No pics, just a promise to a friend….Betty Thatcher

[An update: Betty Thatcher passed on Monday, August 15th 2PM…this was written before her journey had ended. God bless her…she was an original voice then and her words are still that now]

All this is something that while a somber duty, it is an honour to have written this… a promise kept  to the person who was responsible for the lyrics for Renaissance.  That being Betty Thatcher, who is seriously ill….It was her words that carried a lot of us kids back then in the 70’s and beyond because they were happy, contemplative….and got many of of to think about what was around us.  Hence….the following:

It goes without saying that one of the more unique and distinctive bands in rock in particular and music in general was and is Renaissance. While the in person representation of the band was Annie Haslam on vocals and the classic instrument lineup being Michael Dunford on Guitars, Jon Camp on Bass, John Tout on Keyboards and Terry Sullivan on Drums…they were lending voice to the words of Betty Thatcher. And what words they were….

While the online bios will mention that she had an association with the band straight up til the incarnation that resulted in ‘Camera Camera’ [the last album that Betty had written lyrics for, in the case of the song ‘Bonjour Swansong’] it is during the famous, classic period that Betty’s words became part of the soundtrack of many lives. When ‘Ashes Are Burning’ was released, in addition to the title track, it was the songs ‘Can You Understand’ and ‘Carpet of the Sun’ which showed the power of Betty’s words. That she was someone who has a mastery of the language and imagery. For example, the opening stanza:

 

Come along with me
Down into the world of seeing
Come and you’ll be free
Take the time to find the feeling
See everything on it’s own
And you’ll find you know the way
And you’ll know the things you’re shown
Owe everything to the day

is amazing. Always will be and holds it’s own with other classic tunes of that time.On the same album was a song called ‘At The Harbour’ which while it was not played in concert very often, was still laced with a verbal dreamscape that made ‘Carpet’ a radio and live favorite:

 

Out at daybreak to the sun
Seas are drifting glass
The tides were turning to the storm
Winds were moving fast
Women waiting at the harbour
Silent stand around
Weather storms another day
For men the sea had found

Fisherman were laying nets
The barrels spread the bait
The seagulls warning echoed round
Winds that wouldn’t wait
People gathered at the harbour
Waiting for the tide
Eyes half closed against the spray
And tears they cannot hide

 

Shadows falling at the harbour
Women stand around
Weather storms another way
For men the sea had drowned

Hulls were creaking crashing sails
Rains were slating down
The oilskins flapping, decks awash
Slanting turning round
Thunder roaring at the harbour
Women drawn in fear
Huddle up to wait the time
And pray the sky will clear

Howling winds and the raging waves
Cracked upon the boats
And torn from safety torn from life
Men with little hope
Ghostly echoes at the harbour
Whispering of death
Women weeping holding hands
Of those they still have left

Fans of Renaissance would be treated to these more of this imagery in subsequent albums…from one of the magnum opi on ‘Turn of the Cards’ called ‘Mother Russia’ to the tone poem title track of ‘Scheherazde and Other Stories’. Many of us who went to their shows hoped that the fountain of lyrical brilliance would never end.

Betty was also able to put what can best be called the life experience…what each person goes through…..apexes and valleys in the title track of ‘A Song For All Seasons’

 

From the start through all time
Here upon the wind
Disorder reigned hand in hand with Spring
Earth and the fire
Air and the water
Moulded the sea and landscape
Moving, flowing with no seeming purpose
Endlessly changing
Survival
Spring into Summer
Time for reflection
Time to grow
World full of meaing
Place rearranging
Face ever changing
For all our lives
These are our roots and it’s our way
We grow, we reap and sow
We reap and sow the seasons of our day

Within the heart of all things born that day
The Autumn scene brings the Winters way
Colours are shading
Misting and fading
Turning toward
Changes, living
Each time the past and the future
Holding together
Tomorrow
Winter to Springtime, a season for planning
Time to learn
World full of stillness
World ever waiting
Anticipating
For all of our lives
These are our roots, and it’s our way
We grow, we reap, and sow
We reap and sow the seasons of our day

We fall, while aiming so high
We crawl, flying
Man has North, South, East and West
Man has, trying
A song for all seasons through

Man has North, South, East and West
Man has music
Man has North, South, East and West
Man makes music
A song for all seasons through

Song for all seasons
A song for all our time
We’ll have a song for all the seasons through

 

While in later years her association with the band became less and less prominent due to some issues in the band and other things which were not pleasant, various incarnations of the band…with different personnel carried on. No matter who played what, as long as we heard the Betty’s words being voiced, we…their fans knew that the evening would be a good one…

It is sad to know now that Betty is close to the end of her journey. In recent years, her health has become worse…but she was still in touch with her fans and those in the band, who she had forged lifetime friendships. She was also on You Tube and many fans of the band, myself included have posted on the same service, with her words being used as poems to friends or to celebrate that we are fans of Betty’s words and Renaissance’s music.

If there is one last piece that can sum up where Betty was coming from all these years, it would be the lyrics from the opening cut of ‘Novella’ which was called ‘Can You Hear Me Call’:

 

Morning people take the news
A paper window on a world
They live on undisturbed
Thoughts may fly like the lonely birds
And lost behind the silent words
Voices are unheard
Put it down to city life
Oh if I understood
Passing by so easily
I’d reach you if I could
Can you hear me
Can you hear me

Fly like a song, fly while you’re singing
A song without you, is a bird without winging
Some city flights leave in the morning
Some city nights end without warning
Can you hear me call

Evening people see the day
A silhouette on every face
A shadow on their eyes
I take my place within the crowd
We walk the dusty streets around
Encompassing our lives

Put it down to city times
Oh if I understood
Passing by so casually
I’d reach you if I could
Can you hear me
Can you hear me

Fly like a song, fly while you’re singing
A song without you, is a bird without winging
Some city flights leave in the morning
Some city nights end without warning
Can you hear me call
Can you hear me call
Can you hear me call

Calling to the sky
The thunder drowns my voice within the rain
And I know you’re near me
And I call throughout the storm
I know that you don’t hear me
I call your name
I call your name
I call your name

Can you hear me call your name
Can you hear me call
Hear me call your name
I call your name
I call your name
Can you hear me call your name

Night time people find it hard
To hear themselves above the noise
The music holds its own
I recognised a place I’d known
I turned to find it carved in stone
A mirrored smile alone

Put it down to city nights
Oh if I understood
Passing by so far from me
I’d reach you if I could
Can you hear me
Can you hear me

Fly like a song, fly while you’re singing
A song without you, is a bird without winging
Some city flights leave in the morning
Some city nights end without warning
Can you hear me call
Can you hear me call
Can you hear me call

Betty…we all heard you….we will continue to hear you…..and generations of fans after will do so as well. They will come to learn about a time when there was a band who were the in concert embodiment of one of the mistressed of the lyrical form.We are envious because heaven will now learn what we already knew and loved here.

[There are no other words to say here…..but if any of you get a chance to pick up one of Renaissance’s earlier albums….listen to not just the music, but what is being said and enjoy]

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About rheapdx1

Just another geekette from the Pacific Northwest. Windows computer tech, as well as the mom to 2 cats. My blog is more or less about life; the adventures in fixing PC's, the trips to the doctors....otherwise known as my 'gang of five who keep me alive', the cats...and thoughts about a particular person who I am deeply smitten with [if the person only knew how deep that goes *S*]. Otherwise, this is ordinary.
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8 Responses to No pics, just a promise to a friend….Betty Thatcher

  1. Pulitzer prize material there.

  2. rheapdx1 says:

    Thanks…with that said, the intent was to post this about someone who in addition to being an online friend wrote some of the best lyrics in music, be that rock or any other form.Betty was an amazing talent….in many ways the equal of those who were more commercially well known.Hence, she deserves to be recognized and celebrated.

  3. kindle 3 says:

    What are the best colleges to go to for a Creative Writing degree?

    • rheapdx1 says:

      Interesting question, due to the fact it would depend on which country one is in. If this were the US…the major university centers for California or New York come to mind and would be on the list, but for the most part any major uni or college in same would have a program along those lines.

  4. news says:

    Hey, I just hopped over to your webpage thru StumbleUpon. Not somthing I might typically read, but I enjoyed your views none the less. Thank you for creating some thing well worth reading through.

    • rheapdx1 says:

      Interesting that this would show up through StumbleUpon. Not that it makes that much of a difference, as the title states…this was a promise I was keeping to Betty and those around her. For all the joy that was brought by her words, very little mention was made about her passing in the mainstream music press. The fansites, several bandmembers, as well as Renaissance’s own site did they right thing….and what was posted here was part of the chorus.

  5. Tony Manero says:

    Loved the lyrics . . . my favorate is Ashes Are Burning (later renditions) because it blended everything – – Betty Thatcher’s lyrics, Michael Dunford’s muisc and Annie Halam’s soaring vocals, especially the live performances when Annie had wordless vocals in finales.

    • rheapdx1 says:

      Tony…her lyrics always were amazing….even on that one last contribution for ‘Camera Camera’ [she had explained via other means that ‘Bojour Swansong’ was her way of saying, she loved the work…but the new direction was the band was taking was a little beyond what was comfortable with, if you see what is meant. Not an insult…just an explanation]. On the later versions we do agree, in that when done live, no matter the band configuration, the song allowed for some rather interesting solos. Be those by Jon Camp on bass…each one of those by the by, unique improving on the previous versions…to various keyboard ones [the 2001 Japan CD and the RosFest concerts for example where the main keyboards were done by Rave Tesar with help from Mickey Simmonds for the Japan shows, Tom Brislin for RosFest]. And then there is the guitar one done by Michael Dunford during the ‘Camera Camera’ show at the Palladium, Winter/Spring’82.

      That last one did shock many in the crowd, purely because Mickey was not really known to rip on his ax. But there he was, stepping out from behind the Ovation Acoustic and going to town, while everyone else was just doing their regular thing. Heck, Annie was rocking to that as well *S* And her own solos at the end of the song….still legendary. While there are other vocalists who are emotive on their own pieces, no one is as good or can do the 5 octave, still…..as Annie can.

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