By Catherine Terelak

GARDINER LOUNGE– In the past, Grinnell College has hosted spring concerts with such headliners as Lizzo, Soccer Mommy, and Japanese Breakfast. This year, however, no such event will take place. The B&S is disappointed to report that the 2023 Spring Concert Budget was exhausted last weekend, when America’s most beloved one hit wonder Don McLean landed in Grinnell, performed his one song, and disappeared. Here’s how it went down, straight from the mouth of Grinnell’s Bastion of Journalistic Integrity:

After paying his respects at the Buddy Holly Crash Site in quasi-nearby Clear Lake, Iowa, the almost-late great Don McLean arrived on campus on Friday night, guitar in hand. The College was not previously aware of his appearance and thus was not able put him up in Grinnell House or the Country Inn and Suites down the road. McLean, however, was more than willing to take up lodging in the North Campus Loggia. Don McLean was not removed from the premises for the simple fact that he is Don McLean. Batting away a billowing cloud of pot smoke, McLean said to a B&S correspondent on the scene, ‘I love it here. I’m sleeping outside, everyone is dressed badly, and the weed is terrible, not to mention illegal. I feel like I’m back in the winter of seventy-two.’ 

Anyone who talked to McLean for more than two minutes received an earful about the winter of seventy-two, the finest hour of the famous folk rocker’s life, when he was twenty-six years old and well-endowed in the sideburns department and the reigning king of the charts with his nine-minute magnum opus, ‘American Pie.’ Like a narcoleptic for nostalgia, McLean seemed prone to random trances: momentary but completely immersive returns to the winter of seventy-two. ‘Bye, bye, Miss American Pie,’ he whispered occasionally, entering a dreamlike state where his eyes were open but he did not see. ‘Drove my chevy… to the levee… but the levee was dry. Them good old boys… drinking whiskey and rye… singing… this will be the day that I die.’ 

Another common throughline of McLean’s interactions with Grinnell students was McLean’s passionate vendetta against Taylor Swift, who unseated ‘American Pie’ as the longest song to reach number on Billboard’s Top 100 with her 2021 release of ‘All Too Well (Taylor’s Version).’ ‘She has assaulted my legacy,’ McLean said, ‘and I actively seek vengeance.’ What precisely this meant, McLean was not at liberty to say, but it sounded serious. ‘Some in my inner circle have suggested that Taylor Swift could be the Miss American Pie, or even just the Girl Who Sang the Blues, and I have dismissed both claims. If anything, Taylor Swift is Satan, whom I saw laughing with delight on… I believe it was…. the day the music died? Yes. It’s all coming back to me now. She was… helter-skelter… in the summer swelter, a bird running off to the fallout shelter. As I saw her on the stage, my hands were clenched in fists of rage.’ 

Unbeknownst to the Grinnell Administration and Weekends at Grinnell, McLean gave an acoustic concert on Saturday night. ‘Hello to all you lonely teenage broncin’ bucks,’ McLean shouted to a sparse crowd of drunk Grinnellians passing through Gardiner Lounge to gawk at the agéd songster, ‘with your pink carnations and your pickup trucks. Who believes in rock ‘n’ roll? Can music save your mortal soul?’ McLean held out a pretend microphone and was met with jeers. Almost understandably, he looked disappointed. Clearly, these were not rhetorical questions. McLean licked his wounds and began to do the thing he was born to do: play ‘American Pie.’ 

‘A long, long, time ago… I can still remember… how that music… used to make me smile.’ He paused, expectantly, and then he carried on. ‘And I knew if I had my chance, that I could make those people dance… and maybe they’d be happy—’ Again, he stopped short, but this time, he did not carry on. He threw his guitar into the crowd, minorly injuring a quartet of mediocre Division III athletes. ‘Are you people serious?’ McLean said. ‘Do none of you Ivy League cornfuckers know the lyrics to “American Pie”?’ Crickets, from the crowd. Except for the person who corrected McLean on his calling Grinnell an Ivy League school, which it is not. Becoming irate, McLean reached for something inside his fringed leather vest. Everybody knew where this was going, and it wasn’t good. Dread rose in the pits of everyone’s stomachs, as well as vomit. This was becoming a serious situation. ‘Do you know the lyrics to “All Too Well (Taylor’s Version)”? Raise your hand, if you do.’ Several people—precisely the sorts whom one would suspect of knowing all the words to ‘All Too Well (Taylor’s Version)’—raised their hands. ‘Everybody raise both hands, actually, and keep them where I can see them! Nobody leaves this room until somebody gets up and sings all nine minutes of “American Pie”! Don’t make me make this the night the music dies!’ 

Campo Steve, or Campus Security Stephen, as is his proper title, had been lurking in the back of Gardiner Lounge for this very purpose. While he was packing non-lethals of all stripes, his most compelling weapon would be his status as a person who lived and breathed in the last quarter of the twentieth century. ‘But February made me shiver,’ he intoned. ‘And with every paper I’d deliver, bad news on the doorstep. I couldn’t take one more step. I can’t remember if I cried… when I read about his widowed bride. But something touched me deep inside… the day the music died…’ Several students with geriatric taste in music heard Campo Steve’s siren song from the South Loggia and went downstairs to see what the racket was all about. Upon being informed by Don McLean that they were walking into a hostage situation, they turned around and called the real police. At this point, McLean saw no option but to book it. He hobbled out of Gardiner Lounge and hightailed it out of town on an unmarked motorcycle. A week later, he is yet to be found. Authorities’ latest theory is that he took the last train for the coast with the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. 

 Grinnellians are still struggling to make sense of what has become known around campus as the ‘American Pie Incident.’ What, we ask ourselves, could it mean? Was it a crazed attempt to attempt an allegedly important cultural artifact to the youth? A  bias-motivated attack against Taylor Swift fans? The final psychological breakdown of a man caught for all of eternity in the winter of seventy-two? Whatever the case, it happened—and it could happen again. We are not, however, powerless to Don McLean. Even as he roams America in search of the sacred store where he heard the music play before, Don McLean does not own us. In her official statement about the American Pie Incident, President Anne Harris said, ‘Don McLean is scary, but now, we understand that the strongest defense against Don McLean is Don McLean. If every American born between the years of 2000 and 2005 learned all the lyrics to ‘American Pie,’ college campuses across the country could neutralize the threat of Don McLean.’ This is why the 2023 Spring Concert Budget has been allocated to programs that educate students about the dangers of Don McLean and prevent another American Pie Incident in the future. Next year, all first-year students will take a mandatory six-session course to learn every word to American Pie. ‘We are looking forward to a future,’ President Harris said, ‘when we can see Don McLean coming and say confidently, “This will not be the day that I die.”’