Monday, June 22, 2009

ROCK Orgy: "American Pie"

ROCK Sex posts are about how everybody has a part to offer to the whole.

Sometimes a song is a bit of an orgy of pop celebration. Meaning that it celebrates and refers to many other songs and artists in one big shout-out.

Folk singer DON McLEAN's "American Pie" is a classic example. It's an emotional narrative spanning Rock'n'Roll from 1955 to 1970. Though the song was a full 8 minutes+, it was a huge hit because it chronicled the arc of the counterculture generation. It was also a lyrical mystery that pop fans loved to decipher.

The song refers to BUDDY HOLLY's "That'll Be the Day" and his sad death, TEX RITTER's "Rye Whiskey", THE MONOTONES' "The Book of Love", MARTY ROBBINS' "A White Sports Coat and a Pink Carnation", BOB DYLAN (the jester) and his later motorcycle crash, ELVIS (the king), THE BEATLES' "Helter Skelter", THE BYRDS' "Eight Miles High", "SGT. PEPPER'S LONELY HEARTS CLUB BAND", Woodstock, THE ROLLING STONES'"Jumping Jack Flash", the stabbing death by the Hell's Angels at Altamont, JANIS JOPLIN, and the Jesus Freaks (hippie Christians).

Being a broad narrative it's open to interpretation. McLean seems to be contrasting innocent beginnings with hedonistic endings, more partial to early RnR and Folk, but less so to Psychedelia and lifestyle excesses. Conservatives can fold it into that shopworn narrative of dismissing the 60's generation using Altamont as an arbitrary capstone. Progressives can revel in the anarchic currents that ebb and flow amongst its creative players. Music fans can dig it for its metatext, its melody, and its sheer celebration.


DON McLEAN -"AMERICAN PIE" (1971)

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