Saturday, 9 May 2009
I've been to great city of Chicago quite a few times but apart from the interstate that's unfortunately all I've seen of Illinois. My first trip to the Windy City was on a low-budget Gap Year tour of the States. My friend James and I had so little money that we flipped a coin to see who'd take the cameras up to the Sears Tower observation deck. I lost.
For some reason a lot of my favourite artists have written songs about Illinois. Enjoy the selections and let me know any you think I should have included.
MP3: Sufjan Stevens - Come On! Feel The Illinoise!
I feel obliged to start with a track from Sufjan Stevens' Illinoise album even though I'm disappointed that his own musical tour around the USA seems to have stalled. The 1893 Chicago World's Fair, celebrated in this song, was extremely noteworthy. Not only did it introduce many Americans to electricity for the first time but Shredded Wheat and Juicy Fruit also made their debuts there.
More Sufjan Stevens: BBC | MySpace | Amazon | 7digital
MP3: Three Bits of Rhythm - I Used To Work In Chicago
I first heard of a version of this amusing post-war bit of sauce on Theme Time Radio Hour. I know nothing about the trio playing here except they were from Los Angeles. The track's from a compilation called Mellow Cats 'n' Kittens Vol.1: Hot R&B and Cool Blues 1946-1952.
MP3: The Handsome Family - The Giant of Illinois
Snow. Death. Strange goings-on. To me this conjures up Mid-Western Gothic in much the same way as Wisconsin Death Trip and Fargo do. The Handsome Family, Brett and Rennie Sparks, are always excellent live so do try and catch them on tour at the moment.
More Handsome Family: MySpace | Amazon | 7digital
MP3: Tom Waits - Johnsburg, Illinois (live)
Tom Waits has claimed that his wife Kathleen Brennan can drive a bulldozer and that he married her because she can stick a knitting needle through her lip and still drink coffee. Something about her that's certainly true is that she's from Johnsburg, Illionis. This version is from the Big Time live album.
More Tom Waits: BBC | MySpace | Amazon | 7digital
MP3: Frank Zappa - The Illinois Enema Bandit (live)
The dubious subject of this epic Zappa workout was a real criminal called Michael Kenyon and such couplets as "From farm to farm/Got a rubberized bag/And a hose on his arm/Lookin' for some rustic co-ed rump" are disturbingly accurate.
More Frank Zappa: BBC | official site Amazon
MP3: Wilco - Via Chicago (live)
This excellent live outing of the Summerteeth track is from Wilco's 2007 appearance on Austin City Limits. Aquarium Drunkard has posted the whole set so if you like what you hear pay him a visit and download the lot.
More Wilco: BBC | official site | Amazon | 7digital
Three of the four I states neighbour each other so we're staying in the Mid-West next time to visit the birthplace of David Letterman, Kurt Vonnegut and Steve McQueen - Indiana.
State Songs - links to every post on this musical road trip