The Placefocus Mix - songs about street, places and cities

Music plays an important part in our life - as do places and cities.

Centre Pl Melbourne VIC AUSCentre Pl Melbourne VIC AUS

Posted by: Andrew Hammonds

So we are starting a mix-tape. Not in any particular order but A seems like a good place to start:

Adelaide - Paul Kelly

"Adelaide" is an easy pick for our first song about streets, places and cities.

I'm a big fan of Paul Kelly as a singer and song writer. He grew up in Adelaide - on the bend in Kensington Rd. As the song implies he was pretty keen to leave for Melbourne (via Hobart). Like a lot of us Paul reckons that streets can be too wide...

Full article...

"Streets of Your Town" by The Go-Betweens

Glamorgan St Paddington QLD AUS: up and down, through the streets of your townGlamorgan St Paddington QLD AUS: up and down, through the streets of your townGlamorgan St Paddington QLD AUS: up and down, through the streets of your townGlamorgan St Paddington QLD AUS: up and down, through the streets of your townI always thinks of Brisbane when I hear "Streets of Your Town" from the 1988 album 16 Lovers Lane. Written by Grant McLennan who formed the Go Betweens with Robert Forster in Brisbane, in 1977. The sunny, upbeat music is contrasted with darker lyrics: "Don't the sun look good today but the rain is on its way, watch the butcher shine his knives, and this town is full of battered wives". 

The often played videoclip, directed by Kriv Stenders, mixes images of the band member's home towns - Brisbane, Sydney and Melbourne.

Full article...

"Town Called Malice" by The Jam

Ben nominated 'Town called Malice' by The Jam in the comments section of our last article "Streets of Your Town" by The Go-Betweens. 

It's one of his favourite songs and "it brings to mind the disappointment of too many urban lives, and conversely, the real difference that can be brought about by some good urban regeneration and placemaking. It is also a really good song that probably motivated my interest in urban planning. I was just 17 and thinking of choosing a university degree to study when this was number 1 in the charts for three weeks..."

I love the song too. Music with a toe-tapping bass and the lingering Hammond organ features in many of my favourite songs. Listen to the song after you had read the lyrics. As Paul Weller said "It's got an uplifting feel, almost like a gospel song, but it's also got a very hard realism about it."

Paul Weller said that it is partly about his hometown Woking and his teenage experiences there. A quick look at Woking through Google maps shows a town dominated by big footprint buildings. Which generally create poor places. Not a lot of fine-grained fabric? Anyone know more?

Full article...

'Walk on the Wild Side' by Lou Reed

New York. NY USA Source Matt WattNew York. NY USA Source Matt WattThe death of Lou Red this week reminded me of "Walk on the Wild Side" from his 1972 second solo album Transformer. It was produced by David Bowie and Mick Ronson.

The lyrics describe a series of individuals and their journeys to New York City. They include several of the regular "superstars" at Andy Warhol's New York studio, The Factory. Namely - Holly Woodlawn, Candy Darling, Joe Dallesandro, Jackie Curtis and Joe Campbell (referred to in the song by his nickname Sugar Plum Fairy). The website Rock Genius presents this detail well. 

The song received wide radio coverage, despite its touching on taboo topics such as transsexuality, drugs, male prostitution and oral sex.

Do we create places where people can walk on the wild side? Should we?

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'Saturday Night' by Cold Chisel

"Got the keys to the city" Remember when you used to feel like that on Saturday night?  

What's not to like about this song. Great memories of youth, meaningful lyrics, powerful singing... oh and the background noises of the cross.

"Well if ya don't like it, then why ya standing there for twenty minutes..."

I still don't understand how this song only got to number 11 on the National charts in 1984. Possibly explained by the list of Australian Top 25 singles for the year, including 'Islands in the Stream'!

Full article...

'Dirty Old Town' by The Pogues

Dirty Old Town is a song written by Ewan MacColl in 1949 and has been recorded by many others since. I have picked the cover by The Pogues. What meaning we can associate with places - "I Kissed my girl by the factory wall" - which aren't always picturesque. 

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'City of Light' by the Hilltop Hoods

Anster St Adelaide SA AUS - a great example of graffiti as street art. Even though this wall might look pretty good as is...Anster St Adelaide SA AUS - a great example of graffiti as street art. Even though this wall might look pretty good as is...Hilltop Hoods are an Australian hip hop group formed in 1991 - in Adelaide, South Australia. Those that follow me on Instagram know I'm a big fan of street art - including graffiti (not tagging). Particularly when it makes a contribution to the blank walls of our cities...

"Cans and markers, Country Road parkers,
Hands of an artist left the landscape enchanted,
Until the government pigs had all the paint washed,
From our city walls, end of the renaissance,
And so the walls where the colours once played,
Were replaced by the buff, now a sullen blunt grey,
White washed, shitty, all grey, all black,
Waiting for the kids of this city to take their walls back."

Full article...

"Baker Street" by Gerry Rafferty"

"This city desert makes you feel so cold
It's got so many people, but it's got no soul"

Does your city or place have soul?

"Baker Street" is a ballad written and first recorded by Scottish singer-songwriter Gerry Rafferty - named after the famous London street. According to Rafferty, "everybody was suing each other, so I spent a lot of time on the overnight train from Glasgow to London for meetings with lawyers. I knew a guy who lived in a little flat off Baker Street. We'd sit and chat or play guitar there through the night."

Full article...

"The Suburbs" by Arcade Fire

"You always seemed so sure. That one day we'd be fighting. In a suburban war"

Directed by Spike Jonze the video is a startling vision of the dystopian (opposite of utopian) suburbs depicted in the song's lyrics.

The clip starts off with idyllic scenes of young friends getting up to teen mischief in the suburbs. But darker imagery — people being arrested, heavily armed soldiers — quickly starts appearing. And when night falls, martial law is apparently declared and black-masked soldiers move in. Some of the kids are arrested and carted off, and the clip ends with another being beaten savagely in a fast-food joint.

Full article...

"West End" by Astrid & The Asteroids

Boundary St, West End, Brisbane, QLD, AUS: "Just bought some tofu snags and a gold plated case of fags, Cruisin' the streets, For exclusive eatsBoundary St, West End, Brisbane, QLD, AUS: "Just bought some tofu snags and a gold plated case of fags, Cruisin' the streets, For exclusive eats"Let's go to West End. We won't wear shoes. But we'll drink foreign booze. Let's all just pretend. To sing about the blues."

This song about Brisbane's West End - every city has a place similar. According to the 2001 national census 65% of residents in West End are individuals or families without children with only 35% being those with children. No wonder they have so much fun! The suburb has traditionally been home to Brisbane's largest Indigenous Australian and Greek communities, as well as significant Vietnamese and Italian communities. For this reason, West End is one of Brisbane's most multicultural areas. 

Have a look at the lyrics - just dripping with subtropical irony! I love the credit at the start:

To our friends in the 4101 - it's not you, it's everyone else!

Full article...

"Under the Bridge" by the Red Hot Chilli Peppers

"Under the bridge downtown
Is where I drew some blood
Under the bridge
I could not get enough"

For many, these lyrics depict the places of the city for illicit behavior. Unfortunately, we are still designing and building transport infrastructure which generate un-safe spaces. Let alone fixing the problems, like the Riverside Expressway in Brisbane, created over the last 50 years.

Full article...

Hindley Street - Powderfinger

Hindley St, Adelaide City, SA, AUS: the dirty Street of Adelaide? Hindley St, Adelaide City, SA, AUS: the dirty Street of Adelaide? Hindley St, written by Bernard Fanning (a proud Brisbane boy), was released on the Internationalist album in 1998.

"A gentle winter haze creeps in at three forty-four
The Hindley st parade shuffles to my door
The hotel decor shades are always poorly sewn
Twenty-five in thirty days makes this room feel like home"

According to Fanning: "We were staying on Hindley St when I started writing the song. Its like the dirty strip of Adelaide"

Full article...

More songs

Dirty Blvd. by Lou Reed

Electric Avenue by Eddy Grant

Road to Nowhere by Talking Heads

Streets of Philadelphia by Bruce Springsteen

Happy Birthday Helen by Things Of Stone & Wood

Home Among The Gum Trees

S**t Towne by Live

Downtown - Petula Clark

Susan's House - The Eeels

Suggest songs for Place Mix below...

Updated: Tuesday, 14 June 2016

Written: Tuesday 10 September, 2013

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