Croydonian Pie

By - Monday 19th October, 2015

Andrew Dickinson never imagined that a musical god would come to our borough. How wrong can you be?

On Friday 2nd October, I went to the Fairfield Halls to see American singer-songwriter Don McLean in concert .

So what? Big deal. Glad to hear you’re getting out of the house. I can almost sense the thoughts – and yes, so what?

Well… if there was ever an equivalent of Mount Rushmore for the brilliant American singer-songwriters over the decades, then McLean would be the first profile sculpted out of the rock. Arguably before Buddy Holly, Paul Simon, Neil Diamond and others.

Why do I think that would be? For me he wrote and performed the most recognised song of all time: American Piesong that has been part of my life since its release in 1972. Why is that? Back in the 70s we only had three television channels and we would spend a lot of time listening to the radio. The BBC’s Top 40 chart countdown on a Sunday night was the big radio event, especially finding out who was Number One. American Pie, although never a UK chart topper, got a huge amount of airplay and it just grabbed me, as it did many others, with its incredible lyrics and catchy refrain.

The whole poem lay before me to learn by heart

That autographed copy.
Photo author’s own.

In the early 70s my sister, being three years older than me, received pocket money for cleaning out the coal cellar and she used to regularly buy a magazine called Disco 45. This mag used to publish the lyrics to many of the songs in the charts. I distinctly remember her coming home with an edition and inside was this amazing poem that we had heard set to music on the radio called American Pie.There the whole poem in two parts lay before me, giving me the opportunity to make sure that what I thought I heard was correct and to learn the words by heart.

So, one of these iconic musical gods deigned to come down from the mountain to perform one of the greatest pop songs of all time in our town, and on his 70th birthday. Therefore I was compelled to go. How could I not? It’s not quite a weight that I’ve carried around all that time but I never really imagined a musical god would ever come down to our our borough, especially this late in a career, and perform his most famous and my favourite song. He may not have the voice he once had, that clear distinctive voice that Brian Wilson of the Beach Boys said was “so clear that it could cut through steel,” but bloody hell, this man wrote American Pie. The imagination that wrote it and that voice and wonderful guitar that gave it life came to play live in our cultural central halls.

A few nights back whilst laying in bed dealing with a bout of insomnia and wrestling with what activity to volunteer for next, I was thinking about the concert to come and the Disco 45 magazine my sister had that went to landfill all those years ago. Suddenly I was struck with the idea of looking on Ebay for a copy. What would be the chances of finding it? It had to be worth a go so I got online and unbelievably, there was a February 1972 No.16 copy available for about £1.50 plus postage, and now I have it.

So I wondered if I could get Don to sign it that night at Fairfield? Do gods sign autographs? The answer is contained in this article. They do indeed, and my joy is complete.

Andrew Dickinson

Andrew Dickinson

I'm a long term resident of Croydon and I'm lucky to live and work in the borough. As a schoolboy my proudest moments were playing representative football for Croydon where I would fight tooth and nail to win for the borough and contribute towards its sporting reputation. For 18 years I worked up in London and became distanced from the town. Now I've re-engaged with the place over the last 20 years and feel frustrated in finding a way to vent my passion for Croydon (as I'm too old to play football) so I'm always on the lookout for any new initiatives to bring positivity to the place. I live on Bramley Hill with my lovely family and I have an allotment locally. I'm a keen amateur in gardening, environmentalism, permaculture, photography and website design. I'm an oyster mushroom farmer, run a social enterprise called Green Croydon, I'm part of the Croydon Fairtrade steering group, part of the Croydon ReUse Organisation, current chair of Croydon Transition Town and a community gardener; I'm on the borough Food Programme, Parks and Social Enterprise steering groups and a community apple presser. I currently work for the council as an officer creating and promoting community events in the beautiful Wandle Park. I put on the Croydon Environmental Fair each year and the Summer of Love theme and festival was something I dreamed up. I inspired the 'I would make Croydon better by' theme. There's also the Give and Take events in Surrey Street. I started the monthly Arts, Crafts and Vintage market in Exchange Square. Formerly I was a Turf Projects trustee, a Croydon Radio presenter and part of the Old Town business association.Between all this, I write the occasional article for the Citizen. I support local artists and local musicians by enabling the space for them to create I also support local independent journalism.

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  • Anne Giles

    Wonderful! I must admit, I do find the song a little bit too long though. I also go for Buddy Holly and Paul Simon.