When the Sixties ended, they made a noise like a whoopee cushion. Peace and love were replaced with polyester and The Sierra Club. Even The Beatles said to hell with it and bailed out before the Seventies really got rolling. A lot of people got tired of Serious Rock, and in response to the backlash, the music business gave us a lot of bubblegum pop. It was sweet and nice with nary an iota of substance. We got lots of one-hit wonders this way.
The first time I remember hearing “Midnight at the Oasis” was in a hair salon. I was waiting for my mother to get whatever the hell she was getting done, done. I was five years old. I could already read at a high school level (math was a different story), and I had already flipped through all the magazines that interested me. The hairdressers were yammering on about what pains in the asses men were. Hairdryers hummed away.
I was able to tune most of that out. The music, some god-awful local radio station, was blaring and overbearing, and it drowned practically everything else out. This soft rock groove came on, but not like America or the Eagles. It was bouncy, like it should have been wearing tassels.
The vocalist jumped in then, a high voiced, with an accent I couldn’t quite place. All accents were weird to me then, except for English accents. I had already started watching Monty Python’s Flying Circus. The woman singing sounded like she was having facial tics. I could visualize her cheeks pooching out, her jaw dropping to her chest, perhaps some wolven teeth shooting out of her gums as she sang.
“Midnight at the oasis/Send your camel to bed . . . ”
Oh, wait, this song is about camels? I thought. I just found out what a camel is! This song is great! Finally, a song for my five-year-old demographic! I saw the whole thing as a cartoon in my head.
It was hard not to with lines like, “Come on/Cactus is our friend/He’ll point out the way.” Friendly animated cacti that gave directions to people and their sleepy camels? This was a land I wanted to visit. The desert sounded amazing.
But then she said, “You won’t need no camel, no, no/When I take you for a ride.” OH MY GOD, PIGGYBACK RIDES. Who was this woman? Could she babysit me? This was now my favorite song ever. I loved this world. I wanted paintings of it in my room, a mural, perhaps.
I had no idea at the time that “Midnight at the Oasis” was just riddled with double entendrés and metaphors. At its dirty little heart, the song is almost as subtle as Spinal Tap’s “Sex Farm.” I can’t even imagine how many singles bars became half empty after this song played. Who wouldn’t want to be the smooth Valentino sheik to some hot little Theda Bara vamp?
Of course it makes sense now. Back then, I couldn’t figure out why this song hadn’t been made into a TV show, some Sid and Marty Krofft deal with giant laughing puppets. I tend to think, though, the true meaning of “Midnight at the Oasis” did sink into my subconscious.
I bought my very first 45 two years later and, for a seven year old boy, it was a strange choice. But we’ll save that for next time.