Q: I recently heard the Elvis Costello song, “Veronica,” and wondered what the story behind it was.
A: Co-written with Paul McCartney, whose Hofner bass can be heard on the song, “Veronica” can be found on the 1989 album, “Spike.” It has been one of the most popular and successful of Costello’s songs, peaking at No. 19 on the Billboard singles chart. A very intelligent song, both musically and lyrically, it tells the achingly touching story of an aging woman suffering from memory loss. In a posting on his website, Costello states that his grandmother, who suffered from Alzheimer’s, was the inspiration for this song. He says that it appeared that his grandmother was happiest when she remembered events that occurred in her life between the 1920s and 1950s. “I wanted it to be joyful-sounding,” he says, “But with some sort of defiance. Because there’s a strange sort of defiance in old people when they’re physically pathetic. A strange way about them. They’ll suddenly look at you and they’ll be looking right into you. And then you look back and they won’t be there at all. I think that’s quite comforting.”
Q: I’m looking for the song from the ’80s with the chorus “Don’t turn around, uh oh.” I think it has a foreign title. Can you help me?
A: The song you’re looking for is “Der Kommissar” by After the Fire. Formed in 1974, the British band went through many lineup changes before hitting it big with “Der Kommissar” in 1983. Their success was short-lived as the song was their one and only U.S. hit.
Q: I cannot for the life of me remember the name of the hit country song from the ’70s about truck driving. I seem to remember it talked about hunting bear. Can you help me?
A: Well, fer sure, fer sure, good buddy! The name of the song is “Convoy,” and it was a No. 1 hit on both the country and pop singles charts. Although credited to C. W. McCall, that was just the pseudonym of William D. Fries Jr., who wrote the lyrics. The music was composed by Louis F. Davis Jr. Fries was an advertising executive living in Omaha during the ’60s. However, in the ’70s, he developed the McCall character during a long-running campaign for the local bakery, Metz Baking Co., and its Old Home Bread brand. In the campaign, the McCall character drove a bread truck and would frequent the Old Home Café. The campaign was very successful and landed Fries a Clio award. This, in turn, led him to record some singles in 1974 as McCall. In 1975, Fries released “Convoy” and, much like the subject of his song, it became a runaway success. The song’s success inspired Sam Peckinpah to direct a movie of the same name in 1978 starring Kris Kristofferson and Allie MacGraw. Fries had a few follow-ups but nothing as successful as “Convoy.” He left the industry and Omaha and moved to Ouray, Colorado.