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 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.”
“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 (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JeHtuwsUeRw 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.