Wednesday, July 10, 2002

Everyone is familiar with the concept of the earworm: that song you get in your head and it just won't get out. It sets up residence in your cerebral cortex and you are damned to "Sweet Caroline" for the next 24 hours.

But there is another level to the earworm phenomenon.

Some songs are so integral to your character, your memories, that despite the fact that you loathe them with every fiber of your being, were they not to exist, you would be forever changed. They represent something your life moves upon and around. For that reason I call them Fulcrum Songs.

Delta Dawn: I hate Delta Dawn. It's awful. But here's why Delta Dawn is one of my Fulcrum Songs:

When I was a very little kid, my mom had a blue Chevy Nova. It had blue vinyl bench seats. I think they were vinyl. It was the same kind of material that Denny's booth seats are made of. On hot days, and we had a lot of hot days where I grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area (right next to where all the Apple buildings are now), the seats would reach a temperature of roughly 8000° F. You would sit bouncing from buttock to buttock in the hopes of not lingering too long on one cheek and being irreparably scarred by the lava-like heat.

Delta Dawn, what's that flower
you have on?

There was no Air Conditioning.

The A/C in that car consisted of vents down in the foot-well that resembled medieval portcullises. They had a truly impressive lever that you would yank on to open the vent, which was more of a grate really, and it would slide open, allowing some fractionally cooler air to enter. You could always resort to the odd triangle windows that lurked just in front of the regular windows on cars of that era, waiting for their opportunity to hurl themselves from the chassis of the car and smash themselves on the pavement. Besides dramaticallly breaking themselves, these windows' sole function seemed to consist of whistling at an extremely high frequency when speeds above 40 MPH were attempted.

Could it be a faded rose
from days gone by?

But you had to get some air circulating in that car. The hump down the middle of the car (which I assume housed the drive train or some other piece of car anatomy I know nothing about) was pumping out heat like there was no tomorrow too. There was no escape from the heat. Metal window handles. Plastic and vinyl armrests. White hot dashboard. It's surprising more people didn't just combust while driving.

But Delta Dawn. My mom's car radio was AM. It had those menhir-like buttons you pressed to propel the little needle to your station of choice. All the buttons of that time seemed to be like this. You really felt like you'd done something when you pressed a button like that. The old cigarette machines are another good example. You really had to push those buttons to set your Pall Malls free.

And did I hear you say
he was a-meeting you here today
To take you to his mansion in the sky?

The radio was always on 1170 KLOK Radio, which is now Mexican Radio or News Radio. Maybe both. Maybe the dj's read the news dressed as Mariachis and play the accordion. I don't know. KLOK Radio was demonic. They played the same songs over and over again. The Cake Out In The Rain song, Eleanor Rigby....Delta Dawn is just one of them that I can never get out of my head. I think it's gone and then out of nowhere it's back. In my mind I even see some ethereal soul drifting towards a mansion in the sky, in a Heaven I don't believe in.

What does it mean? How has Delta Dawn affected me? I don't know, but it is a part of me for better or worse, burned into my head in a Chevy Nova Sweat House Ritual in mid 70s California.


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