Songs About Places You Know Well

I broke in to a huge smile last night when I was driving around and heard “In This Diary” by The Ataris for the first time. In it there’s a line that goes “2015 Riverside, it’s time to say goodbye, get on the bus, it’s time to go.” This is a reference to a very familiar haunt of mine, rock club The Back Room, 2015 E. Riverside Drive, Austin, Texas. Yay!

So, who has a similar thing going on with a place that they know and love?


Avail had done a ton of songs that mention places in Richmond, VA - the closest I have to a home town. I lived in the same neighborhood, and once even in the same building as them. They do a great job of capturing the mood of the place.

Well, there’s Lake Shore Drive, by Aliota, Hanes & Jeremiah (or however they spell that.)

The Night Chicago Died, by Paperlace, references “the east side of Chicago”… I have always maintained there IS no east side of Chicago. At least, I can’t think of any Chicago native who refers to the area that way. It’s usually called the North Side, even though it is technically the easternmost part of the city. In my mind, the east side of Chicago is the lake… or maybe Gary, Indiana.

There is an area in Chicago called the East Side. It’s in the southeast corner of the city, on the border of the state.

(The area you’re thinking of is the Lakefront.

A band called Freakwater does a song called Louisville Lip about Louisville KY, Muhammad Ali and the 2nd Street Bridge. I’ll always love this town and this song. I’d post the lyrics, but I dunno if there are copyright issues, etc.

“I Love LA”

When it was out in the 80’s I was still living in Hell-A and would be driving up 6th street towards downtown when Randy Newman would yell out “6TH STREET”.

Bruce Springsteen did a song about Youngstown–which may, in fact, be called “Youngstown.” It was really depressing and talked about all the mills closing–which sums up the area perfectly.

(I went to college in Y-town for about 6 years, BA and MA)

“Abilene”…nevermind that it doesn’t actually mention which one it’s about.

Paradise, KY from the John Prine song “Paradise”. My dad grew up in Muhlenburg County (where Paradise lay,) and we’ve hiked around the area several times. Whenever we go over the Green River bridge on the WK Parkway we look at the power plant and the colossal cranes.

I know the 2d Street Bridge in Louisville pretty well, too.

“Roadrunner” by Jonathan Richman and the Modern Lovers. I grew up right off of Route 128. Also, “Sure Don’t Feel Like Christmastime” by the Bosstones paints an incredibly vivid picture of Downtown Crossing and Kenmore Square on a cold slushy day after all of the students leave for winter break. I can almost smell the steam heat/sweat/fabric odor of Filene’s Basement

Frankd6, I’ll be headed down the Western Kentucky Parkway next week! When I pass the Paradise power plant, I always break into John Prine! There are so many songs about Kentucky … I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention Bill Monroe. :slight_smile:

The Arrogant Worms - a Canadian comedy band - have a song called A Night In Dildo, which is a list of funny placenames from Newfoundland (like Dildo). I grew up in Newfoundland, and have visited some of the places listed.

They also have one called The Toronto Song (AKA Toronto Sucks), which is terribly, terribly accurate. ^__~

Amsterdam, by Jacques Brel.

“Dirty Water” about Boston and the Charles River.

Tom Lehrer also wrote a number of songs set in Boston/Cambridge, including one about the stations on the subway Red Line:

(to the tune of “mother”)
H is for Harvard, alma mater
C for Central, next one down the line
K is for Kendall’s cozy station
C for Charles that sits upon the brine
P for Park Street, busy Boston’s center,
W for Washington, you see (it’s since been changed to Downtown Crossing)

Put them all together, they spell “HCKC, PW!” (sound of someone spitting)

And that is just what Boston means to me!

There’s also Tokyo Rhapsody, which is usually good for freaking out folks at the karaoke bar who don’t expect a gaijin to know the lyrics from a Japanese song that’s older than their parents.

Key Largo by Bertie Higgins
Winslow, AZ in the Eagles song Take It Easy

“Stull” By Urge Overkill. I couldn’t believe that someone actually wrote a song about our local “legend” place. Very cool.

“Tarkio Road” by Brewer and Shipley. I’m based in Maryville, MO right now. The Shipley half of the duo was from Burlington Junction, about 15 miles away.

The Tarkio Road is highway 136. They’re heading to Crete, NE. Presumably to visit Doane College (my alma mater) to smoke pot. I don’t know why else they would be going to Crete. To visit the Farmland slaughterhouse? Probably not. Maybe they’re just going there to score some drugs. Crete has one of the busiest railroad grain transfer stations in the US, so scoring drugs isn’t a problem there. Perhaps they’re going to hang out with Zager & Evans, who wrote “In The Year 2525”. They were from Crete, too.

On the way to Crete, NE, taking that road, they would be going through Beatrice, NE, my hometown. Also the home of minor poet Wendell Keyes and handsome actor Robert Taylor. I don’t think that Messers Brewer and Shipley were stopping there, however.

In “Take the Money and Run” they mention “good old El Paso”, where I spent a few years. No big deal there, and I hear the place has completely changed since.

Billy Joel’s “Allentown.” In this song, about both Allentown and neighbor city Bethlehem (which is mentioned) Joel talks about the slow death of the Bethlehem Steel Corporation, which for decades was the biggest employer around and was most responsible for the economic health of much of the Lehigh Valley in Pennsylvania, about 45 minutes north of Philly.

I spent most of my life there. Both of my grandfathers, one of my aunts, and my best pal’s dad all worked for the Steel over the years and suffered when it collapsed.

Another line is, “Our fathers fought the Second World War/Spend their weekends on the Jersey shore.”

Also very true. One of my grandfather did fight in the war, and did indeed go to Jersey every summer for vacation before his health got bad.

This song is very good and very close to home for me.

“House Of The Rising Sun” by The Animals is speaking of a place in New Orleans, La.

“Baton Rouge” by Garth Brooks

“New Orleans Ladies” by LaRoux