I was going to write a whole lengthy post about this in the (quickly-sinking) thread about “one hit wonders that are actually great songs,” but I want to make a whole thread for this song: Ariel by Dean Friedman. (Really great video, too!)
I don’t know how many people are familiar with this song. I know it because my parents used to play it all the time (on vinyl, no less.) I’m 22 and I’d guess that most of my peers haven’t heard it. But if you’re older, you might know it. If you grew up in the late 70s or early 80s you probably do.
Ben Folds has made a whole career as a quirky rock star by playing songs just like this one, and Dean Friedman had him beat by twenty years. I’d almost classify “Ariel” as some kind of very primitive form of indie rock, except that it’s totally unpretentious and completely honest.
The lyrics are just a straightforward description of a date with a pretty Jewish girl from “the other side of the Hudson,” but all the little details in it are what makes the song so great. “I had a gig at the American Legion Hall/It was a dance for the Volunteer Ambulance Corps/She was sitting in a corner against the wall/She would smile and I melted all over the floor” - I mean, how many songs from that time period were rocking quirkly rhymes like that one, name-dropping like Steely Dan but without any traces of hipster elitism.
And really - "I said “Hi”/she said “Yeah, I guess I am!” - that has got to be one of the most clever lines in a rock song, ever. When I was a kid, I did NOT get it at all. I wondered what the hell he meant. When I got older, and I figured it out, it quickly jumped to the top of my funniest lyrics of all time list.
I was born in New York (Glen Cove, to be exact…not quite “the city”) and although I have lived all my life here in Indiana and more or less adopted the lifestyle of the people here, I’ve visited New York enough times to know what it’s like, and this song just makes me think of it. Just like “Amoreena” at the beginning of Dog Day Afternoon.
Any other Dean Friedman fans? Anyone else who appreciates this underrated classic of a song?