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Area Resident’s Stylus Counsel | Save The Date

Track 121 | I love, I love, I love my calendar, girl — every day of the year.

My first musical love was Elton John — from age four to age 10, that’s all I listened to. When it comes to his 1969-1985 catalog, I know it better than the national anthem, my postal code, social insurance number, licence plate or kids’ birthdays. The Rock Of The Westies album opens with a medley: Yell Help / Wednesday Night / Ugly. One line of Bernie Taupin’s lyrics always made me curious:

“I wish tonight wasn’t Wednesday night
I wish it wasn’t the 13th of July.”

Why that specific day? Rock Of The Westies came out in the fall of 1975, but was recorded in June and July 1975 at Caribou Ranch. There was no Wednesday, July 13 that year. In 1975, the 13th of July was a Sunday. The previous one was in 1966 and the next one wouldn’t happen until 1977.
I suppose the date is just made up, and July is only there because it rhymes with the next line…

“And you’re looking at the guy whose eyes can’t deny
That he wishes he were somewhere else tonight.”

Anyway, my reason for bringing this up is it occurred to me this year that I had AGAIN missed the date. I’ve always wanted to play this song on the 13th of July — ever since I was a little kid — but have never managed to remember.

So I got thinking about all the other songs which mention a specific date, ones to which we could assign official days. Let’s call this one Westies Medley Day (some fans already call it Yell Help Day, but that’s wrong. Fight me).

The next one which springs to mind is September by Earth, Wind & Fire:

“Do you remember
The 21st night of September?”

Songwriter Maurice White said he chose the date simply because it sounded good. His wife says it actually has significance, though — it was the due date of their son. The song was also recorded in September 1978.

Don McLean’s loathsome American Pie references “The day the music died” which is Feb. 3, 1959 — so named because that’s the day Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens and The Big Bopper (J.P. Richardson) were all killed in a plane crash.

Bobbie Gentry’s breakthrough hit Ode To Billie Joe (nominated for eight Grammys, won three) references June 3: “It was the third of June / Another sleepy, dusty Delta day.” Gentry’s first-person narrative about a family’s reaction to suicide is a work of fiction, but U2’s hit Pride (In The Name Of Love) certainly is not. The 1984 song is about Martin Luther King Jr., who was assassinated on April 4, 1968.

“Early evening, April 4
A shot rings out in the Memphis sky
Free at last, they took your life
They could not take your pride.”

There are probably loads of songs which reference the Fourth Of July, but the one I know best is Saturday In The Park by Chicago. I suppose there’s also 4th of July, Astbury Park (Sandy) by Bruce Springsteen.

One of my favourite Grateful Dead songs, Cosmic Charlie from 1969’s Aoxomoxoa, mentions Feb. 1:

“Hung up waiting for a windy day
Kite on ice, since the first of February
Mama keeps saying that, the wind might blow
But standing here I say, I just don’t know.”

Papa Was A Rollin’ Stone by The Temptations (and The Undisputed Truth earlier the same year) references “the third of September” in its opening line. Conversely, the very last line of John Lennon’s Remember (from Plastic Ono Band) is “remember the fifth of November,” which is a reference to Guy Fawkes Day in England.

Fellow former Beatle Ringo Starr mentions Oct. 30 on his 1974 song Snookeroo — which was written by Elton John and Bernie Taupin, who started this whole column in the first place. This reference is weird. First off, the lyric is actually “I was born on the eve of Halloween,” not Oct. 30. But Taupin has said the lyric was intended to be a biographical tribute to Starr himself, who was actually born on July 7, 1940.

Speaking of birthday lyrics, Beastie Boys actually reference one a day later — on Oct. 31 — on The New Style, from their 1986 debut album Licensed To Ill.

“Oct. 31, that is my date of birth
I got to the party and you know what I did? The Smurf.”

In case you’re wondering, Adam Horovitz (Ad-Rock) was born on Oct. 31, 1966.

One of my favourites, The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down by The Band, includes May 10.

“In the winter of ’65
We were hungry, just barely alive
By May the 10th, Richmond had fell
It’s a time I remember, oh so well.”

The song is Robbie Robertson’s imagined narrative of a poor southerner during the final year of the U.S. Civil War.

The song Town With No Cheer from Tom Waits’ 1983 album Swordfishtrombones was written after Waits’ first tour of Australia in May 1979 (he went again in August 1981). The title is Aussie slang for a pub with no beer. The song references March 21, even though Waits was never touring there during that time of year.

The title track from James Taylor’s 1970 album Sweet Baby James mentions Dec. 1:

“Now, the first of December was covered with snow
So was the turnpike from Stockbridge to Boston.”

Taylor wrote the song for his newborn nephew, his brother Alex’s son, who was named after him. Alex Taylor passed away from a heart attack in 1993 on the elder James’ birthday.

C.W. McCall had a No. 1 hit with his 1975 novelty song Convoy, which inspired the 1978 film starring Kris Kristofferson. The lyrics reference the date June 6:

“Was the dark of the moon on the sixth of June
In a Kenworth pullin’ logs
Cab-over Pete with a reefer on
And a Jimmy haulin’ hogs.”

Finally, we’ll wrap with Bob Dylan’s Isis, from his 1976 album Desire. The song opens with the line “I married Isis on the fifth of May…” which, of course, is Cinco de Mayo in Mexico. Dylan loved writing Mexican references: Bay Of Mexico, The Hills Of Mexico, Mexico, Goin’ To Acapulco, Just Like Tom Thumb’s Blues, Spanish Is The Loving Tongue, Lily, Rosemary and the Jack of Hearts, Romance in Durango, Brownsville Girl, and Señor (Tales of Yankee Power).

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Area Resident is an Ottawa-based journalist, recording artist, music collector and re-seller. Hear (and buy) his music on Bandcamp, email him HERE, follow him on Instagram and check him out on Discogs.