Thursday, September 20, 2012

Rubber Ducky—All Day Long

I’m reading Moby Duck by Donovan Hohn—in 1992, a cargo ship crossing the Pacific hit a storm that pitched it at angles extreme enough to send some upper-deck containers plummeting into the deep. The force of the impact was powerful enough to break open the containers, and imported goods floated out to sea. Among the merchandise were 28,800 rubber bath toys, a fourth of them little, yellow ducks. So, Hohn traveled to the four corners to track these little ducks that washed ashore. His journey is fascinating, and what he learns and then teaches is compelling.

In my reading today, Hohn reminisces about his childhood and Sesame Street and discovering the song Ernie sings about bathtime "Rubber Ducky, You’re the One." And now I have to reminisce, too. The song was introduced in 1970 and spread far beyond Sesame Street. In fact, that year, it made the Top 40.

Is there still a Top 40 in pop radio? I have no idea because I don’t listen to pop radio these days, but in 1970, I was glued to it. That summer, our TV broke, and our parents wouldn’t pay to have it repaired, so my sister Melanie and I listened to the radio that sat on the kitchen counter. In the morning after our parents left for work, we’d turn the dial from the Christian station they listened to—WMBI out of Chicago—to WLS out of Chicago—and we listened to all our favorite songs.

Whatever pop radio is like now, then, top songs were played twice each hour according to contract, so by the end of the day you would have heard each hit song fourteen or fifteen times. We didn’t get the full day’s worth because our mother came home for lunch, and since WLS and the evil rock-n-roll music it blared out was forbidden, we’d turn the dial back to WMBI, and we’d leave it there until she went back to work; and then we turned it back again before she came home in time for dinner. We were stealthy.

Oddly enough, "Rubber Ducky, You’re the One" with Jim Hensen singing as Ernie made the Top 40, and we learned the song very quickly. Why would such a song become a hit among some of the other hits that year—"Band of Gold," "Let It Be," "The Long and Winding Road," "Teach Your Children" and my favorite by Mungo Jerry, "In the Summertime." I have no idea, but there it was twice an hour.

It’s forever branded into the folds of my brain—Rubber ducky, you’re the one. You make bathtime lots of fun. Rubber ducky, I’m awfully fond of you.


dive said...

I'm going to have to buy that book now, Robyn; if only to be able to write posts as trippy as yours.
Actually, I think the last time I listened to chart radio was around 1974, which was when pop music died. I recently verified the fact by looking at the "year" section on my non-classical iPod and finding most rock and pop I listen to predates that watershed.
Are we getting old or what?

Speedway said...

I've put the book on my "to-do" list. I reminded me of the huge "raft" of soda bottles, plastic netting, aluminum can holders, etc that circles around in the Pacific Ocean. And that the first bit of detritus from the tsunami last year washed up onshore this summer. Scary stuff.

"Rubber Ducky" is a bit of mental detritus I thought I'd forgotten about, along with "you Light Up My life." Several years later, but in there, swirling around with the plastic duckies, just the same.