Thursday, August 11, 2016


Image result for transport clipart


Take the A Train

Well known amongst the classic jazz enthusiasts, Take the A train was written by Billy Strayhorn for Duke Ellington and his band/orchestra back in 1941. It is somewhat unusual for a bandleader to choose a signature opening song which is not their own composition and put it in the spotlight in this manner. The song however has lasted the test of time hence it was a good decision on the part of Duke Ellington to do so. Strayhorn and Ellington had an unusual relationship. In his autobiography, Ellington referred to Strayhorn as his right arm, his left arm and the eyes in the back of his head but claimed that Strayhorn was not his alter-ego.” Since 1941 this song has been played by many well-known jazz bands such as Charles Mingus’s sextet in 1964, Dave Brubeck in 1966, Manhattan Jazz Quintet in 2014. Over to the audience to pick their favourite rendition of this well-loved tune. 

Interstate Love Song by the Stone Temple Pilots

Here’s one of my favourite songs from my teenage years after picking up the electric guitar.
“Leaving on a southern train, only yesterday….” is the key reference to transport in this song and is repeated a number of times.
Lead singer Scott Welland wrote this song about his relationship troubles and his growing heroin addiction. The song is written from his fiancĂ©’s perspective, with Weiland imagining her seeing right through his lies caused by his addiction. Welland promised to stay off drugs when they went to Atlanta to record Stone Temple Pilots' second album, Purple. He didn't keep that promise, but in phone calls, would tell Janina that everything was OK.

Despite the heavy topic, the song still sounds relatively cheerful which is not an uncommon thing in music!


Hilltop Hoods - Stopping All Stations

This track exemplifies how 'Adelaide' the Hilltop Hoods are. It's pretty straight forward really, I don't think I need to dwell on the conceptual profundity here. Stuff happens on trains, and that's very urban and hip-hoppy, and it's all a metaphor for life really, isn't it? No, probably not...

The Saw Doctors - N17

The Saw Doctors have been an Irish household name since the early 90's, having blasted the nation with anthemic tracks like "I Useta Lover" and "N17". The N17 is a road running into Galway through Mayo in the west of Ireland, and The Saw Doctors are from (and many of their songs reference) Tuam, a bustling village by which that road runs. The song is about the emigrant remembering his last trip leaving home on that road, and how he longs to be back on it returning home again. They certainly have a way with lyrics and I recommend you listen closely to the words of this and I Useta Lover.


Adrian Belew, "The Rail Song" (from Twang Bar King, 1982)

I tried figuring out what the metaphor of the train MEANS in this song. But it's probably not a metaphor at all, rather, a story of a kid who fell in love with trains and grows sad as an adult when they are abandoned. Actual train sounds echo the fading of rural rail travel. The guitar accents are still a bit dissonant but not full-on wacky like his work with Talking Heads, King Crimson, and Frank Zappa. Adrian put out a number of quirky pop records in the Eighties and Nineties. The first two reflected an obsession with the rhinoceros, goofy lyrics, and a very strong Beatles influence. (Including a ripping version of "I'm Down" to open this particular record!)

The Kinks, "Somebody Stole My Car" (from Phobia, 1993)

The last ever Kinks record as an actual band in the studio. Underappreciated and harder-edged than all its predecessors. This is a not particularly subtle comment on consumerism and city life - don't buy nice things, some jerk will just steal them and you'll be stuck with the debt for longer than the things themselves. Straight ahead rock, tasty style. (Would probably have been better as a single edit.) Cute surprise in the last 3 seconds evokes another famous car song....


I decided to go for a composition by Pogues, Drunken Boat, as my first track. This band and this song in particular are very dear for me - they've been with me since my teenage years, have made into my adult life, and I still enjoy listening to this band a lot (many bands from back in the day make me wince now when I hear them; emotions and moods they used to bring are somehow lost).  Drunken boat was on my "travel list" for ages,  so this song is linked for me once and forever  with anticipation of something new, different, not known yet, something exciting and amazing, something that makes you move and live faster. For me, sounds and lyrics of the song  always bring to life romanticised ideas about golden times of great maritime discoveries and brave,  devil-may-care adventurous explorers who sailed away equipped with the faith of God to the distant shores they even were not sure existed. The song smells like rum, dramas, high-lived passions, and black-and-white teenage values. Actually, the tune turns me into a 14 year boy - eager for all travels and marvels of this enormous, diverse and strikingly bright world!!

My second track is quite different in style and sound from Pogues. The key reason behind the selection is the same - I much like baroque music, actually it's one of my favourite music styles (and I strongly suspect whatever topic for the music club was I would have found a way to sneak in one of the compositions!)  The track is Purcell's Fantasia upon a ground for 3 violins. I thought that imagination can transport you anywhere in no time, hence is the choice. For me baroque music is astonishingly beautiful, elaborated, and unique in delivering all the various emotions, moods, and nuances in a very subtle way….


The Smiths - There is A Light That Never Goes Out

I couldn't resist the transport tri-factor presented by The Smiths: Within the song, There is a Light That Never Goes Out - not one, not two, but three modes of transport are mentioned. The mellifluous, melancholy Mancunian presents us with the irresistible imagery of being driven around in a car by a loved one, pondering a gloriously dramatic finale to the relationship: Being crushed by double-decker bus or ran over by ten tonne truck are both noble ends to an affair. Although being simultaneously killed in a road accident is not the most appropriate thought experiment for every date you embark upon, the mind is an interesting machine that affords the opportunity to reflect upon your happiness in myriad situations. The higher state of contentedness of which Morrissey sings reminds the listener that simple pleasures are often the greatest, and life is too short - charming.

Galliano - Twyford Down

Transport is often looked upon as progress incarnate; an undiluted positive impact upon civilisation and the greatest method invented for exploiting the unlimited possibilities this planet presents. So, I decided to confound this meme and implore people to wake up from their concrete and bitumen bound reveries. In Galliano's The Plot Thickens, they create cool grooves to their conscientious lyrics and themes. The song Twyford Down is about the M3 road extension through the chalk hills and countryside, from London to the south-west coast. In pursuit of more efficient ways of getting people to holiday homes and consumer goods to shops from ports - it seems perfectly reasonable to bulldoze sites of natural beauty and historical significance (ancient woods and burial sites). It makes good economic sense. There will never be an end to building more roads, just so that more cars and trucks can be built to put upon them. This protest song is a lament to the unrecoverable; to the warped logic of getting us all from A to B quicker, by going backwards.


Music and cars is a classic combination. I love driving along the desert road a little too fast, singing along to some of my old favourites. Such as this song, about surviving a major crash on the highway. A perfect topic for a carefree highway singalong. Radiohead - Airbag

Music and travel through the cosmos is also a classic combination. Among the vast selection of songs about interstellar transport, literal and figurative, I chose one of the very finest. It puts the spirit in instant motion, even as the body is still.
Mahavishnu Orchestra - Celestial Terrestrial Commuters


Courtney Barnett's Dead Fox sketches out some loosely related elements of Australia's agricultural industry. She begins with brief vignette about a bourgeois desire to buy organic vegetables bumping up against the economic realities of life as a musician, before moving on to the network by which those vegetables are moved from farm to market. The Dead Fox is a Linton Fox truck, ubiquitous on Australian (and New Zealand) roads. As it tears up and down the Hume Highway between Melbourne and Sydney, it leaves roadkill in its wake, terrifies other drivers, and, as bypasses are constructed to make its movement more efficiencies, contributes to the economic decline of small towns. Barnett, of course, can't help but draw attention to our own complicity in this -- the truck does all this of course to bring us the best price. 

The American west is, in the popular imagination, a place of freedom and lawlessness. In reality  its conquest was motivated by economic expansion, including the creation of vast cattle ranches in the South West. The Goodnight Loving trail (named, really, for Charlie Goodnight and Oliver Loving) was established in 1866 and ran from Fort Belknap in Texas to Fort Sumner in New Mexico until it was eventually extended through Colorado into Wyoming. The cowboys on this and other trails lived hard lives in the saddle, and eventually the drives took their physical toll. Utah Phillips' Goodnight Loving Trail is an ode to the cook on the wagon train, the discarded worker left to make food for the cowboys and contemplate the desert and his fate. Here, Tom Waits covers it in a solo show recorded for the radio in Denver, 1974.