Biff America: Good songs, bad dancing and a runny nose
“Maggie May” makes my nose run. I’m referring to Rod Stewart’s song “Maggie May”.
Certainly it is a catchy tune about a young man in love with an older woman, but when compared to the efforts of other musical poets of that era, it is neither profound nor particularly poignant.
Often is the case where I’ll be cross country skiing or biking with my iPod on shuffle. Then, out of nowhere, “Wake up Maggie, I think I have something to say to you” will come through my headphones.
Next thing I know the tears start flowing, the nose starts dripping. Before too long, facial secretions cause my mug to look like a glazed donut. If I’m skiing with my mate, she’ll look over at me and say with love, “You look gross. Wipe your face.”
As I said the lyrics of that song aren’t nearly as pertinent or powerful as some others from that era like those below from Dylan, Neil Young and Paul Simon.
“There is a town in North Ontario, dream comfort memory despair.”
“I’ve squandered my resistance for a pocket full of mumblings such are promises.”
“Your saint-like face and your ghost-like soul; who among them do you think could destroy you?”
I could write my entire life and never type anything as beautiful or insightful as those words.
And though those songs still give me the chills, “Maggie May” can reduce me to that glazed donut look.
I think it is due to ” one memory, of one time ” that I heard that song. I was still in high school, or just out, and it was early fall. A dozen or so of my friends and I were standing around a fire of burning truck tires drinking beer. “Maggie May” was recently released and was very poplar on the Boston radio stations. Someone had left a car radio on and that song played.
A few of the bravest and biggest began to sing along and shuffle their feet; slowly, all there followed suit. Perhaps it was the Narragansett Beer, the crisp night or the relative darkness that allowed the unembarrassed display of mass passion.
Whatever the case, before the tune ended, a dozen white boys, in jeans and work boots, were dancing, crying and holding each other like trophy-wives at a Botox party.
The song finished, and we all went back to our bravado and vulgarity as if nothing strange had occurred.
But just for a moment I felt what it was like to feel love, trust, and optimism. And more importantly what it was like not be afraid (in the words of Dylan), “To dance beneath the diamond sky with one hand waving free.” I can’t speak for any of the others but for me in that flash I realized that it was possible to live the life that I had hear about in books and songs.
Since that night I’ve had many such revelations. I think that one stands out because it was the first and I can associate it to a song that I periodically still hear. Other than that song and a temporary closeness to men, many of which I have forgotten their names, that night was non-descript. We were a group of awkward teens with more beer than perspective. I’m guessing shortly after that we went home and woke up the next morning to go to school or work. There was nothing special about that night except for that instant when I realized that my happiness was under my control.
Perhaps that is the reason that we glorify adolescence and look back upon it so fondly is that we all recall those first youthful revelations.
I would wager that if you asked most people you know, “What was the happiest time in your life?” many of would say, “Now”. At least I think I would.
I would not want to go back to that time or place; even if it meant having a teenager’s knees and hairline. Like many at that age, I was a confused and selfish, young man with more opinions than character and not aware enough know the difference.
I knew little about love, compassion and how so much of what I valued so highly, at the time, would prove to be unimportant. That said, that night we danced in the woods to “Maggie May” was extraordinary. Not because of the words but for the possibilities.
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