Monday, May 14, 2012

No. 752 – Love Song

Performer: Elton John
Songwriter: Lesley Duncan
Original Release: Tumbleweed Connection
Year: 1970
Definitive Version: Here and There, 1976

Like most kids, I watched a lot of TV. It didn’t matter what it was as long as it held my interest, which means, of course, that I watched a lot of crap (Three’s Company, anyone?) that I would never in a million years now turn on my TV for, even if I still watched TV.

I watched the Sonny & Cher Show and then after their tumultuous breakup—the first time I was aware of supermarket tabloids—the Cher show. Back in the day, a half-clothed Cher could make a certain 11-year-old’s heart go pit-a-pat. Anyway, she did this song once. I had never heard it or of it before, and I liked it. There was something about this song that stuck with me far after seeing it on the Cher show.

At about the same time, perhaps a little bit later, I learned that my Dad had become more or less co-manager of a local band in Columbus, called The International Balloon Band. They were very much of the 1970s style of acoustical soft rock, like America, and they featured a chick singer who I can see clearly now—in fact, she bore a slight resemblance to Cher but with softer features—whose name eludes me.

Because I was just starting to understand and seek rock music, this was about as cool of a development as I could imagine. I suppose if Dad said he was now working for Topps, that would’ve resonated more with me, but this wasn’t bad.

One night he took me to see them. Now this was really cool. I’m 12, and I’m being snuck into Ruby Tuesday’s (no relation to the chain restaurant of the same name and still around, believe it or not) to see my Dad’s band. All I could think was I hope I don’t get beaten up by college kids.

Actually the bar let me in for an early set and then Dad had to get me out of there. I remember feeling very self-conscious that a lot of eyes were on me to see whether I was drinking, but back then I couldn’t have had less interest in that. I was there for the music … and, well, a Coke or Pepsi, whichever you have.

We had a table by the stage, and in my 12-year-old eyes, they were pretty good. They had an original song called Bicentennial Blues that I liked, and they did a killer version of this song.

I think I saw them twice, and soon after that they fell off my radar, so I don’t know what happened to them other than they broke up not too much longer after that, which is symbolic. I think Dad stopped co-managing them or something, or maybe it was just that it was something he did to get him out of the house more, because the International Balloon Band represents something of a demarcation point for me.

Before I heard of them, my Mom and Dad were together. After I had heard of them, they split—first temporarily and later permanently at the end of summer 1976. So Love Song conjures very much an ironic memory, considering the title.

When I found Here and There in Dad’s record collection soon after he and Laura moved into their first house in Upper Arlington, this song came back to me. Now, thanks to the marriage of 1970s and 2010s technology, I have a digital copy that keeps carefully preserved all the pops and cracks of the spinning vinyl.

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