Ariel

Album: Dean Friedman (1977)
Charted: 26

Songfacts®:

  • This nostalgic song about suburban teenage love was unlike anything else on the radio in 1977, and it resonated with listeners who were reminded of happier times in their younger years. The song takes place in Paramus, New Jersey, where the singer/songwriter Dean Friedman grew up, although he was living in the Bronx when he wrote it. Dean told us that Ariel was "an amalgamation of all these cute teenage girls in peasant blouses I had a crush on growing up in Paramus." (Here's our full interview with Dean Friedman.)
  • There are lots of specific references in this song that describes the couple's date which leads to a night of lovemaking. While John Mellencamp's "Jack & Diane" hung out at the Tastee Freez, in New Jersey the Dairy Queen was the ice cream shop/fried food purveyor of choice, and we find out that Ariel had onion rings and a pickle. When we hear about Ariel "collecting quarters for the friends of BAI," that's a reference to the New York City radio station WBAI, which had a listener association called the "friends of BAI." Friedman's brother was a member of this group and did indeed sit by the waterfall in Paramus Park collecting quarters for the station. Other lyrics came directly from Friedman's life as well: his roommate in college had a VW van, and he played his share of gigs in the American Legion Hall.
  • In this song, Ariel is from "the other side of the Hudson." For the Paramus area of New Jersey, that would be Yonkers or The Bronx on the other side of the Hudson river. Said Friedman, "You're conscious that there are two sides to the Hudson. I was also conscious that where I grew up was very much this side, supposedly idyllic suburbia, the home of shopping centers, the Garden State Plaza, and the Bergen Mall."
  • At the end of this song, the singer makes love to Ariel with "bombs bursting in air." This isn't merely a metaphor; the couple talks late into the night with the TV on, and at that time, television stations usually "signed off" for a few hours late at night, customarily playing the US national anthem when they did.
  • When Friedman recorded the single, he substituted "Her name was Ariel, I fell in love with her" for the line "She was a Jewish girl, I fell in love with her." This was done at the behest of his record company, who feared that radio stations in the south wouldn't play a song with the word "Jewish" in it. There was no such antisemitism, and many stations played the album version that included the line. Freidman told us, "I had no influence or leverage. One regret I have is that I let them change the single."
  • Dean Friedman was signed to a small label called Lifesong Records, and "Ariel" was his first single. The song did so well on the New York radio station WNEW-FM that the station thought Friedman was enlisting his friends to call in and request the song. Friedman played the song on Don Kirshner's Rock Concert and The Merv Griffin Show, but Lifesong couldn't print enough copies of the record to keep up with the sudden demand, and the song never made it past #26 on the Hot 100.

    The song ended up being Friedman's only chart hit in America, but he did better in the UK, where in 1978 his song "Lucky Stars" made #3 and "Lydia" made #31. With little support from his record company, Friedman declared bankruptcy and got out of his contract. Most of his support was in England, where he was a successful touring act. He moved there in 1998 when he released his album Songs For Grownups.

Comments: 3

  • Jack from London, UkIn 1976 an AM/FM radio station launched in Wolverhampton in the West Midlands of the UK which was managed by an American guy and programmed by a Scot/Canadian guy. They had the idea of creating a station that sounded like a US commercial radio station. It was originally going to be called WABC (Wolverhampton and Black Country), but the regulator blocked that and it was called Beacon. Commercial radio had only begun in the UK in late 1973 and was strictly regulated in order to avoid American-sounding radio taking root. These two guys (Jay Oliver and Allen McKenzie respectively) managed to bend, and often break, the rules resulting in a great station playing a lot of American chart music, album tracks and spectacular American-sounding jingle packages. They even broadcast the "Billboard American Hot 100" every Sunday night a day after its publication such were the contacts Jay had in the States. They introduced and promoted lots of American artists like Poco, the Eagles and of course Dean Friedman. I remember hearing Ariel on their daily showcase of new artists/songs called the Beacon Ballot where listeners would phone in and vote for their favourite. Not only did Ariel win its heat, it also won the weekly ballot and was automatically put on the play list. They championed Dean Friedman and it would appear that other radio stations picked it up and it became a UK hit along with his others. He tours the UK every year (obviously cancelled in 2020 due to the pandemic) and always does à gig in Wolverhampton where he's fondly remembered. The radio station was treated with closure in 1979 by the regulator for breaking the rules and Jay and Allen had to resign, but for those three years from 1976 to 1979 we were treated to radio station that was as close to a US West Coast sounding radio station as anyone could get away with producing.
  • Cliff from NjNice article. However, the contention that "In this song, Ariel is from 'the other side of the Hudson.' For the Paramus area of New Jersey, that would be Yonkers or The Bronx on the other side of the Hudson river." is obviously incorrect.

    Ariel is a Jersey girl, as Friedman confirms when he says she is "an amalgamation of all these cute teenage girls in peasant blouses I had a crush on growing up in Paramus." In the present of the song, he's in New York, telling about a time in the past in New Jersey --way on the other side of the Hudson, deep in the bosom of suburbia. The whole story takes place in NJ -- OBVIOUSLY!
  • Barry from Sauquoit, NyOn September 3rd 1977, Dean Friedman performed "Ariel" on the ABC-TV program 'American Bandstand'...
    Five months earlier on April 10th, 1977 it entered Billboard's Hot Top 100 chart at position #86; and on June 19th, 1977 it peaked at #26 {for 1 week} and spent 22 weeks on the Top 100...
    As already stated it was his only Top 100 record, but in the United Kingdom he had three records make the singles chart; "Woman of Mine" {52 in 1977}, "Lucky Stars" {#3 in 1978}, and "Lydia" {#31 in 1978}...
    Mr. Friedman will celebrate his 60th birthday come next May 23rd {2015}.
see more comments

Editor's Picks

Eric Burdon

Eric BurdonSongwriter Interviews

The renown rock singer talks about "The House of the Rising Sun" and "Don't Let Me Be Misunderstood."

Richie Wise (Kiss producer, Dust)

Richie Wise (Kiss producer, Dust)Songwriter Interviews

Richie talks about producing the first two Kiss albums, recording "Brother Louie," and the newfound appreciation of his rock band, Dust.

Zakk Wylde

Zakk WyldeSongwriter Interviews

When he was playing Ozzfest with Black Label Society, a kid told Zakk he was the best Ozzy guitarist - Zakk had to correct him.

AC/DC

AC/DCFact or Fiction

Does Angus really drink himself silly? Did their name come from a sewing machine? See if you can spot the real stories about AC/DC.

Sugarland

SugarlandSongwriter Interviews

Meet the "sassy basket" with the biggest voice in country music.

Brenda Russell

Brenda RussellSongwriter Interviews

Brenda talks about the inspiration that drove her to write hit songs like "Get Here" and "Piano in the Dark," and why a lack of formal music training can be a songwriter's best asset.