Thursday, 22 March 2012

Ben, the two of us need look no more...

...We both found what we were looking for.
With a friend to call my own, I'll never be alone
And you my friend will see, you've got a friend in me.

This haunting tune with it's sickly sweet lyrics was originally performed by Michael Jackson for the soundtrack to the 1972 thriller of the same name. However, that's not where I first heard it, it of course being before I was born!

My first encounter with this sentimental ballad was an entirely different experience and yet it still struck all the right chords.

Growing up, our house was usually bedlam. My brother and I had hobbies that kept us busy most evenings and often weekends too. However, occasionally (usually on a Saturday evening) we'd all be home together and then we'd settle down for some quality family time in front of the TV. This was back in the day when family entertainment was at it's best with firm favourites like Noel's House Party, Family Fortunes and 3,2,1.  It was on one such evening that I first fell in love with the song Ben.

It was back in 1987 and we were watching Bob Says Opportunity Knocks when a young 9-year-old girl by the name of Toni Warne came on and performed it and stole the show. In fact,  she did this again and again, become the youngest ever three times winner of the programme.  Of course, the song was released as a single and I can still picture her angelic face in her little stripey top, peering at me from the sleeve of the record.

Even now, 25 years later, her rendition of this beautiful track remains my favourite and reminds me how lucky I have been to grow up in the bosom of such a loving, supportive family.

Tuesday, 6 March 2012

Bon Jovi: The chords of friendship

Growing up I was never what you call popular. I was the scruffy girl in hand me down clothes, dogged by naievity and a distinct lack of style, that nobody wanted to be seen with.

Of course, many people have walked in and out of my life over the years. Some have abandoned me in my hour of need, others have been a pillar of strength, despite facing immense struggles of their own. This incredible yet melancholy song, as featured on the soundtrack of Young Guns II, reminds me of one such person.

Back in September 1993, I made my way to the local sixth form college to embark on the next stage of my education. I don't mind admitting I was terrified! Those few friends I had made at school were taking different subjects and I feared I'd be alone again. I needn't have worried, within minutes of starting my first class I'd met Yvie, a rather strange character with a heart of gold and a peculiar sense of humour.

I should probably tell you that I wasn't a very nice person to know at 16/17. I had a serious chip on my shoulder and thought I deserved more from life than my current lot. I threw away an incredible romance with the only guy who, up until then, ever looked at me like I was the most important person in the world - all because I wanted to be part of the "gang". And I can't tell you how many times I turned my back on Yvie, but whenever I needed a friend she was always there.

It was Yvie that picked up the pieces when an ex boyfriend publicly humilated me, and it was she who stayed with me when I thought I'd reached the end of the road and couldn't take anymore. She became such a huge part of my life and yet somehow after college we lost touch for a while.

It was about four years before I saw her again, but she was just the same and it was like we'd never been apart.

Unfortunately, Yvie suffered from Marfan Syndrome and became quite ill, needing a life saving operation to replace her aorta with an artificial tube. Every minute of every day she was in hospital I prayed she'd pull through and every time I made the journey to see her this song was playing in my car. I'd usually arrive at the cardiac ward with my mascara taking over the role of my blusher and looking like I'd lost a fight with the world's largest onion.

Eventually, Yvie did recover and returned home, but she was much weaker than before.

We both got on with our lives and kept in touch, though physical meetings became rare. Nonetheless, every time I hear this song I think of her, perhaps more so now than ever before. You see Yvie died in 2002, suddenly. I hadn't spoken to her properly in an age and I certainly never expected to turn around one day and find she'd gone; I completely went to pieces. It was a huge wake up call, there were so many things I wanted to share with her and never got the chance. I took our friendship for granted and she changed my life forever.

Even now there isn't a day goes by I don't think of her and when I hear Dyin' Ain't Much of a Livin a tear always comes to my eye. I only hope that when my time comes someone will remember me with such fondness and affection.

Goodnight, God Bless Yvie until we meet again x