It Is What It Is.

How Do You Do, With Annoying Footnotes

by Gonzalo Ferreyra

        It wasn’t until ten years ago or so that I fully yielded to my love of the perfect pop song. Of course, I can
trace the infatuation back another couple of decades, to when I first adored ELO’s “Turn to Stone,” couldn’t stop
breaking my own heart with Terry Jacks’ “Seasons in the Sun,” and hotly anticipated the cruelly fleeting seconds
between the moment The Rasberries’ “Go All the Way” began to play on the radio and my father switched stations
(muttering, for reasons I couldn’t fathom, that it was “inappropriate”) [1].

        My favorite album of the early seventies was, hands down, a K-Tel collection of the hits of 1972 called,
after one of those same hits, “Believe in Music: 22 Original Hits 22 Original Stars.” You can find it on e-bay,
“as-is” and “may be scratched,” for under $3 [2][3]. This both astonishes and horrifies me. Such a rarefied
object shouldn’t be so easily owned. It may very well be my favorite album of all time, because I have no doubt
that if someone spins it while I’m on my deathbed I’ll decide it was all worth it, that there’s no room for regret
in a world that includes such beauty as Mouth and MacNeal’s “How Do You Do” [4].

        For a time I imagined I’d never listen to anything else. This collection provided me with everything I’d
ever need—the entire gamut of viable emotion and plot in its dozen songs. I was certain that hidden within it
were the secrets I’d know as an adult, and that if I repeatedly listened to the songs, in sequence, arcane truths
would be revealed to me prematurely. This may help explain why, over thirty years on, I still seek out the
experience, hope the next hook-laden pop song will expose the deepest mysteries of life and/or help convert
me, finally, to a higher plain of existence [5]. But as I said at the outset, for a long time I kept this all to myself.
It wasn’t right that an insistent riff or a playful rhyme could so easily take me in. And then I grew up. I realized
that rather than listen to what I thought I should like, I could listen to what I really wanted to listen to, could
listen to it over and over and over again, without excuses. I decided that the aesthetic thrills provided me by
nifty pop songs are one of the things I live for, that these three-minute (or two-minute) masterpieces make
me inordinately happy and on especially bad days actually remind me that everything will, after a fashion,
be okay [6]. Now I feverishly and shamelessly seek them out, hoard them and don’t bother trying to convince
anyone of how fantastic they are [7]. I simply settle in and listen to them interminably, looking to “solve” them
[8], which I ultimately do, as evidenced only by the fact that I no longer feel the need to listen obsessively…
to work out the mystery, to tease apart all the sinew.

           It’s with all this in mind that I’ve recently set out to “reconstruct” my beloved album so I can listen to
it on my ipod whenever I want and as often as I want. It’s admittedly a little pathetic how much this has felt
like a “project,” as if I’m actually accomplishing something of import by tracking down 22 songs that
dominated the charts over three decades ago [9]. Of course, this is one of those endeavors made possible,
or at least greatly facilitated by, the technology that has upended the music industry in the past dozen years.
Think of the ludicrous number of man-hours, the unwanted tracks collected, the hit to the wallet, if I’d tried
this before the age of downloads.

        And yet despite these advances, it’s still plenty of work, as attested to by my still unsuccessful search
for No by Bulldog. A one-hit wonder if ever there was. I know from All Music that Bulldog was a side
project of a couple of guys from the Young Rascals [10], that it was released by MCA on an eponymous
album in 1972, and was a “a minor hit in some regions of the country.” They single out the song for praise
[11] in what is essentially a dismissive review of an album’s worth of seventies AM filler. And that’s it, and
would be enough to make me think I imagined the whole thing if not for the scratchy evidence of my original
vinyl copy of Believe in Music, which increasingly seems to me like a priceless object I have to encase in a
hermetic, temperature-controlled case [12]

        This difficulty, of course, this test, is what makes the whole enterprise exhilarating. The ease with which
I picked up “Brandy (You’re a Fine Girl)” and “Gypsies, Tramps, and Thieves” actually worried me. I don’t
want the hunt to be over too soon, and despite my wishes I’m a little thrilled by elusiveness.

        It’s a kind of faith, I think.

[1] Other vaguely inappropriate titles that must be included on the soundtrack to My
Childhood: The Movie
include The Hollies “Air That I Breathe” and “Long Cool Woman
(in a Black Dress)”, Paper Lace’s “The
Night Chicago Died”, Looking Glass’ “Brandy
(You’re a Fine Girl)”, and Clint Holmes’ “Playground in
My Mind”.

[2] The cover is a work of art, from the serif font that spells out the title to the ghosted image
of serene folks at
a concert behind rays of purple and red and olive and sepia…somehow
simultaneously recalling both faded
photos in attics and eternal futures under the sun.

[3] Also available, on Amazon, are used copies of a heartbreaking imitation, a 1996
re-release that contains
only 10 songs, 6 of which don't even appear among the original
22. The affront is simply to deep to merit a 
response, although I am encouraged to find a
brotherhood among the irate reviewers on the Amazon listing.

[4] I know that they were from the Netherlands. Mouth was the guy, I think, with the
Muppet Monster voice
(the song’s key hook is strangely reminiscent of Manah-Manah),
and MacNeal was, I’m just guessing, the
pretty girl. According to All Music Guide there’s
only one stateside album, a greatest hits package released
by B.R. Music in 2002. I suspect,
I hope, that it contains twelve different versions of “How Do You Do.”

[5] Apparently not much more is known. They performed songs by Hans van Hemert
and Harry van Hoof,
one of which must be Mouth’s real name. I don’t why, but I find it
very comforting to know this.

[6] A good pop song will someday turn me into pure energy.

[7] This is not an exaggeration, and is true despite widespread bad taste, cell phones,
my inability to come
to terms with the infinity of space and time, and daily premonitions
of death.

[8] Except my wife, who listens because she loves me.

[9] Insert gratitude for this concept of wanting to “solve” our favorite songs to Nick
, whose
Songbook (or 31 Songs in the UK) is an insightful and funny look at
a life shaped by pop songs. Reading
it will provoke certain souls out there to shudder,
as they surely do when sitting in a Starbucks or reading
music reviews in the New Yorker,
with the sudden awareness that they constitute an all too easily defined
demographic type.
I owe Hornby’s book even more thanks for turning me on to Teenage Fanclub and

Badly Drawn Boy, both of which you should check out today. Really. And finally,
in this pile-up of
shout-outs, thank you to Mark A. for suggesting I check out Hornby.

[10] And then, look, he actually arranges them into the original album sequence! He
hones, polishes,
refines his playlist! It takes him time and dogged effort but he’ll do it!
He will!

[11] Drummer Dino Danelli and guitarist Gene Cornish, if you care.

[12] “A real gem”

[12] It’s almost too late. Several tracks play as if a washing machine is running in
the background.
Abundant throughout are horrid pops and crackles…like the voice
of kids’ cereal, or the sound of
one’s own spine cracking.

        Gonzalo Ferreyra has written one (unpublished) novel and is hard at work on a second.  He's a great
admirer of Vladimir Nabokov, Philip Roth, and John Cheever but tries his best not to mimic them when he
sits down to write.   He lives in Castro Valley, CA, with his wife and two daughters.

  Copyright  2007 Gonzalo Ferreyra

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