American Pie: Decoded

Don't you just hate American Pie?

No, not those sub-Porky's teen comedy film things (though they're pretty hateful too, now that you come to mention it), but the perpetually busker-endorsed song by Don McLean. Far from being the poignant portrait of post-adolescent disillusionment that it's so often portrayed as, it's actually more like intolerable whingeing from someone who never could quite get over the fact that he grew up and became too old to dance the 'jitterbug' at High School Hops while trying to look at cheerleaders' arses, and resented the fact that all those young upstarts had the temerity to like Bob Dylan and The Byrds instead of Bill Haley And The Comets, like some horrible twisted backwards version of The Wonder Years gone nightmarishly wrong.

The absolute worst thing about it is that, judging from the genuinely heartfelt Vincent, it was written by someone who should have known better (and anyway, if he hated all post-Buddy Holly music so much, why did he bother adding to it himself, especially with such a dreary effort?). Perhaps realising all this, McLean has always refused to discuss the all-too-obvious meanings behind the song's lyrics, recently commenting that "whatever it makes you think about, that's what it means to you". Well, since you put it like that...

A long, long time ago... I can still remember
This is of course just simple scene-setting, with the narrator explaining that though the events in this song took place a long time ago, he can still remember them, like some sort of superpowered Stuart Maconie listening to Back In Denim. Or, if you will, The Incredible String Band's hilariously unimpressive claim to be able to "remember quite well".

How that music used to make me smile
Lily Allen, it would seem, is a key figure in this unfolding story.

And I knew if I had my chance
That I could make those people dance
And, maybe, they’d be happy for a while

So the narrator was involved in some sort of joint artistic venture with Lily Allen, undertaken with the laudable intention to enrich the lives of the public through the medium of dance.

But February made me shiver
With every paper I’d deliver

Unfortunately, something had gone wrong during the financial negotiations over this project, and the narrator was reduced to supplementing his income with a paper round during the coldest month of the year ("WHICH IS AUGUSTS, HA HA!!1" - Andy Parsons, yesterday).

Bad News on the doorstep
I couldn’t take one more step

Then things suddenly changed when, while delivering a paper to one particular house, he chanced upon Rik Mayall and Ade Edmondson dressed as spoof Heavy Metal stars, and was so struck by this that he vowed to never again further supplement his income by stealing doorsteps and selling them on the black market.

I can’t remember if I cried
When I read about his widowed bride

Furthermore, the encounter robbed him of his suddenly-not-so-impressive powers of recollection.

But something touched me deep inside
The Day The Music Died

In his confused state, he wandered home and tuned in to Radio 2, where Andrew Collins' hilarious satires of the music industry struck a chord with his recent experiences.

So bye-bye, Miss American Pie
Suddenly freshly motivated by this experience, the narrator recalls Alyson Hannigan at the front door, bidding farewell her real-life husband and fellow star of Buffy The Vampire Slayer, Alexis Denisof.

Drove my Chevy to the Levy
But the Levy was dry

Alexis heads off in his car and picks up Chevy Chase, with the intention of meeting 1980s fan rabble-rouser and editor of Doctor Who Bulletin, Gary Levy, for a night of booze-fuelled revelry. However, Levy has decided to go teetotal, thus threatening to scupper their plans.

And them good old boys were drinking whiskey and rye
Singing "this’ll be the day that I die, this’ll be the day that I die"

The day is saved by The Dukes Of Hazzard, who are sitting in a corner drinking a strange concoction of malt liquor and bread, and who are already so inebriated that they are unable to correctly recall world-famous Buddy Holly lyrics.

Did you write The Book Of Love?
For reasons that are not yet clear, the song begins directly addressing William Kotzwinkle, screenwriter for the Michael McKean-starring 1990 romantic comedy The Book Of Love.

And do you have faith in God above
If the Bible tells you so?

And a similar direct address is made to Richard Dawkins, off of Doctor Who. The answer is, presumably, 'no'.

Do you believe in rock ’n roll?
Can music save your mortal soul?

Time for an unexplained narrative lurch, as the action seems to have relocated to a Gospel Choir-heavy chuch.

And can you teach me how to dance real slow?
Mid-sermon, this new narrator makes the mistake of expressing his yearning to be taught to dance by Bez.

Well, I know that you’re in love with him
Cause I saw you dancing in the gym

Or perhaps it's actually Ricky Hervaid, causing a mass outbreak of 'The Fance'-copying hysteria when his hilarious comedy routine appears on a load of those MTV-friendly monitors in lavishly-appointed gynmnasiums. Bless his chubby little homophobic disablist bastard face.

You both kicked off your shoes
The TV footage inexplicably changes to a clip of Farley 'Jackmaster' Funk's performance of Love Can't Turn Around on Top Of The Pops in 1987, when overexcitable vocalist Darryl Pandy kicked his shoes off into the audience. This causes an outbreak of gym-based shoe-kicking-off, which in turn causes the two jealously-observed lovers to bond further.

Man, I dig those rhythm and blues
Still, you have to admire that crazy young persons' music, what?

I Was A Lonely Teenage Broncin’ Buck
With a pink carnation and a pickup truck

Dejected, the narrator heads off to see a drive-in movie, drowning his sorrows by paying visual tribute to that episode of Neighbours in which a Carnation-sporting Joe Mangel drove his 'Ute' to a blind date.

But I knew I was out of luck
The Day The Music Died

Oh dear - not even the comic stylings of Andrew Collins can lift his mood!

Now for ten years we’ve been on our own
Battered by life and love, the narrator falls in with a crowd of media-obsessed reactionaries getting angry about nothing, united by their manifesto "GRR GRR EIGHTIES COMPLEAT ROY OF THE ROVERS CD ROM OR SOMETHING".  

And Moss grows fat on a Rolling Stone

Here we explore some of the motivation for their anger; Richard Ayoade, TV's Moss From The IT Crowd, has taken to eating copies of Rolling Stone onstage as part of a routine. Apparently this makes him 'evil'.

But that’s not how it used to be
It is quite rightly pointed out that comedy hasn't always involved Richard Ayoade eating copies of top-selling music magazines. In the eighties, for example, it was more like Phil Cool drinking Citrus Spring.

When The Jester sang for the King and Queen
Or, to use another example, when Seal performed Ye Most Lambentable And Tragicce Ballad Of Hey Nonny No (Also To Be Known As Kiss From A Rose) at one of those Prince's Trust concert things they don't do any more.

In a coat he borrowed from James Dean
As the heating had broken in the venue and the stage area had become uncomfortably chilly, Seal approached The Manic Street Preachers (who were there to perform ifwhiteamericatoldthetruthforonedayitsworldwouldfallapart) backstage and asked to borrow their lead singer's coat. As he was already sporting a ridiculous 'terrorist'-style balaclava, he was only too happy to oblige.

And a voice that came from You And Me
Tragically for Seal, the temperature is still sufficiently cold to reduce his singing voice to a croak akin to the loud child-scaring caw of Crow from You And Me. His career concludes shortly thereafter.

Oh, and while The King was looking down
The Jester stole his thorny crown

A complex allusion to the fickleness of fame, illustrated by the ironic tale of how Alias The Jester overtook King Greenfingers in the bid to become the most iconic fleetingly vogueish children's cartoon of the eighties that nobody now remembers.

The courtroom was adjourned
No verdict was returned

Though it's often difficult to interpret the cryptic allusions, American Pie is clearly not a song about the death of the innocence of the rock'n'roll era and the dark side of the myth of 'The Sixties', but rather about being bored in Britain in the eighties. This, for example, is a clear reference to top controversial judge, Judge Pickles. Bet that Mary Whitehouse Experience are sharpening their satirical claws right now! "'s no wonder he reached that verdict when you consider how he got to the courtroom: 'Sorry I'm late everyone, I was travelling by British Rail...'".

And while Lennon read a book of Marx
Tim Lennon, the Just Seventeen photoshoot-favoured model who professed to like "rave music like Nirvana", thumbs through a biography of Hazard-hitmaker Richard Marx.

The quartet practiced in the park
While on his way to see forgotten early nineties indie no-hit wonders Candyland performing in Liverpool's non-famous Calderstones Park, as part of some Granada TV-sponsored 'mini-festival'.

And we sang Dirges In The Dark
The Day The Music Died

This week, Andrew Collins introduces an hilarious and timely Bruce Springsteen parody.

Helter Skelter in a summer swelter
A coded message to Charles Manson. About Charles Manson.

The Byrds flew off with a fallout shelter
Back to the eighties, and production work on top nuclear melodrama Threads is famously halted when a sixties pop group attempting a revival tour steal a key part of the scenery and smuggle it onto an aeroplane.

Eight Miles High and Falling fast
Finally we find out what the Lily Allen collaboration would have been - a speeded-up medley of minor hits by Cathy Dennis and The Byrds.

It landed foul on the grass
The players tried for a forward pass

Overwhelmed by eighties ennui, the narrator opts for a boredom-relieving game of Match Day on the ZX Spectrum, but falls foul of the bug that causes the ball to permanently disappear when it lands on a certain area of pixilated 'grass'.

With The Jester on the sidelines in a cast
Further Spectrum-related woe ensues when the computer crashes, and a graphic of Alias The Jester from his own game briefly appears mashed in with that black screen before it says '(C) 1982 Sinclair Research Limited'.

Now the half-time air was sweet perfume
While the Sergeants played a marching tune

That'll be those 'drugs', wheeled out to accompany the unecessary overblown twentieth anniversary celebrations of the release of Captain Rutter's Only Darts Club Band. Skin up, 'Dinners'!

We all got up to dance
Oh, but we never got the chance
Cause the players tried to take the field
The marching band refused to yield

Graham Bright MP tables a motion to outlaw 'raves', while Tim Lennon sobs into his Richard Marx book. This is 'meaningful', this bit.

Do you recall what was revealed?
The Day The Music Died

Andrew Collins does some of those wacky spoof music news headlines.

Oh, and there we were all in one place
The narrator then recalls his days as part of 'Rubber Bucket', the large ad-hoc choir of squatters assembled to record the protest song We Are All Living In One Place at the behest of - yikes! - Gary Glitter. 'Uncle' says: "Commission x 8!".  

A generation Lost In Space
While his peers start camping around in front of painted backdrops yelping "In-deed! Spare me the barb, major!" and being unconvincingly spooked by unconvincing owl-esque aliens.

With no time left to start again
He realises the song sounds pretty bloody stupid thus far, but with this amount of lyrics set down already, not to mention a potentially angry blogger who's spent hours on it up to this point, starting all over again might not really be good for his health.

So come on, Jack be nimble, Jack be quick
Jack flash sat on a candlestick

So he opts to start talking about currently popular topics instead. For example, the Top TV Bisexual antics of Top TV Bisexual John Barrowman.

Cause fire is the devil’s only friend
Or Facebook, and in particular the fact that Satan has his own personal page, but the only person who will accept his Friend Request is 'Fire'.

And as I watched him on the stage
My hands were clenched in fists of rage

Oh, hang on - Barrowman's latest stage musical has been invaded by a dystopian rapper protesting about his lack of representation in the genre, and the audience are not happy about it...

No angel born in hell
Could break that Satan’s spell

...while David Boreanaz also refuses to add The Horned One as a friend...

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

...still, it's time for Andrew Collins - required listening in Hell!

I met a girl who sang the blues
Just like TV's 'Oops On Mars, It Was All A Dream!(TM). The narrator comes to, and realises that while he's been hallucinating all of the above, Lily Allen and her 'crew' have packed up and left. Stumbling out of the studio in a daze, he chances upon Amy Winehouse/Katie Melua/Joss Stone/One Of Those.

And I asked her for some happy news
But she just smiled and turned away

Recalling Martyn Lewis' bizarre lambasting of the BBC for concentrating on 'Bad' News, he asks for some more upbeat examples of current affairs as a way of cheering up. Amy/Katy/Joss/One Of is not impressed.

I went down to the sacred store
Where I’d heard the music years before
But the man there said the music wouldn’t play

So, just like Sam Tyler, he seeks out the record shop he used to frequent, but none of their equipment will work while he's in there. Which is a spooky motif that can be conveniently forgotten about when the rubbish ending is bolted on.

And in the streets, the children screamed
The lovers cried, and the poets dreamed

Dystopian Rap's own Graffiti Poet takes his unique brand of nude lyricism to the streets - the public respond as might be expected.

But not a word was spoken
The church bells all were broken

In his last gasp of confusion before keeling over, the narrator wonders why the church bells are no longer 'talking' to him. Then they go all wobbly and warped sounding, like that church that was amusingly revealed to employ a hidden tape recorder rather than real bells when the tape wore out.

And the three men I admire most
The Father, Son, and the Holy Ghost
They caught the last train for the coast
The Day The Music Died

And The Holy Trinity go on a weekend break to Devon for a spot of Andrew Collins-listening. THE END.