Still brilliant after all these years

Ah yes, 1969 — a pivotal year for me, and a pivotal year for the record business.

I was turning 14, starting to pay more attention to the world outside my safe neighborhood surroundings.  I was suddenly more interested in the opposite sex, and I 1969was being introduced to the intriguing, horizon-stretching music of bands with peculiar names I’d never heard of before.

At the same time, the record-buying public at large was starting to pay attention to complete albums instead of just hit singles.  By year’s end, for the first time, the total number of albums sold eclipsed the number of singles sold.  My generation was no longer willing to settle for what the Top 40 stations were willing to broadcast.  We started going on deep dives through the record stores of America — at Woolworth’s and other major chains, but more often at independent hippie-type stores — to discover much, much more.

There’s no question that 1969 brought a stunning breadth of albums that, even fifty years after their release, are among the finest rock LPs ever produced.  Readers might take exception with the obviousness of my 12 selections here; there are at least a dozen others, listed as “honorable mentions” at the end, that might easily make your own personal Top Dozen list.  But that’s my point:  1969 offered an embarrassment of riches.  As we commemorate the 50th anniversary of these records, let us relive the thrill that the music within them still brings us.



“Santana,” Santana

44085-santana-1969When San Francisco area concert promoter Bill Graham was asked to become involved with the not-yet-legendary Woodstock Music and Arts Fair, he did so on the condition that Santana, an unknown Latin-infused rock band he had been championing, be added to the bill, even though their debut LP hadn’t come out yet.  Santana’s high-energy instrumental music, most notably “Soul Sacrifice,” was a revelation to the festival crowd, and their performance played a big part in the 1970 film.  “Santana” was released a few weeks later and, thanks to radio play for the instrumental track “Jingo” and even more for the #9 hit “Evil Ways,” climbed to #4 on the album charts.  Six of the album’s nine tracks are instrumentals, a rarity for a Top Ten LP.  Santana’s winning formula was a bubbling mix of white-hot percussion, Gregg Rolie’s Hammond organ and vocals, and, interlaced throughout, Carlos Santana’s biting, soaring guitar playing.

“Led Zeppelin (I),” Led Zeppelin

5ba3db1f638a5You’d be hard pressed to find a debut album more game-changing than this one.  Rising from the ashes of the great blues group The Yardbirds, “Led Zeppelin” is a combination of heavy and light, by turns thunderous and delicate.  “Babe I’m Gonna Leave You” beautifully demonstrated this dichotomy, with gentle acoustic and fiery electric passages in the same track.  The explosive “Good Times Bad Times” and “Communication Breakdown” set new standards in condensed hard rock, and eclectic pieces like the acoustic instrumental “Black Mountain Side” and the organ-dominated “Your Time is Gonna Come” offered something different.  But it’s the blues covers like “You Shook Me” and “I Can’t Quite You Babe,” and the lengthier album side closers “Dazed and Confused” and “How Many More Times,” that really dominate the proceedings.  Guitarist Jimmy Page wrote, arranged and produced most of the album’s nine tracks, with help from keyboardist/bassist John Paul Jones, while singer Robert Plant and drummer John Bonham cemented reputations as among the best at their respective positions.

“Stand Up,” Jethro Tull

96830fb240e5aa15c2d9be9f44388c7dAlthough this band began as a ragtag blues outfit in 1968 with guitarist Mick Abrahams sharing leadership with flutist-singer Ian Anderson, it wasn’t long before Abrahams split to form Blodwyn Pig, and Anderson took over the Tull reins for good.  By adding superb guitarist Martin Barre and writing ten wonderfully eclectic tunes, Anderson steered Tull to the top the British charts with “Stand Up,” an album that remains a favorite of mine and millions of others.  Witness the cornucopia of styles:  blues (“A New Day Yesterday,”), folk (“Fat Man”), hard rock (“We Used to Know,” “For a Thousand Mothers,” “Nothing is Easy”), acoustic balladry (“Reasons for Waiting,” “Look Into the Sun”), even light jazz (the instrumental “Bourée”).  Tull went on to great achievements over the next three decades, but this LP continues to delight, and was a high point of 1969 album releases.

“Chicago Transit Authority,” Chicago

220px-CTA_albumThere had been horns used in rock music before (Blood, Sweat, and Tears, The Buckinghams), but not quite like what Chicago attempted with this brazenly ambitious double-album debut.  With three talented singer-songwriters in the lineup (keyboardist Robert Lamm, guitarist Terry Kath and bassist Peter Cetera), plus a meaty horn section of trumpet, trombone and sax, Chicago had the goods to deliver well over an hour of catchy, energetic music right out of the gate.  So much great material:  the effervescent “Beginnings” and “Does Anybody Really Know What Time It Is,” the bluesy “South California Purples,” the riff-laden “Introduction” and “Questions 67 and 68,” and a politically timely medley (“Prologue/Someday”) and a 15-minute jam (“Liberation”).  The group’s original lineup kept things interesting for another five or six years before succumbing to a more puerile commercial style that wore thin.

“Blind Faith,” Blind Faith

61cLZhu5npL._SX355_Eric Clapton was looking for some new musical chemistry following the demise of Cream, and he found it with Steve Winwood, the amazing singer/songwriter/keyboardist on hiatus from his own band Traffic.  Cream drummer Ginger Baker showed up at their informal rehearsals, hoping to get involved, and despite Clapton’s apprehensions, joined the recording sessions, along with Ric Grech on bass and violin.  Sadly, the group was hyped beyond belief as a “supergroup” that was almost the antithesis of what Clapton and Winwood had originally conceived, and the group disbanded in a matter of R-391938-1394741346-1051_jpeg_896d3227-53aa-4a3e-aef6-75de64548006months.  Although the resulting album features only six tracks (one of which was a 16-minute jam on Baker’s “Do What You Like”), the musicianship is exemplary, particularly on the Winwood tunes, “Can’t Find My Way Home,” “Sea of Joy” and “Had to Cry Today.”  Clapton also contributed his first top-shelf song, the lovely “Presence of the Lord.”  The album reached #1 on the UK and US album charts, but it turned out to be the only record they’d make (although it had two covers!).

“Yer Album,” The James Gang

JamesyerCleveland had been the city where legendary DJ Alan Freed got his start, hosting what is considered the world’s first rock concert back in 1952.  But there hadn’t been much else on the city’s music scene to gain national attention until The James Gang, fortified by the addition of newcomer Joe Walsh taking over for the departing Glenn Schwartz, burst out with the eye-opening “Yer Album” debut LP in April 1969.  It wasn’t until the following year’s “James Gang Rides Again” and its hit single “Funk #49” that the group became commercial successful, but guitar legends like Pete Townshend, Eric Clapton and Jimmy Page all sang the praises of Walsh as a talent to reckon with, based on the tracks on “Yer Album.”  On original songs like “Take a Look Around,” “Collage,” “I Don’t Have the Time” and “Fred,” Walsh showed a flair for melody and vocal arrangement, and on excellent covers such as “Bluebird,” “Stop” and “Lost Woman,” he demonstrated his considerable guitar prowess.

“Abbey Road,” The Beatles

abbey-roadBy mid-1969, the best band of them all concluded it was time to call it quits, but the album they recorded in January, “Let It Be,” had left a bad taste in their mouths (and it sat unreleased for another 15 months).  Instead, they decided to regroup in July and record “a proper swan song,” as Paul McCartney put it.  And what a farewell it was.  George Harrison weighed in with “Something” and “Here Comes the Sun,” two of his finest songs yet; John Lennon had already checked out mentally, but brought “Come Together,” “Because” and “I Want You (She’s So Heavy)” to the party.  McCartney did the lion’s share of the writing, and arranged the spectacular medley (“You Never Give Me Your Money,” “Sun King,” “Mean Mister Mustard,” “Polythene Pam,” “She Came in Through the Bathroom Window,” “Golden Slumbers,” “Carry That Weight” and “The End”) that comprises most of Side Two and is the best-ever 15 minutes of Beatles music.

“Tommy,” The Who

The+Who+Tommy-1From 1965 onward, Pete Townshend and The Who had enjoyed plenty of chart success in England with a string of brash yet melodic singles, but their penchant for destroying their instruments in live performances kept them in debt and in danger of losing their record contract.  In late 1968, Townshend put his songwriting talents into overdrive and came up with a sprawling “rock opera” about a deaf, dumb and blind boy who becomes a pinball god with a fawning audience who eventually turn on him.  The exceptional music he built around these story-lyrics is the real attention-getter here, with amazing melodies and arrangements that singer Roger Daltrey, drummer Keith Moon and bassist John Entwistle (and guitarist Townshend himself) could really sink their teeth into.  “We’re Not Gonna Take It,” “The Acid Queen,” “Pinball Wizard,” “I’m Free,” “Amazing Journey,” “Go to the Mirror,” “Christmas,” “Underture” — just a marvelous spread to feast upon.

“Crosby, Stills and Nash,” Crosby, Stills and Nash

220px-CrosbystillsandnashThis pretty much perfect LP is largely the work of Stills, who had been biding his time since the imploding of Buffalo Springfield a year before.  “Captain Manyhands,” as he was nicknamed, played most of the instruments and produced all the tracks, and wrote the amazing “Suite: Judy Blue Eyes,” “Helplessly Hoping” and “You Don’t Have to Cry.”  He also had the wisdom to recruit superb harmonizer David Crosby from the Byrds, who brought “Guinnevere,” “Long Time Gone” and “Wooden Ships” to the project.  The icing on the cake was the addition of the high harmonies of ex-Hollie Graham Nash and his great tunes “Marrakesh Express,” “Lady of the Island”: and “Pre-Road Downs.”  The spring and summer of 1969 were far more pleasant because of these wondrous songs floating out of radios and home stereos across the country.

“Bayou Country,” Creedence Clearwater Revival

ba4fbc91b8b39aea2458d15021dcb8c8Although singer-songwriter John Fogerty hailed from El Cerrito, California, he conjured up a type of rock music that seemed steeped in Louisiana humidity.  His band, Creedence Clearwater Revival, offered a mesmerizing brand of “swamp rock” that showed influences of roots rockers like Little Richard, Screamin’ Jay Hawkins and The Big Bopper.  Fogerty ran the group with an iron hand, which eventually alienated his bandmates, but it was his musical vision that led Creedence to great commercial success with five hugely popular LPs in 1969 and 1970, beginning with “Bayou Country” in January ’69.  “Proud Mary” was the flagship tune, but for me, “Born on the Bayou” is the band’s finest moment, followed closely by “Bootleg,” a scintillating cover of “Good Golly Miss Molly” and a relentless jam-boogie, “Keep on Chooglin’.”

“Led Zeppelin II,” Led Zeppelin

5ba3ddc04249dExcitement and momentum had been building all year long in the wake of Led Zeppelin’s incredible debut LP (see above), and the band toured relentlessly in support of it.  It is to Jimmy Page’s everlasting credit that he was somehow able to write, arrange, record and produce the band’s follow-up album, “Led Zeppelin II,” released only nine months after the first one.  Written on the fly in hotel rooms and recorded/mixed in five different cities along the way, the nine songs remain lasting, much-loved prototypes of heavy metal (“Heartbreaker,” “Whole Lotta Love”), blues-based rock (“Lemon Song,” “Bring It On Home”) and the occasional lighter moments (“Ramble On,” “Thank You,” “What Is and What Shall Never Be”) that represent the “zeppelin” to go with the “led.”  The album pushed “Abbey Road” out of the top spot by year’s end and ushered in a new era where Zeppelin was the band everyone else was trying to top.

“Let It Bleed,” The Rolling Stones

t45849630-b656479919_s400Any album that kicks off with a song as seismic as “Gimme Shelter” and concludes with a song as anthemic as “You Can’t Always Get What You Want” is clearly a shoo-in for any “Best Of” list.  Mick Jagger and Keith Richards were firing on all their songwriting cylinders in the spring and summer of ’69, in the wake of the accidental death of Brian Jones, who appears only nominally on the finished LP.  New Stones guitarist Mick Taylor joined too late to contribute much, but session virtuoso Nicky Hopkins adds superb piano to “Midnight Rambler,” “Monkey Man” and “Live With Me.”  Just as previous LP “Beggar’s Banquet” had included several acoustic-based tracks, “Let It Bleed” featured “Love in Vain,” “You Got the Silver,” the title track and a country arrangement of concurrent hit single “Honky Tony Woman” called “Country Honk.”


Honorable mention:

“Everybody Knows This is Nowhere,” Neil Young;  “Stand!,” Sly and the Family Stone;  “Happy Sad,” Tim Buckley;  “Free,” Free;  “In the Court of Crimson King,” King Crimson;  “Volunteers,” Jefferson Airplane;  “Clouds,” Joni Mitchell;  “A Salty Dog,” Procol Harum;  “Nashville Skyline,” Bob Dylan;  “Arthur,” The Kinks;  “A Little Help From My Friends,” Joe Cocker;  Moby Grape ’69,” Moby Grape;  “I Got Dem Ol’ Kozmic Blues Again, Mama!,” Janis Joplin;  “Green River,” Creedence Clearwater Revival;  “Songs for a Tailor,” Jack Bruce;  “Then Play On,” Fleetwood Mac.


There are two Spotify playlists here.  The first includes three or four selections from each of the featured LPs; the second offered one or two tracks from each of the honorable mentions.  Happy listening!



Livin’ just enough for the city

Here at Hack’s Back Pages, we’ve come up with collections of songs exploring all kinds of different geographical places.  We’ve looked at songs about different U.S. states, songs about different world cities, songs about California, songs about New York.

But we’ve so far neglected to compile a playlist of songs about U.S. cities outside of New York and California.  It’s a big wide, wonderful, diverse, amazing country, with big cities and small chandler_oleary_50states_map_1440pxtowns throughout the Midwest, the South, the Northeast, the Southwest and all parts in between.

Through the years, songwriters of rock, country, blues and pop music have often written wistful odes or bitter diatribes about their hometowns and the cities they’ve visited, grown fond of, or grown to dislike.  I’ve selected 20 songs, mostly from the ’60s, ’70s and ’80s, that use U.S. cities as potent subject matter in their lyrics.



“Panic in Detroit,” David Bowie, 1973

davidbowie-panic-in-detroit1Bowie said he wrote this song based on his friend Iggy Pop’s descriptions of his experiences with revolutionaries during the 1967 Detroit riots Rolling Stone called the track “a paranoid descendant of the Motor City’s earlier masterpiece, Martha and the Vandellas’ ‘Nowhere to Run.'”  Sample lyrics:  “Panic in Detroit, I asked for an autograph, he wanted to stay home, I wish someone would phone, panic in Detroit, he laughed at accidental sirens that broke the evening gloom, the police had warned of repercussions…”

“Savannah Nights,” Tom Johnston, 1979

R-4262599-1535339449-7529.mpoGuitarist/singer/songwriter Johnston was the mainstay of The Doobie Brothers until ulcers forced his temporary retirement from the lineup in 1976.  He worked his way back into the business with a 1979 solo LP, “Everything You’ve Heard is True,” featuring this very Doobie-ish tune about his fond memories of Savannah, Georgia:   “He is the King of Savannah nights, the inspiration, the ladies’ delight, you could not catch him if you wanted to try tonight…”

“Allentown,” Billy Joel, 1982

billy-joel-allentown-cbs-3Allentown is one of those hardworking Pennsylvania steel towns that suffered mightily when the US steel industry took a dive in the 1960s and 1970s and never really recovered.  The folks who were born and raised there and were expected to work the mills found themselves in a dead-end existence through no real fault of their own.  Billy Joel made a hit single about it:  “So the graduations hang on the wall, but they never really helped us at all, no, they never taught us what was real, iron and coal and chromium steel, and we’re waiting here in Allentown… and it’s getting very hard to stay, and we’re living here in Allentown…”

“Sick of Seattle,” The Smithereens, 1994

71p9U3hmRJL._SX355_Grunge rock, which featured angst-ridden lyrics and punk/metal leanings, was born in the Seattle underground in the mid-’80s, and became popular in the early ’90s with Nirvana, Soundgarden and others leading the way.  The Smithereens, who hailed from New Jersey, liked grunge but found its heyday was over when they visited Seattle:   “Came here to find me a place in the sun, once was a scene, now it’s already done, thinking of leaving, it’s no longer fun in Seattle…”

“Oh Atlanta,” Bad Company, 1979

R-1660842-1381854436-6168.jpegLittle Feat has a great classic tune with the same title, but I have also always liked Bad Company’s entirely different song, a deep track from their 1979 LP “Desolation Angels.” Country artist Alison Krauss recorded a marvelous cover version in 1995.  Guitarist Mick Ralphs wrote the song in tribute to the “capital of the New South”:  “Oh Atlanta, hear me calling, I’m coming back to you one fine day, no need to worry, there ain’t no hurry, ’cause I’m on my way back to Georgia…”

“San Francisco Days,” Chris Isaak, 1993

San_Francisco_Days_-_Chris_IsaakRockabilly/roots-rock singer Isaak, born and raised in Stockton, California, is probably most widely known for his languid 1990 hit “Wicked Game” and for his dreamy voice.  His fifth LP “San Francisco Days” is full of great songs, including the title track, which pays homage to the nearby Bay City:  “I’m heading for that Golden Gate, hoping I won’t be too late to find the one that I still love, it’s you I’m dreaming of, San Francisco nights, San Francisco days, San Francisco nights…”

“Miami,” Bob Seger, 1986

220px-Bob_Seger_-_Like_a_RockSeger is a Detroit native who sympathized with the plight of refugees who are just looking for a better life.  For his popular “Like a Rock” album in the mid-’80s, he wrote “Miami,” about Cuban refugees who brave the 90-mile trip to the Florida mainland, looking to Miami just as European immigrants looked to New York City in the early 1900s:  “They felt the warm breezes blowing from off the strange new ocean, they reached the end safe, it was a new day, Miami, oh, Miami…”

“Baltimore,” Randy Newman, 1977

61jYBTlq-yL._SX355_Newman is known for writing sardonic lyrics, and his tune “Baltimore” from his successful 1977 LP “Little Criminals” got him in trouble (as did that album’s single, the anti-discriminatory “Short People”).  Said Newman at the time, “People tend to take my songs the wrong way sometimes.  Actually, I think people in Baltimore who objected to that song had a real good case, though, because I didn’t know much about it and had never been there.”  Sample lyrics:  “And they hide their faces, and they hide their eyes ’cause the city’s dyin’ and they don’t know why, oh Baltimore, man, it’s hard just to live, oh Baltimore, man, it’s hard just to live…”

“Viva Las Vegas,” Elvis Presley, 1964

R-3715837-1440593245-2766.jpegDoc Pomus and Mort Shuman teamed up to write this rollicking tune expressly for the Elvis Presley hit movie of the same name.  Presley’s recording reached #27 in April 1964, and the movie, co-starring love interest Ann-Margret, was a box office hit as well.  The lyrics celebrate Las Vegas for its fun and excitement while warning of its risk and danger:  “There’s black jack and poker and the roulette wheel, a fortune won and lost on every deal, all you need’s a strong heart and a nerve of steel, viva Las Vegas!…”

“Cleveland,” Jewel, 2001

220px-Jewel_-_This_WaySinger-songwriter Jewel was only 21 when her debut album “Pieces of You” made her a star.  Included on her third LP, “This Way,” was this deep album track in which the narrator wants to curl up with her boyfriend, but can’t because he’s on the road, this time in Cleveland:  “It’s only an inch from me to you, depending on what map you use, I wanna tell you everything, I wanna make your toes curl, you be my only boy and I’ll be your only girl, there’s not much I can say ’cause you’re in Cleveland today…”

“Kansas City,” The Beatles, 1964

220px-BeatlesforsaleOne of the first songs in the catalog of famed songwriters Jerry Lieber and Mike Stoller was “Kansas City,” a great 1952 blues tune that R&B singer Wilbert Harrison took to the top of the charts in 1959.  The Beatles chose to cover it in a medley with Little Richard’s “Hey Hey Hey Hey” on their 1964 LP “Beatles For Sale.”  The lyrics are barebones simple, but the song is a keeper:  “Ah, Kansas City, gonna get my baby on time, yeah yeah, I’m goin’ to Kansas City, gonna get my baby on time, yeah yeah, it’s just a-one, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine…”

“Philadelphia Freedom,” Elton John, 1976

philadelphia-freedomElton was friends with tennis star Billie Jean King and wanted to write a single for her and her pro tennis team, the Philadelphia Freedoms.  Lyricist Bernie Taupin protested, “I can’t write a song about tennis,” and in fact, the song has nothing to do with the sport.  Although Taupin claims it isn’t about flag-waving patriotism either, its release in 1975 and subsequent rise to #1 on the charts dovetailed nicely with the Bicentennial celebrations in Philly in 1976:  “Philadelphia freedom, shine on me, I love you, shine a light through the eyes of the ones left behind, shine a light, shine a light, shine a light, won’t you shine a light, Philadelphia freedom, I love you…”

“Birmingham Blues,” Charlie Daniels Band, 1975

R-840367-1497372470-5878.jpegDaniels is a dyed-in-the-wool Southerner from Wilmington, North Carolina, and when his career took him on tour far from home, he found himself writing songs where the narrator was longing for the familiar surroundings of his Southern towns.  On his 1975 LP “Nightrider,” he recorded a kickass number dedicated to his woman back in Alabama:  “Had me a fine woman down in Birmingham town, took care of my money and she didn’t play around, all I got left now is a bad case of Birmingham blues…”

“Sweet Home Chicago,” The Blues Brothers, 1980

5353810063_cc623b2149_bRobert Johnson wrote this blues classic in 1936 about blacks fleeing the racist Delta areas for destinations with promise, like California, or Chicago.  Dozens of cover versions have played fast and loose with the lyrics, but the version I know best was recorded by John Belushi and Company for “The Blues Brothers” soundtrack LP in 1980.  Chicago sports teams have adopted the song for use at home games:  “Come on, baby, don’t you wanna go, hi-de-hey, baby, don’t you wanna go, back to that same old place, sweet home Chicago…”

“Memphis,” Johnny Rivers, 1964

R-995789-1335131030.jpegThis Chuck Berry song, first recorded by Berry in 1959 and turned into a #2 hit for Johnny Rivers in 1964, appears to be about a man longing for his love interest who he left behind in Memphis.  Closer examination reveals it’s about his six-year-old daughter Marie, who lives with her mother since a divorce split the family:  “Last time I saw Marie, she was wavin’ me goodbye, with ‘hurry-home’ drops on her cheek that trickled from her eye, but we were pulled apart because her mom did not agree, and tore apart our happy home in Memphis, Tennessee…”

“La Grange,” ZZ Top, 1973

ZZTopThe infamous “Chicken Ranch” brothel located on the outskirts of La Grange, Texas, is the subject of this minor hit for ZZ Top in 1973 (it peaked at #41), and also the hit stage play and film “Best Little Whorehouse in Texas” in the early 1980s.  The track is mentioned among Rolling Stone‘s 100 Greatest Guitar Songs All Time:  “Rumour spreadin’ around in that Texas town ’bout that shack outside La Grange, and you know what I’m talkin’ about, just let me know if you wanna go to that home out on the range, they gotta lotta nice girls, have mercy…”

“Tulsa Time,” Eric Clapton, 1978

81lIZIogODL._SX355_Country artist Don Williams recorded this Danny Flowers tune in 1978 and had his eighth consecutive #1 hit on the country music charts that year.  Clapton chose to record it for his “Backless” LP, and a live version released on his “Just One Night” album in 1980 became a #30 single.  It tells the tale of a musician who gives up on his Tinsel Town dreams to return to his Oklahoma roots:  “Well, there I was in Hollywood, wishin’ I was doin’ good, talkin’ on the telephone line, but they don’t need me in the movies and nobody sings my songs, guess I’m just wastin’ time, well, then I got to thinkin’, man I’m really sinkin’, and I really had a flash this time, I had no business leavin’ and nobody would be grievin’ if I went on back to Tulsa time…”

“Doraville,” Atlanta Rhythm Section, 1974

Atlanta_Rhythm_Section_1977Barry Buie wrote many of the early songs by his band Atlanta Rhythm Section, who were formed in the Georgia town of Doraville, which was semi-rural at the time but grew into a sizable suburb of Atlanta.  Many of their songs were also recorded in a small recording studio there, and although the group went on to national fame with songs like “So Into You,” “Champagne Jam” and “Not Gonna Let It Bother Me Tonight,” it’s songs like “Doraville” that remind everybody of their hometown pride:  “Doraville, touch of country in the city, Doraville, it ain’t much, but it’s home…”

“Lodi,” Creedence Clearwater Revival, 1969

220px-Creedence_Clearwater_Revival_-_Green_RiverOf the many great songs John Fogerty wrote for his band Creedence in the late ’60s and early ’70s, I’ve always been partial to this tune from the “Green River” album about a traveling musician whose plans didn’t work out and he found himself stuck in a podunk town in Anywhere USA.  Fogerty decided to pick on Lodi, California, a tiny railroad town not far from his own home town of El Cerrito:  “The man from the magazine said I was on my way, somewhere I lost connections, ran out of songs to play, I came into town, a one-night stand, looks like my plans fell through, oh Lord, stuck in Lodi again…”

“Atlantic City,” Bruce Springsteen, 1982

51EEhoEevQL._SY355_Among the bleak, introspective songs Springsteen wrote for what ended up comprising his “Nebraska” LP was the haunting “Atlantic City,” which explored the difficulties the Jersey boardwalk town was having with its plan to revitalize through the proliferation of gambling casinos.  Despite the song’s dark mood, the lyrics offer a hopeful note:  “Down here it’s just winners and losers, and don’t get caught on the wrong side of that line… Everything dies, baby, that’s a fact, but maybe everything that dies someday comes back, put your makeup on, fix your hair up pretty, and meet me tonight in Atlantic City…”


Honorable mention:  “Gainesville,” Tom Petty, 1998; “The Boston Rag,” Steely Dan, 1973; “Galveston,” Glen Campbell, 1969; “Angel From Montgomery,” Bonnie Raitt, 1974;  “Things to Do in Denver When You’re Dead,” Warren Zevon, 1991; “Do You Know the Way to San Jose,” Dionne Warwick, 1966; “Dallas,” Johnny Winter, 1973; “Okie From Muskogee,” Merle Haggard, 1969; “Nashville Cats,” The Lovin’ Spoonful, 1966; “The Little Old Lady From Pasadena,” Jan and Dean, 1963;  “All the Way to Reno,” R.E.M., 2001;  “Tallahassee Lassie,” Freddy Cannon, 1959; “Tucson, Arizona,” Rory Gallagher, 1973.