It’s Monday so it’s time for Monday’s Music Moves Me. Today’s theme comes from Ellen at 15 and Meowing. The theme is “Names of Places” so I decided to take it in the direction of SONGS ABOUT PLACES I’VE LIVED. This was fun to put together and I hope you have fun listening to my playlist and reading some info on each of the songs. Enjoy!
NIAGARA FALLS, NEW YORK (BUFFALO)
I was born and raised in Niagara Falls, New York, way back in 1962. The city of Niagara Falls, aside from being one of the world’s seven natural wonders, had been booming since the 50s when everyone was moving there from other states because jobs were more than plentiful. My parents moved there from Pennsylvania for that very reason.
I love my hometown. And I miss it so much…Even though my friends tell me that it’s not the town we grew up in anymore. But the Falls itself is still the amazing, incredible, magnificent waterfalls it has always been. For those who aren’t familiar, Niagara Falls is the collective name for three waterfalls that straddle the international border between the Canadian province Ontario and the American state of New York. They form the southern end of the Niagara Gorge. (Tons of information at Wikipedia and the NY Falls website).
The city of Buffalo in New York state is located on the shores of Lake Erie. It is known as the “Queen City of the Lakes,” and Niagara Falls is only 25 miles away. The two cities being so close together was great during my wild and crazy “party years” (starting when I was 17 — the legal drinking age in New York state back in my day was 18 but I guess I naturally passed for 18 because I always got into the bars): the bars in Niagara County closed at 3am so we’d hop over the county line because the bars in Erie County didn’t close until 4am! Ah, those were the days…
Anyway, here are a few songs that are about Niagara Falls & Buffalo:
“Niagara Falls” by Chicago – “Niagara Falls” is the fourth single released by the American rock band, Chicago, from their 1986 album, Chicago 18. Lead vocals were shared by Jason Scheff and Bill Champlin. When writing the song, the band misspelled “Niagara” as “Niagra”; this mistake can be seen in the music video’s title and most likely on the album, as Warner Bros. Records and Chicago never corrected it. I gotta say, it has always driven me crazy when people misspell Niagara. I don’t know why it bugs me so much…it bugs me as much as someone misspelling my name (and I’m not talking friends or regular people who misspell my name, I’m talking about professionals and companies who should have correct info in their databases…Like when my voter registration card came in the mail, my name was misspelled. It’s just a hassle and one of my pet peeves).
Following the successful singles, “Will You Still Love Me?” (#3 US pop) and “If She Would Have Been Faithful…” (#17 US pop), “Niagara Falls” only reached #91 on the Billboard Hot 100 pop singles chart.
Chicago’s ballad ‘Niagara Falls’ is stylistically much the same as many other 80s pop ballads, but hooks its romance overtures to the permanence of Niagara Falls:
As long as Niagara falls,
Until the end of time,
Till hell freezes over,
You are forever mine
“Niagara” by Barbra Streisand – “Niagara” appears on Barbra Streisand’s Wet, an album released by Barbra Streisand in 1979. The album is a concept album of sorts with all the songs referring to, or expressing different interpretations of, water. Wet is also the first and the last word sung on the album.
The album was a major success for Barbra Streisand, due largely to the album’s No. 1 hit single, “No More Tears (Enough Is Enough)”, a duet with American disco singer Donna Summer which underwent a retitling and change of emphasis in order to qualify under the water theme.
The song “Niagara” continued the water-based theme of the album but also weaves the location into a weighted ballad about lost love.
Niagara Falls has a long history of inspiring songwriters, and the landmark has often found its way into the lyrics of iconic songs– and will continue to be quoted, referenced and called upon for inspiration for a long time to come.
Here’s another waterfalls song that doesn’t specifically mention Niagara Falls but I like it so I’m including it because the mighty Niagara Falls is definitely a waterfalls that many chase:
“Waterfalls” by TLC – “Waterfalls” is a song by American recording group TLC. It was written by band member Lisa “Left Eye” Lopes with Marqueze Etheridge and Organized Noize for TLC’s second album, CrazySexyCool (1994). The song was released as the third single from the album on May 29, 1995 in the US followed by a UK release on August 5, 1995.
Often considered the group’s signature song, “Waterfalls” was an international hit, topping the charts in many different territories. The song spent seven weeks at number one on the Billboard Hot 100, giving the group their second US number one. The song was the number two song of the year on the Billboard 1995 year-end chart. “Waterfalls” also peaked at number one in New Zealand, Switzerland, and Germany, while reaching the top ten in many other countries. “Waterfalls” received critical acclaim, earning two Grammy nominations at the 38th Annual Grammy Awards in 1996 for Record of the Year and Best Pop Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocal.
The song tackled issues of the illegal drug trade, promiscuity and HIV/AIDS. Jarett E. Nolan of BMG noted that “Waterfalls” was the first number one song ever to reference AIDS in one of its verses. The accompanying music video for the song reflected its socially conscious lyrics. With a million-dollar budget, the video was an MTV staple credited for giving the single much of its success. It stayed atop the MTV Video Monitor chart for over a month, making TLC the first act to ever achieve this feat.
The music video was directed by F. Gary Gray and features Ella Joyce, Bokeem Woodbine, Shyheim, Paul J. Alessi and Gabrielle Bramford. TLC had to force Antonio L.A. Reid to get the budget for the music video, which was filmed at Universal Studios Hollywood from June 8–9, 1995.
Like the song itself, the video tackles issues of illegal drug trade and HIV/AIDS, two crises that plagued the 1990s. A young man (Shyheim) goes against his mother’s advice to stop selling drugs and is killed before a drug deal. In other scenes, a woman in a relationship is shown convincing her partner (Alessi) not to use a condom. Afterwards, he looks in the mirror and sees that he has an early symptom of AIDS visible on his face, in the form of Kaposi’s sarcoma. He then sees a small photo frame on the dresser, showing all the people she has had sex with previously. The video also intercuts scenes of liquified versions of TLC performing to the song while standing on top of an ocean and performing in front of a real waterfall. At the end of the video, the young man involved with drug gangs appears in ghost form. He tries to hug his mother as she is walking down the streets, every time he tries to hug her she walks right through him. The bedroom of the couple shows the man’s face faded from the picture with the woman sitting alone on the bed, she too fades away, as they both die from AIDS.
The video won four awards at the 1995 MTV Video Music Awards: Video of the Year, Best Group Video, Best R&B Video, and the Viewer’s Choice Award. Watkins stated in retrospect that the “video spoke for a whole epidemic.” TLC was the first African American group or artist to ever receive the trophy. If you want to see it I’ve included that video in my playlist.
Now for a little Buffalo…
“Truckin’” by the Grateful Dead – “Truckin'” is a song by the Grateful Dead, which first appeared on their 1970 album American Beauty. Written by band members Jerry Garcia, Bob Weir, Phil Lesh, and lyricist Robert Hunter, “Truckin'” molds classic Grateful Dead rhythms and instrumentation. The lyrics refer to a drug raid of the band’s hotel lodgings in New Orleans during a concert tour earlier in 1970:
Busted, down on Bourbon Street
Set up, like a bowling pin
Knocked down, it gets to wearing thin
They just won’t let you be
The line, “Busted, down on Bourbon Street” refers to the incident on January 31, 1970 when members of the band were arrested in a drug bust that netted 19 people in New Orleans. The group was in town to play two shows at a club called the Warehouse, and the raid happened the morning after their first show at the French Quarter hotel where they were staying. Lesh, Weir and drummer Bill Kreutzmann were all arrested along with crew members and fans of the band who had joined them at the hotel. The story made the front page of the New Orleans Times-Picayune the next day, and drew national attention, with Rolling Stone running an article on the incident. Owsley Stanley, a Dead associate known for his pioneering work with LSD, was also arrested and labeled the “King of Acid” in the Times-Picayune piece. According to the Rolling Stone article, the band paid for bail and legal fees for all 19 arrested.
As for the song, its climactic refrain, “What a long, strange trip it’s been”, has achieved widespread cultural use in the years since the song’s release. I know that I’ve used that line on more than one occasion. How about you? Ever find yourself saying that line?
“Truckin’” was recognized by the United States Library of Congress in 1997 as a national treasure. Pretty cool.
So what does it have to do with Buffalo? There’s a line in the song:
Truckin’, up to Buffalo…Been thinkin’, you got to mellow slow
Takes time, you pick a place to go, and just keep truckin’ on.
The line “Truckin’ up to Buffalo” became the title of an album: a double CD soundtrack to the DVD video, which was recorded at Rich Stadium in Orchard Park on July 4, 1989.
Rich Stadium was home to the Buffalo Bills. I didn’t see the Bills play there but I did see some awesome artists perform there. Some friends took me for my birthday, I think it was in 1980, to a killer concert. The lineup was George Thorogood, Loverboy, Journey and the Rolling Stones! What a concert that was! In the words of the Grateful Dead, I can honestly say it was a “long, strange trip.”
I graduated with my Associates Degree in Liberal Arts/Social Sciences from Niagara County Community College in 1981. In 1982, I moved to Youngstown Ohio to attend Youngstown State University where I majored in Advertising & Public Relations and got my Bachelor’s degree in Business Administration (BSBA) in 1984.
Ohio has some good people there! I met a ton and made some very good and lasting friendships, and to this day still talk to several of them. On the phone, no less! Who talks on the phone anymore??! My time there was enlightening to say the least. It was college, my first time living away from home and need I say, I had a blast! A good many days spent ditching my Business Economics class to hit the local bar for 10¢ drafts that kicked in at noon. Lots of dating, a few interesting relationships thrown in for good measure, some cool part-time jobs, some wonderful professors…and of course, some trauma. I mean what’s college without some personal trauma.
Anyway, here are a few songs that I associate with my time in Ohio:
“Youngstown” by Bruce Springsteen – “Youngstown” is a song by Bruce Springsteen from his 1995 album The Ghost of Tom Joad. Although many of the songs on the album were performed by Springsteen solo, the lineup for “Youngstown” includes Soozie Tyrell on violin, Jim Hanson on bass, Gary Mallaber on drums, co-producer Chuck Plotkin on keyboards, and Marty Rifkin on pedal steel guitar.
Revisiting a common Springsteen theme, that of the division between the wealthy and the working class, this song is about an unemployed steelworker in Youngstown, Ohio. Most people think that Bruce is singing this song to a woman named Jenny (“my sweet Jenny I’m sinkin’ down” etc.), but “Jenny” is the nickname given to the Blast Furnace at Youngstown steelworks – The Jeanette Blast Furnace (owned by Youngstown Sheet & Tube, which shut down in 1977, and named after the daughter of W.A. Thomas, who was the President of Brier Hill Steel).
It’s common practice at steelworks to have nicknames for blast furnaces – for example, at Scunthorpe steelworks in the UK the four furnaces are known as Bess, Victoria, Anne and Mary (after four Queens of England/Britain). The fact that Bruce’s character is singing to the furnace, rather than a person, changes the song considerably.
More than a single unemployed steelworker, the song goes deep and tells the tale of the rise and fall of Youngstown, Ohio, over several generations, from the discovery of iron ore nearby in 1803 through the decline of the steel industry in the area in the 1970s. It tells of how in the Civil War, Youngstown made the cannonballs that helped the Union prevail. Then the city built tanks and bombs to help win later wars, such as World War II. Finally, the boys of Youngstown went to fight the Korean War and the Vietnam War. Despite the town’s history, when it became uneconomical to keep the steel mills in Youngstown going, they were shut down, thus doing “what Hitler couldn’t do,” to the devastation of the community.
The song’s story unfolds as the narrative of one family’s history as factory-workers in Youngstown. The narrator of the song himself is a Vietnam War veteran (continuing Springsteen’s fixation with that war, also evident in songs such as “Born in the U.S.A.” and “Lost in the Flood”) and his father fought in World War II. Both also worked in the steel mills. The narrator had worked himself up to the job of scarfer, a difficult but low-paying job that entails torching the steel to remove imperfections. Although he describes the job as one “that would suit the devil well,” it is enough to put food on the table, pay his debts and provide a sense of purpose. When the mill is shut down, he tells the owners that “Once I made you rich enough/Rich enough to forget my name.” Finally, he prays that “the devil comes and takes me/To stand in the fiery furnace of hell.” Towards the end of the song, the scope expands beyond Youngstown to other areas that were devastated by the decline of the steel industry, including the Monongahela Valley, Minnesota’s Mesabi iron range and Appalachia.
The song is set to a sparse melody. Its simple chorus is:
Here in Youngstown
Here in Youngstown
My sweet Jenny, I’m sinkin’ down
Here darlin’ in Youngstown
I don’t know if what I saw and photographed back in the early 80s was this particular mill (below) but it sure looks like it. I took some fabulous black & white photos of the closed steel mills, one of them even appearing in a YSU arts publication. I wish I could put my hands on those photos now as I’d share them here. They were quite stunning in their massive starkness.
Springsteen was inspired to write “Youngstown” and “The New Timer”, another Ghost of Tom Joad song, after reading Dale Maharidge’s 1985 book Journey to Nowhere: The Saga of the New Underclass, illustrated by Michael Williamson. Journey to Nowhere chronicled the story of middle class Americans who lost their jobs and had become hobos riding freight trains like in the Great Depression. The stories of dying steel towns inspired “Youngstown” and the stories of boxcar hobos inspired “New Timer”.
In an interview with BBC Radio, Springsteen stated that his connection to this song was
“probably through my own kids and my own job, in the sense that the thought of being told after 30 years or so, that what you’re doing isn’t useful anymore, or has no place, or that the world has changed and that’s the way it is. And you’re 50 and gotta find something else to do. That’s almost impossible … I don’t know what I would do in that circumstance.”
With “Youngstown”, he managed to trace the rise of America as an industrial power, and the subsequent breaking of its social contract. This contrast between the mythology of the American Dream and the realities faced by its working-class citizens is among Springsteen’s most familiar themes. Activist historian Howard Zinn included the lyrics of the song in his 2004 book Voices from a People’s History of the United States.
Writing for The New York Times Magazine, author Nicholas Dawidoff said that “Youngstown” was the best song on the album and was an example of “best of his songs [which] have all the tension and complexity of great short fiction.” Not everyone was taken with the song; The Dallas Morning News criticized its “ham-fisted factory/hell metaphor”.
No singles were released from the album in the United States, but “Youngstown” was the song that Columbia Records most pitched to album oriented rock radio stations. The effort met with little success; as one station program director remarked, “Yeah, that’ll get everybody up and dancing.”
The song was popular in Youngstown itself, getting frequent local radio airplay and generating brisk sales of The Ghost of Tom Joad. An editor at The Youngstown Vindicator said that town reaction split into three camps: “Some people are taking this as, ‘Yea Youngstown! Finally somebody noticed!’ Some people are taking it as a real vindication of the working man. And some people feel, ‘Oh no, we thought we had all this behind us!”
Springsteen made a point of playing Youngstown’s Stambaugh Auditorium in January 1996 during the solo acoustic Ghost of Tom Joad Tour, and tickets for the 2,600-seat venue were sold in record time. During the visit he was given the key to the city by Mayor Patrick Ungaro.
Springsteen introduced “Youngstown” at that show by saying, “This is about the men and women who lived in this town and who built this country. It’s about [the people] who gave their sons and daughters to the wars that were fought … and who were later declared expendable.” He added that “You get into tricky territory when you write a song about someone’s hometown. You don’t want to get it wrong.”
The audience, which included many who worked in the mills or had family members who did, was hushed during the performance and then gave Springsteen a standing ovation after its completion. Afterward, Springsteen was relieved that the performance had gone over well and changed his travel plans to stay an extra day and visit historic sites in the area.
And that’s why Bruce Springsteen is so beloved by blue collar folks, of which I proudly am one…
“Ohio” by Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young – “Ohio” is a protest song and counterculture anthem written and composed by Neil Young in reaction to the Kent State shootings of May 4, 1970, and performed by Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young. It was released as a single, backed with Stephen Stills’s “Find the Cost of Freedom”, peaking at number 14 on the US Billboard Hot 100 and number 16 in Canada.
The record was mastered with the participation of the four principals, rush-released by Atlantic and heard on the radio with only a few weeks’ delay. Although a live version of “Ohio” was included on the group’s 1971 double album Four Way Street, the studio versions of both songs did not appear on an LP until the group’s compilation So Far was released in 1974. The song also appeared on the Neil Young compilation albums Decade, released in 1977, and Greatest Hits, released in 2004. The song also appears on Neil Young’s Live at Massey Hall album, which he recorded in 1971 but did not release until 2007.
Young wrote the lyrics to “Ohio” after seeing the photos of the incident in Life Magazine. On the evening that CSN&Y entered Record Plant Studios in Los Angeles, the song had already been rehearsed, and the quartet—with their new rhythm section of Calvin Samuels and Johnny Barbata—recorded it live in just a few takes. During the same session, they recorded the single’s equally direct B-side, Stephen Stills’s ode to the war’s dead, “Find the Cost of Freedom.” It was released just ten days after the tragedy.
After the double’s release, it was banned from some AM radio stations because of the challenge to the Nixon Administration in the lyrics but received airplay on underground FM stations in larger cities and college towns. Today, the song receives regular airplay on classic rock stations.
The lyrics help evoke the turbulent mood of horror, outrage, and shock in the wake of the shootings, especially the line “four dead in Ohio,” repeated throughout the song. “Tin soldiers and Nixon coming” refers to the Kent State shootings where Ohio National Guardsmen shot and killed four students and Young’s attribution of their deaths to the President of the United States, Richard Nixon, even though the National Guardsmen had not been federalized and were under orders from Ohio Governor Jim Rhodes. A tin soldier is a toy soldier, mindlessly controlled by its owner. In this song, Young likens the National Guard troops to tin soldiers controlled by Nixon. It’s likely he got the metaphor from a 1969 song by The Original Caste called “One Tin Soldier,” which went to #1 in Young’s native Canada (it was an American hit two years later for the band Coven). Other songs with the phrase in the title include “The Little Tin Soldier” by Donovan (1965) and “Tin Soldier” by the Small Faces (1967).
Crosby once stated that Young keeping Nixon’s name in the lyrics was “the bravest thing I ever heard.” The American counterculture took the group as its own after this song, giving the four a status as leaders and spokesmen they would enjoy to a varying extent for the rest of the decade.
In his liner notes for the song on the Decade retrospective, Young termed the Kent State incident as ‘probably the biggest lesson ever learned at an American place of learning’ and reported that “David Crosby cried when we finished this take.” Indeed, Crosby can be heard keening “Four, why? Why did they die?” and “How many more?” in the fade.
An article in the Guardian in 2010 describes the song as the ‘greatest protest record’ and ‘the pinnacle of a very 1960s genre.’ while also saying ‘The revolution never came.’
The following is from a Songfacts interview with Jerry Casale, co-founder and bassist of the new wave band Devo, who was on campus the day of the shootings and gave this firsthand account:
“I was a student, I was a member of SDS – an antiwar group called Students for a Democratic Society, trying to restore Democracy at a time when LBJ and Nixon were running roughshod over it. There were several antiwar groups. That protest that day where everybody got shot was a protest against the expansion of the Vietnam War into Cambodia. It was a secret expansion, Nixon had done it the night before and we found out about it the next day – the whole nation did. They did it without an act of congress, without passing any new law or having any meetings. It was completely unconstitutional.
So we’re out there at noon, about 3,500 students at Kent State were out there. The governor, who certainly was a pro-war kind of guy, Governor Rhodes, he had placed the National Guard inside the heating plant of the school the night before anticipating what would happen when the students found out about Cambodia. Not only did he do that, but he waited until about 9 a.m. on May 4th to declare Martial Law, which suspends all first amendment rights of The Constitution, meaning that any assembly is automatically illegal, you’re automatically committing a crime.
These National Guardsmen poured out of the heating plant, surrounded the protesters, and with a bullhorn announced that Martial Law had been declared and that we were all going to jail. Everybody starts chanting and screaming and they start shooting tear gas and some of the more ballsy protesters, while they’re coughing and choking and puking are trying to throw it back, but most of the kids were anywhere from 50 to 100 yards away from these lines of National Guardsmen with guns.
Nobody believed that the guns were actually loaded with live ammo. They just suddenly formed a row. The first one knelt and the second one stood, and they just shot right into the crowd, shot at all of us, down the hill at all of us. The worst thing about it is that two of the four students killed weren’t part of the demonstration, weren’t part of an antiwar group. They’d just come out of class from the journalism building at that time and come out on their way to their next class and were looking at the protest, just seeing what the hell’s going on, and they got killed. The bullets just went everywhere, it was like a scatter-gun approach, like shooting geese. A lot of the bullets went over the heads of the protesters and kept going straight down the hill. One of the kids that’s paralyzed for life was getting into his car to leave campus after his class, and they shot him in the back. He was at least 200 yards away and wanted nothing to do with what was going on. It was shocking. It pretty much knocked any hippie that I had left in me right out of me that day.
I had been a member of the honors college and the only way I went to school was with a scholarship. My family was poor and I got a scholarship to go to school. What I had to do every year to earn my scholarship was work three months in the summer for the university admitting new students to the honors college, the incoming freshman, and helping them arrange their curriculum, taking them through the registration process. The summer before May 4th, I had befriended Jeffery Miller and Allison Krause, two honor students, and they turn out to be two of the four killed on May 4th. So I’d known both of them nine months before this happened, and so when I realized that this girl on her stomach with a huge exit wound in her back with blood running down the sidewalk was Allison, I nearly passed out. I sat down on the grass and kind of swooned around and lied down. I was in shock, I couldn’t move.
The government and the press tried to lie about what happened as well as they could. The fact that anybody knows what happened is amazing because they did such a good job of muddying it up and lying, it was amazing. The final chapter there was that the parents of the students who were shot and killed banded together and went on a class action suit against Governor Rhodes and the state of Ohio and the National Guard, and summarily lost across the board. These kids that were shot were 18 and 19 years old. Two of them were 18 and two of them were 19. They lost because by law, no one was allowed to be having a protest once Martial Law was declared, and they threw it out of the court system. I don’t think anyone wants to know the truth. It ruins the myth of freedom in America to find out how easily it can be gone.”
The Kent State shootings had a profound effect on some of the students who later became prominent musicians. Chrissie Hynde was a student at the time, and eventually formed The Pretenders. (Interestingly, Chrissie Hynde with the Pretenders is included here in my playlist post as another one of my Ohio songs). Mark Mothersbaugh and Jerry Casale were also on campus, and after the shootings, they developed the band Devo based on the concept of “De-Evolution,” meaning the human race was regressing. Said Casale, “It refocused me entirely. I don’t think I would have done Devo without it. It was the deciding factor that made me live and breathe this idea and make it happen. In Chrissie Hynde’s case, I’m sure it was a very powerful single event that was traumatic enough to form her sensibility and account for a lot of her anger.” Mothersbaugh added, “It was the first time I’d heard a song about something I’d been a participant in. It affected us. It was part of our life.”
The music videos I chose for my playlist have actual news photos from the event. I included a second “Ohio” video at the end of the playlist because it has different event photos and just because it’s a great song worth hearing twice.
“My City Was Gone” by The Pretenders – “My City Was Gone” is a song by the rock group The Pretenders. The song originally appeared in October 1982 as the B-side to the single release of “Back on the Chain Gang”. The song was included on the album Learning to Crawl released in early 1984, and it became a radio favorite in the US. It is sometimes referred to as “The Ohio Song” for its constant reference to the state, though it is not part of the song’s title. The song’s final title was because there had already been a song called “Ohio” by Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young.
The song was written by Pretenders leader Chrissie Hynde, and reflected her growing interest in environmental and social concerns; the lyrics take the form of an autobiographical lament, with the singer returning to her childhood home of Ohio and discovering that rampant development and pollution had destroyed the “pretty countryside” of her youth. The song makes a number of specific references to places in and around Akron, Ohio including South Howard Street (line 5), the historic center of Akron which was leveled to make way for an urban plaza with three skyscrapers and two parking decks (line 8).
The opening bass riff from this song “was something that Tony Butler used to play just as a warm-up,” said Steve Churchyard, the engineer for the record.
Use by Rush Limbaugh – Ugh!
The instrumental opening of the song (before Hynde’s vocals appear at about 40 seconds) has been used as the opening theme ‘bumper’ for Rush Limbaugh’s popular American talk radio program since 1984, during his days at KFBK in Sacramento, California. Limbaugh said in 2011 that he chose it because of the irony of a conservative using such an anti-conservative song, though he mainly liked its “unmistakable, totally recognizable bass line.”
In 1999, Rolling Stone magazine reported that, according to Hynde’s manager, Limbaugh had neither licensed the song nor asked permission to use it. According to Rolling Stone, EMI took action after Limbaugh told a pair of reporters in 1997 that “it was icing on the cake that it was [written by] an environmentalist, animal rights wacko and was an anti-conservative song. It is anti-development, anti-capitalist and here I am going to take a liberal song and make fun of [liberals] at the same time.” EMI issued a cease and desist request that Limbaugh stop using the song, which he did. When Hynde found out during a radio interview, she said that her parents loved and listened to Limbaugh and she did not mind its use. A usage payment was agreed upon which she donated to PETA. She later wrote to the organization saying, “In light of Rush Limbaugh’s vocal support of PETA’s campaign against the Environmental Protection Agency’s foolish plan to test some 3,000 chemicals on animals, I have decided to allow him to keep my song, ‘My City Was Gone’, as his signature tune…”
“Girl from Ohio” by the Outlaws – I love the Outlaws. And I love this song! I’m not sure what album it first appeared on but it’s on The Best of the Outlaws: Green Grass and High Tides, a sixteen track compilation album by that southern rock band Outlaws, released in 1996 that featured all their major hits.
This song is a particular favorite of Outlaws founding member Henry Paul. It holds a very special place in his heart: “I really love that song,” Paul says. He wrote it about “my girlfriend, you know that first big one that you get when you’re in high school? She moved to Ohio after she graduated from high school, and it was just like me trying to make it in the music business and wanting to ride back into town as a big star and sweep her off her feet and get her back. And I’ve had a lot of success with that song.”
In fact, it was because of this song that he was able to reconnect with his lost love. Says Paul, “Oh my God, it rekindled this incredible love affair. That woman and I would rekindle that love affair almost like clockwork every ten years. It was a reoccurring sort of theme right up ’til somewhat recently, at which point we figured out that it wasn’t so much her and I, it was more the time in our life. God, I loved that girl. I just loved her.”
I lived in the Washington DC area for six years (1985-1991) and this is where my advertising career sprouted and flourished. It was a very exciting, fast-paced, deadline pressured, high stress, incredibly social industry: as a media planner/buyer I was constantly wined & dined by the television and radio sales reps; as an Account Executive at a classic rock radio station (WCXR 105.9) I was constantly wining and dining my clients and buyers. And then there were all the parties, the fancy-schmancy glitz and glamour events put on by the local media. On top of all that craziness was the reality that I was in a very exhilarating city, a metropolitan tri-state region that is the culturally rich environment of the nation’s capital.
When I moved there, I found a condo close to the office of my new job, having just been transferred from Buffalo, and ended up settling in suburban Maryland, along the B-W Parkway (the Baltimore-Washington Parkway). So it was just a quick hop on the parkway and I could be in Baltimore, which is also a cool city. I always enjoyed the Inner Harbor and the Baltimore Orioles games are fun too.
Here are a few songs about the DC area:
I’m starting off with a goofy ditty that I know absolutely nothing about but sometimes when I think of my days back in DC and Maryland, I think about some of fun times I’ve had with friends and associates there. I always think about crabs. Maryland is known for its crabs, especially blue crabs…and their incredible crab cakes (YUM!). One night a friend took me to her favorite crab house and introduced me to Steamer Clams. We had a big ol’ bucket of Steamers and a bunch of beers and had so much fun. I have not had Steamer Clams since then.
So anyway, here’s a fun little holiday Maryland crab song:
“Crabs for Christmas” by David DeBoy Lol!
Next up is:
“Rock Creek Park” by The Blackbyrds – Rock Creek Park is a large urban park that bisects the Northwest quadrant of Washington, D.C. The park was created by an Act of Congress in 1890, and today is administered by the National Park Service.
Donald Byrd was a celebrated jazz trumpeter whose career spanned over half a century and included more than 50 recordings as a bandleader, with dozens more as a sideman. He was one of the few jazzers to come out of the bebop era and successfully transitioned into R&B and funk. During the 1970s, Byrd served on the jazz faculty at Howard University and assembled several of his students to form The Blackbyrds, and he served as the ensemble’s producer. “Rock Creek Park” is the opening track on the band’s third album, 1975’s City Life. There isn’t much to the lyrics, but we can imagine the encounter that gave rise to them. The melody also serves as the hook for Oddisee‘s 2011 track of the same name, which is the title track to an entire album of songs that Rock Creek Park inspired.—from contributor Sriram Gopal
For some reason, this song reminded me of an incredible sculpture, The Awakening by Seward Johnson, that I was introduced to when visiting Hains Point which is on the southern tip of East Potomac Park, a peninsula that is a tourist spot during Washington’s Cherry Blossom time. Although the song has nothing to do with the sculpture, it brought the image of the immense art works to mind.
The Awakening was created by J. Seward Johnson, Jr. in 1980 as part of Washington, DC’s 11th annual Sculpture Conference, and the sculpture was originally installed at Hains Point in East Potomac Park, Washington, D.C.. Hains Point was designated by Congress as the site for a National Peace Garden in 1987. Although no work had started on the National Peace Garden for many years, the decision still prompted the eventual sale of the sculpture by its owner, The Sculpture Foundation. Milton Peterson purchased the sculpture for $750,000 in 2007 for installation at his new National Harbor development in Maryland. Crews removed The Awakening from Hains Point in February 2008 for its move to National Harbor. At the National Harbor development, the sculpture was installed on a specially built beach along the Potomac River.
The Awakening (1980) is a 72-foot statue of a giant embedded in the earth, struggling to free himself, located at National Harbor in Prince George’s County, Maryland, USA, just outside the District of Columbia (As mentioned, it used to be in Hains Point).
The statue consists of five separate aluminum pieces buried in the ground, giving the impression of a distressed giant attempting to free himself from the ground. The left hand and right foot barely protrude, while the bent left leg and knee jut into the air. The 17-foot high right arm and hand reach farther out of the ground. The bearded face, with the mouth in mid-scream, struggles to emerge from the earth.
The Awakening in its former site at Hains Point, Washington, DC. Photos from the Seward Johnson Atelier website
The Awakening was Seward Johnson’s first monumental-scale public artwork. This giant, emerging from the earth at 70 feet in breadth and l7 feet tall, became an international sensation as it sparks multitudes of interpretations.
“It seems as though I’ve had the story of The Awakening described to me in at least sixty different ways. People have asked me if it’s the Second Coming, or Gulliver. I’ve had Buddhists write to ask if it symbolizes man breaking free from bondage, as it does in their religious tradition. A piece like The Awakening is always a hell of a lot of fun because the scale produces such strong effects. Every volume of fairy tales or myths has stories about giants, starting with the Greeks and before.” – Seward Johnson
“Washington, DC” by the Magnetic Fields – The Magnetic Fields (named after the André Breton/Philippe Soupault novel Les Champs Magnétiques) is an American indie pop band founded and led by Stephin Merritt. Merritt is the group’s primary songwriter, producer, and vocalist, as well as frequent multi-instrumentalist. The Magnetic Fields is essentially a vehicle for Merritt’s songwriting. Merritt’s recognizable lyrics are often about love and with irregular or neutral gender roles, and are by turns ironic, tongue-in-cheek, bitter, and humorous.
The band released their debut single 100,000 Fireflies in 1991. The single was typical of the band’s earlier career, characterized by synthesized instrumentation by Merritt, with lead vocals provided by Susan Anway. A more traditional band later materialized; it is now composed of Merritt, Claudia Gonson, Sam Davol, and John Woo, with occasional guest vocals by Shirley Simms. The band’s best-known work is the 1999 three-volume concept album 69 Love Songs.
69 Love Songs is their sixth studio album, released on September 7, 1999 by Merge Records. As its title indicates, 69 Love Songs three-volume concept album is composed of 69 love songs, all written by Magnetic Fields frontman Stephin Merritt.
The song “Washington DC” is on Volume 2 of the 69 Love Songs album. Vocals by Claudia Gonson.
D.C. is but a blip on the sprawling 1999 masterpiece 69 Love Songs, but it nevertheless inspired one of the album’s most cheerful tracks. That lighthearted mood is probably helped by the fact that it’s led not by Stephin Meritt’s morose bass baritone but Claudia Gonson’s unassuming warble. The song’s lyrical nods to tourist favorites like the cherry blossoms and The Mall seem charmingly unironic, perhaps seen through love goggles because, after all, “It’s my baby’s kiss that keeps me coming back.”—Pat Padua
“Don’t Go Back to Rockville” by R.E.M. – “(Don’t Go Back To) Rockville” is the second and final single released by R.E.M. from their second studio album Reckoning. The song failed to chart on either the Billboard Hot 100 or the UK Singles Charts.
The song was written by Mike Mills (credited to Berry/Buck/Mills/Stipe), in 1980, as a plea to his then girlfriend, Ingrid Schorr, not to return to Rockville, Maryland, where her parents lived. Schorr, who later became a journalist, has written about her amusement with the factual inaccuracies about her relationship with Mills and the background of the song that often appear in books about the band. Peter Buck has stated that the song was originally performed in a punk/thrash style, and that it was recorded for this single in its now more-familiar country-inspired arrangement as a joke aimed at R.E.M. manager Bertis Downs.
Over time, Mike Mills has taken lead vocals instead of Michael Stipe. On R.E.M.’s appearance on VH1 Storytellers in 1998, Mills performed the song solo on piano. A live version of the song was released as the B-side to “Leaving New York” in 2004 and on R.E.M. Live in 2007.
Might as well leave the DC section with this recognizable tune:
“Washington Post March” by John Philip Sousa – “The Washington Post” is a march composed by John Philip Sousa in 1889. Since then, it has remained as one of his most popular marches throughout the United States and many other countries.
In 1889, the owners of The Washington Post newspaper requested that John Philip Sousa, the leader of the United States Marine Band, compose a march for the newspaper’s essay contest awards ceremony. Sousa obliged; “The Washington Post March” was introduced at the ceremony on June 15, 1889, and it became quite popular. It led to a British journalist dubbing Sousa “The March King”. Sousa is honored in The Washington Post building for his contribution to the newspaper and his country.
The composition is in the public domain in the US, as its copyright has expired.
With all that’s wonderful about Washington DC, it started to get on my nerves. Suddenly the excitement had worn off and I felt like I was in the midst of 3.2 million people with an attitude…and the city kinda turned me into a bitch and I didn’t like it. I wasn’t happy there anymore. I considered going back home and in fact was offered a job at one of the rock stations there but I decided I didn’t want to schlep around making sales calls in 3inch heels having to climb over snow-packed curbs to get in to see clients. (I visited this station in the winter so I experienced it firsthand, trying to navigate the ice and snow going to the interview).
Anyway I went back to my place in the DC area (Maryland) and tried to figure out what to do with my life. When my next vacation came up, I went to visit a good friend who had been living in San Antonio, Texas for several years. To say I was completely blown away is an understatement: the people were super friendly, the attitudes were fantastic, the vibe was completely laid back … it was me! After my vacation there I went back to DC and started telling my friends I wanted to move to San Antonio. Several of my friends had graduated from UT (University of Texas) and they me, “If you liked San Antonio, you will LOVE Austin.” The more I talked to folks, the more that was the apparent general consensus. And so, when I had my next vacation, I set up 12 interviews between the two cities: I interviewed in the beer industry in San Antonio (why, you ask? Well, while in radio, I had several beer clients and dealt with the sales reps and they had a great gig, doing promotions at bars and festivals and having fun all the time so I thought, “Why not? Selling beer can’t be much different from selling radio, right?”) and will most of the radio stations in Austin. I ended up getting a job offer at a station in Austin. I went home, gave notice to the radio station where I had worked for three years (and it was hard to leave those folks), packed up my stuff and three weeks later I was in Austin.
I’ve been here since 1991 and I’m still in love with this city. I could write a book about all that’s happened in my life over these last 27 years and I’ll save that for another time. Being that Austin is the “Live Music Capital of the World”, let’s get right to the music.
I found an article online that was a treasure trove of great songs about Austin and Texas. Since it’s 3:00 in the morning on Monday, I don’t have time to go deep on all these great Texas songs, I’m just going to borrow from the article’s author.
Song blurbs taken from an article on the Mapquest Travel website, “10 Songs About Austin” by Andy L. Kubai:
“Texas on a Saturday Night” by Willie Nelson – If there’s anyone who personifies Austin as a musical and socially aware city, it’s Willie Nelson. Heck, the man had a statue erected to him on the corner of Willie Nelson Boulevard (formerly Second Street). His song, “Texas on a Saturday Night,” although never mentioning Austin by name, might as well be about Austin because there are few places in Texas with weekends (and weeknights) as musically and culturally active as Austin. There aren’t any other cities that scream “Willie Nelson” like the one he calls home.
“Travis County” by Gary Clark Jr – (also from Andy’s article): An Austin original, Gary Clark, Jr. is a guitar wizard on the rise. With sonic influences spanning jazz, blues, hip hop, garage, and soul, he’s one of rock’s rising stars. In 2012, he first lit up the stage at ACL (Austin City Limits) with this smart little jumper. Referencing not just the county but the jail, this rock and roller tells the story of a run-in with the law and a stint in Travis County jail. It also hints at the social injustices beneath the fabric of every modern cosmopolitan wonderland.
“Texas Flood” by Stevie Ray Vaughan – (another Andy article blurb): Stevie Ray Vaughan made his bones on the Austin City Limits stage, so his song “Texas Flood” is especially poignant in the wake of 2015’s horrendous flooding. With talent forged in the emerging Austin music scene of the early 80s, Stevie Ray Vaughan was local guitar hero until David Bowie scooped him up for his Let’s Dance album. After that, Vaughan’s elevator was headed straight up to the top floor. “Texas Flood” represents the sound of Austin City Limits in the 1980s, and Stevie is still a quintessential Austin musician. In fact, his statue welcomes tourists to Lady Bird Lake trail.
Here’s a classic live performance of Stevie doing “Texas Flood” with Double Trouble and Jimmie Vaughan at the Washington Convention Center for the Presidential Inaugural Concert in 1989. The black-tie event was an historical moment: an official inaugural event featuring some of the finest musicians of the ’50s and ’60s from Stax and Chess Records including Bo Diddley, Percy Sledge and Carla Thomas, along with several hotshot Texas blues guitarists such as Stevie Ray Vaughan and Jimmie Vaughan at the height of their careers. You can buy the complete concert from Shout! Factory right here.
In case this video gets denied here on my post, be sure to click here to see it on YouTube. Awesome and classic Stevie!
“Gimme Some” by Grupo Fantasma – Although this song never actually refers to the city by name, it’s all Austin. If any band represents the fusion sound of this diverse city, it’s Grupo Fantasma. This nine- to ten-piece Tejano, funk, soul, jazz fusion combo has been shaking butts in Austin since 1990. Not only does “Gimme Some” characterize the city’s cultural blend, but with its off-beat humor, it acts as the flip side to Spoon’s “Anything You Want.” Their comical video, lampooning the PBS pledge drives, was shot on renowned local theater group Rude Mechanical‘s stage.
“Screw You, We’re From Texas” by Ray Wylie Hubbard – This one makes me giggle because it is sooooo Austin and one of the reasons I love this town!
If there’s any song that covers the devil-may-care attitude that characterizes old Austin (and to a lesser extent, new Austin), it’s Ray Wylie Hubbard’s offbeat “Screw You…” Active in the cow punk, blues, outlaw country, and roots rock scene, Hubbard’s snarky song gets to the nub of Austin’s weirdo vibe, discussing the eclectic style of dress (cowboy boots, jeans, Hawaiian shirt, and mirrored sunglasses) that once characterized the town. He also gives a shout out to classic local venues like Stubbs, John T Floore’s Country Store, and scores of local musicians.
That’s all folks! Hope you enjoyed the 4M post I put together with Songs about Places I’ve Lived. Thanks Ellen, from 15 and Meowing for giving us today’s theme. So tell me, were any of these songs new to you? What songs would you include in a post with Songs about Places YOU’VE Lived?
Monday’s Music Moves Me (4M) is a blog hop hosted by X-Mas Dolly, and co-hosted by JAmerican Spice, Stacy Uncorked and Curious as a Cathy. Be sure to stop by the hosts and visit the other participants.
This is a Blog Hop!