The Biggest Hit That Ever Was

Back in June, Fast Company had a Father’s Day contest.  They were giving away a pair of speakers and in order to win, you had to name what song reminded you most of your father and why.  But they only took submissions in the comments section and I needed to be able to add audio to properly answer, so I didn’t bother writing an entry.

But I liked the idea.   Even though I realized that it being a Father’s Day themed contest and all,  most of the submissions would be poignant and touching and would make me want to cringe.  You know, a song version of a Hallmark card.  I also knew if I had written mine, it wouldn’t be that at all.

Oh, don’t get me wrong.  I have plenty of poignant and touching memories of my dad, but my musical ones are just fun.

My father was born months premature – at home. He weighed only 2.5 lbs and was described as “the size of a chicken.”  I don’t eat meat, so I can’t be sure, but I believe a chicken is actually bigger. They did a make-shift incubator in the oven (gas!) by wrapping him up, keeping the heat on low and the oven door open.  It’s really a miracle he lived.

Years later, it was a less dramatic miracle that I was even born.  Doctors told my father over and over that he could never have kids, but I was stubborn even then.    If you look at pictures when we were each babies, the only way you can tell us apart is the age of the photograph.  One time when I was only a couple of months old,  my mother was pushing my carriage up Broadway and an old lady stopped her on the street.  She said she had babysat my father when he was that age and she knew the instant she saw me that I must be his.

My Dad had a crazy voice.  Growing up, his mother made him swallow Vick’s VapoRub whenever he had a cold because she believed it would work faster and better than rubbing it on his chest.  Then his uvula was cut by mistake when his tonsils were taken out.  His voice was doomed.  Even when he was a teenager he sounded like he was ancient.  It never sounded odd to me, but pretty much everyone else had a comment about it.

I know a ton about music and I credit him with about 30% of my knowledge.  But it’s probably more.  He had his own ton.  He’d sing me everything from operetta to Rod Stewart.  Thankfully I grew up in the analog age and as a teenager, I often walked around with a tape recorder.  I wish I still did it.  Here’s a conversation between us, which, had I grown up in the digital age, would have been forgotten immediately afterward:

“The Biggest Hit That Ever Was” (click me)

Later, I stumbled on a version of the song and flipped out.  I know that song!  How do I know it?  Oh my god!  I found the tape of the convo and lo and behold, there it was.

It’s not even the version he was talking about but because it’s the first one I discovered, it’s always been “the” song.

Now of course the reason that song reminds me of my father is obvious, but it’s funny how music works.  Sometimes a song can be my personal soundtrack for someone for absolutely no reason whatsoever.  Just a feeling it gives me.

The other day I heard a song which, for no apparent reason, reminds me of someone.  Someone pretty swell.  It’s such an unlikely track for a would-be love interest, but you know how music is.  Something can be playing faintly on the radio of a passing taxi, but if that taxi passes at the exact right moment then that song has a special power. Or in this case, a song could have absolutely no connection at all but still remind you of someone.

The song in question is the utterly chaste version of Tonight You Belong To Me by 1950s sister dynamos, Patience & Prudence.

It makes sense that you’d think the lyrics might apply and therefore be the reason I’m associating the person and the song, but that wouldn’t be right either.  My linking the song to the person is completely real, but truly baseless.  And it’s exactly that puzzling illogicalness that keeps me thinking about it.

Patience & Prudence: The Qualities, like Patience & Prudence:  the Singing Sensations really don’t figure into my life all that much.  But Patience & Prudence: The Qualities, unlike Patience & Prudence: The Singing Sensations are probably things I really should try to cultivate more of.

The problem is they’re the antithesis of every instinct I have.  Maybe it’s my Sagittarian nature, but whatever the reason, I’m much more in sync with Impatience and Imprudence.  And I’m not saying that proudly or anything.  Perhaps the reason I’m thinking of this song now is because Patience and Prudence never ever apply in my matters of the heart – and maybe this is some weird subconscious message?

Nah, not a chance.

Maybe it’s because Steve Martin did it in The Jerk?  But then I should be wondering why The Jerk reminds me of this person.  And he 100% does not remind me of Birth, a movie I loved and mostly everyone else hated, which also had the track.

I should stick to associating songs with people for completely explicable reasons only.  Like my father.  And by the way, Fast Company, if I had been able to upload the conversation along with my entry, I would have definitely won the speakers.

Fuck your lame submission process.

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One Response to “The Biggest Hit That Ever Was”

  1. ray Says:

    can’t decide which is more alarming, the vapo-rub or the oven.

    also, i’m not positive, but something that sounds very much like the P&P song was also used as the haunting melody the mickey rourke can’t forget in “angel heart”. it plinks away in the soundtrack, and there’s a scene where he (or lisa bonet (!)) pick the melody notes out on a piano….
    eerie.


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