Thursday, July 08, 2010

Thursday Reverb

Liz reminded me of this one at reunion -- and I was so bummed out that I'd never written about it. How could I overlook such a gem? Well, it turns out I didn't!

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

“Red Rubber Ball” / The Cyrkle

I think I got 50 cents a week for allowance when this song came out -- it cost nearly two week’s pay for me to buy the single “Red Rubber Ball.” (Albums? Out of the question. I was strictly a single-buyer back in 1966.) I didn’t know it was co-written by Paul Simon -- back when I could read the tiny print of songwriting credits, I didn’t think to do so. I didn’t even know that the Cyrkle was managed by Brian Epstein, who’d suggested that deliberately misspelled band name to imitate the Beatles. It was just a catchy, upbeat tune I’d heard on the radio, with nifty harmonies and a memorable organ riff. And who knows, maybe I saw this appearance on Hullabaloo (dig the Paul Anka intro...)

But whatever it was that sucked me in, I knew I just had to own this record.

I was too young to have had a boyfriend -- I could hardly judge whether this was a convincing break-up song. And yet I think I did pick up on the complex emotions in “Red Rubber Ball.” At first the singer claims he’s moved on – “Now I know you're not the only starfish in the sea / If I never hear your name again, it's all the same to me” – but doesn’t it seem like he’s bluffing? Especially when we get to the chorus -- the drumbeat turns edgy and aggressive, tambourines shiver loudly, and we shift into a minor key: “And I think it's gonna be all right / Yeah, the worst is over now / The morning sun is shining like a red rubber ball.” I don’t know, that “red rubber ball” image always sounded unnatural to me. He’s not out of the woods yet.

Now that I’m older and wiser, I pick up on all the zinger disses tucked away in the lyrics -- “You never cared for secrets I’d confide / For you I'm just an ornament, something for your pride / Always running, never caring, that's the life you live / Stolen minutes of your time were all you had to give.” The vocals sound so sincere, I totally side with the singer, pulling for him to get through this messy break-up. “The roller coaster ride we took is nearly at an end / I bought my ticket with my tears, that's all I'm gonna spend.” Now that organ riff makes sense – it’s the calliope playing on the carnival midway, and the swoops of the verse’s melody are roller-coasterlike indeed. Well, when I was a kid I loved roller-coasters, loved to feel my stomach plunge and my heart hammer. Now I avoid them like the plague.

The Cyrkle weren’t entirely a one-hit wonder. Their follow-up single, “Turn Down Day,” was a groovy track with a hint of psychedelia and harmonies to die for. Still, the band faded soon into obscurity (half of them went into jingle-writing for Madison Avenue – Tom Dawes wrote that classic Alka-Seltzer “plop-plop fizz-fizz” jingle). Was this brilliant single just luck? Who knows? I only know that I still perk up when I hear it. It’s a good starting-over song . . . a good song for spring. Enjoy!


mervap said...

Positively LOVE this one! It may sound corny, but my wife and I like to sing along with this one...she takes the lower part though! Completely catchy ear candy of the first order.

Neon Sign said...

As it turns out I was walking around yesterday, listening to the Pod and this song came on. And I, who was 17 at the time it came out, remembered how it really described perfectly a most tragic situation I had gotten myself into (boy, was I green). It was my song. I can't hear it without going back to that difficult time. But it speaks the truth that the bad times pass and the sun will shine again.

I also thought yesterday as I listened that it was an excellent pop song and it still stands up to this day.

Holly A Hughes said...

Interesting that this was written by Paul Simon -- it's almost a musical bookend with "Feelin' Groovy" (though the story line is different).

Anonymous said...

Further to that, there's a song on my Cyrkle anthology called Turn Down Day (do you remember it?) and it has the same flavor as Feelin' Groovy.