I know what I like, and I like what I know

Periodically, I use this space to pay homage to artists who I believe are worthy of focused attention — artists with an extraordinary, influential, consistently excellent body of work and/or a compelling story to tell.  In this essay, I delve into the work of a group of superlative musicians who had two or maybe three chapters in their evolutionary arc, exploring genres as disparate as folk-based progressive rock and R&B-laced commercial pop:  Genesis.

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I’m pretty sure that a 300-year-old prep school in the English countryside is not the environment you’d expect to find the roots of one of rock music’s most durable bands, even if it was a progressive rock band.  But sure enough, it’s the place where four 13-year-old boys from well-heeled, monied families first met in the fall of 1963 and began nourishing their musical passions into what would become Genesis less than six years later.

Tony Banks was a gifted, classically trained pianist who loved hymns and Bach.   Singer Peter Gabriel, who also dabbled in piano and drums, favored jazz and Otis Redding.

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Genesis in 1968:  Anthony Phillips, Mike Rutherford, Tony Banks and Peter Gabriel (and temp drummer John Silver)

Guitar and bass player Mike Rutherford enjoyed The Rolling Stones and R&B, as did fellow guitarist Anthony Phillips.  These four ambitious dreamers worked at first in competing bands (Banks and Gabriel versus Rutherford and Phillips) before eventually joining forces, spending untold hours honing their songwriting skills, rehearsing and jamming, fine-tuning their original arrangements, and performing when given the chance, with various drummers coming and going.

Seeing as how Genesis became known as one of the most important and most respected bands in the progressive rock genre of the early 1970s, it’s interesting to note that “From Genesis to Revelation,” the group’s mostly overlooked debut LP, is comprised chiefly of accessible pop songs.  The charming melodies that mark “She is Beautiful,” “That’s Me” and “Where the Sour Turns to Sweet” are a far cry from the dense, fantasy-driven material that dominated their albums over the next decade.

The group had the luxury of burrowing away in various countryside retreats for several months at a time to compose in bucolic surroundings.  It was there that Rutherford and Phillips began playing 12-string guitars in tandem, which became a huge part of the Genesis sound going forward.

Gabriel and Banks had been writing together on piano, but when Banks switched to 81GkXoHB0bL._SY355_organ, Gabriel found himself with less to do, and he consequently developed an obsession for exploring esoteric lyrical concepts and themes, often inspired by ornate poetry, eccentric fantasy characters and the bizarrely literate humor of Monty Python’s Flying Circus, the comedy trouped newly signed to their Charisma record label.

The results of this period can be found first on their inconsistent second album, “Trespass,” which included six long, rather complicated tracks (most notably the aggressive “The Knife”) composed primarily by Banks and Gabriel.  This made Phillips uncomfortable with the band’s musical direction because he thought there were too many songwriters in the group, making it difficult to get his ideas across.  He chose to quit, which came as a big shock to the other three.  They seriously contemplating breaking up at that point.

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Genesis in 1970:  Phillips (about to depart), Gabriel, Rutherford, Banks and (newly arrived) Phil Collins

Instead, they redoubled their resolve and forged ahead.  They ran an ad in Melody Maker in search of both a full-time drummer and a guitarist.  Enter Phil Collins, a scrappy Londoner who shared none of the privilege and baggage of prep school life but offered an obvious self-confidence and enthusiasm that Gabriel noticed immediately.  “I was convinced from the first moment,” he recalled in the Gabriel biography “Without Frontiers,” written by Daryl Easlea. “I knew when Phil sat down at his drum kit that this was a guy who was fully in command of what he was doing, like a cover_183462112008jockey on a horse.  I used to have a lot of fun telling the drummers how to do their drum parts.  Once Phil came along, that finished.”

In his autobiography, “Not Dead Yet,” Collins remembered, “I didn’t know at the time how close they were to splitting up, and therefore how much was riding on the auditions.  Nor was I aware that Genesis’s finely balanced creative symmetry had had the legs kicked from under it.”  Collins was thrilled to land the job, even though he often found himself playing the role of the jovial outside mediator, keeping peace between the tightly wound schoolboy chums.

A few months later, Gabriel spied this ad:  “Imaginative guitarist/writer seeks involvement with receptive musicians determined to strive beyond existing stagnant musical forms.”  This was Steve Hackett, a quiet, self-taught player who was fond of 12-string guitars and was as influenced by the blues and beat as he was by Bach and baroque.  After a promising audition, he was invited to join Genesis.

This five-man lineup was the one that collaborated on the four albums that would define

Genesis

Genesis 1971-1974:  Banks, Rutherford, Gabriel, Steve Hackett, and Collins

what became known as Early Genesis — 1971’s “Nursery Cryme,” 1972’s “Foxtrot,” 1973’s “Selling England By the Pound” and 1974’s double LP “The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway.”  With this wonderfully original music they developed sizable fan bases in Holland, Italy, Canada and their native England (“Selling England By the Pound” reached #3 on the UK charts) and won the praise of many British critics.

Gabriel took to wearing increasingly eccentric masks and costumes to augment the stage delivery of the fanciful songs, and the press was clearly gobsmacked by his arresting stage presence.  The New Musical Express reviewer wrote:  “In the demonic, black-clad figure of Peter Gabriel, Genesis have a vocal performer who has the precocious magnetism of which contemporary pop heroes are hewn.  A macabre jY3tuT43mtJYQmXWQxfD9Jentertainer who wears a flower mask one minute and a weathered dwarf face the next, he introduces each selection with strange neo-fantasy monologs which border on insanity.”

The one-hour video clip below from 1973 does a pretty solid job of capturing what Genesis looked like and sounded like at this juncture:

https://youtu.be/_FBcz3tBH74 

Meanwhile, in the US, the albums weren’t selling much and the cult audiences who 81m0ZN5P4ZL._SY355_attended their small-venue shows here were loyal but few in number.  Full confession:  I was not among the Americans who comprised that cult following who were absorbing and worshipping these records upon their release.  I loved certain British prog rock groups, especially Jethro Tull and Yes, but for some reason, I wasn’t exposed to the wonder of Genesis until about 1976, after Gabriel had already flown the coop.  It took a while (and prodding by the girl I would eventually marry) to go back and learn to appreciate the marvelous complexities of lengthy tracks like “The Magical Box,” “Supper’s Ready,” “The Cinema Show,” “Dancing With the Moonlit Knight,” “The Carpet Crawlers” and a dozen others that featured Gabriel and company at their most inventive.

911fNcBFeEL._SY355_Meanwhile, in 1974, Gabriel, who had quite intentionally placed himself at the vortex of the group’s stage shows, had also come to dominate the songwriting process, much to the consternation of Banks, Rutherford and Hackett.  The often impenetrable lyrics to “Lamb Lies Down” were exclusively Gabriel’s domain and, combined with the ever-tricky special effects and numerous costume changes he insisted on, life on tour with Genesis became wearisome, especially for Gabriel, as it turned out.

The self-imposed pressures, combined with an anxiety-filled home life (his wife was in the midst of a complicated pregnancy), caused Gabriel to back away once the “Lamb Lies Down” tour came to an end in May 1975.

Many assumed Genesis could not survive the departure of such a hugely integral component as Gabriel.  But the remaining players were united and determined.  As Collins put it, “Our defiant feeling was, ‘We’ll show them!’  All Peter, was it?  He wrote everything, did he?  We might have to find a singer, but the new material we’re working on is great.  Rumors of our death are greatly exaggerated!”

They endured a lengthy, stressful audition process, putting dozens of would-be contenders through the paces.  “We were asking a lot, but hey, we were a demanding R-1995057-1257437660.jpegband, and Peter’s were big shoes to fill,” Collins said.  They tried hard to find a guy who could convincingly sing challenging touchstones like “Supper’s Ready” or tricky new pieces like “Squonk” but the candidates kept coming up short.

With studio hours racking up, and options running low, one day Collins, who had sung one or two ballads on each of the previous Genesis LPs, says “How about I have a go?”  The others shrugged, “Might as well.”  Banks and Rutherford later said it was “like one of those cartoon lightbulb moments when they looked at each other in the control room and said, ‘By George, I think he’s got it!'”

The press and the public were mighty skeptical — “Wait, the new singer is the drummer?” Even Collins was unsure, but damned if his voice didn’t strongly resemble Gabriel’s, and when the new album, “A Trick of the Tail,” was released, the response was largely positive and encouraging, perhaps partly because expectations were so low.  The album did well, reached #3 in the UK, matching the peak of “Selling England By the Pound.”  But then came the acid test — how will the new Genesis come across on tour?

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Genesis in concert 1976-1977 with Collins as lead singer

To everyone’s relief, things went surprisingly well.  With ex-Yes member Bill Bruford (and, later, Chester Thompson) manning the drum kit, Collins stepped out front tentatively, not moving much at first but singing his heart out as the group played fan favorites and a handful of new songs.  “Wow,” people told him backstage, “you were great.  You sounded a lot like Peter.”  Said Collins, “I didn’t know whether to take that as a compliment, but at that point, I’d take anything.”

“A Trick of the Tail” and its follow-up, “Wind and Wuthering,” both released in 1976, and also the spectacular 1977 double live album “Seconds Out,” showed that Genesis could and did make a successful transition and prevail, even after the departure of one of rock’s most charismatic front men.  Their fan base grew considerably in Germany, Australia and elsewhere in Europe, and in the US, the cult audience steadily grew, with ever-better (but still modest) showings on the charts.

But yet again, there was dissension in the ranks.  Hackett had released a solo LP on the

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Genesis 1978 and on:  Banks, Rutherford, Collins

side and was becoming frustrated (as had Phillips back in 1970) that his songs weren’t getting the attention he felt they deserved within the band structure, so he departed.  Collins, Banks and Rutherford quickly concluded that if they could survive the loss of Gabriel, they could survive the loss of a guitarist, so with Rutherford handling both bass and guitar duties in the studio, they self-confidently entitled their next album “…And Then There Were Three.”

Here was truly the beginning of the latter-day Genesis.  Banks and Rutherford, very adept at writing moody and aggressive instrumental passages, had long had aspirations Genesis-And-Then-There-Were-Three-Album-Cover-web-optimised-820to write actual songs with lyrics, songs that could be hit singles that reached the pop charts.  Sure enough, the group’s first entry in the US Top 40 came in the spring of 1978 with “Follow You Follow Me,” peaking at #22, which helped push the album to #14.  By 1980’s “Duke,” Genesis had become a very hot commodity here, now filling arenas and making regular appearances on the singles chart with catchy ditties like “Turn It On Again” and “Misunderstanding.”

This commercial success was not without its drawbacks.  Many early fans abandoned the new version of Genesis as something so completely different as to not warrant being called Genesis… and truth be told, they had a point.  The kind of R&B and pop-based 220px-Abacabsongs that won them the praise of newer, younger audiences had little to do with the mystery and complexity of Genesis’s earlier period.

And that’s the dichotomy Genesis had to deal with as they became international superstars.  Beginning with 1982’s “Abacab” and its horns-driven single “No Reply at All,” they put on unparalleled light shows on tour and still performed a few Gabriel era tracks but also soon found themselves being played ad infinitum (some might say ad nauseum) on not just FM stations but Top 40 radio as well.

In actuality, it often wasn’t Genesis songs they were hearing.  Collins had simultaneously begun a remarkably successful solo recording career that included film soundtrack work (“Against All Odds”), special duets (“Easy Lover” with Philip Bailey, “Separate Lives” with Marilyn Martin) in addition to a regular stream of often annoying hits from solo albums (“One cover_254881842016_rMore Night,” “Sussudio,” “Don’t Lose My Number”).  He even wrote all the music to the 1999 Disney animated movie “Tarzan,” and it was Collins alone, not Genesis, who made the memorable appearance(s) on both stages at the Live Aid concert event in 1985.

All of these things shared a common element with Genesis songs — Collins’ ever-present vocals — and eventually, even a big Genesis fan like me grew tired of the sameness of Collins’ pop material and sometimes had trouble differentiating it from concurrent Genesis tracks.

To be clear:  Although I balked at some of the hit singles on the 1983 “Genesis” album (“Mama,” “That’s All”), 1986’s multiplatinum “Invisible Touch” LP (the title cut and “In Too Deep”) and 1991’s “We Can’t Dance” (“No Son of Mine” and “I Can’t Dance”), I really enjoyed and much preferred many of the deeper album tracks.  Banks, Rutherford and even Collins never completely shook the art-rock leanings of their formative years, 16invisiblewhich showed up in tres cool tunes like “Home By the Sea/Second Home By the Sea,” the two-part “In the Glow of the Night”/”The Last Domino” and the 10-minute beauty “Driving the Last Spike.”

Collins finally left Genesis in 1996, and Banks and Rutherford made a valiant attempt to proceed with new singer Ray Wilson at the microphone.  Their 1997 LP “Calling All Stations” did all right in England but stiffed in the US, and the subsequent tour of North America was cancelled due to poor response.  Banks and Rutherford called it quits the following year.

But holy smokes, what a legacy.  Genesis 1.0 is universally regarded as the prime exemplars of the art rock branch of the prog rock movement, while Genesis 2.0 sold a gajillion records of their radio-friendly pop music around the world.

Gabriel, meanwhile, put together a fascinating solo career as a pioneer of “world music” beginning in 1977 that both perplexed and thrilled his fans, who alternately shunned and embraced his occasional forays into strange new worlds (“The Last Temptation of Christ” soundtrack) and more commercial landing boards (1986’s “So” and the #1 hit “Sledgehammer”).

Despite the defections over the years and the bad feelings they may have caused, the

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Genesis alums, circa 2010:  Gabriel, Hackett, Collins, Banks, Rutherford

various members of Genesis have maintained amicable relations, for the most part.  They have appeared beside one another at awards inductions and even staged one reunion show to help out Gabriel when he found himself in serious financial difficulties in 1982 due to a mismanaged charity festival.

The music created by these two very talented versions of Genesis over more than three decades always had something challenging and/or enjoyable to offer, even if some of it rubbed certain parts of their audiences the wrong way.  That’s the fickle nature of the independently-minded music listening fans out there, of which I am one.

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These two Spotify playlists, which divide the Genesis repertoire into the Gabriel and post-Gabriel eras, include three or four selections from each studio album, sometimes including hits that I didn’t particularly like but can’t be omitted from any balanced collection.  Enjoy!

 

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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.

Enjoy!

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“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…”

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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.