Editor’s note: When Palisadian Alan Eisenstock is not researching and writing one of his nonfiction books (18 thus far!), he pursues what he calls “a crazy labor of love side project” that he started in mid-March: sending a weekly Covid-themed playlist of songs to his family and friends. These playlists (which can be downloaded on Spotify link span rock ‘n’ roll and pop music from the 1950s to 2020, and Eisenstock adds one or two lines of commentary about each song that is clever, amusing and informative.)
The vaccine can’t come soon enough. The virus continues to spread at an alarming rate. Meanwhile, we attempt to enjoy this holiday season at home locked down in our respective cities, missing our loved ones. I know I am. What to do? Idea! With the exceptions of NY (I did two NY playlists) and LA (coming soon), here are 20 “city” songs. Listen up!
- “I Left My Heart In San Francisco” Tony Bennett. Anthony Dominick Benedetto sings this classic recorded in 1962. A must to lead off the list. Tony founded the Frank Sinatra School of the Arts in Astoria. Huh? The name was taken? Someone else started the Tony Bennett School of the Arts? Tony just turned 148 years old.
- “Bristol Stomp” The Dovells. Four-guy doo-wop group from Philly. This was their biggest hit recorded in 1961, written by Karl Mann and Dave Appell. This Bristol is the one in PA.
- “Kansas City” Wilbert Harrison. Carolinian R&B singer Harrison sings this monster #1 hit from 1959. It was written a few years earlier by Leiber and Stoller and became one of their first big hits. Lots of Kansas City songs out there. This one gets the nod.
- “Do You Know the Way to San Jose” Dionne Warwick. Iconic singer and Beyonce’s aunt performs this Bacharach-David classic from 1968. She has recently become the Don Rickles of Twitter, gently insulting her niece, The Weeknd, and Taylor Swift, among others.
- “Lodi” Creedence Clearwater Revival. John Fogerty wrote this in 1969 as the B-side to “Bad Moon Rising.” Tells of a musician getting stranded in some tiny, dead California town. LOVE CCR.
- “Streets of Philadelphia” Bruce Springsteen. Bruce wrote this for the 1993 film Philadelphia. The song won the Academy Award and four Grammys. Did you see the Boss on SNL last week? If not, you got lucky. SNL now stands for “Seriously, Not Laughing.”
- “(Don’t Go Back To) Rockville” R.E.M. From 1984. Written by Mike Mills who apparently begged his then girlfriend not to return to her hometown, Rockville, MD and instead stay with him. She heard him out, they had a hot night, and then she went home to her parents.
- “Angel from Montgomery” Bonnie Raitt. Blues, roots, jazz, rock, Raitt can sing it all. Here, the pride of Burbank, sings one of my favorite songs, penned by John Prine. LOVE.
- “The City of New Orleans” Arlo Guthrie. Singer, activist, storyteller, son of Woody and longtime resident of the Berkshires, sings this 1971 Steve Goodman song about a train, not a city, but close enough. FYI My wife and I have eaten at the original Alice’s Restaurant in Stockbridge, MA. It was a while ago. We wore bell bottoms.
- “Chicago” Frank Sinatra. The Chairman of the Board sings this 1922 composition that he recorded in 1957. Frank founded the Tony Bennett School of the Arts in Lompoc.
- “Baltimore” Nina Simone. R&B, blues, jazz, you name it, Nina sings it and plays it like no other. Here, the singer/activist sings a tremendous version of the Randy Newman song.
- “Look Out Cleveland” The Band. From the Band’s “brown” album. This song written by Robbie Robertson actually mentions Houston as well. Two cities, one song, no waiting. And for you grammarians, Robbie left off the comma before Cleveland. Copyeditor?
- “Tupelo Honey” Van Morrison. From 1971. Northern Ireland’s famous troubadour and one of the world’s most unpleasant human beings sings this gorgeous song about actual honey that comes from a town in Mississippi.
- “Omaha” Counting Crows. Adam Duritz and friends formed this band in 1991 in Berkeley, CA. This song comes from their first album which sold a bazillion copies. Finally found a playlist for it. LOVE this song.
- “Atlantic City” Bruce Springsteen. Second appearance on this list for the Boss. This haunting song comes from his 1982 solo acoustic album Nebraska.Apropos of nothing, I have recently become addicted to Boardwalk Empire.Filled with graphic sex and violence. Love it!
- “Nashville Cats” The Lovin’ Spoonful. One of my all-time favorite bands. Ken Burns chose this 1966 John Sebastian song for the soundtrack of his “Country Music” documentary.
- “Leaving Las Vegas” Sheryl Crow. Missouri’s own, former track star, National Honor Society member, Sheryl sings this 1994 hit, from her debut album Tuesday Night Music Club.
- “By the Time I Get to Phoenix” Glen Campbell. Singer, TV star covered this Jimmy Webb song in 1967. It’s been performed many times since, including by Al Pacino in the movie Heat, a version that haunts my dreams even though I’ve never seen the movie.
- “Boston” Augustana. I promised myself I had to have a “Boston” song. So here’s one by Augustana–full disclosure–a band I’d never heard of before. They’re from San Diego and seem to be doing a meh Counting Crows impression. But the song’s pretty good. Right?
- “Stuck Inside of Mobile With The Memphis Blues Again” Bob Dylan. From 1966 double album Blonde On Blonde,one of the best albums ever. Great song and so long you feel like you’ve spent a night in both Mobile and Memphis. P.S. There are over 1,000 songs that mention Memphis.
And there you have it, 20 sounds of the city.. Scheduling note: Next Friday is Christmas and the following Friday is New Year’s Day. Do I send out a playlist? Absolutely. The virus never takes a vacation and neither do I.
In the meantime, Happy Holidays, Don’t Forget to Disinfect and PLAY IT LOUD!
The link again: Click here.
Tony Bennett is not 148 years old. He is 94.
Dionne Warwick has become a queen of Twitter, insulting other singers. She seems to be having a good time and her “victims” don’t seem to mind.
Frank Sinatra did not create the Tony Bennett School of the Arts but Tony Bennett did start the Frank Sinatra School of the Arts.
There are over 1,000 songs that mention Memphis.
LAST WEEK’S POLL QUESTION: For the vaccine, are you first in line or do you wait and see? The first-in-liners shoved past the wait-and-seers.
THIS WEEK’S POLL QUESTION: Imagine the pandemic is over and you are offered a three-day weekend, all expenses paid vacation to any city on this playlist. Where are you going?
See you next week on Christmas Day!
Then there’s “Tulsa Time” by Don Williams about a guy who fails to make it as an entertainer in the big city and returns to the comfort of “living on Tulsa Time.”
I, too, am getting a kick following Dionne Warwick on Twitter! By the way, she’s Whitney Houston’s aunt.
If I get a free three-day weekend to a city on your list, I would go from club to club in Nashville to hear those Nashville cats.
Oh, and there are some Palisades connections on this list. Burt Bacharach lives here in the Palisades. And Bonnie Raitt’s dad, John Raitt, lived here in his later years.
Thanks again for your lists!