Tuesday, 23 September 2014

My Top Ten Sad Street Songs

Busy week as the new college term gets into full swing. With five classes a day some days, I certainly have no time for blogging. Fortunately, this is how I spent my summer vacation... here's one I prepared earlier. This week: unhappy roads.

And you think it's depressing where you live!

10. The Maisonettes - Heartache Avenue

The only good thing about moving onto Heartache Avenue is that you can live there rent-free.

9. Magnetic Fields - Lonely Highway

An alcoholic hits the road and leaves his abusive past behind him in Jackson. Stephin Merritt = songwriting genius.

8. Elvis Presley - (It's A) Long, Lonely Highway

Classic Pomus/Schuman number, used in the soundtrack of the movie Tickle Me. 'Nuff said.

See also Heartbreak Hotel, of course, which is located "down at the end of Lonely Street"...

7. The Pogues - Rain Street

A pretty bleak place to live, according to Shane, and not just because of the weather...
Down the alley the icewagon flew
Picked up a stiff that was turning blue
The local kids were sniffin' glue
Not much else for a kid to do
Down Rain Street
My favourite verse introduces us to the local supermarket...
There's a Tesco on the sacred ground
Where I pulled her knickers down
While Judas took his measly price
And St Anthony gazed in awe at Christ
Down on Rain Street

See also Lonesome Highway, in which Shane props up the bar with another tale of whiskey-tinged woe.

6. Lemonheads - The Turnpike Down

Although Evan Dando's certainly feeling down on the turnpike, he's at least cheered by the butterscotch streetlamps.

5. Ray Charles - Lonely Avenue

More Doc Pomus. Ray's girl's up and left town and he's too skint to follow her.

4. Bill Withers - Lonely Town, Lonely Street

Although he's best known for the sunshiney pop of Lovely Day, much of Bill Withers' material is dark and sorrowful. This is the man who wrote Ain't No Sunshine, of course, but also the singer who shoots himself at the end of the classic Better Off Dead. Lonely Town, Lonely Street is a song about lacking self-confidence... and failing because of that. Maybe that's why I love it?
And if you are shy, just not much of a talker
Don't impress the people that you meet
You might as well be a lonely walker in a lonely town, on a lonely street
3. The Kinks - Dead End Street

The one that Oasis pilfered shamelessly for The Importance Of Being Idle...
There's a crack up in the ceiling,
And the kitchen sink is leaking.
Out of work and got no money,
A Sunday joint of bread and honey.

What are we living for?
Two-roomed apartment on the second floor.
No money coming in,
The rent collector's knocking, trying to get in.
2. Morrissey - Late Night, Maudlin Street

Just about every Morrissey album has to half a 7-minute plus "epic", and this is the original, from Viva Hate, by which all others are measured. With its plodding beat and mournful vocals, it's the kind of song that naturally tags Moz with the miserablist label. But the lyrics are often hilarious, in a self-deprecating Alan Bennett kind of way.
Came home late one night
Everyone had gone to bed
But you know, no one stays up for you
I had sixteen stitches all around my head
The last bus I missed to Maudlin Street
So, he drove me home in the van
complaining: "Women only like me for my mind.."

1. Green Day - Boulevard of Broken Dreams

I've been a fan of Green Day ever since I saw them set fire to the stage at Leeds Festival in the late 90s. I even use this track in my teaching to explain the concept of personfication to my students ("when the city sleeps") although if Billy Joe Armstrong ever walked into one of my classes with his surly sneer, folded arms and general air of stroppiness, I'd show him the door immediately.

Broken dreams, though. I know a few of those...

Those were my favourite sad streets. Which one cheers you up?


  1. I was in despair. Even though as you said putting all my music collection on to the computer makes it easier, I was troubled trying to find anything relevant. I felt you would probably overrule Supergrass' Road to Rouen (!!), but might just take Foo Fighter's Long Road to Ruin but would certainly go for The Manics Lonely Roads. Except I think you don't like the Manics. I certainly ruled out Tony Christie's Street of Broken Dreams as it's not his finest hour and even Etta James couldn't rise to the challenge with her rendition of Street of Tears. Enough. Actually I prefer your Top Ten

    1. I do like the Manics, and Supergrass, and Etta James, and the Foos, and Tony Christie.

      But I still prefer my list this time too.

  2. Not just for the pun of the title, but Bleecker Street by Simon and Garfunkel.

    Voices leaking from a sad cafe
    Smiling faces try to understand
    I saw a shadow touch a shadow's hand
    On Bleecker Street.

    1. Good call. Is that where Paul Carrack's band took its name from? (Sad Cafe.)

    2. Sorry, I meant Paul Young. (But not that one.)

  3. No, on further investigation, both probably stole it from The Ballad of the Sad Cafe, a Broadway play that premiered in 1963.

    I'll go to bed now.

  4. XTC's Respectable Street was never a great place to live...


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