Get Your Kicks

Historic U.S. Route 66 started in Chicago and ended in Los Angeles. So when people decide to retrace the path of Route 66 they often start in Chicago. Last week a guy from Australia was here to start a trip along Route 66 on his bicycle. Which made it seem like as good a time as any to pay tribute to the Mother Road.

Depeche Mode “Route 66” (Nat King Cole)
I was kind of surprised to learn that this song was originally recorded by Nat King Cole, because the song has become such a rock ‘n’ roll staple and I don’t think of Nat King Cole as a rock artist. Depeche Mode was never known as rock ‘n’ roll band either, so it should come as no surprise that they cranked out such a dreadful version of the song.

Jean S.¬†“Kun Chicago kuoli (The Night Chicago Died)” (Paper Lace)
Despite the fact that Route 66 wound from Chicago to L.A, it’s not that big a deal around here. There’s a stretch of the road near my house and there are signs denoting it, but there aren’t the tourist trap souvenir shops selling Route 66 crap that you find in smaller towns along the route.

I’m not sure what language Jean S. is singing here, but I do like the synth-disco take on Paper Lace’s one hit. Being from Chicago the lyrics to this song have always bothered me because they say that the story happened on the East Side of the city. Chicago has a North Side, a West Side, and a South Side. Because the city is bordered on the east by Lake Michigan that part of town is known as the Lakefront, not the East Side. Anybody who has ever been here can tell you that. So I’m just as happy listening to this song in whatever incomprehensible language he’s singing in.

The Pine Hill Haints “St. Louis Blues” (Bessie Smith & Louis Armstrong)
According to the song Route 66 goes through “Saint Louie.” I went to college in Missouri and I was never impressed by the city of St. Louis. I’m sure it has its special charms but I never found any of them. So for me “St. Louis Blues” is the perfect song about driving through that town.

Alice Ripley “Take It Easy” (The Eagles)
Don’t forget Winona. You’d be surprised how few songs have been written about Winona, Arizona. So in order to come up with five songs for this week’s travelogue I had to stretch a little and include this song that name checks Winslow, AZ. Winslow is about a 45 minute drive from Winona, so that’s close enough, right?

Caballero Reynaldo & The Grand Kazoo¬†“San Ber’Dino” (Frank Zappa)
Kingman, Barstow, San Bernadino. In this song poor Potato-Headed Bobby gets sentenced to 30 days in San Ber’Dino, so it sounds like you’re better off not stopping there. Just drive on through to Los Angeles.


  1. Seldom, it’s true. Except for people who are FROM the East Side. Some people in Hegweisch call where they live “The East Side”, and there’s actually a neighborhood named “East Side” down there, too. But since most of the city forgets that part of the city even exists, it gets very little cognitive traction.

    So really you’re right, there is no actual “East Side of Chicago” as portrayed in the song. But it’s not as egregious as “Born and raised in South Detroit”.

  2. Paper Lace did have at least one other hit in the hideous “Billy Don’t Be A Hero,” but you are forgiven for forgetting its existence.

  3. Have you heard of the song A13: Trunk Road to the Sea by Billy Bragg? A great version of Route 66 describing a road that heads East out of London.

  4. @Dave, I didn’t realize that Paper Lace did “Billy Don’t Be A Hero.” Now I’ll have to start all over again banishing it from my memory.

  5. Wow, that version of “The Night Chicago Died” is awesomely cheesy. I’m picturing the phone-support guy who calls himself “Peg” in the Capitol One commercials as the lead singer. What a find.

    Paper Lace did do the original “Billy, Don’t Be A Hero”, but in the US Bo Donaldson & The Heywoods covered it and stole the hit. The Paper Lace version barely cracked the Hot 100.

    Steve, if you can see my email, I’d be happy to send you the Billy Bragg track Hamish mentioned. Just email me and tell me where to send it.

  6. What I love about this Zappa cover is that they took a fairly normal-sounding Zappa song and weirded it WAY up. That’s the reverse of what almost always happens.

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