As a part of the rather idiosyncratic movement known as The Salvation Army, I'm always interested to note songs with references (however oblique) to the organisation. Thus I have compiled a playlist featuring songs that have some connection with The Salvation Army. It's quite surprising to see the variety of artists I've discovered over time. (And by some of the greatest names ever!)
1. The Beatles -'Strawberry Fields Forever' (Magical Mystery Tour, 1967). It is a pretty well known fact that 'Strawberry Field' is the name of a Salvation Army children's home in Liverpool, near the childhood home of John Lennon. Apparently, Lennon and his friends would play in the grounds and attend the annual summer fete. The song itself is lyrically surreal but nonetheless rather beautiful. And certainly there is a feeling of nostalgia for the places where the ex-Beatle grew up. And in my experience producing nostalgia in people is something The Salvation Army excels at! Cups of tea, bands, Victorian Christmas scenes - these are all triggers for people of a certain age.
2. White Stripes - 'Seven Nation Army' (Elephant, 2003) The White Stripes are a pretty unlikely band to have a song linked with The Salvation Army, but it's true! This song (you know the one with the very distinctive riff) actually won a Grammy award for Best Rock Song in 2004. The song is named such because it was what Jack White used to call 'The Salvation Army' as a child and he just liked the sound of it. Apparently he lived near a Salvation Army Charity Shop. Simple.
3. Leonard Cohen - 'Suzanne' (The Songs of Leonard Cohen, 1967). This a great song (indeed worthy to be called a classic) and highlights Cohen's poetic gift. In the final verse these words appear:
'Now Suzanne takes your hand
And she leads you to the river
She is wearing rags and feathers
From Salvation Army counters'
And so our reference - but actually I'm more interested to decipher the references to Jesus, well worth a look (and listen).
4. Nick Cave - 'The Mercy Seat' (Tender Prey, 1988) - see my previous post on this brilliant song.
5. Bob Dylan - 'Rainy Day Women #12&35' (Blonde on Blonde, 1966) No surprises for seeing a Dylan song in my playlist, but what's the link between a song that says 'everybody must get stoned' and the SA? Well, apparently Dylan was after a 'ramshackled sound' and suggested hiring the local Salvation Army band to play on the recording! Not being a fan of brass music I'm delighted to have discovered this fact, particularly when so many Salvationists take band music so seriously. In the end Dylan and friends did it themselves (whilst alledgedly high on grass), but you can hear the link with an SA band alright on the track. As ever with Dylan, no-one really knows what the song is about or what kind of 'getting stoned' Dylan means. You'll have to make your own mind up.
6. Eminem - '8 Mile' (8 Mile, 2002). Not knowing much Eminem I've left this until last. The few songs I do know I like - this one included. The Salvation Army charity shop features again - with the lines:
'I'm feelin a little skeptical who I hang out with
I look like a bum, yo my clothes ain't about shit
At the Salvation Army tryin to salvage an outfit
And it's cold, tryin to travel this road'
Not quite as poetic as Leonard Cohen perhaps, but effective nonetheless.
And so that's my playlist - perhaps you know other songs I can add, feel free to let me know. And from all of this three things must be noted: charity shops obviously evoke a lyrical muse so if you have one near you, go and enjoy it; secondly, 1966-68 was a obviously a bumper period for Salvation Army related songs, perhaps a hang-over from the Joy Strings (but that's another story); and thirdly, I wonder if any other religious organisations could boast such an illustrious playlist?!