I?m not sure there?s a better song for a contemplative Sunday morning than ?Reflections Of My Life? by Marmalade.
I?ve always wondered if this is, in part, because it?s one of those songs written in a major key which are actually quite sad. Traditionally, you put happy songs in major keys and sad songs in minor keys. ?Reflections Of My Life? mixes that up which messes with your brain a little, making you more thoughtful as your subconscious tries to work out what?s going on?that?s my theory anyway.
Marmalade were a Scottish band, in fact the first Scottish band to top the UK charts when their cover of ?Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da? went to number one in 1969.
That year they changed record companies and were given a bit more artistic freedom. Which is just as well, because one of their early studio sessions for Decca Records produced ?Reflections Of My Life? which went on to become Marmalade?s biggest worldwide chart success, reaching number three in the UK, number ten in the Billboard Charts and doing well around the world.
The song tells the story of someone in a pretty bleak place, someone who has the troubles of the world on his shoulders?
The changing of sunlight to moonlightReflections of my lifeOh, how they fill my eyes
The greetings of people in troubleReflections of my lifeOh, how they fill my eyes
When ?Reflections of My Life? was released in late 1969, the Vietnam War was in full flow. Lots of young men were taken out of a safe life in a small town in mid-America and sent halfway around the world to fight a war they didn?t believe in, and often didn?t understand.
Many never came back. Those who did were changed for ever by their experience.
?Reflections Of My Life? chimed with the popular mood of the time. The carefree hippy years on Haight-Ashbury had morphed into something a lot more real, and a lot more challenging, for young people in the US.
Conscription didn?t help. Young people who were handing out flowers and preaching peace and love to strangers on street corners one day were given a rifle and sent into the jungle to find and destroy an especially elusive enemy the next.
Although it had been written a few years earlier, that was what my favourite song of all time, PF Sloan?s ?Eve Of Destruction?, was illustrating in the line ?You don?t believe in war, but what?s that gun you?re toting??
Whether you were a kid stuck in a muddy trench in a jungle somewhere, tired, hungry, scared?wondering if you?d be the next one to see the inside of a body bag?or back at home in Middle America hoping you wouldn?t wake up in the morning to find two officers on your doorstep to give you the news you prayed every night wasn?t going to come your way? ?Reflections Of My Life? makes you think.
Oh, my sorrowsSad tomorrowsTake me back to my own home
That?s what everyone hunkered down for the night, rifle in hand, one eye open in case of a surprise attack was thinking. And those back home were praying for the same thing?that their sons, brothers and fathers would survive the horrors of war and come back unscathed.
It?s interesting, though, that even in the toughest of situations, there?s something in most humans that makes us want to keep on going. Sometimes against overwhelming odds and with no objectively realistic expectation of success, we just roll up our sleeves and get stuck in.
On the battlefield, those people are often called heroes. They achieve the seemingly-impossible, get medals and honours to highlight their service and achievement. I take my hat off to every one of those people. They?ve done something I could never do.
But no less heroic are the people who just keep on keeping on, especially when it would have been easier to just give up. There are no medals for that, no TV interviews, no ceremonies on the White House Lawn or in front of 10 Downing Street.
They?re people just like you and me. As the Marmalade put it?
The world is a bad placeA bad placeA bad placeA terrible place to liveOh, but I don?t want to die
This is about someone who?s seen the worst?who?s experienced the worst?whose hope for the future has been sorely tested?
And yet?they still don?t want to die.
They want to keep on keeping on. They hold out the hope of seeing their loved ones again, of seeing their home town, of seeing their friends and their high school sweetheart, of life ?getting back to normal?.
There are no medals for that, but anyone who can make it through the hardest situations in life and still be determined not to die is a hero to me.
?Reflections Of My Life? was written by Junior Campbell and Dean Ford, the Marmalade?s guitarist and lead singer respectively. It also features one of my favourite drum breaks in popular music and a surprisingly lively bass line, given the nature of the song.
As I write this early on a Sunday morning, ?Reflections Of My Life? is certainly making me think. I hope it does the same for you?