iTunes Diaries, entry #35: “One,” “Old Fashioned Love Song,” and “Never Been to Spain” by Three Dog Night

I was once a little…um, okay, terribly obsessed with iTunes.  I got my first iPod in 2004 and became immediately entranced by Apple’s seeming infinite lists of music for sale.  Over the years, I spent way too much time on iTunes and spent way too much money on music, some of which was great, and some of which was not.  In 2011, for the sake of my sanity and my bank account, I went cold turkey.  I suspended my iTunes activities and completely stopped visiting site.  With the iTunes Diaries, I take a look back, highlighting the good, the bad, and the ugly in music that I just had to have in the moment. 

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Part of me can’t believe that I’ve been doing this series for almost three years, and I’ve not yet covered anything by Three Dog Night. Good thing I’m fixing that now, and with a triple shot, nonetheless!

The first time I remember hearing anything by Three Dog Night was in the car, on the adult contemporary station that my folks like to frequent. And that song was “One.”

I wish I had some major story about how hearing this song for the first time changed my life, but I only remember hearing it regularly enough while on the way to Sears that it stuck. I was still in grade school, maybe early middle school at this point. I didn’t have much in the way of musical tastes (let alone a taste for anything pop culture-ish yet, quite frankly. Not that Three Dog Night was exactly pop culture in the early 80s, but I digress).

Later on, there were at least three occurrences that cemented my musical preferences. The first was the discovery of Casey Kasem’s Top 40 radio show (every Sunday morning). The second was the discovery of classic rock. And the third was the discovery of Metallica. The second one is the focus here, because what was classic rock without Three Dog Night??, is what I came to believe. As I’ve probably mentioned before, my foray into classic rock on the radio was a fast and furious decent. And I loved every minute of it. And once I started actually buying my own music, I eventually tended towards those guitar-heavy, funk-laden, and groovy-moody sounds.

During this time, I became especially enamored of the idea of building a grand and glorious collection of music, partially, as I imagined, through the help of Time Life and its marvelous musical compilations. I obtained my first glimpses of Three Dog Night in commercials like the one below.

(The Three Dog Night “feature” starts at 1:01.)

I wasn’t aware then that Three Dog Night had different singers, so the one face I saw (now-former lead singer one of three, Chuck Negron) became the band. Those commercials also introduced me to that other song, “Old Fashioned Love Song,” which, as with “One,” lodged itself deeply into my subconscious. It’s a chameleon of a composition with an wonderfully yet oddly upbeat chorus set against a much more somber palate of lyrics, not to mention the instrumental scatting.

As my days with our local classic rock station grew longer, I listened closely for the other, more varied sounds of Three Dog Night – “Joy to the World,” “Black and White,” and “Mama Told Me Not to Come” all made their marks in different ways. And they all made it onto my iPod in different ways, with the three I’m featuring here being the only ones I downloaded directly from iTunes.

Speaking of which, that brings me to “Never Been to Spain,” a song that I never heard on the radio but heard years after on a compilation album. Not a Time Life one (sadly), but rather something like “Billboard’s Greatest Hits” pertaining to a particular year. For a short time, I was keen on picking up albums like that, especially those for the 1970s. In this case, the year was 1971. And the one song on that compilation that struck a chord like no other was “Never Been to Spain.”

This song. THIS SONG, people. If I may speak candidly for the room, it’s like sex. It starts out slow and meaningfully, builds a bit but holds back just enough. Then it changes position in the middle in order to catch a breath, and then it climaxes loudly, forcefully, and with passion. And then, it slowly fades into a warm embrace. Sure it’s somewhat nonsensical, but not everything needs to make perfect sense in order to be appreciated, madly taken, and then lovingly cuddled.

“Never Been to Spain” has the distinction of being the only song I ever downloaded twice from iTunes. I captured it to a playlist inthe early days of my iTunes fanaticism. And then, a few years later but before iTunes was bestowed with the ability to tell you that you had already downloaded a particular song, I unwittingly paid for it again because I wanted it on a different play list. On the rare occasions that I have my iPod on long enough to shuffle a few hours of music, “Never Been to Spain” has played twice. But that’s okay. Because sometimes, one time just won’t suffice.

Three Dog Night -- self-titled (a.k.a. One) (1968)
Three Dog Night — self-titled (a.k.a. One) (1968)
Three Dog Night -- Harmony (1971)
Three Dog Night — Harmony (1971)

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