books she was just “Bullsh***ing in the key of”. So as long as you keep to the notes in the right key and swap the chords in order, then you can get away with it. I think it will be a long time before I get to this stage. But it is definitely a skill that I want to learn.
Apparently his song was used in a recent John Lewis Christmas advert, so I’m guessing it then went on to do well in the charts.
Whenever I hear this song I think of the Birmingham Botanic Gardens. The first time I heard it, it was playing on the radio as we arrived there over the Christmas period, and now the two are forever linked in my mind. Most tunes are linked in my head to a particular place. Wouldn’t it be good by Nik Kershaw is linked to Malham Cove, and Chasing Cars by Snow Patrol is lniked with the road between Newquay and Padstow.
I have always loved the original Frankie Goes to Hollywood track, and although I don’t normally prefer cover versions to original recordings, this stripped down version is better in my opinion.
So see below to see what Gabrielle Aplin can do with a piano and her voice.