After I created a list of my favorite songs with state capitols in their titles, I decide to become international. The first on my list was going to be “Ontario” by The Mountain Goats. I had to amend my list when I went back to check my list for inaccuracies and discovered that Ottawa, not Ontario, was the capitol of our neighbors to the north.
Also during my fact check I found out that the nation of Luxembourg was the city of Luxembourg. That fact would make Elvis Costello’s song of the same name eligible for my list, but it didn’t crack my top ten. Fortunately, though, Costello has been around long enough to have recorded another song that did make the list.
10. “Katmandu” by Bob Seger and the Silver Bullet Band: The song was one of Seger’s biggest hits before
Night Moves launched him into stardom. I always liked the way Seger sings “K-K-K-Katmandu” in the chorus. The city is the capitol of Nepal.
9. “Wonderful Copenhagen” by Frank Sinatra: I love to hear Frank sing, and his beautiful voice seldom sounded better than on this Frank Loesser composition. The whole album,
Frank Sings Loesser, contains Sinatra singing various songs by the composer, including “Baby, It’s Cold Outside.”
8. “Do You Know the Way to San Jose?” by Dionne Warwick: Burt Bacharach and Hal David wrote this, as they did many of Warwick’s popular songs. The lyrics describe an aspiring actress who never made it in Hollywood, and now wants to go home. In the song Warwick kind of represents the female counterpart of Albert Hammond in “It Never Rains in Southern California.” The country, if you’re wondering, is Coasta Rica.
7. “Woman from Tokyo” by Deep Purple: This song was one of the band’s biggest hits, second only to “Smoke on the Water,” and was one of the reasons Deep Purple was so popular in Japan in the early 70s. Their live album,
Made in Japan, was one of their biggest selling records.
6. “All Roads Lead to Rome” by The Stranglers: The album
Feline introduced the mellow sound the band adopted after their punk days. This is one of the beautifully orchestrated tracks from that album.
5. “A Souvenir of London” by Procol Harum: We are never sure what the souvenir is, but we do know that it is something the guy wishes he did not have. I’ve always assumed it was an STD of some kind, which was why he has to hide it from his mom and why “the news is leaking out.”
4. “Vienna” by Billy Joel: The mellow piano ballad is one of the many excellent tracks from The Stranger. The city is one of the few that is more well-known than its country.
3. “Crimes of Paris” by Elvis Costello: In most cases it is Costello’s lyrics that appeal to me more than the music. Here, though, the catchy rhythm is its appeal. The song does show Costello’s uncanny facility with words, such as “The cigarette girl in the sizzle-hot pants.”
2. “Havana Gang Brawl” by The Zutons: Somehow the song has a fun appeal in spite of the violent images in the lyrics. The indie band seems to be suggesting that the gang violence is child’s play compared to the brutal beating inflicted by the police.
1. “One Night in Bangkok” by Murray Head: This is one of the greatest songs to emerge from the end of the new wave movement. It is filled with sexual imagery described by a sober outsider appalled by the action in Thailand’s capitol. The females singing the chorus sound almost as seductive as what is being described in the verses.