As I’m off to Amsterdam for New Year, I thought I’d put together a list of my favourite songs about my favourite city. Despite similarity of titles they are all different songs, apart from Scott and Brel of course.
1/ Amsterdam – Scott Walker (twinned with Mathilde, another Brel song, one of the best double A sides of all time).
2/ Hello Amsterdam – American Music Club (an American tourist’s first encounter with the city).
3/ Lost Weekend – Lloyd Cole and the Commotions (and a typical English tourist’s).
4/ Amsterdam – Joe Lovano (I got into jazz through the ECM label and specifically Jan Garbarek. Neither ECM nor Garbarek but still great).
5/ New Amsterdam – Elvis Costello and the Attractions (Yes I know I’ve cheated and this is really about New York but impossible to ignore. Overly clever lyrics but a grand tune whose tempo is entirely in keeping with the Brel song).
6/ Amsterdam – John Cale (a bitter sweet song about his ex wife, fashion designer Betsey Johnson, and how she has changed since returning from Amsterdam).
7/ Amsterdam – Wu-Tang Clan (what do you expect a Wu-Tang song about Amsterdam to be about? Right on both counts).
8/ Amsterdam – John Martyn (a song about the damage the city can do to you. Martyn had advised a friend not to go there, friend ignored his advice and subsequently died).
9/ Amsterdam – Peter, Bjorn and John (another song of separation with the absent lover in Amsterdam seemingly taking loads of drugs).
10/ Amsterdam – Kevin Coyne (with mentions of Vondel Park and the Melkweg you might expect this to be optimistic but Coyne finds Amsterdam’s pleasures meaningless, yearning for his lover elsewhere).
And, of course, the incomparable
Amsterdam – Jacques Brel (the Iggy Pop of his generation. His performances were sweaty, spit flecked and highly charged. Watch this to the end and if it doesn’t send shivers down your spine you are officially dead: