Another half-baked idea that I may or may not follow through on is to put up a new MP3 every week and write a little bit about it. Here’s the first installment.

Harry Nilsson – ‘Vine St.’
From: Nilsson Sings Newman (1970)


     There’s a nice summary of the song, on this Randy Newman site:

     “One of Newman’s truly original compositions, “Vine Street” strings together a trick intro, barbershop harmonics, split-second key changes, multiple bridges, and sudden fade-outs, all set to semi-autobiographical lyrics about starting out in the music business.”

     Taken from an entire album of Newman covers by Harry Nilsson, a friend and I recently had a drunken conversation about how the arrangement of the Nilsson version the best. The best part of the song as far as I’m concerned is the ‘song within a song’ device that Newman uses – if you listen (or examine the lyrics below), you’ll see that partway through the song there’s a drastic shift where the narrator references the first half of the song as a wholly separate song. Meta-song?

     This was the only example of such a thing I could come up with until this morning in the shower, when I realized that the new D12 single, ‘My Band,’ does something similar, including a bit from a purported future single: ‘My Salsa.’ I’m not sure if this ‘counts’ yet, my brain is still conflicted. I’ve included the lyrics to ‘Vine St.’ below, along with the relevant sections of the ‘My Band’ lyrics.

     If you can think of any other songs within songs, let me know or post in the comments, because I’m all about that. I should probably make clear that I’m not looking for songs that reference other songs – there are a billion examples of that; and I’m not looking for songs that simply reference themselves – that’s every hip hop single ever. I’m looking for songs that appear and are referenced within a song. Yes.


     I just heard the Van Dyke Parks version of ‘Vine Street,’ and the intro song is different. Crazy.

‘Vine St.’ Lyrics:

My baby left this morning
With everything I had
She didn’t give me no warning
And that’s I feel so bad
I need her, I need her
I need some sympathy
I need her, I love ya
Come and sit by me

That’s a tape that we made
but I’m sad to say
it never made the grade

That was me: third guitar
I wonder where the others are?

Vine Street
We used to live there on Vine Street
She made perfume in the back of her room
while me and my group
would sit out on the stoop
and we’d play for her
the songs she liked best to have us play

On Vine St.

Vine Street
the crack of the backbeat on vine street
swingin’ along on the wings of a song
lying secure, self righteous and sure
wild with things we’d say
if the people would pay to have us play

On Vine St.

     Having seen the Family Guy episode featuring Randy Newman (mp3) for the first time last night, it’s hard to take the lyrics too seriously, but I still think it’s a great song. There’s a similar MAD TV parody of Newman (which also involves Star Wars) here.

‘My Band’ Lyrics:

My salsa, look out for my next single, it’s called My Salsa…
My salsa, salsa, salsa, salsa, my salsa
Makes all the pretty girls wanna dance
And take off their underpants
My salsa makes all the pretty girls wanna dance
And take off their underpants, my salsa