If we couldn’t laugh we would all go insane – In search of a travel retail anthem

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Martin Moodie
Martin Moodie is the Founder & Chairman of The Moodie Report.

As he has often done down the years, my fellow travel retail veteran and good friend Randy Emch (ex-DFS, Interbaires and Diageo among others) cheered me up with a recent email message. This one reminded me (and him) of his ‘salad days’ – no, not a reference to his youthful vegetarian period but a nod to his regular attendances at the legendary Winterland Ballroom in San Francisco, which doubled initially as an ice skating rink and a famed music venue.

Perhaps because certain music patrons and no doubt many of the performers were skating on thin ice anyway with the amount of drugs they were ingesting during the height of the flower power era, Winterland was ultimately converted to an exclusively music venue in 1971.

While revisiting his favourite numbers from Winterland regular Jimi Hendrix, Randy stumbled upon a song from the legendary American guitarist, singer and songwriter’s 1972 album War Heroes. “You’re one of the few people who will appreciate Jimi Hendrix playing a tune written by two Swedes {Janne Carlsson and Bo Hansson -Ed} called Tax Free,” Randy wrote to me. “An industry theme song?”

Everyday in the week I’m in a different city
If I stay too long, people try to pull me down
They talk about me like a dog talkin’ about the clothes I wear
But they don’t realise they’re the ones who’s square
And that’s why you can’t hold me down
I don’t want to be down I gotta move, hey
Stone free, just do what I please
Stone free, to ride the breeze
Stone free, I can’t stay

Well, as CJ from the blissful ‘The Rise and Fall of Reginald Perrin’ used to say, “I didn’t get where I am today by” …. (in my case) resisting a musical challenge. So what should be our industry’s anthem?

I pondered that question over a good glass or two tonight of Craggy Range Single Vineyard Syrah from Hawke’s Bay (pictured right) in my native New Zealand.

There are, I suppose, some obvious candidates. Henry John Deutschendorf Jr’s poignant ‘Leaving on a Jet Plane’ primary among them with its opening lyrics that must mirror the emotions of many road warriors in the travel retail industry as they set off on yet another international sojourn, leaving loved ones far behind:

All my bags are packedI’m ready to goI’m standin’ here outside your doorI hate to wake you up to say goodbyeBut the dawn is breakin’
It’s early mornThe taxi’s waitin’
He’s blowin’ his hornAlready I’m so lonesomeI could die

I think we have all felt that lonesomeness. In my dotage, I feel it more than ever. I sometimes think I have lost my way in life through leaving on too many jet planes. Failure on so many personal levels dressed up in a tinsel-thin costume as professional success.

Henry John Deutschendorf Jr? You may know him better as John Denver (the song was lent extra poignancy after the singer/songwriter died in 1997 at just 53 in a single-fatality crash while piloting a light plane).

I would add in Simon and Garfunkel’s wonderful ‘Homeward Bound’ simply for the pathos of its chorus:

Homeward boundI wish I wasHomeward boundHome where my thought’s escaping’
Home where my music’s playin’
Home where my love lies waitin’
Silently for me

For certain travel retail executives’ younger single days you could add Ricky Nelson’s ‘Travelin’ man’…

I’m a travelin’ man and I’ve made a lot of stops
All over the world
And in every port I own the heart
Of at least one lovely girl

I’ve a pretty señorita waiting for me
Down in old Mexico
If you’re ever in Alaska stop and see
My cute little Eskimo

 Oh, I’m a travelin’ man
Yes, I’m a travelin’ man
Yes, I’m a travelin’ man
Whoa, I’m a travelin’ man

Or – thanks Randy – the delicious simplicity of the Beachboys ‘I get around’

I get around (get around, ‘round, ‘round, I get around)
From town to town (get around, ‘round, ‘round, I get around)
I’m a real cool head (get around, ‘round, ‘round, I get around)
I’m makin’ real good bread (get around, ‘round, ‘round, I get around)

I’m getting’ bugged driving up and down the same old strip
I gotta find a new place where the kids are hip

My buddies and me are getting real well known
Yeah, the bad guys know us and they leave us alone”

And, of course, we have to add ‘The More We Get Together’, often sung at key travel retail industry gatherings, which I learned from Wikipedia is a popular English children’s song, originally written for a British children’s charity – claimed authorship by Irving King in 1926 – apparently based on an old Viennese tune, ‘Oh du lieber Augustin’ (see below).

Oh the more we are together, together, together,
Oh the more we are together
The merrier we’ll be.
For your friends are my friends
And my friends are your friends,
So, the more we are together,
The merrier we’ll be.

And how can we forget what is to me the almost pitch perfect song of the pandemic era, a piece called Pray we commissioned from that brilliant travel retail troubador, Canada’s Jeff Orson?

I must have listened to this superb song a thousand times over the crisis and I have never tired of it. We played it again at the start of the recent Trinity Forum in Singapore and you could almost grasp the emotion in the room in the way it struck both a musical and emotional chord with every single delegate. Not a man nor woman in that vast hall had not faced up to the challenges so beautifully articulated in Jeff’s anthem.

There’s something that’s goin’ round, that’s shutting our borders down
It’s a bad time for our sick and our old
CNN’s nightly lullaby, tells of hundreds more that’ve died
I shut off the TV and think all alone, how long can this go on?

But I’m going to pull one out of left field as my favourite choice, a song written by a man named by my ultimate hero Bob Dylan as one of his favourite six songwriters of all time (and perhaps the most unlikely given the others are the ridiculously talented John Prine, Gordon Lightfoot, Warren Zevon, Guy Clark and Randy Newman, all but most especially the tragically lost John Prine in my personal top 10), a certain Jimmy Buffet.

Given his family name, I suppose we shouldn’t be surprised that Jimmy has written so many songs laced with food & beverage references – Margaritaville, Boat Drinks, Cheeseburger in Paradise, Why don’t we get drunk? – but my choice is none of those.

It’s called Changes in Latitudes, Changes in Attitudes and I hope you’ll take a listen on YouTube or Spotify. It is simply wonderful and it starts like this:

I took off for a weekend last month just to try and recall the whole year
All of the faces and all of the places wonderin’ where they all disappeared
I didn’t ponder the question too long, I was hungry and went out for a bite
Ran into a chum with a bottle of rum and we wound up drinkin’ all night

It’s those changes in latitudes, changes in attitudes
Nothing remains quite the same
With all of our running and all of our cunning
If we couldn’t laugh we would all go insane

And then this clincher in terms of my choice…

Reading departure signs in some big airport reminds me of the places I’ve been
Visions of good times that brought so much pleasure makes me want to go back again
If it suddenly ended tomorrow I could somehow adjust to the fall
Good times and riches and son-of-a-bitches I’ve seen more than I can recall

These changes in latitudes, changes in attitudes
Nothing remains quite the same
Through all of the islands and all of the highlands
If we couldn’t laugh we would all go insane

We would indeed Jimmy. Perhaps I already have. 

{P.S Let me know your choices as an industry anthem}

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