For The Old Times

In late 1977 I was attending California State University, Sacramento. I was a Communications major and was involved in the university radio station, KERS. The station started in 1970 and was a “full power” station, not a 10 watt wonder as many high schools and colleges had. In 1977, its effective radiated power was 5400 watts with the antenna on the roof of the theater building on campus. The studios were in the same building.

KERS was in the process of becoming a higher power public radio station affiliated with NPR, National Public Radio. To that end, the university hired a professional manager. Gone was the free form music programming of mainly rock music. In it’s place was soul music during the day, a two hour news/public affairs block, and jazz at night. I usually ran the news/public affairs block and often did a jazz show although not on a regular basis. I was pretty much the voice of the station, doing most of the promotional announcements.

I spent many hours on one of these at KERS Photo: Universal Audio/studioelectronics.biz

I don’t know who suggested it, but for New Year’s eve the station manager allowed us to do an oldies program starting at 8 PM. My friend Bill Hudson (I forgot what air name he used) would do the first two hours. Bill was ten years older than I was and was a helicopter pilot in Viet Nam. He did from the early days of rock and roll through 1962.

I came on at 10 PM, going year by year playing a number of songs from each year from 1963 to 1968 to take me up to midnight. I played some big hits and some obscure stuff. The manager told me I could go as long as I wanted as long as I ended on the top of an hour. Of course I was going to go as long as I could. That meant that I was going to usher in the new year on the air. I stayed on until 4 AM.

As I was planning on going after midnight, I had to do something to usher in 1978. What would be more appropriate than the staple of New Years, Guy Lombardo and his Royal Canadians playing Auld Lang Syne. I went out and bought an album just so I could play that tune. Lombardo first played the song on the radio for the New Year of 1930. His New Year’s broadcast ran for many years.

I bought an album just for this.

I used the Guy Lombardo album one more time a few years later for a commercial at a radio station where I worked. I “accidentally” forgot to bring the album home again.

The words of the song were said to have come from a poem by Robert Burns of Scotland written in 1788. Burns, however, said the poem came from “from an old man’s singing.” The words are about two old friend talking about their long friendship and the good times they have had over the years. Today, we use the first two verses to celebrate the new year.

Should old acquaintance be forgot,
and never brought to mind?
Should old acquaintance be forgot,
and old lang syne?

For auld lang syne, my dear,
for auld lang syne,
we'll take a cup of kindness yet,
for auld lang syne.

And surely you'll buy your pint cup!
and surely Ill buy mine!
And we'll take a cup o kindness yet,
for auld lang syne.

We two have run about the slopes,
and picked the daisies fine;
But weve wandered many a weary foot,
since auld lang syne.

We two have paddled in the stream,
from morning sun till dine;
But seas between us broad have roared
since auld lang syne.

And theres a hand my trusty friend!
And give us a hand o thine!
And well take a right good-will draught,
for auld lang syne.

Should auld acquaintance be forgot,
and never brought to mind?
Should auld acquaintance be forgot,
and auld lang syne? 

The poem was used with several tunes, finally being paired with the tune we know know today in 1799. Interestingly, the melody fits Asian styles of music.

The melody is used in Japan as a school graduation song as a way of saying goodbye.

A Japanese graduation song.

It has been used, off and on, as a national anthem known in both North and South Korea.

Korea hoping for unity.

However you know the song, may you have a joyous New Year.

Where have I heard that before?

When I was in college, I had an English instructor who really enjoyed the subject. His bachelor’s degree was in Marine Biology, but he happened to do some work in a lab with a man to whom the subject was a hobby – a passion. That man was named John Steinbeck.

With an inspiration as Steinbeck, my instructor’s interests turned from Marine Biology to English. He wrote a number of books including a biography of Peter Mark Roget – father of the thesaurus. One day in class my instructor brought up the subject of plagiarism. He was renown enough to be asked to review manuscripts of textbooks for English education. One such book had a poem, supposedly written by a student of the author of the book. My instructor recognized it – he had read that poem in a publication that had, as I recall, a nationwide readership of perhaps fifty people. One of those people happened to be my instructor. That was enough to stop the textbook writing career of that author dead in its tracks. 

Plagiarism may be overt in the written word. In music, however, it may crop up subliminally. A songwriter may get a chord progression in his head and he may go with it, not realizing it had been heard before.

Often times it is not a conscious act on the part of a songwriter to rip off from another songwriter, but it can happen despite one’s best intentions.