Today’s Top 40: The Stories Behind Today’s Biggest Hits…Glastonbury Music Festival Edition: Part II.

In this edition of Today’s Top 40, I am going to wrap up our look at the recent Glastonbury Music Festival by introducing you to two young performers who stole the show there, as well as reacquainting you with two dear old friends who gave, arguably, the most memorable performance of the entire festival. Here we go! This is Glastonbury Part II!

I Wanna Be Your Girlfriend by Girl in Red. *Lyrics video is here.

Marie Ulven Ringheim of Girl in Red.

Girl in Red is a band from Norway that is fronted by a charismatic twenty-three year old woman named Marie Ulven Ringheim. Like many of this generation’s most popular acts, Girl in Red came to the attention of the public via performances on social media. In this case, Ringheim was given a guitar as a teenager and started writing her own songs and uploading them to the file sharing platform known as Soundcloud. It was while on Soundcloud that people first heard her song, “I Wanna Be Your Girlfriend”. This song captured the more inclusive mood of today’s youth by being unabashedly about Ringheim’s desire for a girl named Hannah. The song is a guitar driven bit of jangle pop and is a hoot to listen to. In 2017, Girl in Red was signed to a record contract and released their debut album called Chapter 1. Since then, the video for “I Wanna Be Your Girlfriend” has been streamed a quarter of a billion(!) times. Girl in Red was voted as Best New Act and “I Wanna Be Your Girlfriend” as Song of the Year in Norway in 2018.

Aside from the great initial success of this song, Girl in Red gave an outstanding live performance of “I Wanna Be Your Girlfriend” at Glastonbury that you just have to see. The video is seven minutes long. The first half is the type of standard stage show you would expect to see but then, at the halfway mark, Ringheim challenges the audience to perform a “wall of death”. They agree to try. What follows is an amazing example of the trust that exists between an artist and their fans when rock n’ roll is done properly. The second half of this performance is awesome! When you watch it you will see thousands of people having the time of their lives. It is truly something else! Definitely worth a few minutes of your time. And yes, the “wall of death” scene just goes to prove that COVID is over, right?! It’s really over, isn’t it? This crowd certainly thinks so. But we won’t think about that just yet. Simply enjoy this amazing performance and remember what it feels like to have fun on an epic scale such as this.

Seventeen Going Under by Sam Fender. *Lyrics video is here.

Sam Fender.

“Seventeen Going Under” is the title track from Sam Fender’s second album. Fender is a good example of not rushing to judgment on a person because of how they look. On the surface, Sam Fender is model handsome. Because of that, it is easy to view him as a beautiful boy who has been given the spotlight because of his looks more than because of any talent he might possess. However, to do so would be wrong and would cause you to miss out on a performer who has endured quite a lot already in his young life and whose songwriting has gained comparisons to a young Springsteen.

The song “Seventeen Going Under” is Fender’s autobiography. It tells the story of a life spent battling poverty, bullying, obesity and abuse. It does all of this in the guise of a guitar driven rocker that will have you cheering for Fender by the time he is through with you. The short strokes of his story are that Fender grew up in Northern England in poverty. His parents had an abusive marriage which, at times, involved the abuse finding its way to him. Fender was overweight as a child and was bullied because of it. The combination of abuse at school and at home caused Fender to mask his sadness and sorrow by becoming an extroverted class clown type. Eventually, Fender found music as an outlet for the emotions he was bottling up inside. As well, one of his uncles began teaching him self defense as a teenager. The discipline needed to be successful in that endeavour helped to tone his body. However, just as life was beginning to look up for him as a teenage boy, his mother was stricken with health problems and Fender felt as though the responsibility for caring for his family was falling on his shoulders. So, at age seventeen, he felt he was falling under the weight of his burdens and so he wrote the song, “Seventeen Going Under”.

This song has achieved widespread acclaim. Sam Fender has been declared Best New Artist in the UK and “Seventeen Going Under” was proclaimed the winner of the Ivor Novello Award as Best Song in this very year of 2022. When you watch the live performance, you can see that the audience is definitely on Fender’s side as they sing along from the very first notes. It has to be gratifying to have come from where he has and then to receive the type of reception he got at Glastonbury. When it comes to watching the video, I suggest that you watch the lyrics video first. That video is less visually distracting which will allow you to focus on the words he is singing and the story that he is telling. The comparisons to Springsteen are not a stretch by any means. This young man actually has some writing chops. The more I learn of him the more I wonder if his career will mirror that of another model handsome young man named George Michael. Time will tell, I suppose. But, for now, allow me to introduce you to a great, well written song and a wonderfully-positive live performance as well. Enjoy both.

Imagine! All these years later, Paul McCartney and John Lennon share the same stage again.

I’ve Got a Feeling by Paul McCartney and “John Lennon”. *Lyrics version can be found here.

When it was first announced that 80 year old Paul McCartney would be the closing act at Glastonbury, many thought that this was a mistake. Music festivals such as Glastonbury tend to be energy-fuelled affairs that often showcase the music of up and coming acts. While big name acts appear on the bill, too, those acts tended to still be ones that were actively recording and releasing new material such as Foo Fighters, who headlined Glastonbury just before the pandemic shut everything down. So when Paul McCatrney was announced as the headliner, many thought his show would be slow paced and pedestrian and that it would be a set filled with old music from a bygone era.

So, imagine everyone’s surprise when this 80 year old man absolutely killed it for over two solid hours! McCartney’s set was helped by special appearances by Bruce Springsteen and Dave Grohl (who was making his first public appearance since the death of friend and drummer, Taylor Hawkins a few months ago). However, the biggest surprise was McCartney himself. His voice was strong and his stamina solid. He played like he always had and sounded fresh and vibrant as ever. It seemed as though he was having fun. Consequently, the audience was given a glimpse at the charismatic presence of a man who helped change the way the world listens to music.

One of the best parts about moments such as McCartney’s performance is that the lessons of history need not be dull. The Glastonbury Music Festival is, above all else, a vehicle for showcasing the best of British music. What better venue than this for introducing modern audiences to the generational talent that is Paul McCartney and The Beatles?! Thus, it was with much poignancy that Sir Paul launched into the song “I’ve Got a Feeling” toward the end of his set. You may remember that this song was one of the final songs The Beatles ever recorded together. As their time together was ending and they were all going their separate ways, the members of The Beatles managed to record a few final songs. One of them was “I’ve Got a Feeling”. That song was one of the songs they were able to perform at the famous rooftop concert at Abbey Road studios that marked the end of their live performing days as a band. So, there was a lot of history at play when Paul McCartney started to sing this song on the Glastonbury stage. About two thirds of the way through the song, McCartney was joined by a special guest who served to bring the history lesson home. That special guest was long time songwriting partner and friend, John Lennon….well, sort of! History came to life on that stage and an entirely new generation of British music fans got to bear witness to something extremely special that served as a foundation for all of the new music they had heard at the festival up until that point. It is not an understatement to say that it was a magical moment and one that will be remembered for a long time. I guess that it just goes to prove the point that just because someone or something is old doesn’t mean it still can’t rock one’s world. Please click on the link above and watch a genius work his magic once again.

That closes out my coverage of the 2022 Glastonbury Music Festival. *(You can read Part I here). I hope that you have enjoyed reading about and watching some of the amazingly talented performers who graced the various stages at this festival. It was so nice to see live music again. If you want to get a glimpse of a far larger group of artists and bands who performed at Glastonbury, you can access their performances by clicking on the BBC Music link here. Thank you all for reading and listening. Have a wonderful day.

***As always, all original content in this post remains the sole property of the author. No portion of this blog post may be reblogged, copied or shared in any manner without the express written consent of the author. ©2022

RS: The Top 500 Songs in Modern Music History…Song #3: Imagine by John Lennon.

This list of songs is inspired by a list published by radio station, KEXP, from Seattle in 2010, as well as, the latest poll taken in 2021 by Rolling Stone Magazine. For the most part, I will faithfully countdown from their lists, from Song #500 to Song #1. So, when you see the song title listed as something like: “KEXP: Song #XXX”….it means that I am working off of the official KEXP list. “RS: Song XXX” means the song is coming from the Rolling Stone list. If I post the song title as being: “KTOM: Song #xxx”….it means I have gone rogue and am inserting a song choice from my own personal list of tunes I really like. In either case, you are going to get to hear a great song and learn the story behind it. Finally, I am not a music critic nor a musician. I am a music fan and an armchair storyteller. Enough said! Let’s get on to today’s song.

RS: The Top 500 Songs in Modern Music History.

Song #3: Imagine by John Lennon.

I have to be honest and let you all in on a little secret. From Day #1 of this countdown project, I had a fair idea of how it was going to end. In fact, for the first 300 songs worth of this project, the countdown was going to end with “Imagine” by John Lennon at #1. I thought this because I wanted the countdown to end with a song that, while popular with you and the wider masses of people in the world, would also serve as an accurate reflection of who I am as a person, as well as, the beliefs that I hold dear. I, also, felt that a #1 song on a list like this should make a statement…..and, “Imagine” sure does that in spades. Finally, I felt that a #1 song should possess an element of beauty and poetry; something that “Imagine” has thanks to its’ inspiration from a poem called, “Grapefruit” that was written by Yoko Ono. However, as you can tell from the number at the top of this post, we are only at Song #3. I can’t really explain yet why “Imagine” is #3 and not #1 but, rest assured, the way I have chosen to end this countdown sits well with me and I hope it will sit well with you when the time comes in a couple of days. For now, I want to celebrate a song that means a lot to me and, for my money, is easily one of the best songs of all-time. Here is the story of “Imagine” by John Lennon.

While John Lennon has never come out and actually confirmed this, there is plenty of conjecture that suggests that “Imagine” was part of a trilogy of songs by Lennon that were all intended to carve out a place for him in the Post-Beatle world in which he found himself as the 1970s began. Part of John’s Post-Beatle life actually began while he was still with The Beatles. For starters, he met an artist named Yoko Ono. Many people claim that Yoko Ono was responsible for breaking up The Beatles. Whether any of that is true or not doesn’t really matter. What matters is that John fell in love with her and found life with her to be preferable to life with the band. Beyond that, Yoko Ono possessed an artistic and poetic set of sensibilities that John found interesting and more in line with how he felt about Life and about the world in which he lived. So, Song #1 in this trilogy of statement songs was “Give Peace a Chance” *(which you can read all about here). The “bed-ins for peace” campaign was aimed at protesting the Vietnam War (and War, in general) in a way that made a political statement without the requisite violence that was the hallmark of so many anti-war protests at the time. The second song in Lennon’s political trilogy of songs was “Imagine”….which I shall discuss in greater detail in a moment. The final song in the trilogy was “Power to the People”. In all three songs, Lennon was advocating for people to change the way they were going about their lives and, by doing so, harnessing the power they possessed as a peaceful, soulful citizens to exact change on their terms and throw off the shackles of conformity that only seemed to be serving the establishment.

The song, “Imagine” was directly inspired from a Yoko Ono poem entitled, “Grapefruit”, along with a book of Prayer he had been given by comedian, Dick Gregory. The song, itself, is based upon the idea of living in a world where people are free to follow their peaceful instincts and live in harmony. That world would have no war nor any over-arching religion nor national boundaries. People would share instead of hoard. Greed would give way to empathy and compassion. All in all, Lennon’s vision for a better world struck a chord with many listeners because his song has been adopted by countries all over the world and has often been played at international gatherings such as at Olympic Games, for example. Needless to say, anyone who pushes against the status quo can expect the establishment to push back…..and it did. Lennon received criticisms on multiple fronts: that “Imagine” was invoking a war on religion, that a millionaire shouldn’t be telling others to forgo material possessions when he had so many himself and, finally, there were many that compared “Imagine” to Karl Marx’s Communist Manifesto and therefore, by extension, called Lennon a Communist, too. The funny thing about that for me is that, while in university, I had a Professor of Literature accuse me of being a Communist because of an essay I handed in about Anton Chekov’s play, “The Cherry Orchard” that we had been studying. Well, I am no more a Communist that I am a stinking Imperialistic Capitalist. I imagine that John Lennon was much the same as me in that regard. Like Lennon, I think our world would be better for everyone if we worked together to protect our environment, end economic disparity between the classes, learn to share our resources, as nations, and end all wars that only serve to perpetuate misery and destruction. I can easily imagine a better world where we can all live in safety and in harmony with our fellow citizens. As the song says, it is easy if you try.

John Lennon wrote this song and recorded in under the watchful eye of producer, Phil Spector, who John greatly admired. A few years ago, there was a push to give Yoko Ono a songwriting credit on “Imagine” because of the influence of her poem, “Grapefruit” on the song’s construction. John, himself, had publicly stated that the idea for the song came from Yoko Ono so, I would expect this change to be forthcoming. “Imagine” is a lovely, light and airy song and became John Lennon’s biggest selling solo record. It is as well known as any of his work while in The Beatles. John Lennon has said that “Imagine” was his favourite song of them all. I agree. It is one of my favourite songs, too. I am not alone in that sentiment. The song, “Imagine” is liked all around the world. In Central Park, in NYC, there is even a beautiful mosaic tile installation that simply says, “Imagine” in the middle of it. Fans pose for photos there every day. Some simply sit there in the shade of the trees and think about Lennon’s message of living a better life and of having a better world as a result. It is a message that brings them much peace. What a gift is Peace.

The link to the video for the song, “Imagine” by John Lennon, can be found here.

The link to the official website for John Lennon and Yoko Ono, can be found here.

The link to the official website for Rolling Stone Magazine, can be found here.

RS: The Top 500 Songs in Modern Music History…Song #70: Give Peace a Chance by John Lennon and the Plastic Ono Band.

This list of songs is inspired by a list published by radio station, KEXP, from Seattle in 2010, as well as, the latest poll taken in 2021 by Rolling Stone Magazine. For the most part, I will faithfully countdown from their lists, from Song #500 to Song #1. So, when you see the song title listed as something like: “KEXP: Song #XXX”….it means that I am working off of the official KEXP list. “RS: Song XXX” means the song is coming from the Rolling Stone list. If I post the song title as being: “KTOM: Song #xxx”….it means I have gone rogue and am inserting a song choice from my own personal list of tunes I really like. In either case, you are going to get to hear a great song and learn the story behind it. Finally, I am not a music critic nor a musician. I am a music fan and an armchair storyteller. Enough said! Let’s get on to today’s song.

RS: The Top 500 Songs in Modern Music History.

Song #70: Give Peace a Chance by John Lennon and the Plastic Ono Band.

As the 1960s drew to a close, the members of The Fab Four began to explore their individual lives beyond the organizational structure of the band that have shaped their existence for almost a decade. In March of 1969, Paul McCartney married long time girlfriend, Linda Eastman.

A few weeks later, John Lennon and Yoko Ono began a short, European odyssey in an attempt for formalize their union, too. Unfortunately for them, they ran into a series of roadblocks that were, almost, comedic in nature. First of all, they went to Southhampton, England and boarded a liner that was headed to France. They asked if they could be romantically married at sea, only to be told that ship’s Captains didn’t perform that service anymore. So, they switched to Plan “B”, which was to be married in Paris. Unfortunately, not being citizens of France, they did not qualify for a legal marriage license. At this point, John Lennon asked where the closest location was to Paris at which he and Yoko could be married. The answer was Gibraltar. So, John Lennon and Yoko Ono became husband and wife in a ceremony by The Pillars of Hercules in Gibraltar. After the ceremony, the pair returned to Paris and then, a day later, on to Amsterdam, where they shared their honeymoon with the world by staging the first, of two, protests against War that became known as “Bed-ins”.

The first “Bed-in” protest was aimed at capitalizing on the publicity from their wedding. In Amsterdam, John and Yoko rented the Presidential Suite in the Amsterdam Hilton for a week. Each day, from 9:00am-9:00pm, the world’s press were invited in to the suite. At first, the salacious press thought that John and Yoko would be having sex in their presence, only to find them holding court, in bed, in pyjamas, speaking about Peace and Love. During the week-long Bed-in, the pair sent 50 acorns (which are symbols of Peace) to 50 Heads of State from around the world. All of these efforts were noted by Paul McCartney who used the Bed-in antics for fodder for his song, “The Ballad of John and Yoko”. Overall, while John and Yoko were happy with the attention they received, they were equally unhappy at having their peaceful protest viewed more as a publicity stunt, rather than the earnest attempt at starting a worldwide dialogue about Peace. So, they decided to try again. This time, in North America.

The original plan for the second Bed-in protest was that it would be staged in NYC. However, because John Lennon had a criminal record (for cannabis possession), he was denied entry into the U.S. So, once again, the two lovers found themselves forced to set out on an international journey. Their first stop was the Bahamas but, they found it too hot. Since both were legally allowed to enter Canada, they set course for Toronto. Once there, they were issued a ten-day Visa. John, then, decided that since Montreal was closer to New York City, geographically-speaking, that the next Bed-in should happen there which is why John Lennon and Yoko Ono ended up spending the week at the Queen Elizabeth Hotel in Montreal.

Once there, the pair invited journalists, along with many Left-leaning friends such as The Smothers Brothers, comedian, Dick Gregory, LSD proponent, Timothy Leary and his wife, Rosemary, along with many others. Over the course of the first few days, John and Yoko were asked many times why they were staging the Bed-in and what they hoped to accomplish. Again and again, Lennon replied, “It’s to give Peace a chance”. After having made that statement a dozen times or so, Lennon realized a song was forming and asked for writing paper. It was, while in bed, surrounded by dozens of media and friends, that John Lennon sketched the brief outline for the lyrics to, what was to become, one of the most well-known and beloved anti-war songs of all-time, “Give Peace a Chance”.

John Lennon asked for a sound engineer to be brought to the room. After a short delay, someone showed up with four microphones and a four track recorder. The assembled guests were encouraged to unite their voices with John and Yoko’s and sing out as enthusiastically as possible for Peace. John delivered the verses in a style that resembled what would soon come to known as rapping. He sang the verses and the assembled crowd joined in on the chorus which was, famously, “All we are saying………is give peace a chance”, repeated, again and again, over and over. In the video that you will soon see, “Give Peace a Chance” soon became an anthem and a battle cry at university campuses all across the US and Canada; as student unions organized walk-outs and sit-ins, all in the name of ending war and starting more peaceful times for everyone.

In a side note, if you want some Beatles trivia, in the lyrics to “Give Peace a Chance”, Lennon name checks many of the special friends who were in attendance in their hotel room. Among the names mentioned are Timothy Leary and his wife, Rosemary. As stated earlier in the post, Timothy Leary had been a university professor who had taken part in a famous study on the positive emotional and intellectual benefits to taking LSD. He eventually lost his job because he started to participate in the study, himself. Anyway, Leary became a “cause-celebre” and decided to use his fame to take a run at the Governorship of California. At that time, the Governor was, none other than, Ronald Reagan. So, part of the reason that Leary ended up in Montreal at The Queen Elizabeth Hotel was that he was trying to recruit John as a supporter for his campaign and, what’s more, he wanted John to write his campaign theme song. Leary’s slogan was “Come Together: join the party!”. John agreed to create a rough outline for Leary. Out of that process came the foundation for the song, “Come Together”. Leary never connected with Lennon again after seeing him in Montreal so, Lennon took the song back to England and it ended up being included on their final album, “Abbey Road”.

So, as we end this post, let me tell you that you are getting three videos for the price of this one post. Naturally, I will play the original video from the Bed-in in Montreal from which, “Give Peace a Chance” came to be. I am tossing in “The Ballad of John and Yoko” by Paul McCartney because that song contains a lot of incident-specific information related to John and Yoko’s attempts to get married and their first Bed-in protest in Amsterdam. Finally, I will play “Come Together” from “Abbey Road”. Enjoy them all, folks. See you at the next post.

The link to the video for the song, “Give Peace a Chance” by John Lennon and the Plastic Ono Band, can be found here.

The link to the song, “The Ballad of John and Yoko” by The Beatles, can be found here.

The link to the video for the song, “Come Together” by The Beatles, can be found here.

The link to the official website for John Lennon, can be found here.

The link to the official website for Yoko Ono and the Plastic Ono Band, can be found here.

The link to the official website for The Beatles, can be found here.

The link to the official website for Rolling Stone Magazine, can be found here.