Staff Top 10
Top Ten Songs About Trains

By: Nick Southall
2007-03-30



Posted 03/30/2007 - 04:42:28 AM by meatbreak:
 This is much better than the solar system top ten - this is great! Glad to see Kylie so high up - I've been listening to the Locomotion for a couple of weeks making an autobiographical mixtape (yeah, I took Ryan's IMP challenge). I also put Last Train To Trancentral on it and Trans-Europe Express and Homeward Bound got left off, so you people are freaking me out a bit here - what would I have been sublkiminally saying, that my life has been like a journey? Woah, that would have been ingenious of me, huh? Anyway, no Soul Asylum "Runaway Train"? That things off and it's never coming back. No CSN "Marrakesh Express"? The Kinks "Last of the Steam-Powered Trains"? Ozzy's "Crazy Train"?!! Jethro Tull's "Locomotive Breath"? Tom Waits "Downtown Train"? And if you get started on dusty old American folk songs you'll be here forever. Yeah, I like this one.
 
Posted 03/30/2007 - 04:49:31 AM by NickSouthall:
 Waits' Downtown Train and Guillemots' Trains To Brazil are the two songs people have mentioned to me after I'd completed this article that made me go "shit", fwiw.
 
Posted 03/30/2007 - 05:41:33 AM by theheightstx:
 aesop rock- train buffer aesop rock- no jumper cables take yr pick.
 
Posted 03/30/2007 - 06:17:09 AM by :
 Train songs are often hypotenuse to the obrative current that directs their momentum. Obrative is that physical rhythm the axles make tangential to a figure 8 dynamic and it is precisely this movement that Wait's Downtown track is lacking. Right, it has the shunt of the 3am but the counterbeat was left out leaving the song sounding dusty & stationary & while I know the point could be argued either way, an old interview I read with Waits from the 70s vindicated that very absence as unworkable. Meatbreak, good point - there are hundreds, maybe thousands of old blues train songs, one of my favourites is All Aboard by Muddy Waters; this and others like Elvis's Mystery Train (or The Band's for that matter), Bob Dylan's It Takes A Lot To Laugh, It Takes A Train To Cry, and less antiquated and more gramophonic in the chugalong sense, The Cure's Jumping Someone Else's Train (or the B-side of this single) all vie for further conjecture as to their preliminary acquaintance with the jazz genre that birthed boogie woogie. That's why The Locomotion is included & perhaps should have been number one as it truly marries the savoire of a current with the essence of pendulist circonsterum; the coals being shoveled in the fire, the heartburn, and the hipswing. Of course not all train songs relinquish their internal rhyme up so vociferously; their time signatures are often relegated to the passenger seat, so to speak, of a forward notion of 4/4 time progressing beyond the interplay of two instruments and creating an intralinear & stansive mechanical malarkey for the drummer to fit the beats between. Often there's a reverberative recoil or a twostep dub that supplements the accent with a semibreve of...oh, of something approaching misaligned redundancy that underlines the completeness implied in those railway sleeper clatters, or subsonic jolts you sometimes feel when sitting perfectly still. The incarnation of Howie B - Daddylonglegs have a track called Pony Express which closely approximates the obrative, something Kylie's Locomotive disenfranchises itself of. Listen to the 1965 version by Little Eva and you'll hear it, the Beach Boys miss it completely while Grand Funk Railroad's version stencils it in but treats it as a hole to walk around. Other aspects of dynamic plosing can be heard in disobrative renounced momentums that affect the head more than the heart. Goldfrapp's Train, REM's Driver 8, The Beatles' One After 909, all of these songs play second fiddle to any sense of isolated dynamic and place a secure drama into the lyric instead by attempting to match a "waiting for a lover" metaphor with an unchanging tempo to suggest what I guess could be a litotes of the oblative condition. I admit, I'm not sure on that last point because it's been awhile since I envarcated anything quite so temporal or enfoeffal. Yeah, so thinking on it now, Funki Porcini's track Tokyosaka simply samples the Shinkansen to achieve the pentamics we usually associate with some of those older bluesy numbers. Whistles & bells, steam, choo choo, shoveling coal; these are all glosses on what lies inconceivably translucent beyond anyone's idea of why a train song should suggest something mercurial in the way of options for transport in the 21st century. I'd be certainly interested to hear what others have to say with respect to their closely guarded stealthic train song connivings. Tickle me.
 
Posted 03/30/2007 - 06:37:21 AM by Psyberdelic:
 What??? No 'Crazy Train'??? Now, THAT is crazy.
 
Posted 03/30/2007 - 07:26:32 AM by jerichomaxim:
 Where is Robyn Hitchcock's "I Often Dream of Trains" ???
 
Posted 03/30/2007 - 07:47:10 AM by whiteboysushi:
 glad to see "Blue Train" around here, but you've made an omission even more egregious than "Downtown Train" or "I Often Dream of Trains": where oh where is "DRIVER 8"?!?!?
 
Posted 03/30/2007 - 07:51:06 AM by whiteboysushi:
 oh shit, MIDNIGHT TRAIN TO GEORGIA!!!
 
Posted 03/30/2007 - 07:52:28 AM by NickSouthall:
 You should see the list I concocted in collusion with other Stylus writers and a couple of choice friends. It was HUGE. These are just MY favourites!
 
Posted 03/30/2007 - 08:07:19 AM by motelmoka:
 No downtown train!!?? What kind of top ten is this?
 
Posted 03/30/2007 - 09:02:19 AM by hudsucker:
 Asleep on a train + Awake on a train - Mum
 
Posted 03/30/2007 - 09:38:06 AM by raskolnikov:
 This list of train songs is rather pedestrian. Quite.
 
Posted 03/30/2007 - 12:03:28 PM by meatbreak:
 Last Train to Trancentral is not pedestrian man. Not even for the sake of a joke.
 
Posted 03/30/2007 - 12:07:59 PM by crimsonred7:
 The #1 song is sweet, but where is Porcupine Tree's "Trains"?????? cmon now.
 
Posted 03/30/2007 - 12:35:19 PM by bassman08:
 DRIVER 8? WHAT? WHERE THE HELL IS IT? This list is incomplete.
 
Posted 03/30/2007 - 01:16:59 PM by margot_dent:
 The Magnetic Fields - Fear of Trains
 
Posted 03/30/2007 - 02:44:32 PM by vohpoh:
 The Gap Band "Party Train" The Clash "Train In Vain" (Not actually about trains but the name counts) Primal Scream "Trainspotting"
 
Posted 03/30/2007 - 03:25:35 PM by ChrisP:
 What about Mike Watt's "Big Train"??? The video is even devoted entirely to a model train (and might be where you got that photo at the top of the post from....?) Big train, big train, do you wanna ride my big train....:)
 
Posted 03/30/2007 - 03:48:08 PM by grandbanks:
 "Hear My Train A'Comin"
 
Posted 03/30/2007 - 06:27:25 PM by Al2833:
 Ok, one glaring omission: Thinking of a Dream by The Walkmen "I'm waiting on a subway line, I'm waiting for a train to arrive" The entire song evokes the image of a nyc train barrelling through tunnels.
 
Posted 03/30/2007 - 06:41:49 PM by PlatypusQuest:
 I like "Asleep / Awake on a Train" by Múm. Quite lovely.
 
Posted 03/30/2007 - 08:03:10 PM by Utica5:
 'different trains', while understandably left of this list, deserves a nod, at least.
 
Posted 03/31/2007 - 09:39:00 AM by Meowface:
 I believe the chorus of Interpol's NYC is (there's) 'Got to be some more CHANGE in my life', but it's still a nice sentiment. Also, what about 'Born on a Train' by Magnetic Fields?!!
 
Posted 04/02/2007 - 10:27:32 AM by paulski:
 OK, Loco-Motion is #2 (yuck!), but Driver 8 doesn't make the list? Sorry, you failed; your list is officially invalidated. That's like making a list of the best British punk bands of the '70s and leaving off The Clash...
 
Posted 04/02/2007 - 10:29:15 AM by paulski:
 There is also, of course, the Psychedelic Furs "Into You Like a Train." However, not unlike with "Train in Vain," I suspect that the Furs' song is not really about trains, either...
 
Posted 04/02/2007 - 10:43:10 AM by stevemarth:
 How funny... I was listening to that Augie March album this morning. Then I saw the list and thought, "They ought to put 'This Train Will Be Taking No Passengers' on here... but there's no way they will." And hot damn, there it is. I always contend that Augie March's "Strange Bird" is one of the best albums that's come out this decade. Easily. And it seems to go completely under the radar to everyone but this website.
 
Posted 04/02/2007 - 10:51:18 AM by stevemarth:
 And, also... "Waterloo Sunset", maybe?
 
Posted 04/02/2007 - 11:55:29 AM by callheraction:
 acutally, it's 'got to be some moral change in my life'. but the vulva theory is quite interesting.
 
Posted 04/02/2007 - 02:03:49 PM by jt60312:
 Smog - "In The Pines" My favorite.
 
Posted 04/02/2007 - 04:05:53 PM by cwperry:
 "Folsom Prison Blues."
 
Posted 04/02/2007 - 05:00:16 PM by drhuxtable:
 Two things: Firstly, Night Train isn't about a train. It is, according to Duff "King of Beers" McKagan, about "this wine called Night Train which could get you f*cked up for a dollar". Given the track record of this fine publication, I'm prepared to give you the benefit of the doubt and say that you probably knew this and decided to ignore it, possibly in an ironic way. Secondly, the best song about a train, ever, is Click Clack by Captain Beefheart. Probably has something to do with all that music theory palaver which I can scarcely understand which was posted by The-Disexists
 
Posted 04/03/2007 - 01:14:38 AM by salami-nipples:
 Yep, this train will be taking no passengers is a stunner. I like the backing vocals, all the "ooooooh oooooooooh oooooh ohs"
 
Posted 04/03/2007 - 07:27:00 AM by AlecIsAlec:
 Really, now, Mystery Train should be on there. Or "In the Pines," by any number of artists. "The longest train I ever saw went down that Georgia Line. The engine went by at 6 o'clock and the cab went by at 9." These are classics.
 
Posted 04/03/2007 - 11:50:09 AM by grandbanks:
 Beefheart's good, a great addition that I should have added is "Wichita Lineman." Damn.
 
Posted 04/03/2007 - 04:36:22 PM by NickSouthall:
 "Wichita Lineman", while arguably the third greatest single ever released, has NOTHING to do with trains, dude. It's about telegraph poles.
 
Posted 04/03/2007 - 07:25:36 PM by grandbanks:
 Ah, projection of the worst kind. Song has created a foggy nostalgia so powerful that it has crippled my faculties. Never actually read the lyrics, just assumed it was a different kinda drivin and a different kinda line. Just looked at them and saw the truth. Sure doesn't change how good it is. Dude.
 
Posted 04/04/2007 - 12:04:57 PM by NickSouthall:
 Go here - http://www.stylusmagazine.com/articles/weekly_article/the-love-song-the-stylus-non-definitive-guide.htm - and scroll down about 4.5s of the way. I think you may find it interesting...
 
Posted 04/04/2007 - 02:39:18 PM by grandbanks:
 Yeah, pretty good stuff. It is pretty much perfect every time, for all of the reasons you mentioned. The lyrics aren't even necessary, in a way, but I am glad I have been enlightened.