Driving to work the other day I was listening to the radio. Amongst the news stories about Trump, TTIP and terrorism, and songs like Walking in Memphis, I Left My Heart in San Francisco and New York State of Mind, the wavelengths took an easterly turn on the compass:
“I was sick and tired of everything, when I called you last night from Glasgow”. Super Trouper – ABBA
How many popular songs from the last 50 years have you heard with Glasgow mentioned in the title or the lyrics? Not many I’d imagine, none probably. I’ve known this particular ABBA song for years and never noticed the Scottish link.
I put my thinking cap on. Letter from America by The Proclaimers is almost universally known for its mention of what seems like every Scottish town between Wick and Stranraer and Johnny Cash did the same in the US with I’ve Been Everywhere.
Kurt Cobain penned a song celebrating the the Northern city of Aberdeen. But it was the North American city of the same name in Washington state which inspired said tune.
Mark E. Smith was an Edinburgh Man (but actually Mancunian), Hue and Cry sang of Mother Glasgow (a lovely image for a title for a song about “Billys and Tims”) and Snow Patrol wrote a song about Dundee, where they formed.
California wasn’t written about the sleepy mining village near Falkirk. Bon Iver sang about Perth, Australia rather than Perth, Scotland. No one has written about Lebanon in the Middle East, or Lebanon in Fife. At least not that I know of.
Scottish cities seem largely forgotten by musicians, no muse to be found presumably and perhaps little in the way of royalties to be made. Which is unsurprising when you take any well known name dropped song song and replace the town or city; Walking in Greenock? I Left My Heart in Kirkintilloch? Bathgate State of Mind? There are songs that take you on a journey, inspire you, make it all feel better or just make you walk a little taller. Would your heart skip a beat when hearing Galashiels Express for the first time?
For Scots we either know there’s no great redeeming features about these places or assume there are none. The Tenderloin or Fishermans Wharf in San Francisco is as rough as any Scottish estate. But the sunshine sure does make it look exotic and a place to aspire to. I wonder if Americans feel the same about Musselburgh or Dundee.
And as for ABBA’s Super Trouper, wouldn’t it make a far better lyric to be called by someone staying in New York or Memphis? Why Glasgow?
That’s a story I’d like to hear from Benny and the crew. Were they lost?
My top 5 “Place Names in Songs” (note the lack of Scottish entries):
1. Streets of London by Ralph McTell
2. Calgary by Bon Iver
3. Don’t go Back to Rockville by REM
4. New York, New York by Ryan Adams
5. Streets of Philadelphia by Bruce Springsteen