Wednesday, June 28, 2006

American Cake, Part II (Don McLean, Madonna, et al)

The translated chorus, both here and in Part I reminds me of that Gwendolyn Brooks thing that you think is really great and clever the first time you read it, but due to the law of diminishing returns or something, each subsequent viewing leaves you a little less excited.* You know how a lot of things are like that?

OK, but so Part II comprises the verses where this song always achieved a perfect mélange of enticing and repelling my high school self. It’s here that McLean’s references seem to spiral inward into such self-aware specificity that the exponentially increasing levels of analysis it seems to be inviting from the listener are kind of what makes it, like, suck? Like the song likes to think that it’s the enigma machine, but really it’s one of those first-attempt-at-a-poem poems where Everything is Actually a Stand In for Something Else. Blahhg.

But, happily, these are also the verses that the Brady Bunch included in their truncated cover version on the album Meet the Brady Bunch, which, when I heard it in college, allowed me to feel just a bit superior, because while by then I had outgrown those childish things, I could imagine the six Brady kids poring over the lyrics and FREAKING OUT because this is the half of the song McLean designed to make suburban teens freak out.

Attic-dwelling, literalist Greg would be all, “The three men he admires most are The Big Bopper, Ritchie Valens and Buddy Holly,” and idealist Marcia would be all, “No, it’s RFK, JFK and MLK,” and that Blakean mystic Jan would be all, “No, it’s the literal Holy Trinity,” but Cindy, little Cindy, looking at a framed picture (Is it Robert Reed? I can't make it out), would spake as a child:

You thay. You’re

Gonna leave. You
Know it’th a lie. You
Know that. Will
Be the day. When I
Die soon

Also, “Fun bird”? WTF, German language?


* Actually, I take it back -- I just listened to it and when
hear her read it, it makes it OK again. Though
that's not the case with this song.

Helter (more “skelter”) at a summer more swelter.
The birds flew away with a precipitation protection,
Eight miles highly and fast falliiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiing.
It landed, against the rules, on the grass.
The players tried for a forward run,
With the fun-bird on the supplementary income in a form.

Half the temporal air was a sweet odoriferous substance now,
While the Sergeants played a marching melody.
We rose completely, in order to dance,
Oh, but we never received the probability!
Because the players tried, catch, to take;
The marching volume rejected to furnish.
Do you recall, what the day was uncovered, which the music died?

We caught on to sing, So long, Miss American Cake.
Mine drove Chevy to the levee, but the levee? Was it drying!
The good old boys whisky drank (and rye)
And singing, this'll is the day, which I die.
This will is the day, which I die.

All -- oh -- and we were there in a place,
Which a production, which was in the area without time,
To the left again to begin lost.
So concerned: Jack is speedy! Jack is fast!
The Jack Lightning, which sat on a candle owner,
Caused a fire, is the only friend of the devil.

Oh -- and I, it on the stage, watched out there,
My hands became in the fists of a stranglehold.
No angel, who was carried in Hell,
Could break that spell (Satan’s).
And during the flames strongly into the night climbed,
In order to light up the offering candle,
Saw I that Satan, with joy, laugh the day,
Which the music died

It sang so long, it misses the American cake.
Mine drove Chevy to the levee, but... the levee, was it? Drying,
The good old boys whisky drank (and rye)
And singing, this'll is the day, which I die.
This'll is the day, which I die.

I met a girl, who sang the blue
And I asked it for somewhat lucky messages,
But she straight-smiled and turned away.
Forwards, I went, down to the holy memory,
Which I heard the music years became,
But the man said there that the music would not play.

And in the roads: the children cried,
Cried the loving. And the poets dreamed.
But a word was not spoken;
All church-bells were defective.

And the three men admire I most:
The father, son and the holy spirit,
Reached her last course for the coast
The day, which the music died.

And they sang:
So long, so long, Miss American Cake.
Mine drove Chevy to the levee, but the levee was drying.
And they (good old boys) drank whisky and singing rye.
Being is the day, which I die,
These is the day, which I die.

You sang:
So long, Miss American Cake.
Mine drove Chevy to the levee, but the levee -- was it drying!
The good old boys drank whisky and rye.
This are to sing the day, which I die

1 comment:

Jessi Guilford said...

I think you got Jan and Marcia mixed up, there. So much of Marcia's dubious charm was that she took everything personally, yet also at face value: she'd have said Holy Trinity because that's what the song says, and because the less time she spent thinking about it, the more time she could spend thinking about how beautiful and popular she was.

Jan, being a middle child, was more aware that things aren't always the way they seemed, and was clearly the one who was going to be going door-to-door campaigning on behalf of Mondale/Ferraro in years to come. She would have said JFK/RFK/MLK.

Bobby, obviously, wouldn't have been interested, and Peter would have gone along with anything Greg said.

Alice is a problem.