Sunday, June 14, 2009

Reruns and Memories

I’m not sure why, but for whatever reason I find it difficult to watch re-runs of some of my favorite, if now defunct, TV shows. This is especially true for comedies. But sometimes there’s nothing else on so I watch one, and almost always end up wondering why I’d been denying myself the chance to renew a pleasure that I had sorely missed. A case in point is WKRP In Cincinnati. A ball game I was watching the other night was in a rain delay and I needed something else to watch that I wasn’t likely to get so wrapped up in that I forgot about the game, and WKRP was playing on the very next channel. Well I ended up watching two episodes back-to-back and missing the resumption of the game. I actually think the time was better spent.

Now I have no idea what the inner workings of a radio station are really like, but I do know that when I watched that show regularly I couldn’t imagine a better job than being a disc jockey. Getting to hear the latest releases before the world at large. Being myself before a huge audience while I’m actually alone in a protective shell of technology. Having an audience that actually wants to hear what I’m playing. What could be better than that? But watching WKRP In Cincinnati also brought back a great memory of an experience I had with a real, also now defunct, local radio station.

It was back in the late 90s and I was just beginning to come to grips with “my terrible illness.” Having been declared “unemployable” because of my reluctance to deal with the world outside my home, I had spent well over $4000 of my “retirement money” on computer equipment that I intended to use for a home-based business providing graphics and printing services to small businesses, as well as computer training to the neighborhood kids. Unfortunately, operating a business, any business, requires that you actually engage in an effort to gain clientèle, so I ended up mainly creating a lot of things to print out on my fancy new $750 color ink-jet printer.

Now don’t get me wrong, I was quite proud of the philosophical pronouncements and song lyrics – with graphics – that I was producing, but they hardly justified the enormous expenditures required to produce them. And trust me, having only a dial-up connection to what was then a very primitive world wide web didn’t help when it came to doing research. Unlike today, there weren’t zillions of sites to go to to get the lyrics for songs, so I reproduced them mainly from memory. And when memory failed, I reproduced them by listening to my old vinyl records over and over again until I was satisfied.

But I was stumped when it came to Don McLean’s American Pie. Like so many other “one hit wonders,” I hadn’t bothered to actually buy the record, so I was attempting to reproduce the lyrics entirely from memory. Unlike the therapeutic value I had gotten from mentally working out the lyrics to other songs, my attempt to do this with such a long and complicated song had rapidly become an exercise in self-torture. But like the fabled monkey with his fist in the jar, I simply could not let it go. Which is what gave me the idea to call up a radio station for help.

I think the station was called “Arrow” or something like that. They specialized in playing classic rock from the 60s and 70s, and seemed the perfect place to call for help. Unfortunately, the guy I talked to told me that their broadcasts were pre-programmed and that they only did requests on an infrequent basis. I guess he caught the disappointment in my voice upon hearing that, so he asked me what was up. Without really meaning to go into such detail, I told him about the depression and how I used working through the lyrics to my favorite songs as a kind of therapy.

Well to my absolute amazement, the guy actually offered to play the song for me over the phone, using a cassette deck he had in his office. He went even further by offering to rewind and replay all or any part of the song until I was happy. Needless to say, I will never forget his understanding and his generosity. I only wish I could remember his name.

I’ve included the lyrics to this song below (downloaded this time – I lost the ones I worked out long ago). I’ve also included the song itself on the associated music playlist.

American Pie by Don McLean

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

So bye-bye, Miss American Pie
Drove my chevy to the levee
But the levee was dry
And them good old boys were drinkin’ 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 ‘n 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 digged those rhythm & 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’

Now for ten years we’ve been on our own
And moss grows fat on a rollin’ 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 of Marx
The quartet practiced in the park
And we sang dirges in the dark
The day the music died

We were singing

Helter Skelter in a summer swelter
The birds flew off with a fallout shelter
Eight miles high and falling fast
It landed foul out 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 the 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 singing

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 singing

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 woudn’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

They were singing
Bye-bye, Miss American Pie
Drove my chevy to the levee
But the levee was dry
Them good old boys were drinking whiskey and rye
Singin’ this’ll be the day that I die

I want ice water.

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