Posted June 8, 2016 by Mike Mineo in Features

Cities in Music

There are so many great, and probably an equal number of terrible, songs dedicated to cities renowned throughout the world.

For a song to be written about a city, it would suggest it’s a pretty special place and whether the song was inspired by happiness or heartbreak, it’s probably a place definitely worth experiencing for yourself.

With that in mind here’s a list of some of the best songs about some of the best cities in the world, you never know, they might inspire you to take the trip of a lifetime or provide you with a fresh new look on a city you thought you already knew so well.

1) London Calling – The Clash

Just like the majority of The Clash’s collection, London Calling is packed full of political reference. The song title – a name also adopted by their 1979 album – is thought to refer to the phrase “London calling” used by the BBC throughout the war.

Despite the song often being used as an inspiring backing track in films and TV shows, the lyrics actually focus on much darker fears including police brutality and the flooding of the Thames. Despite this though, London Calling is famous for a having a brilliantly recognizable beat and inspiring travellers throughout the world.

2) Viva Las Vegas – Elvis Presley

Now this song is considered one of the greatest gambling songs of all time and that’s really no surprise. If there’s anyone who humanizes Las Vegas, it’s Elvis Presley who’s renowned for his fun and glamourous public image filled with sparkles, cheese and of course that world famous howl.

3) Vienna – Ultravox

Despite being one of the best city songs ever, the song was actually written and sung at a very dark time for the struggling 1980s group Ultravox. It did them proud though and is still renowned as their greatest achievement to date.

Creating a moving song of despair and reflection Ultravox really did achieve the seemingly impossible, creating an anthem loved by so many and topping the charts of the UK’s favourite number two single.

4) LA Woman – The Doors

Now this is a really intriguing one, with arguably some of the most successful pragmatic song lyrics ever – so intriguing in fact, that even now, it’s still unclear what it all means. As well as being the song title, LA Woman was also the name given to The Doors’ 1971 album but despite the obvious LA link in the title, the hidden meanings of this song have been debated for decades.

Many believe the reference is simply to LA, whereas another theory is that the song is actually about Linda Ashcroft (initials LA), a woman who was supposedly involved in an affair with The Doors’ frontman, Jim Morrison. This coupled with the anagram of Morrison’s name – ‘Mr Mojo Risin’ – mentioned towards the end of the song means that imaginative theories have continued to be discussed for decades.

One thing that’s certainly true though is that this song encapsulates the essence of one of America’s greatest states and cities – California and LA – and is a playlist must-have for anyone considering an all-American road trip.

Mike Mineo

I'm the founder/editor of Obscure Sound. I used to write for PopMatters and Stylus Magazine. Send your music to [email protected].