An American Odyssey in Song: Connecticut – Ben Folds and “Kylie From Connecticut”

Welcome to this occasional series where I am attempting a virtual journey around the 50 States of America in song. For anyone new to this place, I have a continuous route map where I enter and leave each state only once. Suggestions for the next leg always welcome!

Last time we visited the State of Rhode Island which means this time we will be entering the southernmost state in the New England region, Connecticut (another tricky one to spell because of the silent “c”). I for one am quite glad we’ve reached this point, as when I decided to start this trip in Maine, New England I hadn’t really considered that there would be slim pickings when it came to songs associated with that region. I am starting to think that settlers to those states perhaps did not have such a rich musical heritage as those who took up residence in the Southern or Appalachian Mountain states, but we’ll find out a bit more about that when we get there.

connecticut

The whole of Connecticut’s shoreline faces Long Island so rather than looking out to the open Atlantic, the large “sound” created because of that particular geography, makes it an ideal strategic location for submarines. Long Island Sound is therefore the Submarine Capital of the World. Although fairly rural to the east of the state, the southern and western parts are very much part of the New York metropolitan area. The main industries are Finance and Insurance and the state has the highest per capita income and median household income in the country. To use UK counties as an analogy, it sounds like the Surrey of the USA.

Difficult to write anything quirky or interesting about Connecticut at all however, as it just sounds so damn affluent and respectable. Perhaps a look into figures from popular culture will inspire me. It was where spoilt little rich girl Rachel Green from the TV show Friends hailed from. It was also the setting for the satirical thriller The Stepford Wives, where a spunky young photographer mum, played by Katharine Ross, begins to suspect that the frighteningly submissive and beautiful housewives in her idyllic new Connecticut neighbourhood, may actually be robots created by their husbands (she was right). It also seems to be a state where many from the acting profession were born, or were residents, and maybe it’s just me but I can’t help thinking there is something similar about them all…….

Not much music so far and again I didn’t have any ideas of my own for this state. A thorough peruse through the various pages of the world wide web hasn’t really helped either, but fortunately last time a few suggestions came in from friends of this blog. The Swede from Unthought of, though, somehow seemed to remember that Judy Garland and Bing Crosby once recorded a song called Connecticut which turned out to be correct. Listening to the lyrics, it was apparently “the place to be”.

thCDLQWHOR

Bing seems to be making a bit of a regular appearance on this journey as he also featured last time in his guise as Dexter, the (middle-aged) beau of Grace Kelly in High Society. And, this song called Connecticut immediately reminded me of a film starring Bing that I must have watched decades ago, as a child, called A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court. The film was based on a book by Mark Twain who was himself a long term resident of Connecticut and at one point lived right next door to Harriet Beecher Stowe so not just a place for blonde-haired actors it seems, but also a place for authors of the “Great American Novel”. Here is a clip of the trailer for that film from 1949 – Yep, they just don’t make ’em like that any more.

When thinking about other possible musical associations with Connecticut, it was a bit of a no-brainer that I would feature something by The Carpenters who were also from this state. I featured them recently in another post (link here) but had been building up to doing so for some time, as although they became one of the best-selling acts of the 1970s producing cleverly harmonised, melodic pop of the Easy Listening persuasion, they could never have been described as “cool” or edgy, and however many times we say there should be no guilty pleasures in song, it still takes a brave man (or woman) to come out and say they are indeed fans of that genre.

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This Masquerade by The Carpenters:

Older brother Richard was the creative force behind the duo and was a gifted composer and arranger, but of course it was Karen who had that wonderful deep voice that communicated the words of whatever she sang in such a melancholy way. It is only recently that I’ve been able to start listening to Carpenters albums again, as I still find it really upsetting that she died so young from the illness anorexia nervosa.  We knew so little about that particular illness back then but it just goes to show that however perfect things look on the outside, there can also be all sorts of inner turmoil – This Masquerade that can be life.

And so this leads me on to the final featured song. It has been quite some time since I’ve written an American Odyssey post and that was partly because I really struggled to find something to write about this state at all. I do hope that any residents of Connecticut who stumble upon this blog do not take offence, but the vibe I get from this state is that it may well be the most affluent place to live, and it may have a great university and great jobs in banking and finance BUT behind closed doors, is all well with the residents of Connecticut? Throughout our fairly lengthy marriage, Mr WIAA and I have actively tried to avoid living in an area (and every town has them) where it REALLY matters what car you drive, how often you renew your kitchen and the quality of your glass and china. These superficial trappings are really not important in the grand scheme of things and we are lucky to live beside some very like-minded souls, who have no illusions of grandeur and care not a hoot about such material trappings. Just like in this blog, where I often have to reign it in a bit as I do tend to over-share at times, we have no secrets from our friends and neighbours and seem to muddle along swimmingly. I cannot say the same for the parts of town we have actively avoided living in and I suspect large swathes of Connecticut would be out of bounds for the likes of us!

ben fold

A song suggested by both C and Rol in my last American Odyssey post was Kylie From Connecticut by Ben Folds. I have to admit, as is often the case, I wasn’t familiar with this song until having it pointed out but I am now a great fan of Mr Folds so thanks guys. Although this song is about a message left by someone from Connecticut, it reeks of all I have been writing about above. Here is a marriage where there are obviously secrets and the listener is left to interpret the Kylie mystery for themselves – Behind closed doors, all is not well. Since starting this blog, and following other music blogs, I have taken a far keener interest in the lyrics to songs than I ever did in my younger days and what a joy that has been. Ben Folds is an American singer-songwriter who was originally inspired by Elton John and Billy Joel but is someone I was really not that familiar with so will definitely have to investigate further. It also seems that Mr Folds has been married many times, so there may well have been a few messages from a “Connecticut Kylie” over the years which may have muddied the waters of domestic bliss. Just sayin’.

Kylie From Connecticut by Ben Folds:

Next time we will be heading into New York City and to be honest there are probably more songs about that city than about any other place on earth so goodness knows how I’m going to handle that one. Still would be interested to hear of any personal favourites however, so don’t hold back.

But finally, this has been a bit of a dull post in many ways, so what better way to end it than with a large slice of Mystic Pizza. This is just the kind of film I loved watching back in the late ’80s whilst sporting my big, permed hair and large dangly earrings – ‘Twas the times. Mystic itself is an old fishing port on Connecticut’s easternmost shoreline and was the setting for the film but is now more of a tourist centre for visitors, with many living history museums and the like. In case you’re a little peckish, the restaurant is still in business – Anyone up for a slice of heaven?

See you in New York!

Kylie From Connecticut Lyrics
(Song by Ben Folds)

It’s just a thought, but where did it come from
What does she do with it if it comes back
A note from his assistant is there by the telephone
She wonders again as she turns out the lights

Kylie is calling from Connecticut
She says you’ve got the number
It says Kylie is calling from Connecticut
It’s back on her mind as she closes her eyes

She believes there are things you shouldn’t know about
When you’ve been married for thirty-five years
And her heart belongs to a man that she hadn’t seen
Since a magical night when the children were small

Kylie is calling from Connecticut
It’s probably nothing, yeah nothing at all
Kylie is calling from Connecticut
It’s back on her mind as she’s reading old letters
That she left in the closet with the pictures she cherished
She never told a soul for the last thirty years
Now she closes her eyes

Author: Alyson

Whenever I hear an old song on the radio, I am immediately transported back to those days - I know I'm not alone here and want to record those memories for myself and for the people in them. 50 years ago the song "Alfie" was recorded for the film of the same name and I'm hoping that by writing this blog, I might finally work out the answer to his question, "What's it all about?"

16 thoughts on “An American Odyssey in Song: Connecticut – Ben Folds and “Kylie From Connecticut””

  1. Another wonderful post, Alyson. When my wife & I were looking to move from Queens, NY and buy a house in the suburbs in 2005, our search focused on Westchester County (New York) and Greenwich, Connecticut.. We had some key criteria, including proximity to a commuter train (we were both still working in Manhattan at the time), a safe neighborhood and not spending a ridiculous amount of money. At the time, Connecticut had significantly lower property taxes but houses cost more, although in the long run that’s always a better option because taxes increase but mortgage payments stay the same. Greenwich was a bit further from everything I was used to, and it had the vibe you described of needing to have a particular type of car. I’m glad we didn’t move there although we probably would have been better off financially, as we bought our house in Westchester at the peak of the market and the taxes were insane. So glad to be in North Carolina now where the cost of living is so much lower and quality of life is better. Anyway, I digress (I know you appreciate that 😀 ). You’re right that Connecticut doesn’t really have a musical personality (or any personality really, but it’s still better than New Jersey…haha). I really like your choices, and I’m pleased that you are now a Ben Folds fan. I still remember the joy of hearing Ben Folds Five when their first album was released. Those first few albums are wonderful, and the rest of his/their catalog is full of enjoyable gems. As for The Carpenters, anyone who doesn’t enjoy that music simply needs to go to the Wizard Of Oz in search of a heart. Yes, the music is mostly soft & light, but that voice was something special.

    Hopefully I stayed on topic enough to make this comment worthwhile. Looking forward to your next post in this series, having lived in New York from birth until the age of 49.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Well I did wonder if any of the American blogging pals would spot this post and be offended by my observations about one of their states, but fortunately you seem to agree. I have still never made it across to NYC, and to hear you mention how familiar you are with all these places in one sentence (Queens, Manhattan, Westchester) is quite bizarre for me – The blogosphere makes the world a very small place. I seem to remember Staton Island being mentioned at some point also as your childhood stomping ground. Ok to digress and yes I am prone to do that also – Upside is that I am now far more au fait with real estate prices within the Tri-State area!

      Glad you like my choices and glad I discovered Ben Folds via writing this post. Looking forward to listening to a lot more from him. As for The Carpenters, you will be disappointed that I yet again mentioned those dreaded “guilty pleasure” words. As you say, anyone who doesn’t enjoy their music needs to go in search of a heart.

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  2. Alyson, I hope that the governor of Connecticut doesn’t sue you for belittling his state!

    P.S. I know a good lawyer in case you end up needing one. He charges a hefty fee, but he has never lost a case!

    Enjoy the weekend. I’m looking forward to your article about New York.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh dear – Only my opinion of course so hope I won’t be needing any expensive lawyers! My thoughts on this state have obviously been heavily influenced by that 1975 Stepford Wives film – Katharine Ross was my favourite actress back then and they turned her into a robot for goodness sake. Thinking about it a bit more, there is a lot of that going on at the moment in my workplace, so maybe I was subconsciously letting all the frustration spill out here!

      I promise to be very nice about PA when I get there and it does sound as if there will be much, much more to write about musically.

      Enjoy the weekend.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Very pleased (and surprised) to see you choose Ben Folds, and glad to hear you’re enjoying his music. (Not that there was a great deal of choice for Connecticut.)

    New York?

    Too many to choose from, surely. Especially when you add in all the songs about Brooklyn, Manhattan, et al. I wouldn’t know where to start.

    OK, that’s not strictly true. Putting aside the obvious choices like Frank, The Pogues and Gerard Kenny, there would be only two songs in contention for Number One on my own New York Top Ten…

    Billy Joel – New York State Of Mind

    Bruce Springsteen – New York City Serenade

    The former is probably more appropriate to your needs. Anyway, I’ll be interested to see what you choose.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes, this was the trickiest of all the states to write about in song I think, so glad I’ve got it over with – Feel as if I’ve been very rude about the place however and not really my style, but as I said above, don’t think it would be for me at all.

      Glad to hear I’ve surprised you (yet again) but this blog has really opened up a whole new musical world for me – I started off just randomly picking a song from the past to write about; then I changed it to being a bit more carefully chosen based on what was going on in the world; then I started to take heed of the lyrics a bit more; then I started following blogs by people such as yourself; then….. You get the gist.

      As for NY, yes it would be Bruce and Billy for you wouldn’t it but just so many others so will have to pick a select few – I have an idea or two but it sometimes changes. Might be a little while away so got time. My Saturday post of late has ended up being a bit of a review of the week but don’t think I have the stomach for it this time – It is one thing to have a bit of a rant about elections/TM but this week’s events are just too big for a silly music blog.

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  4. Great that you went for the Ben Folds suggestion – and I’ve never given Connecticut any thought before at all so this has been quite an education, thanks! Some states have a certain feel about them just from what I’ve read and heard (California… New Orleans… Alaska, etc.) but this wasn’t one that did for me – before now. That whole thing about keeping up re. cars and kitchens, etc. is anathema to me. Ugh… And the Stepford Wives surely has to be one of the most disturbing films I’ve ever seen.
    New York – well so many to choose from as you say. I am rather partial to Madonna’s ‘I Love New York’ from the ‘Confessions On A Dance Floor’ album.
    (Sorry my blog’s been a bit quiet lately – can’t seem to get my act together to post just at the moment but still here and reading everyone else’s!)

    Liked by 1 person

    1. No – When pondering life, one tends not to spend much time reflecting on the State of Connecticut but as Neil said above, the governor may sue me for belittling his state so hopefully I find nice things to say about the next 44! Some of the Southern States certainly have personality, as does California, Alaska, Hawaii etc so if I ever make it there, it should get a lot more interesting. So many songs about NY but thanks for that suggestion as hadn’t thought of it.

      I’d noticed you’d been quiet on the blogging front of late and hoped I hadn’t just missed something – I have also been doing a lot less and been mainly writing a Saturday post reflecting on events of the previous week. As I said to Rol above, don’t think that will be possible this weekend as just too big a thing to mention in a silly blog. Last year was very much the year of tributes after the shock deaths of figures from the world of music and entertainment – We all hoped this year wouldn’t be as bad but it has actually turned out worse, for different reasons. I’m crossing fingers that next week will not bring new horrors.

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  5. Richard Yates’ novel Revolutionary Road was set in Connecticut. They made it into a film a few years back – never as good as the book, but they never are, are they? String of Pearls by Glenn Miller appears at one point, now that would have been a great choice.

    Ben Folds flys below quite a few bloggers’ radars. Landed is, quite probably, one of the finest songs ever written in the twentieth century.

    This Masquerade is a wonderful thing too. Have you heard George Benson’s instrumental version? You must.

    I’ve mentioned it before, but I love your approach to writing; never anything less than 100% honest, and a 100% truthful. Don’t change.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I had forgotten about Revolutionary Road – Only seen the film but scarily it does also fit the theme for this post. As for Glenn Miller he is due to appear later on in this journey as so many of his tunes have place names (of the very interesting kind) in their title.

      Just listened to George Benson’s Masquerade (wonderful as you say) and Ben Folds’ Landed (yes I can see how you would really appreciate those fine lyrics). Ben, although no spring chicken now, still looks like a bit of a lost little boy to me – You just want to pick him up and make it better (well I do anyway!).

      Thanks for the kind words about my writing. To be honest you probably sent this comment at just the right time as I have a massive dilemma on my hands – As I wrote the other week, I have become a bit addicted to it all and that has seriously impacted on what I do to earn my living so decisions are having to be made. Also I never quite know if I am making a fool of myself in front of all the serious music buffs I seem to have found myself in the company of – It was always just supposed to be a bit of fun and I have never professed to be an expert on any of it but am now feeling a bit self-conscious about some of these ramblings. Oh well – First World problem an’ all that! Thanks for dropping by though.

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      1. The concerns you voice are ones I experience on a regular basis, Alyson, and have done since I began blogging ten years ago. And I know the same feelings are felt by other bloggers too. (Not all of them, but even some of the most popular and respected.) Blogging is less dangerous / harmful than most other addictions, but the guilt and recriminations are on a par.

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        1. Glad it’s not just me then. I have been feeling particularly self-conscious about leaving comments on other blogs of late but think it’s all part of something much bigger I have going on at the moment. Didn’t ever mention we have an online store did I? Probably because on the long list of websites I visit, it comes way after WordPress, YouTube and all of your blogs! This addiction has caused the demise of Mr WIAA’s shop window, so guilt doesn’t even start to cover it. I will have to do better but not sure how. First World problem as I said but thanks for the reassurance it’s not just me.

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        2. Of course I should have added that you should have no concerns at all, as reading between the lines you are one of the most respected writers/music bloggers out there – You have been very supportive of what I do though over the last year for which I am very grateful.

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          1. Alyson, Rol – absolutely! Completely understand and feel the same. It is reassuring though to have confirmation that we all probably have a variety of similar internal struggles over what might seem on the surface to be a pretty innocuous hobby, but nonetheless those anxieties feel real enough! Alyson – wishing you all the very best with the online shop side – we’re behind you.

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            1. Gosh C, this discussion is growing arms and legs as sometimes happens! Sadly my point about the online store is that it is still out there somewhere and it used to account for most of Mr WIAA’s income but since I discovered blogging in 2016 I haven’t really had the time to run it for him. It was definitely time for me to do something for myself last year as opposed to putting the rest of the family first as always, but this addiction means the family finances have been seriously affected!

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