Wednesday, 26 March 2008

Playlist = The Salvation Army

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?!


Nick Coke said...

Just realised I have another track in my collection I left off the playlist: 'Life in a Northern Town' by Dream Academy (a one hit wonder, really). If I get a few others I'll do another playlist...

Cosmo said...

Ah! You beat me to it with 'Northern Town.'

This is a great playlist and revealing of people's perception of what The Salvation Army is. Funny reference to Dylan. I'll use that one sometime.

The only other song that springs to mind is by Christian artist Geoff Moore. This song doesn't just reference the SA it's solely about it. (It resulted in a fair few gigs across the States at SA events!)

The track is 'Heart to God, Hand to Man'. Here's a link to a tribute video:

Tim said...

Wow. I had no idea that that White Stripes song was about TSA.

Simon and Garfunkel reference “The Salvation Army band” in their song “Hazy Shade of Winter” (covered by the Bangles) and it is rumoured that Paul Simon actually wrote “Sounds of Silence” while hanging out at a Regent Hall detached youth ministry back in the 60’s.

Pink Floyd recruited a Salvation Army band to play on their track Jugband Blues.

Was also going to mention The Dream Academy’s Life In A Northern Town (used to love this song).

Rufus Wainwright (any relation?) has a song called Sally Ann which talks about life around SA centres.

Panic at the Disco reference buying a trumpet at an SA on Mad As Rabbits.

The following are actually Christian artists, so not as impressive as your list, but interesting all the same.

Rich Mullins – Hold me Jesus – in the last verse he says:
“And this Salvation Army band, is playing this hymn
And Your grace rings out so deep, it makes my resistance seem so thin

As Cosmo said, Geoff Moor – Heart to God, Hand to Man – I was actually at one of those gigs! : )
“In darkest England 1865, a dismal slum of poverty. A band of believers rescued from the night, played songs of hope and offered light.”
And ends with;
“Singing a heart to God and a hand to man, here begins the healing of our land.
A heart to God and a hand to man, I can still hear the Salvation Army band.”

Phil Keaggy has a song entitled “Salvation Army Band” which is, not surprisingly, also about TSA.

Nick Coke said...

Wow Tim - that's impressive! The Rufus Wainwright one is most interesting for me - I'm a fan but never got hold of his first album which I imagine this track's from.

The 'Sound of Silence' is an interesting one and I like the tenuous link - perhaps we should have a competition to see who can come up with the most tenuous link between the SA and rock musicians. Here's one for starters - the grandmother of Errol Brown (of Hot Chocolate fame) used to attend Southwark Salvation Army when we were there! Actually she was an amazing lady and great woman of faith.

Tim said...

Ok, Dizzy Rascal used to attend the Poplar Corps' youth club, recorded his first demo there, and once got sent home for fighting. : )

Heather's place said...

How about Olivia Newton John 1974 Eurovision song Long, long live love?

Full lyrics here

I have vague memories of this - I'd be ten at the time - and googled the title to find it.

I never realised it was a eurovision song. What a strange thing.

Cosmo said...


That's brilliant! I've never come across this one before. Definately the cream of the crop.

(Do you think the old Salvation Army slogan, 'Caring and Sharing' came from this song?)

It's on You Tube here:

Funny stuff. I'm surprised it didn't get incorporated into the Salvation Army Songbook!

Nick Coke said...

Heather - just watched the youtube video - I'm speechless. What a find!

Tim said...

Got a new one for you! I was watching VH1 the other night when an old Pretenders video comes on for 2000 Miles. Chrissie Hynde wears full Salvation Army uniform (with bonnet) throuhout the entire video! Check it out!

Nick Coke said...

Tim - what a find! I actually love this song, certainly one of my favourite Christmas songs, probably after the Pogues and Frankie Goes to Hollywood. But you could just have ruined it for me! How am I ever going to get that image out of my head? Still the comments to the Youtube video state: 'Chrissie Hynde herself has claimed this is the worst Video ever made' I would have to agree.

Cosmo said...

I know it's been a while since you did this, but I came across this song by Elvis Presley. While it doesn't directly reference the SA, I have a feeling that Presley is giving a testimony at an open-air meeting of the "soul saving army".

Check out SAVED.

Dr Faust said...

Just in case you are still looking to expand the Salvation Army playlist here are a couple more:

'Sally' by Sade is all about the work that the SA do. I believe their drummer was from a Salvationist family - hence the interest.

Secondly - 'Salvation' by Elton John, a track on the Honky Chateau album. Elton had a number of connections to Salvationists - his first manager, Steve Brown, was from a Salvationist family, and he sometimes stayed with them in London.

Might think of some more later -

Nick Coke said...

My friend Mel has discovered a couple more:

'I have a couple of songs for your Salvation Army playlist. A band called Blue Mink sang 'The Bannerman', check out the lyrics. Also Cash's 'Understand your man' has the line 'You can give my other suite to the Salvation Army.'

joshselfe said...

Aqualung by Jethro Tull "feeling alone, the Army's up the road, Salvation A la mode and a cup of tea."

Van Halen have just released a song called blood and fire.

ELO "look at me now" talks about squeezing a lady from the S.A

and you don't want to know what the Buzcocks say they want to do to the Joystrings in one of their songs