This was one of the first suggestion threads where many of the responses really frustrated me. What is a landmark? Let’s check the definition of a landmark:
“an object or feature of a landscape or town that is easily seen and recognized from a distance, especially one that enables someone to establish their location.”
So why did so many people suggest suburbs, towns or cities? So despite an enormous number of suggestions, quite a number were discounted (probably nearly half of them) because they simply didn’t fit the brief.
Landmarks are, too, often a cultural thing. Be that a pub or club that people may have congregated or met outside, for example. Or a particular point that gains a colloquial name thanks to repeated usage (as in one song featured here).
That all said, there were still a lot of valid suggestions. I recorded 185, of which 27 had been used before. 167 unique suggestions were recorded, by 74 people (one person suggested 29!). Thanks, as ever, to everyone that got involved.
A quick explanation for new readers (hi there!): my Tuesday Ten series has been running since March 2007, and each month features at least ten new songs you should hear – and in between those monthly posts, I feature songs on a variety of subjects, with some of the songs featured coming from suggestion threads on Facebook.
Feel free to get involved with these – the more the merrier, and the breadth of suggestions that I get continues to astound. Otherwise, as usual, if you’ve got something you want me to hear, something I should be writing about, or even a gig I should be attending, e-mail me, or drop me a line on Facebook (details below).
The site of the erstwhile Cole Brothers department store on the corner of Fargate and Church Street in Sheffield is known to many older Sheffielders as Coles Corner, even though the store moved in 1963 to Barker’s Pool – and was later taken over by John Lewis. Richard Hawley immortalised the location in this sad lament, where a young man follows the steps of many others, to meet their prospective date at Coles Corner, only to find that they don’t show, and he has a lonely trudge home.
Glasgow is unusual – at least in the UK – for having an urban motorway built directly through the inner city, something London mostly avoided thanks to the failure of the London Ringways scheme, and the chaotic, multi-lane road is full of closely-spaced junctions and must be much of the reason why air quality in the city isn’t great. One of the most notorious elements of the road is the Kingston Bridge, a ten-lane (five each way) bridge that straddles the Clyde in bleak, Brutalist concrete, and was recently listed. Glaswegian singer Rico sees none of the beauty, mind, as – like he is on many songs on his caustic debut Sanctuary Medicines – he isn’t in a great state of mind, and here, he’s sick and fucking tired of his home city, considering ending everything by taking a gun to his head on the Kingston Bridge.
/Clover Over Dover
Amid the triumphalism and bluster of Parklife, particularly on the second half of the album, there were a number of darker, more introspective songs. One that appeared particularly featherlight to begin with was Clover Over Dover, where Damon Albarn invokes one of those most British of landmarks, the towering White Cliffs of Dover. At least, until you hear the lyrics, where Albarn is particularly bereft of hope, wondering whether to throw himself off the cliffs.
The cliffs themselves are really impressive when you see them from their base. They loom over Dover from both sides of the extensive harbour (indeed Dover has little on the seafront aside from the harbour, as the only way the town could develop was further inland, and like the Yorkshire locations of my youth, going up or down steep hills is the norm), like white sentinels of this ancient Channel crossing point, and it’s easy to see why they became part of the British psyche.
/Statue of Liberty
Despite having now spent a few days in New York, and done quite a bit of a traditional tourist spots, one of those we didn’t have time to do was the Statue of Liberty. The giant statue (which stands 93 metres tall from ground level) was a gift from the people of France to the people of the US, celebrating a centenary of US independence and the recent abolition of slavery, but is often seen as an icon that welcomed immigrants to the US (as it would have been one of the first things immigrants arriving by ship in New York Harbour would have seen). Andy Partridge sees it differently, as on this early XTC single, one that pulses with youthful abandon, he sees the statue as one of love and of possibility – if he can make it to the US, he can do anything.
/This May Be The Reason Why The Men That Will Not Be Blamed For Nothing Cannot Be Killed By Conventional Weapons
The Men perhaps reached their earworm zenith with this short, sharp – and anthemic – song celebrating one of the greatest Victorian engineers, Isambard Kingdom Brunel. Brunel packed a lot into just a fifty-four year life, being involved in building the first tunnel under a navigable river (the Thames), dockyards, an entire railway system, the first propeller-driven, ocean-going ship (SS Great Britain) and a lot more besides, but perhaps his most famous landmark is the Clifton Suspension Bridge, that soars gracefully over the Avon Gorge on the western fringes of Bristol. Again a pioneering bridge (in that no-one had built a span that long before), it is testament to Brunel and those that completed it after his death that the bridge still stands, still carries traffic and remains an icon of Victorian ingenuity.
Altogether now: “ISAMBARD KINGDOM…BRUNEL!”
/Negotiations in Soho Square
/Suddenly You Love Me
There is something timeless about the observations in this song. Over twenty-five years (1996 to 2021), I’ve spent many summers evenings in Soho Square, either spending time by myself (often killing time before a local gig, or waiting to meet someone), or joining friends for a few drinks and a chat, and the people-watching is one of those fascinating things to do. The gardens in the square have only been a public park since the 1950s, although the square itself has been here since after the Restoration in the 1670s. As for the song? It is a glorious, sunny piece of sixties pop, with harmonies to die for.
A much larger public space and garden is in Berlin, the giant Tiergarten sprawls to the west of the Reichstag and Brandenburg Gate, and remains a semi-wild, tranquil space that feels a world away from the chaotic, constant reinvention of Berlin the city. Tangerine Dream’s piece inspired by the park (from an album entirely inspired by parks and gardens around the world) has a similarly peaceful, dreamy feel, sounding nothing like the music that is usually associated with the city. I have fond memories of being in Berlin over the years (I’ve been there a few times), and when we can safely travel again, spending time in the Tiergarten again is near the top of my list.
/I Got The Wherewithal
A second mention for Slimelight in these posts in a couple of weeks, but why not – and from a most unexpected source. theaudience made a small splash in the latter years of Britpop, a smart, arch band that turned out to be a variety of indie-lifers and a striking young frontwoman who was the daughter of TV presenter Janet Ellis, and later went on to much greater pop success as a solo artist. But dial back to their beginnings, and this orchestral-assisted, swelling pomposity was their first single, a hell of a statement. So colour me surprised – as I’m not sure I noticed this at the time – to find Sophie Ellis-Bextor making mention of Slimelight in the chorus, as she cattily dismisses someone who is unwilling to step out on their own. Slimelight, of course, has been the key industrial/goth club in London for decades, and an instant landmark on a Saturday for any visitor around the world who is aware of the genre for as long. Things have changed now, of course, with the venue that hosts it (Electrowerkz) broadening the club night line-up is what is likely a needed change in these times. Best of luck to everyone involved.
The brilliant project that Bob Mould (ex-Hüsker Dü, of course) unleashed in the early nineties couldn’t have been better timed, and his status as a forefather of grunge was only reinforced by the melodic, heavy excellence of Copper Blue. At the heart of the album was this track, where Bob Mould (metaphorically) stands on top of the giant dam and considers his possibilities. The Dam, on the Colorado River is very much a US icon. The vast reservoir it holds back (Lake Mead) is an important part of water provision in the western United States (even if overuse is now causing droughts more often in the region, and only yesterday it hit historic lows that are beginning to threaten to water supply to the entire region).
/Lord Hereford’s Knob
Seeing as at least four or five HMHB songs were suggested this week – a band who have an incredible sense of (British) place in the exquisite detail of their songs – here are the band, as in the shape of a faux-folk song, they rail against the middle-class takeover of pretty small towns in the UK (Hebden Bridge is specifically mentioned). What’s also notable is how much the song sticks to folk traditions, and until you listen to the lyrics a little more closely, it for all the world sounds like a trad folk song, suggesting that the band know their influences well. As for the striking title? The hill is correctly known as Twmpa (and gained the nickname “Lord Hereford’s Knob” at some point), and is just to the south of “book town” Hay-on-Wye, on the border of England and Wales.
/This Is Spinal Tap
As is traditional, Spın̈al Tap appear as the eleventh entry this week, this time with the song from one of the iconic (and much imitated and parodied) scenes from the film (and continuing the “faux folk”, I guess, from the previous song, too). Here, the hapless band are performing one of the “mystical” rock epics, only to find that the titular stage prop dimensions have been, er, misread…
Stonehenge itself has been subject to much conjecture and apparently endless research, the giant stones reckoned to have been there for at least four thousand years, and even partially ruined it remains a prominent landmark on the southern edge of the Salisbury Plain, in sight of the A303 that passes it. It is a location I know well, too, having been born down the road in Salisbury, and also having spent many summers in my childhood in the area near it (my grandparents lived for many years just two miles east, north of the A303 from Amesbury, and it wasn’t a particularly long walk to the rise overlooking the stones).