Monday, June 02, 2008

Two songs that haunted my childhood.



I was a little kid when these songs came out- the first when I was 3 and the second when I was seven. I never particularly liked them or listened to them. They were just square pop melodies. I didn't even pay attention to them, but I'm sure I heard them many times. In another few years I would be introduced to rock and roll by my older brother- Pink Floyd, Deep Purple, that kind of stuff. That era of rock and roll is still at ground zero of my musical tastes.

Yet.... those earlier songs stayed there, in the background. I consciously noticed California Dreamin' when I was in college. I don't know where, but I heard it on one of those fall days when I was in a blue... no, black... mood. It was cathartic. I never got the exact gist of what was going on in that song, but the conflict, the wanting... something, I don't know what, kind of resonated with me freshman year. I decided that the Mamas and the Papas weren't so square after all.

When I listen to Wedding Bell Blues, I get the opposite vibe. Watching the video, you see the frustration of the would-be bride, but I always saw the story from the other side- I kind of wanted to be that guy who's woman was totally wanting him. In the video, the guy just looks scared. Yeah, I know the Fifth Dimension are just playing around for the video, but I wanted to be adored by someone I adored. I can remember thinking that long before I met my wife, but once we met, it was just like that. (And fortunately, it still is.)

(2014 update: Marilyn McCoo, the singer, was engaged to Billy Davis Junior (the object of her affection in the video) when the song was recorded. They are still married.)

And the things that made those songs square- the flute solo, the horns, the perfect (or at times not quite perfect) harmonies- are the same things that stand out in my mind. I grew up with rock and roll, but the jazzy vibe behind these songs caught in my ear. I thought about other songs by the Mamas and the Papas and the Fifth Dimension, but none of them really grab me the same way as these two examples.

Maybe those two songs are a summary of life: The longing for what you can't have, and the hope that you eventually will get it after all. And the best music burns into you. You don't even have to like it; it just grabs your soul and doesn't let go. It haunts you.

3 comments:

James Dunn said...

"the best music burns into you. You don't even have to like it; it just grabs your soul and doesn't let go. It haunts you."

Very well put my friend

Fritz said...

Man I have a ton of those Sixties songs burned into my head. I loved the Fifth Dimension...
Makes you wonder how a certain time frame like 1964 to 1970 produced so much music? When was the last time ou turned on the radio and heard a new song? They don't make em anymore

Doohickie said...

Have you heard the Flobots song "Handlebars", Fritz? I'm not into hip-hop or rap, but this is an interesting little head-turner. No sampling, it's all real instruments including a jazz trumpet and a violin/viola. Good, socially conscious lyrics too.