Lex on Barry Manilow


Mad About You – Season 4, episode 1.

Scene:  Helen Hunt’s character, Jamie, is in the bathroom quietly singing Barry Manilow’s song,  “Copacabana” to herself.  Her husband Paul (played by Paul Reiser) walks in and catches her singing.  She spots him, and there’s a “dramatic” pause; after a few seconds, she continues singing the Manilow hit unabashedly, directly to him. Audience laughs, cue opening credits.

For days afterward, I sang “Copacabana” out loud to see if I could remember the lyrics.  As I tried to recall the story and words of the song, memories were triggered that I hadn’t thought about in years.  Some of these musical Manilow memories included the following:

–  Watching American Bandstand on Saturday afternoons, and hearing Barry Manilow sing the show’s theme, “Bandstand Boogie,” every week.

–  The first two Barry Manilow television specials in the pre-MTV 1970s.  He sang the hits, and I finally had a face to go with the voice behind “Mandy,” “I Write The Songs,” and “Bandstand Boogie.”

Watching Bill Murray and Chevy Chase butcher “I Write The Songs” in a medley of pop songs on Saturday Night Live.

–  Being a 9-year old music geek at a new elementary school, and being devastated that aside from a few of teachers, none of the kids liked the same kinds of music I liked. I started to invest in “Top 40 Dance music” singles, so I could control and operate the phonograph record player during our 4th grade parties.  I totally got away with playing “Copacabana.” “Can’t Smile Without You,” not so much.

–  How “Copacabana” owned the airwaves during those first months of 4th grade.  It was catchy, kitschy, and you couldn’t get away from it.  The popularity of the song triggered an avalanche of Manilow songs played over the Los Angeles pop radio airwaves.  I heard popular Manilow songs that I had previously fluffed off as “mushy girl music,” like “Mandy,” “Weekend In New England,” and “Could It Be Magic.”  My opinion changed, of course.

–  Winning a copy of Manilow’s then-current Even Now album, courtesy of a 16 Magazine contest.  I liked the album and bought each single issued from it, including “Copacabana (At The Copa),” and the “icky-sticky” overly poppy “Can’t Smile Without You” (my favorite from that album).

–   Learning that life isn’t fair, and Mom decides what’s “fair,” period.  I finally turned 10 years old, but Mom still wouldn’t let me attend music concerts.  At the time, Manilow was performing at the Greek Theatre in my hometown of Los Angeles.  I hadn’t seen that kind of media and fan fervor since Elton John played Dodger Stadium a few years earlier.  It was Manilow “mania” and no one could escape his image or his songs including me.

–  Getting a little “extra” in my allowance so I could get the then-new Barry Manilow Greatest Hits double album.  It was “hush” money; I wisely “hushed” and got the 2-LP set.  It was there I discovered the song “Beautiful Music.” It was the first song that really reflected my deep love of the song’s topic.

–  Reconnecting to Manilow at age 48, and the re-discovery of the song, “Beautiful Music.”  40 years after his songs found my ears, I can relate to the architecture of his work; he mirrors the things he likes about his favorite musical arrangers such as Henry Mancini, Don Costa, and Nelson Riddle.  Guess what – so do I.

Happy Birthday, Barry!  Thanks for the “beautiful, beautiful music,” from one music geek to another.  Cheers!

~ by Poppermost on June 17, 2017.

2 Responses to “Lex on Barry Manilow”

  1. Sweet! I never saw that SNL I Write the Songs skit!

    • Hi Giana – I haven’t seen it for a long time, but I remember Bill Murray and Chevy Chase sitting on two stools and opening the show with a medley that included “I Write The Songs,” the Beatles’ “I Am The Walrus,” and 3 or 4 other songs. They were horrible, but it was funny. Cheers and thanks so much for taking the time to read my blog. Cheers! 🙂

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