Jul 07

TONY ORLANDO AND DAWN – “Tie A Yellow Ribbon Round The Old Oak Tree”

FT + Popular68 comments • 6,243 views

#329, 21 April 1973

Tony Orlando, banged up for unspecified badness, whiles away his time inside by fooling about with his organ (Bontempi if I’m not mistaken) and dreaming of the yellow ribbon his lady-love will hang out to show she’s waited for him. But when the day comes he finds – sorry to spoil the punchline – a hundred ribbons tied on! The sly old dog. It must be the moustache.

(Or are they all meant to be from the same woman?)

One of the minor philosophical problems of pop is this: why is one catchy song delightfully so and another infuriatingly so? Dawn make an important contribution to the debate by suggesting implicitly that the difference may well lie in the enthusiastic application of cheap bastard organ all over a track, deep-sixing any chance of emotional bite with a grinning rinky-dink flourish at the end of every bloody line. Tony Orlando being a self-satisfied goon obviously doesn’t help either. Obnoxious.



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  1. 51
    Waldo on 24 Jul 2007 #

    I know what you mean: “The whole damn bus is cheering!”

  2. 52
    Snif on 25 Jul 2007 #

    I seem to recall reading the “original” account of the story behind the song in a Reader’s Digest not long before it came out – perhaps the writer of said tune saw the same article and was inspired to hit-dom…?

  3. 53
    My name is Kenny on 25 Jul 2007 #

    If you haven’t checked it out yet, go check out the Asylum Street Spankers’ take on the song, “Stick Magnetic Ribbons on Your SUV.”

  4. 54
    My name is Kenny on 25 Jul 2007 #

    It’s on Youtube.

  5. 55
    Marcus Floater on 31 Jul 2007 #

    Apparently the song’s lyrics were a rip-off of an article published in the early 70s. The author sued, but lost, when the songwriters demonstrated that it was on old folk story that predated the article – although if you read the article it’s pretty clear that it is the ur source. Article here:


  6. 56
    tracerhand on 31 Jul 2007 #

    A friend in Tennessee has two things on the back of his truck: the magnetic yellow ribbon saying “Support Our Troops” and a bumper sticker saying “Republicans are scum”.

    Great comments.

  7. 57
    Erithian on 3 Aug 2007 #

    I was going to say something to the effect that there is no contradiction between supporting the troops – in the sense of hoping they do a professional job and get home in one piece – and opposing the leaders who sent them there, but that it’s a tricky concept to get across in a bumper sticker. Mind you, the two you quote seem to do the job nicely.

  8. 58
    Marcello Carlin on 3 Aug 2007 #

    Currently reading Drabble’s The Ice Age and I note that “Tie A Yellow Ribbon” comes up on the car radio at a crucial moment and initiates a nervous breakdown in one of the lead female characters. Hardly surprising.

  9. 59
    old hippie on 22 Aug 2007 #

    I was researching the history of “Tie a Yellow Ribbon” when I came across this chat site. I am dating myself here; but I remember when this song came out the first time. We even studied it in grade 11. The timing with the end of the Viet Nam War (er — Police Action- the returning troops did not get the government support of actual war veterans) is correct. One thing that you are all missing is the timing of the prioson term. Correct me is I am wrong, but wasn’t the penalty for draft dodging 3 years? The stint over in the Nam was just 2. So — apart from the history of ribbons being worn to remember a loved one far away – the YELLOW ribbon started out as a symbol of support for returning draft dodgers. That aspect seems to have been conveniently forgotten.

    Old Hippie

  10. 60
    DUTCH WAGENBACH on 21 Sep 2007 #

    I loved TIE A YELLOW RIBBON when it came out in 1973 and still do. It sounds as though it was written thiry years earlier but is none the worse for it. It’s an excellent tune to jitterbug to. But here’s a confession for you. Kidderminster Harriers Football Team re-wrote the lyrics earlier this year as “Tie a Big Red Ribbon Round the New Wembley” Go to http://www.bbc.co.uk/hereford & worcester to hear it. Brilliant! Living within sight of the Wembley arch I like the Kidderminster Harriers lyrics even more than I do the originals. Perhaps we should now have a custom of tying big red ribbons round new stadiums whenever they open.

  11. 61
    DUTCH WAGENBACH on 22 Sep 2007 #

    Old Hippie – interesting comment. But if memory serves me correctly, wasn’t the guy in the lyrics (the original Irwin Levine and Larry Brown lyrics, not Kidderminster Harriers’ ones by the way!) put away for some form of theft, not draft-dodging? “Now I’ve got to know what is and isn’t mine” goes the second line of the lyrics. According to other sources I’ve resarched, the lyrics were inspired by a guy from White Oak, Georgia who was put away for three years for passing dud cheques, which is a form of theft. On his release, he asked his wife to tie a yellow ribbon (surprise surprise) round the single oak tree on the village green to show that she still loved him. But perhaps I’m splitting hairs. The point is that, regardless of the authors’ intentions, TIE A YELLOW RIBBON became an enduring anthem to homecoming from any form of incarceration, whether brought on by criminal acts or otherwise. And it endures to this day, 34 years after its original release. Just think, football was effectively incarcerated in the doldrums whilst the new Wembley stadium was being built, so when it came home to the spanking new stadium (after years of delay to the project, not to mention running over budget) the Kidderminster Harriers’ rewrite was very timely. Certainly a better anthem than FOOTBALL’S COMING HOME.

  12. 62
    richard thompson on 27 May 2008 #

    remember Pans People dancing to it and then during it’s time at no 1 there was a film of Dawn singing it on a bus then they sang it live on the 500th edition.

  13. 63
    Billy Smart on 28 May 2008 #

    That’s the Top Of The Pops transmitted on October 4th 1973. Also in the studio along with Dawn were; CCS, Bryan Ferry, Cliff Richard, Lynsey De Paul, The Sweet, David Cassidy, The Tremeloes (eh?), The Simon Park Orchestra and The Who – quite a line-up! It was presented by Jimmy Saville, Tony Blackburn, Noel Edmunds and Kenny Everett. This one is supposed to exist!

  14. 64
    DJ Punctum on 28 May 2008 #

    Ah, the seldom-acknowledged “go glam” period of the Trems’ history. If the Who were on they would have been doing “5.15” and hence this is the famous moment when they threw a hissy fit which I think is fairly freely available on YouTube.

  15. 65
    DJ Punctum on 28 May 2008 #

    Here, for instance.

  16. 66
    Lena on 19 Mar 2013 #

    The Osmonds are coming, the Osmonds are coming: http://musicsoundsbetterwithtwo.blogspot.co.uk/2013/03/osmondmania-little-jimmy-tweedle-dee.html Thanks for reading and retweeting, everybody!

  17. 67
    Lena on 2 Apr 2013 #

    The whole darn bus is going to the drive-in: http://musicsoundsbetterwithtwo.blogspot.co.uk/2013/04/postmodern-love-david-bowie-drive-in.html Thanks for reading, everyone!

  18. 68
    Lena on 23 Apr 2013 #

    It’s getting hot in here: http://musicsoundsbetterwithtwo.blogspot.co.uk/2013/04/ka-boom-sweet-hell-raiser.html Thanks for reading, tout le monde!

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