- photo by Michael Sherer
Don McLean has the rare distinction of having a massive number one hit on his hands as early as his second record, ‘71’s break though ‘American Pie,’ where the title song was a eight plus minute smash. Another song from the record, ‘Vincent,’ about Vincent Van Gogh, was also big, reaching number twelve on the U.S. charts, but number one in the U.K. American Pie title song holds the record for the longest number one hit, and wasn’t always played in full on the radio, especially on AM. FM was still in hey day at the time, and often did play long songs. It had the power to break a song, as it did here. It would be the first and last time that McLean had this level of commercial success. He’s always been critically lauded though, including by fellow esteemed musicians and singers, such as Roy Orbison and Brian Wilson.
I’m a fan, but don’t know a lot of McLean’s songs. I have American Pie and one or two other records of McLean’s. However, I’m very familiar with and love the ‘American Pie’ and ‘Vincent’ as songs. They were both performed, thankfully.
McLean, who lives in Maine with his wife and two kids, was accompanied by excellent Nashville based musicians. Tony Migliore on piano and keyboards, Jerry Kroon on drums, David Smith on bass and Vip Vipperman on guitar. They provided a very solid, somewhat understated back drop to McLean, who played an amplified acoustic guitar.
The audience, which was mostly baby boomers like McLean, was rather subdued as well. A couple of times McLean asked them to show more energy. He also told an interesting story of his early life. He noted that he grew up in New Rochelle, NY. McLean said that he was born in ‘45, that his parents were older than typical, as he was essentially an accident. He explained that he’s a loner and homebody at heart, and wasn’t at all suited for the stardom and world wide touring that he did when achieving sudden and big success with his second record.
McLean also said that he enjoyed the intimacy of this sized venue, and that he could do whatever he pleases in these kinds of places. He indeed did his thing, which was quite enjoyable. McLean is an original and true talent, and catching him up close and personal is the best way. Catch him if you can too.