200 words about pop music, misfits, & Ian Whitcomb.
Ian Whitcomb’s sparkling essay about his days as a one-hit wonder in 1965 has always enchanted me. I first read it when it was published in American Heritage Magazine in 1999. I’ve still got my dog-eared copy in some box, somewhere in California.
What is most fascinating to me is how the sentiments Whitcomb expresses about pop music (“I always used music…I would counter the clacking wheels by chanting songs…”) are ones shared by all the children of the post-pop music era.
After all, who hasn’t holed up in their room, drawing comfort from records? Who hasn’t sung quietly to themselves in bad situations, hoping that the sheer repetition of familiar lyrics will hold back the tears or maybe make them fall, if that’s what they’re after.
When Whitcomb writes, “Back at school, & no good at sports, I found my niche by forming my first band….” he is describing the genesis of pretty much every pop band in the world, 1955 to the present.
Kurt Cobain started Nirvana when he was in high school. Lennon put together the Quarrymen at age 16. There’s 30 years between them, but the song remains the same.
Essential reading for pop music lovers of all ages and eras.