Thursday, December 16, 2010

On Doing It Twice

Despite the evidence of a few recent posts, I’m really not stuck in the 60s. The decade simply has been getting underfoot lately. They tripped me again the other night when a friend, who is some 20 years younger than I am, commented on a TV commercial for HP ePrint. The ad shows a happy baby in a stroller tearing through the countryside and around city streets to the song Brand New Key.

“I like that commercial and that song,” she said. “Who sings it?”

As it happened, I knew the answer. “Melanie.”

“Melanie who?”

“Melanie Safka. I might even have it on vinyl.” (I do. It’s on the Gather Me album.)

“On vinyl? It’s that old? I don’t remember it.”

“It’s older than you are. Some radio stations wouldn’t play it back then.”

“Why not?”

“Because it’s about a young girl exploring her sexuality.”

“You’re kidding. Then why are they using it for that ad?”

“I’m not kidding. Melanie was a little coy at the time, of course, since there was the issue with radio, but she didn’t deny it either. But that was 40 years ago. Hardly anyone remembers anything about it. Besides, it’s all metaphor. Lyrics are a lot more direct these days, so I doubt many people would read anything into it now.”

I also had to explain the literal lyrics: there were kids’ roller skates then that fitted over the top of sneakers or shoes and were tightened with a key. Perhaps these are still manufactured, but I haven’t seen any in a long time.

I remember Melanie well for a lot of reasons. The ultimate Flower Child performer, she was everything that was right about the 60s. You can’t get a better expression of the naïve but captivating counterculture world view than her song Beautiful People (  if you have the time). She also is associated in my mind, through no fault of her own, with what was wrong with the decade. The 60s were a kind of party, and every party comes with a hangover. They are inseparable. (The current economic malaise is a hangover from a decade-long house-buying party.) I won’t list all the types of hangovers from the era, though there were a lot and include some we haven’t yet shaken off. I will mention a literal one though.

In 1971 my head hung over the toilet bowl. You know why. We’ve all been there – OK, maybe there are some exceptions who haven’t ever assumed this position, but they can’t be numerous. As my body strained to eject whatever was left inside of me (though there had been nothing left for the past ten minutes), the thought that kept going through my head was, “Why would anyone ever do this twice?” (It was another decade before I became a near teetotaler though.) The song on the stereo couldn’t have been more appropriate. It was Melanie’s Leftover Wine. To this day, I can’t listen to it without feeling queasy. Too bad. It’s a good song.


  1. Well written.
    But not every party comes with a hangover.....

  2. Thanks. Maybe we attend different parties.

  3. When my wife and I first saw the commercial we both stared at it, then looked to each other and said nearly at the same time, "Why that song? It's about bonking!" or some other colorful phrase. Just an odd pick. And seeing the baby on the freeway freaks me out - like seeing the baby crawling on the ceiling in "Trainspotting". It's just not right.

    If there was a baby cruising behind me on the freeway, I'd suspect it was up to something sinister. Freaky commercial. [shudder]

  4. I actually like HP -- most of my office equipment is HP -- but when my fax ate one of my documents the other day, I couldn't help thinking the appropriate Melanie song to use in an ad should be Animal Crackers.

  5. Seeing the commercial for the first last year, it was good to hear the old tune receive air time again. As old tunes are apt to do, it caused me to rack my brain for the complete lyrics to the song. Not wanting to opt for the easy out, the computer, I sat in deep thought as if I were comptemplating a quantum physics equasion. Softly humming, the lyrics running tickertape through my head, they came rushing back with twang of a ukelele. "I ride my bike/I roller skate/Don't drive no car/Don't go too fast/but I got pretty far/For somebody who don't drive/I been all around the world/some people say/I done all right for a girl." Thanks to women like Melanie, the ultimate Flower Child, I got pretty far, too. As a teen, if I had let someone play with my "skates", my Mom would've killed me. Older now, perhaps it's time to go traveling again...The Northeast?

  6. I frequently opt for the easy way out. One of the minor plesaures of the internet is to access trivia including the lyrics to songs I didn't quite hear right the first time...yes, including "kiss the sky" (the frequently misheard Hendix line.