Bye Bye Miss American Pie — it hit #1, 50 yrs ago tomorrow

A favorite song, Miss American Pie, will hit #1 tomorrow, 50 years ago. I can’t imagine anyone hating this song…?

If you have a chance to visit Clear Lake, Iowa, the Surf Ballroom there is an homage to rock & roll history. And the corn field where the music died is also worth a visit. There’s a makeshift shrine there.

Here are a couple photos from my visit a couple of years ago.

Beginning in Honolulu on 28 January —
Don McLean to embark on ‘American Pie 50th Anniversary Tour’

Don McLean is 74 years old. Rock on, Don McLean!

A long long time ago
I can still remember when…I first heard it.

I think I liked it from the beginning. I had the 45. A side: the first half. B side, the second half. You think it’s bad flipping an LP? Try a 45 just to hear one song.

I didn’t have the 45 but I remember standing at the jukebox and deciding whether I wanted to spemd my dime on part one or part two.

I love this song, but I can imagine some people might not like it. What I can’t understand is how that was 50 years ago. I remember it pretty well. We also had the 45.

Learned last weekend that a guitarist who played with Buddy Holly pre-Crickets (Sonny Curtis) later wrote the theme song for the Mary Tyler Moore Show. (and I fought the law and the law won).

Soooo, is that Chevy at the levee considered an antique car now?

In 2015, McLean sold the manuscript of the lyrics to “American Pie.”

For (only) $1.2M

The draft that was auctioned is 16 pages: 237 lines of manuscript and 26 lines of typed text, according to Christie’s. It includes lines that didn’t make the final version as well as extensive notes – all of which should be revealing, McLean said.

Where’d the break come in the record?

Good evening, he’s 79 and you’re not.

Way to cut to the Chase.


I sure don’t remember 50 years on but youtube remembers. Part 1 ends after

And while Lenin read a book on Marx
A quartet practiced in the park
And we sang dirges in the dark
The day the music died

It does the chorus and then . . . does the chorus again and fads out (sounds like the second chorus was copied from the end)

Side 2 starts right up with “Helter skelter in the summer swelter”

And of course I played part 2.

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

was an incredible lyric to a 10 year old.

I like the Weird Al version (The Saga Begins)


So how well are the three singers remembered nowadays?

Apparently, so does Don McLean.

I recall Casey Kasem explaining the lyrics on American Top Forty years and years ago. As I child I was impressed with the song and its lyrics.

When I hear the record now I’m most impressed with the piano player.

I’d say in terms of being remembered the order is Buddy Holly > Richie Valens > > > The Big Bopper. The first two had popular biopics made about them (although those films are now 44 and 35 years old respectively). And Weezer charted with Buddy Holly in 1994 which also had a popular music video.

So mostly remembered by old farts and those rapidly approaching old fartdom.

I personally don’t believe the lyrics have any actual meaning. I think they were stuff that sounded good and were vague enough such that they could be interpreted to refer to all sorts of things.

I think they do, but McLean is the only one that can decipher them. American Pie is like a compressed file, but you can’t re-expand it with 100% recovery. You can encode “I once met Janis Joplin, and she was sad, and now she’s dead” into “I met a girl who sang the blues/and I asked her for some happy news/but she just smiled and turned away”, but it doesn’t work the other way. Start with the song lyric, and I could come up with three or four “meanings” that all fit just as well.

“the birds (Byrds?) flew off with a fallout shelter
Eight Miles High and falling fast”

That’s not a coincidence. It’s a reference to the band. But what does it mean? Why them? That is unknowable to anyone outside of Don’s head.

Are “the father, son and the holy ghost” Holly, Richardson and Valens? JFK, RFK and MLKJr? The literal Trinity? Who can say? One can make a case for any or all of them.

I had that line wrong. I thought it was “The three men I admire the most: Ron Howard, Anson Williams and Donnie Most.”