The Straight Dope

Go Back   Straight Dope Message Board > Main > Cafe Society

Reply
 
Thread Tools Display Modes
  #1  
Old 07-23-2009, 01:22 PM
Dogzilla Dogzilla is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Jun 2000
Songs With a Plot

This morning, for some inexplicable reason, I had this really awful story song stuck in my head, The Last Game of the Season by David Geddes. (link to lyrics, try not to vomit)

I was just wondering what other songs you can think of that are more like a narrative and tell a story.

Another cheesy one I thought of was Run, Joey, Run.

And I think there's a story in the song about the Tallahatchee bridge, Ode to Billie Joe.

Up the Junction by Squeeze
Auld Lang Syne by Dan Fogleberg

What else ya got?
Reply With Quote
Advertisements  
  #2  
Old 07-23-2009, 01:23 PM
Beadalin Beadalin is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Jun 1999
Pretty much every ballad fits the bill. A few by Nick Cave sprang to mind, especially from his album Murder Ballads.

And many folk songs, protest and otherwise.
Reply With Quote
  #3  
Old 07-23-2009, 01:28 PM
ShibbOleth ShibbOleth is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Jul 2001
The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald
Reply With Quote
  #4  
Old 07-23-2009, 01:29 PM
Argent Towers Argent Towers is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Jun 2005
Almost everything by The Decemberists.

Up The Junction - that's a good one! Kudos to the OP for even remembering it.
Reply With Quote
  #5  
Old 07-23-2009, 01:29 PM
ShibbOleth ShibbOleth is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Jul 2001
Little Red Corvette by Prince would also fit.
Reply With Quote
  #6  
Old 07-23-2009, 01:30 PM
Paintcharge Paintcharge is online now
Guest
 
Join Date: Mar 2006
Rocky Raccoon.

Scenes from an Italian Restaurant. Esp the Brenda and Eddie bit.
Reply With Quote
  #7  
Old 07-23-2009, 01:35 PM
Spoke Spoke is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Dec 1999
The 70s were the golden age of ballads. Just a few:

Brandy - Looking Glass
Patches - Clarence Carter
The Ballad of Curtis Loew - Lynyrd Skynyrd
Papa Was a Rolling Stone - The Temptations
Night Moves - Bob Seger

It's a shame more artists aren't doing ballads today.

Last edited by Spoke; 07-23-2009 at 01:36 PM..
Reply With Quote
  #8  
Old 07-23-2009, 01:36 PM
kenobi 65 kenobi 65 is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: May 2000
Tweeter and the Monkey Man, by the Traveling Wilburys.
Reply With Quote
  #9  
Old 07-23-2009, 01:41 PM
PoorYorick PoorYorick is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
The first song that popped into my mind was Timothy by the Buoys. It's "the unnerving story of three men trapped in a collapsed mine, two of whom apparently resort to cannibalism against the third (the titular character Timothy)."

Gah, why do I remember this? I probably need to see somebody.
Reply With Quote
  #10  
Old 07-23-2009, 01:41 PM
WOOKINPANUB WOOKINPANUB is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: May 2005
My favorite plot song is "The Night the Lights Went Out in Georgia". It's got adultery, murder and corruption.
Reply With Quote
  #11  
Old 07-23-2009, 01:42 PM
silenus silenus is online now
Hoc nomen meum verum non est.
Charter Member
 
Join Date: May 2003
Location: SoCal
Posts: 39,422
Lily, Rosemary and the Jack of Hearts - Bob Dylan

Last edited by silenus; 07-23-2009 at 01:43 PM..
Reply With Quote
  #12  
Old 07-23-2009, 01:44 PM
Oakminster Oakminster is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Jun 2006
Lots of Jim Croce--Bad Leroy Brown, You Don't Mess Around with Jim, Operator etc

Harry Chapin--Taxi, Cat's in the Cradle

Kenny Rogers --The Gambler, Coward of the County

Charlie Daniels--The Devil Went Down to Georgia, Uneasy Rider

Lynyrd Skynyrd --The Ballad of Curtis Lowe

Steve Earl--Copperhead Road

Johnny Horton--The Battle of New Orleans,Sink the Bismark

Don McClean--American Pie

Peter, Paul, & Mary--Puff the Magic Dragon

Last edited by Oakminster; 07-23-2009 at 01:45 PM..
Reply With Quote
  #13  
Old 07-23-2009, 01:51 PM
Stranger On A Train Stranger On A Train is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: May 2003
Quote:
Originally Posted by silenus View Post
That's just the song I was going to cite. I'm surprised someone has not yet turned it into a movie.

Stranger
Reply With Quote
  #14  
Old 07-23-2009, 01:55 PM
RealityChuck RealityChuck is online now
Charter Member
 
Join Date: Apr 1999
Location: Schenectady, NY, USA
Posts: 34,913
The Who: Sally Simpson, A Quick One While He's Away, Magic Bus, I Can See for Miles, 905, My Wife, Cousin Kevin,
The Kinks: Lola, Sitting in the Noonday Sun
The Beatles: She's Leaving Home, Rocky Raccoon.
The Byrds: Chestnut Mare
Lyle Lovett: Nobody Knows Me, L.A. County, She's No Lady, Church, San Antonio Girl, On Saturday Night, If I Had a Boat
Little Feet: Dixie Chicken
Loudon Wainwright III: The Man Who Couldn't Cry
Hayes Carll: She Left Me For Jesus
The Band: The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down, The Weight, Acadian Driftwood
Procol Harum: Something Following Me, The Milk of Human Kindness, She Wandered through the Garden Fence, Something Following Me
Traffic: Feelin' Alright
Warren Zevon: Roland the Headless Thompson Gunner, Lawyers Guns and Money, Excitable Boy
__________________
Author of Staroamer's Fate and Syron's Fate, now back in print.
Reply With Quote
  #15  
Old 07-23-2009, 02:08 PM
Thudlow Boink Thudlow Boink is online now
Charter Member
 
Join Date: May 2000
Location: Springfield, IL
Posts: 17,385
Weird Al Yankovic: The Biggest Ball of Twine in Minnesota; The Saga Begins
The Kinks: Holiday Romance
Mono Puff: The Devil Went Down To Newport (Totally Rocking)

And more are mentioned in this thread, which reminded me of the greatest one of all: Barry Manilow's Copacabana.
Reply With Quote
  #16  
Old 07-23-2009, 02:22 PM
kunilou kunilou is offline
Charter Member
 
Join Date: Apr 1999
Posts: 16,938
Marty Robbins: El Paso

Jan and Dean: Dead Man's Curve

Shangri-La's: Leader of the Pack

Jeannie C. Riley Harper Valley PTA

O.C. Smith The Son of Hickory Hollow's Tramp

Janis Ian: Society's Child

Bobbie Gentry Ode to Billie Joe

Meat Loaf Paradise By the Dashboard Light
Reply With Quote
  #17  
Old 07-23-2009, 02:25 PM
Oakminster Oakminster is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Jun 2006
Also from the sultry Bobbie Gentry, Fancy.

Last edited by Oakminster; 07-23-2009 at 02:25 PM..
Reply With Quote
  #18  
Old 07-23-2009, 02:25 PM
The Other Jeffrey Lebowski The Other Jeffrey Lebowski is online now
Guest
 
Join Date: Sep 2008
Bruce Springsteen has many songs that fit this, but I'll offer an overlooked one.
Reply With Quote
  #19  
Old 07-23-2009, 02:26 PM
Doug Bowe Doug Bowe is offline
Charter Member
 
Join Date: Mar 1999
Location: El Paso, TX, USA
Posts: 2,727
A few Country songs have been mentioned. Let's include pretty much the songbook of Tom T. Hall. There was a reason his band was nicknamed "The Storytellers."
Reply With Quote
  #20  
Old 07-23-2009, 02:32 PM
Irishman Irishman is online now
Guest
 
Join Date: Dec 1999
Lynyrd Skynyrd, Gimme Three Steps

Heard a cover of this by some local band. They got the verses out of order. So the guy was running from the bar screaming, then staring down the barrel of a 44.
Reply With Quote
  #21  
Old 07-23-2009, 02:58 PM
Zakalwe Zakalwe is offline
Charter Member
 
Join Date: Jul 2000
Location: Tallahassee, FL
Posts: 3,835
Jimmy Buffett has a number of them (a few off the top of my head):

Death of An Unpopular Poet
He Went To Paris
The Ballad of Spider John
Cuban Crime of Passion
Jolly Mon Sing
The Great Filling Station Holdup
A Pirate Looks at Forty
Peanut Butter Conspiracy
Railroad Lady
Reply With Quote
  #22  
Old 07-23-2009, 02:58 PM
Sitnam Sitnam is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Mar 2003
Life in the Fast Lane - The Eagles
Reply With Quote
  #23  
Old 07-23-2009, 03:26 PM
Thudlow Boink Thudlow Boink is online now
Charter Member
 
Join Date: May 2000
Location: Springfield, IL
Posts: 17,385
Quote:
Originally Posted by Irishman View Post
Lynyrd Skynyrd, Gimme Three Steps

Heard a cover of this by some local band. They got the verses out of order. So the guy was running from the bar screaming, then staring down the barrel of a 44.
That reminds me of the joke about what happens when you play a country song backwards.
Reply With Quote
  #24  
Old 07-23-2009, 03:55 PM
dwc1970 dwc1970 is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Oct 2001
"Horse With No Name" by America.
Reply With Quote
  #25  
Old 07-23-2009, 04:10 PM
kelly5078 kelly5078 is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Jul 2003
Well, there are millions, aren't there?

Arguably the most well-known plot in American music is "Frankie and Johnny." A person inclined to argue that would probably bring up "Stagger Lee."

The most well-known plot in the English language, I'd submit, is "Barbara Allen."
Reply With Quote
  #26  
Old 07-23-2009, 09:01 PM
digs digs is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Mar 2002
Quote:
Originally Posted by silenus View Post
Lily, Rosemary and the Jack of Hearts - Bob Dylan
Ahh, Bob may not be a sweet-sounding singer, but he does have a way with words.
Add to Bob's Bodacious Ballads:

Tangled Up In Blue:
"She was married when they first met,
To a man four times her age.
He left her penniless in a state of regret --
It was time to bust out of that cage."

(Yeah, Bob changes the lyrics around when he performs)

And he teamed up with playwright Sam Shepard for the cryptically poetic
Brownsville Girl:
"Well, the first thing we learned about Henry Porter was that his name wasn't Henry Porter..."

One of the few songs whose lyrics I've actually studied. It was lauded in the "Best First Lines" thread:
"There was this movie I seen one time, and it starred Gregory Peck."
Well, listen as his relationship to the movie changes with each verse... no, I haven't figured it all out yet.
Reply With Quote
  #27  
Old 07-23-2009, 10:32 PM
Tom Tildrum Tom Tildrum is offline
Charter Member
 
Join Date: Apr 2002
Location: Falls Church, Va.
Posts: 9,470
Commander Cody's Hot Rod Lincoln.
Reply With Quote
  #28  
Old 07-24-2009, 02:11 AM
Johnny Q Johnny Q is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: May 2003
Buenos Tardes Amigo-- Ween
Reply With Quote
  #29  
Old 07-24-2009, 02:17 AM
digs digs is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Mar 2002
A BIG MISTAKE by Jeb Loy Nichols (and his old band Fellow Travellers)
Jeb has a number of great stories, including one set to just drums and tuba:

"And they got married, and that was A Big Mistake.
They had a baby, and that was A Big Mistake..."


The bouncy beat and oompa oompa tuba makes the heartache hilarious.

Also check out "Mary, Her Husband, and Tommy, Too" or "New York Tragedy"

THE STRANGE CASE OF FRANK CASH AND THE MORNING PAPER by T-Bone Burnett
has the protagonist on trial for killing a man:

"Your honor and ladies and gentlemen of the jury,
all this has been happening to me because of this guy
named T-Bone Burnett. He's been making all this up,
and I just want to say I don't believe in him,
in fact I don't even think he exists, and not only that
BUT THIS SONG IS OVER."
Reply With Quote
  #30  
Old 07-24-2009, 02:22 AM
Junior Spaceman Junior Spaceman is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Jun 2000
Quote:
Originally Posted by Johnny Q View Post
Buenos Tardes Amigo-- Ween
An excellent song. Also, Beck's Mexico. By the way, if anyone knows what this song is a parody of, I'd love to know!
Reply With Quote
  #31  
Old 07-24-2009, 02:56 AM
Robot Arm Robot Arm is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Jun 2000
Isaac's Lament, by Uncle Bonsai; about someone who commits suicide on hearing that The Love Boat has been cancelled.
Reply With Quote
  #32  
Old 07-24-2009, 03:48 AM
Koxinga Koxinga is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Sep 1999
Quote:
Originally Posted by Oakminster View Post
Also from the sultry Bobbie Gentry, Fancy.

Sultry? Really? I've heard her music but I always figured she was some overweight-ish Grand Ole Opry lady in a matronly high collar blouse, maybe like June Carter Cash.

Let's see what Google Images has to say . . . oh. Ahem. Well, then.
Reply With Quote
  #33  
Old 07-24-2009, 03:56 AM
I_Know_Nothing I_Know_Nothing is offline
Charter Member
 
Join Date: Feb 2003
Location: Chicagoland(West Burbs)
Posts: 760
Rainy day SAT Blues from the Princeton Review Vocabulary Minute. Brought a tear to my eye.

www.princetonreview.com/vocab-minute.aspx

Ninth from the bottom. Enjoy.
Reply With Quote
  #34  
Old 07-24-2009, 07:31 AM
Sigmagirl Sigmagirl is offline
Go Tribe!
 
Join Date: Dec 2007
Location: Western Reserve
Posts: 8,107
You Never Can Tell -- Chuck Berry
Reply With Quote
  #35  
Old 07-24-2009, 08:05 AM
Annie-Xmas Annie-Xmas is offline
Charter Member
 
Join Date: Apr 2000
Location: New Jersey
Posts: 30,495
Folk singer Tom Paxton has tons of them. The best is Born on the 4th of July.

Last edited by Annie-Xmas; 07-24-2009 at 08:05 AM..
Reply With Quote
  #36  
Old 07-24-2009, 08:26 AM
johnspartan johnspartan is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Sep 2008
yeah, you've got a whole genre here, practically. Several of the ones on the 2-disc "Once Upon a Song" set (http://www.amazon.com/Once-Upon-Song...8441873&sr=8-5) have already been called out here.

Although I do have to say it's marginal for them to have put "At Seventeen" as a story song, I don't really think there's much story in it.
Reply With Quote
  #37  
Old 07-24-2009, 10:09 AM
jjimm jjimm is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Jul 2001
And the Band Played Waltzing Matilda by Eric Bogle, popularised by the Pogues. Link to lyrics - try not to cry.
Reply With Quote
  #38  
Old 07-24-2009, 10:14 AM
Lemur866 Lemur866 is online now
Charter Member
 
Join Date: Jul 2000
Location: The Middle of Puget Sound
Posts: 16,552
I love this song, "The Flower of Northumberland":
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ni3CTxCblZA
Reply With Quote
  #39  
Old 07-24-2009, 10:20 AM
gotpasswords gotpasswords is offline
Charter Member
 
Join Date: Mar 1999
Location: Charlotte
Posts: 14,330
Alice's Restaurant is a lengthy tale about littering with just enough music to qualify as a song.
Reply With Quote
  #40  
Old 07-24-2009, 10:35 AM
Annie-Xmas Annie-Xmas is offline
Charter Member
 
Join Date: Apr 2000
Location: New Jersey
Posts: 30,495
Kinky's They Ain't Making Jews Like Jesus Anymore
Reply With Quote
  #41  
Old 07-24-2009, 11:48 AM
EvilHamsterOnCrack EvilHamsterOnCrack is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: May 2003
Date Rape by Sublime has a plot... and it's pretty funny.
Reply With Quote
  #42  
Old 07-24-2009, 08:09 PM
digs digs is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Mar 2002
Quote:
Originally Posted by Robot Arm View Post
Isaac's Lament...
Ah, but don't forget Cream's over-cockneyed Mother's Lament. Some of you have heard that my twisted little toddlers HAD to have it sung in the tub each night:

A muvver was warshing her bayby one night,
The youngest of ten and a delicate mite.
The muvver was poor and the baby was thin,
'Twas naught but an skellingtin covered with skin.
[snip]


And, yes, the immoral anklebiters always giggled at the part:

Ohhh, your bayby has gone down the plug 'ole.
Oh, your bayby has gone down the plug.
The poor little thing was so skinny and thin,
He should 'ave been washed in a jug (in a juuuug...)

...
Reply With Quote
  #43  
Old 07-25-2009, 08:23 AM
Mr. Kobayashi Mr. Kobayashi is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Feb 2004
Kinda depends on how you define 'plot', too; if you count "boy meets girl" as a plot then every other song has a plot.

Dylan has quite a few, as well as the aforementioned Lily, Rosemary and the Jack of Hearts and Tangled up in Blue, you could also add Black Diamond Bay, Changing of the Guards, most of his "Ballad of..." songs, Who Killed Davy Moore, The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll and about a billion more.

Most songs from The Alan Parsons Project's Tales of Mystery and Imagination also do, being based on Poe stories.

House of the Rising Sun.

Black Sabbath have one or two; The Wizard and Iron Man spring to mind.
The Clash have Rock the Casbah, Spanish Bombs.

David Bowie's Space Oddity, Ashes to Ashes and Peter Schilling's Major Tom.

Land Ho! by The Doors.

Hotel California by The Eagles.

Rime of the Ancient Mariner by Iron Maiden.

Led Zep's Ramble On, Gallows Pole, Fool in the Rain, Going to California, Battle of Evermore.

99 Luft Balloons by Nena.

Don't Stand So Close To Me by The Police.

The Boxer by Simon & Garfunkle.
Reply With Quote
  #44  
Old 07-26-2009, 06:00 AM
Lust4Life Lust4Life is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Aug 2006
The Pina Colada Song,cant remember the artist.
Reply With Quote
  #45  
Old 07-26-2009, 08:46 AM
Labtrash Labtrash is online now
Member
 
Join Date: Sep 2001
Location: Murrells Inlet, SC
Posts: 3,463
Bad Company's Shooting Star
Reply With Quote
  #46  
Old 07-26-2009, 09:28 AM
It's Not Rocket Surgery! It's Not Rocket Surgery! is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Nov 2006
Quote:
Originally Posted by Thudlow Boink View Post
Weird Al Yankovic: The Biggest Ball of Twine in Minnesota; The Saga Begins
...and the ultimate Weird Al story songs, Trapped In The Drive-Thru and Albuquerque.

Also, Family Snapshot by Peter Gabriel.
Reply With Quote
  #47  
Old 07-26-2009, 11:04 AM
Spoke Spoke is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Dec 1999
More from the 70s:

Chevy Van - Sammy Johns
Ariel - Dean Friedman
Uneasy Rider -Charlie Daniels
I Do It for Your Love - Paul Simon
Convoy - C.W. McCall
Reply With Quote
  #48  
Old 07-26-2009, 12:07 PM
tr0psn4j tr0psn4j is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Aug 2008
I'll add two of my favorites.

Paul Revere - Beastie Boys

The Mariner's Revenge Song - The Decemberists.
Reply With Quote
  #49  
Old 07-26-2009, 12:14 PM
suranyi suranyi is offline
Member
 
Join Date: Sep 2000
Posts: 6,345
Tons of songs from musicals. The point of many songs from musicals is to carry the plot along.
Reply With Quote
  #50  
Old 07-26-2009, 12:35 PM
Thudlow Boink Thudlow Boink is online now
Charter Member
 
Join Date: May 2000
Location: Springfield, IL
Posts: 17,385
Quote:
Originally Posted by suranyi View Post
Tons of songs from musicals. The point of many songs from musicals is to carry the plot along.
Yes, but I think a distinction can be made between songs that have a plot—where the song itself tells a story—and songs that have a backstory, where the song grows out of or comments on elements of the story. Many of the songs in musicals, as well as a few that have been mentioned in this thread, are of the latter kind.
Reply With Quote
Reply

Bookmarks

Thread Tools
Display Modes

Posting Rules
You may not post new threads
You may not post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts

BB code is On
Smilies are On
[IMG] code is Off
HTML code is Off

Forum Jump


All times are GMT -5. The time now is 12:27 PM.


Powered by vBulletin® Version 3.8.7
Copyright ©2000 - 2014, vBulletin Solutions, Inc.

Send questions for Cecil Adams to: cecil@chicagoreader.com

Send comments about this website to: webmaster@straightdope.com

Terms of Use / Privacy Policy

Advertise on the Straight Dope!
(Your direct line to thousands of the smartest, hippest people on the planet, plus a few total dipsticks.)

Publishers - interested in subscribing to the Straight Dope?
Write to: sdsubscriptions@chicagoreader.com.

Copyright © 2013 Sun-Times Media, LLC.