Friday, June 27, 2008

Did the Viva Vision folks READ the lyrics?!?

In 1989, the middle of my three sisters married the wrong guy. She was pregnant, my father was a traditionalist -- which is odd since he'd go on to pay for a lavish gay wedding a decade later that ALSO ended badly -- and several unhappy years came to pass. Well, that and two terrific kids, but that's besides the point.

It's been a tradition in my family for my mother and, often, my youngest sister to sing for guests at weddings. Both are talented; my youngest sister was a finalist for the lead role of "Annie" on Broadway in the late 1970s and a former Miss Pee Wee New York or something like that.

Anyhow, here's the odd thing: Lynn chose to sing "The Words Get In The Way" by Gloria Estefan, a tune about doomed love and bad communication. Which is really a very inappropriate -- and yet, as it turned out, prescient -- song to choose for a wedding reception.

This came to mind when Troy in Las Vegas pointed my attention to a press release trumpeting the special Fourth of July weekend edition of the Fremont Street Experience's Viva Vision show under the downtown metal canopy to be set to that classic tribute to the U.S. of A., "American Pie" by Don McLean.

Did I say tribute? Right, sorry. I meant, indictment. A brilliant one, indeed. I love the song. We even analyzed the lyrics in Nina Wolff's 10th grade English class as an example of modern American poetry rich with allusions, literary references and metaphors. Great stuff.

But appropriate for a patriotic celebration? "The day the music died?" A song about racial strife, violence, war, fake nostalgia, murder, the phoniness of religion and nuclear panic? This is the picture of America painted by the song:

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

But not a word was spoken;

The church bells all were broken.

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.

Here's how the Fremont Street folks hyped their new show:

LAS VEGAS – June 26, 2008 – Fremont Street Experience premieres "Don McLean's American Pie" Viva Vision light and sound show with a weekend-long 4th of July celebration free to the public, 4 p.m.- midnight July 3-5 in downtown Las Vegas.

The world premiere showing of "Don McLean's American Pie" Viva Vision show will open to the public on Thursday, July 3 at 9 p.m., including an opening ceremony hosted by Nellis Air Force Base's Honor Guard and a live performance of the National Anthem. The rock ballad "American Pie", released by Don McLean in 1971, became the anthem for a generation and is still one of the most well- known songs in American musical history. McLean's most famous composition, "American Pie" is a sprawling, impressionistic ballad inspired partly by the deaths of Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens, and J. P. Richardson (The Big Bopper) in a plane crash in 1959. The song would popularize the expression "The Day the Music Died" in reference to this event. McLean has stated that the lyrics are also somewhat autobiographical and present an abstract story of his life from the mid-1950s until the time he wrote the song in the late 1960s.

Uh, yes and no. "American Pie" is a song about how America's best days seemed to be over. You know, the "bye, bye" part? "The day the music died" isn't simply a reference to the Buddy Holly plane crash but a turning point in the good times for America in general.

So, sure, that seems like a perfect tune for the Fourth of July!


Dave Lifton said...

As a Springsteen freak, it always cracks me up whenever I hear "Born In The USA" - a song about a Vietnam vet who is scorned by society upon his return home and eventually winds up in prison - played during a 4th of July fireworks show.

Brad said...

My hometown, Clear Lake, IA, is the place where "the music died". Each year there is a celebration at the Surf Ballroom, the site of the 3 musicians last performance before they died in a plane crash just north of town. My question is, are they doing a light show to the entire song, or just a portion of it? There a going to be a lot of tourists waking up with sore necks if they do the entire thing.

Anonymous said...

I was about 14 when it came out. McLean seemed happy enough to sing it on "American Bandstand", "Midnight Special" and anywhere else he could find. I think it's about disillusionment, but not about giving up. Those were hard social times for the country, but I think the greater attacks were to come in the form of finally giving up in Vietnam and Watergate showing us our President was a crook.
After 35 plus years, I see it as a celebration that our wonderful Republic still stands, strong as ever. Ready for whatever challenge comes our way. Jeff in OKC

Anonymous said...

To be fair, Fremont Street is just "premiering" the show on 4th of July. Similar to the recent Queen show premiered in April this is a show that will continue to play throughout the year. In addition Fremont is doing a fireworks show on the canopy to celebrate the date. And, the tradition of fireworks - exploding shells shot in the sky - is a little odd of a choice for a celebration of our country's freedom and the end of a deadly battle as well - but that is done in every city, town and half the backyards across the nation. Not to mention that fireworks were not invented in and most are not even made in the U.S. of A.
So, give Fremont Street a break - they are only releasing a show that is set to a song that has many references to our history whether dark or sunny - it is our history.
And ironically, Fremont Street decided AGAINST setting their canopy "fireworks" show that they actually are creating for the 4th of July that will only run that weekend to Born in the USA because of the lyrics.
Also, the length of the song is similar to the lenght of the shows that are currently running.
- An insider in LV