Top Rock/Geography Themed Songs
Song themes are often diverse and feature many emotions – love, happiness, remorse, loneliness, hate, anger, fear. However, they also often feature places and environments. In no particular order, I have put together a list of some of my favourite songs that have obvious geographic references.
British SeaPower – Oh Larson B
A love song dedicated to the collapsed Antarctic Peninsula ice shelf Larson B. A triumphant ode with the epic lyrics ‘Oh Larson B, fall on me, Oh Larson B desalinate the barren sea’, ‘Be My Baby’ bass line and doorbell chime accompaniment makes this is a true cold environment rocker. In fact most of British Sea Powers back catalogue has geographic themes – they are quite possibly the best band in Britain?
Billy Bragg – A13 Trunk Road to the Sea
Set to the tune of Chuck Berry’s Route Sixty Six, this song replaces the US place names with lesser known stops along the A13 to Shoeburyness. There can’t be many songs that mention Basilden, Pitsea, Thundersley, Hadlegh, Leigh-on-sea, Chalwell, Prittlewell and Southend – You get your kicks in Shoeburyness!
Simon and Garfunkel – America
Written by Paul Simon this is a glorious tale of young lovers hitchhiking their way across the United States, in search of both the literal and physical America.
Iggy Pop – China Girl
Iggy Pop’s plea to China not to be seduced by the commercial excesses of the West. Whilst today it looks as if China has ignored his request, this still does remain a song that is a heart felt and genuine plea to China to avoid the man ‘with plans for everyone’.
The Clash – London Calling
Written by Joe Strummer and bizarrely used to promote London in various ways, this song was written at time when London’s glamour and prosperity was under attack from numerous threats- fears of nuclear war, rising sea levels, global warming and police brutality following race riots. Stummer pleads for help to save the city from these evil forces- listen carefully and SOS in Morse code can be heard at the very end.
The Wedding Present – Interstate 5
Named after the West Coast Highway Interstate 5 this 8:17 long song is an epic soundscape often used against visions and vista of US travel. A video was made to accompany the song strangely set in northern England and featured a woman running through various city-scapes and scenery for the entire duration until she is finally stopped, exhausted by the singer.
Public Broadcasting Service – Everest
This inventive duo raid the film sound archives and create pieces of educationally rich music that harks back to a nostalgic Britain. If you haven’t seen or heard of them, they are a delight. Everest is not only an inspiring foot tapper, but also an emotional piece of historic geography. Ending with the quote ‘Why Climb Everest? Because it’s there’ check out the album – Inform, Educate, Entertain
Johnny Cash – Five Feet High and Rising
This song starts with Johnny Cash telling a tale from his boyhood during a time of heavy flooding.‘My mama always taught me that good things come from adversity if we put our faith in the Lord. We couldn’t see much good in the flood waters when they were causing us to have to leave home.’ Each verse, the water levels rises another foot and Johnny informs us of the effect of the flooding, until the water resides, when the long term affect of the floods brought benefits. ‘But when the water went down, we found that it had washed a load of rich black bottom dirt across our land. The following year we had the best cotton crop we’d ever had.’
Echo and the Bunnymen – The Cutter
I have listened hard to the lyrics of ‘The Cutter’ many times and can honestly say I have no idea what this song is about, however The Bunnymen filmed a video in Iceland, arguably before Iceland was fashionable.The album Porcupine, which this single was taken from, depicts the band standing at the same spot that many school groups stand in front of – the Gullfoss Waterfall. It was because of this song that Iceland became the top destination on my bucket list of places to visit. If you want to see how Iceland looked in 1983, or even perhaps how young Ian Maculloch looked, then check out this Youtube clip.
The Long Ryders – Looking for Lewis and Clark
A bit of an obvious link to the Corps of Discovery Expedition in 1804, where the explorers Captain Meriwether Lewis and his close friend Second Lieutenant William Clark under the funding the US Government, headed west across the continental divide to find a route to the Pacific, as well as study and record the geographical features along the way. It was also a thinly disguised effort to establish an American Presence in these territories before the British claimed them. This song rocks! It does make you wonder if the Kings of Leon would ever have picked up guitars of it wasn’t for the Long Ryders.
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