Along with weddings and the birth of babies, one of the biggest milestones in life is moving into a new home. It’s where we live. It’s where we sleep. It’s where we entertain friends. It’s where we keep our stuff. It’s a very big deal. Stressful, but exciting.
It can be agonizing to leave a home where so many memories were made. My younger daughter was so in love with the home where she grew up in Norcross, Georgia, that she had the street address tattooed across the top of her foot. Moving out of that house was one of the most difficult things I’ve ever done.
But time marches on, and new chapters are waiting to be written. This weekend, that same daughter is moving into her first post-college apartment, making that all-important step of real independence.
How to mark the occasion? Hmmm… An appropriate housewarming gift, I think, is a carefully selected mix of great songs about hearth and home. Hack’s Back Pages has taken the liberty of compiling just such a mix of 15 songs from the ’60s, ’70s and ’80s, and a couple from the ’90s, with a little history on each track, just for fun.
Feel free to pass it along to anyone who’s about to establish a new beachhead somewhere. Home Sweet Home!
“Celebrate Me Home,” Kenny Loggins, 1977
I submit that Loggins’ debut solo LP “Celebrate Me Home” is one of the most underrated singer-songwriter albums of the ’70s. It achieved a #27 spot on the charts, and no hit singles, and his later work had better chart success, but he never reached the level of excellence of this album (in my opinion). The gorgeous title track, written by Loggins and jazz keyboardist Bob James, elicits smiles and warm feelings about the comforts of home and family. Its opening line — “Home for the holidays, I believe I’ve missed each and every face…” — has made it a favorite at Christmastime.
“Our House,” Madness, 1983
The British pop/ska band Madness was an enormous success in the UK, where they had 20 hit singles and multiple Top Ten LPs, and spent more time on the UK charts in the ’80s than any other band. In the US, their fame was more fleeting — they were pretty much a “one-hit wonder” band with the delightfully catchy #7 hit “Our House” in 1983. You know this one: “Our house, in the middle of our street, our house…Our house, it has a crowd, there’s always something happening, and it’s usually quite loud…” (Sounds like the Hackett House !…)
“Baby Let’s Play House,” Elvis Presley, 1956
Before Elvis became a national sensation on RCA Records in 1956, he recorded for Sam Phillips’ Sun Records, and his fourth release was this great rockabilly song by Arthur Gunther, the first Presley recording to make the national charts (#5 on Billboard’s country listing in 1955). It’s kind of a “come on over, baby” kind of song, coaxing a young lady to “play house,” which is about as suggestive as pop songs got in that era. Ten years later, John Lennon, a huge Elvis fan, lifted a line from this song to start off one of his “Rubber Soul” tunes, “Run For Your Life”: “I’d rather see you dead, little girl, than to be with another man…”
“When I Get Home,” The Beatles, 1964
As part of the sessions for the 1964 album and film “A Hard Day’s Night,” The Beatles recorded and mixed this Lennon-written track in two takes, along with two others, in one day in June. Before his 1980 death, he dismissed it as “just another rock and roll song,” but it has stood the test of time rather admirably, with lyrics that hint at unknown indiscretions he might have to confess “when I get home.” Plus, it features cowbell!
“Home Again,” Carole King, 1971
Funny thing about “Tapestry,” which was, for a while, the best selling album of all time: Almost every song could have been a bonafide hit single. Hell, four of them were: “(You Make Me Feel Like) a Natural Woman” (an iconic hit for Aretha Franklin); “You’ve Got a Friend” (James Taylor’s only #1 hit); “It’s Too Late/I Feel the Earth Move” (Carole’s #1 hit, a hugely popular two-sided single); and “So Far Away” (Carole’s delicate follow-up ballad). We haven’t even discussed the other album tracks, like the serene piano-based ballad “Home Again,” which features home-friendly lyrics like: “Snow is cold, rain is wet, chills my bone right to the marrow, I won’t be happy till I see you alone again, ’til I’m home again and feeling right…”
“We Always Come Home,” Toy Matinee, 1990
If you listened to album-oriented-rock (AOR) stations as the ’80s became the ’90s, you almost certainly heard Toy Matinee’s infectious power pop single “Last Plane Out,” or the Steely Dan knock-off “The Ballad of Jenny Ledge,” both from Toy Matinee’s criminally overlooked sole LP. The band was the brainchild of keyboardist/producer Patrick Leonard and multi-instrumentalist Kevin Gilbert, who wrote everything. Among the hidden tracks is “We Always Come Home,” a thoughtful song that ends the record. Sample lyrics: “They’ve saved a place for me, that’s where I’ll be some day, and it’s always good to know, we always come home…”
“Walkin’ My Baby Back Home,” James Taylor, 1997
Written in 1952 by Roy Turk and Fred Ahlert, this endearing love song hit the charts twice that year with versions by Nat King Cole and Johnnie Ray. It’s a beauty, sung by more than 50 recording artists over the years, including the actor Donald O’Connor, who sung it as the title song of the 1953 movie of the same name. Forty years later, in 1997, on his Grammy-winning album “Hourglass,” James Taylor offered us a smooth rendition that can’t help but bring a smile to your face.
“Home at Last,” Steely Dan, 1977
Very few ’70s artists offered pop music with lyrics as enigmatic and intriguing as those written by Donald Fagen and Walter Becker, the wizards behind the wonderfully creative, cryptic repertoire of Steely Dan. On their 1977 multi-platinum high-water mark “Aja,” they gave us hits like “Peg,” “Josie” and “Deacon Blues” and still had room for four more amazing jazz-infused tracks, like the title song and “Home at Last,” which has lyrics that perfectly describe the joy of coming home after a rough time away: “Well, the danger on the rocks has surely past, still I remain tied to the mast, could it be that I have found my home at last…”
“Homeward Bound,” Simon and Garfunkel, 1966
One of the all-time best songs for those suffering from homesickness, this gem by Paul Simon was a #5 hit for Simon & Garfunkel in 1966, which cemented his reputation as a songwriter to be reckoned with for the next half-century. Simon had worked with his old friend Art Garfunkel for a while in the late ’50s/early ’60s, but things didn’t work out, so he found himself singing on street corners in London, hoping for his big break, when he wrote this song in 1965. He struck a chord with his thoughts about how comforting home can be when you’re traveling: “Every stranger’s face I see reminds me that I long to be homeward bound, I wish I was homeward bound…”
“Home Again,” Batdorf and Rodney, 1972
One of the great underrated finds of the early ’70s singer-songwriter period was the duo of John Batdorf and Mark Rodney, who made a couple of spectacular records with impressive guitar work and impeccable harmonies. One of their best moments was “Home Again,” with fine lyrics about how wonderful it feels to return home, both literally and figuratively: “All my life, I’ve waited for this day, I am home again, and oh my life, you helped me find the way, I am home again…” Batdorf, now in his 60s, continues to record new music, and even re-recorded this track in 2007 for an album that year.
“Going Home,” Rolling Stones, 1966
This song, which appeared on the band’s “Aftermath” LP, broke new ground as the first rock ‘n’ roll studio recording that lasted longer than ten minutes. Even at this early phase in the band’s career, Jagger and Richards were writing about the rigors of touring and the urge to be home with loved ones: “When you’re three thousand miles away, I just never sleep the same, if I packed my things right now, I could be home in seven hours, I’m goin’ home, I’m goin’ home…”
“So Good to Be Home,” Dave Mason, 1978
One of the founders of the great ’60s British group Traffic and the author of the classic “Feelin’ Alright,” Mason struck out on his own in 1970 with the remarkable “Alone Together” LP, overflowing with great songs beautifully played and sung. He was stymied by record label woes for a while, but eventually signed with Columbia and had a great run in the mid-’70s, most notably with his “Let It Flow” LP and the hit single “We Just Disagree.” From his 1978 album “Mariposa de Oro” is this joyous tune about the sheer happiness of walking back in the door after traveling: “And the moment I feel that airplane wheel start spinning when it hits the ground, get me out of this plane ’cause I’m going insane, and things are bringing me down, and it’s so good to be home, it’s so good, it’s so good, it’s so good to be home…”
“In the House of Stone and Light,” Martin Page, 1995
An accomplished bass player, producer and songwriter (he wrote Heart’s “These Dreams” and Starship’s “We Built This City”), Page was 35 by the time he released his impressive debut album in 1995. The title track, which reached #14 on the US charts, was inspired by a visit to the Grand Canyon with its awesome natural beauty: “Old man waiting at the gates for me, give me the wisdom, give me the key, I’m telling you, I will not rest ’til I lay down my head in the house of stone and light…”
“Our House,” Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young, 1970
I recently saw Nash at a solo concert in L.A., and here’s what he had to say about this iconic song: “Joni (Mitchell) and I were spending the afternoon walking and shopping — not far from here, actually — and in a store window was a delicate vase that caught her eye. I bought her some flowers for it, and we headed home to our cottage in Laurel Canyon. The day had turned chilly, so I said, ‘I’ll light the fire, you put the flowers in the vase that you bought today…’ And the song pretty much wrote itself.”
“Isn’t It Nice to Be Home Again,” James Taylor, 1971
I can’t think of a better way to conclude this post, and any song list whose theme is “home,” than with this less-than-a-minute-long acoustic ditty, tacked on to the end of Taylor’s hugely popular “Mud Slide Slim and the Blue Horizon” LP in 1971. It’s a warm-and-fuzzy coda about how comfortable it is to be back in familiar surroundings after time away: “Well, welcome home, didn’t we miss your smiling face, well, the sun was nice in L.A., sunshine, isn’t it nice to be home again, well I said, isn’t it nice to be home again…”
Honorable mention: More fine songs that mention “house” or “home” in the title that might be candidates for inclusion in your mix:
“Bring It on Home To Me,” Sam Cooke, 1963; “Rolling Home,” Peter, Paul and Mary, 1967; “House of the Rising Sun,” The Animals, 1964; “My House,” Joe Jackson, 1992; “The House on the Hill,” Audience, 1972; “House Burning Down,” Jimi Hendrix, 1968; “I’m Going Home,” Ten Years After, 1969; “Let Me Take You Home Tonight,” Boston, 1976; “Go Back Home,” Stephen Stills with Eric Clapton, 1970; “Take Me Home Tonight,” Eddie Money, 1978; “Burning Down the House,” Talking Heads, 1983; “Bring It On Home,” Led Zeppelin, 1969; “Night Ride Home,” Joni Mitchell, 1970; “Red House,” Jimi Hendrix, 1967; “Brick House,” Commodores, 1977; “Home Town,” Joe Jackson, 1986; “My Hometown,” Bruce Springsteen, 1984; “The House That Jack Built,” Aretha Franklin, 1968; “Houses,” Judy Collins, 1975; “When Will the Home of Me Begin,” Lazarus, 1973.