The Place I Love: Songs About Longing

It's not a secret on this blog that I miss Portland. I moved to New York City last August and have yet to return to what I consider my hometown. Five months marks the longest I've ever been away from the Pacific Northwest. No previous tours or travels lasted more than a month or two.

The reason I didn't schedule an earlier trip to Portland likely stems from the fact that I wouldn't have been able to leave again. I would have tethered myself to some soggy telephone pole, one littered with fliers for punk-rock aerobics and colonics, and as bicycle commuters dressed in poodle skirts and puffy vests flew by, I would sip my Stumptown coffee and pledge allegiance to the city the only way I knew how: with a tambourine version of a Crackerbash song. People would stop what they were doing and sing along, soon a drum circle would form, and then we would decide we should be in a band; by that evening, we'd have a show. After the show, someone would invite us to an organic restaurant that just opened, and the food would be so local that if you looked down, you could see it growing right there on your plate. Oh, Portland, don't change; stay gold, let hippies in, but only so you can claim diversity.

This evening, at long last, I will fly out of a bright New York City (cold but sunny, and sun does make a difference) and return to the place I love.

My impending journey got me thinking about songs having to do with missing not a person, not a lover, but a city or a region. There are plenty of songs about cities ("I Love LA" by Randy Newman or "Lodi" by CCR), but what about tunes that express a longing for a place?

Here's an obvious one:

Two of my favorites are by The Kinks and The Jam. Perhaps it's not a coincidence: I've always considered The Jam a punk or mod version of The Kinks, though The Jam was far more political. But both Ray Davies and then Paul Weller often sang lamentations, yearning for and exalting the bucolic and the pastoral. And, despite the fact that much of that beauty still existed in each of their respective heydays, it's as if they were cultivating preemptive nostalgia.

"Animal Farm" doesn't speak to a city, but to a place and a way of life. And "The Place I Love" has a similar ambiguity. Yet both songs clearly embody an acute longing for somewhere else.

In the comments section, please add to the list of songs that are about missing a city or a location.

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