Once upon a time
A girl with moonlight in her eyes
Put her hand in mine
And said she loved me so
But that was once upon a time
Very long ago
That's about as over-the-top maudlin as it gets. Completely hokey. Dripping with weepy strings. And that's not even the verse about the stupid tree. I used to mockingly call it "the thirty-hanky song." Then sad things happened, and the way Frank Sinatra sings it--the way he believes it--got to work on me, and I needed a hanky or two. OK, thirty, if you must know the truth.
It's not so much about the girl, it's about the pain of being unable to recapture one's youth. Who among us is immune to that sweet nostalgia? Teenagers, you will get there, if you live.
Music is a nakedly emotional art form. Meaning is conveyed not just literally, but emotionally: "sad" chords and the like. Otherwise, there would be no point to an instrumental, no point to setting words to music in the first place. …