Songwriters down the years have often returned to the subject of moving on in life. Occasionally, these touch directly on the subject of a house move – in one way or another. Here’s some of my favorite suggestions, although no doubt you’ll have some ideas of your own.
Even in the earliest years of popular music, writers found the theme of house moving a potentially rich seam of ideas. Back in the days of music hall, My old man said follow the van was an early introduction to the subject – although presumably the van in question wouldn’t have been the sort of purpose built vehicle used by modern man-and-van removals companies.
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The 1950s saw many artists providing a natural link between modern popular music and the early variety or music hall style. The best example of house removal songs in this tradition would have to be Bernard Cribbin’s Right Said Fred – almost a short comedy film script in its own right – covering the efforts of a group of hapless removal contractors and their (largely unsuccessful) efforts to move a grand piano. I can guarantee that the exercise would resonate with many modern removal experts.
Rock and Roll – young people’s music?
Modern pop and rock is usually thought of as reflecting the lives of younger people. Certainly, in the earlier days, the target audience was mainly teens and younger adults, so it’s probably no surprise that many “moving” songs relate to an escape from dreary or oppressive surroundings. The Animals’ 1965 hit We gotta get out of this place sums this feeling perfectly:
“We gotta get out of this place
If it’s the last thing we ever do
Girl there’s a better life for me and you”.
With its references to “the dirty part of the city/where the sun refuses to shine” the song clearly struck a chord with young 1960s city dwellers determined to get a better life.
Bruce Sprinsteen’s early “cars and girls” type outings struck a similar note with songs like Thunder Road and Born to Run covering the same sort of upwardly aspirational teenage territory. But we’ll come back to Bruce later.
A slightly different take is presented by the Beatles’ She’s Leaving Home, a sad story of a young girl running away from a loving home and family, but one in which she feels trapped and isolated:
“She goes downstairs to the kitchen Clutching her handkerchief Quietly turning the backdoor key Stepping outside, she is free”
Paul Simon’s My little town gives perhaps a more middle class twist to teenage angst and aspiration. Young Paul clearly had issues with his home town, the New York suburb of Queens, where he tells us:
“I never meant nothing, I was just my father’s son”
And which is populated by:
“Nothing but the dead and dying (back in my little town)”.
You get the sense that there are some old scores being settled here!
Rock and Roll – older person’s music?
As its audience grew up, so rock music grew up with it, bringing slightly more mature themes to the fore. Take, for instance, Carole Bayer-Sager’s 1977 single You’re moving out today in which the singer kicks her semi delinquent boyfriend out with instructions to:
“pack all your toys away Your pretty boys away Your 45s away Your alibis away Your Spanish flies away Your one-more-tries away Your old tie-dyes away You’re moving out today”
Billy Joel’s My Life treads similar mid-life crisis territory in which he gets a call from an old friend who:
“Said he couldn’t go on the American way Closed the shop, sold the house Bought a ticket to the West Coast Now he gives them a stand-up routine in L.A”
Abba’s Knowing me, knowing you (one of a sequence of songs in which the group appeared to explore the personal and marital problems facing the two couples who comprised the band) moves into a slightly darker mood with the protagonist wandering through the family home, from which the furniture if not the memories has been removed and pondering leaving the house (and, one presumes, the marriage) for the last time.
Finally back to Bruce Springsteen. By the mid 1980’s young Bruce had grown up, and the teenage optimism of Born to Run had been replaced by the more sober reflection of Born in the USA. In My home town, from the Born in the USA album, he contrasts the feel good factor of small town USA in the late 1950’s with the industrial and economic decline of the mid 1980’s. The lyric begins with the narrator, as a young boy, sat on his father’s lap behind the wheel of the family care and being proudly told to:
”Son, take a good look around – this is your home town”
The lyric takes us through civil rights tensions and foreign wars in the 1960’s to the death of the town’s industrial base in the 1980’s where the subject of the song despairs of staying and dreams of moving out:
“Last night me and Kate we laid in bed talking about getting out Packing up our bags maybe heading south”
In a poignant twist, the song compares the young boy’s memory of touring the once-prosperous town in his father’s car with the sombre modern reality:
“I’m thirty-five we got a boy of our own now Last night I sat him up behind the wheel and said son take a good Look around This is your hometown”.
Why not see if you can come up with a better list of removals songs, perhaps using one of the many on-line historical aids such as this one from the Official Charts Company to help with the inspiration. Good luck!
Born in Thailand in 1985, Photjanard Chantamethee Gregoriou has lived near London since 2006. Together with her husband, George, she runs a removals company covering London and the Northern Home Counties.
As a mother of two young children, a daughter and a son, she doesn’t have much spare time, but draws from her Buddhist faith to help others wherever possible and to ensure that all the company vans are blessed with good luck.