One late afternoon two or three weeks ago, when I was on my way home to the Manse from work in Belleville, I stopped in the village of Madoc to do a couple of library/post-office errands. When I got back into the car and turned it on, the radio of course came on too – and I caught the last few tantalizing notes of a song that was oh so familiar, and yet I couldn’t quite put my finger on what it was.
(The program I was listening to, Hastings County residents won’t be surprised to hear, was the Freddy Vette Show on CJBQ Belleville, 800 on your AM dial – the station I grew up with here at the Manse in Queensborough. Freddy is a supremely gifted DJ, musician, musical historian [there is nothing about the music of the 1950s and ’60s that he doesn’t know], comic – and graduate of the radio-broadcasting program at Loyalist College, where I now teach. His show, featuring the music of the ’50s and ’60s, is wildly popular locally, and with good reason; he is an entertainer par excellence. [Check out his website here, and an excellent article about him from Country Roads magazine here.] Even though I am not a huge fan of ’50s music [doo-wop and the like], Freddy plays enough good nostalgic stuff from the ’60s, peppering it with his always-entertaining commentary, to keep me tuned in every afternoon.)
Anyway, back to the fading notes of that song I couldn’t quite identify. It had strings. It had bass. And more to the point it had something – something kind of wistful and musical at the same time that I couldn’t identify but that instantly told me (or my subconscious) that it came from the era of bouffant hairdos and Dippity-Do, of Vietnam and TV magazines that featured Green Acres, and movie magazines that featured Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton. It came from the era of Avocado Green, of living-room-showpiece hi-fi units sold at Pigden Electronics on the main street of Madoc. It came from the time of both the easy-listening vibe of Little Green Apples and the swampy rage of Fortunate Son.
Was there ever a song more representative of the final few years of that incredible decade than that wistful, tuneful and, yes, weird composition by Jimmy Webb (yes, the man who brought you the sublime Galveston and the sublimely awful MacArthur Park, among others), as sung by the truly great Glen Campbell?
People, I am open to your thoughts. But my answer to my own question is this: I think not.