"Everybody here comes from somewhere..."
Some cities have had their stories told in song. How many songs have been written about New York and Chicago? Hell, those are playlists in and of themselves! Los Angeles, Memphis, and Kansas City have been immortalized as has just about every city in Texas. Detroit and Nashville are both music capitols and have countless songs that namecheck them.
I live in Huntsville, Alabama, and if that doesn't sound exciting, well, you're not wrong. There aren't any famous songs about here but my city has a story of its own and it can be put to music. Some of my choices have easy tie-ins and others are more specific to my own experiences but they all remind me of this place I call home.
I've lived all over and some songs take me instantly to the place I first heard them and maybe I'll compile those playlists one day. I wonder if this list would have been easier to assemble if I were writing it from somewhere else. Maybe you have to leave a place to understand it. Maybe Huntsville is home and nothing more. I know I could fill a great many playlists with songs I listened to here, thinking about going somewhere else. Even that gets into issues beyond geography.
- "Rocket Man" - Elton John: While Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida and Johnson Space Center in Houston, TX may be more famous, America's journey to outer space and the moon cannot be told without contributions made by The Rocket City.
- "Space Oddity" - David Bowie: I had to go "Rocket Man" first because Huntsville calls itself the Rocket City but c'mon, there simply isn't a better song about outer space and astronauts than Bowie's classic "Space Oddity." This is a classic in any city but Huntsville can claim a special connection with this one.
- "Standing On Top Of The World" - Van Halen: The first time in my life I ever won anything, it was tickets to see Van Halen at the Von Braun Civic Center on the For Unlawful Carnal Knowledge tour. This is the first concert I attended when I moved to Huntsville, as well. I moved here my senior year of high school and hadn't made many friends but was fortunate enough to have fallen in with a small crowd of good folks, some of whom already had their drivers license. My best friend at the time -- a lad I'm still in touch with these many years later -- and I went and saw this with several other friends and it was a fantastic show. It's the only time I've seen Van Halen and I vividly remember them playing this song.
- "Sad But True" - Metallica: Another first... the first album I purchased in Huntsville was Metallica's self-titled "Black Album" and this quickly became my favorite song. I bought the cassette at the then Camelot Music at the then River Oaks Mall (which is actually in Decatur, AL). I have the album on CD now and "Sad But True" may still be my favorite song on that disc.
- "Alabama Pines" - Jason Isbell: Green Hill, AL-native Isbell is a first-rate songwriter and storyteller, skills he puts to inventive use as a musical docent. This one doesn't specifically call out Huntsville but if you live in this state, it resonates. This is a glimpse into a slice of our life, the way of it all, and the people whose paths you might cross. You can find this on his fine studio album Here We Rest as well as his recent live offering Live From Alabama. Both are recommended.
- "My Wife's Home Town" - Bob Dylan: I mentioned earlier I moved to Alabama my senior year of high school. Let's just say I wasn't thrilled about A) moving my senior year and B) trading Seattle for Huntsville. Let's also say, being the mouthy motherfucker I am, I didn't make this a secret when I arrived. Can you believe I didn't instantly make friends here? I know; shocking. My history teacher, a very nice man and a good instructor, did a very cruel thing to me during one of my rants: he put a curse on me, telling me I'd marry a local girl and never leave here. I made two ill-fated (and that's being fucking charitable) to break the curse. Fortunately, it didn't work. I did indeed end up marrying a Huntsville girl but that doesn't mean I can't have a bit of sense of humor about it. Dylan did: "I just want to say that hell's my wife's hometown."
- "Hold On" - Alabama Shakes: Athens, GA gave the world R.E.M., Athens, AL brings you your Alabama Shakes, kids. I'm pretty crazy about what these guys have done on their debut Boys & Girls and this is one of my favorite songs from the disc. You can hear the promise and potential in the DNA of this track and there is still so much room for further growth. Crank this one and let the groove get in you.
- "Alabama Town" - Peter Karp: Another amazing songwriter and storyteller who has Alabama in his rearview mirror. I've interviewed and met the brilliant Mr. Karp who, at one time, called Enterprise, AL home. Like Isbell's "Alabama Pines," this may not be about Huntsville but it captures something of the essence of here and is a song that reminds where I am.