10 Things you didn’t know about American Pie

71WZbVhqbkL._SL1300b_Well, here’s the first thing that perhaps you didn’t know; The lyrics to American Pie, or more correctly, writer Don McLean’s sixteen page original draft of the song was sold recently at an auction in the USA for 1.2 million dollars, that’s £806, 000 for us here in the UK. That’s a hell of a lot for a few song lyrics but to be fair, American Pie has the most interesting and fascinating lyrics of any pop song ever.

American Pie debuted in 1972 and reached number 2 in the UK charts. I didn’t really get interested in music until 1973 when I started buying singles but also, in that same year, a magazine was launched in the UK called ‘the Story of Pop’ and in one of the issues there was a lengthy article about the song and what it meant and ever since then I’ve been fascinated by the lyrics and what they may or may not mean.

The day the music died

This is generally thought to refer to Buddy Holly’s sad death in 1959 at the age of 22. Holly was only at the beginning of his career and would have gone on to greater success. Even so, he was inducted into the rock n roll hall of fame in 1986.

The Jester

The Jester is Bob Dylan and the coat he borrowed from James Dean can be seen on the cover of Dylan’s album ‘The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan.’

The King

The King is of course the King of rock n roll, Elvis Presley, and it was his crown that the Jester stole when the King was looking down.

The beginning of the song looks back to a golden time for Don McLean, the fifties and the birth of rock n roll and artists like Presley and Holly. The sixties gave birth to a new freedom for young people and it was expressed in music and in the use of drugs like marihuana. No wonder the ‘half time air was sweet perfume!’

The Sergeants played a marching tune

The Beatles are the Sergeants, fresh, no doubt, from their Sergeant Pepper album.

I saw Satan laughing with delight, the day the music died

Jack Flash is the Rolling Stone’s Mick Jagger and it is he that Mclean sees as Satan. ‘No angel born in hell could break that Satan’s spell.’

This part of the song refers to the Rolling Stones’ concert at Altamont Speedway in northern California. The event was a free one and was anticipated as a sort of ‘Woodstock west’. Various bands played including Santana, Crosby, Stills and Nash, and The Grateful Dead. The fans however, were stoned on drugs and drink and the atmosphere deteriorated, so much so that the Grateful Dead declined to play. The local chapter of the Hells Angels motorcycle gang were hired, supposedly, to take care of security but they later denied this and said they had been promised $500 dollars’ worth of beer merely to keep people away from the stage.

During the concert a fan by the name of Meredith Hunter was killed by a Hells Angel. Hunter had tried to get on the stage during the Stones performance and the Hells Angels had pushed him away. Hunter returned and pulled out a revolver from his jacket. Hells Angel Alan Pissaro charged Hunter; pushed the gun aside and stabbed him. The incident was caught by a film crew which helped Pissaro’s self-defence plea later on in court. Pisarro was acquitted. The clock had turned full circle from the innocence of the fifties to the disillusionment of the late sixties and Don Mclean’s classic song is a wonderful and lyrical evocation of the times.

Click on the video below and enjoy American Pie for yourself.


Floating in Space is a novel by Steve Higgins set in Manchester, 1977. Click the links at the top of the page to buy or for more information.

Elvis, Charlie Chaplin, and Justin Beiber.

Elvis, Charlie Chaplinand Justin BeiberAs I’ve mentioned many times before, I write because I’m a writer. That’s what I do, I write and I’ve been writing since I was a school kid. Something else that comes hand in hand with writing is the idea that one day; one fine distant day, I might just get somewhere and get my book published and actually become an actual fully fledged, bona fide writer. Of course, when that happens it will bring a degree of fame which I can imagine being pretty nice. You know what I mean, going into a restaurant and the staff know me and say stuff like ‘the manager would like you to have this bottle of expensive wine on the house’, and ‘could you sign this menu’ and people asking you for an autograph and maybe being interviewed on TV about my latest book (whoa, steady on there!) Anyway, stuff like that.

Of course fame in some ways can be something of a prison. I don’t think life was that great for Elvis Presley for instance. Elvis turned his whole life upside down to escape the pressures of fame. He slept all day and came awake at night. He would hire a whole cinema to run the latest movie for him and his friends. He hired bowling alleys and fairgrounds to open up, during the night, just so he could enjoy life away from the attention of his fans.

picture from flickr

picture from flickr

Another famous man and probably the most famous man there ever was, was Charlie Chaplin. Chaplin had a fame almost a hundred years ago that perhaps no one will ever realise again because Chaplin’s movies went all around the globe. People anywhere could understand Chaplin because his movies were silent. All you needed to understand them was the universal language of laughter. People in Russia, Japan, China, the Ukraine and countless places across the globe laughed and cried with Charlie, as well as moviegoers from the USA and Europe.

Chaplin became a rich man and he hung on to his riches by building his own studio and producing and directing all his films. He did one other thing as well. In an age when a movie had a shelf life of a few months at the most, when no one thought about saving or preserving films for another age of moviegoers, Charlie did just that, he secured the rights to the negatives of all his movies and ensured they lived on into the age of TV, video, DVD, and the modern digital age.

I do love the Golden age of Hollywood and do think sometimes about visiting America to see Chasens’, Romanovs, The Brown Derby, Schwab’s drugstore, Pickfair, The Goldwyn Studios, and even Chaplin’s old studio that he built for himself on the corner of La Brea and Sunset in Hollywood in 1917.

The thing is, out of the above list only one remains. Chaplin’s studios, now owned by Jim Henson and complete with a statue of Kermit the frog on the front gate, in Chaplin’s tramp costume of course.

Who today has the fame that Chaplin enjoyed? Well, out of interest I did a quick search on google and the results were these; Number 1 is Michael Jackson even though he is no longer with us, followed by Lady Gaga, Justin Beiber and Jennifer Aniston. Completing the top ten are Eminem, Johnny Depp, Will Smith, Katy Perry, Beyoncé and Leonardo DiCaprio. Not a completely inspiring list is it? I wonder which of those celebrities, if any, will be fondly remembered in 2114?


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