Thursday, March 10, 2022

Early contact high

I don't remember how this 45 ended up in the Bonomo family basement. I think it came with a promotional bundle of various singles that my folks, or perhaps an older sibling, bought at Korvettes—there were one or two other Buddah singles in that shrink-wrapped stack, too. Regardless of how the song ended up on the family stereo, I spun it endlessly. This would've been six or seven years after the Lemon Pipers released the song in 1967—it went to number one in February of '68—a world away culturally from the headiness of those years, the subsequent hangover and grim, Nixon-era reassessment of the era lost on me as I sat, listening to this, the top of my head coming off as neural pathways were forged and endlessly explored on long afternoons. 

I knew nothing about the band; I didn't have the hallucinatory cover sleeve (detail above) to check out, though I saw those colors anyway when I listened. I wasn't aware that the band was from Ohio, which would've pleased me, as I cherished my family's annual summer visits to Coldwater, in far western Ohio, to visit my grandparents. I didn't know that the band recorded the song reluctantly, feeling obliged to their label, nor that the song was a Brill Building special concocted to order by the band's manager, Paul Leka, and his songwriting partner Shelley Pinz. I didn't know that the song was a gentle exploitation of psych rather than an authentically deep response to a changing world. (Though down the line, maybe it was both?) I wasn't aware of the adult bittersweetness of a "one-hit wonder." "Bubblegum" was what I chewed tirelessly while flipping baseball cards, riding my bike, or walking in the woods.

What I did know was that the song was irresistible beyond language, that the trippy play-yay-yay-yay in the chorus did pleasingly strange things in my head and tiny chest, that the serpentine guitar sounded, and felt, exotic before I knew that word (or for that matter, the word serpentine) but that the descending part before the verses sounded scary, that the changes in the two bars before the chorus, which I would've ID'd excitedly as "that part, there!", moved me inexplicably, and that the tune was fun to sing and goof on with my brothers and sister. The single vanished from my parents' house at some point, as records do. I grabbed the single for a dollar last week (that's it below). An early childhood contact high, both the deep and the ethereal vibrations of which are still sounding deep in me. 

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