Songs About Coffee: One for the Road
There's a long tradition of songs about the life of a musician, from Joe Walsh's classic "Life's Been Good" to the oft-maligned Nickelback's "Rockstar," CCR's "Travelin' Band," Chuck Berry's "Johnny B. Goode," They Might Be Giants' unexpectedly wistful "The End of the Tour," or Grand Funk Railroad's raucous "We're An American Band." The musician's life, what with all the songwriting, touring, and assorted questionable habits, can be a tiring one, so it's hardly surprising that even the biggest names need a little pick-me-up sometimes. Here are three of our favorites:
Folds has been stubbornly plugging away for quite some time now, over a career that's spanned chart success and fame with the Ben Folds Five, an equally fruitful solo career, a sideline in production, and even a second life as a reality TV personality (for the hit series The Sing-Off). On "Free Coffee" (from the 2008 album "Way to Normal"), he reminisces about how life's changed on the road from obscurity to fame, and the fact that nobody wants to give you anything 'til you don't need it anymore:
And they gave me some food
and they didn't charge me
and they gave me some coffee
but they didn't charge me
and when I was broke I needed it more.
But now that I'm rich, they give me coffee.
Todd Rundgren's been involved in a string of hits that stretches back nearly fifty years, from his pioneering work with Nazz (the landmark hit "Open My Eyes"), a long solo career (which spawned the hits "Hello, It's Me," "I Saw The Light," and "Bang the Drum All Day"), and being one of the most respected producers in the business, responsible for albums as varied as The Band's "Stage Fright" to Meatloaf's "Bat Out of Hell" to XTC's "Skylarking." "Espresso (All Jacked Up)" from 1995's "The Individualist," proves that the man knows how to craft an irresistable pop song. Over a caffeinated jumble of synth and funky bass, he drops an ode to the beverage that keeps him going on interminable tours:
Which side of the road do we drive on?
Here everyone eats so fast
And what was that language we spoke yesterday?
I made some change so I can pay
To get us some hot espresso
Or maybe a cappuccino
Would you like a cafe latte
Make it with lots of chocolate in the middle of it
Lovett's music has always had an uneasy relationship with country. It's not quite "country and western," (though it's that, too) because Lovett's never been afraid to draw from a deeper well of American music, effortlessly incorporating blues, jazz, gospel, rock, Americana, and (with the Large Band) elements of a Bob Willis-influenced Western Swing. On the lead-off track from 1992's "Joshua Judges Ruth," all the usual Lovett touches are on display: the sad sack narrator, music that sways seamlessly from honky tonk to country and back, and that wry sense of humor that's so dry it's practically a fire hazard. It's all on display right from the start, when:
The sun comes up in a coffee cup
Waitress, please I've had enough
Lord, I can't believe what I see
How could you be alone
When you could sit right here beside me, girl
And make yourself at home
When the sun goes down in some another town
Bartender, please another round...