Have a favorite springtime song? A song that magically transports you to another time and place each time you hear it?
The first time you heard it maybe you were with your sweetie on the way to the high school prom and it was just perfect for how giddy you were feeling. Or perhaps you heard it when you were catching some rays next to the dorm on a lazy Saturday. Or maybe it was when you were hanging out with friends in a park on a balmy afternoon and a catchy new tune drifted over from a boom box (if you are, ahem, of a certain age the sound might have come from an AM radio).
I have a handful of springtime tunes that take me back, but the one that takes me the furthest back is Fats Domino’s “Walking to New Orleans.” The song was released in June 1960. And, of all things, I just happened to be in New Orleans that month on a family vacation. We were on Canal Street, heading out of town, Dad at the helm of our 1959 Chevrolet Bel Air, when the song came on the radio and imprinted itself in my memory. I was only 7 years old at the time, but I remember being fascinated that we were in New Orleans and here was this man—the one with the funny name who had sung that other song I liked so much, “Blueberry Hill”—singing about walking to New Orleans. Sorta made my little head spin.
Recently, I was thinking about this and other memory-evoking songs late one night when, out of curiosity, I tossed out a Facebook query, asking friends to name songs they associate with spring.
Interesting enough, the first reply, which came shortly after midnight from a Batesville friend, was another “Walking” tune. It was “Walking on Sunshine,” a 1985 hit for Katrina and the Waves. My friend’s pithy assessment: “Corny but catchy.”
My query elicited quite a few more replies, and one even cleared up a long-held misunderstanding I’d had of a line from a classic rock song. All in all, it was a pleasant exercise, so I thought I’d share a few of the replies.
The songs represented an array of musical tastes, dating from the early days of rock ’n’ roll to late last year. They ranged from Bobby Day’s “Rockin’ Robin” (which charted in 1958) to a Justin Timberlake video version of “Can’t Stop the Feeling!,” a tune from the animated movie “Trolls,” which came out last November. Check out the video. It’ll put a smile on your face.
A Little Rock friend wrote: “Dating myself, but Rick Nelson’s seasonally appropriate ‘Young World,’ spring of 1962. First slow dance (outside of Junior Cotillion), at an end-of-year 6th-grade Jefferson Elementary sock hop.” Ah, the sock hops, where kids would have to take off their shoes before dancing so as not to scuff the floors of the school gym or cafeteria. Such innocent times.
Naturally, having many friends who were children of the 1960s and ’70s, the song list skews toward that era, including Simon and Garfunkel’s “59th Street Bridge Song (Feelin’ Groovy),” Donovan’s “Sunshine Superman,” and the Cowsills’ “The Rain, the Park & Other Things.”
Of course, the list had to include a couple of songs by The Rascals, “It’s a Beautiful Morning” and “Groovin’.” These two prompted recollections of teens crowding into a hamburger joint and playing the songs continually on a jukebox, and of cruising Pine Bluff’s Cherry Street.
A friend who dates back to my days of working as a reporter in Conway listed Johnny Nash’s “I Can See Clearly Now” and the George Harrison-penned “Here Comes the Sun,” which appeared on The Beatles’ “Abbey Road.” Her reasons for liking the songs were for “all the obvious lyrical reasons; as a kid and adolescent, it always seemed like those songs were saying, ‘Hang on, the school year is almost over.”
The misunderstood lyric I mentioned is in “Stairway to Heaven,” by Led Zeppelin. It was included in a reply from a Texas friend, who wrote: “It’s just a spring clean for the May queen.” I’ve probably heard that song a thousand times but never understood what the singer was saying. Instead of “spring clean” I heard “sprinkling,” which, of course, makes no sense. But it really made me wonder. What other lyrics have I misunderstood?
It looks like a good day for music research, involving a drive and listening to golden oldies.
By Sonny Rhodes