It’s time to get out my 7″ copy of ‘American Pie’ and to switch on the Dansette. The full version of the song requires flipping the record over at the end of Side A, something that amuses my 15 year old daughter. One night, driving her home from school, the radio station played the whole song. They could have played it repeatedly and Don McClean’s commemoration of 3rd February 1959 would have still retained the freshness it possessed when heard for the first time.
I was eleven when I first heard ‘American Pie’; didn’t understand it then and not sure that I understand it now. Doesn’t matter anyway. The melancholy of the line ‘The day the music died’ was sufficient in itself to capture the atmosphere; to suggest that the day was like no other, that the day Buddy Holly, The Big Bopper and Richie Valens, along with Roger Peterson, the pilot of their aircraft, died in a crash in Iowa, was a day to be remembered.
In days at boarding school, a classmate would insist on silence when ‘Rave On’ was played. Sixteen years after Buddy Holly’s death, schoolboys, born after he had died, still remembered him in hushed tones. Thirty-four years on from those schooldays, and the 50th anniversary is worthy of mention on the national news.
Where would Buddy Holly have gone from his rock and roll days? Who knows? If he were alive now, he would be younger than Leonard Cohen, who is still packing in the crowds. Maybe Buddy Holly and the Crickets he would be still touring. Maybe I would be logging on to Ticketmaster to find tickets for their latest world tour.
Time to listen to Don McLean and remember the four men who died this day, taking the music with them.
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,
But something touched me deep inside
The day the music died . . .
Listen to Buddy Holly singing Rave on! here.
I love the pianist in the video going to the closet for a surreptitious cigarette! The guy who used to play Rave On! in 1975 would have done the same. He was killed in a motor cycle accident in 1977.