Savoring Your Slice of the Pie

Posted: August 23, 2011 in 70's music, Life, Radio, storytelling
Tags: , , , ,

In 1971, singer-songwriter Don McLean penned and recorded the greatest ballad ever put to vinyl, 8-track, CD or I-pod. It ran 8:63 and when it was released in 1972, it became the longest song to hit no. 1 on the Billboard charts (a spot it held for four weeks). I first heard it on the radio during a car trip to South Carolina. It was on every station, mile after mile, state after state, during the two days it took us to get there. I was six years old and it became the first song I could sing all the way through without missing a word. I still can.

“American Pie” is an homage to the great voices of rock and roll that were silenced the “Day the Music Died” – Feb. 3, 1959, when Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens, and J.P. “The Big Bopper” Richardson died in a plane crash near Clear Lake, Iowa. McLean says the song is also semi-autobiographical, recalling the people, places and events that shaped his life and his music. It was that aspect that my friend, Jim, and I were discussing in a crowded bar last Friday night.

We were there for a birthday party and the celebratory alcohol was flowing. It wasn’t long before Jim and I were talking about long songs and my need for a lot of them the following morning when I would have to do my radio show with a hangover. “American Pie” was my first pick, obviously for its length but also because it’s one of my favorite songs.

Suddenly, the lyrics were flying back and forth between us, spoken not sung. (When the singing came later, it was Meatloaf’s “Paradise by the Dashboard Lights”. Jim was smart enough not to join in. Call me Stupid.)  But, back to the “Pie”. We had just reached the line “drove my Chevy to the levee but the levee was dry” when Jim said, “That always makes me think of the Rock.”

To the rest of the world, the Rock may be wrestler-turned-actor Dwayne Johnson but round these parts, the Rock is a hallowed piece of ground that is the place of legend. I’m not from the place where I live but even I know the Rock.

By the Oahe Dam, near the emergency spillway, is a place where local teenagers and those just past that used to gather. The Rock. The site of epic parties, phenomenal fights, hook-ups, break-ups, and make-ups, first beers and last joints, a teenage playground open 24-7. Surely, adults knew of the place, you say. The Rock is on Corps land; that’s Army Corps of Engineers for those who don’t speak the language and they clearly knew. I’m told they used to bring trash bags to the partiers so they could clean up after.

I suspect every town has its levee, its Rock. Park, beach, quarry, lake, woods, old drive-in, farm, shelter, field. Different locations with the same purpose – to give you a place to find yourself and lose yourself during those years when you’re just figuring out who you really are. Those who went, never forget it. Those who didn’t, never forgive themselves.

McLean went and remembered and wrote an amazing song about it, giving us each a little piece of the “Pie” so that we, too, can say, “A long, long time ago…I can still remember…”

Got a song or a place that brings back good memories for you? If you don’t mind sharing, I’d love to hear about it!

  1. My sister would drive us to school and she’d play top forty radio. Andy Gibb’s, Shadow Dancing would send us to shrieking places. Then we’d carefully turn the dial back to the Christian station. Makes me laugh.

  2. Renee Weatherbee says:

    My theme song of the 70s was Free Bird by Lynyrd Skynyrd. The minute I walked into a 3.2 beer joint (and I wasn’t yet 18), I’d head to the juke box and play this song. I’m not sure how long this song is, but the guitar solo is at least 5 minutes. I didn’t actually own the album, because all my extra money went to paying for a car and gas to drive my friends around, but my best friend had this tape. My line was, “I’m as free as a bird now…and this bird you cannot change.” Depicts my whole free-spirited attitude of the 70s. This song, for me, raised just as many goose bumps, sober or stoned. If my grandkids do half the stuff I did back then, I will die of a heart attack. Hopefully, the keep me living under a veil of denial. LOL!

    • jim says:

      i’m so glad you rembered our visit. just thinking of those days can bring tears to your eyes. there were so many people there,and not just there, all over the dam. people trying to figure out just where they could possibly fit in this great big world. It was beautiful man.

      • Of course I remembered! Although according to what I’m hearing about that night, I don’t remember everything that happened…HA! It was a great conversation but then you and I do have those good talks, don’t we? Thanks for the inspiration, man. BTW, the dead hooker blog is still coming!

    • Why, Miss Rita, still waters do run deep! Great song, awesome memory. Thanks for sharing!

  3. “I Can’t Fight This Feeling” by REO Speedwagon takes me back to the commons room in Young Hall, anything by Billy Idol reminds me of Mathews. “Afternoon Delight” takes me back to the local swimming pool (pleasant splashing time, not dreaded lessons.) I remember teenage hours of cruising town with my friends, radio blaring Rick Springfield, Van Halen, Def Leppard and Air Supply. Kathy’s blue Dodge was our hangout.

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