This is The Great Unheard Places project, from 2012. Twenty-four people each made a ten-song playlist comprised of “great songs about places.” This project included a liner note for each song. To jump to a contributor’s playlist, click their name below.
TGU Places: Justin DeCamp
1. “Strange Roads” by The Action / The Action were a mid-60s mod band from North London. They never had any hits and are not well known today, but some of their stuff is excellent, and they are apparently Phil Collins’ all-time favorite band. “Strange Roads” is from a demo recorded in 1967-68 that inexplicably was not released for thirty years.
2. “Across 110th Street” by Bobby Womack / I just saw Bobby Womack sing “Stylo” with Gorillaz and Mos Def a few weeks ago, and he sounded great, but not as great as on the soundtrack for the film “Across 110th Street.”
3. “More Soul Than Wigan Casino” by Bearsuit / A song about Wigan Casino logically follows The Action and Bobby Womack I guess. I am pretty sure Bearsuit has less soul than Wigan Casino, but this is a nice Northern UK indie rocker tribute to the old mod/soul scene.
4. “Adieu England” by Trembling Bells / Trembling Bells may be the only band that can play songs that sound medieval without evoking a renaissance faire.
5. “And Did Those Feet (Jerusalem)” by Isaac Gillespie / This is a nice new version of the old hymn “Jerusalem,” which may have the best lyrics of any song ever, courtesy of William Blake, about Jesus’ legendary visit to England:
And did those feet in ancient time
Walk upon England’s mountains green?
And was the holy Lamb of God
On England’s pleasant pastures seen?
And did the Countenance Divine
Shine forth upon our clouded hills?
And was Jerusalem builded here
Among those dark Satanic mills?
Bring me my bow of burning gold:
Bring me my arrows of desire:
Bring me my spear: O clouds, unfold!
Bring me my chariot of fire!
I will not cease from mental fight,
Nor shall my sword sleep in my hand
Till we have built Jerusalem
In England’s green and pleasant land
6. “Strange Town” by The Jam / No comment.
7. “Ghost Town” by The Specials / Muzak reggae from the age of Margaret Thatcher, but it could be about NY now.
8. “Pretty Africa” by Desmond Dekker / I first heard this in 1991 when bought a cassette tape version of The Original Reggae Hitsound of Desmond Dekker and the Aces in a record store in Newport, RI purely because the cover looked cool. It turned out that every single song on it was great, which is the only time that ever happened with an album I bought based on the cover art.
9. “Ring of Fire” by The Jolly Boys / These guys used to play parties at Erroll Flynn’s house in Jamaica, which in my book qualifies them to record a cover of “Ring of Fire,” which is enough of a place to justify putting this song on this playlist.
10. “Kingston Town” by Alborosie / I liked this song before I found out that Alborosie is an Italian dude from Sicily. And I still like it. There are a lot of songs about Kingston, Jamaica, and this one can stand alongside any of them.
TGU Places: Pat Barthel
1. “Detroit Has a Skyline” (Acoustic) by Superchunk / ‘I had a crush, but nothing works out’. More about an emotional place than an actual place. Brilliant song about a guy regretting a break up. He drinks brews alone with a few songs circulating on repeat, wondering how he can get her back, only to discover it’s a lost cause. “Who was the architecht that desinged this view? He could not have known about you. Mousey homes, catacombs, Detroit has a skyline too, Detroit has a skyline too.” Superchunk is underrated as a band in many ways, but Mac is definitely underrated as a songwriter.
2. “6am Morningside” by The Clientele / One nice thing about having kids is discovering the peace of the early morning hours of the day. Previously I only knew 6am by way of night into day. This song works either way.
3. “Topanga Canyon” by John Phillips / I came to this one recently and have been told it is not that unheard but I had a real hard time not including it.
4. “Side of The Road” by Lucinda Williams / Side of the road is a metaphor for space within a relationship, and the understanding that comes with that. Heavy. This a perfect example of Lucinda’s songwriting at it’s best.
5. “HWY R” by Rock*A*Teens / “Is that heaven we just passed?” A gritty mini-classic I discovered via the Score! Merge Records compilations, which is one of the best box sets ever. These guys have this awesome, garage-y, rocking, orchestral sound that is very unique.
6. “Mount Zion” by Desmond Dekker and The Aces / I saw him at Wetlands in the early 90s. Both are long gone.
7. “Summertime in New York” by Jonathan Richman / When he plays this live, the Spanish guitar flourishes get the Tom Petty guitar in the air treatment all while Richman makes these awesome ‘I’m amazed at what I just did” faces. This one has to be in the pantheon of great NYC songs.
8. “Lost In The Supermarket” by The Afghan Whigs (via The Clash) / The original is far from unheard but this version warrants attention. I particularly like the backing vocals and the outro that goes into “Stand By Me”. Greg Dulli knows how to cover a song and make it his own.
9. “Little Motel” by Modest Mouse / Johnny Marr’s guitar solo elevates the emotion of this song to epic levels. And then there’s the video, which is both beautiful and devastating.
10. “On The Moon” by A.A. Bondy / every good mix tape ends with a nice piano ballad, right?
TGU Places: Phil Roosevelt
1. “Concrete Jungle” by Bob Marley and the Wailers / The first track from Marley’s first album released in the U.S., Catch a Fire. What an opener. I love the searing guitar solo.
2. “Tecumseh Valley” by Townes Van Zandt / Sad and sweet, by one of the saddest of all.
3. “Sixty Acres” by James McMurtry / Is there anything worse than inheriting a piece of farmland instead of a perfect site for a Wal-Mart?
4. “Memory Motel” by The Rolling Stones / A surprising number of Rolling Stones fans have, well, little memory of this motel. The song appeared on Black and Blue and, to my mind, it’s one of their best. Listen to the man’s voice, especially in the beginning.
5. “Streets of Baltimore” by Gram Parsons / Some places are so powerful that your loved ones will love them more than they love you. From the godfather of alt country.
6. “Penn Station” by Felice Brothers / Somehow, the bros turn a death in the men’s room at Penn Station into a raucous foot-stomper. You will never look at the New York landmark quite the same.
7. “New Lee Highway Blues” by David Bromberg / Wonderful lyrics, amazing fiddle jam. Bromberg, a bright light in the 70s, now makes and repairs violins in Delaware.
8. “Mission in the Rain” by Jerry Garcia / I learned about this version from the very first round of Great Unheard playlists. The song’s musings from a walk in San Francisco have stuck with me.
9. “Lake Charles” by Lucinda Williams / A vintage lament from L.W. Driving through Louisiana with a dear friend who later died.
10. “Take a Giant Step” by Taj Mahal / Simple, direct and always uplifting, it points to the biggest place of all, the world outside your mind.
TGU Places: James Cinnamond
1. “Airport Security” by The Bouncing Souls / Here we go again.
2. “California Thing” by Freedy Johnston / Sometimes you need to sell the family farm to get there.
3. “Left Of The Dial” by The Replacements / “And if I don’t see ya, in a long, long while I’ll try to find you left of the dial.” The late Alex Chilton on backing vocals. Maybe no better place than this.
4. “Anywhere I Lay My Head” by Tom Waits / Tom really getting up the phlegm at a pre-Katrina New Orleans funeral. He has nothing and everything.
5. “West” by Lucinda Williams / Post-Katrina Lucinda looking beyond Louisiana. “But if you don’t come out west and see you’ll never know at all.”
6. “The Right Place” by Eddi Reader / Eddi may be the only person with better pipes than Karen Carpenter. Find the “First of a Million Kisses” set from her Fairground Attraction days.
7. “Ignoreland” by R.E.M. / Michel Stipe venting about a realest of places.
8. “Central Park ‘n’ West” by Ian Hunter / Ian had New York‘s back just after Lennon’s shooting.
9. “Nebraska” by The Cash Brothers / Think more have spent time in a place called Nebraska than the real Nebraska?
10. “Across The Border” by Bruce Springsteen / “For what are we?”
TGU Places: Ellen Fagan
2. “The India Song” by Big Star / Moving through geographic longing. I picture the band thinking about George Harrison and John Lennon sipping tea w/the Maharishi, wishing they could’ve been there w/them.
3. “Beechwood Park” by The Zombies / This is pure british pop, and so very summer. I’m right there, into their summer world, just after the rain.
4. “Playground” by XTC / You may leave school but it never leaves you………..ahhhhaaaaa again, a strong visual connection in this song to the hierarchy exercised on playgrounds in school yards growing up.
5. “Via Chicago” by Wilco / Several places mentioned here as Jeff Tweedy settles a score in his mind, on a flight heading home.
6. “Wrong Side of the Road” by Tom Waits / You don’t want to end up here. 7. “Cortez the Killer” by Neil Young & Crazy Horse / Excellent visuals here and strong emotions.
8. “Campo de Encino” by Harry Nilsson / Great song, great voice. Covers Jimmy Webb’s original. A newer version by Jane Siberry, on Bound By the Beauty, is also worth listening to.
9. “When I Win the Lottery” by Camper van Beethoven / One of my favorite songs of the past several years. I love the violin, eastern european, punk overtones with a strong image of a certain redneck neighborhood.
10. “My Little Corner of the World” by Yo La Tengo / I wanted to end on a happy note, something like a lullaby.
1. “Memory Lane” by Eddy Current Suppression Ring / ECSR have been one of my favorite bands for a few years now. They hail from Melbourne AU and are the standard bearers for Australia’s fantastic garage/indie scene. Eddy Current members play in other bands such as The Ooga Boogas and Total Control, and have produced records by young’uns, The UV Race and Super Wild Horses and many more. Lots of great music coming from Oz, get into it!
2. “Reservoir Park” by Dutchess And The Duke / Mellow acoustic music really isn’t my thing these days. The Dutchess and The Duke bring an aggressiveness and darkness of a murder ballad to a genre that tends to be a little too sad sack for my liking for the most part. This tune is essentially a sixties garage tune stripped down and played around a bonfire.
3. “Everyone’s Hip” by Jaill / This tune comes from one of my favorite records of the year. This is the biggest stretch for the theme since I picked them because the band is named after a place (the extra L was added for legal reasons). Jaill are from Wisconsin and have members who play in another excellent band called The Goodnight Loving who also released a great album this year…busy fellas. I love any band who pays homage to North Carolina’s seminal rockers The dB’s and Let’s Active.
4. “Somerville” by The Pernice Brothers / Oh, Joe Pernice…We used to live in Somerville, MA. It was wonderful. This is a nice little tune that makes me think happy thoughts about my old town. Someday Joe Pernice will be regarded as one of the great American songwriters.
5. “Waking Up Drunk” by The Spider Bags / Waking up drunk, a song about a bedroom, or a couch, or the bathtub, or the corner of the bar. Really the place this song makes me think about is my new home in the Raleigh-Durham-Chapel Hill Triangle. The Spider Bags are definitely my favorite local band, if not my favorite band outright. Singer/guitarist Dan McGee is a garage rock troubadour and one of the best lyricists in the game.
6. “Shortcut To Memphis” by The Golden Boys / Good friends and collaborators with the Spider Bags, The Golden Boys hail from Austin TX. If they ever roll through your town their show is not to be missed. Energetic, country tinged, boozy garage rock. Everyone wants to find the shortcut to Memphis, I think The Golden Boys may have found it. This song is great because it references two of my favorite Memphis establishments, the Buccaneer Lounge and The Goner record store.
7. “Goldentown” by Super Wild Horses / This is from my favorite record of 2010. The Super Wild Horses are two young ladies from Australia who trade guitar and drum duties. I really can’t say enough about this record, so if I start I’ll go on forever…if you dig this tune check out the record on iTunes.
8. “Thrice All American” by Neko Case / I started listening to this record when I was living in Portland Ore, and while this tune is about Tacoma Washington, it immediately reminded me of home.
9. “Haunted House” by The Limes / Another one of my favorite records to be released in 2010. I’ve always liked Smog and Bill Callahan in small doses. Limes vocalist/songwriter Shawn T. Cripps has a similar vocal style which compliments the meandering, almost trance-like music so well. It sets a mood, and sometimes when the album is over I just press play again because I’m not ready to let the mood go.
10. “(Walking Through The) Sleepy City” by The Parting Gifts /I guess it wouldn’t be a Great Unheard mix from me without Greg Cartwright. Mr. Cartwright is the mind behind seminal garage rockers The Oblivians and The Compulsive Gamblers and currently leader of the great Reigning Sound. He’s indulging his obsession with 60s girl groups with his new project The Parting Gifts. Coco from the also wonderful Ettes is on vocals for most of the tracks with Greg occasionally handling vocal duties. Great record. Great song.
1. “Marie Provost” by Nick Lowe / This one’s a twofer, a time and a place: Hollywood in the early days
of talking pictures when Silent stars made the transition or, in this case, didn’t. Marie Provost was in fact a real silent star who, when work dried up, took to her apartment and. . . well, listen to Nick Lowe tell the story. A lovely piece of work that pairs an undeniable rock hook with a macabre story line. PS: This one is also one of my favorite songs from high school, so it’s a triple threat.
2. “Copperhead Road” by Steve Earle / With an unholy mix of Irish (bagpipes, really?), bluegrass, country, and punk, Steve Earle tells a story of three generations of outlaws. A four and a half minute history of Appalachian hopelessness.
3. “The Fat Lady Of Limbourg” by Brian Eno / Film noir set to music. And the most hypnotic, haunting horn part on vinyl (ok, since it’s Eno, they might just be synth, but.. Why this hasn’t become an opera, or at least a film, I don’t know.
4. “The Grand Tour” by George Jones / Country music’s bread and butter is the story of heartache. But nobody ever did it better than George Jones. And George Jones never made it more emotionally overwhelming than we he gave us a tour of the house he and his ex lived in. Shakespeare never wrote lines more devastating than, “As you leave you’ll see the nursery; she left me without mercy; taking nothing but our baby and my heart.”
5. “Dear Molly” by The Zydepunks / Hurricane Katrina spawned lots of songs. But none hit me the way “Dear Molly” does, maybe because there’s not a bit of theatrics of it. Written as a letter to the singer’s friend, it’s a Fodor’s guide to real life in New Orleans.
6. “Harper Valley P.T.A” by Jeannie C. Riley / You’ve probably heard of this song, even if you’ve never heard it. An incredible description of the hypocrisy of “traditional values” (that probably wouldn’t be out of place today). And some of the tastiest lead guitar you’ll ever hear.
7. “Griselda” by Yo La Tengo / Griselda, a traditional folk song, has it all: moonlight, jugs of
wine, teen lust. Hopefully you had a Griselda somewhere in your past who you can remember fondly while you listen.
8. “Chelsea Hotel No. 2” by Rufus Wainwright / If you haven’t actually watched the movie of this concert (Leonard Cohen: I’m Your Man 2005) and heard the interview with him, you probably won’t know that this song was written about real experiences with Janis Joplin during the 60s. It’s a totally different song when you know that.
9. “Drunken Boat” by The Pogues / You might want to lie down for this one. And maybe print out the lyrics and read along. A haunting travelogue that begins like a boy’s
joining-the-navy adventure and ends in unbearable sorrow for the reality of life and death on the sea.
10. “The Band Played Waltzing Matilda” by The Pogues / Probably not best listened to back-to-back with Drunken Boat. Written by Eric Bogle in 1971, “Waltzing Matilda” narrates a young Australian’s experience at the Battle of Gallipoli in World War I. Shane MacGowan makes it as personal and as horrifying an anti-war poem as anything by
the British War Poets writing during WWI.
1. “Tulsa” by Wayne Hancock / There’s a lot of pretty women.
2. “St. Louie” by Nelly / My hometown. This how me and my homeys roll.
3. “Same ‘Ol River” by Sam Bush / Newgrass entry.
4. “Two-Steppin’ Texas Blue” by Joni Harms / “Let’s put the Western back into country.”
5. “Lighters Up (Welcome to Brooklyn)” by Lil’ Kim / A four minute tour of New York. Listen for your neighborhood and put your lighter up.
6. “El Cerrito Place” by Charlie Robison / We sing this one around the house when it goes on shuffle. Easy to learn.
7. ”Nothing Like L.A.” by Ice Cube / A love song for a G and a city.
8. “Home” by Jordan Zevon / For his father.
9. “Big City” Iris DeMent / Passionate cover of the Merle Haggard tune.
10. “Boomtown” Greg Brown / Live, Greg says “the rich build sensitive houses and pass their shit around, of us it’s trailers on the outskirts of town.”
1. “Hot Rod” by the Collins Kids / The hardest rocking song of all time by a teen-age brother and sister act. Opening lyric: “Well I’m only 14, but I’m gonna be 15, but I wanna be 16, so I can get me a hot rod.” Lorrie Collins was 15 when the song was recorded in 1957; she later played guitar and sang with Ricky Nelson on the Ozzie & Harriet show. And she dated Elvis. Larry was 13. He played the double neck guitar like a banshee and went on to write Delta Dawn for Tanya Tucker. This kinescope is a must see.
2. “Mercury Blues” by K.C. Douglas / This falls into the category of “lost places;” Ford discontinued production of the Mercury nameplate in 2010. The 1949 song has been covered several times, most notably by Steve Miller Band and Dwight Yoakam. Sample lyric: “The gal I love, I stole her from a friend. The fool got lucky and stole her back again, because you know he had a Mercury.”
3. “Pontiac Blues” by Sonny Boy Williamson with the Yardbirds / The British Blues invasion resurrected a lot of great bluesmen, including Sonny Boy Williamson who plays on this 1963 recording. Sample lyric: “I found out what my baby likes. I found out what my baby likes. She likes a whole lot of loving, and a straight-eight Pontiac.” Another lost place: GM discontinued Pontiac in 2010.
4. “Terraplane Blues” by John Lee Hooker / Terraplane was a luxury car manufactured by Hudson from 1932 to 1938. But it’s most famous for the Robert Johnson song, covered by Hooker. A little tip: This isn’t about a car.
5. “Sweet Little ’66” by Steve Earle / Ode to a 1966 Chevrolet. “Now she ain’t too good on gasoline, she burns a little oil, but she was built by union labor on American soil … So when your Subaru is over and your Honda’s history, I’ll be blastin’ down some back road with my baby next to me.”
6. “Brand New ’64 Dodge” by Greg Brown / From The Poet Game, 1994. A wistful song of youth and lost innocence–you can guess what’s coming. “It’s got a push-button transmission, hardtop convertible, four-door. It’s November of ’63, and the brand new Dodge is a ’64.” Guess what happens next.
7. “You Can’t Catch Me” by Chuck Berry / The definitive Chuck Berry song from the 1956 film Rock, Rock, Rock. (See the Beatles gloss of it in “Come Together”; John Lennon covered it in 1975 as part of a settlement for stealing the lyric.) The car is named Maybelline. “If you get too close, you know I’m gone like a cool breeze.”
8. “Guitars, Cadillacs” by Dwight Yoakam / From Guitars, Cadillacs, Etc., Etc., Dwight’s debut 1986 album and a tour de force from start to finish. Nothing more to say.
9. “Ride In Your New Automobile” by Lightnin’ Hopkins / 1937. Like “Terraplane Blues”, this is a jealous blues. “Yeah, she was sitting there happy with her handsome driver at the wheel in your brand new automobile. Yes, if I lock up on my shotgun again, he won’t be your driver no more.”
10. “Chevrolet Six” by The Holy Modal Rounders / 1964. Or hayseed beatniks on acid, as I like to think about them. From their debut record, The Holy Modal Rounders–before Sam Shepard played drums with band, before they appeared on Laugh In in 1968, before they wrote “Boobs a Lot” for the Fugs. “Everybody knows a Chevrolet car, everybody knows they’re the best there are. Whoa me, hums like a bee, the Chevrolet Six just can’t be beat.”
1. “Somalia” by K’naan / Another great song off his Troubadour album. K’naan was born in Somalia and lived in Mogadishu during the Somali civil war.
2. “The Stoop” by Little Jackie / Little Jackie is so Brooklyn based that all their songs feel like NYC to me. I love that this song shows that hanging out on your front stoop can be as interesting a location as anywhere else. Here is the chorus: (“Sitting in the stoop in Bed Stuy, Always sayin’ hi when the brothers walk by, Just got the etiquette, sittin’ on the top step, with a bag of chips, sit back, relax, enjoy the trip.”)
3. “CBGBs” by Syd Straw / CDGBs was a great location for me in the late 1980’s. I wish I had seen Syd Straw there. This is a great nostalgia song and has one of my all time favorite pop song couplets (“I was married for awhile, it ended in tragedy, oh well, enough about me.”)
4. “Cinnamon Park” by Jill Sobule / Another song about nostalgia for a certain place and time. It definitely takes me back to all the fun shows I saw in high school where the sound quality of band was definitely not the most important part of the night. (“and they played the same song and they played the chords wrong, but I never heard it better.”)
5. “Jerusalem” by Dan Bern / I am a sucker for a guy who can write songs that mesh politics, heart break, sex and popular culture. I don’t think many folks do it better than Dan Bern. He writes great lyrics and is fun to see live. There are so many lyrics to mention in this song, but I always love this phrase “it was sort of like that with this.” Just eight minor words yet descriptive.
6. “Spain” by Kristen Hersh / This song is a staple on any love-gone-bad tape I make for friends. You can’t get much clearer than this: “I wanted you to sleep with her and hate yourself instead of me, I wanted you untrue, hating yourself like me.”
7. “London Still” by The Waifs / I just like the sound of this song and the sense of homesickness it evokes.
8. “Brooklyn” by Jesse Malin / Another great song for a love gone bad CD. I like how he draws out mooooved: “You couldn’t live with me so you moved to Brooklyn.
9. “In Indiana” by Brenda Kahn / Brenda’s punk/folk music was part of the lower east side anti-folk scene in the late 1980’s. There was a year or two where I just wanted to be her. In keeping with the Brooklyn theme, “Brooklyn is only six bucks and a door slam.”
10. “Every State Line” by Ani Difranco / Mainly this song is about traveling around the country and dealing with different state laws, but I thought I would keep the NY mini theme going. Plus I loved seeing Ani at open mic nights in the late 1980’s in NY. “I can’t wait to get back to New York City where at least when I walk down the street, nobody ever hesitates to tell me exactly what they think of me.”
1. “Haunting at 1300 McKinley” by The Black Angels / From their 2010 release, Phosphene Dream, this pick represents my constant and, likely, futile effort to remain somewhat current. The album is by far my favorite release of last year, but I didn’t hear enough for that to really mean anything.
2. “D.C. Blues” by Gary Louris / An overlooked gem off an overlooked album from a couple of years ago. I could listen to Louris sing the phonebook.
3. “NFB” by Peter Bruntell / You can’t tell by the title, but a sense of “place” is all over this excellent tune from the British songwriter’s 1999 Normal For Bridgewater. The album title reveals what “NFB” means. Apparently several years ago, in Bruntell’s hometown of Bridgewater, in southwest England, the local mental institution closed, emptying its tenants out into the community. It got to the point where, when the police would pick up someone for bizarre behavior, they would code it as “NFB” … Normal for Bridgewater. Clever.
4. “The India Song” by Big Star / This is just a classic track off a classic album, No. 1 Album.
5. “Giant of Illinois” by Andrew Bird / Bird’s cover of this Handsome Family song was on 2009’s Dark Was the Night charity record. It’s ironic that Bird, who does not have a soulful voice, manages to create a more dramatic performance than the Handsome Family–who specialize in dramatic readings of their songs.
6. “Tiger Mountain Peasant Song” by Fleet Foxes / Song four off the Foxes self-titled first LP in 2008. Most bands seem to put their best tune in the fourth position. (Future Unheard playlist: “Favorite Song 4s.”)
7. “Chickamauga” by Uncle Tupelo / I love a kick-ass rock song that sends me to the history books, or at least an encyclopedia (or wikipedia). As we prepare to recognize the 150th anniversary of the Civil War, let us fight fire with unlit matches and turn this one up to 11.
8. “Minor Place” by Bonnie Prince Billy / This is the opening track off Will Oldham’s timeless I See A Darkness. Well, it’s certainly about a place … no?
9. “Hong Kong Mississippi” by Bodeco / WARNING: Constant, uncontrollable ass shaking may occur while listening to this song. Do not consult a doctor but do check in with your bartender.
10. “Falcon Lake (Ash On the Floor)” by Buffalo Springfield / This minor Springfield rarity–an instrumental by Neil Young–can be strangely captivating. Just when it starts going wrong, Neil throws in his unmistakable high, lonesome harmonica to bring things back in order. This isn’t a great song, but you can hear at least two of Neil’s future songs in this jam. “Inaresting,” as he would say.
1. “Bold Street” by Eugene McGuinness / I got this album after hearing his “Monsters Under the Bed” song (which is better and definitely worth checking out). The other songs are not as strong but have a nice acoustic quality that improves with each listen.
2. “Holland, 1945” by Neutral Milk Hotel / Obviously, this is not “unheard,” but it is one of my favorite songs from this seminal album. If there is even the slightest chance I can introduce someone to this must-have record, I will take it.
3. “Itchycoo Park” by Small Faces / I never knew much about Small Faces until my brother introduced me to them a few years ago. Psychedelic bands haven’t really held up over time, which is a shame, because British ’60s mod has some great music.
4. “Under the Rotunda” by The Lucksmiths / Not really my favorite genre of music but I’ve liked this song as it reminds me of Charlottesville.
5. “Beechwood Park” by The Zombies / Another older group that has been forgotten more than they deserve. Most of their songs are really good, but “Time of the Season” is the only song that gets any play.
6. “California Song” by Mason Jennings / I’ve never been to CA but this song almost makes me want to go. Almost.
7. “Pebble Beach” by Vince Guaraldi / Guaraldi is one of the greatest and most influential jazz pianists, but he will only be known to most as “oh, that’s the Charlie Brown guy, isn’t it?” Despite being of Italian heritage and living in America, he’s right up with Antonio Carlos Jobim as far as being the best bossa nova composers, too.
8. “Hoboken” by Op IV / Operation Ivy later made it big for a while in the nineties as Rancid, but this is their best album.
9. “Japanese Happening” by The Black Affair / I only know about this album because I’ve kept up with all the members from the now-defunct Beta Band. While The General and Duchess Collins (Richard Greentree) and The Aliens (everyone else) have managed to stay close to the Beta Band sound, Steve Mason decided to go a completely different direction.
10. “Stranded in Kodiak” by Mike Marshall and Chris Thile / I don’t think there’s much in the way of bluegrass in the Kodiak area, so the title may refer to the brand of dip, but I’ll still add it to the list.
1. “Manhattan Skyline” by a-ha / I had the privilege of catching a-ha’s farewell tour at the Nokia Theater in Times Square. It left me feeling sorry that this was the first and last time I would see them live. If lead singer Morten Harket (Norway’s Patrick Swayze) continues with his solo career, he’d better get his ass to NYC, or I’ll hunt him down and drag him here myself.
2. “Manhattan Skyline” by Julia Fordham /Same title, completely different song. Written and recorded in 1989, it experienced a bit of a resurgence in the wake of 9/11.
3. “Indiana” by Rockapella / Because the Midwest can be alright.
4. “Skull Crusher Mountain” by Jonathan Coulton / No one said I couldn’t use a song about a fictional place.
5. “Down Under” by Colin Hay / Okay, the song isn’t very unheard, but this version might be. This comes off Hay’s solo album, Man at Work.
6. “Cleveland Rocks” by Presidents of the Unuted States of America / This certainly isn’t unheard if you’ve seen The Drew Carey Show, but how many of you have heard it in its entirety?
7. “Youngstown” by Bruce Springsteen / Continuing with the northeastern Ohio theme, this is probably as close as I’m ever going to get to having a song written about my hometown in western Pennsylvania.
8. “Hackensack” by Fountains of wayne / This is probably as close as I’ll ever get to having a song written about my current hometown in northern New Jersey.
9. “The Snows of New York” by Chris de Burgh / The antidote to a heat wave.
10. “In the City” by Milton / By far one of the best songs about NYC I’ve ever heard.
1. “Heart Attack ’64” by World/Inferno Friendship Society / A song about Hollywood, and Peter Lorre’s sad death after a career marked by personal disappointment and morphine addiction.
2. “Space Invaders” by Arctic Monkeys / A song about a video arcade in 1982, or so I like to imagine. Actually it doesn’t have anything to do with that at all, but the title inspired me to try and create a playlist based on an arcade in the Golden Age of video games (1979-1984?). I gave up after scrounging together three or four songs, all of which were stretching the connection pretty thin anyway. This one remains as a vestigial reminder of that unrealized dream.
3. “U-Uranus” by Man…or Astroman / Uranus is definitely a place, so I think I’m back on track. I find jokes about Uranus endlessly entertaining… I am probably still nine years old inside.
4. “The Old Main Drag” by The Pogues / This song pretty much sums up my summers during college.
5. “Jump Into My Mouth And Breathe” by Black Moth Super Rainbow / If you can jump inside a mouth, then it qualifies as a place, I would think…
6. “Back In New York City” by Genesis / A song about cuddling porcupines, shaving hairy hearts, and good ole NYC, courtesy of Peter Gabriel era Genesis (the only Genesis as far as I’m concerned). This is a live performance from the 1975 Lamb tour.
7. “The Day That Lassie Went To The Moon” by Camper Van Beethoven / A song about the moon and the dog that went there out of a duty to serve the youth of America and the stars above.
8. “Go Fishing” by Roger Waters / A song about moving to Wyoming and what happens there, featuring Roger at his most howlingest and Clapton on guitar. I love the backup singers crooning “Fuck it, then” around 5:29… I need a chorus like that in my own life.
9. “Way Over Yonder In The Minor Key” by Billy Bragg and Wilco w Natalie Merchant / That’s a place, right?
10. “Anywhere I Lay My Head (I’m Gonna Call My Home)” by Tom Waits / Take me home, Tom… or uh, anywhere.
1. “Colton” by Refrigerator / The lyrics from another song about the singer of this
song: “The rain came down/soaked the old hibachi/and i wish i could sing, like Allen Callaci
and then you would know/how sad it was, when the rain came down.”
2. “Take Him Back to New York City” by Herman Dune / Woo woo woo woo.
3. “H in New England” by Max Richter / Probably more about who or whatever H is than it is about New England.
4. “The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face/Sweet Thames Flow Softly” by Dave Burland, Tony Capstick and Dick Gaughan / A tour down the river in London.
5. “Dublin City Theme” by Ronnie Drew / “The news in Dublin is all rain and redundancy,” said Drew, who nevertheless wrote this. More Bodhran!
6. “Kokomo” by Memphis Jug Band / Kokomo, IN was an “eleven light city!” during the Great Depression. This song was the precursor to the very famous “Sweet Home Chicago.” It’s a beautiful Alan Lomax recording.
7. “The Guns of Navarone” by The Skatalites / Though this is a WWII-movie-soundtrack song, I have always understood this recording to be about the factionalism of Kingston, Jamaica, WI in the 60s.
8. “Prelude, Op. 23, No. 5” by Sergei Rachmaninoff (Perf. V. Ashkenazy) / The Guns of Navarone, but Imperial Moscow.
9. “Sweet Trinidad” by Van Dyke Parks / File under: Anti-deforestation.
10. “Bluebird of Delhi” by Duke Ellington and His Orchestra / Swingin’ India sounds like so much more fun.
1. “I Know a Place” by Jay Reatard / A great song from the late great & misunderstood Jimmy Lee Lindsey Jr.
2. “The Meeting Place” by The Last Shadow Puppets /This band features members of Arctic Monkeys. I love their big, lush early 60s sound.
3. “Farewell to Cheyenne” by Ennio Morricone / Morricone is my favorite film composer. His soundtrack work for Sergio Leone’s spaghetti westerns are incredibly inventive and fun. I will take any excuse to put these songs on mixes and playlists.
4. “Going Home” by Luna / This song is off of Bewitched. It brings me back to college and is a great song about NYC.
5. “Twin Falls” by Built to Spill / A song told from a child’s point of view. “7 up I touched her thumb”. The parachute reference brings me back to St. Aidan’s in Williston Park. I vividly recall laying on the floor of the old barn/gym under the parachute with my classmates.
6. “Village Green” by The Kinks / I saw Ray Davies perform at Carnegie Hall with The Black Keys as his backing band. His set featured many songs from this classic and under rated album, “The Village Green Preservation Society.”
7. “Let Me Go Home” by Camera Obscura / Camera Obscura crafts perfect songs. They make it sound so easy.
8. “Up in the North” by The Fiery Furnaces / As a child my Uncle Rick once took me to the beach in Lake Ronkonkoma and wrote “kick me” with sun block on my back. This song reminds me of that painful burn.
9. “Pike City Proper” by Wormburner / Sam Peckinpah would have loved this tale. A modern day spaghetti western of a song.
10. “Shangri-La” by Versus / A great tune from these NYC indie-rock stalwarts.
1. “Grand Central Station” by Steve Forbert / Do they still hang people by yard arms?
2. “Hello in There” by John Prine / Hooper drives the boat, Chief.
3. “Down in the Bowery” by Alejandro Escovedo / The IRS is coming down on me like it’s some personal vendetta against Bobby Finstock.
4. “Penn Station” by The Felice Brothers / There is no Markinson.
5. “Chance” by James Maddock / My team is on the floor.
6. “I and Love and You” by The Avett Brothers / Pretty soon a woobie isn’t enough and you’re out on the street tryin’ to score an electric blanket, maybe even a quilt.
7. “Brooklyn” by Steely Dan / Why are you so unpopular with the Chicago Police Department?
8. “Home” by Brian Eno and David Byrne / Daniel Simpson Day has no grade point average.
9. “Till the Next Goodbye” by The Rolling Stones / You send 200 men don’t forget one thing, bodybags.
10. “Hooray for Tom” by Bruce Hornsby / 1100 men went in the water, 316 men come out and the sharks took the rest…June 29, 1945….anyway, we delivered the bomb.
1. “Gates Of Eden” by Arlo Guthrie / “At dawn my lover comes to me and tells me of her dreams / With no attempts to shovel the glimpse into the ditch of what each one means.” The images and the tight meter and especially the feel of this song brings me to many of the questions that I’ll play with riding the back roads to the dump. The above quote almost always makes me think of the times in class where students would ask me to simply “tell” them what a poem may mean.
2. “Harlan Man” by Steve Earle / The tale of a hard working union man making a living. I like the simplicity of the joy of doing work and having satisfaction.
3. “Ol’ 55” by the Eagles / Always makes me think of my younger and vulnerable years driving on the Long Island expressway.
4. “Cumberland Blues” by the Grateful Dead / My theme song when I had a hard day on the job. “Make good money five dollars a day/ make anymore might move away.”
5. “Levelland” by James McMurtry / Good R&R. Great lyrics!
6. “Hello in There” by John Prine / Nails the possibility that growing old might be a drag. I love the line, “Some day I’ll call up Rudy / We worked together at the factory / What can I say if he asks what’s new? / Nothing, what’s with you / Nothing much to do.” I guess that’s why they have cruises and retirement communities.
7. “That’s Where I Belong” by Paul Simon / This song speaks to me of the joy of sitting down and trying to write. There really is pleasure in attempting to explain yourself on paper. Whether or not you show anybody is not that important.
8. “Can’t you Hear Your Daddy’s Heart Beat” by Steve Miller / The Brave New World album will always be one of my all- time favorites. This song just rocks and rolls! I love the syncopated leads. Get up and dance.
9. “The Long Road” by Eddie Vedder & Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan / I have the Dead Man Walking song track version. Ry Cooder makes it work for me, but then again, I am a big sucker for a slide guitar.
10. “Bob Dylan’s Dream” by Bob Dylan / “$10,000 at a drop of a hat / I’d give it all gladly if our lives could be like that.” How little I knew then (and now) of the magic of the moment. The times spent in idle conversation and the nowhere-to-go feeling can be lost.
1. “Avalon” by Benny Goodman / From the 1939 Carnegie Hall concert–this is over 70 years old. Goodman did mostly big band stuff at this concert, but he did some small combo work too. This is with Lionel Hampton on vibes, Gene Krupa on drums, Jess Stacey on piano and Goodman, of course. Harry James was also in the band, but not on this piece.
2. “Tall Trees in Georgia” by Eva Cassidy / If this is your first listen of Eva Cassidy, you should probably find more of her stuff. She does the hands-down best version of “Danny Boy.”
3. “Tecumseh Valley” by Nanci Griffith / No Clue where Tecumseh Valley is.
4. “Song for Canada” by Ian & Sylvia / A song about the split in Quebec between the English speakers and the French. My wife and I (along with Matt, who runs this site) were in Montreal one Jean Baptiste Day and we went into town to see the big parade on St. Catherine St. There was a riot at the parade reviewing stand and the Prime Minister, Pierre Trudeau, refused to move as things went flying. The French eventually won out.
5. “Kansas City” by Wilbur Harrison / A Classic.
6. “Lady Came From Baltimore” by Tim Hardin / Bobby Darin did this too, but not as well.
7. “The Last Time I saw Paris” by The Four Freshman / The Beach Boys only made it after they decided to adopt the Freshman’s harmonies. This was just a song to me until I heard Oscar Hammerstein (who wrote the lyrics) talk/sing it on the Ed Sullivan Show. Hammerstein explained that the song is about the evacuation of Paris in WWII.
8. “A Nightingale Sang in Berkeley Square” by Bobby Darin / My wife and I on our last night out in London some years ago chanced to walk around this square.
9. “Do You Know What It Means To Miss New Orleans?” by Bob Scoby’s Frisco Jazz Band / One of my favorite dixieland bands. I like the tuba.
10. “April in Paris” by Frank Sinatra / I am not a generally fan of this song. Count Basie has a terrific instrumental version, but Sinatra does a really nice job with it, holding onto some long notes.
1. “The Seaside” by The Kooks / A beautiful and catchy song about falling in love at the seaside.
2. “Farmhouse” by Phish / Written by Trey Anastasio and Tom Marshall up in Trey’s Vermont house. I personally have never seen the Northern Lights or cluster flies either.
3. “What Sarah Said” by Death Cab for Cutie / A beautiful, sad, and easy to relate to song about passing time in a hospital waiting room.
4. “Chillout Tent” by The Hold Steady / The chillout tent is a medical tent at a music festival where you go to recover (and perhaps get some lovin) if you took too many drugs. Awesome.
5. “South of France” by Harlem / A favorite track from the band Harlem. A solid garage rock song.
6. “Marathon” by Tennis / This new band from Colorado was just signed to the same record label as The Walkmen. Debut album coming out in January 2011. Love the vintage sound.
7. “Osaka Loop Line” by Discovery / A poppy little song about this Japanese railway system.
8. “Mykonos” by Fleet Foxes / The title Mykanos refers to an Island off of Greece. A place to go to get away from it all.
9. “Lets Go to Bed” by The Cure / This song is old school now but still one of the greats, and more than likely it’s “unheard” by the younger generation.
10. “Psychic City” by Yacht / This is a feel good song is about a psychic/voodoo city where inanimate objects speak and throw parties for you.
1. “Julie’s Blanket” by Mary’s Danish / I’m not sure who Julie is or if we have her blanket, but either way I love Mary’s Danish and a warm blanket. I had the good fortune of seeing them at the Gothic Theater in Denver CO in the early 90’s. Now that I think about it I’m not sure we don’t have Mary’s danish around here someplace.
2. “Windows” by Screaming Trees / Windows let light and air in and give us a view to the outside to day dream or realize you need to mow the yard. Screaming Trees have been a favorite since a friend made me a tape of their Clairvoyance album in 1988 which I still have.
3. “Flexible Flyer” by Husker Du / Now that the kids are older the Flexible Flyer gathers more dust than speed, but was a constant in our lives as was the one I had as a lad that saw me racing around the neighborhood pulled by my neighbor Wayne on his purple 5 speed Schwinn. I lucked out and saw Husker Du twice at First Ave in Minneapolis right before they broke up and they were fan-frickintastic.
4. “Chains” by Soul Asylum / I know chains are part of most households and can really be used for a wide variety of tasks or activities, but ours are of a utilitarian nature for holding a tree house to a branch, hanging light fixtures and plants in few spots around the house. This song is a cover as the original was done in 1979 by my older brothers rock band Raggs and the album is right next to the Ramones in the big stack downstairs.
5. “Mop it Up” by Run Westy Run / If you have to mop it up you must have a mop and we’ve all mopped up many messes of one kind or another in our homes. The first night I met my wife and we were talking I found out she was a big Run Westy Run fan and I quickly fell madly in love with her and sixteen years later I still love her and the band. Hands down they are the best live band I’ve ever seen and their albums are flippin’ wonderful.
6. “Red Red Wine” by The Replacements / What’s a home without red wine in it from time to time, in fact the more red wine the better. I never saw the Mats, but did see Chris Mars playing guitar with Golden Smog one night and stood next to Paul at a Goo Goo Dolls show at the Mercury Café in Denver. Damn it, I’m still bummed out I never saw them. At least I get to listen to Paul’s equally talented sister Mary who is a DJ on The Current our local public radio station that is a one of a kind gem like The Replacements. (Go stream the current there is nothing like it on the planet.)
7. “Kitchen” by Lemonheads / Easily the most important room of the home as it’s where plans are made; schoolwork is completed and is often the starting and ending point of most conversations. I met one of my best friends standing in line to see these guys who were playing with The Jayhawks and Soul Asylum at the Marquee Theater in Boulder Colorado. Here’s to you Rick.
8. “Pecan Pie” by Golden Smog / Pecan, apple, cherry, French silk or chicken pot pie I don’t care what kind of pie it is as man o man I love pie. I’ve seen all these boys in their respective bands and twice in the “All Star” line up they call Golden Smog. If you’ve ain’t got any Golden Smog records in your collection you’ve gotta hole that needs fillin’.
9. “Cough Syrup” by Butthole Surfers / Just the words cough syrup makes me clinch my teeth and pull my head back as if there is a big spoon full of the nasty green stuff waiting to invade. The band name damn near makes me do the same thing as I clinch my teeth, pull my head back, but wait this isn’t nasty its some of the tastiest music one could ever hope to have a taste of. Have you seen these guys live? Were you scared? I was…..and it was an unforgettable show full of shotguns, overhauls and a mosh pit done Texas punk style.
10. “Dream (All I have to do)” by R.E.M. / Quit possibly the single most important component needed to build a strong home is the ability to dream. Dreams are the mortar which binds bricks, the nails that strengthen walls and the concrete which supports the foundation of living. Have a dream, dare to dream, believe in and act on your dreams. For years I’ve said the 3 “R’s” of rock-n-roll are the Replacements, Ramones and R.E.M and though it’s been years since I’ve seen them live they are what American rock-n-roll is all about.
1. “Kare Kare” by Crowded House / Surfing at night in New Zealand. I do not surf, and I have not been there, but the song makes me feel like I have.
2. “In Liverpool” by Suzanne Vega / A great pop song about a reverie caused by church bells.
3. “Tree House” by Buffalo Tom / “Tree house, your mind is like a tree house / I climb up the shaky ladder.” I am not exactly sure what this means, but it feels angry and accusatory and I love signing along with it.
4. “That Was Another Country” by Innocence Mission/ This song was written well after my childhood was over, but it makes me think of the block I grew up on.
5. “Southern California Wants to Be Western New York” by Dar Williams / The comparison between these two places extends for an entire song, and it should collapse under the weight of trying to keep it up so long. But instead, the song gets better and better as it goes along.
6. “Another World” by Antony / Just a beautiful song of yearning.
7. “Go Man Go” by Kirk Kelly / The first time my brother Pat heard this, he said, “Holy shit! Is that guy really playing that fast?” I love the bit about waking up in California: “West Coast, big land of broken dreams, that can boast of five pro-fessional baseball teams / Two came from New York, just like me…”
8. “I’m Not From Here” by James McMurtry / This reminds me of my uncle Hank, a “newcomer” in Vermont, having only lived there 35 years.
8. “Neptune City” by Nicole Atkins / A funereal song about a home town from one of my favorite singers.
10. “Albion” by Babyshambles / The list of English towns is the best.
1. “Warszawa” by David Bowie / From the album Low, the first of his Berlin based collaborations with Brian Eno. Unlike anything he had done before. The vocals on this track don’t even begin until the 4 minute mark, but it’s a moody gem from the start.
2. “Berlin” by Neil Young / Never released on an album or single, and performed only once. This is definitely one of the rarer Neil Young songs. This comes from the Live in Berlin concert video.
3. “Strasbourg” by Julian Cope / One of the most prolific and under appreciated songwriters of the last 30 years. Not his best song by a mile, but a good one, and its title best suits the theme here.
4. “Versailles” by Pinback / What you would never guess from hearing this song is that the singer is also in a heavy metal band, amusingly titled Goblin Cock. It’s true.
5. “Troy” by Sinead O’Connor / Before the enormo-hit Prince cover, and the controversial tearing of the Pope’s picture on SNL, there was The Lion and the Cobra–the debut record from the then 20-year old. Incredible vocal performance here. “Drink Before the War” and “Jackie” are other standouts from this album. Again, she was only 20.
6. “Barcelona” by Rufus Wainwright / From his self-titled debut. I didn’t care much for the follow up and haven’t heard anything after that, but his first album is great all the way through. They say you spend your whole life making your first record, and 6 months making your second. Perhaps the reason for so many sophomore jinxes.
7. “Rome” by Sam Cooke / What might have been? He was already hugely successful, but the drowning death of his young son, and the Civil Rights Movement, had great impact on him, and his themes would take a more serious turn. Inspired by Dylan’s “Blowin’ in the Wind,” he wrote the mighty “A Change is Gonna Come.” One of the greatest vocalists of all time was now becoming a truly great writer as well. That same year, he was shot to death at the age of 33. Such a horrible waste.
8. “Seattle” by Public Image Ltd. / Ex-Pistol Lydon in fine form here, but what makes this great are the bright guitar arpeggios by the masterful, and late, John McGeoch (Magazine, Siouxsie and the Banshees).
9. “Colorado” by Grizzly Bear From the fantastic Yellow House LP. Woozy vocals and syncopated percussion conjure the feeling of coming home after a few too many, and stumbling in the dark to find the light switch. Or something.
10. “New York City” by The Jesus and Mary Chain / A B-side from their 1994 single, “Come On.” The coolest band since the Velvet Underground.
1. “Living LIke a Refugee” by Sierra Leone Refugee All Stars. / No comment.
2. “Mr. Lecturer II” by Eedris Abdulkareem with Alima / No comment.
3. “Howbizzare” by OMC / No comment.
4. “Homburg” by Procol Harem / No comment.
5. “Voice from de Ghetto” by Singing Sandra / No comment.
6. “Under My Thumb” by Anakelly / No comment.
7. “African Problems” by Fela’s Egypt 80 and Sean Kuti / No comment.
8. “Maria Lando / Susan Baca / No comment.
9. “Conflitos Urbanos” by Afro Reggae / No comment.
10. “The Other Side” by Lucky Dube / No comment.