Words in a Row

Spelling and grammer and all that stuff--supposibly its like, real important!

The Helicopter Song

When I was 4 or 5 my par­ents had some friends over for a bar­be­cue. Every­one was milling around in fine bar­be­cue fash­ion, and then the radio played a song I’d nev­er heard before. It was amaz­ing! There was some­body laugh­ing and then heli­copter sounds, but it did­n’t have any lyrics.

I planned to ask Mom and Dad what the song was, but they were busy doing things and I forgot.

A cou­ple of days lat­er Mom was putting some­thing on the record play­er, and I remem­bered the bar­be­cue and said, “Play The Heli­copter Song!”

“The what?” Mom said.

“The Heli­copter Song! There was a guy laugh­ing and heli­copters! And there weren’t any words!” Mom had no idea what I meant. I did, but I could­n’t describe it well enough. I gave up, frustrated.

A cou­ple days lat­er we were dri­ving some­where and the heli­copter song came on the radio.

“That’s The Heli­copter Song! That’s The Heli­copter Song!” I yelled.

“That’s the song you meant?” Mom asked.

“Yeah! It’s The Heli­copter Song!”

And it turned out that the heli­copter song was… (drum roll])1

“Wipe­out,” by The Surfaris.

Lemme ‘splain: When I was a kid in the ear­ly 1960s, we lived in Tope­ka, KS, about 7 miles north of Forbes Air Force Base. Air­craft often flew right over us com­ing to and from Forbes; usu­al­ly heav­ier car­go air­craft; once every­one in Tope­ka got to watch a brand-new Air Force One land at Forbes for the first stop in its inau­gur­al test flight, fuel up, and take off again.

This was much ear­li­er, though; maybe 1967 or ’68. The war in Viet­nam was rag­ing along full blast, and we often heard large chop­pers fly­ing thump­ing along over­head: long-range spe­cial-ops copters like the Siko­rsky MH-53, aka the Jol­ly Green Giant, or Boe­ing CH-47 Chi­nook dual-rotor heavy car­go helicopters.

It hap­pened often enough that I didn’t con­scious­ly lis­ten to them, but they still made a hell of a lot of noise.

And so it hap­pened that when I heard “Wipe­out,” the long drum breaks, heavy on the bass and toms, remind­ed me of all the big chop­pers fly­ing overhead.

I didn’t know how to explain this when I was so young. So years lat­er, when I was in my ear­ly 20s, a friend of mine was show­ing me how to play “Wipe­out” on gui­tar, and I sud­den­ly remem­bered: THE HELICOPTER SONG!

I told Mom and Dad about it, but they did­n’t remem­ber any of this.

So either I’m hal­lu­ci­nat­ing or The Sur­faris tricked me.

  1. See what I did there?

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