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Songs about getting in that smelly van again

Hardcore and punk bands touch upon many subjects in their songs. Being stabbed in the back, unity and beer are examples of these . Bands tend to sing about stuff they experience themselves or subjects they care about. One of these subjects often touched upon is being on tour, away from family, not having a regular job but chosing to life a different lifestyle.

One of the first bands of whom I heard such a song was Shelter. On their ‘When 20 Summers Pass’ record released in 2000 there’s the song In The Van Again. This song pretty much sums up the up- and downsides of touring in a way that everyone will understand. Just how simple and effective are the lines I’ve traded in the University for this back seat and poverty. But this whole time I felt so free and learned more in the end. It wasn’t untill I started writing this article that I found out the band even made a videoclip for this song.

We’re playing hard as we can and a whole lotta time stuck in the van. Reading the graffiti on every bathroom wall in truck stop fast food hell. Dead Ramones by Modern Life Is War is another of those coming of age, stuck in the van, my parents don’t get it – song. I think part of the inspiration of this song came about when the band did a long tour in the same period that some of the Ramones passed away. Here’s what singer Jeff Eaton had to say about it in an interview: ‘I choose the Ramones because we were on a tour and I am kind of a magazine junky. I always read Rolling Stone and MOJO and Thrasher. I have all kinds of magazines; I try to read as much as possible. There was a point where three of the Ramones died in a couple months and so every time I’d get a magazine, there was a tribute to one of them. It was a sad thing to me because they are one of my favorite bands. I was just like, ‘they are dying and they were the original American punkers and we are this half-breed from Iowa. Small-time thing, but we’re still out here playing punk rock, so I guess we’re dead Ramones now.’ People try a lot to read into that song and I always say it’s a silly song. The title is kind of goofy and some of the words are pretty goofy. I don’t take it that serious but I have a world of respect for the Ramones and those guys that died and the guys that are still living from that band. It’s a tribute to them. I always think it’s making fun of us. I read somewhere and someone was like “they should be fucking shot for writing that song” and I kind of agree. It’s sacrilege but I did it anyway.’

In the same interview Eaton also reflects on touring: ‘I’m definitely not anonymous but the cool thing is that people always talk to us about going on tour and say, “Oh you guys went to Paris! Did you see the Eiffel Tower?” No, I just saw a shitty neighborhood and I saw the inside of a club and then I saw a corner store. To me, that’s kind of cool because anyone else goes on a vacation to France, they see the fucking Eiffel Tower and stayed in a motel with other American tourists and that’s all they see. A lot of times we get to see how people live here. We’re staying in Brooklyn tonight with our friends and that’s how people live in New York City. The type of place we’re staying is the type of place where Puerto Rican immigrants stay. That’s really cool to me. I like to think about that a lot. Watch people in the places where we go and not necessarily as much at shows but just like at a corner store or hanging outside a building.’

And here is footage from MLIW playing Dead Ramones live at Reflections Fest in 2006:

Verse’s We Were Here (39th and Gilman) from the ‘From Anger And Rage’ record is another ode to touring and about outsiders not getting just how much of a commitment it can be. So I gotta let all of you know. That every moment we shared 
And every helping hand  Meant so much more  Than any outsider could ever understand  Eleven kids in a van Made me understand  Sacrifice and commitment to a movement  Based on reaching out your hand. I couldn’t find a decent link for this song unfortunately.

Have Heart’s Patrick Flynn seemed to have a love/hate relationship with touring as well. That is judging by the lyrics of Pave ParadiseHow many miles until I get out of this rectangular box of hell? Because these four same faces in these overcrowded spaces have me praying for the places that will leave me one minute to myself (along with) the foreheads glued to window-panes the sore-backs from kitchen-wood floors And all the sitting, sitting, sitting in a van — and yet I still want more?

The band did a whole world tour before they eventually disbanded in October 2009. In this interview singer Flynn talks about the band being completely burned out because of touring. ‘We had already been planning this whole summer thing for a while and then we decided we kind of don’t want to do the touring, it’s kind of just lost its charm to us. It’s hard, it takes a lot of things away from us. So, I think it was around March or April when we decided that touring wasn’t really for us any more.’

Kids could definately related to the lyrics as seen on this footage from the final Have Heart show in 2009:

The van also plays a part in the lyrics of Some Came Running, one of the songs on Bane’s ‘Give Blood’ album of 2001: i’ll keep getting in the van. Worry about money for the rest of my life just so that you can have this to talk about our time is to spend time with you and if you don’t want it well that’s fine too walk right out that door

Dutch hardcore band Said and Done went on a trip to France and Spain if I’m right and wrote the song Into The Distance about it. This song isn’t about depression and tour being hell, but about the good side of touring. This is what the band says about the song: ‘Being packed together in a van, exploring the world. Those are the best times we have as a band for sure. No feeling of time, no pressure. Just driving into the distance, into the unknown. If you ever went on the road with a couple of friends you know what we’re talking about. That feeling of total freedom. This one goes out to everyone that we did meet on the road.’

I’m sure there are way more songs about life on the road, good or bad. Please add the ones you know.

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