O Glorious Jeremiad

December 20, 2017 | Posted by Guest Reviewer | Modern Music, MUSIC | 1 Comment |

"The Nightingale is Singing" by Mikhail Nesterov

The Varnished Culture’s collection of Sad Songs

As Elton sang, ‘sad songs say so much,’ and they serve a number of purposes – soothing the soul, topping-up our empathy tanks, putting a spring in our step because we’re not expiring near a roll of chicken wire.

“Sad” in this context can mean melancholy, mournful or even wryly funny.

Mrs Siddons as the Tragic Muse by Joshua Reynolds

Mrs Siddons as the Tragic Muse by Joshua Reynolds

Our preferred lamentations, in alphabetical order (key performer only credited), are:

All By Myself (Eric Carmen) [He never needed anyone before but he does now.]

All of These Things (Ed Kuepper)

Allentown (Billy Joel) [Ode to a dying town.]

Alone Again (Naturally) (Gilbert O’Sullivan) [Ain’t no-one gonna love us like our Mama.]

American Pie (Don McLean) [Ode to Buddy Holly. “I can’t remember if I cried when I read about his widowed bride but something touched me deep inside, the day the music died.”]

Anyone Who Had a Heart (Dionne Warwick / Dusty Springfield) [Get beaten up by love, get up, dust off, cop it again.]

Are You There (With Another Girl)? (Dionne Warwick) [Perky love mis-trust ditty, representative of songs like “Window Up Above,” “Remove This Doubt,” “I Smell a Rat,” “Somebody’s Crying,” et al…]

Back to Black (Amy Winehouse) [Amy’s prescient dirge.]

Billy, Don’t be a Hero (Paper Lace) [“I heard she threw the letter away...”]

Bird Song (Lene Lovich)

Bittersweet Symphony (The Verve) [A bittersweet paean to Determinism.]

Black (Pearl Jam) [The World’s all been washed in black.]

The Carnival is Over (The Seekers) [“But the joys of love are fleeting for Pierrot and Columbine…”]

Caroline Says (Lou Reed) [“Why is it that you beat me?  It isn’t any fun.”]

Cat’s in the Cradle (Harry Chapin) [Absentee Dad = absentee son, and around we go.]

Chicken Wire (Pernice Brothers) [The one where the lady parks in the garage with the motor running.]

The Comedians (Roy Orbison) [“It’s always something cruel that laughter drowns.”]

Comfortably Numb (Pink Floyd) [“The child is grown, the dream is gone, I have become comfortably numb…”]

Creep (Radiohead) [The one by the chap who is out of his league.]

The Crying Game (Boy George) [“And what to do to stop feeling blue When love disappears…”]

Dance of the Screamers (Ian Dury & the Blockheads) [“I really think you’d like me given half a chance but since we ain’t got that I’ll do the Screamers’ Dance...”]

Dance With My Father (Luther Vandross) [Boys need a Dad. Bad.]

Daniel (Elton John) [“God it looks like Daniel, must be the clouds in my eyes…”]

A Dime a Dance (Vicki Lawrence) [“a worn-out promise And a party gown keeps me in this town…“]

Dance Me To the End of Love (Leonard Cohen) [To some, this is a song of hope.  To us, it’s a song of despair. “Dance me to the children who are asking to be born, Dance me through the curtains that our kisses have outworn, Raise a tent of shelter now, though every thread is torn…]

The Day John Kennedy died (Lou Reed) [“I dreamt there was a point to life, and to the human race…”]

Desperado (The Eagles) [The one about the guy who won’t let love in.]

Eleanor Rigby (The Beatles) [Pure pop poetry about all the lonely people – where do they all belong?]

The Final Taxi (Wreckless Eric) [“No fare on the meter, they’ll be paying by cheque…”]

Fire and Rain (James Taylor)

5000 Candles in the Wind (Mouse Rat) [For those who would mourn the passing of miniature horse “Li’l Sebastian” ahead of Marilyn Monroe or Princess Diana.]

Free Bird (Lynyrd Skynyrd) [This bird you cannot change.]

Girls Just Want to Have Fun (Cyndi Lauper) [The yawp of the strait-jacketed young ladies.]

Gloomy Sunday (Billie Holliday) [Song for the lover who passed first.]

Good Year for the Roses (Elvis Costello) [“As you turn to walk away, As the door behind you closes, The only thing I have to say…”]

Hazard (Richard Marx) [“Here was I surrounded by a thousand fingers suddenly Pointed right at me…]

Honey (Bobby Goldsboro) [A maudlin sick song for the ages.]

Hurt (9-inch Nails / Johnny Cash) [They’re focusing on the pain. The only thing that’s real.]

I Don’t Like Mondays (Boomtown Rats) [When the brain snaps, we lose our thinking caps. Anthem for those at the end of their tether but still too selfish to shoot themselves first.]

I Don’t Wanna Play House (Tammy Wynette) [Because when Mom and Pop did, Pop left.]

I Fall to Pieces (Patsy Cline) [Great precursor to songs like ‘Walk on By’.]

If I Can’t Have You (Yvonne Elliman) [Sing along with “Jealous Guyor “You Weren’t in Love With Me.”]

I Grieve (Peter Gabriel) [Some find this song affirming and hopeful.  We don’t. “The news that truly shocks Is the empty, empty page, While the final rattle rocks It’s empty, empty cage And I can’t handle this, I grieve...”]

I Know It’s Over (The Smiths) [“…why are you on your own tonight?“]

I’m Not in Love (10CC) [Her picture hides a nasty stain on the wall.]

I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry (Hank Williams)

I Never Cry (Alice Cooper) [A lonely alcoholic’s late night confession.]

In the Ghetto (Elvis Presley) [One dies, one’s born, and round and round we go.]

I Threw it all Away (Bob Dylan) [Bookend this with Graham Parker’s “Turned Up Too Late.”]

It’s Different for Girls (Joe Jackson) [No, not really. Jackson’s ironic take puts the ‘gentler sex’ in the same basket.]

Junior Dad (Lou Reed & Metallica) [“Age withered him and changed him Into junior dad.”]

Lament (Ultravox)

Little Green (Joni Mitchell) [The one where abandoned Mum has to abandon her daughter.]

Little Water Song (Ute Lemper) [The one where her man has come to immerse her, not help with the soap…]

Louisiana 1927 (Randy Newman) [“Little fat man, ain’t it a shame, what the river has done to this poor cracker’s land…”]

Love Child (Diana Ross and the Supremes) [Sing along to this as well as “In the Ghetto” and “Unwanted Number.”]

The Loverley Car (The Loved Ones) [Sad saga about a little tiny man.]

Love Will Tear Us Apart (Joy Division) [It’s over but we just can’t kill itSee also “9 Crimes” by Damien Rice.]

Mad World (Tears For Fears) [A neat line in soulful nihilism.]

The Man With the Child in His Eyes (Kate Bush) [The one about the poor woman married to Peter Pan.]

Mmm Mmm Mmm Mmm (Crash Test Dummies)

My Own Prison (Creed) [We’ve met the enemy, and they are us. We’ve made our own bed, created our own prison.]

The Needle and the Damage Done (Neil Young) [“every junkie’s like a settin’ sun.”]

New York Mining Disaster 1941 (Bee Gees) [Simple, poignant ballad about being buried alive. Hope this wasn’t on the Beaconsfield miners’ i-Pod.]

The Night the Lights Went Out in Georgia (Vicki Lawrence) [A real miscarriage of justice.  As they reveal in Reservoir Dogs: “…this is the first time I ever realized that the girl singin’ the song is the one who shot Andy.”]

No Surprises (Radiohead) [Let’s all shake hands with oblivion.]

Nothing Compares 2 U (Sinead O’Connor) [Sad business, counting seven hours and fifteen days.]

Nutshell (Alice in Chains) [“If I can’t be my own I’d feel better dead.”]

Ode to Billie Joe (Bobbie Gentry) [“He said he saw a girl that looked a lot like you up on Choctaw Ridge, And she and Billy Joe was throwing somethin’ off the Tallahatchie Bridge…”]

Perfect Day (Lou Reed) [Could be a happy tune – but not the way Lou sings it.]

The Pills Won’t Help You Now (The Chemical Brothers) [Better to dig in your heels. Refer also to “The Drugs Don’t Work” by The Verve.]

Porcelain (Red Hot Chili Peppers) [She may have perfect skin, but she’s wasting away within.]

Remember Everything (Five Finger Death Punch) [Musical companion to Philip Larkin‘s poem “This Be The Verse.“]

Return to Oz (Scissor Sisters) [If you’re thinking of trying crystal meth, watch ‘Breaking Bad’ or listen to this.]

The River (Bruce Springsteen) [“Now those memories come back to haunt me, they haunt me like a curse, Is a dream a lie if it don’t come true Or is it something worse…”]

The Road to Cairo (David Ackles) [Guilt trumps family.]

Say Goodbye to Hollywood (Billy Joel) [This could have been written by Holden Caulfield for his brother. “Life is a series of hellos and goodbyes, I’m afraid it’s time for goodbye again…”]

Seasons in the Sun (Terry Jacks) [“Goodbye my friend it’s hard to die, When all the birds are singing in the sky…”]

Send in the Clowns (Judy Collins)

Shooting Star (Bad Company) [All the world will love you till...]

Solitaire (Carpenters) [Brother to “Desperado” (op cit.) “While life goes on around him everywhere He’s playing solitaire.”]

Someone Like You (Adele) [Okay, so you’ve moved on. Why can’t I?]

Song for Guy (Elton John) [A bespoke lament.]

The Sound of Silence (Simon & Garfunkel) [Everyone walking around, alone.]

Space Oddity (David Bowie) [The one where a “spaceman” takes his last walk.]

Stan (Eminem) [We’re not sure this is sad so much as creepy, but…]

The Streets of Baltimore (Gram Parsons) [The one where she discovers she likes Baltimore better than the man who brought her there.]

Suicide is Painless (Johnny Mandel) [“It doesn’t hurt when it begins But as it works its way on in The pain grows stronger Watch it grin...”]

Summertime Sadness (Lana Del Ray)

Taxi (Harry Chapin) [Down the boulevard of broken dreams. “She took off to find the footlights and I took off to find the sky.”]

Time of the Preacher (Willie Nelson)

Tom Traubert’s Blues (Tom Waits) [A world-class sad song about a word-class down-and-out.]

24 Hours From Tulsa (Gene Pitney) [We feel most for the one the song is aimed at.]

Two Out of Three Ain’t Bad (Meatloaf) [The one where the domestic lie is discarded.]

Vincent (Don McLean) [“They would not listen, They’re not listening still…Perhaps they never will.”]

Whiskey Lullaby (Brad Paisley & Alison Krauss) [Put that bottle to your head, and pull the trigger.]

Willie and Laura Mae Jones (Tony Joe White) [“That was another place and another time…”]

Wish You Were Here (Pink Floyd)

Yesterday (The Beatles)

You Don’t Know Me (Ray Charles) [“Oh you will never know The one who loves you so, Well you don’t know me.“]

Your Dictionary (XTC) [The Mother of all divorce songs. “S-h-i-t, is that how you spell me in your dictionary…”]

Sad songs say so much


Is set out below.  With many of these we agree; some required us to return to ‘You Tube’ to acquaint ourselves with the song. An asterisk marks those suggestions with which we can’t agree, generally where the train of sadness has strayed into the siding of mawkishness.

*Always (Bon Jovi)

Amazing Grace

Are You Lonesome Tonight? (Elvis Presley)

Arms of the Angel (Sarah McLachlan)

*Baby Mine (from “Dumbo”)

*Beautiful (Christina Aguilera)

Blue (The Jayhawks)

Christmas Card from a Hooker in Minneapolis (Tom Waits)

*Daisy a Day (Jud Strunk)

*Don’t Take the Girl (Tim McGraw)

Everybody Hurts (REM)

Forbidden Colours (Sylvian & Sakamoto) [from “Merry Christmas, Mr Lawrence“)

Good Woman (Cat Power)

He Ain’t Heavy, He’s My Brother (Hollies)

He Stopped Loving Her Today (George Jones)

Hey, that’s No Way to Say Goodbye (Leonard Cohen)

Jar of Hearts (Christina Perri)

Lately (Stevie Wonder)

La Vie en Rose (Piaf)



O (Coldplay)

One More Light (Linkin Park)

Pyramid Song (Radiohead)

Sad (Pearl Jam)

Save My Life (Pink)

So Far Away (Avenged Sevenfold)

Soldier’s Things (Tom Waits)

*Starmaker (The Kids From ‘Fame’)

Sunshine and Rain (Jacques Mees)

*Tears in Heaven (Eric Clapton)

*Teddy Bear (Red Sovine)

This Woman’s Work (Kate Bush)

Tuesday’s Gone (Lynyrd Skynyrd)

Unintended (Muse)

*We All Sleep Alone (Cher)

We Just Disagree (Dave Mason)

When I Stop Dreaming (The Louvin Brothers)

Wicked Game (Chris Isaak)

*Yesterday (Boyz 2 Men)

You Are So Beautiful (Joe Cocker)

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1 Comment

  1. Reply


    March 17, 2018

    Masquerade by Leon Russell?

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