No, they’re not a new band, or even an old one for that fact. They are, however, quite important when it comes to music.
I’m a big fan of the Scottish TV police drama series and there have been a few of them. The longest running of them, Taggart, (which incidentally, is even longer running than the English police drama ‘The Bill’) is one of those that I particularly like, but I prefer the darker ‘Rebus’ more. The appeal with them is that, unlike the many U.S. police drama series, with these ones from Scotland, you really need to pay very close attention to what is being said, because of the broad Scots accent. Even though still technically English, it highlights the many different variations of that English language.
This language is spoken in many places on the Planet, and each major Country has their own particular variation of that language. It’s quite easy to pick them too. U.S., Australian, New Zealand, U.K., South Africa, are the main ones. Within the UK, there are England, Scotland, Wales and Ireland, and again, each of those is fairly easy to differentiate one from the other. Even within those many Countries, there are further differences again, more easily discerned by those who live in that Country, and sometimes those variations are quite distinct from other areas within that Country.
The English language is one thing that keeps us close to each other, and something we have to be thankful for from the British Isles, that, at one stage in History, England was the one total dominant World power, and that they were so dominant for so long. They settled the World from that tiny Island, and, at one stage it was said that the Sun never set on the British Commonwealth, because they were just everywhere throughout the World. As those places were settled, then they became Countries on their own, and the language developed within those Countries, even though remaining basically the same language.
So then, where did it come from?
Better people than I am have done a much deeper history, and what I have here will just be the basics.
The Angles were a large tribe of people who lived around the Baltic Sea, basically Germanic in nature. From around the year 400 onward, they all basically drifted towards that Island off the Coast of what was called Gaul, now France. This Island already had a long history, and Rome, under the Caesars had tried many times to take control there. There was already a main settlement on the Thames River around what we now call London from just before the turn of the First Millenium, in the times Before Christ. When those occupying Romans finally did pull out of what they called Brittania, the many local tribes were settled in their own areas, and already developing a strong History.
From around the year 400, and over the next hundred and fifty years or so, those Germanic Angles people slowly moved onto the Island, and settled in their own areas.What probably happened was that a relatively large number of them came first, and finding the area amenable, then some went back and persuaded others to move there, and as all this was done on foot, then the time period was quite a long one, hence the 100 to 150 year period of time for the Angles to do this, basically as a whole tribe, or group of familial tribes.
This same migration was also being done by other Germanic tribes as well, namely, the Saxons and to a lesser extent, the Jutes. The spoken, and to a much lesser extent, the written language, of the time was Latin, but these tribes all had their own form of language. The Angles had settled into broad ranging areas. Over the years, those Angles then became the dominant people. Their language had formed as a mixture of their original Angle language, added to that of the Saxons, and others, as well, including those peoples who had already been resident on this Island. Over the next few Centuries, as those Angles became so dominant, the Island became known as the Land of the Angles, Angle Land, hence England.
That language developed from Old English, as spoken by the Angles, and was further added to following the Norman Invasion of that Island in 1066, the Normans from France, so the English language has its roots in Latin, the many Germanic languages, and also some element of some of the languages spoken in those Norman areas of France at that time.
The Angles spread north and into what is now Southern Scotland, where separate tribes also existed. As those peoples came together, then the languages were added to over the Centuries.
As I mentioned, this is a considerably shortened version of the full History, but you get the general idea of how the language spread.
Then, as England became the dominant World power for many Centuries, that language was further spread across the Globe. Wherever they settled, the English took over, be that good or bad, but in the main, good.
The one abiding thing they did give us was that English language.
So then, what has all this got to do with music?
The biggest markets for music are in the U.S. and also the UK. To that end, for a singer or band to make it huge, then they have to break into that market, and to do that, then they need to sing their hoped for hit songs in English. This is something that has been achieved quite successfully by many foreign singers and bands. It’s also something that you rarely even notice, or take particular attention to, because the song is being sung in a language you understand, so the origin of that singer or band is almost not considered.
Most notably in Australia, where I come from, has been ABBA, that sensational Swedish outfit. They were huge from the early 70′s into the 80′s. To ‘hit’ that huge market, they did all their songs in English, and you’d be hard pressed to pick any trace of their Swedish accents in their songs. They were monumentally huge here in Oz, and in fact, this was where they had their first Number One, before they then ‘cracked it’ everywhere. To that end, they toured Australia extensively, and numerous times. When they were interviewed, you could pick up the definite trace of the accent in their spoken words, but their songs were all accent free. One of the female singers, Agnetha, (known as Anna, even though the other female was Annafrid, and she was known as Frida) was probably the least accomplished in spoken word English, but she was always able to be completely understood. Now, long after ABBA has faded from the music scene as that 4 piece act, Agnetha Faltskog, unlike the others, has become virtually reclusive, living with her immediate family, and rarely being seen in public. During a fairly recent interview, she has in fact reverted to her native Swedish tongue, which is only to be expected, and during that interview, what she said was all in Swedish, and subtitled so we could actually ‘read’ what she was saying. However, she can still sing all those songs as they were written, and in perfect English, without any trace of accent.
This had happened to a lesser extent earlier, but mainly on a smaller scale. Some European singers did their songs in English, and spoke good English as well, but again, there was always the hint of an accent. Most notable among these was Nana Mouskouri the Greek singer who was such a huge talent. She was fluent in many languages and sang in many languages. Her English, spoken and also in her songs was virtually without trace of any discernible accent. To a lesser extent, another Greek Singer, a male, Demis Roussos, was the same. Beautiful singing English with no accent, and yet, broken spoken English with a definite accent.
My interest in music goes back to when I started to become aware of it, during the early/mid sixties, that period of the British Invasion. From that point onwards, music was always a big part of my life. I went through the ABBA phenomenon, without really paying all that much attention to this language thing.
However, where it came starkly to the forefront of my thinking was an obscure song that didn’t really interest me much at the time, even though it was a Monster Number One all around the World.
At the dawn of colour TV here in Oz, the first program shown in colour was a popular music show, later to become an icon of Australian TV, and arguably, the single most popular music TV in Australia’s history. That show was ‘Countdown’. It actually ‘broke’ ABBA to Australia, and virtually started their huge career. The format was as a one hour show of music with Australian hits, World hits, music talk, interviews and all things popular music related. The last segment of the show showed the Number One song for that week. Where possible, the show’s main personality Ian ‘Molly’ Meldrum would try to get the singer of that song for an interview. Sometimes this proved quite comical, as Molly had a language that was, shall we say, all his own. It was sometimes garbled, and you needed to pay close attention to what he was saying to hear it all, and sometimes, you just gave up.
Where this spoken/sung language thing really made me sit up and take notice was in 1980. There was a monster hit that year by the oh so beautiful Scottish singer Sheena Easton. The song was originally title ’9 To 5′, but was later retitled for U.S. release as ‘Morning Train’ to differentiate it from the Dolly Parton monster hit of the same ’9 To 5′ title. The two songs were totally different and the only thing they shared was that title. That Sheena Easton song was so huge all across the World.
So, the Countdown TV program flew Sheena Easton out to Oz for the show, and she performed the song live, well, lip synced to the recording I suppose, but in the main, Australian TV music shows, especially Countdown were pretty progressive on that front and usually had the singers and bands actually doing their songs live in the studio to what was always a pretty big audience. Prior to performing the song, Molly Meldrum did a relatively long interview with Sheena. Even though I was not as interested in her brand of pop music as most, the show, Countdown, was always a ‘must see’ every week. A lot of guys my age were not all that much enamored of this brand of Pop music, but gee, what male at that time would not want to just look at Sheena Easton. She was absolutely beautiful, and those long legs and short dresses ensured every male was just glued to the screen.
As I mentioned, Molly has his own version of the English language, and you had to pay close attention to understand what he was talking about.
This interview with Sheena Easton was absolutely riveting. After hearing her song ad infinitum on every radio station in the Country, you had an expectation of what her voice sounded like.
Then, when she replied to Molly’s first question, the shock hit home. Her accent was one of the broadest Scots accent I had ever heard, and you could only barely make out what she was even saying at all, and to do that you had to listen very, very closely and carefully. Her spoken English, along with Molly’s spoken version must have made for some difficulties on both their parts as they each tried to understand what the other had just said. It was just ‘run of the mill’ Pop music talk, but it was just so strange to hear such a broad Scots accent, when her song was sung in such perfect English.
Over the ensuing years, as Sheena became huge in the U.S. that broad accent toned down somewhat, and years later, at a subsequent interview I saw of hers in the U.S. in 1989, you could actually make out what she was saying without having to concentrate so closely.
From that point on, I then became more aware of music, and the origins of the artists, and it added to that understanding of language.
That Scots accent can be further highlighted by another smash hit from Scotland, the song ‘I’m Gonna Be (500 Miles)’ from the Scottish outfit The Proclaimers, identical twin brothers Craig and Charlie Reid. Their songs differs markedly in that, while having instrumental backing for the music, the singing is done almost as spoken word. Their song was also a Worldwide smash hit as well.
What prompted me to compose this post was that for the last 20 months now, every Sunday I have been adding a music post to our Blog, titled ‘Sunday Music’. I highlight a song, any one of my thousands of favourites, and then provide some background on the song and the artist. If you wish to look at some of those songs, then there is a record of them all if you take this link. There are around 25 songs to a page, and there are five pages, the above link taking you to the most recent of those posts, and page one.
The reason for this Post is that for today, I have picked another song from a Scottish band, Tears For Fears, and I wanted to provide some background that was not really related to the song itself. That featured song for today is ‘Everybody Wants To Rule The World’, and as an added bonus I have also included another of their Number One hits, ‘Shout’.
If you take this link, it will take you to that post.
The two songs mentioned above show the differences in the language most effectively.
Here in fact is that Sheena Easton’s song ’9 To 5′ (Morning Train) performed on the Australian TV show Countdown. The song was released late in 1980, and this is from early in 1981 when the song reached Number One Nationally here in Australia. That’s Molly Meldrum at the start of the clip, shown as Sheena leaves to perform her song, with the credits for the show rolling over the finish of the song. You’ll hear Molly say, ‘..the number one record from last week’, so when that number 27 appears next in the clip, that’s the reference from the show it was reprised for many years later.
This video was posted to You Tube by retroj25
This is The Proclaimers with I’m Gonana Be (500 Miles)’. This was performed at the Live 8 concert in 2005, 17 years after this song was a Worldwide smash hit.
This video was posted to You Tube by nonedan