“It was the 3rd of June / Another sleepy, dusty Delta day”. Those are the first words of Bobbie Gentry’s US #1 “Ode to Billy Joe”, a song that always comes to mind on this date, along with the memory that this is the day I passed my driving test in 1987. If you’re unfamiliar with the song try this link, it’s well worth 5 minutes of your time.
Surprisingly few pop songs contain dates. I can think of only two others that were released as singles: “Papa was a rolling stone” by The Temptations (“It was the 3rd of September / That day I’ll always remember, yes I will”) and “September” by Earth, Wind and Fire (which starts with a mention of my birthday: “Do you remember the 21st night of September?”). On “Isis” Bob Dylan sings “I married Isis on the fifth day of May” but that was an album track on “Desire” and wasn’t released as a single. Right now the only three UK hits that I can come up with (all of them reached the Top 20) feature September, or the 3rd of the month, or both.
Folk and rebel songs might contain dates but pop songs occupy my mind most of the time. There must be more than this trio of examples that mention the day as well as the month but I can’t think of any right now. “December 1963 (Oh What A Night)” by The Four Seasons, their only UK #1, is all about “Late December back in 63” but doesn’t specify a date. (Trivia fans might already know that the song celebrates the end of Prohibition, and is really about December 1933, but that was too distant a memory to be featured in a song released in the mid-1970s.)
Days of the week feature repeatedly in songs, from the Mamas and the Papas’ “Monday Monday” to Blur’s “Sunday Sunday”, and a few reached #1, like Blondie’s “Sunday Girl”, Whigfield’s “Saturday Night”, and “I don’t like Mondays” by the Boomtown Rats. In the weeks ahead I’ll listen out to see I’ve missed any obvious examples of whole dates but am not expecting to find many.
October 2018 update
Over two years have passed since this piece was posted and only one further song comes to mind: “Convoy” by CW McCall, which begins, “Was the dark of the moon on the sixth of June / In a Kenworth pulling logs”.