Fast away the old year passes: Dan Fogelberg, “Same Old Lang Syne” (1980)

DICK CLARK S NEW YEAR S ROCKIN EVE

(Above: How many New Year’s Eves were spent.)

This is a series of stories in a few parts that all sort of fit together – it’s like “Love, Actually” without the pretty models.


 

New Year’s Eve used to be my favorite holiday.

We would all gather together with a lot of alcohol and a little bit of food and celebrate changing the calendar. It was the one night of the year where everyone in the friend group made sure to keep the date clear. Thinking back on it now, I think there were two reasons why NYE was celebrated:

-When you are young, you are pretty sure you’re invincible.  What’s adding a year?

-When you are young, your scale of “good years” and “bad years” is different.

In my twenties, we always knew there would be another year to celebrate. In my late forties, I now understand that this isn’t always the case. I also have different definitions of “good years” and “bad years” from experience.  Time was a “bad year” meant leaving a relationship. That was replaced later with burying a parent, losing a job, supporting family who was hurting, etc. We tend to be quick to want to sum up the year that passes by using a smaller picture rather than a bigger one.

2016 is one of those years. Most of what I have seen on social media has talked of how awful the year was, largely due to losses in terms of celebrity and elections. I almost feel sheepish admitting that, all in all, it was a pretty good year for me. I have a job I love, I finished college (hooray!), I have a warm home with food and a loving, supportive family. In a previous year I’d be half-in-the-bag (or more) tonight celebrating the end of a year like that.  Not tonight.


 

Quiz time: If you encountered an old lover in a grocery store, would you:

a) Duck down another aisle and hope not to be recognized

b) Pretend not to recognize the person in question if asked

c) Share a greeting, buy some beer, sit in the car together, reminisce, and then go home with a warm feeling inside?

For only one person I know, the answer is c, and that is Dan Fogelberg.  His song, “Same Old Lang Syne,” tells the story of the scenario that I posited.  He and the former lover relive (up to a point; it’s a G-rated record) the high points of their past relationship, and then go their separate ways. Highly implausible, but it remains possibly the best of the New Year’s-themed records we have. It touches on the idea of changing perspective as you get older, and, coupled with the belief that the past was always better than it really was that so many have, it adds further sentimentality to an already-sentimental time. I’d almost put this song in the same category with Christmas songs that are more depressing than cheerful depending on your perspective.


 

“Same Old Lang Syne” leads me to recall one of my favorite radio stories – but it will take a little bit of explanation.

In radio, we have a code for songs to tell disk jockeys how the songs start and end.  It’s helpful when you’re working with either new songs you aren’t familiar with, or old songs you’ve never heard of before.  The format is always the same, and it looks something like this:

Intro time/Running time/Ending

A song like “My Girl,” for example, would look this way

:08/2:42/F

The eight seconds is the time before the vocal – how much time the disk jockey has to talk before the singing starts.  The middle is the duration of the song, and the code at the end explains how the song ends. F means the song fades out, C means the song ends cold, A was usually used for applause (a live recording), and S was for a song that ended on a sustained chord. Anticipating the ending can help a DJ achieve a nice, tight segue and keep the show moving.

Anyway – Chris Cotton, with whom I worked in New Zealand, shared a story about another NZ station that had a copy of “Same Old Lang Syne” they would take out at the holiday. Chris said that the code written on their copy of the record looked something like this:

:17/5:17/somewhat meanders a bit

Every time I have heard this song in the last 20 years, I’ve thought of that segue code, and it’s made the memory just a touch funnier.

You can relive the story in the grocery store – and meander a bit –  by clicking here.


 

This is the last post on the blog for 2016.  I’ve been thrilled to hear from so many of you who have sent a note, either through e-mail, social media, commenting here, or in some other way to let me know that you’ve enjoyed the postings here. Originally, this was just going to be a way for me to keep my writing in shape post-dissertation. As it turns out, over 1100 visitors from 17 different countries have stopped by this site to share in my music and radio stories. I am grateful for the support and look forward to sharing more stories with you in 2017.

Have a very happy and safe New Year!

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