Thursday, August 29, 2013

Food you can listen to, Music you can eat

When I cook I prefer to have music on, frequently loud, always something I can sing along with.  And I go out of my way to be sure that I am loud enough to be heard outside so as to most effectively embarrass my soon-to-be 11 year old stepdaughter.  Isn’t that part of a parent’s job?  Often the music and smells draw the family into the kitchen and little, impromptu dance parties develop.  It’s a fun, chaotic, loud, delicious scene.  Recently it got me thinking about music that’s about food.  I tried to come up with my favorite songs that feature food and I discovered that there is actually quite a bit of foodie music.  In fact, numerous blogs have already covered the subject.  One webpage ( has an exhaustive list organized by food.  Alas, I share with you my favorites in the order they came to me and invite you to share yours. 

That's Amore by Dean Martin – American or not, it makes me feel like I am sitting at a sidewalk cafĂ© in Rome enjoying a bowl of pasta, vino rossa, and some sunshine.
Scenes from an Italian Restaurant by Billy Joel – One of my all-time favorite songs to cook with.  It’s almost long enough to boil pasta, it tells a great story, and is “told” over a meal.  And it’s long enough that my stepdaughter sinks all the way to bribery to get me to stop singing.     

Pour Some Sugar On Me by Def Leppard – I read somewhere that misheard lyrics, mondegreens, are most often about either food or sex.  To take the idea a step further, I would suggest that most often songs that talk about food are actually talking about sex.  This song has to be one of the best examples of the last 30 years and always gets the crowd going in the kitchen.  My, won’t they be embarrassed in a few years?
Cherry Pie By Warrant – How is it that women always get equated with food?  See above.  I am the last person you’ll find defending the value of eighties hair bands.  I spent most of the eighties listening to what was then called college rock, now alt. rock.  But a few cheesy pop tunes (didn’t eighties pop include its hair bands?) had to seep into my consciousness.  No matter what you thought of this years ago, doesn’t it make you grin and reach for some hot fruit?

Eat It by Weird Al – I’m sorry to have to include this, but it cracked me up as a kid and sitting down to think about food and music brought this to mind immediately.  Now I find it disgusting and somewhat offensive.  I don’t sing to this in the kitchen.    
Jailhouse Rap by The Fat Boy’s – I know The Fat Boys had more than a few other songs that revolved around food, but this is the one that comes to mind.  Motivated by a pizza craving, a crime is committed and he ends up in prison.  Another song that’s a story.  Listening to it, I am struck by how much I miss the humor, fun and beats of Old Skool hip-hop.

Alice’s Restaurant Massacre by Arlo Guthrie – When I was a teenager I learned of this song listening to St. Louis’ KSHE 95 on Thanksgiving Day.  Again, I love a song with a story and this is the epitome of storytelling.  It’s also a great sample of late sixties politics and a piece of American history.  And since I identify it with Thanksgiving, I also identify it with eating and cooking. 
Sweet Potato Pie by James Taylor and Ray Charles – My wife brought this song to me and we had it played at our wedding.  Again, we have a love, a woman, turned into food, but isn’t it wonderful?  Simply put, it’s a sweet song.  And I don’t even like sweet potatoes! 

Sweet Potato by Cracker – I guess as I was thinking about these the word “sweet” got something going.  I love this band and find so much of their music catchy and fun.  This song is in my “happy song” category and I can’t help but sing it loud and proud.
Sweet Pea by Amos Lee – If there’s a perfectly happy, sweet, romantic song this is it.  Soulful, bluesy and I can’t stop singing when I cook.  We also had to have this played during our wedding weekend.

Breakfast in America by Supertramp – For a guy who loves punk and alt. rock there’s little worse than Supertramp.  Truth is, Supertramp is one of my guilty pleasures.  Breakfast in our house is a big deal.  Rarely do the kids eat just a simple bowl of cereal more than three days in a row.  Now that school has started each weekend will have at least one breakfast feast.  And this song will roll around in my head while cooking each and every one.
Pulling Mussels from a Shell by Squeeze – I have no idea what this song is about, but I love it and virtually everything Squeeze made.  As for mussels – I remember my first ones in Luxembourg as a teen and have loved them ever since.  White wine or a hoppy beer, shallots, garlic, some herbs to steam them and a good baguette to dip in the juice and you have the perfect winter meal.  And I will hum the song in my head the whole time.

Margaritaville by Jimmy Buffet – A great meal has to have a great drink.  And is there a greater song about a drink than this?  Nuff said.
The Pina Colada Song by Rupert Holmes – Pina Coladas were the first mixed drinks I remember.  And this song just gets stuck in your head.  Has anyone had a Pina Colada since 1980 without thinking about this song?

Lunchladyland by Adam Sandler – The other night we made sloppy joes from scratch.  You have to do this – it is easy and easily customizeable to family tastes.  But I simply cannot say “sloppy joe” without thinking about this song.  I shared this video with the kids after dinner.  They giggled in awe of Chris Farley.
Do Fries Go with That Shake by George Clinton – Food and sexual innuendo – they go together like, well like fries and a shake!  This song and video is hysterical, and to my wife’s dismay, I sing this to her all the time, normally with the kids around so they think I am just excited about eating again.

Cigarettes and Chocolate Milk by Rufus Wainwright – This actually doesn’t sound a like a good combination to me, but to each his own.  The year I moved to California I listened to this song a lot and find myself humming it often. 
Cups and Cakes by Spinal Tap – From one of my favorite movies, a song about baking, right?  Every birthday celebration we find ourselves making cupcakes or a cake and me humming this.

Ice Cream Castles by The Time – Remember Purple Rain?  Remember Prince’s rival, Morris Day?  I wanted all the music from the movie and picked up The Time’s album at the same time as Purple Rain and discovered this one.    
Brown Sugar by the Rolling Stones – Supposedly this song was inspired by one of Ike Turner’s back-up singers…not food.  I can’t help but sing when I hear this, loving the blues influence and all that soul.

Peaches by The Presidents of United States of America – I love music that tells a story and has something substantive to say.  Art ought to get political.  It’s okay for art to be serious.  This is none of the above – this is just silly.  But a peach can’t be eaten without singing this. 
Lost in the Supermarket by The Clash – Everything from The Clash was right up my alley.  I loved the politics, the international influences, the raw aggression in some of their music.  But this song makes me smile.  And then….listen to the lyrics…this is not the result of happiness.  And it speaks to a kid’s worst fear, being lost in a large store.  But the image sounds great to me as an adult.  The only place I actually enjoy shopping is the supermarket. 

I Want Candy by Bow Wow Wow – I know this is a cover, but I love Bow Wow Wow’s version.  The drums make me move.  There are some amazing stories about this band and its underage singer, Annabella Lwin, and the song really irritates lots of people.  Somehow when I was younger I just knew there was something inappropriate about this song.  But I liked it.  It might be the most overplayed eighties retro song after Come On Eileen.  My kids love the song because the say its title all the time! 
Red Red Wine by UB40 – This is another cover song (Neil Diamond wrote it) but this is the version I grew up with.  And for our purposes here today, at least this really is about wine. 

I Want A Little Sugar in My Bowl by Nina Simone – This is another old song, but I think Simone does it best.  I am pretty sure if you had never heard the English language then heard this song, you would absolutely know beyond any doubt that this song is not about food at all.  Not sure?  Listen carefully to Bessie Smith’s version.  Both of these women epitomize the raw sexuality of the blues.  In fact, if you listen to the blues you know there’s a whole lotta music about…food.
Cinnamon Girl by Neil Young – I love Matthew Sweet’s version, but grew up with Young’s.  I often wondered what on earth a cinnamon girl was, and I still can’t define it, but since meeting my wife, I can say I know.  I sing this to her all the time and the kids beg me to stop.    

C is for Cookie by the Cookie Monster – Bring on the cookies!  Isn’t this everyone’s first food song?!

Eat the Rich by Motorhead – This band rocks!  This is metal…period.  Those eighties hair bands got nothing on these guys.  Metalli-who?

Ice Cream Man by Van Halen – About the same time I was cracking up listening to Eddie Murphy’s Delirious (The ice cream man is coming!  Want some?) I was also listening to Van Halen.  They rocked, and they had a sense of humor, at least until they thought an inability to drive 55 was the height of rock 'n' roll rebellion.  And what’s better than ice cream in the summer time listening to your favorite tunes?
What are your favorite foodie tunes?
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