Jul 07

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

FT + Popular69 comments • 6,824 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. 31
    Waldo on 23 Jul 2007 #

    1973 was indeed the year of the Mens boycott at Wimbledon. But the reason for it was not money but political. A guy from Yugoslavia called Nikki Pilic had been suspended by his country’s association (Commies indeed!) for not turning up for Davis Cup tie for his country. This meant that Pilic’s entry for Wimbledon that year could not be accepted. At about this time, the ATP (Association of Tennis Professionals) had ben formed by former Wimbledon Champion Jack Kramer. It was in effect a players’ union. The ATP appealed to the Yugoslav association (in reality, their government) to rescind the suspension. This, not surprisingly, was ignored. Kramer thus instructed his members to withdraw their own Wimbledon entries in solidarity with Pilic. The All England Club was, alas, piggy in the middle and merely the victim of circumstance but the boycott went ahead, descimating the Mens draw completely. Just about all the top players stayed away, This in hindsight might have been what Ed Stewart was saying, as both the Soviet and Czech governments instructed their players not to strike (funny, that). So indeed did the Romanian regime, who ordered Ilie Nastase to play Wimbledon and he was promply seeded first. Roger “Neither The Queen Nor The Duran Duran One” did indeed make the semi-final as a patriot or a scab, depending on your political bent. Here he was brought down by the eventual winner Jan Kodes.

  2. 32
    Brian on 23 Jul 2007 #

    I live in Kingston, Ontario, Canada and it’s also home to a huge military base. Canada is , right now, along with the Brits very involved in military movements in Afganistan. We’ve had about 60 troops killed.

    As a show of support there are bumper stickers, shaped like a yellow ribbon that shows that we ” Support Our Troops “. I don’t know if the yellow ribbon was a symbol of support/safe return before the song was a hit, but it still used as such.

  3. 33
    Pete Baran on 23 Jul 2007 #

    The song “She Wore A Yellow Ribbon”, from the John Ford film – er – She Wore A Yellow Ribbon suggests the practice is considerably older: at least 1949 when the film came out, and probably 1870’s or so when the film is set.

    Its a terrific movie, with John Wayne taking “one last job” before retirement and being over-run by womenfolk.

  4. 34
    wwolfe on 23 Jul 2007 #

    The insanely insistent message of that rinky dink organ intro is that there are no problems anywhere in the world and everything works out for the best – or at least it would if only all those troublemakers would agree to share the Big Lie along with those of us humming this song. Delusion and resentment: the hallmarks of American politics for the last quarter-century.

    For this reason – and because I heard it ten times a day back when I listened to the radio during most of my waking hours – this was my all-time most hated single for about two decades. It was finally eclipsed by Whitney Houston’s “Deutschland Uber Alles” version of “I Will Always Love You.” But at a deep level, I’ll always loathe you, Tony.

    By the way, he and Dawn snagged a long-running prime time variety show out of this song. And he managed to cut a truly blasphemous version of the Impression’s “He Will Break Your Heart,” as well (re-titled “He Don’t Love You”).

  5. 35
    Lena on 23 Jul 2007 #

    I watched that variety show for a while, but the Sonny and Cher show was better. I’m happy he didn’t like this song. I can only assume that all those people who voted for Nixon but never admitted it publicly also bought this single.

  6. 36
    Marcello Carlin on 24 Jul 2007 #

    Much thanks to Waldo for putting the record straight about ’73 men’s Wimbledon, and indeed, oh the irony; still, even Stewpot on strikers was Noam Chomsky in comparison with Blackburn whom I clearly recall saying, with regard to power cuts etc., that striking electricians should be electrocuted. Charming.

    Mercifully the Tony Orlando and Dawn variety show never made it to British screens, or if it did I was lucky enough to miss it…although we did get the Donny and Marie Show for years on end…

    Apropos “Support Our Troops,” I wonder whether Brian has heard that song about the woman with the United States Marines sticker on the bumper of her SUV? Can’t remember title/artist details offhand but it is on one of the Poptimism CDs and is truly remarkable in an open-mouthed WTF kind of way.

  7. 37
    Marcello Carlin on 24 Jul 2007 #

    In fact minimal research shows said song to be “Bumper Of My SUV” by one Chely Wright.

  8. 38
    Tom on 24 Jul 2007 #

    Yes, and you get to do that research BECAUSE YOU’RE FREE.

    We actually played that at Poptimism! We meant to just play the first verse and chorus but then the next CD didnt work so we had to play the whole thing. Now THERE’S a guilty pleasure, if you like.

  9. 39
    Erithian on 24 Jul 2007 #

    Purely by coincidence, the paper I was reading this morning featured that photo of Kenny Everett urging a Tory rally to bomb Russia and kick Michael Foot’s stick away…

    And wasn’t Adrian Juste a bit of a Tory on the quiet?

  10. 40
    Marcello Carlin on 24 Jul 2007 #

    On the loud, more like; he did promotional tapes for the Tories during the Major ’92 election campaign.

    The chart progress of Everett’s hilarious “Snot Rap” (a sample from its rich seam of humour: “Do you think we’ll get on Top Of The Pops?” “Why not? You’ve been on top of everyone else”) is invigorating; before the Tory conference it was 56-27-10-9, the week after it was 13-26-45-67. Overall, not a great career move.

  11. 41
    Brian on 24 Jul 2007 #

    RE “Bumper Of My SUV” by one Chely Wright.

    I think I heard it late one night being beamed across Lake Ontario from upper New York State ( only 20 K from here ) , where there is , you guessed it, a large US military base. I also think that it made the rounds on the country charts.

    I can’t can’t put stickers on my car for fear that the weight will tear my bumper off …..

    And for what it is worth , there is a back-lash against these ” Support Our Troops ” stickers in a couple of Canadian cities as they are starting to appear on “public” vehicles such as garbage trucks, hydro vans and fire engines etc. The ” left ” thinks that the placement of these stickers indicates unanimous support for the “war’.

    I guess it’s not enough to have people give their lives for freedom but we also want un-opinionated garbage collection, too.

  12. 42
    Lena on 24 Jul 2007 #

    One artist’s reaction to those stickers:


  13. 43
    Waldo on 24 Jul 2007 #

    People! – You really have to understand that supporting a political party that you yourself do not support is a right and not a crime. Would such a right disappear under a government of your own prefered political colouring? Ask yourselves that.

  14. 44
    Marcello Carlin on 24 Jul 2007 #

    I wouldn’t mind if the Right disappeared full stop; we’d all be a lot better off.

  15. 45
    Waldo on 24 Jul 2007 #

    The Right wouldn’t!!!

  16. 46
    Marcello Carlin on 24 Jul 2007 #


  17. 47
    Waldo on 24 Jul 2007 #

    Yes, of course you do, Marcello. Just as long as you yourself accept the right of the Right NOT to not have the Right!

  18. 48
    Waldo on 24 Jul 2007 #

    Aha, Marcello! I noticed you edited your last message, which was: “Have I the right not to have the Right?” My reply is above.

    I think a question we could both agree on would be “Shall we nick Tony Orlando again?”

  19. 49
    Marcello Carlin on 24 Jul 2007 #

    I felt that the attempted symmetry with my parallel Top 100 Songs comments (viz. “compiled” and “list”) lacked a certain chetif.

    Is this the apposite moment to introduce the 82 million Germans or shall I leave that to my great personal mate Godwin Slaw?

  20. 50
    Marcello Carlin on 24 Jul 2007 #

    As regards Mr Orlando, we must leave the final verdict to all-seeing, omniscient Judge Dale…what does he make of “Tie A Yellow Ribbon”?

    “Good record.”

    That’s that settled, then.

  21. 51
    Waldo on 24 Jul 2007 #

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

  22. 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…?

  23. 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.”

  24. 54
    My name is Kenny on 25 Jul 2007 #

    It’s on Youtube.

  25. 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:


  26. 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.

  27. 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.

  28. 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.

  29. 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

  30. 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.

  31. 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.

  32. 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.

  33. 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!

  34. 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.

  35. 65
    DJ Punctum on 28 May 2008 #

    Here, for instance.

  36. 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!

  37. 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!

  38. 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!

  39. 69
    lonepilgrim on 18 Jul 2019 #

    Late to this thread – I know it’s corny but I’ve always had a soft spot for this song. Unlike Green Green Grass of Home or I’ve Gotta Get a Message to You the protagonist has a happy ending.

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