You’ve Got a Friend

This time it wasn’t my fault.  I didn’t break it.  John did.

Well, we had been meaning to replace the stereo for a while.  It went on without our help, changed from the radio to a CD and would often stop playing for no reason.  Other times it just wouldn’t turn off.  Perhaps it didn’t like our choice in music.  There was a short in it that no one could find.  Well, either that or we had to admit it was haunted.  We decided that broken is way better than spooky.

So that very day when I was writing about how I like to smack stuff, my husband was putting the nail in our stereo’s coffin.

You see, it was playing a song by Steely Dan.  John hates Steely Dan.  He hit the button on the remote, but the song continued.

Ricky don’t lose that number. 

John rushed over to the stereo and pushed the button, gently the first time.  Harder and harder with each successive, um, press of the button.  Until it stopped.  Permanently.   He smacked the stereo’s power button so hard that Ricky lost the number.  Ricky, in fact, would never come back, at least not through that stereo.  It’s dead.

So today we got a new, shock absorbing model.  And putting it onto the shelf sent me back to the last time music haunted me.

We had just moved to Geneva; it was 1997.  Living full-time in a place where they speak another language makes you long for English.  Passionately.  Desperately.  So when my new friend Allison Dornstauder informed me, a mere month after my arrival that there was an English language radio station in Geneva, I was delighted.  WRG – World Radio Geneva.  All English broadcasting.  I knew now that I would survive my Swiss adventure.

But it was weird.  Every time I turned on the radio, whether it was in the car or at home, it played the same song.  It played You’ve Got A Friend.  You know, the Carole King song, also sung by James Taylor?  Both versions are terrific.  I heard neither.

Someone else was always singing it.

At first I thought it was odd; I mean, the Jackson Five singing You’ve Got A Friend?  Why would anyone want to listen to that?  I heard a different version of the song, every time I turned on the radio.  Roberta Flack sang it, Barry Manilow did a duet with Melissa Manchester, and Barbara Streisand belted it.  Every single time I turned on the radio when I was alone, it happened.

Did you know that song has been recorded by at last count, 752 different artists.  And I use the term “artists” loosely.  I heard each and every one of them.

I started to get spooked.  There was nobody I could talk to about this, other than my husband, who thought I was nuts anyway.  That’s why he married me.  But we were new to town, I didn’t know anyone yet, I had no friends.  Who could I talk to about this unnerving phenomenon?  There was my friend Allison, and a couple of other parents I’d chatted with at Jacob’s school.  But I was not yet comfortable confiding such an eerie experience to strangers.

Finally, I did tell Allison.  I tried to be casual about hearing the song so much, and by so many different artists.  She laughed; she didn’t believe me.  But it was true.  Really it was.  I honestly started to think I must be going, well, slightly, insane.  But if I was, I would be damned if it would be to the generic version.  Give me Carole King – it was her song.  Give me James Taylor – he made it a No. 1 hit.  Michael Jackson, Roberta Flack and the rest?  No.  Not good enough.  And don’t give me Barry Manilow doing anything.

Remember, this happened before you could just look up programming online.  Before you could pause and replay.  Before you could record on your computer just what weird thing you were streaming online.  It was the olden days.  Before Google.  Imagine that.

Allison started teasing me about it.  She wouldn’t even humor me; she thought it couldn’t be happening.  But I got back at her.  Whenever it happened and I was at home, I would call her.  Invariably she wasn’t home, and so I put the phone up to the stereo, and I let her know, well, Allison, “You’ve got a friend.”  No message, just the song.  After she was serenaded by 4 or 5 different versions of the song on her answering machine, Allison finally agreed that, well, maybe they were doing something weird with that song.  We became fast friends.

So today, when we plugged in our new stereo, we tuned it in to our favorite pop station and turned it on.  I heard those first few notes and thought, “Oh no.”

And then I heard it, Carole King singing

When you’re down and troubled
And you need some loving care
And nothing, nothing is going right
Close your eyes and think of me
And soon I will be there
To brighten up even your darkest night

You just call out my name
And you know wherever I am
I’ll come running to see you again
Winter, spring, summer or fall
All you have to do is call
And I’ll be there
You’ve got a friend

 It’s good to be back in the States.


Filed under Humor, Music

10 responses to “You’ve Got a Friend

  1. Rodrigo

    Did you technologically challenged parents figure out how to hook up the new stereo, or do you need your son to come and hook it up?


  2. “don’t give me Barry Manilow doing anything” Hilarious. Also, completely sane.


  3. Clinton

    hee hee!


  4. Calling the station was actually another whole story. My then young son used to call them all the time, and he would have them dedicate songs to us all the time. Like the time on our 15th anniversary when he requested they play “Gay Night” for us — But Mom, the lyrics say “I met the best girl of my life on Gay Night.” Oy vey!


  5. Thats hilarious! I wish you had called the station to ask them what it was all about, why would they play that song so much?? Still, it all ended well with you making a good friend in the deal – things could be worse – lol.

    Thanks for the smile today.


  6. Funny phenomenon. When I lived in a French foyer, there was only one recording in English. Billie Holiday. When I couldn’t stand it anymore, I bought some others, some of which I still have. But Billie Holiday will always remind me of France.


    • Had she lived long enough, she surely would have recorded “You’ve Got A Friend,” too. Music helps us get through the sad and lonely times, I think. And laughing at this song helped me through my early months.

      Georgette, with just Billie you obviously (based on your comment on my earlier piece) did much, much better with your French!


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