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1.28-ALONG COMES MARY (Association)

Association

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[Intro]

Every time I think that I'm the only one who's lonely
Someone calls on me.
And every now and then I spend my time in rhyme and verse
And curse those faults in me.

     And then along comes Mary.
     And does she want to give me kicks, and be my steady chick
     And give me pick of memories?
     Or maybe rather gather tales of all the fails and tribulations
     No one ever sees?

          When we met I was sure out to lunch.
          Now my empty cup tastes as sweet as the punch.

When vague desire is the fire in the eyes of chicks
Whose sickness is the games they play.
And when the masquerade is played and neighbor folks make jokes
As who is most to blame today.

     And then along comes Mary.
     And does she want to set them free, and let them see reality
     From where she got her name?
     And will they struggle much when told that such a tender touch as hers
     Will make them not the same?

          [Chorus]

[Break]

And when the morning of the warning's passed, the gassed
And flaccid kids are flung across the stars.
The psychodramas and the traumas gone
The songs are left unsung and hung upon the scars.

     And then along comes Mary.
     And does she want to see the stains, the dead remains of all the pains
     She left the night before?
     Or will their waking eyes reflect the lies, and make them realize
     Their urgent cry for sight no more?

          [Chorus ("sweet as the punch" x4 with echo response)]


I admit that until I downloaded the lyric I had no idea what Along Comes Mary was about. Perhaps the dense flow of words with a vague meaning led me to believe that the Association were singing in some sort of code, like Bob Dylan seemed to do, to secretly (without my parent's knowledge) suggest that the song was about marijuana. Now that I have read the lyrics, I'm still inclined to think Mary might be St. Mary of the Weed. She enters into dissatisfactory situations of games and masquerades and psychodramas, as an alternative that raises questions, hopes of acceptance, and fears of failure. She offers kicks, and freedom, and mysteriously "lets them see reality from where she got her name." [I admit not even having a theory about from where in reality Mary derives her name. I think of The Wind Cries Mary, by Jimi Hendrix Experience, but that was a year later.] She wants to forget the past, and her lovers wake each morning not fresh but with a desire to be "blind".

The poetic technique derives from a dense rhyme scheme like Subterranean Homesick Blues by Bob Dylan, but much of the rhyming is internal to the long lines rather than located at the end of short ones. Both derive from talking blues, but the Association gave talking blues an entirely different sonic context, smooth with collegiate harmonies, and a “flow” that would eventually be expanded in the rap genre. Unlike Dylan who still used the talking blues for the usual comic effect, Tandym Almer (who later had a hand in the Beach Boys' Sail On, Sailor) constructed a fast-talking love song to a third party, as if bragging in his excitement about a new girl he's met.

The flow of words don't make rational sense because the form wants to suggest that it is entirely improvisation on accidental rhymes. There is some sense in the flow of words, a dynamic of Mary rescuing the poet from three dissatisfactory states. However, the chorus perplexes. I comprehend that the poet was "out of it" under the influence of Mary, but I don't quite get the sense of Now my empty cup tastes as sweet as the punch. I suppose the gist of the chorus is that, now the experience with Mary is over, the memory of it is still sweet. I note that Mary has no physical characteristics in the song.

Musically, Along Comes Mary has interesting changes in beat among its sections, and of course, the quick rhyme along long lines of verse was unusual in a pop song. The song had originally been performed at a slower pace, but producer Curt Boettcher speeded up the recording. Aurally, it sounds more like pop music along the line of the sophisticated folk rock being developed by John Phillips and the Mamas and the Papas, with a similar orchestral arrangement to California Dreamin. It is the theme and free association approach to lyrics, not the sound, that makes this record psychedelic.

Nevertheless, it is important to note that Along Comes Mary was instrumental in helping shape a new legitimacy for pop music as a sort of “art rock”. Leonard Bernstein, the conductor of the New York Philharmonic Orchestra, gave a regular televised “Young People’s Concert” in the 1960s, and he used the song at one such concert to demonstrate the “freshness” of reviving the Dorian mode (a sort of plainsong that existed before Johann Sebastian Bach codified the Ionian [major] and Aeolian [minor] modes used extensively since the 17th century). The Dorian mode gives Along Comes Mary “a certain ancient, primitive, Oriental feeling”, Bernstein told the “young people”, and he found songs that used ancient modes like Along Comes Mary, the Beatles’ Norwegian Wood, and “certain songs by Simon and Garfunkel” to be more exciting than most modern “serious” music. Bernstein implied that the most relevant exploration for the revitalization of music had come recently through certain pop songs. He would continue to champion psychedelic music, especially the Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, and helped certify for “young people” and their parents that there was something more to certain songs on the pop music charts at the time than simply catchy (and easily exhausted) hooks.

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