Posts Tagged ‘Don McLean’

A Slight Delay

July 8, 2022

Originally posted January 20, 2010

I was going to start the series of posts about the Ultimate Jukebox today, but some overnight events have forced me to delay for a day. But when we get to tomorrow, we’ll talk about the project and share the first tunes from that idea.

In the meantime, I beg your patience, and I’ve decided to share three of the tunes that came close but in the end did not make it in the final list for the Ultimate Jukebox. So these are among the runners-up, if you will. And still great songs and records in their own right.

“Crossroads” by Don McLean from American Pie [1971]
“Soulful Strut” by Young-Holt Unlimited, Brunswick 55391 [1968]
“Silver Spring” by Fleetwood Mac, Warner Bros. 8034 [1977]

See you tomorrow!

Saturday Single No. 633

March 16, 2019

I’ll be spending a good portion of today at my other keyboard – the musical one – getting ready to return tomorrow to my role as one of the musicians at our Unitarian Universalist Fellowship. Along with the standard offertory and the song we sing as the children head toward their classes, I’ll be playing two other pieces: I’ll lead the fellowship in a chant titled “Be Ye Lamps Unto Yourselves” at the close of the service.

And during the middle of the service, I’ll be playing as I sing Don McLean’s “Crossroads,” a meditation on life from his 1971 American Pie album. My compatriot Tom will sit in on bass, but I don’t know if I will have any other vocal support. No matter. I’ll do the best I can.

I’ve shared the tune here once before, about five years ago, but I thought that this time, I’d share the lyrics:

I’ve got nothing on my mind, nothing to remember
Nothing to forget and I’ve got nothing to regret
But I’m all tied up on the inside. No one knows quite what I’ve got
And I know that on the outside what I used to be I’m not. Anymore.

You know I’ve heard about people like me but I never made the connection
They walk one road to set them free and find they’ve gone the wrong direction
But there’s no need for turning back, ’cause all roads lead to where I stand;
And I believe I’ll walk them all, no matter what I may have planned

Can you remember who I was? Can you still feel it?
Can you find my pain? Can you heal it?
Then lay your hands upon me now and cast this darkness from my soul
You alone can light my way, you alone can make me whole . . . once again

We’ve walked both sides of every street, through all kinds of windy weather;
But that was never our defeat as long as we could walk together
So there’s no need for turning back, ’cause all roads lead to where we stand;
And I believe we’ll walk them all, no matter what we may have planned

“Crossroads” is a piece that’s sustained me through any of numbers of turns in my life over the past thirty-some years, reminding me that no matter which roads I walk, I will find myself where I am supposed to be. For that reason, and because it’s going to be in my head today, Don McLean’s “Crossroads” is today’s Saturday Single.

Saturday Single No. 383

March 8, 2014

During the first year of this blog’s existence, I wrote about my visit to Stonehenge, on England’s Salisbury Plain:

I walked among the old stones, laying my hands on this one and then that one, watching the sunlight and shade change the colors of the stones from light orange to dull gray, taking photographs . . . and absorbing what I can only call the silence of thousands of years. I felt gratified that I had kept a promise made to myself when I was very young. But even more than that, I felt something that was, all at the same time, odd, eerie, compelling and familiar. I felt as if I knew the place . . .

How had I been there before? Possible explanations I’ve considered (however unlikely they may be) are time travel, alternate universes, sheer folly and reincarnation. I lean toward the latter, but I do not know. All I know is that as I wandered the pathways among the ancient stones, stones put in place about five thousand years ago and abandoned sometime later, I felt as if I were returning. It’s not that I belonged there in that year of 1974, but as if I had belonged there somewhen else.

There is, of course, a barrier that separates the life we understand at least a little from things we do not understand very well (if at all). I do believe that there are places in the world where that barrier is very thin. Among the places I’ve heard mentioned where that is true are Sedona, Arizona, and Mount Shasta, California, here in the U.S.; Machu Picchu in Peru and the Pyramids in Egypt. There are likely more that I’m forgetting. I am certain, though, that Stonehenge is one of those places.

That visit took place – and I took the photograph above – forty years ago today. As I wrote a few weeks ago “some dates stick hard in my mind.” Today’s date, March 8, is one of those. And although no song can truly reflect how I felt in that hour or so I spent among those ancient stones that day, I’ve come to realize over the years that there is a path – at times indirect and winding but nevertheless clear – from what I felt at Stonehenge in 1974 to some of my firm beliefs today about why we are here and where we go next.

The one recording I know of that speaks plainly to those beliefs is as matter-of-fact as the stones on Salisbury Plain are, literally, monumental. That’s all right, though: Stonehenge was a once in a lifetime experience, and the vast majority of our time here is more matter-of-fact than monumental. So on this anniversary date, Don McLean’s 1971 album track “Crossroads” speaks to me as it has for years, and I know it needs to be today’s Saturday Single.

A Baker’s Dozen of Tomorrows

May 25, 2011

Originally posted December 14, 2007

I remember reading a piece – likely in the newspaper – about a linguistics professor who had taken it upon himself to determine the most beautiful word in the English language. I don’t recall when I read that, nor do I remember which university was involved, but I do recall that the professor concluded that the most beautiful word in the language was “cellar door.”

First of all, that’s two words. (It could be that the professor was considering sets of words.) Second, although the two words together do have a nice sound, words are more than sounds. Maybe as a linguist, one can separate the sound of the word from the meaning of the word, but as a writer, I can’t. And “cellar door” isn’t going to make the cut.

So what are the most beautiful words in the language? After all, if I’m going to quibble about someone else’s judgment, I’d better have some idea of my own, right? Well, I don’t have a Top Ten list, but I do have a couple of words. I think “home” and “tomorrow” top the ranks of English words.

Home, as poet Robert Frost noted, is our last refuge: the place where, when you go there, they have to let you in. We all need such a place. In fact, I don’t think it’s at all far-fetched to say that, whatever else we do with our lives, our main business here is seeking and creating a better refuge, a better place, a better home. In terms of pure sound, it’s a rather plain word, but its meaning makes “home” the sound of belonging somewhere. When we don’t have that, we ache, and when we find it, we are healed. How much better can one word be?

“Tomorrow” comes close. For someone as attuned to the past and as intrigued by memoir and memory as I am, it’s odd in a way that I didn’t select “yesterday” as one of my top two words. But as much as any of us might ponder yesterday and its lessons, we know all about it. And “tomorrow” brings the promise that things can change, that we can use yesterday’s lessons to make things better as they come to us. (Writing that sentence made me realize that there are two other very nice words to consider: “promise” and “change.” Well, another day, I guess.) Thinking about tomorrow is an act of optimism, it seems, maybe even an act of courage, even if all one is doing is putting one foot in front of the other, one step at a time.

I had planned to rip and post an album today, but the Texas Gal is taking a day off from work and we have holiday preparations to make, so I will invest my time there. In the meantime, I got a note from a reader who asked for a specific song with the word “tomorrow” in its title, and that got me thinking. I’ll get back to “home” and “hope” and “promise” down the road, but for now, we’ll start with the requested song and go randomly from there.

A Baker’s Dozen of Tomorrows

“Tomorrow Is A Long Time” by Glenn Yarbrough from For Emily, Whenever I May Find Her, 1967

“Tomorrow” by the Strawberry Alarm Clock, Uni single 55046, 1967

“Tomorrow and Me” by Mike Nesmith from And the Hits Just Keep on Comin’, 1972

“Till Tomorrow” by Don McLean from American Pie, 1971

“Tomorrow” by Fanny from the Fanny Hill sessions, 1972

“You’re My Tomorrow” by Richie Havens from Now, 1991

“All Our Tomorrows” by Joe Cocker from Unchain My Heart, 1987

“Love Me Tomorrow” by Boz Scaggs from Silk Degrees, 1976

“Goin’ Home Tomorrow” by Dr. John from Goin’ Back to New Orleans, 1992

“Tomorrow Never Knows” by the Beatles from Revolver, 1966

“Waiting For Tomorrow” by Bettye LaVette from the Child Of The Seventies sessions, 1973

“Beginning Tomorrow” by Joy of Cooking from Castles, 1972

“This Time Tomorrow” by Sisters Love, Manchild single 5001, 1968

A few notes on some of the songs and performers:

The Glenn Yarbrough track is a Bob Dylan song, one that Dylan wrote in 1962 or so but left unreleased until his second greatest hits album came out in 1971. Yarbrough’s was the first version I heard, and I like it pretty well, but over the years, I’ve come to value the version Dylan released in 1971, which came from a 1963 concert in New York.

The Strawberry Alarm Clock track has its place in history. It reached No. 23 in early 1968 and thus kept the West Coast group from being a One-Hit Wonder. The group’s only other chart entry was, of course, “Incense & Peppermints,” which reached No 1 for one week in 1967.

Once his time in the Monkees ended, Michael Nesmith put together a string of generally very good and sometimes great country rock albums, starting in the late 1960s and continuing through much of the 1970s. His 1972 release, And The Hits Just Keep On Comin’, is likely the best of those.

Not long ago, I shared Fanny’s version of the Beatles’ “Hey Bulldog.” The track “Tomorrow” comes from the same sessions.

“Tomorrow Never Knows” was one of John Lennon’s first excursions into tape-loop and odd sound psychedelic experimentation, a track that startled first-time listeners to Revolver when it came on after the Motown-influenced horns of “Got To Get You Into My Life.”

As regular readers might know, Joy of Cooking is one of my favorite relatively obscure bands of the 1970s. “Maybe Tomorrow” is one of the best tracks from Castles, the Berkeley-based band’s third and final release.

I’ve written about Sisters Love before, when I posted their cover of “Blackbird.” “This Time Tomorrow” is a sweet piece of pop soul.