Samui Wining & Dining
Tasteful Tracks

What we eat seems to have inspired numerous songwriters over the years.

 

12-13Over the years, there have been hundreds of songs written and recorded with food in the title. Most are innocent enough. However, not all of them are actually about food, despite what you might think. Here are my top twenty; they cover every decade from the 1940s right up to the ‘noughties’ and I’ve listed them by year of release. Some I like to listen to, others bring back memories (some good whilst others being somewhat disturbing, depending on the decade) and others are in there simply for their novelty factor, with a few being listed because I enjoy the story behind the song. So let’s start in a time of new hope, just after the 2nd World War.

 

20) 1946 and Frank Sinatra releases the Coffee Song. It’s a novelty song that caricatures Brazil’s coffee surplus, claiming (amongst other things) that no other beverages are available, and that a politician’s daughter was fined for drinking a beverage besides coffee. It’s been covered by many including Sam Cooke, Rosemary Clooney, Mike Doughty, Stan Ridgeway, and The Muppets.

 

19) 1952 and Jambalaya (On the Bayou) is a song credited to American country music singer Hank Williams. Named for a Creole and Cajun dish, it spawned numerous cover versions (notably one by The Carpenters) and has since achieved popularity in a number of music genres. Jambalaya, alternately, is about life, parties and stereotypical food of Cajun cuisine. Referenced within the song are Cajun dishes, such as jambalaya, crawfish pie, and filé gumbo.

 

18) 1956 and we have Day-O (The Banana Boat Song). It’s is a traditional Jamaican mento folk song, the best-known version of which was sung by Harry Belafonte. Although it’s really Jamaican mento, the song is widely known as an example of calypso music. It’s a song from the point of view of dock workers working the night shift loading bananas onto ships. Daylight has come, the shift is over and they want their work to be counted up so that they can go home.

 

17) 1961 and Sweets for My Sweet was originally recorded by The Drifters. It was the group’s first single featuring Charlie Thomas on lead vocal. In 1963, the song became the debut single for Merseybeat band The Searchers, maintaining the number one spot in the UK Singles Chart for two weeks that August.

 

16) 1962 and Green Onions is a hit soul instrumental recorded by Booker T & the MG’s. According to guitarist, Steve Cropper, its name is not the often-assumed drug reference but, rather, it’s named after a cat, Green Onions, whose way of walking inspired the riff. It entered the Billboard Hot 100 in September 1962 where it remained for 16 weeks, peaking at number 3.

15) 1965 and I Want Candy is a song written and originally recorded by The Strangeloves that went to number 11 in the United States. It’s been covered numerous times, most notably by Bow Wow Wow in 1982 when it reached number 9 in the UK charts.

14) 1967 and Wild Honey is a song written by Brian Wilson and Mike Love for the American pop band, The Beach Boys. It was released on their 1967 album ‘Wild Honey’. It was also released as a single and peaked at number 31 in the US and number 29 in the UK. It was their attempt to make an R&B/Motown record – which is probably why it bombed.

13) 1968 and Honey Pie is a song by the Beatles, from their 1968 eponymous album ‘The Beatles’, also known as ‘The White Album’. Although credited to Lennon and McCartney, it was composed entirely by Paul McCartney. The song is a direct homage to the British music hall style. It concerns a famed actress, called only by the term of endearment ‘Honey Pie’, who becomes famous in the United States, and her old lover, who wishes for her to rejoin him in England.

12) 1971 and American Pie is a folk-rock song by singer-songwriter, Don McLean. Recorded and released on the ‘American Pie’ album in 1971, the single was a number one US hit for four weeks in 1972. A re-release in 1991 did not chart in the US, but reached number 12 in the UK. The song is a recounting of ‘The Day the Music Died’ – the 1959 plane crash that killed Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens and The Big Bopper (Jiles Perry Richardson, Jr.). The song is well known for its cryptic lyrics that have long been the subject of curiosity and speculation. Although McLean dedicated the ‘American Pie’ album to Buddy Holly, none of the musicians in the plane crash are identified by name in the song itself. When asked what ‘American Pie’ meant, McLean replied, “It means I never have to work again.” American pop star Madonna released a cover version of the song in March 2000 to promote the soundtrack to her film ‘The Next Best Thing’.

11) 1971 and Brown Sugar is a song by English rock band, The Rolling Stones. It’s the opening track and lead single from the band’s 1971 album, ‘Sticky Fingers’.

Jagger says, “The lyric was all to do with the dual combination of drugs and girls. This song was a very instant thing, a definite high point.” ‘Brown Sugar’ was eventually released in May 1971 as the first single from the album, becoming a number one hit in the United States and a number two hit in the United Kingdom and has since become a classic rock radio staple.

 

10) 1974 and Lady Marmalade is a song made famous by the girl group Labelle. The song is most famous for its sexually suggestive chorus of, “Voulez-vous coucher avec moi (ce soir)?” (meaning, do you want to sleep with me (tonight)?). The song held the number one spot on the Billboard Hot 100 singles chart in the United States for one week. The song has been covered many times over the years. In 1998, the girl group, All Saints, took the track to the top of the UK singles chart for the first time. The 2001 version by singers Christina Aguilera, Lil’ Kim, Mýa, and Pink was a single for the ‘Moulin Rouge’ film soundtrack.

 

09) 1974 and Honey, Honey is a song recorded by Swedish pop group ABBA and was included on their ‘Waterloo’ album. It was the second single to be released from the album after the success of the title track winning the 1974 Eurovision Song Contest.

 

08) 1975 and Catfish was the subject of a Bob Dylan song. It was unreleased by Dylan until his 1991 box set entitled ‘The Bootleg Series Volumes 1-3’; however, Joe Cocker recorded the song and included it on his 1976 album ‘Stingray’. It’s about the American baseball Hall of Fame legend, James Augustus ‘Catfish’ Hunter, who played for the Kansas City Athletics and the New York Yankees between 1965 and 1979.

 

07) 1979 and Milk and Alcohol is a song by the band Dr. Feelgood that ranked on Britain’s top 10 hit singles chart in 1979. Written by Nick Lowe and Gypie Mayo it reportedly retells Lowe’s 1970’s experiences drinking one too many Kahlúa-milk drinks at or after a United States concert by legendary bluesman John Lee Hooker. (Editor’s note: Bass player ‘Sparko’ actually brought his wife and three children to live on Samui back in 1991 when he lived next door me. As there weren’t adequate international education facilities available here back in those days he only stayed a year.)

 

06) 1980 and Pulling Mussels (From the Shell) was the second UK single released from Squeeze’s third album, ‘Argybargy’. It peaked at number 44 in the UK. In 2007, Scottish group, Travis, covered it on their single, ‘Selfish Jean’.

 

05) 1983 and Candy Girl was an R&B/Pop song by R&B quintet New Edition. Released in 1983, it was the first single from their debut album of the same name. It hit number one in the United Kingdom in May, becoming the 31st best-selling single of the year there. One of the singers, Bobby Brown, is the ex-husband of R&B singer Whitney Houston.

 

04) 1985 and Raspberry Beret, by Prince and The Revolution, was the first US (and second UK) single from their 1985 album, ‘Around the World in a Day’. The song tells of a teenage romance and first sexual experience with a girl who wears the titular hat. Pop group, The Lightning Seeds, named themselves after a misheard lyric in the song: “Thunder drowns out what the lightning sees.”

 

03) 1991 and Chocolate Cake is a song by Australasian rock group, Crowded House, from their 1991 album ‘Woodface’. The song was thought to offend due to its lyrics and the song had only moderate success in the US, as it referred to Americans having an “excess of fat” on their “American bones” – the truth does hurt then!

 

02) 2001 Cigarettes and Chocolate Milk is a song written and performed by the Canadian-American singer-songwriter, Rufus Wainwright. It appears as the opening track on his second studio album, ‘Poses’. The song addresses decadence and desire, and has been called an ode to subtle addictions and the way our compulsions rule our lives.

 

01) 2004 and Chocolate is a slow pop-dance song written for Kylie Minogue’s ninth studio album, ‘Body Language’ (2003). The song was released as the album’s third single in the summer of 2004 and reached the top ten in the United Kingdom, where it became Minogue’s 27th top ten single. The video is a tribute to the MGM musicals of the 1950s.

 

So there you have it, I’m sure you can think of plenty of others. But, for me, Chocolate and Kylie Minogue is a pretty happy ending to any list.

 


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