In celebration of the 50th anniversary of rock & roll,
we proudly present the official and authentic interpretation
of Don McLean's "American Pie"
After over 30 years of intense study and research, we can now present for the first time the one true interpretation of Don McLean's 1972 classic tune. When this interpretation was presented to Mr. McLean he remained silent and refused to comment on it. That alone proves that we have finally cracked the code and solved the mystery of the true meaning behind the song's lyrics. Enjoy and remember, it's only rock and roll.
A long, long time ago
This is interpreted as meaning a time many years in the past.
I can still remember
Reference to memory.
How that music used to make me smile
A lot of different views on what he meant by "that music," but if it used to make him smile it was obviously some children's tunes like 'Itsy Bitsy Spider," "Mary Had a Little Lamb," or even "Happy Birthday To You." That was most likely it, "Happy Birthday To You," ... Happy, you see?
And I knew if I had my chance,
That I could make those people dance
And maybe they'd be happy for a while
He was obviously bummed by the fact that he missed the big band era and would never be a Harry James.
But February made me shiver
Reference to winter's cold weather.
With every paper I'd deliver
Bad news on the doorstep
The newspapers he delivered contained bad news.
I couldn't take one more step
Obviously it was winter, it had snowed, and there were large snowdrifts that prevented one from traveling on foot
I can't remember if I cried
When I read about his widowed bride
But apparently great eyesight since he had no trouble reading.
But something touched me deep inside
The day the music died
For years this has been interpreted as the day Buddy Holly's plane went down, but since we already learned about the author's love of the big band era, this is probably referring to the day Glenn Miller flew off into the great unknown.
Obviously this is code for Refrain.
So bye, bye Miss American Pie
Means so long to Miss America, pie eating and baking contests and all the innocence of the 50's.
Drove my Chevy to the levee but the levee was dry
Chevy represents his automobile. The levee is the ol' swimmin' hole where McLean and his buds hung out in the summer. It dried up during a drought.
And them good old boys were drinking whiskey in Rye
The whiskey in Rye is a thinly disguised code meaning alcoholic beverages.
Singing this will be the day that I die,
This will be the day that I die
"That Will Be The Day," this will be the day - this is where most of the confusion concerning Buddy Holly and this tune began. What the line literally means is due to the boys excessive drinking on that cold winter's day with no food to speak of, unless you count a few belly bombers from White Castle, the boys got very ill and thought that would be the day that they would die.
Did you write the book of love
This refers to the night, backstage at The Royal New York Doo Wop show, when McLean met one of the Moonglows and asked who wrote their big hit tune.
And do you have faith in God above,
If the Bible tells you so?
Now, do you believe in rock and roll?
Can music save your mortal soul?
Obviously this refers to The Beatles visit with the Maharishi Mehesh Yogi, George Harrison's spiritual quest, and John Lennon's more popular than Jesus remark.
And can you teach me how to dance real slow?
A reference to sexual intercourse and the author's quest to lose his virginity.
Well, I know that you're in love with him
The 'him" is Chubby Checker who everyone danced the Twist with in the early 60's.
'Cause I saw you dancing
The "you" represents a dancer with a tight sweater who Chubby danced with on American Bandstand. (This ain't great stuff, but remember I'm only interpreting it, McLean wrote the damn song.)
in the gym
"Gym" meaning Jim McGuinn who later changed his name to Roger and formed The Byrds that he spelled with a Y.
You both kicked off your shoes
Referring to Paul Revere and The Raiders who had a hit called 'Kicks' and who represented the old innocent rock of the early 60's and McGuinn who ushered in the psychedelic era. Both 'kicked off their shoes', i.e.: let their hair down.
Man, I dig those rhythm and blues!
Later called Race music and then dubbed Rock and Roll by Alan Freed - the line is a tribute to the great DJ from Cleveland.
I was a lonely teenage bronco's buck
Reference to a well documented rodeo-themed Halloween costume McLean wore to a party attended by Waylon Jennings, a former Cricket who didn't get on the plane with Buddy.
With a pink carnation
"A White Sport Coat (And A Pink Carnation)" was a hit for Marty Robbins in 1957. This refers to Waylon's costume at the party.
and a pickup truck
This refers to the truck they rode to the party in.
But I knew that I was out of luck
Some have suggested that this refers to marijuana or alcohol, in fact it was inserted here because luck rhymed with truck from the previous line.
The day the music died
I started singing
Means he began to vocalize.
Again, code for Refrain.
Now for ten years we've been on
On What? Turned on - on grass, perhaps psychedelic drugs, magic mushrooms?
"Own," obviously stands for One With Narcotics.
And moss grows fat on a Rolling Stone
But that's not how it used to be
Brian Jones was dead and he used to be alive.
When The Jester sang for The King and Queen
The Jester is Ringo Starr as many of his tunes, i.e.: "Octopus's Garden" were jokes. The king refers to Elvis. The queen is probably Little Richard.
In a coat he borrowed from James Dean
In the film "Rebel Without A Cause," James Dean has a red windbreaker. When he hosted the TV variety show Hollywood Palace, Dean Martin wore a red handkerchief in his tuxedo pocket and when he introduced The Rolling Stones he said, "I'd be rolling too if I were stoned" .... coat ... tuxedo jacket, nuff said.
In a voice that came from you and me
A satanic reference to Linda Blair in The Exorcist.
And while The King was looking down
Elvis was looking down when he went into the service.
The Jester stole his thorny crown
The Jester, Ringo, and the other three Beatles became kings of rock.
The courtroom was adjourned
No verdict was returned
Due to the fact that there were four Beatles and one Elvis it was ruled a mistrial and no one was declared king.
And while Lennon read a book on Marx
Obviously John Lennon reading a book on Harpo Marx that contained no words.
The quartet practiced in the park
Allegorically, this line refers to the time when Kiss were still school boys and experimented with their moms' make up and S&M gear in the playground after school.
And we sang dirges in the dark
A "Dirge" is a funeral song and this was another Paul is dead clue. Proving once and for all that he is.
The day the music died
We were singing
Beatles tune totally misinterpreted by Charles Manson who took it as a secret recipe for rancid tuna salad.
in a summer swelter
Included because it rhymes with skelter. The original line that was written on the back of a napkin read, "Helter Skelter he parked in the dark and felt her," but McLean toned it down to summer swelter which is slang for 'cop a feel' in Ireland.
Reference to McLean's favorite Alfred Hitchcock film.
flew off with a fallout shelter
Meaning there's no way to save butt in a nuclear holocaust.
Eight miles high and falling fast
Byrds tune that left the charts quickly.
It landed foul on the grass
It felt like a stoned chicken coming down on a Sidewalk on a Sunday - A Kris Kristofferson reference.
The players tried for a forward pass
An obvious reference to The New York Giants. Go Big Blue! (just threw that in there).
With The Jester on the sidelines in a cast
Ringo took a break from The Beatles to appear in the film, "The Magic Christian."
Now, the halftime air was sweet perfume
The author's yearning for a good old-fashioned half time show that didn't stink up the joint, or for a joint that didn't stink up the show.
While The Sergeants played a marching tune
Many feel that this refers to The Beatles' Sgt. Pepper, but in fact, it refers to Frank Sinatra and The Rat Pack in "Sergeants 3," they always tried to give rock it's marching orders.
We all got up to dance,
Oh, but we never got the chance
Everytime one of the old school pop records like "Hello Dolly," or anything by Herb Alpert and The Tijuana Brass would break into the top 40, it prevented the youth from dancing to rock and roll.
'Cause the players tried to take the field
The marching band refused to yield!
Refers to the New York Mets and how Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band took over Shea Stadium for a few nights.
Do you recall what was revealed
The day the music died?
An obvious rhetorical question.
We started singing
Oh, and there we were all in one place
Youth, or the parking lot of Sears in White Plains, one or the other.
The Who's "My Generation" obviously inspired this line.
lost in space
Television show reference.
With no time left to start again
Reference to Disney's Alice In Wonderland ..... "I'm late, I'm late for a very important date."
So come on Jack be nimble,
Jack be quick
Nimble plus quick equals Happy as in "Happy Jack," another Who reference.
Jack Flash sat on a candle stick
Hinting that Jagger may be Bi.
Because fire is the devil's only friend
Reference to The Crazy World of Arthur Brown's hair grooming products.
Oh, and as I watched him on the stage
My hands were clenched in fists of rage
The author with his shitty seats, angry with himself for not buying expensive concert tickets.
No angel born in Hell
Many have taken this to mean The Hell's Angels. What it literally means is no angel was ever born in Hell or anywhere else for that matter, as angels aren't born.
Could break that Satan's spell
This is the only line, after 30-plus years that I can't figure out. Sorry.
And as the flames climbed high into the night
To light the sacrificial rite
This refers to fire and some kind of weird voodoo ritual. Don't spend a lot of time trying to figure this one out, better to just read on.
I saw Satan laughing with delight
This refers to sin. Satan gets a big kick out of it.
The day the music died
He was singing
Notice it's he - not we this time. Satan singing? "Pleased to meet cha. Hope you know my name." Do the math.
Again with this. See above.
I met a girl who sang the blues
Refers to Chaka Kahn
And I asked her for some happy news...
Sing "Tell Me Something Good."
But she just smiled and turned away
She couldn't identify with a pretentious white kid whose song made no sense.
I went down to the sacred store
Where I'd heard the music years before
He went to the old Fore 'N Aft in New Rochelle where he used to hear The Orphans do cover versions of Rascals tunes.
But the man there said the music wouldn't play
Janitor told him the joint was closed.
And in the streets the children screamed
From The film "Godzilla."
The lovers cried
Refers to Joe Cocker with Mad Dogs and Englishmen doing "Cry Me A River" at the Capitol Theater in Port Chester.
and the poets dreamed
This one's easy: Bob Dylan's 115th Dream.
But not a word was spoken
Lennon read a book on (Harpo) Marx.
The church bells all were broken
Doo Wop was over - no more "Church Bells May Ring."
And the three men I admire most
The Father, Son and the Holy Ghost
Code for religious figures.
They caught the last train for the coast
Meaning, "The Last Train To Clarksville."
The day the music died
It ended with The Monkees.
And they were singing
The Monkees were singing, and laughing all the way to the bank.
Bye, bye Miss American Pie ...... you know the rest.
So there it is. Now that you know what the song is all about
you never have to listen to it again.
Here's to the next 50 years of rock and roll!!!!!