Album: not on an album (1967)
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Songfacts®:

  • Most of the information about this recording has been lost to time. What we know is that the song memorializes the pungent smell that used to be characteristic of (and is still strongly associated with) the city of Tacoma, Washington, which is about 30 miles south of Seattle.

    The Tacoma Aroma has a long history, dating at least as far back as 1901 when George Francis Train wrote a cheer that went, "Seattle! Seattle! Death Rattle, Death Rattle; Tacoma! Tacoma! Aroma, Aroma!"

    The Aroma's origins are somewhat contested, but generally are ascribed to industrial byproducts, particularly by the Simpson Tacoma Kraft pulp and paper mill. New technologies implemented by the mill in the early 2000 significantly reduced the aroma, but it can still be detected, particularly on hot, dry days.
  • The song opens up with the spoken declaration: "Tacoma has a very special greeting for its visitors. Plans are to clean up the tide flats and do away with the Aroma of Tacoma. We present this memory for future generations."

    Campy, singalong style music then kicks in with the opening lyric, "The Aroma of Tacoma will take your breath away." The remainder of the song is a humorous ode to the Aroma of Tacoma, basically a series of comic one-liners.
  • Tacoma's smell has crept into music history in other ways. In an April 6, 1988 story, the New York Times reported that Bruce Springsteen had to flee Tacoma while on tour because the smell was so bad. In a 2018 interview with Songfacts, Alan Lee Brackett instantly recalled the Tacoma Aroma from when he toured through the area in the late '60s.

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