The Friday Morning Listen: Melanie – Beautiful People (1999)

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It’s always great when a memory just drops from a piece of music, even when the connection is only tangential.

A few mornings ago on the way to work, I was listening to The Beatles’ Magical Mystery Tour. While thinking about the semi-controversial Something Else! Suck Series — the one that (unfairly) dooms “Blue Jay Way” to the catacombs of suck — an almost completely unrelated thought popped into my head: it was the summer of 1974 and I am spending the majority of my time hanging around my sister’s apartment. What does this have to do with Magical Mystery Tour? It’s one of the LPs Lynn gave to me before leaving home for good. I still have that record. The mono reissue faithfully reproduces both the album slip cover as well as the full-color booklet. The memory must have fallen out when I flipped through the pages.

And so when my sister and her friend Sue went off to their day jobs (some sort of administrative thing at Pratt & Whitney), I would spend the better part of each afternoon laying on Lynn’s couch while listening to Santana records and trying to figure out just what the hell was going on in her collection of Freak Brothers comics. Looking back, I’m jealous of my younger self. He had not a care in the world, and was completely unburdened with what the future would bring.

There was a strange moment of conflict that summer, all of it hinging on my use of language. Early one evening as Sue was making dinner (at her apartment), I was talking about this kid at school who was bullying me. He’d left his comb on the back seat of the bus. For some reason it didn’t occur to me to take the comb and give it to him the next day. Instead, I told him about it…which resulted in me handing over my lunch money to him for a couple of weeks, as if it was somehow my fault. No matter, giving up lunch kept me from getting the snot beat out of me, an important thing to be avoided in 7th grade.

Anyhow, what I said was that I didn’t like Gary very much…and that he was a dildo.

Sue hits the roof. Screaming that she wouldn’t have that kind of language in her home and that she was very disappointed in my sister and blah, blah, blah. First, I was kind of embarrassed because I’d caused some trouble between my sister and her best friend. Second, I was confused because…what’s the big deal with “dildo”? Honestly, I didn’t know because I didn’t know what a dildo even was! Kids at school used the word all the time, which made me think it went in the same group of descriptions a jerk and twerp. Ah (as they say)…youth. Did my sister explain to me what I had said? Gawd, I hope not!

I look back on this with more than a little amazement. The stereotype of young adults in that era involes a lot of weed and Boone’s Farm drawn from wineskins, with people reading Jonathan Livingston Seagull while the less than radical music of Melanie and James Taylor warbled from the stereo. I’d never seen anybody so mad about two simple syllables. Curious.

I can’t recall if the rift between Sue and my sister was ever healed, though I do remember that later on they went their separate ways. That wasn’t an uncommon occurrence for Lynn. This outcome would be repeated for decades.

I’ve decided to give a re-listen to my sister’s old Melanie album. Are there more memories in there? I’m kind of hoping the answer is “no.”

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Mark Saleski

Mark Saleski

Mark Saleski is a writer and music obsessive based out of the woods of central New Hampshire. A past contributor to, and Salon, he originated several of our weekly features including the Friday Morning Listen, (Cross the) Heartland, WTF! Wednesday, and Sparks Fly on E Street. Follow him on Twitter: @msaleski. Contact Something Else! at
Mark Saleski
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