We gotta get out of this place
If it's the last thing we ever do
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Some songs are like tofu, so versatile they can be made to fit almost any situation. You like a song better when you identify with it.
This is why "Still Alive," the theme from the hit video game Portal
, is limited to Portal
players. Despite what a fantastic tune it is, there just aren't that many times in life when you want to say, "The science gets done and you make a neat gun for the people who are still alive." You can't sing that about your break-up, you can't use it as a victory song after winning a promotion, it doesn't work for Christmas caroling... what a waste.
Now, "We Gotta Get Out Of This Place" - how many times have you felt that way? You probably need to hear it only once, and then it will automatically pop into your head when you move out of your parents' pad and get your own digs, when you clock out from work on Friday, and so on. Anywhere where life has presented you with one of those ultimatum moments, when you'd better be the quick if you don't want to be the dead. Carpe diem
! Drop off the key, Lee! Let's make like a banana and split!
Soldiers inspecting Village in Vietnam
Photo: National Archives
The Animals released this single in 1965 and it immediately hit #2 on the UK charts and #13 on the U.S. charts. What's interesting is while there is no official word of what specific place the song's lyrics are talking about, it was adopted by U.S. soldiers during the Vietnam War. It was frequently requested of American Forces Vietnam Network disc jockeys to play it. In 2006, a University of Wisconsin-Madison study of hundreds of Vietnam veterans found that "We Gotta Get Out Of This Place" was the song veterans most identified with the war, even stating in the report, "We had absolute unanimity, this song being the touchstone. This was the Vietnam anthem. Every bad band that ever played in an armed forces club had to play this song."
The song is an interesting corner of music history in other ways. It was one of the hits produced by the Brill Building hit factory. For those of you who need a refresher course (if it's been a while since your Master's Degree in Rockology): The Brill Building is at 1619 Broadway in New York City, just north of Times Square. It was just about to be completed and turned into office space for bankers and brokers when the Great Depression started. Said prospective tenants, now more interested in jumping off buildings than renting them, the Brill Building rented out to music publishing companies instead, simply because nobody else was interested and radio, being the one industry still booming, fed the music industry.
The Brill Building is worth a book or two for its place in music history, but for now we'll zoom in on Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil, a husband and wife team of songwriters who worked for one of the music production companies in the building and who wrote the lyrics to "We Gotta Get Out Of This Place." By the way, they met at the Brill Building and collaborated on songs together before they married. Everybody go "Awwwwwww!"
~ Pete Trbovich
December 4, 2012
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