Oliver – Good Morning Starshine (1969)

This is a bit of a special edition for ZaRecords, since I’m not going to talk about an album but rather about a song. Yesterday I hinted at a very odd coincidence which happened to me concerning music and I thought this is as good a day as any to tell the tale. There’s also an element of splendid contrast between the song itself and the eerie story itself. So, Good Morning Starshine, by Oliver, one of the most nonsensical songs you’ll ever hear, in one of the most surreal contexts I’ve ever lived.

In 2000 I was in 9th grade and walking on air because I had won a sort-of essay contest which led to my first airplane ride out of the country, all the way to Sweden. The others winning contestants and I were to spend about a week in the town of Linköping visiting schools and learning how the Swedish government took steps to help integrate children with physical handicaps in their school system. (As far as I know, Romania is still way behind on this issue.) It was my first trip abroad on my own, and my crush at the time was coming too, which felt great. This was happening sometime in March.

We got there, we were lodged, we made friends, you can imagine it was pretty fun. One day, our hosts took us shopping in the local mall. The first place I darted to was the record store. I wasn’t rolling around in money, but CDs and musical instruments were all I could think about (some things never change). You must understand, I mostly built my musical collection and interest by myself. My parents used to be avid music listeners and had quite a collection of records, but most of them were recordings of classical music, and the pop & rock material available in Romania during their youth was very limited, so I got to discover most of that stuff all alone. I’m saying this because what I bought in that store was a 3-CD pack entitled “Happy Hippie Hits”, a kind of “best of” collection of songs from the late sixties and early seventies. On the third CD I came across a track which really clicked – it was Oliver’s “Good Morning Starshine”. I hadn’t seen Hair at that moment and I didn’t know anything about Oliver, but I enjoyed the track very much nonetheless. It became my happy song, an anthem for sunny days all throughout my highschool years.

And so it was that after I came to college I left all of my CDs at home and forgot all about Oliver. Until the 12th of March 2010, when, for no apparent reason, the memory of the song was vivid in my mind again, and I wanted to listen to it over and over. YouTube, as always, proved to be very accommodating and as I listened to the song, I got curious about Oliver’s other tracks, albums, records, whatever they might have been. What I discovered searching around on Wikipedia chilled me that day, and still does.

You see, Oliver died on the 12th of February 2000. Thinking back, I was in Sweden exactly one month after that, and even though I can’t be completely sure about this, I might have bought the CD on precisely the 12th of March. On the one month anniversary of his death. Which is no big deal, I’m sure it happens all the time. But to get the urge to listen to the song, out of the blue, after probably six years of having almost forgotten about it, a decade later to the day, that’s something that doesn’t happen very often, I hope you’ll agree. This song had always been special to me, but since then it’s become unforgettable.

Now about the song. It’s a very lighthearted little ditty, bubblegum-feel-good-music, probably the most unequivocally “nice” song I’ll ever talk about. Oliver had a very strong voice, warm and vibrant, and it definitely feels great to hear it on Good Morning Starshine (the song sounds much better in his rendition than it did in Hair). The harmonies are great as well, large and bold, full of a glowing quality, a simple, contagious joy. If I didn’t know better, I’d think it was produced by Phil Spector himself, with his Wall of Sound technique, so prominent in the sixties and seventies. Of course, there isn’t much to say about a song like this. Great production value, an inspired melody, very well sung, what else do you want? Lyrics? Er… let’s forget about those, shall we? The chorus is some of the most uncompromising gibberish I’ve ever heard, not to mention the fact that the verses don’t make any sense sentence-wise either. But it’s really not about the lyrics. If the song is not to your taste, there’s nothing which will make it so.

I’ll leave you with Oliver’s version as well as the version from Hair. A big nod to the ’60s from my part and, hey, make love, not war!


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