The First Day In August

The First Day In August – Spotify

The First Day In August – YouTube

On the first day in August
I wanna wake up by your side
After sleeping with you
On the last night in July

I play this song every year.

We knew Carole King wrote “The Loco-Motion.” At least I did, it was one of the first 45s I ever bought, it was that MWAA sound of what I think is a saxophone, actually I just did a little research and Artie Kaplan said he overdubbed his sax five times to get that sound, the infectious one that made me make my mother rush to the discount store so I could purchase it. It spun on that box record player I owned, you know, the one with the heavy tonearm and speaker inside, that made the records turn grey if you played them enough. I was in fifth grade, before the Beatles broke, I remember buying “Monster Mash” at the same time, and I knew it was a novelty record, but I couldn’t get over the lines “The coffin-bangers were about to arrive/With their vocal group, ‘The Crypt-Kicker Five,'” it’s amazing how one sound or one line can hook you. And this was before music was forever, I’d graduated from “Ruff and Reddy” records, tracks were only for then, it wasn’t until the Beatles broke over a year later that we got the idea there was something more here, at this time music was just a business, sound like today?

Anyway, I remember “The Loco-Motion” having a blue label. I used to watch it spin on the record player. Why did we do this? I don’t know! We were enraptured, we wanted to get closer to the music. And, like I said, under the title, it said “Goffin-King,” whoever they were, but I soon learned. But their run was starting to end, and then it was 1971.

There was a previous LP that stiffed, and “Tapestry” was not an immediate hit, it didn’t jump out of the box, but then word spread, maybe it was the single “It’s Too Late,” they don’t make dreamy, heavy songs like this anymore, “You’re So Vain” was similar, whereas today you’ve got to hit them over the head right away, then again “It’s Too Late” was not that dissimilar, the hooky chorus came soon, and then back to that irresistible piano figure. And when there was a giant song on the radio and the act had credibility what you did was go out and buy the album and immerse yourself in it. And from the initial riff of “I Feel The Earth Move” you were hooked, these were perfect compositions performed with heart and energy, no one could pooh-pooh the album, and no one did in an era where everybody was deploring your taste, we all rallied around “Tapestry” and if they wiped history clean and re-released the LP today it too would go straight to the top of the chart, no, music doesn’t sound like this today, but songs still rule and when your compositions rule, so do you.

“Tapestry” was followed up by “Music,” released only ten months later, which seems kind of amazing, but the truth is the two to three year cycle didn’t emerge until later in the decade, now it was still an album a year and you didn’t want to miss Christmas, everything was faster back then, don’t forget, the Beatles broke the paradigm of multiple LPs a year by going to one an annum, but even the then breaking Elton John put out multiple LPs a year.

And “Music” was not as successful. “It’s Going To Take Some Time” and “Sweet Seasons” were mild hits, but the following LP, “Rhymes & Reasons,” put out in October 1972, ten months later, was a relative disappointment, with no singles. King wasn’t quite Alanis Morissette, with one big hit and then almost nothing of stature, but it looked like she was on a bad arc until two years and two albums later she had a gigantic hit with a different sound, the then ubiquitous “Jazzman” with the indelible Tom Scott sax solo. But I purchased “Rhymes & Reasons” and knew it by heart, you bought two LPs after the monster breakthrough, and it’s this album that contains “The First Day In August.”

There were winners on “Rhymes & Reasons,” mostly “Bitter With The Sweet” and “Been To Canaan,” but “The First Day In August” is the one that sticks in my brain, that I start thinking about in the middle of July, the peak of the summer on the east coast.

Not in California. In Los Angeles summer starts slowly, it creeps up on you. And the hottest days can be when the sun starts to set early, in September and October.

But when it hits August on the east coast you know summer’s almost gone, you start thinking about school, you start thinking about fall, you start thinking about cold weather. Your mentality starts to change, from pure fun to a reflective state, like the vibe of “The First Day In August.” Then again, if you’re a rock star, and Carole King was, it’s summer all year long, or it can be, if you choose. School is far behind you. Every day is a playday. Sure, you’ve got to go into the studio, make records, but that seemed like a privilege to those of us on the outside, and this was before the sheds, when everybody toured during the summer, rather you toured all year long, whenever it fit with the album cycle.

So, it was the first day in August after the album containing the track had been released. I’d had a dumb job all July, and now I was going to drive my sister cross-country to the promised land, to Los Angeles for graduate school. And I vividly remember sitting on the brown corduroy couch in the “new room” of the addition which had been built eleven years before in 1962 and listening to “The First Day In August” over the stereo. There was hustle and bustle, we were about to go on our trip, my mother and sister were conversing, but I was trapped in my reverie.

It was the first day in August.

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