American Tune

I always listen to music walking to and from work.  This evening, as I was listening to my acoustic playlist, it struck me that American Tune by Paul Simon — a beautiful song that is one of my favorites — pretty accurately captures how many people are feeling these days.  I’m not just talking about disappointed Hillary Clinton voters, either.  There seems to be a strong sense of disquiet, an unsettled feeling, mingled with curiosity, trepidation, raw hope, and uncertainty about what might happen next, lurking throughout the general populace.  Some of those feelings stem from the election results and the thought of Donald Trump as President, to be sure, but some of them also seem to flow from concerns about the direction of the country as a whole.  Where is our road leading?

American Tune, which was released in 1973, aptly crystallizes this odd mixture of emotions and sensations.  Simon wrote:

I don’t know a soul who’s not been battered
I don’t have a friend who feels at ease
I don’t know a dream that’s not been shattered
Or driven to its knees
Oh, but it’s all right, it’s all right
For lived so well so long
Still, when I think of the road
We’re traveling on
I wonder what went wrong
I can’t help it, I wonder what’s gone wrong

Two verses later, the song concludes, in a mixture of pride, doubt, fatigue, and resignation:

Oh, we come on the ship they call the Mayflower
We come on the ship that sailed the moon
We come in the age’s most uncertain hour
And sing an American tune
Oh, it’s all right, it’s all right
It’s all right, it’s all right
You can’t be forever blessed
Still, tomorrow’s going to be another working day
And I’m trying to get some rest
That’s all I’m trying to get some rest

It says something about the universality of music when a song written at the end of the Nixon Administration can so perfectly express how so many Americans are feeling, 45 years later.

Offered Without Comment — An American Tune

I’m working steadily on my iPod rebuilding project, moving through the iTunes library from A to Z.  I’m up to P.

I just now listened once again to Paul Simon’s epic, brilliant American Tune — and it spoke to me again, as it always does, even though it was first recorded more than 35 years ago, in a different context, for a different America.

Obscure Bands And Great Songs: The Cyrkle And Red Rubber Ball

The Cyrkle recorded the best upbeat break-up song ever — Red Rubber Ball — but who knows anything about them?  They seem like just another of those ’60s bands with a kind of “psychedelic” name, like Vanilla Fudge or the Strawberry Alarm Clock.  But this is a band with another interesting accomplishment:  they were the opening act for the Beatles for the Fab Four’s final tour, in 1966.

Initially called the Rhondells, the Cyrkle was formed by two students from Lafayette College, in Easton, Pennsylvania, and two other musicians.  They first heard the song Red Rubber Ball from Paul Simon, who co-wrote the song with Bruce Woodley of The Seekers.  The band recorded the song and were rechristened The Cyrkle.  Red Rubber Ball went to number 2 on the charts in the spring of 1966, and The Cyrkle were selected to tour with the Beatles — and then the rocket ride ended.  After the tour the band returned to playing small venues and then broke up, playing their last gig in 1968.

Before they broke up, of course, The Cyrkle produced Red Rubber Ball.  What a pleasure to hear a break-up song that isn’t bluesy and sad!  With the opening calliope-like sound, the bouncy beat, the adenoidal singing, and the uplifting message, Red Rubber Ball has made generations of jilted guys feel better.  What teenager who just got the boot from his girlfriend hasn’t sung “I think it’s going to be all right.  Yeah, the worst is over now.  The morning sun is shining like a red rubber ball” and felt a little bit better as a result?