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Musicians name-checking Utah and Salt Lake City in interesting (and often-offensive) ways

Published September 13, 2012 5:50 pm

This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2012, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

There is a Rattlesnake Raceway in the Nevada desert, but there is no such thing as a Rattlesnake Speedway in the Utah desert.

Nevertheless, Utahns are grateful that in what many consider one of Bruce Springsteen's signature songs, "The Promised Land," much of the action seems to take place in Utah:On a rattlesnake speedway in the Utah desertI pick up my money and head back into townDriving across the Waynesboro County LineI've got the radio on and I'm just killing time

In Utah, there is a Wayne County — not Waynesboro — but we'll lay claim to being the setting of the song.

Despite Bob Dylan name-checking Nevada, New Mexico, Arizona and Idaho — and snubbing Utah — in his anti-war anthem "Let Me Die In My Footsteps." there are many songs where Utah is either a central element or a tossed-off detail written by some of our favorite musicians. It could be the history, culture, religion, conservatism, or scenic beauty, but for some reason, Salt Lake City and Utah evoke much sentiment in balladry.

(Dylan's funniest song, "Talkin' Hava Negilah Blues," mentions Utah, by the way.)

The following is by no means a complete list, but the song lyrics cribbed here are some of the most offensive, loving, and beguiling lines about our beloved Beehive State. If I am missing anything major, please let me know at dburger@sltrib.com.It was a paradise for lizards when young Brigham saw it firstHe said "I've seen some nasty deserts, lord, but this one here's the worst"Then the lord called down to Brigham, said "I got a great idea —I want a mighty city and I think I want it here" ...Well, Brigham kicked a prairie dog and muttered in his beardSaid, "You've put me through some changes, Lord, but this one's really weird"The Lord just laughed at Brigham, said, "You'd better get to workThe next time I check in here, I want paradise on earth."— "Salt Lake City," Grateful Dead

Down in UtahThe guys and I dig a city called Salt LakeIt's got the grooviest kids ...There's a park near the city, yeahAll the kids dig the Lagoon nowIt's full of all kinds of girlsAnd rides and we'll be flyin' there soon nowAnd girl for girlThey've got the cutest of the Western states— "Salt Lake City," Beach Boys

On a rattlesnake speedway in the Utah desertI pick up my money and head back into townDriving cross the Waynesboro county lineI got the radio on and I'm just killing timeWorking all day in my daddy's garageDriving all night chasing some miragePretty soon little girl I'm gonna take chargeThe dogs on Main Street howl 'cause they understandIf I could take one moment into my handsMister I ain't a boy, no I'm a manAnd I believe in a promised land— "Promised Land," Bruce Springsteen

I'm pulling in to the LDS nation looking for a community stationCause I've heard about the kids in Salt Lake CityAnd how they fight to be set free and how they fightFor you and me— "SLC Radio," Amy Ray

Sad, I'm sittin' on the railroad track,Watchin' that old smokestack.Train is a-leavin' bit it won't be back ...A diesel truck was rollin' slow,Pullin' down a heavy load.It left him on a Utah road.They carried him back to his home town,His mother cried, his sister moaned,Listin' to them church bells tone.— "Ballad for a Friend," Bob Dylan

Here's a foreign song I learned in Utah: Ha-va-ne-gei-lah Yo-de-ley-e-e-oo— "Talkin' Hava Negilah Blues," Bob Dylan

And now my friends you've asked me what makes me sad and stillAnd why my brow is darkened like the clouds upon the hillRun in your ponies closer and I'll tell to you my taleOf Utah Carol my partner and his last ride on the trail ...On his funeral morning I heard the preacher sayI hope we'll all meet Utah at the roundup far awayThen they wrapped him in a blanket that saved his little friendAnd it was this red blanket that brought him to his end— "Utah Carol," Marty Robbins

This is the city of vacant looks, questionable Gods, and multiple wivesThe angel on the temple, he's in a silent wayI've got a feeling, he's kind of blue todayHere in Salt Lake City. Sometimes this city feels like the only place we've ever beenSalt Lake City, come a little closer and let me lick the salt again ...I know why you left me, I still blame this town for that. Salt Lake City, you swear you're never coming back. I'm sending you a postcard, it's a wagon full of pioneers. Greetings from the Zion Kingdom, see you in a couple years— "Salt Lake City," Jerry Joseph

All alone on my own here in this old town of Salt Lake CityGotta find work, forget the hurt and how she put me downFor a man who didn't care but with fast talk and curly hairHe took her from me and Salt Lake City ...Night has come, day is done, but there's no job to be found in Salt Lake City ...And think of all the times that she said that she loved meBut that's just a mem'ry in Salt Lake CityI should pack my things and go but my heart keeps saying noSome day she'll come back to me and Salt Lake City— "Salt Lake City," Hank Williams Jr. (and others)

But there's one thing I'll never do, not even for youI'm not going to Salt Lake CityThere isn't anything I wouldn't do for you except to walk among the Osmond crewI know you're planning for a latter day and you can't betray what you know in ProvoBut there's one less town on the globe and if you must go there you're going aloneI'm not going to Salt Lake City even if they tell me I can stayEven if they resurrect my brain I don't wanna go there I don't wanna go insaneI'm not pure and I'm not pretty and I'm not going to Salt Lake CityI'm not living in Hello Kitty and I'm not going to Salt Lake City— "Salt Lake City," The Dwarves

They march, the Latter Day Saints Salt Lake's sick residents They want you to repent The want your 10 percent They march, the Latter-day Saints ...They slam the door in your face They're smiling at me too You want me more but I want nothing from you ... I slam the door in your face!— "Salt Lake City Sunday," Fad Gadget

If Heaven ain't a lot like DetroitI just as soon stay homeIf they ain't got no Eight MileLike they do up in the DJust send me to Hell or Salt Lake CityIt would be about the same to me— "Heaven," Uncle Kracker

I lost my sugar in Salt Lake CityOh, why did I go there?... I cried my heart out in Salt Lake CityThe day I heard the newsShe left me deep in my solitudeWith the Salt Lake City bluesSalt Lake City is renowned for its beauty ...There's salt beds and farm lands producingAlfalfa, green, sugar beats and vegetables in the vicinityBut as far as I'm concernedI don't care if I ever set foot there again in Salt Lake CityThat town is a nemesis to me— "I Lost My Sugar in Salt Lake City," Johnny Mercer (and others)

I hope she cheats on you with a basket ball playaHope that she Kim Kardashianed her way up. Don't know the difference between a touchdown and a lay-upGot you on Viagra in order for you to stay upI may sound bitter, I'm a little bitterJust a little bitter because you were with her I'm Salt Lake City now I'm on up out the picture. Remember how it was when I was with ya.— "Hope She Cheats On You (With A Basketball Player)," Marsha Ambrosius

Mormons are everwhere Battalions of bicycling bachelors With dark suits And well cropped hair We're Mormons too Have been since '72 ... I sip luke-warm Sprite from a tin can Sold to me by a hunchback silly bastard old woman A hundred miles back Who is probably the only person with good sense In this part of the country ... I hear all these male voices Telling me that black people are inferior And it's OK to have more than one wife And as the dry dry breath of the Utah sun warms me I stand before a statue of jesus that is far too big And has held these folks hostage for so so long And I gaze up at the nostrils of the sandstone savior And wonder if it Can smell all this bull____ Cause I sure can And I'm only 5 years old In salt lake city In 1973— "Salt Lake City 1973," Shawn Mullins

It was Brigham Young who led the pioneers across the plains.They suffered with the trials they had to face.With faith they kept on going till they reached the Great Salt LakeHere they heard the words, "This is the place"Utah! With its focus on family,Utah! Helps each child to succeed.People care how they live.Each has so much to give.This is the place! ...Utah! With its pioneer spirit.Utah! What a great legacy!Blessed from Heaven above.It's the land that we love.This is the place"— State Song of Utah, "This Is the Place," Sam and Gary Francis

I got the picture, that you finally sentI read your letter, and I know what you meantThat's you and me, in Salt Lake CityYou sure look pretty.Wish we could go back again.— "Don't Get So Down On Yourself," Chris Isaak

In Salt Lake City, performin' for MormansOut of they garments before the mornin', I'm charmin'— "Bout Ta' Bubble," Tech N9ne

Just arrived Singapore, San Sebastian, Spain, 26-hour tripSalt Lake City, coming in springOver the salt flats, a hailstorm brought you back to me— "Departure," R.E.M.

She drove west from Salt Lake City to the California coastline ...She's the salt of the earthStraight from the bosom of the Mormon churchWith a voice like wineCruising along in that Ford EconolineNow her husband was a gambler, he was a Salt Lake City ramblerHe built a golden cage around his silver-throated wifeToo many nights he left her crying with his cheating and his lyingBut his big mistake was him buying her that Ford Econoline— "Ford Econoline," Nanci Griffith

Back of the boat was painted wreckin' ballThere was country music playing, but he don't like it at allAnd red fire poppin' on the rained-down woodyHis whiskey bottle spillin' in a lake that's made of saltAnd look out Michael, there's a note on the doorSaying, "Everybody listen, you'll be the next Omaha"Now, if you find yourself falling apartThen I'm sure I could steer on The Great Salt Lake— "The Great Salt Lake," Band of Horses

Well I'm going back to Utah Utah is the place where I want to be Utah, You tell me bout all the places that you Wish you could see Just give me my home, my girl, my friends, my family Give me time to rest my mind, then we'll have a party — "Utah," The Osmonds

Reading the next resumeRaising his eyes up from the pageShowing no sign of surpriseWeren't you the one I hurt?Weren't you the one that I betrayed?Did you stay angry with me?I forget youI forget youI forget Utah— "Utah," John Linnell

I'm gonna hide away out beside that Utah Trail,Moonlight as bright as day far out on that Utah trail.There's where I'll settle down in peace where all is still,In a little hut just built for two tucked away out in the hills.There beneath the skies so blue in the golden summertimeOut where your friends are true and all nature is in rhyme.Someone is waiting with a love that never failsWaitin' patiently to welcome me far out on that Utah Trail.— "Utah Trail," Tex Ritter

He was the river boat gamblerHe was the son of the chief of policeAnd old JoeDid and said as he wouldTook all the shopping carts from the mallAnd took them to UtahWhich was ZionHe built an empire out of the desertOut of the dust and the sand, just like Las VegasBut he never took the rap that the Mafia didAnd he thought the Indians were some lost 13 dudesBut he didn't treat them any betterAnd they were never on his side ... And old Joe had 13 beady-eyed babiesOne of whom I used to go to school withHe'd drive his car at a 110 down the alley wayThrowing cinder blocks at trash cansAnd I declare on this occasionI've never seen this heaven or this place any differentlyBut now and then I dream of the flying saucers and they're coming to take us away— "The History of Utah," Camper Van Beethoven

If not for youI'd never could have ever got this farYeah, you helped me growAnd I owe you more than you'll ever knowAnd from the days at the Terrace BallroomWell, me made it up to Symphony HallI played my songs and you sang alongAnd man, we really had a ballAnd you brought your little childrenAnd I've seen 'em all grow tallYeah, I watched you growAnd I owe you more than you'll ever know that's rightAnd all the wild and woolly cowboysDancin' and yellin' for moreYour hats and suites an cowboy bootsStompin' on a hardwood floorAnd you waltzed those Utah ladiesBeneath the spotlight glow— "Utah Tribute," Chris LeDoux

Red rock highway bakin' in the sunThe police of the Beehive State, yeah their work is never doneI look in the mirror and see the flash of red and blue ... I see the mustache, the badgeYeah the pistol, the penHe sees a guy like me to blame for the mess this country's in I know he'll tell his wife tonight he made the world a safer placeI'm busted in Utah, the red rock desert sunWe've got the guitars, but they've got the gunsSo we're sitting by the side of the road because I broke the lawBest laid plans slipped right through your handsI'm busted in Utah, busted in Utah, busted in UtahI'm busted in Utah ... So bluegrass bands with big plans and a psychedelic GMC Should know that Utah is the longest way from point A to point BThere's a whole lot of Jell-O and a lot of trampolines— "Busted in Utah," Hot Buttered Rum

How green are the valleys, how tall are the treesHow cool are the rivers, how soft is the breezeIf it's just like my dreams then I must go and seeFor the Red Hills of Utah are calling meSo long I have waited since I was a childMerely the thought keeps my heart running wildI've waited so long now it's hard to believeThe Red Hills of Utah at last I will see— "Red Hills of Utah," Marty Robbins

I've been everywhere, man.I've been everywhere, man.Crossed the desert's bare, man.I've breathed the mountain air, man.Of travel I've had my share, man.I've been everywhere.I've been to Pittsburgh, Parkersburg, Gravelbourg, Colorado ...Sioux City, Cedar City, Dodge City, what a pity.— "I've Been Everywhere," Johnny Cash

When I was young my dad,Would treat my mom real bad,every time the Utah Jazz would lose.He'd start a' drinking,and I'd start a thinking,How am I gonna keep my mom from getting abused?— "Turn It Off," from musical "The Book of Mormon"

I dreamed I saw Joe Hill last night,Alive as you or meSays I, "But Joe, you're ten years dead,""I never died," says he."I never died," says he."In Salt Lake, Joe," says I to him,Him standing by my bed,"They framed you on a murder charge,"Says Joe, "But I ain't dead,"Says Joe, "But I ain't dead.""The copper bosses killed you, Joe,They shot you, Joe," says I."Takes more than guns to kill a man,"— "Joe Hill," Alfred Hayes and Earl Robinson