Friday, 17 August 2012

My Top Ten Memphis Songs

Thus begins an occasional series of Top Tens dedicated to songs about specific geographic locations...

According to those in the know, Memphis could well be the most-mentioned city in the whole of popular music. More songs have been written about - or refer directly to - Memphis than just about any other city in the world. The Memphis Rock 'n' Soul Museum keeps an ever expanding list of over 1000 Memphis-based tunes on its website.

For the purposes of this Top Ten, I stuck purely to songs that mention Memphis in the title... with one far-too-obvious exception.

10. Rufus Wainwright - Memphis Skyline

Rufus pays tribute to Jeff Buckley...
Turn back the wheels of time
Under the Memphis skyline
Always hated him for the way he looked
In the gaslight of the morning

9. The Pixies - Letter to Memphis

8. Old Crow Medicine Show - Motel in Memphis

Where you there when the man from Atlanta was murdered in Memphis?

A powerful tribute to Martin Luther King.

If you were there, you'd swear it was more than a man who died.

7. Mott The Hoople - All the Way from Memphis
Yeah it's a mighty long way down rock 'n' roll
From the Liverpool docks to the Hollywood Bowl
And you climb up the mountains And you fall down the holes
All the way from Memphis

Great piano.

6. Marc Cohn - Walking In Memphis

Not sure why I feel like I have to apologise for this one. I loved it so very much when it came out. Hey, I could have given you the Cher version!

5. Bob Dylan - Stuck Inside of Mobile with the Memphis Blues Again

Oh, Mama, can this really be the end?

4. The Hold Steady - Sequestered in Memphis

One of my favourite Hold Steady songs - testament to how many great Memphis songs there are that it only makes #4 in this list.

Craig Finn gets subpoenaed in Texas and sequestered in Memphis... and he's getting pretty sick of having to tell his story over and over again in the police interview room...

We didn't go back to her place
We went to some place where she cat-sits

Listen, coppers - he went there on business!

3. Paul Simon - Graceland

The obvious exception.

There is a girl in New York City
Who calls herself the human trampoline
And sometimes when I'm falling flying
Or tumbling in turmoil I say
Whoa so this is what she means
She means we're bouncing into Graceland,
And I see losing love
Is like a window in your heart
Everybody sees you're blown apart
Everybody feels the wind blow

2. Chuck Berry - Memphis, Tennessee

Listening to this track makes me wish I'd been alive in 1959 when rock 'n' roll was really kicking off.

1. The Colorblind* James Experience - I'm Considering A Move To Memphis

OK, it's definitely not the best song about Memphis - but I can't help that it's my favourite.

(*Spelled the way the band themselves would spell it, or the way the residents of Memphis would. Not the way a pedant like me would spell it, obviously.)

I'll get myself a motel room that's not too small to see
I'll get one with a private bath and a black and white TV
Memphis isn't all that big, at least that's how I found it
Why, it took only an hour and a half to walk completely around it
Memphis isn't all that big, it isn't all that wide
Still, it is the kind of place where a country boy can hide

Over 1000 Memphis songs to choose from - which is your favourite?


  1. I'm guessing these aren't references to Memphis in Egypt?

  2. Aaah Mott the Hoople and Paul Simon in one post...very pleasing

    1. I aim to please.

      Well, I aim to please myself, anyway. If other people concur, that's always a bonus.

  3. What about Africa by Toto. "just like Kilimanjaro rises like a Memphis above the Serengeti"

    1. Well, I was saving that for an eventual Top Ten Africa Songs - but there's no reason it shouldn't appear here too. Thanks, Paul.

    2. Except it's not Memphis, they're singing Olympus.

    3. Thank you for the clarification.

  4. Don't forget John Hiatt's--Memphis in the Meantime

  5. 'Black Velvet' by Alannah Myles is my favorite 'Memphis' song :D

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  8. That's how I got to Memphis by Tom T Hall, although I love the cover by Kurt Blau too...just been building a playlist on this theme so thanks for some more to add


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