Deep Cuts

Deep Cuts: Train Songs

Unlike horse drawn buggies, trains remain a vital part of our infrastructure for one simple reason: They are really efficient. A freight train can move a ton of salad spinners and rubber dog shit 500 miles on a single gallon of diesel fuel. One. Friggin’. Gallon. No other mode of transportation compares with that kind of efficiency.

That tons-per-mile-per-gallon formula works with passengers, too, though if we’re talking American passengers a ton might only account for 2-3 riders. We’re big people is my point, and we stuff ourselves into the most fuel inefficient mode of travel, jet aircraft, by the millions. We like to eat, and we don’t like to cram our big asses into the baby seats that double these days as airline seats, yet we do it anyway. This is where the American rail system deserves another look for your long distance travels.

Imagine an airplane that’s quiet, smooth, has a dining room, a bar, and bedrooms. Imagine beginning your vacation without being treated like a criminal and getting felt up by a “security expert” whose biggest concern is whether your shampoo bottle exceeds three ounces or whether you complied with arbitrary rules regarding shoes and x-ray trays. Imagine actually seeing the country that you profess to love rather than ignoring it from 30,000 feet while the stranger in front of you leans his seat so far back that he gets his greasy mullet in your $7 snack box. Riding on a train is a revelation for those of us who have grown to despise both airports and airlines, or more specifically for those of us who are tired of surrendering our dignity in exchange for getting from point A to point B.

There are downsides to long distance train travel, of course. You can’t be in a hurry. You can’t expect to arrive at the other end exactly at the published time. Also, sometimes there are some serious weirdos on board the train. But you know what? Those can be upsides, too. If I learned anything from Ferris Bueller it’s this: “Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.”

Anyway, we have so many songs about trains that I decided to narrow this week’s list of deep cuts (and one hit) to only funk and R&B artists. Here we go:

“Fast Train,” Solomon Burke.

“How Long Has That Evening Train Been Gone,” The Supremes.

“The Memphis Train,” Rufus Thomas.

“Night Train,” James Brown.

“Runaway Train,” The Clarence Mack Express.

“Number Nine Train,” Tarheel Slim.

“Love’s Train,” Con Funk Shun.

“Party Train,” Gap Band.

There you have it: Eight funky jams about the most efficient, pleasant form of transportation that you’re neglecting. What did I miss? I’m listening.

4 replies »

  1. “Ain’t No Brakeman” – John Mayall & the Bluesbreakers
    “Midnight Train to Georgia” – Gladys Knight & the Pips
    “Get Down Off of the Train” – The Isley Brothers
    “Love Train” – The O’Jays
    “All Aboard” – Muddy Waters
    “Santa Fe Blues” – Lightnin’ Hopkins
    “Mr. Conductor Man” – Big Bill Broonzy
    “B Movie Boxcar Blues” – Delbert McClinton
    “Night Train” – James Brown
    and I’ve got to include “Let It Rock” by Chuck Berry

    Liked by 1 person

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