Now that I no longer listen to Sounds of the Sixties, I’ve lost the serendipity of what Sixties music, classic or obscure, I might hear each week. It’s full-time replacement is the YouTube trawl, in which I alternate between the search for obscure singles, the ignored and overlooked that nevertheless contain the spark of what I hear as attractive, and sessions where I concentrate on certain bands who made their mark, such as my long-favourites, The Association.
One song I’ve been returning to recently is Spanky and Our Gang’s ‘Sunday will never be the same’. The band, a six piece who cultivated a fairly eccentric appearance, were part of the mid-Sixties burgeoning folk-rock, or perhaps folk-pop scene, the most successful proponents of which were the Mamas and the Papas (Elaine ‘Spanky’ McFarlane replaced Mama Cass Elliot). They never had any hits in the UK, but they had three top 30 tracks in America, which got airplay over here, if only as oldies for me in the Seventies.
‘Sunday will never be the same’ was the biggest hit. It showcases the band’s considerable harmonies, with a sweeping, wordless intro over sweet strings that create a big space in which the music sits. It’s harmonious and happy, but that’s not the point of the song. Spanky sets the scene quickly, with half a verse extolling the joys of Sundays on which she meets someone at the park, to walk with hand in hand, and talk till it gets dark.
But already this is a eulogy for something lost, because the opening words are ‘I remember’, and no sooner are we presented with this image of simplicity, this pure enjoyment of the other’s presence, than it’s swept away. It’s the past, it’s over, it’s gone, and Sundays will never be the same.
What else is there needs be said? One of the beauties of Sixties songs is their superficiality, in that what they said was placed on the surface. Depth was not required. A brief word picture of happiness is created, without even using the word ‘love’, and then it’s gone. We don’t know why, we don’t know how, we don’t know what. All we know, and all we need to know is that it isn’t like that and it never will be like that again, and that world that was created between the two can never be recreated. Sundays will never be the same.
The whole world has changed about her. Sunday afternoons no longer warm her inside, instead they’ve turned as cold and grey as ashes. The very paths themselves have changed, and she can no longer stay, the sun has gone and the rain is coming. The park’s a cold place on her own and it is full of memories, children feeding pigeons, images of innocence and fun that tear and dull because all they are are memories and nobody’s waiting for her. Sunday that was so special is now just another day.
Of course it’s simple, of course it’s naive. Would it be any more painful if you brought something more than holding hands into it? Love at its purest is about being with them, when everything is made warm and wonderful because they are there. Each of us brings into this song the details of how it was for us, but we all share in the emotion Spanky sings of: it’s not the same, it never will be again. Nothing stays special.
And that refusal to dig deep, to talk of hand-holding and walks in the park, may now seem naive and laughable, instead deals with the purity of the situation. Every relationship will have a thousand, a million caveats, to negotiate, day in and day out, but songs like this cut through to what lies in the centre, without which no relationship can ever mean anything.
The more sophisticated we get, the further away we get from such things. Songs like this remind us that once, when we were young, a single day could mean everything. But that if Sunday means so much, one day it will never be the same. Love doesn’t even have to end for that to be so.