Living with…Neil Diamond…for a week

Neil Diamond is macaroni cheese.

Macaroni cheese is childhood Saturday lunchtimes tucking in to seconds before dashing off to play the next earnest game of football.  And a few years on tucking in before trooping off to watch the next desperate game of football. Macaroni cheese is memories of summer lunches served with salads, and winter evenings piping hot comfort.

Neil Diamond is long car journeys, and lps playing on a gramophone the size of a sideboard. Evenings shared watching the TV specials of the 70s.  Neil Diamond is men growing hair out long so it curls naturally.  Neil Diamond is humming the same tunes for decades.

Neil Diamond is macaroni cheese.

So when I decided to spend the week with Neil he was practically family already.  Uncle Neil.  And this week he brings out yet another album in his 69th year, a collection of covers – Dreams.

But I’m tracking back to 1972 and supposedly his definitive album, Hot August Night – a live performance from Los Angeles open air Greek Theatre.

From the sumptuous strings of the intro, through to the chatting with the ‘tree people’ (who are hanging around the edge of the theatre to catch a free view of the concert) everything about this album is piping hot comfort.  A steady stream of classic songs flow – Crunchy Granola Suite; Cherry, Cherry; Sweet Caroline, interspersed with the eccentric Porcupine Pie and Soggy Pretzels. In short, its sheer easy-going pleasure to spend time again with Uncle Neil. And this album plays again and again in my car this week.  Not an easy week to be honest, so probably the best thing to listen to in the circumstances.  Reassuring, like macaroni cheese.

One of my favourite things about Uncle Neil are the lyrics that walk a fine line between poetry and cheesy naffness so I’ve compiled five favourite exquisite souffles below – :

“Did you ever read about a frog who dreamed of bein’ a king
And then became one
Well except for the names and a few other changes
You talk about me, the story’s the same one” (I am…I  said)
Eat your heart out Shakespeare, this is probably perfect poetry…

“You are the sun
I am the moon
You are the words
I am the tune
Play me” (Play me)

“Ah, but porcupine pie, porcupine pie, porcupine pie,
Don’t let it get on your jeans, I know it sounds a little strange,
but you got to eat it with gloves–or your hands will turn green.” (Porcupine Pie)
Only Neil could write this…

“Money talks
But it don’t sing and dance
And it don’t walk
And long as I can have you here with me
I’d much rather be
Forever in blue jeans, babe” (Forever in Blue Jeans)

Prophesying some of the cringeworthy adverts to come where money does talk, sing and dance…

“I got a song been on my mind
And the tune can be sung and the words all rhyme
Deedle-ee deet deet deet deet deet deet deet dee dee” (Crunchy Granola Suite)
If Sinatra had his doobie doobie doo then Neil has his Deedle-ee deet

But to end with my favourite song and moment of Hot August Night which of course is Song Sung Blue.  For some, Yellow Submarine is their first childhood pop song ( I know an early favourite with P, along with The Monkees theme) but for me it was this demonstration of how to rhyme pillow and willow.  Below is the song as on the album, just enjoy…

“Chickens can sing it…gorillas can sing it, even frogs can sing it”

And then an appalling picture quality video of the song at the Greek but stick with it for the duets with Helen Reddy and Henry Winkler (aka the Fonz), Uncle Neil’s dress sense and a blurry glimpse of the tree people.

Song Sung Blue is macaroni cheese made from finest gruyere and bacon served at a mountain cafe on a crisp but sunny winter’s day