Happy First of May

May first is celebrated by fans of Melody due to the degree to which the Bee Gees song First of May inspired the story told in the film, and due to its inclusion in the film as the theme of Daniel and Melody. It is played starting when they officially “get together” when she makes unambiguously clear she returns his interest. In the movie, it plays as they go from the school to the overgrown cemetery, then is reprised after the famous cemetery scene and as they walk to her apartment to have tea with her family. That’s on YouTube as First of May, Cemetery Scene, Melody (1971).

This embed is my favorite version that creates a music video for First of May from scenes clipped from the movie, covering a lot of that part of the story, without sticking exclusively to the part around the cemetery scene.

This is a much happier observation of May first than the increasingly widely observed Victims of Communism Day. But we should certainly remember them as well.

Love Grows

One of the best parts of The Kissing Booth was their use of Love Grows by Edison Lighthouse, essentially as a music video over a video collage of activity between Elle and Noah once they secretly get together. Shades of the use of Melody Fair, First of May (though this is broken up by the cemetery scene and then reprised in the actual film), To Love Somebody (though this does have cheering audible over it), and Give Your Best in Melody. For all we know, there will someday be YouTube videos of Love Grows with that movie clip.

This is one of those songs I have loved since forever. Which is to say, 1970 when it charted as a one hit wonder studio group featuring the prolific Tony Burrows. It’s one of the “can’t resist singing along” songs for me. Funny thing is that I associated it in my mind with another super favorite, My Baby Loves Lovin’ by White Plains, before I ever knew it was Tony Burrows on both. He also sang Beach Baby with First Class, which I may have forgotten in songs that remind me of Zack, and United We Stand. The last one was a decent song but never grabbed me like the other, and I left out the 5th hit he’s known for, a novelty song I never cared for much.

The big ones are the first two, for hands down being big favorites I can’t not sing along with. On that note, here’s the embed of the title song…

 

When You Never Watched The Movie…

You write a DVD cover blurb that sounds like this utterly ridiculous one from the Melody DVD:

An excellent musical score by the Bee Gees adds appeal to this curious little movie about two ten year olds, Daniel and Melody (Mark Lester and Tracy Hyde) who are completely taken with each other and announce to their parents, in all seriousness, that they plan to get married. This marriage is not planned for the distant future, but as soon as possible. The uproar that is caused when their seriousness becomes clear is not too surprising. Their best friend Ornshaw (Jack Wild) is not too thrilled with their plan either. What makes the film work is that the entire story is told from the children’s point of view in which the grownups’ objections, since they have no relation to the truth of what the children are feeling, come across as silly or inconsequential. This film is a reunion of sorts for Oscar-winning Oliver! co-stars Mark Lester and Jack.

My aim is to rewrite this using the same amount of words/space, so my text could be used in the same spot on a DVD case. Or as a brief description that might actually make the film sound like something you might enjoy seeing. I transcribed from the case to help with that end, but that allows me to post and critique it her. This is vastly more annoying than the reviews you see by people who sound as if they never saw the film.

The music not only adds appeal, but also was incorporated into creation of the story concept and the writing of the script. That phrasing sounds like damning with faint praise.  That gets worse when it is described as “this curious little movie.” That tells me the writer found the movie odd at best and is warning people that there is a good chance they won’t like it.

The kids are not ten. They are eleven. While their age is never outright stated, the school year and time of year makes them 11 or so close as not to matter. This also fits with the ages of the actors, though that is moot in that Jack Wild was 17 and Lesley Roach was 16, yet they were playing kids who were also 11. It’s possible that kids in the grade level could be as old as 12, but few would be lower than 11 by late in the equivalent of American fifth grade. Not that it matters. My equivalent crush with some surprising similarities was around the time I turned 10.

Why do we need to mention Mark Lester’s name twice? Why do we cut off in the middle of Jack Wild’s name, at the end, so he is mentioned one and a half times?

At no time do the kids announce to their parents that they intend to get married. It is probable that both sets find out, but the only ones we see knowing and doing a poor job of talking her out of it are Melody’s. The closest we see Daniel coming to announcing it (which doesn’t mean it didn’t happen off-screen) is when his mother finds the note saying that they are eloping.

Melody and the love between the two kids is central to the story, but not remotely the only part of it. If you could say it’s about one thing, that would be love. But it’s love between friends as well.

About the only thing in the description that is accurate is that the story was told from the point of view of the children. I’m not sure it’s the objections to the marriage idea that come across as silly and inconsequential so much as it is the general incompetence of the adults that makes them come across that way in general.

I might never have paid enough attention to this to tear into it, except my oldest used the description as the basis for her decision not to watch the movie. That was what cause me even to read it. I was horrified.

Odessa

Yesterday was the 50th anniversary of the release of the Bee Gees album Odessa, which I loved when I bought it sometime in the seventies or very beginning of the eighties. It’s the album that gave us First of May and Melody Fair. I’d like to think I heard those before I bought the album, but they weren’t big hits like Words, I Started a Joke, and so forth from the pre-disco days. It also has Give Your Best, so that’s a Melody threesome.

Morning of My Life (AKA In the Morning) predates Odessa, going back to 1965.

To Love Somebody also predates Odessa, as the second single from Bee Gees 1st in 1967. It was written by Barry and Robin for Otis Redding, who never got a chance to record it.

I’m still curious what the other two songs that could have been used in Melody were. Presumably David Puttnam would know.

I always loved the song Odessa. It’s one of those long, almost experimental songs, almost operatic, a bit surreal. The album was one of the unusual ones I could enjoy hearing in its entirety. That’s rare.

 

Concert Dates and Life

I recently realized that it’s 2019 and that I might be able to determine online the exact date of each of the concerts I had ever attended. In the process of almost complete success at this, I realized that I had been to even fewer concerts than I thought. I have already covered them almost completely in posts here. There’s only one or two that I missed, and if it’s the one, then it’s not a huge story. I expect I’ll include that below the list. I’ll put them in order, with artist, opener if noteworthy, date and venue.

Beach Boys
May 20, 1979
Providence Civic Center

Bee Gees
August 28, 1979
Providence Civic Center

Cheap Trick
Feb 28, 1981
Boston Garden

Moody Blues
July 15, 1981
Providence Civic Center

ELO
Oct 3, 1981
Boston Garden

Foreigner with Joe Walsh
Nov 5, 1985
Worcester Centrum

Pink Floyd
May 6, 1988
Foxboro Stadium

Styx with Pat Benatar
June 27, 1997
Great Woods

The Guess Who
2005???
August 31, 2002
South Shore Music Circus

The last one was weirdly stubborn. It has to be 2004 or 2005. It was warm. It wouldn’t have been warm in the part of 2004 it would have been or in the part of 2005 it definitely couldn’t have been. That puts it not earlier than April and not later than August 2005. Generally the Music Circus was a summer thing, unless I am mistaken, so that fits. I know it was not 2002, which is the year for which a date wanted to pop up.

I am almost certain Pink Floyd was the 6th and not the other date, the 8th. The flying pig didn’t work well at my show. It famously failed at one of them but it didn’t say which. There is video of it working flawlessly on the 8th. It was mildly rainy. Weather data for the 6th suggests it was the wetter day.

There was some minor possibility the year for foreigner was wrong, but the gap from it to Pink Floyd is right.

Apparently Cheap Trick was my third concert, and was the only one I didn’t mention before. It fits my memory of having gone twice to Providence, once to Boston, and then one last time to Providence. I always think of Providence as my favorite, although the Music Circus was a cozy venue. I went to Cheap Trick with my cousin, whose chauffeur I tended to be for a couple years. I was still driving my first car at the time, which he loved as much as I did. It was a 1969 Chevy Nova.

Cheap Trick was just amazing. I wasn’t terribly familiar with them, but playing live was what they did best. They were unusual in becoming huge due to a live album. They were amazing even from the nose bleed seats the entire length of Boston Garden opposite the stage. They were the farthest seats I ever had for a concert.

When we left, we found someone had siphoned gas from the car and it was reading empty. We made it home from Boston, with my cousin making up song lyrics, shades of Running On Empty, about the experience of riding along on fumes hoping to make it. We did. I dropped him off and made it home. These days there would have been numerous opportunities to get gas along the way. Not then at that hour. Even now, driving down the highway through Boston you don’t just see gas stations sitting right off an exit. You have to know they are there. If I come from the north and am running low, I don’t actually stop for gas until the Randolph/Stoughton/Avon exit on route 24, since that’s the first place where I know just where to go.

Looking at the dates, the last one of the early concerts was just before I got my first apartment. While I only had the first place for nine months, I segued from that to living at my father’s house and starting college three years after my peers. No more concerts for me! In 1985 I was still in college but things were weird. I had dated Layla from New Year’s Eve, last day of 1984, until it trailed off entirely that spring or just into summer 1985. I was feeling a bit rebellious. There had been a robbery late in 1984 at the store where I worked, where Layla had taken to coming in and chatting with me at length. I freaked out and quit. My stepmother yelled at me, not long after when she figured this out, “you’re not quitting!” I looked for work that wouldn’t be retail. At this point in school I was taking the first semester of Intermediate Accounting, and I believe I was also doing Auditing and Business Law II concurrently. The latter two memorable because they were both with the horrible professor I ended up with for five different classes in my major.

So I looked for work with CPAs locally. I was easily discouraged, so I tried three of them. On the third one, I decided to try Just One More. I opened a phone book, ran my finger down the listings and went with the one that “felt” promising. I wish that kind of thing were as reliable as my ability to “know” there’s going to be a speed trap. That guy hired me to start in February, when tax season would actually be getting underway. So I ended up back at the store, and doing both things once the other one started. I ended up doing almost everything an accountant would have done, just not doing an audit. As far as I know, he only had one audit client anyway. I prepared worksheets for it. I ended up there for nine months, until way after tax season. The CPA started acting odd in ways that made me wonder if he was having a fling or something, but what was actually happening is he was working on selling the practice and retiring. That, I learned not long after, was why the timing of when he was done with me. It was also why his daughter, who became a CPA herself not that long before or just after I was there, got another job and set the stage for my staying there past April.

I’d have been terribly busy up until shortly before the Foreigner concert, but money wouldn’t have been as much an issue as sometimes.

That summer, I think it was, Frank and his first wife packed up to move to Florida. I had the opportunity to help drive the truck to Florida and they would pay for a cheap flight back north. I’d get the drive and maybe a few days and then be home. My stepmother, on the heels of the job thing, insisted I was absolutely not going. In retrospect, going then would have been vastly preferable. By around the time of Foreigner I probably already planned to take the spring semester off and go to Florida to stay with Frank for a few months or more.

During this time, I was probably suffering what we’d now call PTSD from the robbery. This was exacerbated for a while by the fact the guys got caught and I had to go to court a couple times. Heh. One of those times, the girl who’d been there behind the counter with me for the robbery was also there. Later she moved to New Hampshire or something and fled being a witness. I drove her home afterward and she asked me in to “smoke a joint.” I had a test that day I had promised to show up for if I was able to get out of court in time! Mr. Honor Above All was so intent on keeping that commitment that he completely missed that sharing a joint was not what she was after. She was cute, too.

Under the whole thing of actually dating someone early in the year – someone I wasn’t really interested in – and the having a second job I was intensely proud of and things seeming great and my keeping busy, I was falling apart. It’s probably not so much that the divorce of my parents many years before came back to haunt me as it was provoked into being part and parcel of the PTSD, stress, anxiety, arguably depression interlude. My stepmother wasn’t without good points or intentions, but couldn’t have known she was interjecting herself into that sort of maelstrom and not necessarily the best one to do so.

Right, concerts. After Foreigner, I went to Florida at the end of December, without permission. Drove 1550 miles and thank God the car had no problems. Ended up living there in my friend’s apartment for about six weeks. After a couple weeks, I got a job full time nights at a convenience store. That was a lot of work but was fun, interesting, and different from the ones I’d worked in up north. When Frank abruptly decided he hated Florida Just That Much and was moving to New Hampshire now, I liked Florida enough to be tempted to figure out how to stay. My biggest concern was how to finish college. My stepmother had vehemently assured me I would never finish, which meant there was absolutely no way in hell I was going to Not Finish. Apparently my not graduating high school was a black mark, and the stellar GED scores that set me on the road to college were not enough to matter. I’d have been trying to support myself, by myself, in a strange place, while trying to get credit for the bulk of an accounting degree transferred to a more expensive school that required five rather than four years for the degree. The best I might have done is kept the job, rented a room – on basically a couple days notice that we were leaving – and hung out down there for longer. I could have gotten some other job on the side and just used my time for making money. The sad thing is I never so much as set foot in the Gulf of Mexico. That waited until a couple years later when I was in Galveston. I wasn’t really a beach person. Plus I was in a funk, even being in the good weather and warmth, and having my sinuses clear up while there. I seldom felt healthier as an adult.

Since I had vexed my father and stepmother so thoroughly, I moved in with my older brother when I got back. I took a job nights at one of the same stores I’d worked at through college. Eventually I ended up delivering papers for the rest of college. I returned to school via summer classes that summer, then did three more semesters and more summer classes in 1987. My last class was a final in MA318 on December 16, 1987, so I was officially class of 1988. Originally started in the class of 1986. In effect, I took an extra year, subtracting out the semester off.

My stepmother was disgusted enough that she gave my mother a hard time for taking me to celebrate “graduating.” Which is to say, I got my degree. I refused to participate in the graduation ceremony. I was still scarred by my high school experience. I picked up my diploma from the office in the administration building. I was also nearly as disgusted with college by then as with high school. I was unhappy with my accounting professors and didn’t want to do anything to make them look good. This put taking the CPA exam right out of the question. Besides, I wanted to do cost accounting. Ha! That pretty much meant being a CPA first. I was a disappointment in that regard, since I was one of the two top accounting students along the way in my year. They fully expected me to take the exam and be able to pass. My rival certainly did, then went to law school as well, emulating the horrible professor. Heck, last time I remembered his name and looked online, that guy had even become a professor like his hero, my nemesis. We were closest to being buddies in Accounting Theory class, which only had five of us in it. There was a girl in the class who had somewhat of a brain under the ditzy, but I dragged her across the finish line and made sure she didn’t blow the class. She’d not study or anything, and just before the class I would brief her, so she’d know what we’d be talking about and what to say if asked a question. She would repeat verbatim what I had told her. She got an A- while my rival and I each got a B+. This was an unvarnished example of the female professor favoring the one female student. She had been my beloved cost accounting professor a couple years before. In fact, that was what I took along with Intermediate Accounting I. That and something else. It was Auditing and B Law II the next semester. Anyway, I lost most of my respect for the cost accounting professor over her handling of the theory class. I dragged that girl into getting through the class, but the high grade was entirely in the imagination of the professor. She was probably a B. My grade was perfectly fair, so it’s not sour grapes about that.

It’s going to be weird when my kids graduate and I’m expected to attend, even though I am over it by now. I did actually attend the graduation ceremony for the year I’d have graduated if I’d not taken a semester off and had stuffed in enough classes in summers before then. The commencement speaker was a judge who got up and espoused communism. It was great! Seeing people I had known and offended enough for them to ignore me was also cool. That was the last graduation I attended. The caliber of commencement speech did nothing to encourage me when it would have been my turn.

Lucky for me, I graduated into a pretty dramatic recession and hijinks ensued. I’d have done pretty much everything differently if I had it to do again. That pink Floyd concert would have been close to my time of official graduation. I wouldn’t have gone had my brother not made it happen. I wouldn’t even have known there was a concert. That heyday was over for me. It’d be nine years later before I went to another, by which time we were into the era of nostalgia tours.

So there you have it. More than you ever wanted to know about me and the interlude when I fell apart, loosely in the context of “hey look, Google knows when most of the concerts happened way in the past.” This is a heck of a way to avoid more important things I needed to do.

Update:
I found out for certain that I was quite wrong about when the Guess Who concert was, so I corrected it in the list above.

More Concerts

I mentioned previously my first and most recent concerts, and said I’d fill in more later. It’s later. I’m afraid I don’t remember the order of the concerts after the Bee Gees and before Styx with Pat Benatar. For what it’s worth, whoever opened for the Bee Gees was nobody you ever heard of and was pretty bad, but I still thought it was mean that people booed them so mercilessly. I rather like the more modern approach of pairing bands that are closer to peers than to have an unknown like Jimi Hendrix open for the Monkees. But to be fair that’s a nostalgia tour marketing concept.

It’s so weird trying to drink anything when you’re numb after getting a filling. Just a side note.

I am pretty sure my last concert before Styx was Pink Floyd, in my only trip ever to Foxboro Stadium. My youngest brother treated me. I wouldn’t have thought to go to Floyd, as much as I loved The Wall and wondered how Roger Waters had gotten into my head when I first heard it at Daphne’s house when it came out. And of course, I try to do a non-Melody post and what happens? There’s a direct connection between Melody and Pink Floyd! Sir Alan Parker went from ad copy writing (writing marketing material is fun! But it can be hard and takes a lot of creativity, from what exposure I’ve had to doing it) to writing a screenplay to directing. The screenplay was Melody. The directing bug bit him when he did some second unit stuff, not even credited, I believe, on Melody. Outdoor stuff with gangs of kids. The field day specifically, if I remember correctly what I read about it.

Parker went on to direct, among other things, Fame, which I saw with my friend Perry and possibly Joan in 1980. Love me some Irene Cara! Speaking of connections you can make, you go from Irene Cara to Electric Company to Joss Whedon;s father to Joss and, you name it: Avengers, Buffy, Dr. Horrible, but of course for me it’s Firefly. We considered naming our middle child Kaylee. Turned out it would have fit, but it had also become surprisingly common, in one spelling or another.

Digression. It’s what I do. It’s who I am.

Then Parker directed Pink Floyd: The Wall, which was released in 1982. I didn’t see it until 1985, at Layla’s house. It was pretty wild. Not what the album made me visualize. More fascinating than the fact that he connects to Pink Floyd and it’s fun to make these connections is that he directed a large gang of rebelling school kids in The Wall. It seems somehow… familiar. Gotta teach your children well, not employ darkly sarcastic thought control.

That Pink Floyd tour was the one where they had a huge pig suspended over the place. Not sure the whole thing worked as intended. The lasers in the foggy air were wicked cool, though.

I am 99% sure that the concert I went to before Pink Floyd was Foreigner, with Joe Walsh as the opener. I didn’t know from Joe Walsh at the time, apart from Life’s Been Good, which is actually a song I associate with my friend Frank. His show was awesome. I was in the men’s room when Rocky Mountain Way started. I remembered the song from my childhood, but couldn’t have told you who did it, and wouldn’t have remembered it if not prompted by hearing it. I wasn’t expecting Life in the Fast Lane, another song I associate with Frank. So there were three hits, and the stuff I didn’t know at all was good. The way music you hear in concert is usually better than you might perceive it to be if you tried listening in another setting and format. I’m not sure I would say he was worth the ticket all by himself, the way Benatar was, but he was damn good.

Foreigner, the original lineup, was just amazing. The connection to Floyd is that I took my youngest brother to Foreigner, his first concert ever. That was at the Worcester Centrum, my only trip to that venue. He was blown away. That was his response, some time later, treating me to Pink Floyd.

Foreigner was one of those bands that seemed like they kept playing and playing and playing and it would go on endlessly, with every ounce of energy at the end that they gave away from the beginning. The live version of Hot Blooded is great live. It doesn’t belong on my greatest hits CD, thankyouverymuch. They have the distinction of being the only band ever to leave my ears hurting. It lasted a while, too. That’s not necessarily a good thing, but I guess it’s a risk you take.

One relatively early concert I went to was one of my all time favorite bands who are the Bee Gees, the Moody Blues. Not one of the amazing, fancy concerts where they have an orchestra to help them do justice to things like the tracks off Days of Future Passed. Passed, not past, people. There’s probably a linguistics lesson in there somewhere, but I’m no Mark David Ledbetter.

This was not one of my better concerts. It was cool. I got to see the Moody Blues! Their new music was also good, from Long Distance Voyager or whichever one they were promoting. The company was abysmal and made the evening miserable. If I were to talk about songs reminding me of Daphne, the girl who messed with my head so thoroughly that I arguably still haven’t recovered, I would have to include Moody Blues as an entire band. Luckily that doesn’t ruin them for me. We both already loved them. It was one of the things we had in common. That and space. I’m not sure I ever met anyone else who shared my dream at the time of starting a private space launch company. Obviously that didn’t happen, but it was at the heart of one of my earlier book (series) ideas after I realized if I couldn’t ever do it I at least could fictionalize it. I was floored when I read Heinlein’s The Man Who Sold the Moon a few years later and saw the commonalities and by how many years he’d beaten me to it, albeit in short form. I don’t know when I might have read it had I not signed up for a US literature class for which part of the reading came from Heinlein’s The Past Through Tomorrow. After having bought that for the class, and having been thrilled the professor was that cool, I had to drop the class before it even began. I made sure to sign up with the same guy a later semester, but then he had switched to Lovecraft. Just not the same! Though I don’t regret the exposure to it. It was something my late uncle loved.

Wow, that was a digression. I only remember who one of the other people with us was. She and he are both FB friends these days. I think another one of the people with us may have been a guy she pined for and had ground down into having sex with her, once, and ensuring I knew about it, while maintaining the bizarre… virginal?… act toward me. That aside, everyone seemed to be in a tempestuous mood. The drive there was unpleasant and argumentative. The mood in the group of us in the venue itself was, well, moody. It was a relief for it to be over, even though the concert proper did settle things down.

In terms of company and the moods people were in, that was the worst. It wasn’t as bad taking abuse from Zack’s sister over my accidental purchase of seats with an obstructed view for ELO. Which I know I mentioned somewhere, but should also go in a post specifically about concerts. Moody Blues were the third of my three concerts at Providence Civic Center. I can remember two at Boston Garden, but I may be forgetting one. I’ll get back to the rest of the concerts another day.

First of May

Perhaps the most astonishing thing about discovering Melody is that from the time I fell in love with the song First of May, I had something of a story in my head based on it. If pressed to put the story to film, I probably couldn’t have done better than Melody.

The song lends itself to provoking a story in my head not just because it tells the bones of a story that leave it for you to flesh out in your imagination, but also because it hit a nerve. It hit the memory, much nearer to hand then, of youthful love that was just that powerful. It hit the dream of a love that would never die, even if there was an interruption of being able to be together or a wane in its intensity along the way. I was all about that romantic love that for me has never successfully been requited.

The song was brilliantly and evocatively written. The movie makes brilliant use of the song as inspiration and prop. The use of Melody Fair and To Love Somebody is a bonus, but they all fit together so well.

If Melody didn’t exist, someone would have to create it. That is, a film based on or inspired by First of May.

Sequel

I was thinking never mind a remake. A sequel could have been interesting. It could have answered some questions that will be left forever up in the air about what happened after, or it could have continued to leave ambiguity while still picking up later.

It could have been a bit like having a sequel to The Cutting Edge, another favorite movie of mine. Figure skating meets romantic comedy! What could be better? Besides something that resonates with my own childhood as dramatically as Melody manages. You come along later in their lives and they’re married. Hijinks ensue with their own kid and/or themselves. Times change. Kids not entirely. That they married for real would be some vindication, without regard for how they arrived there after whatever hell there was to pay for the antics at the end of the original.

Of course, in fan fiction anything could happen. A while back I saw someone posit a scenario where they find themselves at Hogwarts via the trolley. Surreal. Or you could put them in a post-apocalyptic situation. TEOTWAWKI could hit while they are off on the trolley, and they are fending for themselves, trying to get by with the clothes on their backs. Pure fantasies of whatever variety.

Skipping ahead would certainly fit the storytelling pattern of the movie. Just as we never see what happens when Daniel collapses after winning the 220. His mother panics! Get the medic! Maybe we don’t need to do more than infer just how traumatic it was for everyone to get their lives and schooling back to something passing for normal. Maybe we don’t need to know how the kids became married old miseries. They just are, and we revisit old friends later in their lives. Ornshaw graduates Top Gun, becomes a hero and gets to return there as an instructor. Wait, wrong movie. Since he’s actually smarter than the teachers, he goes on to become one and show how it’s done. Daniel becomes famous for his art. or at least struggles to make a living at it other than by illustrating Melody’s stories she writes for children.

Or we could throw them together years later, after they’d been torn asunder. Their love will never die, but if they are separated for a while, it takes the right circumstances for a reunion and a more adult romantic comedy before they actually live happily ever after together.

None of which is exactly where I was going with this. The wife started talking and had trouble stopping, much as happens too often when I start typing.

If you go with the Heinleinesque scenario of all realities existing even if they are fiction in our own, then there’s a very real alternate reality, timeline, dimension – whatever you care to call it – in which the events of Melody happened. Number of the Beast, but we’re not in Oz anymore. We don’t know anything about the fine details of that reality in the parts we didn’t get to see, or that came after, but they are happening to those people in that world. Except in the many worlds theory, we have infinitely branching timelines in which any little variation that could happen does happen, each propagating a new universe. Some seem familiar, even indistinguishable. Some seem utterly alien. It takes so little to make a change. A movie that’s released in 1971 and flops in the United States instead does well and makes stars of the people involved, or bigger stars of the already famous ones. That’s a huge ripple through time. Tracy Hyde becomes a household name. She has more and bigger roles. She never becomes a legal secretary. A ten year old boy who’s not entirely different from Daniel Latimer sees it and his life is changed. A far cry from seeing it 47 years later than that and feeling zealously happy yet wistful. Might not be as big a change as we’d have if that movie George Lucas released in 1977, you know, the space one, hadn’t flopped, but… oh wait, that one didn’t flop.

If you put those two concepts together, then every fiction is its own timeline, and every one of those varies and branches infinitely. The one captured by the purveyor of a piece of fiction in our world is just the one we know, not all that could be. Imagine that Icy Hot Song if Ned never lost his head. Or if Avienda, I mean, Ygritte, survived. You know nothing, dear readers.

Seriously, though, a sequel could have been fun. It would have required greater success of the original. While there’s been a great deal of inspiration provided by Melody, despite its cult status, giving us things like Moonrise Kingdom, since most people never heard of Melody, most people wouldn’t care to follow the rest of the story. A shame, but there it is.

1971 Was so long ago, I had to check with my siblings to see if we maybe had seen Melody. As expected, it was no. Never heard of it. I figured that the possibility existed that I could have seen and forgotten it. I doubt it, though. Much as I love First of May and Melody Fair, neither of those came to my attention until later in the seventies. I’d have known them from the movie. The thing is, I know for a fact that we went to see Flight of the Doves in 1971. I remember it being a big deal to my sister. That was yet another Jack Wild film. Yet all I can remember is that I saw it. I remember nothing about it. I remembered parts of the Planet of the Apes movies vividly. My father took as to all four, regardless of whether they might have been age appropriate. I think of myself as having an excellent memory, but things do get spotty from my youth. That wasn’t the best year ever, either, since my father had left in early 1970 and the divorce would be final in the latter part of 1971. Ironically, 4th grade was an exceptional school year for me, and that was 1970-1971. I had both my first crush on a peer, Carol, resembling Melody, and a crush on my pretty blond math teacher. I crashed in 5th grade and had one of my worst school years.  I’ve mentioned it before, but seeing Melody right when I had that first crush in Daniel-but-shyer (and younger) fashion would have been fascinating.

I’m rambling. (I know: “No kidding! You just figured that out?” Heh.) I should be asleep and instead I’m going on and on without saying anything further that pertains to the post. So I’ll stop and survey the damage now.

Ella Songs

The obvious, first, foremost and forever to the day I die Ella song is MacArthur Park. Not by Donna Summer! Not that Donna wasn’t awesome On The Radio. While it also reminds me of my older brother, since I remember being with him when I first heard it and fell in love with it, it was the theme song of the drum and bugle corps in which she was part of the color guard. They did a nice job of it as an instrumental. It is on some level especially suitable because of the wistful parts:

And after all the loves of my life
After all loves of my life
You’ll still be the one

And:

Oh and after all the loves of my life
After all the loves in my life
I’ll be thinking of you
And wondering why

Except, of course, I won’t. I am sure it would never have worked. I could have made a better show of it, and might always regret that, and regret hurting her by turning inward when she finally expressed overt reciprocity. I might regret not having my first date, my first kiss, that sort of thing, with someone that over the top special to me, at, well, what would have been the low side of the age of 15. I did the equivalent of Daniel walking off with Ornshaw and leaving Melody standing there after having presented herself as his if he left with her. (Immediately after I typed this, Melody Fair came on my large, random playlist. How funny.) Even before then, I had the opportunity to kiss her, had I been willing to do it in front of dozens of onlookers. She saved me by offering “a rain check.”

Off and on, to one degree or another, I pined for her for years. it peaked just after 9th grade, 1976. I wasn’t fully and completely over it until late summer 1982, when I ran into her just before I started college and we talked for, heck, upwards of half and hour, maybe closer to an hour, until the store she was working in was closing and I went to pay for the backpack I was buying for college. I continued to have regrets and question myself even longer, but I knew there was just absolutely no chance, that it had been for the best, and that we were such different people that there was no way. Unless we hadn’t become those people to enough of a degree back in the beginning, and might have grown up together to be more compatible or on the same page.

That said, there are two Paul Davis songs, some of my all time favorite songs, that both bring her to mind. It’s funny for me to say a song is an all time favorite, since I would probably say the same of dozens of songs, and would be hard pressed to narrow it even to a few, let alone one.

I made my friends laugh one time when I was driving somewhere and I declared Paul Davis to be “an unsung singer.” It was an unintentionally funny expression.

I Go Crazy captures the feeling, with Ella and to some degree others, of not entirely getting over it, of regret, of the ease of falling right back in.

Sweet Life captures what I imagined it could be like being together, married, in love, having children, and it not always being perfect but love prevailing. It’s a much more idyllic version of what I eventually ended up living, despite that having had its moments. She’s not the only one this applies to, though it’s more generic in that regard – a song of what might have been, perhaps – but it was originally for Ella.

I’m trying to think of more. I am sure there are some. The only one I can think of that sort of fits is Saturday Night by the Bay City Rollers, for no other reason than it was out at exactly that time when I was crushing on her in 9th grade, and I was hearing it in the school cafeteria. Oh, to some degree Elenore by The Turtles, which is a song with a funny history. They tried to fit in every cliche they could to make the song too ridiculous for the record company, and ended up with a hit.

Now, there are Bee Gees songs. I loved them from way back, and may have associated things like Words or To Love Somebody with Ella along the way, but I also associated them with basically any girl I fell for hard enough. Whereas How Deep Is Your Love has a very specific association with a girl named Jemma. The getting to her through being friends with her brother that would probably have had success years earlier with Paula and her brother Paul was not successful with Jemma and her brother Joe. Too big of an age difference. Paula was a year younger than me and Jemma was five, which is nothing now, but was a lot then.

I guess I can update this if anything else comes to mind soon enough. Otherwise maybe a “how could I forget!” post.

Update:

There was a particular video for To Love Somebody that I was actually looking for when I linked the song video above. It didn’t pop up offhand, so I used another one. The one I just linked is clips from Melody, but isn’t the exact clip of the song as used in the movie, great as that is. It’s more of a complete progression. As it is subtitled: Kids Grow Up.

 

Concerts

I’ve never been a huge concert goer. Or is that concertgoer? Well, the second version passes as a correct spelling. Anyway, I nonetheless have gone to several over the years.

My oldest has already been to three. I think it’s three. That has been the wife’s gig, going with her to things they both like. I have been advised that if The Scorpions ever come up as a concert option, then it will be my job. The kid is a fan of all things German in the first place, and they ended up on her radar. Her last Christmas present this year was a super cool Scorpions T-shirt that finally arrived from Thailand in February. It gets worn a lot.

For me the band was part of the small German invasion that coincided with my four semesters of not learning a whole lot of German in college. The oldest has more from Duolingo than I maybe ever had, though it did leave me able to see a German word and pronounce it correctly. It doesn’t sound alien to me, and I might follow a little here and there. Then again, I could say similar about Spanish, working with so much of it around me. Nor does French sound alien, after three years of it in secondary school, learning it almost as successfully as I did German. The other artist of note that hit from Germany during college was Nina, with neun und neunzig Luftballons, AKA 99 Red Balloons in English. Anyway, I have owned their greatest hits for ages and had been more of a fan of the big hits, as tends to happen with me. I’ve listened a little deeper since the oldest got interested.

My last concert was the original lineup  (well, classic lineup anyway, with both Randy Bachman and Burton Cummings) of the Guess Who at South Shore music Circus in 2005, coming up on 14 years ago, courtesy of my older brother. At that time, I thought it was kind of dramatic that I’d not been to a concert since around 1996, and at least as long before that. Ha! The Guess Who was astoundingly good, doing Bachman-Turner Overdrive  hits as well as their own. You’d never know their heyday was 30+ years before. I’m so glad I went.

The concert before that was with my sister and brother-in-law. He’s a huge Styx fan, and saw them many times in concert. This was a Great Woods, with Pat Benatar opening for them. I remember the ticket was $35, and I don’t think it was later than 1997 or earlier than 1996. When Pat Benatar was done, I declared her alone to have been worth the price. She, and her husband on guitar, were just amazing. My brother in law told me I hadn’t seen anything yet. He was right. Styx, not quite the original lineup due to the unfortunate death of Chuck Panozzo. And since that was in 1996 and had been a year or two before the concert, that places it in 1997 or maybe 1998. It had been recent enough that the other guys sat on stage for a spell to talk about and memorialize him. I am so glad I saw them, both acts.

My first concert was The Beach Boys. The wife shares that distinction, but on the other coast. It was winter or early spring 1979, toward the end of my senior year. I had a car and was going to drive my friend Perry, but something happened so I couldn’t. I have no idea how the connection was made, but somehow my mother found out that a long time close friend’s daughter, my younger brother’s age, was going and they’d be driving her and her boyfriend. We could ride with them. That worked out. The concert didn’t blow me away or anything. It was mainly significant because I had never been to a concert and had no idea what it would be like. That was at the Providence Civic Center. It was my single most frequented concert venue.

Unless I am forgetting something, my second concert was the Bee Gees. That stands out more than average. It was August 28, 1979, the same day I started my first job that wasn’t self-employment. It turned out that my new boss went to that same concert that same night. Something like ten of us went together, in two cars. I drove one and my older brother drove the other. We were behind the stage, to your left side if you were out in the audience facing the stage. It was a little weird, but we might have been 30 feet from Barry Gibb. He tossed his sweat towel up to us near the end and there was a tussle over it. One of my cohorts had a pocket knife and was able to cut it into little pieces so a bunch of people, including my friend Joan who was there with Perry, could each have some of it. They and I were probably the very biggest fans of the band in the gang of us who went. I think the tour was in support of Spirits Having Flown, and they didn’t seem enthusiastic to do their older stuff that was my primary attraction. Some of the songs they did bits of in a medley, which was nice but disappointing. They did Words in full, but then Barry got visibly angry when he paused just before the end and people kept him from continuing by applauding too enthusiastically.

On the way home, I was following my brother. He got mixed up, got annoyed and was speeding after he got us turned around. The pair of us got pulled over by a pair of Rhode Island state cops who were brothers. That $30 ticket was my second and last speeding ticket to date. Within the next couple years I got a repair ticket from a cop in Belchertown, looking for U. Mass. students to torment as they passed through the town, for a headlight out.  I wasn’t one of those, but I’d been visiting Frank, who was. I replaced my sealed beam unit and then my father’s friend with a garage signed off on it.

I am beyond glad I got to see a Bee Gees concert, skimping on older songs aside. They have always been one of my favorite groups. I can remember vividly where I was in the house the first time I recall hearing I Started a Joke when I was little. My vinyl got destroyed, but until it did, I had collected everything I found by them. I had Odessa.I had the Rare, Precious and Beautiful albums. They’d done a serviceable version of Turn Around, Look At Me that could be found on one of those, predating my favorite version, an all time favorite song, by The Vogues. It’s nice to be able to catch a lot of that on YouTube these days, if nothing else.

That’s enough on concerts for now. There were others in between, some more memorable or awesome than others, but I probably won’t remember them in the correct order after this. Except I’m pretty sure I can identify my third and fourth from last ones, as they were well separated from the earlier ones, and had a connection to each other.

Something Else I Learned Online Today

I had no idea that there was symbolism for kissing without kissing associated with sharing an apple.

Personally, seeing it in Melody, I thought: Yuck, I wouldn’t share an apple and take overlapping bites like that. I also thought: That’s so cute. I also thought: Well, if you’re in love and you’d kiss, how is it any different, risking the shared germs?

So it makes sense.

I just assumed the apple was included, besides as a useful visual, in reference to the lyrics of First of May. I assumed it was additionally included as a reference to growing up, becoming less innocent, learning to love, drawing on the “apple” reference from the bible in a sense.

Melody Links

I keep referring to this and that regarding the Melody movie, but I have been sparse with links. Even if I link in future posts or I retrofit with some of the links in context, I want to create a one stop place for some of them. It’ll help my own reference, too.

You can find multiple instances of the entire movie by searching Melody movie, but the picture and sound quality various, and sometimes they don’t synchronize. That, to me, is far worse than something like Spanish subtitles or having the video include the movie, then start again and show half of the movie after it’s over. That’s the best one I have found so far, until I can arrange to get the DVD, which is like pulling teeth and needs to wait until I can afford it anyway. So…

Melody movie (1971)

Incidentally, ignore all the nonsense about S.W.A.L.K. being the real/original title of the film. It was written, filmed and cast to be named Melody and the other thing was an unfortunate move by a distributor for some markets. Also ignore that some people, including the person who posted the above, refer to it as Melody Fair. That is the name of the Bee Gees song that was part of the inspiration for the story and name.

To Love Somebody, video right from the film.

Melody Fair, video right from the film, not the crispest picture.

First of May, compiled clips from the film, rather than the part of the film that uses the song. The song is interrupted by some of the most famous dialogue in Melody, then reprises, so it has to be adapted to be a straight music video for the song.

Melody BFI Panel Discussion - Right at the beginning is the part where we learn it was always Melody and how the alternative name happened.

The Making of Melody  - This has interesting stuff in it, including the difficulties of working with all the children and of complying with the law on children in films, and Tracy Hyde’s mother’s more sympathetic view of the law, discussion of Mark Lester’s education, and what it was all about.

Lame trailer for Melody  – I might not have gone to see it either, if I saw this trailer. Not sure if it’s original or if it was something done for a video release.

There’s all kids of other stuff. Variants of videos using the music, shorter clips of the film, looks at the locations as they appear now (video and still), reunion clips of Mark and Tracy, and so forth.

Storytelling, Part 2

(I keep forgetting to say spoilers at the beginning of posts like this, though it was released in 1971 so it’s probably not important.)

I was inspired to return to this because I was looking at my old writing and thinking again about the merits of discontinuities in the sequence of events. Not jumping around in time, but skipping the less important or easily extrapolated (or intentionally to remain in the imagination of the audience), focusing on a sequence of scenes or events that flow without filling all the space in between. It’s a resolution to the traditional “we’re walking… we’re walking… we’re still walking…” problem of some traditional fantasy novels. I think I, in my head as well as in what I wrote or made notes about, was too intent on describing the whole journey as they went.

Now, it is after the part I described previously that Melody really throws in a series of scenes with time between them that is not explicitly filled. You aren’t even necessarily clear on the length of time between scenes, or the length of time from now to the end. You see the important things and the payoffs. You wonder about some details, but the story isn’t reliant on giving you those missing details? I’ll resist examples now and give them as I go.

The last storytelling scene I noted was the end of the preliminary setup of who is who, Daniel adapting to what we figure out is a new school, and establishing his friendship with Ornshaw, who is both wise and troubled. The next part establishes the crush and the build of the relationship with Melody, the fallout from that, and the resultant ending for them, the other kids, and most of the adults.

I stopped before the “meet cute” scene. Daniel and Ornshaw had cemented their friendship. Going into school and up the flights of stairs toward class, Ornshaw stops to be amused by girls in a ballet class rather than heading up the next flight. He grabs Daniel and another boy to get them in on the mischief. Ornshaw is jeering the whole time, but Daniel sees Melody dancing gracefully and confidently, hair swishing, and it’s all over. The score makes clear that the world has gone away for Daniel and nothing else exists. Then the teacher catches them and hauls them in there, making them dance along with the girls or else there will be a trip to the headmaster. Daniel actually tries, staring at Melody all the while. She keeps smiling at him. That’s the first vignette.

Do we need to see the rest of the school day? No. We don’t even need to see the conclusion of their time in ballet, and what trouble they get in when they arrive late to the class where they belong. We can wonder and imagine, but it’s not vital to the story. A book might have room for more of that, but it’s still not vital. Not that I don’t love me some Robert Jordan. Conversely, I found Martin boring and a poor writer, and was only able to get into A Song of Ice and Fire via the Game of Thrones show.

Next vignette. School gets out. Daniel is on a mission. He ducks aside to a water fountain (bubbler, in these parts) to wait surreptitiously for her to come out. Then he follows when she and three friends go to the old cemetery to have Muriel demonstrate kissing on a poster of a teen idol. Too funny. A branch snaps. Rhoda says “someone’s watching!” They all look his way. He whistles casually and walks away. They all laugh, except Melody, who just watches thoughtfully. Or seriously, at any rate. She looks serious a lot. I know that range of looks, from when I was 14. But that’s a different post. That’s the first day of being in love, as discussed in the timeline.

Now to see if I can remember the order of everything without speed watching as I write. I may need to review to make sure.

Vignette three of Daniel and Melody drawing together is an assembly, which conveniently places them in the same large room. They appear not to have classes together, despite being the same level. Daniel stares across the room toward her. Ornshaw notices and figures out where he is looking. Amused, Ornshaw starts a whisper brigade across and toward the front of the room. When it gets to her, she turns to look back at some length, and he looks away, as one does when caught staring. Later we see a still image of her that is smiling in this scene, but as shown as “moving pictures” she just looks serious, maybe even a bit annoyed.

Vignette four appears to be later the same day. We were introduced to Melody playing recorder early in the film, practicing Frere Jacques. In economy of detail, we did not know Daniel played cello, unless I missed something. Not really necessary, but not surprising, given his dreamy, artsy nature.

He clunks his cello down the hall, opens the door to the music room, and there are Melody and Rhoda, waiting while we hear a tuba tryout through a closed door. He pauses, there’s surprise all around, smiles uncertainly at her, goes in and settles on bench on another wall. Rhoda and Melody giggle a lot and whisper furiously, sounding like part of it involves the feeling in the back of her neck from being stared at.

The tuba kid, little bigger than his instrument, leaves and Rhoda gets called in by the teacher, leaving the other two alone. After a moment of uncertainty, Melody blows a few notes and then starts playing Frere Jacques to practice. Daniel joins in for a duet, starting behind and offset from her in a cool way, following her lead as she plays faster and faster. She looks his way through this, and in among the seriousness you can see her eyes smile a couple times.

The teacher bangs out, stopping them abruptly, and gives him a note to take to the headmaster. It takes no imagination to realize that she did this to shut them up because they were loud enough to disrupt what we presume is Rhoda’s singing tryout. I would even surmise that she knows exactly what is going on between the two kids.

One thing that just now came to mind. We are late in the school year. Why are there what look very much like tryouts? Is it just the start of an extracurricular thing, even though we are already in May or even June? Or is it placement for the next school year? Or are we not supposed to ask because the scene of making beautiful music together worked so well?

Daniel leaves with a look and sort of smile. She goes into a thoughtful pose and expression, startled when his cello falls. That was a nice touch. At this point, we will realize, she is sold. The next bits are interstitial to the couple together, but are important to the story.

After school, some of the boys go near the tracks for the latest in a series of tests of a homemade explosive. It fizzles, and the laughter from that segues into laughter at an awful dinner part Daniel must suffer through with his parents and their friends. This seems to serve the purposes of cementing how awful his family is, mostly his mother, and shows a mischievous act, where he drinks his mother’s whole glass of wine while she is distracted.

That segues into a comparative scene at Melody’s house. She is watching TV while eating with Mom and Granny. It’s a humorously lame romance scene, which I believe was created for use in the film. Big difference from Daniel’s house, at any rate. But then Mom asks if she remembered to pick up her pink dress from the cleaner. Here’s where we see her sense of humor and type of mischief.

She says she didn’t, and elaborates that “the man made me forget.” She grabs the alarm clock to wind it, as she is dressed for bed, so it fits the scene. When asked, she elaborates that it’s a man in the cemetery in a raincoat. This freaks out the elder women and they ask if he touched her. She leads them on, knowing darn well what she’s doing. Wonderfully acted, especially when you can hear the air quotes around touch when she says “no, he didn’t touch me.” “Did he show you anything?” What sort of thing?” LOL. ‘Did he show you his legs?” “Oh, yes, I saw his legs alright.”

That fires Mom up to the point of wanting to call the cops, the only reference to that house having a phone. She assures them ‘oh no, he’s not there now” because he ran away after the brick nearly hit him. Did she throw the brick? This answer was hard for me to hear all of the first few times I watched the seen, but in response to “what boy?” she tells them: “the boy with the green ears and the ginger mustache, with a spear running through his head, wearing frog man’ flippers with a machine gun.” That’s the kind of thing I would have done! Smart ass kid.

Speaking of things I had trouble hearing or parsing, it sounds like Mom tells Melody if her father were home she’d get a bloody goody ardin. I wondered what in the world she had said, even though it was obviously meant to be a spanking. Eventually I realized it had to be “hiding,” as in “I’ll tan your hide.” But I digress

That scene ends with Melody popping her head back into the living room after being sent to her room. She says, with a smile, “he’s not got green ears at all, Granny. He’s quite a nice boy really.” So we know who she’s talking about there, even if the cemetery brick throwing scene is purely made up. They have made clear she’s sold.

The next vignette is lunch at school, presumably the next day. This one leaves us wondering what would happen if Ornshaw hadn’t interceded, and sets up a rivalry between Melody and Ornshaw.

We see Daniel getting his lunch and then heading across the room. He goes to her table and asks whether he can sit next to her. She doesn’t say no. She says “well, I don’t know. My friend Maureen usually sits there.” The surrounding tables and Maureen, coming up behind him, laugh. She watches as Ornshaw comes over and guides Daniel away. She and Daniel look across the room at each other after he sits down there. Ornshaw notices, makes a face at her, and she reciprocates.

Next vignette is a dance on what is presumably Saturday. This is where the play in full the song about a shy guy trying to get a girl to notice him, after we heard it much earlier on the radio when Daniel was first introduced. We can see Melody and her friend Peggy dancing, then we focus on a group of boys being at the dance but not dancing. Daniel and Ornshaw are among them, but Daniel only has eyes for Melody. For her part, Melody is obviously trying to attract him. Ornshaw makes fun of her being a stuck up know it all and girls being useless.

This leads up to Daniel saying “I’ve got to dance with her.” “You’re mad!” Ornshaw isn’t amused, and Daniel tries to get him to come out there and dance with Peggy while he dances with Melody. The other boys razz Ornshaw into going along with it. Bottom line is Daniel gets to dance with a receptive Melody very briefly. Peggy is really the one to ruin it, once you see past Ornshaw kicking her and think about it. She should know this is all about her friend getting to dance with her boyfriend-in-waiting, and should put up with the scenario. Instead she insults Ornshaw’s dancing and breaks it up. This leaves Daniel sad and concerned, Peggy sad, and Melody mad at Ornshaw and frustrated.

All of this has been pretty rapid fire. We have quickly gone from Daniel falling in love at first sight to this point, and Melody wanting him right back.

It shows two sequences after the dance. The first is another explosives test. Daniel is with the boys this time. Since they are always duds, nobody takes cover. This one works enough to spray them with dirt. They boys are excited. Things are approaching an explosive conclusion!

The second is Melody, still in her pink dress from the dance, in the bathroom. She is spilling out the contents of what is presumably her mother’s purse or makeup bag. We see her apply lipstick. Then we see her pick her hair up over her head and look at herself in the mirror. She looks a little silly, with the hair like that and the sheer amount of makeup she applied. Then her mother calls her for tea and she has a somewhat panic reaction, wiping the makeup off rather crudely, then looking at herself sadly.

Finally, it’s field day, or maybe athletics day across the pond. This is the ultimate vignette in the course of the build to the two being together, while also starring Ornshaw as the supportive best friend. There’s a lot of them talking and Daniel being embarrassed by his mother hanging around. Lots of fun scenes of kids and adults, just hanging out or participating in events. We see Melody and her friends here and there, but she’s not featured the way Daniel is. There’s a fun bit of payoff to her friend Muriel’s obvious interest in an older, much more mature boy.

Daniel and Ornshaw talk about winners and losers, and who says who will be which. After their conversation ends, To Love Somebody starts playing. There are scenes of the activity through part of the song, cheering but no dialogue. As it nears the end, Daniel’s race in the 220 begins. He is not expecting to win, but to be the one looking foolish by doing poorly. As he runs and the song reaches its end, we see his face, then her, back and forth through the ballet class, assembly, cafeteria, and dance. He gets the inspiration needed to push through to finish first and Ornshaw bursts with excitement. Then Daniel collapses. Faints away.

That’s a great spot for not showing what happens next! Can you imagine his mother being around and seeing that? People checking on and reviving him? Nope. We don’t need all that. All we need is his love for Melody gave him the winning boost.

This is unimaginably great use of the song and what it means. It captures how I feel about that song, one of my all time favorites by any artist, and helps capture how it feels to be in Daniel’s position. Now that I’ve seen it, I’ll never not associate the song with the scene, and I can watch the video of the song set to that every day.

Everything changes after that. This could be a place to stop and move on in a part three. This segment of the film gives the best examples of scenes that are just enough, leaving blanks that aren’t necessary to be filled. Actually, I will stop here. I need to make supper. I was going to add to this while some of the cooking happened, but my son got in the way and I sat back down. The kids are dying for supper, but he slowed it down by making food for himself before he starves. Silly.

Storytelling

One of the things I wanted to write about in regard to Melody and myself involves the skill involved in the storytelling – the presentation and progression involved in showing what needs to be shown, without starving or overfeeding the audience. We get a wonderful, thought provoking, moving story without being left short and wanting more, beyond a modicum of curiosity or blanks we might like but needn’t have filled. Much is shown, not stated in dialog, enhanced with setting sequences to songs. I was sure this would be a huge post, so I have hesitated to start. Perhaps I can start, get as far as I get, then complete the thoughts in subsequent post(s) if needed.

I started writing a book a couple years ago, finally bringing together some ideas and things niggling at my mind for many years as to setting and such. I ended up drifting away from it, partly because I got busier, partly because writing is hard, and partly because loss of focus, direction, or inspiration can derail you for a time or a lifetime. Melody, specifically the way the story was presented, has helped inspire me. Along with that, I’ve had some additional ideas, and may be ready to try again. As I wrote, it was already visual and film-like, to me. Not hard, being inspired by my childhood, where I grew up, and my kids.

Needless to say, anything that goes into this kind of detail about the movie will spoil it if you haven’t seen it.

First, the setting is established while a Bee Gees song that had been unfamiliar to me plays. Completely suitable, though, since it talks about morning, ends in evening, and how it’s the morning of his life. It is the morning of the lives of the children involved, and the introductory song seems to touch on a dreamy relationship at the end of the song. It has a childlike innocence and magic, and urges patience. This fits with details much later in the film, but could have helped inspire it:

building castles in the shifting sands
in a world that no one understands

I probably had heard and dismissed the song years ago, but I love it now. It means so much.

You see the area where to story will take place from the air, and then you meet Daniel and Ornshaw as they participate in Boy’s Brigade. Ornshaw first, in fact, then Daniel held up as a comparison. We get an idea that Daniel’s mother is obnoxious and snobby. We get an idea of Ornshaw’s situation and see Daniel’s home life. Even his father makes fun of his mother’s antics.

Daniel seems sweet and innocent, but lights his father’s newspaper on fire by way of acting out. The song we hear playing on the radio is the same one the kids will dance to days later, a nice touch.

Then we meet Melody, the title character, to instrumental strains of her theme song, as the rag man arrives out front and she looks wistfully at what’s in his cart for trade. This introductory part does the job of portraying a more childlike side she is perhaps already losing. It also, in a more subtle way than Danny’s acting out, shows the anarchic nature of children when she takes clothing from the house to trade for things.

Back with Daniel, we learn he is talented at painting, but his mother objects to his moving to painting nudes and having something that someone gave him at school to show what they look like, She subtly destroys his painting and diverts him with the model rocket his father had broken, while she takes the material showing topless women. Thus we learn he’s good at painting and building models, and cement that she’s a lousy parent, not very nice at heart.

Back to Melody, we establish that she plays the recorder, which she’s doing in the bathroom to her mother’s annoyance. It appears that her mother and grandmother might not know she had traded clothing for a goldfish. The pinwheel is a symbolic connection to childhood. Sent to find her dad at the pub and get money for ice cream (we never see ice cream until she is with Daniel at the seaside, intentional resonance or not), she takes her newly acquired goldfish for a walk. During this part, Melody Fair by the Bee Gees plays, and it’s essentially a music video for the song. She doesn’t go find her father at first, but lets the fish go for a swim in a metropolitan water trough, still in the same spot at Lambeth and Kensington Roads almost fifty years later, but as a planter.

After catching the fish back into its jar, she heads to the pub, which is also still there. She looks through the windows, and into the door as an entering customer holds it open, but waits outside, looking worried. I had the impression kids weren’t allowed in. Her dad steps out, drink in hand, no indication how he ever knew she was there. we see her show the fish and presumably explain her mission, and he gives her money and tousles her head. She may make fun of him spending all his time in the pub later, and may glare at him repeatedly as only a girl that age can, but they obviously adore each other. She walks off. We segue into a scene of mayhem as kids race through an overgrown cemetery to school.

The initial introduction of the main two characters, and to a lesser extent the tertiary main character, are basically complete and now we set the stage with the school and surroundings that will play a big role. There’s an extended crowd scene of kids doing as much mischief as they can manage on the way to class. We meet the headmaster and get a humorous introduction to both the lame instruction and the challenge the kids can be.

That segues into kids going to morning recess, or break. The play games, fight, hang out and talk, one of them smokes, and we get to meet some of the supporting cast of friends. We see Melody in the context of a big group of friends, including the one who has kissed boys and is most advanced. Very much 5th grade as would have been familiar to me in 1971/1972. All the girls laugh when Muriel says she never used to kiss boys because she thought kissing would bring babies.

We move to history class with Daniel and Ornshaw, with more humor about the teaching. Ornshaw asks a valid question, showing how smart he actually is, but gets treated as cheeky and stupid.

After school, some boys go out by railroad tracks while one of them tries his latest attempt at a homemade explosive. Daniel follows. He’s apparently new and has no friends in the school yet. They tell him to go away, but Ornshaw defends him and he joins in. Bomb is a dud and they go to the bus stop. First bus leaves without most of the kids, then Ornshaw and Daniel establish their friendship by going out on the town, to Trafalgar Square, running around and goofing off to Give Your Best to Your Friends. This parallels a similar, later sequence when he is with Melody.

When Ornshaw needs to get home, Daniel freaks him out by getting a taxi, because money. This is one of many ways in which class distinctions are established.

We find that Ornshaw takes care of his grandfather and will have hell to pay if he doesn’t get home now. Daniel volunteers his mother to come help them out, as she does social welfare volunteer work.

That ends the beginning part of the film, where the basics are established. Melody and Daniel haven’t met yet. Daniel and Ornshaw had immediately become besties. This makes Melody displacing Ornshaw possible, because it will put Melody into Daniel’s life. At least, sooner rather than later. Same school, same year, they could have met eventually.

Now, my story started with minimal setup, then action, of sorts. That could work, but now I am thinking that maybe the kids should be better introduced. In writing it can be explained, but if it were on screen, there would have to be establishing scenes that show in a wider way where they are, who they are, why they are there, and how they reach the scenario where the action starts. I figured out how I can make this happen and give what comes next a more logical basis to boot. Since I was thinking about the story and the pacing as a result of this, I also solidified how to deal with one of my concerns about the later sequences. For that matter, they are not the only character and scenario to be introduced. That one was actually going to have more of an introduction, but I see how I can improve it, and perhaps that will unstick me on that part. I hadn’t even been able to begin writing it, and had written the character starting from the point where he meets the other three.

This observation is more about the storytelling subsequently in the film, but I was struck by the use of vignettes separated in time, sometimes ambiguously so, and by what was left out because every little thing need not be told or shown. It might not affect my writing, but I also observed just how much can be conveyed by minimal action. Tiny bits of dialog. Expressions, looks. Tracy Hyde was a master of that. It’s a wonder she didn’t have more of an acting career, but perhaps that’s a reflection of how poorly Melody did at the box office, and how long it languished before getting a DVD release in 2010.

I may break down the rest of the story later. I also need to talk about my Melody-like experiences, and about the mechanics of production. Having been there for one long day of shooting footage with a bunch of kids, I can imagine how grueling it was. All the more so after hearing the description of the whole day of shooting it took just for the obnoxious dinner party, and the large number of takes it took of the scene in the headmaster’s office, where the director thought he’d never get Mark Lester riled up enough to express Daniel’s anger.

It’s a Square Dance On the Floor

Something I noticed, as soon as I realized that they didn’t use the original introductory portion of the Bee Gees song Give Your Best in the Melody movie. It starts with “I’m just a clown…” in the film. Where it is used to good effect as musical illustration for Daniel spending time cavorting with Ornshaw, then again to emphasize the parallels when Daniel is skipping school with Melody.

The first couple lines are:

It’s a square dance Mr Marshall. It’s a square dance on the floor.
It’s a square dance Mr Perkins. It’s a square dance to be sure, to be sure.

Perkins.

I can’t help wondering if that inspired Melody’s surname, Perkins.

Chicane She Came

There’s no work due to icy conditions, so I should be back in bed long since. I didn’t want to wake up in the first place. Instead, I am thinking about songs.

Melody is based loosely on the songs Melody Fair and First of May, two old favorites of mine. I never thought of writing a story based on them per se, but to me the latter, in particular, told a story. It was bare bones yet evocative. I could imagine young love, much as depicted in the movie or perhaps a wee bit older. I could imagine the years going by and either wistfully remembering that, having drifted or been driven apart yet still loving each other on some level, or the years going by and the relationship growing mundane while still ultimately being in love and remembering that first day. You can be “old misery” and still remember what it was like, still love each other, even if you don’t always act the part.

Melody Fair is one of my misheard lyric songs, due to the muddled, drawn out way they sing the word woman. Still, hooker was a strange thing to hear. I figured it out quickly, but sheesh.

She’s a pretty girl who perhaps doesn’t think she is, doesn’t try hard to be, and feels down. Cheer up, make an effort, be the pretty girl you are, have a better life.

Many years ago, I did have a rough story idea inspired by or vaguely based upon what one might expand the ELO songs Strange Magic and Can’t Get It Out of My Head to depict in your mind. Those are two of my favorites. I also love Mr. Blue Sky, but it actually goes best with the entire side of Out of the Blue that it ends, collectively known as Concerto for a Rainy Day. That whole side is itself a story of hopelessness, depression, feeling suicidal, then coming out of it. I always associate it with an old friend who loved it and went through that suite of feelings in the first three songs when he had a broken back I always felt responsible for and guilty about.

My story idea would have been science fiction or fantasy. While not fleshed out and not thought about much in years, it probably would have involved time travel in some manner, our world ending, and a literal stone age dawn.

Thinking about this today, I remembered being told vehemently by someone, I remember it as my older brother but am not certain, that it was “walking on a wave’s chicane” dammit, not “walking on a wave she came.” Apparently the lyrics with the album used chicane, but people have attested to hearing it clearly from Jeff Lynne as she came. There doesn’t seem to be a definition of chicane that means a wave’s foamy crest. It seems weird that you would ascribe an intentional S curve not dictated by natural features to a wave. In either case, it is obvious this woman, whatever she is, appears to be walking on the crest of a wave. She also flies, which could explain how she could stay on top of the wave when she’s not flying so high. Unless high is a state rather than a position.