Song Of The Day 2/9/2017: Elton John – “Your Song”
The Final 49
The first pop cultural phenom to which I adhered when I was a kid was Charles Schulz’s Peanuts comic strip.
Hell, I could just end this memoir right there. That should explain all forthcoming events. Thanks for reading!
OK, we still got 49 days to kill so I might as well continue. Along with Winnie the Pooh, who we covered yesterday, Peanuts was right there on the ground floor of my childhood psychological profile. Looking back, knowing what we now know, that could have been a huge mess. Pooh, the focal point of his clique, was guileless, uncomplicated, and fully cognizant of his lack of mental resources. As a kid, I knew that.
Charlie Brown, frozen in youth as he is, nevertheless deserves credit for not turning into a walking time bomb. Of course that’s because he needed to be a representational figure for his entire existence. You couldn’t have the universal talisman for dashed hopes and middling ambition just lose it in a truck stop and start kicking out windows.
I loved them both as a kid, and still love them nostalgically. But given a few years, you think Charlie Brown would have taken any of Pooh’s shit? Forget it. Go ahead and smear yourself in bee vomit, silly old bear. I got a football with my goddamn name on it.
The Charlie Brown tag kind of stuck on me in later years. My friend Elizabeth called me “Charlie Brown”; she knew what was up. I don’t imagine a kid could be subjected to the world’s most famous inferiority complex for so long at such a young age and not absorb the syndrome himself. But when I was really heavy into the Peanuts thing it was Snoopy who had the merchandising muscle. That mother was on everything (see the blanket in yesterday’s entry). I picked up on his role-playing, fantasizing side. I’m only now letting go of some of that. It finally sunk in that not only was Snoopy a cartoon, he was also a dog. A remarkably lucid dreamer, but still a dog.
I had a lot of Peanuts anthologies as a kid, but by mistake once—I had to be around eight years old—I bought a book about Peanuts that wasn’t a straight comic strip collection, but an armchair analysis of what the kids in Peanuts represented. Somebody at Lucky Stores must have blindly ordered it from the mass market wholesale catalog thinking it was a Schulz collection, but it wasn’t. It had set type and a name with “PhD” after it. I can’t remember what it was called. I just tried to find it in the Library of Congress catalog, on Amazon and Powell’s online store, and none of the results I got rang any bells.
Anyway, the author went deep on the neuroses and Jungian aspects of Peanuts characters. Being a good reader at the age of eight I could read what he was saying but had no idea what it meant. Still, I have to think that book was the first exposure I had to the hyper-intellectualization of simple pleasures. Now I’m certified. By ten I’d moved on to Doonesbury.
Unbridled HilarityWhen people ask where I got my flair for humor and don’t believe me when I say “I have Steve Martin on speed-dial,” I tell them it was my dad.
In reality it was my whole family, but my dad was the crux of it all. Our templates for jokes, my sisters’ and mine, came from the tone he established. Under his dominion few sacred cows existed. This was even weirder because my mother was generally all about preserving sanctity and steering clear of blasphemy. But she laughed at my dad’s jokes too. Most people did.
It was pretty broad humor. Much of it was insult-based. Very mild scatology. I don’t think any of us kids took offense to it. Still, when I’m cracking jokes with my own kids these days, I don’t make fun of them. Hank and John in particular are very sensitive about personal affronts and being disappointed, and I’m a little protective of their psyches. So I don’t make fun of them at all.
Perhaps out of necessity our jokes are maybe a little grimmer than they were when I was a kid. I might be projecting (or reading too much into Hank’s ongoing, remarkably literate superhero antics), but I feel there’s an us-against-the-world component to the jokes I have with my kids. At the same time, I don’t want them to blindly disrespect someone and delegitimize them with a cruel joke. In this somewhat delicate age I think it’s more appropriate to accept most people as they are. Until the Trump administration came along that was easy.
Humor has probably been my key tool of survival throughout my entire life. Sometimes too much. My girlfriend at the time probably didn’t appreciate how much Bill Murray’s acerbic performance in Ghostbusters influenced my sarcastic dealings with other people for about a week.
But in almost every other social construct humor was my way in.
KickmossElton John’s “Your Song” is the first adult tune not connected to religious purposes I remember hearing as a child.
Again, you’re dealing with my memories here, so after the autopsy my brain might tell a different story. I guarantee if it wasn’t this one it was something from the Beatles’ Let It Be album, most likely “The Long and Winding Road” or the title track. But I’m pretty sure it was “Your Song.” I know for a fact it’s the first hook I remember hearing.
The hook goes like this: “I hope you don’t mind/I hope you don’t mind.”
I didn’t know what “not minding” meant at that age. I just knew there was an adult figure telling someone not to mind, and my siblings appeared to agree with him because they didn’t switch stations when he came on the radio.
Elton was a “new artist” back then. A hopeful bard, a bearer of the spirit. No hint of the kind of outsized star he’d become just a few years later. No Donald Duck costumes or spangled Dodgers jerseys or lyrics about crocodile rocks. Just somebody trying to break through to the mainstream who’d hit gold singing lines about kicking “the moss” off the roof.
I still don’t know how one kicks off moss. I’m not lichen-savvy by any means, but it seems like a plant you’d have to pry, grasp with your hands and rip off. Just roundhouse-kicking it off doesn’t sound effective. You’d have to be more direct and hands-on. Maybe moss is more detachable over in England. Over here it’s much more adhesive.
Of course, there’s no quibbling with artistic license. It’ll win every time. Rocking crocodiles don’t sound like literal possibilities either but that shit went straight to Number One.
The piano was still in the living room. I hadn’t yet put two and two together.