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Name-checking Utah in our favorite songs
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2012, and information in the article may be outdated.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's a Rattlesnake Raceway in the Nevada desert, but there's no such thing as a Rattlesnake Speedway in the Utah desert.

Yet much of the action in one of Bruce Springsteen's signature songs, "The Promised Land," seems to take place in Utah:

On a rattlesnake speedway in the Utah desert

I pick up my money and head back into town

Driving across the Waynesboro County Line

I've got the radio on and I'm just killing time

In Utah, there's a Wayne County — not Waynesboro — yet we'll still claim our state's the setting for the song.

Set aside Bob Dylan's antiwar anthem "Let Me Die In My Footsteps," which name-checks our western neighbors of Nevada, New Mexico, Arizona and Idaho while snubbing Utah. (By the way, our state does show up in Dylan's funniest song, "Talkin' Hava Negeilah Blues.")

Consider how the Beehive State serves as a central element or tossed-off detail in the lyrics written by some of our favorite musicians. Our state's unique history, culture, religion, politics and scenic beauty evoke much sentiment in balladry, while the radio serves as one of the vessels through which Utahns learn what outsiders think of us, our customs and the condition of our welcome mats.

This select list of song lyrics offers some of the most offensive, loving and beguiling lines about our beloved desert home.

"Salt Lake City," Bob Weir

It was a paradise for lizards when young Brigham saw it first

He 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 beard

Said, "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 work

The next time I check in here, I want paradise on Earth."

"Salt Lake City," Beach Boys

Down in Utah

The guys and I dig a city called Salt Lake

It's got the grooviest kids …

There's a park near the city, yeah

All the kids dig the Lagoon now

It's full of all kinds of girls

And rides and we'll be flyin' there soon now

And girl for girl

They've got the cutest of the Western states

"Promised Land," Bruce Springsteen

On a rattlesnake speedway in the Utah desert

I pick up my money and head back into town

Driving cross the Waynesboro county line

I got the radio on and I'm just killing time

Working all day in my daddy's garage

Driving all night chasing some mirage

Pretty soon little girl I'm gonna take charge

The dogs on Main Street howl 'cause they understand

If I could take one moment into my hands

Mister I ain't a boy, no I'm a man

And I believe in a promised land

"SLC Radio," Amy Ray

I'm pulling in to the LDS nation looking for a community station

'Cause I've heard about the kids in Salt Lake City

And how they fight to be set free and how they fight

For you and me

"Ballad for a Friend," Bob Dylan

Sad, I'm sittin' on the railroad track,

Watchin' that old smokestack.

Train is a-leavin' but 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 hometown,

His mother cried, his sister moaned,

Listen to them church bells tone.

"Talkin' Hava Negeilah Blues," Bob Dylan

Here's a foreign song I learned in Utah:

Ha-va-ne-gei-lah

Yo-de-ley-e-e-oo

"Utah Carol," Marty Robbins (and others)

And now my friends you've asked me what makes me sad and still

And why my brow is darkened like the clouds upon the hill

Run in your ponies closer and I'll tell to you my tale

Of Utah Carol my partner and his last ride on the trail …

On his funeral morning I heard the preacher say

I hope we'll all meet Utah at the roundup far away

Then they wrapped him in a blanket that saved his little friend

And it was this red blanket that brought him to his end

"Salt Lake City," Jerry Joseph

This is the city of vacant looks, questionable Gods and multiple wives

The angel on the temple, he's in a silent way

I've got a feeling, he's kind of blue today

Here in Salt Lake City.

Sometimes this city feels like the only place we've ever been

Salt 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," Hank Williams Jr. (and others)

All alone on my own here in this old town of Salt Lake City

Gotta find work, forget the hurt and how she put me down

For a man who didn't care but with fast talk and curly hair

He 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 me

But that's just a mem'ry in Salt Lake City

I should pack my things and go but my heart keeps saying no

Someday she'll come back to me and Salt Lake City

"Salt Lake City," The Dwarves

But there's one thing I'll never do, not even for you

I'm not going to Salt Lake City

There isn't anything I wouldn't do for you except to walk among the Osmond crew

I know you're planning for a latter day and you can't betray what you know in Provo

But there's one less town on the globe and if you must go there you're going alone

I'm not going to Salt Lake City even if they tell me I can stay

Even if they resurrect my brain I don't wanna go there I don't wanna go insane

I'm not pure and I'm not pretty and I'm not going to Salt Lake City

I'm not living in Hello Kitty and I'm not going to Salt Lake City

"Salt Lake City Sunday," Fad Gadget

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!

"Heaven," Uncle Kracker

If Heaven ain't a lot like Detroit

I just as soon stay home

If they ain't got no Eight Mile

Like they do up in the D

Just send me to Hell or Salt Lake City

It would be about the same to me

"I Lost My Sugar in Salt Lake City," Johnny Mercer (and others)

I lost my sugar in Salt Lake City

Oh, why did I go there?

… I cried my heart out in Salt Lake City

The day I heard the news

She left me deep in my solitude

With the Salt Lake City blues

Salt Lake City is renowned for its beauty …

There's salt beds and farm lands producing

Alfalfa, green, sugar beets and vegetables in the vicinity

But as far as I'm concerned

I don't care if I ever set foot there again in Salt Lake City

That town is a nemesis to me

"Hope She Cheats on You (With a Basketball Player)," Marsha Ambrosius

I hope she cheats on you with a basketball playa

Hope that she Kim Kardashianed her way up.

Don't know the difference between a touchdown and a layup

Got you on Viagra in order for you to stay up

I may sound bitter, I'm a little bitter

Just 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.

"Salt Lake City 1973," Shawn Mullins

Mormons are everywhere

Battalions of bicycling bachelors

With dark suits

And well cropped hair

We're Mormons too

Have been since '72 …

I sip lukewarm 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

State Song of Utah, "This Is the Place," Sam and Gary Francis

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 Lake

Here 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

"Don't Get So Down On Yourself," Chris Isaak

I got the picture that you finally sent

I read your letter, and I know what you meant

That's you and me, in Salt Lake City

You sure look pretty.

Wish we could go back again.

"Bout Ta' Bubble," Tech N9ne

In Salt Lake City, performin' for Mormons

Out of they garments before the mornin', I'm charmin'

"Departure," R.E.M.

Just arrived Singapore, San Sebastian, Spain, 26-hour trip

Salt Lake City, coming in spring

Over the salt flats, a hailstorm brought you back to me

"Ford Econoline," Nanci Griffith (and others)

She drove west from Salt Lake City to the California coastline …

She's the salt of the earth

Straight from the bosom of the Mormon church

With a voice like wine

Cruising along in that Ford Econoline

Now her husband was a gambler, he was a Salt Lake City rambler

He built a golden cage around his silver-throated wife

Too many nights he left her crying with his cheating and his lying

But his big mistake was him buying her that Ford Econoline

"The Great Salt Lake," Band of Horses

Back of the boat was painted wreckin' ball

There was country music playing, but he don't like it at all

And red fire poppin' on the rained-down woody

His whiskey bottle spillin' in a lake that's made of salt

And look out Michael, there's a note on the door

Saying, "Everybody listen, you'll be the next Omaha"

Now, if you find yourself falling apart

Then I'm sure I could steer on The Great Salt Lake

"Utah," The Osmonds

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," John Linnell

Reading the next resume

Raising his eyes up from the page

Showing no sign of surprise

Weren't you the one I hurt?

Weren't you the one that I betrayed?

Did you stay angry with me?

I forget you

I forget you

I forget Utah

"Utah Trail," Tex Ritter

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 summertime

Out where your friends are true and all nature is in rhyme.

Someone is waiting with a love that never fails

Waitin' patiently to welcome me far out on that Utah trail.

"The History of Utah," Camper Van Beethoven

He was the riverboat gambler

He was the son of the chief of police

And old Joe

Did and said as he would

Took all the shopping carts from the mall

And took them to Utah

Which was Zion

He built an empire out of the desert

Out of the dust and the sand, just like Las Vegas

But he never took the rap that the Mafia did

And he thought the Indians were some lost 13 dudes

But he didn't treat them any better

And they were never on his side …

And old Joe had 13 beady-eyed babies

One of whom I used to go to school with

He'd drive his car at a 110 down the alleyway

Throwing cinderblocks at trash cans

And I declare on this occasion

I've never seen this heaven or this place any differently

But now and then I dream of the flying saucers and they're coming to take us away

"Utah Tribute," Chris LeDoux

If not for you

I'd never could have ever got this far

Yeah, you helped me grow

And I owe you more than you'll ever know

And from the days at the Terrace Ballroom

Well, we made it up to Symphony Hall

I played my songs and you sang along

And man, we really had a ball

And you brought your little children

And I've seen 'em all grow tall

Yeah, I watched you grow

And I owe you more than you'll ever know that's right

And all the wild and woolly cowboys

Dancin' and yellin' for more

Your hats and suits an cowboy boots

Stompin' on a hardwood floor

And you waltzed those Utah ladies

Beneath the spotlight glow

"Busted in Utah," Hot Buttered Rum

Redrock highway bakin' in the sun

The police of the Beehive State, yeah their work is never done

I look in the mirror and see the flash of red and blue …

I see the mustache, the badge

Yeah the pistol, the pen

He 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 place

I'm busted in Utah, the redrock desert sun

We've got the guitars, but they've got the guns

So we're sitting by the side of the road because I broke the law

Best laid plans slipped right through your hands

I'm busted in Utah, busted in Utah, busted in Utah

I'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 B

There's a whole lot of Jell-O and a lot of trampolines

"Red Hills of Utah," Marty Robbins

How green are the valleys, how tall are the trees

How cool are the rivers, how soft is the breeze

If it's just like my dreams then I must go and see

For the Red Hills of Utah are calling me

So long I have waited since I was a child

Merely the thought keeps my heart running wild

I've waited so long now it's hard to believe

The Red Hills of Utah at last I will see

"I've Been Everywhere," Johnny Cash

I've been everywhere, man.

I've been everywhere, man.

Crossed the deserts 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.

"Turn It Off," from musical "The Book of Mormon"

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?

"Joe Hill," Alfred Hayes and Earl Robinson

I dreamed I saw Joe Hill last night,

Alive as you or me

Says I, "But Joe, you're 10 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,"

Says Joe, "I did not die."

"Beehive State," Randy Newman (and others)

See the gentleman from Utah

Our friendly Beehive State

How can we help you, Utah

How can we make you great

We got to irrigate our deserts

We got to get some things to grow

We got to tell this country about Utah

'Cause nobody seems to know

"Root Down," Beastie Boys

You do might think that I'm a fanatic

A phone call from Utah and I'm throwing a panic

So kick it from the root when we break it on down

"Yin + Yang," Adam Ant

I got Utah dust

Inside my boots

Peroxide

Covering my roots

Know what it's like to love

And like to be loved

I tell you it's such a thrilling thing

That's just the Yin and the Yang of it

"If You Want Space, Go to Utah," Christine Lavin

If you want space, go to Utah

If you want time, pal, you got the next 50 years

But if you want love, hey, hey look no further

Than the woman who's looking at you here

"The Happening," The Pixies

I was driving doing nothing on the shores of Great Salt Lake

When they put it on the air I put it in the hammer lane

I soon forgot myself and I forgot about the brake

I forgot all laws and I forgot about the rain

"Palace of the Brine," The Pixies

In a place they say is dead

in the lake that's like an ocean …

I heard the droning

In the shrine

Of the sea-monkey

Palace of the Brine

Beneath reflections in the fountain

The starry sky and Utah mountains

"Sign in the Window," Bob Dylan

Build me a cabin in Utah

Marry me a wife, catch rainbow trout

Have a bunch of kids who call me "Pa"

That must be what it's all about

"The Ballad of Billy the Kid," Billy Joel

Well, he robbed his way from Utah to Oklahoma

And the law just could not seem to track him down

And it served his legend well

For the folks, they'd love to tell

'Bout when Billy the Kid came to town

"Cell Block Tango," from the musical "Chicago"

I met Ezekiel Young from Salt Lake City about two years ago

And he told me he was single and we hit it off right away

So, we started living together

He'd go to work, he'd come home, I'd fix him a drink, we'd have dinner

Then I found out, single, my a—

Not only was he married, well, he had six wives

One of those Mormons, you know

So that night, when he came home

I fixed him his drink as usual

You know, some guys just can't hold their arsenic

He had it coming, he had it coming

He took a flower in its prime

And then he used it and he abused it

It was a murder but not a crime

"Pig Hollow," from Utah Phillips

Slow rollin' freight from the South Ogden yard

Easing along down the line

The pig hollow jungle camp swings into view

You roll off and here's what you find...

"Enola Gay," from Utah Phillips

It's many a mile from the Utah desert

to Tinian Island far away

Standing guard by the barbed wire fences

That hide the secret of Enola Gay

"Friend of the Devil," The Grateful Dead

Ran into the devil, babe, he loaned me twenty bills

I spent the night in Utah in a cave up in the hills.

Set out runnin' but I take my time, a friend of the devil is a friend of mine

If I get home before daylight, I just might get some sleep tonight

"S.O.S. (Too Bad)," Aerosmith

Salt Lake City, salt-lickin' biddies

Bogus honey stinkin' of gin

Well my daddy was hard

His face was pretty scarred

From kickin' a___ to playin' poker to win

"Utah: Gateway to Nevada," Plague of Locusts

Utah, gateway to Nevada

Not as cool as Colorada

The beer here'll give ya stronger bladder

But ya got to drink behind the barn

"Elusive Dreams," Lee Hazelwood and Nancy Sinatra

I followed you to Texas

I followed you to Utah

We didn't find it there

So we moved on

"You're Crazy for Taking the Bus," Jonathan Richman

Well, welfare gal and her drunken cuss

And Pepsi cans rolling around the bus

That newspaper's a grit and you've got slime

So you take the plane, but i'll take the bus this time

Where it's Salt Lake City, everybody off

"California Zephyr," Hank Williams Jr.

From the Great Salt Lakes of Utah

To California's golden shore

Colorado and Nevada

Through the desert's burnin' door

While she's circlin' through the canyons

Can't you see that mountain stream

It's the California Zephyr

The Union Pacific Queen

dburger@sltrib.com

Facebook.com/davidlouisburger

Twitter: @davidburger —

More Utah lyrics?

If we've missed your favorite Utah lines in popular songs, please send a note to David Burger at dburger@sltrib.com with the words "Utah songs" in the subject line.

Lyrics • The Beehive State features in songs by a wide variety of artists. We'll let you read between the lines.
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