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American pie has a lot to answer for.

DigiTrad:
AMERICAN PIE
AMERICAN PIE--PROGRAM NOTES


Related threads:
(origins) Origins: The Day the Music Died (34)
Lyr Add: American Pie (Don McLean) (26)
happy? – Feb 3 (The day music died) (9)
American Pie as Jingle (12)
Lyr Req: Glasgow Parody of American Pie (5)
Lyr Req: American Pie (9) (closed)
Lyr Add: American Pie (+ program notes) (39)
You missed it! Bye, Bye, American Pie (2)
Lyr Add: Bye, Bye, Millennium Pie (11)


Bert 23 Nov 07 - 02:55 AM
Jim Lad 23 Nov 07 - 03:00 AM
Bert 23 Nov 07 - 03:03 AM
Jim Lad 23 Nov 07 - 03:06 AM
Richard Bridge 23 Nov 07 - 03:27 AM
Richard Bridge 23 Nov 07 - 03:28 AM
GUEST 23 Nov 07 - 06:48 AM
oldhippie 23 Nov 07 - 07:41 AM
GUEST,Riverman 23 Nov 07 - 08:21 AM
catspaw49 23 Nov 07 - 08:41 AM
GUEST,the former ELVIS 23 Nov 07 - 10:28 AM
Bert 23 Nov 07 - 01:29 PM
katlaughing 23 Nov 07 - 01:42 PM
McGrath of Harlow 23 Nov 07 - 02:12 PM
Q (Frank Staplin) 23 Nov 07 - 02:16 PM
Bert 23 Nov 07 - 02:24 PM
GUEST,Songster Bob 23 Nov 07 - 02:32 PM
GUEST,Cruiser 23 Nov 07 - 02:46 PM
Bert 23 Nov 07 - 03:24 PM
McGrath of Harlow 23 Nov 07 - 03:49 PM
Q (Frank Staplin) 23 Nov 07 - 08:19 PM
robomatic 23 Nov 07 - 08:26 PM
Bert 23 Nov 07 - 09:13 PM
EuGene 23 Nov 07 - 10:34 PM
WFDU - Ron Olesko 23 Nov 07 - 10:52 PM
EuGene 23 Nov 07 - 11:00 PM
Q (Frank Staplin) 23 Nov 07 - 11:03 PM
EuGene 23 Nov 07 - 11:29 PM
Severn 24 Nov 07 - 12:09 AM
M.Ted 24 Nov 07 - 12:19 AM
Gurney 24 Nov 07 - 01:06 AM
katlaughing 24 Nov 07 - 01:13 AM
Gurney 24 Nov 07 - 01:20 AM
M.Ted 24 Nov 07 - 02:57 AM
Darowyn 24 Nov 07 - 05:09 AM
McGrath of Harlow 24 Nov 07 - 09:24 AM
JJ 24 Nov 07 - 09:59 AM
M.Ted 24 Nov 07 - 11:01 AM
GUEST 24 Nov 07 - 12:04 PM
EuGene 24 Nov 07 - 12:40 PM
PoppaGator 24 Nov 07 - 12:45 PM
Little Hawk 24 Nov 07 - 01:03 PM
GUEST,Neil D 24 Nov 07 - 01:15 PM
PoppaGator 24 Nov 07 - 01:26 PM
Q (Frank Staplin) 24 Nov 07 - 01:47 PM
Little Hawk 24 Nov 07 - 01:49 PM
GUEST,The Mole Catcher's Apprentice 24 Nov 07 - 01:56 PM
Bert 24 Nov 07 - 02:20 PM
EuGene 24 Nov 07 - 02:48 PM
M.Ted 25 Nov 07 - 12:41 AM
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Subject: American pie has a lot to answer for.
From: Bert
Date: 23 Nov 07 - 02:55 AM

It has a nice catchy tune and a memorable chorus; but it has given songwriters since, the excuse to write a load of obscure crap that nobody can understand.


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Subject: RE: American pie has a lot to answer for.
From: Jim Lad
Date: 23 Nov 07 - 03:00 AM

Okay!

I'll bite...

It was one song on an impeccable album. Possibly the best American folk album of all time.
"Bridge over Troubled Waters" being a close second.


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Subject: RE: American pie has a lot to answer for.
From: Bert
Date: 23 Nov 07 - 03:03 AM

But why does every bloody amateur songwriter think that now it's OK to write a load of obscure crap and it will be a hit?


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Subject: RE: American pie has a lot to answer for.
From: Jim Lad
Date: 23 Nov 07 - 03:06 AM

I don't.


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Subject: RE: American pie has a lot to answer for.
From: Richard Bridge
Date: 23 Nov 07 - 03:27 AM

THey probably think it's "folk" too.


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Subject: RE: American pie has a lot to answer for.
From: Richard Bridge
Date: 23 Nov 07 - 03:28 AM

But of course "NOttamun Town" and "THe Cuddy Wren" are models of clarity.


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Subject: RE: American pie has a lot to answer for.
From: GUEST
Date: 23 Nov 07 - 06:48 AM

Hmmm, I don't think the lyrics to American Pie are all that obscure. They're just... quite bad if you ask me... I think it's probably Bob Dylan who's the one single figure responsible for making singer-songwriters try to be clever with all sorts of obscure and 'poetic' lyrics and references. American Pie probably wouldn't be American Pie without Dylan's big influence. And that's not Bob's fault. Dylan wrote all sorts of wonderfully surreal lyrics. I don't know what he's on about in plenty of songs. I *like* not knowing what he's on about.


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Subject: RE: American pie has a lot to answer for.
From: oldhippie
Date: 23 Nov 07 - 07:41 AM

All you ever need to know about "American Pie" lyrics is here:

http://www.rareexception.com/Garden/Pie.php


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Subject: RE: American pie has a lot to answer for.
From: GUEST,Riverman
Date: 23 Nov 07 - 08:21 AM

Thanks oldhippie,

That, in fact, was more than I ever WANTED to know. There is, as we know, such a thing as over-analysis which can easily spill over into tenuous pig dribble.

I would concur with the previous posting that I don't mind not knowing what this, or indeed, any other slightly abstract lyrics mean to the writer. Same goes for Dylan. If I like it, I like it and sometimes it's the obscurity of the references and the way they sound that is the reason I like it.

Triffic tune though.


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Subject: RE: American pie has a lot to answer for.
From: catspaw49
Date: 23 Nov 07 - 08:41 AM

If y'all had looked you would have found all that crappola already on the 'Cat.

Like Richard was saying, it isn't like there are no trad songs with lyrics wide open to interpretation because some of them are confusing at the very least and definitely at times hard to understand. The difference is their writers are deader than Bert's dick.

And Bert old Bro....Between this and the Elvis thing? Well, whatever it is you're smokin' or snortin' or ingestin'.....you need to stop now before it makes your ass completely null and void!

Spaw


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Subject: RE: American pie has a lot to answer for.
From: GUEST,the former ELVIS
Date: 23 Nov 07 - 10:28 AM

DM was once asked what "American Pie" meant, and said, "It means I never have to work again".


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Subject: RE: American pie has a lot to answer for.
From: Bert
Date: 23 Nov 07 - 01:29 PM

Hi to you too Spaw;-)

The thing is that a song should be a way of getting a message across and Spaw has no trouble at all with that. He'd make a good songwriter, smelly maybe, but good.

I wasn't comparing American Pie with traditional songs but so many songwriters nowadays write unintelligable crap.


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Subject: RE: American pie has a lot to answer for.
From: katlaughing
Date: 23 Nov 07 - 01:42 PM

We have a hard time telling if they ARE intelligible or not as they all seem to mumble. We KNOW it's NOT our hearing that's going as we can understand lots of trad singers, old movie singing, CDs, even Dylan, well most of the time it's his older stuff we can understand, but the modern stuff, forget it. I don't think any of them know how to enunciate or phrase any more!

I also listen more to the tune than I do the words.:-)


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Subject: RE: American pie has a lot to answer for.
From: McGrath of Harlow
Date: 23 Nov 07 - 02:12 PM

American Pie seems pretty straightforward to me.


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Subject: RE: American pie has a lot to answer for.
From: Q (Frank Staplin)
Date: 23 Nov 07 - 02:16 PM

Agree, katlaughing. Diction is a lost art.
If a singer can't enunciate clearly, his message is lost.


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Subject: RE: American pie has a lot to answer for.
From: Bert
Date: 23 Nov 07 - 02:24 PM

American Pie seems pretty straightforward to me.

Did you know what American Pie was when you first heard it, and who the jester was?


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Subject: RE: American pie has a lot to answer for.
From: GUEST,Songster Bob
Date: 23 Nov 07 - 02:32 PM

When you're lost in the rain in Juarez, and it's Easter-time, too,
Sha-boom, sha-boom, yada-da-da-da-da
Friday night arrives without a suit case.
Sha-boom, sha-boom, yada-da-da-da-da
It rained all night the day I left, the weather it was dry,
Sha-boom, sha-boom,yada-da-da-da-da
Your father's still perfecting ways of making sealing wax.
Doo-dah, doo-dah-day.


'Nough said?!

Bob


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Subject: RE: American pie has a lot to answer for.
From: GUEST,Cruiser
Date: 23 Nov 07 - 02:46 PM

And then there is ole 'Puff the Magic Dragon'....

I like 'American Pie', I understood the lyrics as I wanted to interpret them, because I 'growed-up' in that era of Buddy Holly et al.


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Subject: RE: American pie has a lot to answer for.
From: Bert
Date: 23 Nov 07 - 03:24 PM

I didn't say American Pie was bad. It's just that the lyrics are obscure to most people and it seems to have given songwriters the excuse to write obscure lyrics in the hopes of achieving similar success.


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Subject: RE: American pie has a lot to answer for.
From: McGrath of Harlow
Date: 23 Nov 07 - 03:49 PM

"The jester" being Bob Dylan? Well, "with a coat he borrowed from James Dean and a voice that came from you and me", Dylan seemed the natural candidate to me first time I heard it.

But if it hadn't been him that wouldn't have signified too much. The image would still have fitted into the narrative, even if there hadn't been a real figure behind it. Imagery isn't just about sticking identifying labels on everything.


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Subject: RE: American pie has a lot to answer for.
From: Q (Frank Staplin)
Date: 23 Nov 07 - 08:19 PM

A lot of it makes me think of cowpie.


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Subject: RE: American pie has a lot to answer for.
From: robomatic
Date: 23 Nov 07 - 08:26 PM

yeah and Finnegan's wake is such a model of old world clarity.


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Subject: RE: American pie has a lot to answer for.
From: Bert
Date: 23 Nov 07 - 09:13 PM

Seem to have a few knee jerk reactions here. I was hoping for some thinking - silly me.


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Subject: RE: American pie has a lot to answer for.
From: EuGene
Date: 23 Nov 07 - 10:34 PM

I always did wonder about the Jester and James Dean's coat, but got nowhere when I asked around about it. Same with most of those other obscure references to . . . ??

Somebody did tell me that American Pie was the name that had been given to the ill fated airplane, so I too have heard that rumor.

Talk to a hundred people and get a hundred purely speculative answers regarding the meanings of the lines in American Pie. All the pegging of those lines with various deep meanings, political ideals, sock hop reminiscences, and obscure philosophy reminds me of the cacaphony of competing meanings we 1960's types attached to the Lord of the Rings . . .all the while Tolkein kept saying "Golly, I didn't realize that I meant that!"

Meanwhile, here this hillbilly was, still trying to decipher
"Waiting for Godot" and most of Dickinson's peotry, when DM bonked me over the head with the Pie song! Loved the tune, though.

Eu


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Subject: RE: American pie has a lot to answer for.
From: WFDU - Ron Olesko
Date: 23 Nov 07 - 10:52 PM

THE PLANE WAS NOT CALLED AMERICAN PIE.


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Subject: RE: American pie has a lot to answer for.
From: EuGene
Date: 23 Nov 07 - 11:00 PM

ALL CAPS!! That's the end of that rumor, by golly!! Eu


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Subject: RE: American pie has a lot to answer for.
From: Q (Frank Staplin)
Date: 23 Nov 07 - 11:03 PM

See Alison's explanation of McLean's American Pie in thread 17044.

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Subject: RE: American pie has a lot to answer for.
From: EuGene
Date: 23 Nov 07 - 11:29 PM

Q: I have entered 17044 in every search box I can find and none of them take me anywhere. I don't know how to find a thread by number. Eu


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Subject: RE: American pie has a lot to answer for.
From: Severn
Date: 24 Nov 07 - 12:09 AM

And It was a big hit in other countries too, as a lot of US hits are, in translations not always nescessarly faithful in the least bit. Or sometimes the just don't work.

I was told in Scandinavia, it came out as:

Bye, bye Miss Cheese Danish
Drove my Ford to the fjord......



But seriously, I've heard or read interviews with the likes of Don MacLean and Steve Goodman about what hit songs with a lot of American historical or regional references like "American Pie" or "City Of new Orleans" get translated to in foreign versions. They got bewildered, maybe insulted, but they still got paid. Maybe even got foreign gigs as a result, who knows?


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Subject: RE: American pie has a lot to answer for.
From: M.Ted
Date: 24 Nov 07 - 12:19 AM

If you're going to blame somebody for disjointed lyrics and cryptic images, it pretty much goes back to the French Symbolist poets. Baudelaire, or even before to Gerard de Nerval. Seems to me that we had some sort of discussion, with McGrath quoting a few lines of his a little while back.


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Subject: RE: American pie has a lot to answer for.
From: Gurney
Date: 24 Nov 07 - 01:06 AM

I thought 'American Pie' was a MODEL of clarity,


compared with 'On the Amazon.'


The whole LP must be a piss-take.   I like it!


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Subject: RE: American pie has a lot to answer for.
From: katlaughing
Date: 24 Nov 07 - 01:13 AM

Eugene,

If you look at the address bar at the top of your screen where it lists the "http://mudcat.org" followed by a bunch of numbers and letters, remove the "106505" (the ID number for this thread) and replace it with "17044" and hit your Enter button. That will take you to the thread which carries that number, which has Alison's post about American Pie. If you can't find it, I will come back and put in a link, but I thought I'd try a *teaching moment* first.:-)

All the best,

kat


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Subject: RE: American pie has a lot to answer for.
From: Gurney
Date: 24 Nov 07 - 01:20 AM

I checked, and I was wrong. 'On the Amazon' wasn't on 'American Pie.' it was on one of his other LPs.   Make that "The whole number is a piss-take," and I still like it.

"On the Amazon, the hypodermics howl,
On the Amazon, the prophylactics prowl,
on the Amazon, you'll see a scarab scowl, and sting!
Zodiacs on the wing......"


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Subject: RE: American pie has a lot to answer for.
From: M.Ted
Date: 24 Nov 07 - 02:57 AM

On thing that I've discovered--a lot of times, it's better if you don't know what a song is about.


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Subject: RE: American pie has a lot to answer for.
From: Darowyn
Date: 24 Nov 07 - 05:09 AM

There are people who take a fundamentalist attitude to music. They want to believe every word is literally true, so they like songs which make their meaning absolutely clear.
They probably like pictures that look like "a good likeness" of their subject too.
Other people like to search for meaning in words and images whose messages are hidden. It gives them a satisfaction to unravel the mystery- but they are still looking for a true meaning.
A third group are happy to take pleasure in a happy turn of phrase, a word that is a pleasure to use, a pleasing form on the canvas. They are even happy to be challenged by edgy and spiky sounds and shapes. They look for a direct emotional response without the mediation of the intellectual search for meaning.
You find snobs and posers in all three groups and mutual misunderstanding is pretty general.
You can see that in the thread above.
Cheers
Dave


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Subject: RE: American pie has a lot to answer for.
From: McGrath of Harlow
Date: 24 Nov 07 - 09:24 AM

Finnegan's Wake obscure? Very straighforward story, it seems to me. It might even be an account of a true incident, for all I know.


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Subject: RE: American pie has a lot to answer for.
From: JJ
Date: 24 Nov 07 - 09:59 AM

Oh.

I thought this thread (coming so close to Thanksgiving) was a tirade about a young man who (under the influence of the malificent film) had abused his family's dessert too soon after it had been taken from the oven, thereby suffering major burns (in a delicate area of his anatomy).


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Subject: RE: American pie has a lot to answer for.
From: M.Ted
Date: 24 Nov 07 - 11:01 AM

Very good breakdown, Dave, and very useful as a rule of thumb for audiences of all the arts.

Perhaps I'd amend it to say, "Nice Likeness" though--no one really wants to see an accurate rendering of anything;-)


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Subject: RE: American pie has a lot to answer for.
From: GUEST
Date: 24 Nov 07 - 12:04 PM

Strawberry Fields by the Beatles needs no symbolic interpretation right?


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Subject: RE: American pie has a lot to answer for.
From: EuGene
Date: 24 Nov 07 - 12:40 PM

kat:

Sure nice to have you around . . . ever in the public service mode. I printed out that long analysis so I can read it and analyze it at my leisure.

I would certainly fit the bill as one of Dave's posers if I ever tried to pretend that I understood the meanings behind DM's song, or many others (such as "Lucy in the Sky . . .", most Dylan stuff, etc.). No amount of pretense, however, could ever overshadow my fundamental ignorance.

. . . but I'm blissful!   Eu


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Subject: RE: American pie has a lot to answer for.
From: PoppaGator
Date: 24 Nov 07 - 12:45 PM

Claiming that "...drove my Chevy to the levee" had anything to do with those Mississippi civil-rights-era murders is a ridiculously huge stretch. And of course the plane wasn't named "American Pie," either.


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Subject: RE: American pie has a lot to answer for.
From: Little Hawk
Date: 24 Nov 07 - 01:03 PM

Well, Bert, you are right that a certain amount of pretentious crap has been written by a fairly large number of not very good songwriters who were consciously and quite obviously at least trying to write songs that resembled "American Pie" or some of the surrealistic stuff Dylan did...but so what?

Crap songs are also written by those who want to emulate Paul Anka or Barry Manilow stuff, don't forget that! ;-)

And then too, crap songs are written by people who want to sound just like Barbra Streisand.

There's really no end to it.

Look, if you want to get upset about pretentiously obscure lyrics, then why not get upset about the progressive rock movement of the 70's? I mean, take a look at some of the arcane lyrics churned out by groups like Yes, Led Zeppelin, King Crimson, Pink Floyd, Jethro Tull, Emerson/Lake/&Palmer, Rick Wakeman, etc...

Those guys hit heights of utter obscurity and grandiose pretention more extreme than most folk writers would ever dream of...complete with medieval pageantry onstage, BIG HAIR, swirling fog machines, giant stage sets with dwarves, goblins, and dragons jumping around....

Get upset about that, man! ;-) Raise hell about it. Start threads about it. Justice now!


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Subject: RE: American pie has a lot to answer for.
From: GUEST,Neil D
Date: 24 Nov 07 - 01:15 PM

I think its a very good song but I was always wary about the seeming implication that nothing was any good in music after Buddy Holly died.The Paul Lemat character in "American Graffiti" said exactly that but was speaking in 1962 when it was more accurate as to the current state of Rock&Roll or pop. In the early Sixties with Holly dead, Elvis in the army, Chuck in prison, Jerry Lee in disgrace and Little Richard attending Bible college, the record companies had replaced them with clean-cut, wholesome, non-threatening and frankly quite boring artists like Frankie Avalon, Neil Sedaka etc. The catchphrase of 1962/63 within the industry was "Rock&Roll is dead".
    For Don McLean to imply the same sentiment almost a decade later always felt to me like a rank dismissal of the Folk Resurgence, the British Invasion and Motown, as well as the cross pollination of these and other diverse forms that to me made the Sixties one of the most important eras in the history of music. After 1964 the industry exploded and nobody ever again said that Rock was dead.
    Now don't take me wrong, I love Buddy Holly. I think that he was a huge if under-rated influence on music. The Crickets were really the first self-contained Rock band, playing their own instruments and writing their own music. As he got more and more into studio craft and production he would have continued to be a major influence, even to this day. But to dis every thing that came after is totally is, to me, a type of musical jingoism. I might be misinterpreting Mr. McLean but thats always the way I felt on a gut level since the first time I heard "American Pie".
    As to the use of obscure references, I don't really have a problem with it. I understand those who love a straightforward lyric.
A plain-spoken message, especially in political or protest songs, can be very powerful. Listen to some of Dylan's early songs like "Just a Pawn in Their Game" or "Talking John Birch Society Blues" and you can't deny their impact. But there has been a long tradition of mystical imagery in Art, Poetry, Music and Literature going all the way back to "The Book of Revelation" and beyond. Both styles of lyric writing have their place, although I agree that in the hands of an inexperienced or pretentious writer obscure references for their own sake can become mawkish or inane.


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Subject: RE: American pie has a lot to answer for.
From: PoppaGator
Date: 24 Nov 07 - 01:26 PM

I stand corrected ~ maybe.

My neighbor who was reading over my shoulder as I typed out my last post told me, "that plane really WAS named 'American Pie.' You can see it painted on the plane in the movie..."

..."Fiction!" I retorted...

"...but it's also in the historical record; you could look it up!"

So, maybe the plane had that name and maybe not.

I'm still pretty adamant about the "Chevy on the levee" phrase having nothing to do with the murders of Schwerner, Goodman, and Chaney. That event has nothing to do with the song, and anyone who claims that it does is just going overboard in the effort to "explain" every word in the entire long lyric. Isn't it better to leave well enough alone?


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Subject: RE: American pie has a lot to answer for.
From: Q (Frank Staplin)
Date: 24 Nov 07 - 01:47 PM

Eugene, I should have proofed my post. Second time in two days that part of my post was cut off by a gremlin. Thanks, Kat, for a linking method- hadn't used that one.

Let's see if the link is printed this time-
American Pie

I always post the thread number as well, just habit.


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Subject: RE: American pie has a lot to answer for.
From: Little Hawk
Date: 24 Nov 07 - 01:49 PM

Neil, you have hit on the very reason why I was never that impressed by "American Pie" (though it has a great tune and chorus, as others have noted). I thought it was asinine and totally inappropriate for Don McClean to suggest that all the "good" music had come to an end when Buddy Holly died, and specially to suggest it nearly 10 years later, for God's sake, after all the wonderful creative stuff that happened during the 60's.

That just made no sense to me at all. Other than that, not a bad song, I guess.


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Subject: RE: American pie has a lot to answer for.
From: GUEST,The Mole Catcher's Apprentice
Date: 24 Nov 07 - 01:56 PM

"Seem to have a few knee jerk reactions here. I was hoping for some thinking"

Personally I could never take American Pie that seriously, it's a pleasant little ditty with a catchy tune


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Subject: RE: American pie has a lot to answer for.
From: Bert
Date: 24 Nov 07 - 02:20 PM

here's what snopes says about American Pie


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Subject: RE: American pie has a lot to answer for.
From: EuGene
Date: 24 Nov 07 - 02:48 PM

Little Hawk: I, too, certainly don't think that music died with the plane crash, but I can see where the sudden loss of a major influence on music at one point in time brings up a fork in the road where a path is taken which differs from the one the music apparently was originally headed.

Without delving too deeply in all they myriad "meanings", on the surface the song is taking the J.G. Whittier ". . . what could have been." view to lament the changes away from the style preferred by the singer. That is only one view, but I don't see anywhere in the song where it implies that other views are wrong.

I like the song, too, and do miss the old 1950's style R&R. However there has been a lot of good music produced since 1959 . . . and a lot of crap, too. This could be true of any period of time in the history of music. If there is anything that might distinguish "good" music from the bad or also-ran stuff, is how popular it is with our kids, grandkids, etc.

AP is still pretty popular almost 37 years later among much of our generation's grandkids, so I would say that McLean hit on something good . . . and these kids have even less of a clue what meaning(s) he was singing about, as they weren't there in 1959, nor were most of their parents.

Eu

P.S. Thanks Q and kat.


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Subject: RE: American pie has a lot to answer for.
From: M.Ted
Date: 25 Nov 07 - 12:41 AM

American Pie is one of the songs you always sing along with when it come up on the radio--it is right up there with "One Toke Over the Line"--it doesn't really matter what it means, but it's fun, and it always will be fun. It ocassionally occurs to me that AP is, basically, a reactionary song, and DM, who really has written some very catchy songs, is, however, a bit preachy and sanctimonious. Also wrong. Still, fun.


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