What is it with men and the song “American Pie”?

I was going to call this “Glenn Beck transforms into every American girl’s Date From Hell” but I’ll bet you there have to be some Buddy Holly fans across the pond who have tortured their female partners at least once with a five-hour disquisition on the “meaning behind” this overrated song.

However, Beck apparently thinks that it’s not really about Buddy Holly, but about the evils of rioting. And um… okay, I’ll admit that I quit reading the transcript. Because I don’t fucking care. And yes, I was subjected to the lecture, on one of the few “dates” I went on when I was in my twenties. I think there is some unwritten law that every man in North America (and possibly the UK and Ireland) has to bore at least one woman in his life at least once with a long-winded disquisition on Don McLean’s opus. What really irritated me was I already knew all that shit about the song. My friends and I were all pop culture junkies back then and were really into the Sixties, so we — men, hang onto your parts so they don’t fall off — had researched the song all by our ownselves. What can I say, cable tv was still in its infancy and we didn’t have the internet then to distract and entertain us, and they cancelled Manimal at some point so there was nothing on tv to watch. Anyway, I went on this date with this guy, who was nice enough, and we’re hanging out in his house (very chaste, he lived with his parents and it was 1983 or something), and he starts with “do you know what the song ‘American Pie’ really means?” He was one of those guys that don’t really listen to girls when they say “I’m not really interested” so I got to sit there in his parents living room in Hialeah for about two hours while he rambled on and on. In retrospect, I should have just gotten up and walked out in the middle of the part about how “I saw Satan laughing in delight” was all about the Rolling Stones at Altamont and that guy getting stabbed and oh my god kill me now why am I even thinking about this

By the way, my date was of the “‘the day the music died’ meant the death of Buddy Holly” persuasion, which I could never buy because Buddy Holly was in my opinion a rather dull singer with a couple of poppy, forgettable hits that people only keep playing because he died tragically in a plane crash along with a couple of other one-hit wonders we’d never have heard of if they were still alive and getting royalty checks in the old folks home.


25 thoughts on “What is it with men and the song “American Pie”?

  1. Rocky

    I think most everyone had their own interpretation of what was being said in the song and enjoyed trying to convince others of his rare insight.

    In fact, the mystery of Don McLean’s American Pie is fairly simple and straight forward…
    stay far away from drunk Hell’s Angels with pool cues.

    On the other hand, if someone could untangle the riddle hidden in the lyrics of this ditty…
    my soul could find peace.

    1. J.M. Heinrichs

      Between listening to a CD of Yoko Ono and quaffing case of PBR, he’s pretty much satisfied with his life.


  2. Jack

    In 1968 I had a HS English teacher who was cracked on the song and spent a couple of days of class time on it. I am not making this up. I haven’t listened to it willingly since then.

    1. Samuel Kaye

      Wow Jack, that would be a truly amazing feat by your high school English teacher, considering the song wasn’t even released until November of 1971! Were you still in h.s. in 1971/72 or could it have been some hippie college prof you’re recalling? There were a lot of those prats in every campus back in those days.

  3. Starless

    A guy in his teens or twenties might try to impress a girl with how “deep” he is by deconstructing a pop song as a precursor to trying to get to first or second base. Maybe Beck isn’t trying to be condescending, maybe he’s just trying to get the audience’s metaphorical bra off.

    1. Mike James

      We are having a conversation about Glenn Beck trying to get a teenage girl undressed for God knows what (oh, I know what) purpose. You might understand my intent, then, when I declare that, suddenly, I so fervently hope for the existence of a Hell, and a just God who metes out perfect judgement.

      I thought about it, you see, I thought about what it was we are talking about. Ha ha ha ha ha ha…….

    2. Andrea Harris Post author

      “We are having a conversation about Glenn Beck trying to get a teenage girl undressed for God knows what (oh, I know what) purpose.”

      EWWW. DO NOT WANT. 🙁

    3. Starless

      Uhhhh…I specifically said “the audience’s”. I’m guilty of trying to evoke an “ew, gross!”, but not the kind of “ew, gross!” you’re talking about.

    4. Mike James

      Correction received and understood, Starless, and I would like to extend my apology for garbling your comment. Updated and corrected version of my original reply to you:

      “We are having a conversation about Glenn Beck trying to get a his audience undressed for God knows what (oh, I know what) purpose. You might understand my intent, then, when I declare that, suddenly, I so fervently hope for the existence of a Hell, and a just God who metes out perfect judgement.”

  4. SPQR

    Now in the ’70’s I had the exact same experience, Andrea. But it was girls and “My Favorite Things” lyrics.


    1. Andrea Harris Post author

      You’ve got to be kidding me. WTF is there in that song to have to explain? “You know when Maria is singing ‘raindrops roses and whiskers on kittens’ and says those are a few of her favorite things? That means she really likes them!”

      (Note: I actually had to look up the song, and that’s how I was also reminded that it was in The Sound of Music, not Mary Poppins. I get all those Julie Andrews movies mixed up.)

  5. Jess

    Well. Until a few months ago, I never knew what the phrase “The day the music died” meant. In my ingnorance, and being a piano player, I only knew I liked the piano in the song. I admired the keyboardist’s tenacity in braving the impossibly long arrangement and still managing to throw in chords that sounded like church chimes during the last moments of the song. Maybe they waited the entire song for that moment to shine and as a testament of their patience and control. I’d a thrown a beer bottle during the second chorus and warned Don to shorten the lyrics.

    1. Andrea Harris Post author

      They used to play a shortened radio edit (that unfortunately faded out way before those end chords because the edit cut out the bit where he slowed down and sang the final parts). I will just never get over the idea that we’re supposed to be devastated and think music “died” because the guy who wrote “That’ll Be The Day (That You Make Me Cry)” died in a plane crash. I mean, it was sad and all, but people didn’t lose the ability to sing or play instruments just because one singer of rather boring and forgettable pop tunes died young. Not to mention purveyors of this particular theme always focus on Buddy Holly, even though he wasn’t the only musician to die in that plane crash — and if I had my druthers of purveyors of pop tunes who died in said plane crash I’d pick Richie Valens over Buddy Holly. Maybe that’s just because I like the music of Los Lobos and they did the soundtrack for the Lou Diamond Phillips biopic that came out in the 80s (during another instance of Hollywood’s occasionally recurring Latino fever — Miami Vice was big then and suddenly we had a rash of movies about Hispanic characters occasionally starring actors who weren’t white people with tans).

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