Today’s music video is American Pie from Don McLean.
This video was posted to You Tube by NocturnalVagabond
What is so hard to actually believe is that this song is 41 years old. It’s as fresh today as it was when I first heard the song, released in October of 1971. At the time , it was a monster hit, and because of that the album with the same title, American Pie, was also a monster album as well.
What was it that made this song so good?
Right from its original release, everybody tried to pick it apart in an attempt to explain what it meant, from disc jockeys to commentators to ordinary people who listened to it. Everybody had an idea about what some of the wording meant, and it was intriguing the different connotations people placed on the song.
A little later, it became obvious that it actually was about the death of Buddy Holly in a plane crash on February 3rd 1959, just more than twelve years prior to the release of the song, and as some background, it’s worthwhile actually looking at some aspects of that actual accident.
Holly had recently left a concert at the (incongruously named) Surf Ballroom in Clear Lake Iowa, and on that freezing night he took off for the next venue in a chartered light plane, one of the V tailed Beechcraft Bonanza 35′s. On board with Holly were the pilot, Richie Valens, and J.P. Richardson, (The Big Bopper) and the plane was only capable of holding 4 people. It crashed barely minutes after takeoff in light snow at 5 minutes to 1AM. The pilot evidently became disoriented in the dark, and with no visual reference points, the plane impacted the ground in almost a full right bank situation with the nose down. All 4 were killed on impact in that corn field. The site of the crash was not found until the following morning when the owner of the plane took off in a small Cessna to see if anything had happened, because he could not make radio contact with the now downed plane. Minutes after takeoff, he sighted the wreckage.
The accident, other than becoming notorious for killing the three famous musicians did however lead to one thing.
Holly’s wife at the time, Maria Elena did not tour with the band, and she was at home. She had only been married to Holly for 6 months, and was pregnant, that being the reason she was not on tour with the band. She heard about the news while watching it on TV. In a state of shock, she miscarried the following day. Holly’s mother learned about his death when she heard the news on the radio, and she collapsed upon hearing the news. In the Months following this accident, there was such a furore that authorities decided that from that point on, now news would be given to anybody, until families were first notified of any deaths, not just in the case of famous people, but for everyone.
Don Mclean himself never fully alluded to any meaning at the time, and it wasn’t until many years later, seven years in fact, in 1978. that he actually did (partially) explain what the song actually meant. At the time of Holly’s death in that plane crash, Don was a 12 year old and read about the news while he was folding the newspapers for his morning paper delivery route. He also explained that the song was largely autobiographical.
While the song is now (almost) fully explained, the intrigue at the time made this song such a hit. As the single and the album shot up the charts, and then stayed there at or near the top for a long time, everybody tried to decipher it.
At a later date, after the song had become so huge, and everybody had had a go at deciphering it, the tittle still seemed a little obscure. One DJ even asked McLean what the title American Pie meant, and ever the obscure respondent, Don’s reply was that it meant he never had to work again.
While this song is now reached legendary status, in an age when the word ‘legend’ is often bandied about quite readily, this song does stand the test of time. That day when Holly was killed is now actually referred to as ‘The Day The Music Died.’
The song however did have one major problem. It was 8 minutes and 33 seconds long. This meant that nearly every radio station was not going to cover it, all this at a time when songs for radio play were formulated to be around three to three and a half minutes long. The Studio got around it by chopping the song in half, and even at the length of the Single, 4 minutes and 11 seconds, it was still considered to be a little long.
However, while the Single gained airplay enough to rocket the song to Number One, what did happen was that the song actually ‘forced’ radio stations to start playing longer songs. What happened was that the song became so popular, and in those days, many of the popular and large radio stations had a request program where people could ring in and request a song. What was happening was that during those request programs, people were ringing in and asking the radio station to play American Pie, only the full long version. Every night during those programs, the full version was played once. Some radio stations actually altered their programming to play the full version during normal operational day time hours, so popular had the song become.
These days, it’s actually a rare thing to hear the short version of the song, because any time it does get programmed, it’s always the full version.
It regularly appears in the Top few of the best songs of ‘whenever’, and in 2001, it was voted in at Number Five of the best 365 songs of the 20th Century by the Recording Industry Association of America, and the album also made it into a book that lists 1001 Albums to hear before you die.
Not long after I first heard the song, I went out and bought my own copy of the album, which I still have in my large collections of Vinyl LP’s. While I loved this one song, American Pie, it soon became apparent that I actually liked every song on that album, which at that time, was quite a rare thing, as usually, there were only about four or five songs tops that I really liked on any album in my collection.
This following song from that same Album was never played on the radio, well at least any radio I ever listened to. It was written by Don Mclean as a protest over the War in Vietnam, and because of that, it was probably perceived as a touchy subject for most radio stations to play. Because of that, there is no footage of Mclean actually performing the song, so this version is overlaid with images of men at war. This is a beautiful and touching song, no matter what the subject is about.
This video was posted to You Tube by hippiebohemia