Saturday, 7 February 2015

My Top Ten Café / Diner Songs

Fancy coming down the caff?

Specials mentions to Tom Waits's excellent Nighthawks At The Diner (if albums were allowed, as well individual songs, that might have been Number One), Style Council's Café Bleu, and, of course... Sad Café.

10. Saint Etienne - Mario's Café

A cigarette, a cup of tea, a bun... lazy Tuesday mornings spent in cafés, chewing the bacon rind with friends.

9. The Coasters - Smokey Joe's Café

 Lieber & Stoller corker... you better eat up all your beans, boy, and clear right on out!

8. Ryan Adams - Starlite Diner

Ryan Adams arranges a midnight rendezvous at the Starlite Diner (you just wouldn't get a caff staying open that late in the UK)... but will he be stood up?

7.  Hall & Oates - Abandoned Luncheonette

An old couple relive their youth in an abandoned luncheonette. Quietly heartbreaking...
They sat together in the empty diner
Filled with cracked china
Old news was blowing across the filthy floor
And the sign on the door read "this way out", that's all it read
That's all it said...
6. Ray Davies - Working Man's Café

Ray laments the death of olde England now that all our town centres "look like America".
Looking for the working man's café
In the shopping centre of the town
Looking for somewhere to fit in
In among the retail outlets

Bought a pair of new designer pants
Where the fruit and veg man used to stand
I always used to see him there
Selling old apples and pears
Chatting up the pretty girls
With knocked off goods in the van...
5. Keane - Sovereign Light Café

Often damned with faint praise of the "poor man's Coldplay" variety, not helped by the fact that the lead singer looks like a 20 year old David Cameron. But if you can put all that aside, this is a fantastic "you can't go home again" song celebrating the band's hometowns of Battle and Bexhill on Sea, near Hastings. It does, of course, steal all its best ideas from Glory Days era Springsteen, but you won't hear me complaining about that...
Let's go down to the rides on East Parade,
By the lights of the Palace Arcade
And watch night coming down on the Sovereign Light Café

Let's go down to the bandstand on the pier
Watch the drunks and the lovers appear
To take turns as the stars of the Sovereign Light Café
4. Joni Mitchell - Chinese Cafe / Unchained Melody

Joni meets her old friend Carol at the Chinese Café and puts Unchained Melody on repeat play on the jukebox. What an amazing lyricist. This week's contractual "I'm getting older every say" song...
This girl of my childhood games
With kids nearly grown and gone
Grown so fast
Like the turn of a page
We look like our mothers did now
When we were those kids' age
Nothing lasts for long...
3. Suzanne Vega - Tom's Diner

Suzanne's biggest hit, due to the nasty DNA 90s dance-beat remix that took it to the top of the charts. I, naturally, prefer the a capella original... which youtube tells me was used by the developer of the mp3 as his reference track. Making it the first mp3 ever... apparently.If you can believe anything you read on t'internet.

2. Dean Friedman - The Deli Song

Recorded "live" in a genuine New York Deli (or not), where Dean meets the woman of his dreams at 4 in the morning... but gets interrupted quite a lot by the noisy waitresses.
Hey, Louie - there's a weirdo at table four in the back...
He's singing!
1. The Handsome Family - The Snow White Diner

The first Handsome Family track I ever heard (on a free Uncut CD) and still one of my favourites... although they have done many other great records. Creepy Gothic Americana at its finest...
I am eating hash browns in the Snow White Diner
Outside cars are honking, flashing lights on the bridge
They're pulling a car up from the bottom of the frozen lake

A woman drove her Saturn into the black water
Killed herself and her two kids trapped in the backseat
She'd lost her job and didn't want her kids to be poor

The diner is noisy, black coffee and sugar
Baskets of dinner rolls, outside the crowd is growing
Waiting by the drawbridge, hoping to see the dead woman's face...

Which one's on your specials board?


  1. Ah Suzanne Vega. Her first 2 albums have a special place in my heart as, along with Kate Bush's Hounds Of Love, they informed my burgeoning poetic leanings when I was a miserable teen. Still do, in fact.

    1. I can't imagine you as a miserable teen, Steve. You grew up to be such a cheerful fella.

  2. Pearl's Cafe! Best chorus ever, if it is a chorus (you'll know the bit I mean).

    1. Fair play, never heard that one before. "It's all a load of bollocks!" indeed.

      Miller also reminded me of Bar Italia by Pulp which is about a Coffee Bar and should really have been squeezed in here somewhere.

  3. Penguin Cafe Orchestra..."Dirt" (can we eat off the floor??)

  4. Lou Reed Berlin. My copy sounds like it is recorded in a cafe 'In a small, small cafe
    we could hear the guitars play' I love this song. It makes my mood so often,

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  6. I have some Sad Cafe albums, but not a single song about a cafe sadly

    1. Now if you'd said "I have A Sad Café album..." I'd have said, good for you...

      But... "SOME"... "SOME"!?!

      Respect is due...I think.

  7. One of my favourites is the Paragon Café by Tim Rogers. The story of a road trip to attend a funeral, with a stop in the said café. Quite moving

    Then there is Breakfast at Sweethearts - Cold Chisel

    and from the Christopher Guest mockumentary A Mighty Wind, how about Old Joe's Place by the Folksmen

    yay...I actually found time to comment on one of your lists (and had something half decent to add too)

    1. Excellent selections as always, Deano! Good to hear from you again.


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