Please, Mrs. Avery

I was out on Sunday evening with J. and P., to listen a band.  They have quite a following, so the pub was hopping.  Everyone was cheerful, spilling with friendliness, more alive because of what music does to us: administers a shot of adrenalin.  August night, under a red moon, 2001: U2 playing to an expanse of people on a rolling field at the foot of Slane Castle in County Meath. Wet evening in March, 2014: a one-man touring troubadour from Upstate New York, perched on a high stool in a cramped café in Old York, playing to 17 people and a dog.  Endless June evening, rain without end, 2019: teenage niece at the cluttered kitchen table picking, strumming and singing, Here Comes The Sun on her acoustic guitar.  I wish I could believe her.  Three musical instances: one enormous, one intimate, one personal – each sending a burst of life through me.

In the mid-eighties C. (a brother) arrived back from his gap-year studying in America bringing with him a curious accent and a Sony Walkman (one of which he still possesses).  The Walkman was the coolest thing I had ever seen.  It was white, with smooth corners and, the, pièce de resistance, an auto-reverse function that allowed the user to listen to both sides without having to open it to flip the tape around.  Genius!  C. bought it not to listen to music (he says he finds music an irritating noise), but as a symbol of modernity, entranced by allure of the technology.  By the early nineties I had acquired it, brought it with me to France for my gap year, by which stage it was fast becoming ‘retro’. Still, it gifted me James Taylor as a companion to sing to me when this whole world was getting me down, and James helped lift my mood as I tramped up a Parisian suburban hill each morning towards the lycée, bringing Carolina to my mind.

Back to Sunday.  The band played P.’s favourite song, Shining Star, and P. shed a tear.  I didn’t know the song, but I shed one too, such is the effect of music, especially live.  They came to their last song, said we’d all know it, to sing along if we wanted.  Nearly everyone there had silver hair – they knew the song alright.  It was an old Dr. Hook number, and even though it was released on the year I was born, I knew it too.  You’ll know it – the one where he calls Sylvia’s mother and begs to speak to her daughter, and Sylvia’s mother says he really can’t, that it would just upset the apple cart, and couldn’t he just leave well alone?  It made me think about the days when a whole house shared a phone, when the idea of having a personal handset would have been profligate nonsense; the days of the Walkman; the days of grapping in your pocket for change in a phone box before the pips went.  It has all changed and yet it has not all changed.  Apart from the odd person, like C., most of us still love a live gig where songs and tunes, new and old, stir us and get us thinking.  I walked home wondering if Sylvia married the man from Galveston in the end?

Sylvia’s Mother, Dr Hook

Sylvia’s mother says Sylvia’s busy, too busy to come to the phone

Sylvia’s mother says Sylvia’s tryin’ to start a new life of her own

Sylvia’s mother says Sylvia’s happy so why don’t you leave her alone

And the operator says forty cents more for the next three minutes

 

Please Mrs. Avery, I just gotta talk to her,

I’ll only keep her a while

Please Mrs. Avery, I just wanna tell her goodbye

 

Sylvia’s mother says Sylvia’s packin’ she’s gonna be leavin’ today

Sylvia’s mother says Sylvia’s marryin’ a fella down Galveston way

Sylvia’s mother says please don’t say nothin’ to make her start cryin’ and stay

And the operator says forty cents more for the next three minutes

 

Please Mrs. Avery, I just gotta talk to her,

I’ll only keep her a while

Please Mrs. Avery, I just wanna tell her goodbye

 

Sylvia’s mother says Sylvia’s hurryin’ she’s catchin’ the nine o’clock train

Sylvia’s mother says take your umbrella cause Sylvie, it’s startin’ to rain

And Sylvia’s mother says thank you for callin’ and sir won’t you call back again

And the operator says forty cents more for the next three minutes

 

Please Mrs. Avery, I just gotta talk to her,

I’ll only keep her a while

Please Mrs. Avery, I just wanna tell her goodbye

2 thoughts on “Please, Mrs. Avery

  1. I agree with you, music is unexpectedly emotional! Went to Rathlin Island to hear twelve Rathlin women sing in a small, old church beside the shore. And then they were joined by three sea shanty singers from Waterford. Those harmonising voices filled the church to its rafters. Afterwards I found myself, unexpectedly, in tears . Emotional over friendship and the experience of being all tucked in together with that wonderfull sound!

    Liked by 1 person

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