Category Archives: Music

The Japanese pop scene can be baffling

At first glance, the Japanese pop scene can be baffling. The music is super-sweet and hyperdynamic, an offshoot of Japan’s kawaii culture of cuteness and a literal world away from earnest singers with guitars or scathing rappers with laid-back beats. While there are solo stars and boybands, just as in western pop, there’s a particular cultural excitement around girl groups.

These can be relatively small troupes like Perfume or Momoiro Clover Z, or bands who have so many singers they run the risk of outnumbering their audiences, such as AKB48, who can boast 130 singers on their payroll and are not only Japan’s biggest selling group, but the world’s largest pop troupe.

As East Asian culture has traditionally valued teamwork and harmony above individualism (see How East and West think in profoundly different ways), so groups and collectives have tended to be more popular in Japan than solo artists. In the case of AKB48, competition to join the band is not only fierce, it’s televised, in a tense spectacle that makes The X Factor look calm and sedate by comparison.

As part of the BBC’s Japan Season, Storyville presents the documentary Tokyo Girls, a film by Kyoko Miyake, which explores the phenomenon of idol groups, who have come to dominate J-Pop, through the eyes of Rio, an aspiring performer, and her devoted fans, who call themselves Rio Brothers.

Rio’s fans are, in the main, adult men, some in their mid-40s, and they call themselves otaku, a word used to describe someone with an obsession with an item of popular culture that is so great it can detract from their abilities to socially interact, ie. an equivalent to nerd or geek. Otaku display the same passion and devotion as any teenage Justin Bieber addict, and in some cases are prepared to give up their careers and devote all their savings to following their favourite performer.

This isn’t an isolated situation. While J-Pop remains hugely popular in Japanese culture, idol fans are an entirely different social demographic than pop fans in Britain. More male than female, and older too. So while some Japanese music fans of a certain age might spend their time painstakingly recreating the music of Radiohead, others are bent over the craft table, making immaculate glittery gifts for their pop idols.

In the main, idol singers are presented as fantasy versions of perky schoolgirls, full of pep and vim, and entirely innocent about adult matters. Even Babymetal, a band who apply J-Pop sensibilities to heavy metal, sing far more about chocolate and dancing than they do about Satan or sex.

There comes a time in every forward-thinking musician’s journey

There comes a time in every forward-thinking musician’s journey when it seems the possibilities of traditional instruments have been exhausted, every string already plucked, every chord already strummed. Computers and samplers are one contemporary solution to composer’s block, but they don’t provide quite the same satisfaction as being able to hit, blow or caress a physical object in order to create a pleasing noise. For some, the only solution has been to invent their own instrument.

Here are eight examples of when musicians ditched the guitar, bass and drums for something more outlandish of their own creation. Most of these bespoke instruments led to some pretty interesting music… even if you’re unlikely to see any of them being played at your local open-mic night any time soon.

Icelandic innovator Björk has a history of using strange or bespoke instruments and incorporating them into her digital world. Having used a celeste – a kind of small, spectral piano – to great effect on 2001’s Vespertine, Björk decided that for her multimedia Biophilia project, she wanted to cross-breed it with Balinese gamelan tonebars, adding remote control for good measure. British percussionist Matt Nolan and Icelandic organ craftsman Björgvin Tómasson were commissioned to build the hybrid instrument, which they managed to do in a very intense week-and-a-half. You can hear the bewitching results on the track Crystalline, below. The gameleste isn’t the only instrument Björk invented for her Biophilia tour; she also created a visual synthesiser, a pendulum harp and a crystal trombone. OK, we made that last one up. But maybe next time, Björk?

In the days before sampling, 10cc’s quest to cheaply reproduce the sound of an orchestral string section led them to invent the Gizmotron – a device that clamped across the strings of an electric guitar, its small motor-driven plastic wheels providing a hypnotic sustain effect. 10cc used the Gizmotron widely on 1974’s Sheet Music and its two subsequent albums. Drunk on possibility, Kevin Godley and Lol Creme then quit the band to develop the instrument, showcasing its charms on their 1977 triple album Consequences. Mass production commenced, yet despite further exposure on albums by Wings and Led Zeppelin, the Gizmotron proved unreliable and ended up bankrupting its manufacturer, Musitronics. Luckily, there’s a happy ending – in 2013, a new team of engineers took up the concept and you can now buy your very own Gizmotron 2.0 for $289.99.

This incredible mutant guitar looks like a photoshop creation but we can assure you that jazz virtuoso Pat Metheny has been witnessed playing the Pikasso at many of his concerts since the mid-80s. The four-necked, 42-stringed beast was invented by Metheny in conjunction with Canadian luthier Linda Manzer and was named the Pikasso because, well, you can see why. It took two years to build and includes a ‘hexaphonic pickup’, allowing Metheny to trigger samples as he plays. More recently, Metheny has unveiled his Orchestrion – a whole ensemble of custom-built, self-playing instruments that serve as his backing band. Which is one way to get the tour bus to yourself.

Most groups appear to burst into the limelight fully-formed

Most groups appear to burst into the limelight fully-formed, but in reality there’s usually been plenty of chopping and chiselling to get to that point. Often there’s a Pete Best figure, elbowed out of the picture just before fame came knocking because their face didn’t fit. Or perhaps they couldn’t keep up, or they kept getting “tired and emotional” on tour. And when success does come, it can sometimes be divisive, leading to further sudden personnel changes. The official press release may say “mutual consent” but the look on everyone’s face suggests summary dismissal.

So what happened to those unfortunate musicians left clutching their P45s as their former bandmates marched on to glory? Here are the stories of seven high-profile rock firings, and what the recipients did next.

 Oasis’s original curly-haired drummer played on Definitely Maybe but once the band became megastars, his relationship with the Gallagher brothers deteriorated. Noel repeatedly derided McCarroll’s musical chops in public and would pretend to forget his name in interviews; amid rumours of a punch-up with Liam, it was no surprise to anyone when McCarroll was sacked in April 1995. “I like Tony as a geezer but he wouldn’t have been able to drum the new songs,” said Noel, referring to Oasis’s notoriously complex rhythm tracks.

Having sued Oasis for unpaid royalties, McCarroll took further revenge on Noel in his 2010 autobiography, Oasis: The Truth, although his allegation that the Oasis songwriter regularly echoed melodies from other sources was hardly a revelation. These days – minus the hair – McCarroll is still drumming, and, according to The Mirror, was primed to take part in an Oasis reunion for the One Love Manchester concert, until Noel nixed the idea. McCarroll was also recently immortalised as a garden gnome, as the Manchester Evening News reported.

When Kim Deal quit the reformed Pixies in summer 2013, former Muffs frontwoman Kim Shattuck was drafted in as her replacement. All seemed to be going well until Shattuck was unexpectedly relieved of her duties less than six months later. No reason was given, but the bassist speculated to NME that an over-enthusiastic stagedive may have sealed her fate. “When I got offstage the manager told me not to do that again. I said, ‘Really, for my own safety?’ And he said, ‘No, because the Pixies don’t do that.'”

Shattuck wasted no time in reforming The Muffs. Their sixth album Whoop Dee Doo was released in 2014 and they’ve just completed a South American tour.

The two-word doom most feared by every Eurovision

The two-word doom most feared by every Eurovision hopeful flashing their molars to the back rows and carrying the weight of their country’s pride on their shimmying shoulders. But no points doesn’t have to mean no future, as our list of just a selection of zero-to-hero nul-points survivors shows (there have been many others).

Some went on to bigger and better things, some just to weirder things, but do you know what? They all went on. And that’s an uplifting message to match any in the power ballads you’ll hear at this year’s competition.

Jahn Teigen (Norway, 1978)

“It’s a strange thing,” said Jahn Teigen when interviewed in 1980 by Arena, above. “I got no points and since then I had a lot of success.”

In a stunning display of 70s brand management, Norway’s 1978 contestant managed to spin his abject failure with the inoffensively naff song Mil etter Mil (Mile by Mile) into a triumph. His loyal countrymen kept the song at the top of the Norwegian charts for four months, and Tiegen capitalised on the sympathy, calling his subsequent album This Year’s Loser. Teigen then returned to Eurovision in 1982 and 1983, reaching 12th and 9th place respectively.

A former member of Popol Vuh (not the Werner Herzog-collaborating krautrock legends from Germany, but a Norwegian band named after the same ancient Mayan mythical text), Teigen is also a comedian, specialising in spoof songs (including a parody version of Mil etter Mil in Russian) and has starred as an executioner in the 1992 London run of Norwegian rock-opera musical Which Witch, noted to be “the most heavily panned London stage musical in a generation” by the Telegraph.

Nora Nova (Germany, 1964)

Ahinora Kumanova’s father was an official to Tsar Boris III of Bulgaria, and after the country’s communist coup in 1944, her family became persona non grata, with some of her relatives put to death or sent to labour camps. In 1959, at the age of 31, Kumanova escaped Bulgaria by a marriage of convenience to a West German. Five years later, she represented Germany at Eurovision as Nora Nova, with the mischievous oompah-pop of Man Gewöhnt Sich So Schnell an Das Schöne (How Quickly We Get Used to Nice Things). It retains the title for longest, er, title at Eurovision, but that was all it won.

In 1989, the Iron Curtain fell, and Nora Nova returned to Bulgaria, opening up a fashion boutique in Sofia. A more bizarre turn was to come: in 2001 she helped to found the National Movement for Stability and Progress, a political party aimed at the restoration of the tsarist monarchy, in the form of Simeon Borisov Saxe-Coburg-Gotha, who ruled as a minor from 1943-46. The party has subsequently dropped out of Bulgarian politics.

Daniel (Iceland, 1989)

“Though the road seems clear there are things the eye can’t see,” went the lyrics of Það Sem Enginn Sér (What No One Sees), Iceland’s nul-points scoring entry in the 1989 contest. No truer words, and although you’d think that such a crushing defeat would be enough to put a 20-year-old off music for good, Daníel Ágúst went on to front internationally successful band GusGus, whom 90s indie kids may remember from such cuts as Polyesterday. They released their latest album, Mexico, in 2014.

 

Inspiration is fleeting

Inspiration is fleeting – it’s up to the songwriter to bottle that lightning as fast as they possibly can, before the phone rings and half of the golden chorus they’ve just imagined falls out of their heads forever. But some songs are so quick to write, their essence – whittling and polishing aside – was captured in only slightly more time than it takes to play them from start to finish.

Here are some of the most speedily captured flashes of inspiration in musical history.

Ray Charles – What’d I Say

The subtext with each of these songs is that while it may have taken just a few minutes to write the song, there’s a lifetime of preparation behind that moment of inspiration. No one exemplifies this better than Ray Charles. At a 1958 gig in Brownsville, Pennsylvania, he found himself 12 minutes short of material, and with an expectant audience waiting to dance. Turning to the Wurlitzer electric piano he brought with him (because he hated relying on venues to provide a decent piano to play), he pounded out an insistent four note riff, set to a rhumba beat, and began jamming boogie-woogie licks over the top of it.

His horn section joined in, playing stabs, then Ray improvised a couple of verses, before going into a call-and-response section with his backing singers, the Raelettes. Each element will have come from years of working the clubs, but never arranged with this fire and vitality before. As the band played, the room began to shake from the vigour of the dancers, and as soon as they finished, Ray was besieged with fans wanting to know where they could buy his latest creation.

Nicki Minaj – Super Bass

BBC News recently ran a report on the amount of professional songwriters used to create certain hits, with some being experts in beats and grooves, some working on melodies, and some bringing the key moment, the hookline, written by specialists known as top-liners. Ester Dean is a particularly hot top-liner of the moment, having written refrains for Rude Boy and S&M by Rihanna, and Turn Me On by David Guetta. She also wrote the “boom badoom boom / boom badoom boom” section of Nicki Minaj’s Superbass, and like all of her greatest creations, she claims never to have spent more than five minutes on any one song.

She told the the New Yorker: “I go into the booth and I scream and I sing and I yell, and sometimes it’s words but most time it’s not. And I just see when I get this little chill, here [touches her upper arm, just below the shoulder] and then I’m, like, ‘Yeah, that’s the hook.'”

Time to get excited, folks Glastonbury with it the chance to see of new music

Time to get excited, folks, Glastonbury looms and with it the chance to see a whole load of new music. There will be bands on their first run round the festival circuit and also a few artists you might think have played Glastonbury before but haven’t. Here’s our pick of six who have taken many years to make the journey to Worthy Farm and are more than worth the wait…

Katy Perry

Radiohead, Foo Fighters and Ed Sheeran are headlining, all of whom have played before (the first two going all the way back to the 90s). In many ways, though, the big announcement this year was that Katy Perry was joining the bill. It’s a great booking – Katy loves it here in the UK, and she’s emblematic of quite how musically broad Glastonbury’s lineup has become in recent years. Before Glastonbury, though, be sure to check Katy’s set at Radio 1’s Big Weekend in Hull, 27-28 May.

Shaggy

NME have truly nailed their colours to the mast on this booking, saying in March: Sorry Ed, Shaggy’s going to deliver the biggest Glastonbury moment of 2017. Could they be right? The It Wasn’t Me and Oh Carolina singer certainly brings the nostalgia factor to the festival, and that’s been a winner in recent years, with hugely successful sets from the likes of Lionel Richie and Dolly Parton. And with 25 years in the game this year, Shaggy’s mastered how to give the crowd what they want.

Lorde

Repping alongside Katy Perry on the pop side of things is the magnificent Lorde, also making her debut (and also playing the Big Weekend in Hull this weekend). Tantalisingly, the New Zealand star’s second album Melodrama will be out just before Glastonbury starts. Expect to hear plenty of songs from it, alongside all the big hits from 2013’s Pure Heroine.

Music pioneers who just missed out on the big time

The history of popular music is littered with examples of trailblazers who, for whatever reason – poor luck, bad deals, being ahead of their time – didn’t get the props they deserved. Sometimes, time catches up with them and at the heart of Arena’s excellent new documentary series American Epic are scores of songwriters whose influence on the course of music in the US and beyond is finally coming into focus.

This list looks at three featured in the series, alongside four others, and we’re just scratching the surface. Who do you think has been overlooked by music history? We’d love to hear your views on Twitter.

Will Shade

Part 1 of American Epic tells the story of how record companies travelled the American south in the 1920s recording the music of ordinary working people. “It was the first time America heard itself,” narrator Robert Redford says, before giving over the second half of the episode to Will Shade, driving force behind the Memphis Jug Band.

Groups like the Memphis Jug Band were too poor to afford instruments, so they made do with what they could get their hands on, including jugs, washboards and kazoos. Shade’s group got a reputation performing on Beale Street in Memphis in the 20s and 30s, and became famous locally, playing to both black and white people. Their raw sound is credited as being proto-rhythm and blues, yet when that style of music, along with swing, took over in the 40s and 50s, the Memphis Jug Band faded from view.

In the above clip Nas makes a direct link between the group and rap music today, saying: “The Memphis Jug Band, it sounds like something today. These guys are talking about women, carrying guns, protecting their honour, chasing after someone who’s done them dirty… This is not high-society black folks they’re singing about; this is the down-under, street, wild black folks. And it’s the same as rap music today.”

Shade counted electric blues musician Charlie Musselwhite among his friends and admirers. In the episode, Musselwhite recalls that Shade would sing the song I’ll Get a Break Before Long later in life. He died in 1966 without anyone really knowing his music, but now, as Musselwhite says: “All these years later, right down on Beale Street by Handy Park there’s a brass note with Will’s name right on it.”

Grandmaster Caz

The Sugarhill Gang’s Rapper’s Delight is an iconic song in the history of American music – hip hop’s first hit. It begins with Wonder Mike’s legendary lyrics, “I said a hip hop the hippie the hippie / To the hip hip hop and you don’t stop / The rock it to the bang bang boogie,” before the second MC on the track, Big Bank Hank, comes in with his verse: “Check it out, I’m the C-A-S-AN, the O-V-A and the rest is F-L-Y / You see, I go by the code of the doctor of the mix and these reasons I’ll tell you why.”

And if you’ve always wondered why someone called Big Bank Hank introduced himself as Casanova Fly, it’s because he reportedly nicked his rhymes from Grandmaster Caz of the Cold Crush Brothers, previously known as Casanova Fly.

In 2014, Caz told the BBC World Service what happened (above, from four minutes): “Hank and I were friends and Hank got a job in a pizza shop in New Jersey, called Crispy Crust Pizza. One day, Sylvia Robinson [Sugar Hill Records co-founder and producer of Rapper’s Delight] walks in and hears him lip-synching to one of my tapes. She asked him, ‘Why don’t you come outside and do that for my songs – we’re auditioning people to become part of this group I’m putting together.”

Hank, who was also Caz’s manager, got the job and became a star. Caz never sued and never got a credit, unlike Nile Rodgers and Bernard Edwards of Chic, who threatened legal action over the use of their song Good Times in Rapper’s Delight.

“Chic’s Nile Rodgers wasn’t happy, but he now says Rapper’s Delight is one of his favourite tracks,” The Sugarhill Gang’s Master Gee recently told the Guardian. “It is one of his most lucrative – we gave him a credit. Then it turned out that Hank’s rhymes had been written by another MC, Grandmaster Caz. We’ve given him credit in public and done shows with him, and he’s cool about it. But I’m sure it bothers him every time he hears it.”

Laura Nyro

In a 2010 Guardian article, music journalist and Saint Etienne member Bob Stanley credits Laura Nyro with being “the first non-folk female singer-songwriter”, adding: “She defied all categories in the late-60s, and Laura Nyro’s music makes more sense now, after four decades of her influence trickling down.”

Her style was to combine elements of doo-wop and soul into Brill Building-like songwriting – best exemplified on the albums Eli and the Thirteenth Confession (1968) and New York Tendaberry (1969) – and she might have become very famous indeed if she hadn’t asked filmmaker D. A. Pennebaker to not include her performance in his film of the 1967 Monterey Pop Festival, convinced that she’d been booed while playing. However, a new profile of Nyro in Uncut magazine reveals that when Pennebaker reviewed his footage in 1997, he discovered that the audience were crying out, “Beautiful!” Nyro died from ovarian cancer, aged just 49, before she could take up Pennebaker’s offer to watch the footage again.

Nyro also turned down the chance to play Woodstock, but she was well-known and highly respected by other musicians at the time. Peter, Paul & Mary, Barbra Streisand and The 5th Dimension all had hits with her songs in the late-60s and early-70s, and she would go on to influence countless other songwriters, including Joni Mitchell, Elton John, Carole King, Jackson Browne, Tori Amos and Bette Midler, who presented a Radio 2 documentary about Nyro in 2005.

Nyro became a Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee in 2012, 15 years after her death.

Even by The Beatles’ lofty standards, and evocative of a particularly giddy moment in pop music.

Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band is a remarkable album, even by The Beatles’ lofty standards, and evocative of a particularly giddy moment in pop music. But the startling mix of psychedelic whimsy, music hall pastiche, Indian classical music and conceptual art didn’t happen in a vacuum, nor was it the sole interesting thing to have happened at that moment. Far from it, in fact.

This, then, is a snapshot of the world Sgt. Pepper entered, a look at other cultural events that were also going on during 1 June 1967, on the TV, on the radio, in literature and in sport. So, to put the album back in its rightful context on the family Dansette, crack open a bottle of Corona cherryade, grab a slice of Black Forest gateaux and dive in.

TV was very different in 1967. There were only three channels, most television sets were black and white, and programming was not 24 hours a day. But some things remain constant, like a nice chat show in the vein of Graham Norton or Jonathan Ross. Simon Dee was the host of Dee Time, and in the early evening of 1 June, he played the gracious host to the British comic actress Thora Hird, singer Julie Rogers, film composer Bernard Herrmann and American comic actor Stubby Kaye.

Musical support came from the Northern Dance Orchestra and The Frugal Sound – a folk group with an astonishingly 60s name, who’d released a cover of The Beatles’ Norwegian Wood (This Bird Has Flown) a year earlier.

Although perhaps not as significant an event then as it appears now, the first McDonald’s restaurant franchise to open outside of the United States started serving in Richmond, British Columbia, right in the middle of the Summer of Love, on 1 June 1967. The burger chain would not reach the UK until 1974.

There were already some fairly way-out albums in the shops when Sgt. Pepper was released. Country Joe and the Fish had released Electric Music for the Mind and Body on 11 May, The Mothers of Invention had released Absolutely Free on 26 May. The Ventures even had an album out called Super Psychedelics, while Paul Beaver put out a musical interpretation of astrology called The Zodiac: Cosmic Sounds.

By contrast, David Bowie’s self-titled first album, released on 1 June, was a rum collection of London-centric whimsy, pitched somewhere between Lionel Bart and Anthony Newley, from a man still finding his feet artistically. It’s interesting to note, with the release of Elvis Presley’s album of songs from the movie Double Trouble, that 1 June 1967 is the only date on which the defining artists of the 50s, 60s and 70s all released original albums at the same time.

Show stopping moments from Series 50 of Later … with Jools Holland

Back in October 1992, a new music show crept on to the schedules. In contrast to the hectic, yoof-oriented pop TV of the day, its emphasis was on stripped-back performances that let the music do the talking. Twenty-five years and 50 series on, Later… with Jools Holland is still going strong and providing a much-needed fix of live music on TV.

There was some nice continuity in the seventh episode of the current run, which featured the return of Malian singer Oumou Sangaré – a guest on the first ever series. Naturally, Jools also welcomed back a number of old favourites, including Paul Weller and Goldfrapp. And there was also room for a host of exciting artists making their Later debuts, including three on our list of standout performances from the anniversary series.

With Shape of You still riding high at the top of the singles charts, Ed Sheeran appeared on the second episode of the series and unveiled the song’s stripped-back live version. Using his famous loop pedal to create all the parts himself, the song’s remarkable simplicity is laid bare – but like a good magic trick, it doesn’t lose any of its wonder just because you know how it’s done.

It’s been a while since we heard from former Gossip singer Beth Ditto, so this was a very welcome return from one of the most arresting voices – and presences – in music. Having swapped minimalist disco-punk for a bigger, swampier rock ‘n’ soul sound, Beth roared the gospel clad in a shimmering gold robe.

Blondie’s new album Pollinator is a smart update of their classic pop-punk sound, written in cahoots with many of the artists they’ve influenced (including Sia, Charli XCX and Nick Valensi of The Strokes). For their third Later appearance, Debbie Harry & Co. thrilled the studio audience by pulling out this 1980 No.1, still sounding as fresh as the day it was born.

Nice touch, this – 18-year-old South London rapper Dave begins his song Picture Me, which is about where he sees himself in five years’ time, at the piano before grabbing the mic, walking away from the piano, then returning to it at the end of the track. The BBC Sound of 2017 nominee was making his Jools debut and the response to his performance was huge.

Ariana Grande took to the stage for a solo encore and sang a highly emotional version of Over the Rainbow.

At the very end of Sunday’s One Love Manchester concert, after the big celebrity singalong, Ariana Grande took to the stage for a solo encore and sang a highly emotional version of Over the Rainbow. It was the perfect song for the moment – a song well known to everyone watching, one that speaks to young and old alike, always bringing with it a universe of hope and optimism against a backdrop of yearning. And at that moment, in front of those fans, it reduced both Ariana and her audience (in Old Trafford and watching at home) to tears.

It’s not the first time that this Oscar-winning song has offered hope and consolation to people in extreme circumstances. From the moment it was written, for the 1939 film The Wizard of Oz, Over the Rainbow took on a significance greater than the moment it was intended to soundtrack. And that’s partly because the duo who wrote it – composer Harold Arlen and lyricist Yip Harburg – had known some fairly hard times themselves.

Yarburg in particular had been born poor in New York, the son of Jewish immigrants. Having worked his way into prosperity in electrical supplies, his business was wiped out by the Great Depression, leaving him with nothing but his wits and a promising sideline in writing. He told the New York Times: “The capitalists saved me in 1929, just as we were worth, oh, about a quarter of a million dollars. Bang! The whole thing blew up. I was left with a pencil and finally had to write for a living… what the Depression was for most people was for me a lifesaver!”

His first hit, Brother Can You Spare a Dime?, was a bittersweet lament from the perspective of a homeless man who can’t find work, but Harburg’s speciality was lyrics that pined for a better tomorrow. “We worked for in our songs a sort of better world, a rainbow world,” he once said. “Now, my generation unfortunately never succeed in making that rainbow world, so we can’t hand it down to you. But we could hand down our songs, which still hang on to hope and laughter… in times of confusion.”

At the time Over the Rainbow was written, that confusion was caused by a huge financial slump, but by the time it came out, families were becoming caught up in World War II. A special recording of the song by Judy Garland and the Tommy Dorsey Orchestra was pressed and sent out to American soldiers as a promise of better times to come. She also performed it live for the troops in 1943.

Garland’s version later became an anthem of possibility for LGBT+ people, the “rainbow” in the lyrics matching the multicoloured flag of inclusion flown at Pride marches, and the term “friend of Dorothy” even becoming a knowing reference for gay men. Her frail and trembling voice embodied both the fragility of hope in dark times, and the yearning that something good will eventually happen.

But it’s not just her version that has touched people down the years. Many artists have covered the song, from Willie Nelson to Rufus Wainwright to the cast of Glee, and it’s been used by NASA to awaken their astronauts, who have most certainly gone over the rainbow. The song was also recorded by the choir of Sandy Hook Elementary and Ingrid Michaelson, as a healing moment after the 2012 mass shooting at the school.