American Pie

american pieThis is another song that gets played every day at work. We’re in the back room of a big store, so no customers can hear the ladies wail tunelessly along as they work. It makes me cringe.

Especially since they only know the words to the chorus, and bash away poorly at the rest.

It wouldn’t be so bad except the song is so damn long.

I’m just gonna copy from Wiki here to save me typing, and insert my own comments as it goes:

Interpretations

Except to acknowledge that he first learned about Buddy Holly’s death on February 3, 1959 – McLean was aged 13 – when he was folding newspapers for his paper route on the morning of February 4, 1959 (the line “February made me shiver/with every paper I’d deliver”), McLean has generally avoided responding to direct questions about the song lyrics, such as saying, “They’re beyond analysis. They’re poetry.”

Haha well la di da! OK then!

He also stated in an editorial published in 2009 on the 50th anniversary of the crash that killed Holly, Ritchie Valens, and J. P. “The Big Bopper” Richardson, that writing the first verse of the song exorcised his long-running grief over Holly’s death and that he considers the song to be “a big song (…) that summed up the world known as America.” McLean dedicated the American Pie album to Holly. 

He wasn’t wrong. That plane crash was devastating.

It is also speculated that the song contains numerous references to post World War II American culture, 1960s’ culture including sock-hops, cruising, Bob Dylan, The Beatles, Charles Manson and much more.

Speculated? I took that as understood!

When asked what “American Pie” meant, McLean jokingly replied, “It means I don’t ever have to work again if I don’t want to.”

Attaboy! Haha that was awesome. Thing is, he probably wasn’t joking.

Later, he stated, “You will find many interpretations of my lyrics but none of them by me … Sorry to leave you all on your own like this but long ago I realized that songwriters should make their statements and move on, maintaining a dignified silence.”

An interesting stance to take on such a powerful statement song. But I can dig it.

He also commented on the popularity of his music, “I didn’t write songs that were just catchy, but with a point of view, or songs about the environment.”

Yes, you were part of that movement and tradition.

In February 2015, McLean announced he would reveal the meaning of the lyrics to the song when the original manuscript goes for auction in New York City in April 2015.

So much for “They’re beyond analysis. They’re poetry.”

The lyrics and notes were auctioned on April 7, and sold for $1.2m.[15] In the sale catalogue notes McLean revealed the meaning in the song’s lyrics “Basically in American Pie things are heading in the wrong direction. … It [life] is becoming less idyllic. I don’t know whether you consider that wrong or right but it is a morality song in a sense.”

No surprise here.

The catalog did confirm some of the better known references in the song’s lyrics, including mentions of Elvis Presley (referred to in the lyrics as “the king,”), and Bob Dylan (the jester).

Haha well duh! People waited around all those years for that? Oh man.

Anyway, it is a great tune from the best traditions, it’s commentary and it’s poetry and it’s built so strong that it still gets played on the radio at my work, where the ladies can sing along to it incorrectly and drive me batty. See, I know all the words, and can play it on guitar, and I would love to help them learn it, but there just isn’t time at work, and I doubt it would have any effect. Sigh.

I hope the ladies from work find this next part and start memorizing…

A long long time ago
I can still remember how
That music used to make me smile

And I knew if I had my chance
That I could make those people dance
And maybe they’d be happy for a while

But February made me shiver
With every paper I’d deliver
Bad news on the doorstep
I couldn’t take one more step

I can’t remember if I cried
When I read about his widowed bride
Something touched me deep inside
The day the music died
So

[Chorus]
Bye, bye Miss American Pie
Drove my Chevy to the levee but the levee was dry
And them good ole boys were drinking whiskey and rye
Singin’ this’ll be the day that I die
This’ll be the day that I die

Did you write the book of love
And do you have faith in God above
If the Bible tells you so?

Do you believe in rock and roll?
Can music save your mortal soul?
And can you teach me how to dance real slow?

Well, I know that you’re in love with him
‘Cause I saw you dancin’ in the gym
You both kicked off your shoes
Man, I dig those rhythm and blues

I was a lonely teenage broncin’ buck
With a pink carnation and a pickup truck
But I knew I was out of luck
The day the music died
I started singin’

Bye, bye Miss American Pie
Drove my Chevy to the levee but the levee was dry
And them good ole boys were drinking whiskey and rye
Singin’ this’ll be the day that I die
This’ll be the day that I die

Now, for ten years we’ve been on our own
And moss grows fat on a rolling stone
But, that’s not how it used to be

When the jester sang for the king and queen
In a coat he borrowed from James Dean
And a voice that came from you and me

Oh and while the king was looking down
The jester stole his thorny crown
The courtroom was adjourned
No verdict was returned

And while Lenin read a book on Marx
The quartet practiced in the park
And we sang dirges in the dark
The day the music died
We were singin’

Bye, bye Miss American Pie
Drove my Chevy to the levee but the levee was dry
Them good ole boys were drinking whiskey and rye
And singin’ this’ll be the day that I die
This’ll be the day that I die

Helter skelter in a summer swelter
The birds flew off with a fallout shelter
Eight miles high and falling fast

It landed foul on the grass
The players tried for a forward pass
With the jester on the sidelines in a cast

Now the half-time air was sweet perfume
While sergeants played a marching tune
We all got up to dance
Oh, but we never got the chance

‘Cause the players tried to take the field
The marching band refused to yield
Do you recall what was revealed
The day the music died?
We started singin’

Bye, bye Miss American Pie
Drove my Chevy to the levee but the levee was dry
Them good ole boys were drinking whiskey and rye
And singin’ this’ll be the day that I die
This’ll be the day that I die

Oh, and there we were all in one place
A generation lost in space
With no time left to start again

So come on Jack be nimble, Jack be quick
Jack Flash sat on a candlestick
‘Cause fire is the devil’s only friend

Oh and as I watched him on the stage
My hands were clenched in fists of rage
No angel born in Hell
Could break that Satan’s spell

And as the flames climbed high into the night
To light the sacrificial rite
I saw Satan laughing with delight
The day the music died
He was singin’

Bye, bye Miss American Pie
Drove my Chevy to the levee but the levee was dry
Them good ole boys were drinking whiskey and rye
Singin’ this’ll be the day that I die
This’ll be the day that I die

I met a girl who sang the blues
And I asked her for some happy news
But she just smiled and turned away

I went down to the sacred store
Where I’d heard the music years before
But the man there said the music wouldn’t play

And in the streets the children screamed
The lovers cried, and the poets dreamed
But not a word was spoken
The church bells all were broken

And the three men I admire most
The Father, Son, and the Holy Ghost
They caught the last train for the coast
The day the music died
And they were singing

Bye, bye Miss American Pie
Drove my Chevy to the levee but the levee was dry
And them good ole boys were drinking whiskey and rye
Singin’ this’ll be the day that I die
This’ll be the day that I die
They were singing

Bye, bye Miss American Pie
Drove my Chevy to the levee but the levee was dry
Them good ole boys were drinking whiskey and rye
Singin’ this’ll be the day that I die

8 thoughts on “American Pie

  1. J. says:

    I’ve always liked this song, but I’d pour concrete in my ears if I had to hear it every day! Lordy!

    I hadn’t heard the song in a good number of years until I spotted the album at the tail end of 2014 going cheap. 99p, cause it was a bit marked. Plus the fact there are more copies of it out there than there are people. Or at least that’s how I understand it.

    … looks like Christian Bale in that photo. That’s the casting for the biopic sorted, huh? 🙂

    Like

    1. keepsmealive says:

      Oh man, wait til they roll out the Christmas songs…

      Cheap is good! I’ve never seen it here, but then again, I haven’t been looking all that hard for it…

      Bale, yes. And way better acting than that shite video I included. Haha I thought somebody woulda complained about that one by now…

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Phillip Helbig says:

    Great song. It’s similar to, but more obscure than, Billy Joel’s “We didn’t start the fire”, in that it is a sequence of allusions. Like a joke, if you don’t get it, it doesn’t have the same effect if someone has to explain it to you.

    The German word for poetry is “Dichtung”, which literally means “compression”. It is the job of the poet to compress a lot of meaning into just a few words.

    Like

    1. keepsmealive says:

      Excellent comment, thanks Phillip! Absolutely see the connection to Joel there.

      Man, having to explain jokes is a drag.

      Dichtung. An elegant word to explain the hardest job a poet can ever attempt!

      Like

  3. boppinsblog says:

    The Buddy Holly story was a tragedy from my parents generation. A ton of young guys in the late 50’s/early 60’s looked like Buddy Holly. You would swear my mom married Buddy Holly if you saw my parents wedding pictures.

    Like

  4. boppinsblog says:

    I always loved this song. The lyrics whiskey and “rye” almost make it seem Canadian to me, even though it is American Pie.
    I am a car nut so the line “Drove my Chevy to the levee, but the levee was dry.” is also awesome. It reminds me of small town youth, hanging out near the rivers.

    I can’t wait until someone pays 1.2 mil for the lyrics and notes for What The Fox Say. Such a deep song. I need to find the true meaning.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. keepsmealive says:

      Yes indeed, it’s a classic for sure. Ingrained in the fabric for all of us. Ah, small town life. I know it well.

      My favourite lines were always:

      I met a girl who sang the blues
      And I asked her for some happy news
      But she just smiled and turned away

      As for the Fox, I’d rather know, once and for all, who let the dogs out.

      Liked by 1 person

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