Sunday, April 12, 2009

VE's 'American Pie' Analysis

After I did my first complete song analysis awhile back I was given a lot of suggestions for future analysis. The first of those was Don McLean’s American Pie. Whew, nothing like picking the grand-daddy of all songs to analyze. This song has been analyzed for it’s symbolism for 30 years now. In fact, I’m sure there’s one of these out there:

We’re going to analyze this song straight up. Lyric-to-lyric, piece-by-piece. It’s a flippin’ long song too so you might want to print this post out for your daily journey to Mr. Toilet. You can use it afterwards to wipe up. My posts have been recommended by 3 out of 4 ass wipers as being the softest of posts upon which to wipe with…

A long, long time ago...
I can still remember
How that music used to make me smile.
And I knew if I had my chance
That I could make those people dance
And, maybe, they’d be happy for a while.

Just how old is he at this time? Is he having dreams of becoming a disc jockey? I’m also a bit curious about “those people”. Who are they? What if they don’t like to dance? How’s he going to make them happy then?

But February made me shiver
With every paper I’d deliver.
Bad news on the doorstep;
I couldn’t take one more step.

Ok, this rules out him living in Florida at the time. What I’m most curious about here is how he even got home if he couldn’t take one more step.

I can’t remember if I cried
When I read about his widowed bride,
But something touched me deep inside
The day the music died.

According to my research of the 38 states that would make you shiver in February, it would have been at least a misdemeanor to be touched deep inside with something. I’m just sayin’…

So bye-bye, miss American pie.
Drove my Chevy to the levee,
But the levee was dry.
And them good old boys were drinkin’ whiskey and rye
Singin’, this’ll be the day that I die.
This’ll be the day that I die.

I’m having a lot of trouble with the notion of a “Miss American Pie” here. Are there pies that are married too? Why does the pie have to be female? Is it peach? Why does she have to leave? Where is she going? Did he dump her for ice cream instead and drove off in his Chevy? We’ll analyze this some more (which is to say we’ll ask a lot more unanswerable questions).

Did you write the book of love,
And do you have faith in God above,
If the Bible tells you so?

It actually makes a lot of sense that I would have written the book of love in a former life given that my blog is about nonsense. Also, I not sure I could actually do all of the things the Bible tells me. I couldn’t part the seas; I wouldn’t even part my hair!

Do you believe in rock n roll,
Can music save your mortal soul,
And can you teach me how to dance real slow?

Wait-a-minute! I thought that souls were immortal. Why else would you have one? If souls were mortal they’d be useless; sort of like the appendix and government.

Well, I know that you’re in love with him
`cause I saw you dancin’ in the gym.
You both kicked off your shoes.
Man, I dig those rhythm and blues.

This is obviously where I got up to take a whiz because now that I’m back I’m wondering just who in the hell is “you” and “him”. Is he still trying to make people dance? It would appear here that he’s succeeding. I wonder if they’re happy though?

I was a lonely teenage broncin’ buck
With a pink carnation and a pickup truck,
But I knew I was out of luck
The day the music died.

Did the music actually die in one physical day? It seems like a long day to me already and I know there’s more. Oh, and somebody really should have warned him that wearing a pink carnation will render him out of luck anyway!

I started singin’,
Bye-bye, miss American pie.
Drove my Chevy to the levee,
But the levee was dry.
Them good old boys were drinkin’ whiskey and rye
And singin’, this’ll be the day that I die.
This’ll be the day that I die.

What does the whole Chevy at the levee have to do with anything here? I really don’t understand the fascination with levees in Rock and Roll songs. Led Zeppelin did one too about the Levee breaking. I went to the Merriam Dictionary for guidance. They said a levee was “a reception held by a person of distinction on rising from bed.” Great! This confirms why I don’t do a lot of research…

Now for ten years we’ve been on our own
And moss grows fat on a rollin’ stone,
But that’s not how it used to be.

Moss really grows fat on a Rolling Stone? Is that what happened to Keith Richard’s face? Finally...something in this song is starting to make sense.

When the jester sang for the king and queen,
In a coat he borrowed from James Dean
And a voice that came from you and me,

How did a jester borrow a coat from James Dean? James Dean died clear back in 1955. I don’t think he was around to borrow a coat from. Although on the other hand I have lost my voice from time to time. Come to think of it, I never really thought to look for it once I had lost it so it is quite conceivable that he could have had my voice for periods of time.

Oh, and while the king was looking down,
The jester stole his thorny crown.
The courtroom was adjourned;
No verdict was returned.

No wonder he was a jester. Everyone knows that thorny crowns down go well with anything James Dean might have worn. That's a fashion no-no!

And while Lennon read a book of Marx,
The quartet practiced in the park,
And we sang dirges in the dark
The day the music died.

See…I’m telling you…a very long day indeed! Paper deliveries, driving to levees, dumping the pie, disk jockeying at the dance, going to court, reading a book, singing. Must have been daylight savings time…

We were singing,
Bye-bye, miss american pie.
Drove my chevy to the levee,
But the levee was dry.
Them good old boys were drinkin whiskey and rye
And singin, thisll be the day that I die.
Thisll be the day that I die.

Now why are old boys always good? You never hear about the bad old boys. You never hear about the young boys either. Well, except for their encounters with the priests that is.

Helter skelter in a summer swelter.
The birds flew off with a fallout shelter,
Eight miles high and falling fast.

Helter Skelter: Now interestingly this is also the name of a song written by Paul McCartney around the same time frame and later used by Charles Manson. Who used the term first, Paul or Don? I can’t figure it. But there was a movie from the late 40s that first used the term.

It landed foul on the grass.
The players tried for a forward pass,
With the jester on the sidelines in a cast.

I’m lost. Is it really a foul if something drops from the sky during a football game? And would the players really continue playing? Obviously they kept their wits about them because they were still using a ‘forward’ pass. The ‘backwards’ pass is so ineffective in today’s football strategy.

Now the half-time air was sweet perfume
While the sergeants played a marching tune.
We all got up to dance,
Oh, but we never got the chance!
`cause the players tried to take the field;
The marching band refused to yield.
Do you recall what was revealed
The day the music died?

Is he really asking me to recall something? I recall that it’s been a damn long day! I recall that I have no idea why they would have perfume permeating during halftime at a football game. I recall this one time at band camp…

We started singing,
Bye-bye, miss American pie.
Drove my Chevy to the levee,
But the levee was dry.
Them good old boys were drinkin’ whiskey and rye
And singin’, this’ll be the day that I die.
This’ll be the day that I die.

Now another thing, mixing RYE and WHISKEY you get RISKY! Don’t do it!

Oh, and there we were all in one place,
A generation lost in space
With no time left to start again.
So come on: jack be nimble, jack be quick!
Jack flash sat on a candlestick
Cause fire is the devils only friend.

I don’t know what to make of this section. I think the songwriter has been smoking his own candlestick. I’m sure this is all just symbolism to point out that hemorrhoids are indeed quite painful…

Oh, and as I watched him on the stage
My hands were clenched in fists of rage.
No angel born in hell
Could break that Satan’s spell.

Now I never went to Sunday school but I don’t recall any angel birthing facility located in hell. I didn’t think there was any fornication in hell. Wouldn’t that be a pleasure? Hell isn’t for pleasure.

And as the flames climbed high into the night
To light the sacrificial rite,
I saw Satan laughing with delight
The day the music died

Ok, it’s been a long day but I’m pretty sure they’re not in Alaska because it’s finally nighttime. It also sounds like the songwriter isn’t a big fan of fireworks…

He was singing,
Bye-bye, miss American pie.
Drove my Chevy to the levee,
But the levee was dry.
Them good old boys were drinkin’ whiskey and rye
And singin’, this’ll be the day that I die.
This’ll be the day that I die.

I met a girl who sang the blues
And I asked her for some happy news,
But she just smiled and turned away.
I went down to the sacred store
Where I’d heard the music years before,
But the man there said the music wouldn’t play.

Yeah, I know all about this music not playing concept. It happens when you take a non-ipod player and try to load itune songs on it. Damn those Apple people…they all probably wear jester clothes into work…

And in the streets: the children screamed,
The lovers cried, and the poets dreamed.
But not a word was spoken;
The church bells all were broken.

Why do church bells always break, anyway? I mean look at the liberty bell. We have been honoring shoddy workmanship for how many years now? With all the amazing gadgets and technologies you’d think somebody could make a church bell that was durable.

And the three men I admire most:
The father, son, and the holy ghost,
They caught the last train for the coast
The day the music died.

Does a ghost have to pay full fare on the train? Do they have to pay at all?

And they were singing,
Bye-bye, miss American pie.
Drove my Chevy to the levee,
But the levee was dry.
And them good old boys were drinkin’ whiskey and rye
Singin’, this’ll be the day that I die.
This’ll be the day that I die.

They were singing,
Bye-bye, miss American pie.
Drove my Chevy to the levee,
But the levee was dry.
Them good old boys were drinkin’ whiskey and rye
Singin, this’ll be the day that I die.


We don’t know who is singing here, we don’t know who American pie is or why they have to leave, we don’t know if the Chevy will even make it to a levee, we don’t know why anyone would want to go to a levee, we don’t know why the levee is dry, we don’t know who the good old boys are, we don’t know why they’re good, we don’t know why anyone would want to mix whiskey and rye and we don’t know why they have to die on this particular day.

Holy crap! Could you write anything more confusing than this song?

I know, I know; you read the first paragraph and then skipped to the end to get something for a quick comment. It's not my fault the song is so damn long...

47 comments:

Maureen said...

Well *I* read the whole thing (I had to do something waiting for the rest of the family to get up for my wonderous Easter breakfast... er, brunch now). Anyhoo, love the "Risky". It certainly would be risky to mix Rye and Whiskey!

And although I love this version, I'll have to admit I enjoy Wierd Al's version better. Makes more sense. At least to a Star Wars freak like moi.

Happy Easter VE!

Quirkyloon said...

Ahem, I read the whole thing too!

A few comments (and yes they'll all be lumped into this ONE comment, since VE won't count multiple comments towards the tally...GAH!).

I do believe in rock-n-roll and YES music can save OUR mortal souls.

I'm counting on it. Really.

And yes that is eggsactly what happened to Keith Richards. A little wicked moss this way comes! And boy howdy it did a doozy on him! He's spookier than any zombie I'll ever meet.

Oh and one last thought. Hell isn't for pleasure, you are correct Sir VE. Hell is for children! Bwahahahahahahahahhaha

Enuff said!

Ha!

Quirkyloon said...

Dang it, I forgot one more comment.

I got TWO uses for butt-wiping out of this post.

Thanks VE!

You encouraged me to go brown, I mean green today!

heh heh

Jaime said...

I read the whole thing too... only you could turn this song into something about hemorrhoids!

Beth said...

Re: your question, “Could you write anything more confusing than this song?”
The answer is yes. Your post! I read the whole damn thing and now I’m even more confused about the song! But what a valiant effort.

The Incredible Woody said...

Damn - busted!!!

ReformingGeek said...

Nope. Didn't read the whole thing. I got really confused on the levee thing. Subliminally, I'm sure I'm supposed to off one now.

carlae said...

I hate this song simply because an ex-boyfriend thought he could sing, and he CANNOT. This 'song' was his way of showing his vocal prowess, may they both rot in hell. thanks for the post though it was very well thought out.

Elizabeth said...

I read it all. I like your version much more than the Wikipedia version! :)

VE said...

maureen - Yeah...it's hard to tread where so many have tread before

quirky - Sure...one post...sure! Hell is for children; I think that was a typo in the edit...it was really children are hell!! I have teenagers, I know! But I'm so happy to hear you got two butt wiping uses from this. That makes me feel so special!

jaime - It's tough to tie hemmoroids to song symbolism but I went for it...

beth - I never said I'd make any more sense than the song, of course. But I did prove that both are complete nonsense!

incredible woody - Ha! Caught you. I KNEW it!!!!

reforminggeek - A good levee is hard to find!

carlae - So your saying he wasn't an angel born in hell either? He can stay there I guess then. I hear they're serving deviled eggs and barbeque...

elizabeth - You mean wikipedia has a version too? You mean I could have just cut and paste?

Quickroute said...

Dude - I know I've been AWOL but that doesn't mean I still don't love you! - been busy n' sh!t

p.s. never been able to listen to this song the same since the movie American Pie

Roy Scribner said...

“a reception held by a person of distinction on rising from bed.”

lol! Dang, I had to look that one up myself - well done!

Deb said...

McLean lives in my town. He had the audacity to laugh at my dog, NutJob, while she was doing her most perfect Cujo imitation directed at him as he was parked next to me at the post office. NutJob, apparently is not a fan. You brought up some good points with that analysis. I wonder if Amtrak knows what the fare is for ghosts - I'll let ya know if I find out.

Gladys said...

Now see you have disected this song perfectly. Except the whole song makes me very sad. You see I love American Pie and English Pie and French Pie I like any kind of pie except for fur pie. I don't lean that way.

Sans Pantaloons said...

Like all things in life, it doesn't have to make sense, it only has to make money.


Oh, and here we are all in this fog,
A generation lost in Blog
With no time left to post again.
So come on: VE be nimble, VE be quick!
Sans sat square on a cynical stick
Cause reason is the devils only friend.

Ta very much. That'll be 6 million dollars please!

Hale McKay said...

I read the whole thing too.This song sure holds some memories. -

Like trying to find a radio station that wasn't playing it.

Like listening to some Latinos saying the song was about Richie Valens and not Buddy Holly - and me telling them it was really about the Big Bopper.

Like still knowing the lyrics to this very day - unable to purge my mind of them.

What next?

Blinded by the Light? by Springsteen or Manfred Mann?

-or-

Incense and Peppermints by Strawberry Alarm Clark?

subtorp77 said...

I can't believe I read the whole thing***BuuurrrP***Oh, excuse me! And what's more, I never could stand this song( couldn't sit for it, either ). Weird Al's parody couldn't even help...

VE said...

quickroute - I understand...you're living the explorer life right now. Enjoy it...I'm envious!

roy - We should be celebrated upon rising from bed...most days that's a major accomplishment for me!

deb - Ha! Nutjob sounds like a charmer. Sounds like Nutjob just wanted a piece of American Don!

gladys - Ha! I lean that way! I lean that way! Pie is yummy...I'm partial to Marianberry (and Halle Barry)

sans - Awesome! I love me a good song parody and that was first rate! Do you have a change for a billion?...they don't seem to give change down at the bail out office...

hale - Great suggestions, I'll add them to the list. I've got another classic coming up next; everyone will know it.

subtorp77 - Ha! Alka Seltzer classic reference, good one.

JSB said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Marissa said...

Yes - I read to the end, then I used your hilarious post for my front end, not the rear. Uh, the blue ink from the lyrics were kinda messy though. Doubled the clean-up process.

Janna said...

I have never understood the words to this... and now I understand even less than I thought I did.

But, on the bright side, it's gonna be stuck in my head all day now. That's not a bad thing.

Love the part about the hemorrhoids.

Mrsupole said...

This is one of those songs that once you learn the chorus part, you never seem to forget it, Puff the magic dragon lived by the sea and.......oh wait was this....oh what was this....Puff was a magic dragon......oh what was this about...was it about a pie...or an American. Dang it I cannot remember, was I supposed to read something to the end....I got lost after I saw something about Dummies....why is everyone thinking we need books....uh duh...duh...what was I just writing about........

God bless.

PS...I like how it is the "Only Edition"

Ronda Laveen said...

VE: I think you frapeed my meringue. I was a very long day but what I got out of this to summarize you last paragraph is: It is the Marie Calendar employees singing this union pie song. The American pie is Apple and she had to leave because she got rolled. In order to get rolled, she was supposed to be a Mrs. but was only a Miss. Of course the Chevy will make it to the levee, that was when GM was in its heyday. She went to the levee to neck. Apparently, a tryst with the Devil because there is a whole lot of fire, flames, and sacraficial rites. The levee is dry...well, because of the HELL thing. The good ol' boys are the Father, Son, and the Holy Ghost. Why whiskey and rye? Obviously, the ritual of the sacrament has changed. And finally, they died on this particular day in alignment with the Son. I find it very intriguing that you picked Easter for this post.

moooooog35 said...

Moss grows fat on a Rolling Stone?

HOGWASH!

(I'm 80)

Ten bucks says if you put Kate Moss on Keith Richard's face she STILL won't get fat.

Anorexia: Proving okay songs wrong since 1972.

Chris Wood said...

I own 17 books on the meaning of that song, and now I can throw them away. Thank you!

VE said...

JSB - Thanks for putting in the effort. Your eye will uncross after a few...well...after awhile.

Marissa - Ha! Hadn't considered the front end clean up angle. I'll try to use less blue ink. Of course it helps if my readers pick shorter songs. How about Tequilla? That's short...

janna - I'm glad I could fill your head with even more nonsense. You wouldn't want anything useful in there!

mrsupole - Puff the magic dragon is about a little boy and his favorite pet! Don't you believe those symbolism rumors about Mary J and her trips... ;)

ronda - Damn! The gnomes think you should be doing my next analysis! I hate when they mutiny for somebody better...

moooooog35 - Ha! That's why Kate Moss is so skinny and why Richard's face looks like that...

chris - I see you had the difinitive collection on the subject! Save them to remind yourself that there can always be a more ridiculous nonsensical version of anything...and it is our job to find it!

Kurt said...

Thank you for responding to reader requests.

California Girl said...

Wow, you really have a lot of time on your hands. And I must as well because I read the whole damn thing. You think too much!

I love that song, always have, always will. I don't try to make too much out of it because it would lose its charm.

Now, McLean's song, "Vincent" is another story...

Ronda Laveen said...

Thanks but no thanks, VE. This ol' brain doesn't work that way. But once you open the door, I'll walk through. Looking forward to next song analysis.

VE said...

kurt - And thanks for picking the tougher songs! Lord knows I need a challenge...

california girl - Actually, I like the song...within reason. No "Vincent" is another story. I happen to really appreciate the beauty of the lyrics in that song. They're magnificant. I'm rarely in the mood for the song itself but I think the words are very good poetry.

ronda - Fair enough. Remember, its only nonsense around here. I'm not saving the world, that's for sure.

Perpetual Chocoholic said...

I read the first and last lines of the post;-o I was never a fan of that song.

VE said...

perpetual chocoholic - Well at least I got two lines from you! ;)

Sornie said...

It's both interesting and disturbing to see this song broken down. Maybe you have a future in lyric analysis. Maybe not.

lime said...

i feel kinda like i am back in poetry explication class with mr. c. in high school.

VE said...

sornie - Maybe I make sense, maybe I don't. Who's to say?

lime - I went to a polytechnic school. If a class didn't directly apply to being a plumber, carpenter, machinist or electrician they didn't bother to teach it. Imagine where poetry fit into that priority...

Serena said...

But please, for the love of God, what does it meeeeeean?!

VE said...

serena - But nobody knows...

Count Sneaky said...

Though the Count has heard this song many, many times before he has never had the urge to read the lyrics or listen to the words. Now, after reading them, he knows why and will just sit here and shine his spotlight on the drive-in screen, eat some pop-corn, sip some soda, and grab a squeeze until the feature starts. Count Sneaky

VE said...

count sneaky - Ha! Sorry to ruin it for you...but enjoy the feature!

Megan said...

I cannot tell a lie. I skipped straight to the end to leave a quick comment.

VE said...

megan - Tell me it isn't so!!!

Fundamental Jelly said...

A lesser man wouldn't have tried such a long and confusing song. Nice job.

VE said...

fundamental jelly - A lessor man wouldn't put up with gnomes either...

Dalton J. Fox said...

Your analysis on these songs is mind-boggling. In fact, its so mind-boggling that I can't help but to read the entire thing. First Vicky Lawrence and now this. What's next on the agenda?

VE said...

dalton - I believe Stairway to Heaven is next on the list

C said...

Wow...I actually read this entire post! I have to say that this was my fave song as a kid.

Oh, man. Stairway to Heaven next? I remember my arms and neck going numb at a dance slow dancing to that song with this guy I had a tremendous crush on in high school. For the life of me, I cannot understand HOW we danced to Stairway to Heaven. LOL!

VE said...

c - I don't know how you danced to that one either! Perhaps I'll have to analyze THAT instead!