“Have you heard the Paramus Park song?”
We lived, as the song says, on the other side of the Hudson, deep in the bosom of suburbia, and there was just something so cool about hearing one of our hangouts (it’s a Mall, or was back in the seventies) mentioned in a song that was playing on the radio. Others have spoken about how validating it can be to see people like yourself or a place you’ve been in a book, a song, a movie (and how excluding it can feel when you consistently don’t) and that may be one (of many) of the things we’ve lost in the Internet age. Every moment is captured and screened; it’s not a novelty anymore. There’s probably a Web site with old photos of Paramus Park. All is public, and so that thrill of seeing something you’ve felt was private suddenly opened up to the world (and it is a thrill, except to a few malcontents) has lost its intensity. Though I did think it was pretty awesome the other night to see the Boston Common rendered on “The Simpsons.”
The song was pretty good too, sort of bubblegum/Beach Boys with a touch of Elton John. The singer had a drawling, oddly-accented voice that could have come straight from one of the weirdos at the lunch table. The story was typical: boy meets girl, boy invites girl to gig, boy gets (romantically) laid. The saxophone solo was squirmy but the chorus was killer, just the word “Ariel” stretched over many notes, genius in its simplicity, the kind of thing you’d find yourself singing while driving without even noticing you were doing it.
Besides the ripped-from-my-life details (my Dad hung out at the American Legion hall!) what’s striking is how much we find out about the girl. She’s Jewish, vegetarian, pot-smoking, a good singer, bra-challenged. So much detail, as opposed to the faceless “you” of most (written-by-men) love songs!
Me and my girlfriend at the time (not Jewish, not vegetarian, not pot-smoking, but a good singer and also bra-challenged) loved the song, which we could only find in its single version. We also loved Dean’s second album, “Well Well Said the Rocking Chair” when it came out later that year. We played the cassette I made of it on many of our trips to Paramus Park, and were especially partial to the title song, “Sunday Papers,” and “Lucky Stars” (it said what we felt!) Listening to it now (I still own the album) is as squirmy as that sax solo in “Ariel” but that’s part of the fun, right?
From the Web: Dean is still around, still making (self-produced, self-released) music. He’s got name recognition enough to tour in the UK, where “Lucky Stars” was a big hit (I had no idea). He seems to have made some money in video game companies. He still lives deep in the heart of suburbia, not far from where I grew up. The cocained-up Barenaked Lady (Steven Page) sometimes covers one of his older songs in concert. Good for Dean on all counts!