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It’s Christmas time. Even if it wasn’t, I think we all need a break from the madness that’s going in our world. Fully considering both, the song I chose for today is from a simpler time, but it has an interesting back story.

Music editors, music journalists, and even musicians themselves these days often bemoan the lack of inspired songwriting hitting the top of the charts. It can feel pretty sobering to see the laundry list of songwriters, producers, and players on an album created in the 21st century album because some of us remember when it was just the bands, the singer, and a producer who were involved in the making of one. However, in the ‘50s and ‘60s, chart-topping hits that were written by people and that the bands themselves didn’t have a hand in writing at all was commonplace. In America, Elvis Presley and the Monkees didn’t pen their own material (or at least most of it), and the public didn’t care. For a fictional dramedy about that time period, I recommend the Alison Anders-directed film Grace of My Heart, which feels entirely believable to me following my experience as in the music business.

Graham Gouldman is an English musician best known for his work with 10cc, responsible for the cloying 1975 hit ‘I’m Not in Love’ that Gouldman cowrote. What I did not know until I started digging around to write this analysis was that he wrote one of my favorite songs ever. Perhaps even more surprising is that his own father, Hyme Gouldman, a playwright, started the song for him that led to The Hollies’ first hit in America.

Title: ‘Bus Stop’
Where to find it: ‘Bus Stop’ single (1966, Parlophone)
Performed by: The Hollies
Words by: Graham and Hyme Gouldman (credited to Graham Gouldman)

Verse 1
Bus stop, wet day, she’s there, I say
Please share my umbrella
Bus stop, bus goes, she stays, love grows
Under my umbrella

All that summer we enjoyed it
Wind and rain and shine
That umbrella, we employed it
By August, she was mine

“Chorus” 1
Every morning I would see her waiting at the stop
Sometimes she’d shopped and she would show me what she bought
Other people stared as if we were both quite insane
Someday my name and hers are going to be the same

Verse 2
That’s the way the whole thing started
Silly but it’s true
Thinkin’ of a sweet romance
Beginning in a queue

Came the sun the ice was melting
No more sheltering now
Nice to think that that umbrella
Led me to a vow

“Chorus” 2
Every morning I would see her waiting at the stop
Sometimes she’d shopped and she would show me what she bought
Other people stared as if we were both quite insane
Someday my name and hers are going to be the same

Verse 3
Bus stop, wet day, she’s there, I say
Please share my umbrella
Bus stop, bus goes, she stays, love grows
Under my umbrella

All that summer we enjoyed it
Wind and rain and shine
That umbrella, we employed it
By August, she was mine

I consider ‘Bus Stop’ one of the finest examples of quintessentially English ‘60s pop. I say it’s *English* pop because of the words chosen and its reflective mood. Where else would it raining so frequently to necessitate our hero to be carrying an umbrella with him all the time? In summer, we’re told “wind and rain and shine”, that poor brolly was equally “enjoyed” and “employed”. Graham Gouldman was born in Broughton, Salford, greater Manchester – that’s the North West of England for non-Brits reading this – so he was certainly a lad who knew something about rain. A song like this would not have been written in America. I can’t imagine someone at the Brill Building in New York coming up with this. We go through all four seasons in this song, so it couldn’t have come from Los Angeles, either. Notice, too, that the minor key throughout, including that observed on the guitar line, has an Indian influence, likely nicked from and aping the style of the Beatles‘Norwegian Wood’ and the Byrds’ ‘Eight Miles High’ popular at the time.

It’s pop that’s super easy to sing along to. Most of the words here are one syllable, handily adding syncopation through the vocals. However, this isn’t pop in the way you might think of it if you used the Archies’ ‘Sugar Sugar’ as the gold standard template for bubblegum pop. I’ve noted the two interloper sections of text as chorus in quotations, as these sections aren’t choruses in the conventional sense. They’re not the kind of chorus you would jump up and down at a show to sing or scream along to. We’re used to thinking of choruses as the parts that have less finesse because they have to be repeated multiple times throughout a song.

What does Gouldman do with these faux choruses? Something amazing. The notes twirl in the air to convey our hero’s enchantment with his girl. He’s on cloud nine, and he’s taken us with him. We might not have shouted these words back at the Hollies at one of their concerts, but for sure, the emotion comes across in spades. The emotion swells further because guitarists Graham Nash and Vic Steele join in with lead singer Allan Clarke to deliver awe-inspiring harmonies. Nash would, of course, soon move on to form Crosby, Stills, and Nash, another group who would be known for their gorgeous harmonies.

You know that feeling of being in love? Well, folks, he just hit you with it right there, too. “Someday my name and hers are going to be the same”: this was back in the days when double-barreled last names and the idea that women could keep their maiden names (good heavens!) weren’t even considered. It is one of the sweetest sentiments in pop music, that he’s thinking one day he’s going to make her his wife. Bonus: The long-suffering brolly gets thanked for his role in this: “Nice to think that that umbrella / led me to a vow”.

I am a child of the American suburbs, where you needed and still need a car to get around. The idea of romanticizing a ‘Bus Stop’ was lost on me until I started traveling in Britain and in Europe. You can wait and spend a lot of time a bus stop, and I can believe that people could meet their mates while waiting for a bus to show up. Maybe I should wait for more buses!

Lastly, a live performance of the song by the Hollies, in which some of them are sporting those godawful frilly tie-fluff things that would eventually open the door to the ‘70s frilly shirt. Ack! At least the music is good!