Dad, We Need to Talk

Like most music obsessives, I have found some pretty odd stuff on my travels through cutout bins, used record shops, antique stores, garage sales, and websites written entirely in Serbo-Croatian or Portuguese except for the song titles. One of the stranger ones popped up on shuffle this morning.

I have frequently invoked the name of Jeff Barry ’round these parts—the bubblegum mastermind who wrote songs with Ellie Greenwich (“Be My Baby,” “Da Doo Ron Ron,” “Then He Kissed Me,” “Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)”, “Hanky Panky,” “Chapel of Love,” “River Deep Mountain High”), wrote or co-wrote most of the songs recorded by the Archies from “Sugar Sugar” on down,  and also “Montego Bay,” “I Honestly Love You,” and “Heavy Makes You Happy” by the Staple Singers. Barry’s other great collaborator besides Ellie Greenwich was Andy Kim, who collaborated on the Archies stuff and who cut several Barry songs himself, including “Baby I Love You” and “Be My Baby,” which rival the Wall of Sound originals, at least to my ears.

The songs Barry wrote with Greenwich were not in any way political, although they clearly emerge from a specific time and place—the lower middle-class urban world of the early 1960s, as seen through the eyes of young people. (Much of the Brill Building’s output was written from the same point of view, because the writers were young, lower middle-class citizens of New York City in the early 60s.) Later in the 1960s, the Archies, existing only in the studio and in a cartoon, weren’t political at all and couldn’t be. But by the late 1960s, with the world in upheaval, especially the world of the young, it must have seemed like the right time for Barry and Kim to do, not a protest song exactly, but one that took a look at the world and proposed a solution to its troubles.

Andy Kim recorded “Tricia Tell Your Daddy” in 1969. It’s exactly what you think—a song addressed to First Daughter Tricia Nixon, asking her to talk to her father about, well, stuff:

Tell him he’s the man, Tricia
The world’s in his hands, Tricia
Tell him that you’re not his only child
He’s everybody’s daddy for a while

And also . . .

We’re glad we reached the moon
But didn’t it cost a lot
When some folks down here ain’t got enough to eat

It’s the gentlest “protest” song you’re ever going to hear, more folk song than bubblegum blast. But Tricia Nixon turned 23 years old at the time it was released, and was four months away from her highly publicized White House wedding to Edward Cox—and therefore, probably not tuned in to AM radio at the time. So it’s doubtful that she actually told her father anything “on a family Sunday morning/When he comes downstairs a-yawning.”

“Tricia Tell Your Daddy” bubbled under the Hot 100 for three weeks in the spring of 1969 (before the actual landing on the moon). A cover by Jay and the Americans, the last thing they released before going on an early-70s hiatus, gives the song more of a bubblegum sound, but it didn’t go anywhere at all.

Enjoy the weekend, everybody. Call your parents.

2 responses

  1. Wonder if that song earned Barry and Kim FBI files?

  2. […] My Imagination,” Lawrence Welk’s “Calcutta,” and a bubblegum song that name-checks Tricia Nixon. I had never heard “Mill Valley” by Miss Abrams and the Strawberry Point Third Grade […]

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