Thursday, November 21, 2013

Her Name Was Lola

I was a kid in the 70s.  Feathered hair, bell bottoms, banana seat bicycles, Holly Hobbie – this was my time. 

My parents were music lovers and they played records at home and the radio in our station wagon was always on.  We sang along to James Taylor, The Jackson 5, America, Kenny Rogers, Neil Diamond, Crosby, Stills, and Nash, Diana Ross, and Donna Summer.  They were huge Beatles fans and when my parents stopped listening to their records, my brother and I continued, having memorized all the lyrics.

And I loved disco.

At the holidays my favorite album was Christmas Disco.  Disco Duck was a regular on our turntable, music sung by Donald Duck to a thumping and syncopated disco beat.  The Bee Gee’s Saturday Night Fever was an 8-Track that we rarely played, yet I’d stick it into the slot on my stereo and attempt to sing along to the falsettos and hard-to-decipher words that garbled together over the synthesized melodies. 

But my favorite song of all wasn’t the run-of-the-mill disco that we heard on the radio.  It was to become the end-all and be-all of disco tunes that marked my childhood.  Seldom heard on the radio, I sang the tune over and over in my head, imagining the story behind the words, the drama played through the swoops and strings and the tragic ending to Barry Manilow’s Copacabana.

She was a showgirl

The love affair between Lola the showgirl and her bartender boyfriend Tony was a grown-up fantasy set in sophisticated New York City, filled with suspense and murder and ending with a poor elderly woman dressed in a thirty year old costume, drowning in her sorrows at the bar where her love began and ended.  Don’t fall in love, the lyrics warned.  It was the perfect blend of catchy, intrigue, and camp.  I loved it.

The hottest spot north of Havana

Still do.  To this day, Copacabana is the most frequently played song on my iPod.  I could sing all the lyrics right here, right now.  And I am.  I’m actually singing it. 

His name was Rico, he wore a diamond

During high school and college, we requested music on the radio.  We'd dial the number to the radio station, stay on the line, and talk to the DJ who might or might not play our requests as part of his line-up.  While my friends were waiting to hear Madonna and Duran Duran, I was wishing that the Top 40 DJs would play Copacabana.  After all, the song had long been gone from the airwaves, and it never occurred to me to find it in a record store.

Music and passion, always in fashion

In my twenties the 70s found resurgence in various bars and they would play disco music along with the popular music.  I made sure we frequented these places and they always played Copacabana.  I would spin and twirl and sing when it would play, my husband and our friends surely thinking that I was the weirdest person with the strangest taste in music.

Now it’s a disco, but not for Lola

Later, after I made my first iPod purchase, Copacabana was the first song I bought.  I played it for our children, taking their little toddler hands and dancing and singing along and watching their little faces brighten and eyes widen with the drama of the music.  We sang the story together, and they never minded when I played it over and over.  These days, they listen as I play it in the car on the way to youth group.  They tell their friends to listen to the words.  

She lost her youth and she lost her Tony
Now she’s lost her mind

These days, when I hear it, my eyes fill with tears at the first beats of the percussion.  It might be memories of my childhood, or leftover emotion from when I first realized the sad story behind the song, or my own sappiness that looms larger and larger with every passing day.  Whatever it is, my love for Copacabana is without equal – no other song comes close, can simultaneously make me sing and dance and go there.  To the Copa.

*******

This post inspired by:

Mama’s Losin’ It

Prompt #1: An old school song that makes you happy.

28 comments:

  1. Music from my childhood takes me right back into the moment. My family was heavily into old school country (we still are, for that matter) and I begin to sob hysterically every single time I hear the opening sounds of He Stopped Loving Her Today by George Jones. And... with that, I have officially put too much information about myself on the internet.

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    1. I love your comments, MJ! :) There's just something about old songs, isn't there?

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  2. Now I'm singing it and it'd be an earworm throughout the night (and probably tomorrow)!

    I grew up listening to ABBA. I know, I was a progressive 8 year old.

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    1. You were VERY progressive! Dancing Queen wasn't one of my favorites until college. :)

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  3. I LOVE music and I love how it inspires life and writing. And my friend, this is beautiful writing inspired by a song that I never thought about as inspiring. I love that I can picture you at all your ages swinging your hips and singing along loudly. This is awesome.

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    1. Thank you so much, Katie. I listened to the song as I wrote this, but had to turn it off because my chair dancing was too distracting.

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  4. Oh my goodness, I grew up hearing this song, too, but never made such a connection! Manilow has always been a family favorite!

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  5. You are adorable and hilarious. I love this song, too- but for some reason it always transitions (in my ear worm) to Lola...you know, the one who's also a man? (I worry for my brain, sometimes.)

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    1. Also, this is Keely. My Google account is being weird.)

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    2. I love you, Keely. And I love Lola, too. The song, not the man. ;)

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  6. I grew up in the seventies, but the music my German parents listened to was anything but cool :) Except Boney M and ABBA... I do love me some Disco!

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    1. I have no idea what German music was like in the 70s but I'll take your word for it. :) And yes to ABBA.

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  7. My parents played Bruse Springsteen and the Who all the time....I feel the same way about some of those songs!

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    1. I liked the Who, but never caught onto Bruce... which could get me into a lot of trouble considering my proximity to New Jersey, where he is Boss. :)

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  8. That song really brings back memories of my childhood and I never really listened to the lyrics! It's funny how much music can mean to us.

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    1. I love listening to old songs and thinking about what they meant to me back then... which usually was very different than their actual meanings!

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  9. Okay, I had NO idea that song was about ALL of that. For reals. Heavy, man. ;)

    Music my parents played always brings back such cool memories for me!

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    1. I'm glad that you learned something here!! Tell me - does it make you love it? :)

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  10. I was an eighties child, but every Sat morning, my dad would grab his acoustic guitar and play classics from the Eagles, the Beatles and oh, my favorite: Jim Croce. It is amazing how a song can have so much power. And...you just taught me something about that song. Cool.

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    1. I would love to give my kids the gift that your dad did for you! That sounds very bohemian and cozy and simple and nice. :) Love Jim Croce, too.

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  11. Love this!! Check your e-mail for a special treat courtesy of Lucas.

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    1. Thank you Tonya! He is the absolute cutest Barry Manilow EVER.

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  12. Oh my gosh, this is an absolutely awesome song. I LOVE Barry Manilow. I saw him in concert years ago...it was terrific. I had tickets to see him in concert a second time with my Mom and my Sister but I ended up staying home because Zilla and I were both sick. They had a wonderful time, though.

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    1. I've never seen him, but his show is one that I'd love to see.

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  13. Like Lisa, I have seen Barry in concert. I've actually seen him in concert 3 times ... it is such a wonderful show. Years ago there was a news report about how police were trying to get people who had taken over a public park to evacuate the area. They blared Barry's Copacabana on loud speakers to try to disperse the crowd. I would have been dancing!

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    1. Wow - that is no deterrent for me. I would dance along, too!!

      And I'd love to see him in concert.

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  14. I confess that I only know the first few lines of Copacabana and never knew the whole story. We just have that connection with certain songs, don't we? I have some songs that just transport me within the first moments - every time I hear them.

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