Playground in My Mind

Playground in My Mind – Clint Holmes

Number one in New Zealand – 24 August – 7 September, 1973

Clint Holmes is more than a singer.  Like a painter with a blank canvas, he makes every performance an original. His powerful voice and magnetic stage presence embrace the upbeat side of life.

Like a painter with a blank canvas?  One of the most entertaining things I get to do when I write these posts is read the websites promoting these long forgotten artists.  Clint’s website is a humdinger.

Holmes, best known for his silky vocal stylings, has also honed his many other talents, which include dancing and a warm comedic touch.

I really thought people only said  “vocal stylings” as a joke.

You’ll be pleased to know that Clint’s recent brush with cancer has seen him turn his celebrity to the cause of encouraging men over fifty to have colonoscopies.  Boy, it’s hard to think of a more glamorous cause than getting men to have a camera shoved up their bottoms.  I hope he has a song about it.

Clint1973 was Clint’s big year, and once again we learn that: (a) any old crap can get to number one, and (b) if you are American you can build a whole career out of one, stupid thing.  The stupid thing in this case was a song called Playground in My Mind.

My name is Michael,
I’ve got a nickel
I’ve got a nickel shiny and new
I’m gonna buy me all kinds of candy
That’s what I’m gonna do

In the wonders that I find in
The playground in my mind
In a world that used to be
Close your eyes and follow me
Where the children laugh and the children play
And we’ll sing a song all day

You get the idea: grown man wishes he could be a little kid.  The pay dirt with this recording (naturally, it wasn’t written by Clint who simply walked in and supplied the vocal) was that it was sung by Clint Holmes and the producer’s son.

The biggest memory I have of recording ‘Playground’ was when we tried to match vocals with Paul’s son, Phillip, who was the little boy’s voice on the record. He was eight or nine years old at the time, and not a professional singer by any means. I put my vocal down and then we tried to have him sing along with me. Eventually, we had to reverse it and have me sing along with him. I remember having to sing softer and softer to try to get some kind of vocal blend. I was so afraid of overpowering him.

If only he had overpowered him, perhaps using a pillow over the face.  Listening to Phillip’s thin, reedy voice chanting “My name is Michael, I’ve got a nickel” is rather grating as it is the dominant voice, while Clint dutifully warbles in the background.  What was the artistic idea behind this duet?  Are we supposed to be hearing the boy-Michael and the man-Michael sing at the same time?  Beats me, but it makes me want to hurt someone.  Speaking of hurt:

“You know, in some sense ‘Playground’ hurt me. It branded me as a novelty singer because I didn’t follow it up with something more substantial. We recorded another song in a similar vein, which I did not want to do. It was called ‘Shiddle-ee-Dee,’ and the very title tells you what the song was like — a bomb.

Shiddle-ee-Dee.  I would like to hear that.

On another blog a person posted the following comment about our friend Clint (who elsewhere claims to have dropped this dreaded song from his routine):

Back in the early 90’s a friend and I were comped tickets in Atlantic City to see the comedian Alan King. Clint Holmes was his opening act. I remember going back and forth with my friend trying to figure out where we heard of this guy before and neither of us could figure it out. Then “poof” he launched into this song and the bell went off. We immediately shrunk down in our seats hoping nobody we knew would see us in the theatre… I still have nightmares…

But of course there are equal numbers of people professing love for Playground and its cloying sentiment, and let’s remember that the reason I am writing about this song at all is that it was the most popular song in New Zealand for two weeks in 1973 (and reached number two in the USA).  Somehow all of this makes it richly appropriate that this song is about living in fantasy world, and it’s nice to know that in a world filled with desperation and poverty,

Clint is one of Prince Albert’s favorite entertainers, and jets off to Monte Carlo every summer at the Royal Family’s request to appear at the Sporting Club, Hotel Paris, and other hot spots.

I look forward to the Sultan of Brunei offering me a similar deal.

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I wrote a book called Kaitiaki o te Pō