Thursday, February 4, 2010

Kansas City (Hey Hey Hey Hey)

The wife and I are driving to Kansas City later today for a gig, and it influences my ponderances...

So, I've never been a big fan of songs about towns (at least, songs about towns that mention the name of that town specifically in the title). "Kansas City" as recorded by Little Richard (and later the Beatles) is an exception, but ultimately I think by a certain point in history this mode of songwriting had been worn through, and efforts along these lines should have ceased.

It would probably be unwise to try and convince some of my friends in Folk Alliance that this is the case, however.

Even R.E.M., though, one of my favorite bands on the planet, has had less than stellar luck writing songs about specific towns (or referencing specific towns), especially lately. "Leaving New York" from their unfortunate "Around the Sun" album was iffy at best, and "Houston" from their most recent album "Accelerate" was quite possibly my least favorite track on the album. There is something to this, I think.

Maybe I'd feel differently if there was a song about Oklahoma City in particular that was worth a damn (I say "worth a damn" as if there are several lackluster songs about my fair town out there that somehow didn't cut the mustard...there are not). Oklahoma City, of course, did get a shout out in Huey Lewis' "The Heart of Rock & Roll", which, depending on your disposition, is either an utterly worthless piece of 80's crap OR, as I like to think, a mildly fun, non-offensive (musically) song that manages to transcend the decade in which it was created just enough to still enjoy.

Of course, it helps that my wife put it on a mix CD for me the first year we were dating (it was actually on a trilogy of mix CDs she made me all at once, to try and "catch up" for the fact that I had already made her 3 or 4 by that point and she had managed to only scrape together one). These CDs were a masterpiece of sentiment and content, if only because they almost refused to apologize for a cheesy selection, or a seemingly outmoded selection (the Huey Lewis track being just one example). I also continue to allege that these CDs ultimately (whether through conscious or unconscious intention) conveyed the message that this woman who would become my wife wanted to be with me forever, deep down, and that any conflict about this that she showed on the surface would eventually be resolved in my favor. My wife, of course, says that she has no idea what I am talking about, and that she was just trying to make some good CDs. Whatever.

At some point this month, I might share the tracklisting for these mix CDs, so that you can all experience the grandeur of them as well.

I suppose what all of this proves (watch me tie this together, or try valiantly) is that context again ultimately rules the day. I mostly like "The Heart of Rock & Roll" because of the context it exists in for me (a pleasant, guilty-pleasure style surprise in the middle of a 3 CD tour de force created by the woman I love most in the world just for me), but if I hear another folk singer sing some song about some Texas town that treated him bad (or good) I might shoot him.

Then again, if I analyze this further, that could all turn out to be a bunch of crap.

It's going to be an interesting month.


Mixtape Jones said...

Turns out it IS a bunch of crap, as I realize I spent 3 months of last year writing songs inspired by specific towns for the Dr. Pants CITY JAMS project. Boy, how my memory serves me. I tell ya what. Please don't hate me because of my blatant hypocrisy.

Mike from said...

That being said, "(Don't Go Back To) Rockville" by R.E.M. is one of the greatest songs based on a particular place, and I also love "Houston" by Dean Martin. WORST EVER - "(Take Me Back To) Chicago" by Chicago. It is so bad I moved to Milwaukee in humiliation......