Tuesday Ten: 065: Places

This was a late decision to do a Tuesday Ten this week, and it ended up being a list I had far too many suggestions for – again.

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043: Sheffield

Many, many songs use locations to convey their message, or to anchor their songs in the real world. I’ve already covered Sheffield, so this is going rather further afield.

Suzanne Vega
Tom’s Diner
Solitude Standing

Not the horrendous dance mix of it that gave Vega so much attention, but the slight, acapella version that opens Solitude Standing – a glorious slice of observational poetry, detailing the minutae of the comings-and-goings of the eponymous New York diner while enjoying a morning coffee – to such a level that you can picture every little detail as it goes.

Manic Street Preachers
Elvis Impersonator: Blackpool Pier
Everything Must Go

With this being one of the songs used on this album that Richey Edwards wrote prior to his disappearance, it’s rather difficult to tell for sure what this track is about. But in my view, it’s a comment on the the homogenisation and Americanisation of the British town, perhaps, using the faded glamour of Blackpool as a metaphor. Either way, it’s a mighty odd track.

Carter USM
The Only Living Boy In New Cross
1992 – The Love Album

New Cross – a suburb in south-east London, if you don’t know it – is the nominal location for a song that celebrates the outcasts and those that are deemed different. In my opinion, it also happens to be the best thing that Carter ever wrote – a blistering pop song that succeeds on every level.

The Afghan Whigs
Fountain and Fairfax

Clearly a song about fighting “the demon drink”, this track is one of the many, many highlights of the ‘Whigs finest hour. Songfacts suggests a little more detail about the titular location: “The title is the intersection in Los Angeles where Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) meetings take place at a church.“. Which makes a lot of sense – Greg Dulli is asking his lover to meet him on the corner when he’s sober again.

Ben Folds Five
Jackson Cannery
Ben Folds Five

The bloody marvellous opener to the first BF5 album, this was also, as I recall, their very first single too. A rollicking, piano-led rocker, that remains one of my favourite tracks from the nineties, the location here is a metaphor for the dead-end in life, a wish to “stop the bus” and go somewhere else instead, anywhere but the titular Cannery, and perhaps a smidgen of jealousy in that “big brother got the keys / and I got Jackson Cannery“. More from Ben Folds himself on the track here (about halfway down the page).

My House

Another early single, all of the action here take’s place in Tony Wright’s house, as a set of rules laid down for him to abide by. A bit of a throwaway track, perhaps, but like many Terrorvision tracks it never took itself too seriously (or at all) and as a result remains immense fun.

The Charlatans
Sproston Green
Some Friendly

The Charlatans also went back to their roots, with this classic album-closer from their debut. The titular Sproston Green is a tiny village in Cheshire, just off the M6 outside of the singer’s hometown of Northwich. I’m not entirely sure what the song is about, other than a lover from the past “back home”, but it’s mainly notable for the late-Rob Collins’ extraordinary keyboard work and for still being the live set-closer after all these years.

Gary Numan
Down In The Park

No one said they had to be real places, right? The park in this case is a nightmarish vision of the future where androids kill humans for fun, and even now (and in the various updated versions of this track that exist) it’s still a pretty chilling vision. Numan may have looked rather silly at the time, but he sounded ace.

Reise, Reise

Revisiting similar ground, perhaps, that the Manics covered earlier in this list, but this is a rather more tongue-in-cheek take on it: one of the chorus lines is “Amerika ist wunderbar [America is marvellous/great]“, but it’s perhaps the opening line of “we’re all living in Amerika” that perhaps provides the pointer to the subject of a world that is turning into a facsimile of the USA.

Amon Amarth
Valhall Awaits Me
With Oden On Our Side

Another made-up place, to finish, appropriately so, perhaps: the places in our heads, our beliefs apply too. Like in this marvellous hulking track that opens Amon Amarth’s monstrous “With Oden on our Side” album. The battle cries of a warrior, as he lays dying, hoping that Valhalla awaits his dead form. Viking Metal is often a little silly and over the top, but this band look the part as well as sounding it, and none more so than in this track.

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