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I know I just asked a question yesterday, but I think I speak for a lot of disenchanted 70’s loving hanger-ons when I ask what did Don McLean truly mean when he wrote American Pie?
Great Question John,
To truly answer this question, once must do a thorough line-by-line analysis of this American rock classic:
And I knew if I had my chance
That I could make those people dance
And maybe they’d be happy for a while
Mclean thought a lot of himself, despite the aforementioned lack of talent and imagination.
But February made me shiver
With every paper I’d deliver
Mclean was an enormous pussy.
Bad news on the doorstep
I couldn’t take one more step
Mclean would often be seen gazing at newspapers or any piece of paper for hours on end, a motionless husk of a human being. It would later be revealed this is becasue his parents were first cousins.
I can’t remember if I cried
When I read about his widowed bride
Mclean is the first reported case of Aspergers syndrome.
But something touched me deep inside
The day the music died
Mclean would often touch himself in times of emotional crisis. He was only invited to one funeral in his life!
So bye-bye, Miss American Pie
An homage to the American tradition of objectifying food and eating women.
Drove my Chevy to the levee, but the levee was dry
An allegory for the complete arid environment that has become the American soul.
Representational of America’s collective malaise and desire to simply be drunk until we meet our maker.
Did you write the book of love
And do you have faith in God above
If the Bible tells you so?
Now do you believe in rock and roll
Can music save your mortal soul
And can you teach me how to dance real slow?
This verse is an homage to Mclean’s love of going to proms well into thirties. However, the man had standards, and would only take girls that could answer these questions correctly. The answers are as follows: Yes, No, What, Maybe, I mean are you asking if it exists, no only Jerry Falwell can, yes, but it’s very illegal.
Well, I know that you’re in love with him
‘Cause I saw you dancin’ in the gym
You both kicked off your shoes
Man, I dig those rhythm and blues
At Mclean’s 37th prom which ironically was on his 37th Birthday, his date Linda Sue made up with her old boyfriend while Mclean was learning tips from the musical director chaperoning the event. Instead of causing a scene Mclean took a fifth of jack into a far corner and masturbated while weeping.
I was a lonely teenage broncin’ buck
With a pink carnation and a pickup truck
But I knew I was out of luck
The day the music died
This is Mclean’s testimony on the stand when being tried for statutory creepiness.
Now for ten years we’ve been on our own
And moss grows fat on a rollin’ stone
But that’s not how it used to be
Mclean was often known for having no concept of physics, biology or reality. The verse, but that’s not how it used to be was added by his manager in hopes people would believe Mclean’s new claims on the natural order of the universe and be scared shitless by the repercussions.
And a voice that came from you and me
And Ursula from the Little Mermaid
Oh, and while the king was looking down
The jester stole his thorny crown
The courtroom was adjourned
No verdict was returned
A verse supposedly about Elvis Presley again changed by his Mclean’s manager. The original verse was “Oh, and while the King shot his television, Prsilla was sticking her head in an oven, the mascara ruined the chicken, time for karate!”
I won’t even dignify this dirty commie lyric. WOLVERINES!!!!!
Helter skelter in a summer swelter
The birds flew off with a fallout shelter
Eight miles high and falling fast
Mclean was one of the earliest users of recreational agent orange. On weekends, he would go to the back of various wild preserves and release the explosive toxin on unsuspecting wildlife.
It landed foul on the grass
The players tried for a forward pass
With the jester on the sidelines in a cast
Once again Mclean’s insanity had to be drawn in. He wanted to pay homage to Joe Namath, but specifically Namath’s work on the Brady Bunch. I was once again able to grab tear sheets from Mclean’s original notes. “Marsha had a fantastic ass. But Bobby’s is top class. Joe Namath smiled last.”
Now the halftime air was sweet perfume
While the sergeants played a marching tune
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
Because the marching band kids were tired of being ostracized and asked to prom by only Mclean.
Do you recall what was revealed
The day the music died?
Mclean’s go-to line after prom
Oh, and there we were all in one place
A generation lost in space
With no time left to start again
So come on, Jack be nimble, Jack be quick
Jack Flash sat on a candlestick
‘Cause fire is the devil’s only friend
Oh, and as I watched him on the stage
My hands were clenched in fists of rage
No angel born in Hell
Could break that Satan’s spell
Mclean is referring to his first Liberace concert. Rhinestones angered Mclean even more than being stood up for prom.
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
Using Nostradamus like powers, Mclean predicted the fate of Michael Jackson’s hair when he would endorse Pepsi products.
I met a girl who sang the blues
Mclean asked her to prom
And I asked her for some happy news
Like would you go to prom with me?
But she just smiled and turned away
She didn’t smile
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
And in the streets, the children screamed
The lovers cried and the poets dreamed
Poets were notorious dicks in the 60s and 70s and would often ignore the screams of small children so they could keep playing their bongo drums.
But not a word was spoken
The church bells all were broken
Quasimodo was a huge influence on Mclean’s style.
And the three men I admire most
The Father, Son and the Holy Ghost
Rip Taylor, Charles Nelson RIley and Richard Nixon
They caught the last train for the coast
The day the music died
God has abandoned us all for a universe he created in 5 days with 3 days of rest.
Writers: Dan Jurgens, Jerry Ordway, Louise Simonson, Roger Stern
Artists: Jon Bogdanove, Tom Grummet, Jackson Guice, Dan Jurgens
reviewer: Rob Patey (aka Optimous Douche – Ain’t It Cool News)
20 years. Wow.
Were Don McLean writing his homage to our collective demise, American Pie, in the 90s instead of the 70s, I have no doubt this cryptic poem of innocence lost would have reserved a verse for this now remastered DEATH OF SUPERMAN tome:
There is no rhyme or reason why
We fell our savior from the sky
Leaving little room for further grace.
Broken hearts and burning steel,
The culprit didn’t need revealed
Doomsday wore your very face
DEATH OF SUPERMAN not only ushered in the death of comics, or at the very least, crippling of the genre, it also reflected we will never again abide sacred calves. Blame Booth, blame Nixon, blame the loss of religion, blame your neighbor; we begged for the DEATH OF SUPERMAN because the virtues he stood for were no longer a reflection of ourselves. And what are comics, at least good comics, if not the hyperbole of our imagination grounded in reflective moments of the current human condition.
Now, the maggots that crawled from SUPERMAN’S carcass were splash pages without purpose, anatomical monstrosities, die-cut S shield covers, and polybags that now feel like my Grandmother’s skin after 20 years of storage. Again though, these trappings weren’t the often attributed 90’s death of comics, simply the last Hail Mary to keep a few extra zeroes on print runs.
DEATH OF SUPERMAN was the true event that put all comics on a respirator and feeding tube. Where else could you go from here? This mammoth storyline that crossed the multitude of SUPERMAN and JUSTICE LEAGUE titles was like a modern retelling of the bible. You had the ultimate fight for good and evil as the cacophony of colorfully clad disciples watched unable to deter destiny. It was a prophetic march that we all knew couldn’t last and in that knowledge we learned continuity was a mantra for a forgotten era. We also learned there is no such thing as consequence when billions of dollars in toys, movies and video game revenue rests on a hero’s shoulders. Death, true death, has no room for awakenings. Comic s has no tolerance for true death, at least in 1992 they didn’t.
It’s hard not to read this book and reflect on the aftermath. But there was no doubt it captured our hearts, minds and the news cycle at the time. The last point was a true rarity in the pre-Internet days when news was actually still a somewhat precious commodity and not vomited out on blogs and web pages en masse.
1992 was my senior year of High School. I was accepted into my 3 colleges of choice by October, so all I had left to do for the year was make lots of money at Merrill Lynch after school, buy weed with that money, get girls with that weed…and revel in comics. Back in those days we had to revel face-to-face, the comic store was a destination not a retail transaction. For hours, fanboys like myself would debate the virtues of comics with our predecessor fanmen. DEATH OF SUPERMAN kept us talking from Doomsdays’ first appearance out of the ground until the final panel of Kal in Lois’ arms. We were all mesmerized. Again, we knew even then it wouldn’t last, but the excitement of the event back when events weren’t a commodity made it a glorious time to be a collector. I didn’t realize how much the Internet has exponentially increased the quantity of comic conversations, but also exponentially decreased the quality of those interactions. It took me this reread to truly realize what made this series special.
Pacing! Plain and simple pacing. Doomsday wasn’t a stark reveal, like Monarch in ARMAGEDDON 2001. We also had no clue what was coming next. As Doomsdays visage became clearer, his swath of destruction across America became more brutal and bombastic. Starting with one armed tied behind his back, Doomsday became more than the bloke who killed SUPERMAN, he became the embodiment of fear for well over a year. In one page these artists and writers of yore told us everything we needed to know about this villain, as he first crushes a bird, then a tree, then a house and a family. Even for all of Darkseid’s evil ways, he would never sell out so-called “life” on Apokolips. Doomsday though, as the name implies, was hell bent on the death of everything. And he succeeded in spades.
I’m not a fan of nostalgia or lamenting remember when, I believe human evolution is a building experience that leverages the old and transforms it for the modern age. We’ve lost something since this time period though, and that something is called story. Writers words once flourished when the pacing didn’t have to meet the “Image” model of 3 panel pages and every other page splashes. Jurgens, Stern, Simonson…these folks delivered character moments that had impact despite their cramped panels. I was an even bigger fan of JLA during this time then Supes himself. Seeing Ice protect a family against Doomsday in a 9 panel page delivered more emotional impact than the entire first arc of the New 52 JUSTICE LEAGUE.
This might all sound like a now Fangeezers lament, but it’s truly not. I still love comics; I love the hyper detail that the new teams of artists deliver. But I will fight tooth and nail any fool who doesn’t say this story is impactful. Not only for the words on the page, but for the way it forever changed comics…and if I can be so bold the perception of the American dream.
Read DEATH OF SUPERMAN again to remember a time when stories truly surprised us before Internet spoilers ruined our sense of wonderment when we first opened a book. Read it for the first time to understand a forgotten craftsmanship in comics. Read it for the new coloring if you choose, I didn’t see a stark difference from my muddled memories. But read it, it’s important.