Friday, 16 February 2018

My Top Ten Walkman Songs

The humble Walkman. How it revolutionised our world. Kids today don't know how lucky they have it when they can stream or download any song they want to hear immediately to their phone, tablet or domestic pet. This device let us take our music with us wherever we wanted... and made it even easier to ignore conversations on the bus than ever before.

Ten songs then that pay tribute to the Walkman... with special mention, of course, to The Walkmen.

10. Frank Black - I Heard Ramona Sing

It's not the Pixies, but it's unmistakably Frank Black...

I had so many problems
And then I got me a walkman
I really liked it a lot, and
They walked right in and they solved them
They walked right in and they solved them

9. American Music Club - Chanel No. 5

Walkmans, Chanel #5... Mark Eitzel has extremely sensory memories of the 80s.

She's got her Walkman on
She's got Chanel Number Five
Look at her walk
She's holding her head upright
Wants to show she's got some pride
To the headlights

8. Iggy Pop - Run Like A Villain

Utter nonsense, but Iggy makes utter nonsense addictive. From the album Zombie Birdhouse. What else do you need to know?

Tracy got an afghan, pedigreed,
Prescription shades and designer jeans
A Sony Walkman on her head
All she wants is to be fed

7. Veruca Salt - With David Bowie

Many a teenage infatuation began this way...

My heart skips around 
when I hear the sound.
I'm never alone cause 
you're following me home.
I'm falling in love, 
my walkman and me, 
with David Bowie.

6. Pavement - Range Life

Stephen Malkmus grew up with a skateboard and a walkman... just like Marty McFly and most other kids from 80s Americana.
Out on my skateboard
The night is just hummin'
And the gum smacks are the pulse
I'll follow if my walkman fades
But I've got absolutely no one,
No one but myself to blame

5. Robyn Hitchcock - Statue With A Walkman On

The only song I could find with Walkman in the title, but it's a belter.

4. Dr. Dre & Eminem - Forgot About Dre

My misspent twenties. Not my usual bag, I'm sure you'll admit, but this was back when all Eminem had to do was open his mouth and I bought it. And as Eminem never actually shut his mouth, I bought a lot...

One day I was walking by
With a Walkman on
When I caught a guy
Give me an awkward eye
And I strangled him up in the parking lot
With his Karl Kani

Plus, Dr. Dre is cool, whichever way you cut it. Even if you're an uncool kid like me you can see that.

3. Jenny Lewis - Late Bloomer

Fantastic storytelling. Like a novel in a song! Gotta love Jenny Lewis...

Nancy came from Boston, she got in trouble very often
Cause her parents had forgotten her, she escaped over the pond
She was searching for the writer of a song that made her shiver
She listened over and over on her Walkman cassette
And she said "Come with me late bloomer, for a little while
I wanna see that fire burning, in you little child."

2. Ben Folds - Late

Ben's tribute to his old friend Elliot Smith starts thus...

Under some dirty words on a dirty wall
Eating takeout by myself
I play the shows
Got back in the van and put the Walkman on
And you were playing

And the rest of the song's a heartbreaker.

Elliott, man, you played a fine guitar
And some dirty basketball
The songs you wrote
Got me through a lot
Just wanna tell you that
But it's too late

1. The Smiths - Bigmouth Strikes Again

Apparently, Joan of Arc had both a hearing aid and a walkman...

What's side 1 track 1 on your Best Walkman Songs cassette?


  1. This is my favourite sort of top ten - the sort where you read the title and know straight away what's going to be number one.

  2. Nothing dates a song more than having a contemporary piece of technology (aka newfangled device) dropped into the lyric. This is a brilliant Top 10, though Robyn would've been my personal No.1, but you knew that! You also could've included The Fall's 'British People in Hot Weather', which contains the lines...
    'Fill green envelopes and send them to ya,
    On train ride, read Marx tracts,
    Play Walkmans loud behind ya,
    Demonstrate on Oxford Street,
    About what the Hell they couldn't tell ya...'
    Here's a challenge, is there enough scope for Minidisc and MP3 player Top 10s? I can think of a couple of candidates off the top of my head for the latter, but none for the former.

    1. Actually, that came close, as it's one of my favourite Fall songs since I first heard it featured on a blog a year or so back. Can't remember whose. Yours?

    2. Oh, and I could only find one song that mentioned a minidisc player and it was by Republica, so I doubt there'll be a Top Ten anytime soon.

  3. I never owned a walkman, although sometimes I wish I had got into music sooner so I didn't have to do so much catch-up :) No surprise to see The Smiths on your list

  4. What no Cliff him being wired for sound an' all?

    They were battery guzzlers though those Walkmans!

    1. I was kicking myself when I read your comment as that is probably my favourite Cliff song. However... I like tall speakers... I like small speakers... Not really Walkman-centric, despite the "cassette in my pocket" line.

  5. Well I can see he now with her Walkman on
    Jumpin' up and down to her favourite song

    Nick Lowe - I Knew the Bride (When She Used to Rock'n'Roll)

    1. I can't believe I missed that one as it"s a better song than most of the ones on this list. Like Brian says though, I'd have sworn that came from the pre-rock Walkman era...

  6. Hey John. Do you think Lowe played around with the lyrics through the years? The Walkman didn’t really get started until 1979, but Lowe has been performing I Knew the Bride since at least 1977... although I don’t think it got a proper studio release until nearly a decade later. I’ll have to pull out my old Rockpile bootlegs and Live Stiffs Live to see if I can make out what he used to sing. I have several live versions of the song from the ‘70s and ‘80s.

    Rol, what can I say? Another well thought out list and a hell of a lot of fun.

    1. Thanks, Brian. Do update us on your investigations: perhaps a post at your place?


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