Is there really such a thing as an original idea? Plug that question into Google and it seems that most would say no. The idea to write this post just popped into my head – to write a top ten list of songs about photography. So I jotted down a couple off the top of my head and then went through my iTunes to come up with my list. Then I did a little research and it turns out there have been plenty of articles written on this topic. Heck there’s even a Wikipedia entry on songs about photography! That’s okay, I can still put my own spin on it, and Wikipedia actually missed two of my picks – one of which is a glaring omission to me and another much more obscure…
Yes I’m a music fanatic and you might even say a music snob… I started collecting records when I was 5, memorizing all the lyrics I could and having KISS concerts in my basement with my friend Chris. I played the cello in my high school orchestra, was the guy who made all the mix tapes for all my friends in high school, and now I sing in a rock band. I used to read through the All Music Guide books all the time and now I just hang out on their website. Music and photography have a lot in common since they both can elicit very personal and emotional responses and connect us to our past in extremely powerful ways. With this being the case it’s a wonder that there aren’t more songs about pictures and photography in general, but there are several great ones and here are 10 of my favorites:
Photograph – Def Leppard – 1983
Those opening three chords are unmistakable – just enough time to crank the volume up for the drums right? He wants the girl (Marilyn Monroe?) but all he’s got is a photograph…
Photographs & Memories – Jim Croce – 1972
Such a poignant song that Jim Croce wrote not long before his untimely death where he sings about how he cannot believe a loved one is lost as he looks through photographs and thinks about the times they spent together.
Camera – R.E.M. – 1984
A beautiful song which is said to be about the band’s friend Carol Levy who died in a car accident. From piecing it together it seems Michael Stipe has made reference to this (?) as the point where he got clean from drug addiction. “If I’m to be your camera then who will be your face?”
Pictures Of You – The Cure – 1990
Robert Smith’s song about finding his wallet in the remains of a fire at his home with pictures of his wife Mary in it. He even used one of the photos as the cover of the single. A beautiful dreamy Cure song from an otherwise dreary, murky and fantastic Cure album.
Pictures Of Home – Deep Purple – 1972
Okay not about photography per se, but a classic with the word “pictures” in the title… A song about being in a strange cold place and yearning for home – images and “pictures” in our mind can comfort us from time to time to be sure.
Pictures On My Wall – Echo & The Bunnymen – 1979
This song has the distinction of being the very first Echo & The Bunnymen single and I love it. An eerie sounding and foreboding tale but we’re not quite sure why… “The pictures on my wall are about to swing and fall”.
Wishing (If I Had A Photograph Of You) – A Flock Of Seagulls – 1982
Unlike Joe Elliot of Def Leppard the lead Seagull sounds like he’d be okay with just a photograph – he wouldn’t spend his life just wishing if he had a photograph to remind him. More or less a three-hit-wonder (I apologize to any diehards because I’m the first to admit I hate when one of my favorites are slapped with a tag like that), you have to love these guys as a classic slice of MTV 80’s nostalgia.
Kamera – Wilco – 2001 (released 2002)
This sounds like a confessional from Wilco frontman Jeff Tweedy who seems to not be feeling too good about himself. It seems like he needs a camera as opposed to a mirror to look at himself and remind him of the lies he’s been hiding and the echoes in his heart. It’s a great song that the band recorded and released two different unique studio versions of and both are worth checking out.
Take A Picture – Filter – 1999
Sometimes you just need to take a photo otherwise no one will believe or remember what happened later right? This song is one of those lush anthemic sounding songs that swirls and lifts you up even if you’re not sure why… and why shouldn’t a song about a guy getting naked and causing a scene on an airplane lift you up…..right?
The Camera Eye – Rush – 1981
The last song Rush recorded over 10 minutes long, it’s a two part song that attempts to contrast and highlight New York City and London respectively. The title apparently refers to sections in the U.S.A. Trilogy written by John Dos Passos. “The Camera Eye” sections are written in an autobiographical stream of consciousness style. I suppose taking pictures can be just that – your stream of consciousness as you interpret the world through your lens.