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Forgive Melanie for annoying hit and drop by her place

By JAN GLIDEWELL

© St. Petersburg Times, published April 21, 1998


Ialways have held that entertainers shouldn't necessarily be held responsible for the works for which they are best known. Too many people think of Rembrandt as a guy who did a painting for cigar boxes, Rossini as a studio hack coming up with the theme song to The Lone Ranger, and Ravel as having been inspired by Bo Derek's bouncing breasts.

My point?

Try thinking of Melanie occasionally without the lyrics to Brand New Key running through your brain. It's like trying to do the same for Clint Holmes, a tremendously talented musician and singer who has been forever saddled with Playground In My Mind, a horrid ditty about an irritating child named Michael with a pony.

That's important, because Melanie, a folk icon of the '60s and '70s, is opening a coffeehouse in Tarpon Springs -- and, in addition to it being a neat place to hang out, it can also be a terrific venue for local talent.

And good folk venues are hard to come by lately.

Not long ago we had 12 sprouting up throughout the upper Pinellas and North Suncoast area -- and it nearly killed the movement. Folk music, ironically, is still a relatively esoteric art form and has an audience demographic that can be spread only so thin.

Chez Funk, a promising Brooksville venue, went down the tubes because it couldn't comply with local fire laws. The Village Garden in Dade City went broke, partly from overpaying musicians. The Iron Horse, a terrific place in an old railroad station in Tarpon Springs, made it for a while with support from Main Street funds, but went bust, moved and went bust again.

Brennan's Irish Pub in Tarpon Springs has been a fairly strong showplace for groups with heavy Celtic influences.

The real bright spots in the area have been Studio Art in Crystal River, which maintains a steady schedule during its weekend hours, and the Sunday Sampler in Dunnellon, which has brought in some great acts to such a growing and appreciative audience that it had to move to a larger location.

So Melanie's Restaurant and Coffee House on Tarpon Avenue is now in business, and not a minute too soon. Her name is bound to attract some big folk names for the kind of casual drop-by performances that create musical history.

Some of my fondest memories of the late 1960s and early 1970s (okay, some of my few memories of the late 1960s and early 1970s) included lying on my water bed in Kankakee, Ill. (during a brief banishment to the frozen North) and studying a black-light poster of a dreamscape while Melanie wailed Carolina on My Mind, Look What They've Done to My Song, Ma and, my favorite, Candles in the Rain.

One of my favorite pastimes back then was coming up with intricate plots to murder editors, and Look What They've Done To My Song, Ma became nearly an anthem.

I couldn't help it, I always hated Brand New Key, probably because it was so overplayed, and, despite my joy at its obvious Freudian implications, it eventually drove me into the same sort of mind-numbing catatonic state that Chewy Chewy and Tie a Yellow Ribbon by other artists were to do later.

On the other hand, to quote my artist friend T.J. Neil defending his creation of really ugly carpet golf courses, "It paid the rent."

The song made Melanie a star, gave us the chance to hear her other music and now gives us the chance to see it performed live in Tarpon Springs.

The last time I saw her on stage, it was with the Kingston Trio and the Limelighters and (he was doing a single then) Glen Yarbrough. Our seats were so high in the nosebleed section that I couldn't tell for sure whether Melanie had a face -- but she sure had a voice.

Look for me at her place before long. I'll be the fat guy with the long white hair who listens in quiet reverie and only occasionally, when one song is played, puts his hands over his ears and runs out screaming probably off-key.


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