#144 – Ding Dong, Ding Dong by George Harrison
For a Classic Rocker like myself, this song has become more of a New Year’s tradition than the previous chart-topper of New Year’s tradition songs, Auld Lang Syne. That one was geared for our parents’ and grandparents’ generations. Then again, this George Harrison singalong probably already has that same reputation with generations younger than the boomers.
It’s funny how age will do that. And it’s a guarantee – like turning the pages on a calendar.
Even though I remember reading Harrison wrote this to be a New Year’s “ring out the old, ring in the new” celebration song, I don’t quite remember getting that message when it was included on the Dark Horse album that came out in December 1974. There had been a lot of excitement the month before over Harrison’s (and any Beatle) first solo tour of North America and the the LP’s first single, also called Dark Horse. Ding Dong, Ding Dong seemed to be a hidden gem only heard after purchasing the album.
In other words, I don’t remember this being a radio hit. At least not during the 1974 holiday season.
I purchased the Dark Horse LP when it was released. But the bigger excitement was scoring tickets to one of Harrison’s two concerts at Richfield Coliseum (Cleveland, Ohio) that was supposed to take place on December 2, 1974. I say supposed because both shows were cancelled due to a major snowstorm. They were never rescheduled – but that’s not even the worst part of this sad story…
On the day of the show, my girlfriend and I had at least a two-hour drive from our college to the Coliseum. And that would be with no snow covering the highways and back roads. We listened to radio updates all morning with deejays reporting roads were almost impassable, but the concerts had not been cancelled. Harrison would be on stage whether we were there or not.
So we took off in my Chevy Vega station wagon, which was great for hauling stuff to college, but not exactly known as an all-weather vehicle. An hour into our drive we were still only about ten miles from campus, but the radio reports were egging us on. Finally, the announcement came.
Harrison couldn’t get to Cleveland and shows were officially cancelled.
Making a U-turn on a snowy and slippery road, my trusty Vega slid into a ditch. In the days when cell phones were nothing more than a space age wristband in a Dick Tracy cartoon, we sat and waited until a tow truck – obviously making emergency runs up and down the highway – stopped and pulled us out. We eventually made it back to campus in time to declare our concert night would now be transformed into a frat party night.
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And if it adds to the story, this was the only time in my life I had grown a beard. I doubt it looked good at all, but it was 1974 which was an era stuck post-Woodstock and pre-disco. With that excuse in mind, a beard seemed like a good fashion statement at the time – right up there with leisure suits and platform shoes.
So, to “protest” (yes, that’s the term I used after only one or two beers) the delay in cancelling the concert, I shaved the beard off that night. I’ve never had one since.
What I have had since are plenty of Dream Songs and this one joined the list on July 17th. Yeah, I know – far from New Year’s Eve, but I have no control over the just-waking mind. I sometimes wonder if I even have any control over an already-awakened mind, but that’s another mental concept I’ll need to drag from my personal ditch in the future.
But I am conscious enough to admit I own a copy of Ding Dong, Ding Dong and adhere to no seasonal restrictions when adding it to a digital playlist. In other words, I had just heard the song, so it enters this Dream Song List in the recently heard category.
Since there have been references to New Year’s Eve in this Classic Rocker rambling, it seems only fair there should be a corresponding memory. Okay, here’s one…
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About two and a half decades following the release of Dark Horse and Ding Dong, Ding Dong I was managing the top comedy club in New York City. Based in the West Side Hell’s Kitchen neighborhood of Manhattan, we were only a couple blocks from Times Square where – if you know anything about New Year’s Eve in Manhattan – thousands of partying tourists gather to watch the ball drop at midnight.
Dick Clark and a whole slew of celebrities make it a celebration while nightclubs, like The Improv comedy club where I had been hired to maintain some type of control, were packed with sold-out audiences.
I won’t mince any words in saying I view New Year’s Eve as “amateur night.” I know you’ve heard the term and I won’t take any credit for making it up. I just lived it too often and learned through experience I’d rather work in a nightclub then try to live up to everyone’s party expectations. I always had just as much fun (probably more) and was paid to do it.
After this particular New Year’s Eve 3-show comedy club extravaganza, I locked the front door and looked forward to heading downtown to my Gramercy Park neighborhood for late night hanging out with friends. In NYC a special holiday license allowed bars to stay open until 8 am on New Year’s and my fellow working pals would just be getting together a few hours before that. So we would have plenty of time to ring in the year at our local watering hole.
Along with my girlfriend (a different one from above) and a best pal I had invited to be my guests for the late comedy show, we stood on the corner of West 44th Street and 9th Avenue looking for a taxi. BUT since the Times Square thousands were also looking for rides and carried a well-earned, decades-old reputation for being more than a little inebriated after hours of partying in the streets, taxis were not picking up anyone.
As each red light turned green, countless cabs drove past us with their “Not In Service” lights turned on.
It looked like we were going to be in for a long night / early morning wait for a miracle cab. It was either that or riding a packed subway with booze-saturated amateurs or making a long cold walk downtown. None of these choices would be a great way to kick off a New Year.
Then my adopted New York street smarts took over…
During the umpteenth red light with mobs of tourists filling the streets with the same objective, I went for broke. I ran out into the intersection and slapped a twenty dollar bill on the windshield of an off-duty taxi. I yelled through the window at the driver, “This is yours on top of the fare AND a tip!”
He looked at me and said, “Get in.“
I jumped in the back with my two companions and laughed as we drove off, leaving everyone without New York street smarts behind. We made it downtown and hooked up with more friends in plenty of time for our own New Year’s celebration and great advice for anyone desperate to find a taxi in an overcrowded city.
Ding Dong, Ding Dong. The lyrics, “Ring out the old, ring in the new” is the message in this song. But sometimes old traditions make a lot of sense. In this case the age-old advice simple:
Here is the first music video George Harrison ever made for one of his single records:
To purchase the Dark Horse LP with Ding Dong, Ding Dong by George Harrison, visit Amazon.com
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