“When I was young…,” the four-word phrase that opens “The Logical Song,” Supertramp’s coming of age lament from 1979’s Breakfast In America, is one of my favorite opening phrases of any pop song. Few opening lines so perfectly set the tone of the song to follow or so easily take my mind to an emotional place that closely mirrors that of the song. It’s a place where youthful innocence, when faced with the sometimes harsh realities of adulthood, often turns to a sort of disillusioned cynicism.
When I was young, my family and I lived for one summer in a tent as part of a larger campground community. Though this living arrangement was at least in part born of the realities of adulthood that my parents were facing at the time, for me it was a time of blissfully ignorant innocence, wild and free. It was a time of rumpuses through thick forests, explorations of fiery sulfur flats, and daily swims in the cool waters of a swimming hole.
Next to the swimming hole was a clubhouse, and the clubhouse stereo was always tuned to rock and roll on the FM dial, so splashing around in the swimming hole was soundtracked by the hits of the day. I remember “My Sharona” by The Knack, Blondie’s “Heart of Glass,” ELO’s “Don’t Bring Me Down,” Cheap Trick’s “I Want You to Want Me,” and Frankie Valli singing “Grease.” There are many more I remember, but the song that has stuck with me the most over the years is “The Logical Song,” particularly since my own youthful innocence, when faced with the harsh realities of adulthood, turned to a sort of disillusioned cynicism. I, like the character in the song, sometimes wish for someone to “tell me what we’ve learned…tell me who I am,” and no other song captures the sense of disconnect between the way I saw the world, and the person I was, back in the carefree summer of tent life, and the way I see the world, and the person I am, now.
Though reflecting too much on this disconnect comes with the danger of going down a rabbit hole of paralyzed self-absorption that leads only to under-appreciated loved ones and over-extended bar tabs, I find that reflecting on it just enough helps me to balance a cynicism that was perhaps too easily acquired with a childlike, though no longer ignorant, bliss that is too often hard-fought. When the clock inevitably strikes six feet under, I might not have learned a damn thing, and I might not have figured out who the hell I am, but until then I’ll keep on asking.
And I’ll keep on singing “The Logical Song.” It’s so good, I don’t even mind the sax solo (something I generally won’t tolerate in a rock song–unless it’s a Springsteen tune with Big Man behind the horn).