Wednesday, July 07, 2010

Five Songs about Toledo

Some days' lists are more random than others. Today's is the product of a conversation at pub trivia last night, with a teammate who grew up in Toledo, Ohio. Toledo, Ohio (founded 1833; pop. 293,201) is not to be confused with Toledo, Spain (founded c. 600 B.C.; pop. 80,810); one is a World Heritage Site, and one is an industrial city on the Maumee River. Nevertheless the name "Toledo" is fun to say, a lilting amphibrach (three syllables, short-long-short), and it lends itself to musical phrasing.

That's the only explanation I can think of for its showing up in an unusual number of popular songs. I had three in my iTunes, and my friend Joe (the trivia teammate) came up with two more without even thinking about it. What other medium-sized cities have this many songs written about them? If you can think of some, leave them in the comments section.

1. "Because of Toledo," The Blue Nile. The saddest, most beautiful song on the album High, and possibly its emotional centerpiece: "Because of Toledo/I got sober and stayed clean . . ." Listen to a live version here (the song itself starts around 1:19).

2. "Lucille," Kenny Rogers. Of course. "In a bar in Toledo/Across from the depot/On a barstool she took off her ring."

3. "Saturday Night Toledo Ohio," John Denver. This was Joe's contribution. I have no trouble admitting my ignorance of the works of John Denver, but this appears on two of his albums, and was a staple of his live shows. It's not very complimentary; the first line is "Saturday night in Toledo, Ohio, is like being nowhere at all."

4. "Tina Toledo's Street-Walking Blues," Ryan Adams. This one might be cheating, as it's not about Toledo at all, but about a young woman who supports her kid by working as a prostitute in New York City. "Tina Toledo" is presumably her street name, though, and she must have picked it for a reason, right?

5. "Toledo," Elvis Costello. From the album he made with Burt Bacharach, Painted from Memory. I was trying to remember the exact words to this song last night, and mangled it; the relevant lines go, "But do people living in Toledo/Know that the name hasn't traveled very well/And do people living in Ohio/Dream of that Spanish citadel?" Do they?


Frank said...

There is Toledo (also called Saturday Night in Toledo) by Randy Sparkes, and recorded by John Denver. Some of the lyrics:

Saturday night in Toledo, Ohio, is like being nowhere at all
All through the day how the hours rush by
You sit in the park and you watch the grass die

Ah, but after the sunset, the dusk and the twilight
When shadows of night start to fall
They roll back the sidewalks precisely at ten
And people who live there are not seen again

You ask how I know of Toledo, Ohio
Well I spent a week there one day
They've got entertainment to dazzle your eyes
Go visit the bakery and watch the buns rise

AnswerGirl said...

Thanks for the lyrics, Frank! That is the John Denver song I mention above. Sorry, I should have credited the songwriter, Randy Sparks, who talks about the song here: He was not a fan of Toledo.

Anonymous said...

This doesn't rise to the challenge you presented, but the first song I thought of was "Indianapolis" by The Bottle Rockets.

The song ends with these lyrics:

Sittin' in this bar is gettin' more than I can stand,
If I could catch a ride, would they think I ditched this band.
Who knows what this repair'll cost, scared to spend a dime.
I'll puke if that jukebox plays John Cougar one more time!

But if I ever leave here I hope never to return,
If I get that van back, man the road I'm gonna burn.
Right now my future's in the hands of the boys down at Firestone.
Stuck in Indianapolis, feelin' all alone


Can't go west, can't go East,
I'm stuck in Indianapolis, with a fuel pump that's deceased.
Ten days on the road now I'm four hours from my hometown
Is this Hell or Indianapolis, with no way to get around.

Here's a live video:

-- Ed

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the link to interview by song writer.

I remember hearing it as a kid, but I'd never heard how that John Denver song had come about.


Anonymous said...

Detroit native Jack White sings, "You send me to Toledo" in the White Stripes song "Expecting" from the album White Blood Cells. Toledo of course, is just over an hour drive from the city and is home to the Tigers triple-A affiliate the Mud Hens.

Omari Norman said...

There is also "Rocky Mountain Music" by Eddie Rabbit, where he says that "sister married a soldier and lives in Toledo." I think of that song whenever I am on the Ohio Turnpike and cross Toledo, and I found this page because I wondered if there was some other song I can get stuck in my head when in Ohio.

Ellen Clair Lamb said...

I didn't know that one - I'll check it out. Thanks!

Brad Koenig said...

"Our Song" by Yes refers to Toledo and is in reference to their 1977 tour date at the old Toledo Sports Arena where the temperature reached 126 degrees during the show.