I’ve been taking on a new direction

We’re from all parts of the country, and all parts of the world. No matter where we’re from, we can travel east, west, north, south, and find someone and something new and different. Something exciting, something dangerous, something sweet and sublime, something magnificent. As E.B. White once wrote. “Wherever the wind takes us. High, low. Near, far. East, west. North, south. We take to the breeze. We go as we please.”

Old compass on white background with soft shadow

You’d think there would be hundreds of popular songs that focus on one of the four primary directions on the compass, but in my recent search, I came up with only a couple dozen. From the catalog of tunes from the ’60s, ’70s and ’80s and a few more recent, I have selected four each that mention North, South East or West in the title. They’re an eclectic group of songs, and you can listen to them on the Spotify playlist I compiled and placed at the end of this post.

Happy traveling!

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“Northern Sky,” Nick Drake, 1971

During his lifetime, Drake was a chronically shy, withdrawn person with enormous talent as a sensitive singer/songwriter whose three albums were poorly promoted and sadly under-appreciated. More recently, his work has been celebrated by artists from Beck and Aimee Mann to the Black Crowes and R.E.M. On “Northern Sky,” from his second LP, “Bryter Layter,” Drake welcomed the input of producer John Cale, who added piano, bass and drums to Drake’s typically sparse arrangement, creating what has been called “the most unabashedly joyful song in Drake’s canon.” It should have been his breakthrough single, but that never happened. He died at age 26 of an accidental overdose of antidepressants.

Life in a Northern Town,” Dream Academy, 1985

This sublime piece of “baroque pop,” as one critic described it, was written as an elegy to Nick Drake, who died in 1974. Nick Laird-Clowes and Gilbert Gabriel, chief songwriters of The Dream Academy, said the song was heavily influenced by Drake’s music, and even the vocals are reminiscent of Drake. The music on “Life in a Northern Town” is a smart blend of classical structure, African rhythms, psychedelia and pop, and it reached #7 on the US pop charts in early 1986. The lyrics pay tribute to Drake and mourn his passing at a young age: “And though he never would wave goodbye, you could see it written in his eyes as the train rolled out of sight…bye-bye…”

“North and South of the River,” U2, 1997

Bono and The Edge teamed up with veteran Irish folk singer Christy Moore in 1995 to write this tune, which Moore recorded and released in the UK. Its lyrics offer a message of hope for reconciliation between warring factions, and most observers believe the song is about Northern and Southern Ireland, or the north and south sides of the River Foyle in the battle-scarred city of Londonderry. U2 recorded it in 1997 and relegated it to the B-side of a single because, as Bono put it, “If we featured that song on an album, it might be reason enough for the Troubles to start up again. We’ve got to be smarter now.” The song also appeared on the group’s “The Best of 1990-2000” compilation.

“North and South,” The Clash, 1985

Perhaps the most important band of the British punk rock movement, and post-punk and new wave as well, was The Clash, who enjoyed widespread critical acclaim in the late ’70s and commercial success in the early ’80s. Following the fine showing of their “Combat Rock” LP and “Rock the Casbah” single in the US in 1982, internal dissension between co-songwriters Joe Strummer and Mick Jones caused a nasty breakup. New members were brought in, but The Clash’s sixth and final LP, “Cut the Crap,” was widely panned for heavy-handed production techniques. Still, there were a couple of decent tracks, like “North and South,” written and sung by newcomer Nick Sheppard.

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“Southbound,” The Allman Brothers Band, 1973

The “Brothers and Sisters” LP is a perfect example of how a period of difficult challenge can produce superb results. The Allman Brothers had lost their leader Duane Allman and then their bass player Berry Oakley, both to motorcycle wrecks, but they decided to soldier on with Dickey Betts leading the way and other musicians like keyboardist Chuck Leavell and guitarist Les Dudek playing guest roles. Thanks to the #2 hit “Ramblin’ Man,” the superb instrumental “Jessica” and Gregg Allman tunes like “Wasted Words” and “Come and Go Blues,” the album reached #1. Betts also contributed the “Southbound,” a spirited guitar/piano blues workout.

“South of the Border,” The Doobie Brothers, 1989

In 1975, Tom Johnston, the leader/guitarist/singer/songwriter of The Doobies, was forced to leave the lineup because of bleeding ulcers and exhaustion. Keyboardist/crooner Michael McDonald was recruited and ultimately took the band in a more soulful direction for its second phase. After breaking up in 1982, The Doobies regrouped in 1989 with Johnston back at the forefront and released “Cycles,” which recalled the band’s early LPs. Johnston’s tune “The Doctor” became a Top Ten single, but just as compelling was his marvelous boogie groove, “South of the Border,” about riding to “a sleepy little town” in Mexico for a romantic rendezvous.

“Southern Cross,” Crosby, Stills and Nash, 1982

In 1982, Rick and Michael Curtis wrote a song called “Seven League Boots” and showed to Stephen Stills. “They brought us this wonderful song, but I decided to write a new set of words for it, a story about a long boat trip I took after my divorce. It’s about using the power of the universe to heal your wounds.” It became “Southern Cross,” named for the Crux constellation, and went to #18 on the US charts: “When you see the Southern Cross for the first time, you understand now why you came this way, /’Cause the truth you might be runnin’ from is so small, but it’s as big as the promise, the promise of a comin’ day…”

“Down South,” Tom Petty, 2006

On his third solo LP without The Heartbreakers, Petty, a native of Florida, wanted to write about the South. “It’s a very romantic place, but it’s also a spooky place,” he said. “You’d think a lot of ghosts still linger down there. I’d written about the South years ago, and I wondered, ‘What if I went back? What would be my impressions?’ And then it came pretty easily. I wrote all the lyrics before I wrote the music.” It’s one of his best: “Create myself down south, impress all the women, /Pretend I’m Samuel Clemens, wear seersucker and white linens, /So if I come to your door, let me sleep on your floor, /I’ll give you all I have, and a little more…”

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“Looking East,” Jackson Browne, 1996

One of Southern California’s native sons and very best singer-songwriters, Browne sang and wrote poignantly about life and love on his 1970s LPs and then turned his attentions to politics and global issues in the mid-1980s and beyond. On his 1996 album “Looking East,” the title track found Browne philosophical about what’s to come with the dawn: “Standing in the ocean with the sun burning low in the west, at the edge of my country, my back to the sea, looking east… And there’s a God-sized hunger underneath the laughing and the rage, /In the absence of light and the deepening night where I wait for the sun, looking east…”

“East at Midnight,” Gordon Lightfoot, 1986

Canada’s premier songwriter since the 1960s had quite an impressive run on the US charts throughout the 1970s, but when pop music tastes changed in the ’80s, sales fell off. Lightfoot continued to write and record great songs, including “Dream Street Rose, Baby Step Back,” “Anything For Love” and particularly the title track from his 1986 album, “East of Midnight.” Its lyrics adopt a familiar Lightfoot theme of a traveling man looking for romance and a place to rest his head: “Put me somewhere east of midnight, along about daylight, /Anywhere I wander is where I’ll take my rest, /If we could just lie down, toss some thoughts around…”

“East of the Sun (and West of the Moon),” Frank Sinatra, 1961

Wrritten back in 1935 by a Princeton University junior named Brooks Bowman for the college’s a cappella singing groups, this tune became a standard by the mid-1940s. It’s been recorded by dozens of major stars like Sarah Vaughan, Billie Holiday, Tony Bennett, Ella Fitzgerald and Diana Krall, and even instrumental,ists like Al Hirt, Charlie Parker and Stan Getz. The Tommy Dorsey Orchestra recorded it in 1940 with a very young Frank Sinatra, and Sinatra recorded it again in 1961 for a tribute LP called “I Remember Tommy.”

“East of Eden,” Michael McDonald, 1993

First as a background vocalist for Steely Dan, then as a full-fledged member of The Doobie Brothers, and finally as a solo artist, McDonald became a ubiquitous presence on Top 40 radio in the ’70s and ’80s. His work in the 1990s failed to gain much attention, though, especially his 1993 LP “Blink of an Eye,” which didn’t chart at all. There’s a nice, spiritually driven tune he wrote called “East of Eden” that’s worth a listen: “The world goes mad around us as I stand by and watch you sleep, /In the hope that harm won’t find us, I pray the lord our souls to keep, /Does he see us here? Are we precious in his sight? /Or are we merely dust on this tiny ball he hurled out into the night somewhere east of Eden…”

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“Once Upon a Time in the West,” Dire Straits, 1979

For the leadoff track on Dire Straits’ second album, “Communiqué,” songwriter/guitarist Mark Knopfler wrote a downbeat piece comparing London’s West End to the American Wild West, where, in both cases, you had to watch your step and avoid dangerous situations. “Once Upon a Time in the West” benefits from Knopfler’s spooky, fluid guitar style, which is the perfect complement for the forbidding lyrics: “Sitting on a fence, that’s a dangerous course, /Oh, you could even catch a bullet from the peace-keeping force…”

“Wild, Wild West,” The Escape Club, 1988

Here’s another example of a British band comparing life in London in the late ’80s to the American Wild West. The Escape Club’s guitarists, Trevor Steel and John Holliday, were the songwriters that came up with the music and lyrics for this unusual song, which has sexual connotations, as did the edgy music video played heavily on MTV at the time. It reached #1 in the US in 1988, with references to the East/West conflict and the Cold War of the Reagan years: “Got to live it up, live it up, Ronnie’s got a new gun, /She’s so mean but I don’t care, I love her eyes and her wild wild hair, /Dance to the beat that we love best, /Heading for the Nineties, living in the wild Wild West…”

“West End Girls,” Pet Shop Boys, 1985

Neil Tennant and Chris Lowe of The Pet Shop Boys wrote this haunting, yet danceable pop hit, which was #1 in the UK in 1985 and in the US in 1986. It’s about class struggles and the challenges of inner-city life in London, delivered in a half-sung, half-spoken voice. I love how citric Nitsuh Abebe describes it: “Tennant mumbles the verses to us not like a star, but like a stranger in a raincoat, slinking alongside you and pointing out the sights.” All the music on the track was created digitally — drums, bass, synthesized strings, even trumpet — using an Emulator.

“Into the West,” Annie Lennox, 2003

“Lord of the Rings” director Peter Jackson wanted a poignant, moving song that would work well for the conclusion of “Return of the King,” the final chapter of the Tolkien trilogy. Film score composer Howard Shore collaborated with screenwriter Fran Walsh and the great Annie Lennox to write “Into the West,” sung by Lennox, which won a Grammy, a Golden Globe and an Oscar for best original song that year. The song’s meaning can be viewed from the perspectives of various characters as the epic tale ends, but some say it’s about Death singing to everyone as they prepare to pass away.

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Honorable mentions:

Girl From the North Country,” Bob Dylan, 1963/1969; “North Sea Oil,” Jethro Tull, 1979; “Southern Man,” Neil Young, 1970; “South of the Border (Down Mexico Way),” Chris Isaak, 1996; “South Dakota Morning,” The Bee Gees, 1973; “Salty South,” Indigo Girls, 2009; “Southbound Again,” Dire Straits, 1978; “South City Midnight Lady,” The Doobie Brothers, 1973; “East at Easter,” Simple Minds, 1984; “Eastbound and Down,” Jerry Reed, 1977: “Wild West,” Joe Jackson, 1985; “West L.A. Fadeaway,” The Grateful Dead, 1987; “Wild West Hero,” ELO, 1977.

I don’t love you anymore

Falling in love, or falling out of love, are probably the two most common topics for popular song lyrics over the past hundred years…and it’s likely there are more songs about breaking up.

From “I Get Along Without You Very Well” and “Stormy Weather” up to the present day, songs that express the feelings we experience when a relationship comes to an end are everywhere. Breakup songs generally come in two categories: songs of heartbreak, sung by the poor boy or girl who lost the supposed love of their life; and songs of bitter dismissal, spat out by the angry, betrayed victim.

While I’m partial to many great breakup songs from the ’50s, ’60s, ’70s and ’80s, I have a couple of new favorites to add to my list. The first is by a great young R&B singer/songwriter named Mayer Hawthorne, who has had some success with a retro-soul sound on several LPs and singles since 2010. The song I’m referring to is an infectious dance tune called “The Walk,” in which the guy lusts after the gal but knows she’s trouble and tells her to leave. The “kiss off” lyrics go like this:

“Baby, what you doing now? You’re pissin’ me off,
But your hair is so luxurious and your lips are so soft,
Anyway you slice it, you’re doing me wrong,
But I love the way you walk now, and your legs are so long

Well your looks had me putty in your hand now,
But I took just as much as I can stand now,
And you can walk your long legs, baby, right out of my life…”

Another was a huge international #1 hit in 2012 by the Australian singer/songwriter who calls himself Gotye. The narrator can’t quite believe how cruel she was in the way she broke up with him, so he refers to her as “Somebody That I Used to Know“:

“You didn’t have to cut me off,
Make out like it never happened, and that we were nothing,
And I don’t even need your love,
But you treat me like a stranger, and that feels so rough,
No you didn’t have to stoop so low,
Have your friends collect your records and then change your number,
I guess that I don’t need that, though,
Now you’re just somebody that I used to know…”

My singer/songwriter daughter Emily wrote a song recently that hasn’t officially been released, but she has given me permission to include a section of the lyric, which cleverly takes stock of feelings that change in the arc of a romantic relationship:

“I like you too much to be honest with you, don’t wanna hear your heart hit the floor, /But I love you just enough to tell you I don’t love you anymore…”

For this blog, which will be Hack’s Back Pages Lyrics Quiz #10, I’ve chosen 25 classic tunes with lyrics that explore the anger, sadness or satisfaction that comes when you dump someone, or get dumped. Ruminate on these 25 lyrics, write down your guesses, and then scroll down to see how many you got right, and read a little about each song. Good luck!

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1. “It’s a strange, sad affair, sometimes seems like we just don’t care, /Don’t waste time feeling hurt, we’ve been through hell together…”

2. “I beg of you, don’t say goodbye, can’t we give our love another try? /Come on, baby, let’s start anew…”

3. “No, I can’t forget tomorrow when I think of all my sorrows, when I had you there, but then I let you go…”

4. “Why, tell me why, did you not treat me right? /Love has a nasty habit of disappearing overnight…”

5. “Since you’ve gone, I’ve been lost without a trace, /I dream at night, I can only see your face, /I look around, but it’s you I can’t replace, /I feel so cold, and I long for your embrace, /I keep crying, baby, baby, please…”

6. “Oh, baby, give me one more chance to show you that I love you, /Won’t you please let me back in your heart?…”

7. “A love like ours is love that’s hard to find, how could we let it slip away? /We’ve come too far to leave it all behind, how could we end it all this way?…”

8. “There goes my baby with someone new, she sure looks happy, I sure am blue, /She was my baby ’til he stepped in, goodbye to romance that might have been…”

9. “There’ll be good times again for me and you, but we just can’t stay together, don’t you feel it too, /Still I’m glad for what we had, and how I once loved you…”

10. “I ain’t saying you treated me unkind, you could have done better but I don’t mind, /You just kinda wasted my precious time…”

11. “Go on now, go! Walk out the door, just turn around now ’cause you’re not welcome anymore, /Weren’t you the one who tried to hurt me with goodbye?…”

12. “Tearing yourself away from me now, you are free, and I am crying, /This does not mean I don’t love you, I do, that’s forever, yes and for always…”

13. “Get up in the morning, look in the mirror, /I’m worn as a toothbrush hanging in the stand, yeah, /My face ain’t looking any younger, /Now I can see, love’s taken a toll on me…”

14. “Now, you don’t care a thing about me, you’re just using me (ooh-ooh-ooh), /Go on, get out, get out of my life, and let me sleep at night…”

15. “I’ve given up, I’ve given up, I’ve given up on waiting any longer, /I’ve given up on this love getting stronger…”

16. “Sunshine, blue skies, please go away, my girl has found another and gone away, /With her went my future, my life is filled with gloom, so day after day, I stay locked up in my room…”

17. “Baby, baby, I’d get down on my knees for you, if you would only love me like you used to do, yeah, /We had a love, a love, a love you don’t find every day, so don’t, don’t, don’t, don’t let it slip away…”

18. “Loving you isn’t the right thing to do, how can I ever change things that I feel? /If I could, baby, I’d give you my world, how can I when you won’t take it from me?…”

19. “I don’t know how in the world to stop thinking of him ’cause I still love him so, /I end each day the way I start out, crying my heart out…”

20. “Maybe I didn’t love you quite as often as I could have, And maybe I didn’t treat you quite as good as I should have, If I made you feel second best, girl, I’m sorry, I was blind…”

21. “I’m so hard to handle, I’m selfish and I’m sad, /Now I’ve gone and lost the best baby that I ever had…”

22. “But it’s all right, I’m okay, how are you? /For what it’s worth, I must say I love you, /And in my bed late at night, I miss you, /Someone is gonna take my heart, but no one is going to break my heart again…”

23. “Since you left me, if you see me with another girl seeming like I’m having fun, /Although she may be cute, she’s just a substitute, because you’re the permanent one…”

24. “We could have been so good together, we could have lived this dance forever, /But now who’s gonna dance with me, please stay…”

25. “I know a man ain’t supposed to cry, but these tears I can’t hold inside, /Losin’ you would end my life, you see, ’cause you mean that much to me…”

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ANSWERS:

1. “Can We Still Be Friends,” Todd Rundgren, 1978

Music and lyrics by Todd Rundgren. Reached #28 on Top 40 chart in 1978. From Rundgren’s “Hermit of Mink Hollow” album.

2. “Breaking Up is Hard to Do,” Neil Sedaka, 1962

Music and lyrics by Neil Sedaka and Howard Greenfield. Reached #1 on Top 40 chart in 1962; a slower version by Sedaka reached #8 in 1975. Original is from Sedaka’s “Neil Sedaka Sings His Greatest Hits” album.

3. “Without You,” Nilsson, 1971

Music and lyrics by Pete Ham and Tom Evans of Badfinger. Nilsson’s version reached #1 on Top 40 chart in 1972. From Nilsson’s “Nilsson Schmilsson” album.

4. “I’m Looking Through You,” The Beatles, 1965

Music and lyrics by John Lennon and Paul McCartney. Was not released as a single. From The Beatles’ “Rubber Soul” album.

5. “Every Breath You Take,” Police, 1983

Music and lyrics by Sting. Reached #1 on Top 40 chart in 1983. From The Police’s “Synchronicity” album.

6. “I Want You Back,” Jackson 5, 1969

Music and lyrics by The Corporation (Berry Gordy, Freddie Perren, Alphonso Mizell and Deke Richards). Reached #1 on Top 40 chart in 1970. From The Jackson 5’s “Diana Ross Presents The Jackson 5” album.

7. “If You Leave Me Now,” Chicago, 1976

Music and lyrics by Peter Cetera. Reached #1 on Top 40 chart in 1976. From Chicago’s “Chicago X” album.

8. “Bye Bye Love,” The Everly Brothers, 1957

Music and lyrics by Felice and Boudleaux Bryant. Reached #2 on Top 40 chart in 1957. From “The Everly Brothers” debut album.

9. “It’s Too Late,” Carole King, 1971

Music by Carole King, lyrics by Toni Stern. Reached #1 on Top 40 chart in 1971. From King’s “Tapestry” album.

10. “Don’t Think Twice, It’s All Right,” Bob Dylan, 1963

Music and lyrics by Bob Dylan. Did not chart as a single (but Peter, Paul & Mary’s version reached #9 on Top 40 chart in 1963). From Dylan’s “The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan” album.

11. “I Will Survive,” Gloria Gaynor, 1978

Music and lyrics by Freddie Perren and Dino Fekaris. Reached #1 on Top 40 chart in 1979. From Gaynor’s “Love Tracks” album.

12. “Suite: Judy Blue Eyes,” Crosby, Stills and Nash, 1969

Music and lyrics by Stephen Stills. Reached #21 on Top 40 chart in 1969. From Crosby, Stills and Nash’s “Crosby, Stills and Nash” album.

13. “She’s Gone,” Daryl Hall & John Oates, 1973

Music and lyrics by Daryl Hall and John Oates. Reached #7 on Top 40 chart in 1976. From Daryl Hall & John Oates’ “Abandoned Luncheonette” album.

14. “You Keep Me Hanging On,” The Supremes, 1966

Music and lyrics by Eddie Holland, Lamont Dozier and Brian Holland. Reached #1 on Top 40 chart in 1966. From “The Supremes Sing Holland-Dozier-Holland” album.

15. “Don’t Come Around Here No More,” Tom Petty and The Heartbreakers, 1985

Music and lyrics by Tom Petty. Reached #13 on Top 40 chart in 1985. From Petty’s “Southern Accents” album.

16. “I Wish It Would Rain,” Temptations, 1967

Music by Norman Whitfield and Barrett Strong, lyrics by Rodger Penzabene. Reached #4 on the Top 40 chart in 1968. From “The Temptations Wish It Would Rain” LP.

17. “You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feeling,” The Righteous Brothers, 1964

Music and lyrics by Barry Mann, Cynthia Weil and Phil Spector. Reached #1 on Top 40 chart in 1965.

18. “Go Your Own Way,” Fleetwood Mac, 1977

Music and lyrics by Lindsey Buckingham. Reached #10 on Top 40 chart in 1977. From the “Rumours” album.

19. “One Less Bell to Answer,” 5th Dimension, 1970

Music by Burt Bacharach, lyrics by Hal David. Reached #2 on Top 40 chart in 1970. From The 5th Dimension’s “Portrait” album.

20. “Always On My Mind,” Willie Nelson, 1982

Music and lyrics by Wayne Carson, Mark James and Johnny Christopher. Reached #5 on Top 40 chart in 1982. From Nelson’s “Always On My Mind” album.

21. “River,” Joni Mitchell, 1971

Music and lyrics by Joni Mitchell. Was not released as a single. From Mitchell’s “Blue” album.

22. “I Used to Be a King,” Graham Nash, 1971

Music and lyrics by Graham Nash. Was not released as a single. From Nash’s “Songs For Beginners” album.

23. “The Tracks of My Tears,” The Miracles, 1965

Music and lyrics by Smokey Robinson, Marv Tarplin and Pete Moore. Reached #16 on Top 40 chart in 1965. From The Miracles’ “Going to a Go-Go” album.

24. “Careless Whisper,” Wham!, 1984

Music and Lyrics by George Michael and Andrew Ridgeley. Reached #1 on Top 40 chart in 1985. From Wham!’s “Make It Big” album.

25. “I Heard It Through The Grapevine,” Marvin Gaye, 1968

Music and lyrics by Norman Whitfield and Barrett Strong. Reached #1 on Top 40 chart in 1968. From Gaye’s “In the Groove” album.

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