Friday, 22 August 2008


Time capsules – those old biscuit tins crammed with stuff representative of a way of life that are buried for future generations to find and marvel at their datedness - are a bit of a strange concept. . Some posts ago, I talked about my exercise book filled with what I considered to be popular songs that, in my youth, I had spent hours deconstructing in order to find the chord sequences so that I could play them myself. This book is, in its own way, a time capsule of that particular time in my life and looking at it now reveals my musical world in microcosm.

Even then, I had peculiar tastes as few of the songs in it are truly ‘popular’ and most would be unknown to anyone finding it today. I notice that one song in the book is Neil Sedaka’s ‘Superbird’ from about 1972. This is a strange one as I cannot seem to find out anything about it. It wasn’t a hit as it doesn’t appear in any chart records, nor can I find an album which includes it so quite where I picked it up I cannot say. The only clue I can recall is that I was chasing a particular girl during that period and one of her favourite artists was Neil Sedaka, so it’s probably odds on that it came from her.

What I can say about it is that I was attracted to it by its baroque tune and its left-field lyric which is, on the face of it a bit silly, but which reveals itself in the final verse to hold a deeper meaning of sorts. The narrative follows the writer’s recollection that, as a child, he could fly and became a ‘superbird’.
‘I used to flap my arms and fly around the bed’
However, he is ridiculed for claiming to be a bird and is forced to curtail his flying activities until eventually, upon entering adulthood, he loses the ability.
‘I cried myself to sleep and never tried again.’
However, the final verse sees him glimpsing his own child doing exactly the same thing and becoming a superbird.
‘There at the doorway, you’ll never guess what I heard
Zoom, zoom, zoom, superbird.’

It is an allegory of how childhood ambition which is originally unfettered in scope by its naivety inevitably becomes crushed by reality upon attaining adulthood. However, what I like about the lyric is the glimmer of hope at the end that his unbridled ambition has lived on in his own child. My guess is that this lyric was actually written by Howard Greenfield, Sedaka’s lyricist up until about 1973 but nonetheless, it is a curiously uplifting tale despite its apparent childishness and rather belies Neil’s somewhat lightweight reputation at that time.


Alan said...

As far as I can determine Superbird was on the 1971 album "Emergence".

Per Amazon UK this is due for release on CD in October this year (paired up with Solitaire, Sedaka's next album). credits the song to Greenfield and Sedaka. I agree it's a rather strange lyric but seems to be a strong encouragement to enjoy yourself when you're young.

musicobsessive said...

Well spotted that man!

I'll have a look out for it - hopefully it'll be available on download so I don't meed to buy the lot.

Barbara(aka Layla) said...

I never really paid much attention to Neil Sedaka but now I am intrigued to check out this song. I think I will check out your book too.

musicobsessive said...

Thanks Barbara - I hope you enjoy it!

For 'Superbird' there are no actual Sedaka videos on YouTube except a sort of minifilm made by a fan - but at least you get to hear the song!