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21 May

Week 106: “Up on the Roof” by The Drifters

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Life in an apartment building has its pros and cons.

During my four-year tenure in a ten-story building, I experienced all the various downsides to upstairs living: the faulty heating, the strange smells, the landlord who never fixes anything, the neighbour who plays “Kiss From A Rose” at full blast at 3:30am. But there was one pro that outweighed all these cons: the hatch that led to the roof.

I’m not sure why it was never locked, but I’m glad it wasn’t. My girlfriend and I would go up there on evenings when there were fireworks, or when the airshow was on, or when we just felt like looking out across the neighbourhood. There was something nice about looking out at the city and checking off the various landmarks in your head. Just to make sure they were still there.

I often wonder if the release of this song in 1962 led to an outbreak of covert rooftop picnics.

What makes this a beautiful song:

1. The lyrics. They send the message that you can take a vacation without leaving home, and I like that.

2. The backup singers. I can’t think of another song where the catchiest line is sung by the guys in the background; the only line they get to sing is the repeating “Up on the roooof”, but it’s the best part of the song. A victory for backup singers everywhere!

3. The strings. Much like in “Stand By Me” by Ben E. King (a former member of The Drifters, as it happens) there’s a screaming string section solo towards the end. Violins don’t get many opportunities to rock out.

Recommended listening activity:

Getting a fresh perspective.

  1. Pastor Tim
    May 25th, 2012 at 17:59 | #1

    Sooooooooo happy to see this one included! Why? Because there was a restroom in the basement of the Gullixson Hall library building at Luther Seminary (St. Paul, MN), and the tiled surfaces were perfect for capturing this song’s excellent reverb qualities. I’d often sing this song in there hoping that someone else would walk in and start singing harmonies. [chuckle...]

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