Monday, October 13, 2014

The Pied Piper

You may have heard, on an oldies station, a song by one Crispian St. Peters that goes "I'm the Pied Piper/ Follow me," with a lot of piccolo in it. This is not that song.

It is another song, performed by a girl group called The Cupcakes, that also refers to the Grimm fairy-tale about the motley-dressed (or "pied") flute player whom, when he was not paid for removing the rats from Hamlin with his hypnotic flute-playing, came back and removed the children. This is why you have to "pay the piper" (yes, this is where the expression comes from).

In any case, our song here-- co-written by Richie Cordell (who sang "Dori Anne")-- credits Paul Simon on the 45 label. Not Jerry Landis or True Taylor, but Paul himself, under his own name. The year? 1965.

There is something wish-fulfilling about a musician writing a song about a guy who, just with his music, attracts all the girls. From Orpheus and his rabid groupies, the Bacchae, through Franz Liszt, to the girls a-swoon with Beatlemaina, music has attracted romantic attention. And for just as long, musicians have been hoping for some of that magical, musical aphrodisiac to work for them.

Here, the girls sing about it from their viewpoint. "He's up and down my block whistling his song/ I've got to follow him as he goes along." She is not alone: "There he goes, and right behind/ The girls all follow him in line... I'm only Number 5 and I fall right in line/ Pied Piper."

So, there's the effect. "I get this feeling that I just can't explain... Funny, how he's got a hold over me."

It's a pretty serious case. Even when he's not around, his impact is felt. "I get my homework and it's gotta get done/ It's almost 10:00 and I ain't begun." And when he actually shows up? "He's underneath my windowsill!/ Will I love him? Yes, I will!"

What's the cause, though? "He's the cutest boy I ever did see." Which never seems to hurt.

But mostly, "Here he comes again he's whistlin' that tune/ I get excited and I run out of my room." Yes, mostly it's the music.

The speaker admits, "I guess it's silly cause he'll never be mine," but still, "I don't feel bad." At some level, she knows it's a schoolgirl crush and is simply reveling in the glee of it all, like any good fan.

For once, the songwriter assays a woman's point of view-- what does he see through her eyes? Why, doting affection for an adorable musician, of course! A cute face and a pretty tune, that's what women want! How lucky for him that that's exactly what he's got.

But the tune is harmless. Adorable, in fact... and it should have been a hit. Shame that it was never rediscovered by, say, Berry Gordy or Phil Spector. How many girls could have identified with having a crush on the cute neighborhood musician? Probably more than a few.

For the guys, what an appropriate role model. Some off-beat clothes and a funky tune? Not to hard to come by. And hey, it worked for the Pied Piper.

Musical Note:
The Cupcakes were, in fact, The Cookies. But they also recorded as The Cinderellas, The Palisades, The Honey Bees, The Stepping Stones... and sometimes weren't credited at all.

Next Song: Cuba Si, Nixon No

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