Monday, March 05, 2007

Cities on Flame with Rock 'n' Roll

1. The Presidents of the United States of America, "Cleveland Rocks" (1998).
A lively, anthemic cover of the Ian Hunter tune -- which I've never heard before -- best-known as the theme song for The Drew Carey Show... "All this energy callin' me/ Back where it comes from/ It's such a crude attitude/ It's back where it belongs/ All the little kids growin' up on the skids are goin' Cleveland Rocks! Cleveland Rocks!/ All the little chicks with the crimson lips go Cleveland Rocks! Cleveland Rocks!" Watch the show intro here.

2. Kiss, "Detroit Rock City" (1976).
Speeding through the darkness to catch KISS's midnight show in Detroit, the first-person protagonist apparently dies upon colliding head-on with a truck (unlike the teens in the disappointing movie of the same name, who unfortunately do not get killed)... "Get up, everybody's gonna move their feet/ Get down, everybody's gonna leave their seat/ You gotta lose your mind in Detroit rock city!" Link to the video above.

3. Wilbert Harrison, "Kansas City" (1959).
The number-one Lieber/Stoller hit... "I'm going to Kansas City, Kansas City here I come/ They got some crazy little women there and I'm gonna get me one." Watch a bizarre, unofficial video here.

4. Elvis Presley, "Viva Las Vegas" (1964).
This awesome, oft-covered movie theme is about the closest any major city has to an official rock 'n' roll anthem... "Bright light city gonna set my soul, gonna set my soul on fire/ Got a whole lot of money that's ready to burn, so get those stakes up higher." Watch an edited video here.

5. Grandpaboy, "MPLS" (2003).
Paul Westerberg's alter-ego sings in swinging 12-bar-blues style about how Minneapolis, a.k.a. MPLS, is "the place that I like best"... "On the Mississippi River, I was born in '59/ Mississippi River, born in '59/ Down in Dinkytown, old Bob Dylan freezin' his behind." Sorry, no video.

6. Gary U.S. Bonds, "New Orleans" (1960).
With references to Dixieland, magnolia, and "French moss hangin' from a big oak tree," this Stooges-covered tune easily evokes the Big Easy (well, how imagine it, anyhow)... "Come on everybody take a trip with me/ Down the Mississippi down to New Orleans/ The honeysuckle bloomin' on the honeysuckle vine/ And love is bloomin' there all the time/ You know every Southern belle is a Mississippi queen/ Down the Mississippi down in New Orleans." Watch a live performance here.

7. Beastie Boys, "An Open Letter to NYC" (2004).
Stop spreadin' the news, 'cause this the superior song. Many critics found it trite, but to me it was a poignant post-9/11 tribute: "Dear New York I know a lot has changed/ Two towers down but you're still in the game." The track is built over the riff from the Dead Boys's "Sonic Reducer," while the chorus celebrates unity through diversity... "Brooklyn, Bronx, Queens and Staten/ From the Battery to the top of Manhattan/ Asian, Middle-Eastern and Latin/ Black, White, New York you make it happen." The video's cool too; watch it here.

8. Loretta Lynn, "Portland, Oregon" (2004).
If you can get past the mental image of the 28-year-old Jack White gettin' down with the 70-year-old coal miner's daughter, this song's pretty cool... "Well Portland, Oregon and sloe gin fizz/ If that ain't love then tell me what is/ Well I lost my heart it didn't take no time/ But that ain't all, I lost my mind in Oregon." Watch the video here.

9. Scott McKenzie, "San Francisco (Be Sure to Wear Flowers in Your Hair)" (1967).
Call me a smelly hippie, but I prefer this corny folk-pop ballad to Tony Bennett's "I Left My Heart in San Francisco"... "If you're goin' to San Francisco/ You're gonna meet some gentle people there/ For those who come to San Francisco/ Summertime will be a love-in there." Watch the video here.

10. The Magnetic Fields, "Washington, D.C." (1999).
The chorus is a pep-rally singalong ("W, a-s-h, i-n-g, t-o-n, baby, D.C.!"), while the lovely verses explain the singer's frequent return to the Federal City... "It's not because it is the grand old seat/ Of precious freedom and democracy/ It's not the greenery turning gold in fall/ The scenery circling the Mall/ It's just that's where my baby lives that's all." Sorry, no video.

Wait -- What about Seattle!? I already covered that here, and I'll probably write about other such songs later... I probably won't write about Paradise City, Suffragette City, Surf City, Erotic City, Kill City or Fist City.



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