Friday, October 9, 2020

Pity the Poor, Lonely Firstborn?

          Over the years, I’ve posted many times about a wide variety of Middle Child related music. “Middle Child” by rapper/producer J.Cole, “Stuck in the Middle With You” by 70’s folk/rock group Stealers Wheel, “Smack Dab in the Middle” by disco diva Janice McClain, and many more have all been discussed and dissected on this blog. I’ve even posted our very own “Middle Child Anthem” and other Middle Child musical parodies. But this time it’s different, because this featured song isn’t about a Middle Child at all. It’s about a firstborn.
          I know, I know. Why am I writing about a firstborn song on a Middle Child blog? Don’t they already get enough attention!? I would’ve thought so. But according to the lyrics of “Lonely Boy,” a 1977 international hit song by Andrew Gold, that might not be the case. Take a listen, and we’ll discuss. 
 “Lonely Boy” spent five months on the charts, reaching #7 in both Canada and the U.S. It reached #11 in the U.K. 
          I’ll be the first to admit, I have always liked this song. There’s a certain orchestral quality about it that strikes a chord with me. But those lyrics.There was something about them that never sat quite right with me. They fly in the face of everything I’ve ever believed about firstborns. He felt lonely? Betrayed!? Could my whole understanding of the favored first born just be a myth? Oh my god, is this song actually making me feel bad for a firstborn? I had to do some digging.
“He was born on a summer day 1951
And with a slap of a hand he landed as an only son” 
          At first glance, the lyrics to “Lonely Boy” appear to be autobiographical. Andrew was born on a summer day in 1951. August 2, to be exact. He was the firstborn child of singer Marni Nixon and composer Ernest Gold.
“In the summer of '53 his mother brought him a sister” 
          Andrew’s younger sister Martha was in fact born on July 22, 1953 -- just like the song says. 
“He left home on a winter day, 1969”
          This appears to be a reference to Andrew’s first band, Bryndle, which was formed in -- you guessed it-- 1969. So this song has to be the autobiographical story of a firstborn who feels neglected by his parents after the birth of a younger sister, right? Not so fast!
“Lonely Boy” was released in 1976
on Andrew Gold’s second album,
What's Wrong With This Picture?
          In an interview with British radio presenter Spencer Leigh, Gold admitted that wasn’t really the case. “Maybe it was a mistake to do that, but I simply put in those details because it was convenient,” Gold said. “I hadn't been a lonely boy at all. I'd had a very happy childhood,” he conceded. 
          Ah hah! I knew it!! That makes way more sense. And once again, all is right with the world. But that’s not the real end to this story. 
          In his song, Gold leaves out any mention of his youngest sibling, sister Emma! Yeah, that means Martha was a Middle Child! I would argue that she's the one who deserves to feel betrayed. The birth of a younger sister meant she was no longer the only girl! I mean, even after Martha’s birth, Andrew was still the only son, so what was he whining about? Maybe the song should’ve been called “Lonely Girl,”  except I think that title might already be taken
          In any case, it turns out this post wasn’t all about a firstborn after all. 
Good As Gold: Andrew Gold was a multi-instrumentalist, singer, songwriter, and record producer. He produced, toured or played with The Eagles, Linda Ronstadt, James Taylor, Jackson Browne, Joni Mitchell, 10ccCherTrisha Yearwood, Wynonna Judd, Vince Gill, Celine Dion, and so many more. “Lonely Boy” was featured in a number of films including “Boogie Nights” (1997) and “The Waterboy” (1998). The song's use in “Boogie Nights” came in at #5 on Rolling Stone’s list of “The 30 Greatest Rock & Roll Movie Moments.” It was also the final video to be played on MTV’s first day of broadcast in the U.S. During the 1990s, Gold produced, composed, performed on and wrote tracks for films, commercials, and television, including the theme for “Mad About You” (“Final Frontier”).  His 1978 hit “Thank You for Being a Friend” achieved even greater popularity as the opening theme  for “The Golden Girls.” Sadly, Gold passed away at age 59 after a battle with kidney cancer. 

Not The Only Lonely Boy: Andrew Gold apparently wasn't the first alleged lonely firstborn.
Lonely Boy” by firstborn  Paul Anka,  was released in 1959 and reached #1 on Billboard's Hot 100. Middle Child Donny Osmond also charted with a B-side cover version in 1972.

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