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An Ulster Log: Singer Florence gets her Machine in gear

By Eddie McIlwaine

Published 20/06/2015

Don McLean
Patrick Kielty

Band names get more curious. For example, there is Florence + the Machine, who will be at the Odyssey Arena in Belfast, on September 9, introducing their new album How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful.

Lead singer is Florence Welch and I wonder how this lovely, talented, 28-year-old diva likes being coupled with a machine in the group's title.

Florence + the Machine are returning to the stage with their first full UK tour since March 2012.

September will see them embark on a 12-strong string of dates, including Belfast. Florence and her Machine will also be one of the star attractions at Glastonbury.

Don to reveal ingredients of his Pie at Belfast show

It's going to be a birthday occasion at the Waterfront Hall in Belfast, on Wednesday, September 30. Actually, American Pie man Don McLean isn't 70 until two days later on October 2. But he likes Belfast so much that Don will be happy to blow out the candles on a home-baked cake a wee bit early.

And just because it's a special occasion and a milestone birthday, McLean has promised to explain the meaning of the marathon Pie ballad, that in the past he has refused to talk about.

I can tell you in advance that the puzzling line which goes "February made me shiver/With every paper I'd deliver" is about the death of Buddy Holly on February 3, 1959, which Don heard about when he was folding newspapers for his paper round.

McLean, who has never responded to questions before about the lyrics, only to describe them as poetry and beyond analysis, has already revealed that he dedicated American Pie to Holly, Ritchie Valens, and The Big Bopper, who died together in an air crash.

The original manuscript containing the lyrics and notes of the song have just been auctioned off in New York for $1.2m.

In the lyrics, Elvis Presley is called The King and Bob Dylan is The Jester. Or is The Jester, Lee Harvey Oswald, who killed President Kennedy?

Music historians and a few know-alls have long speculated on what American Pie is really getting at.

For example, the line which mentions "the three men I admire most/the Father, Son and the Holy Ghost" could be a Biblical reference, or is it about John F. Kennedy, Martin Luther King and Bobby Kennedy, who were all assassinated?

The same historians tell us that lyric which contains the line "the church bells all were broken" might refer to the death of religion.

But why all this speculation? McLean is going to reveal all at the Waterfront in the autumn.

It has to be remembered, though, that McLean recorded other memorable songs, including And I Love You So - a big hit for Perry Como - Castles In The Air, Vincent, Crying and Love Hurts, which will also be in his Waterfront programme.

Since first hitting the charts in 1971, Don has amassed 40 gold and platinum records world-wide and, in 2004, was inducted into the Songwriters' Hall of Fame. His songs have been recorded by artists from every musical genre, most notably Madonna's No 1 recording of American Pie in 2000.

Paddy set to have fun in the sun at the Mill 

I'll wager that Patrick Kielty will have a joke or two to tell about the summer solstice when he plays the Theatre at the Mill in Newtownabbey next Wednesday.

You see, that's Midsummer Day and a lot of folk in the audience will be celebrating this feast day which has long associated with John the Baptist.

I'm told that Paddy's gig here was switched to this Midsummer occasion just because he likes solstice anniversaries.

The sad thing is that from June 24, the days dwindle down and shorten. In other words, winter is on the way. And Christmas, too, of course.

Paddy is also playing The Braid, Ballymena tonight.

His tour of the province has already seen him play Strule Arts Centre in Omagh and The Market Place, Armagh.

Paddy, who is from Dundrum in Co Down, married the lovely Cat Deeley, a West Brom lass, in 2012.

This promises to be Loadsa laughs

I really need to know how Loadsamoney is doing.

He's the character who was created by Harry Enfield and Paul Whitehouse and the pair will be introducing Loadsa - who had bags of dosh back in the Eighties - at the Odyssey Arena when the pair of them come to Belfast for the first time with their live show on December 6.

The comic duo have been workmates for a quarter of a century, so I'd loved to know why it has taken so long for them to make their debut here?

The show, which promises to be a pre-Christmas cracker, will revive 25 years of classic characters, including the Old Gits, DJs Smashie and Nicey, Kevin the Teenager, Julio Geordio and The Scousers, as well as my favourite, Loadsa.

What would you change next time?

If you had the chance to live your life over again, how would you go about it? I've just stumbled on a list drawn up by the late 85-year-old Nadine Stair, from Kentucky. It's mainly her regrets about the things she didn't do this time.

Nadine admits she's one of those people who lives sensibly and sanely hour after hour, day by day, adding: "I've had my moments and if had to do it all over again, I'd have more of them."

She adds: "I would be sillier than I have been this trip. I would take fewer things seriously. I would eat more ice cream and fewer beans. I would go to more dances. I would pick more daisies.

"I've been one of those people who never goes anywhere without a thermometer, a hot water bottle and a parachute. If I had to do it again I would travel lighter."

It proved a wonderful story after all

Did you ever read the book called The Greatest Gift by Philip Van Doren Stern, of which the 70th anniversary of its publication in 1945 is being recalled today?

Probably not, but it is odds-on you've seen the film It's A Wonderful Life, starring the late James Stewart, which is based on Stern's story. Stern had to publish it privately due to lack of interest from print houses.

That all changed when the following year, in 1946, movie director Frank Capra read the story and was captivated. In the film, he cast Stewart as George Bailey who's about to commit suicide when Henry Travers, as his guardian angel, Clarence, shows George all the lives he has touched and how different life would be if he had never been born.

Belfast Telegraph

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