Last Saturday, Per Gessle and Sven Lindström discussed songs about cities in the new episode of Gessles nio i topp on Swedish Radio. At the beginning of the podcast Sven mentions that Per is associated with Halmstad that belongs to pop culture in a way. Per agrees and says there are different sounds associated with different cities. There is certainly a DNA even via laptops that shows where one comes from even in this digital world. Sven asks what the top of mind cities are to Per in pop culture. He says Liverpool for The Beatles of course, but there is also a typical Los Angeles sound, Chicago sound, Miami sound, New York sound. Also London sound. Sound of Stockholm bands at the end of the ’70s. According to Per, Halmstad was Sweden’s Liverpool in 1980-81. There were 130 bands in Halmstad in the ’80s, which is not bad given the population was 80,000. Per says there are bands that are named after cities, e.g. Boston, Kansas, but he picked songs that have a city or a district in the song title.
Per’s Top 9 songs about cities
9. Moon Martin – Hot Nite in Dallas
8. Bob & Earl – Harlem Shuffle
7. Bobby Bare – That’s How I Got to Memphis
6. Mott the Hoople – All the Way from Memphis
5. The Chainsmokers – Paris
4. Ike & Tina Turner – Nutbush City Limits
3. Katrina and the Waves – Going Down to Liverpool
2. Scott McKenzie – San Francisco (Be Sure to Wear Some Flowers in Your Hair)
1. Linnea Henriksson – Halmstad
No. 9 on the list is Moon Martin with Hot Nite in Dallas from 1978. Sven says Moon Martin is a common favourite of Per and him. He tells the singer is not super famous and Per tells he bumped into MM’s music in the beginning of the ’80s. PG saw him on Måndagsbörsen and he was also at the same record label as Gyllene Tider, EMI. Per says his first 2-3 albums were awesome. He was called ”Moon” because he used the word moon so many times in his lyrics. His real name was John Martin. He had a very special, expressive voice, the guys say and he was a talented songwriter. Moon Martin wrote e.g. Bad Case of Loving You that became a hit in Robert Palmer’s interpretation, Cadillac Walk and Rolene for Mink DeVille. Hot Nite in Dallas is from his first album, the first song on it. He passed away not too long ago. Producer of his first album was Craig Leon who also produced the Ramones’ first album. One can hear a little scaled-down Ramones sound on Moon Martin’s album. Per says it’s very simple, but sounds very good. He thinks American recordings sounded better than Swedish recordings at the time.
Next on the list is Harlem Shuffle from Bob & Earl from 1963. It wasn’t the Bob & Earl version of the song Sven and Per heard first, but The Rolling Stones’ who did a cover of it many years later. It wasn’t a big hit in 1963, but Sven says it has a great sound. Per says George Harrison called it his favourite song of all time. In 1969 it was reissued after the record label being bought by another one and then it became a big hit in the UK. Then the Rolling Stones covered it in 1986. The guys talk about the mid ’80s, that it was a dark period for The Rolling Stones, but also for Tom Petty. Sven says there was a kind of climate change in pop music back then.
That’s How I Got to Memphis from Bobby Bare is next. There is a typical Memphis sound too, Per says, referring to the beginning of the podcast. This song he picked is not a very famous one, if someone is not a country fan of course. It’s written by Tom T. Hall and is also known as How I Got to Memphis. Per chose the original version of it from 1970. It has a lovely, classic country style and a storytelling text that makes it special. The ’70s was a wonderful era for country. Sven says his favourite quote is from Tom Petty when he produced Johnny Cash in the ’90s and said they should make a classic country album, because ”I think most country today sounds like bad rock with a fiddle”. Bobby Bare sounds like classic Nashville country. Per agrees and tells modern country for him sounds like ’70s and ’80s arena rock, if you are listening to Keith Urban for example. It doesn’t sound like Kris Kristofferson or George Jones. Bobby Bare tried to break through with his songwriting in the ’50s. He got a record contract from guitarist Chet Atkins at RCA and in 1963 Detroit City was his break-through song. Gunnar Wiklund covered it in Swedish, Nu reser jag hem.
Staying in Memphis, the guys start talking about Memphis, Tennessee from Johnny Rivers. It’s a 1964 cover of Chuck Berry’s original version. Per sings a little here. Sven says he bought the live album that has Memphis on it and is dreaming away that it would be awesome to have a time machine and go back to see of course The Beatles live, but also Johnny Rivers at a small club in the US. Per says it’s not a bad idea.
Still staying in Memphis, Per picked All the Way from Memphis from Mott the Hoople as No. 6. Both Per and Sven love Mott the Hoople. This song is from 1973, the middle of the glitter era. David Bowie helped them to find a new audience when he produced their album, All the Young Dudes. Per thinks it’s hard to listen to their early records, but Bowie cleaned up their sound and made it more mainstream. Their album, Mott that includes ATWFM was their best record, Per thinks. Sven agrees. The band was on a roll that year. They had another big hit, Honaloochie Boogie released on the same album. Per thinks it’s a song that is incredibly hard to listen to. He thinks all the bands that have a prominent piano in their soundscape, it takes so much space that it easily confronts with other instruments. That was the case with Mott the Hoople. Sven thinks the production of ATWFM is awesome. Per says Mick Ralphs’ guitar riff fits the song’s essence very well, the storytelling of touring life. Ian Hunter is a fantastic songwriter and storyteller, but first of all a damn good lyricist. On stage he is boring, but his solo albums with Irene Wilde or Once Bitten Twice Shy on them are damn good. Both Sven and Per have the book, Diary of a Rock ‘n’ Roll Star by Ian Hunter. They are joking that it’s probably only them two who have it in Sweden.
Mr. G says it’s hard to pick modern songs, because when he is listening to them, sometimes he thinks, shit, it sounds like Neil Young, but he was a bit better, or that sounds like David Bowie, but he did it a bit better, or it’s like Tina Tuner, but she was sharper. So it’s hard to choose new productions, mainly in pop music that the DJ culture has taken over. As No. 5, Per thought to pick a more modern song, Paris from The Chainsmokers. It’s a 3-year-old song and Per thinks it’s damn good. Sven agrees. Mr. G tells it’s new music for him, but a 19- or 20-year-old would probably say Paris is a golden oldie. Sven says when The Beatles released their compilation album in 1966, it’s title was A Collection of Beatles Oldies. That included songs that were only 3 years old. Back to Paris, Per says he really likes the sound of it. It’s open, warm, an easy listening and there is a swinging rhythm in it. It’s simply a nice pop song. According to Sven, it’s a typical modern pop song. Per adds, it’s a bit better than other modern pop hits. Sven asks Per in what way he is listening to new music. He says he is like his parents were: he picks up new music via his son. Sometimes he hears a song from Gabriel’s room and asks what that is because he thinks it’s very good. He realized that his son’s generation is constantly listening to music. Per’s generation did too, but this new generation doesn’t know what they are listening to. It comes in a flow. Per’s generation sat down with the physical album and read the inner sleeve, read the lyrics, who the technician was etc. They were waiting to listen to music. After Paris is played, Per asks Sven what he thinks about Chainsmokers. He says it was surprisingly good. Sven adds DJ pop is not so close to him.
Next one on the list is Nutbush City Limits from Ike & Tina Turner. Nutbush is a very little village in the US. Sven asks Per if he knows why Ike & Tina sang about it, but Mr. G doesn’t know. Sven informs that Tina Turner was born there and the song was written by her. Per says if you google Ike & Tina, you can find almost only cocaine addiction stuff, mainly from the ’70s. Per says this was one of their best songs and he had it as a single which he bought when it was released. It was a big hit in many countries in Europe, but not as big in the US. It’s a short and effective song. Sven tells there is an artist from Detroit, Bob Seger, who was kind of an underground rocker before he became a mainstream artist in the mid ’70s. He recorded a live album in 1975 on which the opening song was NCL, as he opened his shows with the cover of this song. Per says Tina Turner has always been an absolutely fantastic singer. Sven adds that she was also a great stage artist. She became one of the biggest artists in the world in the ’80s with Private Dancer. Sven tells Tina performed at Olympen in Lund in autumn 1983. It was in the beginning of her comeback after appr. 10 years of not being in the limelight. Her manager was Roger Davis. Per tells he never saw Tina performing live, but he was at her home. When she lived in Cologne, Marie and Per were there for dinner. Tina is married to a German guy who worked at EMI. Per tells Tina was at a Roxette concert in Germany. She was a big fan of Marie ”and hated me”, he adds. Just kidding. Sven says it must have been tough for Marie to know that Tina was her fan. Per said she also liked Tina.
No. 3 is Going Down to Liverpool. It became a hit when The Bangles covered it, but the original recording was done by Katrina and the Waves, the band that has one of the world’s most played songs, Walking on Sunshine. Both GDTL and WOS were written by Kimberley Rew and they are fantastic songs. Kimberley reminds Per a bit of Alex Chilton from The Box Tops and Big Star. In a certain period of his life he wrote fantastic songs. Same thing with Noel Gallagher, for some years anything he wrote was damn good, then it became half good. The guys have the theory that Kimberley and his band were fighting and fighting, then they got the record contract and WOS became a super hit and he got shocked. Per says people react on success in different ways. Some feel assured by it, others feel lost. The Bangles released GDTL on their debut album which was released only in Canada. Per likes the original version of the song more than The Bangles cover, because he thinks it’s rougher and Katrina Leskanich is an incredibly talented singer. Sven says he saw them at Kulturbolaget in Malmö in 1985 or 1986. They were a super tight, exemplary power pop band.
No. 2 is San Francisco (Be Sure to Wear Some Flowers in Your Hair) from Scott McKenzie. Regarding San Francisco, Per could have chosen San Francisco Nights as well, from Eric Burdon and The Animals, but he picked this one, because he thinks it’s one of the best songs in the world. Per thinks it’s magical: the whole sound, Scott’s voice, the production, the melody, the chord progression. Playing it on a guitar is a delight. Sven says there is a kind of secret in the composition of this song that makes it so good. All songs that become this good have the same secret according to Per: great production, wonderful voice, wonderful expression, very nice melody, touching lyrics. For him it symbolizes the perfect summer song. There is an aura of summer and harmony in it. Per was a bit too young for the Summer of Love (1967), he was only 8 years old then, but he still associates it with summer. Sven says the timing was also perfect. It was released in May, so the whole summer was ahead. One could have the feeling that the ”summer song” expression was born with San Francisco and Scott McKenzie. It was written by John Phillips, who was the leader of The Mamas & The Papas. He was a very talented composer and producer. Scott McKenzie himself was also a very talented songwriter. He wrote e.g. What About Me for Canadian singer Anne Murray and Kokomo for The Beach Boys. John Phillips was in top shape that time. While he was writing this song, he was organizing the Monterey Pop Festival in 1967. Per says when Roxette ended up in the US at the end of the ’80s, they got to know Wilson Phillips. The band was at the same record label. John Phillips’ daughter was a member of them. Sven asks if John Phillips was a member of The Mamas &The Papas, why he gave the song away to Scott McKenzie and not recorded it themselves. Per thinks Scott was asked to be a member of The Mamas & The Papas, but he said no, because he was coming from another band and wanted to do a solo career. So John gave him this song then.
Sven says Per lives both in Stockholm and Halmstad and he knows one of the candidates for this list of songs about cities was No Train to Stockholm by Lee Hazelwood from his album Cowboy in Sweden. Per thinks it’s a fantastic song, but since there was another list of nine forgotten artists earlier and he picked that song as No. 1 on that list, now he chose another one. That way the No. 1 on the songs about cities list is Halmstad from Linnea Henriksson. It’s a nice song and Linnea is super talented. Per thinks it’s her best song and of course he also thinks it’s a lovely idea to write a song that has the title Halmstad. He is wondering why it wasn’t him who came up with it. The guys are laughing. Linnea was the support act on Gyllene Tider’s 2013 tour and she also joined GT for their soccer song, Bäst när det gäller.